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Freelancing: Eight Great Budgeting Tips

Updated on March 11, 2015

The Best Budgeting Advice I Ever Got

The best advice I ever received was to save half of what I earn. This is especially great advice for a freelancer who may make two thousand dollars one month, and two hundred the next. If you can save half your wages every month, you're guaranteed to have some money when times are tough.

While it's not always doable to save half of what you make, especially if you're hardly making anything, calculating how much you should save can help you make budget.

For instance, say you generally make about one thousand a month. That means that you should be saving five hundred, and if the other five hundred are your living wages, half of that should go toward rent. So your goal, if you're making 1000 a month, is to spend 250 on rent.

If you depend on location for jobs, that might not be completely doable, but there are always ways of decreasing your rent income. For instance, you can look into finding a roommate or, if you're still looking for apartments, this may serve as a guideline for the types of places that you can afford.

The Bottom Line: A Wise Freelancing Budget

  • 50% savings
  • 25% rent and expenses
  • 25% living expenses

Again, the 50% may seem high, but since freelancing is so unpredictable, some months you may make great wages, while other months you might not even have enough to pay rent. Putting aside money guarantees that you'll always have enough.

Budgeting: Living Expenses

You have 25% of your wages to live on. Depending on how much you'll be making every week or every month, that may not be a lot. But this is probably the easiest thing to save on.

The first thing to do is to make a note of necessary expenses. For instance, transportation will probably be something you can't get rid of, whether you take the subway or the car. I live abroad, and usually spend the equivalent of fifteen dollars a week on subway tickets.

So add all your necessary expenses together: these are the expenses you won't be able to get around.


My Budget is Less Than 50 Dollars a Week

That's 200 dollars a month. My one necessary expense is transportation tickets, and every few months I have another necessary expense. But most of the time, my budget is either fifty dollars a week, or less.

My Budget

Subway Tickets
15 dollars
Grocery Bill
25 dollars
Going out
10 dollars
Freelance budget
Freelance budget

How I Keep Groceries Under 25 Dollars a Week

Here are four essential ways that I keep my grocery bill low.

  • I never eat out or eat prepared meals.
  • Health and diversity are important (but I don't pay extra for organic.)
  • I buy cheap products that can be used in a variety of ways and last many meals.
  • I make leftovers.

A Typical Grocery Bill

  • A dozen eggs
  • Bread
  • Water
  • A bag of apples
  • Pasta
  • Lentils
  • A whole chicken
  • Butter
  • Jam
  • Small variety of fresh vegetables

This sort of list usually comes under twenty-five dollars. Items such as butter and jam usually last a month, while pasta and the dried lentils also last a while. My pantry is stocked with dried items such as the aforementioned lentils, couscous, rice, potatoes, etc. They are cheap and last. However, I stay away from canned goods, which are expensive and have a high sodium content.

Some vegetables and fruit, such as apples, are cheap and have a long shelf life. It's important for me to have grains, fruits and vegetables, and protein in my meals. But it's possible to do so while living at a low cost!

Low Cost and Quick Meal Ideas

Based on the previous grocery bill, here are some ideas when you're short on time. (The other problem freelancers frequently encounter.)

  • Hard-boiled eggs: While this isn't a meal in itself, the first thing I do after I buy my weekly dozen eggs is boil them in a saucepan. It's as easy to boil twelve as one, and then for the rest of the week I have a quick, protein-filled snack whenever I want. I often eat them on bread (one-minute egg sandwich), or make deviled egg.
  • Once a week I roast an entire chicken or other fowl. The chicken costs between five and ten dollars, and lasts me the rest of the week. I keep the bone and gizzards and the next day, I make a soup with pasta and vegetables. I also make sandwiches with chicken meat, chicken and pasta salad, and the list goes on...
  • Pasta/couscous/lentils. This is pretty plain, but at dinner time, I always have a box of something or other. Throw it in boiling water, have some fruit for dessert, and some vegetables for an appetizer. Also, chances are I'll still have some chicken and eggs left over that I can add.

Food Budget Advice

My advice is to stock your pantry with non-perishables such as pasta, couscous, rice, and potatoes. Lentils and beans are great for something healthy. Stay away from cans which are expensive (we use them as soon as we open them) and filled with sodium.

Your fridge should be stocked with butter, jam, and other cheap sandwich making ingredients. At breakfast and lunch, rather than spending money on expensive granola bars and microwave dishes, you can just make toast or sandwiches.

Since subsiding on sandwiches is not much fun, choose one meal where you'll do some cooking, and spend your extra money on that. It often costs just as much, or nearly, to buy a whole chicken as individual parts, but you'll also get the bones and gizzards, and get more bang for your buck that way.

Food Budget
Food Budget

Social Budgeting

While you may be tempted to save money by going out less frequently, I would advise you to put aside a bit of money. Socializing is very important!

Here's how you can cut down on your social spending:

  • Be honest with your friends. If you're struggling financially, they should understand and not put you under pressure. But if you don't want to be a wet blanket, you may want to keep the reminders to a minimum.
  • Invite your friends over. Buying a bottle of wine and some hors d'oeuvres will be less expensive than paying for a restaurant or all-night drinking.
  • If you do go out drinking, buy one glass. At a restaurant, choose something less expensive. Make a point of treating yourself once a week, and give yourself a budget so that you don't go overboard.
  • A movie is a good alternative to a restaurant. Tickets can often be less than ten dollars, and while it may seem annoying to pay for a movie that you can eventually see at home, the social outing makes it worth it.

Final Words

My final advice is that while you are a freelancer and may work at home, you're not a stay at home. It can be very frustrating to be thought of as someone who doesn't do anything all day long (especially when we work very hard and aren't yet seeing much result.)

There are two things to keep in mind when deciding to try any budget trick:

  • Is it doable?
  • Will it take up time?

The second reason, mainly, is why I don't, for instance, do my own soap. It may cut down on costs but it's not worth it!

What about you? Will you be following these budgeting tips? Do you already budget?

Now Tell Me This:

What Ways Do You Save Money?

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    • BessieBooks profile image

      BessieBooks 3 years ago

      Thank you all for your feedback! Jessy and mgt28, money is a struggle for me too at times so I'm always looking for new ways to save. Good luck!

    • profile image

      mgt28 3 years ago

      Very well written advice. I live abroad and alone and I wish I get to grips with my budget.

    • JessyFreeland profile image

      Jessica Freeland 3 years ago from Florida

      Very useful tips for budgeting. I'm going to try to do some of these. Even though I'm still living with my parents at the moment (so no rent), I do have four horses to take care of. Add in a loan payment and vet bills, putting money back it hard some weeks.

    • Deborah Demander profile image

      Deborah Demander 3 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

      Thank you for your useful tips on budgeting.