Act 365

Keep Calm and Carry On

I know for some this is a trivial saying but for me, it’s an anthem for overcoming adversity in difficult times. The history of the campaign inspires me to be better in my work as a designer and publisher and in my life as a mom, wife, daughter and friend.

I’ve been thinking about this post for many months. Had grand plans to thank you as readers for your support and kindness with some sort of dazzling visual doodad. But then something happened.

You see, at about 2:30 this afternoon, my husband phoned to say he’d driven himself to the local emergency room after a crash on the ski hill. He was quickly admitted and put on a spinal board with a neck collar.

In the emergency room we talked about the mundane. The dinner plans, the boys day, how to get the truck home, what time the pharmacies close on New Year’s Eve. We didn’t panic. We sat quietly and waited together. The hospital staff were amazing. The news is good. A “smushed” vertebrae (the actual term the doctor used) in the T area of the spine. No spinal cord injury. He’ll be very sore, off work for a few days and managing the injury with pain medication. A bit higher or lower and it would have meant surgery and possibly worse. That I can’t think about now.

What I can think about is that a year ago today, when I stood on my front porch and decided that on December 31 of 2013 I would find myself in a better position than on December 31 of 2012, I had no idea that it would have so little to do with money and debt given the dodging of today’s bullet.

So my new year’s resolution for 2014 is to Keep Calm & Carry on. Our lives aren’t only judged by our accomplishments, they are judged by our failures and our misfortunes too. How you deal with all of them defines you. I wish you the fortitude to stay calm and the courage to carry on.

So like the story of Keep Calm & Carry On itself, this blog has been my “very simple and warm hearted message to inspire confidence in others during difficult times”.

Thank you for everything and the happiest of new years. Your kindness and support will far outlive my debt. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Amities,
Louise

PS – I will carry on. I plan to revisit previous posts and send updates about how well it worked (or didn’t work) from time to time. I’ll hope you’ll keep following and stay in touch. We’ve still got plenty of work to do.

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Act 359

Maximize your income earning potential

Not very holiday like as a topic, but as I inch ever close to the 365 day mark, a year’s worth of effort, I am coming to terms with what this adventure has taught me.

I’d have to say that my chief take away is that I have not maximized my earning potential these last few years. I’ve maximized my education and experience. I’ve enjoyed my work – but I’m leaving alot of money on the table and it’s cost me on many levels.

Of course, a shortage of cash has also taught me many things. How to save. How to make due with what I have. How to bake. How to make salad dressing. It has been a wealth of learning opportunity to say the least.

This can likely be said of many small business owners. You’d be surprised how many of us don’t draw a paycheque after all is said and done. We create our own jobs, especially in small markets where the ability to match your skill set to the jobs section is a bit of a leap.

Of course my evidence is anecdotal at best but I have spoken to many business owners in the last year. We share this irony. We provide jobs at the cost of our own.

We rack up our personal credit cards and borrow against our homes to capitalize our businesses because banks don’t lend to micro businesses. They don’t. It’s that simple. If you believe otherwise, you’ve been fooled by the silly bank ads. I guarantee you they spend more advertising their support of small business than they actually lend to small business. And by small I mean micro – under five employees – who fuel 90% of the economy. I’d even go as far as saying that micro business owners are the reason personal debt levels are so high. But I’m at a loss as to how to prove it beyond any reasonable doubt (not that I haven’t tried).

Still, the lesson for me has been that I must work harder to maximize my personal income earning potential. Which is short hand for I need to find a better job. If I worked in the public service, I would make, quite literally, fives times more than I take home now. But the multiplier effect on the local economy would be significantly less.  So you tell me, how is that sustainable?

If all the small business owners who are in the same position I am in called it a day to get a more typical job, you’d see how much impact they have on the economy.

I don’t think the banks do enough. Not nearly enough. With records profits they could afford to take slightly (not massively) but slightly more risk supporting micro businesses. But they won’t. They are protected from most risk with government-backed business loan guarantees, CHMC protection and student loan protection, mortgage and credit card insurance.

