Christmas time is barrelling towards us like an oversized snowball. And at this time of year, your goose may be getting fat but is your wallet looking a little on the lean side? If that sounds familiar, here are some money saving tips to get you through your freelance Christmas.
Let’s start with the basics. This first tip isn’t that sexy, but it is important. Before you start saving money, it helps to know what you’re spending. Once you’ve got a better understanding of your outgoings you can start reducing them – trimming back the turkey fat. One of the best places to start is eliminating your ‘nice to have’ purchases – then you can set about cutting back other freelancing expenses too.
One great way to cut back on self-employed expenses is to look at organisations that work with freelancers, and see if they have discounts or membership perks that could help you out. Like little early presents to help you pay for your own Christmas. For example, IPSE members get discounts from insurance, pension and mortgage providers, and even breakdown cover.
Some companies offer a student rate – even if you aren’t in full-time education. So, for example, if you’re taking an evening class or part-time course, you can get a significant discount on Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscription (so long as you’re with an approved learning provider).
Frosted, snow-topped, double-chocolate skinny oatmilk Mochaccino
After you’ve audited where your hard-earned income goes, you may be surprised by just how much you spend on coffee. Yep, those frosted, snow-topped, skinny (etc: see above) really do add up. But don’t worry: if you’re not ready to cut out the caffeine, there are still ways to curb your costs. Some coffee shops offer discounts if you bring a re-usable cup, and these little savings add up over time (what they call the ‘marginal gains’ approach). Take advantage of loyalty schemes too: some places are surprisingly generous and you can find yourself with a free drink quite quickly.
Coffee shops aren’t the only places that value loyalty. Are you based at a co-working space? Find out whether they offer incentives – like a free month – for introducing new members. And if you’re thinking about joining one, check to see if they have a free day pass or trial period. Not only can it save you money, you’ll also get a feel for the place in advance, before you commit.
If you can’t afford a co-working space, libraries generally let you work for free without you having to feel guilty about using the wi-fi. If you’ve got friends who also freelance, you could even set up your own little co-working circle and take turns to host. That way, you get the benefits of the company and change of scenery without the expense.
And if you fancy a cheap evening out, browse Eventbrite or Meetup for networking events. A lot of the sponsored ones have free beer and pizza, plus you might meet some cool people to co-work with. You could also leverage the talents of your freelance connections by doing a skills swap.
(Late night) Planes, (off-peak) Trains and (discount) Automobiles
Travel is another common expense, so take advantage of being freelance to travel off-peak. If you’ve been booking early-morning meetings out of habit, move them back an hour – or consider whether the meeting is even needed. Skype is free, or perhaps an email update would be enough?
When you do have to travel, book your tickets in advance to get the best rates. It’s obvious, but easy to forget when you’re busy, so if the tickets haven’t been released yet, set a calendar alert to remind you to book once they’re on sale. And if you travel abroad regularly for work, check how much it costs to use your card and consider switching to a bank that offers a better rate.
Harvest time for the money lenders
When you’ve reviewed your finances, you might find you’re paying for subscriptions you no longer use – or that you’re over-paying for others. So don’t let Scrooge squeeze your Christmas wallet: get cancelling and switching to cheaper options. There may be alternatives that meet your needs for a lower price: it’s certainly worth shopping around. For example, Wave provides free online accounting and invoicing software.
Using tools or services that are designed for the realities of self-employment can also save you money. Dinghy provides insurance for freelancers, and one feature is that you can pause your policy when you’re not working or are between gigs, so you don’t pay for more than you need. Meanwhile, freelance banking app Coconut lets you easily categorise your expenses, and gives you a running tax estimate (including tips on what you can and can’t claim for) so you always know where you’re up to with your finances. Knowledge, after all, is power.
Make your savings jingle all the way
Ultimately, how you spend your money is about what matters to you. If going to your favourite coffee shop gives you the boost you need to get through the day, do it. Or if getting the latest technology will inspire you and genuinely help your business, do that too. But in the run-up to Christmas, when you’re trying to get your freelance finances together, it just helps to review what matters to you and trim the fat from your expenses. That should give you the extra financial boost to focus on something that matters to everyone: Christmas. So happy saving and have a very merry Christmas!