Friday, November 23, 2012

10 Ways to Keep Your Bank Balance in Check

Thanksgiving Weekend always seems to be the time when people look for bargains, especially on Black Friday. But as a freelance writer you need to look for bargains all year long. The best way to stay ahead of your bank account is to follow these easy steps.

1. Try to keep a cash reserve in your account to cover the slow months. Use it only for this purpose and replenish it as soon as possible. An easy way not to overdraft your account is to make this cash reserve invisible. In other words, set your ending balance without taking it into account. So when you’re at zero, you’ll actually still have money in the bank. This allows you to not only keep some money aside but also to avoid those high overdraft fees.

2. Another way to keep your income safe is to open a special savings account and deposit all your income in it. Then transfer funds to your checking account as you need them to pay bills. This method works especially well with a sporadic income flow.

3. To make bill paying more efficient, create a Bill Pay Sheet. At the top list all the months in two rows. Under them, list your regular monthly bills set up in categories—mortgage or rent, utilities, credit cards, insurance, etc. Next to each bill listing put the date due in parentheses, followed by the amount you need to pay that month. You can then add up all your bills to see how much you’ll need that month. Cross out each bill as you pay it to keep yourself on track.

4. Synchronize your accounts receivable with accounts payable as much as you can by your early planning method. Know when you’re supposed to be paid, and if you don’t receive payment within a day or two of that date, let your editor know.

5. Apply for credit with your suppliers. If you’re on friendly terms, ask to pay on a periodic basis, if need be, especially if you have established a good credit rating. Explain that your income arrives in spurts instead of on a regular weekly, biweekly, or monthly basis if this is the case. Some suppliers may be willing to bill you on a two-,three-, or four-month basis—allowing you a discount if you pay early. Talk this over with them, explaining it saves them billing and postage costs. Another possibility is to open credit accounts that allow you to pay in three-month or six-month installments with no interest if paid within the allotted time. This works well with car and dental care.

6. Slash expenses to the bone. You can only cut corners so far. But a close analysis of your budget may uncover frills that you can do without briefly without hurting your professional stance. You’ll be amazed how much you can cut your budget and still live a healthy and happy life. Doing this will not only make you more efficient, but will make you the envy of your friends.

7. You might be able to apply for a short-term bank loan for your business, but chances are no bank will loan you the money. Banks are in business to make money, so unless you’re borrowing $50,000 or more, the usual minimum for a small business loan, you’re out of luck. You might want to check credit unions you, your spouse, or other family members may belong to. A last ditch effort may be to borrow some money to hold you over from a family member or friend—this normally isn’t a good idea, however.

8. Join forces and share some of your expenses.  Get together with other local writers or even friends to share services.

9. Take a temporary part-time job. If you do work part-time, try to work at a job that is somewhat related to your writing or the subject matter that you write about. This way, you won’t be wasting your creative energies.

10. You might try applying for a grant. This, like a bank loan, is a slim possibility. Remember, while there are loads of grants out there, unless you can meet their requirements, they might as well not exist. And if you do apply for a grant, be sure to follow the instructions to the letter. If you don’t, you’ll surely be rejected. 

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