Act 58

Get to know your cash flow

Your budget is the foundation of your financial plan. BUt your cash flow is how the money moves in and out from week to week and month to month. I started using a handy little spread sheet that helps me optimize my cash flow. It’s not something you can check once a year or once a month. You really need to watch it at least once a week – and plan ahead – it’ll take the stress out of knowing wether or not you can make your payments and meet your obligations.

This is my excel sample. By no means is it scientific or accurate. It’s just an example of a basic cash flow sheet for a family with one paycheque, some debt, some insurance, some groceries, some fuel, a car payment – no frills. By carrying over your opening balance every week – adding in your revenue and substracting your expenses you can know ahead of time what you’ll need all month long and when and how much you’ll have to carry forward to next month.

cashflow

I find it helps. Feel free to customize your own. Excel is a wonderful tool for tracking and projecting.

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Act 57

Make sure the eggs in your basket come from different chicken farmers

Defying my debt is about admitting to mistakes. And I’ve made my fair share.

One of which, I think, was the supposed convenience of keeping most of my financial “stuff” at a single institution. I do most of my banking at a credit union. It’s convenient. I like the idea of being a member owner.

I have my mortgage, my personal accounts, my business accounts, my old (sniff) RRSPs, my life insurance, my mortgage insurance and even my car insurance in the same place. I could be wrong, but I think that cost me.

What I should have done was get a mortgage broker and an insurance broker. I should have placed my teenie tiny “wealth” portfolio somewhere else too.

It’s more complicated and it takes more time but I think I would have been better served by seeking out specialists in each area rather than relying on the admittedly kind and helpful generalists at the credit union. I know, for example, that my life insurance meeting led to a discussion about my home’s value and the “opportunity” to refinance to buy some RRSPs. I also know that my request for a line of credit led to a conversation about cashing in those RRSPs to “simplify” things. Had I been dealing with specialists, I think I would have got well, I won’t say better, that might be rude, but more specialized advice.

And money is a very specialized business. My specialty it would appear, is spending it. I admit that too. But things are changing one day at a time. Saturday I will meet with the credit union again to see about options available to me. And I’ll have my LVC (Lifetime Value as a Customer) tucked firmly in my wallet (see Act 47).

Act 56

Go Public.

I started this blog because I wasn’t doing enough to defy my debt. I kept thinking it was a later problem when it’s a now problem.

People who are in debt are rarely part of the conversation about debt. I want to change that.

By building a daily blog post into my routine, I force myself to make conscious and conscientious decisions about my debt every day.

I didn’t go public to solve the problem. I went public to have a record of how to solve the problem. Debt is the number one concern of Canadians. So I figured I would find at least a kindred spirit or two in my pursuit. And I’m so relieved to report that I have and grateful for the kind words of support. Your stories are important. We need to talk about it. We need to fix it. We need to commit our debt to the past.

The story of my blog got picked up by Ellen Roseman, the personal finance columnist for the Toronto Star.

Debt is a product that is packaged, priced, promoted and sold. It’s no wonder the banks are making record profits. I bought in and I’ve been paying for it ever since. It’s time to change that one debt defying act at a time.

The story here:
http://www.thestar.com/business/personal_finance/spending_saving/2013/02/24/entrepreneur_plans_to_reduce_debt_by_going_public.html

Debt Defying Acts – Commit yours today. And share if you want – I’ll repost your ideas.

Act 55

Make stock and take stock

Cooking is a form of therapy for me. I like the ritual of looking in the fridge and finding something to make on a quiet weekend day.

With some sad looking veg, a couple of stale bagels and some nearly empty pots of jam, I spent my Saturday chopping and stirring, thinking and reflecting on the week that was.

Without a trip to the grocery store or yet another debit transaction, I made a hearty soup, some yummy bagels chips and a sweet little desert while cleaning out the fridge and getting ready for the week ahead.

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So when I take stock and I make stock I defy my debt.

 

Act 54

If you’re on the receiving end of a random act of kindness – say thanks and enjoy it.

Just got a call from a friend with a ticket to the hottest event around. Normally I would beg off. Stay home. Sit tight. But I thought – hey, why not. We mostly regret the things we don’t do rather than the chances we take. So I’ll take a chance and go for it and have some fun.

