Most entrepreneurs expect to be financially strapped, at least in some way. They’ve watched “Shark Tank” just like the rest of us. But what they don’t always consider is the added weight of personal financial demands and debt.
Just how much debt is lurking behind our credit reports? One WalletHub study found that the average household owes $8,600 to credit card providers — which is unsurprising, given that Americans have collectively racked up more than $1 trillion in IOUs. In other words, founders are more likely than not to be floating in fiscal purgatory.
Does this mean it’s impossible to succeed? Of course not, or we’d never have any startups at all. Entrepreneurs just need to plan carefully and take calculated steps forward.
To effectively combat financial obstacles, starry-eyed innovators owe it to themselves to become resourceful and scrappy. Whether that means taking advantage of cash-back rewards or paying for items through points redemption doesn’t matter. What does matter is making smart choices right out of the gate; otherwise, financial obligations could slay even the most noteworthy operation.
Get the Most Bang From Your Bucks
When I launched my business, I knew I needed to be extremely resourceful to cover the everyday expenses. For example, when I moved into an office, I obviously needed furniture to fill it. But instead of spending thousands on desks and chairs, I used credit card points from my personal card issuers to purchase Amazon gift cards. Then, I ordered everything online. Plus, I kept a few of the gift cards in reserve to reward hard-working employees and contractors.
Why did I choose this method instead of using my personal reserves? Honestly, I wanted to save my cash. I’d rather face compound interest than tap into my liquid reserves any day. Done strategically, it’s possible to pay off credit cards without allowing interest to build on top of the balances by being wise.
Inevitably, you’ll have to use your personal and business credit cards just as tactically. Business cards should always get first dibs on payments because they drive revenue and income. At the same time, personal cards have to be maintained. So, too, do student loans, personal lines of credit, and car payments. It’s not good business to have creditors hounding you because you made poor choices such as paying bills late.
Manage Manage Personal Credit Card Debt and Move On
No matter what you do, it’s never a good idea to take on more debt or responsibility unless your affairs are either manageable or situated properly. Even when you are prepared, it can be difficult to watch your personal and business debt mount. But if you’re truly in it to win it with a new venture, you need to play the long game to build your business into one that will pay off all your debts in full.
If you’ve got financial obligations but are looking to start your own company, consider these tried-and-true techniques for paying off personal debts while following your dream:
Seek out sound tax advice.
Don’t have a tax professional’s digits plugged into your smartphone? Find someone trustworthy right away. Spending money on tax advice might seem like a surprising tip, but you’d be amazed at how much you can save by managing your expenses well from a tax perspective. Case in point: I used my tax refunds to pay off some of my personal debts until my business took off, making sure I focused on cutting the balance of higher-interest credit cards first.
Hide your high-interest credit cards.
Although you might not want to get rid of your high-interest credit cards entirely, you need to at least stop using them. Put them in a file cabinet or safe deposit box so they are out of sight and out of mind. Then, pay down the balances as fast as you can. Focus on one card at a time, paying more than the minimum amount due. Create a spreadsheet to help you see when you’ll be paid off and when you can begin attacking another debt.
Consolidate debt when it makes sense.
Let’s say you receive or stumble across an offer from a credit card to transfer balances at an irresistibly low rate. Do your research — and do the math — and see whether you’ll actually save anything if you transfer a chunk of debt. Does everything check out? Consolidate. Remember that you don’t have to work with an official debt consolidation company to make this move; you can do it all on your own.
Consider getting a personal loan.
Do you have a considerable amount of credit card debt with high interest rates? A personal loan with a lowered interest rate might allow you to pay off your obligations faster. Use the loan to pay off all your credit card accounts at once. That way, you’ll have one monthly lump sum to worry about rather than multiple bills coming due. If you have money left over, consider putting it toward other debts such as student loans or car payments.
Find a side hustle.
You’ve seen them out there: Uber drivers, Lyft drivers, Uber Eats providers, OrderUp delivery people. Often, they’re playing the moonlighting game, and they’re doing it for supplemental income. Join their ranks, and you’ll be among the 44 million U.S. residents who are earning more at side gigs. More than a third make in excess of $500 every month, which is a nice chunk of change to throw at debt.
Start strategizing before you officially own a business.
Maybe you won’t open your operation for a year or longer. Use the interim period to boost your personal financial situation. I actually started planning my entrepreneurial success from a young age, thanks in part to watching my Realtor mom work. My first three home purchases were starters in good communities; I stayed in each one for a couple of years, ensuring they stayed in like-new condition, and cashed out bigger every time. The funds I received helped offset the cost of running a startup down the road.
Feeling a little dizzy when thinking about your cash reserves and personal debt? Don’t let it stop you from grabbing the brass ring. Most people bootstrap their businesses, and you won’t be the exception. Simply tell yourself that along with focusing on the growth of your company, you’ll always keep your personal finances as a top priority, too.