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March 2014
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Recalibrating the Finances

I’ve been co-managing a business for more than twelve years now. Since the business continues to support our family, evidence suggests that I have at least a minimal level of competence at the tasks that I must do. However I’m constantly aware that there are huge gaps in my knowledge, because I learn things as they become necessary instead of having a comprehensive knowledge. This means that sometimes I’m doing things the hard way. Once I had a successful way to get something done, I never stopped to wonder if there could be a better one. As one my goals for this year, I’ll be trying to redress this. I’ll be learning how to make reports and graphs so that more of our business decisions can be data driven rather than instinct driven. We have pretty good instincts, but those instincts will only get better if they’re fed data.

Along with trying to make our business flow more quantifiable, I’m also re-vamping our family finances. Last year we took on some significant additional expenses (college tuition, ongoing mental health care for family members, lessons) and we changed the way that we handle paychecks. Last year we had a large monetary influx that helped us cover all of that. We won’t have a comparable influx this year, so it is time to recalibrate our monthly budget. We don’t want to accidentally run ourselves further into debt instead of slowly digging ourselves out.

Both of these projects required me to spend most of my Saturday deep into accounting. I dug into historical records to create profit and loss sheets for each book. I sorted through papers to make sure I had everything in order. I sat down and re-learned the budgeting system in Quicken so that I can be checking our status every week, month, and quarter. I’ve assigned myself additional work for each accounting day, but I’ve turned it into routine work instead of stressful work, which is important. Stressful work gets avoided, routine work gets done.

Part of this recalibration is shifting our spending habits downward a bit. We don’t have to go into crisis mode, but I do need to dust off some of my frugal living habits and make sure that we’re using our resources wisely. This means I need to be paying attention on a smaller scale than I have been for the past while. I need to be pausing before buying. Sometimes I’ll buy anyway, but that pause is important because it allows us to prioritize. To use a metaphor, we don’t want to spend all our money on popcorn and not be able to afford movie tickets. At the end of all the mucking around with numbers, I feel better. I have a clearer picture of where we are financially and where we need to be headed. Now I need to go make dinner instead of waiting until the last minute and then buying one.

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