If revenue hasn’t come back as fast as you expected it to, it may be time to review your budget and determine if some planned expenses can be cut. Here are five places to look to do just that.
Since most events have been moved online or cancelled altogether, you can likely redirect any money you’ve budgeted for travel this year to other more urgent expenses. And if you have prepaid these items, you may be able to get a refund. Hotels have flexible refunds up to the date of the stay unless you took a prepaid deal. And airlines have begrudgingly provided refunds, although in some cases, it did take time to get them.
Now that so many employees are familiar with Zoom and other videoconferencing tools, you may want to rethink any future travel requirements that could easily be accomplished virtually with a much lower budget.
While it’s never a good idea to cut training, there may be ways to deliver it more affordably. You may be able to purchase subscriptions to online courses that include an “all-you-can-eat” component to them. A good example is Lynda.com, now owned by LinkedIn.
Any unnecessary training that can be delayed is another way to free up funds.
3. Dues and Subscriptions
If money is tight, evaluating your memberships is one area where you may be able to free up money. Especially since many in-person events have been cancelled, this might be a good time cancel any renewals you are not able to fully utilize.
Subscriptions are also something you can review. Can any of these be cancelled to free up cash? You can always re-subscribe when things get better.
4. Employee Perks
If you provide your employees with benefits and times are extremely lean, cutting them is an option to keep from laying off workers. Some of the options might be:
- Eliminating perks like movie day, free car washes, or onsite chair massages
- Stopping coverage of paid volunteer hours
- Cutting education expenses if you are paying college tuition for some employees
- Cancelling employees’ memberships and subscriptions as described above
- Slashing training budgets as described above
- Converting event attendance and sales meetings to online versions
- Disallowing overtime work
- Holding off on employee bonuses
- Reducing vacation or holiday pay
- Cutting down on health care options such as vision and dental plans
- Reducing 401(k) matches on a temporary basis (watch out for plan requirements, though)
- Cutting regular hours
All of these are steps you can take to avoid having to reduce your workforce.
One painful place to look for more cash is your workforce. If work has slowed due to demand, you can raise cash by furloughing or laying off workers. Unfortunately, many businesses have already had to do this.
By looking deeply at all of your business expenses, you can find places to cut spending so that you will be in a better position for the future.
Many families and small business owners have seen decreases in income over the last several months. Money struggles can cause us to experience stress and worry, and none of us need that right now. Instead we need to boost our immune systems and decrease stress.
Here are some tips on how we can take back control of our finances and reduce our stress around money.
1. Assess your situation.
Take an inventory of your bank accounts, credit cards, and other financial accounts. This helps you to see the entire picture. You can be financially healthy in different ways. For example, you might be low on income coming in but if you have healthy savings or plenty of assets, you might be just fine.
2. Track your spending.
When you can see where the money is going, you can make good decisions about what changes you need to make. Use tracking software like Quicken® or simply a spreadsheet so you can see how much you really need for things like the rent or mortgage, food, utilities, and other necessities.
3. Make any changes that you need to.
If you have more expenses than income, here are several ways to get back in balance:
- Cut any unnecessary spending. For example, trade the expensive $100+ cable bill for a $15 Netflix subscription, at least for a while.
- File your taxes early, especially if you have a refund coming.
- Avoid temptation spending if you don’t have enough for the basics. Remember what’s important and find the will to curb impulses.
- Sell some of the items you own that you no longer need to raise money.
- Get a second job.
- Get support from local nonprofits that can help you if you qualify.
- If you must, dip into your savings or 401(k).
- Ask family members to help.
4. Build a budget and stick with it.
Making a plan helps some people reduce their stress a great deal. They feel good that they now have goals and can develop new habits that will work for their lifestyle.
In your software or spreadsheet, commit to monthly spending limits for each major category: housing and utilities, food, transportation, clothing, entertainment, savings, paying off debt, and other.
Each month, track how you did by comparing your actual spending with your planned spending. Give yourself a grade on how you did, and either reward yourself or make the changes you need to.
5. Pay off debt.
If you have debt, make a plan to pay it off systematically. Here are some ways you can speed that up:
- Pay down the debt that has the highest interest rates. You might even be able to consolidate and refinance your debt to a lower rate.
- Make a payment every single month, even if it’s small.
