Tuesday, July 30, 2013

They Reduce. I Reuse, Recycle &/or Repurpose

I’m on a fairly strict budget right now, because my savings cushion is less than I’d like and we’re remodeling our house. So the general rule is “I’m only allowed to buy things for the house that will improve the long-term value of the home.” That’s the practical money side.

On the not-so-practical emotional side, I want to decorate my new house and make it a home. Our new-to-us home is 500 square feet larger than our last home, we don’t have many things to begin with, and I hate my current color scheme (in my defense, it has been a decade of black, white, red and browns).

So, what’s a girl to do?

FIRST, I let my friends and family know that I’m interested in their unwanted goods and I have Uhaul on speed dial if needed.

The chairs and foot stools were from a previous ask.
I’m always amazed at how much stuff people get rid of or are willing to part with because they don't really need it anymore. In just a few months, we found ourselves with two washing machines (one top loader and one front loader), one clothes dryer, full size gas BBQ, 5’ x 7’ area rug that looks amazing in the dining room, heavy punching bag, vintage butterfly chairs, 50’s metal outdoor dining set, vintage metal rolling table, vintage desk fan, and a heavy duty metal work table.

This isn’t about hoarding or flipping for me, so I turned down a couch, loveseat, and three sets of fluffy fancy towels (from three different households…) because they didn’t go with my new color scheme. And the extra washing machine went to my mother.  

SECOND, Keep an eye out on the free piles.

We live very close to a nice neighborhood and people are always throwing things away or putting free piles in their driveways. So while walking the dog, we’ve acquired two practically brand new cordless home phones with answering machine, road bike handle bars and bar ends, road bike race bars, cashmere sweater, stack of 2’ x 4’ wood sticks, great old books on sailing, and some holiday string lights.

This works best outside of garage sale season. And the best finds are the things that people leave on the sidewalk because they don’t fit in the moving truck.

THIRD, Repurpose. Repurpose. Repurpose.

When I’m not on a budget, it’s so easy for me to buy something, use it, get bored of it and store it in the back of the closet, never to be seen again. There are three main events that get me hunting in the back of my closets: moving, spring cleaning and when I’m on a budget.  

I’m always pleasantly surprised when I go digging in the back of my closet because these are things that I once loved, which means there’s a good chance that I will love them again, as long as I can find a new use for them.

Bonus: the prints are more fun than traditional 
curtains and the sewing is already done.
The first repurpose of this house was out of necessity; our house has 18 windows and not a single usable curtain when we moved in. And no, this is not about using sheets in place of proper window coverings…although we did do, just until we got our curtains. Curtains are a necessity, so that expense was justified, but I was able to save money on the smaller windows, by using the printed cloth napkins and dishtowels that I already had.

My next project was to reupholster a living room chair that I’ve had since I was 16 and has been a redone more times than I can count. Since I couldn’t go out and buy new fabric, I had to “find” some. Turns out there was a perfect piece in the closet that was once a tablecloth and was just waiting for a new purpose.

Being restricted on some purchases can be a bit of a bummer, but it gives me an opportunity to be resourceful. Plus, I just think of the next trip that I’m saving up for and in the grand scheme of things, traveling is more important to me than a perfectly decorated house.   

- Leah Schonlank

Finance Gym offers personal finance coaching in professionally facilitated peer-advisory groups. 
Are you ready to reach your financial goals? Get motivated. Get support. Get results!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Power of Community

I had a client once who I’d been working with for about a year. Her finances were in a bit of a shambles when she showed up. She wasn't earning enough, was overspending, had no reserves and a lot of debt. She made incremental progress, but not enough. No where near enough.

About half way through the year she decided to train for a marathon, even though she had never even ran a 5k. It was with great interest that I watched her jump in. She had fear and trepidation, but she jumped in nonetheless. She put her running shoes on and stepped out the door. She announced it to all her friends on Facebook. She declared she was doing it. She asked for money. She tracked her progress. She inspired everyone around her. Within less than a year she went from not being a runner at all to running a marathon.

Meanwhile, she was making progress, small progress, slow progress, on her finances. When I asked her why she was so successful in one seemingly insurmountable goal, and making only margin success in the other, she responded with great thought:

I love how the marathon training makes me feel;
I made a commitment and that anchored me; and
I’m excited (and scared) about the marathon.

What would it take to feel that way about your finances? How could you get to a place that you loved the way working on your finances made you feel? What if you made a commitment right out there on Facebook to “run a marathon” (e.g. achieve 3 months reserves, pay off all of your debt, etc.) What if it wasn’t a secret but instead, you inspired those around you to do something bold by saying “I’m showing up differently to my finances.” What if you were excited about your money? What if you said out loud to someone “I’m a little scared too.”

