Wrestling with Your Finances

Wrestling with Your Finances

It is generally accepted that having a budget makes good financial sense. In the complex world of personal finances how can you get where you want to go when you don’t know where you’re starting from? For example, how do you purchase a house or plan for retirement when you don’t really know how much money you have?

Why do you need a budget?

In a word: Control. In order to reach your monetary goals you have to have control over your money. Is that going to make the electric bill any less because you monitor it? Of course not, but by monitoring your budget you can see exactly where your money goes. That is the first step to controlling it.

Budgeting made easy

No, really. Creating a first draft budget isn’t difficult. There are many computer programs that will help you do this such as Quicken and Microsoft Money but to really gain an understanding of your finances you may want to start with a simple Excel spreadsheet. There are templates for budgets on Microsoft’s website, but if you want to try it on your own create a few basic columns to start. For example:

Budget Dec-06 Jan-06

Monthly Income

Monthly Salary



Total Income

Monthly Expenses


Car Payment

Cell Phone




Credit Cards

Dry Cleaning





Misc. Entertainment


Cat Care

Medical  amp; Prescriptions

Car Insurance

Student loans


You may be tempted to budget on a biweekly or weekly basis, depending on how often you are paid, but starting off with a monthly budget gives you the perspective necessary to understand where your money is going.

Notice that this budget isn’t fancy. You can use simple Excel functions to subtract your expenses from your income. At this point you will likely only be 100% certain on a few of these points. Your rent (or mortgage) payment likely does not differ from month to month and neither will certain other bills like your car payment. For items you pay on an annual or biannual basis (i.e. insurance) check your last bill or estimate the amount and divide it into monthly increments.

Determining actual expenses

Now for the fun part! There are a few ways to go about determining your actual expenses and some are more painful than others. If you are the type of person that puts everything on their checking account debit/credit card this part will be much easier for you than your cash-carrying friends. Simply go into the next workbook of the excel spreadsheet you created and Create columns for all of the items you listed on your budget, then grab the latest copy of your bank statement. Go through every transaction and add it to its’ respective column.

This may take a bit of time, but it is far easier than going through receipts when you pay with cash. If you prefer to pay with cash for certain items, either keep the receipts or keep a notebook around and jot them down on a list. You may miss a few things this way, but it will probably be fairly accurate if you make the effort. Once these are totaled, check the totals against your budget estimates. There will likely be a few areas that will surprise you.

To verify the accuracy of your income, take your last few pay stubs (or last one if you are a salaried employee) and average your income, taxes and cost of benefits. Place these numbers into your budget. For the bills you pay on a less than monthly basis, verify your estimate by checking the last bill, checking your last payment if it came out of your checking or other account, or make a quick phone call to the company and check the amount. If you are comfortable with your estimate use it until the next payment is due on that account.

Tracking your Budget

Now that you have determined your actual income and expenses it is relatively easy to maintain your budget. If you get a raise or a new car, simply adjust the amounts accordingly. When the season changes adjust your gas and electric budgets to the new amounts you are billed. The amount of time you want to spend and the level of control you want over your budget will determine the number of changes you make to it from this point forward.

Regardless, you should of course make any of the obvious changes mentioned previously and you should perform a yearly (or more often) audit of your budget. To do this, simply go through another bank statement and keep track of cash expenses for a month. Make the necessary changes like you did to your original estimate. Auditing your budget will be easier than the original write-up as you already have your expenses itemized into columns.

Power over your money

Now that you have completed your budget, you have the power to evaluate your finances to see where you can make changes to meet your goals, and it will give you the power to monitor the spending habits you hope to change so you can make adjustments as necessary. Creating a budget will give you a good understanding your money; this is the first step to controlling it.

Are You a Terra Verde Entrepreneur?

Terra Verde Entrepreneurs are different than most. There’s something in their blood that sets them apart from everyone else.

Is it their drive to succeed? Their motivation and creativity? Their willingness to risk failure for the possibility of success?

And at the end of the day, why?

