• Business
    Home And Business Finances For Work At Home Moms

    12 Awesome Tools for Your Home Based Business for Less Than $75 Per Month (Combined)

    Running a home based business quickly gets complicated – especially once you start finding success and your business continues to grow.

    Below are some of the tools and services (both free and paid) that I use to help me keep my business organized, functioning smoothly and growing – and the grand total for them all combined comes to under $75 per month.

    Basecamp (As low as $20 per month)
    Basecamp is a project management tool that allows you to organize your workflow. You can give access to team members, contractors and clients – and you can do it on a project by project basis. I find Basecamp extremely effective for ensuring tasks that need to get done don’t get lost in a sea of emails. Their file sharing allows us to upload documents and keep them attached to the comments or tasks related to them. The calendar functionality is also killer for helping to keep you on pace (or helping you notice that you’re very OFF pace) for deadlines as well. The $20 per month plan allows you to store up to ten projects at once and includes 3 GB for file storage.

    TripIt (FREE)
    If you travel a lot for your business, I promise you that creating an account at TripIt will be one of the best things you ever do. It helps you keep every trip organized and best of all? You can simply forward confirmation emails from services like Expedia, UrbanSpoon, EventBrite and pretty much every airline and hotel in existence. No more searching through emails trying to find confirmations or figure out “what’s next” in your day. I always joke that if I’m traveling and a plan is not in my TripIt, then it doesn’t exist. You can access TripIt on the web or via their mobile app – which is available on all platforms.

    Shoeboxed (FREE – but in reality, as low as $9.95 a month)
    Shoeboxed is an online receipt scanning an organization service. They DO have a free plan, but it only allows you to scan 5 documents a month and that doesn’t seem realistic to me for 99% of small business owners. Their lowest priced paid plan is $9.95 per month and allows you to scan up to 50 documents per month. Shoeboxed has free mobile apps available to let you input receipts on the go as well. Bonus points? Shoeboxed can also integrate with Quickbooks.

    Mom in Business

    Dropbox (FREE)
    Dropbox allows you to share and store files and folders “in the cloud” for free. You can even increase the amount of free storage you get by referring friends. This is a MUST HAVE for anyone using multiple computers or frequently sharing files with collaborators or telecommuters. Their free mobile apps also let you access and share documents on the go.

    QuickBooks (as low as $12.95 per month)
    Quickbooks is hands down the most popular accounting software for small businesses. They can integrate with your bank and various other services to help you get an accurate handle on your business accounting. While it can be a little daunting to learn, I prefer Quickbooks for our business accounting for several reasons: 1. Most accountants are familiar with it 2. They offer mobile apps on every platform, 3. It’s one of the better MAC accounting software options (and I haven’t used a PC in over four years now) and 4. I can use it 100% online so whether I’m traveling with my Macbook Pro or on my iPad or using my desktop iMac, I can always access the program.

    Google Analytics (FREE)
    Google Analytics is a free analytics program that can help you get valuable insight as to who visits your site and why. You can set goals for nearly any action taken by visitors that you’d like to track, as well as figure out which keywords are converting into the actions you’re looking for. And if you don’t “get” how Analytics can help you grow your business, Google will teach you the ins and outs for FREE – offering lessons on obtaining everything from beginner through expert level knowledge.

    Skype Premium (As low as $4.99 per month)
    I’ve written about Skype Premium before. The premium version allows you to do group video calls and group screen sharing. If you’re doing any sort of long distance managing of or collaboration with multiple people, you’ll likely find Skype Premium to be a vital tool in your business arsenal.

    Anymeeting (FREE)
    Anymeeting is a free webinar service that allows you to host a webinar with up to 200 attendees for free (the free version is ad supported). Hosting a webinar with a co-host(s)? You can show video feed from up to six people during a meeting. If your business is on a tight budget, Anymeeting is your solution to holding professional webinars for free.

    MozyPro (as low as $5.99 per month)
    MozyPro is an online computer backup service. Backing up your computer can often be something we mean to do, but never get to. The first time you lose all your data before you “had a chance to get to doing it” I promise you that you’ll be beyond sorry you didn’t make the time. MozyPro has “personal” plans that will likely suffice for many “one woman show” home based businesses. Best of all? You can automate your backups so you don’t even have to remember to do it and since it’s “in the cloud” you don’t have to worry about storing your backup in a different building than your computer like you would with a physical external hard drive.

