Expenses

Are You Tired of Overspending on Christmas?

Even with the best of intentions, almost everyone overspends on Christmas. Here are a few ideas to keep overspending to a minimum:

Go easy on electronics: Electronic devices, aside from TV’s, are usually the smallest, most expensive items to purchase. Top of the line smart phones cost more money than computers and laptops. Also go easy on the electronic devices and gaming consoles.

List of gift recipients: Make a list of everyone that you are going to give gifts to, even if it is only a mental list. This will also make shopping easier when you purchase gifts for less people.

Have a rough estimate of spending: Think of how much you want to spend for each person, which will help to prevent buying massive, spur of the moment, super expensive gifts on a whim

You care more about gifts for your kids then they do: Don’t overthink gift giving for your children. If you spend more money on one child, then you do not have to make up for it by spending more for the one you spent less on. Trust me, kids are not calculating how much you spent.

Most importantly, put it all in perspective: To celebrate Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Yes, it has become very secular/commercial nowadays, but this is why we celebrate Christmas.

 

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I Was Scammed

Even the smart professional gets scammed every now and then. I’m supposed to be impervious to anything related to parting with money foolishly. How humbling . . .

Fortunately, I didn’t fall for a huge scam, but I fell for it nonetheless. How did this happen? The scam penetrated my ultimate weakness; not thinking clearly when sleep deprived. Here’s the story:

I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t go back to sleep right away. By the way, I heard that if this happens it’s best to just get out of bed for a little while instead of lying there sleepless or using your phone. Eventually, I picked up my phone, and started to watch YouTube videos. In the middle of a video appeared an infomercial about a special fan that cools air quickly with the use of water and some sort of advanced technology. It was probably a warm night because I purchased the fan thinking that it may come in handy, especially if making pizza in a hot oven during the summer. If the fan can cool down a factory that melts steel, then it can certainly cool down my kitchen.

Fast forward a few weeks, and fortunately only $90 later after shipping and handling, arrived this magical air cooling fan. I read the directions, added some water, plugged it in, and laughed at myself for being so stupid. The fan was so weak that you couldn’t even feel it unless you were within a foot or two away from the breeze. Nothing was really cooled except for my pride.

Fortunately, it wasn’t a lot of money, but I did learn two lessons. First, anyone can get scammed under the right circumstances, and two, don’t watch YouTube videos at night, especially when you’re tired.

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Before You Open Up A New Location

It’s not a crazy idea, but now may be the time to open another location. Before you do, here are a few things you should consider:

Do you still have capacity at your existing location?

It’s much, much easier and less expensive to utilize your existing location to increase your sales and profits then to look for a new location. If you still have plenty of capacity in your current location then the time is not right. If you the opposite is true or you are trending to be at full capacity soon, then the time may be right to look for a new location

Relocate or additional location?

A relocation is essentially just a move, however, if you are keeping your existing location then the task becomes more complex. An additional location is almost like running two separate businesses at the same time.

If an additional location then consider management and staffing

Who will manage your new location? If you answered that you will, then expect to burn yourself out in a short period of time. Strongly consider either hiring a manager for the new location or for your existing location, while you manage the new location.

What is your cash flow like?

If your cash flow is already tight, then figure out what the reason is before you magnify the problem. A larger location or additional location will only add to cash flow problems if you haven’t addressed this issue already.

 

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What If Your Spouse Is Reckless with Money?

Did you take a financial compatibility test before you got married to your spouse? I am sure the answer is no and even if you did, people and circumstances can change over time. If one spouse is more cautious with spending and one is reckless, then this will not only cause tension, but the financially reckless spouse will most likely hurt or greatly strain your finances. It can also be a huge source of marital tensions. What should you do if you find yourself in this situation?

Here are some approaches, from rational, gentle approaches, to tougher, harder approaches, along with observations:

Communicate and work together: Hopefully, the remedy to your situation is as easy as communicating with each other to make sure that you are on the same page financially. If your finances are steadily strengthening, debts are decreasing or paid off, savings rates are sufficient, and charitable giving is charitable, then it doesn’t really matter if your spending seems reckless. However, when your income is growing and you are still struggling to pay for ordinary expenses, then it is time to have a talk. Both spouses should be aware of financial matters, savings goals, and limitations on spending. One can hope that this will solve the problem, but if not, then try again or move on to another approach.

