Power of the Pocketbook

I am not someone who loves to shop. But, I will shop for good causes. I will buy items from friends who are in direct sales. I will stop at a roadside stand to support a local business person. I shop the small businesses in my town whenever I can. And… I am the person who will not go to a place if that business does not align with my belief system.

Case in point…

For years, I have avoided places like Hobby Lobby and Chick Fil A because I do not like the causes that they support. I do not hate on them. But, I will never volunteer to go to these places. In fact, if others suggest I will politely decline. I simply say, “I do not patronize that business.” I just do not make a big showing of it.

Now, I want to make a big showing of it.

On July 8th, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Trump administration regulation that allows businesses to opt out of providing their employees (through health insurance) free birth control. Businesses are permitted to do this if they have “religious and moral objections.”

Prior to this administration’s regulation update, an Obamacare mandate required company health insurance policies to cover birth control. As a result, millions of Americans had access to free contraceptives. Now, thanks to this SCOTUS decision, those same people will now incur out of pocket costs for their contraceptive care.

When I heard about this case, I was disappointed. This is just one of many cases where I see companies putting their needs above their employees. I am tired of seeing companies litigate against their employees best interests. It seems as though companies only want to look at their bottom line.

But, I think consumers have tremendous power to make companies reconsider how they treat their employees. I ask each of you to recognize the incredible power of your pocketbook. By publicly voicing our dissatisfaction and committing to avoiding businesses that litigate against their employees’ best interest, we use our power.

This is not a new idea. Delores Huerta and the farm workers union used such a similar technique by encouraging Americans to boycott grapes. This technique has proven successful. Additionally, thanks to social media and corporate presence on those same website, consumers have more voice now than ever with American businesses. So now the piece remaining is you. Start using the power of your pocketbook at businesses that promote their employees’ best interests.

How do you use the power of your pocketbook?

Show me the love

“It ain’t the money or the diamond rings, honey I ain’t impressed with your material things” *

I spend a lot of time thinking about love. You see, in my spare time, I am writing a fictional romance set in my hometown of Manhattan, Kansas. In the last nine months, I have spent time writing, thinking, and researching ideas for this story. In that time, I have made several observations. The clearest of these observations? Many people believe that romance and love are demonstrated through showy displays of affection or gifts of material possession.

Americans we are a materialistic society. We marvel in the latest gadgets and newest toys. We liken success with an ever increasing ability to purchase. Thus, it makes sense that when it comes to romance we would do the same. We want a romantic partner to surprise and delight us with the best of everything.

So when we see these displays of attention they impact the way one considers even our own relationships. Right? As we scroll through people’s flashy proposals or other type of attention getting display of affection, a small part of us wonders why our other half doesn’t do the same for us. And that’s when the harm really happens. Little by little we begin to compare ours with another’s. And, when we do not have those same things happening for us, we decide there is something missing in the relationship in which we are involved.

That’s the worst thing that we can do. Comparison is the thief of joy. All of a sudden your spouse picking up dinner from a drive thru isn’t as special as that fabulous weekend getaway that your BFF got from her honey and posted photos about last week.

The worst part of this type of comparison is that it causes one to become completely self absorbed.

“Why doesn’t my honey do this for me?” We complain.

But here’s another question we should be asking, why don’t you do the thing you want for your honey? Why not make your person feel as special as you want to feel? More importantly, why does a display of affection require any type of material possession? Why does true love equal a weekend getaway or a shiny new bauble? I don’t know that it does.

I feel this type of pressure most around my birthday. People know that my husband is a person who is generous with his time and money. But, I normally encourage him to avoid extravagant displays of affection.

After all, how much someone spends on you is not a direct correlation to how much they care for you.

Does it matter to you how much your partner spends on you?

*Lyric taken from Paula Abdul’s ‘It’s just the way that you love me.”

Support Your Sisters

Ayuda a tus hermanas.

Whether you say it in English or Spanish, supporting other women is important.

Over the course of the last year, I have had complex feelings about what it means to be a woman in this world. On the one hand, I feel comfortable identifying as woman. I always have. I have never minded the mandates and conventions placed upon my gender even though I may not have always abided by them. But over the last year, I have found the cultural backlash against women to be overwhelming. Depressing even.

