While gasoline prices top $4.00 per gallon and the economy pundits’ projections dip and sway, I’m glad that my business is already established and runs from a home office.
I’m also pleased that I’ve taken the time to evaluate my clients, services and my business expenses and trim them all back neatly. My next big “trim” will be the number of days I work per week. I’m preparing for it now and hope to implement my new, shorter workweek by the end of July.
Determining how much I should make this year made it easier to look at how many days a week would be required to make that target income and to plan accordingly. It’s also made me re-evaluate my original numbers and trim them back even more.
I credit the price of gasoline for encouraging me to take some steps that are improving my business and my life.
I’ll be spending one day out of the office per week to get the things done I need to do. I visit with my parents once a week and spend the day. They live two hours away. On the way up, I run errands for the business and pick up anything I need that’s only available in their city while I’m there (that way the trip can be expensed). They have an office supply store and a general merchandise super-store there. I don’t have either of those here.
I get an early start so I can arrive at their house between 9 and 10 a.m. In the late afternoon, I head back to the house and do my grocery shopping and other personal errands on the way home.
Living a deliberate life
It means I only get out once a week now, but it also means I accomplish the bulk of my non-client related to-do list on that one day. These choices aren’t purely financial. I’ve actually started recycling. (Dropping it off is another item on my errands list each week.)
My new push to live life more deliberately and to think things out before jumping and running helps me to minimize the ecological impact of my life. I watch the extra packaging and purchase fresh foods locally as much as possible.
I’m actually saving money
Making sure that I never make a trip out for just one or two things requires me to plan ahead, make lists — and an unexpected bonus is that I’m avoiding impulse purchases and using less gas every week. By doing the shopping on my way home from my parents’ house, after I’m already tired, I’m not tempted to participate in “entertainment” shopping.
I don’t stay in the store long enough for the bright packaging and the multi-million dollar ad campaigns to do their job. I go in, get what I need and get out. My shopping lists are pretty basic and fairly healthy.
An improved way to measure success
For years, I emphasized making more money. It was a “marker” of my success. It helped me to feel that my little cottage industry was real, sustaining and important. It meant that leaving my corporate job was the right decision.
Now, I’ve changed my approach. Now, I look at what I really need and am honest about what can do without. I weigh my purchases more carefully and I bundle all my travel into a single trip. Now, I realize it’s not how much I make that really impacts my quality of life — it’s how much I spend.
Frugality is the new business skill
A penny saved may have been a penny earned in Ben Franklin’s day, but not today. Taxes and expenses eat into every dollar you make, especially when you are self-employed. An hour worked is not an hour of billable time. It takes 2 or 3 of those non-billable hours to lay the foundation for that one hour on the clock.
With that in mind, I weigh every purchase and determine if it’s worth what it really costs me. With that in mind I’m cleaning out my “systems” to try to improve my non-billable to billable ratio. I’m settling in with my best services and have released all but my best clients.
I’m evaluating some low-tech solutions to problems that I would have attacked with expensive and time-intensive technology a year or so ago. I’m now looking at what I can use to fix a problem and I don’t just use the existence of a problem as an excuse for the latest “high-tech” toy.
Importance of the 80/20 rule
My next big project will be to create my Zen work area. (Zen habits has been quite an inspiration lately.) I will be investing in a really nice chair this year, and better monitors for my workstyle and my aging eyes. but the computer I have is fine, the other hardware can wait. This year, I’m organizing from within more than “buying in” to external fixes.
I’m using the 80/20 rule in everything and I think my life (both at work and at home) is starting to be positively impacted by these dozens of tiny choices each day.
And another bonus? I’m not nearly as upset at the price of gasoline anymore. It’s just one of those things that’s helping to encourage me to make some changes that are long overdue.
So yes, in a round-about way, I’m glad the price of gasoline is soaring. And why not? Isn’t it better to make lemonade than to whine about the lemon tree out back? Life is sweet, but sometimes you have to add your own sugar.