As a freelancer, finances are a bit more complicated than at a traditional 9-to-5. Your budgets aren’t just about the house anymore. You have business tools to worry about, those web hosting fees and everything else all piling together. Because, you know, you didn’t have enough on your plate actually getting the work done and pitching to prospects while deflecting the craziness of a two-year-old hell bent on shoving a PB&J sandwich in the vents on the TV.
These tips are simple ways to massage a bit more work and play out of your budget. Better still, they don’t require sacrifices to make an impact.
Tip #1 – Explore the Options at Your Local Library
If you’re a regular visitor to your local library, you already know about the awesomeness.
A supporter of your library? Even better! high five
If the library is just that place that you used to visit and pick up an odd book here and there as a student, you might want to check back in with your local bastion of all things entertainment.
Libraries are not just books and magazines anymore. Chances are good that your local library has a nice selection of DVDs, video games and community programs as well.
Even in my little hole in the wall town of less than 1,000 people, our library offers a full range of options. How? I have no idea, but they pull it off.
Instead of dropping money to rent a movie from iTunes or Google Play, just cruise down the street and take a look. Most libraries offer a selection that is kind of like Netflix. You won’t always find the latest blockbuster but there is almost always an option to fill a gap in your evening. You might even find something you didn’t expect.
On the book front, libraries aren’t just about print anymore. Most feature programs in collaboration with other libraries to bring eBooks to your Kindle, iPad or other mobile device. The same goes for magazines and journals. You don’t even have to go to the library. Better still, you’re not required to fork over a monthly fee to enjoy a lifetime supply of reading.
Unlike the caveat to the movie selection mentioned above, there’s a good chance your library does have digital copies of the latest New York Times bestsellers. Indie titles are a bit hit or miss, but that’s changing as publishing platforms continue to evolve.
On top of all the at-home awesomeness on tap, libraries also often support programs, local clubs and regular events for all ages in the spare spaces of the library.
Looking to ease the monotony of summer break? There’s probably something craft, reading or game related for the kids.
Want to discuss your writing with real humans who understand writing and don’t just think this is a crazy phase you’re in? Libraries are a popular haunt for critique groups and literary clubs.
Trying to find ways to help your community? Many libraries offer volunteer programs that not only help out others but are a great opportunity for you to network and get to know your neighbors.
Looking for a place to work that won’t leave you smelling like a latte or splurging on one too many baked treats? There’s a good chance your library offers free Wi-Fi and the ambiance will definitely beat most chain cafes.
Tip #2 – Finding Your Freebies
If you haven’t discovered the bounty of free items available online, you’re missing out on a simple way to stretch your budget. After all, anyone can afford free.
Of course, there’s always the scams or questionable deals to worry about. But most of these are easily eliminated with a quick Google search of the business, phone number or even a few lines from the listing. Otherwise, just listen to your instincts. While you might not think twice about a free desk or some diapers, no one is just handing out cars or flat-screen televisions.
There are a number of websites and organizations dedicated to helping communities swap items and services for free. If you know where to look, you can find everything from second-hand appliances and furniture to clothing, food and services at little to no cost.
Popular Online Sources of Free Opportunities:
This doesn’t even touch the opportunities available on social media. Facebook is great for finding local groups to swap stuff or pick up things people would rather pass on than throw away.
Finally, check your local community boards. You can often find these at grocery stores, the post office or the town hall. While most of the bulletins you find here will be for sale, sometimes you’ll find a good freebie or resources to local groups that organize giveaways or auctions in the area.
While not nearly as consistent as the online options, local deals are often more dependable. You also don’t have to worry about filling your inbox up with spam!
Tip #3 – Saving Money by Ditching Cable or Satellite Television
Between the speed of today’s broadband connections and the increasing popularity of streaming services, cutting the cable is more simple and cost-effective than ever before. Even if you’ve tried in the past and found that it wasn’t for you, take another look at killing your cable or satellite service.
