What Do You Use To Do Money?

What Do You Use To Do Money?

When it comes to our basic money tools, most of us haven’t looked at them since we picked them. The majority of the people I talk to don’t really know what kind of bank account they have or what it costs.

There’s nothing wrong with that at all, but it means that lots of us aren’t really sure if we’re using the right tools.

Defining the ‘right’ tools

There is no ‘best’ bank account, and I don’t think you’re a terrible money person if you have fees on your account.

The purpose of this exercise isn’t to change everything about what you’re doing. It’s about taking the opportunity to look at your tools, see what they’re good at and what they cost … and decide if they’re helping you use your money the way you want to.

That’s it.

You get to make the rules. You get to decide if that fee is worth it to you or not. But in order to do that… you have to take a little gander at what you’re doing right now.

Looking at some basic tools

  • Chequing accounts – great to use for money you need to spend right now
  • Savings accounts – really good for money that you don’t need right now, but will need in the next 1 – 5 years.
  • Business accounts – good for people who want to do business in a name that isn’t their name or have multiple people access the account
  • Investment accounts – these are good for money that you want to spend in the future (a good rule of thumb is at least 10 years from now)
  • Budget apps – good when you want to know exactly where your money is going
  • Spreadsheet – good for people who want to write out all their information in a place that automatically does the math for them
  • Envelopes – great for folks who don’t like technology and mainly use cash

I like to look through these for my clients and ask a few questions.

  1. What do you use this account for?
  2. What does it cost?
  3. What perks does it have?

You can find most of this with a quick google search. Take a glance and note down the things that apply to your life (no need to memorize everything, just find the perks and fees that apply).

It can also be interesting to take a quick gander at your statements and see if you regularly pick up any extra fees like overdraft fees, or extra e-transfer or transaction fees.

For credit cards, take a few moments to pinpoint that annual fee (if you have one) and figure out which month it comes out. Those can always be a surprise when they hit the balance. Also take note of your interest rate and how much your minimum payment is (if you have a balance).

Why should I spend my precious time doing this…?

I get it. This kind of basic tools audit is no ones idea of fun, but it’s information that so many of my clients really find interesting … and it’s pretty easy to do it on your own.

I sketched this out in 15 minutes.

It might help you find something that you’re paying for that you really don’t need, or plan for an annual fee that you forgot was coming.

Mainly it gives you the basic building blocks that will help you answer the question – does the way that I use money work for my life? Is it making things simple and clear…. or are there some things that are jumbled.

If you’re interested in sketching it out like I did, here’s a BLANK VERSION of that worksheet.

Chris Enns

Chris Enns

Financial Planner/Opera Singer

Money never came naturally to me. In fact... I was a bit of a disaster. I remember (very clearly) what it feels like to be 'financially out of control'.

And honestly, I still get stressed about money... that doesn't stop... the difference is that now I have the tools to deal with that stress.

And those tools are what's made it possible for me to build a life full of the things I want: art, creativity, travel, family and more.

If you want to start getting control of your money I'd love to help. You can start with THIS QUIZ, visiting my GETTING STARTED PAGE or by checking out my SERVICES page.

The Cost of Stability & The Hidden Life of Trees

The Cost of Stability & The Hidden Life of Trees

I’ve been reading a lovely book The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. Apart from being a fascinating and romantic look at how forests work, there are sooo many amazing financial metaphors.

… now… you know I love a metaphor… I LOVE IT SO MUCH… and as I was reading today there was one that I had to share.

It has to do with what happens when a young tree loses the support of “a mighty mother tree”. These giants offer support in a hundred different ways including sending nutrients to the smaller trees as well as literal physical support.

When they fall, the younger trees are left to manage for themselves and learn how to be stable on their own.

“The process of learning stability is triggered by painful micro-tears that occur when the trees bend way over in the wind, first in one direction and then in the other. Wherever it hurts, that’s where the tree must strengthen its support structure. This takes a whole lot of energy, which is then unavailable for growing upward.”

GAH! METAPHOR!!

Learning stability often starts with pain:

I have the incredible privilege of growing up with the support of a ‘mighty mother tree’. My family helped me not worry about money for the first 20 years of my life.

My process of learning how to be stable started as I moved out on my own. And it included a whole lot of painful mistakes.

I named a lot of that pain failure. I beat myself up a lot for how I ‘really should know these things’.

But now I feel differently.

