Personal Budgeting: An Imperative

Budgeting is a basic part of accountancy.

Nations, states, cities, towns and every incorporated company have budgets. Every private company, or other commercial entity, worth its salt has a formal budget. So why is it that the vast majority of people do not use a formal budget in their private lives? They do budget of course. We all do in one way or another. But very, very few people have a good enough memory to successfully budget informally – that is, without writing it down. And it's when we forget to allow for some expense that we get into trouble. We get into debt. Is not that just about the worst feeling in the world – to be in unplanned debt?

To be poor is a sad experience – it's a state of mind. To be broke is an uncomfortable experience – but it's a temporary condition. To be in unplanned debt can be gut wrenching. And generally speaking, unplanned debt is just plain carelessness.

Why then does it happen? Simply because in the days before computers and calculators budgeting was a boring and time-consuming task. There was an awful lot of adding up to do and the darned thing had to be continuously adjusted as time went by, usually every month at least. So it was not surprising that most people just did not bother and as the generations passed by, so did the practice of ordinary people not preparing budgets for their personal finances. They just did not think that the value derived from maintaining a personal budget was worth the time consumed.

So what's changed? One very important factor: personal computers – they've just made it so easy that if you do not budget, you're making life unnecessarily difficult for yourself. It is now well and truly worth the very small investment of time to input a few lines of data every week. Because from that the computer can give you more financial reports than one person is ever likely to need. It will produce reports on tax payments; about what you've sent; about where you've spent it, about what you've spent it on and it will do that for any given period of your choosing. It'll find transactions that you've forgotten about but that suddenly you really need to know about. It will tell you how much money you will have in the bank next Christmas (or what you've got to stop spending money on so that you will have the amount of money you need in the bank next Christmas.)

The really big thing is that you will be in charge of your finances. It makes it so easy to explain to your dependents – be it spouse, partner or children; just exactly what the household can afford to spend, on what and when. Ninety-five percent of the arguments about money will go out the window because people will be able to see clearly what can and can not be done. If we buy you that cell phone, we will not be able to buy that game. You get the idea.

What software is best? Well there's no shortage of it. It's not expensive. The best is less than a hundred dollars and you'll save that in no time flat. Check out the choices available, and choose the one which best suits your personal needs. It will be well worth whatever you decide to invest in it. And it will most definitely save you lots of headaches and heartaches in the long run, if used properly.

A Brand New Recipe For Branding

In a recent article, I told the story of when I was a young whippersnapper, attaining classes at what was then and still is called "one of the more famous hotel schools in North America", the marketing professor gave us an interesting, but quite challenging assignment.

We were to find a hospitality business that marketed itself by using the participation of the owner as part of the "distinctiveness" of the business. At the time, this seemed like a most difficult assignment, because in those days, it seemed that not too many people really stood out in this field. At least that what it seemed like to me in my youth. Or maybe it was just that they did not want to either make a fool of themselves. There seemed little need to drive the world to their door. I chose a very different restaurant enclosed within an old 19th century Mansion in this very cosmopolitan city. It was called Julie's Mansion and was owned and operated by a very eccentric, but wonderful showman who knew that he had to differentiate his restaurant from all the rest. He knew that the best way to do that – after the assumption of great food, entertainment and service – was to turn himself into the "brand."

My job, as a young hospitality student, was to watch him carefully and learn as much as I could. One Saturday night I showed up and Julie was trying to 'insert' himself into the home team's pro hockey uniform. It was immediately obvious that Julie had never played hockey. To see a middle-aged man struggling to get into and then have to have me extricate him from the jersey, equipment, elbow pads et al, was hilarious for a young guy like me, who had been on skates and playing the game since age four. He certainly was not afraid to make a fool of himself. When I showed up that night, he had less than no idea what piece of equipment went where, and was struggling with the shin guards. He had got himself all tangled up with what he thought were hip guards, when in fact they were shoulder pads, worn over the shoulders. It was indeed the first time I had ever seen a 'player' wearing shoulder pads, stretched around his butt.

I helped him get 'dressed'. Next came the taping of the hockey stick. This was really hilarious, watching this fellow trying to figure out the right way to tape a hockey stick without making a mess of it and looking foolish to his customers. He had a special plan for that stick.

I taped his stick and now he was ready. He had on his uniform, equipment and helmet, borrowed from one of the local NHL players who were a frequent guest at the mansion. Now, he actually looked like a real NHL hockey player … in black and white running shoes, sans skates!

Then Julie 'flew through' the different alcoves and floors of the restaurant with a big ball of foodservice aluminum foil as his 'puck'. He stick-handled in and out and between tables, took shots with the aluminum ball off the walls, cross-checked his own waiters trying to serve tables, all the while yelling cheers and the phrase made famous' round the world, by Foster Hewitt : "he shoots …. he scores!" All this, at the top of his lungs. Then he had planned for a horn to sound loudly indicating that the 'period of play' in his imaginary 'game' was over. It was now time to go to the dressing room. In a flash, just like an on-stage magician, he quickly disappeared into thin air, hidden in his office.

