Lessons Learned from Owning a Small Business

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Happy Thanksgiving to you U.S. readers!!!! I hope you have a wonderful holiday filled with happiness and warmth! In full disclosure, I wrote this post on Monday but I wanted to schedule it ahead of time so I could give you a little light reading over the long holiday weekend. I’ll be spending the day with my family. I hope you all have a great day and a safe holiday weekend!

I’ve got some good news to share in relation to my husband’s business!

He’s now up to three crews! Woohoo!!!

If you’re new or don’t know what I’m talking about then let me back up…

My husband is a small business owner. His company does wood flooring and since I’ve started blogging he went from having one crew (him and a helper) up to having two crews (his + another), back down to one crew (his) and now he’s back up to three (his + 2 others).

I want to knock on wood while I’m saying this but so far it’s been going really well with the extra crews!

I haven’t talked a lot about husband’s business since I’ve been blogging, but I want to brag on it (and husband) a minute here and provide some insight into his work situation.

Husband has been in wood flooring forever. He started when he was 18 and had done it on-and-off for years. When we moved to Florida (for my Master’s program) he decided to do it full time and went to work for other people. He worked 2 years on really high-end homes (he did Celine Deon’s floors on Jupiter island and the majority of his work was on multi-million dollar properties). He learned more in those 2 years than most would in 15.

When we moved to Arizona (for my Doctoral program) he worked for someone else for the first couple years and had bad experiences – work was irregular, low paying, and unreliable. He then decided to start his own business.

Owning our own business was pretty costly the first year or so.

Not only are there the mandatory expenses (business licensing, contractor licensing, and start-up costs associated with equipment, etc.), but there are also the expenses that you have to chock up to “learning lessons.” We had a LOT of those that first year. Husband tried to bring on a bunch of crews at once and it was a nightmare. He ended up eating multiple botched jobs completed by employees and didn’t have great control of the situation. We bled money and husband dropped his crews and just had one crew (him and a helper) for a long time.

When he added a second crew he did so cautiously. He leaned on some of his management background (while on-and-off with flooring he also did retail management for a few years), and did a much better job controlling the situation. He learned some valuable lessons from his previous experiences (both in terms of leadership/management but also in terms of business finances) and he was able to apply them this time around.

He did have to let his second crew go, but then he was able to bring back a second crew, plus add a third crew! Plus, he’s expanded his horizon a bit. Husband only does wood/laminate floors but his second crew does both wood and tile work. And his third crew does carpet installation. Husband’s licensed for all floor types so now he’s expanded his company’s repertoire and, as a result, enjoyed increased business in recent weeks.

I’m still cautiously optimistic about the whole thing, but proud of my hubs for the way it’s worked out. I’ve mentioned how husband may try to expand his business in Spring but its just sort of worked out to happen sooner. Hubs wanted to go back to two crews so his second crew was planned, but his third crew just kind of “happened” to him. He’d done a wood install that included carpet tear-out and when husband went to the local carpet recycling place to drop off the old carpet, he made a business contact who put him in contact with his now third crew. Funny how things work out!

So hubs’ business is looking like it’s on the ups and with any luck (*fingers crossed*) we can continue to draw an income even when we go out of town for Christmas!

Small Business Owner Bad thing = No breaks from work!

Small Business Owner Good thing = Paychecks keep coming!

That’s the hope, anyway!

Any small business owners out there? Any good books you might recommend or tips you have from learning the hard way how to build your business?