So many of the people that I work with are craving stability. They are at all stages of their lives and careers, but most of them are feeling the pain.

But that pain isn’t failure. It’s a message of what needs to be strengthened. The reframing of that is a powerful message for me, since instead of something to ignore and be ashamed of, it’s something to notice and bring into the light.

“The thickness and stability of a trunk, therefore, build up as the tree responds to a series of aches and pains.”

Cool right?

Increasing Stability Often Halts Upward Growth (for a little while)

Stability is the first step towards growth, but it doesn’t always feel like growth in the moment… in fact it can feel like you’re standing still.

For the tree it means deepening roots and increasing the “thickness and stability of the trunk”. For us it means restructuring resources, building a cash flow buffer (getting one month ahead) and taking care of the annual expenses that can cause debt.

Spending 6 months building a one month cash buffer instead of making big payments on your debt can feel super frustrating, but it’s creating the stability that will make paying off your debt for the last time so much more possible.

We only have so many resources, and investing in stability usually means that there’s less for our other big goals. From the outside it can seem like we’re not making any progress at all, but it’s the progress that needs to happen if we want to… *sigh*… grow up into strong and tall trees.

… sorry for that last one

Want to start getting control of your money? How can I help?

Chris Enns

Chris Enns

Financial Planner/Opera Singer

Money never came naturally to me. In fact... I was a bit of a disaster. I remember (very clearly) what it feels like to be 'financially out of control'.

And honestly, I still get stressed about money... that doesn't stop... the difference is that now I have the tools to deal with that stress.

And those tools are what's made it possible for me to build a life full of the things I want: art, creativity, travel, family and more.

If you want to start getting control of your money I'd love to help. You can start with THIS QUIZ, visiting my GETTING STARTED PAGE or by checking out my SERVICES page.

I’m Afraid to Budget Because Then I Might Have to Change

I’m Afraid to Budget Because Then I Might Have to Change

It’s Monday.

On Monday’s I sit down and work out my schedule for the week.

it’s a new thing, but I’m really trying to get control of my time… and I’ve found this to be really helpful.

…. when I do it.

The funny thing is that every Monday I find myself actively resisting doing this thing. Actively doing anything else in order to avoid doing a thing I know for a fact has been really valuable for me.

And I had a thought about that which relates to both money and time that I wanted to share with you (instead of actually doing the scheduling).

Am I fighting the exercise of sitting down and budgeting my time because part of my brain knows that it’s impossible without major change?

This is my fear.

My fear is that the end of every exercise is that I need to make some major changes to how I spend my time.

My fear is that there are problems with my current habits.

Important things aren’t getting done, and less important ones are being obsessed over.

I know that if I keep sitting down and engaging with my time… I’m going to come to the conclusion that there need to be changes.

And not just changes… but hard conversations with people and projects that I really enjoy.

There might be disappointing people.

There might be accepting the fact that not only can I not do as much as I’m trying to do right now, but in fact… I’m not succeeding at doing all the things I’m committed to in this particular moment.

And that sucks.

Are you fighting the exercise of sitting down and budgeting your money because part of your brain knows that it’s impossible to actually balance things without major change?

Because if you are … I get that.

I get wanting to bury your head in the sand and not know… because as soon as you really know… as soon as it’s there in black and white in front of you, you have to deal with it.

And that might mean some big changes.

It might mean spending less.

It might mean major changes in what you feel you’re able to do.

Except you’re probably not actually doing it right now. You’re probably making a bunch of commitment and then as the money runs out… backing out of some, or borrowing from the next months commitments to temporarily get through another week.

You know you need to do less, you need to spend less, because you feel the stress of not having enough to handle all your current obligations.

That’s why you’re worried about it.

That’s why I’m worried EVERY WEEK about my time.

But I’m also scared of doing something. I’m scared of fixing the problem.

And I know that doesn’t make sense, but I think to some of you it might make a whole lot of sense.

For today I’m going to acknowledge that feeling. For today I’m going to hear that fear and not tell it that it’s completely crazy.

But also… today I’m going to budget my time anyway, I’m even gonna try and find something to say ‘no’ to. … and maybe next week it’ll be a little easier. 

Update: I wrote this piece almost a year ago and never published it on the blog. It’s so interesting to think about that struggle with time and how much differently I feel a year later. The numbers are scary but THEY HELP. I promise they do. 

