Starting a Business With a Friend: 4 Things to Consider

The ultimate question: Could you and your friend make the perfect business duo? The answer may be more complicated than you think. You love spending time with your friend and the idea of becoming entrepreneurs together. Why not fulfill your dreams with each other? Companies like Airbnb and Ben & Jerry’s had success in this area — they all started from friendships.

But much more goes into starting a business with a friend. You may make great business partners, or you could wish you had taken your venture solo. Before making any financial decisions, analyze the pros and cons and ask hard questions. For example, will you equally invest? Who will take on which tasks and responsibilities? Sift through the easy and hard questions to see where your business friendship lies.

To help you and your friend make a confident and informed decision, skip to our flowchart or keep reading.

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Questions to Ask Before Going Into Business With a Friend

Before jumping into your business plan, ask the hard questions. These can be tough to ask and answer, but they could save your friendship from a business relationship gone sour.

Question 1: Do You Share the Same Values?

Depending on your life stage and goals, your values could differ greatly from those of your potential business partner. You may appreciate living a relaxed lifestyle that gives you the financial freedom to do what you love, while others may value a fast-paced lifestyle filled with activities and long workdays. Differences in values could spark tension in your business relationship.

Ask yourself: Do you and your potential business friend have the same values? If so, great! If not, note your differences and if they’re worth working through.

Question 2: Do You Share the Same Business Goal?

To make sure you’re on the same page, schedule a brainstorming session with your friend. Map out your one-month, six-month, one-year, and five-year goals for your startup. Is your goal to make a certain amount of revenue? To hire a certain number of full-time employees? Or to take your business idea global?

If you have the same intentions, move on to question three. If any of your goals contrast, there may be trouble in paradise. See if you can work through your differences before investing your time and money.

Question 3: Do Your Skills Complement Each Other?

You and your friend each have your own strengths For example, you may be good at time management while your friend is better at sales. For skills you’re both lacking, think about how you’ll fill in the gaps. If you and your friend’s startup plan has a budget for hiring freelancers, or one of you has the dedication to learn something new, this may not be a concern. No matter what, especially if you’re bootstrapping your business idea, it’s essential to talk through it.

If you don’t compliment each other’s needed skills, who will step up and learn them?

Question 4: Do Your Career and Lifestyle Habits Align?

Depending on your business goals, this could be a make or break question for a professional partnership. For instance, one friend may be a morning person while the other’s a night owl. One can take over morning meetings and emails while the other’s responsible for evening website development and customer service.

If one friend’s lifestyle habits don’t suit the other, it may be best to opt for other business opportunities. While starting a business could adjust your habits, it’s easy to fall back into old ones from time to time.

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The Pros and Cons of Doing Business With Friends

Before entering any business arrangement, it’s reassuring to weigh the pros and cons. Could your new business idea benefit or hinder your future relationship and career?

Pros: You Have a Friend Through the Ups and Downs

Starting a business with a friend is similar to marriage — you’re there for each other through the good and bad. Whenever you’re having trouble, you know who you can go to for help. And you’ll be able to do most tasks together. For example, approaching investors as a team vs. going solo could put your nerves at ease.

Cons: You Know the Same People

Instead of getting together for your weekly catch-ups, you could spend all day together! While this can be exciting, it can also be hard to leave work at work. When you both hang out with the same people, there may be little room to disconnect from each other and your business.

Pros: You Understand Each Other’s Strengths and Weaknesses

You likely already know how each other operates and your strengths and weaknesses. Instead of learning the way a new business partner functions, you already have the upper hand. On day one, you and your partner could delegate tasks that fit everyone’s strengths best.

Cons: Your Friendship Could Turn Strictly Business

Your current friendship can be hard to separate from your new work partnership. Taking your work too seriously could stiffen your current relationship. Even after your work’s done, “friend” time may slow down. To have the best of both worlds, over-communicate throughout your entrepreneurial adventures.

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Pros: You Feel Comfortable Communicating

You may have been friends for months, years, or even decades. Having a strong friendship foundation helps bolster your communication in the workplace. Plus, you most likely know how your friend may react to a situation gone wrong. Take note of your friends’ communication habits and foster them throughout your business relationship.

Cons: It’s Easy to Let Emotions Get the Best of You

Be careful not to let your emotions dictate your business decisions. A situation could happen in your friend group that makes its way into the office. To avoid any personal matters in the workplace, come to an agreement — no drama. If situations arise, take some time off to clear your mind, rest, and come back more motivated and inspired.

Pros: You Get to Spend More Time With Each Other

You get to spend countless hours talking and doing business activities together. You could spend all day tackling business tasks and wrap up the workday chit-chatting about your lives. It’s an amazing opportunity to spend more time with your friend without letting other responsibilities slip through the cracks.

Cons: Friendship Failure Could End in Financial and Business Failure

When tension builds in the workplace, it could damage your business outcomes. Not wanting to attend a meeting with your partner could halt business productivity, or worse, end it. To avoid losing profits on your friendship and investments, you should both outline an exit plan if things go wrong.

