One Way to Save Money for Your Leap

April 28, 2011 · 9 comments

Saving money is one of the best ways to prepare to take a leap in life, whether your leap is taking a career break to travel, writing a book, starting your own business or something else you’ve yearned to accomplish. Setting yourself up financially not only puts you in a position to afford to make that change you’ve been waiting on, it also makes it mentally easier to go there, because you feel safer and more confident in the decision.

What do you mean, you're not bringing in $100 bills?

But easier said than done, right?

When most of us think about saving money, we look at our finances and ask, Where can I cut back? That can be an effective way to grow your bank account, especially if you have ample opportunity to scale back. And most of us do. Even the things we think we need become easier to give up when we realize how far that money could go in our Leap Fund.

Yet there’s another way to save, one many of us often overlook: bringing in more money. We overlook it because we assume, particularly those of us who are salaried workers, that what we make is what we make, at least until we’re up for a raise.

We also assume this because it’s how the world used to work. But now we have more options. Social media and other Internet-based tools make it easier than ever to land work on the side through networking, personal branding and crowd-sourcing. The challenge, of course, is finding the time to do all of these things and being creative enough, entrepreneurial enough, to develop a money-making side gig.

Despite that extra time commitment, I’m convinced this is a better way for me — and likely many of you, too — to save money. Here’s why: I’m already frugal enough that even if I watched my spending even more closely, I’d only save another few hundred dollars each month. That adds up, of course, and saving a few hundred dollars on a monthly basis is certainly something to be proud of. But through freelancing — for me, that means writing articles for newspapers and magazines and contracting out my social media skillsI can save far more by bringing in more money than I can by cutting back on spending.

When I explained this concept to one of my close friends, she said there’s a fancy business name for it: top-line growth. This fascinated me, because I wasn’t thinking about the concept in a business-y sort of way, simply about what would be effective in my own life.

Of course, this strategy won’t work for everyone. For it to be effective, you have to be making a salary that’s small enough that a thousand or two thousand extra dollars each month is significant. (And don’t forget, you’re not spending this money, you’re adding it to your Leap Fund.) You have to be fairly frugal already, or else cutting back would be an easier move. And, of course, you have to have skills that other people or businesses want to pay you for.

But I’d be willing to bet that most you reading this blog have skills that could help you bring in money on the side of your day job. If you don’t do this already, think about what you can offer and who might want to hire you. There’s always a market for good writers. More and more companies need web designers and social media managers. And with the option to work remotely, there are oh-so-many other web-based freelance gigs out there.

If you’re already freelancing, ask yourself what I’m asking myself now: How can I make more? It sounds like a selfish question, like a gluttonous pursuit for cash. And I know what you’re thinking: Writers work because we’re passionate, not for the money. But the truth is, we all need money to live. We likely need money for our leaps, too. And you’re more likely to take your leap if you have that money. So why not figure out how to earn it?

How will you contribute to your Leap Fund this year? What skills do you have that might help you bring in that extra cash? (Be specific; you never know when someone reading the comments will want to hire you.)

Photo Credit: Flickr’s AMagill

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Patrick Ross April 28, 2011 at 9:20 am

A “leap fund.” “Top-line growth.” Love learning new terms!

I knew at the beginning of 2010 that I wanted to leave my nonprofit executive job and return to freelance writing. I was doing okay financially and knew I could live on less, so I put money aside to allow me to go through 2011 without any income if I have to. I have a little coming in now, could use more, but I don’t think I could have taken the leap without that security. And yes, there’s only so much paring back one can do, especially if you’re already fairly frugal!
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Alexis Grant April 28, 2011 at 9:22 am

Ha — Well, “Leap Fund” is my own made-up term. But it works!

Very cool that you put aside enough money to get through 2011. Is your plan to slowly start bringing in income via freelancing, so you can transition to that fully?

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Patrick Ross April 28, 2011 at 9:33 am

I definitely want to have some freelance clients, including journalism (have a regular stringer gig right now) and other projects. My last job was so all-consuming I couldn’t really start building the freelance work until I stepped down from that job, which I did at the end of 2010.

I have a literary agent who is circulating a book proposal, I’d love for that to come through. If it doesn’t, we’ll pitch a different proposal, and so on and so on. I could never only write books, though, I like having lots of different writing challenges.
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Alexis Grant April 28, 2011 at 9:57 am

Nice! Would love to hear more at some point about how you’re pulling all these things together — freelancing, book-writing and other projects — to create a livable income.

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Andrea James April 28, 2011 at 9:46 am

I love this post! Woot! May you all contain your costs and grow your top lines. ;)
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Lisa April 28, 2011 at 11:26 am

Great read. I find myself trying to look for ways to save as well and while I have already picked up a second job in my current field of event management, I would love to freelance And get paid for content. Right now I am trying to build up my portfolio and find more volunteer opportunities than paid gigs.

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Alexis Grant April 28, 2011 at 11:35 am

Thanks, Lisa. Good for you for starting with volunteer opportunities — That’s a great way to make contacts AND give back.

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Greg Goodman April 28, 2011 at 5:23 pm

I’ve done the “quit my job, sell my stuff and head out indefinitely” thing a handful of times now and it keeps getting easier. This time, I’m “home” in San Francisco and spending half my week working at a photo lab and the other half starting a web marketing business that I hope to take with me on the road. I’ve got a few clients that do not need daily attention and I want them to come with me on my next adventure.

I spend the rest of my time working on and promoting my photography site, Adventures of a GoodMan: Photography, Storytelling and World Travel and hope to have lots and lots of followers when I hit the road again and have fresh daily content from abroad. Check it out, I’m pretty proud of my work there.
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