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Tips to Save Money and budget for travel by freelancing or launching a business

Fashion CEO: Branding and Creative Agency for Women - Owned Businesses

So this one time at band camp, this chick told me how she became a mega fashion mogul by pulling a total #RichKidsOfBeverlyHills by blowing all her daddy's money on sample sales, custom Birkin bags, and Mercedes Benz birthday gifts for friends while also running an online vintage shop and blogging about her style. I was like "b*tch please, that ain't real life!" And she was like nodding profusely, preaching about trust funds being the key to success. So I smacked her. Just kidding. I only locked her in the trumpet closet.

If that were a true story, it would mimic real life today down to the smack. Most of us classy ladies don't go around backhanding people, but we curl up our lips with disgust and envy when we see these dodo brains making six figures thanks to handouts while the rest of us can barely afford the higher-end ramen noodle brand at the corner store.

Don't be like them. Be smarter. Just stop spending your money on shit. Period. Or stop complaining. End of discussion. 

I absolutely promise you that what you think is necessary elements of humane living qualifies as arbitrary bullshit that you can slowly add back to the a la carte menu once you've conquered your dreams. It's really as simple as weight loss being calorie intake - high activity level. Stop playing a part and treating strangers to coffee at Starbucks for "business meetings". Stop paying for internet when its its free at Starbucks. Stop shopping weekly at that Zara around the corner from Starbucks! I learned the hard way how stupidly simple it is to afford starting my own fashion tech company and freelancing.

Now I feel free.

To be exact, I feel free from bad work relationships, packed/cluttered/useless "nothing to wear" closets, unfair and critical office environments where all roads lead to the inferno of fast fashion. I feel free from bad attitudes and sighs that resonate and drip with disdain. I feel free to travel the world solo on my own dime, to eat new food, explore new places, and meet new people. In a sense, I feel free to be myself and to have time to pursue the things in the world that matter to me, not to a devil who wears Prada.

Yes, I have plenty of time to wake up late with crust in my eye and pizza in my teeth. But you might be asking yourself, “Does she have plenty of money?” And the answer is simple - yes and no. I have made time - a choice became easier with each passing day that wasn't spent in a cubicle farm - trying to make a name for myself in a sea of worker bees, and I realized time exists invisibly but one must also create it. But I also changed my expectations about financing and made money to start off my freelancing career that would in turn be the seed capital for launching my own business. The truth is this: fear of financial crisis or lack of stability is no reason to hold yourself back from trying your hand at freelancing and dream pursuit. Seriously, it is just an excuse. First of all, I needed to change my beliefs about money. Living a meaningful and fulfilling life has little to do with money. I didn't start off making as much as I once did when I was under contract at high paying firms or on staff at magazines, but that's okay. I was finally pursing my true passions which is working for myself. The lack of extra spending money for my daily Starbucks didn't seem to matter anymore because I just exchanged that habit for gratitude of going once a week with J. This doesn't mean that I am “allergic” to money. It means that it is simply not the main focus of my life anymore.

Expenses, even though you hate numbers

The first concrete step I took towards reigning in my spending so that I could freelance was learning what my expenses were and what sort of budget I wanted to create for myself. The slap-in-the-face reality is that everyone has necessary expenses that are non-negotiable. Unless you are living in a cardboard box and reading this through a hacked Internet source, you at least pay rent (or mortgage for fancy pants misses). Get out a pad and a paper and jot your necessary expenses down. Items to consider are:

  • Utilities <-- I pay $29 for Time Warner and $45 or less for heat in NY
  • Insurance <-- I mean honestly, how many of us have insurance these days?
  • Gas/Transportation <-- Get a bike and save the environment, and yes you can bike in a dress
  • Food <-- I pay $30 or so per month on eating out or pantry staples, J pays the rest
  • Savings <-- I resolve to start a savings account again one day, its just too 90s for me right now
  • Phone <-- I chucked the contract BS and got Virgin Mobile using wifi to bypass the monthly $35 

You know your totals. Mine is $332. That's it. Write down your number and tally it up. It's so much more fun than your sex partner number isn't it! The list you have created is your bottom line. This is what you need to make to survive. There are plenty of other optional things that you can add to the list. I still go out and get a much needed mani and facial when my pores start to resemble strawberries, but if you want to freelance, you might need to give something up. One item that you probably don't want to give up is health insurance. Again, it's up to you. If you want it there are several options to consider such as:

  • Purchasing a high-deductible policy 
  • Checking prices with the Freelancer’s Union 
  • Getting insurance through your spouse’s employer or mommy and daddy

