4 Ways to Spend Less Time On Your Personal Finances

Money is a necessary evil, which means it also becomes necessary to spend time managing it. That activity is arguably even more evil, don’t you think?

People don’t like to talk about money, and when it comes to creating (and sticking to) a budget, balancing your checkbook, or tracking spending, well, no one wants to do it.

You don’t need to live in a cardboard box, subsisting on ramen noodles three times a day. Nor do you need to spend every waking minute on money matters.

In fact, there are many budgeting tools you can master in one hour or less.

Make Sure Your Finances Are Centralized

Although the advent of the Internet has made bill-paying easier, each site, be it a utility or a credit card, has its own way of doing things.

If you do your banking, utility payments, and credit card payments all online, then you probably have a cheat sheet handy with all of your user names, passwords, and other bits of info you need in order to navigate any and all of the different platforms.

Try to bring everything together in one site, and consolidate things. Many banks, for instance, offer an online bill paying service right on their website, so it becomes one-stop bill paying.

Go Mobile

Get an app for your smart phone and tablet, and take your personal finances out on the road.

Although it may initially sound counter-intuitive (“Wait, working on finances away from home sounds like even more work!”), if your budget is there at your fingertips, you can have a better idea of what your available balances are, and update them right on the spot, as opposed to trying to do them later, when you’re trying to piece together what you bought, and when.

By investing a little up-front time using a mobile app, you save time later at home because the job is already done.

Let Technology Be Your Assistant

The best personal finance tools let you set up alerts to remind you about things like a bill’s due date, or informing you that there’s a good deal on credit card rates out there.

Why spend time keeping track of countless due dates when your software can ping you with a text message or e-mail? Never pay another bill late, or alternately, never forget that an auto-payment is being taken out of your checking account. That latter one can be a real killer, incidentally.

There’s nothing worse than thinking you have a certain amount of available funds, only to forget that you have three automatic payments slated to be deducted overnight. And when that happens, say “hello” to Mister Overdraft Fees.

Simplify!

Sometimes, the whole task of figuring out your budget and spending habits gets overly complicated, with a corresponding rise in the frustration level.

Well, if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a few nice graphs are worth their weight in gold in helping you grasp your financial picture without wading through so much gobbledygook.

With graphs, you can chart your spending trends and make corrections as needed, ultimately saving you bucks as you save time by having the information presented in a simple, straight-forward manner.

Follow these four tips, and get yourself off to a good start.

 

About the author: John Terra has been a freelance writer since 1985. He feels that Mister Overdraft Fee is a big jackass.

Photo Credit: AMagill

How Freelancing Can Help Start Your Business

Yes, freelancers do get to set their own hours. And, you’re right, they can take a Doritos break any time they want. And, sure, they do get to do all of this while ensconced in their favorite flannel pajamas.

FreelancersBut there’s more to freelancing than meets the eye. Despite the casual dress code and extremely flexible schedule, freelancing can actually help you succeed as an entrepreneur–building your own business empire.

If you’re wondering how working from your living room in your bunny slippers can possibly lead to success as an entrepreneur, don’t worry.

Freelancing is not as uncommon or laid back as it sounds.

According to a recent Forbes article, freelancers will make up nearly half of the workforce by 2020.

In fact, a clever business person can use their freelancing experience as a way to hone their skills, strut their stuff, and gain valuable contacts.

Honing your skills

As a freelancer, you will need to develop some important skills in order to survive. Here are just a few.

1. Marketing. The only way to survive as a freelancer is to constantly generate new business. And this involves marketing and selling both yourself and your services.

2. Negotiating. Outside of the business realm, most people have very little experience wheeling and dealing–unless, of course, you count the time you offered a low price for a house or wangled free window-tinting on your new Buick.

Freelancers, however, must negotiate price, deadlines, and other details of their jobs all the time.

3. Relevance. In order to compete, freelancers must keep up-to-date on the latest industry trends, constantly acquire new skills and knowledge, and continually challenge themselves.

As a result, freelancers are masters of professional development–eager to learn and willing to abandon outdated ways.

4. Versatility. As a freelancer, you will be exposed to a variety of software and other technologies, business models, and internal processes.

