How to Keep More Money in Your Pocket

“I spent that much?”

When I looked over the numbers of 2007 (I like to get the tax crap over early), that was my first reaction. Especially when I hit the “books” category.

I’m not alone in my reaction. This stunned question runs through many people’s minds when they realize how much they spent over the year on various business expenses. A book here, a book there… Maybe it was subscription costs or membership fees… advertising… marketing… you name it.

Pennies add up quickly into dollars – sometimes a lot of dollars. Keeping track of your business expenses is worth it. It’ll save you wondering how you ever managed to blow so much money – and help you make more money.

Budgeting, not butchering.

Everyone hates budgets (I do), but they’re necessary evils that help a business thrive. They’re also misunderstood tools. A budget is really just a pre-planned allocation of potential revenue based on past income and past expenses.

Budget doesn’t have to be about tightening your belt. A budget does help you have a clear picture of where you spend your money and what sort of money you’re really making.

Trust me – what you think you currently net is probably an inaccurate amount.

Smart Spending

Budgets don’t mean doing without, but if you want more money in your pocket, it makes sense to limit your spending. Tally up all the expenses you made last year. Assume you’ll spend in the same areas this year, but limit your spending.

Hold on, though. Don’t be too drastic chopping expenses away. You’ll resent the restrictions and eventually blow your budget. When you do spend, spend wisely.

Worth versus Cost

Wise spending means making good investments. That ebook is only $15, the membership a mere $25, and that course is just $9.99. A bargain!

But if those expenses don’t help you increase your income, your client base, your services or your efficiency, the cost isn’t worth it.

For each expense, ask yourself, “What am I going to get out of this?” Determine its worth – what you’ll get out of it – versus cost – what you’ll pay for it.

Then spend… or not.

Cut the Fluff

A good writer says more with less. A good businessperson spends less for more.

For each expense, ask yourself, “Do I really need this? Or do I just want this?” We’re often swayed into buying stuff we don’t need because it looks great, sounds fantastic and seems like it might help us. It’s easy to cave to impulse buying.

Make a point to wait two days before buying. That all-important purchase often doesn’t seem so necessary after a few hours have passed. If you must buy, be sure you can return the item, get your money back or cancel the membership if it’s really not worth the money.

Don’t Lose Sight of the Forest

A small, monthly payment deducted right off your credit card isn’t a big deal. That low fee sweeps past conveniently each month – and you probably didn’t even notice.

Always look at the forest – the yearly cost –of any payment commitment. Don’t focus on the tree – the monthly cost. $12.99 a month is pretty easily absorbed. When you consider that’s $150 per year year, you might not be so tempted.

Plus, you can get a pretty hot blog theme for $150 bucks.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. Those are excellent tips. I budget everything. It’s something my parents practiced, and they passed their teachings on to my brother and me. I’m passing it on to my daughter.

    I give myself a “book allowance” I have a certain amount I can spend monthly. If I don’t spend anything it carries over. The past few months I haven’t purchased anything. That extra money came in handy since I purchased a few books on freelance writing and your ebook. I researched the books before I purchased them. They’ve been extremely helpful and has taken some of the mystery out of freelance writing.

    I did sign up for the online Writers Marker I’m not sure if I’ll purchase it. They let you try it out free for 30 days.

  2. Great post, I find myself buying stuff I want, not what I need. Is hard to break habit, but I will try to behave. Except, next week at Macworld I might be buying stuff I don’t need. I’m a lost case.

    PS Did you intentionally align everything to the center?

  3. *points at the site* See, Harry? See? I’m not crazy, it IS centered! I TOLD you!

    @ Luis – No, that was not an intentional centering. We have no idea what happened here – I’m seeing centered, Harry is not. I’m on IE (my Firefox crashed) and Harry is on Firefox. Could IE possibly be the issue? I have no idea. It started yesterday. (Buying Apple products is exempt from budget restrictions.)

    @ Opal – I now have a book budget, too 🙂

    Sorry about the formatting, folks. I’ll be glad to ditch this site and get onto the new one where the coding is A-1. Coming soon, and thanks for your patience!

  4. I’ve seen this happening when you open a center command and don’t close it. Somewhere you have a and never close it with or any other option for the center instruction like p align=”center” you need to close it with /p.

    Hopefully that helps.

  5. Found one around the Feedburner icon on your left column. Close the center instruction and it shuold be fixed.

  6. I’ll have to take a look at it in IE. I’m wondering with the last emergency upgrade from Word Press if it didn’t do something funky. Did I mention I hate upgrades? I think that might be the case, no one has ever pointed out this issue before. Considering I haven’t touched the PhP files for this blog in a very long time, the upgrade is probably the culprit.

  7. Wow, Luis, that was great of you, thanks! All fixed now… how on earth did you think to look there?

  8. Thanks Luis, you saved me a lot of searching! You get a cookie.

    🙂

  9. On every browser you have the option to look at the source code. On IE is View>Source. From there just search for what you think the problem is, in this case “center”. That was it. Good luck and thank you for your great content.

  10. That is, if you can actually read code, which, in my case, I can’t. Or not very well. Because otherwise, I wouldn’t have screwed up the blog in the first place. (Harry gleefully pointed at the problem and said, “YOU did that! Not me!”)

  11. @James, this is why we call it a community. Glad I could help.

  12. Budgets and code chat… nice. I’d like to add that the latest WP upgrade moved my sidebars to the bottom of my pages, and that was only visible on IE.

