NOW AVAILABLE: the second book in the Dance Diaries series, Ballroom Budgeting! From budgeting basics to specific tips to save on ballroom dancing, I share exactly how I dance and compete in ballroom while living paycheck to paycheck AND reducing debt. I also include a bonus – access to ballroombudgeting.com and the worksheets I use for my own budgeting, already set up for you to stop worrying about money and start focusing on your dancing.
As a preview, here are some strategies I use to afford ballroom.
1) Put dancing in the budget.
Budgets are usually reserved for necessities and then whatever is left goes toward savings, debt or fun. Well, for me, dancing is a necessity. So I have a line item in my budget for dance lessons.
2) Keep reducing other expenses.
You always see this one in personal finance advice columns. Shop around for things like insurance and keep shopping around. Just because your insurance company was the cheapest last year doesn’t mean it is the cheapest this year. When my car insurance came up for renewal, I shopped around, found a cheaper rate with another insurance company, and saved about $35 per month. That’s an entry fee!
3) Play the balance transfer game.
I’m carrying credit card debt that I have accepted won’t be paid off right away because I am putting money toward my dancing. But that doesn’t mean I accept paying interest on it. I keep track of which card has interest and when there is an 0% interest offer on balance transfers, I take advantage. I also restrict my purchases to just one card that isn’t accumulating interest and leave the others at home. You just have to pay attention to when the 0% interest period expires!
4) Take advantage of good timing/good circumstances.
Because I get paid biweekly, twice a year I get three paychecks in one month. There is a local competition that takes place around the same time as one of those special months. I have no travel, food or hotel expenses to worry about since it’s local. So I take advantage of the good timing and plan to use the extra paycheck to fund my entry to that competition.
5) Negotiate dance expenses.
I made it clear from the beginning with my teacher that I was on a strict budget and could only spend so much on lessons per month. So we worked out a payment plan. I have also negotiated splitting his competition fee into payments when I couldn’t pay it all at once.
Another thing I’ve done is barter services in exchange for discounts. It never hurts to ask what your teacher, your studio, or even the person from whom you rent competition dresses would accept in exchange for a discount. Maybe they could use someone to act as an assistant or need help with an upcoming event.
If you’re a dance student and want to negotiate alternative payment options with your teacher, be respectful and professional. Remember that this is their livelihood. They have bills too. When I split my teacher’s competition fee into multiple payments, I started them early enough to make sure the entire fee was paid before the actual competition. I wouldn’t want to work for free so I’m not asking him to. If I ever need extra time to pay for something, I always let him know in advance.
Personally, I never ask for charity. I work very hard on my dancing and I am always willing to work for whatever discount or other help I ask for. I don’t expect handouts.
If you want to negotiate, be prepared to present how the deal will benefit the other person too. When I win at competition, it makes my teacher look good, which can help his business. So aside from being an amazing, supportive person who wants to see me succeed, he has a business reason to negotiate rates with me if it will get me to more competitions.
6) Find extra income.
Sometimes you reduced and negotiated all the expenses you can, but you still don’t have enough money. Time to see where you can bring in extra income. For my first competition, I sold some stock that I received as part of my benefits at work. For my second competition, I sold some things I didn’t use or want. I also apply for freelance editing jobs where I can find them, since that is what I do for a living. When you want something this badly, giving up some free time to work a second job isn’t a big deal.
Bottom line: never give up. Be smart and creative and you’ll find a way to make it happen.