Whatever it is, I’ve outlined a few defining traits below. (Notice that they don’t all have to do with business. Work/life balance is essential to being a successful entrepreneur!) I would venture to say that a Terra Verde Entrepreneur, whether they call it that or not, embodies these characteristics and remains true to themselves:

1) Create opportunities for themselves and others

2) Love the people around them

3) Have great vision and passion

4) Help those less fortunate

5) Thank others for giving them opportunities

6) Practice their faith

7) Recognize talent in the next generation

8) Celebrate for no reason at all

9) Support small business

10) Read to a child

11) Relax every day

12) Celebrate the arts and creativity

13) Maintain their own personal wellness

14) Take care of the environment

15) Reach for their dreams

16) Celebrate life

I believe that these values are important for Entrepreneurs to have. Not only do these values steer us away from the Ebeneezer Scrooge-esque kind of existence, but they also resonate with the reasons we became entrepreneurs in the first place.

When I ask people what they do for a living, whether they like their jobs, and why they decided to go out on their own, their answers are almost always the same. We want more time with our families and our kids. We want to have the time to play sports or take an art class. We want to have the resources to look out for those less fortunate.

Is it possible to become a successful entrepreneur without losing your soul to the black hole that is money? I encourage all entrepreneurs to stay true to ourselves, to take care of the values that put us in these positions in the first place, and to use our resources for good.

So, are you a Terra Verde Entrepreneur?

The Ultimate Guide to Being a Self-Employed Entrepreneur

Deciding to be your own boss is a major decision. It comes with responsibility and hard work. And although it can certainly be profitable, it takes more discipline to be a entrepreneur than it takes to be an employee at a nine to five.

Making the decision to be an entrepreneur full-time or part-time can be a life altering experience, not only for you, but for those around you who watch from the sidelines.

First, know what it is you want to do. What do you want to accomplish? What are your goals?

If you want to be a freelance journalist, you’ll need basic office supplies, computer, pencils, paper, file cabinets, printer, and accounting books.

Or maybe you’ve had a long-life desire to own your own corner store. Your buddy has one, why not you? In this case, you would need state registered licenses, learn how to manage people, and set-up a business banking account.

Secondly, one of the benefits of having a job is that you have a forced schedule. You’re motivated to follow this schedule and set rules or there will be consequences. As an entrepreneur, you don’t have the luxury of consequences (at least, immediate consequences) so you have to set your own schedule and create consequences if you don’t follow them daily with discipline.

Next, make an effort to ignore the negative minded people who will pop up from time to time to throw you off track. Don’t be surprised when you learn some of your family members are against going the self-employment route because for most, it’s a taboo topic in a society where a 9 to 5 is the norm.

Let your success speak for itself.

Keep positive people around at all times, and get rid of the unsupportive weight in your life. It’s almost impossible to operate successfully when you’re surrounded by negative family and friends.

Finally, One of the best things about being self-employed is the tax benefits.

Even with small purchases, don’t think it’s not worth the effort to record everything you spend money on. Come tax time, you’ll be amazed when you add up your receipts how much money was spent to run your business and what tax breaks you qualify for you don’t get as a average employee.

It’s good to keep financial records anyway so you know how much money is coming in or out for the year. The money you spent on supplies and start-up will likely put you at a loss initially, so you won’t owe much in taxes. However, if you make more than what it cost you to run your business, it’s possible you may end up owing taxes.

Not such a bad thing when you can play by your rules, and live life on your terms as a self-employed entrepreneur.

Funding Advice For The Young Entrepreneur

Being an entrepreneur myself I can offer some advice on funding options. I started up an all DVD rental store in 2000 and here are some of the ways I looked for funding.

1) Fund yourself. Easy enough right? Truth is I put everything I had into the store, I cashed out my mutual funds and emptied my bank account. This is an obvious choice.

2) Hit up friends and family. I bought some light up signs at an auction in Maryland and my parents drove them up to me, that normally would have cost shipping and such. I borrowed 5K from a friend. If you have a solid plan and a repayment schedule your friends and family will have faith in your idea.

3) SBA Loan. Here’s where I got the bulk of my money from. I went to the local Small Business Development Center (SBDC)and worked on a solid business plan for over six months and submitted all the paperwork and next thing you know I had over a 100 grand in startup capital.

4) Lines of Credit. I got lines of credit for everything from magazines to concessions to DVDs. If you get a tax number and open lines of communication then more than likely a company will extend you a line of credit.

5) Bank Loans. After I got my business up and running I got a small loan to continue operations. All I needed was my taxes and quickbooks file and they extended me 10K to continue operations.

