Unexpected Expenses

Last week I reported that I had the best month yet in February. Doesn’t it just figure that as soon as I say it, unexpected expenses pop up out of nowhere? Good thing I had such a good month. So far this month, I’ve had to pay taxes – okay, I knew this was coming and I did indeed save enough. But I found out that for next year I have to pay quarterly taxes which means that the first payment is due in April. Also with my taxes, I found out that I should be saving more of what I make. Last year I saved 30% of everything I made, but my accountant recommended that this year I strive to save 40% of what I make. To me that sounds crazy. I mean that’s almost half of my income, but I would rather save too much than not enough so I think I’ll be taking his advice.

On top of taxes, the clutch went out in my car. There’s nothing I hate more than shelling out big bucks for car repairs when I hardly drive anyway – but I do need a car because I do occasionally meet clients, run errands and in general drive places.

I’m sure I’m not the only one that this happens to, but it just feels like as soon as I’m getting ahead the unexpected happens to take me right back to square one. It’s like hitting a brick wall. However, on a positive, with the unexpected expenses, I feel like a fire has been lit under me and I’m more motivated than ever to keep the good month I had last month going.

Okay, I’m done with my mini rant. Thanks for listening:)

Tips to Save Money

coach purse

Photo courtesy of Coach, Inc.

I’ll admit it, when I was in a full time job with regular pay I never worried about money. I’m a fan of brand names, especially in clothes and accessories. The Coach store regularly calls my name and I love nothing more than high end jeans. My clothes budget per month was needless to say pretty much limitless. For most of my adult life, if I wanted something, I bought it without hesitation. Now, you are probably thinking I’m spoiled, but the truth is, as part of a couple with two good incomes and no children, what else was I going to spend my money on? All that changed when I threw in the towel on my full time job and struck out on my own as a freelance writer.

What I realized is that while working from home has its perks – like setting my own schedule, deciding who I work with and not having to dress up every day, it has its downfalls too. My income – at least starting out has been greatly cut. To adjust to this I had to make some big changes. Here are some things that I’ve done to save money – maybe they can help you too.

Cut out coupons. I’ve never been one to cut coupons, but one of the things my husband and I decided to cut down on was our grocery budget. I am continuously amazed by how much money I save from using coupons found in the Sunday paper. Just this week I saved $30 at the grocery by using coupons.

Buy store brands. At the grocery, instead of buying the known brand names, I have switched to buying store brand items. The savings are as big as $2-$3. It’s amazing and with the exception of a few things, the food tastes just as good.

Use a store card. This is easy, but again I never thought of it. There are so many discounts offered at the grocery and other stores when you use their store card.

Don’t eat out. Okay, this one has been hard for me. I love nothing more than grabbing a bite to eat and washing it down with a cocktail. In the last few months I have gone from eating out three to four times a week to eating out two to three times a month. It’s getting easier, as I learn to cook and it’s starting to be fun to experiment in the kitchen.

Shop around. This applies to clothes and gadgets. Where I once would just purchase something on the spot, now if I see something I want, I shop around to find the best deal. There are a lot of deals that can be found online too.

Don’t buy brand named clothes. This is hard. I love Steve Madden shoes, Ugg boots, Seven Jeans and Express, but sacrifices must be made. Now instead of buying up the newest line at Express, I go to places like TJ Maxx where I am able to find good deals on clothes that are fashionable and fit just as well. Sometimes they even have brand names.

Sign up for mailing lists. I hate receiving junk mail, but it is worth it when I get great coupons in the mail. Stores like Bath and Body Works, and New York and Company regularly mail out great coupons when you sign up for their mailing list.

Don’t impulse shop. Nowadays, I never go to the mall or store without a clear idea of what I need. When I need something, I go shopping look for what I need and if I don’t find it I leave empty handed. I don’t buy things just to buy something.

Clean out your closets. I have never done this before, but last week I decided it was time to figure out what I really needed clothes wise for the winter and what I can do without this year. Surprisingly what I found was that I don’t need much. I literally had clothes with the price tags still on them or clothes that I had completely forgotten that I had.

Organize a clothes swap. My love for Coach purses will probably never go away, but fortunately, my friends all love Coach too. So we are having a clothes and accessory swap. We are all gathering a handful of things that we will trade with one another. This makes it feel like we are getting something new and fresh without having to go buy it.

These things have enabled me to work from home and do something that I love. What do you do to save money?

A Plan is Forming

I’m terrified. Sitting in a meeting today I was suddenly flooded with doubt about whether I could really leave my job. How will I survive? How will I pay my mortgage? It’s very scary to be so use to a paycheck and then have it suddenly disappear. What if I don’t get writing jobs?

Tonight, I decided I had to make a plan. It’s one thing to say you’re going to do it, and it helps to want to do it very badly, but every good idea needs a plan. Here is mine: The way I see it, I need to save up enough money to make it through at least six months. After six months if I’m not making ends meet, I will have to find a part time job to help supplement my income. I’m happy to report I am well on my way. Without giving any numbers away, I think I have at least three months banked.

My husband and I went over the plan tonight at dinner. He is more confident than me. He tends to think in more simple terms, and insists that we will be okay. Plus, I have already started writing for a content producing site and been there for almost a month. All that money is going directly to my savings for the big transition. I have also been implementing other save money tactics. I’m not shopping or spending extra money on anything. We have changed our budget and taken out everything that isn’t a necessity. All said we are able to save a lot of money a month. I’m feeling more hopeful about the whole money thing now.

I’m also looking for ways to increase my monthly income while I still have a job. The plan is to look into eHow and other similar sites. If I can build up a portfolio there and make money on a monthly basis with little effort, it’s worth a shot. I know it will take a while, but my goal is to have a strong start before I leave my job.

With all that planning, I still haven’t narrowed down a date to leave my job. Obviously, it would be nice to put in my notice tomorrow, but that isn’t realistic. I have a project I am working on for May and another coming up in August that I have already started working on. It would probably be acceptable to leave in the beginning of June, and better to wait until the beginning of September. It’s not that I owe my company anything, but I don’t want to leave them in a lurch. I want to give them plenty of notice and be sure they can still be successful without me. As I have said before, I don’t dislike them; in fact I truly want to see them do well, with or without me.

And of course, with all of this I am searching daily for additional freelance jobs. Anything that I can take to make extra money, get my name out there and fine tune my writing will help me immensely with this transition.

It’s a start, a work in progress, stay tuned to see how it all works out!