Creative Soul, VOTE on the final book cover!

Trio2

I love how much feedback I got on the cover for Reclaim Your Creative Soul! A lot of you not only chose your favorite filter, but you also gave suggestions on things to try. So here are the final 6 options. I know which one is my favorite, but I want to give every option a chance. I even put the original design in here, in case you’re partial to that one.

Let me know which of these options you like the best by leaving a comment.

I’ll be counting votes from here, Instagram and Facebook, and will post the results in a few days.

Reclaim Your Creativity: Cover decisions

Creative Soul cover test.jpg

Hey everyone! I am working on final edits to the cover for Reclaim Your Creative Soul. Here are three options. The fonts are not finalized, and suggestions are definitely welcomed! This will also be viewed in online stores at small sizes, so that is something to keep in mind.

Of these three options, which one is your favorite? Or is there an idea I didn’t try that you think I should?

Organizing your finances to make room for your art – Part 3

This post is Part 3, the final part of a 3-part series on finances, excerpted from the upcoming book, Reclaim Your Creative Soul: The Secrets to Organizing Your Full-Time Life to Make Room For Your Craft.

To read part 1, click here.

To read part 2, click here.

Why am I talking about finances in a book about making room for your craft? Because finances are one of the major areas that can hinder your creative process. I want to relieve you of your stress about finances so that you can better manage your money and can focus better on your art, whatever your art might be.

I have 4 steps to set you on the path toward financial freedom. Today I will share the final 2 of these steps. (again, see the first two steps in Part 2 here)

Credit Card / Gold & Platinum

3. Dancing the debt snowball.

Have you ever been to a snowball dance? This is when one couple starts out on the dance floor. As soon as the music stops, they separate and find new partners to dance with, thus inviting two more people on the floor. The music stops again, and then those four people will find four new people to dance with.

In a way, this is the dance we are going to do with your debt.

Glance over the debt you have listed on your budget, and order these items by the amount you owe. The first item will be your largest, which will probably be your mortgage if you own your house. Next is probably your student loan or your car payment. Next are your larger credit cards, followed by your store credit cards. And so on. Now I’m going to give you some advice that might seem controversial: pay only the minimum payments on every single bit of your debt, except for the smallest debt you owe. I know this seems totally backwards, but trust me on this.

Note: If you are already paying only the minimum payment on every single bit of debt you owe, you are going to have to adjust your budget one more time so that you can pay more on that smallest bit of debt.

The idea behind this method is to get that smallest debt completely paid off as quick as possible. This means you need to throw as much money as it as you can until it no longer exists. Once you’ve done that, pat yourself on the back! You officially have less debt!

But don’t stop there.

Take that amount you were spending to that first bit of debt, and apply it to the next smallest debt. Pay that amount until you have erased that debt. Then repeat. As you continue to pay off debt, the amount you can pay on that lowest bit of debt will get larger and larger. However, you won’t be spending more of your income to do so. As each debt is paid off, the process of eliminating debt gets faster and more satisfying.

For example, let’s say you have three credit cards. The first has a balance of $8,000. The second has a balance of $5,000. And the third has a balance of $2,000. You have been paying $200 to each of them a month to try and pay them off, which is more than the minimum payment. For this example’s sake, we’ll just say the minimum payment on each is $150. To follow this step, start making $150 payments to the credit cards with the largest amount of debt, and then take that extra money and apply it to the smaller debt. With $50 extra from the first two cards, you can now make $300 payments to the smallest debt. In less than seven months, that smallest debt will be completely paid off. Once that happens, apply that $300 payment to the next credit card. So instead of paying $150 to take care of that $5,000 debt, you will now be making $450 payments, and will pay it off in a little over eleven months. Finally, apply that $450 to the $150 you are paying on the $8,000 debt, making it a $600 payment. In just over thirteen months, that debt will be wiped out.

In our example scenario, we took $15,000 of debt and paid it off in two and a half years. Do you see how easy that was? And do you see how much money you will be able to put to better use once your credit card debt is wiped out?

Finally, make a vow to never take on debt again, especially through credit cards! If you don’t have the money saved for it, you can’t have it. End of story. To ensure you never use a credit card again, I encourage you to cut up each card, and then cancel the card as soon as it’s paid off.

4. Save $ for the big things

Earlier in this chapter (or in part 1), I mentioned our family trip to Hawaii. Years ago, a trip like this would never have happened unless we financed the whole thing using credit cards. A week in the tropics would end up being years of debt while we tried to pay it off.

I’ll have you know that this past summer, we flew our family of five to Hawaii, stayed in a penthouse suite, ate out for many meals, enjoyed a few excursions, and came home without adding any amount of debt to our expenses, even though the vacation cost around $6,000. We paid cash for the whole vacation, and even came home with a few extra dollars.

