Before you can set about trying to make a living as a full-time writer you need to know what a “living” constitutes. How much do you spend every month? Most of us have little idea.
The best way we’ve found to keep track is to use the computer program Quicken and be diligent about entering your expenditures. And the easiest way to keep track of your expenditures is to pay for everything with a single credit card. We hardly ever use cash, even for small purchases, and we pay whatever monthly bills we can — cable, subscriptions, internet, etc. with the same credit card. Your monthly bill will be big, but just about everything you spent that month will be in one neat list. You then enter each transaction from it into Quicken and assign each a category (food, entertainment, clothes, etc.). Do this for a few months and then you can summon up a report that lists how much you spent in each category. Divide by the number of months, add all the categories together, and there’s your monthly nut.
It goes without saying that unless you’re a bigfoot writer, you need to live on little. An ancillary advantage to running all your expenditures through Quicken is that you can see where your money is going and make cuts as appropriate. And an ancillary advantage to running all your expenditures through one credit card is that, if you choose the card wisely, you build up air miles quickly. Of course, you have to pay off the card completely every month. Credit card interest is for suckers, and a one-way ticket to the poorhouse.
As discussed here, knowing how much you spend every month will tell you exactly how many days you can devote to a given piece of writing. This is a hard-and-fast law of the universe, as constant and merciless as gravity, so I will return to it often:
Never lose money on a piece of writing. None of us is any shape to be making interest-free loans to major publishing companies.