Tips for Starting a Business With Your Friend

Before toasting to your other half and investing in your passions, properly prepare yourself. Show up to your new business like you would a new job. Have your plan documented before building your business empire.

1. Nit-Pick Your Business Plan

Small issues could grow months or years after starting your business. To avoid future problems, talk through small and large inconsistencies with your partner. Having different lifestyle habits may not be an issue now, but could be difficult after a year of working together.

2. Communicate Often

About one third of projects lack proper communication. Avoid project or business failure by finding a communication method that works for you and your partner. Daily catch-up meetings or weekly email updates are a few examples. Make it enjoyable by sipping your favorite coffee or eating your lunch while playing catch up.

3. Establish and Honor Boundaries

Eliminate tension in the workplace by setting a rubric for working hours. Avoid talking about personal matters until you step away from your work tasks. If you and your partner need to establish additional boundaries, clearly outline them as they come up.

4. Make it Official With Contracts

Once you’ve worked through any complications, put it all in writing. If things were to go wrong, documents and written statements can be referenced in court. To do this, contact a lawyer and draft up a business plan. Any business promises you make should be in writing for any miscommunications. Compensation rates, profit shares, investment contributions, and business accounts are a few things that should be listed on this document.

Before investing your time, energy, or money into your startup dreams, make sure you’re fully prepared. Could you and your friend be great business partners? Take our quiz below to find out. Don’t forget to keep track of your budget and investments throughout the startup process.

Starting a Business With a Friend: 4 Things to Consider appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

22 Last-Minute Valentine’s Day Gifts for 2021

When your valentine wants a little extra love, all he or she has to do is take a strip out of the jar and read one of your messages.
If you can’t afford a bouquet of roses, see if your local flower shop is selling single roses. A single red rose often says more than a whole dozen.
Remember mixtapes? Bring that sentiment to the 21st century by making your special someone a Spotify playlist. You don’t even need Spotify Premium; just get the free version of Spotify for your desktop, build the perfect list and share it with your valentine.

22 Last-Minute Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas Under $5

Don’t want to give away your only copy of your favorite read? Find it in a used bookstore. You can often get used books for under , and they make excellent presents.

1. Playlist

If you read the Modern Love column in The New York Times, you might have seen the piece about The 36 Questions That Lead to Love.

2. Lloyd Dobler Serenade

Still scrambling for that perfect Valentine’s Day gift?
We’ve already got you covered with at-home date ideas — for whether you are together in-person or far apart. Here are 50 last-minute gifts that all cost less than .
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Even the most humble of grocery store bouquets can become beautiful with a little help. Take the flowers out of the plastic, trim them and put them into a vase. Or, if you don’t have a vase on hand, get a glass jar out of the recycling bin, rinse it out and put the flowers in.

3. Bulk Candy

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
If you’re giving bulk candy, presentation matters. Put it in an attractive bag or box, tie it up with a ribbon and make your gift as special as the recipient.

4. Handmade Card

Write your valentine a love poem. It worked for Shakespeare, and it could work for you. Choose one of the classic poetry formats, such as the sonnet or the villanelle, or create your own.
Nothing says “I’m in this for the long term” like “This was my old stuffed bear, and I hope you’ll love it as much as I do.”

5. Art

Take the iconic image of Say Anything’s Lloyd Dobler holding a boombox over his head as you model and get ready to tell your valentine that “In your eyes… I am complete.”
Nicole Dieker is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

6. Poem

Keep this pattern going until the notebook is full. A shared journal is a lovely way to write about hopes, dreams and plans for the future.

An elderly couple show affection to one another as the husband serenades his wife.

7. Song

Take your poem one step further by setting it to music. How many people get a song written just for them? Perform it for your special someone on Valentine’s Day, and you’ll learn that the best gifts don’t have to cost a thing.

8. Band Performance

Take an old T-shirt and turn it into a pillow. This Instructables guide will help you get started. You’ll need to get something to stuff the pillow with, which you can generally get at a craft store or even Target or Walmart for under .

9. Request a Song

Your cost investment depends on how many art supplies you currently have around, but a hobby store often sells affordable individual sheets of art paper. Even an ink drawing on a piece of good paper can look beautiful.

10. Old Shirt Turned into a Pillow

Find an excuse for your special someone to be out of the house or apartment on Valentine’s Day morning and then scrub, wash, sweep and fold. Top it off with a few flowers in a vase or a plate of homemade cookies on the table.

11. Old Stuffed Animal

Source: thepennyhoarder.com
Want a gift that your valentine will really love? Try a perfectly cleaned home.

12. Book 

All you’ll need for this one is a jar and a few pieces of paper. Tear or cut the paper into strips and write something special on each strip. Then, fold the strips in half and put them into the jar.
Sometimes the simplest gifts are the best. If your local radio station takes requests, request your special song. Text your valentine when it’s time for your song to play, or listen to it together.
Get an inexpensive notebook, write a journal entry and give it to your Valentine with the instructions to read what’s inside, write a new journal entry and give the notebook back.

A woman decorates heart shaped cookies for Valentine's Day.

13. Homemade Cookies

While everyone else is getting expensive bouquets delivered to their valentines, why not give your date a plate of delicious homemade cookies? You can also take these cookies with you for a picnicking or stargazing adventure.

