If you don’t mind your money, other people will be happy to take it from you. It’s as simple as that. People can and will take advantage of you, over-charge you, steal from you or otherwise find ways to have you part from your hard-earned cash. Even if you’re around trusted advisors, you can lose money to stupid purchases, parking tickets, interest charges, and a whole array of unforeseen circumstances.
While it may sound depressing or overwhelming to keep tabs on your finances, when you’re self-employed it’s imperative to know your own bottom line. And really, it just boils down to six very simple steps:
- Log every single purchase you make. You can’t possibly know where to cut back or allocate funds to, if you don’t know what you’re spending. Whether it’s the ATM fee, or a lavish lunch, write it down. Do this for a month and I’m sure you’ll be surprised as to where your money is going.Since college, I’ve been writing down all of my purchases in day planner pages and it’s become habit. I track how much I spend, and how much I make, so I’m always aware of my debt to income ratio. You can use tools like Quicken, Mint.com, or Quickbooks if you like, but really, a good old fashioned pen and calendar works just fine too.
- Figure out your recurring monthly expenses. What are you spending on your cell phone bill? How much do you spend on insurance? Some things you can’t cut out, but you can definitely trim down.For example: I have been with TMobile since they were Voicestream, (I had a snazzy pager in the mid-90’s) and wanted to change my $60-$70 plan to something cheaper and get a new phone. When they
couldn’twouldn’t help me, I switched to MetroPCS and now only pay $4o flat. No additional charges or fees and because MetroPCS runs on the TMobile network, I get the same reliable service. This was very important since Sprint and Verizon are horrible in Seattle.
- Get your fruits and veggies at a farmer’s market: They’re fresher and cheaper. Get your other items in bulk: Costco is your friend! If you don’t have a membership, find someone you know who does, and go shopping together.I recently signed on with Full Circle, which is a community supported agricultural (CSA) delivery service in Washington, (AK, ID and CA too.) Each week, they bring me fresh, local organic veggies. This saves time (and gas) going to the grocery store, and it also helps me get organized with menu planning for the week. My cost is only $60/month since I get deliveries every other week. And, my overall food budget has dropped from $250 to $100-$150 per month since my shopping is more focused.Wanna give Full Circle a try yourself? Get 40% off your first organic produce delivery. Use my name (Bethany Mooradian) & code FCREFER during sign up. If they’re not in your area, don’t fret. I’m sure there’s a similar service near you too.
- Trim the fat: Do you really need it “Super Sized?” Do you really need expanded super-cable? Do you really need it at all? By packing your own lunches, you’ll save lots of money, and by turning off the TV, you might actually be able to have a conversation with your family!I haven’t had cable since 1996. At first, I was one of those “I don’t watch TV snobs” but then ABC began broadcasting Lost and Desperate Housewives on their websites and all pretense fell fast away. I do watch Hulu (the free version) and YouTube (you’d be amazed what’s on there for free) and I dabble in Amazon Instant Video when ad-free movies are needed. For books, I always try to borrow them first from the library before deciding whether or not to purchase them (used) on Amazon. I have used gift cards to purchase gifts for other people (a new twist on re-gifting!) and have bought nearly all of my furnishings through Craigslist or Goodwill. You can certainly find other ways that you can tone-down your living expenses. It might just create a happier, healthier YOU!
- Use coupons and discounts the right way: When you use a coupon for groceries, or restaurants, or even on sales at department stores, figure out how much you would have spent without the discount, and SAVE the difference. You’ll be surprised on how quickly those pennies add up!
- Automatically pay yourself 10-15%. I have about 25 sources of income and no matter if I receive a $2.00 or $2000 payment, I take 10% and automatically put it in my long-term savings account. I take another 5% and put it in my “Wishlist” savings account which I use for travel, non-business items, and any fun things I’d like to do.We’re told to do this from an early age, but rarely does it sink in right away. Forget the joys of compound interest for a second, there is just a deeper level of satisfaction to be found knowing that A) you can live off of 15% less than you take home and B) as the balances grow, so does your security knowing you don’t have to rely on credit cards or friends and family in case of an emergency.
- Pay off your credit cards. Yeah, I know. Easier said than done. Believe me though, I’ve been there. Starting a business takes some capital, and things do add up. I’ve had to use my credit cards to pay bills, I’ve used them to pay off other cards…it can get ugly pretty darn quick.When you reduce your spending, and find ways to make extra money, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you can start tackling that debt.
Moving into Self-Employment can seem nearly impossible, especially if you have financial woes. With discipline and perseverance, you can develop good money management skills not only for your personal life, but for your future business as well.
Think about all the extra money you could make by being a mystery shopper, starting your own business, or working from home for a legitimate company. Take control of your income and check out our LEARN page for a list of classes, books, and more!