10-plus money-saving tips for the frugal freelancer!
My mother must have had a Master’s Degree in Money Management.
As a child, I hated it. At the supermarket checkout there was always some whiny kid in front of me, pointing at the strategically placed sweets.
“Mommy, I want a lollipop!” cried the boy.
The little brat was already digging into an open bag of greasy potato chips that had yet to be paid for.
“Mom, I want it now!”
As his mother was loading boxes of sugar-coated cereal onto the conveyor belt, the 3-year old monster turned up the volume to show the world who was in charge.
“Mom, give me that lollipop! You said I could have a lollipop!! I WANT IT!”
And sure enough, after thirty seconds of relentless begging, the little Prince’s wish was granted.
His mother turned to my Mom and said apologetically:
“What can you do? He’s just so adorable, isn’t he?”
“Why don’t you give him an apple?” my Mom suggested.
“Oh no, that wouldn’t work,” said the monster’s Mom. “I’ve tried that once. It was a disaster. “Connor isn’t really into fruit. He might be allergic.”
“Well,” said my Mom, “he seems to like strawberries” as she pointed to the lollipop sticking out of Connor’s mouth. But she had spoken too early.
“I hate this lollipop,” yelled the boy. “Give me a cherry one!”
As the appropriately named Dum Dum landed on the floor, I had only one wish: I wanted to trade my Mom in for Connor’s mother. My Mother never bought me any lollipops, or that colored cereal with a surprise toy in the box. And if I happened to be hungry, she gave me a carrot or a celery stick. Disgusting!
A few years later, we ran into Connor again at Toyland. Not much had changed, apart from the fact that he had put on a few pounds. He was the first six-year old with a double chin I’d ever seen.
“Mom, I want that race car!” he yelled.
Connor and I were both drooling over the same shiny Matchbox® model. It was a piece of perfection.
“Mom, I want it now!”
Connor’s presence somehow gave me the courage to ask my mother if she’d buy me the car.
“How much money have you saved so far?” asked my Mom.
This year I had started earning an allowance by doing small chores around the house.
“Fifty cents,” I replied.
“And how much is this car?”
“You get 20 cents per week, so if you really want this car, why don’t you save up for it?”
“Mom, I knew you would say that!”
“Of course,” said my Mom. “Now, let’s get your sister a birthday present.”
At the checkout, Connor had already taken his brand new car out of the box and was ready to destroy it.
His mother turned around and said:
“What can you do? He’s just so adorable, isn’t he?”
The other day, I had a meeting with my accountant. He specializes in small businesses.
“Let me ask you a question,” he said when I came in.
“What’s the difference between a successful and a not so successful freelancer? If you had to boil it down to one thing, what would it be?”
“Well,” I said, “I can think of a few things. How about talent… connections… creativity?”
“Wrong,” said my accountant. “What do Jerry Lee Lewis, Tammy Wynette, Mickey Rooney and Lorraine Bracco have in common?”
“Brian,” I said, “You tell me. You’re the expert.”
He continued: “We’re talking about talented, well-connected and creative people. And at one point in their career, all of them had to file for bankruptcy.
Here’s my point, Paul: The difference between a successful and a not so successful freelancer lies in these two words: Money Management. And where does money management start?
“Well, Brian, isn’t that where you come in?”
“Wrong again. Money management starts between your ears! It’s about the difference between instant gratification and impulse control. Didn’t your mother teach you that? You see, there’s no secret formula to financial stability:
- Spend less than you earn
- Pay off your debt
- Invest, save and share
“That’s a great philosophy, Brian” I replied. “But you know as well as I do that it doesn’t work like that in the real world. The kids that have never heard the word “no” became adults driven by a sense of entitlement.
We might moan and groan about the economy, but all we really want is a big fat turkey for Thanksgiving and a big flat screen TV on Black Friday. People demand the latest and the greatest, if only to keep up with the Joneses.
If life gets hard, put it on a card.
After all: You’re worth it. That’s what this country is all about: prescription drug addiction, emotional eating and retail therapy.”
“It feels good to vent, doesn’t it?” said Brian. “So, what’s your answer to the I consume, therefore I am mindset? Should we call off Black Friday and fire Santa?”
“How about moderation?” I said. “How about redefining what makes us happy? Happiness cannot be found in the ever-increasing accumulation of stuff. Isn’t life supposed to be about who you are and what you have to give; not about how much you have and can keep for yourself?
My Mom kept a tight rein on the budget, and at times I was jealous of some of my classmates who could literally be a kid in the candy store. She didn’t always give me what I wanted, but I always got what I needed. Thanks to her, I became a frugal freelancer. She taught me one of the most important lessons:
A rich life has nothing to do with an expensive lifestyle.
