You can always hire a financial planner for advice, but there is no substitute for self-education. You can start with the basics of reading the Business section of the daily newspaper. It will also help you to read financial magazines such as Money, Business 2.0, Smart Money, Entrepreneur, Inc., and Consumer Reports. When it comes to securing your financial freedom, remember, "It's not what you make, it's what you keep that counts."
I consider myself very fortunate to have found my dream job at a young age. After the birth of our first son, I had the luxury of taking a six-month leave of absence from my administrative job before deciding I wasn't going back. It was during this time that I first picked up a GE VHS-C camcorder (bought especially to chronicle the impending birth of our son) and my "new dream" of owning my own videography business became a reality. I would have never discovered the "videographer within" if I had to rush back to a job I didn't like only because we had bills to pay. Our life hasn't been without financial ups and downs, but it‘s easier to handle the "downs" when you aren‘t trying to keep up with the Joneses.
Some of my favorite financial books have been out for years: Don't Sweat The Small Stuff About Money by Richard Carlson, The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach, The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley, Ordinary People, Extraordinary Wealth by Ric Edelman, The Laws of Money by Suze Orman, Debt-Poof Living by Mary Hunt, and Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. There are other books available by these same authors. Of course, you can check them out at your public library for free.
I especially like The Millionaire Next Door. It challenges the myth of the millionaire lifestyle. It may change the way you look at your clients. For example, with a very high-end wedding I shot recently, by all outward appearances the family seemed middle class. The father of the bride was retired and the family lived in a very modest home (I videotaped the bridal preparations there). I would have never guessed they would book one of my highest video packages, but they did. You can't judge a book (or a booking) by its cover.
Not surprisingly, one key to long-term success is long-term thinking. You must think not only of today, but of your financial future too. It's much harder to save for retirement when you are self-employed, so you should contribute to a SEP 401(k). The key factor is "paying yourself first." You can read more about this in The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach. In his book, he talks about the "Latte factor": if you habitually spend $5 a day to buy coffee, take that money and invest it instead. He also recommends that you should have between three and six months of living expenses in an emergency fund.
The following websites will give you some money-saving ideas. All of these sites have links to other money saving sites, so the list is almost endless: Video Business Advisor (www.videobusinessadvisor.com), by EventDV's own Steve Yankee; Dollar Stretcher (www.dollarstretcher.com); The Simple Living Network (www.simpleliving.net); Suze Orman (www.suzeorman.com); Simple and Frugal Living (www.simpleandfrugal.com); Savings Mania (www.savingsmania.com); The Tightwad Gazette (www.tightwadgazette.com); The Clark Howard Show (www.Clarkhoward.com); On The Money Trail (www.onthemoneytrail.com). Also check out the website Freecycle (www.freecycle.org). This is where people post the items they want to give away for free, and you can post what you are looking for. One man's trash is another man's treasure.
Another way to make money and de-clutter your home/office is to sell your stuff on eBay. Not sure how to get started? Check out the eBay for Dummies book. There are even companies that will sell your stuff for you online. They get a percentage of the selling price, but it will still pay better than leaving them to sit in your home/office collecting dust.
Do you have children? It is never too soon to start a college fund! However, don't save the money in your child's name. To find out why and to get more tips on maximizing funds that you could get from a college, visit the the Fin Aid website at (http://fafsa.org/fafsa/maximize.phtml).
Even with careful financial planning, you could still end up in a financial mess if you are a victim of identify theft. For more information on how to prevent and what to do if you do become a victim, visit the Identity Theft and Fraud website at http://www.usdoj.gov/criminal/fraud/idtheft.html.
Once your financial situation is in order, you will now have the resources and peace of mind to go after your dreams. Do you have any money-saving tips or advice that you would like to share? How do you save money on business and household expenses? Do you have a favorite financial website, book, podcast, radio, or television show that you would like to share? Please send them to me, and I will include them in a future column.