14. Love Thoughts in a Jar

Get some massage oil, put some towels over freshly washed sheets and give your special someone the massage he or she has always wanted. Look for resources online, like these massage tips from Canyon Ranch resort, that will show you how to give a safe, proper massage.
Spend an evening asking your valentine those questions — and answering them yourself — and it becomes an evening you’re unlikely to forget.

15. Book of Memories

Use an actual boombox if you can get your hands on one, or pull out your iPhone and crank up the volume.

16. Coupon Book

Wondering how you’re going to get your special someone something truly special — without spending a lot of money in the process?
If your special someone owns a Kindle, a Nook or another e-reader, there are gobs of books available for under . Look for the 99-cent listings so you can give multiple books and make your gift look extra-special. You can also look for deals from Bookbub.

17. Massage Night

Giving the gift of an old stuffed animal shows your special someone that you love and trust them enough to share one of your most treasured possessions.

18. Shared Journal

Why not make this Valentine’s Day the start of a Wednesday letter tradition of your own? Give the gift of a love letter, and tell your valentine that it is the first of many to come.
These questions, which include “What would constitute a ‘perfect’ day for you?” and “When did you last cry in front of another person?” are designed to build intimacy and bring people closer together.

19. Love Letters

Does your valentine like picking the movie you watch together? Does your valentine like not having to do the dishes? Choosing the right coupons is what makes this gift special.
Have you read the book “The Wednesday Letters”? It’s the story of a man who writes his wife a new love letter each Wednesday.

20. Clean All The Things

Anyone can go to the grocery store and get a 99-cent card with a pre-printed message. Only you can make a one-of-a-kind card with your own heartfelt statement of love.
Even if you’ve only got in your pocket, you can still make this Valentine’s Day memorable.

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21. The 36 Questions

The coupon book is another classic gift that has almost become cliché. The secret to making it work is to put together coupons that your valentine actually wants.
Have a favorite book that you think your valentine will also love? Take it off your bookshelf, write an inscription and turn it into a gift. It’s just as intimate as giving a stuffed animal, and you can talk about the book together afterwards.
A handmade card can often be one of the best and most treasured Valentine’s Day presents.

22. One Rose or Grocery Store Flowers

Maybe your special someone likes jelly beans or chocolate-covered almonds. The bulk candy aisle offers plenty of choices for putting together a gift that tastes better — and is much more personalized — than a cheap box of waxy Valentine’s candy.
Do you have painting or sketching skills? Make your special someone a piece of original art. It’s hard to go wrong with a flattering portrait or a sketch of the place where the two of you shared your first kiss.
This one works best if your Valentine is a fan of classic ’80s movies.
Buy an inexpensive sketchbook or notebook. Then, fill each page with a memory — the place you first met, the first time you held hands, the concert the two of you attended last spring. Draw, write, glue in ticket stubs — do whatever you want to make this book a true book of memories. Chances are it will be an unforgettable gift.
Got a friend who can play bass and a buddy who knows the drums? Teach them the song you just wrote, or ask if they’ll be willing to help you cover a song that has a special meaning for you and your valentine. Then give your valentine a never-to-be-forgotten concert.

Here Are 6 Easy, Healthy and Cheap Breakfast Ideas

We’ve all heard that breakfast is the Most Important Meal. But when it’s 7 a.m., you’ve got hungry kids who need to be fed and out the door and your brain simply can’t deal with constructing another meal — you might easily resort to the usual: cereal & milk or frozen waffles. And by “you,” I mean, “I.”

So I turned to nutritionists who offered healthy, cheap breakfast ideas for everyone who is too frazzled to create their own (me!).

Cheap Breakfast Ideas and Advice, from Nutritionists

Here’s what the experts told us.

Why is breakfast important? 

“You’re literally breaking a fast and restoring your body with all the nutrients and energy it needs to take on the day,” says Rachel Naar, a registered dietician in New York.

What should you always include in your morning meal?

Aim to get whole foods and whole grains, Naar says. Plus, you should get a carbohydrate and a protein: You are the most insulin-resistant in the morning, so protein helps with blood sugar stabilization/ glycemic control, she says.

What ingredients should you always have at home for a budget-friendly breakfast?

Old fashioned rolled oats, eggs, milk, plain yogurt, frozen fruit, frozen spinach, nut butter and toast, says Rebecca Clyde, a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Salt Lake City.

“I love these ingredients because I can make yogurt bowls, overnight oats, smoothies and eggs, all of which are quick and portable.”

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Six Simple Breakfast Recipes

Some of these can be made ahead.

Overnight oats

By Rebecca Clyde

½ cup of dry Old Fashioned Oats oats

½ cup milk (any type)

½ cup of Greek yogurt

Optional: ½ sliced banana, 1 tsp peanut butter powder and chia seeds, ½ cup frozen berries

Directions: The night before (or a few days before), put the fruit and oats into a mason jar. Pour the milk over it. Seal. Put it into the refrigerator. Make this up to four days before eating. Eat cold, or warm it up in the microwave.

