When you embark on your quest to live the Dot Com lifestyle where your time is your own and your financial cares are covered, it’s absolutely vital that you start smart.

Keep in mind a key difference that 97% of aspiring entrepreneurs don’t get:

  • a business makes money, and
  • a hobby costs money.

If you choose to begin by bootstrapping — or if your circumstances dictate it — you still must keep our three-stage mantra foremost in your thoughts and actions:

  • Create a plan, something that you’ll enjoy doing;
  • Find a mentor, someone who’s successful and interests you; and
  • Automate as much of your daily business tasks as possible.

It’s advisable to invest in marketing software sooner rather than later in order to publicize your products and/or services effectively. They don’t need to be expensive, and some of them are excellent for new enterprises.

It is if you take action.

Here’s a suggestion to keep your focus on your goal:

Implement a an ever-present reminder that you’re on a mission to succeed.

And there’s nothing more suitable for that purpose than your personal budget.

With that in mind, it’s strongly advisable to feed a war chest that will help you acquire the resources you need to attain the Dot Com lifestyle. That’s most likely gotta come from whatever income you have right now, so you need to make room for it in a disciplined budget.

Here are five tips for pulling in the reins with at little personal pain as possible:

1. Time your shopping.

This is Bargain Hunting 101. Off-peak sales promotions after holidays, blowout sales during holidays, and sourcing winter clothes in the summer are obvious examples of opportunities to realize significant savings.

That includes groceries.

And make a list before you go. Don’t deviate. Beware of impulse purchases; they only wipe out all or part of the savings you want to achieve.

2. Clear your browser before searching airfares.

Airlines and travel sites uses cookies to see how often you search for flights, and they have no problem using the data against you.

Regardless of urban myths, the reality is there is no consistent truth to exactly which days are cheapest to fly.

Your best strategy is to get a quick visual of prices for an entire month to see which days offer the best deal for your specific route. Just choose one way for your trip — remember you’re only selecting the best departure date — and then select the entire month.

As well, some bare-bones budget airlines aren’t listed on the aggregators. Go directly to their sites and keep in mind their prices are à la carte.

3. Reduce your phone data.

Clearly, the obvious move here is to set data limits. Most providers offer tools — for example, the AT&T Data Calculator — to help you estimate your usage. Combine its guidelines with your past few months’ bills to get an accurate idea of your situation.

You also might want to consider a data-compressing app like Onavo. It’s been around a while and has performed impressively enough that Facebook bought it in 2013.

4. Avoid vampire charges.

These are what you’re paying for not using your appliances and electronics.

Unplug the appliances and turn off your electronics when you’re doing something else. Power strips make this a less tedious task, when one switch addresses all.

The average American household spends $100 per year powering devices that are turned off or in standby mode, according to Energy Star – and that’s probably a conservative figure.

Make use of any free online calculator — for example, from SRP — to assist in determining what your exposure to vampires might be.

5. Use discounted gift cards.

Combining gift cards with sales is an age-old practice and well worth it if the opportunity presents itself.

If you’ve got a discounted gift card, so much the better. But caveat emptor: before you use one, check the balance to make certain you’ve confirmed the value it’s supposed to contain.

Gift card exchange sites abound. Here are three of the most popular:

There are even discount gift card aggregators like Gift Card Granny that show where the best card deals can be found at any given time.

And of course, there’s the giant of cash-back discount service for online shoppers: Ebates.

Gotta say, no one’s gonna accuse them of being shrinking violets.

Still, they get the job done, and that’s what you’re seeking.

Again, you’re building a war chest to expedite your efforts in promoting and scaling a successful online business. You’ll need it to quickly acquire marketing tools that are friendly to non-techs and easy to deploy.

Among other advantages, they enable you to devote more of your valuable time to tasks that directly generate revenues.

And that’s when you’ve proven to yourself that you’re in business. Your own business.

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