Living a Good Life (as a Freelancer)
It’s not uncommon that I’m asked what managing finances is really like (or if I have someone supporting me….) as a freelancer. So, I thought I’d treat you guys to an inside look at a few of the ways we make the finances work.
First, no one is supporting me. My income pays most of the bills. Most months, my income pays all of the bills. Yes, my husband works. However, he also (rightfully so) devotes a large portion of his time to Baby Bull.
Second, I don’t have a job outside of the home. Now, in the beginning, I taught part time at a technical college (which, by the way, doesn’t pay all that well – even when you’re teaching legal subjects) and I worked in a law firm part time, too. So, I guess you could say that for a while, I had three jobs not counting the responsibilities that come along with adulting. Freelancing is what I do. I work anywhere between 3 and 12 hours a day. I do whatever I have to do to stay on top of my deadlines. This time of year (spring), it’s closer to the 12 hours a day on the weekdays and six or seven hours a day on Saturday and Sunday.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about what we actually do.
We Have a Realistic Budget
Yeah, that’s right. I used the “B” word. Some people look at it as if it’s a dirty word. It’s not. Your personal budget is an important metric for your business. It shows you what you need to make. It’s that simple. When we budget, we keep it realistic. We start with the necessities:
- Utilities (including insurance and Internet).
- Car payment. (We aren’t the biggest fans in the world of having a car payment, but we have it…just one car. It’s affordable.
- Gym fees (BJJ, regular gym, yoga).
- Hulu (not a necessity – no contract).
- Any specific yearly expenses coming up. For example, when domains are due for renewal.
- Entertainment. (We are easily entertained as it is…)
You may have noticed that you don’t see an entry for rent or a house payment. Well, that’s because we own our home.
You may be wondering how in the hell you budget for utilities and other variable expenses. Well, unless you literally just moved out on your own, you have a general idea of how much your utilities are each month. Also, if you’ve lived in your home / apartment / whatever, contact your electric company, gas company, and water company about averaged billing. Little hint about the averaged billing, it can be a great thing…but ask for the details because some utility companies may kick you off averaged billing and make you pay an overage from the past months if you’re even a day late.
We Eat Healthy…and It’s Cheap
We’re not total health nuts (and it would be hard for anyone to claim they are because there is a new fad diet every time you fucking turn around, you know?). We don’t eat a ton of processed foods. By that, I mean we don’t buy a lot of Hamburger Helper, prepackaged mac and cheese, etc. Sure, we buy the occasional frozen pizza. No, we don’t buy whole wheat pasta or vegetable based pasta (because we’ve tried them and we hate the consistency when they’re cooked).
And, yeah, I will be the first to admit that it’s not always easy to cook from scratch. I may work from home, but I am tired as fuck at the end of the day. I’m usually wiped out by about 2 pm my time. But…I know how much better I feel when I eat food that isn’t crap (at least, when I don’t eat it all the time). Bull is almost constantly preparing for some BJJ tournament. So…yeah.
We spend time thinking about what we’d like to eat during the week. All three meals. Snacks generally consist of fresh fruit or leftovers. I have a general idea every day of what I’ll make and either go to the store or I get food out of the fridge / freezer. Our shopping list usually consists of
- Boneless skinless chicken breasts.
- 1 or 2 whole chickens (2 if they’re on sale and none if there’s at least 1 in the freezer).
- Broccoli. (Currently, we buy a lot of frozen veg because I just don’t have the time to prep it for the freezer.)
- Baby carrots (not frozen.)
- Fresh baby spinach.
- Potatoes (sometimes Russet, sometimes Yukon Gold).
- Lean pork.
- Red lentils
- Black beans (dried).
- Red beans (dried).
- White beans (dried).
- White rice.
- Poptarts (Strawberry – because I don’t do the food fight with the kiddo. I wouldn’t do it when the older two were little, either. Just give ’em a vitamin…but the little one likes most vegetables and fruits).
- Brussel sprouts.
- Tomato sauce.
I could keep going. We do buy beef, but where we live…beef is expensive right now. Chicken and pork both are about half the price.
I do my shopping at several stores: Winco for bulk items because they are the cheapest (lentils, dried beans). Sprouts for fresh fruits and vegetables (most of the time) and sometimes chicken. Crest for chicken, produce, and the other incidentals I listed. They are cheapest.
Oh, and I do go to Dollar Tree once a week for frozen vegetables, frozen fruits, and some amazing little breakfast steaks. I also go to Walmart Neighborhood Market at a certain time during the day (mid-morning, but I don’t go every day) and I look to see what’s on clearance. I take any meat I buy home (immediately!) and throw it in the freezer.
That one little thing of knowing when and where to shop (and buying healthy foods) has shrank our grocery bill. Like I said, though, it’s not always easy. I don’t always have time to cook what I want. Of course, the secondary key to this is sticking to your budget and knowing what you need to buy. We always have a stocked spice pantry. We always have flour (regular flour, almond flour, soy flour, and oat flour).
And before some dumbass says anything, yes, we buy toiletries. Yes, they are essential. However, I’d hope everyone knows what they need and where to buy it at a good price.
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to buy what you need before you need it. No, you don’t need a freezer full of bologna… However, with the nature of freelancing, you’ll eventually figure out (even once you can predict what you’ll make) when your slow periods are because you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of food.
There you go…some disorganized thoughts on how we handle the finances to keep costs down. Is it bed time yet?