Whole grain toast with nut butter, topped with fruit or honey and cinnamon

By Rachel Naar

Whole grain toast

Nut butter

Any fruit

Honey or cinnamon

Directions Self-explanatory

Smoothie

By Monica Ruiz-Noriega, of Vigeo Nutrition

1 cup of frozen berries

Handful of fresh or frozen spinach

¼ of a banana

½ avocado

Scoop of protein powder

1 cup plain yogurt or liquid of choice

Directions Blend everything together. Make the night before if desired.

Oatmeal muffins

By Melissa Schuster, registered dietitian nutritionist based in New York

3 ripe bananas

2 cups oats

1 egg

¼ cup milk of choice

½ tbsp baking powder

½ tbsp cinnamon

1 cup blueberries

½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1 tbsp chia seeds (optional)

Directions Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mash the bananas in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Line muffin tins with liners or oil spray. Bake for 20 minutes. Enjoy with melted peanut butter or tahini, or top with Greek yogurt.

Egg vegetable quiche cups

By Melissa Schuster

1 bag of frozen pepper

1 bag of frozen spinach

12 eggs

Directions Defrost the spinach and peppers. Whisk the eggs, and mix them with the vegetables. Ladle everything into muffin tins and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until cooked through. These can be cooked ahead of time.

Yogurt with mix-ins

By Len Lopez, nutritionist and chiropractic sports physician

12 oz whole plain yogurt

Optional: hemp seeds, pecans, dark chocolate chips, cinnamon, raw honey and milk.

Directions Mix yogurt with your choice of toppings. Prepare ahead if desired.

Danielle Braff is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

The 15 Hottest Categories for Freelance Jobs in 2021

This story originally appeared on FlexJobs. Though the economy has shed millions of jobs during the pandemic, the one silver lining is that freelancing is on the rise. Recent data shows that 36% of workers report freelancing full-time in 2020, up 8% (or 2 million people) over 2019. And, the income of freelancers has also increased to a total of $1.2 trillion in 2020 (a 22% increase from 2019).

Source: moneytalksnews.com

9 Surprising Windex Uses (Aside From Cleaning Glass)

Vinegar isn’t the only super performer in your kitchen.

Windex — that simple $3 spray you keep under your sink — can be used to clean the interior of your car, to detail jewelry and even to unstick zippers.

Your store shelves probably carry several varieties of Windex, so if you’re cleaning fabric, stick with the clear version, and if you’re using it for a car, use the Windex Ammonia-free Glass Cleaner.

Aside from those suggestions, any of the Windex variations will do the job.

Here are 9 surprisingly effective uses for that familiar blue (or sometimes clear) bottle.

1. Moving Large Pieces of Furniture

Los Angeles-based interior designer John Linden uses Windex to slide large items that are stuck or too heavy to move.

“All we need to do is to spritz some in front of the objects we want to move before pushing the item,” Linden says. He’s then able to easily move that piece of furniture to its place.

As long as you use the ammonia-free version of Windex, you can use it on any type of flooring, including hardwood.

2. Cleaning Carpets and Upholstered Furniture

You thought Windex only worked on glass? Linden says he’ll often spray Windex onto small stains, leaving it for 20 minutes to soak. Then he wipes right off the furniture.

Make sure to use the clear formula for this, as the blue formula may leave its own stains.

3. Insect Repellant

The smell of ammonia is strongly disliked by many insects, says Andrew Barker, founder of Homeowner Costs. As a result, Barker suggests spraying Windex by open windows and doors to keep bugs at bay.

4. Clean Your Car

Windex is also a great cleanser for cars, says Deidre Fisher, owner of Simply Bliss Cleaning in Salt Lake City, Utah. Use it on window and mirror smudges, on dashboards, the steering wheel and any plastic and leather surface.

It’s also great for cleaning the screens and dials. “I just recommend spraying the cloth first and not the electronics directly,” Fisher says.

5. Washing Makeup Brushes

Makeup artist and lifestyle blogger Kerrin Jackson has been using Windex to clean her brushes and airbrush parts for more than a decade.

“They make light work of breaking down the alcohol-based makeups and heavy-duty body makeup products that can sometimes be stubborn and difficult to clean from the inner workings of the airbrush parts,” Jackson says.

6. De-greasing Your Kitchen

Use Windex on your exhaust fans and range hoods in your kitchen, suggests Diana Rodriguez-Zaba, president of ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba, a cleaning company in Chicago.

Rodriguez-Zaba suggests spraying Windex on the surfaces and letting it stand for 5-10 minutes, then wiping it clean and rinsing with water to remove any remaining chemical residue.

7. Cleaning Your TV Screen

Got a dusty TV? Dust is usually very prevalent on televisions because everyone is scared to clean them. But spray some Windex on a soft cloth and you’re good to go, says Abe Navas, general manager of Emily’s Maids, a house cleaning service in Dallas.

8. Removing Stains From Clothing

It works well for red wine, tomato sauce, ketchup and more, says Jen Stark, founder of Happy DIY Home, a gardening and home improvement blog.

