Three Steps to Financial Clarity

3 Steps to Financial Clarity: At Peace With Money

As the holidays set in and the mad rush of preparation begins to slow, you might find yourself with a little time to reflect on your year. Why not take the opportunity to reflect on your finances? Your money, much like all the other pieces of your life, deserves your attention, thought, and critical eye. This exercise is meant to lead you to financial clarity. By completing it, you’ll gain a better understanding of what you want from your money, and how to get there.

Step 1: Define Your Destination

What’s your destination with your money? What are you planning to do with it? Is there something you’re saving up for? You might have vague plans, a well-defined roadmap, or nothing at all. This is the step where you can dream and imagine that destination. If you already have one in mind, check in and make sure it’s where you want to go. Make sure you investigate any current money goals you might have to make sure they really align with your desires. If you don’t have any goals, think of some you might like to adopt!

Step 2: Drop Your Pin

Pinpoint your current location. In other words, figure out where you are now financially.  It’s time to get clear and honest about what you have, what you owe and where your money is going each month. Use this step as an opportunity to total up your expenses and debts and track your recent income. Leave no bill unturned! If you want further instructions on this step, I recommend checking out my article on creating a spending plan, specifically the section on analyzing your expenses. 

Step 3: Plan Your Journey

3 Steps to Financial Clarity: At Peace With MoneyNow that you know where you are and where you’re going, it’s time to figure out how you’ll get there. This is the step where strategy comes in. Based on all the information you’ve already looked at during Step 2, you should be able to determine what will help you get to your destination. Whether that’s saving more money, paying yourself first, cutting out certain expenses, increasing your income, or a whole host of other ideas, identify your moves and decide when you’re going to make them. 

This process may take you a little while to complete, but it will ultimately bring you to a place of much greater clarity when it comes to your finances. This exercise can be applied to personal finances but it can also be applied to your business finances. I hope this season of reflection serves you well.

If you need any assistance looking through your finances, I’m happy to help you reach a place of clarity. Schedule a call with me!

Angela

How A Reliable Car Can Save You Money in the Long Run

How a Reliable Car Saves You Money: At Peace With Money

Earlier this year, we said goodbye to a dear old friend – our Ferrari red ’92 Volvo station wagon. We bought it just after we had our first daughter, and since then, it has been with us through thick and thin. That is, until it got T-boned. All told, we owned and regularly used the car for over 20 years.

Having a good reliable car helped us save money in the long run. Because we were able to keep it so long, we eventually completely paid it off. We also saved big on the maintenance of our car. Volvos are known for their long-lasting engines, and ours was no exception to the rule. Though it did require repairs, it was not a finicky car the way others can be (we’re looking at you, Mercedes-Benz). We did our research before we purchased this car to make sure we didn’t buy something that would be too needy. We ended up saving a lot of money over time because we had to deal with fewer repairs. We’re also lucky to have an in-house mechanic; my husband did many of the repair jobs that were needed, which saved us still more money.

Ultimately, we got more than our money’s worth out of this car. My husband drove it to work, we drove the kids and their friends around in it, took it on many a road trip, let our kids drive it in their teenage years, and moved our oldest daughter to and from college many times. We wouldn’t have been able to keep it so long if it hadn’t been so reliable!

My advice is: do your research and buy a car that won’t need a lot of repairs! This article from Consumer Reports is a good place to start, but don’t stop there. Do more research, compare sources, and make sure your car purchase is a thoughtful one. If there’s anything I learned from owning the Volvo, it’s that your car choice can make a big difference in your finances. If you’d like more advice on purchasing a car, check out my other article about avoiding “car-shopping-brain” and making a purposeful choice.

I hope this advice inspires you to make a thoughtful car purchase, or simply appreciate your car. And next time you see someone driving a Volvo station wagon, admire their money savvy!

Angela

Image Sources: Court Prather, Clem Onojeghuo

What’s Your Money Why?

Your money “why” is like your business’s compass, because it’s hard to get where you’re going if you don’t know exactly where you’re going or why you’re going there! Everyone talks about finding your “why” – your motivation or purpose – in business. Doing so is absolutely important, but today I want to talk about your money “why” because I think that is equally important to the direction of your business. Knowing exactly what your goals are for the money your business generates will  guide you in your financial decision making process and ultimately to the realization of said goals.  

My Money Why

When I started my first business, I wanted to make some “extra money.” The problem was, I really wasn’t clear on what that money was for. Without direction that extra money seemed to  simply come and go.  When I started my bookkeeping business, I had a specific goal for the money I was making: I was paying college tuition for our oldest daughter. She has since graduated and I am now in the process of putting our second daughter through college (three years to go!). After my goal for my money is to supplement our retirement, so that my husband can leave his demanding career. Because I know specifically what these things cost, I have an exact number to set as my revenue goal.

