Friday, May 02, 2008

Tightening the Writerly Belt

Writers almost always have a hard time financially, but these days things are getting really tough for us. Here are some ideas on ways you can economize and make your dollars stretch a little more:

1. Barter: Offer other writer(s) an equal exchange of services and money-saving favors -- swap ads, interviews, proof each other's ms., stay at each other's home when in the respective area, etc.

2. Books: Order books online; shipping is usually free with orders over $25 and they're delivered to your door. If you spend more than $250 a year on books, invest in a booksellers' discount card (B&N and BAM offer 10% off with their cards; Borders has a Rewards card that provides good coupons and gift certificates back for a percentage of purchases.) Reserve expensive hardcover novels at the library. Gather up all the books you don't want and trade them in for credit at a used book store.

3. Moonlighting: Apply for local writing jobs you can do from home, such as editing, copy writing, or the many that are advertised over on Craigslist.

4. Promotion: Look for ways to promote your work free online (swapping new release announcements on weblogs is a good way to get the word out.) Get together with a group of authors who do regular postal mailings and offer a group newsletter to all of your readers; split the mailing costs evenly. Swap promo with each other for mailouts and to take to conferences. Schedule group booksignings with local authors.

5. Shopping: Check with your favorite office supply store online and see if they offer free shipping for online orders. Pull their store ads from the Sunday newspaper and look for good sales or rebates on commonly-used items. If there's a trade magazine you know you're going to buy every month, get a subscription to it (usually this way you can save up to 50% off the newstand price.) Swap trade magazines with local writer friends.

6. Shipping: Schedule Fedex or UPS to pick up packages at your home (may require opening an account and getting mailing supplies.) Finish deadline projects early enough so that you can use priority mail or ground service versus overnight shipping. E-mail editors, agents and other writers versus sending post items whenever possible. Offer e-mail .pdf copies of your ms. to beta readers and/or reviewers.

7. Software: Avoid investing in expensive software and instead use comparable freeware or shareware programs. When you buy a computer, look for ones that come with the software you need.

8. Submissions: Whenever possible, submit electronic submissions versus hard copy via mail. Enter only those contests that don't charge a fee.

9. Supplies: Refill toner catridges versus buying new. Print out drafts on the clean side of used paper. Review early drafts on the computer screen versus on paper. Buy commonly-used items in bulk.

10. Travel: Combine vacation trips with research trips. Stay at home and take free online workshops versus traveling to national conferences. Attend more local events, and carpool with other local authors when possible. Give talks at local schools, libraries and universities.


  1. Can I just add that $1 saved is worth about $10 in wages and earnings?

    I don't know whether supermarkets put out weekly specials in the US, but we save 30% on our weekly shopping bill just by stocking up at the right time. You can freeze a few loaves of sliced bread and put slices straight in the toaster from the freezer, for example. Coffee, detergent, cereal, jam, etc, etc can be stored long term, so we usually grab two or three jars/tins/packs when they're cheap.

    (I do a lot of the weekly shopping & cooking, and I get a great deal of satisfaction out of stretching a few bucks a long way. We eat well, and we eat very healthy food, but I don't see why I should make supermarket chains stores any wealthier.)

  2. The Tightwad Gazette is also full of good tips for saving money.

  3. Anonymous9:28 PM

    I live with Mr. Penny Pincher

    I am not frugal by nature. I am conservative with my major purchases but I do have 2 weekly indulgences- spa treatments and book buying.

    One of the ways we save money on entertainment costs is in dining out. Instead of ordering 2 entrees we will split one. Or, we will order 2 and take 1/2 of each home for lunch the next day.

  4. If you're a book reviewer, or you buy books online, open the packages carefully and reuse the packaging! I save small amounts that way :), altho' the mailers are gradually taking over the living room!


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