If there’s one thing that I still struggle with as a freelancer, it’s keeping myself on a personal budget. In my mind, there are too many “what if” scenarios to really say for sure how much money will go where every month. I’d rather have the flexibility to take advantage of cool opportunities that come up rather than say no because of a budget. With that being said, I’ve started to realize that financial standards should still come into play, especially since my funds are meant to sustain both my personal life and my business. This week’s post highlights some of the big money-saving lessons I’ve learned over the past several years I’ve been in business.
1. Cut back on coffee shop visits.
If you’re as much of a coffee addict as I am, cutting back on caffeine is tough to even ponder. My first year of freelancing, I actually made a category in my expense reports called “Coffee Fund.” The annual amount in this fund was incredibly embarrassing, but it definitely drilled the point home that buying a latte a day is expensive, especially as the price keeps creeping up toward (and sometimes beyond) the $4 mark.
Money-Saving Tip: Buy drip coffees or espresso shots.
If you do hit up the coffee shop, which is often inevitable for coworking dates or client meetings, just get a regular cup of drip coffee and doctor it up with milk, cream, and sugar. Or if you just want the caffeine kick, order a doppio (double espresso) and simply add milk on your own. You’ll save money and calories both ways!
2. Sometimes you’ve gotta spend money to make money.
If you’re like me, you’ve tried the “make your own coffee at home” tip and quickly stopped because you couldn’t quite get the flavors just right. It turns out one of the best ways to combat this is to simply use better ingredients AND a better coffee maker. While these appliances might cost a bit upfront, the cost-savings will more than make up for it in the long run.
Money-Saving Tip: Make your own coffee at home with quality ingredients.
This year, I’m proud to say that my “Coffee Fund” is a fraction of what it used to be, and that is largely due to the fact that I’ve fallen in love with making my own coffee at home thanks to the new coffee-making appliances I’ve purchased. Those items are a coffee bean grinder, a big bag of coffee beans, an airtight coffee bean canister to keep beans/grounds fresh, and an Aero Press. I absolutely love the smell of freshly ground coffee beans in the morning, and the physical act of boiling water and pressing my own fresh cup of joe. I actually look forward to it every morning, and it costs significantly less money in the long run despite the initial investment.
P.S. I don’t drink alcohol, but I would apply the same money-saving tips above if I did. Stock up your own home bar with choice selections from Costco, and you’ll save a lot more by making those drinks at home rather than ordering them at a bar.
3. Learn the basics of cooking.
I’ve never been a big fan of cooking, but reviewing my credit card purchases over the past couple years, plus my boyfriend’s need to go gluten-free has gradually led to a change in heart. Dining out is expensive, especially if you live in a high cost of living city like Seattle. So in accordance to tip number 2, I spent some money on basic cooking appliances like a crock pot and food processor, and a giant cook book in hopes of saving money in the long run.
Money-saving Tip: Keep it simple.
For a variety of reasons, I’ve been eating a largely Paleo diet over the past couple of years. Besides being generally healthier, this diet is also great for people like me who hate to cook. Why? Because Paleo sticks to the basics of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit. There’s no grain products or processed foods, meaning the most complicated cooking techniques you’ll have to master are braising, sautéing, and poaching. Uncomplicated techniques, plus relatively cheap ingredients.
4. Purge your monthly/annual subscriptions
Spotify, Amazon Prime, Adobe Creative Cloud, Lynda.com, etc etc. It seems like every app or online service these days is looking for a way to charge users on a monthly basis. While these fees are often small, they add up over time. Double check your monthly bills and look for any recurring charges. Are you actually using that service? If not, it might be time to sever ties.
Money-Saving Tip: Remember to cancel trial memberships.
If you’re giving a new service a trial run and they ask you to sign up with your credit card, don’t be afraid to do so, but remember to cancel that service down the road if it turns out you’re not getting your money’s worth. Adding calendar reminders is a good way to keep track of these things.
5. Remember, you’re a BUSINESS!
Speaking of subscriptions and recurring fees, one of the absolute best ways for freelancers or small businesses to get great deals on services is to inquire about business discounts. Two that I use regularly and always encourage my fellow business owners to take advantage of are T-Mobile’s business account phone plans, and Apple’s Business account incentives. These programs are generally not advertised and even finding information about them online is tough, but if you talk to a customer service representative, you can generally get more information and a decent chunk of savings and other promotions.
Money-Saving Tip: Always inquire about business discounts.
Business discount benefits will vary according to the current promotion, and the application process varies as well. If you’ve taken the steps to become a registered business in your place of residence, take advantage of that status!
Over to you!
What other crucial money-saving tips to you employ on a regular basis? Let me know in the comments below!