Tips for Saving Money as a Writer

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Like many writers I know, I would love to be able to write full-time and to get paid while doing so. As of yet, however, I am still working towards that goal (though I do believe it is possible!). In the meantime, I find it necessary to work a job that provides enough income but isn’t so stressful that I’m not able to write at the end of the day. Unfortunately, “stressful” jobs often equate to the more lucrative jobs in my experience, so it is a difficult balance to maintain.

Here are some tips on how you can save money as a writer (and spend more money on coffee!).

1. DIY Writing Retreats

I see advertisements for writing retreats and residencies all over writing websites and blogs. They often show beautiful beaches and smiling writers at work on their laptops, writing in contentment hundreds of miles from the pressures of their everyday lives. My interest is always piqued until I see the price tag, which is very often in the thousands of dollars for trips such as these.

Sadly, my liberal arts degree has not yet panned out into a career in which thousand dollar trips are in my budget. With this financial obstacle, some friends and I decided to plan our own (i.e., free) writing retreat. We spent a weekend at a friend’s house, working together in the common space of her living room, and when the weather was nice, her front porch.

Some of us decided to devote the whole weekend to writing and stayed overnight in the spare rooms, whereas other writers came and went as their schedules permitted over the course of the two days. We broke up our writing sessions with food runs and meditative breaks, all of which helped keep our focus strong.

2. Low-Cost Writing Courses

If you are looking for an opportunity to consistently focus on writing, a local writing course might be of interest. Community colleges often have what are called Continuing Education courses. These are courses that basically anyone can sign up for and don’t count towards a degree. The average cost of the ones in my area are about $75-$100 for about eight weeks of classes (usually one night a week). My local community college has been offering Continuing Education courses focused on poetry, memoirs, and crafting children’s books.

If your age qualifies you as a senior citizen, you may even be able to take courses completely for free, even at the university level. Most colleges have information on their websites that will give more information about these opportunities.

3. Free Writing Groups

A quick Google search can help you find writing groups in your area. These are typically groups of people who meet together in coffee shops to either critique each other’s works or simply to share space while writing individually. Often, these groups are free, or sometimes charge a small amount for each session, around $5.

Different communities have various styles of groups, so be sure to look around the local bulletin boards and community newspapers. When I lived in Albuquerque, there was a group of poets who met together in a community building and took turns reading aloud their works. The city’s Poet Laureate even led the group! Everyone was welcome to attend, and it was a wonderful way to hear the works of local writers.

4. Find Used Books in Your Area

Writers know that reading is a great way to keep your writing ideas flowing and to get a feel for a variety of writing styles and voices. Books can be pricey, but if you know where to look, you can often find some amazing deals.

Local libraries often have book sales to supplement their budget. I’ve seen a few that have bi-weekly sales in addition to seasonal “clearance” sales, where you fill an entire shopping bag of books for only $5. Often, the selection includes newly released books and bestsellers in addition to the standard classics. These book sales can be extremely popular (think Black Friday electronics!), so wear your running shoes and your game face.

If you don’t want to brave the crowds at the book sales, remember that checking out books from the library is also an option. This is not only free but is friendly for the environment. You also don’t clutter up your home with books that you will only read once.

Facebook groups are also popular places for people to sell books or even give them away for free. People who are relocating may use these groups to post their items, as they are often looking to get rid of them quickly. Do a search for your area and see what comes up!

5. Writing Software and Apps

Scrivener is a writing software that is specifically designed for writers. I know several people who swear by it, and if you are the type of person who loves to organize your writing, it is worth a look.

The site offers a free 30 day trial, and is an exceptionally fair trial at that, as the 30 days are not necessarily consecutive (a day is only counted if you actually use Scrivener that day). The program itself is normally about $45, but Scrivener offers a huge discount during the month of November for Nanowrimo participants, so that is a great time to purchase it (and get focused on your writing!).

There are tons of free writing apps out there. I use a voice-recording app to take verbal notes when I’m not able to hand-write an idea. Mindomo is a free mind-mapping app that helps you plan plots. There are also several free apps that can help you keep track of your writing habits and time spent writing.

Do you have more tips on saving money in the writing world? Maybe you use a free app that has been invaluable for your writing, or you know of great low-cost writing courses? Feel free to leave a link in the comment section and spread the word!

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