Now on to the management part, which I love because organizing is a great stress reducer. As with most theories that I toss around this here blog, when it comes to your budget it pays to keep it simple. In a phrase: spend less than what you take in. See, its a money diet! You don't need a math degree to understand how this works (well, maybe some of you do). Plenty of scandalously rich people are in stupid amounts of debt because they spend more than what they make.... because they “needed” that custom-built jet plane with gold edging. A more real world example is the girl in the department next to you who screens deliquent collection calls because she "needed" a new-with-tags Celine bag before turning 30. Girl, get a clue. Check the status and peer pressure at the door and settle for a canvas tote if that's all you can afford. Debt is for suckers. Which one are you? I use the Learnvest and Mint budgeting personal finance iphone apps to create then track my budgets on autopilot. Yes the hype for both tools are worth it. Get them. They are free. Look how good that is for your budget already! After I signed up, my organized monthly budget looks like this with most of the rent and food taken care of by my boo while I launch my project (if you don't have a boo then go home to mom again, move outside the city, or try roommate living one last time, but this should only be temporary, you need to afford all your own expenses to test truly being profitable at any endeavor):

  • Internet $29
  • Utilities $40
  • Personal Assistant $62
  • Bank Fees $3
  • Coffee $8
  • Groceries $18
  • Fitness $60
  • Hair Maintenance $10
  • Spa $35
  • Clothing $40
  • Then in order to keep these costs this low I do my own hair (unfortunately) now, I use deal sites every so often including my top choice for hedonists called Gilt City, and I take advantage of joining email newsletters for brands and stores so that promos are sent to me without any effort, then its just a matter of using them before expiry dates. Download instead of paying for cable, or for the truly demanding cinema fans, get a TV and just hook it up to your computer for streaming. Oh, and don't underestimate the power of your local city paper!

We will get to income in a second but if you are struggling with how to make this budget work, consider simplifying your lifestyle and opting for a minimalist approach. For example, you could cut out cable, get rid of your car, eat out less or change your phone plan. I know, you love your shows and your car makes life so easy. But consider this, you are going to feel so much better if you aren't sitting on your ass in front of the couch or in your car for extended periods of time. Who knows? This could be the change you need! Get creative. Your dreams are waiting. If you quit your job, chances are that you have some idea as to where you want to start your new career.

Now that you know how much money you will need to survive, it is time to start looking at income. Don't exchange your soul deforming dream in for another ball and chain. Dream a little and identify your passions. I did leave the fashion industry but that didn't mean that my heart wasn't in it anymore. But after years of “typical” office work and water cooler gossip, I changed. Or to put it more honestly, I was seriously disillusioned with the whole concept because the veil had been lifted. This was not a glamorous life and I was not leading a life that was making me happy. But I am passionate about local businesses and sustainable fashion choices. I want people to engage in the fashion industry in an authentic way and so I create my work around that general principal.

Identify your mission.

The next step is all you - its work and networking and endless hours knocking on any conceivable door you can think of. It might seem crazy at times, (and Lord knows, I feel all sorts of crazy right now) but you can do it. With a trained perspective on finances you really can enjoy free and creative pastimes that will center around your passions and your values. It's time to let go and live. Your fear is the only thing holding you back.

Every other week, we’ll look at an important ingredient of your WFA experience. Things like:

project planning
productivity tools
self care
home office design
and more
And if there’s a WFA topic you’d like to discuss, let me know! You can reply to this email, and it will come straight to me.

Thanks for joining me in our WFA journey. 

what can you cut out of your expenses right this minute? would love to hear your budgeting tips!


  1. Love the post and the incredible frankness of language. This is also my mantra 'stop spending money on shit' but sometimes I have a hard time following it. Keep up being awesome.

    1. Thanks for the love Donna! Sometimes we need a kick in the butt. You can do it! Don't give up.

  2. Good job! I love the concept of getting your "number". I've said that to my kids so many makes you realize how little you NEED to live on and helps you make a plan. And ultimately, YES! Stop spending money on shit! I have found SO many times that those boots I HAD to have have ended up rarely worn in the bottom of the closet. THINGS don't change you life. People do!

    1. Thanks so much Serene! Getting that number is so key, because we are totally enculturated to live beyond our means, with Americans in general being not so modest. Ha, just love your comment!

  3. this is such a great a post frank and straight to the point, got me motivated for the future xx

    1. Yay! Good to hear it. Don't give up.

  4. OMG - this post totally made my day, darling!! Ugh - but so true!! I have been spending way too much money on random shit - despite the fact that most of it is blog related...and hoping that it pays off! But really, when I look through my card statements, I realize I spend way too much money on buying food when I should just go grocery shopping and make my own food!