It wasn’t long ago that cutting the cable meant no sports, no kids shows and a wide-range of quality. Even if you’re looking for the latest blockbuster movies, there’s now subscription options to stream exactly what you want to see and not pay for a bunch of fluff.
We recently updated our post on the in’s and out’s of cutting the cord with a list of service options, hardware recommendations and our experience with some of the bigger companies out there.
Even if you’re not looking to cut the cord completely, there’s a good chance you can still reduce your monthly entertainment costs by trimming your package and supplementing with one of the online streaming options.
Love your weekend or late-night movie binges? Consider dropping the premium channels from your line-up and adding Netflix.
Looking to add your kids favorite shows without having to subscribe to a premium tier? SlingTV offers some great options for $20 a month!
Just can’t stomach the thought of losing access to Game of Thrones but don’t really watch much otherwise? You can now stream HBO shows for a small monthly fee without a cable or satellite subscription!
Want your daytime TV? You don’t even need a subscription! Just pick up a cheap HD antenna. With the switch the digital broadcasting a few years back, you might even find it looks better than your cable feed!
While I’m far from an expert, I can’t see how streaming isn’t the future of television. No worrying about DVR storage space and no monthly lease fees for equipment that only works half of the time. You can still watch what you want on your schedule and even watch different programs in other rooms of the house.
Tip #4 – Saving Money by Losing Disposable Items
We live in a world where many of the things we interact with on a daily basis are cheap. While low prices are a good thing for the budget, they also tend to come with lower quality. That’s not so good…
While you might save a bit upfront, there’s a good chance that over the long term, you’re actually overspending.
An ideal example of this is shoes. I used to spend as little as possible on shoes. I mean, I work at a desk, I own a car and, while it’s probably not the best decision, I don’t do any strenuous exercise. Why do I need to invest in shoes?
So I picked up the ones on the peg hooks at the local mega-retailer and went on my way. But even with light use, it seemed like I was back for another pair in three to six months. Whether the soles came apart or the seams disintegrated, there was always something popping lose. Not to mention, my feet never felt particularly good.
Then we moved to a small town within walking distance of the school. This meant 3 miles of walking a day.
It took me one day of walking in my cheap “budget-friendly” shoes to take off to the shoe store.
At first, I balked at the prices. And mind you, it wasn’t like I was looking at major brands here either. Just not the cheapest.
I cringed as the total popped at the register and took home my new pair of shoes. A year and a half later, I’m still using those same shoes. If how they’ve worn is any indication, I’ll probably still have them when I come back to update these articles.
I spent a little more upfront, but the payoff in the end–in both cost and comfort–was obvious.
Shoes aren’t the only area where this is relevant. Other categories where cost might indicate quality include:
- Office supplies
This doesn’t even begin to account for things that are intentionally disposable.
While paper plates or plastic dining ware are certainly convenient on a cramped family schedule, the costs add up. Even worse, they are so small individually that the impact on your budget might not be obvious at first. Add in the nature of kids to just grab a disposable option instead of cleaning or digging through cabinets and next thing you know, you’ve spent $100 a year on plastic forks.
That is from just one set of disposable items.
Imagine the money you could save from sweeping disposable items from the house entirely. Not to mention the waste you’re keeping out of landfills.
Another perk to many non-disposable items is their multi-purpose uses. For example, cloth diapers make great dusting and cleaning rags once their initial function is no longer needed. You certainly cannot dust the mantle with a pair of Huggies.
You’re saving money by not constantly replacing an item and avoiding having to purchase something else as well. It’s a win-win.
With the ups and downs of freelance finances, being able to consistently save a little money will help on those slow weeks or when you have trouble getting a client to pay promptly. These were some of my favorite tricks for trimming monthly spending without forgoing the comforts of modern life.
If you find these tips and tricks useful, please leave me a comment. I’m always looking for great ideas and tips here at Family Freelancer! If you’ve got additional ideas or a question, just toss it in the comment box below and drop me a line on social media.