Take charge and prioritize cash outflows: First, the more financially responsible spouse should be in charge of financial matters, including saving and paying bills. Next, the order of financial priorities needs to change, including saving first, preferably automatically, then paying bills and debts. This will cover your basic financial needs.

Cut off access: If the previous approaches still do not work, then you have to cut-off or greatly restrict access to funds and credit. I know, this sounds harsh and controlling, but it is not. If someone had a gambling addiction then you would do the same or you will find yourself homeless, which is not an exaggeration. Spending addictions are similar and you need to protect yourself and your family. If you are at this point then your spouse has issues with spending money.

Outside support: Financial decisions, views, and habits are very much driven by our emotions, our past experiences, and our attitudes about money. If you truly have a spending addiction, then seek the support and help of a professional that is experienced with these matters. I am not a psychologist or therapist, but anecdotally, it appears that reckless spending stems from several causes: seeking happiness by purchasing things (which is short-lived, possibly for mere minutes), the attitude that you deserve “things” (this is kind of related to the first cause), you do not care or think about finances (adults need to behave like adults), and lastly, you are just trying to sabotage your situation (it could be to get back at your spouse or because you do not feel you deserve financial security – again, seek therapy).

This can also happen with a business partner if you put them in place of the word spouse. It just won’t work.

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You Get What You Pay For

I like a good deal when I see one, but be careful about going for the “cheap” price. Generally, you get what you pay for and many times it ends up costing you more and you either don’t realize this or realize it once it’s too late. Even commodity type services and products are not really commodities and here are a few examples:

Service providers: The pricing of service providers varies drastically, and includes virtually all services from home maintenance/contractors to professional service providers. Maybe you can find a good deal because the provider is newer in business and is under charging on purpose or is doing so out of poor business practices. However, a “cheap” service provider, especially one that you use repeatedly, will find it hard to provide quality service to you over time. This can be due to a high demand because of low prices, not being able to afford good, competent employees, and not having additional funds to invest in their business.

Products: If you are able to get the same product or software when it is on sale, then that is plain smart. However, when comparing two products, make sure that you understand why one is cheaper than the other. Reasons for a lower price can be because the product uses poor materials, is manufactured poorly, or does not contain a lot of features. The opposite can be true for a more expensive product, which is why you need to make sure that you purchase wisely.

Cost/benefit analysis: When making a purchase for your business, especially a large or important purchase, then weigh the cost/benefit. For example, a consultant may cost you $5,000, but you may expect that his advice will return $50,000 of profit. Alternatively, a software provider may cost you $10,000, but will save you $20,000 of expenses, including salaries. The examples are endless, and it is important to think of each expense as an investment in your business.

Don’t be fixated on price, but make sure that you understand what you are getting for the price you pay. A funny expression is, “If you pay peanuts, then you get monkeys!”

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The One True Business Formula for Success

There are dozens of formulas and ratios that a business can use to determine success and profitability. However, there really is one that is most important and should be used repeatedly . . .

Sales – Expenses = Profit

Keep on repeating this formula over and over again and you will do just fine.

 

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What Keeps Business Owners Up at Night?

Aside from worrying about everything, there are really just a few timeless concerns of most business owners. If you don’t have at least one of these concerns then that is probably a concern. Here they are with a few solutions:

Employees: No matter how well you run your business, it will always be a challenge to manage employees. Common problems are: finding good employees, keeping good employees, and making sure that they are productive. There are several ways to address these concerns that are simple, but no way full-proof. The first step is to take your time hiring and to hire the right people from the beginning. Next, treat your employees well and fair. Lastly, spend the time to train your employees properly so they are productive. It sounds so simple, but maybe that is why it is so difficult.

Taxes: Who wants to overpay their taxes? Not only paying taxes, but staying compliant with all of the numerous tax filings can be a huge burden. Having a good accountant can help to alleviate this concern.

Growing: If you are not growing then your expenses will soon eat up a good portion of your profits. Growing sales is a major concern, however, the focus should be to grow your sales profitably. Aside from smart marketing, each new dollar of sales should be profitable to you, otherwise something is wrong.

Cash flow: Either not knowing where your cash is going or not having enough are both problems. Your accountant should help to explain where your cash is going and why there is a shortage. Common solutions are to improve your accounting systems and procedures, increase sales, implement better collection processes, increase your profit margins, and obtain a line of credit.

Too many hours: I don’t think that you are allowed to stop thinking about your business so technically you work 24 hours a day. How can you work less hours? There are dozens of ways, but a few easy to implement solutions are: better scheduling, delegation, and a commitment to work smarter, not harder.

