I always love the time around Thanksgiving when many of my Facebook friends post descriptions or pictures of what they and their family are making for their holiday dinner. Everyone oohs and ahhs about how yummy is all sounds.
What happens to that realization during the other 364 days of the year?
When I was an undergraduate student at the University of Minnesota, my group of friends often went out to eat several times a day — a late breakfast, lunch, maybe supper, and definitely out for beer after rehearsal. It was an opportunity for everyone to gossip and joke. And none of us could think of an alternative — after all, there wasn’t anyplace to refrigerate a lunch or even keep it while you were in class.
But it was expensive. I didn’t have money to buy new shoes when the pair I was wearing developed cracks in the soles so that water leaked in when it rained. I just put the wrappers from individual American cheese slices in there and kept going.
Students use restaurants because it is too hard to go home to eat. And because it’s fun.
People in the performing arts — really, anyone in our work work work society – uses restaurants and microwavable food as a time saver. When you work until 5:00 and have a 7:00 rehearsal, it is easier to grab something out rather than trying to cook something. “I don’t have TIME to cook,” we cry — and everyone nods in sympathy. And in the morning, we grab a cheesecake brownie and caramel macchiato on the way to work. And packing a lunch takes too much time and planning, so we run out for lunch or get something from a machine…
You know where this is all going, right?
If you went through the process I discussed in “How Much Do You REALLY Make Per Hour?,” you know that these purchases have to be paid for not with money but with time — YOUR time. Your “life energy.” Right?
I know, I know. Eating out is a reward for having to put up with all the frustration you have after eight hours at your day job, and it’s a chance to see friends and relax. But in reality, these purchases are making sure you get to have that frustration week after week world without end amen. Is that really what you want?
Let me give you an example: breakfast. First of all, don’t buy breakfast cereals — they are expensive per serving. Make some pancakes from scratch (you can make a large batch in advance and just make them as you need them — or make up a bunch in advance and microwave them), scramble an egg or two, if you eat meat have a couple slices of bacon or sausage, make yourself a big cup of coffee and an orange. How much would you pay for that at your favorite breakfast place, including a tip? Now, how much would it cost you to make it? I estimate a buck fifty at most, and way less if you don’t have meat. Multiply the difference times however many times you get breakfast out over the course of a month, and you will likely have a sizable amount. Divide it by how much you REALLY make per hour and ask yourself: does that breakfast deliver the enjoyment to balance the amount of my life energy I have to spend and the amount of frustration those hours cost me? Plus — is that cheesecake brownie and caramel macchiato really a healthy breakfast?
Lunch and supper is the same, only the savings are even greater, especially is you make easy meals from scratch — they are yummy and not very expensive. And the reality is that basic meals don’t take much time to make, really.
You don’t have to deny yourself eating out completely. But make it intentional, make it an event, make it purposeful. When it becomes something you do regularly, it loses its value.
The way you respond to this post should be an indication of how serious you are about being an independent artist. If you can’t imagine giving up your Bacon Egg and Cheese Biscuit in order to buy yourself some time to create, well then maybe you’re just not serious…
Don’t sell your creativity so cheaply.