Binc Donor Profile: A Q & A with Simon & Schuster’s Carolyn Reidy

Photo Courtesy David Jacobs

Binc recently talked with Carolyn Reidy, Simon and Schuster President and CEO and Publishers Weekly 2017 Person of the Year, to discuss the importance of booksellers, bookstores and Binc.

BF: When did you first hear about Binc?

CR: I first heard of Binc in its former incarnation as part of Borders. Then, I remember seeing an email when they transitioned to helping all booksellers. The foundation really rose in my consciousness after I was approached by Ann Patchett in an email last year.

BF: What separates booksellers from other retail employees?

CR: The main thing is the passion they have for the business they are in. By the nature of their jobs they have to learn a lot about what they are selling and express their enthusiasm, knowledge and wisdom to their customers. They share a passion for what they are selling that I think is fairly unique in the world of retail.

BF: What do booksellers and bookstores bring to a community?

CR: Booksellers and bookstores bring so much to a community. One of the things that is unique to bookstores as a retail environment is that they are a gathering place, which most retail outlets are not.

Also, bookstores shape and are shaped by their local environment. They are community-based– the people who gather there are from that community and as a result each store has an individual character. At the same time, booksellers and bookstores are widening the world for the people who come in. They make it possible for their customers to see way beyond the local: to understand the world, to have empathy with points of view different from their own, to experience the wider world through books and to engage in the national discourse. Bookstores contribute to the dialogue that’s going on in the country about any number of issues through the books they sell.

BF: How can booksellers help facilitate the process of local engagement with national dialogues?

CR: There are many different kinds of events, or even use of their retail space available to booksellers to facilitate engagement in the issues of today and each bookseller brings his or her individuality to the table. They sponsor book clubs, they can gather titles covering a certain topic for displays, and they have author events or authorless events which they create to focus on issues or discussion. Some have newsletters, others will have educational nights where they teach and discuss specific subjects.

BF: What motivates you to support Binc and the bookseller’s safety net?

CR: Booksellers are a key part of our business and they share our passion and devotion to authors and the written word. We want every bookseller to thrive. When things happen that hit a person and could really knock them down, if we can do something to help I believe we should.

Booksellers work hard and are dedicated to our industry. They work for small businesses with sometimes limited resources, and they deserve to not be left on their own when trouble comes.. Those of us who are fortunate enough to be in positions to help owe it to booksellers and independent store owners to help them out.

BF: You have been a leader in the book industry for years, how has working with books and booksellers changed your worldview?

CR: Working with booksellers has taught me the importance of passionate enthusiasm for what you do. The value of sharing your knowledge and what you learn from the books in your life. They demonstrate how lives can be changed by books, and also by the people who put the books in your hand.

Booksellers are facilitating the importance that books have in our lives by saying, ‘You should read this,’ either by making a book available on the shelves or by recommendation.

BF: Beyond helping each other through emergencies, how can booksellers help each other thrive?

CR: Booksellers have been doing a really good job of helping each other thrive in the past few years. They share their knowledge, they share their best practices, they share the things that help their stores remain centers of excitement and interest to the consumer, and they share their enthusiasm.

Booksellers team up on programs and ways of combining their influence in the business community. As a group, booksellers are very much into talking with each other and sharing, and that helps them all make their businesses better. I think they are doing an excellent job at that.

BF: What role do bookselling events like Winter Institute and BookExpo play in helping booksellers connect and grow?

CR: Bookselling events are essential and they have increased in importance over the years. Number one, booksellers have their own sessions for sharing business principles: new ideas, ways of doing things, airing problems, changes that are happening and ways to address them.

The Winter Institute and BookExpo are also wonderful forums for authors to meet booksellers and for booksellers to meet authors in a non-stressful environment. Booksellers also have the opportunity to meet with all of the publishing reps and hear about their books in a concentrated way so it’s very time effective.

BF: No book interview is complete without asking: what are you reading right now?