“You can lightly spray the stain with Windex and let it sit for 15 minutes, as long as the clothing item isn’t a delicate silk,” Stark said. “Get a clean cloth and blot at the stain before rinsing it in cold water.”

Follow this by washing the clothing as recommended. Make sure you use clear Windex for this task.

9. Cleaning Patio Furniture and Outdoor Surfaces

Benjamin Nguyen, owner of Full Color Cleaners, says he uses Windex to clean his patio furniture, making it look as good as new. It will clean everything from the furniture to outdoor surfaces, including brick.

For this task, go the extra mile and snag the Windex Outdoor Concentrated Cleaner, which is a 32 oz. spray bottle that attaches onto a hose ($27.66). Spray onto your aluminum siding, your brick, your windows — and with this tool, you won’t even need a ladder to do it.

Danielle Braff is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Everything You Need to Know About Budgeting As a Freelancer

Could logging in to your computer from a deluxe treehouse off the coast of Belize be the future of work? Maybe. For many, the word freelance means flexibility, meaningful tasks and better work-life balance. Who doesn’t want to create their own hours, love what they do and work from wherever they want? Freelancing can provide all of that—but that freedom can vanish quickly if you don’t handle your expenses correctly.

“A lot of the time, you don’t know about these expenses until you are in the trenches,” says freelance copywriter Alyssa Goulet, “and that can wreak havoc on your financial situation.”

Nearly 57 million people in the U.S. freelanced, or were self-employed, in 2019, according to Upwork, a global freelancing platform. Freelancing is also increasingly becoming a long-term career choice, with the percentage of freelancers who freelance full-time increasing from 17 percent in 2014 to 28 percent in 2019, according to Upwork. But for all its virtues, the cost of being freelance can carry some serious sticker shock.

“There are many hats you have to wear and expenses you have to take on, but for that you’re gaining a lot of opportunity and flexibility in your life.”

– Alyssa Goulet, freelance copywriter

Most people who freelance for the first time don’t realize that everything—from taxes to office supplies to setting up retirement plans—is on them. So, before you can sustain yourself through self-employment, you need to answer a very important question: “Are you financially ready to freelance?”

What you’ll find is that budgeting as a freelancer can be entirely manageable if you plan for the following key costs. Let’s start with one of the most perplexing—taxes:

1. Taxes: New rules when working on your own

First things first: Don’t try to be a hero. When determining how to budget as a freelancer and how to manage your taxes as a freelancer, you’ll want to consult with a financial adviser or tax professional for guidance. A tax expert can help you figure out what makes sense for your personal and business situation.

For instance, just like a regular employee, you will owe federal income taxes, as well as Social Security and Medicare taxes. When you’re employed at a regular job, you and your employer each pay half of these taxes from your income, according to the IRS. But when you’re self-employed (earning more than $400 a year in net income), you’re expected to file and pay these expenses yourself, the IRS says. And if you think you will owe more than $1,000 in taxes for a given year, you may need to file estimated quarterly taxes, the IRS also says.

That can feel like a heavy hit when you’re not used to planning for these costs. “If you’ve been on a salary, you don’t think about taxes really. You think about the take-home pay. With freelance, everything is take-home pay,” says Susan Lee, CFP®, tax preparer and founder of FreelanceTaxation.com.

When learning how to budget as a freelancer it’s necessary to estimate your income and expenses before setting aside savings for tax payments.

When you’re starting to budget as a freelancer and determining how often you will need to file, Lee recommends doing a “dummy return,” which is an estimation of your self-employment income and expenses for the year. You can come up with this number by looking at past assignments, industry standards and future projections for your work, which freelancer Goulet finds valuable.

“Since I don’t have a salary or a fixed number of hours worked per month, I determine the tax bracket I’m most likely to fall into by taking my projected monthly income and multiplying it by 12,” Goulet says. “If I experience a big income jump because of a new contract, I redo that calculation.”

After you estimate your income, learning how to budget as a freelancer means working to determine how much to set aside for your tax payments. Lee, for example, recommends saving about 25 percent of your income for paying your income tax and self-employment tax (which funds your Medicare and Social Security). But once you subtract your business expenses from your freelance income, you may not have to pay that entire amount, according to Lee. Deductible expenses can include the mileage you use to get from one appointment to another, office supplies and maintenance and fees for a coworking space, according to Lee. The income left over will be your taxable income.

Pro Tip:

To set aside the taxes you will need to pay, adjust your estimates often and always round up. “Let’s say in one month a freelancer determines she would owe $1,400 in tax. I’d put away $1,500,” Goulet says.

2. Business expenses: Get a handle on two big areas

The truth is, the cost of being freelance varies from person to person. Some freelancers are happy to work from their kitchen tables, while others need a dedicated workspace. Your freelance costs also change as you add new tools to your business arsenal. Here are two categories you’ll always need to account for when budgeting as a freelancer:

Your workspace

Joining a coworking space gets you out of the house and allows you to establish the camaraderie you may miss when you work alone. When you’re calculating the cost of being freelance, note that coworking spaces may charge membership dues ranging from $20 for a day pass to hundreds of dollars a month for a dedicated desk or private office. While coworking spaces are all the rage, you can still rent a traditional office for several hundred dollars a month or more, but this fee usually doesn’t include community aspects or other membership perks.

