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Film director: My budget and planning for the future

Film director Olivia Abtahi shares her journey from financial uncertainty as a freelancer to stability with a steady job. She highlights the importance of budgeting, tracking income, and investing in her business. Olivia also discusses the benefits of living in Denver, her monthly expenses, and her financial goals.

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  • blobby green style avatar for user tmilovale4
    Hi! I already graduated from High School. My long term goal was to be a film director in Australia or in South Auckland. Right now, I am planning to take nursing for 2 years or 4 years because it is a plan B job. But my fear is that I might not reach my long term goal because of nursing. Do you think this plan of mines is ok?
    (3 votes)
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  • winston default style avatar for user axolotl
    yeah thats sounds like a good idea but being a nurse is a very busy job maybe you should do part time?
    (1 vote)
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Video transcript

My name is Olivia Abtahi, I'm a film director and I make approximately $80,000 a year. My relationship to money is a strained one. I would say when I was freelancer, I never knew when my next paycheck was going to come in, so I had to be very careful about the expenses I was incurring. Just things like getting a haircut were expenses I thought were too lavish for me at the time. I was saving every penny to upgrade my equipment, be it a camera, a new laptop, new mics, everything I earned pretty much went back into my business. Now I definitely feel more in control of my finances now that I have a steady nine-to-five job and on top of that job I do have freelance work that also pads my budget and it's definitely a better relationship. I don't feel guilty taking my car in for an oil change anymore which is amazing. I've also gotten just a lot better about monitoring and tracking my income. I use a lot of different pieces of software to monitor my budget, my personal budget, my expenses, my business expenses, so that that way I'm also being good about writing off deductions, things that I can expense to a business instead of just incurring the cost on myself and also being married and in a committed partnership I think helps as well because there were months when I was a freelancer where I would say I just can't help you with the mortgage this month and my husband would say, that's all right, just get me back next month and it worked out or there would be times when I would take a loan out from my husband for $1,000 here or $1,000 there and he would interest free be like that's totally fine, you can just pay me back later and I'm really lucky I had that base of support because I never had a situation where I couldn't pay my bills on time, it was just I maybe had to be a little in debt to make it happen. The cost of living in Denver is pretty amazing compared to other cities I've lived in like New York and San Francisco and D.C. where I'm from, so what we love about it is that we can drive to the grocery store in the car that we own which is crazy after living in New York, that like never happens but we can also buy a house and still be two blocks walking from a movie theater, so it's this nice kind of middle ground. It's not too crazy. The traffic isn't horrible, although locals will say the traffic is horrible, this is nothing. And we just love that it's a really high quality of life where if we want to go out into the mountains or go do something outdoors it's literally like a 15-minute drive instead of a two-hour schlep on Metro North. My monthly income is around 5,200 a month and that's pre tax and that changes just because sometimes I have freelance income that's coming in, so as a bonus I'll maybe make an extra 3,000 that month. Then I'll put that away into a 401 K or a savings account. Then my taxes and payroll deductions from the 5,200 that's set is around 1,200 a month, so that means that my take home income is $4,000. In terms of my actual mortgage our set mortgage amount is $1,900 a month and that includes insurance, all that good stuff. Gas and electric, around $50 a month. We're lucky that in Denver, Colorado it's not as expensive as in other cities. We recently did cut the cord in our home. We no longer have cable and we just have a lump bundle of internet and TV, so that's $50 a month and I do deduct that as an expense because Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, those are all things I need as a film director to be able to watch and keep up with movies and use for my own business. Our phone plans, me and my husband are on a joint family phone plan and that's around $40 a month. My car, I'm very lucky I drive a Prius that my mom handed down to me and the gas on that thing is only like $30 a month if at all. I would say I like only fill up the tank once a month which is amazing. And then student loans I have zero debt which I'm super proud of. And then for food and groceries I would say that's probably one of my biggest expenses. I am allergic to gluten. I have a horrible gluten intolerance, so we invest a little more in groceries and spend about $400 a month or $100 a week. Some of the other expenses that I need just to not go crazy, about $50 a month for the gym. I love taking classes here in Denver, Colorado. My birth control is $25 a month and that is subsidized and that's the current price now. Though it is set to increase. Other expenses like Amazon Prime running movies, my Spotify account, that's $30 a month and I do consider those essentials. And then for my software that I need to do my job, the Adobe suites, primarily what I use and that is on the cloud subscription service and that's $50 a month. In terms of like fun things, just going out, going to restaurants and getting drinks, that's about $100 a month although sometimes if I'm meeting with a client over drinks or dinner or lunch, I will expense that and then in terms of seeing movies, that's really important to me, we live like three blocks from a movie theater, so I spend about $50 on movies a month and that's for me and my husband. So, that means my leftover funds I have about 1,225 every month and I instantly put $400 of that in savings. I do not have a 401 K matching plan like most people do on a nine-to-five job, so I have my own Roth IRA that I'm always making sure to put into. I definitely have individual financial goals. My goal for 2018 is to make $100,000 a year with my extra freelance income that I'm making regardless of whatever my salary becomes. That's important to me just to show that you can be a creative and still make a six-figure salary even if you're just starting out or if you've bene in it for 10 years. Me and my husband have the joint dream of owning a Tesla. That's like number one and we also want to be able to create a second bedroom in the home that we own just to increase value and eventually have a family, so that's another goal of ours is to be able to afford a kid which is really tough these days, especially because I would be working and I would require child care and then long-term goal way down the line is I would also love to buy my mom a Tesla. Her name is Tessa, so her license plate is going to say Tessla with the two Ses.