CR: The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

It’s a book I was hesitant to pick up initially because the story takes place in a prison – the main character is a woman in prison. It is an absolutely magical and phenomenal book, I’m so glad I picked it up because Rachel makes you understand and empathize with characters to whom you might otherwise find it difficult to relate and makes you understand the world from their point of view. It’s absolutely remarkable. The ending is surprising but she really helps you not only see and feel how those people are caught in their world, but how they escape it emotionally and mentally.

BF: Anything else you would like to share?

CR: I think it’s important for us to support each other in this business so everyone has an opportunity to thrive within it.

Shop Local Live Local ALL YEAR LONG

Remember last year’s Shop Local Live Local campaign, where AdventureKEEN supported booksellers across the country by donating all of their profits from the month of June to Binc? We do! Because of AdventureKEEN’s donation, we were able to help four booksellers through one of the most trying years in the foundation’s history.

Richard from AdventureKEEN joined then-supporter-now-board-member Chuck Robinson on Chuck’s Big Ride Redux to personally deliver the funds AdventureKEEN raised with the original Shop Local Live Local Campaign.

After the rousing success of Shop Local Live Local, AdventureKEEN is once again stepping up to help booksellers thrive. For 2018, AdventureKEEN is taking the Shop Local Live Local spirit and spreading it across the year with SHOP LOCAL LIVE LOCAL ALL YEAR LONG. This new campaign means AdventureKEEN is offering a three percent rebate to stores and a matching three percent donation to Binc based on 2018 purchases of all AdventureKEEN titles via PGW/IPS

One of the best parts about this offer is that AdventureKEEN is willing to count all sales from the beginning of 2018, but only for those store that sign up for the program before March 31, which is why we are taking to our humble blog in the hopes of getting the word out before it is too late.

If you’re not familiar with AdventureKEEN’s offerings, they make a great addition to your Local Interest section. AdventureKEEN provides region and state-specific titles to help people get the most out of the outdoors in their community, from hiking, stargazing and birdwatching guides to books to inspire a love of nature in young readers. Shop Local Live Local began with the idea of encouraging people to foster a deeper connection to their community through their local bookstore as well as their local parks, trails and backyards: we’re so excited to see it expand to a year-round mission.

The Caregiving Balancing Act


The Caregiving Balancing Act

  • In the middle of a normal work day a phone call comes in for you . . . your aging father is having chest pains and needs to be taken to the ER immediately.
  • You are scheduled to work until 6:00, but the only opening the doctor has to see your ailing mother is at 2:30.
  • Needing to arrange home care for your parent, you need to make numerous phone calls during working hours.
  • A friend you are looking after needs 24 hour care following an operation and you are their only option.

If any of these sound familiar, you are not alone. One out of every six employees in the U.S. provides care for a relative or friend who is aging or ill. And the number is growing as people live longer and rely on family to step in to fill caregiving gaps.1

Caregiving can run the gamut from a few hours each week, to 24 hour care. Most caregivers help with tasks like housekeeping and meal preparation, running errands and taking patients to appointments, assisting with bathing and dressing. In some cases the responsibilities can even include skilled medical services like giving injections or changing feeding tubes. With traditional healthcare not covering these expenses, and the limited ability of patients to pay out-of-pocket for these services, the responsibility falls to family and friends.

24% of caregivers say that caregiving affects their work performance, and a whopping 70% have some difficulty due to their dual roles. The difficulty can come in the form of emotional stress, fears about the security of their job, added financial costs and their worries about their own health.

Workers who double as caregivers often need some extra understanding and support. They may have more frequent absences or may need to make and receive phone calls during their shift. Emergencies can arise at any time and rarely when it is handy for the caregiver or for their co-workers. In addition, people stretched tight with providing care to others often neglect their own needs. Leading in turn to more unplanned medical emergencies. Without support the employee may drop out of the workforce completely.

It all comes down to being understanding and helpful to each other.  Here are some tools:

  • Some great suggestions for both caregivers and their employers can be found at org
  • ReACT Coalition has a number of good resources to help caregivers
  • Resolutions for Caregivers from the folks at
  • Financial assistance from Binc. If 50% of a bookseller’s weekly income is lost due to emergency caregiving duties, the bookseller is eligible to apply for assistance from the Binc Foundation. For more information contact Binc at 866-733-9064 or


  1. According to a study by AARP and the Northeast Business Group on Health

Winter Institute 13 Wrap Up Blog!