What is missing with our financial lives is that sense of community. When we jump into a group effort to raise money for a great cause and shout it out to everyone we know, we are inspiring those around us and providing ourselves with the anchored commitment that “we’re going to do this thing.” A sense of community is how how farmers’ barns were built and how enough money is raised to build our great cultural institutions. But we have no sense of community with our personal finances. It’s our little secret. For many of us, it’s our dirty little secret. We’d rather share details about our sex lives before details about our money.

And why? What would happen if you shared how much debt you had? Would you someone’s lose respect? Lose a friend? Or would you inspire others to do something about their credit card debt.

What would happen if you were on a Team in Training for your financial life?

- Stacey Powell

Finance Gym offers personal finance coaching in professionally facilitated peer-advisory groups. 
Are you ready to reach your financial goals? Get motivated. Get support. Get results!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Entrepreneurship and Making ‘Adult’ Financial Decisions

When I launched on Forbes.com I promised myself that I was going to start Telling the Truth. It’s easy to be a financial guru, talk at people, and tell them, “This Is How You Should Handle Your Money.” It takes more courage to be transparent and share stories not just from our clients, but from ourselves, and even more courage to share not just from our past, but from our present. So here I am, being courageous.
Every summer I head to Dallas for the annual eWomen Network Conference. I look forward to it all year long. It’s the largest business women’s conference in North America, and an amazing place to learn, connect and be inspired. Sandra Yancey, CEO of eWomen Network, provides the incredible opportunity to learn from a long list of business rock stars: Michael GerberTony Hsieh (Zappos),Robert Stephens (Geek Squad)Lisa NicholsZig Ziglar and the list goes on. This summer, I’m not going.
What’s an ‘Adult Financial Decision’?
Adult financial decisions are logical decisions—ones we intuitively know are good decisions even though every other part of our being disagrees. When we make adult financial decisions, our inner child screams, “But I wanted that!” or our lips pout or our hearts feel heavy. Last month I made the adult financial decision that my team was not going to the conference this year. As a result, I’ve been walking around pouting and having a heavy heart. And then I heard a voice shout: “Stacey, how many hundreds of times have you advised people who were conflicted about when and how much to spend on professional development??? Stop being a weenie and write a blog.”
Entrepreneurs make the assumption that they are the only ones making emotional spending decisions. “If I just ran my business more like a business owner, I don’t think I’d have these cash flow issues.” The truth is that entrepreneurs are human beings, and most of us humans make emotionally-based financial decisions. That’s not a bad thing. It’s when we don’t balance emotionally-based decisions with logical ones that imbalance can capsize our ship. Over the past year, my business has made a number of bold spending decisions, some logical, some emotionally-based. We’ve also pruned our client tree (let a few clients go who were no longer a good fit). The end result is that our reserves are at low tide.
Could we go to the conference? Yes. Do we have the cash? Yes. Would there be consequences? Yes. Is it worth the consequences? Logically, no.
When do you spend money on Professional Development?
The short answer is every year. If you aren’t learning, you aren’t growing, and you aren’t serving your business or your clients. Every major corporation has a budget for Professional Development in the neighborhood of $2,000 annually per employee. Investing in your people is critical to the success of a business. The American Society for Training and Development says that an increase of $680 in a company’s training expenditures per employee generates, on average, a 6 percent improvement in total shareholder return. For solopreneurs or entrepreneurs with micro-businesses—those with fewer than 10 employees—the spending decision is often emotional and not logical. We logically know we should go to conferences, use coaches and consultants, and buy books. But we emotionally weigh the decision against having $2,000 more to cover payroll, invest in marketing, pay off a line of credit or build reserves.
Having an annual spending plan helps keep us focused on the logic of the decision, but when it comes to writing the check, an entrepreneur knows the pros and cons of letting that money go out the door.
What’s too much? What’s too little?
The most truthful story I’ve ever heard about the pains of investing in professional development is fromAllison Byrd. She’s an up-and-coming business rock star herself, and courageous for telling audiences her truth. She tells of driving through three states, staying in a run-down motel and barely having enough money for gas to be at a training she knew, intuitively, she had to be at. That was not an “Adult Financial Decision”; it was emotionally-based. And it was a good decision. It dramatically changed the course of her business. If I was her CFO, I wouldn’t have advised her to go, but as I say in “10 Decisions Not to Make Alone,” don’t always take your accountant’s advice.
People talk to me about money. People I’ve just met find out what I do, and then tell me in a quiet voice some truth about their money. I’ve heard many people share with me in confidence stories similar to Allison’s. But we don’t share with others. We show up at trainings and conferences and announce to the world that All Is Well and Business Is Great. It might be more helpful to our fellow entrepreneurs if, like Allison, we told the truth.
Here are some considerations when making your own adult financial decisions and emotionally-based decisions about spending professional development dollars:
  • Did you integrate Professional Development into your annual budget? Less than $2,000 per employee or more?
  • How much have you spent over the past few years? Have you seen a return on investment from those expenditures?
  • Have you implemented what you learned from past trainings and conferences, or have the binders you brought back become ‘shelf-help’ rather than self-help?
  • Do you have a stack of business books you haven’t even started reading? How many books have you read this month? This year?
Would you like to spend more than you’ve allotted? Here’s my favorite advice for how you can justify that decision. One of my favorite clients loves conferences and trainings. There is about $4,000 annually in her spending plan. She wants to spend more, but at this point in her business, the budget doesn’t allow for it. We developed a profit-splitting plan that puts a percentage of her business’ net profits into a savings account titled “Business Investments.” She doesn’t have to spend that money, but when a conference pops up that she wants to attend, she no longer has to discuss it with me or agonize over the pros and cons of the decision. If the money is in that savings account, she goes.
That is an excellent way to balance logic and emotions.

