2014 Third Quarter Business and Personal Finance Goals Update

I changed my goals for 2014, going with 3 goals that keep us accountable both on a personal and business level. We’re into the home stretch now, so let’s see how we’re doing and if we can finish the year off strong.

As always, I am leaving out steps on the way to achieving my goals (like fully funding out Roth IRAs and contributing to 401(k)s) because they would have simply been checkboxes. I don’t believe in setting goals that are more of a given than anything else. It’s not impressive to make a long list of achievable goals and when you accomplish 18 out of 20, to claim that 90% were completed when those last 2 might have been the most important.

1. Grow My Blog Carnival Submission Service To Over $500/Month

This has been stagnant, but something I’m ok with. I don’t see a huge opportunity to grow the business, and the time that would be required to grow this to $500/month might outweigh the benefit.I definitely haven’t put in effort to recruit new users, for a few reasons: I have been lazy and haven’t made it a priority, and I don’t want to step on the toes of friends and other bloggers who have similar services. It does seem like a few carnivals have stopped in the past few months, and for some, it’s been harder to find hosts. If I see things go back to normal and bloggers are more willing to host, I will renew my search for new users.

2. Create At Least Two New Streams Of Income That Bring In $100 Per Month.

At the beginning of the year, I said I had an idea for one of these income streams, and in March, I achieved that mark. With a friend, we buy some items in bulk and resell them individually for more on eBay. It worked very well, but due to circumstances outside of our control, we had to shut the operation down. It was a great run while it lasted and netted me more than $1,200 (or $100/month for a whole year), so I’m going to consider that a success. It certainly wasn’t a failure, or if it was, I hope all my ventures “fail” as spectacularly as this one did.

My perk farm is now earning about $150/month, so that is a huge check mark. It involves very little work and has a low barrier to entry (and anyone can do). Check out that post if you’d like to earn that much, too!

Other that that, I’ve got one last idea in the works. It’s no sure thing, but it is something that I want to try out to see if it has the potential that I think it might. Sorry for the lack of details!

3. Keep Discretionary Spending to 105% of 2013 Levels

In the 3rd quarter, our discretionary spending was 22% higher than the first quarter, and a whopping 37% increase over our second quarter of 2013. This was caused by a huge $3,000+ international round-trip flights we booked for November. We’ll be traveling around Italy for a week before heading to Israel for a few more days. It’s a lot of money, but it will be a lot of fun and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. For the year, we’ve spent 22% more than last year at this time, which comes down to less than 4% when that single transaction was excluded. 5% was a stretch considering two international trips, but other than those we’re doing awesome (and we aren’t going to change plans to hit a goal).

As a reminder, our new car is not included in this calculation (we decided to pay it off over 5 years instead of paying in cash). Our typical grocery bill, insurance, charity, tuition and student loan payments, rent, and utilities won’t count toward this goal, but everything else does. We want to see if we can keep our discretionary spending in check, because that’s all we can really control.

I’m not terribly excited that we spent more this year than last, and I don’t think our spending is out of control. Hopefully we can finish 2014 strong (but we still have to book a hotel in Florence and traveling itself won’t be cheap)!

Rating Our Progress So Far

I’m definitely encouraged this quarter by the business progress, having a few extra streams of income, even if they’re temporary, definitely takes the sting out of spending a bit more. We have some room for improvement, so our work is definitely not done. Overall, I’m pleased by our progress and performance, and am looking forward to more of the same!

How are you doing on your goals so far? Where are you succeeding?

How To Move as Cheaply as Possible

It takes a very special soul to actually enjoy moving. From sorting to packing to moving to unpacking and all of the hassles and unexpected issues that inevitably pop up along the way, moving is a complicated, time consuming and (often) expensive endeavor. In this article we are going to talk about how to move as cheaply and efficiently as possible—even when part of your moving adventure includes moving a home office or home based business!

Start Early

Do you know when it’s time to start working on your move? As soon as you make the concrete decision to move. Yes, you need to start your move prep even before you have secured housing and/or office space. Yes, even if you know you won’t be able to start scouting housing in the new town or neighborhood for another six months. Start doing your research now. Start collecting moving materials now. Most importantly, start sorting now (more on that in a minute).

Research Mode

There are two stages to moving research. The “I don’t know when I’m moving” stage that helps you formulate the skeleton of your move and the “now I need to get my move all set up” stage when you know when and to where you’ll be moving.

I don’t know when I’m moving

This is the research you do when you make the decision to move on your own and you don’t have a pre-determined timeline or deadline to meet. During this phase you’ll be researching your new neighborhood or city. You’ll look at the average cost of living, check out housing prices/rates, etc. and figure out how much money you’ll need to have on hand before you can move.

Setting up the move itself

When you have a definite date for your move, you can do the more “concrete” research. You can start actually getting moving quotes from United Van Lines or whatever moving service you’re using, as well as local storage spaces (if you’ll be downsizing your floor plan), professional cleaners etc.

PRO TIP: The earlier you can book people like movers and cleaners, the cheaper the rate tends to be.

