I don’t have a Smart Phone… and other ways I save money as a freelancer.

Posted by on Nov 21, 2011 in Feature Articles, Freelance Corner | 2 Comments

This is the second in a series of articles on freelancer issues.  I hope that by focusing on the life of a freelancer and the everyday challenges that entails, it will foster discussion and feedback that may in turn help all of us.  — Dayna Gonzalez

Yes, I don’t have a smart phone.  And yes, I’m perfectly ok with that.  Really.  Am I afraid that if I get an iPhone I’ll never go back?  Oh most definitely.  But that’s not the reason I don’t have one.  You see, when you’re a freelancer, it’s not easy never knowing where the next paycheck may come from.  It’s a constant hustle.  Some months are really great, and others are not so great.  So it pays to be smart on how you handle your money, because that really great month will likely get you through any that aren’t so great.    This isn’t stuff they necessarily teach you in school either – and personal experience with money’s not a subject everyone likes talking about.  But in today’s economic climate, it can be an everyday concern.  So heck, as an experiment let’s just lay it out there – How do you, yes YOU, save money as a freelancer?  I’ll start.

No smart phone.  And no email or Internet on the darn phone either.  But before my phone starts to have a complex, thinking it’s all dumb or something let me say I love my phone.  It takes calls.  It’s green (actually it’s blue but environmentally friendly), it takes voicemail and it gets text.  It wakes me up in the morning and has pretty pictures on its screen saver.  And that’s all I need it for.  Why?  Because I work from home.  I’m home all day – my laptop is connected to the Internet and it gets my email for me.  It’s also very portable, so I have no trouble taking it to the café or anywhere else I might want to work instead.  How much do I save doing this?  My phone is $53 a month, with unlimited minutes after 7pm and on weekends including tax.   That’s $636/yr.  All the plans I know for smart data start at $70, the iPhone plan is $80 plus tax, so you’re spending about $100/mo = $1200 + $200 to buy the phone itself = $1400.  So you save about $764 a year by not using a smart phone.

But what about apps, Dayna?  Well, that takes me to yet another way to save money!  Make use of credit card rewards programs!  Over the years, I have cashed in rewards points for a stereo and two iPods.  This year, I’ll be cashing in for an iPod Touch, which I can download apps with and who knows, perhaps it can access my email too.  This will be very useful in testing apps that I make as well.  I’m also very interested in the Kindle Fire, which is at a far lower price point that the iPad, and is useful in testing Android apps.  Can it do everything the iPad can?  No, but I have an Apple laptop for all my computing needs.

A second point on credit card use.  Pay those babies off in full every month.   Get on the interest bandwagon and they can have you for life.

Get rid of the home phone.  This one’s simple.  No use in having two phones.  Everyone calls you on your cell phone anyway.

Get rid of cable.  Who the hell needs Time Warner anyway?  Just get broadband Internet and you’re good to go.  Every show is on the Internet these days and the rest are available on Netflix or Hulu.  You could even get Amazon Prime.  I call Netflix my cable.  It’s awesome.

On education: SUNY FIT has a wonderful continuing education program.   The campus is very convenient and the class hours are great.  Not only is it an art school, but also it’s often far cheaper than many area private universities.  You can also look into classes at CUNY schools.  Lynda.com is a wonderful online video learning library as well.  I also must give a huge shout-out to Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts.  Not only do they provide counseling on a host of legal issues for artists, but they also hold classes in a variety of legal topics.  I recently finished a 5 week Law School for Visual Artists course there, covering issues I would have never learned in school.

Don’t have vision insurance?  Get your new fancy eyeglasses online at Warby Parker.  At $95 for prescription glasses, you really can’t go wrong.  These guys have a showroom in Soho where you can try them all on, or you can even order 5 at a time to try on at home.  I just got mine a month ago and I have never been more pleased.  Plus they have wonderful customer service and they even make monocles!

I plan on writing on entire article on health insurance options but for now, visit the Actor’s Fund online and put yourself on their newsletter list.  Not only do they help connect you with free flu shots for the season but they also are a huge resource for entertainment professionals seeking assistance with social services, housing and healthcare.

Don’t be embarrassed to use coupons.  Google is your friend and is loaded with them.  Buy things online – they are often cheaper and lots of the time you get free shipping.  Perfect for those of us without a car.   Get an online savings account with high interest.  Use direct deposit.  Try to pay in cash when you can.  Learn to cook.  Then cook at home.    Oh and buy a coffee machine or get an expresso one and make your fancy schmancy café mochas yourself!

In conclusion, you don’t have to be a pauper to use good common sense and be smart about your money.  Or at least it’s never too late to start trying.   Everyone’s going to have his or her own ways about it, and what works for one person may not work for someone else.  Now it’s your turn: what are some of the ways you save money as a freelancer?  Feel free to add your own tips in the comments section here.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!!


  1. PS
    November 21, 2011

    I skype with clients as much as I can so I don’t use up my cellphone minutes. I also don’t have a smartphone. Instead I bought an iPod with wifi. It still does everything a smartphone can, but without service fees. I can jump on wifi at various venues around the city.

    I go to the library for free wifi so I don’t feel compelled to buy a $4 coffee from Starbucks.

    If I have a meeting or an appointment within 40 blocks of my home…I walk. Yes, it takes me about an hour (which is an hour I could be working) but it also gives me the exercise I need and saves me a whopping $2.25 each way, which does add up over time. When I do have to take the subway, I try to multi-task errands when I’m out so I can take advantage of free transfers. I’ve taken a taxi once in about a year or so.

    Staples has a reward program that pays you $2 for every used ink cartridge. I try to collect 10 used ink cartridges a month from family members’ printers. That gives me $20 a month that I can use at Staples. They have office and computer supplies as well as home and cleaning supplies, too. Why pay for paper towels, tissues, and kitchen cleaners when you can get them for free? I also save up my rewards for ink when I’m about to run out.

    On the home economics side…I had the gas portion of my bill turned off since I don’t cook or bake. I was paying for gas and delivery fees and barely using my stove. I called the gas company, explained the situation, and I haven’t paid for gas since. I microwave everything from eggs to pasta. And I keep my electric bill low by keeping appliances unplugged until I use them. No A/C either. I go to the library to soak it up for free on hot days.

    I’d like my lifestyle to be different but until that day comes, I have to make do.

  2. Dayna
    November 21, 2011

    Wow, these are great tips, Pammy!! Thanks for sharing them! I know what you mean about counting the MTA trips. I put $20 on my card every week or two, and since I don’t travel into Manhattan every day, I often do many errands on just one trip, walking or using free transfers when I can. Being home can get lonely though, so I often come into the city during the evening hours for animation related events – where I can often catch up with friends in the industry, and to spend time with friends outside of the industry. I try to take advantage of free events around the city as well – there are plenty.

    Thanks for the tip on Staples!! I’ll have to remember that one!!