Winter Institute 13 was a whirlwind of friends, knowledge and so much fun! Shelf Awareness put together a great summary of the whole event here, but we wanted to share the event from your safety net’s perspective!

One of the first highlights of our adventure was a dinner we hosted at the Majestic Grille. We were absolutely humbled to be in the room with dozens of friends from across the book industry. Our supporters and scholarship recipients were able to connect over their favorite books and a great meal.

“The dinner represented all faces of the book industry coming together to celebrate their foundation,” said Kit Steinaway, program director. “Without their support, we couldn’t have helped a record number of booksellers in 2017.”

Our primary focus during trade shows is talking face-to-face with booksellers at our consultation station – it’s our strongest awareness tool. However, there was still plenty of time to attend some education sessions featuring booksellers and experts from across the book industry and beyond.

Jesse Mecham, author of “You Need a Budget” talk with booksellers about how to hack their salary during an information session at WI13.

Our Director of Development attended “Exploring Innovative Business Models & Funding Options,” where she learned how the creativity that goes into making a bookstore a reality never ceases to amaze. The session discussed crowdfunding, using pop-ups to test markets and gain credibility, and the advantages and challenges of non-profit versus for-profit business models.

“Book people are passionate about finding ways to get books into the hands of people in their communities and they will do whatever it takes to accomplish their goal,” she said.

In addition to attending some great information sessions, we were honored to have executive director Pam French included on a panel of professionals discussing how booksellers can best prepare for an emergency.  During the panel, booksellers and store owners shared examples of their experiences and reinforced the need that advanced planning helped in their response efforts.

“Both of the store owners on the panel, John Cavalier and Valerie Koehler spoke from experience,” Pam said. “After the flooding in John’s neighborhood, he became involved with his local planning commission and is working to identify and update flood zones and emergency response proceeds.”

The emergency preparedness panel also featured a bevy of information from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“The FEMA representative provided and overview of how FEMA works and a list of online tools that can be used for emergency prep,” Pam said.  “One useful tip I learned is FEMA has an app that can be customized to any zip code and provide a lot of helpful information including a list of local emergency shelters.”

We were so honored to be named the designated charity of Winter Institute by the ABA. Their recognition elevated awareness of how Binc can help booksellers through emergencies and made it possible for an incredible fundraising event. The first ever Winter Institute game of Binc Heads-or-Tails was exciting, fun and brought everyone together to illustrate just how committed the book industry is to taking care of our people. The best part was raising enough money to help at least four booksellers!

“The energy in the room was amazing,” Kit said. “One of the few things that could entice a bookseller to get out of a signing line (for a few minutes, anyway) for their favorite author.”

Trade Show Season Comes to an End


The 2017 fall trade show season has come to an end. Trade Show season is a crucial time for the Binc team since our most effective tool for awareness is talking to booksellers directly. It was great to see so many friends from all across the book industry, from IBAs to the ABA and everyone in between.

We’ve been incredibly busy helping booksellers after hurricanes, wildfires and through all of the other emergencies we’ve helped with for more than 20 years. Even so, we wanted to take a minute to share some of our favorite memories from the 2017 Trade show season

Our Program Director, Kit Steinaway, said her favorite memory came from early in the season, at the SIBA gathering:

“My favorite memory from this year’s trade show season was the sight of so many booksellers having fun together playing a rousing game of Heads-Or-Tails. We spend a lot of time helping booksellers through their most dire moments, to see so many of my favorite people just having a great time was amazing.”

Director of Development Kathy Bartson’s favorite part of travelling to trade shows is the warm reception Binc receives from all of the Independent Bookseller Associations, and how their support helps Binc help more booksellers.

“We wouldn’t be where we are today without the support of the IBAs. The good will they have put out for us for all these years is paying off because booksellers are learning they can turn to us for help.”

