The past two months I’ve devoted my column to the question of how to heal from financial trauma. So many of us find ourselves on cam or in other corners of the sex industry because of serious money trouble.
Unpaid bills, debt, scarce cash – these are terrifying problems that can keep us up at night and create deep dents in our psyche. We can only fully recover when we have our personal finances in order. Towards that end, this month I want to discuss three practical aspects of personal money management: tracking, budgeting, and saving. These skills are foundational—without them, financial stability is impossible.
As I wrote in my latest book, Thriving in Sex Work: Sex Work and Money, a personal finance guide for sex workers, financial security means knowing where all your money is at all times. This means not only keeping your money safe—an important topic in and of itself—but knowing on a day-to-day basis how much you have, how much you earn, and how much you spend. Any sloppiness or confusion can place you in severe financial jeopardy. If you don’t already, I highly encourage you to start tracking your finances daily. Additionally, scan your bank and credit card statements once a week to make sure there are no unexpected charges or fees.
There are many excellent free and low-cost tracking apps out there, such as Mint and GoodBudget, as well as Honeydue, if you’re budgeting with a partner. If you prefer to go analog, writing down your earnings and expenses in a bullet journal is an excellent way to go.
The goal is to become friends with our money, to understand the ebbs and flows of our earning and spending throughout the month, so we are always 100% certain of our financial position.
Tracking is knowing what money we have; budgeting is telling it where to go. While everyone’s situation is unique, a helpful starting point is the 50/30/20 budget developed by Senator Elizabeth Warren. The rule is to divide your income into three portions:
- Fifty percent (50%) goes to life’s necessities, such as food, rent, transportation, and utilities
- Thirty percent (30%) goes to the fun things in life
- Twenty percent (20%) goes to savings and paying down debt
The 50/30/20 budget has several advantages—it’s easy to understand and use, making it more likely to succeed, as well as helping you to balance your current needs against future savings. NerdWallet offers a free 50/30/20 budget calculator to help you get started. Over time, as you grow accustomed to budgeting, you can tweak those percentages to suit your needs.
Finally, I want to stress the importance of savings. Nothing has more power to restore you to financial stability than a rainy-day fund for emergencies or unexpected expenses.
Personal finance experts recommend setting aside at the bare minimum three months’ worth of saving – six months’ is better – preferably in an interest-bearing account. NerdWallet offers a terrific tool for comparing the best current rates. I believe savings are particularly important for sex workers because a financial cushion means you can afford to not work if you get sick or burned out. Savings means you can also support yourself during a transition period if you decide you want to leave the industry altogether.
Getting into the habit of setting aside money for the future isn’t always easy – especially if you’ve been scraping by in the recent past. It’s tempting to splurge and overspend to make up for lost time. The important thing is to get started just as soon as you can afford to, even if you have to start small. As I write in Sex Work and Money:
At first, it can feel futile. You might ask yourself, What’s the point if I can only set aside ten dollars this month? Don’t get discouraged. What’s far more important is committing to your future self. If ten dollars is what you can afford, then you know just how important those ten dollars are.
Some down-and-dirty ways to save are:
- Taking a percentage of each camming check right off the top and depositing it into savings.
- Depositing all coins you accumulate into a savings jar.
- Using an automatic savings app like Acorns or Keep The Change linked to a debit card, that rounds up every expenditure to the nearest dollar, and diverts the change into a savings account.
There are many other skills needed to achieve money mastery, including earning, investing, preparing for and paying taxes, loaning and comingling money with partners, friends, and family; I discuss these topics at length in Sex Work and Money.
The most important step in healing from financial trauma is committing to learning how to get good at money, a priceless investment in your future well-being and sanity.
Until next time, be sweet to yourself.
Lola Davina is a longtime veteran of the sex industry and author of “Thriving in Sex Work: Sex Work and Money,” her follow-up to the formative “Thriving in Sex Work: Heartfelt Advice for Staying Sane in the Sex Industry,” is available wherever books are sold. You can find audio versions located at Audible, iTunes and Awesound.