Boss Budgets: Money Tips for the Self-Employed
The biggest lie about being self-employed is this myth that you don’t actually have a boss. I hear it all the time from friends tired of having the 9-5 humdrum of the corporate sphere. “You’re so lucky no one cares when you get to the office! You’re so lucky you don’t have to worry about when you can or can’t take a vacation! You’re so lucky you don’t have to answer to anyone when you just want a day off!”
I’ve been almost exclusively self-employed since I was 19 years old, so when I hear these ideas, I just laugh and laugh and laugh. When I want a day off, or I plan a vacation, or wake up in the morning not feeling quite ready to jump up and get to work, I answer to one thing: my bank account.
Getting to the point as an entrepreneur where your bank account is no longer a source of anxiety is a milestone, but it’s not one that comes without a whole lot of effort. Being able to stay in control of every day expenditures is a big part of that, and the payoff is way more than dollars – it’s peace of mind!
1. Know Your Budget.
Get crystal clear on what your numbers are, for everything from commercial rents to paper clips. Determine your business expenses as well as your personal expenses, so that you always have an idea of where you should be falling with any given purchase or expense.
2. Multiple Free Bank Accounts.
There are plenty of financial institutions that have traded in the convenience of a local branch for online self-help options in exchange for no monthly service charges. While I do always maintain an account with a bank that has a branch where I can get to know my branch team and advisors (so important!), I take full advantage of the free no-frills systems too, and set up multiple bank accounts to keep my money organized.
– My larger home expenses come out of one account. (Mortgages, home insurance, property tax, etc.)
– My son’s expenses come out of another account. (Soccer, Muay Thai, etc.)
– Savings, trust, and investment accounts are set up for each individual member of my little family.
– A business chequing account serves all the needs of the business, big and small, with a buffer built in just in case.
– A personal chequing account for personal expenses, for myself and for my family, kept separate from my personal spending account.
– A personal spending account gets whatever’s left over, and when everything else gets taken care of first, I can swipe that bad boy with zero guilt!
3. Taxes Suck. Be Prepared.
An additional account that I make sure stays routinely topped up is a tax account. If you’re self-employed, taxes really suck. My benchmark is to leave about 30% of all my income in an account designated specifically for year end tax payments. This account is labeled on my phone as “Nacho Money”. Get it? Nacho money? Not yo’ money? I’m hilarious.
4. Manage The Flow.
Managing the flow of money as it comes in is going to be key, and you need to do it in a way that makes the most sense for you, your business, your industry, etc. This is my income flow:
– Income generally comes in to the business chequing account and is dispersed from there.
– Business expenses get paid first, usually pre-authorized like salaries – sometimes one-offs like flights and hotels.
– After that, I get paid bi-weekly. Yes, I pay myself, a standard, regular paycheque that I’ve set up to go into my personal chequing account for personal expenses. This account is set up for disbursements, including a disbursement to my home expense account and things like car payments and medical insurance. This usually ends up being about 70% of my paycheque.
– What’s left over becomes shoe money. I’m not sorry.
This might seem like a lot, but consider this: once it’s set up, it operates like a well-oiled machine. Your only job at that point is to keep pumping profit into that primary account, and watch as your entire life falls perfectly into place! (Lol, that’s a lie too.)