Joan Noricks recently joined the Binc team as Office Coordinator. She and fellow newbie Adam Gac joined Kit for the Heartland Fall Forum. She was wowed (and a little exhausted) by the experience.

“I knew we were going to be meeting a lot of wonderful booksellers, but who knew I was in for personal capacity building? The programming was amazing, especially listening to so many authors and wanting to read all their work – not to mention strengthening my upper body carrying all those various tote bags of books.”

Communications Coordinator Adam Gac had this to say:

“THIS IS AMAZING. I can’t wait to get back to the office to make a blog post about how incredible it is to spend time with so many brilliant booksellers.”

The northern California show kicked off while many of the wildfires were still burning, Executive Director Pam French was there, talking with booksellers about the needs of their communities.

“Being with book people and in particular witnessing their resiliency and compassion for each other was inspiring. This is why Binc exists, to help booksellers help each other when the unthinkable happens.”

We can’t wait to see everyone again next year. (And at Winter Institute!)

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.

Binc Bookseller Survey 2016 Results Released


Executive Director Pam French Discusses Results


The long awaited updated on the Binc 2016 survey results is here! Thank you, and more thanks to everyone who took their time to answer our survey.  I apologize for the long gap in hearing the results, but the good news is that the Binc team has been VERY busy with helping booksellers and gaining industry-wide financial support.

For a quick reminder the purpose of the survey was to:

  • Gather information on Binc’s current level of awareness
  • Rate program performance and relevance
  • Solicit suggestions for new programs

487 people completed the 2016 survey, compared with 369 in 2014. Thank you!

I’m going to provide highlights first, and then more detail on the responses to the individual questions. You’ll be pleased to hear we have already made changes and expanded programs in response to your input.

Key Findings

Highlights Summary


  • 30% of those who responded have had a financial crisis but just under 8% of those in need reached out for help
  • Serious Medical Expenses is still the most important qualifying event category
  • The most requested new program is Loss of Income Due to Store Closing
  • The booksellers we help are highly satisfied with our service

Communication & Marketing

  • Awareness has improved but there is still a significant gap in reaching booksellers
  • Once people know about Binc, they agree our mission is crucial to the book industry
  • People prefer to hear news directly from Binc via e-newsletter
  • Shelf Awareness continues to be the most effective way to tell booksellers about Binc


  • When people donate, they prefer to give on our website/electronically
  • Sharing stories is the best encouragement for a donation

Read on if you would like a bit more detail.

The Great News

More people know about Binc – at least 10% more from 2014

When asked, How familiar are you with the Binc Foundation”, the “not at all category” reduced by 10% and the “slightly” category increased by 7%, and the “extremely” increased by 1%.

Shelf Awareness and Fellow Booksellers are key in spreading awareness about Binc


Fellow booksellers (25%) and Shelf Awareness (21%) are the top ways booksellers first learn about Binc

***For those who really like to dig into the data find more details on this question at the end

Shelf Awareness (51%) and Fellow Booksellers (36%) are the resources that are relied on for general updates on what’s happening at Binc.  The ABA comes in at 30% through Bookselling this Week or the Red Box.

When asked, “What resources do you rely on to get general news of the book industry.” respondents indicated:

Once people know about Binc, they believe our mission is critical

82% believe the assistance Binc provides is extremely or very important.

This remained the same as 2014.

Just over 50% indicated that hearing stories about how Binc has helped bookstore employees and their families had the greatest influence towards encouraging a donation.


Needs Improvement

There’s a big gap between booksellers with a need and those who apply for assistance

31% of respondents indicated they had an emergency financial need over the past two years.

While only 8% of those with a need contacted Binc to ask questions or apply for assistance.

There are a variety of reasons for not contacting Binc but the most common are:

  • Someone else might need help more.

We cannot stress enough that Binc is here to help all booksellers. If you have a need please give us a call. Sometimes talking through your situation can open up options.

  • I didn’t want to ask for help.

