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5 Ways Working From Home as a Freelancer Can Save (or Even Earn) You More Money

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Joanne Poh

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I think many companies in Singapore conspire to make their employees as broke as possible, so they’ll have no choice but to continue working from them.

If you work in the CBD, you already know that the only cheap food options are hawker centres that get so packed during lunchtime you can practically crowdsurf your way around. Then there are those company D&Ds you need to buy dumb costumes to dress up for, as well as snide remarks from your boss when you turn up at work in anything but finery.

Since I started working from home, I can say without a doubt that saving money has become much easier than before, except for the fact that actually having the time to maintain a social life does cost a bit. Here are some costs that have fallen for me.

 

Commuting

If you’re a Singapore employee, there’s a high chance you make the arduous journey to the CBD each morning, along with thousands of other sleep-starved salarymen and OLs… and that’s just in one MRT cabin. No matter how much unpleasantness you’re willing to put up with to get to work, unless you live close enough to cycle or walk there, it’s going to cost you at least a few dollars a day by public transport.

For instance, if you live in Yishun and have to take a feeder bus to the MRT station from home, you’re looking at almost $4 a day. That’s not even including any taxis you have to take when the MRT breaks down or when you’re late for work.

If you drive, you can expect to budget $300 or even more per month just to park in the CBD. Then there’s the cost of petrol and ERP.

I used to spend about $50 to $80 a month on transport to work, travelling by motorcycle to the CBD on an 18km journey each way. Commuting swallowed up about 5 to 8 hours of my time per week, depending on traffic conditions.

As a freelancer, I need to make sure I never spend everything I earn in a given month, and I can’t deny that not having to pay a cent to commute to work helps. The time saved is even more valuable.

 

Lunch

Singapore is a small country, but almost nobody gets to have lunch at home. People tend to work close to the CBD, where property prices are so high that only the rich can live nearby.

As a result, if you don’t have the time or ability to prepare batches of lunches at home to take to work, you end up like the vast majority of office workers in Singapore, eating out every day at lunch.

Eating out so often isn’t just making affecting Singaporeans’ health, it’s also making us poorer—Singaporeans are some of the region’s top spenders on eating out.

Now that I work at home, I have lunch at home most days. Meals with friends are reserved for evenings, since I no longer have any incentive to travel to the CBD for an hour’s lunch break with working friends. As a result, I can spend very little on food each month if I wish.

 

Work attire

One of the spending categories that saw the biggest falls after I started working from home was clothing and shoes.

As an office worker, you need to dress fairly formally at least five times a week. If you work in a major commercial area, you’re also surrounded by clothes shops like G2000 and H&M, which are cunningly set up in order to ensnare office workers in need of a new outfit.

When you no longer have an office to go to, unless you’re the kind of person who wears high heels or a tie to the supermarket, your spending on clothing falls considerably since you no longer need to spend on formal-looking clothes for work.

You can work in pyjamas, a tshirt and shorts, or even your secondary school PE attire (if it still fits) if you desire. An entire category of clothing is cut out of your budget, and the temptation of being surrounded by clothing shops every day is also removed.

 

The option to live in cheaper areas

If you have free accommodation courtesy of your parents, this point doesn’t apply. But if you’re a renter or are looking to purchase property, you’ll have to decide between paying more to live closer to the central districts, or choosing a cheaper, more “ulu” area like Sengkang, Woodlands or Pasir Ris, and wasting more time commuting to work each morning.

On the other hand, without the need to commute to an office, you can choose to live in a tent at East Coast Park or on Pulau Ubin if you desire.

But the real savings start to kick in if you move your base to a cheaper country overseas. This is actually a very good idea for Singaporean freelancers, who don’t have the option of cheaper cities or towns domestically.

For instance, I once spent a month working in Thailand, where I was able to rent my own space and eat well for under 500 SGD a month, all while doing the same work I would have done in Singapore. There is a reason destinations like Chiang Mai and Bali are so popular with freelancers who work online.

 

Higher per-hour rates

Many people work as employees and stay in the office for a certain number of hours each day in exchange for a fixed salary, and they receive a steady income in exchange for lower hourly rates.

But if you do the exact same work on a freelance basis, you earn more per hour. For instance, an in-house graphic designer earning about $2,000 to $4,000 per month is actually earning about $11 to $22 an hour. Freelancer graphic designers earn way, way more per hour, even if the actual amount they take home at the end of each month will depend on how many assignments they are able to get.

In exchange, you give up bonuses, paid medical leave and CPF contributions, as well as the ability to know for sure what you’ll be receiving at the end of each month.

This benefits some people more than others. If you’ve got a high mortgage to pay back and, I don’t know, have to pay through your nose for your kid’s fencing and horseriding classes, you might be more suited to a stable job.

But if you’re good at managing your money, have low expenses and are good at filling up your free time as and when it comes, you might enjoy earning more money when you actually do have to work.

What other advantages do freelancers enjoy? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.