The Ultimate Guide to Saving Money …
Money might make the world go-round, but it can be tough to keep those dolladolla bills organized. Whether you’re financially independent for the first time or in need of a personal finances refresher course, here are some personal tips of mine for smart money management … As a solo-entrepreneur running your own business, you are completely responsible for managing the bottom line—how your income and expenses balance out. Even if you have an accountant or financial advisor keeping track of everything for you, the day-to-day decisions are yours. The results are yours.
Income – Expenses = Bottom Line
Ideally you want the bottom line to be a positive number! If you have a financial cushion, it is possible to stay in business while losing money, but not indefinitely. At some point you need to turn the corner and make money or fold the business and chalk it up as a learning experience. Wait! Not so fast! Stay with me here. We are just getting started …
Step 1: Create a budget.
A budget covers a specific time period, usually one year. It lists your income from all income sources, shows a total, lists the expenses you anticipate—often these are estimated—and shows a total there. At the bottom of your budget, subtract total expenses from total income to determine what your net earnings will be. That is the bottom line.
To begin, set up the lists of income and expenses in a spreadsheet. It is possible you will discover later that you have expenses you forgot to include at the beginning point. The spreadsheet will be a working document that you update as you get additional information. That means the bottom line may change. You need to watch the bottom line closely and be aware of changes as they occur.
A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.
~ John C. Maxwell, Author, Speaker and Pastor
A word about expenses: Some expenses are fixed, meaning they are the same every month. Think of the mortgage, rent or car payment. Some are variable, for example, electricity or other utilities. If this were a personal budget, I would ask you to “guesstimate” how much you spend on groceries each month, but this budget is for your business. What expenses will your business have? Which ones recur annually or monthly and which are sporadic?
You actually need to create a budget for the entire calendar year, so think about what expenses occur once a year, monthly and occasionally. At first, your budget will be based somewhat on estimates and that is alright. You can tighten it up as you see how your actual spending compares to the budget you create for your business. Next year’s budget will be more accurate.
This blog post is a guide to saving money, but so far I have not helped you save any, is that what you are thinking? Ah, but the budget is where YOU have to start. Once you have a budget, take a look at the bottom line. Is your business showing a profit, according to your budget? If not, you may have to adjust your expenses or find more income sources. But we will get to those details later.
In business there are two kinds of financial statements: projected and actual. The budget projects what you plan to earn and spend. Once the year ends, your accountant will draw up the actual financial statements and you do not want any surprises! If you have followed your budget, you should not have surprises, especially if you have watched the bottom line change in your spreadsheet each time you modified the anticipated earnings or expenses. Depending on your arrangement with your accountant (or bookkeeper), you may see financial statements quarterly if you have to pay quarterly taxes to the government. The amount of taxes you owe depends on the bottom line in your financial statements after each time period (quarterly and annually).
Step 2: Set up a spreadsheet to record payment due dates and auto-renewal dates.
Again, you do not want any surprises, so this document keeps important information where you can see it. If you pay for a virus protection program for your computer, for example, and this is a subscription that renews annually, you need to know the renewal date and the amount. If the subscription is on auto-renewal and you forget about it, the item will not be included your budget. You will be surprised when your actual bottom line does not match your projected bottom line because you did not keep track of that expense.
Be sure to include all of these recurring payments in your budget. They are fixed expenses. Because you know the renewal dates or payment due dates, you can plug them into your budget in the appropriate months. I like to add my monthly recurring payments as a task reminder in my phone and then add them into my budget monthly due to the fluctuating USD/CAD exchange rates.
Step 3: Evaluate your budgeted bottom line.
If your budgeted bottom line is a positive number you are extremely pleased with, you may not need to save money! If your bottom line appears as a negative number, however, or if it is too low, you need to find more income sources or lower and/or eliminate some expenses. The quest to find more income sources takes you back to your business plan, and specifically to your marketing plan —and is, perhaps, a topic for another blog post.
The search for business expenses you can lower or eliminate takes me, FINALLY, to the meat of this blog post: A GUIDE TO SAVING MONEY.
Step 4: Review the expenses in your budget.
Look carefully at each and every expense listed in your budget. Ask these questions with regard to each one:
- Is it necessary?
- Can I run my business effectively without this item?
- Can it wait until next year?
- Can I find a lower price or get a better deal on this item?
Step 5: Remove unnecessary expenses and evaluate your new bottom line.
