Managing your monthly bills can become more of a challenge if your income has changed significantly in the recent recession. Items that you once did not give a second thought to paying, (Premium cable channels anyone?) are now on the chopping block to make room for the truly necessary utilities. It's hard to look at your budget and your lifestyle to figure out where excess ends and frugality begins. The other difficult part is coming to terms with loosing the real estate "Flare" that we all have come to know and love. I'm a techie so I enjoy my electronic forms, cool website tools, upgraded tours etc., but the reality of it is, what is my true return of investment on all of these extras? Looking at my stats, I have found more success in real estate my first few years than some veterans have had of late, BUT at what cost??
I have read numerous books, and other blogs about saving money and changing your financial future for the better, and the common theme amongst them all: Life will continue on with out your morning commuter coffee! First, we all really need to shake of the "recession funk". Yes things are slow, money is tight, and real estate deals are more difficult to close. I also feel that with my clients, we are taking a harder look at their current income an expenses, before I show them homes. I know how quickly a mortgage can be derailed if money is already tight. Those two points being made, here are my thoughts about things that we can do create a little wiggle room in our personal and business budgets.
1.) 5,7,9: Those are the three channels I get for FREE with my digital converter box. Now sometimes the channels are a little fuzzy, but the audio is just fine.
2.) Dropping Internet service: WHAT??? How can you do business!! I have the data plan on my smart phone, so I can get online for email, home searches etc. Why pay twice? Besides when your are home you need to spend time with your family, not more time with your computer.
3.) Buying fast food at the grocery store: All the things that you love to stop and get on your way to work, are usually in some shape or form at the store. You do not have to deny yourself a good cup of coffee if you really enjoy it, BUT it is much cheaper if you make it yourself in the morning, while you nuke a frozen breakfast sandwich. Save gas and money and try to recreate the things your love to stop for at home. Plan ahead and get a decent insulated lunch box that you will enjoy using.
4.) Coupons, Coupons, and more Coupons! Yes they are a pain, but you really can save money if you combine them together and your store card benefits. Just the other day between coupons and store incentives I had $12.00 of free products in my cart from my favorite local drug store. Also buy food at the grocery store, cleaning and paper products at the dollar store, and beauty products at the drug store. I know that its great to throw everything in the cart at once, but you will be SURPRISED how much you save but stocking up by category.
5.)Dark and Cold: Cut down on your energy bills by using natural light, and washing everything in cold water. Now that its spring I have put up a clothes line to save more energy and wear and tear on my dryer.
6.) Thrift Store: Not only will you supporting a good cause, but you can find great deals on wardrobe basics at the good will or salvation army.
1.) Back to basics: Make sure that you evaluate every extra business expense that you have and what return it offers you. If you are using it just because it is "fun" or "easy" then cut it out and save your cash.
2.) Trustworthy Vendors: Time is money. Your team of home inspectors, handymen, lawn care crews, pest inspectors need to be efficient and affordable. Don't be afraid to compare prices and don't settle for slow or under par service. Deals can fall apart in an instant and you need to have a qualified support team to help avoid sudden pitfalls.
3.) Quality Equipment: I love new gadgets more than the next person, but you need to look at the full picture of the maintenance and cost of accessories for that new tool. Research everything BEFORE you purchase and remember that paying a little more up front for a well reviewed product may save you from going to cheap and not getting the results you are looking for.
4.) Continuing Education: Often it is more expensive to go sit in a class room, than to take the courses online. Compare costs and different sites, you may be surprised of how much money you can save to get the same certificate.
5.) Get a great accountant: Know what you can write off and what you cannot write off and make sure that your records are accurate. Two things in life are certain: Death and Taxes ( or so I've been told) So make sure you have someone you trust when it comes time to stroke Mr. Obama a check.
These tips are mostly common sense, but I hope that other REALTORS and even those just looking for budget tips on the web find them to be helpful in shaking off their own budget woes. I already think things are starting to turn around, and I hope that this market has taught us all the important financial lessons we will ever care to learn! Good luck!