Basically the key to business is a business plan and I’m not talking about a 5-10 page paper on why you have a great idea. I’m talking about a monster 80-100 page book that explains everything from your advertising budget to who your lawyer will be. This will take time and the SBDC is FREE! So make an appointment and work with them because they are the gateway to entrepreneurship.

10 Things that a Successful Entrepreneur Is

In order to be a successful entrepreneur, you must be able to take on many roles through out the life of your business in order to adapt to certain situations. So here is a list of things that you must be, at some point, in order to be a successful entrepreneur.

a successful entrepreneur is…

A Connoisseur

A successful entrepreneur must be able to critique and manage the less noticeable aspects of a business that have the potential to bring the business down over time. They must be able to look deep into the business and notice things that other people wouldn’t, much like a connoisseur of a fine art.

A Drudge

Sometimes, when the chips are down and times are tough, an entrepreneur must be able and willing to get his hands dirty. He/she must be willing do some of the things that a savvy business person would normally pay someone to do.

A Motivator

An entrepreneur must be a motivator in many aspects of their career. They must be a motivator when trying to sell a product and they must motivate a customer to take action and purchase the product. They must be a motivator in order to make their employees more driven and hard working. An entrepreneur may need to motivate investors to take action and invest in his/her company.

A Brute

This goes along with being a drudge. Sometimes an entrepreneur has to just do whatever needs to be done. They sometimes need to just put their head down and plow through any obstacles that may be in their way, like a true brute.

An Optimist

An entrepreneur will encounter many obstacles that may seem impossible to overcome. They will want to give up and just get a regular day job like everyone else. This is when a successful entrepreneur will think positively and realize that, ” I will overcome these obstacles and when I do, I will be more pleased than ever that I didn’t give up”.

A Decision maker

Being a successful entrepreneur requires an ability to make quick decisions and to stand by those decisions no matter what. Nobody will respect an entrepreneur that is constantly going back on their own decisions.

An Intellect

Running a business involves risk. For every decision there is a risk factor. In order to be successful, an entrepreneur must be intelligent enough to analyze the risks and the rewards and make a decision based on real information, not just gut feeling.

A Leader

An entrepreneur must be able to lead and manage employees, investors, even customers. People are more willing to listen to someone who is charismatic, confident, fair and intelligent, all traits of a true leader.

A Visionary

In order to successfully run a business, one must be able to envision where they want to go with the business. They must be able to set clear goals, stick to those goals and then make new goals once the old ones are attained. Without vision there is no motivation and without motivation there is no action and without action, well, there’s no business.

An Innovator

Innovation is probably the most important when it comes to the success of a business. Innovation can come in many forms. Whether it’s innovation in products, customer service, marketing it doesn’t matter, but without some kind of innovation, there is no reason for customers to go to you, instead of your competition.

What Are the Characteristics of an Entrepreneur?

The characteristics of an entrepreneur.Latest figures show that more and more people are becoming entrepreneurs. Some do it out of choice, others are forced into it through downsizing and a tough job market. Whatever the circumstances, these are the key competencies and characteristics required for entrepreneurship.

Curiosity – the desire to learn new things

Do you want to understand how things work? Do you enjoy learning new skills? Entrepreneurs like to find out about their subject, they read all the information they can get their hands on, they keep up to date, they search their environment to find opportunities. Their antennae are always alert to new markets, new needs, new products and services.

Optimism – view reality in a positive way3

To succeed with your own business you need to be a positive optimist. How do you react to problems? Are they opportunities to improve or do they bring you to a grinding halt? Do you believe in yourself and your environment? Realism is essential but so is the conviction that you are able to deal with it and succeed. This all impacts on how you handle failure. Entrepreneurs are able to manage and learn from failure. They are able to view it positively – an opportunity to learn and grow and then move on.

Risk taker – there are no guarantees

Are you prepared to risk your time and effort, your money and your reputation in the entrepreneurial venture? Risk takers are willing to trust their instincts and act on them. The risk can be significantly reduced by careful research, planning and implementation of your idea but you have to be able and willing to step out of your comfort and safety zone to get going.

High energy – willing to work long and hard

The only place that success comes before work is in the dictionary! Are you willing to put all your energy into this venture? Are you excited by the thought of working hard at your own business? If you don’t have true passion for what you are doing you will find it difficult to gather the energy to work at it. Are you able to adapt to changing circumstances? Do you have stamina? Persistence is essential to entrepreneurial success.