    Aweber (As low as $19 per month)
    Aweber is the mailing list service that I use on all of my sites (however, Missy prefers Constant Contact so that’s what we use here on It’s a WAHM Thing). Plans start at $19 per month and you can have up to 500 subscribers for that price and send unlimited emails to those subscribers. Mailing lists are an extremely effective outbound marketing tool and I highly recommend every business have one (as with any marketing tool, you need to WORK IT for it to have benefit though).

    Chandler (FREE)
    Chandler is a free “note to self” tool that basically is a “todo” list software on technological steroids – complete with alarms and reminders. This is a GREAT tool for combining your business and personal tasks into one master list as well.

    Business Classes from MIT (FREE)
    Yep, FREE classes about business, entrepreneurship, marketing and more from MIT. And yes, THAT MIT. As your business grows, there is not a single person out there who couldn’t benefit by growing their own knowledge about running said business along with it.

  • Teaching
    Home And Business Finances For Work At Home Moms

    Teaching Your Children About Loans

    My kids are constantly asking for money. When they were little, they wanted candy, toys and computer games. Now, it’s Hollister and Abercrombie and Fitch clothing, data plans and money for the movies.

    At some point, they’ll want a car, an education and a house. As such, they’ll need to understand how loans work so they can make wise financial decisions.

    Be the Borrower
    To teach my kids how loans work, I’ve borrowed small amounts of money from them.

    After I knew they had saved some allowance money, I asked to borrow five dollars. I agreed to repay the principle amount plus 10 percent interest in one week.

    We made the experience realistic with a formal, written contract that resembles typical bank loan paperwork. It included the principle, interest and repayment amounts as well as the consequences for late payments. I also used a repayment coupon book to add realism to the experience.

    The first few times I borrowed money from them, I repaid the loan on time. Eventually, I purposefully defaulted on a loan in order to teach my kids how to calculate compounding interest. With each default, the total loan amount grew and they learned quickly that one missed or late payment can greatly increases the amount of money owed to the lender.

    Borrowing money from your kids teaches them about loans firsthand. They also learn what it feels like to be the lender when the borrower does and doesn’t repay the loans. That feeling might help them be conscientious about repaying loans when they’re ready to borrow from the bank.

    Be the Lender
    Instead of sending my kids to a regular bank, I opened the Bank of Missy. My kids continue to learn how to borrow money wisely, in a safe environment, under my tutelage.

    Before lending money, we agree on an amount they can borrow. I don’t talk my kids out of making purchases. They can buy whatever they want. I remind them, though, that the interest payments are higher when they charge more. If they want to have money for future purchases, they can’t charge too much now.

    We also discuss the repayment terms. My kids repay the loan with money from their allowances. I also pay them for completing extra jobs, like pressure washing the deck.

    I add consequences for paying less than the full amount. An extra fee or loss of a privilege helps my children understand the seriousness of borrowing money.

    I recently put this principle to the test. My son wanted to buy a Nintendo 3DS and had a little more than half the money saved.

    After I agreed to lend him the money, we calculated the monthly repayment amount and how many months it would take for him to repay the loan. I wrote out a contract and a designed a quick little coupon book. I also set the late payment fee and told him I’d take his new 3DS away for a month, if he missed a payment. If he missed more than two payments, I would repossess it and put it up for sale on eBay. He agreed to the contract, and we both signed it.

    My son never missed a payment. He even repaid the loan in full, a month early.

    Teaching your kids about loans is part of your responsibility as a parent. When you act as both borrower and lender, you confidently share the ins and outs of consumer loans and give your kids access to the financial wisdom they need for success as adults.

  • Business
    Home And Business Finances For Work At Home Moms

    Get Pocket Your Dollars by Carrie Rocha and Save 50%

    My blogging friend (and past contributor to itsaWAHMthing.com), Carrie Rocha from Pocket Your Dollars, wrote a book called Pocket Your Dollars: 5 Attitude Changes That Will Help You Pay Down Debt, Avoid Financial Stress, & Keep More of What You Make. It’s Barnes & Noble’s Deal of the Day now through Tuesday 11/20 at 8:59 EST, which means you can get it through that time for half-price at just $6.99!

