New to freelancing? Jump-start your savings with these creative budgeting tips

We’re all familiar with the old clichés.

Feast or famine. Paycheck to paycheck. Month to month.

When you make your living as a freelancer, it’s often just that—a living. Enough to get by on, but not much beyond that. How do you save for big life expenses, like buying a house, when all the money you do earn disappears as soon as it arrives, lost to student loan payments, utility bills, and other expenses?

Truth be told, protecting your freelance income and building up your savings requires a lot of creativity, especially if you’re just starting out.

But remember, it’s not impossible, it just takes discipline. These essential savings strategies will help you get the process going.

Follow the $250 rule to build up your retirement fund

If you commit to setting aside $250 every month for one year, you’ll find a decent savings in your bank account come December.

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Imagine how much you would save if you kept up this routine for another year. Then another. Then one more.

Imagine how much you would save if you kept up this routine for your entire working life.

If you follow the $250 rule from age 25 to age 65, you can expect to accumulate somewhere in the neighborhood of $120,000 overall. That’s not an insubstantial sum, especially when you consider that the mean retirement savings of American families between 56 and 61 years of age is $163,577.

As your client base expands and your prices increase, there will be even more income from which to draw for your retirement fund. With any luck, you’ll have a bigger nest egg than the one described above to look forward to in the future.

Save for your first home with the 52-Week Money Challenge

Things are looking up for first-time homebuyers.

Lenders used to ask for as much as 20% of a house’s purchasing price upfront in order to approve a loan. Now, an ask of 5 – 10% has become the norm.

If that remains the case, then—after completing the 52-Week Money Challenge—you’ll be well on your way toward that down payment for your first home, assuming it’s within the $100,000 range.

The concept is simple. Each week, you set aside an amount that corresponds with whatever number week of the year you find yourself in. ($1 for week one, $2 for week two, $3 for week three, and so on.)

By the end of the year, you’ll have accumulated $1,378. Another a few years of 52-Week Money Challenges, and you’ll have saved up more than enough to make that initial down payment.

Eliminate wasteful spending, then establish an emergency fund

Just how much money are you hemorrhaging each day on unnecessary expenses?

Chances are, that Starbucks latte is putting serious strain on your checking account. If you’re one of those caffeine-every-day types, we’re talking over a thousand dollars’ worth of strain by year’s end.

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That’s money you could, and should, commit to an emergency fund instead.

An emergency fund is a form of protection for your savings—something to turn to in times of need, when your car unexpectedly breaks down, or when that problem client reneges on their payment, leaving you short for that month’s rent.

It’s a precautionary measure that ensures you won’t have to draw from your housing and retirement funds, which could potentially disrupt your long-term financial goals.

Determine what you’re comfortable eliminating from your weekly spending habits. Then set the money that you would usually spend aside, week by week, for your emergency fund.

The takeaway

If you remember nothing else from this article, remember this: Don’t put all of your financial eggs in one basket.

Strive to create separate retirement, housing, and emergency funds, and contribute to them all routinely over time. You’ll be far more financially resilient than you would be otherwise.

When you make saving a part of your weekly routine, the prospect of facing all of those big life expenses will feel much less daunting as your career progresses.

Let me know your savings techniques in the comments.

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