Navigating the Economic Seas - Massage Therapist Budgeting

Reprinted with permission from the August, 2008 issue of Massage Today. Complete issue archives and other resources available at

Staying afloat in these tumultuous economic waters is certainly at the forefront of most people's minds these days, both personally and professionally. Every time you turn on the television, listen to the radio, log onto your Internet connection, read a paper or have any contact at all with the outside world, the subject du jour inevitably turns to the economy, and how hard we have all been impacted. We hear the negativity from every facet of our media, and we as a society begin to shrink in fear because of the doomsday soothsayers and their blanketed and often sensationalistic views.

That said, I will not present to you an image of cake and roses either, because we all have felt the effects of a downturned economy in our own way; it is a very scary time for many right now. If the statistics we see generated for public consumption are true, then it is no secret we have a hard row to hoe ahead of us. However, now more than ever, I think it is a great idea for all of us to just take a moment, breathe, consider what we can do to slow the decay privately and professionally, and make a solid plan to get us through to the other side.

To tell you I have the magic panacea that will cure your economic woes would be a bit of a stretch; but what I can give you are some simple, common sense ways to assess where you are currently and provide a few suggestions to strengthen your position to be better prepared to assail those gale-force financial winds when they blow.

First , do not let the news bring your spirits down. Yes, we are having a tough time and there are many reasons to be concerned, but panicking is absolutely not the thing to do. Instead, turn that nervous ulcer-generating energy into something positive by looking for more ways you can conserve and maintain your lifestyle while saving excess expenditures.

On a personal level, you do not have to make major life-altering changes to create a positive outcome. For instance, instead of buying lunch out everyday at the fast-food haunts, opt for a brown bag filled with last night's leftovers, or a yummy sandwich wrap you made yourself. If you consider that buying lunch out every day costs roughly $5, then you just saved $30 a week, or an average of $120 a month. The same can be said for that $6 cup of skinny, white-chocolate mocha latte decaf with extra foam. Your home coffeemaker brews great coffee, and travel mugs are not only easy to use, but good for the environment because they do not clog landfills the way some disposable cups can. By opting for home brew just three days a week, you can save an average of $18 a week, or another $72 a month! For an average family of four, pizza night once a week can cost $25. If you opt to cook instead, you can sock away another $100 a month, not to mention saving the gas it took for the driver to deliver. (I like going green and saving green at the same time!)

If we look at just the three ideas discussed here, we can save an estimated $292 monthly or $3,504 annually. This can go a long way in a savings account dedicated to preparing for a rainy day. This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are other ways to save that do not impact your lifestyle in a huge way. These things work well for your home, as well as for your office or clinic. For instance, you can check with your utility companies for programs such as budget billing. This program takes an average of your billing over the previous 12 months and bills you a fixed dollar amount monthly. This eliminates spikes on your heat in the winter and cooling in the summer. It can also be done with your water in many municipalities; you would just need to check with your local provider. By opting for budget billing, you can better plan for your utility expenditures by knowing it will be the same amount month after month.

Another simple moneysaver for on-call therapists would be to drive the speed limit. I realize this tidbit does not sound like advice but rather more like a law. However, the truth is that many of us drive well over the speed limits, and when we do this we use more fuel. By simply committing to driving the speed limit, you can save as much as 15 percent in fuel costs. This 15 percent is significant with rising fuel costs, and since this is often a business expense, it makes sense both personally and professionally.

Now more than ever, avoid amassing additional debt. It is all too simple to reach for the old reliable charge card when you want a night out and are cash strapped, or you see a bargain you cannot afford to pass up, but doing this can spell real disaster for you down the road. Instead, work to pay off these cards by sending an extra $20-$40 with each payment from the money you have saved by making changes in other parts of your life. You will be amazed how doing this will rapidly reduce your balance and save you more money overall by avoiding finance charges on the paid principal. Make a concerted effort to remain current, or even a little early on all your bills to avoid senseless late fees. Creditors are far more fastidious about charging late fees now more than ever before. This is simply a money-making proposition for them, and these fees add up so quickly. Consider the cost of being late on a credit-card payment just three times in one year and at $29 per occurrence, you have just thrown away almost $90 of your money. We pay interest on the fees if the fee is added to your ending balance, so you will not only lose the $29.99 but you will continue to pay additional interest on it as well. This is an easily solved problem by utilizing online bill payment or automatic debits from your checking account.

By beginning to think now about ways you can better preserve your income, and cut your monthly costs for supply and necessities, you can begin to build a stronger platform from which to navigate these economic upheavals, and keep your ship afloat. Do some research online to look for more ways people have found to trim excess spending. Making the choices to conserve, retain, save and invest are just sound financial practices and will benefit you and your practice over the long term.