Most of the time I am writing about buying domain names for your new or existing business, when fact of the matter is your business and domain name investments don’t stand a chance if your personal finances are wacky. I certainly made the same mistake, and that’s definitely one of the reasons why I wasn’t able to cash in on the four letter .com domains back in 2012 when I raised a lot of attention with WhoAPI research that found we were out of four-letter .com domain names.
I’ve been planing on writing a “personal finance” post for some time now, but I was hesitant because most of my friends and readers know me as the “domain and web hosting guy”. I was also hesitant because a lot of people have several “startups” and often when I write about something that’s not directly connected with WhoAPI someone asks me if I gave up on WhoAPI and what this new startup will be about. Geez… So relax, there won’t be a pitch at the end of this post, and I am still 100% committed to WhoAPI. Anyway, the truth is I became very passionate about personal finances at a low (financial) point in my life. Ever since I’ve read several books on the topic, and more importantly I took action! Now when I look back, I am extremely happy with the progress I’ve made since. Hopefully this story will motivate you to take action, but also provide some valuable steps. For me, it all started with a Jim Rohn seminar on Youtube….
Sentence that improved my financial destiny
I was looking up Jim Rohn on Youtube, and I found an old seminar (video), and during the seminar there was a part about personal finances. Jim Rohn joked about it how some people “don’t know where it all went” alluding to the fact that the person who isn’t aware of his expenses can’t really run a business. I felt ashamed because at the time of watching this video, I also didn’t know “where it all went”. My bookkeeper tracked all the company’s expenses, and she was mad if I was late or failed to send an invoice when we purchased something with company’s money but I never tracked my personal expenses. Now bare in mind this was few years ago, and the story has a happy ending since I’ve changed so much. (Side not, if you are a startup founder and you struggle with your personal finances, (but don’t) think these two are connected, I recommend my post on “Impact of personal finances on your startup“)
I decided to make a move on my personal finances because my startup was falling apart at the time (I promised a happy ending, so yes, I saved my startup), I was in debt (credit cards, 2 bank loans)! I remembered a while back I heard about a book about a past client of mine Financial Renaissance by Sanjin Frlan and I got some pretty good tips there and I was able to use them. More importantly I got obsessed about “tracking where it all goes”! And as another personal finance expert Robert Kiyosaki says, I started treating my personal finances as a business. More than 3 years ago I started collecting every single invoice on every single expense I made (both business and personal). I am still doing it to this date. Yeah I am crazy… Crazy about getting out of debt, and crazy about saving some money so that I don’t end up broke like more than half of the planet I am living on! That’s crazy if you ask me…
10 things I learned after tracking my personal finances for 30 months
- Spend less than you earn
Wow, what a revelation. Probably the best financial advice that absolutely everybody knows, but almost everybody ignores! After tracking all my expenses and incomes after first few months I quickly realized I was spending more than I was making! It was time to increase my income and reduce my expenses, fast!
- Habits and subscriptions are a bigger problem than one time large purchases
Before tracking my expenses I thought that if I stay away from large purchases I would be OK. But once you see the numbers crystal clear, it makes total sense to you. Jim Rohn said it best, “Success is a numbers game”. Details might be different in your case, but for me I realized I was losing way too much money on habits (caffe bars, coca-cola + chocolate) than when I was making a large purchase. I stopped drinking Coca Cola (it’s bad for my health anyway), and I reinvested that money into customer acquisition for my business (win win). This also goes into “opportunity cost”. If you are an economics major you probably know what this means. I am not, so I had to find out on my own. Wasting money on expensive coffee every day of the year, could be instead reinvested in an Vanguard Index fund with a 8% return. The story goes that you lost $800 dollars per year on coffee, but if you invested that $800 in that fund, you would probably have millions in few decades. That’s opportunity cost.