Sorting Everything

It is important, whether you’re moving house or office (or both, as the case may be) that you sort through everything. If part of your move includes a business space, make sure you heed any local (both current and your new locality) laws regarding the keeping of paperwork and records. Beyond that, be ruthless. The fewer things you have to pack, the cheaper and easier your move will be.

Here is what you should take with you: stuff you use every day, stuff you use at least once a year (like holiday decorations), stuff that has tremendous sentimental value, stuff that will get you written out of the will if you donate it to Goodwill. That’s it.

Everything else—clothes you haven’t worn in five years, stuff you forgot you had, things you’ve outgrown, etc.—can be sold (to help earn money to negate the cost of your move) or donated to local second hand shops (usually for a tax write off).

For businesses, you can donate any unused office supplies or equipment to local schools and get a great break on your taxes.

Packing

If you are hiring movers, it is okay to pack for space instead of weight. If you will be doing the heavy lifting, you’ll want to make the boxes as easy to carry as possible. This might mean that you need a larger van but you’ll be glad you shelled out the extra dough when you don’t have to pay through the nose for hernia surgery.

Pro Tip: Do not buy packing boxes! Go to your local shops and ask if they have any boxes they’d like to get rid of. Book stores and grocers often have the best quality and sturdiest boxes. You can also look on Craigslist for free moving boxes (and then repay that kindness when you’re done unpacking by putting the boxes up for someone else to claim).

These are just a few of the tips that can help you reduce costs when you want to move your home and/or office. What are some of the things you’ve done to save money on a move?

7 Financial Moves 20 Somethings Should Make

You’re young. You have all the time in the world to get your financial life straightened out, or so you think.

Well, you’re wrong.

When you start developing smart money habits in your twenties you can set yourself up for financial freedom at a faster rate. You’ll also avoid major mistakes that can ruin your relationships, cause huge amounts of stress, and unnecessary worry. And even better, the habits that you develop now will stick with you for the rest of your life.

There are a certain set of financial moves you should be making in your twenties. While the list might seem overwhelming at first, realize that you don’t have to do all of these things at once.

Take your time to get your finances organized now so that you can live your life without worrying about money.

Learn to Budget

Living below your means is the golden rule of personal finance. Your outgoings need to be less than your income. Unfortunately, this is a rule many learn later in life only after racking up mountains of debt and creating a huge financial mess.

Start budgeting now. You don’t have to watch every single penny but it’s important that you know where your money is going. You need to be aware of the way you use your money.

A simple way to budget is to use a free program like Mint.com that will track your expenses for you.

Create an Emergency Fund

You don’t want to live a paycheck to paycheck life. But if you don’t have an emergency fund that’s exactly where you’ll end up.

Cars breakdown, appliances go bad, unexpected expenses pop up, that’s how life works. When you’re prepared these emergencies are only slight inconveniences. If you’re unprepared these emergencies can break you financially.

Start by saving at least $1,000 that’s specifically earmarked for emergencies. Over time try to get your emergency fund to cover three to six months’ worth of your expenses.

Make a Debt Pay-Off Plan

If you’ve just graduated from college chances are you’ve racked up some student debt. Now it’s time to get rid of it.

Having debt and those extra monthly payments prevents you from really building your wealth. Make a debt pay off plan.

Start paying off your balances according to interest rate. It might take a lot of hard work and a few years to wipe out all of your debt but you’ll be so glad that you did.

Start Building Credit

Eventually you’re going to want to buy a house. In all likelihood you’re going to have to borrow money from the bank to do this.

If you want to get the best interest rates and save yourself thousands of dollars over the lifetime of your mortgage you need a good credit score.

If you don’t already have a credit card you can take one out to help build your credit. Charge a small amount on the credit card every month (in expenses you already have) and pay the balance in full each and every month.

To get personalized recommendations on how to build your credit you can open a free account with credit karma or credit sesame.

Open a Retirement Account

The earlier you start saving for retirement the less you’ll have to save. This should be a big motivator to start stashing money away for retirement now.

If you have an employer sponsored retirement plan like a 401(k) go ahead and put in the maximum contribution. If you don’t have an employer sponsored retirement plan you can open up an IRA and have automatic deposits put in each month.

Put whatever you can afford in a retirement account now. Even if that’s only $20 a month. Overtime that money will add up.

Create Financial Goals

Once you get all of the basics out of the way like creating a budget, building an emergency fund, making a debt pay off plan, and contributing to retirement it’s time to make your own financial goals.

Money is a tool and should be used to enhance your life. This is the fun part.

What do you want? A fancy vacation? A new car? A new guitar? A house?

Think about your short term and long term goals and make a savings plan. When you save cash for the purchases you want to make you respect the stuff you buy so much more.

Keep Learning

Making smart financial moves is a lifelong process. If you can master the basics in your twenties you’ll have set a solid foundation for yourself. But don’t forget to stay educated.

Review your budget and financial goals every few months, read personal finance books, and stay on top of the game when it comes to your money.