Five Ways to Save Money as a Musician

1.     Find the cheapest possible housing that will allow you to practice and use public transportation.

Housing is going to be the single largest expense in your budget. Be willing to live somewhere kind of terrible. My partner and I have rented from hoarders (we had to clean out the entire apartment on our move-in day), we have sublet furnished old ladies’ houses while they’re in Florida, and we have lived in an unfinished basement for free (short-term). Be open. Be willing to have roommates. Be ready for inconvenience. Have renter’s insurance.

2.     Get rid of your car.

This won’t work if you live in Iowa or rural New Hampshire, but it would work for more of us than we’re willing to admit. Sell your car. Put that money in a savings account. Enjoy the freedom from insurance, parking tickets, maintenance, and gas. Carpool with other musicians and always contribute money to the driver. You’re going to get to know a lot more people, and they’re going to get to know you. I think my partner built an entire freelancing career based on carpool-referred gigs alone.

3.     Cook

Rice and beans. Soups that last a week. If you’re not sure how to cook, ask a friend to teach you a few things. You’ll eat healthier and save more money if you cook, especially if you pack your own lunches and bring your own snacks on long days. If you have room in your bag for a travel coffee mug, make your own coffee to take with you.

Your income level may qualify you for food stamps, so look into it. I used food stamps in 2009 and 2010 and now that I have a good job I’ve paid that back in taxes several times over.

4.     Eliminate as many recurring bills as possible.

Pay for your phone, utillities, student loans, and health insurance and maybe one professional association per year. Do you need internet? Can you pay your neighbor under the table and share a router password? Do you qualify for a free state health plan? Do your really need that monthly transit pass? Maybe you don’t actually ride transit enough and would save more if you bought a couple of day or week passes for when you are busy.

Automatic bill pay combined with a fluctuating income is a recipe for a bank overdraft. Simply put your bills in your iCal and remember to pay them on time like an adult. You might not be able to pay them all on the same day.

5.     Save

Squeeze every dollar you can into an online savings account that is separate from your checking account. Send a little money into the savings account even if you need to transfer it back the very same month. Because obviously things happen. Root canals. Instrument problems. Emergencies. I love using Ally Bank as my savings account, and I also use Qapital to round up all my expenses to send to savings.


There are so many ways to live well on a tiny budget. Musicians should not be under any delusion that we won't have to be careful. Do you have tips? Write them in the comments.