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Be Mused by Susan M. Brackney
Lost Soul Companion Book Review : Creativity and Poverty

Creativity and Poverty

Tricks to Living Comfortably on Very Little Income

Excerpted from The Lost Soul Companion by Susan M. Brackney

For most Lost Souls who choose some kind of career in the arts, the best we can hope for is having just enough money to get by. That's not to say that the life of an artist, musician, writer, actor, or whatever you are can't be a rich one. It can . . . just maybe not in the traditional sense.

There are some tricks to living comfortably on very little income. I am able to save exactly half of my monthly earnings because:

1. I never let my rent exceed one week's pay (or at least not by much . . .)

Since I make about $300 a week after taxes, I looked and looked for a place in that range. I settled for a $325 a month hole in the wall. It was a "cute studio apartment" next door to a detox center. There were hornets living in one of the walls.But, after we got the bugs worked out, it wasn't so bad. And the men at the detox center kept a close eye on my place. One guy was an ex-mechanic who sometimes helped me with my car problems. The sacrifices I make now enable me to keep doing what I want to do — my art and writing on my time. And although I could probably afford a nicer place, I'm willing to delay my gratification, save my money, and buy a small house of my own someday.

2. I pay my credit card bill off in full every month.

The credit card companies call people like me "deadbeats." My card has no annual fee, and, because I never go the minimum payment route, the credit card people don't even make interest off of me. (I almost feel sorry for them . . . almost.)

I usually pay for necessities such as groceries and gas with my card because I like getting the itemized statement at the end of the month. It makes keeping track of my spending habits really easy — and I don't have to carry around lots of cash or pay for checks all the time. (Not to mention the fact that I am establishing a good credit rating for later.) I know this may sound oversimplified, but the trick is not spending more money than you know you can afford. I've made a reasonable budget for myself, and I stick to it. For Lost Souls with enough discipline, a credit card can provide a monthly, interest-free loan.

3. I barter whenever possible.

I have traded my artwork for rent, bicycles, and one whole summer of fresh vegetables. And barter really saved my skin in Santa Cruz. When I needed a place to stay, the manager of Caffe Pergolessi let me stay at his house in exchange for doing the dishes and keeping the place tidy. Thank you! Thank you!

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