A Writers’ Budget – Surviving on Two Paychecks a Year

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by Mary Ellis

Ahhh, a writer’s budget…rather sounds like an oxymoron, no? Plenty of writers will tell you they have no budget. Money flies out just as fast as it flies in, and it doesn’t fly in often enough or in sufficient quantity. But readers of this blog are Christians, by and large, and we’ve heard the Scripture that the Lord will provide for our needs. In those words we place our faith and trust, but we must also rely on a budget to meet day-to-day obligations.

First and foremost, “don’t give up your day-job too soon” was the soundest, non-Biblical advice I received after signing my first publishing contract. Many new writers dream of live-in maids and nannies after landing a contract with a major house. But please remember royalties are often years away and paid only twice a year. To estimate your yearly income, take your two royalty “paydays” and add it to your advances. Now divide this amount by twelve and see what you have per month to spend. See what I mean about not giving up the day-job too soon? I didn’t “retire” to write full-time until four years after my first contract and two years after signing a multi-book contract.

These days, I place any book advances into our joint checking account to pay bills. Royalties then go into our savings account. But before you imagine our family saving up for a villa in France, remember I must pay income taxes, social security, health insurance, writing expenses (which get larger and larger each year) Christian charities and of course, the ACFW conference from this account. Last year I had enough left over to buy tires for my car. You get the picture.

But the point is, no matter what your financial situation (married, sole provider, or blessed with eleven children) you must estimate your yearly income and then draw up a budget.

Oh, and don’t forget to give the Lord his ten percent. After all, it all comes from Him.

Mary Ellis grew up near the Amish and fell in love with them. She has now written nine novels set in their communities. When not writing, she enjoys gardening, bicycling, and swimming. Before “retiring” to write full-time, Mary taught school and worked as a sales rep for Hershey Chocolate. Her debut Christian book, A Widow’s Hope, was a finalist for the 2010 ACFW Carols.

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