While I mention budgeting periodically on here, I never really delve that deeply into the subject that much. For the last year and a half, the majority of my income has come from freelance work (although I do shoot with a boutique 2 days a week), and while I’m thankful to be in a position where I’m able to do it, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t hard sometimes. Even when you get to a point where the money is flowing in regularly, it is imperative to create a budget to handle it all because truth be told, there are times where you will wonder where the hell your money went. Over the weekend, I had one of those moments. The budget that I have has been a loose one; when things are flowing I may spend a little more on food or going out, but saving has been an issue for me. I sometimes don’t think I make enough to save a lot, however I reconciled what I brought in over the last 6 months and I was floored. September was a record month for me, and while I did have to pay for some travel and car issues at the end of the month, reconciling made me realize that my budget has gotten way too lose and I need to tighten up!
Whether you’re a freelancer or someone that works a traditional 9-5, there’s no better time than now to start refocusing on your finances and getting things in order. If you’re in the same place that I am, here are a few ways that I will be creating a budget that really works.
Be realistic with my budget for food
While I think I’ve mastered the number one budget hack (live below your means), it could definitely use some tweaking. One of the first ways that people tell you to budget better is with the money that you spend on food and eating out, but I’m gonna be real with you: not going out to eat is unrealistic in the profession that I’m in, and I also realized that at times I still wasted money because I would buy food to cook at home but would have a crazy week and end up never getting a chance to cook it. So, I made a compromise with myself: if it’s a week that I know that I will be on the go a lot, I won’t bother buying a ton of food for home. It’s just going to sit there. If it’s a slow week where I know for sure that I’ll be home most of the time, then I’ll get groceries. This way, I won’t get tempted to eat out when I run errands. I try to keep food that I can “graze” on at anytime in the fridge (veggies, hummus, Greek yogurt, almond butter, oatmeal, bananas), but other than that, I won’t buy other items unless I know I’ll have time to cook. I don’t usually spend a ton of money when I go out to eat anyway, so it ends up working out.
Start an emergency fund
I have never had an emergency fund. I mean, I’ve had savings accounts, but nothing specifically for that. This is the year that I get that started. I know that it’s best to have at least 6 months of expenses saved up, but tbh, it’s extremely difficult to save what you don’t have, so I having a savings goal of $500 by the end of the year is a lot more realistic for me. This will allow me to pay down credit card debt while paying my monthly bills and putting a little bit away here and there. While $500 doesn’t seem like a lot, when you are a freelancer, your money does not come on a set schedule, so it get’s hard to balance and save regularly in a traditional way when you could potentially receive payment a month after it was initially supposed to come.
Keep an old school piggy bank
Every penny counts, and I can promise you that I’m putting them all away, lol. I’ve always saved my change, but I want to get a little more serious and start putting away any $1 bills that I may have at the end of the week as well. I don’t have an actual piggy bank (come on, I’m not 12, lol), but I DO have a designated container for change. You would be surprised how quickly that can add up, and I can use it when I’m short on cash and need to get gas or something small in a pinch.
Cut back on small treats
My name is Kim and I am addicted to Starbuck’s Iced Chai Tea Lattes and macarons. I have no shame in admitting this, but I have to admit that it stings a little bit when I look back over what I spent for the month and see how much went to these 2 things. It’s a little OOC. While I do send money to a gift card for Starbucks so that I at least take advantage of their point system, I have to give myself a monthly limit. It’s been a little too easy to reload it. This will honestly be my hardest thing to do because I love both of these things SO much.
Buy necessities in bulk
I know that I will always need certain toiletries and cleaning supplies, so it’s time to make a little space in my laundry closet and bite the bullet and buy these things in bulk. It stings when I first make the purchase (because who wants to spend $20 on toilet paper when it’s JUST you in your apt?) but in reality, this is one of those areas where buying in bulk is more cost efficient in the long run. I’ll save a few dollars and never have to worry about running out of anything unexpectedly anymore.
Meet friends for breakfast + lunch vs dinner and drinks
I don’t meet up with my friends for dinner a ton, but it’s enough for me to rethink this practice and to start suggesting breakfast or lunch instead. I don’t really drink a lot when I go out anyway (maybe a cocktail or a beer if it’s been a long day), but the meals can sometimes get really expensive; suggesting an alternative will still make sure that we go out and have experiences but not go broke while doing it.
These are the top ways that I’m working on getting better with my budget so that I can have a better hold on my finances and save. Life is for living, so I don’t believe that you have to sacrifice every single thing in order to save money, but I do know that being more financially responsible now will help me me reach the bigger goals that I have for myself a lot sooner.