Innovative – bring creative ideas to life

Do you think outside the box? Are you responsive to change? Do new ideas excite you? Innovation is not just about coming up with creative ideas and solutions it is about the ability to create value from them. Can you create business value from your idea? Innovation is the process of using available resources to bring your ideas successfully to life.

Self Discipline – self motivated and accepts responsibility

Are you accountable for your actions? Do you motivate yourself from within to perform or do you rely on outside motivators? An entrepreneur firmly believes that success or failure is within their personal control and take full responsibility. They don’t allow themselves to be distracted by external influences and they set goals for themselves.

Look at your past experiences. When have you demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit? Successful small (and big!) business owners typically displayed entrepreneurial tendencies from a young age.

If you think you have what it takes then find out more about starting a small or home-based business at Top Home Based Businesses.

Julia Derby’s website My Home Business Ideas offers a free and practical guide to starting a home based business from finding the right home business idea to planning, setting up and marketing your own home based business. An information-packed site that will set you on the path to success with your own small business.

Teenage Entrepreneur: Benefits and Basics of Hiring an Employee

When having your own business, you’ll eventually have to hire employees. All successful businesses have employees. The big ‘boss’ normally doesn’t do any of the manual work. They’re just the brains behind the operation. To succeed in your own business, you need to work smarter and more efficient. No one can do all of the jobs that they want to do, there just isn’t enough time. Hiring an employee will solve the problem though.

Hiring an employee is not easy though. For one, you’re not “single” anymore. You now have to consider the income and profits of the business, as you have to pay a salary to your employees. It can be a huge responsibility that you will have to carry on your shoulders.

Not only do you have to take care of the payroll, you also need to take care of the 24employee taxes that need to be paid. Hiring an employee is not cheap, and you should only hire one when you really need it in my opinion. Also, it is important to find the right employee – someone who will work hard, and have the same interests as you or passion for the job. Finding the perfect employee may not be easy, and you may have to interview many employees for their education, prior experience, and their behavior before you find someone that you believe is suitable for you. For teenage entrepreneurs, a great employee is someone sitting around your house right now – that is, if you have siblings. Siblings make great employees; however, you will still need to pay them for their work. If you hire someone close to you like a friend or a family member, it is important to make sure that they understand that this is a business arrangement.

Keep this in mind for a benefit though, hiring an employee can double your income. For example, in a sushi house, a sushi chef can generally make 80 California rolls in an hour with around minimum wage. Let’s say that each California rolls profits the company $2. That employee alone is earning $160 for the company. After you deduct their salary, every hour, they are earning you around $150. Have a couple more employees, and a good business, and you’ll find yourself earning hundreds of dollars an hour. It’s definitely a good deal! That’s why you’ll find that many successful businesses do not only have the owner of the business working at it alone; there are a lot of employees to back the business up.

Last but not least, if you do not have a lot of time to work on your company, you should hire an employee. Let’s say you can only work 10 hours a week on your company, and you hire an employee who can work 10 hours a week as well. By hiring the employee, the company can potentially be twice as sufficient. It helps your company expand and succeed at a faster rate.

Hiring an employee is not easy business though. There is a lot of documentation that you have to go through. Since you’re young, not a lot of people will take you seriously as well, which makes it a lot harder.

Teenage Entrepreneurs: How to Spy on Your Competition

If you have a business running, you have competition. What is competition? Competition is any business around that carries similar products, and may get customers from you. No matter how you plan your business, you are bound to run into competition. Don’t be scared away from them! Your company can still shine despite of their existence. It is important to do some market research to learn what works best for your competition, their business strategies, and what they lack that you can offer.

Identify all potential competitors

No matter what business you have, you will definitely have potential customers lurking around. If you feel that no business sells the same sort of product as you, think of what other things will the buy in replacement for your product. Those are your competitors. It is important to recognize their weaknesses, and their strengths. Do they have a more convenient way of purchasing the products? Is it cheaper? Make a list of the different weaknesses and strengths, as you will have to be able to outdo them some way.


The competitor’s advertisement plans and strategies

Look around to how your competitors advertise their products. Do the  y hand out fliers at the mall or post posters around? Do they have TV ads or do they mail catalogs? What are their prices for their services and products? From observing these things, you should be able to identify what works and what doesn’t and the reason behind it. It’s a lot easier to work and find customers when you already know the market, and your customer’s needs.

