Budgeting for Creatives

Budgeting for Creatives

by | Aug 30, 2018 | Amanda, Creative DIY Projects, Creativity, Creativity For Life

Hello Creative QB’s,

2-3 minute read

Try this one simple way to help fend off the starving artist syndrome in the pursuit of personal creativity.

I don’t know about you, but stepping into my favourite art supply store to buy “just a few things’ is enough to send my bank balance into overdraft. A few weeks ago I fronted up with my cash for a few pieces of watercolour paper, a couple of brushes and pastel sticks, the experience was akin to taking out a second mortgage on my house.

Buying art supplies, materials, tuition etc has always been pricey. It’s the cost of your art. Whether it’s drama classes, music lessons, tubes of paint, dance shoes, clay, dye, cord, fabric, paper or string it all adds up. It’s also difficult to compare apples with oranges because not all creative supplies are made equal.

In the past I’ve been known to use all kinds of materials in the pursuit of art making, especially when money was tight. Cheaply made canvas, lumpy old house paint scraped from the tin or mixed with other paint to make it stretch further, poster paint, craft glue, you name it, I reckon I’ve used it. There is freedom in using these materials, safe in the knowledge it’s creative exploration. I’ve created some great works without being attached to the final outcome.

If you have ever heard the phrase ‘starving artists’, you will know what I mean. It’s the myth that we are all starving for our art. Living off the smell of sweet creative success and sunshine, eating the few breadcrumbs thrown our way by passers by.

In some ways this farcical narrative is true. But let’s call it what it really is; re-investing, financial establishment, wise financial budgeting. (Yep we are all yawning now). For many years when I was setting up my creative design business, I re-invested everything I could back into the business. It’s part of the establishment phase, plan the work and work the plan, including a financial plan.

Back to my trip to the art store…in an effort to prevent the embarrassment of flying moths escaping from my purse at the checkout I thought I would ask my very ‘money wise’ friend, Wendy, for some advice. It’s important to remember this is not ‘official financial business advice’. It’s an approach that will help in your pursuit of personal creative practice.

Firstly, how many of us factor the cost of our creative practice into our weekly budgets or save for our supplies? Or maybe the more appropriate question is, how many of us even have a budget for our creative lives?

Admittedly I have a lot of resistance to creating a budget, so my friend advised me to think of it like a plan, a plan for how much money I want to spend, how much money I’m going to have and how I’m going to spend my money rather than a budget that restricts my spending. Wendy admits she is very logical and her ideas are well-planned, but I’m willing to give this a go.

Also, I really admire my friends approach because she payed and saved her way out of same serious debt many years back using this very simple and easy system. Wendy also told me she still uses this approach for all her weekly day-to-day spending (separate to your household bills).

Im calling this approach, ‘Money in the Jar’ because:

  • It confirms what you really want to spend your ‘creative’ money on.
  • If confirms your commitment to creative practice, especially because you are using cash. It feels harder to part with cash than when you use your credit card.
  • You get creative about what and how you spend your money.
  • It takes the stress out of ‘not having enough money’. You can see the money in the jar, you know how much is in the jar and choose when to say Yes to spending rather than saying NO.
  • You can use this approach even if you are paid weekly, fortnightly or monthly. Even if you have irregular income and money comes in sporadically, decide on a realistic amount and use that as a weekly base line. You may be surprised just now powerful your commitment is, even at $5 per week.

⇓ See the full steps to take below.

Money in the jar


Follow these for a weekly ‘Money in the jar’ spending plan.

What you need

  • Glass jars or envelopes, whatever works best for you. I love glass jars because you can see the money in the jar.
  • A couple of sticky labels
  • Pen and paper.

Step One

Take your pen and paper and make a list of categories to divide your day to day weekly spending into. For example, my friend Wendy uses the following categories:

Creative-  Including all the cost of art supplies, creative lessons, books or courses, things you actually need to ‘make’.

Groceries – includes everything in your weekly shop – food, cleaning products etc.

Personal care – includes haircuts, vitamins, makeup, beauty treatments etc.

Gifts /clothing – all family clothes as well as gifts for family/friends.

Misc – everything else like movies, takeaways, car parking, small school costs like mufti days.

Step Two

Work out a weekly amount for each category to put into each jar ( this is fluid, and you may need to adjust it after a few weeks
but obviously try to be as tough as you can).

To work out the amount, think about what you would like or need to spend on your creativity and estimate a total. Then divide by 52. (52 weeks)

For example if you estimate you want to spend $1500 in total, divide that amount by 52.

$1500 by 52 = $28.85 (I’ve rounded it up)

$28.85 goes into the jar each week.

Step Three

Take out weekly cash from the bank and allocate to each jar.  Keep a written running total for each jar to keep track of spending. This helps resist the temptation to steal a sneaky $20 from one jar to use it in another. It keeps you accountable. It’s good to see where you may be overspending! No swapping/borrowing between jars.

Step Four

If there’s no cash left in the jar at the end of each week you can’t spend any more money!

If there is cash left, you roll it over into next week and start to see your savings grow. You may not spend on big creative items each week, so saving for that new guitar will be a snap, and here is an extra tip for saving. If you have a big item, like a musical instrument you can save faster by making an interest deposit each week. On week one put and extra $1 in the jar. Week 2, $2 in the jar, Week 3, $3 in the jar etc, etc. Increasing the amount you put in each week until you have reached your savings goal.

Give it a go, see if it works for you. Even us free-spirited, spontaneous creatives may learn a thing or two about spending and planning. Let us know how you go.

Happy spending


How many of us factor the cost of our creative practice into our weekly budgets or save for our supplies? Or maybe the more appropriate question is, how many of us even have a budget for our creative lives?

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous

    Good advice from Wendy. Love Mum


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