On Wednesday night, I attended a forum on financial management that was put on by one of my clients, Full Figure Theatre. Among the crowd were quite a few artists and actors, and they asked some good questions. I wanted to share with you some of the excellent tips and websites that I picked up.
I have always believed that I should try to have some kind of cash reserve–an emergency fund, or a savings account for a vacation or large purchase. But what I learned on Wednesday night is that having savings and debt at the same time is somewhat counterproductive. This is because you are paying high amounts of interest on your debt (maybe even up to 28% for some credit cards) and earning a very small amount of interest (maybe 2-3%) on your savings. By taking the money you have earmarked for savings and applying it to your debt, you can pay down your debt faster, and that saves you money in interest.
After your debt is cleared, set up special savings accounts, and give them names: “house,” “car,” “vacation.” Having a goal for your money will increase the odds that you won’t spend it on just anything.
Before you start this process, you need to know where your money is going. Even if you don’t have much money to spend, you might be shocked to see how much you are spending on certain things. This means tracking your spending every single day, every single penny. After you’ve done this for a few weeks, or, ideally, a month, you can start to create your spending plan.
Your spending plan needs to take into account your fixed epenses (rent/mortgage, phone, car insurance, etc), and your variable expenses, which are things like food, clothing, eating out, gifts, etc. And just know that if you overspend in one area, you don’t need to punish yourself. You may need to try to find that money somewhere else to make up for the shortfall, but it’s more about having knowlege around where your money is going, because that’s where the power is–you are controlling your money, not the other way around.
Here are some great websites I’ve discovered, or were suggested to me:
Billing Boss: This great, free tool, creates customizeable, trackable invoices. You upload your address and logo, put in the information, and it creates a professional looking invoice for you. You can track if your client has opened it, and download the info into your accounting software. It is also PayPal enabled, so you can send the invoice and be paid all online.
CNN Debt Reduction Calculator: You put in all your debt information, credit cards, line of credit, loans, etc and their interest rates. It then calculates either how long it will take you to pay off your debt if you pay a certain amount each month, or it will calculate how much you need to pay each month in order to pay it off in a certain amount of time, say two years.
Piggy Pal: is an online money tracker. The advantage of having this information on a website is that you have access to it all the time, and can input information at work, at home, or via your smart phone.