Frugality and the self-published author

I am the type of person who researches everything about a subject that piques my interest. Self-publishing has given me an endless supply of information to read, analyze, consider, and test.

Before this writing adventure, I was deep into researching frugality/minimalism/early retirement. We still lived in France and I knew that as an American, I was falling behind my peers in terms of retirement savings. It would have been absurdly complicated to set up retirement accounts from abroad due to taxes and things like that. This is not the main reason we moved to the states, of course, since many Americans living abroad have diversified investments (and very good accountants). It's just a nice added bonus of moving back that we only have to pay taxes in one country instead of three, and now I get to have all sorts of investment accounts.

There are a few main principles of this early retirement/ frugal/minimalism lifestyle that I find apply to my new self-publishing life:

1) It is not a temporary thing, but a mentality shift. Doing a spending freeze for a month is good, but not if you are just putting off purchases until the next month instead of analyzing your true needs.

2) Spend on what matters to you, not what society says you should. While I haven't gone so far as an outright clothing ban, I haven't bought any in a long time. And when I do buy now, it tends to be used. Our son has 90% hand me downs as well (the rest is 5% gifts, and 5% "strong like mom" t shirts I bought in every size until age 5).

3) Spend less, earn more, ideally both. Moving was expensive, but I did the math over the next 2 years and even with the agency fees, we're still saving more. Add to that some unexpected promotions this year, and we're on a good path. We could reach our goals without my writing making money, but we'll get to them sooner if I can manage to make more than 10 dollars a month (though first goal is still just to break even).

4) As little credit as possible. Only spend what you have. We have a car loan, for the simple reason that it costs less over time to maintain a newer car than if we'd bought an old one with the savings we had and then needed to repair it every other month. I have my student loans, which are slowly dwindling with each passing month. But that's it. No credit card debt, no other loans. If you want something, save up for it.

All of this should sound familiar to indie authors. If you are not already doing a few of these (especially the "little to no credit" one), then costs will quickly spiral out of control. Book covers are expensive. Editing is expensive. Promotions are expensive. The upfront costs can be 600 to 3000 dollars, which you might not have. There is no guarantee of a certain return on investment in this business, no matter what any course or website tells you.

So I urge you to practice frugality first, in addition to your writing dreams. It's not about being a starving artist, but making sure you have a handle on your money before getting into it. While you can treat it like a business and invest, I prefer right now to spend like it's a hobby. I'm not putting any pressure on it to make me money, so I won't go into the red for it. However, this does mean spending less on other things, like restaurants, or yoga classes, and being very careful about the grocery budget. It also means that this will take more time than it will for others, because I'm not putting $100 per day into Amazon ads. I do have a few at $10 per day, however. Frugality isn't about never spending money, but about spending according to a plan to reach your goals.

Frugality is also about recognizing that what others do shouldn't influence what's best for you. Like self-publishing, everyone is on their own frugality journey. One frugal/early retirement blog I read is pretty set against owning property and lives abroad. Another has two houses (one a rental) and lives on a homestead. Will my life ever look like theirs? No. That doesn't mean I can't learn something from them.

I don't compare myself to them, and have been trying to stop comparing myself to other indie authors. This has been hard, but it's getting better. In big part because of the new podcast I'm starting, in order to talk to other indie author moms and promote a more realistic vision of what self-publishing looks like for parents. The other part is just how my mind works - once I research something enough, I figure out where I am in relation to all the information, and I stop stressing about what others are doing. The more confident I am in my knowledge on the subject, the more confident I am in my own choices. Frugality, above all else, is about choices.