    1. Jessica! So lovely to see your comment, made MY day. Girl, you need to comment more often haha. But yea, isn't it crazy when we start to actually pay attention to what we spend every month. Its so easy to swipe and forget. And the blog related expenditures, I'd be real careful about that. I made that mistake in the beginning but I find more value in my free words now than buying up stuff for the blog. See where your words and current belongings take you, then let products come to you.

      And about the food thing, like I said, it is completely my Achilles heel. Doing a post about it next week! ;)

  5. Anonymous1:03 AM

    Leti, you are so spot on! In the grand scheme of things, each person needs to decide how much his/her own life is worth. Is the entertainment derived from that cable/iPhone/fancy-whatever worth the price of your life's time working at a job you don't love in order to pay those bills? If not, then what needs to change. For me, where I live rents are higher than mortgages, but barely 18 months(!) after buying I decided the mortgage wasn't worth it. Now a serious de-owning is ongoing, in prep for a big move soon to a smaller place. Congrats to you for figuring it out so soon! Also, I love your inviting, conversational writing style!! Cheers, Ingrid

    1. Thank you so much Ingrid, I really appreciate your comment. But I love how you put it: "is traditional cultural entertainment worth a job you dont love." So true. But kudos to you, because 18 months may seem long, but you are still brave for at least making the change. So congrats back at ya ;)

  6. As a small business owner I just wanted to say thank you for this post! Ive had friends and family look at me like i was crazy because i gave up my luxuries and moved back in with my mom all to completely put myself (and extra money) into my business! Ive never doubted that it will all be worth it in the end

    1. Kudos to you Alisha! I sometimes hate using that old adage "have the last laugh" since it sometimes implies being superior, but don't let anyone make you feel crazy because we are all different and need different strategies to take on this thing called life. In the end, you win!

  7. Anonymous2:49 PM

    I enjoyed this post until I got to the part where you said your boo pays for your rent and food. Those are two major expenses that most people can't or won't expect other people to pay for them. I would never expect my boyfriend to pay my half of the rent or buy all my food. Saying that sadly ruined this empowering and inspiring post for me. And it's true that credit is something that many people abuse and get themselves knee deep into debt but you're the pot calling the kettle black when you look down on the girl that uses her credit card to buy things when your boyfriend plays the same role for you.

    1. I wish there was a name since this is a great point, but left anonymous.
      I write allot, and this lengthy post missed one important detail, so thanks for reminding me of it!

      To answer briefly, regular readers of my blog know I do not come from money or believe in the nonsense of sugar daddies, etc. I have been independent since 16 and have only ever had one roomate in my life, the other years and years were me paying my own apartments. The point of this post was in the context of "starting a business" or "trying to start a freelance career" so as of last month, I asked my partner to cover my portion of the rent while we move more aggresively into launching my latest project. The post is not saying to find a life where you always have your rent and food covered by someone else, the take away is that you should communicate and see what resources you can tap into including family or spouses, and this is nothing new I believe, since all business advice includes the old adage of moving back home or help from the husband. Hope that clears it up!

  8. Just at the right time for me - I am looking for a new job as I hate mine but also looking to get my own house finally so I need to start budgeting and really sorting myself and my finances out. Thankyou for sharing these tips.
    I love how open and honest this post is no being all nicey nicey just you need to stop spending on shit you don't need, we all know it's true but you have given some practical steps too which were fab.

    1. Em, that's perfect! What good timing indeed. I would love to hear how it goes with the house hunting and if budgeting helps you get there. You're very welcome. And yes, I am a bit too honest haha, but I feel its better than allot of the double personalities on the interwebs these days :)

  9. You are really awesome, Leti! The most rewarding feeling about freelancing is that you have control over your time and have no need to worry about going to the office on a daily basis. The only downside here is that managing your finances can be a little tricky, so that it’s something you have to be careful about. Well, it really helps if you use a specific system that will accurately track all your monthly expenses. That way, it would be easy for you to make some adjustments on your account. All the best!

    Darcy Grubaugh @ Quantum Buyers


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Letitia Elizabeth is the author of EUROPE NOMAD, the travel blog for daydreaming fellow travelers who love cheap countries in Europe, beautiful countrysides, and magical quality of life. Here you'll receive packing lists + guides, Europe travel tips, digital nomad working life advice & living in Europe as an American stories. Welcome!