- See a credit counselor for more ideas on how to get out of debt faster.
6. Build a cushion for the future.
If your spending and income is balanced, but you don’t have a savings cushion, that can also be stressful. You need a safety net to fall back on for times just like these.
Decide on an amount that you can put away for a “rainy day” fund, and stick to it. It’s also never too early to start saving for your retirement years. The younger you start, the more your money will grow into a significant nest egg, providing comfort and flexibility in your final years.
7. Identify any other stressors related to money.
Perhaps a relative constantly asks you for money, and this causes you stress. In this case, you may have to make a “tough love” decision to reduce your stress while maintaining family relationships. These are very personal, individual decisions that include factors far beyond finance. But if they are causing stress, some kind of action should be taken.
8. Make your accounts work for you.
If possible, select credit cards that give cash back, miles, or other perks. Keep you bank balance high enough so that you don’t get charged a monthly fee, and try to get an account that pays interest. You won’t get rich from these things, but they are fun perks that help you save.
9. Invest wisely so you can sleep at night no matter what happens.
Understand your risk tolerance level when it comes to investments, and avoid investments that are too risky. You’ll sleep better at night knowing your money is safe.
Hopefully, these tips will help you decrease your money stress and improve your control over your finances.
One of the biggest things that can cause fights in a marriage is money. No matter where you are in a relationship, it’s a good idea to discuss these major money topics so you’ll know where you stand.
Show me the money: Combine or keep separate or both
One of the best ways to avoid conflict is to put your money into three separate piles: yours, your spouse’s, and a joint set of accounts. In this arrangement, each of you has control over some money that is all your own. The household spending will then come out of the joint account, and you both will make contributions to it on a regular basis.
As a couple, you’ll need to discuss who will pay for what as well as what your regular contribution will be to the joint account. This is no small discussion. The more thorough you are, the less conflict you’ll have over money.
One spouse or partner will normally handle the joint finances, and it’s typically the person with the most accounting knowledge. However, you both should have access to this account in case of emergency.
Savings and future purchase goals
Do you have goals about upcoming large purchases? These might include:
- A home purchase or improvement
- Children’s education
- Health care needs
- Saving for retirement
- A car purchase
- A second home purchase
- A vacation
- Another item such as a boat, furniture, technology gadgets, a plane, or something else
- A nest egg or cushion
If so, calculate how much you need and make a plan to set aside the money you need in the time frame you agree on.
Do you like to spend more than your spouse? Or is it the other way around? When money is flowing, there is usually no problem. When money is tight, that’s when the problems come in.
When there are conflicts in the area of spending, the best course is to focus on priorities. If you can agree on your priorities and goals, it can often shift spending habits.
You may want to set a budget to stick as close as possible to expected spending limits. Start by recording current spending in these areas, and then agree on the amounts you want to spend in the future.
- Rent or mortgage payment
- Utilities, including electric, gas, water, garbage, phone, internet, cable
- Food and supplies, including grocery, kitchen items, liquor, and eating out
- Entertainment, including travel, vacations, local events, holiday decorations, Netflix subscriptions, tech gadgets, books, etc.
- House maintenance including repairs, cleaning, lawn care, appliances, and decorating
- Automobile, including gas, insurance, licenses, and maintenance
- Clothing and accessories, including dry cleaning
- Health care, including pharmacy, doctor’s visit, and HSA contributions
- Personal care, such as haircuts, nail care, etc.
- Tuition and/or education expenses
- Contribution to retirement and savings accounts
- Charitable contributions
- Taxes, including federal, state, local, school, and property
- Paying down credit card or student loan debt
What does retirement look like to both of you? Having this conversation will be enlightening. Know that dreams and goals can change over time as retirement approaches.
You’ll want to have an idea about what you’d like to spend during your final years so that you can make plans to start accumulating that wealth now. The sooner you start, the more years you have to build up your retirement assets.
Monitoring your progress
Keep an eye on your account balances to make sure everything is as it should be. Review bank and brokerage account statements and/or your budget once a month or at least once a quarter so there are no surprises or trends that sneak up on you.
When you reach your goals, reward yourself. Managing money is hard work, and you deserve to pat yourself on the back when a goal is achieved. If there is anything we can do to help you make your financial dreams come true, please reach out any time.