Art for a peaceful and flourishing world

Tips for ‘living the life’ on an ‘artist’s budget’

Eiffel Tower

Paris 2007

A lot of people wonder how our family can make a living from the revenues of my art and our tie-dye in the summer. I am too really amazed that we have created such a great life for ourselves and I would have never imagined that this was possible 20 years ago.

I feel that by sharing some of the keys to our success could be inspiring to other aspiring artists and beneficial to anyone that is looking to live a simpler life.

 1. Most important is to learn to understand the subtleties and differences between our needs and our wants. Our true needs are few in our Western world while our unchecked desires are endless.

2. Have sincere gratitude. Feeling rich has nothing to with what we have or have not in comparison or measurement to others. Instead it is really about being content and grateful for what we have.

Family 1st Trip to France

On the way to France 2001

3. When you need or simply want something, be patient. So often I waited and what I needed came my way in an unexpected manner for the fraction of the cost or even for free.

4. Live within your means. Don’t borrow money, avoid debt unless absolutely necessary. When my husband had just quit his regular job and we were the poorest we have ever been a mutual funds guy came to our house to review our finances to sell to us various investment packages (which we thought was pretty funny). At the end of the questionnaire he told us that we were actually in a better financial situation than most people who made significantly more money as we had no debt.

Morocco Desert Family

Morocco 2007

5. If you are self-employed and can do it, work from home. It will require some organization, putting up with cleaning the kitchen table after work and more stuff in your house from your business activity but you will save 1,000’s from renting a work space. Also, there’s the tax savings as you can write off part of your mortgage interests, heating bills, repairs and so on…

6. Before buying supplies, plane tickets or finding a dentist, plumber, etc… research, take the time to call around. Let’s say you do one hour of phone calls for a flight and find something $400 cheaper than the other companies. You basically just made $400 in one hour. For a water purifying system for my new house, the prices I was quoted were from over $5,000 down to $1,200. Of course you have to do homework on the quality of the low price tag items; some smaller business simply have less overheads and can offer great service.  You will be surprised at the difference of prices from one company to another.

Trip to USA Buttes

Utah 2004

7. Get over the ‘cooties’ from second hand stores and discover that this is where you will find amazing quality items for practically nothing compared to original retail! Same with online buy and sell websites like kijiji; know what you need/want ahead f time, keep your eyes open and be patient. The deals you can find can save you a lot. Of course you have to spend time calling and driving to get your item but again it is all about how hard/easy it is to make that money with your art/business and what you saved versus the time spent looking around for alternative venues.

8. Barter. We have paid for therapy, dentist bills, massages, car repairs and many other items via our art, tie-dye and other exchanges. Don’t be shy to ask if they would consider doing an exchange. Tell them it is ok if they say no so that they do not feel obligated to do get something they don’t want or need.

Rockies Lake Louise

Lake Louise 2009

9. Buy bulk. Our family save 1,000’s of $ from buying bulk or wholesale. It requires that you put a lot of money out in one shot but then you know you are saving in the long run. If you save $1,000 on everyday products that you use in one year, let’s say, that is $1,000 less you have to ‘make’ with your art this year. We buy a lot this way: our organic products and a lot of our supplements. Also check out the farmer’s market and see what deal you can get for a bulk purchase.

Same when non-perishable items are on sale in stores. Buy a whole bunch. I find that buying bulk or a big batch of supplies also lightens the weekly list of things to buy and do, thus saving us time as well.

10. Some staples are very easy to make like bread, yogurt, granola or sprouts. I make these all the time using the best organic product which provides our family with high quality food for much lower than the store bought equivalent.

Newfoundland 2008

Newfoundland 2008

11. The last thing I would like to share is about travelling. With our three kids we have been twice across the USA all the way to California, across Canada from BC to Newfoundland. We’ve been to France many times, to Morocco, Thailand and Cambodia. People think we are super rich but we are not. We know how to travel very cheaply. We backpack, we always make our own food, we camp or stay in less expensive motels and have even slept on the side of the road a few times! Also many of our travels were business trips as well as adventure! We were picking up orders on the way for my cards and jewelry and we could also write off part of the trip for income tax. This is how I got over 70 stores and galleries to carry my work from Newfoundland to California to Michigan, in France and in Spain!

To us, time is of importance and working from home every day is a gift; being my own boss and doing my art full time is a gratifying way of life. And even on my artist’s budget, I am always truly feeling rich.

PS: If you have any money saving ideas please forward them to me [email protected] or add them in a comment on this blog. I’d be glad to hear from you and pass them onto others.

To visit my website


  1. Great article, thank you. My partner and I live this way as well – each point you’ve articulated, with one exception: we haven’t traveled yet. We grow most of our own food, make our living selling at the farmers’ market we created, and we buy oatmeal and such in bulk… and barter is our preferred mode of exchange. And we’re in better shape financially than most Canadians because we’re debt free. People have a hard time believing how little we live on 🙂
    Here’s an article I wrote as a result of friends asking me what they can do to be more “green”….

  2. Awsome post! #2 is by far the most important! I too think that a lot of people would be much better off if they would get over the stigma of shopping in second hand stores. I just did a post about that this week. I love that you make traveling a priority for your family and often wish I did the same.

Leave a Reply to Nicole Shaw Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This