This is common, and understandable. No one wants to have to ask for help, especially if you’re working. Binc exists to be a safety net for the one time you do need help. We work to ensure a specific emergency does not spiral out of control. Contacting Binc early helps resolve an emergency situation before it really adds up. The number of repeat requests is under 7%. Once the emergency is resolved booksellers are usually able to maintain their finances.

  • Fear that others would find out.

The entire process is completely confidently and private. We do verify bookstore employment, otherwise the only communication is directly with the applicant. Our internal process even uses grant numbers, not names.


Suggestions and Ideas on how Binc can help more

Which of the following programs not offered by Binc would be of greatest value? (select up to 3)

65% – Loss of income due to a store closing

Binc added this qualifying event in early 2016 – the survey response reinforces that it’s the right direction but we need to do a better job of communicating that we help with this situation

32% – Reskill assistance for employees of closing bookstores

30% – Car Repair

In 2016 Matching Grants were added to help address this need.  IRS regulations prevent car repairs from being a qualifying event within our nonprofit designation.

29% – Relocation for job placement

Research is needed to determine if this is possible to add.

27% – Expanded Professional Development

Binc is expanding support for the Fall Regional Trade Shows with a partnership with Macmillan Publishing. We are thrilled to offer an additional scholarship to each Regional Show and also provide development opportunities for underrepresented booksellers.

And Binc has partnered with Justus Joseph from Squirrel and Nest  to create a blog series on personal expense and income management. You can read the first installment in the series here, and the second installment here.

27% – Personal Financial Assistance

This is the core of our programs, so we need to continue to communicate our programs.  To help with this Kit Steinaway moved into a Programs Manager role full-time in March 2017

25% – Short-term Personal/business Loan –

With Binc’s current IRS determination we are not allowed to administer loans. In working to find other ways to help we are launching a new pilot program to provide grants (not loans) to bookstores hit with a natural disaster.  The pilot will run through the end of 2017.

24.5% – Emergency Travel Expenses

This is also being researched and evaluated.


*** In the top ways booksellers first learned about Binc the number three spot was “other” with 16%.

I did some digging and here’s what makes up the other 16%.

#1 – Social media, primarily Facebook

#2 – In store materials, posters, magnets, bookmarks, etc.

#3 – Ann Patchett or Ambassador Patchett as we are so honored to call her

#4 – ABA and IBA communication

#5 – This survey

#6 – A tie between Borders Alumni and the Things I Know About Bookselling Blog


If you made it this far you really love data (or Binc or Booksellers or all of the above) and it would be fabulous to have you join our Finance and Governance committee! We are always looking for passionate volunteers.

If you are interested in joining this, or any of our committees, please contact us at

Carla Gray Memorial Scholarship Announced

Please join us in launching a new fund to support emerging booksellers and their efforts in community building, in honor of Carla Gray.

The Carla Gray Memorial Scholarship for Emerging Bookseller-Activists will be managed by the Book Industry Charitable (Binc) Foundation.

Carla Gray believed that books could change people and that people change the world. This memorial fund in her honor connects on both fronts, at the intersection of books and activism.

The Carla Gray Memorial Scholarship will be given annually to a single bookseller with fewer than five years of experience, working at a store with less than $500k in revenue. The bookseller will be given a scholarship for professional development, including attendance at a key industry trade show, one of Carla’s favorite activities. The bookseller will have the opportunity to connect with booksellers, publishers, and authors and to establish the kind of long-term relationships Carla held dear and that keep this business thriving. The bookseller will also be given a stipend (amount TBD) to support a community outreach project of his/her own creation. This scholarship and its recipients will celebrate and honor Carla’s boundless enthusiasm for the books themselves, her delight in pairing the right book with the right reader, and her faith in the bookselling community.

We are grateful to Binc for helping to commemorate our beloved friend and book champion. We are looking forward to refining the range of the award once we have a base fund established.”

Hannah Harlow, Jenna Johnson, and MaryBeth Long
Friends of the Extraordinary Carla Gray

Additional information can be found at Shelf Awareness, Publishers Weekly, and

Contributions can be made here.


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 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