So how did we do this? The obvious answer is that we saved up for it. But it only took six month for us to do so. We budgeted an amount that was easy for us to put aside each month, and then worked backwards from there to decide how long it would take to save the full amount. We budgeted out vacation much like we budget our monthly expenses: we figured out where we wanted to go, the cost of airline tickets, where we wanted to stay, the activities we wanted to enjoy, and the cost of food, including groceries and eating out. We even budgeted an amount for souvenirs. Once that figure was established, we could pick a date for the vacation, factoring in how much we could save each month and how long it would take us to save.

It feels wonderful to enjoy a vacation when you don’t have to worry about the bill afterwards. We were able to completely detach from our lives at home and enjoy a week of relaxation. We could spend money freely (the first time in a long time!) because we had planned it that way.

What made this experience even sweeter was the contrast our vacation spending held to our spending habits at home. For one week, we were able to live without strict money rules (at least inside of what we had planned).

Think about it this way. If you have dessert every single night after dinner, it becomes less special. Sure, it still tastes good. But it becomes an expected part of the meal. However, if you save dessert for special occasions, it suddenly tastes so much more delicious. The same goes for money. If you spend frivolously all the time, it just doesn’t hold that same feeling of pleasure. You have to spend more and more to be able to gain that high you get from gaining something new. But if you stick to a budget and refrain from treating yourself, it feels that much more special when you are able to indulge (and especially because you have planned for it!).

If there’s something you want and you don’t have the money for it, you need to really search your soul about whether you need it, or if you just want it on impulse. If you really want it, you can have it. But you need to plan for it.

Let’s say you want a new computer. Check the price for the model you want, and then coordinate the money you can put toward it with when you want it purchased. If you want it sooner than your income will allow, you may need to adjust your budget a little more to make that happen. If that’s not possible, you’re just going to have to accept that your computer ownership days will be later than you want.

***

To wrap things up, I want to make a couple of points very clear. Living by a strict budget is going to take time. Don’t beat yourself up if for the first few months you go over your budget or end up using your credit card. It may be because your budget needs to be worked at a little more until it’s manageable. Or it could be because old habits are hard to break. Be gentle with yourself. And be patient with the results.

Next, recognize where your satisfaction is coming from now. Before, you may have experienced feelings of happiness from gaining new things. While living on a budget isn’t nearly as shiny and exciting, doesn’t it feel good to be the boss of where your money is going? Don’t discount that satisfaction of being in control of your cash flow.

Third, and the reason we are even talking about money in a book on creativity: how is that mental block going? The desperation that comes with money issues can affect your art in a real way. Your creations could take on the odor of that desperation. You might be prone to sell out, being untrue to your creative desires just to make a buck. Or worse, you may decide to give up your art altogether because it isn’t making you the money you need.

If you can manage your income and limit your expenses, you will experience freedom with your art, and will find it easier to create for the sake of creating, instead of as a means to an end.

And isn’t that why we became artists in the first place?

 

CHALLENGE YOURSELF

Baby Step: I want you to create your own budget. As I referenced before, I have created a spreadsheet to get you started, which you can access at bit.ly/CreativeSoulsExtras. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s what I refer to with every single paycheck to ensure I’m living within my means.

*Note: This  link will add you to my mailing list, and will offer you a preview of all of the resources I offer in Reclaiming Your Creative Soul. Please enjoy this gift from me to you, but don’t share it with anyone else! Once I email you the link to my resource page, click on “Financial Budget” to learn more about handling your finances, and to download your free expense sheet.

Level Up: Reduce your debt by creating a debt snowball. Outside of your mortgage, set a date for when you can be completely debt free!

Be Hardcore: Take a Financial Peace University course. I receive no financial gain whatsoever by referring you to this course. However, I believe in it so much, I think everyone should take it. To find a course near you, visit www.daveramsey.com/fpu and search for a nearby location. These courses are Christian-based and are generally held in churches. Nonetheless, the course tries to keep religious talk to a minimum. People of many faiths, and a few of no faith at all, attended the course my husband and I took. Financial Peace University helped all of us to gain a much better handle on our money and live without financial stress.

Organizing your finances to make room for your art – Part 2

This post is Part 2 of a 3-part series on finances, excerpted from the upcoming book, Reclaim Your Creative Soul: The Secrets to Organizing Your Full-Time Life to Make Room For Your Craft. To read part 1, click here.

Why am I talking about finances in a book about making room for your craft? Because finances are one of the major areas that can hinder your creative process. I want to relieve you of your stress about finances so that you can better manage your money and can focus better on your art, whatever your art might be.

