Save. Spend. Splurge.

When the unexpected happens. The scary side of freelancing.

As you may or may not know, freelancers don’t really get that security of a company to be able to take things like (paid) sick days, or the luxury of being able to take time off and still get paid for that day.

Employees are paid a salary for the year. How those hours are allocated or used, is another story. Generally speaking, they still get paid, no matter what happens.

Freelancers, are paid generally by the time or the project.

If they don’t work, they don’t get paid.

All the freelancers we know and talk to, make about the same amount as we do, about $20,000 – $30,000 a month.

Of course, if they take lower rates, they make less, so let’s say $18,000 a month at a minimum.

The trick is also getting work for such a long period of time. Our projects are around 2 weeks to 6 months on average.

No one really works a full year unless they’re lucky, and if they work longer than a year, it’s a golden project.

So why am I saying all of this?

I already talked about a freelancer whom I believe is supporting a family of parasites, and though he has not said it, I suspect he is (even now with work), still using credit card debt to fund the lifestyle because he went over a year and a half without working, had zero savings because whatever he made he spent, but worse of all, his family kept on spending what they didn’t have saved.

This is a SLIGHTLY different story than my own (it is now over a year since I have worked), because although I kept spending normally in the past year, I also saved a bit of money (around $90,000) to weather through “famines” like this.

….although I did expect to be back to work fairly soon, I am still able to go at least another year, maybe 2 years before I have to start making some decisions to get a job. I’m working on holding off as long as I can, and I am using my budget to make sure it happens.

Because anything can happen beyond your control.

It has come to light, another story of a freelancer we know who is the sole breadwinner of his family.

He has 4 children, all of whom he pays bills for (they’re all college-age now), such as their cellphone bills, their cars, gas, living expenses, and his wife doesn’t (or can’t?) work.

He has paid for vacations, summers abroad, fancy appliances for the home, fancy cars you name it, he has done it. I even suspect he is supporting extended family members.

His house is still mortgaged (around the $350,000 range I suspect), and he has literally spent EVERY. SINGLE. PENNY. he has made in the past 5 years of FULL-TIME freelancing (that golden contract I talked about).

It is not normal as one might suspect in our line of business, to pay for our house in cash as we did, considering the amount of money we make as freelancers.

If we conservatively estimate it, he has made over a million in 5 years, and spent every penny.




The trick of course, is not just to make a lot of money, but to SAVE IT as well.

Why am I telling you all of this?

… it’s because now he’s sick.

He has to go in for some major treatment for his disease over the next year, which takes up at least 3 days of the 5-day workweek, not to mention recovery time.

His plan was to still work through the treatment but he was obviously dreaming because for every day he goes in for treatment and doesn’t come in to work, he doesn’t get paid.

He is going to literally work himself into his grave.

At this point, if you had money saved like we do, you’d stop working and concentrate on getting better to live another day so that you can keep working.

Well… he can’t stop because if he does, his world stops spinning.

We freelancers generally don’t take EI (Employment Insurance), because you have to pay into it, and unless you plan on taking at least 2 years off (usually maternity leave for mothers for at least 2 children), it is not worth the yearly cost by our calculations.

Once you start paying into EI, you can’t stop, and in about 40 years, it isn’t worth it.

Of course, you can’t plan for things like this either.

He cannot stop working, he would be finished.

He needs that income because he has bills to pay and not a shred of savings.

Once he stops working and stops bringing in money, his house will be gone, his things, his whole lifestyle, everything.

I have no idea what he is doing to prepare for this eventuality, but I am hearing he is still spending $1000 on fancy things (denial), and still not budgeting & tracking his expenses, not to mention the immense pressure and stress he must be under.

You need to prepare for these things

Not only is our house paid for, we are also both freelancers who understand the sad (I have a heavy heart writing this) importance of savings.

I may bitch a lot and now feel like I have no money at all because of the dry work situation, but it is really nothing compared to other people’s situations.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about this, and thinking (worrying) about them. I know it sounds stupid because it is not my family or my partner, but … it could be.

We were both quietly talking about them last night, and we both agreed that we were very very lucky in that we are both money smart, we both make good money & save it, and we are healthy for the most part although this brain thing I have is worrying me.