    I do all my budgeting in one spreadsheet and it has worked well for several years. I’ve even created similar spending plans for friends. Even if you spend a little less (or more) than your budget allots, tracking is really helpful.

  13. @Melissa Yeah, I use Quicken to track my spendings, having a tool like that can really help no matter what your budget is.

    Melissa, your problem is a bit more complicated, but most of the time is the CSS size. If one segment of the blog overlaps the other, for example, the body of the blog vs. the sidebar, IE will push it to the next available space, the botton of the screen. I checked and it looks ok on my IE, do you still see this or did you get it fixed?

  14. Ooooh, I get all warm and fuzzy when writers get geeky! Thanks for the tech talk, ya’ll. But mostly, James thanks for the post. I always keep my budget in mind business-wise, and I balance that with – can I deduct this? If I can, and I think I’ll use it, I’m buyin’ it. If not….well, I’m usually able to forego that.
    Now in my personal life….mostly I do well, except lately I’ve developed this addiction to exercise DVD’s. Don’t ask.
    😉

  15. *stares at the 6’x9′ cabinet of DVDs and realizes he’s going to have to add another shelf – soon.*

    My name is Harrison McLeod and I’m a DVD-aholic…

    Unlike James, none of my DVDs are in the original wrappers, except for the Smallville series. Still have 5 more seasons to watch. One of the hardest things to learn when becoming a freelancer was having to make sure there was enough money put aside for paying bills. While I’m still an impulse buyer, I’ve curbed it quite a bit.

  16. @James – Thanks for the link to Quickbooks! I’ve been using Excel for everything (which works so far), but I plan to continue to grow my business, so this a good start.

  17. @ Luis – at this rate, you’ll become our local coder 😉 It’s all good. Nice to see people helping each other.

    @ Melissa – QUICKBOOKS! Good god, woman! Step into the light! Read why here and read about how you can get a free version here. Hope the promo’s still going on.

    @ Christie – You’re very welcome. My second addiction (amongst many) is movie DVDs. Movies I’ve always wanted to see, that I’ve heard of, that won awards, that didn’t, that I have VCR copies of… I have a drawer full of movies that still have the wrapper and price tag on.

    Hey, but if I ever want to watch them, I own them!

  18. @Luis, Thanks! However, I did fix the problem as soon as I noticed it. Truth be told, I’m not totally sure what I did to fix it, but I think it had something to do with a title tag in one of the PHP files. One of my other sites still has the problem (sidebars at the bottom), but the site is not active right now, and it started before the latest update. I really should take a WordPress theme class.

    @Harry, don’t you have an iPod?

    @James, thanks! I’m going to take you up on that bit of advice. Yes, they’re still offering it for free and thank you, now I have another project to do over the weekend 😉 I have a feeling it won’t be long before I’ll want the Pro version since that’s the only one that can export to Excel (which I use voraciously).

  19. iPod? Nuh-uh. An iPod might be good if I traveled a lot, but in this house all movies must be watched on the comfy couch in front of the BIG TV. With surround sound. And ice cream.

  20. Harry, download movie to iPod. Plug iPod into BIG TV and press play (on iPod). Get rid of DVDs and DVD player.

    Welcome to the future.

    🙂

  21. *contemplates the fact that his teen has an iPod and that James has no satellite television hookup*

    @ Melissa – uTorrent?

  22. I don’t know what uTorrent is. Should I?

    Also, I should confess that I haven’t yet been able to use my iPod for movies. I seem to missing a wire, and I have some old antique 90s television that only lets you plug one external device in. I’m working on it though! I watch most movies on demand.

  23. Ugh, I can’t believe I said “yet” twice in one sentence. I wish we could edit comments.

    *walks off disgusted with herself*

  24. @ Melissa – But… but… Google it? (I wish you could edit comments, too. Fixed.)

  25. @James: Dude, it’s like 1:30 AM where you are. Don’t tell me you’re still awake? Unless that’s Google acting real slow with the notifications again.

  26. @ Harry – Your eyes do not deceive you. I thought getting up at 3.30 am by accident was bad…

  27. Well I did Google it, and I got to the site, but had no idea what it was about other than, “a lightweight and efficient BitTorrent client for Windows with many features.”

    What’s a BitTorrent? Well I turned to my trusty friend Wikipedia:

    BitTorrent is a peer-to-peer file sharing (P2P) communications protocol. BitTorrent is a method of distributing large amounts of data widely without the original distributor incurring the entire costs of hardware, hosting and bandwidth resources. Instead, when data is distributed using the BitTorrent protocol, each recipient supplies pieces of the data to newer recipients, reducing the cost and burden on any given individual source, providing redundancy against system problems, and reducing dependence on the original distributor.

    What does this have to do with iTunes? I do not know. I spent a large portion of my day training someone on how to install, set up, and customize WordPress. My brain is tech-fried right now.

  28. *gasps*

    What happened to my line breaks in my last comment?

    I can’t wait till you guys install the new theme. I am waiting…

    *hums Jeapordy theme song*

  29. There are no line breaks. It’s F-ugly and looks terrible. The new theme is finished, lookwise, and we’re just working out some special functionalities to make our life a *lot* easier.

    (It looks damned slick, btw)

    iPod can download movies, I believe. uTorrent and bittorrent allows you to download movies and tv shows and music to your computer. Like Limewire for mp3s, but bittorrent breaks up a file into chunks because movies are big-ass files.

    I was thinking you could grab the latest hot movies, download to your iPod, and then watch them on TV. No?

    Actually, it’s probably illegal somehow… or not. I have no idea lol

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