How to Achieve Creative Freedom

  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    Hey guys,

    As i pack up the studio and get ready to move across country I thought I would check in and mention a few things about building a life as a creative person.

    One of the things I talk about a lot is the ability to have time to work on things you care about. What is often not talked about is how what you do outside of illustration affects what you can do with illustration. We live in a culture of always going into more debt. And that debt means that you need more money which means you have to always work more. Cars, clothes, technology all contribute to this debt. And the debt will handcuff your creative life quicker than you can imagine. it forces you to take jobs you don't want, in cities that you don't want and the debt keeps piling up. Pretty soon it's too hard to get out from under it all and you don't have time, money, or energy for a true creative life.

    As of June 4 (that's the day my house sale closes) I am out of debt. And I don't just mean credit cards. I mean that I don't owe a penny to anyone for anything. No house payment or rent, no car payment, no nothing. Ever. Again. This has been a 7 year plan in the making and I'm not going to say it was easy. I made very tough decisions and had to hope I was headed in the right direction. I spent 12 years remodeling 3 homes all while working and building my career and having a new born, getting my masters degree and also teaching full time at the college level. It was a massive undertaking.

    In building this new life I'm also leaving an expensive city for a less expensive city. I'm moving my whole family, leaving friends and all of it still isn't easy. Lots of unknowns are still popping up. But the freedom that is coming with this whole thing is an awesome feeling.

    People will say stupid things to keep you in debt. Things like "good credit" and buying things to improve your credit score, etc. Wanting to impress your broke friends, etc. We live in a society that wants you to keep buying. Keep spending. All of that is total crap.

    But I want to tell you that this is possible for you too. Many people have done it before me. There were two major resources for me in trying to figure out how to go about having no bills. I thought I would mention them here in the hopes that it might help some of you too.

    Dave Ramsey:
    Dave Ramsey is classic and gives advice like your dad would. He's no nonsense and breaks things down simply. He has a step by step plan for having no debt. It totally works and it can change your life. Note: It isn't easy. You will have to give up luxuries. You might have to move (especially if you are wasting rent on expensive city living), You will have to change. But this is a great place to start if you are sitting there thinking "I could never do that because my situation is ......". Check out his 7 steps then listen to a few of his shows. He also has an audio book I think. It's pretty basic, but can be transformative if you have a problem with debt and spending. It's also great if you don't know what to do first.
    Aside from having the coolest name ever, Mr. money mustache is also one of the OG guys I saw who was preaching the no debt lifestyle. I think this group is a little more advanced and hardcore than the dave ramsey group, but they sure have it figured out. Check out the forum and all his advice on leading a lifestyle where you hardly have to earn any money to live. Very motivational!

    Remember, this isn't an overnight fix. It took me a crazy long time and sacrifice. This is a lifestyle change. A philosophy change at your core level. I hope at least a few of you out there check it out. People will call you crazy. They will say that you can't live debt free. They will try to convince you of it. But I did it, and you can too. : )

    Good Luck!

  • @lee-white I, for one, am excited/curious to see how this major change affects your art work -- after all the moving and living out of boxes ends, that is. I bet you are too 🙂

    I applaud you (and your family of course). It takes a ton of courage to do this. I wish you the best. And hey, if that less expensive city ends up being Providence, RI, I'll stop by with a casserole. 🙂

  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    @laurel-aylesworth Thanks Laurel! It's actually Nashville TN. I grew up there and my family is still there. : )

  • Congratulations, @Lee-White , that is HUGE! I got myself out of debt several years ago and lived that way and it was amazing. Now I've screwed it all up again, but at least I know the path to get back. Enjoy your new freedom and best of luck with your move.

  • SVS OG

    Congrats and best wishes on your move! We only have car payments left, and they will be done within a year. Our best strategy was to pick the house and cars we could afford to pay over the minimum every month so the debt was paid off faster. It took 12 years to pay off our 30 year home loan. And of course always pay off the credit card every month (in other words, don't spend money you don't actually have.)

  • @lee-white Congrats! That's amazing!

    I love that you mention this because people forget that this is relevant to their careers. I'm trying to start off with good habits and prevent getting into debt because I know how debt can negatively impact my life and career. I want the freedom to do the work I want to do and invest in my work.

    Yay, Dave Ramsey! My dad gave me one of his books when I as in HS and I've listened to him on-and-off ever since.

    I wish you well with your move and this new chapter in your life!

  • SVS OG

    Congratulations, Lee! I'm very happy for you. Indeed your lifestyle can affect your career and not just the other way around. I'm just out of school and I still don't have that much experience with credits and debts. However, growing up in an impoverished household, my mother has taught me the value of not being in debt. She always said, "it's better to have less than to have plenty but owe it all to somebody else." I wish you all the best.

  • This is very inspirational! You are a wise man Lee White. Good luck! 🙂

  • SVS OG

    When I was a kid, my father who was a college professor turned down some promotions that came with a higher salary because he said, "Once you get used to a higher level of income, it's really hard to go back." Essentially, he like Lee wanted to have the freedom to have choices and not be locked into something because he had come to require a higher income level. So I've tried not only to stay out of debt but be careful about what I think I "require" financially to be happy and I absolutely concur with Lee that the freedom has been worth the trade offs. Great post, Lee.