    Pocket Your Dollars hits shelves nationwide on January 1, but pre-ordered books will ship on or about December 19. (This offer is not available in-store).

    This $6.99 price is the best price we’ll see for this book, or its Kindle or Nook versions, for months. If you want to buy Pocket Your Dollars by Carrie Rocha for yourself or as a gift, NOW is the time to do it.

    I was pretty excited when Carrie sent me an advance copy. It’s a great angle for a personal finance book in that it doesn’t start with the budget worksheet, but with your attitudes about money.

    Here’s how Barnes & Noble summarizes the book:

    “Carrie Rocha, founder and owner of Pocket Your Dollars.com shares the secrets that will help you change the way you think about money. Seven years ago, she and her husband were surprised to discover the mountain of debt they’d accumulated. They knew they’d have to make big changes. Thirty months later they were debt free and have stayed that way ever since.
    How did they do it? It wasn’t through a step-by-step financial program or spending plan. It turns out, budgets can’t fix everything—real change takes an attitude adjustment.”

    Turns out that my attitude towards money needs more than just an adjustment. It needs a complete overhaul!

    The book gave me some great ideas and tactics that my entire family can get on board with.

    Go ahead and pocket those dollars by pre-ordering your copy of Pocket Your Dollars today while it’s 50% off. I definitely recommend it.

  • Business
    Home And Business Finances For Work At Home Moms

    Taking Steps Towards A Healthy Financial Future

    With the economy the way it is right now, it very important to stay on track financially. No one knows what tomorrow is going to bring. You want a financial plan to follow to best stay in control of your finances.

    There are several things you should be doing in order to stay on track financially:

    Pay your bills on time. Pay your bills in full and on time. Late payments can affect your credit histories. They often times cost you more money in late fees too!

    Save a minimum of 5% of your income. After all of your expenses, if you are able to save 5% of your income you are directly on target towards a healthy future.

    Having an emergency fund that equals a minimum of 3 months’ worth of expenses. I have actually heard some financial experts recommend 6 months to a years worth of expenses with the state of the current economy. If an emergency arises (sickness, layoffs, etc), you will be fully prepared. Not having an emergency fund can kick your entire financial plan off track. I have seen people end up losing their houses and in bankruptcy over it.

    Plan for large purchases. If you plan to purchase expensive items ahead of time, you won’t be hit as hard when it comes down to making the purchase. Save monthly until you have the full amount for the item you need. You also are usually able to get a better deal, because you can look for deals or sales on the item too!

    Stick to your budget. If you stick to your budget, all your finances will fall into place. Budget your important items first and cut back on the things you do not need.

    Regularly review your credit. Review your credit at least once a year to check for accuracy. For us, my husband and father-in-law have the same name so we have to do this yearly. We luck out that they have just as good credit as us. However, I still don’t want their stuff on our credit report. Discrepancies can hinder your credit score and report overall. This also allows you to see if somebody stole your identity. Even if your kids are under 18, you should be running a credit report on them also!

    Examine all of your statements for errors. Go through your statements each month to verify you have made all the stated purchases on it and that the amounts are correct.

    Continue to financially educate yourself. Take advantage of all of the financial seminars, classes and events that are offered in your area. Many banks hold numerous seminars all year round to assist you in your financial needs.

    Your financial security is very important to every facet in your life. Hopefully this list will help you to take steps towards a healthy financial feature.

  • Business
    Home And Business Finances For Work At Home Moms

    Using Barter to Help Your Home Business Succeed

    Bartering makes sense for Mompreneurs. What’s better than exchanging services instead of spending cash to buy necessary goods or services? Especially during seasons when your home business runs short on cash or your favorite customer gets laid off from her job; bartering can help your home business succeed.

    What is Bartering?
    Bartering has been around since the beginning of time. Exchanging gold for salt or pottery for rice met a need in the community while providing the backbone of the economy. Today, bartering holds a smaller role but remains important nonetheless.

    Bartering allows you to give a product or service in exchange for a product or service of equal value. Instead of paying cash for services received or products purchases, bartering serves as a financial resource. It helps you navigate an unstable economy and receive the goods and services you need. It also enables you to create greater visibility in the community and build your home business’s reputation.