You may also have a spouse like we do, who would step up and take over the bills.

I told my partner last night:

If this was you, I’d take over all the bills if I had to, no questions asked, even if you could never work again.

And he would do the same.

Sure, we’re in a 50/50 relationship for money which is controversial to many, particularly since when I got pregnant and was on maternity leave I physically couldn’t work, but we’re also partners in the truest sense of the word.

I am hoping his wife and his kids step up to the plate. We shall see.

You just can’t control everything.

You can save money and hope and help the situation like we have managed to do, because no matter how much you make, people on the whole as I have discovered over the years in my own spending habits and in these stories, have a terrible time learning how to manage it.


  • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life

    That brain thing worries me too – when did it start? I’ve had similar things, sometimes when I drive at night, I stop seeing white lights and instead see glowing rings and it’s really weird but it comes and goes.

    I spend waaaayyy too much time to worrying about the possible bad things that could happen to disable or take one of us out of the picture. It’s maybe too much time, but it helps guide my planning to make sure that we are as covered as possible on all angles.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      It started about 6 months ago … usually it is triggered by motion sickness in the past, but lately, I haven’t had that and I am still dizzy.

      For driving at night, that stuff could be your eyes. I’d see an ophthalmologist because it can mean your retinas are stretching / scarring.. or so my doctor said.

  • Betty

    Of course it’s nice to have money saved in the bank., but with interest rates nearly zero for the past 7ish years I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t take out a mortgage. It’s a great way to get money to invest into other areas and make a profit. However I’m assuming that this freelancer you were mentioning was making poor money decisions.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      1. The mortgage I would have been approved for was a 10-year fixed rate is 4.69%

      After 10 years, I’d have to get a new market rate at whatever it was. I’ve also done the math and after about 20+ years, you are paying the house twice, so instead of paying $300K now, I’d be paying $600K over a lifetime. What’s the point?

      2. I can consistently get 2% in a high-interest savings account. You must be from the U.S. I’m from Canada.

      3. Did you read my post on why I paid in cash? Part of it is peace of mind.

      Now my “rent” has dropped from around $2000 to $1000 a month, everything in (taxes, etc).

  • Tb

    PS as an employee I do get paid days off whether I’m there or not but they are quickly eaten up with a major illness. Then there’s FMLA which is great but again you don’t get paid once those days are used up. I am out of paid time off so I can choose to go with my husband for his chemo treatments and not get paid the money we need or go to work and not be with him when he needs me the most.

    • Sherry of Save. Spend. Splurge.

      That is a tough decision for sure. I would say even in Canada, you couldn’t take that kind of time off and have it paid, it’d be a sabbatical but unpaid.

      I hope your husband recovers as soon as possible and goes into remission.

  • Tb

    Speaking from the US here- I am not a freelancer and my spouse and I both work and save. We also have insurance. I am the one who wrote you need to get checked out- I had the same symptoms which turned out to be a benign inner ear tumor resulting in major surgery and hearing and balance issues after recovery. We paid the thousands not covered by
    insurance and my spouse continued to work. Now I am back to work and my
    husband has been diagnosed with Stage 3 metastatic colon cancer and is forced to retire early. So now I’m working to cover his medical bills and keep our heads above water. All this to say you never know what life is going to deal you. It is prudent to save and to work together but sometimes life just does you in,

  • Sabrina

    Sounds like a good case for critical illness insurance. Of course, this has to be done prior to falling ill.

  • Cassie

    What a horrific situation to be in. In theory I shouldn’t feel bad for the guy because he’s literally blown through a million in a matter of years, and life hits you whether you’re ready for it or not, but it still sucks when it happens. I hope he pulls through.

    I know if anything were to happen I would 100% step up to the plate to support my family, and I know my husband would absolutely do the same without question. It’s always heartening to know that your spouse has your back. It removes a layer of unnecessary stress from the relationship.

  • Kay

    you should get MS investigated, check if it matches your symptoms…

    I am a consultant and i agree, my sisters (who work for the government don’t get it), if i am not working i am not getting paid, so i save and don’t have to worry.

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