Living on a Writer’s Budget Part 1 – Ways to Spend Less & Bring in More

I am blessed enough that my husband is now in a job where he can afford to support both of us without me working full time.  It didn’t used to be that way.  We both used to have to work full-time, and it was really hard when I was making an hourly wage higher than his, because he felt inadequate to provide for us.

As soon as we were out of debt, I quit my job, though not just for those reasons.  When you come home crying from the stress of your job every single day, it’s not worth it anymore.

The hitch was that I was the one earning the most money at that point, and so we dropped to less than half of what we were making.  It was tough at first, but not impossible.

Being a writer and having to hold down a full time job is TOUGH.  I am in awe of all those who do it, because my job was so emotionally and physically exhausting it was impossible to find the stamina to go home and write afterwards, especially since all I wanted to do was crawl into bed.  I was lucky to get a little bit of writing done on the weekends.

The first step to figuring out of we could survive on less than half the income we were used to was to figure out exactly what our expenses were.  Our number one priority was paying off the car, because that was our largest expense that could actually be eliminated.  Once that was done, it was a matter of making a budget and sticking to it.

If you’re thinking about quitting your job or cutting back your hours so that you have more time to write, there are a few things to consider first, the most important being if you can actually take care of the necessary things in life with less income.

What my husband and I considered to be essentials were:

  • Could we make rent?
  • Could we afford to eat?
  • What affect would this have on our driving habits (esp. since we only had one car, and I needed access to it most of the time because of family situations)?
  • If something unexpected happens (hospitalization, hubby loses job, etc) what is our back-up plan?

These questions may be the same of different for you, depending on circumstances and desires.  It seems that art always requires sacrifice, though, but isn’t it usually worth it?

If you decide to take less income to have more time, there are some things that will help make up the difference.

Things that you can do that are simple habit changes:

  • Keep all electronics turned off when you aren’t using them – and make sure they are hooked up to power strips where you can turn it off completely.  Those glowing little lights and the digital clocks on the DVD player or microwave are constantly using electricity.
  • Keep the AC/heat a little higher or lower than you have before.  During the summer, the thermostat is set to 80 degrees.  At night, we use fans in our bedroom.  In the winter, the thermostat is set to 68 degrees.  We wear more layers.  We also have an electric blanket for those nights (which are few and far between) when cuddling won’t give us enough heat.
  • *Eat less meat.  I’m not saying eliminate meat completely, unless you really do want to be a vegetarian, but meat is really expensive.  Make as much food from scratch as you can, especially if you’re trying to eat healthy on a small budget.  I attempt to keep our grocery budget under $50/week.  That doesn’t always happen, but it’s possible, especially if you shop the sales and use coupons.  Also, eggs are one of the cheapest sources of protein you can find, and the cholesterol in the yolks actually isn’t bad for you.
  • *Eat out less.  Unless you’re trying to cook gourmet meals all the time, it really is cheaper to eat at home.  You also have more control over portion sizes, and being healthy is so very important to a writer.  We make a lot of demands on our bodies and minds, and what we eat affects that.
  • **Learn how to mend clothes.  You don’t have to replace every clothing item that develops a hole or snag.  Get creative – add embroidery or a patch to cover stains or holes.  Learn how to hem.  Youtube is a very handy thing, ya’ll.
  • **Shop at thrift stores for new clothes.  There are three ‘high-end’ thrift stores within walking distance of my home that specialize in name brand and designer cast-offs.  My best buy ever was a pair of J Crew shorts (and I am PICKY about my shorts, I like them a certain way) for $8.  I love those shorts.

*Will be dealt with more in Part 2; **Will be dealt with more in Part 3.

This is just a small sampling of what you can do to cut your expenses back.

But what about stretching things a little further?  Cutting back on expenses can feel constricting at first, and sometimes you do need a little extra money to spend on yourself.  Here’s what I’ve found:

NOTE: has removed my Swagbucks links because of a policy I was unaware of.  I am contacting them about the issue, hopefully it will be cleared up satisfactorily for everyone.  In the meantime, please visit my facebook page for a referral to Swagbucks if you are interested in using that service, or you can use the ‘Contact Me‘ form to request it :).

  • Swagbucks – this is literally a search engine.  That’s right – all you have to do is use it, and you can earn Swagbucks that are good for everything from gift cards (what I get the most often) to t-shirts to kitchen appliances.  They also have other ways you can earn Swagbucks, including watching videos (I’ve found some very informative gardening videos among their selection!), taking surveys (if you qualify, I usually don’t . . .), doing ‘tasks’ (these usually take more time than I have), playing games (also don’t have the time for this), and recruiting new people.  Yes, these links are my referral links.  But, for every person YOU recruit, you get matching Swagbucks for their first 1000.  How awesome is that?  It’s almost $15 in gift cards.
  • Superpoints – this one is a little more tricky.  It seems to work on a pyramid sort of scheme, but they have a variety of different prizes available (I’m really excited about the Jamba Juice gift card!).  Also, I can only give out a single invite ‘token’ at a time, and it’s only good for one person, and it’s available by invitation only.  But, you get random points in your email every day, plus I have actually qualified for all but two surveys they sent to me.  So, if you want to sign up, but the first token up there is already taken, just let me know in the comments and I’ll get one to you.
  • Jingit – this is the newest place I have found, and I am the most excited about it because they pay you actual money!  All you do is watch ads and answer a few questions from time to time.  This takes me about half an hour per day so far.
    Albeit, you have to get their Jingit Visa Debit Card if you want to use it anywhere other than, and you have to pay a ‘start-up fee’ using your Jingit earnings, but right now that fee is $2 instead of the usual $10.  They mail you the card, and I’m currently waiting on mine. I anticipate that it will arrive right after Christmas.  However, you can load your card straight from the Jingit website.
    I’m most excited about this because you have the potential to earn from $20 – $40 a month, max earnings are $10 per week (you start off at $5 per week, and gain 25 cents for each person that signs up through your referral link).  That’s an extra $520 a year.  The best part of all – it does not appear to be limited to one per household, rather one per person, and anyone 13 years of age and older can use it (though only US residents are eligible).  Parents on limited incomes, would this not be sooo handy for an allowance substitution, especially when you can’t afford to give kids an allowance?
    The videos do pause if it’s not the top window on your screen, so this if you’re multi-tasking, it’s something you want to do while you’re folding laundry or something.
    But seriously, it’s the closest you’re going to come to getting paid to do your own laundry.  So, go sign up!

What are some money saving tips, etc, that you’ve discovered?  Do you have anything similar to Swagbucks, Superpoints, and Jingit that you love?