And this doesn’t make me a socialist, or worse, a communist, it makes me a realist. A humanist. An economist (U of Ottawa, B. S. Sc. Economics 1989 just for the record). That corporations as powerful as the big five either don’t know or don’t bother is troubling to say the least.

If I actually had a say, something I’ve tried to do with the blog, I would meet with each President of each of the big five, TD, BMO, CIBC, RBC and Scotia and challenge them to take a small percentage of their annual profits and offer a limited number of unsecured 10 to 25 thousand dollar lines of credit to micro business who gross under $250,000 a year and have five employees or less. They’d make money, our cash flow would improve. Together, we could power the future. And we wouldn’t need multi billion dollar pipelines or massive foreign investments to do it. We could do it one small local economy at a time.

Like water, money must flow. That there are buckets of it sitting idle in corporate bank accounts means that our economy is slowly dying of thirst.

Perhaps Samuel Taylor Coleridge said it best in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.
Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

Act 356

Don’t waste a perfectly good wish on money

Today, for a brief moment, I found myself wishing for more money. And then I thought better of it. What a waste of a wish.

Part of me believes that we only get so many wishes in life and we mustn’t waste them. The wish for a healthy child, a happy family, a meaningful existence.

Please don’t waste a wish on something as foolish as money.

Wish instead for the courage to change your circumstances.
Wish instead for the commitment to meet your obligations.
Wish instead for the satisfaction of making due with what you have.
Wish instead for the creativity to problem solve.

A good wish can go a long way. You have it within you to make what’s important happen. Wish for nothing more and nothing less.

 

Act 348

Agree to disagree

Here’s the thing. There will be days where you find that people don’t agree with how you spend or don’t spend your money. And there will be times where you don’t agree how others spend or don’t spend their money. Get over it. Agree to disagree. There are more important things to deal with that others opinions of you and your opinions of others. Don’t let these disagreements distract you from what’s important to you. Just agree to disagree.

Act 328

Teach yourself.

One of my challenges this year has been to acknowledge that my business doesn’t always generate enough revenue to cover expenses. I work with so many talented people and more often than not, I delegate the work to them. But in an effort to curb spending, I’ve had to cut some hours. As difficult as this has been, it has helped me get a handle on what I can or can’t afford. As a result, I’ve had to learn many new things. From learning how to bake a loaf of bread to how to troubleshoot web server issues, I find that with a little patience, some time and a fair share of humility, I can still learn new things. This teachable moments have saved me money. You can always pay someone to get a job done but in some cases (not all), it builds confidence and skills to try and learn it yourself. This is easier than ever with google and youtube. So give it try, you might just learn a thing or two.

Act 264

Have a yard sale. But don’t expect to sell the yard.

Over the last few weeks I’ve brought together quite an assortment of things in my house that I no longer need. Kitchen gear, sports equipment, clothes, books, even tires.

Today we set up shop in the front yard to sell it. And we sold a few things. But not as much as I would have liked. It’s no wonder, really, that my neighbourhood wouldn’t convene on a cloudy Sunday in my front yard to buy all the stuff I can’t be bothered with anymore.

But the sale isn’t the most important part. It’s the parting with items you realize you no longer need that’s important. So, what’s left will be donated or possibly sold online ’cause it isn’t coming back into my house. And what was made will be stashed away for another day. I have less stuff and more money that I did yesterday. And I can live with that.

 

Act 118

Say “Basta” to bottled pasta sauce

It’s easier, faster, yummier and cheaper to make your own pasta sauce – red or white, meat or veggie.

It might be more convenient to spend a few dollars on a jar of sauce but you can make your own with a tiny bit more time and at least you’ll know what’s really in it.

I made an alfredo/carbonara in all of 5 minutes and it probably cost less than a dollar. Plus nothing is wasted because we only made what we needed.

It’s a common refrain on this site – but convenience is costly. So spend the time, save the money and use what you’ve got. Every dollar you don’t spend is money saved for something else.

Buon appetito!

Act 89

Try a new recipe

I often think that food is a good metaphor for money. We all have the same ingredients, it’s just that some of us have a better recipe.

I tried a few new and adjusted recipes today. Same ingredients, better meal. Food for thought.