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Ways To Waste Your Hard-Earned Cash

Holy cow, I am responsible for my own income! Sometimes the realization still gives me chills. But I knew there were things I was going to have to do away with in order to get by until my startup generated a proper cash flow. Each day I think about how NOT to spend a dollar and in the process I've discovered there are so many ways to waste your hard-earned cash. Here are five of my fails:

On July 31, 2014 when I decided to become a full-fledged big girl (by leaving my day job) and follow my passion of serving women entrepreneurs, I knew there were some things that were going to change when I woke up the next day.

The most pressing one was my finances. Holy cow, I am responsible for my own income! Sometimes the realization still gives me chills. But I knew there were things I was going to have to do away with in order to get by until my startup generated a proper cash flow.

Each day I think about how NOT to spend a dollar and in the process I’ve discovered there are so many ways to waste your hard-earned cash. Here are five of my fails:

1. Paying for tech services/data you don’t need.

Now that I was working on my startup from home, and much of my time was spent on the computer, I didn’t really need that large expensive phone data package anymore. (I hate to admit it, but I probably never did).

I called my phone provider that week and cut down my data plan significantly. My son and I were sharing a 20GB value plan. Add on additional service costs, and times when we would exceed our gigabytes and our monthly bill ranged from $130-$200 per month. I’ve since cut the gigs by half, and with taxes and services included, have managed to get our bill down to $95.

2. Driving every day.

I was once a person who spent a considerable amount of time in my car. If I wasn’t driving to a meeting or an event, I was returning from one. And as we all know, gas isn’t cheap. So I needed to do something that would allow me to still attend the things that I have to, but cut back on my gasoline consumption as well.

In a term I like to call Travel Stacking – I try to stack all of my meetings and events on the same day. Instead of scheduling meetings five days of the week at any time or day, I try to make sure all of my meetings are back to back and as many of them on the same day as possible. Then my week can look a little more like this – Monday (home), Tuesday (home), Wednesday (out day – 9 a.m. meeting, 11 a.m. meeting, lunch (brown-bag lunch and work the rest of the day out of a co-working space), Thursday (home), Friday (out day, etc.). Now instead of driving five days per week, I’m driving two and utilizing phone conferences as much as I can. I also try to hold meetings as close to my home as possible or all back to back at the same location.

3. Eating out.

This is pretty much a no-brainer, but how many of you are successful at it? Believe me, I’m not finger pointing. Before running Lioness full-time, I ate out more than I ate in. Most of my meetings were hosted at restaurants or coffee houses and I was on the road often – so grabbing and going just seemed to make sense (and cooking is also not my favorite thing to do). I purchased coffee at work (often twice per day), breakfast and lunch and if I grabbed dinner on my way to an event, I usually ate it while driving. It wasn’t the healthiest or the most fiscally-sound way to live. I was spending approximately $60 per week, plus I still had to buy groceries for my house.

Working from home most days has allowed me to completely re-evaluate my menu and whether eating out is necessary. What I was spending dining out, now gets me enough groceries for an entire month!

4. Socializing without purpose.

We all want to grab some cosmos with the gals or catch up with our business peers after work. I’m a social creature. I want to know who’s doing what, when, where, why and then tell everyone else about it.

The problem is I was often doing this without any sense of purpose, which was hefty on my wallet. Scenario 1: I’d pay $10 to go to a networking event and maybe leave with one or two solid connections, after I spent $12-$15 at the bar. Scenario 2: I’d go to a networking event where I knew everyone (it’s really an opportunity to have a blast with my buddies) and have some cocktails. Scenario 3: Going out with girlfriends on the weekend and spending $50 between dinner and drinks. And sometimes, many of these scenarios happened in the same week!

My new strategy? I decide the number of legitimate networking events I can afford to go to per month (after checking to see if they have a first time free option) and only pay to go if: I don’t know the majority of people attending, it’s in a city or town I don’t get to often, I am looking to make a connection with the group or place where it’s being hosted or if my true potential clients and/or audience will be there. If I want to catch up with friends, I can visit them or entertain them at my house for $20 or less (booze and food included). So while socializing previously cost me roughly $200 a month, now I can get away with doing it for as little as $40. Believe me, once you start attaching outcomes to networking, you’ll find out relatively quickly that most networking events are often just paid opportunities for you to hang out with your friends.

5. Buying odds and ends.

This one makes me want to hide my face with shame, because I never even noticed my odds and ends spending! This is all of the random, spur of the moment, crap you purchase on a whim. It’s the crap near the checkout lane at the grocery store (gum, mints, the latest issue of US Weekly). My list looks something like this:

  • Cruising the Internet during lunch and remembering my phone charger is starting to act up and going to amazon.com and buying two. Or waiting until my charger is damn near dying tonight and ordering it and now needing to pay extra to expedite it in the mail.
  • Running to Big Lots to purchase cleaning supplies and spotting the entire Brat Pack DVD set for only $10. Oh wait. They have the first season of The Sopranos? I’ll take that, too.
  • I can also get carried away on: iTunes, magazine subscriptions (most of their content is free online anyway), hair products, donating to organizations and/or causes that are not near and dear to my heart, sponsorships that having nothing to do with my industry and late fees.

I share this to say when we contemplate going out on our own as entrepreneurs, money is often the first thing we consider. How the heck will we maintain our lifestyles? I am open to penny pinching if it means that I can invest in what matters most – my future. As the saying goes, “Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t so you can spend the rest of your life like most people cant.”

About the author

Natasha Zena

Around age eight Natasha Zena was told it was a woman’s job to take care of the home and since then she has built a career out of telling women they can do whatever the hell they want to do. She is the co-founder of Lioness, the go-to news source for everything female entrepreneur. Natasha was recognized as an emerging leader in digital media by The Poynter Institute and the National Association of Black Journalists. She has mentored women entrepreneurs and moderated panels at a number of national accelerators, Startup Weekends and conferences such as The Lean Startup Conference, the Massachusetts Conference for Women, Women Empower Expo and Smart Cities Connect. Natasha is also the author of the popular whitepaper, "How To Close The Gender Gap In Startup Land By 2021." In her spare time, she writes short fiction and hangs out with her son, Shaun.

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