Plan for budgets now!
As this year comes to a close I remember that endings always make me think about beginnings. They give me an opportunity to re-evaluate and to re-assess. I usually take this time of year to re-commit or newly commit the use of two of my available resources: time and money. I think about balance, I think about what I love and what I am missing. Then, I plan.
The process of planning always opens up a whole new world to me.
Everything is a possibility and there are endless paths to take. Where do I want to travel? How much time do I want to take off? How much time will I devote to piano lessons? Will I be able to increase the charitable donations I make? Do my kids really need the latest/greatest tablet? (Year two on list to Santa...)
Sometimes taking that first step feels overwhelming... But, I do love the idea of spending the month of December in Mexico. (I could play piano there, seek out a children's center to support... )
Welcome to the world of budgeting! You have possibilities, you have priorities and you have resources to spend to get where you are going. While you may feel at a loss to figure out where to start or how to find joy and possibility in the process - it all begins with the first step and re-framing any past perceptions of the task.
Really taking on budgeting for your organization can be more than rinse and repeat. It's your opportunity to put your plans for the upcoming year into action. It is the time to take a good hard look at what is working and what isn't, whether there is balance and whether you are heading down the path you really want to go. Your data already tells that story (or it should, anyway). Building your budget is the process of creating the story you are planning to tell.
So, let's get started!
Step 1: Dedicate the time
- Make an appointment (or several) with yourself on your calendar to work on creating budget
- Give yourself a treat, a special blend of tea, conducive music (something to make you look forward to the time)
Step 2: Create or use a template
- Your system may allow exporting of your data in the desired format
- You can use paper or excel spreadsheets that can be edited for your business
- Computer programs like Excel can give you the added benefit of tying variable amounts to assumptions to calculate 'what if' scenarios more easily
- Your budget should cover 12 to 24 months of business operation
Step 3: Start where you are, with what you know (Income, expenses, loan payments)
- Pull together historical info about each category by month
- Review the comparison of budget versus actual. Make changes in your new budget document as needed
Step 4: Add what you are planning (changes known or predicted)
- Do you need new categories?
- Are there uses of cash to consider (asset purchases, loan repayments, etc)
Step 5: Ask yourself some questions:
- Are you in alignment with your organization goals?
- Does this budget reflect what you value most?
- Are there trends (industry or seasonal) you can learn from or incorporate?
- Are your ratios in line with industry standards?
Step 6: Tweak it until your income and expenses balance (this is the tough one)
- Revisit and scrutinize all categories (Income and Expenses)
- Shop your fixed expenses annually to see if you can find a better deal (phone, insurance, leases, etc)
- If you provide health benefits, consider HSA/HRA's Flexible Spending
- Work to reduce or eliminate debt to lower interest expense
- Try to keep enough cash on hand to take advantage of discounts or good deals
- Build in some cushion
The power of your budget is immense. Your budget causes you to think through how your organization is planning to fulfill the work ahead. It puts those plans and changes into black and white, making them real, actionable. Having numbers attached to your plans helps us put those visions and plans into action by giving us something to measure against as we begin to make progress.
Are you feeling inspired to do it right now? Good for you - go get 'em! If you feel like you need a little more to get going, or some further technical assistance, contact us – clarityei.com.
Tina Flores-McCleese is the owner of Clarity, a firm providing financial consulting, workshops, one on one training, and grant management for non-profits and small businesses. Clarity helps non-profits and small businesses through organizational transitions with an eye towards the future, so your organization can accomplish what you really want to.
You can reach Clarity at 360-385-9963 x1, or www.clarityei.com.