    Do you need a new website design or business cards? Perhaps you need monthly administrative services or a one-time plumbing repair. In exchange for these services, you provide a decorated cake, a vehicle tune-up or free babysitting.

    How to Barter Successfully
    Successful bartering requires practice, practice and more practice. For maximum success, start small by approaching long-time customers first. As you grow confident in your abilities, gradually expand your bartering partnerships to vendors.

    Before entering into a bartering relationship, do your homework.

    What will you trade? It could be your handmade necklaces or an hour of accounting services.
    How much is it worth? Assign a fair rate to your product or service. Bartering is not charity. Give your product a fair monetary value.
    What do you want to receive in exchange? Maybe you want a computer upgrade or need a new roof on your home office. Be sure you offer a financially even trade for the services you want.
    With answers to these questions, you are ready to approach a customer or company with an invitation to barter.

    Most barter agreements occur once, but other partnerships continue indefinitely. Resist verbal agreements. Instead, write down the details of the barter arrangement. Add the services or products that will be exchanged, the barter’s time frame and other applicable information. Both parties sign the agreement and receive a copy of the form. This step keeps both partners honest and prevents you losing time and money on the deal.

    Because bartering is easy and increasingly popular, you might overextend yourself. While exchanging goods and services works for some items and for limited time frame, you eventually need cash. Set a limit to your barter partnerships so that you don’t run into cash flow issues.

    Finding Companies Who Accept Barter


    After you start bartering with customers, branch out to vendors. Prepare your bartering pitch then approach the customer service rep with whom you normally do business. Maybe your gem supplier needs a catered meal or the local printing company needs exterior paint. With a thoughtful proposal and agreeable terms, many companies willingly barter.

    For additional outlets, try Craigslist or Trashbank. With these options, you target local residents and receive free advertising for your home business.

    Are you ready now to enter the world of bartering? This ancient financial concept can become an essential tool for making money and growing your customer base. Cash is king, but remember the value bartering holds in your successful Mompreneur home business.

  • Financial
    Home And Business Finances For Work At Home Moms

    What Financial Planning with your Kids can Turn Into

    I laugh. Actually I don’t laugh, I scratch my head. My parents were the instigators of my financial success – both on purpose and completely by accident.

    I am 30 years old and have done well in life so far. I have quite a few assets and investments and my only debt is in my home and two condos I own in downtown Vancouver.

    I don’t have excess cash flow with a million bucks sitting in the bank. If I’m lucky you can call me a “thousandaire” on a good day. But I’m also not in credit card, school or personal loan debt. Why? And how did I get all this stuff if I’m not rich per say? Again I attribute that to my parents. Good planning, careful spending and smart decision making as a result of their lessons (and lack of) made the all difference.

    My parents are very modest people. My dad was a stay at home dad on unemployment. My mom worked 60 hour weeks trying to keep our family above water. To this day they still don’t own a house. They are a year away from trying to retire at the age of 65. But are they ready? No. Not even close. They don’t have enough to last them to 85 should they live that long, which I hope they do. They are likely going to end up working till they are 70 years old and then still have to pay rent in one of the most expensive cities in the world just to be close to their kids.

    But, as a result of their lack of long term planning (which inspired me NOT to be in the same situation) and good teachings about short term money management when I was young, I’ve been able to make some good decisions so far. Here’s what they taught me:

    1. Never, ever spend more money than you have, unless it’s an emergency and you have no other choice for your or a loved one’s life. Cash flow is king. You don’t need a credit card to buy something you want. Just slowly save for the things you would like and buy them only once you have the money in the bank.
    2. Start building up your credit when you’re young, then make sure you pay it off right away – always! This will help you build up your credit which will allow you to be approved for thing like mortgages, business loans, and personal loans.
    3. Pay off your highest interest debts first. The accumulation of interest that goes unattended can drive you quickly into the ground. You may never recover.
    4. Invest in assets, not liabilities (unfortunately something my parents learned WAY too late in life, which is why they don’t own a house but have travelled to almost every remote tropical beach in the world :P)
      Put together a five year financial plan. I did my first when I was 18 with the goal of having $10,000 saved by the time I was 23 to buy my first house, which I did.
    5. I’m sure there were a lot more things my parents could have taught me about money if they knew better, but look! I learned five great lessons that made all the difference to me and my family now, and for that I’m grateful.

