The following is a chapter from Business for Breakfast, Volume 1: The Beginning Professional Writer.

The ebook is available from Amazon, Kobo Books, Barnes & Noble, iBookstore, and the paper version is available from Createspace.

However, if you’re like most writers (broke!) I will also be posting a chapter a week, so you’ll merely have to have patience to read all twelve chapters.

Chapter Four

Intuitive Budgeting

On certain topics, I am a contrarian.

I believe this is in part because I am an artist. In order for me to be able to do my art when society tells me I can’t/shouldn’t, I have to be able to tell society exactly which bridge they can jump off of.

Budgets are one of those hot spots for me.

If you tell me I must go on a budget, I will—not consciously, but unconsciously—break something, so that I can no longer stay on a budget.

I am a rational person. I understand budgets are good things.

For me, and for other artists I know, budgets are worse than straitjackets. Just the thought of having a budget will drive them (and me!) crazy.


I am also a professional. I run more than one business. I need to know what money is coming in and where it’s going out.

So I have developed what I call intuitive budgeting: a way of understanding my cash flow and being able to make corrections without having to put myself on a budget.

By the end of this chapter, you should have some ideas for how to set up your own intuitive budgeting system.

Why Budget?

One of the things people don’t tell you is why you need to budget.

You don’t, actually.

What you need is a budget. That is, you need to know how much money you’re making as well as spending over a particular period of time.

Why do you need to know this?

So you can make adjustments as necessary. As things change, and drips accumulate, or perhaps dry up, you need to be aware and adjust.

You don’t need to give yourself only X amount of money to spend on coffee every month.

You do need to know how much you’re spending on coffee every month, and make adjustments if necessary.


If you are just starting off trying to figure out your finances, I would recommend starting with I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi. His audience is twenty– and thirty–year–old people who have their first paychecks coming in; he tells them what to do with those paychecks. He writes in a very casual style that’s very readable.

Fair warning—he also calls people idiots. This is not a guide for someone who is overly sensitive and needs a lot of handholding. He expects his readers to be smart. I found the book very refreshing.

I also discovered that I was already doing 99% of what he suggested.

I luuurrrve the internets and the modern day we live in. I take full advantage of as much automation as I possibly can in terms of my money.

What do I mean by automation?

If you are working for a regular company, chances are, your paychecks are automatically deposited into your account. If you’re selling your work regularly through the usual distribution channels (,,, etc.) you’re having those checks automatically deposited into your account.

This is automation that those companies have put in place regarding what they pay out.

You can set up the same sort of automation for yourself and the bills you pay.

If you own a house, your mortgage is probably automatically deducted. Maybe your heat and other utilities as well.

But wait! That’s just money flowing in and out. No accountability.

Don’t worry. This is just the start. Now let’s dig into more details.


Every credit card, as well as most banks, are happy to email you information about your accounts on a regular basis.

For example, you now have a credit card that’s dedicated to your writing business. There won’t be a lot of charges on it. One of the ways to track that card is to have the credit card company email you every time there’s a charge made to that card.

This helps protect you against fraud—particularly when you get an email as soon as charges are made (and you didn’t make them!).

I also have the credit card people send me an email every morning with my balance. This way, I know exactly what is on every card.

But how does this help you keep track of what you’re spending on?


I keep receipts. But I also buy 99% of everything using cards.

Most credit cards, and possibly your bank if you’re using a debit card, have calculators—pie–charts—that show you where you’ve spent your money that month.

Instead of telling myself that I only have a specific amount of money to spend on something, I track at the end of a month (or, for me, more realistically, the end of each quarter) and see what I have been spending my money on.

By doing this sort of “after the fact” budget, of seeing what I was actually spending money on, I’ve been able to keep on track in terms of not spending more than I’m making.

For example, it became very clear at the end of one quarter that I was spending way too much money on coffee shops. Because I could see my spending patterns, I was able to make changes.


This system of automating everything works if you use credit cards for everything, and you pay them off completely at the end of every month. (Me, I’m pathological about debt. I have none. Your mileage may vary—YMMV.)

But what if you use cash for everything? I understand that level of paranoia, of not wanting to pay off a large bill at the end of every month.

Then you must keep receipts. And you must then enter them into a program like Quicken or Quickbooks.

I know, I know. Not very intuitive.

However, cash is one of the easiest ways to lose track of your money.

You may think you have better control of your cash. And possibly you do, if you only spend cash on specific items.

But chances are, you spend cash on a lot of things. And you don’t track your receipts. So you lose track of where you are and you end up in a hole.

I know too many artists who get into holes and then end up digging a deeper one.


At the end of every quarter, I put all of my expenses into an accounting program. I’ve used GnuCash, but have now switched over to Quicken.

Since I’ve used credit cards for everything, it’s very easy to enter receipts and assign my expenses to the correct category.

I know people who do this every week. I can’t. I tried. Too much like a budget.

Instead, I buy a nice bottle of wine at the end of every quarter that I don’t allow myself to open until I put in my receipts. (Carrots work much better than sticks for some artists.)

I can see that bottle of wine sitting there, unopened on my counter, every day, until I go ahead and enter in my receipts.

Online Programs

You can also use an online tracking program, like, for tracking your money. They have great charts showing you where you spent everything. You can download the reports to automatically enter into your own accounting software. Etc.

The problem? I have to give them the password for my bank account. And my credit card account.

How secure are they? You hear about companies being hacked all the time.

Do I want all of those passwords stored on a site I don’t control?

Maybe it’s fine. Maybe they’re never hacked. Or maybe you’re willing to take the risk.

It’s up to you how you track your money.

But you can’t make adjustments to your spending, which is all about what a budget is supposed to be used for, if you don’t know what things you’re spending on.

In Conclusion

These are the three things you need to remember about intuitive budgeting:

  • The purpose of a budget is to track your money so you can make adjustments if necessary.
  • Use automation, such as emails from your credit cards or bank, to help you keep track of everything. Also use the online tools provided by your bank or credit card to determine which categories you’re spending too much money in.
  • Enter your receipts into an accounting program from time to time. Some people do it weekly. I do it quarterly. Others do it annually. But you must keep track of what you’re spending where so you can make adjustments.

This book is available from Amazon, Kobo Books, Barnes & Noble, iBookstore, and the paper version is available from Createspace.