How to Save Money to Start Your Own Business

When saving up to make the self-employment switch, don't sell yourself short.

Starting a business almost always takes money. When saving up to make the self-employment switch, financial expert Edward Kohlhepp, CFP from Doylestown, Pennsylvania, recommends that you don’t sell yourself short.

“Don’t stop when you have enough to just buy the business,” he says. “You’ll need money for operating expenses such as taxes, rent and payroll, plus you should have six-to-12 months of personal living expenses saved to tide you over until the business begins generating reliable income.”

Here is a four-step plan to help you start cutting costs and save money so you can get your business up and running as soon as possible.

1. Start Budgeting

Budgeting is an important part of any business, so if you haven’t started a budget yet, this is the time. There are several ways you can do this, from an old-school pen and paper system to using budgeting software that lets you manage your household costs in addition to your business finances, so you can keep tabs on your various sources of income all in one place. (Disclosure: I write for Quicken, who produces these types of products.) You can also use a combination of the two or other methods that work for you, so long as you start a budget and stick with it. Remember: Budgets can be fluid, so feel free to adjust as you go.

2. Focus on the Essentials

As you create a personal budget, keep a record of your daily expenses. If an expense isn’t essential, cut it. For example, it may be part of your morning routine to grab a coffee for the commute. But bringing your own java in a travel mug compared to buying a latte every day will save you serious cash after several work weeks. Review your monthly expenses and eliminate those you don’t really need. Some other considerations:

  • Will a Netflix or Hulu subscription allow you to cancel your premium cable service?
  • Do you use your gym membership often enough to justify the cost?
  • How much can you save by buying staple items in bulk?
  • Would using public transportation, cabs or services like Uber be cheaper than owning two cars?

If you find that your excess expenses most often happen while you’re on the road, take your budget with you. Budgeting apps can help you track personal and business expenses on the go from wherever you are.

3. Negotiate for Savings

Only half of all consumers bargain over prices when making a purchase. Yet 89% of those who did were able to get a deal at least once in the past year, according to the Consumer Reports National Research Center.

Even if you find a great price online, services like Amazon and eBay often allow you to negotiate on the price with some sellers.
When shopping for items in person, always keep an eye out for a way to get a deal. Negotiating often works best when you can see the person face-to-face. Here are some strategies:

  • Ask if there is a discount when you pay with cash.
  • Point out a flaw or defect in an item you want, like a loose button on a jacket, then ask if there could be a discount because of it.
  • Ask for a discount when buying in bulk.

4. Eliminate High-Interest Debt

Carrying high-interest debt is an extra financial burden you don’t need when you’re ready to start your business. Calculate how much loan interest is costing you each year and compare that to the interest you’re earning on any investments you may have. If the difference is substantial, it may be wise to pay off those debts immediately. High-interest debt can also impact your credit. You can see how by viewing two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.

When saving for your business, always consider what your needs may be in the future. For example, if you don’t cancel your credit cards after paying them off, you will have available credit to fall back on should your business suffer a setback.

Image: JohnnyGreig

The post How to Save Money to Start Your Own Business appeared first on Credit.com.

How to Spend (or Invest) Your Tax Return

Expecting a hefty check from Uncle Sam? Here's how to spend your tax refund.

If you’re expecting a hefty refund this year from Uncle Sam, you may be tempted to spend it all on something extravagant for yourself. But it’s important to resist temptation and use that money wisely — at least most of it.

Your tax refund may feel like a windfall, but you should treat this surplus cash just like your other earnings, says David Weliver, personal finance expert and founding editor of Money Under 30.

It’s all about your attitude and making sure you set realistic expectations.

“The biggest mistake I see people make … is treating [bonuses and tax refunds] as ‘found’ money instead of earned money. Research shows we’re more likely to spend a windfall frivolously than money we’ve earned. This is especially true of money we weren’t expecting,” he says.

While tax refunds are still earned money, “the fact that it comes all at once means we associate it less with our daily efforts,” says Weliver. If your refund is what you’ve expected, or even bigger than you expected, you could be triggered to spend more of it. It’s probably not a good idea to count on having a sizable refund every year, “because that can lead to spending it before you’ve received it,” he says.

What’s the Best Use of My Tax Refund?

Before you spend anything, first you need to take stock of your debt situation. If you have credit card or consumer debt, attack that first. That’ll help your bank account — and your credit score, since high credit card balances can affect your credit-to-debt ratio. (You can see how yours is doing by viewing your free credit report summary, along with two free credit scores updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)

“Pay it off, or at least as much of it as you can. That’s true of any debt with double-digit interest rates,” Weliver says. (You can find more tips for paying off your credit card debt here.)

When it comes to paying down larger debts, like student loans or a mortgage, the decision is more personal, and could be a good move as long as your other long-term financial goals are being met.

Should I Invest my Tax Return? 

 

After addressing any applicable debts, make sure you have an emergency fund that will cover at least six months of expenses. That money, along with anything that will be going toward big purchases in the next three years, like a car, the down payment on a home, or a big vacation, should be kept in a savings account.

“It can be tempting to invest that money in a rising stock market, but if there’s a big market correction before you cash out, you could be forced to sell at a substantial loss,” Weliver says. “If, however, you’ve got the emergency fund and won’t need that cash in the next few years, you’ll want to invest in boring old index funds or with a robo-adviser. Invest it, forget it’s there, and go back to working hard.”

You can also make contributions to a Roth IRA or a 529 savings plan.

At the end of the day, your tax refund shouldn’t turn you into a Grinch (unless you’re digging out of credit card debt), and spending some on a splurge could be good for you.

Setting aside between 10% and 25% of your tax refund for something you really want is a great way to reward yourself and stay motivated, Weliver says.

Another option? Get involved with causes you’re passionate about and donate some of your refund to charity. There’s a bit of a bonus to that option, too: The donation could net you a tax deduction next year.

Image: AntonioGuillem

The post How to Spend (or Invest) Your Tax Return appeared first on Credit.com.