If you want to avoid office rent or dues as costs of being freelance but don’t want the kitchen table to pull double-duty as your workspace, you might convert another room in your home into an office. But you’ll still need to outfit the space with all of your work essentials. Freelance copywriter and content strategist Amy Hardison retrofitted part of her house into a simple office. “I got a standing desk, a keyboard, one of those adjustable stands for my computer and a squishy mat to stand on so my feet don’t hurt,” Hardison says.

Pro Tip:

Start with the absolute necessities. When Hardison first launched her freelance career, she purchased a laptop for $299. She worked out of a coworking space and used its office supplies before creating her own workspace at home.

Digital tools

There are a range of digital tools, including business and accounting software, that can help with the majority of your business functions. A big benefit is the time they can save you that is better spent marketing to clients or producing great work.

The software can also help you avoid financial lapses as you’re managing the costs of being freelance. Hardison’s freelance business had ramped up to a point where a manual process was costing her money, so using an invoicing software became a no-brainer. “I was sending people attached document invoices for a while and keeping track of them in a spreadsheet,” Hardison says. “And then I lost a few of them and I just thought, ‘Oh, my God, I can’t be losing things. This is my income!’”

As you manage the cost of being freelance, consider digital tools and accounting services to keep track of invoices, payments and income.

Digital business and software tools can help manage scheduling, web hosting, accounting, audio/video conference and other functions. When you’re determining how to budget as a freelancer, note that the costs for these services depend largely on your needs. For instance, several invoicing platforms offer options for as low as $9 per month, though the cost increases the more clients you add to your account. Accounting services also scale up based on the features you want and how many clients you’re tracking, but you can find reputable platforms for as little as $5 a month.

Pro Tip:

When you sign up for a service, start with the “freemium” version, in which the first tier of service is always free, Hardison says. Once you have enough clients to warrant the expense, upgrade to the paid level with the lowest cost. Gradually adding services will keep your expenses proportionate to your income.

3. Health insurance: Harnessing an inevitable cost

Budgeting for healthcare costs can be one of the biggest hurdles to self-employment and successfully learning how to budget as a freelancer. In the first half of the 2020 open enrollment period, the average monthly premium under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for those who do not receive federal subsidies—or a reduced premium based on income—was $456 for individuals and $1,134 for families, according to eHealth, a private online marketplace for health insurance.

“Buying insurance is really protecting against that catastrophic event that is not likely to happen. But if it does, it could throw everything else in your plan into a complete tailspin,” says Stephen Gunter, CFP®, at Bridgeworth Financial.

Budgeting as a freelancer allows you to select a healthcare plan that best suits your employment status, income and relationship status.

A good place to start when budgeting as a freelancer is knowing what healthcare costs you should budget for. Your premium—which is how much you pay each month to have your insurance—is a key cost. Note that the plans with the lowest premiums aren’t always the most affordable. For instance, if you choose a high-deductible policy you may pay less in premiums, but if you have a claim, you may pay more at the time you or your covered family member’s health situation arises.

When you are budgeting as a freelancer, the ACA healthcare marketplace is one place to look for a plan. Here are a few other options:

  • Spouse or domestic partner’s plan: If your spouse or domestic partner has health insurance through his/her employer, you may be able to get coverage under their plan.
  • COBRA: If you recently left your full-time job for self-employment, you may be able to convert your employer’s group plan into an individual COBRA plan. Note that this type of plan comes with a high expense and coverage limit of 18 months.
  • Organizations for freelancers: Search online for organizations that promote the interests of independent workers. Depending on your specific situation, you may find options for health insurance plans that fit your needs.

Pro Tip:

Speak with an insurance adviser who can help you figure out which plans are best for your health needs and your budget. An adviser may be willing to do a free consultation, allowing you to gather important information before making a financial commitment.

4. Retirement savings: Learn to “set it and forget it”

Part of learning how to budget as a freelancer is thinking long term, which includes saving for retirement. That may seem daunting when you’re wrangling new business expenses, but Gunter says saving for the future is a big part of budgeting as a freelancer.

“It’s kind of the miracle of compound interest. The sooner we can get it invested, the sooner we can get it saving,” Gunter says.

He suggests going into autopilot and setting aside whatever you would have contributed to an employer’s 401(k) plan. One way to do this might be setting up an automatic transfer to your savings or retirement account. “So, if you would have put in 3 percent [of your income] each month, commit to saving that 3 percent on your own,” Gunter says. The Discover IRA Certificate of Deposit (IRA CD) could be a good fit for helping you enjoy guaranteed returns in retirement by contributing after-tax (Roth IRA CD) or pre-tax (traditional IRA CD) dollars from your income now.

Pro Tip:

Prioritize retirement savings every month, not just when you feel flush. “Saying, ‘I’ll save whatever is left over’ isn’t a savings plan, because whatever is left over at the end of the month is usually zero,” Gunter says.