As a result, you will not only possess a wealth of knowledge, but you will also become extremely adaptable–willing and able to tackle new challenges and ways of doing business without trepidation.

Freelancers also need a certain degree of money management skills to survive during the lean times. In What’s Your Financial Back-Up Plan? the author states that although the majority of adults feel a financial back up plan is necessary, few actually have a Plan B in place. Don’t be the minority.

Strutting Your Stuff

Freelancers do not have the backing of a large company–and said large company’s advertising campaign. Subsequently, freelancers become skilled at self-promotion.

And one great way of showing what you can do is to showcase what you have done.

If you are new to the world of writing, graphic design, web design, interior decorating, or any other creative business, freelancing will help you accumulate an impressive body of work.

Freelancing will help you develop a healthy collection of referrals and–the key to future income–an extraordinary portfolio that truly enables you to strut your know-how.

Gaining valuable contacts

Succeeding in the world of business requires networking–and freelancing is the perfect opportunity to meet new contacts and gain exposure for your brand.

1. No borders. Freelancing provides individuals with the chance to gain national–and, sometimes, global–exposure.

These global opportunities will involve networking with industry movers and shakers–contacts that will prove valuable in developing your business empire.

2. Credit. Freelancers have complete control over the quality of their work. You don’t have to worry about sharing credit for your final product with co-workers or the company that you work for.

When you create a masterpiece, it is fully attributed to you.

Granted, some people think that being self-employed sucks. While working at your kitchen table might not be the most dignified career choice, it may be a wise one.

So shed that suit jacket and fling off that tie. Grab your jammies and get to work. You’ve got an empire to run.

How has freelancing contributed to the success of your business empire?

Kimberley Laws is a freelance writer, illustrator, and avid blogger. She does confess that she loves to work in her pyjamas and schedules her break during Dr. Phil. You can follow her neurotic and OCD ramblings at The Embiggens Project and Searching for Barry Weiss.

Image courtesy of photos.com.

5 Reasons Being Self Employed Sucks

There is a temptation at times to lionize the self-employed for taking control of their occupational future.

The self-employed make their own hours and have the freedom to work hard or hardly work.

However, while the idea of being your own boss is nice, the uncertainty and financial constraints of being self-employed can be a harsh reality.

In fact, it might even suck.

This is especially true when it comes to finances, as many of the benefits that we take for granted were collectively bargained for through years of protest and negotiation.

Becoming self-employed often times turns into an education of the dual responsibilities required for those who choose to be both an employer and an employee.

In addition, the stress associated with growing and expanding a business can be overwhelming with so much on the line. Not only do a majority of new businesses fail, even sustained success over a few years comes with the added fear of long term viability.

The following are 5 reasons why being self-employed may be something a baby does with its thumb:

1. More Taxes

Depending on the tax rules of your country, being self-employed can significantly increase your obligation to the government.

In the United States, for example, Medicare and Social Security taxes are split between the employer and the employee.

However, the self-employed individual is responsible for paying both.

2. Inconsistent Business

When you are self-employed, it means having to bear the market through its ups and downs.

There will be periods when there is more work than you can handle and periods when it feels like you will never work again.

The most difficult part of dealing with an unsteady income is learning how to manage your money.

Being self-employed means accounting for the lean times by resisting the temptation to spend when your wallet is full.

3. Retirement Benefits

Working for an established employer typically comes with a variety of financial benefits.

Contributions to a retirement plan are usually matched by an employer, and many businesses offer pensions and other benefits to ease the transition into old age.

In the United States, medical, dental, and vision insurance is usually covered by an employer sponsored plan.

While the self-employed can invest in a tax-sheltered, individual retirement account, there are no matching contributions made from an outside benefactor.

4. No Paid Vacation

A typical employee is granted two weeks paid vacation each year from his employer.

This is in addition to paid sick time, maternity or paternity leave, national holidays or other exclusions.

In other words, full-time employees are granted about a month of salary for doing absolutely nothing.

A self-employed individual, on the other hand, must take time off at the risk and expense of their business.

