Roughly 97 million Americans had planned New Year’s resolutions for 2021, according to financial survey site WalletHub. Of the many with a financial theme, number one was to save more.
For small business owners reeling from a pandemic, nothing could be more obvious or more important going forward than a healthy rainy-day fund.
It’s only February so hopefully the momentum is still strong. But since fewer than 40 percent of those resolution-makers expected to stick to saving all year, and more than 7 in 10 admit to cheating on past resolutions, a more serious commitment wouldn’t go amiss.
Some useful advice from WalletHub, The Balance Small Business, and others may bolster that stick-to-itiveness:
Make a budget you can stick with. That means being realistic about it, so failures aren’t dismaying. Only about half of adults have a budget at all, according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
The simplest way to create a budget, whether personal or business, is to gather three months of bills (and annual expenses) make a list of those which recur. Then rank in order of importance, topped by true necessities such as rent and loans, staff and equipment expenses, healthcare and so on. Any reductions, such as to allow for savings, can be made from the bottom up. Keep track of monthly spending to make sure you’re following the budget and correct as needed.
Pay bills as soon as you get paid. Then you won’t be in a position to default on them. An easy, visual way to do this is to list and deduct them from the check register or books immediately, noting due dates but reducing the bank balance by each bill due before the next phase of income. With online and mobile banking, you can schedule a month of payments in one go. That way you can’t spend what you won’t have.
Physical health is linked to financial. There is a clear connection between physical, emotional and financial health. Beyond the obvious approach of reducing healthcare expenses by staying healthy, reducing financial stress brings it full circle. Money and the economy are our biggest sources of stress according to the American Psychological Association. Surveys also repeatedly connect better credit scores with people who exercise regularly.
So even if it’s just a daily walk, keep it up.
Use different credit cards, accounts for different needs. While one pot may look the same as another, separating them is an easy way to guard against overspending and ensure saving. One account for regular expenses, one for long-term savings, one for “fun” or other discretionary money. Split income (per the budget plan) into each as soon as it comes in, being sure to allocate a percentage to the savings (or debt paydown) category.
Sounds simple, but it’s surprisingly effective to keep money under labels this way. It works well for personal expenses, too. Starting with allocations to expense and savings accounts before feeding spillover “fun” or travel accounts makes it easier to avoid trouble.
And don’t forget credit monitoring services – well worth the nominal monthly cost.
Add a month’s income to the emergency fund. Then do it again. Almost half of Americans do not have a rainy-day fund, according to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. This year more than any other should make that mistake obvious.
They say three to six months’ worth is minimum, but experts recommend continuing to build it out to 12, which may take years, but that’s OK. Doing this for both the business and personal life is a must for financial security. No one wants to be wiped out by one unexpected event.
Ramp up business planning weekly. Planning is vital to business health and helps managers track what is and isn’t working. Quick course adjustments can make big differences, cut losses, and enhance profits. Plus you feel more on top of what’s going on, more in control.
Give back. Those who give, get. Being a good citizen, as an individual and as a company, builds goodwill not only in the community but also among team members. Increasingly, employees expect their employers to be good citizens, to include some meaning in the workday. Finding a local cause that matters to you and volunteering together, giving both time and whatever money you can, fosters that goodwill both in the company culture and the community at large. Beyond being a good human, it also translates to customer loyalty and better branding.
“The most difficult thing is the decision to act. The rest is merely tenacity.” — Amelia Earhart
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Sholeh Patrick is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network. Email: email@example.com