How to keep track of your finances during uncertain times
Talk about a crazy last few years. The global pandemic. Skyrocketing fuel prices. A war raging overseas. Combative politics. Recession. Heck, even the price of a dozen eggs will set you back. If there ever were an occasion when you absolutely needed to keep track of your finances, these uncertain times would be it.
Not to get all doomsday on you, but to the entrepreneur, finances are like the prepper’s crates of emergency rations.
You need an available supply as well as a backup, plus a solid plan to manage everything. Avoid doing this and your venture might not survive when a downturn hits. But develop a system to keep track of your finances, and you can keep on thriving.
As sure as the spring will follow the winter, prosperity and economic growth will follow recession.
– Bo Bennett
Let’s look at some strategies for staying solvent when it’s a complete dumpster fire out there. We’ll also check out some tools that can help.
Ready? You got this.
Why it’s important to have a plan for your finances
Imagine your dream was to open a quaint breakfast spot serving all the recipes handed down in your family. People line up around the block, especially for your omelets, frittatas and quiche. Everything is just sailing along until, as we mentioned earlier, the price of eggs goes through the roof.
If the plan for your finances didn’t address the possibility of drastically increased operating costs and loss of income, your wonderful venture would be in deep you-know-what.
Most people don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan.
– John L Beckley
These days, such a plan for money management should be considered as necessary as health or auto insurance. The core concept holds true: Everything is fine until it isn’t. What then?
Don’t stress. Let’s buckle up and cruise through a few ideas that can go a long way in shoring up your business and personal finances.
Related: Creating a business budget plan for emergencies
Identify your financial goals
To track your finances more effectively, start by identifying goals. Don’t just give this a passing thought — it helps to sit down with pen and paper, and list them out. Once you do, go back through, prioritizing and even omitting some of the items you’ve jotted down.
Never quit. It is the easiest cop-out in the world. Set a goal and don’t quit until you attain it. When you do attain it, set another goal, and don’t quit until you reach it. Never quit.
– Bear Bryant
Now, with your pared-down list in hand, let’s examine some of the ways you can leverage financial planning to reach those goals.
Plan or re-evaluate your emergency fund
Remember the imagined scenario with your breakfast joint? In that case, an emergency fund would help you offset the unexpected increase in expenses until you came up with a long-term plan. Monthly payments are a great way to establish such a stash or try automatic transfers from your main accounts to this new fund.
The size of your emergency savings can vary depending on your expenses and lifestyle, but one to three months is a good rule of thumb. It should go without saying, but if you need to tap into this savings account, make sure to refill it once the short-term emergency has passed.
Look at credit card usage
Avoid carrying a balance on your credit card, and if you can pay down what you owe, do so. A credit card might seem like a lifeline in uncertain times, but that debt only gets worse over time.
It might seem counter-intuitive, but don’t ignore credit card payments. Missing payments will likely trigger penalties in the form of higher interest rates, which in turn creates even more debt payments. The dent it’ll put in your credit score will also make it more difficult when this financial uncertainty passes.
Making the minimum payments probably won’t reduce your balance that much, but it will let you maintain a reasonable interest rate until the scary stuff passes.
Related: Business vs. personal credit cards — How to choose your best option
Review your investment strategy
This one also might go against your instincts, but avoid selling your investments if at all possible. Markets typically bounce back, so panic selling can easily set you back over the long run.
However, it might be wise to limit your investing. Pause all non-essential contributions and add that money to your emergency fund. When things get back to normal, you can realign your investment strategy.
Review your budget
Get started by nailing down how much revenue you’re bringing in compared with how much you’re spending. With those figures dialed in, consider whether you need changes to your income or spending. If the former is true, you might need to find a new freelance gig to pad your income.
If spending cuts are necessary, begin this process by categorizing where you spend. Also identify any recurring payments you’re making, such as fees for cloud apps. Now, prioritize the categories you created, and then determine what you can cut. Also do this with your automatic payment subscriptions.
A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.
You should emerge from your budgeting session with a sustainable framework that will get you through the tough times. It should act as a guide as you more closely keep track of your finances.
Use budgeting apps that will help keep track of finances
Once you have your budget dialed in, check out some of the apps available to help you keep track of your finances. For example, Mint is a great one to start with, as it’s free and includes a raft of useful features.
It syncs with your accounts, and then you can create categories and set spending limits for them. You’ll get an alert if you approach or exceed one of those limits, letting you place more focus on business.
If your financial situation is more complex, paid apps such as QuickBooks or Personal Capital might be worth the cost. These also sync multiple accounts, but offer more robust functionality like mileage tracking, invoicing, reporting, and even live help and financial advice.
Once a new technology rolls over you, if you’re not part of the steamroller, you’re part of the road.
– Stewart Brand
Point is, pencil and paper can only do so much. To keep track of your finances as accurately as possible, a little technology will go a long way.
As you focus on those financial decisions, don’t forget that your mental health is an asset, too. Care for it. If the news stresses you out, give it a rest. If work is taking its toll, don’t be afraid to take a mental health day.
Surprise yourself every day with your own courage.
– Denholm Elliott
Financial security will return eventually, so make sure you have enough in the tank to keep kicking ass once those opportunities start rolling in again. Hopefully, the ideas in this post prove useful – and encouraging.
This content should not be construed as financial or investment advice. Always consult a finance professional regarding your financial or investing situation.