While modern technology attenuates some of these concerns, a protracted vacation is still fairly difficult due to the expenditures alone.

5. Long Term Sustainability

The scariest part about being self-employed is the propensity for this type of business to fail.

With any job, it is likely that an average worker will be retained due to turnover and hiring costs, allowing them to ride a gradient of mediocrity until retirement.

The same is not true for the self-employed. Even those who manage to earn a steady income for years may abruptly find themselves without a job, and too old to start over in an office job.

Moreover, the fear and uncertainty can lead to higher stress and anxiety, elevating health risks.

This is a guest post by John Smith. John writes regularly on topics including What is public liability insurance? and sole trader public liability cover.

Photo Courtesy of jeremyclarke

Who Wants To Be an Entrepreneur?

Guest Post

More and more people are seriously considering how they could realize their dreams of becoming their own boss.

Taking the plunge into entrepreneurship is not for the faint hearted, but it can be incredibly rewarding to those who have the skills, talent and drive that is necessary to succeed.

Passion For Business

The most important attribute of a successful entrepreneur is passion for business.

You can have an amazing idea and all the skills in the world, but if you do not have the drive to set up and run your own company then you will never succeed as an entrepreneur.

In the early stages of business, you can expect to work long hours for little immediate return, and only the most dedicated will be able to last through this period to reach success.

These long hours show up another element that is necessary for entrepreneurs to possess – they must have excellent time management skills as well as the ability to plan for the future in addition to accomplishing short-term goals.

An entrepreneur must have a vision for their business and make plans to take the concrete steps that will take them towards that reality.

Business Idea

Of course, an entrepreneur needs a business idea. You must be able to identify gaps in the market, and recognise how best to take advantage of consumer needs and trends.

Not all entrepreneurs come up with their own innovative and unique ideas.

Some of the most successful entrepreneurs are those who are able to identify the most promising ideas of others, or take advantage of inefficiencies in current business practices to launch a business that better caters to an existing consumer base.

Skills Evaluation

Similarly, a successful entrepreneur will know how to evaluate their own skills.

Rather than be tempted to accomplish everything themselves they will correctly identify which aspects of their business could best be carried out by those with professional training or greater experience.

Practical Assets

Skills, talents and drive are not the only things that will aid you in running your own business.

Practical assets can also help you to set up as an entrepreneur. A successful entrepreneur will be able to identify which practical assets are most important for their business.

For example, a physical storefront is important for a business that relies on passing traffic or needs customers to be able to touch or see products.

However, other businesses could do better with an online shop, in which case appropriate computer equipment is essential.

In both of these cases, warehouse space can be invaluable for storage and preparation of the products.

While working from home can be a good option for those who are starting out with their business plans, many entrepreneurs can benefit from dedicated office space, whether in an office of their own or in a shared office with other new entrepreneurs.

Running your own business is something that appeals to a huge number of people, and if you have the skills, talent and drive to succeed as an entrepreneur then you will find it to be incredibly rewarding.

This is a guest post by Rachel. She is a business blogger with a background in logistics and warehousing.

Photo Courtesy of TheBusinessMakers

Can MoGro Replace Financial Advisors?

Guest Post

No, this isn’t some diabolical plan to replace people with robots at local brokerage firms (hmmm…).

It’s actually an acknowledgement that having to pay financial advisors steep commissions and hefty fees is often times a barrier that stops the average person from investing.

Yet, not being knowledgeable about investing can be equally costly, so that most people have been restricted to the traditionally less profitable investment vehicles such as bank savings accounts and CDs.  What to do?

Risk Level Has Changed

MoGro proposes to level the playing field for all potential investors.  MoGro users won’t need a financial advisor, in the flesh, since they will have access to the same professional portfolio management tools that financial advisors, themselves, employ in order to make their recommendations.

Risk Level Has Changed with MoGro

Investor Is In the Driver’s Seat

It puts the investor solidly in the driver’s seat, in control of their financial future, for the first time.

MoGro uses software that sorts through dozens of investment options to develop an investment plan that’s tailored to the customer’s needs.

MoGro Dashboard

MoGro will then seamlessly invest the client’s money with long-established, SEC and FINRA regulated investment companies.

