Being a maker usually means being a one-man shop. When we embark on a new project we might start with big dreams and expectations but we need to be mindful not to overextend. We need to create a simple balance between income and expenses.
Your company or product might be able to get acquired one day, but acquisition and VCs should not be your primary way of monetization.
The best way is to grow slowly and organically. This way you will have loyal users that really value your products and by extension know their worth and are willing to pay for them.
Having a product that generates revenue is not enough. You also need to know how to spend and save your money so you might be able to work six months on that next big feature with the money you saved up.
Where to start? Here are five simple tips to improve your finances.
Every tip is going to be useless if your income is just not there. I used to browse personal finance on Reddit and saw so many great tips that just couldn’t apply because of a lack of income.
So the main step is obviously to increase your income and everything else will become easier.
If you are still young, invest in yourself! It will pay back tenfold. Learn something new, be bold and try doing unorthodox things. As with everything, don’t go overboard. Balance and moderation are the key to everything in life.
Diversify your income: do not rely only on one application or one platform for your income. Having 10 applications each netting $100 a month is better than having one application netting $1000, even though the monetary value is the same.
Look for future trends: at the moment AR/VR/AI and ML/Blockchain seem like the next big thing. By jumping on something early you might get a skill that may be useful for decades to come, but there is always the risk of investing your time in something that may not take off.
2. Pay Off Debt and Invest
It is pointless to talk about investment if you have a high-interest loan that you need to pay off. First, pay off the loan and, only after that, think about investing.
The younger you are, the more you should invest. With the world moving towards digital nomadism, and with most western countries having a rapidly aging population, traditional government-funded retirement is a big unknown. You should not rely only on your country pension system for retirement: you should develop your own strategy. I know that thinking about retirement in your 20s or 30s might feel weird, but you should think about it. Otherwise, it may be too late when you realize you didn’t save enough and will need to keep on working. Vanguard has good value on their target year retirement investment program. You pick a date when you want to retire on and every month transfer $XXX to your Vanguard account. Everything else happens automatically.
Remember that if you are investing towards retirement you are only interested in long-term goals. You should not look at your account and how it’s doing every day and you should NEVER take out money when the market is falling. You are in for the long run, keep calm. The best is if you only look at it every ten years. It should be on autopilot.
That said, do not invest money you cannot afford to lose. Even though Vanguard is not a risky investment, the nature of investing is always an unknown.
3. Track your expenses
You need to track every single dollar that comes in and goes out. By doing that you can start categorizing your expenses and find out what are the specific areas where you can take action and improve. If you only spend, say, 5% of your income a month on eating out, that’s totally fine, but if you spend 25% you may want to start eating out less. Obviously, your expenses really depend on your location and are very personal. What might be a crazy expense for someone might be totally normal for someone else. That’s why it is important that YOU go through them and take a mental note and not some automatic software that doesn’t know about your particular situation.
You can start by using a simple sheet. You don’t need to necessarily use a specific program if you don’t want to. The important part is to track every single purchase to really find out where your money goes.
Track your recurring expenses as well. See if you can cut back on a subscription you’re not using fully. Subscribed to several video streaming services because each of your favorite shows is on a different platform? Pick the one you like the most.
4. Don’t go overboard
That does not mean you should not treat yourself. There is a difference between eating out every day and only eating ramen. Find the middle ground. Your physical and mental health are equally important.
There is no point in saving or budgeting if it makes you feel miserable. It shouldn’t. It should make you feel empowered and in control of your financial decisions.
You should not go overboard while working on your projects either. The time you spend working on project is valuable. Treat it as a currency. Dedicating time to one task, means less time to dedicate on something else. If you have been working on a big project for a while, finish it and ship it before starting to work on a new one. It is fine working on multiple projects at once, but they should not be both big projects that steal focus from each other.
It is totally fine to work on fun projects with no chance of being profitable at times, but if your goal is profitability the time you put in should reflect that.
5. Use a top-up credit card for vanity purchases
Every time I want to buy something that I don’t really need (usually the latest tech gadget on Amazon) I force myself to only use a credit card that I manually need to top up for that specific purchase. I need to go to my bank website, find the code, log in and transfer the funds. Many times the thrill of buying something new goes off during this process, and I start to wonder if I really need that product. If it is something I really want then I go ahead and buy it, but if it is something I am not fully convinced I need, then I find myself stopping before pressing purchase and I end up saving money.
And do not use cash! Cash just disappears before you even know it.
The list might feel overwhelming at first if you’ve never done any budgeting before.
You don’t need to start every single item on the list right away. Start with the first item for month one and add one more each month.
Budgeting is the most important step you can take to create a sustainable lifestyle and to invest in your long-term life goals.