Act 302

Bring duct tape

Remember that TV show MacGyver? He always had a stick of gum, a match, a safety pin and some duct tape. Got him out of all kinds of trouble.

Duct tape played a major role in our family’s life today. My eldest son, who’s on the border of wether or not to trick or treat, and wary of the traditional halloween costume, but still wants the candy, said to me. “Mom, I want a duct tape costume”. Ok. Fine, I think. So off we went to the dollar store and Canadian Tire for some traditional as well as some colourful duct tape. And despite my initial skepticism, I won’t lie, it looks pretty awesome. So for about $7.00 worth of tape (or a roll and a bit), and an old pair of PJs, we might have the best halloween costume we’ve ever had.

MacGyver would be proud.

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Act 301

Pretend it’s not your problem

For a new perspective that is. I’m not suggesting you ignore things, only that you approach the particularly challenging ones by imagining it’s someone else’s problem. This way, you might be surprised to come up with more practical, less emotional choices.

For example, my husband’s business needs a new piece of equipment. My first reaction: OMG, not another thing? When, upon sober second thought (sorry, couldn’t help but put a wee dig in for the senate scandal),  I realized this is an opportunity. A business that’s growing, needs new piece of equipment that in turn will generate more income. Sounds like a need we need a plan, not an OMG.

I think that if others were looking at our financial situation they would say we are meeting (well mostly) our obligations but are clearly not making enough money for the experience and training we bring to the table. As a result, we’re leaving a lot on the table. At a higher income level, our debt would be easier to pay down. We can’t change the debt. We can’t change the amount of time we have, we can’t change the expenses (at least not much more – there’s always some room) so we have to focus on more net income. And sometimes net income can come with a start up cost as long as the long and short term net benefit is clear. More net income.

So I’ll stay on track and keep the opportunity for more income at the forefront as I count down these last 64 days of 2013. Time sure flies.

Act 300

Make your own halloween costumes

Scary savings! Use old halloween costumes, duct tape, cardboard, fabric, whatever you can get your hands on to fashion something unique, homemade and cheap. But don’t wait till the eve of halloween to do it. Maybe start like today, a mere three eves away.

Check online and especially on pinterest for costume ideas. There are some simple and creative ones that are far more memorable than the ones you can buy in any store.

What you can’t sort at home, pick up at a dollar store or a thrift shop. I simply can no longer imagine walking into a big box store and buying a $30 costume off the rack as I once did. It scares me now to just think of it.

And price out your candy. I believe in giving good quality candy. We’ve always given away full size chocolate bars and depending on how many treats you give, it is sometimes worth it to just buy the full size bars at wholesale prices and give those away instead. Plus, the kids will never forget it. As a bonus, we think of it as a mini-insurance policy. The kids know our house as the “big” chocolate bar place – and they keep an eye out for us year round.

Happy Halloween Week!

Act 299

Experiment first

Part of what I learned is that there are many decisions to make when you’re changing your relationship with money. There are no easy answers and no quick fixes. But there are answers and there are fixed. To find the ones that work best for you, experiment first.

Today, for example, I had to figure out a halloween costume. Wasn’t sure my idea would work so I bought a fraction of what I needed to try it out first. I’ll often do this with recipes too. Try a small batch and see if it works.

I’m going to try an online store to see if some of my vintage finds command an attractive price. No big deal, just try a few items and see.

By experimenting and failing or succeeding quickly, you can move on to what works and leave behind what doesn’t, risk little and still feel as if some progress is being made.

Act 298

Veg out

If you’re like me, you make a few trips to the grocery store each week and you start to notice patterns.

I notice that mid week, veg that’s a bit past its prime is bundled and sold for cheap cheap cheap. Like 6 peppers for 99 cents or spinach a few days from its best before date. Or mushrooms that aren’t pristine white anymore. I scoop them up and use them in sauces and stews. Great way to sneak in the veg and save a ton of money.

As it is, my veg savings and a morning of cooking have grossed me enough lunch for the week and enough spaghetti sauce for two meals. But don’t tell my boys there’s spinach hiding in there :-).

Act 297

Bring your kitchen to work

Sort of. At my office, I have a small fridge, a toaster, a kettle, a coffee grinder, a french press, some cutlery and some dishes.

Guess how much I spent on lunch this week (yes, week)? About seven bucks. Monday morning I picked up some day old bagels for 99 cents (they restock Monday morning so it’s 99 cent bread heaven at the local grocery store, if you get in early). Then I picked up some bologna. I already had some christmas oranges from the week before as well as some bulk chocolate (hard to get through a day without it). So, every day, I had a toasted bologna sandwich with an orange and a bit of chocolate.