There are a few other closely-related concerns, such as health insurance for employees, feeling burnt out, and the economy. Unfortunately, we cannot control the economy.

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The Secret Formula for Financial Happiness

Is there really a secret formula for financial happiness? If so, it would look like this:

Income = $100

Spending = $90

Result = Financial happiness

Alternatively:

Income = $100

Spending = $110

Result = Not too happy financially (at least not for long)

Simple, but true.

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Some Horrible Ways to Lower Your Tax Bill That are Not Recommended

I don’t think that I ever met anyone that likes to pay taxes. Everyone feels better when their taxes are paid in full with no outstanding balances, but not actually paying them. Sometimes this hatred of paying taxes can go too far and here are a few examples of what not to do:

Understate your income: As a business owner there is a huge temptation to “pocket” any cash that is received or cash checks instead of depositing them to your account. However, if you understate your income too much then you may be facing jail time and massive penalties.

Overstate expenses: Maybe you really like cars and use multiple cars for your business. However, if your spouse does not work in your business then her car payment is not a tax deduction. The same goes for personal meals, personal expenses, and outright lying about your expenses and deductions. Most likely you do not give 15% of your income to charitable. It’s possible, but not very probable.

Losing money in a side business: The main purpose of starting a business is to make money. Maybe some contemporary experts think that you should try to change the world, but most likely you are selling a product or service that is not going to cure illnesses. Sometimes a newer business owner is so intent on losing money to not pay taxes that they never let their business actually become a business. A business can only lose money for so long. The same goes for real estate investments and traditional investing.

Spend a dollar to save a quarter: Do not ever spend money on an unnecessary tax deductible expense just to save taxes. The math is very simple – spend $1 to produce $.25 of tax savings, which equals $.75 lost.

Multi-state taxation: The tax laws are extremely complex and each state has its own set of rules. However, don’t let this stop you from doing business or working in other states to take advantage of opportunities.

Tax-exempt investments: Even though municipal bonds are exempt from Federal taxes and possibly state taxes, this does not mean that they are appropriate for you. You must do the math to make sure you compare after tax returns of taxable investments to tax exempt investments, otherwise you may be worse off economically.

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Is It Better to Pay Off Debts or Invest?

Almost everyone has some sort of debt and economic data shows that this is the case. Between mortgages, student loans, credit cards, business debts, and auto loans and leases (yes, a car lease is debt), many people find themselves allocating large portions of their income towards debt payments. When you are in a position to start paying off debts, should you do so or invest your extra funds? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each.

Pay off debts: Pros: Paying off debts with your extra cash will help you to decrease your liabilities, save interest, which can be significant with credit card debts and some business loans, and eventually enable you to free up cash flow. A non-conventional way to pay off debts is to start with the smallest balance debt to get the momentum going.  Cons: If you focus solely on paying off debts while ignoring investing then you will have no assets for long-term or short-term needs. If a short-term emergency arises, then you will be forced to incur debt to pay for it.

Invest your extra funds: Pros: Investing and savings will hopefully produce a much larger amount of assets over time and enable you to take care of emergencies that arise. Keep in mind that funds for emergencies should be kept very liquid, and a reasonable amount to set aside should be 3 to 6 months of expenses. Cons: Your liabilities will decrease slowly, interest expense will remain high, and you most likely will earn less on your investments especially when factoring in risk, then if you were to pay off debts.

Alternative: The decision to pay off debts or invest does not have to be an either or. Some well-known experts advocate at both ends of the spectrum. Why not do both? Assess your debts and savings to see where you will get the most bang for your buck. For example, let’s say you are able to allocate 6% of your income to savings or investments, then you can use 2% to pay off high interest debts, 2% to save for short term needs, and the remaining 2% can be used to save for retirement.

What if you don’t have extra funds?: The solution is simple, but not easy. Assess your lifestyle to see where you can cut expenses while working to increase your income. If you spend everything that you make currently and work to increase your income by 3% and decrease your expenses by 3% then you will now have extra funds. If your situation is more extreme, such as expenses that are higher than your income, then you will have to take stronger action. For smart ways to cut expenses, then type “expenses” in the search function of this blog.

The mature approach: If you have large excess funds then don’t incur more debts and pay off existing debts quicker once your savings rates are much greater than needed. You can be the only one on your block that doesn’t have debt and no one has to know. I am sure that the quality of your sleep will improve!

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