We never went to Disney World®. We hiked on nature trails instead, and for years I told the world I wanted to be a forester, protecting plants and animals. We rarely went out to dinner. Instead, my mother taught me how to make delicious, nutritious meals from scratch. Our kitchen never had a microwave in it, and somehow, we survived.
At the time I thought it was so unfair: all the kids in the neighborhood had a VCR. Meanwhile, it took years before we got our first color TV. But my best childhood memories are of the whole family sitting around the table playing board games. I paused for a moment…
Be honest, Brian: Am I getting old?”
“Definitely,” my accountant said with a smile. “But as your financial advisor, I like the way you’re thinking. Now, tell me again: what was that website you were talking about the other day?”
“It’s called Freecycle.org. Freecycle is a worldwide network of people who are giving and getting stuff for free in their towns. Not junk, but good stuff that would otherwise end up in landfills. A year ago, our stove decided it was time to retire and Freecycle came to the rescue.
Someone in the neighborhood was remodeling the kitchen and her practically new stove didn’t fit anymore. She put it on Freecycle and I picked it up. It didn’t cost me a penny. And if there’s stuff we have no use for, we put it on Freecycle too.
“Didn’t your TV set give up, last year?” asked Brian.
“You’re right, and guess how much I paid to replace it? Fourteen dollars and ninety-five cents. I found a TV at a local Goodwill store. The folks who dropped it off were going for one of these LCD-things. There’s nothing wrong with that old television. It’s just a bit… ginormous and you need five men to lift it. But the story gets even better…
Last month we cut the cable. I was getting tired of being forced to pay for all those networks we never watch. Cable companies are like a restaurant charging you for everything on the menu when you’re only eating a few items. Cutting cable alone saves us over $1300 a year. Now I can put that money into my new recording space.”
“Aren’t those prefab boxes expensive?” Brian wanted to know.
“You bet they are,” I said. “That’s why one of my friends is going to help me build a booth in the basement. And if we ever were to sell our home, the new owners will have the soundproof media room they always wanted.
Spending money is just too easy. Saving money is a sport.
I spent hours and hours researching the web for the best materials and the best deals. I asked my social media friends for advice and I got quite an education. And at the end of the day, I believe that building something with my own bare hands is much more rewarding. I can also make sure that the materials I use are environmentally friendly.
I do the same thing when I am shopping for gear. Before buying brand new, I check out Sweetwater’s Trading Post, Craigslist and eBay first. A friend of mine just got a beautiful Blue Robbie preamp; retail price: $799. He picked it up for $500. It was barely a year old and the former owner had taken care of it as if it were his baby. My friend’s voice-over clients couldn’t hear the difference between brand new and “previously loved.” He recently bought a Mac Mini. Refurbished, same story.”
“Off course it’s not all about money,” said Brian. “My new-age therapist says that money is just an exchange of energy. She tells me I should move more. I spend my days behind a desk, staring at a screen. At the end of the day I just want to go home, be a slouch on the couch and… stare at a screen.”
“Do you know what you and I should do, Brian?” I said.
“I think both of us should become independently healthy.”
“Care for some carrots?” joked Brian.
“You’re funny! That’s what my Mom used to say.”
“Speaking of your Mom… how’s she doing?”
“She passed away on April 11, 2008.”
I took a deep breath.
“My Mother really knew how to stretch a guilder. When she died, most of her belongings went to families in need and she made it very clear that she didn’t want to be buried. She donated her organs and the rest of her body to science.
My Mom died on a Friday.
It was one of the darkest days of my life.
Not a day goes by, without me thinking of her, and wishing I could call that day off.”
Now, before we get all teary-eyed and sentimental, let’s end with something practical. Here’s my shortlist of tips for the Frugal Freelancer my mother would definitely approve of:
1. THINK of the WHY before you buy. Separate the needs from the wants. Ask questions such as:
- Is this something I simply would like to have, or do I absolutely need it NOW?
- What would happen if I don’t buy it?
- Can I afford it?
- Sleep on it (especially when buying mattresses). Build in a minimum waiting period for bigger purchases
2. DO YOUR HOMEWORK and use the internet for research and for finding deals
3. Invest in QUALITY that will last
- Remember: refurbished products are tested and certified and offer big savings. I bought my Apple Time Capsule refurbished and it is doing its job without any problems.
4. GO GREEN
- Pick products that are good for the planet
- Buy Energy Star products
- Go paperless and recycle
- Buy at a consignment or Goodwill store and use www.freecycle.org to get rid of good stuff you no longer need or to find things you’ve always wanted.
5. CUT the CABLE
6. BREW your own COFFEE and make your own MEALS
7. STAY HEALTHY
8. SELL YOUR SECOND CAR
9. REDISCOVER THE LIBRARY
10. BE ORGANIZED and keep track of your income and expenses
11. Add up all your savings and give at least 10% to a worthy cause, and
Live each day with an attitude of gratitude.
Paul Strikwerda ©nethervoice
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