For that reason, I plan to make 2021 my Women’s Appreciation Year. This means that I am going to take active steps to appreciate and support women. I endeavor to fully embrace this concept in a number of ways.

Arts

In the arts arena, I intend to focus my purchasing power on female artists, authors, actors, and musicians. Beyond that, I am going to take extra steps to introduce my friends and family to those that I love. As gifts, I will consider giving the gift a of book written by a woman. I will write a positive review about a blogger and share her through my social media. I will create a playlist with women’s music that moves me and share it to my colleagues.

Business

There are many ways to support your sisters in business. First, contemplate all of the friends and family members you have that are in direct sales. Second, think of all of the things you purchase from your favorite big box retailer. Finally, think of the friends that you can purchase from instead of the retailer. Need skin care? Talk to your cousin who sells Rodan and Fields. Want to try a new mascara? Give your friend whose been a long-time Mary Kay consultant a call.

The key to purchasing from friends in this manner is to purchase ahead of your needs. You do not have the luxury of running out of a product when you purchase the direct sales method because it can take a few days for your purchases to come in.

From there, expand your horizons. Check out women owned businesses in your town. Don’t know how to find them? Call your local chamber of commerce or use your favorite search engine to discover women owned businesses.

Professionals

I am talking attorneys, accountants, and doctors. If you have never done so, consider hiring a female professional. If finding a female professional seems onerous, stop sweating. Call your state’s accounting, bar, or medical association for a list of referrals. Ask your friends and family members about professionals they have used in the past. Finally, start looking at business websites after a search engine check of “Female Attorney” (or accountants or doctors) and the name of your city.

Now it’s your turn…

How do you plan to support women in 2021?

Investing in Yourself

Every year, I try to contemplate different ways that I can improve my life through personal investment.

Invest money

In 2018, I hired a personal trainer. I committed to a two session per week schedule. This was an unexpected move. Like many women, I have a tendency to put other people, other responsibilities above myself.

Nonetheless, I began attending my twice per week appointments. Tuesdays and Thursdays, I would dropp off my stepson at school and then proceed to my sessions.

From 2018, to March 2020, I saw changes in my body that made me feel more confident and self satisfied. I saw a decline in the nervous energy that coursed through my body on a daily basis. It felt good to see an increase in muscle mass.

THEN CORONA CAME.

From mid-March to August, I severely limited the amount of time I spent in public spaces. And I much of my work undone.

But, the time to make a change is always today. Right? So with that in mind, I ask myself each and every day, what can I do today to improve my health? What can I do right now to improve my health? I try to ask myself these questions particularly when I am about to eat something or if I am sitting around watching television.

Invest time

In the early 2000s knitting and crocheting was all of the rage among celebrities and mid-American trend followers. I flocked to this trend and ultimately created two scarves. My friends Joshanna and Amy were the recipients of these gifts.

At some point during the spring stay at home orders, I found a bag that contained knitting needles, books, and wool. I have set a timeline for myself so that I can try to turn the products I now have in to some special items.

What are some of the ways that you invest in yourself?