  • SVS OG

    @lee-white Thank you thank you thank you, Lee, for generously sharing your story and advice. Everything you say resonates with me. I'm going to check out those links today. Congratulations on achieving your own financial freedom.

  • Pro SVS OG

    That is awesome Lee! Congrats. I am thrilled for you and your family. I will say we are right behind you. We are selling our 5 bedroom/4 bathroom home in suburbia that comes with a suburban lifestyle, and suburban bills. We are moving from an over 2800 square feet not including a huge finish basement to a 900 sq ft cabin on a lake in a small community. This move was on purpose; less house to heat, less house to clean, less yard to maintain, and less bills per month. We wanted to get back to nature, back to family time, and have more time to do what we love. We have been tossing a ton of stuff, donating boat loads and it feels liberating!!!!! Thank you for sharing and thank you for the links. Keep us posted

  • SVS OG

    @lmrush My house is 960 square feet. Pros -- quicker to clean, cheaper to heat, can't save stuff I don't really need, and cheaper to re-roof/paint/re-side when those things need to be done. Cons -- a little too cozy when your kids start bringing home girlfriends/boyfriends to watch TV and cuddle. Buy earplugs and a white noise machine if you have teens!

  • Congrats lee hope the move works out well for you.What you say makes a lot of sense,I grew up very poor , I was also taught to only buy what you can afford,and stay away from credit. Reading what the other guys say maybe artists are more sensible than other people and not so materialistic,and tend to be more into family and friends and pets than processions. Good luck.

  • Pro SVS OG

    @demotlj Thank you!!!! I have an 18 year old and a 4 year old, I do have a noise machine (thanks for the reminder) and headphones everywhere you look Lol I am so excited to simplify!

  • SVS Team SVS Instructor Pro SVS OG

    This might be too extreme: haha!

  • Pro SVS OG

    @lee-white that's hysterical lol

  • SVS OG

    @lmrush Wow Lisa! Your house/move sounds so awesome, can we come visit? 😉 😉 I want to keep my 1500 square feet in suburbia though... no tiny house for me!

    @Lee-White is so right though--being debt free definitely effects your career, and your mindset. Part of the reason I feel no guilt about subscribing to SVS, and pursuing this dream of a career in illustration rather than trying to do something practical that could make more money in the short term, is the fact that we have no debt aside from our 15 year mortgage.

  • SVS OG

    Wishing you the best in your move! We're in the process of selling our house, leaving all our friends, etc. too but we're going to be living in a fifth wheel as fulltimers (also a fun thing to google and learn about). It feels great to be ridding ourselves of the clutter in our lives and today, I threw away a banana cream pie because it was such a big temptation to me. It was a big deal because I don't like to waste anything AND I'm a sugar addict. And afterwards I was thinking, that was clutter too. I'm getting older and I need to quit putting so much "clutter" in my body too. Living simply and getting rid of unnecessary stuff (like all the stuff we may go into debt for) -our homes, our bodies, our thoughts...good to sort it all out and get rid of the excess, unneccessary junk in our lives and move forward. I look forward to fueling my creative bank account with moving and spending more time in the great outdoors 🙂 Less time dealing with stuff. Sorry this is so long....

  • @Lee-White
    Wow, that is impressive--Congratulations! That's great that you are sharing what helped you. I've seen the trouble debt can cause while I was growing up, so I've always been very careful with money, but that Mr. Money Mustache guy sounds really interesting! I'll check it out.
    Good luck with the move--I bet your family is so excited to have you nearby!

    You have a good start by being aware & having good advice from your mom! She sounds like a smart lady!
    Since you said you don't have a lot of experience with credit and debt, my advice would be that it's good to have a credit card IF you:

    1. Make sure that there are NO fees/interest as long as you pay on time. Also, look for cards with cash back.
    2. NEVER buy anything with it if you don't already have the money in the bank to pay it off BEFORE you buy.
    3. ALWAYS pay off the balance due every month.
      Consider setting up auto-payments, so you can't forget. And sign up for notifications & read your monthly statements, so you'll aways be aware of what's going on with your account.
      (Make sure you pay the full balance due for that month's statement--not the minimum payment, and not the entire balance of the card--since any charges made after the closing date aren't due yet. If you pay the entire balance--including what isn't due yet, I believe it doesn't build up your credit score--which I think is stupid, but that's the way it works, as far as I know.)
    4. If you can handle doing all three of the above, always use your credit card instead of other forms of payment (unless there's a fee).
      This way, you'll stay out of trouble, while establishing a good credit score--which is important if you ever want a loan for things like a car or house.
      And of course, don't spend even a small amount of money without thinking about whether it's really worth it.

  • SVS OG

    @lee-white said in How to Achieve Creative Freedom:

    That video is hilarious!!! (And soo American!) It hits a bit close to home because we lived in a 440sf apartment in NYC, with a 4-10yo. Those six years of living in a number puzzle helped us financially but the move to a 2 bedroom apartment didn't come a moment too soon!

    This fellow Southerner wishes you the very best in your move to Nashville. We tried at one point to move to Portland from NYC but wound up in Italy instead. Long story and not the vacation it sounds like, but now it's home. And people here are very frugal and savings oriented, so that helps 🙂

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