- Psychology plays a huge role
You think you are in charge? If you don’t have any money saved, you are not in charge. People mostly buy things they don’t need, to impress the people they don’t like. Do you really need to get a new iPhone every year? How about your smartwatch? How about your perfume? How about that $2000 Louis Vuitton bag? I am not saying you should live like a Buddhist monk, I am saying plan your purchases and purchase only the things you will adore using every day, or at least every week! Even more importantly, invest in “something” that will increase your cash flow or create a secondary passive income.
- Tracking your income is equally important
If you have several sources of income, or several startup projects (oh no…) then you need to track how much profit or income you are paying yourself from these sources. After a few months it will become crystal clear where you need to focus and spend time. This will also show you what is a hobby, what is your business and what is a complete waste of time.
- Separate your personal finances from your business
This probably makes total sense, but I made this mistake early on and tracked business and personal expense in the same sheet (because it was easier for me), but I improved this as soon as I got the opportunity. Track how your business is doing, and track how you are doing, just do it separately.
- Married? Track your spouses finances as well (or ask that they track it themselves)
Words can’t begin to describe how happy I am with my fiancée on topics of personal finances. Finances or should I say money problems are one of the most common reason for divorce (article 1, article 2, article 3, article 4). You can track and save all the money you can, but if the other side is on the wrong side of the equation you will either be broke or single. It is extremely important that all the members of the household are on the same page when it comes to personal finances.
- It makes sense to start saving, even if you are in debt
Why? Because habits are extremely powerful. Once you get that habit of putting that loose change in the piggy bank, there’s no stopping you. But don’t forget, at the same time, you need to eliminate your debt! Imagine you are Neo in the Matrix and loan offers start flying at you like the bullets. Just say no, and stop them. In Croatia besides a typical loan banks often offer overdrafts that allow you to take as much as 3 times more money than your monthly paycheck. Once I understood interest rates on those and on the credit cards I renamed those services : “Highway to hell”. If you are paying for those service (and I know you are paying for them probably every month, then check point #2 once more).
- Budget is the king
Set your budget and stick to it, or at least give it your best effort! If you don’t know your “restaurant budget” for this month, what do you think what are the chances of you missing that budget? Combine that with every other expense you can think of, and you have a recipe for disaster!
- Custom is better than a template
Although I will give you two templates for tracking your personal finances, have in mind that the best template is the one that you will use. For example, I might have created a expense box for traveling, while you might want to create a box for “John’s college” or any other priority. This is something that needs to evolve over time as your life changes.
- Lastly, contribution gives meaning
Being able to contribute money to a cause or a family member in need is far beyond any words can describe. I’d rather not go into the details of my contributions because I don’t do them to brag or to be significant. I do them out of love, respect and compassion. Both my fiancee and me give away almost 10% of our profits every month and every struggle we have is worth the opportunity and privilege of helping someone. Giving away without expecting anything in return truly is the greatest gift you can receive.
Two excel sheets you can chose from.
This is an old version of an excel sheet I created – https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1lHiT-0XDA5YIbCBOsD2z3z7UqjKv1BRfOKMuCSs7H-E/edit#gid=0
This is a Google spreadsheet template – https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/14IpBxrUlJ2T6SycnbXDVH2FLk1wEEHmvEGZBH83daLw/edit
Whatever works better for you, start using it today!
I hope this was helpful, and that you start eliminating debt today, and start saving some money. Your future YOU and your community will definitely be very grateful. As for me, I’d rather not disclose how much money I saved, but I can tell you it’s the most I had in my life! Not to mention I have no credit card debt or loans (first time in my life)! To think that it all started with that thought that provoked me beyond reason! I was sick and tired of being sick and tired! “I don’t know where it all went”. Remember, you don’t need more money to start saving, you need to start managing the money that you have and life will reward you! It will happen during that process, you will start eliminating debt, start saving money, and get new ideas on how to make more money!
If you liked what you’ve read so far, I recommend watching this video where I talk about 5 takeaways I got from listening “The Power of Ambition” by Jim Rohn. Spoiler alert, Jim Rohn talks about some of the same things in this audiobook, so one of the takeaways is that sentence that took me on a journey of financial freedom. “I don’t know where it all went”.