No Minimum Investment

And get this, there is no minimum amount required for investment (such as the $1,000 or more needed to open a typical brokerage account).

Customers at MoGro can invest any amount with the flexibility to invest in the future, at will, or to set up an automatic withdraw of a bank account for a set monthly amount.

MoGro Budget Tool

It’s fast & easy and accessible for everyone.  It’s change for the better!

Investing is an area that’s sorely in need of a lot more transparency and simplicity. Is MoGro the much-needed answer? I hope so!

 

This is a writeup I requested from MoGro. They have yet to officially launch, but if you go to www.mogro.com you can sign up for their beta list (you bet I did), and they’ll notify you when this game changing service is available.

10 Must Have FREE Personal Finance Apps for iPhone

Guest Post

In the world of finance free is king. When trying to plan your financial future, retirement, or even weekend date, you want to save as much money as possible, while keeping a close eye on your personal finances.

With the boom in mobile technology, your iPhone can help you save hundreds, and without costing you a dime. So here is a list of 10 must have, and Free, iPhone apps.

Bloomberg Mobile

Whether you are a small fish or the big whale in the Wall Street Ocean, you will always want to keep an eye on your investments and the market.

With Bloomberg Mobile you can easily navigate price quotes, get real time market data, place trades, and even get an up to the minute market trend analysis. And all for free!

Paypal

We all know the name and anyone who has bought or sold online has probably used Paypal’s services. With their mobile app you can check your balance and send money to your friends and family.

Though some greater features are lacking, it is still a useful app for minding your online transactions.

Mobile Banking

Speaking of online balances, Bank of America has an app all their own. With their mobile banking app you can check balances, transfer funds, pay bills and even locate an ATM day or night.

Square

If you are an on-the-go business savvy entrepreneur, then you know the most important aspect of business is getting paid. With Square you can accept credit card payments, send receipts and process cash payments wherever you are.

After signing up they send you a free card reader that plugs right into your phone and allows for a quick swipe to getting paid.

TipTap

We don’t want to spend money but when we have to we don’t want to spend too much. One of the widely popular debates is how much to tip. Whether you choose 10% or 15% TipTap will assure you don’t over tip.

If you are in the U.S. or abroad TipTap supports many different currencies. It can even round up or down if you are splitting the bill amongst friends.

moneyStrands

If you are noticing the end of the month is getting tighter and tighter, moneyStrands can help. It is a full featured money management app to track where and how you are spending your pennies.

Once you create an account online you can add your bank and credit accounts and use the app to track your spending in real time.

Toshl

Toshl is another personal finance tracker with a twist. It uses a free internet syncing service. That’s right, the free word again. It will automatically sync with all of your accounts so you will always be on top of your stash of cash.

They do have an upgrade to a pro version for around $20 a year, which allows multiple users, exporting into popular MS Office formats and PDF. But if you are looking for a free app for just yourself, then this may be the one.

PocketMoney Lite

I hate balancing my checkbook, especially with multiple accounts. With PocketMoney Lite, it makes keeping my finances balanced even easier.

I can track multiple accounts, create expense reports and even chart my spending. It’s a life saver.

SiteCatalyst

Any marketing pro knows that monitoring your site traffic is important.

SiteCatalyst allows you to keep on top of it on-the-go. With up to the minute tracking you can easily watch your site stats closely.

RedLaser

redlaser personal finance app for iphoneLast but certainly not least, RedLaser is the shoppers dream.

This small app allows users to scan barcodes, find prices, check local stores for the item, and even compare prices. You will always find the best deal.

So whether you are the business mogul in the limo or the small start-up trying to get it right, having the proper app can help you save, manage, and grow your finances. Utilize the iPhone app craze and freely manage your money.

This guest post is by London resident Samantha Hathaway.  Samantha is a financial consultant and a content contributor for Payday Loans, a company which helps you out with advance pay day loans when you need money before your paycheck comes in.

Photo Credit: Please contact Jason Toney (smilingdogmedia.net).

Cut Back Your Cost Of Living

Guest Post

Lethargy is the retailers’ and bankers’ greatest money-making asset. Most consumers consider themselves to be savvy shoppers but only in these tougher times is that really being put to the test.