I also bring milk from home in a clean ketchup bottle, and make fresh coffee.

I eat well. Probably better than when lunch was a visit to a local coffee or sushi shop (minus the bologna – but hey, it’s a nostalgic childhood thing so go with it).

I have a jar of mayo, mustard as well as some peanut butter. So if you’re nearby and want to catch up over lunch, I’ll make you a feast and it won’t cost a fortune.

Bon appetit!

Act 296

Repeat after me “I don’t work for free!”

This might be a peculiarity of working in the design business, but more often than I care to admit, people in my profession are asked to work for free.

“Can you design a logo for us? If we like it, we’ll pay you.”

“Can you help us with a project? We need a website but we don’t have any money. It’ll be good exposure for you.”

“We’re having a contest. If your design is selected, you’ll win a prize.”

I’m sorry, I can’t eat exposure and I can’t cash a prize at the bank.

Spec design (original design you produce on speculation of getting a contract) is unfair and unethical.

When was the last time you saw a contest for an accountant, a lawyer, a stylist or a dry cleaner, for example. Doesn’t happen because it isn’t right.

Your time has value. Don’t speculate with it other than to prepare resumes, references and a proper summary of what you can offer any new project. Don’t start the project for free in the hopes of getting the job. Chances are, you can’t do the job successfully unless you’ve been hired and given the proper frame of reference in order to meet the goals and objectives.

If you sell yourself short, what, precisely are you to expect from your prospective employer or client?

I have done speculative work, which I regret. I’ve also done work for free which has ALWAYS come back to bite me. People will easily dismiss your effort if there isn’t a price tag attached. Of the clients I’ve lost over the last 15 years of business, about 80% of them were clients for whom I did free work. I was easy to dismiss because there was no financial value attached to my work. Tough lesson to learn. Resist the temptation. Say it to yourself. “I don’t work for free”, except for mom – as this brilliant graphic so appropriately points out.

workforfree

You can work pro bono for causes that are important for you. You can offer services in kind. You can invoice at a reduced rate and ask for sponsorship consideration. You have options. But free should never be one of them.

There. Rant over. Back to work.

Act 295

Mix & Match

One of the side effects of being on a money diet is the wardrobe. My closet feels like it’s getting a bit thin. So I’ve started changing the way I look at my wardrobe by trying to mix and match outfits in new ways, add a few thrift shop finds, polish up some old shoes, look at my accessories in new ways and voila, new to me wardrobe. I tried a new combination outfit today. Even got a compliment (hope they weren’t just being nice). Good for creativity and confidence. When an experiment goes well, you’re more likely to keep trying.

Some women have walk in closets that are bigger than my bedroom. And that’s okay. I bet they also wear the same 20 or 25 pieces all the time. We all have our favourites. And if you have even 15 pieces you love, there’s an infinite number (well, technically not really infinite) of outfit combinations you can come up with.

It’s all part of the adventure. Used to be a chore. It really is all in how you look at something. Problem or challenge. You decide.

Act 294

Attend a networking event

I know, right? Who uses words like networking? Business people, that’s who. It’s like we’re afraid to call it what it is. A chance to catch up, to spend time with people you like and respect but never get enough time to hang out with because, you’re a business owner and you’re, well, “busi”. Sometimes I think business should be spelled busyness instead.

Business loves to euphemize normal words to inflate their sense of importance. They don’t need a to do list, they need a long term corporate strategic plan. They don’t  have an image problem, they need a branding strategy. They don’t need to hang out, they need to network.

Anyway, funny thing about networking, it’s normally code for really good free food. Business people eat well and they normally do it on someone else’s tab. An expense account, a conference registration fee, an association meeting, a fundraiser. So if you can, be charming and delightful. Get yourself on the invite list, you’ll get to catch up with folks you like and get a bite to eat. No bill, no dishes, no worries.

Act 293

Restore

Ok – quick story. Two years ago I worked on a bike exhibit for our local public gallery. Part of our challenge was to find old bikes we could convert into art for the show. Our friends at the regional district let us pick through a pile of metal recycling with literally, hundreds of old bikes. Oh what fun, for a day at the dump, that is. We found what we needed. If you’re into that sort of thing, there’s a link here about the bike show called Pedal Power.

We also found a few things we didn’t need but couldn’t pass up including a BMX bike and a scooter, both in need of repair.

My youngest happen to dig out the scooter, which was never fixed, just this weekend. He fixed the front wheel and asked me to go online to find a back wheel. We found what we needed at a sports store nearby. Tonight, he has a brand new to him scooter. And judging by the number of tail whips happening in my living room, that $16 was well worth while considering a new scooter is worth a cool hundred bucks.