Now that you’ve entered the gig economy as a self-employed freelancer, you have a lot of decisions to make. What time you get up, whether you change out of your pyjamas, or how many times you watch “This is America” before you get down to business represent some, but not all, of the choices you’ll face as a freelance professional. Beyond these daily conundrums are significant decisions regarding how you spend and save your money.
In trading the commute to a sterile office for the roll out of bed to your at-home gig, you’ve inherited unique financial challenges that the regular 9–5ersdon’t. Make sure you’re working the gig economy to your full advantage by incorporating these financial hacks into your daily life.
Prepare for taxes
Whether you’re flooded with relief or excitement every time you get paid, it’s easy to let the big number on your check distract you from reality. Your paychecks look different from the average worker’s paystub; it doesn’t have any taxes deducted.
Though they aren’t taken out of your wages now, you still owe the government—making your checks a misleading gauge of your income. If you don’t make taxes a priority every time you deposit a check, the tax season could have the power to blindside you and your finances.
Calculate what you need to take out to cover taxes, then set this sum aside in a separate account, so you aren’t tempted to spend it. A guide like this one should help, but accountants suggest the average freelancer set aside as much as 30 percent of their income towards taxes.
Remember to save
Taxes aren’t the only things missing from your paychecks. As a freelancer, you don’t have access to the regular safety nets that other workers do, so you aren’t paying into unemployment services, insurance benefits, or retirement plans. In a normal situation, the employer is responsible for taking these out of a worker’s paycheck. Well, now that you’re the boss, it’s up to you to make these deductions from your paycheck.
Some financial experts suggest you build an emergency fund that can cover roughly six months of living expenses. Others suggest you have as much as one year’s wages in this fund. This number can be a daunting goal, especially when you’re building your savings from the ground-up, but it’s a necessary addition to your finances. It can cover unexpected repairs, bills, or even unemployment should things go wrong.
It may take some time to build up these savings—time when your finances are vulnerable to emergencies. If the thought of being unprepared for an unexpected bill or repair leaves you in a cold sweat, research your options of cash advances. Lenders like MoneyKey are a great backup until your emergency fund is big enough to cover bills on its own. They help you find a payday loan that works as quickly as you need it to—even when emergencies strike. That’s because you can secure online payday loans from MoneyKey in just one business day after approval. Not only do these fast-acting loans fill the gaps in your savings, but their accelerated timeline means you don’t have to wait to cover urgent bills or repairs.
As for long-term savings for things like retirement, consider making specialized investments with ETFs, robo-advisors, or IRAs. A basic savings account only works for your emergency account because you can expect to make regular withdrawals. When you plan on saving for some of life’s biggest purchases, you’ll want to lock into a higher interest rate that only one of these specialized accounts can offer.
Even a gig needs a budget
It can be hard to sock away money into savings and retirement plans if you aren’t sure how much money you can afford to save without endangering your ability to pay the bills. A budget is the only way you can account for your money, and it can help you reach financial goals.
Your budget may not look the same as your fellow freelancer’s financial plan, but you can check in with these general guidelines to make sure yours is on the right track with your goals.
Don’t be above trickery
Even with a budget to help guide your way, saving doesn’t always come easy. A brand new Pixel or pair of Gucci Rhyton sneakers can be your siren’s call, and you’re spending what you promised to savings (or taxes) without even realizing it.
If you don’t think you can trust yourself to save properly, you need to get one over your lizard brain. The best way to steal the cash out of its talons is to contribute to savings automatically. Use your budget to figure out how much you can realistically put aside, then set up an automatic withdrawal from your account for this amount. You can set up the same automatic withdrawals for your taxes, and never miss a payment.
Sometimes, the most effective way to manage your money is by taking the responsibility out of your hands.Enforcing these automatic systems into your finances side-steps issues of self-control, so you can prioritize long-term financial health over short-term instant gratification. Try it out as you use your budget to save for taxes and a rainy day. It can help you take advantage of the gig economy to the full extent.