‘Yes, my wife is very frugal.’ Inspector Clouseau: Pink Panther
I recently read that some children’s authors thought they should be able to live off their book royalties. I don’t know where this idea came from but we never have and never expected to. Our income has come from contracts, school visits and talks, employment in ‘proper jobs’, TV royalties, book royalties and PLR. None of these has been large but when combined with my ability to be frugal with the housekeeping we have managed. So this is my Writer’s Wife’s Survival Guide based on my experience of over 30 years as the wife of a writer. The best thing for a writer is to have a partner with a proper job… I however wanted to stay at home…
My personal vows as #thewriterswife (married 42 years so far…)
For better for worse
For richer, for poorer
In sickness and in health
Whether you like it or not you can expect all of those, and also that life will be more unpredictable than for those with a ‘proper job’. Do not expect Best Sellers or that you will earn enough money from writing to live off. You will never know how much money you will have from one year to the next. There will be many ups and downs. It will never be dull.
Having grown up in the 50s at a time or real austerity with parents with little money I have experience of and no trouble with living frugally which has helped a lot. You might find what I have written below really dull but we much preferred living frugally within our means than the stress of bills to pay and not enough money to pay them (see Tax below)
Writing v. A ‘Proper Job’
Writing is a choice and publication, sales or an income sufficient to live off is a not a given or a right. If people like your writing enough to spend their hard earned cash on it well done! But it might not happen. Over the years the writer and I have never expected a good income from writing. . Our main income came from book contracts – not huge and not often. We have both had ‘proper jobs’ when money was short, there have been some royalties from TV writing (don’t get too excited it was never huge) and also money earned from school visits. We have never had much from book royalties because sales have never been large. There are a lot of battered copies of my writer’s books in schools that have been read many times which is wonderful but not financially rewarding! Foreign Editions and PLR are a wonderful bonus.
For many years we had one but two cars makes life easier because we live in the country. Toyotas have served us well. I had my favourite green one for 20 years until it got too rusty. Current cars : Toyota Yaris 10 years old; Toyota Corolla R reg 20+ years old. Both bought secondhand.
Fortunately I am not interested in fashion. We buy clothes for comfort (warm ones save on heating costs) and durability. My jeans and skirts are well over 10 years old. This year I have bought 2 t-shirts for £24 and a pair of shoes for £18 and that will probably be it. Clothes last until they fall apart which can be a very long time. New clothes are a luxury. The writer’s shirts are frayed at the cuffs and collars but he has a couple of good ones for going out! My first son’s clothes and toys all came from Jumble Sales – it was before the days of charity shops.
I suspect the young and modern would not cope well with this! We have 2 old Nokias that do phone calls and texts. They cost about £14 each many many years ago. I buy less than £20 a year in Pay As You Go top ups. We have Broadband at home which is our greatest expense but essential.
Keep your own accounts and receipts as you go along. Fill in your annual tax return with a partner or friend. It is really easy and an accountant is not necessary. If you earn so much that you are registered for VAT you don’t need my advice as you are wealthy! BUT REMEMBER! In the good years put money into a separate tax account so that when the bill comes you can pay it. When my man was writing for television we had a tremendous year followed by a year of NOTHING! … and then came the tremendous tax bill. We had to move house to release money to pay the bill. A little drastic and we have been more careful since as we don’t want to move again. Since then my writer has only written children’s books and tax if any has been minimal. For several years we had Tax Credits or paid no tax at all.
We rarely have Takeways and only occasionally have Ready Meals. Eating out is a rare treat for very special occasions. Meal planning and a shopping list are essential. Mince, tinned tomatoes, oats and eggs are all cheap staples. You can work out food for yourself but the most important thing is to only buy what you need, cook just enough and waste nothing.
Ironically as a writer’s wife who partly relies on money from book sales I don’t buy books. Over the years I have borrowed hundreds, probably thousands of books from libraries. Wonderful and free, unless I pay 70p for a book to be brought in from another library in Hampshire.
It’s free. Be sure to sign up and add new books. They pay out money!
No Netflix or Amazon Prime or Sky or any other contract.
We had years without holidays. They are a luxury.
Wear more clothes especially thermal vests and thick socks. And if it’s really chilly add a scarf, blanket and fingerless gloves.
Look at The Society of Authors for advice and also pay into a private pension. We paid in as much as we could which meant we had even less to live off, but come the age of 65 it is wonderful and really worth scrimping and saving when you are young. The more National Insurance contributions you make the larger your State Pension too.
That’s all that springs to mind just now but I’m sure there is more so do comment if you would like to. Good luck with your writing and if you earn money from it then well done you! I’m off to read a library book…