Yeah, i’ve harped before about keeping good records and tracking expenditures and income, but when i hear the same people complain about having no money to pay bills, yet when asked if they keep records, they say ‘no,’ it causes me to wonder if they just want to complain, don’t have any idea of where their money is being spent, or perhaps don’t want to know. But, like anything, if one doesn’t make improvements, then you’ll always be able to complain about something and that is stressful.
It’s imperative and so easy to keep track of expenses. Most can simply use a notebook and pencil. Even easier is to have a calculator in the mix. (Coffee optional) Write down the amount or ask for a receipt when you stop by the coffeeshop for a latte. Picking up a soda from a vending machine – well, you’ll have to write it down. Whatever you need to do, keep track of even the smallest expenditure and categorise it. THEN, you can make decisions to change and improve your financial situations. Reimburse your cash expenditures by writing a check to maintain your petty cash stash. Sure, you can take cash out of your paycheck each month, but it makes it more real when you have to write a check. Keep your petty cash in balance.
This can be applied to businesses as well, but managing one’s household and personal expenses is the first step. Personal finance record keeping should begin in the preteen years – as soon as you earn or spend money.
Smart farmers will survive the challenges that arise in 2016. Just as they’ve done in the past, they’ll reassess their spending and recognize cash is king. I also recommend the following:
Understand true cost of production. Account for every dollar. It’s how you’ll quantify whether you’re headed for profit, loss, or breakeven. Don’t overlook your true living expenses, including what you set aside for college and retirement. “Tis the year for living frugally.
Scrutinize every line item in your budget. It’s the only way you can stop haemorrhaging cash and become leaner. Is there a way to cut your overall costs? I challenge you to cut all expenses by 1%. It might seem small, but I’ve witnessed this exercise lead to six-figure savings. Question input costs and negotiate with suppliers.
Be sure to liquidate all non-productive assets. You can generate thousands of dollars by selling losers.
Stay in contact with your lender. They realise down cycles occur. The last thing you want to do in tough times is cut them off.
My comments: Just because an asset is no longer working in your operation, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a ‘loser’ for everyone. Sometimes our goals change and someone else needs exactly what we no longer need. Of course, if the asset is junk, be sure to sell it that way.
There seems to be a resurgence of retirees wanting to get back to a ‘simple’ life of growing their own garden and/or raising their own animals for food, milk, and/or fiber. Interestingly, it also seems to attract the young set as well with high hopes of being self-sufficient on the land. Nothing wrong with those ideals, but our American culture and requirements are different than what they were 100 or even 50-60 years ago. Many of our expenses are out of our control (health insurance, liability insurance, our reliance on electricity, phones, internet, medical expenses are out of sight, vehicles, petrol, etc, etc), so the ‘farm’ whether it is a hobby size or much larger needs to not only cover these expenses, but operating expenses as well. In other words, one must turn a profit to be sustainable. Don’t forget that ‘simple’ certainly does not mean easy.
I’ve blogged on this before, but one thing that is a killer to many striking out in an agrarian lifestyle is to get FAR TOO MANY irons in the fire. Focus on what you like to do and that which will also turn a profit quickly. After you become financially successful as to being out of debt and putting away a bit of savings, find other ‘holons‘ which will complement or add value to the core activity. Don’t be distracted by get-rich schemes – they do not exist in agriculture. If you have a town job – hang on to it until the farm is a going concern. Doing both is hard – no doubt – but staying out of debt is tantamount to being successful.
This type of operation is typically termed ‘holistically managed’ and there are resources to help you determine a course of action. Our first introduction to this type of thinking was through Holistic Management Resources now known as HMI, Holistic Management International. This link will take you directly to some free downloadable planning tools and and teaching materials. Allan Savory and his wife, Jody Butterfield, started HMI, but have now moved on to start a new organisation called Savory Institute. The Savory Institute website has numerous videos and papers for your perusal.
Marketing – where will you sell your product?
Equipment – how much will the initial investment be? How often will it be used? Does it have multiple uses? How can you make money with what you already own? If there is equipment you don’t use, consider selling it.
Time – when will the cash start flowing back to you?
Weather – Ag enterprises look so easy on paper, but consider that you have no control over the weather and inclement extremes can bring diseases in both plants and animals as well as drought and flooding, damaging hail can destroy thousands of acres of crops in just minutes. Be prepared, both financially and mentally, for complete failures and steep market price declines.
Government – you also have no control over government policies as it picks winners and losers.
Don’t spread yourself out to a lot of enterprises – especially those that are not related – you’ll be exhausted all the time and seldom see a financial reward. Also try to purchase multi-purpose equipment.
Learn from others’ failures, mistakes, and accomplishments. Your situation may be different, but there is no use setting up the same hurdles others have taken down. Some practices simply DO NOT WORK in some or all locales and situations.
Hindsight, of course, is much clearer as to making business decisions, but there are basic principles to be followed.
What is your dream job/career/life? And how are you moving towards it? Have you already experienced your dream job and found it wanting? Why?