Personal Finance Interview with Shara Lawrence-Weiss on Home Based Businesses

Personal Finance Interview with Shara Lawrence-Weiss on Home Based Businesses

Running a business from home offers plenty of perks (like more personal flexibility and ditching that annoying commute), but there are also plenty of opportunities for headaches (like trying to strike a balance between work and family life).

One of the most common mistakes home-based businesses make is not separating home expenses and business expenses, says Shara Lawrence-Weiss, the blogger behind Mommy Perks.

"The lines get blurred when we use the wrong debit card to purchase items (i.e. using the personal debit card to buy business goods or using the business debit card to buy groceries)," she says. "This was something we learned through trial and error. If we use the correct debit card each time, and put aside the receipts right away, it saves a lot of time when tax season comes."

Shara and her husband Rick run their web development business, Weiss Business Solutions, out of their home - so they know a thing or two about what it takes to juggle business and family.

Here, Shara offers a few tips on managing money for both your business and your family.

Can you tell us about Mommy Perks? When and why did you start your blog?

The site was started by a woman name Lori back in 2005. We became business partners in 2007 and in early 2009 I purchased the site and became sole owner. The original plan was to create a franchise that offered local perks but I decided to go in a different direction with my own background and interests. Mommy Perks now runs business articles, finance articles and parenting info. We also offer PR and marketing packages, etc. My husband and I run multiple sites as a web development team.

Who should be reading it?

If you are interested in parenting or business, Mommy Perks will be of interest to you.

You also own a business - can you tell us about Weiss Business Solutions? What services do you offer?

Sure - my husband and I have backgrounds in web development, design, content, hosting, graphics, marketing, freelance and B2B. We combined our skills in order to create Weiss Business Solutions: a B2B operation.

How do you and your husband balance running a small business and raising a family?

It depends on the season of life, really. At times we have employed a nanny or a sitter. We currently watch the kids ourselves and take turns working during the day. We also share the household duties: cooking, cleaning, chores, running the kids around and so on.

What has running a business taught you about managing your family finances?

Rick and I find that it's best to keep our personal purchases separate from our business purchases. When tax season rolls around it is very time consuming to dig back through in order to sort out the expenses and donations. I keep a plastic bin in our office so that I can save our business receipts in one place, ready for taxes. We have separate checking accounts for each business and, of course, a separate account for personal.

What insight can you offer on writing off your home office when it comes to doing taxes?

I find that the NASE (The National Association for the Self Employed) offers up-to-date information about what can be written off, by law. I refer to them and I also post their press releases on the Mommy Perks blog. We generally follow the rules closely when it comes to writing off our home office - so as not to put up any red flags with the IRS. The NASE site can provide more details, for those interested.

What advice do you have on creating and sticking to a budget?

I'm rather old school when it comes to our budget; I still use paper and pen! We like to write down the income we can plan on, what bills are coming in, what will be needed for gas and groceries, and what will be left for fun/donations. From there, we do our best to stick to the budget. We discuss what we spend prior to spending it: that's another tip. We agreed long ago to talk over our spending, before doing it. That has saved many-a-fight, I'm sure.

What are some of your favorite go-to methods for trimming your family's expenses?

We have gotten our expenses down to a bare minimum now so I'm not sure there is anything left to trim! In the past we have trimmed such things as dining out, coffee out, extra cable packages (TV), etc. We only purchase new clothing and shoes when needed and we dropped back to one family vehicle (rather than driving two). That's possible for us because we both work from home.

You have a background in education, so what tips can you offer on teaching kids to manage their money responsibly?

I love this question! We work closely with our kids in order to train them to spend wisely, save and donate. We have used piggy banks that offer three slots for this: spending, saving and donating. When we shop, I like to talk to my kids about what we are buying, our budget, reading labels and price tags, and using a calculator so that we don't over-spend. I sometimes give my kids $5 and say, "You can buy anything you choose with this money but you must take tax into account, along with what you are buying." They walk through the store looking for something they can buy that will not put them over that $5 mark. We have four children and I do NOT plan on supporting them all, later in life (Ha). I want them to be financially wise! (This includes removing a sense of entitlement, of course.)

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