Debt defying is about having a fresh perspective on ordinary things. And a little extraordinary can go on long way on getting some fresh perspective.

 

Act 53

Re-gift your gift bags.

Sometimes the gift wrapping costs as much as the gift.

If you’re on the birthday party circuit like lots of moms of grade school kids, you’ll spend a few quid along the way buying and wrapping presents for your kids favourite friends. And that’s just fine. Kids love it. I think they enjoy watching other kids open presents as much as they love receiving them.

While there is a lovely trend among the under 12 crowd to host toonie parties – a toonie for the birthday kid and a toonie for their favourite charity, it’s not quite a full blown tradition yet.

We host our fair share of birthday parties too. One in the Fall, one in the Spring. Over the years, I’ve collected many a lovely gift bag, too nice to throw away or put in the curbside recycling, so I kept them and now I upcycle them for other birthday parties. I’m pretty sure I’ve even seen them go around the circuit once or twice.

It’s sensible and sustainable. And let’s face it. It’s only a bag. Like most things in life, It’s what’s inside that counts.

Act 52

Choose Collaboration (needs) over Competition (wants)

Kind of a big topic, eh? However, simply put, our competitive nature fuels our rationale for debt. We want the big TV, the nice car, the new living room furniture and that basic competitive nature helps justify the decision. Deep down, it’s true.

But we don’t need that stuff. We need food, water, sleep, shelter. And needs (vs wants) are often best attained through collaboration – you have a match, I have fireword. We have fire. At a basic human level, reciprocity helps us meet our basic needs while competition helps us meet our wants.

And we so often confuse the two.

This week’s work has been very collaborative in nature. When I collaborate instead of compete, I’m more creative and more motivated. In fact, there is some fascinating research being done on the brain and creativity. I found this online. Who knew?

So defy your debt by thinking collaboration rather than competition. Who knows what you’ll come up with. I doubt it’ll be a big screen TV.

Act 51

Make mine a mini

Craving something? Food can be so nostalgic but it can be quite a production to bake your favourite cake or concoct your favourite meal.

So go ahead, indulge. Just think mini.

I made 4 mini meat pies – just craving a taste of home. Minor production and half the usual cost and fuss. Got what I needed. Ready to move on.

When you’re debt defying, you don’t have to think none or never, just less and fewer. It all helps.

Act 50

Meet marginal utility – your new BFF

So, for the sake of keeping it simple, let’s say marginal utility is the utility you get from spending your money. You can spend your money on a latte and get good (but short term) marginal utility. It’s hard to put a value on warm frothy milk on a cold day. But, you could also spend, say the equivalent of 4 or 5 lattes on a brand new fancy schmansy coffee grinder so you can enjoy yummy coffee at home.

Even more simply put, it’s not how much money you spend so much as how you spend your money. Over Christmas, we bought a deep fryer. Don’t panic. I’m not eating deep fried mars bars every day. The price of the deep fryer was roughly equivalent to a night out at a local restaurant for a family of four. While I enjoy a night out, I’ve already had greater marginal utility for my little deep fryer than any meal I’ve ever had at any restaurant. Home made fish and chips, old fashioned doughnuts – you get the idea. It might make me cheap – but that’s okay – and one bite of a homemade doughnut and you’ll agree. Cheap is pretty darn good.

Especially when it comes to defying your debt.

Act 49

Go ahead. Report yourself.

I don’t mean calling in to the debt police, I mean running a report on your spending. Most e-banking features a search function. You can search by withdrawls or deposits. You can search by bill payee or direct debit transaction.

I searched by the name of my local grocery store where I do most of my shopping. I downloaded a report to csv (comma separated values) which I opened in excel. I added it up. A few clicks later, I’m pleased to report that my family of four grocery expense for the first six weeks of 2013 is about half the reported average for Canadian families – about $200/person per month would be $1200 to February 15 – we spent $646. True, I did make better use of what was already in the pantry, bought mostly sale items and chose meals that have good leftover potential. But it paid off. Granted, it’s not cash money sitting in my account – but it’s money I didn’t spend and that too is a great way to defy your debt.