Chuck’s Ride interview with Stirling Books and Brew

 

Chuck Robinson, of Village Books and Paper Dreams, and Richard Hunt, of AdventureKEEN, recently visited Staci and Jim Stuart, owners of Stirling Books & Brew in Albion, MI. They stopped to talk about how Binc and the Albion community came to Jim and Staci’s aid after Staci suffered a spinal injury just days before the store was set to open. You can join Chuck and Richard in supporting Binc, click here. You can also join in helping Staci with her recovery here.

 

 

Helping booksellers after the unexpected from Binc Foundation on Vimeo.

The Lasting Effects of Hurricanes

Sights like this street in Friendswood, Texas, are common in the wake of major storms and hurricanes. Luckily for booksellers, Binc is able to provide help throughout the recovery process.

At the Binc Foundation, we know that the effects of a major storm on a household’s finances often don’t show up until months later. After storms like the recent hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands, the calls we are receiving for assistance fall into a familiar pattern. Each stage of need requires a different form of assistance and the Binc Foundation has learned how to help booksellers navigate the trail from disaster to recovery.

Stage 1: In the first hours and days after a storm hits, residents are laser-focused on where they will stay, the need to feed and clothe their families, how they will get around and how soon they will be able to return to work.

In these first frantic hours Binc can help booksellers by guiding them to the local resources, making sure they have a safe place to stay by paying for emergency housing, and by providing gift cards with which to purchase the emergency supplies needed for daily life.

Stage 2: After the first 72 hours, as people begin to return to their homes and assess the damages, the needs become more intricate. The sense of loss and helplessness can be quite overwhelming. At the very least, there is the huge task of cleaning up the mess left behind in the wake of the storm. Sometimes the homeowner must tackle the task of sifting through all of their belongings to separate what can be saved from what cannot. In other cases the home is more severely damaged, leading to the need for longer term temporary housing while the home is repaired, or a new home all together if it cannot be saved.

Binc is ready to help booksellers pay for the clean-up of their homes and repairs not covered by their insurance or landlord. The Foundation can also step in to help with expenses needed for longer term housing, or the funds needed to relocate to a new home. Binc can also help with the replacement of essential household goods and furnishings not covered by insurance.

Stage 3: While a bookseller is busy repairing their home, they may not be working at their bookstore job. The bookstore may be closed due to damage or lack of utilities or the bookseller may not be able to get to work due to the post-storm conditions in the area. This lack of income added to the stress and financial outlay that the disaster has caused can lead to a serious financial hardship.

The Foundation can help replace this loss of household income and keep the family current with essential expenses.

Stage 4: When the storm is over and people are back to work; life may seem to be “normal” again. This is when booksellers can find that the funds they used for clean-up and replacing personal items, or income they lost when recovering from the disaster have caused a shortfall. Many times this does not surface for several months down the road, when the bookseller finds that they cannot meet their essential monthly rent, utility or transportation, or other personal expenses.

If you are a bookseller who is at this stage, please contact Binc. Just because the storm has passed and is no longer in the news, Binc still has your back. The Foundation is here to help not just during the first hours after a disaster, but for the month’s that follow.

If you have recently weathered Hurricanes Harvey, Irma or Maria, please remember that Binc is here for you. If your household is going through a financial crisis, contact Binc. We are your safety net!

If you were lucky enough to not be touched by these storms, but would like to help, you can click here to donate.

Guest Blog – Squirrel and Nest Financial Counselling: Tracking Your Spending

 

Squirrel and Nest Financial Counselling has teamed up with Binc Foundation to present ways for booksellers to build a foundation of financial literacy and move towards financial stability at any pay rate. In part two, the series continues with a discussion about how and why you should track what you spend.

If personal finance has a golden rule, it’s this: spend less than you make. If you can only follow one piece of financial advice, that’s the one. Yet, for however simple that advice seems, most people don’t actually follow it. If you’re not, you’re borrowing money and paying compound interest on the amount you borrowed. For some purchases that may make sense, like a mortgage on a house. Entering into debt should be done – if done at all – intentionally and in an informed manner. But that’s not what’s going on when we spend beyond our income, and with easy access to credit it takes no effort to do so.

How then do you begin to follow this golden rule? Track what you spend. You need to know – and understand – where your money is going and how you are using it.

