2 Ways for Visual Learners to Draw Up their 2020 Plan

2 Ways for Visual Learners to Draw Up their 2020 Plan

I’m a pretty visual person, so as much as I like scrawling a list onto a yellow legal pad there’s something about seeing things actually drawn out that can make them much clearer in my mind.

Now, let me get something straight… I’m not a good drawer. I am an enthusiastic drawer… but not a good one. But luckily that’s not a prerequisite for either of these exercises.

The goal is to get pen to paper and think through the next 12-month period of your life.

Exercise 1: Design your Year (or your next 5)

This exercise I stole from the wonderful book “Designing Your Life” by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans. They run a course at Stanford, which applies design principles to your life.

Their exercise encourages you to draw a version of the next 5 years. In fact, it encourages you to draw 3 VERSIONS of the next 5 years. One on your current track, one on a completely different track, and one on a track that might seem completely ridiculous to you right now (but you would secretly entertain if I promised no one would laugh at you).

I loved this exercise, and I’ve adapted it with my financial lens.

For those of you that want a better sense of the upcoming year and what it will throw at you financially, you can draw out the next 12 months using their method, sketching in major events, things you hope to do and even adding a few notes about potential costs, slow periods of work, and/or things you need to save for.

For those of you looking for ideas and more specific direction, you can sketch a few different versions of your year (or even do a 5 year sketch). Draw out a version on your current trajectory, and then sketch something wild that interests you… it’s only drawing after all… the stakes are pretty low.

Exercise 2: Colour Blocking out Your Work/Life Balance

This exercise is lovingly stolen from a mentor of mine that I work with at Spring Financial Plans. She recommends that instead of starting off the year by filling your calendar with work commitments and goals, to instead start out by blocking off your ‘vacation’ time (whatever that means to you).

This simple image really helped me see the shape of my year: when I planned to take some time off, when I needed to take time off to get over my jet lag, and when there were long periods with no time off (which I know from experience probably isn’t a good idea).

It also gives me the permission that I so dearly need to take time away from work because it’s baked into the plan right from the beginning.

There’s something about seeing it laid out in in one block with different colours that really helps me connect to it in a different way.

This is done using Google Sheets, but there’s no reason you can’t grab a few markers and do something similar on your calendar or favourite planner. Whatever is most comfortable for you.

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.

Planning for Large Annual Expenses: AKA Oh Sh!t, How is it Christmas Again?!

Planning for Large Annual Expenses: AKA Oh Sh!t, How is it Christmas Again?!

I don’t know about you, but every year, my brain tricks me into forgetting about the holidays. My first alert to them is October 31, when the Dollarama workers are stuck working late to remove the plastic pumpkins and put up the Christmas kitsch.

I get caught up in the indignation of hearing “Santa Baby” while there are still leaves on the trees, but I forget about the expense train that is rapidly approaching. I used to get stuck in a super stressful debt cycle around this time of year. It looked like this: scramble to cover the large expenses–>get in debt–>pay off the debt–> wipe unpleasant experience from my memory.

Then the following year, when Christmas rolled around again, internally scream “Nooooooo, that’s impossible!!!!” like Luke Skywalker discovering who Darth Vader really is (no spoilers here!).

Break This Cycle like a KitKat Bar

I only know of three effective ways to break this cycle:

  1. Opt out of Christmas (doable if you don’t celebrate, but sucks if you want to take part)
  2. Give everyone only what you find in your closet (half a can of paint, mom?) or
  3. Plan for it as far in advance as you can.

At this point, you might be resigned to needing to lean into your credit card/savings/etc. to account for the 2019 holidays. I have a plan for how you can solve this for the future.

First, be kind to yourself. You are not alone. It is totally normal and natural to want to take part in social events, see loved ones, or spoil your Secret Santa recipient. It probably comes from a place of wanting to feel a sense of community and show people that you love them. Which is pretty darn lovely.

Then, make a strategy for how you are going to work off this debt. Check out our free Debt Workbook. There is one method called the Snowflake Strategy, which feels seasonally appropriate.

Also, start thinking about solving your 2020 holiday problem now.



Take Stock

How much do the holidays actually cost you? Do you like what you spend now? This is not a trick question. I love being able to give my partner a lavish gift at this time of year. Do you like to go home? Do you like to give big gifts? Think about what an ideal holiday expense number looks like for you.

If you know that you like the feel of how you do the holidays, but you don’t know what number that translates to, good news. This is the perfect time to figure that out. 

As you start doing holiday things this year, note what you spend on gifts, travel (and travel-related expenses), and social events. I have made a handy worksheet for you to keep track in Sherlock Holmesian-level detail.

Next Step

Once you have your numbers for this year, add them all together to get an overall number for what the holidays cost you. This may change year to year, but this will give you a useful general idea that will save your tuchus next year.

Let’s say you discover that you spend $1,200 on the holidays this year. That means, if you haven’t been saving for the holidays, 2019 you gets stuck with the problem of “I need $1,200, tout de suit!” Yikes. Not fun.

However, you can start to change the problem for November 2020 you. Instead of needing to rush to find that big number all at once, divide that number by 12. Start saving in January 2020 for your December 2020 expenses. The problem you end up with instead is “I need to save $100 every month.” Much more doable. It might mean picking up an extra shift once a month, or cutting some corners, but I believe you can do it. After all, you have been managing a much more difficult problem up to this point.

Storing Up Like a Chipmunk

Right now, you might be like “how would I stop myself from spending that money during the year?” Most banks and credit unions allow you to have unlimited savings accounts. You could add one and name it “Christmas 2020-no touch!” 

If that still feels too easy to access, you can sign up with a free online bank like Tangerine. You can make an account with that bank solely for the purpose of holding your holiday 2020 money. Boom. Arms-length savings achieved.

Build this $100 (or whatever your monthly Christmas savings number is) into your budget, so that you account for it every month. 

November 2020 you will be so happy. I promise it feels so sweet to get to the holidays and see that you have all the money you need saved up already. You can do this.

Emily Nixon

Emily Nixon

Rags to Reasonable Community Outreach Coordinator

Emily Nixon is an actor/writer/director/filmmaking Swiss Army Knife. She is also a big money nerd and Community Outreach Coordinator for Rags to Reasonable.

She came to this work after becoming completely fed up with living paycheque-to-paycheque and being too afraid to look in her chequing account. She is passionate about empowering other artists and variable income earners to keep doing what they love and feel confident about their finances.

Email Emily at emily@ragstoreasonable.com

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.

EMAIL ME