    If you have the chance (and even if you don’t, MAKE the time), try to teach your kids responsible spending and money management when they are young. They may hate how boring it is when they are 9 years old, but they will reap the benefits of it when they get older and have to manage their own financial decisions in the real world.

  • Money
    Home And Business Finances For Work At Home Moms

    10 Ways To Spend Your Flexible Spending Account Money

    Can you believe that it is almost the end of the year? It has flown by fast, so if you have a flexible spending account, it is time to find out what you have left in your account. Did you know you will lose the money in your flexible spending account (FSA) if you don’t use it before December 31st? (For those who don’t know what a FSA is, it allows an employee to set aside a portion of their earnings to pay for qualified expenses. The money is then deducted from an employee’s pay and put into a flexible spending account that is not subject to payroll taxes). Here are a few ways for you to get the most for your money and spend it before you lose it:

    1. Get a second or third pair of prescription glasses. Who wants to wear the same pair of glasses every day? Plus, this is super helpful if you can’t find a lost pair! If you have kids, they definitely need to have more than one pair of glasses, and this is a great way to pay for it!
    2. Stock up on your contact lenses or try new ones out. The amounts you pay for contact lens solution, supplies, exams (including fittings), and associated warranties are also qualified expenses under most plans.
    3. Make that yearly physical that you have been putting off all year!
    4. Protect your eyes with prescription sunglasses. It is important to protect your eyes in every season – not just summer.
    5. Upgrade your lens to premium lens options like no-glare (anti-reflective) coatings and Transitions lenses that change from clear to dark.
    6. Fill any prescriptions you need before the end of the year!
    7. Refill your medicine cabinet. If you aren’t sure what OTC (over the counter) items are covered in your flexible spending account plan, Drugstore.com(the online version of your local pharmacy) has a special “FSA store” featuring OTC products most commonly reimbursed. Even if you end up not buying from them, it’s a good place to browse for ideas.
    8. Review your expenses incurred earlier in the year that may be eligible for reimbursement. You may have copays or prescriptions that you have not turned in for reimbursement yet.
    9. Work on your first aid kit. First aid creams, bandages, etc can all be reimbursed. (Some of these products you may need a prescription for if you want to be reimbursed.)
    10. Join the gym. When recommended by a health care professional for a medical condition, dues paid to a health club, YMCA or YWCA are qualified medical expenses. You will have to submit evidence of medical necessity (e.g., prescription, doctor’s note) with the request for reimbursement.

    Every flexible spending account runs different, so you do have to check your own flexible spending account plan to see what exactly is covered. However, these ten ways should give you some idea on how to spend any remaining amount in your flexible spending account.

    Do you have any money left if your flexible spending account? How are you spending your flexible spending account money before you lose it?

  • Plans
    Home And Business Finances For Work At Home Moms

    How To Find And Compare Health Insurance Plans

    I became the primary breadwinner for my family in February 2009. My husband and I had agreed that he’d quit his job as an International Sales Rep to go to graduate school at night and be a stay-at-home dad by day. I’d continue working at a Minneapolis-based non-profit. Three weeks after we made that transition I got notice at my full-time job that I’d be laid off. It wasn’t immediate, thank God for that, but a few months later I did lose my job and with it, my family’s health insurance.

    In the months between receiving notice of the impending lay off and actually losing my job and its benefits my husband and I debated whether we could really launch an at-home business and whether I could really become a work-at-home mom. One question overshadowed much of the conversation. ”How will we pay for health insurance?” I was petrified of buying our own. I really knew nothing about how to do it or what it would cost, but I was convinced that it would be thousands of dollars per month and potentially out of financial reach.

    Because of my fear I actually buried my head in the sand for the first year after I was laid off. We opted for COBRA coverage through my previous employer and qualified for a federal subsidy to the premium. Eventually that COBRA coverage and federal subsidy came to an end and I had to figure out what to do next.

    How to Compare Plans


    I couldn’t procrastinate it any longer. I had to sit down at the computer and figure out what my health insurance options were as a self-employed, work-at-home mom. Like any Type A woman would do, I made an Excel worksheet to track all my options and crunch all the numbers related to each plan. Once I started loading information into my worksheet, my fear melted away. Knowledge really is power.

