This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.

Being on a budget is difficult, even under the best circumstances. But when you’re often unemployed, underemployed, and underpaid, as freelancers often are, an already unstable situation can soon turn into a financial tightrope.

Here are just a few tips to help you–and your bank account—stay balanced year round.

Calculating a monthly budget

Let’s start off with a few numbers. First, figure out your average monthly net pay (your monthly take home after taxes and deductions). If you’ve been doing this for a while, you probably already know this figure to the penny. If you’re new to freelancing, you can ask around to see what others are pulling in, or even look online for freelancer rate tips.

Then, figure out how much you really need each month. Not how much you want; not how much you normally spend, but the lowest amount you can eke by on each month. (Ahhh, the freelancer’s life.)

Once you have those two numbers, you can build from there. For help, look at this sample budget online from Consumer.gov.

Pay yourself first

You “pay yourself first” by putting your hard-earned money into a checking or savings account and letting it grow. Experts suggest saving at least 5% or 10% of your income each month, more if you can afford it. If you can afford it, consider a traditional or Roth IRAs.

Remember, having a bank account helps you:

  • Earn interest on checking and saving
  • Avoid paying exorbitant fees at check cashing establishments
  • Build “emergency savings” you can use during a crisis

Don’t forget about online banks. They often have higher interest rates than traditional banks.

Quick Tip: Open up bank accounts for your children too. Many banks have special accounts for kids. It’s been proven that adults who learn simple financial concepts like saving as children are more likely to avoid serious financial problems as adults.

Try a credit union

Need more credit? Or maybe you just prefer the “personal touch” with your banker? Consider joining a credit union. While banks often make financial decisions based on their shareholders' needs, credit unions are more likely to base their decisions on their clients’ needs. Unlike banks, they make their money primarily on client accounts and fees, not from stock shares.

They also:

  • Are more likely to give out first-time loans or loans to clients with “less than perfect credit”
  • Offer higher interest rates on their checking and savings accounts
  • May offer more free checking and savings accounts than traditional banks

Cooking up savings on your grocery bills

Don’t let tight finances affect your ability to provide healthy, nutritious meals for yourself or your family.

Buy fruits, veggies and other perishables in smaller quantities by going to the store more often. This will help you avoid wasting money on food that goes bad before you eat it.

Cut the cord on costly phone services

Switch out your costly phone service for one that’s less expensive. Try calling your current service provider to see if they offer any cheaper packages. If your income is low enough, you may qualify for the Lifeline program. Lifeline service is available for either cellphones or landlines and may be free, or just a few bucks, depending on the service you ask for. You can learn more at https://www.fcc.gov/general/lifeline-program-low-income-consumers.

Keep medical costs as low as you can

Having affordable health insurance can protect you from sky-high medical costs if you or a loved one member has a medical emergency.

I'm a freelance writer, a freelance blog writer, freelance copywriter, freelance web designer, and a freelance just-about-anything-else you can put the word "freelance" in front of. Don't believe me? Check out www.merrietriplettmarketing.com to see more of what I do (freelance of course).