Rogue Ink

July 8, 2008

The Money Talks, Day One: How Much Money Do You Need? A Lot More Than You Think.

Filed under: Entrepreneurship — Tei @ 5:41 am
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Budgets suck. Budgets tell you that you don’t have enough money to do that, but you do have enough money to do this other thing, that you really don’t want to do, but which is smart to invest in for the future or whatall. Budgets are like the parent who told you no, you couldn’t have that toy you wanted when you were a kid, and refused to say why, just ‘because’. Except now you know why, and the reason is: you’re broke. Budgets are not, shall we say, harbringers of joy.

However. In order to figure out how much money you want your business to make, you have to figure out how much money you need. This is generally called budgeting, but since we have established that budgeting sucks, we shall call it ‘dinglefrapping,’ since our version is going to be more fun. Spoiler: Count Dracula is involved. Yes, I know. I’m excited too.

The Basic Dinglefrapp

The basic dinglefrapp includes all the obvious things – food, shelter, health, transportation, and that ever-important category of ‘miscellany’. ‘Miscellany’ is for all the stuff you forget you need until you really need it, like toothpicks or cotton balls or single-malt Irish whiskey (yes, they make single-malt Irish whiskey, and yes, you really need some. No, it’s not better than the best Scottish ones, but it is damned good. Yes, this parenthesis has gone on a little too long. No, I don’t know why).

The basic dinglefrapp is not difficult to figure out. You have your bills. Add them up. Round upwards, not downwards, because you will always spend more money than you meant to. Since I’m a single gal living on my own, my expenses may be less than yours. I am sure you will be able to adjust. My basic dinglefrapp breaks down about like so (rounding up because I hear math is easier when everything ends in zeroes. This may explain why my inclination is always to have no money. It is the ultimate zero, the lack of money.)

Rent and utilities: $900
Loan repayments: $400
Food: $150
Health insurance: $130
Gas: $40 (gotta love no commute)
Miscellany: $150

Don’t ask what’s in miscellany. I honestly don’t know. I just know the money is gone at the end of the month. It could be cotton balls and whatall, but what’s more likely is that it’s my tribute to the Queen of the Moths or something. I fork over the cash, she doesn’t send her brethren to eat me in the night. This seems more reasonable, especially since I know perfectly well I don’t have any cotton balls.

My Basic Dinglefrapp: $1,800 monthly. Cool. Now let’s shake it up.

Dinglefrapp Plus

Aw yeah. Dinglefrapp Plus don’t play. Or rather, it do. Dinglefrapp Plus is all about the non-necessities.

You also need money for books, for entertainment, for vacations, for random moments of stupidity, for eating out, for the random sock puppet you just have to have, for ice cream on a summer night, for the glass slippers you’ll need for the ball you might get invited to, for the impromptu surgery you’ll need to get the glass out of your feet when you smash them, which you will the very second you forget they’re made out of glass and the laws of physics always work against you and your fairytale recreations.

Make the budget for the lifestyle of your dreams. If I had my druthers, I would spend $100 a week on books, and this is not an exaggeration. I want druthers bad. What are druthers? They sound amazing. If, in the lifestyle of your dreams, you went to the movies once a week, by all that is holy, stick that in the dinglefrapp. If the lifestyle of your dreams includes buying a 1985 Aston Martin, go ahead and budget some monthly cash for that. If the lifestyle of your dreams includes getting sunk in a bathtub full of porridge while the cast of Spring Awakening serenades you, I regret to inform you that you are insane and should probably commit yourself forthwith.

But dinglefrapp for it anyway. You never know.

Harold’s Law

Many of you will be automatically discounting the Dinglefrapp Plus about now. “Look,” you’re saying. “That’s all well and good, but I don’t need to put anything in my dinglefrapp that is not essential because I am scared that I will not get the bills paid if I do not just focus on getting the important things taken care of. I’ll skip going out to the movies. I’m fine. Really, Dinglefrapp Basic is fine with me.”

I do not know how you can bring yourself to doubt an institution called the Dinglefrapp Plus, but since the dissent has been making itself known, I shall rebut. I had a perfectly reasonable goal of $1,800 a month. Perfectly doable. Why am I tacking a bunch of extra stuff on there to eff it all up?

Because of Harold’s Law, my friends. Harold’s Law will get you.

Harold’s Law is similar to Murphy’s Law, which states that if anything can go wrong it will and at the worst possible time. Harold’s Law states that any stated goal will be missed by just the hairsbreadth necessary to make you think that were you a better man, you would have attained it. (Harold was kind of a bastard. He got his head flushed a lot in grade school.)

Now, I have circumnavigated Murphy’s Law many a time, because one of its sub-components is that anything you anticipate going wrong is not the thing that will happen. My strategy for overcoming Murphy’s Law is to worry constantly about all of the worst things that could happen and completely neglect to worry about the trivial ones. This leaves Murphy’s Law no option but to make something fairly minor go wrong, which I then fix easily with my mighty skill and come out looking a dashing rogue indeed.

