How To Save Money As A Freelancer To Take Holiday Vacations

Amid the typical bustle and hair-tearing stress of the holidays, I prefer to keep my professional life as relaxed as possible. That means taking off a few weeks from work at the end of the year. Adding the freelancer hustle on top of parties across town and last-minute shopping? That would only leave me drained and dispirited.

Mind you, this is quite a shift from my first few years as a freelancer, when I worked far more than I would’ve liked. Taking on last-minute assignments, coupled with the self-induced pressure of meeting my yearly income goal, upped the frazzle factor.

To actually enjoy the holidays, I’ve employed a few tactics to keep my money situation vacation-friendly.

Here’s how you can budget accordingly to take time off during the holidays:

Create a Separate Holiday Vacation Fund

First, set up a savings account that’s just for your end-of-year vacation. Note that this is a separate savings goal from your holiday-related expenses, such as gifts for the family, travel, and festive garb. Ideally, you should have a separate fund for that.

If you prefer to clump your holiday expenses with your holiday vacation fund, I’d recommend listing all your expenses for the holidays as well as gauging how much you reckon you’ll spend. That way you’ll know exactly how much you’ll need to sock away.

Save Well Ahead of Time

When you work for yourself, you don’t have the luxury of paid time off or sick leave. My spending plan includes taking off anywhere from two to four weeks a year for vacation, holidays, and sick days.

But what does a month of paid time off look like when your income is inconsistent?

You can figure this out in one of two ways. The first is to budget based on your living expenses. How much do you need to save to cover bills for a month? If you need $3,000 a month to cover rent, student loan debt, and insurance premiums, aim to save at least that much for your vacation fund.

The second way is to base your savings goal for vacations on your income goal for the year. So if you’d like to rake in $60,000 for the year, aim to save $5,000 to keep you in the flush. You can also divide your income goal by 11 months instead of 12. Using the $60,000 a year income goal, you’d want to earn about $5,500 a month.

Give Your Clients a Heads-Up

The holidays are an opportune time of year to take some time off because typically many companies are operating at a slower pace. Plus, more people are away. You’ll want to give your regular clients plenty of advance notice that you plan on taking some time off during the holidays. Make sure they get what they need from you before you scoot off.

See if your client prefers you to front-load assignments before you go on vacation. If you front-load assignments, that could bolster your income, which means you might take less out of your vacation fund than anticipated.

Tuck Away Money During Flush Months

Make the most of the “feast” cycles by putting aside a portion of your earnings toward your vacation fund. I try to sock away as much as I can. Once I set that money aside, I can focus on my other money goals such as saving for retirement. (It’s not terribly exciting, but essential.)

If you’re able, set aside a percentage every month toward your holiday vacation fund. If you need $5,000 by early December, that’s about $105 a week or $455 a month. If you’d like to go on a two-week holiday vacay, and are only aiming to stash $2,500, that’s about $52 a week or $227 a month.

Take on An Extra Work to Fund Your Vacation Time

I know, more work? But if you want to avoid stressing out over that vacation time, you can front-load If you have the bandwidth, consider taking on a new side hustle or additional client work, and putting the earnings toward your vacation fund. Don’t be shy about reaching out to your existing clients and letting them know that you’re available to take on more assignments. You only would need to do this until you’ve met your goal.

Hold Off on Your Retirement Account Contributions

Maybe it’s just because I hang out with a bunch of money nerds who max out on their retirement contributions for the year in August, but for some retirement accounts, you can technically hold out until the following year to make contributions.If taking time off during the holidays is a priority, consider holding off until the following year to making your full contributions. For instance, IRAs allow you to make contributions up until April 15th of the following year. So for 2019, you have until April 15, 2020 to make contributions for your IRA account. (Note: If you have a Roth or Traditional IRA, you can contribute up to $6,000, and up to $7,000 if you’re of the 50 and over set.)

If you have a Solo or Individual 401(k), the rules are a bit trickier. When it comes to employee contributions, you usually have to make them before the end of the year. But for employer contributions, you can wait until tax filing date of the next year. Of course, this is strictly a personal choice. You’ll want to carefully weigh the pros and cons of going this route.

Taking time off to relax during the holidays not only makes for a more enjoyable season, but it can also refresh and recharge you for the upcoming year. With a bit of prep and some tweaks to your spending plan, you can take that time off that you so deserve.

The post How To Save Money As A Freelancer To Take Holiday Vacations appeared first on MintLife Blog.

How to Save on Your Next TV Purchase

From the Mint team: Mint may be compensated if you click on the links to our issuer partners’ offers that appear in this article, including Chase. Our partners do not endorse, review or approve the content. Any links to Mint Partners were added after the creation of the posting.  Mint Partners had no influence on the creation, direction or focus of this article unless otherwise specifically stated.

