One of the things I'm most excited about this year is starting a budget. I'm mortified that I'm 40 years old and have never really had a proper budget before. Especially since I was around 25, my "budgeting" has been a pretty haphazard process, if it's even been a thought at all. Trust me, I feel immense guilt and shame about that, but part of my embracing of the new year is allowing myself to move past the guilt/shame spiral and figure out what I can do differently.
In addition to setting a plan to earn a certain amount of income per week, which will probably mean increasing my writing output and, hopefully, focusing on including higher paying publications in my regular writing routine, what I'm doing is tracking where every penny I spend, and just as importantly, every penny my business, RKB Enterprises, Inc., spends. That means getting serious about some of the things I wish I could do, like travel frequently, and what I can actually afford. It means I will keep facing guilt and tough decisions occasion, because while, technically, I can "work from anywhere," it's undeniable that I lose out on the ability to earn money when I'm traveling. I can tell myself all I want that I will "write on the bus," meaning the two hour and 35 minute bus ride from Atlantic City to New York and back, usually, plus whatever other travel I do, but the reality is when I'm on a bus, or a plane, usually I'm tired and looking forward to digging into a juicy book.
So I am being a lot more careful about where and when I travel. Family is important to me, so I will be visiting my far-flung family members. I'm hoping to visit a friend I met when I was six for her birthday, but will largely be helping with her baby and working from her home. When I booked my trip to Los Angeles and San Francisco, I realized I had a choice: I could get an extra night's hotel room in San Francisco just for the sake of "hanging out" after my reading, or I could make the smarter business decision and fly home on a redeye after my reading. For one of the few times in my life, I made the more fiscally wise choice. I will leave my Good Vibrations reading and head right to SFO to catch my Virgin America flight home. Usually, I fly JetBlue, but their latest outgoing flight was too early for my schedule. So I will be in San Francisco from 12:45 pm until 11:20 pm, which is under 11 hours. Does it make sense? Not if I'd never been to San Francisco, but considering I lived in Berkeley for three years and have been to San Francisco countless times and this is a business trip, it certainly does.
I will briefly interrupt this post to plug my event, the whole reason I bought a flight to San Francisco in the first place. I'll be hosting the first reading from Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 1 on Tuesday, January 19th, from 6:30-8:30 pm at Good Vibrations, 1620 Polk Street, San Francisco. It's free and I hope you can make it! Joining me will be contributors Amy Butcher, Rose Caraway (who will narrate the audiobook, coming in spring 2016), Dorothy Freed and Jade A. Waters. My roots are in readings; I've always loved hearing authors read from their work, getting inside jokes and inflections, reliving a particular phrase. I'm especially eager to hear Amy Butcher read her hilarious, very hot and surprising story "Waiting to Pee," which pushes some boundaries but does so in a way that fascinates me. It's the kind of story I could read every month and get something new from.
Part of what's helped me make this decision has been my focus on what I want my money to accomplish this year. I've started a budget bucket list and realized that since my income fluctuates each week, I can never assume that I will have a certain amount to work with. This recent holiday I faced scrutiny around the dinner table about my plans for budgeting, and my biggest takeaway, aside from how frustrating it was and how shameful (that again!) it felt to say "I don't know yet how much I made this year" was that I want next December to feel different. I want to sit at that table and be able to report that I earned X and paid off Y and cut out spending on Z. I want to feel more confident about my worth and value and ability to handle money, and the only way that will happen is to say no to the impulse trips and hotels and purchases, at least, until I have accomplished some of my goals. I'm not going to overnight turn from hoarder to minimalist.
I've been listening to the You Need a Budget podcast and reading the YNAB blog and it's forced me to ask myself what I value, what I prioritize, what I'm doing with my life. Am I treating my income as something frivolous, or as the earnings of a real businesswoman? Am I using it to further my career, expand my books' reach, grow, or am I just using it for what feels good in the moment?
Now, as my boyfriend would be the first to tell you, I'm obsessive and impulsive. I get super into something, be it a food or a hobby or a podcast, and I can't shut up about it. Poor him, because most days he's the only person I talk to and he doesn't always want to hear about my obsessions. So, alas, you are bearing the brunt of my latest obsession. I say that jokingly, because while I am the last person you should look to as a financial role model, I can only hope that my late awakening to the value of what I earn can translate into someone else rethinking a purchase they "must" have. I plan to write more about how I invest my money back into my business, which I do primarily through buying books to send to Amazon reviewers and contest winners, traveling for events, book postcards, the occasional advertisement and domain names. I may try new marketing tools and tactics in 2016, especially since Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 1 has the potential to be my bestselling book, and the better it does, the better, I suspect, my chances of securing more anthology editing contracts. But first, I want to focus on the day to day decisions and what values and priorities they reflect. This is not a "resolution," because I traditionally fail hard at those, but a way of trying to embrace my forties and make up for lost time when it comes to cash, credit, savings and investing.