One of the realizations most full-time freelancers have early on is that their expenses quickly balloon. You have to foot your own bill for health insurance, short-term disability insurance, and self-employment taxes, not to mention business-related expenses, such as buying a new office chair, purchasing accounting software for taxes, passes to professional conferences and so on.
My fixed expenses have shot up by about $400 each month, or $4,800 a year as a full-time freelancer. So I’ve tried to cut back on my variable expenses as much as possible. My flexible work-from-home schedule mainly helps me save on everyday expenses.
Here are a handful of areas I’ve been able to spend less on because I freelance. In other words, here's are ways freelancing helps you save.
That’s right, no more eating out during lunch hour with coworkers. Not having to work at an office also nixes the temptation to run to a nearby local coffee shop during the late afternoon slog. Instead, I prepare as many meals as I can throughout the day. When my schedule permits, I take an extended lunch break and go grocery shopping during the middle of the day to beat the Trader Joe’s rush.
Not only has working from home cut my costs on eating out, it also helps me eat healthier. I set a $50-a-week budget for groceries, and have more time to shop for the best deals on organic produce. While my diet is far from perfect, I have more time to cook, and blend a green smoothie every morning for breakfast. Here’s another bonus that comes with freelancing: You can take full advantage of happy hours. Instead of having a full-price fancy dinner, I’ll dash over to a nearby restaurant or bar that offers cheap apps and drinks.
Earlier this year, I went to do laundry after ignoring my hamper for a month, and saw that I still had a closet full of clothes. I found that I mainly wear the same few workout outfits all the time. Not that I’m a fitness freak, it’s just that I’m home a lot and gym clothes are just so darn comfy. Since this discovery I’ve decided to, for the most part, put a spending freeze on buying clothes. This freeze would be far more difficult if I had to show up at an office every day.
Granted, I’ve only worked at places with casual dress codes and have never spent too much on clothing. However, there is something about having a place to go to every day that gives you a reason to buy new clothes. Plus, there are company parties and after-work outings that justify spending more on attire.
One of my favorite parts of freelancing is skipping a commute. When I worked a day job, I drove about 10 miles each way to my workplace. On a good day, it would take me about 20 to 30 minutes each way. On bad days, when I was up against some terrible traffic, I faced an hour drive home and upwards. And I wasn’t the only one losing out. The average American commuter wastes the equivalent of $960 a year in time and fuel sitting in traffic, according to an analysis by Auto Insurance Center.
Besides saving money on gas, I save on car maintenance. While I take public transit more frequently, which is $1.75 each way on the bus or rail, I don’t pay to maintain the bus or the train. Plus, it gives me more reason to put off buying a new (and expensive) set of wheels.
Extra ‘Workplace’ Perks
I take advantage of my flexible schedule by going to movie matinees and attending free talks and meetups that happen during the day. I hope to eventually have a light workday, where I’m available for edits and answering emails, but otherwise off so I can pursue some more free professional development opportunities. Right now, I don’t do this often because I tend to work every day (that’s another story). Still, I’ve been able to go to my fair share of Freelancers Union Spark meetups and Creative Mornings breakfast talks.
While freelancing comes with a host of added costs, having your say on where your office is and moving your schedule around can help you save money. And while it doesn’t totally offset the expenses attached to running your own business, it can help lower them somewhat.
Trying to figure out how to get health insurance as a freelancer? We’ve got a helpful 101 right here.