Monthly Archives: October 2014

MOOLAH MONDAYS: 5 Tools You Can Easily Create to Improve Your Money Management

budget, money, finances, vacation, spending, saving, earning, paycheck, discipline, tracking, stress reduction, debt reduction, overspending, discretionary income, expenses, bills, receipts, wantlist, want list, expenditures
Photo by eric731

They say sex and money are the top two things couples fight over. So let’s talk about money. Managing your money well can do several things for you:

  • Reduce stress
  • Pay off debt
  • Avoid new debt
  • Help you save for things you want like a vacation, new car, a child’s college fund, or Christmas gifts

Several months ago my post about 7 things you need to do right after a layoff touched on budgeting. Budgeting is so important whether you are in transition or not—and can be fun! In this new series, Moolah Mondays, I’m going to share the system I came up with and have used for years to successfully budget and manage my finances.

First, make a Planning Budget (click the link to download a template in MS Word). This will show your regular expenses/recurring bills. The fun part is you’ll end up knowing how much discretionary income (leftover money you can use for things you want) you have when you’re done. The Budget is based on your total net (after taxes, withholdings, benefits, etc.) income from all sources each month—Just use a best guess estimate if you are on commission or have income that varies. This will be a simple table and look something like this:

Second, make a paper Tracking Budget. This is like a Checkbook Register but better! Here, you’ll enter what you’ve made (have to spend) and spent (subtracting what you bought) We’ll go into more detail on this tool later in this series, but here’s a sample in use.

  • Rent: $500 -$500 (Nov.)
  • Tithe: $200
  • Utilities: $200 -$100 (cell) -$60 (internet) -$15 (water)
  • Food: $150 – $75 (Nov 1)
  • Gas: $100 -$35 (Oct 1) -$35 (Oct 8)
  • Car Insurance: $200 + $200 + $200
  • Homeowers Insurance: $100 + $100 + $100
  • Me (spending): $300 -$20(ATM) -$25 (dogfood) -$35 (watch) -$5 (lunch)
  • Car Payment: $300
  • Retirement: $400 + $300 + $400
  • Vacation: $100 +$200 +$150
  • Credit Card: +$100 + $60 + $35 + $35 + $25 + $35

Next, let’s do a fun one…keep a Wantlist. Here you can plan to make dreams a reality. I like to keep mine in Google Drive as a Google Document. Your Wantlist could look something like this:

  • $1500 – Trip to 20th Class Reunion
  • $500 – 50” flat panel TV
  • $800 – Cindy’s prom dress
  • $200 – My birthday party

Last, keep a list of Yearly Expenses; sample below. I recommend a Google Document for these too. With this, you can keep an eye on things that you regularly expect (or might forget!) during the year for which you’ll need money. You can use things like your discretionary income, tax return, work bonuses, earnings, or 5th week paychecks to cover or get ready in advance for these expenditures.

  • Jan – Property tax
  • Feb – Vacation (final bit of funds)
  • Mar – Cindy’s birthday gift
  • Apr – Mothers Day gift
  • May – Fathers Day gift
  • Jun – Wash/Wax/Detail the car
  • Jul – Car alignment
  • Aug – (nothing/TBA)
  • Sep – Car emissions inspection and license plate
  • Oct – Christmas gifts
  • Nov – Parent’s anniversary gift
  • Dec – Termite treatment

Now that you’re armed with the right tools, next we will talk more about how to use them.

If you have children, friends, or family that would benefit from this blog, please share it. And don’t miss the next topic in this series! Sign up for this blog–see the box at the top right of this page.

What You Should Know About Self-Employment or Starting Your Own Business: A Start Up Guide

self employed, self employment, flexibility, clients, customer service, business, entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, work from home, taxes
Photo by me! – Souvenir vendor at the ruins at Teotihuacan, outside Mexico City

A while back, I wrote a post on freelance work and sites where you can find business. Some of you might be considering working for yourself. There are advantages:

  • Flexibility
  • Often leads to a full time job
  • Competitive contractor pay rate
  • (Sometimes) you can work from home
  • Helps you narrow your focus or see what you do and don’t want to do
  • Provides ongoing visibility and continuity in your field, keeping your skills sharp

Further, you can deduct for things such as: mileage, entertainment, dining (work related only), office supplies/software, tax preparation, postage, and professional association publications and memberships. And if you’re working from home, you can deduct a percentage of your expenses for: electricity, phone, water, homeowners insurance, security system, internet service, cell phone, and computers purchased. More info here from the IRS.

It’s better to count your expenses as you go, so as to not overpay your estimated taxes each quarter (vs. batching all your expenses and using them against one quarter.) Make a spreadsheet to track these.

And there are 3 main ways you can charge for your service…

  1. By the project
  2. By the hour, or
  3. On retainer (where the customer pays you a regular fee and you provide the full volume of service they need each month)

There’s not a minimum number of hours per month you must work to be self-employed. Unless you’re going to officially set up as a Sole Proprietorship, LLC, etc.–and you don’t have any employees but yourself–you don’t need to register with the government, file for an EIN, or do any special forms to begin working for yourself. You will need to fill out and send a W9 to any company using you as a vendor where you will earn more than $600 in a year for your services. Early the next calendar year, look for a 1099-MISC from that customer and the equivalent state form.

Some work may require a Business License, so check with your local county clerk’s office. And you should check with your local Taxpayer Services office about collecting and remitting sales tax.

You’ll just need to pay taxes on your estimated quarterly earnings (deadlines are Apr 15 for Jan-Mar, Jun 15: Apr-Jun, Sep 15: Jul-Sep, Jan 15: Oct-Dec) and hold out enough along the way to cover Self Employment Tax (Medicare & Social Security–usually about 13-15% of your monthly total earned) and Federal Income Tax (since an employer is not paying this in on you; the amount will depend on if you’re filing Single No Dependants, etc.) SCORE (800-634-0245 for the office nearest you) or your CPA or tax preparer can help you estimate your taxes. Different deductions count toward different taxes you’ll incur.

Your local Entrepreneurial Center and Small Business Center can be good resources too. If you choose to go this route, there are some important factors you’ll want to be on top of. Check out this great article by for some great advice.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned being self-employed? Your greatest challenge? For those of you who are considering being self-employed, what’s your greatest concern or hesitation? Post below in the Comments section, and let us know.

If you have family, friends, or colleagues that are on the job hunt, please share this blog with them. Don’t miss the next topic in this series! Sign up HERE to receive updates by email.