Know Your Money Why: At Peace With Money

Whether you have started your business to fully support yourself or your household, or you’re doing a side hustle to pay for “extras,” if you know your money goals and can get some exact numbers you need to meet in order to reach these goals, you will be so much more clear on how to get there. This added clarity will simplify your decisions, and make your objective more clear. You will also be more likely to make better decisions to maintain your business’s profitability. They always say, “keep your eye on the prize.” Doing so is a lot easier when you know what the prize is!

So, ask yourself a few questions: Why did you go into business? What are some life goals you have that cost money? What are some specific financial goals you need or want to meet with your income? Come up with specific numbers and stay focused on those – now you know your money why! If you need some assistance getting to the bottom of your money why, perhaps you’d like to check out my Business Beginnings or Turning Points packages. 

Angela

Image Sources: James ChouCasey Horner

Why Selling More Doesn’t Mean Making More

I assume that when you started your business, you wanted to put money in your pocket. Whether your goal for that money is to use it to fully support yourself or your family, or to fund a particular life goal, your business is meant to supply you with money.  As such, making money by selling product is often the business owner’s most common focus. Enter, the hustle timeline.

The Hustle Timeline

When we first start a business we have to get out there and hustle to sell something; to get things moving. Eventually we start rolling. But at some point we want to make more money, and we believe that growing our business is the way to make more profit.

So, we hustle some more. We do more gigs, we move more product, we sign on more clients. There is more money coming in, but there still doesn’t seem to be enough. Then we set our sights on a particular goal, the gig, the number, the client that’s big enough to put us over the edge so we can put more in our pocket. But it never really happens. Here we find ourselves trapped in the timeline; always hustling, and never quite reaching our goals.

The Answer

There are only two ways to put more money in your pocket: increase margins or decrease expenses. If we are using the same labor, materials or processes as we increase sales we are increasing our output, but not gaining anything. Perhaps we may have even added to our spending to buy that new printer or new app to handle the increase in sales volume. If we haven’t examined our spending, we aren’t gaining anything. Taking a good look at our margins and our business expenses is an important step to upping the profits of our business. 

Why Selling More Doesn't Mean Making More: At Peace With Money

To examine your expenses and profit margins, ask yourself these questions. Is your product or service priced appropriately, or are you undervaluing it? Comparing your prices industry standards can help you suss out an answer. So can calculating in materials, labor, and other costs. If you’re unsure how to price your product or service, do some research to get other opinions and methods!

Are you delivering your product or service in an efficient manner, or are there places you could cut time and expenses? Look at your processes, and be discerning. Have you reviewed your business expenses lately to see if it’s really all necessary?

Ask yourself these questions and review the inner workings of your business. This is where your profit is hiding. Let’s get it into your pocket.

Angela

Image Sources:  Roman Kraft ,  Nik MacMillan

Young and Thrifty: Creating a Spending Plan

How to Create a Spending Plan: At Peace With Money

Creating a spending plan, also sometimes known as a budget, can be a very important tool for getting a handle on your finances no matter where you are in life. In my last Young and Thrifty post, we briefly touched on budgeting as a way to encourage saving habits. Today, I want to look more closely at 3 different types of spending plans. Maybe you’ll find one that works for you! But first, the budgeting basics:

Analyze Your Expenses

The first step to creating almost any spending plan is to analyze your expenses. Figure out what your fixed expenses are, like rent or mortgage payments, transportation costs, food, etc. These types of expenses are things you really need that tend to cost the same amount every month. After you’ve confirmed what your fixed expenses are, you can analyze the rest of your spending habits and determine which of your expenses are flexible, and not as necessary as your fixed necessities.

Once you’ve evaluated your finances in this way, you can start to take charge of your spending using various strategies.

Categories

The most common budgeting strategy is to divide your expenses into specific categories and assigning designated not to exceed amounts for each category. For example: “Food, $200/month, gas, $150/month, etc.” Doing this can help you establish your monthly living expenses and also help you understand how much you spend on each category. If you wish to cut down on your spending in a particular area, this may be a useful strategy for you.

Set Amount for Flexible Expenses

Another strategy that is helpful when you’re really focused on saving is setting aside a set amount of money for all expenses that lie outside of your fixed necessities. When my oldest daughter was setting a budget while saving for her road trip, she set aside $100 a month for all expenses that weren’t fixed necessities. This might be tight for some, but setting an amount in this way is a very simple budgeting tactic that can encourage you to make your spending more intentional.

Rewards

A third tactic that can help you create a spending plan you’ll stick to is to set aside rewards for yourself. For example, if you have $500 to spend on a certain monthly expense, and you manage to only use $480, you can use that extra $20 to reward yourself. This can be applied to your overall monthly expenses or within certain categories. One of my daughters has found this strategy very motivating and usually ends up using her reward money on ice cream.