5. Continually update your rates

One of the best things you can do for yourself in learning how to budget as a freelancer is build your costs into what you charge. “As I’ve discovered more business expenses, I definitely take those into account as I’m determining what my rates are,” Goulet says. She notes that freelancers sometimes feel guilty for building business costs into their rates, especially when they’re worried about the fees they charge to begin with. But working the costs of being freelance into your rates is essential to building a thriving freelance career. You should annually evaluate the rates you charge.

Because your expenses will change over time, it’s wise to do quarterly and yearly check-ins to assess your income and costs and see if there are processes you can automate to save time and money.

“A lot of the time, you don’t know about these expenses until you are in the trenches, and that can wreak havoc on your financial situation.”

– Alyssa Goulet, freelance copywriter

Have confidence in your freelance career

Accounting for the various costs of being freelance makes for a more successful and sustainable freelance career. It also helps ensure that those who are self-employed achieve financial stability in their personal lives and their businesses.

“There are many hats you have to wear and expenses you have to take on,” Goulet says. “But for that, you’re gaining a lot of opportunity and flexibility in your life.”

The post Everything You Need to Know About Budgeting As a Freelancer appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

Self-Employed and Applying for a Mortgage? Here’s What’s Changed Since COVID-19

Woman looking at computer valentinrussanov/Getty Images

The gig economy has blown up in the past few years, with more and more people choosing to work as freelancers, either by starting their own businesses, or by picking up nonsalaried jobs from bigger companies.

According to the Freelancers Union, over 50 million Americans worked this year as freelancers, a number that represents roughly 35% of the country’s workforce.

While freelancing undoubtedly has its perks, helping you get a mortgage is not one of them.

Since COVID-19 started tearing through the country in March, we’ve heard reports of freelancers having an even harder time getting approved for mortgages. Here’s the latest on what to expect when applying for mortgage as a freelancer in the post-coronavirus era.

Getting a mortgage as a freelancer (pre-coronavirus)

Before diving into what’s changed for freelancers applying for mortgages in the COVID-19 era, let’s back up to what it was like before the pandemic.

According to Todd Huettner of Huettner Capital, the two most important things self-employed borrowers (which includes freelancers, independent contractors, business owners, and sole proprietors) historically needed for mortgage applications were: two years of tax returns, and proof their business was in operation.

“Depending on timing, if you were more than six months into the following year, you may have also needed an unaudited profit-and-loss statement for the business,” says Huettner.

That’s exactly what it sounds like: a financial statement that records all the losses and gains of a business over a period of time.

Besides tax returns and proof that your business was up and running, lenders also had basic requirements for any borrower (self-employed or otherwise), which included things like a minimum credit score and maximum debt-to-income ratio.

“Most people don’t realize this and think there are totally different rules,” says Huettner. “But the main difference is that as a freelancer, you just had to document the income.”

What’s changed

The main thing that’s changed for freelancers applying for a mortgage is that the need for documentation has increased—by a lot.

Because of the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic, lenders are being extra careful when it comes to determining who actually qualifies for these mortgages, and whether they can realistically repay them.

“In the past, we could simply use the prior year’s tax returns,” says Todd Wells of Sinberg Capital Lending.

“There’s more documentation required post-COVID for self-employed borrowers. Now, we need a year-to-date profit and loss statement, as well as business bank statements to support the profit and loss statement.”

In other words, lenders need a lot more proof that you’re in a good position to take on that mortgage, and providing that proof could be a major pain, to say the least.

How to increase your chances of getting approved

Beyond doing all the usual things to increase your chances of getting approved (like boosting your credit score and improving your debt-to-income ratio), freelancers should also be prepared to jump through a few extra administrative hoops to that prove their income really is what they say it is.

This will include things like getting those profit and loss (also called P&L) statements ready, and possibly even pulling some bank statements to back them up. And while some lenders might allow you to get by with just an audited P&L statement, that may not be any easier.

“Most people don’t have a clue about the time and cost of obtaining an audited financial statement,” says Huettner.

“Most CPAs don’t provide this service—it’s a very specific process with a lot of requirements. The result is that it can cost thousands of dollars and take several weeks or months to finish.”

In today’s hot seller’s market, taking weeks or months to get approved would be simply out of the question.

That’s why many freelancers (when given the option by their lender) are choosing to prepare unaudited P&L statements as well as bank statements to prove their income.

Since this can take several hours (and plenty of fishing around in your various accounts) to complete, it’s a good idea to have these things ready before you need them.

“Have complete and accurate documentation going back as far as you can, 24 months if possible,” advises one former banker, Karen Condor of ExpertInsuranceReviews.com.

“This will prove that you can consistently afford loan payments. The higher your FICO credit score and the more robust your income documentation, the higher the chance of loan approval.”

The final word

Is it harder for freelancers to get approved for mortgages in the COVID-19 era? Yes and no. If your business has been consistently doing well and you have the documentation to prove it, you might be just fine.

But if you’ve recently hit a slowdown, or are having issues producing the extra proof of income, then getting that mortgage for your dream home might be harder than you thought.