This can be frightening and intimidating. We are taught to attach value to finances akin to “having money is good, and not having money is bad.” With this mentality, people in financial difficulty often judge themselves and enter a self-defeating loop. If you give into your inner negative, judging voice, you won’t be able to see your financial situation with honesty and clarity to be able to make the changes you want. The challenge you face is to detach yourself from this judgment. Cultivate an objective mind when you look at your money. This is the essential in developing a healthy financial perspective.

To track your spending, you really need to record every monetary transaction you make. This includes money coming in (paychecks, loans you take out) and going out (purchases, rent, debt repayment, etc). I personally prefer to do this manually by keeping a pen-and-paper record of all transactions in a blank book or journal. If you’re more technologically inclined, or if technology will get you to stick with your tracking exercise, use a spreadsheet. By manually entering every transaction, you are connecting with, and understanding, your money and the habits you’ve developed surrounding its use. You can tally it either as you spend or receive money, or you can keep your receipts and enter them at the end of each day, but you have to do this consistently. By each day’s end, you should know exactly how much money you have and where every cent that has gone.

If manual entry seems daunting, consider a bookkeeping app like Mint.com. This website and phone app allows you to link your bank accounts, credit cards and loans, and will let you track all of your income and spending automatically. You still have to do some work as it doesn’t always categorize transactions correctly, so you still have to go in and categorize your expenses, but you no longer need to manually enter each purchase you make. Some people find this a much easier and better system. Just keep in mind you are losing out on the advantages of writing this information down, including the immediate and very real connection to your spending habits.

After a month of this practice, you will develop a sense of what you have been doing with your money during the course of a month. Separate purchases into common categories like groceries, housing, entertainment, eating out, debt payments, books, etc. Figure out how much you’ve spent in each category and total the amounts. (Pro tip: Keep separate categories for groceries and eating/drinking out.)

At the end of the month, ask: Did you spend more or less than you made that month? What spending habits do you see when you look at these categories and receipts? Does this reflect your values / Is this how you want to spend your money? In compiling this information, you’ve created a budget template, which means you have a rough idea about what you spend in a month and can project your future spending needs. More than that, once you know how you’re using your money, you’re in a position to make conscious changes about your spending habits.

Other tools that may help you track your money include cash envelopes (more on that in this blog post), keeping a consumer spending journal, or other forms of creative journal tracking. The trick is to find the approach that works for you. Keep that in mind as you begin. Try as many different ways of tracking your money as you can and see what actually works for you. There’s a solution out there for you. You just have to be willing to try a few options.

Budgets and spending plans succeed when they are flexible. You know this already, but life can be unpredictable. You’ll find items in your expenditures that you weren’t expecting. Don’t let this throw you off course. Those exceptions happen, and as you do this month after month, you’ll come to find that they happen nearly every month in one way or another. Maybe it’s a birthday party you were invited to attend, or perhaps your car needed a repair. As you become more proficient at budgeting, add a category for those surprise expenses. Every month can be “exceptional,” but that doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared for it.

A few final points… Be sure to budget a line for savings, including building an emergency fund (Check out part one in this series to learn more about emergency funds). Building an emergency fund will keep an unexpected expense from turning into a disaster. And don’t forget to give yourself a set allowance for fun spending money that is not to be exceeded. Any budget plan with nothing set aside for fun is a plan for failure.

Make a plan, stick to it, and keep moving forward. You can do this!

(If you’re interested in seeing the startling amount of debt Americans rack up, the Federal Reserve publishes quarterly statistics about it. If you would like a meaningful discussion of debt, NerdWallet offers an accessible analysis on household debt and what it means.)

If you have any questions, feel free to email Justus Joseph at Squirrel and Nest.

If you are or know a bookseller in need of financial assistance, contact Binc at help@bincfoundation.org.

 

Guest Blog – Squirrel and Nest Financial Counselling: Emegency Funds

 

People who sell books for a living are in the industry because they love it. Passion, not money, brings people to bookselling careers. Learning how to live well on wages that gravitate near minimum wage without the benefit of tips can be a daunting task. Squirrel and Nest Financial Counselling has teamed up with Binc Foundation to present a few ways for booksellers to build a foundation of financial literacy and move towards financial stability at any pay rate. First in the series: Emergency funds.

