March 2015 Tasks
March 1st, 2015
I write this watching snowfall outside the window beside me. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear today was the start of February, not March. What’s more – Apparently, we’re supposed to get nearly five additional inches of snow today, and I had no idea.
I think I’ve stopped paying attention for fear I might hate the results. Or I’ve been watching too much House of Cards. Either answer is totally plausible.
Sound familiar? Sometimes we avoid thinking about our finances because we’re afraid of what we might find. We’re afraid we spent more on daily lattes than our budget would support; we’re afraid our debt continues to grow; we’re afraid if we look too closely we’ll realize we shouldn’t be doing this anyway.
But here’s the thing – We can still shovel the proverbial snow of our budgets. Awareness helps, not hurts us, in all cases. And in most cases, whatever we’re facing becomes less daunting as we face it.
So let’s face it together – between episodes of House of Cards of course. We’ve listed five things to help you cope with the ongoing uncertainty – and that temptation to ignore reality. Claire Underwood would be proud.
The third month of 2015 is upon us. How’s your budget going? March is a great time to check your account balances and compare your actual expenses and income with your budget. Life happens – for better or worse – and not always according to plan. Whether your budget is pretty close or wildly wrong, face it. March is an ideal time to make sure your budget is on track and if it’s not, it’s still early enough in the game to tweak it. Your March Budgeting To-Do: Check your account balances and update your budget needed.
If the financial side of your art has suffered this winter, March is a great month to translate your budget into cash terms. Because as we all know, making a certain amount per year does not mean you’ll make a corresponding amount each month. Some months are lucrative; some are not. Look at your budget and determine the minimum amount of cash you must have on hand each month – your reserve. (Or perhaps this is the lowest reserve you’d be comfortable with!) Then manage your cash – and use your budget – to help you identify which months might push you precariously close to this limit. (Like February, for example.) Knowing your limits and taking charge to face them will be much better than the alternative. Your March Cash To-Do: Identify your minimum reserve with respect to your cash, and make a plan when you hit it.
Let’s talk investments. How are they doing? Once you’ve more than covered your cash reserve (and maybe an emergency fund in addition to that), you may think about putting your extra savings to work for you – in the form of investments. If you’re following a portfolio management strategy, March is a great month to revisit that and rebalance your portfolio based on whatever parameters you decided were best. (Or if something has changed – your timing, your volume of assets, or your overall tolerance for risk – March is a great time to revisit your portfolio parameters.) Your March Investment To-Do: Check in with your portfolio and rebalance if necessary.
Are those winter blues getting to you? (If winter were personified, I’d take Frank Underwood-like action against it.) Enjoyable as wallowing in murderous thoughts might be – and for a moment it is – be careful that you don’t let that negativity creep into your financial decisions. The financial noise influencing our habits can be even stronger when we’re feeling vulnerable. Or cold. Are you excited to spend that refund from the IRS because you really deserve it? Are you feeling the need to indulge to counter the bleak weather? Is there a lingering voice from your past whispering that you can’t really do this creative thing? Acknowledge these voices. Then make your own decisions. By being mindful of our feelings and how they affect our financial plans, we can better manage our own financial health. Your March Mindfulness To-Do: Acknowledge the noise influencing financial habits and decisions.
If March continues as February ended we’re going to really need each other. Warm your hearts by connecting with your peers, colleagues, mentors, and friends. Whether you connect over hot chocolate or a meal; whether you connect in person or via Skype; take the time to reach out. Find out what is new; find out what is troubling; find out what is going well. You may even learn something about yourself. Your March Support To-Do: Warm up by connecting with and supporting others.
To recap, there are a few things you can do this month to keep the business side of your art warm and toasty (even if no one else is).
- Check in with your budget and update it if needed.
- Identify your minimum cash reserve, and make a plan when you hit it.
- Check in with your investment portfolio and rebalance it if necessary.
- Acknowledge the noise influencing financial habits and decisions.
- Warm up by connecting with and supporting others.
Stay warm! (And no House of Cards spoilers… )