The post Self-Employed and Applying for a Mortgage? Here’s What’s Changed Since COVID-19 appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

RVing on a Budget: The Biggest Costs and How to Save

As someone who’s traveled extensively by RV, and even lived in a travel trailer, I know exactly how much of a burden RVing can be on your budget. Here’s what I’ve learned.
If you’re hoping to save at the pump, consider taking a vacation closer to home or narrowing down to a single destination. Not only will you spend less money on gas, you’ll also spend less of your time driving.
Source: thepennyhoarder.com

How to Go RVing on a Budget

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

The Vehicle Itself

But all of those accommodations and extras are weighty, which means that all but the smallest RVs are pretty serious gas guzzlers. Case in point: The largest Class A motorhomes get as little as 4-6 miles to the gallon.
Many people think you can load up into an RV, hit the road and just pull off to the side when you’re ready to catch some sleep.
Consider looking at peer-to-peer RV rental marketplaces, like RVshare or Outdoorsy, where you can rent a rig directly from its private owner, which often means lower rental prices. (Think of it like Airbnb for RVs.)

A young man sweeps out an RV

Travel trailers tend to be less expensive than motorcoaches for a comparable level of quality, from entry level all the way up to the top. Keep in mind, though, that you need a vehicle capable of towing the rig around.
Overall, the great thing about RVing is that the expenses are easily modified to fit almost any budget — you may just have to rethink which RV you drive, where you’re going and how you’ll be staying once you get there.
Jamie Cattanach’s work has been featured at Fodor’s, Yahoo, SELF, The Huffington Post, The Motley Fool and other outlets. Learn more at www.jamiecattanach.com.
You’ll also want to look into state parks, which often offer RV sites with hookups for prices much lower than privately owned campgrounds (though they may not have a cell signal).

A motorhome travels through Arches National Park, Utah.

Fuel

But you can find resort-style accommodations for to per night, often with discounts available for veterans, military members or those staying a week or longer. There are also a variety of camping discount clubs that can help you score lower-cost campground accommodations.
Here, we’ll detail the primary expenses associated with the RV lifestyle, with tips to help you reduce them.
The first thing you need to go RVing … is an RV. And depending on how you source it, this first purchase can be very pricy.

Campsite Accommodation Costs

What you may not know: RVing costs can stack up, and even eclipse the cost of traditional car-and-hotel travel, or living in a sticks-and-bricks home.
What you may know about RVing: It’s a great, cheap way to travel, or even a low-cost alternative for living full time.
The appeal of RVs is simple: You get to bring everything along with you for the trip, including the kitchen sink.

A woman makes coffee in her travel trailer.

First-timers are more likely to rent than buy, but if you end up falling in love with the lifestyle, you should know that even modest motorhomes cost tens of thousands of dollars. Super luxurious ones go for over million. (Yes, seriously.)
It’s best if you already have a place in mind to keep it — and the initiative to learn some DIY mechanics. There’s a YouTube tutorial for most RV repair and maintenance basics.
If you buy an RV, you should be prepared for costs associated with maintenance — and, if you can’t park it on your own property, storage. In Portland, Oregon, I pay a month to keep my travel trailer in an uncovered lot. More desirable, secure storage is almost 0.
But let’s go back to the rental option. Expect to see per-night prices of 0 or more, which can easily outstrip a moderately priced hotel room. Additional fees for mileage and insurance can push your bottom line even higher.

FROM THE SAVE MONEY FORUM

Maintenance and Storage

Then there are the maintenance costs of both the vehicular and household systems of an RV, which need regular upkeep. Doing it yourself may be time intensive, but even a minor trip to the repair shop can mean a major bill.
But in most cases, that’s not true. Although some rest stops and big box store parking lots allow overnight RV parking, many do not. Besides, do you really want to spend your vacation sleeping under the glare of 24/7 floodlights?
You may also be able to find super-cheap rentals through RV relocation deals, in which you serve as a rental company’s courier, delivering RVs to destinations where they are in demand. In return, you get use of the rig for a steal — but keep in mind you’ll be limited in your ability to personalize your itinerary. You’ll have to stick to the company’s route and timetable.
As far as buying is concerned, shop around — and consider shopping gently used. RV does stand for recreational vehicle, after all, and although the loan you take out might look more like a mortgage than auto financing, you probably aren’t going to be building equity. You don’t want to go too old, because maintenance starts to become a problem, but something three to five years old could save you a nice chunk of change.
The most comfortable campgrounds — the ones where you can hook up to electricity, water, and sewer connections — can cost a pretty penny, especially in highly sought-after destinations. Malibu Beach may be an extreme example, but during peak seasons, you’re looking at about 0 per night for a basic site, and up to 0 for a premium location. (Remember, that’s on top of your rental price. And fuel.)
But you need to check ahead of time to make sure that cool-looking space is actually okay to park in and not privately owned. There isn’t always appropriate signage, and if you accidentally end up in someone’s backyard, you may be asked to move or even ticketed. Some great resources for finding spots include Campendium and FreeCampsites.net.
Finally, there are places you can camp for free (or super cheap), but even in an RV, you’ll kind of be roughing it. On BLM-managed land and in certain other wilderness locations, you can do “dispersed” camping, otherwise known as “boondocking” or “dry camping” — basically, camping without any hookups.