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  • Writer's pictureBrent Barnett

Budgeting for Actors

ll you need to do is look at your last W2, the one that indicates that you only earned a small amount of money last year from acting, to know just how important budgeting is to your acting career. Budgeting and acting are like twins. The two go hand-in-hand.

According to SAG-AFTRA, the average actor earns approximately $7,000 per annum from acting work. Only about 5% earn more than $100,000 annually. And even these modest earnings will likely take a substantial plunge due to Covid-19 shutdowns and work stoppages. If you never cared about the proper budgeting of your resources before, you’d better care now.

Learning to budget is just as valuable to an actor as learning proper on-camera technique or improv training. The better you are at budgeting, the longer your career can financially endure hardships, the less anxiety you’ll feel about landing your next role, and the better prepared you’ll be when faced with job cancellations due to the ongoing pandemic.

Here are 5 essential budgeting tips to get you started:

#1: Know Where Your Money is Going

Did you know that most people fall into financial trouble, not because they don’t earn enough money, but because they simply don’t know where their money is going each month? The only way to ensure that your money covers all your expenses is to know where it’s going. And that means doing a budget.

#2: Keep Track of Discretionary Spending

An Uber ride here, a latte over there, an Amazon purchase just for fun, some yummy takeout food on a lonely Friday night, and before you know it, your money is short and your ends don’t meet. Uncontrolled discretionary spending will kill your budget. One easy way to solve this problem is to set aside money in your budget for discretionary spending. Hypothetically, if you know that you only have $300 monthly to spend at your discretion, it’s much easier to not go overboard. But, without that $300 limit in the back of your mind, it’s easy to go “cray” with spending.

How much money do you have in your monthly budget for discretionary spending?

#3: Use Cash or a Debit Card

Ever heard the old saying, “If you can’t pay cash, you can’t afford it”?

Well, it’s true. If you can’t purchase something with cash, or with what’s in your checking account, then you probably can’t afford it. That doesn’t mean you can’t have it. It just means that, unless it’s an emergency, you should probably wait until you have the means.

#4: Cut What You Can Cut

Remember when the streaming revolution was supposed to save us from high cable bills? Whatever happened to that? Between Prime, Hulu, Netflix, Disney, HBO, BET+, etc., we’re pretty much in the same place as we were before the streaming revolution began.

Cut back on your spending now!(Suze Orman)

But the good news is that you can cut or pause some of these services. If you find yourself needing a little more wiggle room in your budget, consider pausing some of your subscriptions until you get things under control. Is there a service that you only use on occasion, that you could pause or cut?

#5: Prioritize Your Acting Career

Don’t forget to make your acting career a high priority. It may not be as important as paying your rent or keeping your health insurance, but it certainly should take precedence over your Netflix bill or your daily caffeine habit.

You can’t expect your acting career to grow without proper funding, including money for classes, submission services, headshots and other marketing materials. Make it a priority. Make it a necessity!

What is the monthly budget for your acting career?

Remember, budgeting is a crucial skill in the actor’s life. It can make the difference between lasting long enough to catch your big break or going broke & giving up on your dreams before they have a chance to manifest.

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