Cash Flow Killers, Part 2: I Hate Admitting When I’m Lost

I hate admitting when I’m lost.

On June 13, 2014, six hardworking guys put our seventeen-foot canoes into the chilly waters of Basswood Lake for five days of restoration, exploration, and memory-making, but our trip didn’t start out exactly as we planned.

Basswood Lake is in heart of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA), a preserved wilderness that straddles the US and Canadian border. Even for seasoned paddlers, a sudden change in weather can transform an experience on a large lake like Basswood from a peaceful afternoon paddle to a treacherous adrenaline-inducing battle.

Knowing the weather can change quickly, we had studied our options in our planning process and had our eyes on a campsite that would protect us from prevailing northwest winds. With that destination in mind, we headed out. I felt confident in my navigation skills, but despite that, I had decided to pack a handheld GPS unit, tucked away safely with some pots and pans and the rest of our camping gear.

As we paddled toward our campsite, the sun slipped behind the clouds, the skies darkened, and rain began to fall. The wind whipped our faces and stirred up whitecaps in the lake, and the rain pelted down on us as we struggled to keep moving forward. My shoulders burned with each stroke of the paddle. Jeff fought the waters while keeping an eye on his twelve-year-old son in the front of his canoe. The whitecaps grew higher and higher. After ice-cold water crashed over the side of the canoe for the second time, I knew we needed to get to camp ASAP before disaster struck.

The rain continued and my eye kept drifting to the waterproof case that held our tattered map—swinging back and forth, just 12 inches in front of me, as it hung precariously from the thwart. I managed to reach out and grab it as the front of the canoe was slammed down from another heave wave, but I couldn’t look at it for long—it was a struggle just to keep the canoe steady and pointed in what I thought was the right direction. I was sure the red dot we had marked on the map was JUST around the next point, about a half-mile away, and I assured my fellow adventurers that we were almost there.

Wet, cold, and exhausted, we finally hit the point we were aiming for, but as we turned the corner into a brutal northwest wind, and my heart sank. Something didn’t feel right. We weren’t where I thought we were. We were lost. All the preparation, the map reading, the navigation… we had a plan but when we faced a storm we blew off-course and we missed where we were going. As I looked at the defeated faces around me, I set my pride aside, dug deep through my wet pack and pulled out the GPS unit. I turned the power on and as the signal flashed onto the screen, I realized that we had passed the campsite a half-mile back. Begrudgingly, our crew of canoes turned and followed my lead as we backtracked and finally made it to our destination.

Cash Flow Killer 2 – A map with no GPS

The map of Basswood Lake, marked with a red dot for our campsite, gave us a general idea of where we were going. However, it was the GPS signal that showed us that we were lost and guided us back to our intended route.

Similarly, when it comes to money, many people have a map (a plan for their cash flow) but they don’t use a GPS (cash flow management system) to alert them when they are off course.

Instead, too many people find themselves either gradually or suddenly lost, then panic sets in, and GPS is turned on after the damage is already done and they are “off the map.” So, what can you do to create a map (cash flow plan) and use it jointly with a GPS (cash flow management system)?

3 Strategies to Improve Cash Flow Management

1) Develop a relevant and realistic cash flow plan, and “map” out your cash flow. You can do this by income, savings, fixed, and variable (managed) expenses.
Many people are scared to truly know the reality of their cash flow. But you will be much better off knowing the truth about your cash flow than staying in denial about it. Going through life without a plan for your income, savings, and expenses can be like traveling through the wilderness without a map. Create your map! If you’re looking for help getting started, connect with our team at One Life to start a conversation.

*Be sure to include a category for “unplanned” spending items like medical bills, insurance deductibles, and things like accidentally flushing your car keys down the toilet (see Cash Flow Killers, Part 1). Your plan should also include “seasonal” spending items, which I will cover in a future post.

2) Find a simple Cash Flow Management System (GPS) that you will actually use. Like a GPS signal that can show you where you are relative to where you want to be, a good Cash Flow Management System can alert you when you’re off track. It also should tell you when you’re on track so you can enjoy some guilt-free spending! Just be careful of systems that are time-consuming and require you, or you and your spouse, to track every expense on a computer or mobile device.

IMPORTANT NOTE FOR COUPLES – Unless only one of you spends money, is critical that your Cash Flow Management System (GPS) will work for both of you, and that both of you are willing and committed to using your system. Otherwise, you won’t know how you’re doing or when you’re about to venture off-track. When both of you are using your Cash Flow Management System, and you see that you’re on track, it can significantly reduce financial stress and make it easier to enjoy guilt-free living and giving.

Do you want to make a change or explore new ways to get more life out of your cash flow? You can learn more about our process or request a meeting on our website.

3) Use your Cash Flow Management System (GPS)
The worst type of GPS is the one you don’t use. The GPS unit that I had stuffed into my camping pack under a pile of other gear couldn’t serve me until I pulled it out and used it. If you take the time to map out a plan for your cash flow and you find a system (GPS) to manage your cash flow, make sure to actually turn on your GPS. Schedule time weekly to manage and track your progress so that you can enjoy guilt-free spending or be alerted when you are off course. This is also a time to update your plan as your bills, savings, or spending goals change over time.

In a future post, I will review different types of Cash Flow Management Systems, including one that enables you to track your progress in just minutes each week.

We are here to help.

Do you feel off course with your cash flow?

Are you looking to reduce financial stress or explore how you can enjoy guilt-free cash flow management?

Are you struggling to get on the same page with your spouse with your cash flow?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, and you’re looking for a better way to manage your cash flow, we would love to start a conversation. Visit our website to learn about our mission or to start a conversation.

All written content is for information purposes only. Opinions expressed herein are solely those of One Life Financial Group Inc. and our editorial staff. Material presented is believed to be from reliable sources; however, we make no representations as to its accuracy or completeness. All information and ideas should be discussed in detail with your individual advisor prior to implementation. Advisory services are offered by One Life Financial Group Inc. a Registered Investment Advisor in the State of Minnesota. One Life Financial Group Inc. is not affiliated with or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any government agency, and are not engaged in the practice of law.