In a period when every penny counts, there are a number of simple ways to stretch the household budget and make your money work harder for you.

Credit Cards

Firstly, check out those credit cards sitting in your purse or wallet. They are probably the same ones that you have had since you left school and well due for a financial overhaul.

So, whether you have an excellent credit history or not, you could probably benefit from changing your credit card. At worst, you could benefit from a low or zero rate balance transfer deal to help clear your total card debt. Why pay interest at 18% when you can pay at zero?

Use the saving to pay off the balance but remember to check the transfer fee to make sure that this is as low as possible.

Outfits

Ladies, do you need a new outfit for your wardrobe? Well, why pay designer label prices when using a dress agency can deliver the same results but at a fraction of the cost?

Top quality dresses from excellent sources are available and maybe you can sell some of your existing wardrobe to earn some money.

Automated Payments

Make sure that all the bills you pay are on direct debit arrangements. Suppliers usually give additional discounts for direct bank payments as this saves them money.

There are guarantee schemes in place with banks that refund wrongful payments so the system is secure. However, check statements regularly to make sure both the right amount and supplier are involved.

Utilities

Check out your utility suppliers and fix payments if sensible to do so. Energy costs are soaring so check that you are on the best tariff deal for your area. Fixing costs for the next few years may also be a good hedge against both inflation and runaway bills.

Bulk Buying

Bulk buying usually gets discounts. As long as you have somewhere to store the goods and will use them before they go past any sell by date, this can be a great way to save money.

Why not team up with the neighbours and see if there are common goods that you can jointly buy to take advantage of bulk discount deals.

Check out the grocery stores too. Many have now developed their own designer labels that are sourced from the same manufacturers as some higher end brands. Likewise, it may be worth a peek at a lower cost store to see how they have changed recently to reflect the need for lower cost shopping.

Back To Basics

But the most important thing you can do is to prepare a budget and be aware of how much and where cash goes. This can identify areas where savings can be made and those bigger spend areas that deserve a little more focus of attention.

If you need to save, start with the big costs first and work down. Saving 10% of your utility costs will more than outweigh changing your hairdresser.

Photo Courtesy Of reallyboring

How To Start A Business While In Debt

Guest Post

It would be wrong to say that the only prerequisite of starting a business is to invest huge cash. But, this is not actually true. Every big business starts from an idea.

Ideas when collectively accumulated and combined with tactical effort can translate into the formation of a giant industry.

Cash is an added advantage to set up equipment that are absolutely essential to conduct the operation of your business.

However, when you think about Apple Computers and Dell, you can conclude that business needs creativity, hard work along some amount of money. Especially when you are in debt and through debt settlement program you cannot expect to obtain big business loan from banks or financial institutions.

Figure Out Your Skill Level

The first step of putting up a business is to figure out your skill level that you can utilize and sell. Initially, it is great starting a service based business like tutoring, book keeping, administrative support and building an out-sourcing agency etc.

In order to do that you must build contacts, connections and client tails. You can open a website to promote your services. On your website you will give detailed description of your services, prices, testimonials and feedback.

A website will give an official assent to your business and will help you generate further clients.

Engage In Social Networking

You should also engage in social networking and open profiles in multiple social sites. Blogging is a good way to inform your reader about your services and products that you have recently launched.

An interactive service with clients and customers via social media opens a vast opportunity of new business and attract huge volume of new prospects.

SEO Business

SEO business is a current trend these days. You can build a team of writers who possess SEO knowledge. Thereafter, contact web-masters and ask them if they are interested in promoting their site on the Internet.

Cultivating proper strategy you can increase their website visibility to online users. Thus, you will take assignments and work on it.

Leverage Free Resources

You should use as much free resources as you can. In this competitive market, business cannot grow without strategy. Even the same strategy may not work all the time.

Business needs to bring changes in strategy in order to cope up with changing scenario. So, you need to be informed about it. You should visit public library, bring free books on business and try to implement them as per your business needs.

