Knowing When to Splurge and When to Save

All you have to do is look over at the Vendor List to know that there are literally hundreds of resources and products available to photographers. Most of the products out there really can benefit your business and help stimulate phenomenal growth, enhance the client experience, and help keep you both sane and successful. However, there is something to be said for too much of a good thing. With all of the resources available, it can be all too easy to spend yourself out of business, or at least drain your account. But these three easy steps can help you know when to splurge and when to save, bringing balance to your business.

Alicia over at Served Up Fresh created a fantastic little PDF called “The Art of the Business Buy” that walks you through several key questions (and answers!) to ask yourself before clicking the “buy” button. My two favorite questions are “Do I already have a similar product?” and “Will I still want to buy this in four days?” I have used those two questions over and over again when purchasing something for the business as well in my personal life when shopping. Anyone who has been to Michael’s or Hobby Lobby knows how easy it is to pick up just one more thing and suddenly you have an extra $30 worth of stuff during checkout. And with the introduction of Paypal for online purchasing, it’s easier than ever buy a bunch of little things that add up to one big chunk of your monthly spending.

So how do we curb reckless spending but still purchase those items that will benefit our business?

When thinking about buying something make sure to do your research first! Google the product and read reviews from bloggers, store websites, Facebook, etc. See if people are happy with their purchase or if there are points to watch out for. Some negative points may have a work-around or you might end up saving yourself a lot of hassle if you find out the item wouldn’t work for you after all.  You may even find a discount code or sale and save yourself a bit of money, too!  A little research goes a long way and you’ll always feel more confident about your decision when you are well-informed.

A few examples:
Actions- Most creators have a blog or gallery where they share before & after images so you can see if the set would be a good match for your style of photography.
Camera Bags- Several of the leading forums and websites (Such as Clickin’ Moms) occasionally feature “a peek inside” a photographer’s bag. These posts are good to see how a certain bag handles under day-to-day use and gives you an idea of what all can fit inside.
Backdrops- Run a search on Flickr for examples of photographers using different colors of seamless paper or fabric/vinyl backdrops. Some photographers will share their favorites as part of their FAQ or “ask me” blog posts. This way you can see the backdrops in action and know how they will photograph and handle under different lighting conditions.

Setting a budget allows you the luxury of both splurging and saving! Take a look at what funds are left over after all business expense and salaries have been taken out and set aside a specific amount or percentage for monthly spending. (Think of it as the envelope system for your business!) This way you have a earmarked amount that can be used the next time that “must-have” guide goes on sale without having to dip into your savings account (a big no-no!) or sacrificing an important part of your business. You can even take this a step further and build your spending budget into your luxe session fee so you are able to purchase new props or templates with each new client. One of the selling points of my Baby Plan is the personal prop shopping for each baby and have built a certain amount into the plan fee so I can order new hats and blankets without taking from my overall spending budget. Talk about a win-win situation!

Now the key to a good budget is sticking to it! A budget does absolutely no good if you ignore it or constantly go over. If you anticipate spending more next month than your set budget, then spend less this month and add the funds together to make the larger purchase; which brings us to the third tip!

This right here is my favorite tip and it’s oh-so-easy! Let’s say you have your eye on the 85mm 1.2L (Michelle Moore’s favorite go-to lens!) but never have quite enough money saved up. Here’s what you do: every so often ignore the buy button put it into savings instead! When you find something that you really want but know that you can do without it, take that exact amount and transfer it from your checking account into your savings account. Or if you don’t want to constantly be transferring funds, simply record that amount on your smartphone or in your checkbook and then make one lump sum transfer at the end of the month. Believe me when I say that you’ll be surprised at how quickly the small numbers add up! After a couple of months you’ll have quite little stash and can easily make the big purchases that you would otherwise have to do without.

Balancing the urge to splurge and the need to save is a delicate balance, but hopefully these three steps will help you tackle this slippery issue and get a little bit closer to that new camera or workshop! Good luck! And happy splurging/saving!