Chris Enns

Chris Enns

Financial Planner/Opera Singer

Money never came naturally to me. In fact... I was a bit of a disaster. I remember (very clearly) what it feels like to be 'financially out of control'.

And honestly, I still get stressed about money... that doesn't stop... the difference is that now I have the tools to deal with that stress.

And those tools are what's made it possible for me to build a life full of the things I want: art, creativity, travel, family and more.

If you want to start getting control of your money I'd love to help. You can start with THIS QUIZ, visiting my GETTING STARTED PAGE or by checking out my SERVICES page.

I Need to Make More is a Really Terrible Income Goal

I Need to Make More is a Really Terrible Income Goal

For those of us that don’t love numbers we often use the same words over and over to describe what we want with our money: more, less, and enough.

“I just want to have enough to live my life.”
“I need to make more money.”
“If only I could spend less, things would be much easier.”

But those are really hard things to do, and they’re made even harder because you haven’t given yourself any tools to actually solve the problem.

How much is enough? How do you know when you’ve gotten there? How much more money do you need to make? Are you just going to take every single job possible until it feels like enough? And spend less… on what? How much less? How much are you spending now?

Real Numbers Help Solve Real Problems

Putting real numbers on things is scary. It really is. Maybe you’ve experience that already by filling out the KNOW YOUR NUMBER worksheet or using THIS SPREADSHEET to map out your income for the year.

Maybe half way through those exercises you wanted to shut it all down.

The fear is real.

But on the other side of the fear is a tool. A tool for you to solve some of that stress that you’ve been feeling lately.

By putting thoughtful numbers on the way you live your life you can start to map out real opportunities for change. You can create a plan that lets you live the way you want and move forward on some of the big stuff.

Income Goals Can Help A lot.

Lots of us in the self-employed realm are what the internet calls ‘hustlers’. We take every job that’s thrown at us. We feel desperate to take every opportunity to earn income because you never know when all the work is going to dry up and the phone stops ringing.

Again… the fear is real.

A number that can really help in that war against fear is an income goal to aim for and there are a few different ways to think about making one.

  1. How much do you need to earn to cover your expenses: one way to build an income goal is to come up with your ‘breakeven number’. How much do you need to earn every money (or every year) in order to make sure all the bills are paid.
  2. Giving yourself a stretch goal: Let’s say you know your break-even number… but you want to go bigger. You can set yourself a goal that pushes you to grow more. I’ve been setting these kind of goals for the last few years and they can be really useful… and also terrifying.

If you’re interested in figuring out what those numbers might be, try THIS TOOL out (here’s A TUTORIAL to help you figure it out).

Balancing the stress of earning with all the other stuff you’re trying to do

People who work more conventional jobs often don’t have the option to ‘make more’. Unless they want to negotiate a raise, they’re stuck earning what they earn.

But as always, with great power comes great responsibility.

When I talk to clients about making income goals, whether it’s to cover their expenses or a stretch goal, we talk a lot about what’s possible and what that might look like.

Remember, there are so many parts of work besides what we’re getting paid for it. Is it the kind of work you enjoy doing? Does it still allow you the time and energy to do the other important things in your life?

Yes, you can make more money, but is it worth it? Maybe it’s a better trade off to spend less in order to balance out your enough.

… I know that sentence is almost entirely useless to you. But if you keep rolling those questions around in your head and start replacing those words with thoughtful numbers… you’re going to start feeling way more control over your money.

Chris Enns

Chris Enns

Financial Planner/Opera Singer

Money never came naturally to me. In fact... I was a bit of a disaster. I remember (very clearly) what it feels like to be 'financially out of control'.

And honestly, I still get stressed about money... that doesn't stop... the difference is that now I have the tools to deal with that stress.

And those tools are what's made it possible for me to build a life full of the things I want: art, creativity, travel, family and more.

If you want to start getting control of your money I'd love to help. You can start with THIS QUIZ, visiting my GETTING STARTED PAGE or by checking out my SERVICES page.

You Need a Budget…And Maybe Some Donuts

You Need a Budget…And Maybe Some Donuts

My name is Dashon and I’m an opera singer just like Chris. We met after many years of hearing of each other, but, as it often works in the classical singing world, we didn’t meet each other until we were eating meringues together in the heart of Paris. C’est la vie!