I have 4 steps to set you on the path toward financial freedom. Today I will share 2 of these steps, and tomorrow I will share the final 2 steps.

budget1. Make a list of all your expenses

Before you do anything, create a list of everything you spend in a month. Don’t leave anything out. Include regular bills, debt bills, food costs, money spent on entertainment, clothing expenses, and anything else you regularly spend money on throughout the month. If an expense varies, write down the average amount you would spend on that item. Be honest in this process. You are the only one seeing this list, and any discrepancies will only make it harder to gain the upper hand with your money.

Once all you have listed all your expenses, place them in one of four groups: primary living, secondary living, debt, and extra.

Primary living expenses will include things like your rent, food costs, utility bills, and any other bill that is vital to your life.

Secondary living expenses will include bills that you need to pay, but won’t impede your quality of life if you don’t have it. For example, this could include things like gas money or car payment and insurance (since you could take the bus), or your cell phone or Internet bill (since shutting it off would be an inconvenience, but you’re not going to die).

Debt includes bills that you can eventually pay down to a zero balance. This expense list will include your mortgage, car payment, credit card bills, and student loans.

Your extra expenses will include items like beauty (hair care, makeup), gym membership, clothing costs, entertainment costs, gift-giving costs, and vacation costs.

Once you feel like you’ve itemized every one of your expenses under these four groups, scrutinize it even further. Are there costs you’ve included in your primary living expenses that could actually go under secondary living expenses? Are there secondary living expenses you could classify as an extra cost, instead? Prioritize the items of each group until you are satisfied with the complete list.

 

2. Create a budget

Here’s where this list is going to come in handy. Create an excel spreadsheet that lists every single one of your expenses. I’ve created a handy one that you can access at bit.ly/CreativeSoulsExtras to help you get started.

Note: This  link will add you to my mailing list, and will offer you a preview of all of the resources I offer in Reclaiming Your Creative Soul. Please enjoy this gift from me to you, but don’t share it with anyone else! Once I email you the link to my resource page, click on “Financial Budget” to learn more about handling your finances, and to download your free expense sheet.

On your budget list, write the expenses in order of the groups I had you list in the first step: Primary living, secondary living, debt, and extra. Now that you’ve done that, there are a few more expenses I want you to add to your budget: an allowance of pocket money, and an emergency savings fund. The pocket money is yours to spend as you like. But remember, when it’s gone, it’s gone. You do not get to borrow from other funds if you’ve used up all your pocket money. The emergency fund is for all those expenses you weren’t expecting. These are the things you would normally grab your credit card to pay for—a new car transmission, your dog’s broken leg, a chipped tooth, a new washer…. Ideally, this fund will hold $1000, but don’t let that number scare you. With a strict plan in place, you are perfectly capable of saving enough to cover emergencies (just a side note: please be clear on what an emergency is NOT. For example, a night out on the town or a new outfit is NOT an emergency).

Next, pay attention to the grand total of these expenses. How does it line up with your income? Are the expenses less than what you bring in every month? Great! You’re in the minority! Put that extra income to use by adding it to your savings. For the rest of us, we have some work to do.

One of the biggest stresses about money is that we often feel managed by it. With a budget, you are essentially taking back that power. You make the money, so why is your money controlling you? Tell your money where to go, as Dave Ramsey, the creator of Financial Peace University, often says.

Your goal is to create what’s called a zero-based budget. This is where your expenses and income will cancel each other out completely so that the total equals zero.

I understand this is kind of a terrifying concept. The first time I heard about zero-based budgeting, I wanted to take my paycheck and run. Are you telling me that I can’t have any of the money I just earned? Thankfully, that’s not what it means at all. It does mean, however, that you are going to need to budget your extra money instead of just spending whatever you have left over.

Now that you have your expenses listed and see that they equal more than your income, seek out areas where you can trim. I recognize this isn’t easy. You are going to have to sacrifice a little to ensure you aren’t spending more than you make. First, look for the things you can give up easily. Can you live without eating out? Can you let go of your Starbucks obsession? Can you decrease the amount you are spending on clothing? Is your food budget too high?

If your expenses are still more than your income after you’ve trimmed all the extra costs, you are going to have to dig deeper. If there’s nothing left on your list of extras that can be reduced or deleted, you are going to have to start scrutinizing your secondary living expenses. Can you reduce the services on your cell phone? Can you live without television and/or Internet? Can you start taking the bus instead of driving, at least until your finances are more manageable? Or the extreme—can you sell any of your belongings to reduce any of your debt? Can you sell your car and take the bus permanently? Can you hold a garage sale? Can you put a few items on Craigslist that you no longer use? You may need to make some hard choices, and it won’t be comfortable. But these sacrifices are only until your debt is paid down and your budget is much more manageable.

When you have your budget zeroed out, you can move on to the next step: reducing your debt. Warning, the budget you just created is going to continue to change.

To read the final 2 steps toward financial freedom in part 3, click here.