Shop at your competitors

By shopping at your competitors, you can learn what products and services they offer, and the price range. You don’t want your products and services to be too expensive than what is on the market. Study them to see what works, and what sort of products are most popular with customers, and the reason behind it. You can talk to the storeowner and manager some questions that you might want to know. Although other business owners within your community may see you of a threat, and a competitor, talking to business owners from other places and community is ok. Most of the time, they’ll be happy to share with you some of their experience, and answer some questions.

Surf the web

Look around at the web, and surf your competitor’s website. With the technology nowadays, much information obtained is from the Internet. Use the most of it, and research on different business plans and strategies. Surf your competitors’ web sites, and see what the latest products, discounts, and news!

All business has competitors, it is important to know what to do with them, and how to be as up to date with them. Use them as a research tool, and your business will flourish.

Nine Ways Social Enterprise Develops Entrepreneurs

Social enterprise– investment in individuals and organizations committed to transforming institutions, communities, and society– often requires support at multiple levels and stages to ensure success. From funding to network building to evaluation of impact, here are nine ways the expanding field of social entrepreneurship continues to support and grow innovation.      

Building Foundations: Skoll Foundation invests in, connects, and celebrates social enterprise and innovators through a wide range of activities and channels for individuals and the broader community, including the annual Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship.        

Global Connections: Through living stipends, professional support networks, and access to a global network of peers, Ashoka supports individual social change leaders in over 60 countries at all phases of their professional careers with systemic change-level ideas for the world’s most pressing problems. Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship identifies the world’s leading social entrepreneurs across sectors and in partnership with leading institutions, including the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum.        

Fellow Ventures: Echoing Green offers competitive early-stage seed funding for visionary leaders with bold ideas for social change who are identified through a rigorous selection and screening process. The two-year fellowships provide emerging leaders and their organizations technical support and assistance, and network connections to engaged, passionate, and informed social entrepreneurs. Draper Richards Foundation annually supports a group of six social innovators in their efforts to launch new nonprofit ventures with potential to provide learnings for the field as well as solve existing social problems in an large-scale manner.        

Targeted Aims: Acumen Fund invests in international nonprofit and for-profit “bottom of the pyramid” social enterprises for the poor and underserved. C.E.O. Women creates economic opportunities while developing entrepreneurship skills for low-income immigrant and refugee women through intensive mentoring, coaching and access to capital needed to start a small business.        

Next Generation: New Profit supports a multi-year financial and strategic portfolio of social entrepreneurs working in education, workforce development, and youth-focused development among other areas. Sparkplug Foundation concentrates seed activity on one-time grants for new nonprofits and new ideas within existing nonprofits around music, education and teaching, and grassroots organizing.

Social Capitals: Calvert Foundation: Using the power of investment capital and industry due diligence to enable a portfolio of high impact sustainable and scalable social enterprises to address critical social needs. Good Capital increases the flow of capital to innovative ventures by creating market-based solutions to inequality and poverty through solid investments in for-profit and nonprofit social enterprises.

Transformative Connections: RSF Social Finance offers framework for investment in nonprofit and for-profit social ventures across food and agriculture, education and the arts, and ecological stewardship, to bring about systemic and personal change in the financial marketplace. Root Cause, a nonprofit entrepreneurship incubator, develops alternative frameworks for entrepreneurs, funders, researchers, and advocates to connect, grow and sustain social benefit ventures in the civic and community sphere.       

Advising Innovation: Social entrepreneurs and their supporters also benefit from a variety of other services that inform strategic growth and development. Nonprofit Finance Fund connects nonprofits and their funders with loans, lines of credit, asset building programs, and financial consulting and advisory services that map the impact of management decisions on their finances. SVT Group assists entrepreneurs and their funders with valuation and measurement of service and mission impact.        

Competitive Edge: Changemakers gives emerging entrepreneurs a collaborative community space and opportunities to submit ideas through friendly “challenges” that address the world’s most pressing social problems. The World Bank Development Marketplace identifies and funds innovative, early-stage social ventures with high potential for development impact. Ideablob lets eligible entrepreneurs and small business owners across the US share their business ideas daily for a chance to win monthly prize money– based on online community voting from other innovators.

By continuing to benefit from an increasing range of creative solutions meeting their needs, social entrepreneurs can continue to provide effective, innovative, sustainable approaches to the world’s challenges.