I have known Chris’ wife Mireille Asselin, another amazingly accomplished opera singer (seriously, you have got to listen to her amazing voice!) for many years, and she has told me about Chris many times. To meet up with friends, old and new, is always a joy! Between bites of stuffing our faces with lovely food, we started to talk about our projects. As much as we love music, when you’re in “the biz,” it’s also great to share what gets you excited about the world outside of the arts, as well. When we got to sharing about our love of budgeting, it was a lightning bolt right in between my eyes!

We all have these moments when we know that we have found a partner to navigate the rough and choppy waters, and for me, even though I had just met Chris, I felt very welcome to talk about my finances and the practical pressures of being an artist. Having a mentor is absolutely essential in our field, and looking up to peers is just as important for me; they understand exactly what I’m going through in a way that few other people can!

 

The YNAB Connection

Chris and I both have wonderful histories with the app You Need a Budget (YNAB), and for good reason! It has truly saved my sanity, which has in turn allowed me to save my finances and to conceive of my limited resources differently. However, the road to using it as often as I do (I love getting to it every day, it helps my system not pile up, and it definitely helps to remind myself of my goals for the future) wasn’t always so straight.

I started using YNAB about 6 years ago, after I read about it on the Internet (my true love in this world, second only to an excellent donut…). People were saying all sorts of things that piqued my curiosity:

“It changed my life.”
“It’s amazing.”
“I finally got out of debt.”
“I was able to save up to help my family achieve their dreams.”
“This is the most delicious thing I have ever eaten, so perfectly crisp and filled with my favorite Bavarian Cream, I will definitely be back!”

(One of those might have been about donuts, sometimes I confuse my open tabs, of which there are many…)

So, I fired up the computer, signed up for an account and promptly used it with the vigor of a New Year’s Resolver for a few months.

Then, not really having identified any goals… it just became another way to track my money. I’d been using other apps to do so, and while it certainly was interesting to see how much money I was spending on various things, there wasn’t a true understanding of what it was doing for me. So I went back to my other hobbies and other interests, and I just let it go.

 

Rinse, and repeat. For the next two years.

I’d give it a go, and would get tired of tracking, and didn’t really know what I wanted anyway. Even though I had student loans, and credit card debt, I never really thought about that. To borrow a phrase from another friend: those things were “a problem for Future Dashon.”

After a while, though, I started to get a knock at the door of my heart. I have no clue who let him in, or how he found me (my sense of time as a musician is usually great, as long as I don’t have to count higher than four), but there he stood: Future Dashon.

He wasn’t so bad looking, which was nice, but he definitely had a few harsh words for me, which wasn’t so nice. My finances had become messy, and I started to realize exactly how stressed out I was.

 

As artists, we are so used to improvising, and the idea of the “starving artist” is so pervasive, that it becomes a part of our self identity.

I didn’t believe that I deserved to be free of stress, because I just thought that’s how things were!

Great things to hand down from generation to generation via the mentor/student relationship: vocal technique, an endless curiosity and love of your craft, and respect and love for the traditions that you encounter which speak to you. Not such great things to hand down: the idea that getting ahead is impossible, the notion that in order to be successful you absolutely must sacrifice everything financially, and other assorted stereotypes of artists.

 

Go time.

So, after a couple of years of back and forth, I decided to really settle in, buckle up, and ask for help. One of the best things about YNAB is the community of users on the Internet. The official support staff, as well as other wide-eyed travellers were at the ready to help me, and are definitely ready to help you with any questions. I explained my situation to them, posted a lot of screenshots, and they helped me clarify my needs and wants. Finally, things were starting to click in.

More so than the actual method, what was clicking in for me was the need to make goals. Even if I couldn’t stick to them perfectly, knowing what my priorities were (and are) saved my sanity. And that, in turn allowed me to know not only what to spend money on, but why I was spending on those things. That, my new friends, is true freedom. The “learning curve” isn’t as steep as it may seem, and if you can master Yelp to find the best donut shop, you can definitely master your budget. Equally delicious.

Celebrating my YNAB Birthday

Just as I am writing this, I’ve decided to think of one of my favorite days of my life: my YNAB birthday. February 25, 2013 was so important to me! Even though I had a very circuitous route to learning how to use the software in a way that brought me freedom and joy, it’s a great thing to celebrate. Make today your YNAB birthday! Reach out to any of us here and we’ll help you along the way. Your future self will thank you.

Check out You Need a Budget HERE.