Many of us come to the industry with debt, often a combination of credit cards and student loans. We face rising housing and living costs, and we deal with any number of financial quandaries on a daily basis. Given our economic realities, putting money aside to sit-and-wait for a just-in-case scenario can feel maddening – or seem plain mad. Yet emergency funds are arguably the most important element of a financial safety net. Perhaps second only to “spend less money than you make,” the financial advice to “build an emergency fund” is among the best you can follow.

What exactly is an emergency fund? It is cash set aside to be used only in an unexpected one-time situation and only to prevent imminent danger to one’s physical health. In other words, an emergency fund is money you keep to bail yourself out when a true emergency arises.

Sadly, emergencies will happen; they’re a common part of life. Knowing what is and isn’t an emergency will give you the guidelines you need to manage your just-in-case cash fund. An emergency is a one-time unexpected situation that threatens your access to basic food, shelter, clothing, and/or medical care. Specific threats to each category include the following:

Food – not having enough basic food to survive, having no money for food due to an unexpected situation, already using the food bank and still not making it.

Shelter – receiving an eviction notice, having essential utilities cut off (water, electricity, heat in cold months).

Clothing – lack of basic appropriate clothing to keep you safe and warm to due an unexpected situation.

Medical care – injury or illness that requires medical attention

What do each of these situations have in common? They threaten your very existence.

I want to dwell on medical care for one moment because your well being – financial and otherwise – is tied to your access to health care. You need health insurance; consider this absolutely non-negotiable. Making a choice not to pursue medical care is a decision that threatens your physical health in the short- and long-terms. Becoming sick is never expected, but it is a reality each of us faces even if we seem otherwise healthy. Even with insurance, co-pays, deductibles, and out-of-pocket expenses often lead people to not access these essential services. Having money on hand to cover those costs is crucial. When you have insurance, make sure you are familiar with its terms, copays, and out-of-pocket maximums. Once you know what you may have to pay in the worst-case scenario, add the amount to your emergency fund target goal.

How much money do you need in an emergency fund, and how do you put any money away on a bookseller’s salary?

Conventional financial advice suggests individuals save enough to cover three to six months of expenses, plus your worst-case out-of-pocket medical costs. We would love to say there’s an easy way for the average bookseller’s finances to reach this goal in a timely manner, but the reality is that saving that much cash for a minimum wage worker takes a very long time. So instead of looking at a large and daunting number, start small. Aim to create a $500 cash emergency fund.

Why $500? This amount will cover small, unexpected events like an emergency doctor visit, a basic car repair, a trip to the emergency vet with a pet, or being short on rent or food. It’s a number within reach of nearly everyone’s budget with some planning, and it’s a good start. If you put $20 away a month, you can have $500 in about two years. Increase your monthly savings to $42 to complete this goal within one year.

When you decide to create your emergency fund, it helps to keep the money separate from your usual living expenses. Keep it in a separate account, ideally a high-interest rate savings account often offered by credit unions and online banks, or set it aside as cash in an envelope or somewhere you will not be tempted to use it.

To build up your fund, consider utilizing these suggestions:

  • Have money transferred from your regular account to your emergency fund automatically.
  • Start small. And keep going. Even $20 a month is a good beginning!
  • Save unexpected windfalls. Instead of spending birthday money, a work bonus, surprise cash, etc., put it into your emergency fund.
  • Save more. Change your spending habits to make room to save. This requires knowing where your money is going and what it’s doing, which we’ll cover in a future blog post.
  • Earn more. Get a second job or a side-hustle to grow your income. Ask for a raise.
  • Forget your raise! If you do earn a raise, don’t inflate your lifestyle to match it. Continue to live on what you made previously. Put what additional money you earn into a savings account so you don’t see it.

When you’re saving, and after a while this amount will grow, keep in mind that it’s okay to let this money sit as cash or in a savings account. It may be tempting at some point to invest it to grow your money, but the point of an emergency fund is for it to be there right away when you need it. It’s your safety net. Leave it alone.

Moreover, a credit card is not an emergency fund. If you can’t afford to pay for an emergency need the moment it’s before you, how are you going to afford it later with compound interest added on? A $300 emergency on a credit card may end up taking 18 months to pay off and cost $42 extra in interest. Using a credit card to cover emergencies puts individuals in a bad situation where, on top of the stress of the emergency itself, they’re now in debt. Any further complications or a second emergency situation could damage their financial stability for years.

