The Mint Grad

Real FLC: Budgeting for business and pleasure

FLC-CrystalSchreinerThe interview below highlights the real life experience of Crystal S., a “serial entrepreneur,” and Marquette University alum, who co-founded two small business ventures by the time she turned 22. As a Los Angeles director’s assistant, nationally published photographer, CEO of a production company and world traveler, Crystal understands the importance of maintaining an effective budget in both her personal and professional life. Her story is part of a series that focuses on real people who learn to show themselves (and their businesses) some financial loving care.

Q: Why is having a budget an important part of your life?

Having a budget is essential to what I do! And trust me it takes time to learn this. My life and business focus on creativity, so the science of managing finances didn’t come naturally to me; it was more of a necessity.

I need money to live on, but my personal budget is very minimal as I try to grow my business. I do simple things to get by on a limited budget. I don’t live in an apartment I can’t afford. I don’t spend extra money on cable that I don’t watch. To sum it up, I don’t spend money I don’t have. I’ll splurge later in life (at least, that’s the goal!).

Q: How about your business budget?

Budgeting for a business is a learning experience when you begin. You have to discover what works and what doesn’t, and sometimes you learn the hard way. My business budget is crucial in order to continue to grow and sustain the longevity of my money as I move forward in my career. I’m always aware of exactly where each dime is spent. When starting a business, you have to sacrifice a lot because you’re running in survival mode. Extra money made isn’t spending money for leisure; it’s money to reinvest in yourself and grow your business even more.

To create a business budget, you need to know which components of your business will cost money. Ask yourself: Do you have a monthly website fee? Employees you need to pay? Office space? Business cards? Count all the little things, because they add up fast! Avoid excess costs and don’t spend money on things that won’t return the investments.

Q: What would happen if you didn’t have an effective budget?

If I didn’t have a budget, I would be a lot more careless with my spending and probably overspend on little purchases. It’s easy to calculate big purchases, but the little things will cost you. Making a habit of spending on a budget will help in the long run. Simply being aware of your budget helps you make conscious decisions each and every time you make a purchase.

Q: How did you start a business on a college budget?

You begin by using the free resources you have all around you. There are an abundance of tools through social media and the internet to get started. I self-educated online about the industry I wanted to start a business in. If you put energy into your free resources, it will turn into leads with enough time, effort and persistence.

I also shared my business ideas with prominent people in the industry. Business is very much about relationships, so I discussed mine with people in my network. I found organizations and networking groups that I could become a part of, as well as other young start-ups I felt I could collaborate and grow with. I set up a lot of meetings with people in my community that I could gain leverage with. These relationships cost any more than a cup of coffee at a local shop and an hour of my time. When I was in college, I sent 100 emails to photographers I wanted to meet, and only five or six actually got back to me. But those people inspired me and taught me about the real business even before I launched my own.

You might feel vulnerable to others’ opinions, but taking these steps to share your business endeavors to your network and beyond is essential. You have to sell your vision and dream to others, especially potential investors and clients.

If you have the right mindset, true entrepreneurial spirit, a fearless drive and resources to self-educate, you’ll find a way to make it happen on any budget. Go out and just do it.

Q: What advice do you have for other young entrepreneurs?

  • The time to start is NOW.
    So many people make excuses as to why they aren’t starting their dream business, and so it never ends up happening for them.
  • Network, network, network.
    Follow the careers of professionals you aspire to be like and get in touch with them. These people will inspire you, feel your passion and give you valuable business advice.
  • Start small.
    Launch your business as a part-time job while maintaining your full time job until you can afford to focus solely on your business venture.
  • Reach out for financial help.
    Get advice from those who know how to handle budgets. I have someone I trust and go to for financial advice which has saved me many headaches. Financial planners are underrated and so valuable if you don’t know what you’re doing.
  • Have financial goals.
    And reevaluate them every 3 months. Your business is always changing, especially in the early stages, so your finances need to mirror that.
  • Create a business account that’s separate from your personal account.
    It’s important to keep track of all your business expenses. Make a habit of saving all your receipts.
  • Make a list of costs you can give up.
    Go through all the expenses on your credit and debit cards and decide what you can and cannot afford. Figure out how much value each expense is bringing to your life and business.
  • Be resourceful.
    Find tools to help you start your business and navigate through the costs of doing so, such as websites with tax information and free accounting programs. I highly suggest, which guided me through cost effective ways to get my business set up in a timely manner. You should also get a budget app to help you track and analyze your expenses.
  • Invest in your business, but don’t spend too much too quickly.
    You want it all, and you want instant success. But success takes time, so don’t spend all your money at once.
  • Be mindful of your financial needs.
    Everyone will try to tell you they have “xyz” that will help your business grow. Always know what you are buying into and the terms and conditions.
  • Get thrifty.
    Know where to go to buy reasonably priced clothes, even if it means thrift stores. Look sharp, but learn how to shop resourcefully.
  • Realize that time is money.
    Know where to focus your time. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when starting a business; you’ll want to do it all but time is valuable. Don’t waste it on little things that won’t matter in the long run.

Q: What happens if you break your budget?

I’ve made budget mistakes and created some debt, but I’ve made far greater strides in my career by investing in myself and building my knowledge into a lifelong asset. Having minimal debt was a necessary business decision. Being in debt isn’t always a bad thing, as a long as you have a plan to get out of it. Sometimes you have to spend money to make money.

Don’t completely deprive yourself, either. I celebrate the little successes along the way and make it a habit to reward myself when good things happen. If you feel like you deserve it, you’ll feel better about the money spent.

Q: What’s your budget kryptonite?

I can work from anywhere, so if I’m working at a coffee shop or restaurant, I’ll spend money on food or drinks I could do without. It’s also difficult for me to turn down travel, but sometimes it’s necessary. Other than that, I’m a terrible consumer; I hate spending money! My mom once said, “If you’re not making money, you’re most likely spending money.” I tend to focus on the former.

To learn more about Crystal, visit her website:


Financial Loving Care


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