We’re in a golden age of television. From premium content like HBO, to cable networks like FX and AMC, to streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and the soon-to-be-launched Disney+, it’s never been easier to find something entertaining on your TV.

That is, assuming you have a TV worth watching.

If you’re in the market for a TV upgrade, retail price tags can be daunting. Here are some foolproof methods to shave down the cost – so you can enjoy the golden age of television in 4K, 65-inch, HDR-compatible splendor.

Use a Browser Extension

Cash-back portals like Rakuten, formerly known as Ebates, give out cash-back when you click on their link before checking out.

Cash-back payouts are usually around 1% for electronics, but it never hurts to click on the browser link. With large purchases, 1% can add up to a tidy $10 or $15.

If you’ve never used Rakuten before, you might be eligible for a one-time $10 bonus. You can also refer a friend and earn $25 for each friend that uses the service. They’ll get $10 off their first purchase as well.

You can use Rakuten by installing the extension on your browser or by going to Rakuten.com.

Shop Holiday Sales

Stores often have TVs on sale near Labor Day, because college football has already started and the NFL season is about to begin.

Make sure you know how much a TV actually costs before looking at sale price tags. Some stores will inflate prices to make it seem like you’re getting a better deal than you are. If you do your research, you can find a good deal that won’t be available again until Black Friday or after Christmas.

Price Match

If you happen to find a TV you really at a brick-and-mortar store, don’t add it to your cart without comparing the price to somewhere else.

Best Buy, Target, Sears, and Walmart all price-match, either with online retailers or other physical stores. Once you find a model you like, search for its lowest price and ask the retailer to match it.

Some stores will even reimburse you if the item goes on sale after you buy it. Track the TV for a few weeks after purchasing and see if the price changes.

Buy Last Year’s Model

Buying last year’s TV model is like buying a 2018 car instead of a 2019. Unless you’re a technophile, you probably won’t notice much of a difference.

Be mindful of what you’re really looking for in a TV, and try not to be distracted by fancy features and industry lingo. For example, recent models may have Alexa compatibility, which is completely useless if you don’t have an Amazon Echo.

Buy Out-of-Box TVs

Stores like Best Buy and Walmart sell open-box TVs, which means they were purchased and returned to the store at some point. Amazon Warehouse also has open-box and refurbished TVs. There’s usually nothing wrong with open-box items, but you can save hundreds just because it’s already been opened.

When you buy an open box TV, examine it for extreme signs of wear-and-tear. Use it regularly and note any distortions. Some stores give you as little as 15 days to return an open box item, so it’s crucial to notice anything wrong with the TV before that time expires.

Use a Credit Card with Cash-Back Rewards

Using a credit card for a large purchase like a TV is usually a good idea, because a credit card often provides an extended warranty and purchase protection on electronics.

Price protection can be helpful if an item goes on sale after you buy it. You can file a claim with the credit card issuer for the difference between what you paid and what the TV costs now.

Some cards have price protection for up to 120 days. Check in once a week to see if the TV has gone on sale. Create a calendar reminder on your phone or computer so you don’t forget.

Extended warranty usually gives you an extra year of coverage. Keep your warranty information easily accessible so you can find it if something goes wrong.

Best Credit Cards for TV Purchases

Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card

This card has 5% cash-back on every Amazon.com purchase – including electronics – and at Whole Foods. The card has no annual fee and also offers 2% cash-back on restaurants, gas stations and drugstores, as well as 1% cash-back on everything else.

You can use rewards to pay for your next Amazon purchase with no minimum redemption amount. There’s no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees.

Discover it® Cash Back

This card has 5% cash-back on rotating categories that change quarterly, including at Amazon.com, Target and Walmart.com. You have to time your purchase right, so it counts toward the 5% cash-back and not the standard 1% cash-back the card offers.

Discover will also match all cash-back earned after the first year for new cardholders. If you earn $25 on cash-back by buying a $500 TV, it will double after the first year.

This card has no annual fee. The cash-back never expires, and you can redeem rewards for statement credit.

Target REDCard

Both the debit and credit version of the Target REDcard offer 5% off on most Target purchases, including TVs. The 5% discount works for both in-store and online purchases.

Users receive free shipping for online purchases as well, so you don’t have to live near a Target store to benefit. There’s no annual fee with the credit card or monthly fee with the debit card.

U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card

The U.S. Bank Cash+ Visa Signature Card has 5% cash-back for two categories of your choosing, and 2% unlimited cash-back on another category. All other purchases earn 1% cash-back.

The categories change every quarter, and you have to manually sign up for them each quarter. If you’re planning to buy a TV soon, sign up for the appropriate category before the next quarter starts.

You can redeem cash-back for statement credit, direct deposit into a U.S. Bank checking or savings account or on a special rewards card. This card has no annual fee.

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