Consider buying term disability insurance. Employers are required to carry workers compensation insurance, which covers you in case you are injured on the job. Many large companies also give, or offer, disability insurance, which covers you in case you are sick or are injured from something other than a workplace injury. Many bookstores are too small or can’t afford to give employees disability insurance, so purchase a term disability policy in case your health suffers and you are unable to work.

Wherever you decide to begin, getting an emergency fund together is one of the best forms of protection you can give yourself. You’re the only one who’s going to look after you, so be the guardian you would want on your side and be kind to yourself. Make a plan, stick to it, and keep going.

If you have any questions, feel free to email Justus Joseph at Squirrel and Nest.

If you are or know a bookseller in need of financial assistance, contact Binc at help@bincfoundation.org.

Why don’t you apply?

Tim Smith, General Manager of Schuler Books, stopped by the Binc offices to meet with (from left) Kathy, Pam and Kit.

Tim Smith, General Manager of Schuler Books, stopped by the Binc offices to meet with (from left) Kathy, Pam and Kit. Binc is always willing to meet with booksellers, store owners and other book industry representatives to discuss our programming.

A letter to Booksellers,

Some of the results from our recent bookseller survey both surprised and saddened us. While 31% of you said you had been in a position of needing emergency assistance in the past two years, only 7.6% of you applied to Binc for help. Our goal has always been to have every bookseller in need look to Binc for assistance. We want you all to Think Binc first when you need help. We know we have a long way to go to reach that goal, and only when each and every booksellers reaches out to Binc first will we have succeeded. To help reach that goal, we need to clear up some common misconceptions about the Foundation.

Here are the reasons booksellers gave for not applying to Binc, and why those reasons shouldn’t deter you.

“I wasn’t aware Binc existed.”
We are working hard to reach each and every bookseller across the country. With the help of the ABA, the regional bookseller associations, Ingram, edelweiss, Shelf Awareness, Publishers Weekly, industry leaders, bookstore owners & managers and booksellers, we have made great strides. But clearly we have farther to go. You can help as well; when you visit bookstores be sure to tell the bookstore employees about Binc. Remind them to ThinkBinc!

“I didn’t think I’d qualify.”
We want every bookseller with a need to call us. Often when a you think you won’t qualify, you do. Give us a chance to talk about your challenge and see how Binc can help. We can’t always give a financial grant, but we promise to not leave you without resources to help you through your situation.

“I was afraid others would find out.”
We pride ourselves on confidential and compassionate service. You can call Binc toll free at 866-733-9064 or email us at help@bincfoundation.org, apply, receive assistance and no one outside Binc will ever know. We never reveal the names of any of our grant recipients without their full and enthusiastic approval.

“I was too embarrassed to ask for assistance.”
Binc isn’t here to judge, we are here to help. Needing a helping hand shouldn’t be embarrassing, we all need a little help now and then. Binc wants to help at the first sign of the hardship, saving you months of potential stress over how to pay your bills.

“It seemed like too much paperwork.”
We try to simplify the application process, asking for only the documents we are legally required to collect. We have streamlined our application as much as possible. We want the process to be easy and not to create more stress for you.

“The whole process was confusing.”
We know that the stress of a financial hardship can be overwhelming. Call us and we can walk you through the steps to apply. Don’t let temporary confusion lead to an overwhelming debt burden in the future.

“I figured there was somebody else who might have a bigger need.”
If you are having trouble paying your bills, then there is no one with a bigger need. We are constantly working to raise funds from industry supporters to make sure that there will always be enough money to cover bookseller’s needs, big or small. Also, we know that helping someone with a small need today can prevent it from turning into a larger need down the road.

“I’m a bookstore owner, not an employee.”
If you make your living from the bookstore, whether owner or employee, then you are eligible. Owners can have needs that are just as great as their employees. Often, helping an owner overcome personal financial hardships is what allows the bookstore to remain open, and therefore keeping other bookselling jobs.

“My bookstore closed, so I wasn’t eligible.”
Binc can now help employees who qualify for up to 12 months after the closing of the bookstore.

“I received enough support through other channels.”
OK, this may be the only answer that is acceptable. But for those who don’t have other alternatives, ThinkBinc!

