SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS MUST DEVELOP A STRICT BUDGET Unless we light a firecracker and place it under your chair, the best way we can motivate you to keep track of where your small or new business’ money goes is to scare you. So here goes. If you don’t track where all your money goes, over time, the following things will happen: you’ll wind up in the cold month of January wondering how the heck you spent $2,769 on Christmas presents for the family, you’ll know your banker better than you’d like because you’ll probably bounce checks all over town as a result of mismanaging your finances, and someday you’ll live on a monthly Social Security benefit check of $455 (that’s it!) because you piddled all your money down the drain when you were young. Does that scare you? It should! “Budget” is a scary word; it’s too constrictive for some folks. What you need to understand, however, is that everybody needs to have a daily record of where all their money goes. Accept it and motivate yourself toward the feeling of accomplishment. The true reward of having a budget is something all Americans want: control. Imagine having control over all of your finances. Once you do, you can reach your dreams and financial goals even faster! Get (and Stay) Organized Yuck. Paperwork. Not anymore—welcome to the world of technology! You don’t have to be a computer nerd to take advantage of the infinite number of financial software packages available. Without sounding like cheerleaders, we think they’re great tools to help you on your way to organization. The key to establishing (and maintaining) a budget is to stay organized. You can go the filing-cabinet-and-ledger route, of course. On the other hand, a number of financial software packages available to help you along your way. You can create a budget, track your expenses, and create and monitor an investment portfolio. You can also project your budgets on an annual basis and complete your income tax returns. TIP: If you don’t have access to a computer, an alternative to creating a “paper budget” is to make your own using the categories listed in the expenses section of this chapter. Also available is The Budget Kit (Dearborn Financial Publishing 800/322-8621) for $15.95, which gives step-by-step instructions on how to create specific budget categories tailored to your personal finances and how to monitor your monthly expenses. Here’s a list of the top three most popular packages: Quicken is probably the most popular financial software package available. This program allows you to do more than balance your checkbook; you can create a home inventory worksheet for insurance purposes, project estimated tax payments, and place investment trades with the use of a modem. Quicken is available through computer stores, warehouse clubs, and other discount stores nationwide. Kiplinger’s CA-Simply Money is just that—simple. It shows you in three simple steps how to balance your checkbook, credit card statements, mortgage loan payments, and car loan payments. It can even forecast a monthly and an annual budget based on the expense/income categories you enter. If you have a home-based business, consider this program, which makes it easy to create all your necessary financial accounts. For information, call (800) 225-5224. Andrew Tobias’ Managing Your Money is a financial software package with which you can perform basic financial planning tasks such as balancing your checkbook and creating budget categories. Also, with the use of a modem, you can retrieve stock quotes from its online service. Francis Reader is an Encino-based free-lance business consultant. Lisa Miller is a Studio City-based financial management specialist.