This post is by Stewart Smith. Stewart Smith is a financial analyst and writer. He has written some great articles on topics like bankruptcy, debt settlement program , investment opportunities, and more.

Photo Courtesy Of caston_corporate

10 Tools to Help You Track Your Money

Guest-Post

Whether you’re on the road for business or desk-bound for five days per week, it’s tough to know what you’re spending your money on and how much is coming in. It’s understandable that with so many ways to pay (mail, online, over the phone, and in person), keeping track of money is a chore few of us stay on top of. It’s easy to forget to pay this bill or think that you’ve already taken care of another bill when in actuality you haven’t. It can be either frustrating or convenient when your bank holds the money from a bill for a couple of days, either allowing you a few days to put the money in the bank, or making you think that you have more money than you do.

Thankfully there are some convenient and easy to use tools to keep you on top of where your money is and how it is being spent, and when.

In the world of business, successfully keeping track of your money can be the difference between a sustainable business and failure. Cash flow is central to the survival and growth of any business, or an individual’s wealth. Therefore, managing your finances should be a top priority.

Although you may assume that managing your money is a tedious task best left to someone else, the reality is that with the new crop of online tools and apps, managing your money has never been easier. Now it is possible to see how much money you currently have, how much you owe and how much is owed to you with the click of a button, 24 hours a day.

So if you’ve come to realise the importance of managing and tracking what your money does and where it goes to, then it’s time to check out these tools of the trade.

1. Mint – a free service that allows users to access all of their personal finances online. Mint automatically pulls information from your bank, credit cards, debts, loans, and even gives you the option of making a personal budget so that you can know and see where your money is going and how best to distribute it. Mint also has a phone application, allowing you to view your finances no matter where you are.

2. inDinero – this is a sophisticated tool for businesses that allows you to watch the ebb and flow of your finances and can even make predictions for your financial future. Prices range from free, $29.95 a month, to $99.95 a month. inDinero allows you to see how well your business is doing. Similar to Mint, inDinero gathers all of your financial statements in one location, making it easier and faster for you to view them.

3. ClearCheckbook – a free and unique tool in that it allows you to see where your money is going. Think of it as a live checkbook that offers you up to date information and accurate balancing of your checkbook so that you know exactly how much money you have available rather than how much you might have available after a check or two clears. ClearCheck even offers you reminders for when to pay your bills.

4. SmartyPig – turns saving money from a chore into something a bit more fun. Although SmartyPig is free to use, there is a processor fee for gift cards. The site can be seen as a savings account where you can gain cash back savings. Savings can range from something like a wedding, a new TV, vacation, or just saving up some money for a rainy day.

5. CreditKarma – a fast and easy way to get your free credit score. Services are free and show users how they can improve their credit score and how they can save money on credit card offers, loans, and mortgages. CreditKarma allows you to see credit card offers that are just right for your particular financial situation and offers you detailed information about the credit card, allowing you to make an informed and smart intelligent decision before you apply.

6. BillQ – makes it easy to keep up with and track all of your bills. Costs for services range from free, $5 a month to $50 a year. Never pay another bill late or forget to pay one.

7. iWallet – a comprehensive app for the iPhone that allows users to track their budget, income, and expenses. The iWallet app is currently $2.99 and is in both English and Japanese.

8. Scribd – search the site for its free and easy to use templates to make and meet all of your financial goals with spreadsheets, like this Personal Monthly Budget Worksheet.

9. FreshBooks – the perfect tool for business owners, making it simple for them to track time, organise expenses, and invoice clients. Pricing ranges from free to $39.95 a month. Billing clients has never been easier.

10. Billster – a free online application and is great for looking at past, present, and deciding on future financial endeavours. With Billster you can fairly and easily divide bills between several people. The system stays up to date by keeping track of direct debits and standing orders. With the personal billing system you can organise and group bills according to category. You can even see how much money you spend every day and even how much you spend every year.

As you can see, there are several options available whether you need help with personal or business finances. Explore your options to see which is the best fit for you and your specifications.

Productivity does not start and end at the office. I’ve said in the past that finance is an area that you have to be productive as well. In fact you have to be productive at all fronts. You are presented in this post some useful money tools that you can use to your advantage.