If this letter has any effect, we hope it is to encourage you and your fellow booksellers to call us. We only exist to help booksellers through whatever life throws at you. Whether we help by paying your bills, provide you with additional resources in your area, help you mediate medical bills, or combination of all three, we promise to do all we can to help you get through the difficulty you are facing.

Remember, there is a 100% chance we won’t help if you don’t contact us!

Sincerely,

The Binc Team

What We All Can Do to Help Binc Help Booksellers

Help Binc help booksellers

Individuals and stores can easily contribute directly to Binc, which has a 20 for 20 Challenge, encouraging donors to give at least $20 and make it a monthly, automatic deduction.

Helping Binc Help Booksellers

Several companies have helped Binc raise funds in various ways. At Books Inc., which has 11 stores in the San Francisco Bay area, employees can contribute to Binc through payroll deductions, which are matched by Books Inc. up to $100 per employee per year. Books Inc. director of operations Andy Perham noted that the deduction program was “super easy to set up through our payroll processor.”

Ken White originally brought Binc to the attention of Books Inc. managers. Perham remembered, “We were all immediately impressed by Binc’s mission and have been even more impressed in the subsequent years as we’ve seen what Binc is able to do both in providing financial assistance to booksellers experiencing a financial crisis and in the scholarships they are able to provide.”

Similarly, Sourcebooks partnered with Binc for its annual holiday drive: each time a Sourcebooks employee made a donation to Binc, the company matched that donation, and then one of Binc’s donation partners also matched the contribution. Sourcebooks national sales manager Heidi Weiland commented: “We were thrilled to participate, and based on the response we received in 2015, we will absolutely partner with Binc again in 2016. We can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together!”

Weiland noted that in working regularly with independent bookstores, “I have found it to be a universal truth that booksellers are constantly assisting their customers, community members, friends and family with issues outside the realm of books and reading, making a huge impact in their community. These same booksellers are often reluctant to ask for help when they are the ones in need of assistance. This is why Binc is so crucial. Whether they find out about a bookseller’s need through industry professionals, bookstore patrons or community leaders, Binc is there and ready to help.”

A Unique Way to Fund-raise For Binc

Chuck Robinson, co-owner of Village Books, Bellingham and Lynden, Wash., raised money in an unusual way: in a bike ride last year from Washington to Illinois for his 50th high school reunion, he decided to raise money for three communities important to him. One was his home community of Bellingham, the second the community in Illinois where he grew up, and the third was “my community of booksellers all across the country,” he said. “I took pledges for foundations that represent each of these communities, including Binc. By the beginning of November, Binc had collected more than $6,700 from those pledges.

He added: “Many of those dollars came from others in the bookselling and publishing communities, but many came from folks in Bellingham and elsewhere who value books, bookstores, and the people who work in them. I would urge everyone who shares those values to contribute in some way to Binc. I guarantee that you, too, will be happier.”

This post is a reprint of Binc’s dedicated Shelf Awareness Issue from March 30, 2016. To learn more about the Binc Foundation and how we help booksellers you can read the full article, here.

Natural Disasters, Medical Problems: Binc’s Help

Photo of Annie and Pam

Annie Philbrick owner of Bank Square Books with Binc Executive Director, Pam French.

Some of Binc’s most invaluable help has come after bookstores have suffered natural disasters. A striking case involved Bank Square Books, Mystic, Conn., when, in October 2013, Tropical Storm Sandy caused a tidal surge that overwhelmed the store’s sandbagged walls. “Tuesday morning we arrived to a very wet store and no lights, computers or anything but dampness and the smell of a beach at low tide,” recalled owner Annie Philbrick. “Over the next two days, with the undying support of the local community, we packed up and moved the entire children’s section to an empty apartment upstairs, and the remaining store into two Mayflower moving trucks to be held at a storage facility about five miles away until we were able to open up again as a bookstore.”

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What Happens When That Rainy Day Comes?

loss of household income

We’ve all heard the term “saving for a rainy day”, but what happens when that difficult day arrives? We all hope it never does, but an unexpected layoff, disability or a death in the family can create a loss of household income and wipe out a rainy day fund. If the family has been living paycheck-to-paycheck, bills can start to accumulate immediately even before the family member can return to work or find a new job, draining existing savings.

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