A New Budget – First Pass

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I’ve put this off long enough, it’s time to come up with a new monthly budget for our new life and space.  Bear with me as I haven’t started receiving utility bills here yet so I’m not sure how they are going to run. I will tell you that we’ve had no A/C or heat running for the past month as it stays really warm in here with all the surrounding units running theirs constantly. Even now, the windows are open. So here’s my first pass at the new budget:

CategoryEstimated Monthly Total
Rent$1214
Water$125
Electric$150
Life Insurance$25
Auto/Renter's Insurance$150
Storage$70
Entertainment$18
Kids Misc - school, activities$275
Kid's "Allowance"$480
Car - Gas & Maintenance$350
Groceries$600
Subtotal Personal$3457
Business Expenses
Phone Service$215
Internet$66
Technology$10
Misc$15
Subtotal Business$301
Total Monthly Expenses$3758

I did not include my debt in this budget as I really don’t have a plan in place for that yet. Since the house closed yestarday, I will start receiving the final bills from all the utilities and that will eat up a good chunk of any extra debt payments. I anticipate being able to get back on the debt payoff race in January once those extra utility accounts are closed out. Through today, I’ve paid these additional monthly bills on the old house:

Electric $196
Gas $57
Waster & Sewer $232 (this is a quarterly bill, so some is from when we actually lived there)
Trash $36 <- This is the final amount for this bill as I cancelled the service once all the renovation was complete.

So I should have one more set of the top three of these to deal with in December and then I can officially close the chapter on that part of my life.


So Worth It – Kid’s Activities

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I know that there were lots of opinions on my kids involvement in different activities and the amount of money I spent on them.  While much of their activities are bartered there are certainly costs associated with them, and the driving alone is a hefty chunk of my time not to mention gas….but I declare that as I/we get more selective, they do pay off.  I have talked alot about my youngest being a competitive gymnast and this past weekend his meet season kicked off.  I did good financially…in the past we have driven up, stayed a couple of nights, done some sightseeing…nope, not this year.  We drove up and home the day of, and here’s what we got to see.

For the record, I have bartered my skills for his monthly tuition. I do have to pay uniform and meet fees along with the gas to get him to practice three times a week and to out of town meets (all of them are out of town except the one we host in December.) This year the meet fees are right around $400 for the whole season…his dad and I split that and it has already been paid.

He spends 12 hours a week in the gym…and these videos show the results of a little over 2 years of training (not counting his missing the majority of last season due to broken hand.) In my book, it’s so worth it!

 


Chapter Closed

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Well, almost…our house sold today. It’s officially over. As a result of the finishing touches I had to complete this week, it’s been extremely emotional for me, lots of crying. The new owners even moved in early, paying a per diem rate to take possession last Friday rather than waiting for today’s closing.

My parents will come for a week long visit in one week, and my dad said that he will tell me at that time what, if anything I will receive from the sale. I’m not going to rehash this, I’m not holding out any hope, what I am going to do is do my best to forgive and forget this house debacle even happened. Time heals all wounds, but I have a week to get my game face on and soften my heart. The wounds are fresh and the reality of our home being gone, well it’s really sad to me.

I just wanted you to know that this chapter of my life is closed…well, except for the remaining utility bills I must pay.


Consolidation Station???

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The title of this post has nothing to do with anything, except it reminded me of the lyrics “conjunction junction, what’s your function” (from the School House Rock theme song).

This is a quickie post, but something that may solve some of the high student loan APR issues that I’ve been talking about recently (see discussion here, see list of debts and APRs here).

Any readers consolidate their student loans?

Have good experiences? Bad experiences? What are your thoughts??

I’ve heard that you can only consolidate a single time, but that would be okay with me. My credit has vastly improved across the last year as I’ve paid down my debts so I think I’d qualify for a lower APR. I don’t know the ins-and-outs. Would this impact my income-based repayment? Can I consolidate through the same company I already have or do I have to use some outside company? How does all this work???

For the record, IF (big if) this happens, I would absolutely 100% only do this in order to lower my APRs. I would not start spending money elsewhere or think this means I can pay less toward my student loans. It’s strictly an interest rate thing.

Thoughts? Experiences? Advice?

I assume I’d need to start by calling and speaking to a representative at one of my loan companies (I have two companies:  Navient and ACS). Before I even take that next step I’d just like to poll the audience (YOU!!) and get your opinions on the matter.