Organizing your finances to make room for your art – Part 1

I’m gearing up to release a new book next month called, Reclaim Your Creative Soul: The Secrets to Organizing Your Full-Time Life to Make Room For Your Craft. There’s a couple great reasons why this book came to me. First, the book was born from a soul retreat I took last year when I felt like life was caving in on me. The experience was so powerful, it changed my life forever. And this book started to form in my mind. Second, I’ve had a lot of people come to me, asking how I am able to produce book after book when I hold a full-time job, raise a family, volunteer, etc. I knew I had to share what I had learned over the years, because life should never get in the way of one’s art.

One of the sections of my book deals on organizing finances. Being that this is the beginning of the year, and many people are looking at ways to better manage their money, I thought I’d share this section over the next few days. I’m splitting it into 3 parts, offering you all a true sneak preview of this book before it’s even published (date still unknown).

Please let me know what you think in the comments. :-)

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money billsChapter 7 of Reclaiming Your Creative Soul: Managing Your Money

There’s a reason why the term “starving artist” is so popular. Hardly anyone wakes up one day, decides to create art, and becomes instantly rich and famous from their creations. The reality is that your art will not make you money in those first few years. There’s even a possibility that it will never make you a significant amount of money, and you will have to learn how to balance your art with other ways to support yourself until you retire.

Why are we trying to be artists then? Oh yeah, because we love this as much as we love breathing.

If you’re still reading this after figuring out that art is not a get rich quick scheme (shocker!), then I have good news for you—you don’t necessarily have to be starving to be an artist. You just need to learn how to manage your money better. Not only will this allow more of your hard-earned income to land in your pocket, but it will also free you from a good amount of stress you’re probably feeling that is standing in the way of true creativity.

Money is a passionate subject for me, mostly because there was a time when I had none. I know what it’s like to be days away from payday, and wonder how I’m going to make a can of beans and crackers stretch until then. I know what it’s like to have the electricity shut off and no money to turn it back on. I know what it’s like to depend on government aid to be able to feed my family and stretch my meager income. I know what it’s like to live without.

Through hard work and diligence, I was able to escape the clutches of poverty. I started working at the newspaper, and my income grew. I met my husband and we eventually moved in together, doubling our income in the process. I was able to build up my non-existent credit through a couple of low-balance credit cards. Financially, life was most definitely looking up.

Of course, more money, more problems, right?

With a larger paycheck and more credit, I suffered amnesia about what it was like to live a simple lifestyle. My expenses grew faster than my income, and credit became my crutch. While I lived in poverty, I had no debt. But out of poverty, my bills included hundreds of dollars that I was paying each month to credit cards. Not only did our wedding and extra book costs end up on credit cards, but so did some of our simple living costs. If I didn’t have money for something, I used my credit card to get through. After all, the minimum payments would only rise a few dollars, right?

Wrong.

It’s amazing how fast credit card debt can increase when you’re not careful. I remember looking at the amount of money I was spending each month and feeling disgusted when I saw much of my paycheck was going toward credit cards. There I was, making more money than I ever had in my life, and I still felt that same dread about money that I did in my days of poverty. I was caught in a never-ending money cycle—pay all the minimum payments for my credit cards, have too little left over after bills, use credit cards to make ends meet, repeat.

Around this time, my husband and I signed up for a money management course called Financial Peace University. Around this time, I still had a lot of pride about money, and I was sure that there was nothing this course was going to teach me that I didn’t already know. After all, I spent years living on a meager budget and living without credit. I figured this would just be a simple brush-up, since I was already an expert on budgeting.

Because, you know, my debt proved how well I handled money, right?

It became clear how little I actually knew about money. The lessons I learned shaped a new way to handle my money. It allowed me to reconfigure my bills so that I could break free from living paycheck to paycheck. I’m happy to say that I no longer have credit card debt, and I now have money left over for fun things, like taking the whole family to Hawaii over the summer.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to never be burdened by money again? Think about how good it would feel to devote your time to your art without worrying about whether it’s going to pay the bills or not.

The truth about money stress is that it tends to overwhelm every single aspect of your life. While it’s true that money can’t buy you happiness, living in debt can make you miserable. It hinders the creative process, fills your life with fear, and can send you into a pit that feels impossible to escape. Society has taught us that living in debt is normal. We’ve come to believe that credit is a way of life. We have become slaves to our money, and we’re okay with this. We’re told that buying things we can’t afford will make us happy. But where is this happiness when it’s time to pay the bill?

I am not a rich person in the least. However, I suffer very little stress when it comes to money. The financial course my husband and I took revealed so much to both of us about money, alleviating us from a lot of needless stress.

I want this for you, as well. So with the financial wisdom I gained from this course, along with living this wisdom in real life, I want to share four steps you can do right now that will free you from a lot of worry in regards to finances.

Read Part 2 by clicking here.