    The most valuable numbers I looked at while comparing health insurance plans were the minimum and maximum out-of-pocket expense annually.

    Minimum out-of-pocket expense. I looked back at our medical history over the last few years and decided what I’d expect us to need in terms of the number of doctor’s office visits and prescriptions in a year’s time. In addition to paying our monthly premiums I assumed that we’d have these other basic medical expenses. For some plans we would pay co-pays for office visits. Other plans had co-pays for prescriptions. Some plans required us to pay 100% of the expenses out of pocket. I considered the total amount of premiums we’d pay annually and the cost of our essential medical expenses to be our minimum out-of-pocket expense.
    Maximum out-of-pocket expense. The maximum out-of-pocket expense is the plan’s annual deductible amount. In most cases there is an individual deductible that applies to each individual family member, plus an out-of-pocket maximum per family. I listed both of these numbers in my Excel worksheet.
    With those two annual numbers clearly identified for each different policy we were considering, I could easily compare plans side-by-side. My husband and I decided on a plan that fit our monthly budget and was a comfortable amount of financial risk for us annually, should we ever have to max out the plan.

    Finding Plans


    The first place I looked for plans was an online health insurance rate quote site. I normally don’t like those sorts of online quote sites, but I found them to be surprisingly useful in getting me started. I reviewed every plan suggested by the websites I visited, then took my research a step further.

    I jotted down the names of the insurance companies that offer plans in my state (there were only 3 or 4). I went to each of those companies websites directly to look for any other insurance plans for individuals. I discovered a few plans that seemed like good fits for my family, but had not been mentioned in the quote sites I’d visited.

    Before making a final decision, I called the customer service line for the two companies whose plans we were seriously considering. I inquired about dental insurance (which is difficult to buy apart from a health insurance policy) and confirmed my understanding of how each plan worked.

    We ultimately decided on a hybrid plan – a high deductible, but no health savings account because it offers standard co-pays for office visits, prescriptions, two urgent care and one emergency room visit annually. Beyond those things, we are responsible to pay 100% of everything else up to our deductible. My biggest surprise – our premium, as a self-employed family, is only slightly more than what we were paying in subsidized COBRA premiums.

    How have you navigated the waters of finding and securing health and dental insurance for your family? What advice and what questions do you have?

  • business
    Home And Business Finances For Work At Home Moms

    Start a Financial Emergency Fund Today

    It never fails; the very moment when you think you’re on a roll and you might have a little extra cash left over for something crazy and fun, the unexpected happens. Your transmission went or you need new tires, your spouse or partner was laid off at their job, your son’s asthma medication is suddenly no longer covered by your insurance, your or your spouse become seriously ill and are rushed off to hospital and are unable to work, you need expensive dental work, your laptop suddenly dies and you can’t work until you’ve replaced it…. the list goes on.

    Yes, all of those examples have happened to me at some point over the past 10 years. I learned the hard way that I needed an emergency fund. For a long time we were just living paycheck-to-paycheck and having any kind of savings seemed completely impossible. Some days it still impossible, but I’ve managed to save small chunks here and there so that we have at least a little bit set aside in case the universe throws us a crazy curve ball.

    No matter what curve you end up with, there is a way to keep your sanity when the bills start to roll in – start an emergency fund.

    How Much Do You Want to Save?


    This is the first step in beginning any emergency fund. The standard requirements for an emergency fund are six months of your gross salary or income. This can be your starting goal.

    Figure Out Your Expenses First


    Take your entire household income for a month, don’t forget any additional incomes sources such as rentals or interest from investments you may have. This is what you have to work with. The popular rule of thumb is to take 10% of that total income number as what should be saved each month towards your emergency fund.

    Believe me, I know sometimes 10% is not possible. I suggest taking whatever amount you can each month and putting it into your emergency fund. Often times I’ll replace something I “want” like an extra latte at Starbucks and just transfer that money to my emergency fund instead. Sure, it’s probably less $10, but it’s something and it’s a good place to start.

