Branding Our Life

Month: February 2017

How to Create a Budget

Setting a Budget

The Importance of Setting a Budget

First of all, what is a budget? Essentially it is a comparison of how much you earn vs. how you spend your money. Why is it important? It helps you determine what you must spend money on, and where you can save or even stop spending money.

According to this article from Forbes, 63% of Americans don’t have enough savings to cover a $500 emergency. That’s stressful! Building a framework for your spending allows you to make adjustments as necessary to help reduce stress and reach your financial goals.

On a personal note, we didn’t set a budget until we had been married for a while. I wish we had set one sooner. It could have saved us from some financial disagreements early on. However, I’m glad we finally set one when we did! Last year I had to have a very costly and unexpected surgery. Without our savings, we’d still be paying for the procedure.

Step 1: Determining Your Financial Goals

What are your financial goals? Do you want to eliminate credit card debt or pay off student loans? Do you want to start an “emergency fund”? Or begin saving for retirement?

Whatever your goal may be, write it down! Especially if it’s a large goal. From here you can start plotting steps to get where you want to go.

Step 2: Determine Your Expenses

There are two basic types of expenses, essential and non-essential.

Essential expenses are necessities– the things we require for living. Essential expenses can be broken down in to two main categories, fixed or variable.

Fixed Expenses– Items that are billed on a regular basis- weekly, monthly, or quarterly- and cost roughly the same each time, like:

  • Mortgage Payments or Rent
  • Car Payments
  • Insurance (homeowners/renters, car, health)
  • Student Loan Payments

Variable Expenses– Bills with amounts that vary from month to month, like:

  • Groceries
  • Credit Card Payments
  • Utilities (gas, water, electricity, trash)
  • Gasoline
  • Vehicle maintenance
  • Toiletries
  • Home maintenance
  • Clothing

To determine an average of how much you spend on each type of variable expense:

  1. Gather your receipts or bank statements for the past three months
  2. Use your statements to add all your expenditures in each category
  3. Divide your totals by three, and that will give you your average.

Other expenses– You may be thinking, “What about all the other things I spend money on?” Those other expenses fall into the “non-essential” category. Not that they aren’t important! They just happen to be items that one could live without.

Step 3: Compare Your Income Vs. Expenses

Once you’ve determined what your monthly expenses are, make a list with the type of expense and the amount. Add those together. Then you’ll subtract that total from your monthly income. See example below.

Once you know what you’re working with, you can start making decisions. You may choose to cut back on or eliminate some expenses entirely.

Tip: If saving is your goal, ad a “savings” line to your budget. Transfer a specified amount into savings each month.

Keep Tracking

To stay on pace toward your financial goals, it’s important to continue tracking your spending each month. Find a method that works for you. If you’re not comfortable with the method, you won’t do it! Some may prefer the old-fashioned pen and paper way, for others it’s an Excel spreadsheet. That’s great! There are also online platforms like Mint.com and EveryDollar. Around our house, we use Mint. We love how easy it is to use, and best of all, sends alerts right to our phone if we’re getting close to our spending limits.

 

 

 

 

Conquer Your Fear of Small Business Bookkeeping

Bookkeeping with QuickBooksThinking of starting a small business, but aren’t familiar with bookkeeping? Started a business, but struggling keeping the books? I was in the same boat until I found QuickBooks for Self-Employed.

In just minutes a week, I can maintain my books with ease. Here are a few of my favorite features:

Easily Categorize Expenses for Taxes

After connecting my business and personal bank accounts to my QuickBooks profile, I can now categorize my expenses with just the click of a button. This is helpful for two reasons, 1) I can see where I’m spending the most money, and 2) I can easily export a report of my Schedule C expenses for my year-end taxes.

Mileage Tracker

I travel  a lot for my business. The mileage tracker on QuickBooks for Self-Employed has been a life saver! In a matter of seconds I can enter my travel information and the program keeps a running report. At tax time, I have a clear picture of what my mileage deduction should be.

Profit and Loss Analysis

Every time I log in, I see a comparison of my year-to-date spending to my income. Just below the profit vs. loss graph is a pie chart of showing expenditures by category. It’s a quick visual indicator of where my business is financially.

Quarterly Estimated Tax Reminder

Tracking quarterly estimated taxes was definitely one of my biggest pain points. Now, when I log in to my account, I see my estimated quarterly taxes right at the top of the screen and the due date.

Invoicing

You do have to apply for online payments, but it’s a simple, straightforward process. Once that’s in place, you’re able to quickly create and send invoices.

Receipt Storage

I hate clutter! With QuickBooks I can take a picture of receipts and store them online. No more piles of receipts to organize on my desk.

Think QuickBooks for Self-Employed might be a good bookkeeping fit for you? Use this link to save 50% off your subscription for the first 6 months!

Please note:

This platform is perfect for the solopreneurs and freelancers out there. If you’re like my husband and have employees, you’ll want to check out this version of QuickBooks. By using this link you can save 20% to 50% off your first 6 months. If you’d like to do payroll from right inside QuickBooks, follow this link.

 

 

The Tools I Used to Gain Nearly 1,000 Twitter Followers in Less Than 1 Month

In the small business and blogging world, social media can be one of the most mystifying and time-consuming parts of the day. That is, until you find a formula that works for you! I finally found the right tools that shot my Twitter growth into overdrive. The best part? It took just minutes a week to manage!

I’ve gained nearly 1,000 followers in less than a month. My tweet engagement increased by over 80%! I’ve saved time and energy, all while increasing website traffic. If you’ve been looking to increase your following while minimizing your stress, here are the tools I used.

Narrow

I heard from a fellow blogger about a wonderful Twitter growth tool called Narrow. She’d seen wonderful results with it, so I decided to give it a try. Originally I was a bit leery about the $20 a month price tag for the “Basic” account, but was reassured by Narrow’s money-back guarantee.

Narrow allows you build a targeting following by entering hashtags, keywords, and locations that are pertinent to your niche. It took less than 10 minutes for me to set my keywords. Within days, I had a great set of analytics to work with. The analytics are easy to use and show which keywords are bringing the highest results so you can further define your focus. I was actually surprised to see which keywords were bringing the most followers for me! It helped me zero in on the type of content I should be sharing more of.

Click here to check out Narrow for yourself.

Post Planner

This app has been the single most time saving social medial planner I’ve found! Not only can I schedule my own content to post, the folks at Post Planner have gathered some of the top performing content from around the web for you to share with your followers. To make things even better you can schedule both Twitter and Facebook posts. This is especially handy since I have Twitter and Facebook pages for  both my business and the blog.

I credit Post Planner with the boost in my post engagement. They make it easy to find and share content that interests my followers. To make things even better, I can plan an entire week’s worth of posts in less than 45 minutes! It used to take me hours to find great content to schedule and share.

For more about Post Planner, check out their site here.

Final Thoughts

During the past month, I’ve also experimented with pinned tweets. With all the new traffic I’ve generated, my top-performing pinned tweet was seen thousands of times. It not only reached, but exceeded goals for my last sponsored post in record time. If you have a blog post or business offering you want to make especially visible to your audience, pin the tweet!

 

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