Do not skip this step! It is very important. Removing expenses automatically changes the bottom line of your budget. That is the beauty of spreadsheets. Remove anything that is not necessary or that you can defer to next year and see how much better your bottom line looks. Was it enough? YAY! Not enough? Let’s move on to tips for saving money …
Step 6: Identify ways you can save money on business expenses.
Use coupons or online promo codes. These are a bit unpredictable because you never know when you will run across coupons or promo codes. You may find them online or see them advertised. You may even find them on social media. First, visit the website of any product or service you are planning to purchase and see if they offer coupons or promo codes. Some may require you to sign up to receive their offers by email. While we all want fewer spam emails, occasionally these offers ARE worth the trouble. You can always cancel your “membership” if you do not find value in a specific company’s offers. Second, there are a variety of coupon and promotional websites you can search (for both business and personal needs). Here are a few that I use.
Savings ahead … enter at your own risk!
Look everywhere you can to cut a little bit from your expenses. It will all add up to a meaningful sum.
~ Suze Orman, Author, Financial Advisor, Motivational Speaker and TV Host
Buy in bulk. Warehouse stores such as Costco offer bargains when you buy in bulk. The savings you can find at warehouse stores usually pay you back for the upfront membership fees over a month or two. You can also find savings by buying in bulk at other stores or websites. For example, does your office supply store or website offer a better price per item if you buy two dozen printer ink cartridges than if you buy only a few? For each offer you need to evaluate the savings opportunity. If you are certain you will use two dozen ink cartridges within the year, then it makes sense to buy that many — if you have available cash flow to cover the purchase. I do not recommend purchasing anything in bulk to save money IF the initial price is more than you can afford and will put you in a bind financially.
Pay for software and apps annually instead of monthly. This is a form of purchasing in bulk. Many website hosting companies and software companies will give you a price break if you commit to purchasing their product or service for a year or even 3-5 years. Read their offers carefully though, because some will offer savings if you authorize them to debit your bank account monthly, while others require that you pay for the entire year or more upfront. Again, do not commit to pay for a year of something upfront if that decision will cause you an avalanche of financial problems.
Use low-cost alternatives for advertising. Several social media advertising rates are low right now; Facebook is one example. The cost for an ad or to “boost a post” is very reasonable, especially because you can select the demographics to be targeted. If you belong to networking groups, ask around to learn what other low-cost advertising alternatives your fellow solo-entrepreneurs are using.
Living in the “cloud.” There are so many options available in the “cloud” these days. Data storage is one. File sharing via Dropbox, OneDrive, Creative Cloud or Google Drive, for example. In each of these cases, the files are not stored on your computer; they are stored on servers managed by the company offering the service. Many software companies offer free usage of a limited version of their services and they charge for a broader range of services. In each case, your data is stored in the “cloud,” not on your computer or external storage devices (hardware).
Outsource instead of hiring full-time employees. Before you hire an assistant, an in-house designer or a full-time accountant, for example, look into outsourcing tasks to freelancers or virtual assistants like me! You may need to outsource different types of tasks to several different virtual professionals, depending on what their individual specialties are. If you need a full-time assistant, accountant, etc., that is different. But if the work you need done does not make up a full-time job that could be filled by one person with one person’s skill set, consider going virtual. Many who have taken this route have been extremely pleased with the value offered and the money they have saved. If you belong to networking groups, ask what services others have outsourced and where they found the virtual assistants and other professionals they use. You may get some great referrals. There is a virtual world out there of talented individuals offering their creative and managerial services a la carte at immense savings over paying full-time staff and the overhead that entails.
Whether to extend their talent pool, appeal to a younger workforce, or for sustainability, my prediction is that the term ‘virtual manager’ will have a short shelf-life. All management will be, at least in part, virtual. ~ Kristi Hedges, Author, Executive Coach and Motivational Speaker on Leadership
Embrace telecommuting. If you are running your own business as a solo-entrepreneur and you commute to an office at another location, run the numbers and find out if you could save money by working from home. In most cases, you probably could. Look into it! Telecommuting requires a certain level of self-discipline, so not everyone is cut out for this option. But if you are skilled at managing your time, you’ll be amazed at the money—and the time—you can save by telecommuting.
Limit travel expenses. Even driving across town to meet with a potential new client can be considered a travel expense. If you have to buy lunch, there is another expense. Stay at your home office and conduct the meeting by phone or skype and make your own lunch. Decisions like this can add up to significant cost savings over the course of a year.
I hope you have found this Ultimate Guide to Saving Money helpful. If you have some money-saving tips of your own that you would like to share, follow the link to this post on Virtually Untangled’s Facebook page. And thank you for sharing!
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