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How My Paycheck-To-Paycheck Actor Life Shaped My Money Habits

How My Paycheck-To-Paycheck Actor Life Shaped My Money Habits

September 13, 2023

In the dazzling world of musical theatre, where spotlights shine and emotions soar, the journey of a paycheck-to-paycheck actor is a captivating story of passion, dedication, and resilience. While the stage may be our canvas and the spotlight our guiding star, the reality of navigating the financial tightrope can be both challenging, and in a weird way, also rewarding.

One of the most challenging aspects of being a musical theatre actor is the constant audition cycle. From casting calls to callbacks, I was investing time, energy, and money into landing a gig. Traveling to auditions, hiring voice coaches, and preparing for roles can take a toll on your finances. Yet, the hope of landing that one big break keeps them going. When I DID book these gigs, I felt this simultaneous amazing feeling of accomplishment and feeling of absolute panic because after this gig was over, you're never sure where your next check will be coming from.

Musical theatre actors, especially those just starting, often find themselves living paycheck to paycheck. The irregular work, audition expenses, and the competitive nature of the industry make it difficult to establish a stable financial base. Many take on side jobs to make ends meet, often working long hours to support their artistic pursuits. For me personally, I found it best to work in some sort of restaurant or catering position, because then I at least knew I would be able to eat something each day I was working. Each paycheck I received would be split up - the majority would go to my savings, leaving just enough to get by with whatever I needed for the rest of the week in checking. If the money was in savings, I knew I couldn't have immediate access to it, and could be put in a better position to make my rent. Once I had enough in my savings to pay for my room for the month, the rest of my money was more fair game. 

I did this for the better part of a decade, and once I got out of the city and my acting career became more of a habit, I found a job with an income stream that was far more consistent - yet, I still found myself living my financial life like I wasn't sure what my next paycheck would look like. My spending habits were minimal, which is great, but I had no idea how to do anything else for myself. Eventually, however, I figured it out. When navigating the space between paycheck-to-paycheck and income consistency, here are some steps you can take to make that transition a bit easier:

- Assess Your Current Financial Situation: Start by taking a close look at your current financial state. Calculate your monthly income, expenses, and debts. This will help you understand your financial reality and set realistic goals.

- Create a Budget: Develop a comprehensive budget that outlines your monthly income and all your expenses, including essentials like rent/mortgage, utilities, groceries, and transportation, as well as non-essentials like entertainment. Try to make sure your expenses do not exceed your income.

- Set Financial Goals: Establish clear financial goals, both short-term and long-term. Having specific objectives will motivate you to stay on track and make the changes you need effectively. 

´╗┐- Monitor Your Progress: Regularly review your budget and financial goals. Adjust your plan as needed to make sure you are making steady progress towards financial stability. Write. It. Down.

- Celebrate Milestones: As you make progress, celebrate your achievements! Recognizing your successes. This can help to keep your momentum going and maintain your commitment to a consistent income lifestyle.

Change is hard, change makes us feel weird, but if you approach your change with a game plan (and maybe a buddy), you'll get through it with flying colors.