    Calculate Your Expenses


    Create an expense log and track a full month of all expenses. This includes routine bills, such as groceries, electricity, gas, and phone, to your variable expenditures, such as credit cards, household items, and personal hygiene products. This creates a realistic view of what you will need saved in the event of an emergency. Remember, our goal is to grow the emergency fund to the point where it covers six months worth of our expenses.

    Pay yourself as if you were a utility bill. your calculations of your expenditures, you want to include 10 percent of your income as a payment to yourself. Make this a standing expenditure. You can set this up as an automatic deposit so that you don’t even see the money. This will force you to make that payment, instead of waiting until the end.

    Income Minus Expenses


    Take your income, minus your expenses, and that is what you have left over each month for additional savings. Take part of this money and deposit it into your emergency fund before you are tempted to spend it on something else.

    This is where careful attention to expenditures can be considered. In order to maintain an adequate emergency fund, non-essential expenditures can be re-evaluated for importance. If these expenditures can be cut, that is more money that can be placed into your emergency fund.

    Open a Special Savings Account


    Open a separate savings account that is just for your emergency fund. This fund is not to be touched, unless it is for an emergency. It is essential that this fund always remain at the minimum of six months gross salary and can cover six months of your expenditures. This account should be one that is easily accessible in an emergency.

    Having a separate account is what really helped me with this side of our finances. I never look at the account other than to add money to it. I keep the paperwork for it stashed away so I’m tempted to use it for anything that is a non-emergency. We’ve had a few things come up recently, so it’s not looking very plump, but it’s there if we need it and it grows little by little (sometimes just $5 at a time)

    Replenish the Fund if You Use It!


    Silly me, I really learned this the hard way after my husband was in the hospital a few years ago. I thought to myself, “We’re good for awhile, nothing crazy is likely to happen right now.” Right? WRONG.

    If you’ve used up a good portion of your emergency fund to cover an expense make sure you start replenishing that fund as soon as you can. Even if it’s just $5 here and $2 there, all those little bits add up faster than you might expect them to.

  • Health
    Home And Business Finances For Work At Home Moms

    How To Find And Compare Health Insurance Plans

    I became the primary breadwinner for my family in February 2009. My husband and I had agreed that he’d quit his job as an International Sales Rep to go to graduate school at night and be a stay-at-home dad by day. I’d continue working at a Minneapolis-based non-profit. Three weeks after we made that transition I got notice at my full-time job that I’d be laid off. It wasn’t immediate, thank God for that, but a few months later I did lose my job and with it, my family’s health insurance.

    In the months between receiving notice of the impending lay off and actually losing my job and its benefits my husband and I debated whether we could really launch an at-home business and whether I could really become a work-at-home mom. One question overshadowed much of the conversation. ”How will we pay for health insurance?” I was petrified of buying our own. I really knew nothing about how to do it or what it would cost, but I was convinced that it would be thousands of dollars per month and potentially out of financial reach.

    Because of my fear I actually buried my head in the sand for the first year after I was laid off. We opted for COBRA coverage through my previous employer and qualified for a federal subsidy to the premium. Eventually that COBRA coverage and federal subsidy came to an end and I had to figure out what to do next.

    How to Compare Plans
    I couldn’t procrastinate it any longer. I had to sit down at the computer and figure out what my health insurance options were as a self-employed, work-at-home mom. Like any Type A woman would do, I made an Excel worksheet to track all my options and crunch all the numbers related to each plan. Once I started loading information into my worksheet, my fear melted away. Knowledge really is power.

    The most valuable numbers I looked at while comparing health insurance plans were the minimum and maximum out-of-pocket expense annually.

    Minimum out-of-pocket expense. I looked back at our medical history over the last few years and decided what I’d expect us to need in terms of the number of doctor’s office visits and prescriptions in a year’s time. In addition to paying our monthly premiums I assumed that we’d have these other basic medical expenses. For some plans we would pay co-pays for office visits. Other plans had co-pays for prescriptions. Some plans required us to pay 100% of the expenses out of pocket. I considered the total amount of premiums we’d pay annually and the cost of our essential medical expenses to be our minimum out-of-pocket expense.
    Maximum out-of-pocket expense. The maximum out-of-pocket expense is the plan’s annual deductible amount. In most cases there is an individual deductible that applies to each individual family member, plus an out-of-pocket maximum per family. I listed both of these numbers in my Excel worksheet.
    With those two annual numbers clearly identified for each different policy we were considering, I could easily compare plans side-by-side. My husband and I decided on a plan that fit our monthly budget and was a comfortable amount of financial risk for us annually, should we ever have to max out the plan.