Harold’s Law also has a loophole, and it is essential to understanding the logic behind the Dinglefrapp Plus. Harold’s Law states that you will fail to miss your goal by a hairsbreadth, no matter what that goal might be. If your goal is $1,800, you will fail to hit it. You will only make $1,700. If your goal is $5,000, you will fail to hit that goal too, but only by a hairsbreadth. You may only make $4,700. And wouldn’t that be a damned shame?

Huge Unrealistic Goals.

If the triviality of adding a bunch of fun stuff to your budget is simply beyond you, set yourself a huge unrealistic goal. A big expenditure. A down payment on a new house, six months’ worth of vacation expenses, a candelabra from the original Count Dracula castle. Make it a real one, make it something you badly need, make it something you thought you might begin saving for some time way in the future. The future is here, and it has a Huge Unrealistic Goal squatting in the middle of it.

My personal Huge Unrealistic Goal for the next six months is a valiant attempt to get out of debt. I want to pay off all of my student loans. They total about $18,000. I just tacked on an extra $3,000 to my monthly goal. Take that, Harold’s Law. The rogue ain’t playin’.

Some of you will already have Huge Unrealistic Goals by sheer dint of having more responsibilities than I do. You may have spouses, children or really spoiled houseplants (seriously, they don’t need the designer fertilizer. You realize it’s not actually unicorn dung, right?) and thusly your entire life is already a Huge Unrealistic Goal, and you really don’t have the energy to contemplate adding anything more to it.

Do it anyway. Add a Demi-Size Unrealistic Goal. Maybe it’s an extra couple hundred toward starting that restaurant you’ve always dreamed of where all the dishes are composed of gummi candy. Maybe it’s your kids’ college fund. Add it on there. Seriously. You need it. Here’s why.

Shoot for Absurdity. When You Miss, You Might Wind Up in Functional. Well, You Won’t, but You’ll Have More Fun Than the Other Bastards Who Missed and Didn’t Try for Absurd.

Give yourself a higher goal than you need. Your Huge Unrealistic Goal is there to fail. It is okay if it fails. That is its purpose. The entire point of your Huge Unrealistic Goal is to circumnavigate Harold’s Law. The dream may not happen, but you will always eat, and you will always pay your rent on time, and the houseplants will rejoice in unicorn dung.

The Demon of Complacency

When your goal is only $1,800 a month, you can justify all kinds of things. A nice way to break down how much you need to make is by dividing that monthly sum up by the day. You need to make $50 a day. No problem, right? Hell, that’s Californian minimum wage. You could make $50 a day serving up decaf venti soy no-foam half-shot cinnamon two-shot vanilla lattes at Starbucks. And you’re a professional, right? No biggie for you to make a couple hundred a day. So you might as well take today off and go to the turtle races, and make $100 tomorrow instead.

I can make $1,800 a month without trying too hard. That’s two to three clients a month with mid-to-low sized projects, and that is doable. It is also a ticket to Complacentville, and we do not advocate that sort of thing. The great rogues of history would have sneezed, yea, sneezed upon such a paltry sum. It is not worthy of roguishness. Set yourself a huge goal, a worthy goal. A scary goal. I’m shooting for something more like $5,000 a month. I can’t make that easily. I have get my day started earlier, got to work hard. No time for Complacentville when the Huge Unrealistic Goal is calling you home to Awesometown.

Your goal has to freak you out a little bit. It should get your heart moving in the morning like opening your eyes to a marionette with one of those weirdly creepy Victorian masks for a face. If you open your eyes in the morning and the first thing you think of is, “Fuck. How’m I going to make $300 today,” I guarantee you that you will get out of bed just a little bit faster than you would otherwise. Unless that marionette was dangling right above your face. You’d probably get up pretty quick for that.

The Daily Desperation.

Peter Bowerman, author of the excellent Well-Fed Writer books, said he put up a piece of paper over his desk. He started with his goal number. We’ll take mine – $30,000 in the next six months. Then he made a list, like so:

$30,000 in six months
$5,000 per month
$1,153.85 per week
$230.77 per workday
Where’s the $230.77 coming from today?

His was much more impressive, since somehow he managed to get his math down to the point where his final number was a nice round $200. I don’t know how he did that. Clearly Bowerman can do math. The point stands, though. When you’re sitting in front of your computer and you don’t have any work lined up, that number is motivational. It’s not an absurd number, but it’s enough to freak you out. Get the blood moving. Shake up your sanity. (I just figured out where my Miscellany money goes. It goes to stock up on sanity. You can get a six-pack of sanity at Costco for $49.95. Very reasonable.)

That’s a fair amount of money per day. Makes you a little desperate, a little panicky, but in a good way, in a controlled way, in a way that suggests you could fix this problem if you could just figure out whether it’s the red or the black wire that gets you blown to smithereens. And you can fix the problem. The red wire is doing nothing and feeling sorry for yourself. The black wire is getting some business. Which one of them is going to save you? (Note: if you cannot figure that one out, kindly do not be the person who will save us in the event that someone leaves a careless bomb lying about an important building in which I reside. Please leave that task up to people better suited for it, like Bruce Willis. Thank you for your attention regarding this matter.)

We’re going to talk about how to apply your newfound Unrealistically Huge money needs to your rates tomorrow. Tune in.

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