Welsh tenor Joshua Owen Mills is passionate about sharing the personal finance skills he has developed throughout his career as an opera singer. His website and social media channels The Art of Money Saving encourage and support others who are keen to pursue financial independence.



Budgeting guidelines for musicians
Budgeting is going to be a fundamental part of your life as a musician. Dealing with unpredictable income streams could leave you feeling unsure about your financial position.
With income entering your bank account in dribs and drabs, it’s quite easy just to sit back and let things happen.
A budget is your first step towards mastering your finances. Whether you’re battling debt, or managing millions, a budget is a fundamental part of being financially healthy.


So what’s the plan?
Rather than focussing on the ‘standard budget template’ which we often see in financial books, this document will encourage you to try another approach.
Whilst the ‘standard budgeting template’ can work very well for those on fixed incomes, I have found it to feel quite restrictive when dealing with a self-employed variable income.


So what’s the alternative?
In one word. Percentages.
Percentages are going to become a good friend of yours when managing your personal and business expenses.
Example 1 (No budget for a week):
- You get paid £500 for a performance of Mozart’s Requiem.
You have a few mates playing in the orchestra, so you meet up after the concert and goo to the pub. Since you’ve just got a big juicy £500 fee, you’re feeling quite generous. So you a buy a round of drinks and snacks and have a good evening out with mates. (£100).
Grocery shopping (high quality organic vegetables in Waitrose) and a meal out with friends. (£80)
Rent for the week (£200).
Travel (£30)
Netflix, Spotify, Phone Bill– (£15)
Coffee - (£15)
At the end of the week you’re feeling quite pleased with yourself. You haven’t spent the whole £500, and even have (£60) left for your long term savings.
If you continue in this fashion, you could make it difficult for yourself if anything were to go wrong.
For example. None of fee has been deducted for tax payments. Therefore, when your tax bill comes (which it inevitably will). you’d find yourself scrambling to find the money.
You’re also making no provisions for your future: e:g investing into a pension.


Let’s get this straight
A budget doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. In fact, it gives you permission to spend your hard earned money on things which matter to you most.
So let’s look at an example of how calculating percentages could transform your financial health.
Example 2 (with a percentage based budget):
The £500 arrives into your bank account, and you immediately break it down into percentages.
You know that you have to pay £200 rent for the week, so you immediately transfer 40% into a sub-account.
- 40% Rent £200
- 20% Tax £100
By immediately deducting 20% for taxes, you will avoid any nasty surprises from HMRC.
- 7% for Travel £35
- 3% Netflix, Spotify, Phone Bill £15
- 15% SIIP (Self Invested Personal Pension) £75
By consistently paying into a pension, you could give your money a chance to grow over the long-term.
What is a Pension? Simply, it’s a type of savings plan to help you save money for later in life which is normally invested into the stock market. The government currently provides tax relief to those paying into their pension, which encourages people to save for their retirement.
The value of a pension can go both up and down, but when we look at the average stock market return, it has historically given an annual rate of approximately 7% a year.
Albert Einstein famously said: ‘Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it; he who doesn’t, pays it’.
Compound Interest Calculator Instructions
Don’t worry. You don’t have to be a maths genius to understand the basics of compounding interest.
Follow this link and start to dabble. https://www.thecalculatorsite.com/finance/calculators/compoundinterestcalculator.php
- Select the Sterling Currency (£).
- Your initial balance … (Most likely to be £0).
- Select your interest rate.
- Number of years depending which you will pay in.
- Monthly payment.
Play around and test scenarios. You will start to notice the difference between huge variables, and why starting early could work to your advantage.
- 15% Groceries/Meal Out and Coffee £75
Now this may come as quite a shock. The amount for discretionary spending is considerably lower than in example 1, and it might mean that you’re not able to eat out twice a week.
The percentages can be altered to work for you. Perhaps you could cut down on the travel costs in order to give yourself some more freedom elsewhere in the budget?
I would strongly encourage you to focus on committing to your tax and pension savings. Set an amount, and stick with it! Your older self will be thanking you.


Recommendations
So there you have it. A fairly easy way to start your journey of budgeting. There are some fantastic resources out there which can help on your way.
Bank and Budgeting Apps
Starling Bank
A Fintech Bank that is on the rise in the last few years. Renowned for its instant spending notifications and in built budgeting tools. You can check out my review of Starling here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWFpNWCZmDA&t=67s
Monzo
You must have seen the bright orange Monzo Debit cards. Monzo also has a built in budgeting tool into the app.
Money Dashboard
An App that syncs all of your bank accounts together, and lets you see your budget in one place.
Reading Material
The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers, and the Self-Employed: The Only Personal Finance System for People with Not-So Regular Jobs by Joseph D’Agnese.
This book covers the percentage budget plan in great detail.

Joshua has also created a mini masterclass for YCAT on managing finances - watch it here!


Joshua Owen Mills



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