Posts Tagged ‘Spending Plans’

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2011: Is your plan in place?

December 10, 2010

Winter is a time of reflection, both personally and for our businesses. How did this past year go? Did I meet my goals? Um, did I have goals? What do I want next year to look like? What do I have to do to get there?

At Creating Answers, it is the time of year we are busy working with all of our clients on 2011 goals and budgets. It is one of my favorite times of the year because you get to do two really fun things: analyze how last year went, and draw the financial road map to follow next year. It’s financial art at its most fun.

If you think of this work as a chore, I invite you to reframe your beliefs about planning and numbers. I invite you to think of it as a game, or a puzzle. Make it a date with yourself. Go to your favorite coffee house, or pour yourself a bottle of fine wine. And then…start asking yourself questions.

What percentage of your total income goal did you reach this year? 120%? Great! 85%? Not so great. What do you need to do differently in 2011? What amount of marketing dollars would have closed that 15% gap? Do you need to increase your networking time? Upsell existing clients? Raise your prices?

“If you think of this work as a chore, I invite you to reframe your beliefs about planning and numbers.”

Take a look at your discretionary areas of spending? How much did you spend on marketing and advertising? What were the financial results? Professional development? Results? Equipment? Results?

How much did you spend on staffing and/or outside consultants? Did they work at capacity? Did you generate revenue from your staff? How much? A great rule of thumb to start with is three times their cost.

While it is difficult to assign numbers to each of those questions, the exercise of trying will create answers. What if you spent nothing in each of those areas? What if you spent three times as much?

Most importantly, don’t overdo the process. It’s more effective to do a really thorough look at your 15 most critical spending areas consistently than it is to look at all 60 of the expense accounts you have in Quickbooks. (And if you have 60 expense accounts in Quickbooks, you should give us a call!)

Find out more about what we do at http://CreatingAnswers.com.

Here’s to a prosperous new year full of financial clarity!

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Holiday Financial Clarity

November 24, 2010

Manage Holiday Spending

Want financial clarity for the holidays?

Entertaining, stocking stuffers, extra travel expenses, cookies for the neighbors, decorations, office holiday party gifts, holiday grocery shopping and of course, presents… these are just a smattering of expenses that are about to edge their way into your spending plan over the next several weeks.

Whether you’ve been saving all year, plan to squeeze it into your regular monthly spending, plan to not partake in any of it, or have a credit card you use for the holidays, now is a good time to make a plan. Even if you don’t stick to your plan completely, just spending the time to fill out this handy holiday plan will provide you a road map for the trip you are about to take.

What are your priorities? What are your limits? What are your expectations?  How do you feel about the money you’ve spent during past holidays?  What could you do differently? And a favorite question from our Financial Boot Camps, what would your hero do?

 Print the “Manage Your Holiday Spending” guide from the AFSA Education Foundation. Take a walk, think it over, journal the above questions if you’d like, then get a pencil and a calculator and make your plan!

And… enjoy the season.

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Late charge, latte charge, at least you’ll know.

June 21, 2010

$3.35 a day

Microsoft Money has this cool new tagline: “Late charge, latte charge, at least you’ll know.” I love it.

When you’re an accountant, people talk to you about their money. Not just your clients, but your friends, relatives, acquaintances, and even people you stand next to waiting in line. It’s kind of fun, because its this secret little window into peoples’ worlds that most don’t ever get to see.

So why do I like Microsoft’s tagline? Because the overwhelming first step to tackling one’s money issues is know how much money is coming in, how much is going out, and where it’s going. Most people have no idea. Even those that use software like Quicken or Money often still have very little idea. They can look it up, but they don’t know. I must admit that there was a point in my life that I realized I was tracking all the data, but not often enough to really use the information in a constructive way. More on that later.

$39 a month

There is an axiom that goes: “What we measure, we accomplish.”

If you have financial discomfort in your life, start measuring. If you’re measuring and still have discomfort, take a step back and look at how you’re doing it. Shake it up; try it a different way. If it’s still not working, check out our Financial Boot Camps. You’ll make movement there; we guarantee it.

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How much DO other people spend on food?

May 3, 2010

I get to talk to a lot of people about their spending plans. It’s kind of fun. Most people know what they spend, or what they think they need to spend. But not many know what is average or “normal”. Amongst all of my clients, the outliers are $100/month and $1,400/month, both two person families. I was stunned at the $100/month family. While they don’t buy pre-packed foods and do grow a lot of their own fruits and vegetables, it’s still remarkable. The national average for a family of two is $564, and yes, this includes eating out. Some other interesting food averages are:

  • 43% of our food budget is spent eating away from home;
  • we spend12% of our total income on food;
  • the average for a single person is $373; a family with children is $821; and
  • no, this doesn’t include alcohol; that’s another $34/month.

In my own spending plan, I keep my categories broad and only track about 15 different areas. One is the ratio of groceries to eating out, and when I’m spending more than 35% of my food budget on eating out, I’ve got some realigning to do.

If you want to see where your spending plan lies, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey publishes annual data of more categories than you’d ever want to see: http://www.bls.gov/cex/2008/Standard/cucomp.pdf .