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In a footnote to his 1976 book "Work, Culture & Society in Industrializing America," history professor Herbert Gutman told the story of Santo, a master tailor who emigrated from Sicily to Rochester, N.Y., in 1956 with his wife and daughter.

For the next twelve years, Santo worked in clothing factories before he opened a custom tailoring shop in 1968. Gutman seemed amazed that Santo went off on his own despite, at most, four people visiting Santo's shop weekly for alterations, and not a single order coming in for a custom-made suit during the four years Santo had been in business.

But Santo was OK with that. He had left the factory behind: "Each day, it's just collars, collars, collars. I didn't work forty years as a tailor just to do that," he said in 1972. Gutman wrote that Santo "seemed to belong to another era."

These days, Santo would have plenty of company, including blacksmiths, weavers and bespoke shoemakers. The lure of an artisan business is a return to labor that reflects quality, community and creativity. Problem is, making a living as an artisan is hard. So are the personal finances, unless you have a trust fund or rich parents, or are independently wealthy.

Christopher Schwarz had none of those resources to tap. He is a writer, editor and teacher of woodworking as well as a furniture-maker. He left the corporate world (twice) to pursue his woodworking passion. In an essay "Earlywood: Cut the Cord," he thoughtfully spelled out some business and money insights for anyone thinking about joining the ranks of artisans.

Two personal finance recommendations struck me as useful for anyone eager to build their purpose and passion into their lives (even if you don't start a business). For one, avoid debt. When it's necessary to borrow — say, to buy a home — rid yourself of debt fast.

"Once you get rid of debt, the rest of the bills are easy to manage, even with an inconsistent salary like mine," Schwarz wrote.

For another, watch costs carefully. For example, Schwarz and his wife review their spending every year to make sure they're receiving the best current price on cable, phone, insurance and other expenses.

There are many more insights to absorb in the essay, especially for running a creative enterprise. But his essay reinforces the fundamental idea that personal finance is about figuring out what you want to do and then adjusting your money tactics to support the life you want live.

Chris Farrell is senior economics contributor, "Marketplace"; commentator, Minnesota Public Radio.