I’ll get right to the point. You should already have a budget in place for next year's audition season. This might be the last thing on your mind as you plod through the 2018 audition season, but even a bare bones structural budget for the upcoming season will set you up for success. Are you feeling overwhelmed? Never fear! Here’s how to get started:
1. Do you have a personal budget for 2019?
Singing aside, you need an actual budget for your daily life, and you need it yesterday. Constructing the perfect budget to fit your needs takes time, but if you've been financially flying by the seat of your pants, here are three key things to focus on:
Do you know your bills vs. your income? Does that ratio feel comfortable? What can you do to cut down your bills and increase your income?
Know how much debt you actually have. If you have a degree in classical music, chances are you have some debt. Make yourself a stiff drink, log on to your loan providor's website, and take a good look at how much money you owe. The only thing worse than seeing that number is ignoring it. Your debt to income ratio will color your decision making over the next year.
An emergency fund is a necessity. No exceptions. Ideally, you should have 3-6 months of expenses set aside, but start by scraping together an extra $500. It's just $500. You can do it, and you'll be so glad you did.
2. Track your spending
Do you have a general budget for singing? Fantastic! Make sure it actually reflects your needs by tracking your spending. The only way to ensure that you are budgeting correctly is by backing it up with accurate data. Be honest. If you spent $50 on a treat meal, because who doesn’t emotionally eat after an audition, just include it! Remove your self-judgment, and make your money work for you. You can make notes in your phone, write it down in a notebook, or track your spending on an app like Mint or You Need A Budget.
3. Review your spending from previous audition seasons
Where did you spend excessively? How can you cut it down? Did you spent $300 a week on eating out? Consider making the first stop on your audition trip a grocery store so you can stock up on the basics. What do you always forget about in the planning process? Last-minute photocopies? A gift for the friend who housed you for free? Write it down, and be sure it’s a line item for next season.
4. When planning ahead, make a Plan A, B, C, and D
It’s impossible to predict how this season will pan out. Your gigs in the first half of 2019 might impact how you save for the 2019 audition season. Let’s consider four likely possibilities.
A) You were offered a paid summer gig. You know your weekly pay rate, how many meals they will provide for you, and your housing situation for the summer. Congrats! Begin to form a small emergency fund so you don’t blow your summer budget when you realize you forgot your donor event shoes.
B) You were not offered a paid summer gig, but you were offered an excellent resume-building role at a pay-to-sing program. Again, congrats! Sit down and decide two crucial things:
Are you able to pay for this program via side job, fundraising, and/or scholarship?
If going into debt is the only way to pay for this program, is this role/program reputable enough that it will honestly increase your chances of finding paid work next season?
C) You were not offered a paid summer gig, but you were offered a role that you aren’t particularly passionate about at a pay-to-sing. Congratulations are still in order, but don’t take the job just for something to do. Weigh the costs and benefits. Is it worth it to spend your money on a role or company that you aren’t sure will benefit you in the long run? Going to Italy for $5K sounds like a great time, but is it worth it if it cripples you financially?
D) You didn't receive any offers for the season. Decide how you want to spend your time this year. Do you want to pay for a camp? Extra lessons and coachings? Change up your rep? Make some new recordings? Do you want to treat yourself to a vacation? Designate your money as you see fit and take this opportunity to get ahead of the game for next season. This is your chance to hustle and bulk up your singing fund to ensure you can afford the application fee for every single program you want to apply for in 2019.
Remember, there is no generic formula for making your budget work for you when it comes to singing. Consider your own individual factors. Perhaps you live in the Midwest and spend the bulk of your money traveling to the coasts. Perhaps you live in NYC and have to balance your singing with the exorbitant cost of living. Perhaps you come from family money or married into wealth. Everyone is different. The important thing is to have a plan that allows you to continue advancing your singing career without going into excessive debt.