    Finding Plans
    The first place I looked for plans was an online health insurance rate quote site. I normally don’t like those sorts of online quote sites, but I found them to be surprisingly useful in getting me started. I reviewed every plan suggested by the websites I visited, then took my research a step further.

    I jotted down the names of the insurance companies that offer plans in my state (there were only 3 or 4). I went to each of those companies websites directly to look for any other insurance plans for individuals. I discovered a few plans that seemed like good fits for my family, but had not been mentioned in the quote sites I’d visited.

    Before making a final decision, I called the customer service line for the two companies whose plans we were seriously considering. I inquired about dental insurance (which is difficult to buy apart from a health insurance policy) and confirmed my understanding of how each plan worked.

    We ultimately decided on a hybrid plan – a high deductible, but no health savings account because it offers standard co-pays for office visits, prescriptions, two urgent care and one emergency room visit annually. Beyond those things, we are responsible to pay 100% of everything else up to our deductible. My biggest surprise – our premium, as a self-employed family, is only slightly more than what we were paying in subsidized COBRA premiums.

    How have you navigated the waters of finding and securing health and dental insurance for your family? What advice and what questions do you have?

  • business-woman
    Home And Business Finances For Work At Home Moms

    How Do I Choose A Financial Institution?

    With the turmoil in the world and in the economy right now, many people are moving their money out of the big banks. However, how you decide where to move your money? Here are a few things you should be looking at before you change banks:

    1. Fees. I hate fees. I personally use a small local bank and credit union, and neither of these charge fees for the majority of their services. According to Bankrate.com, about 3/4 of large credit unions offered free checking with no strings attached! I also don’t want a bank that charges me to talk to a teller or to use a debit card. You have to ask yourself how important fees are to you.
    2. ATMs. If you use your debit card to get cash, you need to make sure that you have access to your money where you are. For us, our small bank has joined an ATM network, so we can access our money nationwide (without a fee). Some online banks will even reimburse you for fees incurred at bank machines. All of those non-network ATM fees can add up very quickly, so if you use an ATM card, you need to make sure you are taking your money out of an in-network bank.
    3. Branches. If you like face-to-face service, you are going to want to pick a bank that is close to you. However, if you do most of your banking online, this may not be a deciding factor.
    4. Customer service. For me, this is a make or break service for a bank. If you treat me horribly, I will move all of my money. I remember several years ago where a bank blamed me because their online bill pay service was not paying my bills on time (yet, everything was set up correctly and should have been issued on time). Needless to say, as soon as we could, we moved everything out of there.
    5. Technology. Most banks offer online accounts and bill pay. However, you have to do a little more searching if you want a bank that has mobile banking if that is important to you. Some of the bigger banks even let you scan a check in with your cell phone for a deposit!
    6. Ownership. Right now, this is a huge sticking point for a lot of people. Many big banks are owned by shareholders. Their main goal is to make as much money for them as they can (which means that money is coming out of their customers’ pockets). Many people also blame the big banks for the financial crisis we are in right now. Nonprofit credit unions are owned by the customers and give back to their members with consumer friendly products and services.
    7. Financial Products. Most banks/credit unions offer saving, checking, borrowing, and online banking. However, depending on what your current situation is, you may need more than that (for example, a mortgage loan or a small business loan).
    8. Rates. You want your money getting the most interest as possible. Also, you want the lowest rate on your loans. We belong to the credit union we do, because they offered us an interest rate that was 4% lower than what Toyota did when we bought our Prius! As you can see, comparing rates is very important!
    9. Safety. Most bank and credit union deposits are deposits are federally insured to $250,000. However, if you are making deposits in larger amounts than that, this is something you need to look into.
    10. Communication. How do you want to reach the bank? Online? By Phone? Chat? In Person? Make sure that your bank has a way to reach them that you are comfortable with.

    Everyone has different wants and needs. There is no single answer that works for everyone. You may need to use several institutions or maybe one big bank depending on what your situation is.

    How do you choose where you do your banking? Do you have any advice you’d like to add?