Resources

There are two digital resources I can recommend for anyone looking to create a spending plan. Mint and You Need A Budget are both digital budgeting software systems that will help you set up and track your monthly budget. From my personal experience, I enjoy Mint, and my family uses their free version. Amber Dugger really appreciates YNAB and uses it with her clients.Creating a Spending Plan: At Peace With Money

Though this article mentions only a few strategies, budgeting and spending plans can be as simple or complex as you need them to be. I encourage you to do more research if you’re interested. I recommend this article from Practical Money Skills and this podcast from Jen Hemphill as two helpful resources. In a later post, I will be putting together a list of some of my favorite resources for financial self-education.

I hope you find these spending strategies useful. Stay thrifty!

Angela

Images:Camille Orgel, Unknown

Young and Thrifty: A Guide to Saving

A Guide to Saving for Young People: At Peace With MoneyRecently I’ve received some questions about financial advice for young people. I think the most important piece of advice I can give is this: save your money. It’s simple, but it can be difficult to get in the saving habit. That’s why I recommend developing a savings plan. There are three parts to a good savings plan: percentage, motivation, and banking.

Savings Percentage

In order to save money, it’s important to decide what portion of your money you want to regularly save. You can decide this in a variety of ways. If you’re in a situation where you don’t need most of your income for fixed expenses, the amount you can save becomes much more flexible. For example, when my younger daughter started working at our local pizza place, she decided she would save her paycheck and spend her tips.

Many sources recommend saving about 10% of your income monthly. If you have a fixed income, this can be calculated easily. With variable income, you can simply tally up what you’ve made and calculate the percentage each month. Use the other 90% of your income to live off of and cover your expenses. 

If you want to make things more  organized or complex, you can work on budgeting out your expenses. I’ll talk about different budgeting strategies in a later post.

Motivation

Having financial goals is important! Make sure you know what you’re saving for. Are you looking to purchase a car? Moving out? A  fund that will enable you to leave your job in case of  sexual harassment or unfair treatment? Having an intention for your savings is important because it helps keep you motivated. The more specific it is, the easier it is to focus on. For example, when my older daughter decided she wanted to take a 3 month road trip, she calculated how much she needed to save, got a job at a shoe store, and the next few months saving almost all of her income. She even lived on her friend’s couch for two months to save on rent. In the end, she saved all the money she needed and then some. That’s the power of motivation! 

Banking

Use a bank that earns you high interest on your savings and doesn’t charge fees. Doing some research to find a good bank will help you figure out where to put your money and watch it grow quickly. You can also read my tips for avoiding bank fees here

Some banks allow you to automatically transfer money to a savings account each month. Setting up that automation can make saving even easier. When you don’t even have to think about it, it’s much more likely to get done. 

A Guide to Saving for Young People: At Peace With MoneySaving is the best piece of financial advice I can give to young people. Getting in the habit of saving your money opens up a lot of choices, something that’s important and helpful in any young person’s life!

This post was written in response to some requests I’ve received for financial advice for young people. To answer these questions, I’ve created a series called Young and Thrifty. Check the tag Young and Thrifty to see other articles in the series. 


Angela

Image Sources: Jeremy Cai,  Sharon McCutcheon

Budgeting Without Feeling Deprived: Create a Spending Plan

woman standing by mountain lake

I don’t know about you, but I never liked trying to keep a budget. It just feels restrictive, like being deprived- like a diet, right?  

But maybe we need to reframe our thinking.  Let’s replace the word “budget” with the words “spending plan.” Creating a “plan” is taking action with intention and “spending” is just where our dollars are going.  If you think about it, spending with a plan gives us permission to have fun – without the guilt.  

Of course, a spending plan needs to take care of the “have to’s” first – mortgage, utilities, car payment, gas and caring for our future selves (in the form of retirement funds). But after those are taken care of, we have a little freedom to spend on things like entertainment, shopping, and travel. You still get to do fun things, but you’re doing them with intention and without guilt because you know you have already taken care of your needs. You may also find that you are able to set aside money over time to use for a larger splurge, such as a special trip you want to take in the future. 

Budgeting Without Feeling Deprived: Creating a Spending Plan

Without a spending plan, that trip may not be possible. Budgeting and having fun don’t need to be mutually exclusive. Making a spending plan can help you work towards affording your dreams and goals. Rather than seeing budgeting as deprivation, it can be a strategy to make your money work for you – just as it should.

Angela
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By |2018-02-19T20:48:12+00:00February 19th, 2018|Categories: Money Mindset, Personal Spending|Tags: , , |0 Comments