Thanks in advance!!!


Gifts to Myself – A Mental Break

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You are right.  I am overwhelmed, I am stressed out and I don’t trust my own judgment right now. So currently, my financial life is just trying to stay afloat, not make any big decisions and get a little ahead.  But I have this week decided to gift myself two things….

  1. We will be going out for Thanksgiving.  Despite the hardships of the last few months, we have much to be thankful for and I do not take it for granted.  What I did take for granted was lots of counter space and a kitchen that more than one person could stand in.  So we are going out…I’m not cooking.  I’ve decided on Golden Corral.  We will all be able to eat our fill at about $66 for the 5 of us.
  2. I am going to pay $50 for the younger two to go to a “school’s out” camp at our martial arts studio.  I just need a break  So Wednesday I will have a whole work day with no interruptions…I’m already compiling lists of the things I will get done.

I know that’s $116 I could put toward debt, but right now I just need the mental break.

 


Making Do: Make-Up

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You know how I’ve been trying to save money by making do with items that we’ve already got instead of buying new ones? Well I’ve been wanting to talk about this one for awhile….make-up!!!

I’m not a big make-up person. 99% of the stuff I wear is whatever is on sale at my local grocery store. I never rarely (like, once every 2-3 years) go to Alta or buy make-up from the make-up counter in department stores.

Even so, make-up can still be expensive. Since I started blogging I’ve been avoiding buying any make-up. This never started as an intentional challenge, but (similar to my DIY hair dye and cuts, which are still going strong), its kind of morphed into a challenge over time simply because I’ve now been doing it so long that I want to see how long I can hold out!

Have I just been skipping make-up entirely?

No. Though, to be fair, I don’t wear a lot of make-up to begin with so it’s different for me than it would be for someone used to wearing a full face with base, powder, blush, etc. on a daily basis.

So what have I been doing? Make-up eventually runs out, right?

Yep. And I’ve gotten creative!

First, I’ve looked around the house for make-up and been surprised to find a ton stashed away in various places! I started by looking under my sink (side note: anyone else’s under-the-sink a total jungle? Yikes!) Just from cleaning that out I was able to find all kinds of old make-up that had fallen out of rotation and was lost in the “under-the-sink” stash of crap. My Mom used to always give me her Clinique gifts (she buys their moisturizer and would give me the free gift whenever it was “gift time”), so a bunch of the stuff I found was even brand-new!!!

Next, I decided to go through and organize my purses. Again – I’m not a big purse collector, but I’m a bit of a packrat so I always hang onto old purses. Most are from Target or Kohl’s so they’re not fancy brands, but they’ve been hanging around forever. Lo and behold, I find more make-up! In the pockets of many of these purses I found some variety of lipgloss or lipstick. I also found concealer and make-up brushes! Another score!

And, finally, I got creative. When I ran out of eye shadow I started using blush as an eye shadow. I broke out of my shell a bit and started using colors I normally wouldn’t touch. And I figured out ways to blend different colors of concealer to create the “right” color out of two “wrong” colors (e.g., by mixing one that’s too dark with one that’s too light).

There are some things that I miss. My ONE, SINGLE name-brand product that I use ran out about a month ago and I miss it (for anyone interested, it’s by Laura Mercier and it’s a bronzer. It’s incredible and my last one lasted literally 3 years). Even though it lasts forever, its pricey (I think about $50), and I do not think it’s big enough of a deal to spend the money on right now.

Oh how vanity goes in the name of saving a buck (remember when I also confessed to stopping botox??). It’s a bit of a sacrifice, but it’s worth it to see those debt numbers continue to be chipped away.

So that’s my latest contribution to the “making do” series.

What have you chosen to make do with in order to save some money?

Also…I challenge you to clean out underneath your sink sometime this week. I would bet you find something that you could use to save some money by making do, too!


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