Economizing doesn’t necessarily mean missing out on life. Here's how I trimmed expenses without cutting into my lifestyle.
The last time I got paid was Feb. 7. The earliest I can expect to get paid again is March 15. Why? Because I ended one job and I’m starting another, with a little time off in between.
I’m not saying this because I feel sorry for myself. For reasons I’ll detail below, I’m doing fine. I’m bringing it up to remind other freelancers (and fully employed folks) to get creative about meeting your needs.
What kept me calm during my visit to no-salary land? A series of frugal hacks. Spend any time on the personal finance blogosphere, and you’ll see plenty of posts on the tactics I’m about to list. So they’re nothing new. But they sure are effective…
More than one way to work
1. Second income stream. Usually that means a side hustle – a second job you can do on occasion (pet-sitting) or part-time (editing, retail, bartending). In my case, the second income came from my staff-writing position at Get Rich Slowly, which published three of my pieces in January and paid me in the second week of February.
2. Extra work. Although I’d sworn to slow down, two freelance gigs came up that I just couldn’t refuse. They took relatively little time (maybe three hours total) and will bring in $550, probably by the third week in March.
3. More extra work. From time to time, I do online surveys. Last week, a survey led to being chosen for a focus group, which meant an hour a day, tops. Piece of cake – and a $60 fee arrived a week later.
4. Still more extra work. I used to manage the apartment building in which I live, and I still do odd jobs as needed. When snow fell over several days last month, I took care of it. The owners took $125 off my February rent. I look at that as being paid to exercise.
Staying busy, eating well
5. Selling stuff. Two boxing programs and two small plastic sports action figures sat in my living room for ages, waiting to be put on eBay. During my vacation, I listed all four and to my utter shock, they brought in more than $1,200. That’s a nice payday substitute. (Went right into my savings account, though. If I need it to pay bills, I can always pull it back out.)
6. Using rewards points. When I attended the Metropolitan Opera broadcast of “Gotterdammerung,” I paid with a movie gift card that I got for free by using credit card points. The same credit card got me $25 in plastic scrip to Panera, so I treated myself to fresh bread and bagels during my time off.
7. Pantry challenge. Since late January, I’ve bought only milk, fruit, eggs, and a few vegetables. The rest of my ingredients came from the cupboards and freezer.
8. Shopping the sales. Any ingredients I did buy were loss leaders. That’s how I generally shop anyway, but I was doubly determined not to splurge on $2.99-a-pound grapes if I wasn’t getting a paycheck that week.
9. Cheap fun. Long walks to do my shopping and also to exercise – free and useful/healthful. That six-hour opera movie was the equivalent of three regular films. I printed out a free pass to a movie screening. With luck, I’ll also catch a free preview of “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” this week.
Nipping and tucking
Again, none of this is new. But taken together, these tactics form a multi-layered approach to intentional living.
Sure, I have an emergency fund. But why tap it if I don’t have to? I’d much rather nip and tuck my budget until the money starts coming back in.
Readers: Have you had to cut expenses due to unemployment, underemployment, or the rising costs of food and fuel? What tactics do you use for short- or long-term savings?
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