My face was covered in tears. I could not stop laughing! The restaurant was in an uproar. Guests were laughing so hard … one guy literally fell off his chair. The waiters were laughing, the guests were laughing, I was laughing and all the while Julie was having a ball too. Here was a restaurateur who made his work fun.

I had not met one of these types before. I really liked and respected this fellow. But I figured then, and still today, that anyone who had that much fun … and made that much money … must know something the others did not. And he did. He became his own brand. 'Distinctive. 'Differentiated. 'There is attractive to people who are sick of seeing the same old, same old every day. People are attracted to differences not similarities. Take a look at what you can do with yours. It's right under your own nose.

© Copyright, Roy W. MacNaughton, 2006

What Does Reverse Osmosis Do – What is It?

What does reverse osmosis do? This is a question that we've been hearing a lot laTely. A better question would be, what is reverse osmosis good for. The answer to the second question is, not much. We'll explain why as we move along.

What does reverse osmosis do for you to provide you with clean drinking water? It is basically a de-mineralization system used by the water treatment facilities to filter out larger or see contaminants in the drinking water system. It works by using a porous or a ceramic filter to trap contaminants which have a greater molecular weight than the water itself. It will not however block anything of equal or less weight than the water.

So, what is reverse osmosis doing about all of the chemicals, microbes, and spores in our dinking water? How is it protecting us from them? The truth is that it's not designed in such a way as to do anything about them, and without the use of further filtering it's doing absolutely nothing to protect you.

When answering the question what does reverse osmosis do, we can not be completely negative. The system actually has many positive uses when it comes to industrial purposes. De-mineralization is a necessity in many field such as car washing and photo developing. Here it does an efficient and wonderful job.

What is reverse osmosis doing for your health and well being though? Not much at all we're afraid. As you may or may not be aware there are over 50,000 chemicals in use today, any of which can be found in your drinking water at any time. Chlorine, another toxin, is used to disenfect the water, but there are limits to it's effectiveness. Many forms of microscopic bacteria are imperfect to chlorine, and can cause serious gastric distress if ingested.

What does reverse osmosis do to prevent these microbes from reaching your tap? If you answered not a thing, then your catching on. The funny thing is that the very chemical used to disenfect the water does itself leave behind a microbial byproduct. As the chlorine passes, tiny spores are formed which also escape the filters grass.

Some of you may have seen advertising in recent months for rverse osmosis for your home. The ads go on about how their system is the ideal way to protect and purify your familys' drinking water. Do not believe the hype. As we've already shown you, it is an ill effective means of protection. I t really really kind of a silly concept anyway. If the water treatment plant can not decontaminate your water using the system, then what is reverse osmosis for your home going to do?

What you need to do is shop around for a high quality home system featuring an activated carbon filter. There are many different models available, and you can purchase them as individual tap units, or as whole house models.

Now, if anyone should ever ask for you, what does reverse osmosis do? You'll know to tell them, not much.

Vacations Are Possible When You Plan For It

With the spring and summer months right around the corner and summer break right on its heels, most people's thoughts turn towards vacation! My family is no different. In fact, we've been planning all of our vacation time for the past twelve months.

Our goal is to take three trips a year. Two short ones; maybe a weekend trip to another city in our state or a bordering state. And one nice, relaxing, long trip that we have to pack our bags and head for the airport for that lasts seven to ten indulgent days!

For example, about the time our son's April birthday rolls around, we plan a weekend trip somewhere in our state. His favorite is always San Antonio because he likes to visit the theme parks and gorgeous Riverwalk that they have there. Since we live in Dallas, it's less than a four hour drive; and it's usually the precursor to kicking off our year of getting away.

This year, the longer trip will be in the summertime, a week after school is out. We are planning a vacation to Florida to visit Walt Disney World. We will be gone for ten glorious days for fun in the sun.

And then, in October, my husband and I are planning a three to four day getaway to celebrate our anniversary in beautiful Mexico. And that will give us our three getaways for the year! It's as simple as that.

Now, we have not always been able to do this. Why? Because of poor planning on our part. But, that is no longer the case. We've wised up, and if you have not been getting away for a little rest and relaxation because of the same problem, here's how you can guarantee that that will not be the case next year … or the year after that – forever !

My husband, Muri, and I have created what we call a "Battery Recharge" account, or in regular terms, a travel account. All monies that go into it ensure that we'll be able to get away with our ten-year old son, Jordan, or for a romantic weekend on our own!

Have a family discussion and decide where each of you would like to go. Narrow it down, and vote on three locations. One that's far away and two that are within a reasonable driving distance.

Once you've done that, do your research. There are a number of online resources. Thanks to technology, finding attractions in the city of your destination is no more than a click away! You can build an itinerary of what your family will do, as well as get the costs of each show or attraction you'd like to attend.

Then, one-by-one, you begin to fund your "Batter Recharge" account until you have the money to do each trip! What's so great about the two short trips, most can be done for less than five hundred dollars. The key is not extravagance. It's just getting away with your family to bond and re-energize yourself.

You work hard, everyday. Take some time to enjoy the fruits of your labor with the ones you love and cherish. Your mental, physical and relational well-being will be all the better for it!

Happy vacationing!