Dashon Burton

Dashon Burton

Opera Singer and YNAB Enthusiast

Dashon Burton is a singer based in New York City, and dreams of donuts on the reg. Raised in the Bronx, he found a musical life while in high school in Williamsport, PA that changed his life forever. After graduating with a degree in Vocal Performance from Oberlin College, and later received a Master’s degree in Early Music from the Yale School of Music in 2011. Since that time, he has been a full time performer and educator, and has sung in opera houses and with orchestras around the world. For more information: dashonburton@gmail.com
How to Start Organizing Your Expenses … Just Like Marie Kondo

How to Start Organizing Your Expenses … Just Like Marie Kondo

Just like everyone else with a Netflix subscription, I’ve been watching Marie Kondo’s show ‘Tidying Up’.

And here’s the thing… a lot of the things that stress us out about having a messy house are the same things that stress us out about our finances.

That feeling of having a stressful environment, the sense that there isn’t an order to how or why we do things can make it feel like we’re just surviving instead of living our lives the way we’d like to.

If that feels remotely familiar, let’s steal a bunch of Marie Kondo’s ideas and see if they can help.

 

#1:Dump everything out onto the bed

When it comes to sorting clothes, Marie starts by making people dump all the clothes in their house into one big pile. This totally works for money too!

One of the big reasons why it’s hard to get a handle on how much we’re actually spending in our lives is because our spending is so fragmented. There’s a couple of credit cards, a chequing account, and your PayPal account.

The first step is to try and make a big ole heap of all the things that you spend money on.

Remember, we don’t start sorting by making things organized. We start organizing by making a mess and getting a sense of everything that needs to be organized.

For expenses there are a few ways to do this.

  • You can grab a pen and paper and brainstorm everything you spend on.
  • You can skim (SKIM, NOT SPEND A TON OF TIME WITH) your bank statements and get a bunch of ideas.
  • You can use THIS WORKSHEET to give you some ideas of the various things you spend on.

Remember to include everything you spend: monthly expenses, annual expenses (Christmas, summer, etc) and business expenses.

 

#2:Like things go together

Once you see the whole picture you can start sorting things into piles.

I recommend you think about expenses in the following heaps:

  • Fixed Expenses: things that are the same every month (rent, cell phone)
  • Other Monthly Spending: things that happen every month but are different (groceries, takeout)
  • Annual Expenses: things that happen a few times throughout the year (Christmas, dental, clothing)
  • Business: things that are specifically for your business

A quick note on business expenses: for those of you who are one person businesses, many of the things in your personal lives are partially business expenses. Lots of people get really confused when I ask them to separate these ‘business’ costs from their personal life. Remember, this is not a tax exercise, this is an organization exercise. Start with the costs that are clearly business: the training, the commission etc. Then start dealing with the grey areas – your rent which includes a home office. Don’t spit them, just put them in the pile that they are most like. You can always move them later.

 

#3:Does it bring you joy

The crux of the Marie Kondo philosophy is around picking up an item and asking it … does it bring you joy.

This is a really useful exercise when it comes to your spending. In our weekly email a few weeks ago we talked about Emotional Return on Investment and Emily made a series of worksheets to guide you through the process of figuring out what expenses are adding to your life, and what are things that you really wish you could throw away.

 

#4:Quantify it: How much do you need

This is the part that’s different.

Once you’ve got everything sorted into piles and filtered through your joy lens… then start looking at the numbers.

How much do you need? What expenses do you know off the top of your head? Which ones are harder?

One of the things I love the most about Marie Kondo’s philisophy is there doesn’t seem to be any shame in the decisions that her clients make. She doesn’t care if you keep all the clothes or all the books… she just wants to make sure that you really want to keep all the clothes and all the books.

That’s what I want for you too. I don’t want you to feel shame around the amount of money you spend on things, but I want you to think deeply about those numbers and make those decisions on purpose… instead of by default.

… and I think that’s what Marie Kondo would want too!

Want to start getting control of your money? How can I help?

Chris Enns

Chris Enns

Financial Planner/Opera Singer

Money never came naturally to me. In fact... I was a bit of a disaster. I remember (very clearly) what it feels like to be 'financially out of control'.

And honestly, I still get stressed about money... that doesn't stop... the difference is that now I have the tools to deal with that stress.

And those tools are what's made it possible for me to build a life full of the things I want: art, creativity, travel, family and more.

If you want to start getting control of your money I'd love to help. You can start with THIS QUIZ, visiting my GETTING STARTED PAGE or by checking out my SERVICES page.

EMAIL ME