Fearless Finances for Freelance Artists

This essay took some time to complete. It took time because I am uncertain that the words, Fearless and Finance should go together. For me, they never have. As I have shared before, I grew up with limited financial circumstances. Worse, I grew up completely ignorant about money matters. And honey, money knowledge does matter.
But, a colleague recently shared a secret that revealed something to me… she has anxiety about finances too. This empowered me to think about ways I can help her quell her anxieties. Guess what? In writing this for her, it helped me reduce some of my anxieties too.
Anxiety is a double-edged sword. If it causes you to freeze in fear, that is unhealthy. But, if your anxiety spurs you into action then it can be a good thing. Her statement inspired me to write about what I do to reduce my financial anxiety. I focus this on tips that will help reduce anxiety while preparing your taxes.
Make a plan
I know this sounds like a Captain Obvious statement. But to reduce your anxiety, you need to make a plan. And to make a plan, you need to understand how you make and spend money. But, most people do not think about this until it is too late in the game.
Schedule time with your accountant or financial planning professional to ask questions. Do this before she begins to prepare your taxes.  To prepare for your appointment, review the tips provided by IRS. The information at this site will help you gain a basic understanding. Then go into your appointment armed with questions specific to your business. While there, ask for checklists that will help simplify your gathering process. If your financial professional does not have any, create your own from notes you take. Later, sell the templates to your accountant; remind her you requested some. Suggest that it will help her future clients.
Your plans will vary depending on your work. Create a 1099 checklist if you receive payments from more than one organization. Update your checklist throughout the year. You may forget one depending on your level of busy-ness. In January, start checking for all 1099s. Check them off as they come in. Have contact information to communicate with employers who have not sent you forms by February.
Spend the majority of your planning efforts on deductible expenses. Deductible expenses are those expenses which you incurred to be able to do the work that you are doing. A phone line and internet, if necessary for business, are deductible expenses. Provide all your monthly statements to your accountant to include in your taxes. Deductible expenses can also include seminars, books, and memberships to organizations. For the IRS’s list of deductible expenses, click this LINK.
Gather your tools
Now you have a plan to gather documents and information. Next, consider the method by which you will track this information. Putting it all in a shoe box and leaving it until the end does you nothing but harm. Thus, it is important to process the information with the right tools. Otherwise, you are back to anxiety-town.
You can do this in a way that works for you. Keep all paper copies or upload everything to the cloud. The choice is yours as only you know how you work best. But, if you need ideas, I do have specific recommendations based on the tools that work for me. If they are unlikely to work for you, don’t do them.
Digital
Of course, the first thought is that doing everything online will be easiest. I cannot be certain. I mix things up and use some old school methods. But, there are a few things that I cannot imagine without technology.
An example? Mileage. Logging and distinguishing miles driven for business vs. personal is tedious. I hated doing mileage before I discovered an online solution. When I learned of automatic mileage trackers, I threw my handwritten logs away. I use MileIQ. Others exist. Now, every month I work through all the trips that the program has logged. I choose which are business and which are personal. Then, I email myself an expense report that I can turn over to my accountant at the end of the year. It takes five to ten minutes. Easy.
I also rely on online business management software. In the past, I have used Quickbooks. I appreciate that it is the industry standard. And, I like that my accountants know how to use it better than I do. Many new programs have emerged so find the one that works best for you.
Analog
Even though I receive a monthly credit card, I still track many work related expenses by receipt. But, I no longer keep all the receipts in a pile that needs to be processed at year’s end. I use a modified version of Dave Ramsey’s “envelope” method. I buy 8.5 x 11 white or manila envelopes. Then, I track each receipt on the outside of the envelope. I write on the envelope itself, you can choose to staple a lined sheet. Write the envelope title on the outside. Title examples include things like medical expenses, materials, travel expenses, etc.
You will want to write information about each receipt. You need four pieces of information from each receipt: purchase date, place of purchase, purchase price, and purchase purpose.
When tax time comes, take the envelopes to your accountant. All needed is on the outside while supporting evidence is located within. I provide the envelopes and electronic business management software to my accountant. This ensures that we do not miss anything.
Make consistent efforts
Okay if at this point, you are thinking that my suggestions above are time consuming, you may be right. If on the last day of the year you read the articles I linked. Then you go meet up with your accountant. Then, you download apps, buy envelopes, go through each receipt one at a time, it will take a long time. And, it will drive you LOCA.
In my life, I have learned that it is not the big sweeping actions that help us improve. Rather, it is the small, consistent steps we take that end up making the big changes in our lives. So, to reduce the anxiety surrounding finances, consider the small steps you can make.
Once you have pulled all your tools together, it should take no more than 30 minutes to an hour once per month. So, start soon and take time each month to process the paperwork you have.
Review & Repeat
Once you have a system in place that works for you, it is important to review your needs once or twice per year. The reason is that as time passes, your freelance work can change. You may have new expenses that you want to include. Those changes can impact your financial approach.
These annual meetings will also spur important conversations. As your business grows, you have increased opportunities. Ask your accountant to discuss tax planning with retirement accounts and health insurance. These meetings will also help you grow your business management knowledge.
You can do it. If you take time to create a plan, make consistent efforts, and conduct consistent reviews of your business, you will begin to face finances fearlessly and without anxiety.
What steps do you take to face your finances fearlessly?