-Stacey Powell

Finance Gym offers personal finance coaching in professionally facilitated peer-advisory groups. 
Are you ready to reach your financial goals? Get motivated. Get support. Get results! 

The Secret of 1,000,000 Followers: Karen Hutton’s

Photo Taken by Scott Jarvie
I would be thrilled for any client to reach 1,000,000 followers, but it has been exceptionally thrilling watching photographer Karen Hutton reach the 1,000,000 follower milestone on Google+. While it is a great accomplishment, that’s not what has made it thrilling. The thrill has been that she reached the 1,000,000 mark without seemingly trying. It’s not your typical story, but not much about Karen is typical.
What does it take to reach 1,000,000 followers?
Most of the entrepreneurs I know believe that it takes the right investment, the right guru, the right system that will firmly place them on the path to entrepreneurial success. Most have invested tens of thousands of dollars into marketing, consultants and coaches. They've spent hundreds of hours of time implementing strategies, launching ideas and working, working, working very hard. Karen, much like her photography, has taken a different approach.
Karen’s path to 1,000,000 has been creative diligence and imaginative consistency. To be an amazing artist you have to be creative and imaginative, but there are thousands of amazing artists who never near critical or commercial success. To reach milestones of success in any field, diligence, persistence and consistency are qualities you must encompass. And it is just those qualities that have catapulted Karen on her path.
I’ve written a blog about Karen before: Creative Brain vs. Business Brain. It’s the story of how she ignited her long-smoldering passion for photography while bolstering her ‘real business’. The back-story is that, while her photography has catapulted her in the world of photography and Google+, it’s not her principle vocation. Karen is a well-known voice over professional: she’s the narrator of the Echoes of Creation film, the voice of the #1 GPS app, MotionX and she talks you through the world in Trey Ratcliff’s amazing Stuck in Customs iPad app.
For the year of 2010, Karen made a strategic business decision to “live her life as an artist.” And while that may conjure up visions of a year of whimsy and impulse, to Karen it meant diligently, persistently and consistently enjoying, learning and growing her love of photography. Her goal wasn’t 1,000,000 followers. Her goal was to bring joy to her life through photography. And she met her goal with diligence, persistence and consistency. Twyla Tharpe’s inspiring book The Creative Habit tells you that creative success comes from doing exactly what Karen did.
She consistently stepped outdoors with her camera to connect with her creativity, she studied other photographers’ work and methods and she began amassing a large volume of work. When she joined Google+ she didn’t just join, she began diligently, consistently posting her photos coupled with her imaginative prose. She found joy in joining in the renaissance community of photographers that have convened on Google+, both online and traveling in person to the photowalks that have sprung from the online community. Admired photographers became friends, and then admirers of her work. The tipping point was when someone at Google noticed her body of work and added her to the Photography & Art interesting people to follow list.
The marketing gurus will tell you to do much of this: joint venture, build community, post regularly. The uniqueness, though, of Karen’s path was that she wasn’t seeking an outcome of 1,000,000 followers; she was using creativity to bolster her life. She was simply having fun.
Are you using creativity to bolster your life and your business?

-Stacey Powell

Finance Gym offers personal finance coaching in professionally facilitated peer-advisory groups. 
Are you ready to reach your financial goals? Get motivated. Get support. Get results!