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

Advocating Across the Nation

One of the most important parts of providing a safety net for booksellers is making sure they know the safety net is there.

The Book Industry Charitable (Binc) Foundation is fortunate to have great partners in the book industry like the American Booksellers Association and regional bookselling associations who help us spread our message to their members. Even with these great pillars of support helping Binc reach booksellers every day, there’s just no substitute for walking into a bookstore and telling a bookseller face-to-face that Binc has their back in an emergency.

Every member of the Binc team has a packet of information and Binc-related swag that we carry with us to stop into stores whenever we are travelling. We know direct contact with booksellers is key to promoting awareness of our programming since we can often trace each other’s journeys based on increased grant applications. As the one of the newest members of the crew, I recently had the opportunity to make my first series of bookstore stops while on a cross-country vacation.

I’ll admit, I was pretty confident going into my first store. Just a week before, our Program Director had visited 10 Texas stores in one day. I was positive that I could handle at least half that with no issues. I rehearsed my speech, prepared a handful of goodies including Binc bandages, magnets and an info sheet. I waited patiently until the bookseller finished helping a customer. Then things went off the rails.

we’reheretohelpyouinanemergencywecanprovidequickandconfidentialfinacialaidwithnostringsattached,” I was so excited to tell the bookseller about all of the different programs Binc has that I barely had time to pause for punctuation, let alone oxygen.

I was met with a duly-deserved eyebrow raise.

I held up my handful of Binc goodies, grinning and nodding and hoping the sight of magnets with pamphlets would assure the baffled bookseller that I was on the level. The bookseller nodded as if to say, “Yes, those are magnets, but why are you in my store waving them around?”

Tough Act to Follow: Program Director Kit Steinaway set a personal record by visiting 10 bookstores in one day during a recent trip to Texas. There were so many stores we couldn’t fit them all in this image.

Needless to say, I had to take a deep breath and restart my spiel. Once I slowed down and explained how Binc is dedicated to helping booksellers thrive by providing them with financial aid to overcome unexpected hardships, the bookseller was more than willing to take my proffered pamphlet and promised to explain to the other employees how a fancy new magnet found its way onto the break room fridge.

This isn’t just a blog post about how I embarrassed myself in front of a bookseller. It’s a call to action for anyone who wants to help Binc ensure that no bookseller in the country feels like they have to make it on their own.

Hero’s Journey: Not every Binc advocating visit has to be embarrassing! By the time I made it to Meltdown Comics in Los Angeles I was ready to explain our programming to booksellers Kimoy Lee (left) and Julia Fung (right).

We need you. Whether you are an author visiting dozens of stores across the country while promoting your new book or a bibliophile who wants to help protect their favorite local bookstores, let Binc know and we will send you everything you need to help us help booksellers.

Reach out to us at and we can help you get started as a Binc advocate. Or, if you’re reading this on the way to your favorite indie bookstore, you can check out this link to get a basic idea of what to say. Grab a selfie while you’re there and we’ll give you a shout out on social media so the world can see that you’re taking action to protect literacy in your community.

Advocate in Action: Desiree Cooper (left) took some time while promoting her new book  Know the Mother to talk with Jill Beauchamp (right) at Horizon Books in Traverse City, MI. All it takes is a few minutes and you can make a world of difference for a bookseller.

Protecting Bookstores and Booksellers when Disaster Strikes

Since 1996, the Binc Foundation has been assisting individual booksellers with financial hardships brought on by disasters of all types. Many booksellers have relied on help from the Binc Foundation to be their safety net when disaster strikes, allowing them to return to work without the stress and added expense brought on by disasters large or small.

Beginning June 1, 2017, the Foundation will roll out a Disaster Recovery Assistance for Bookstores – Pilot Program offering the same type of assistance to the bookstores themselves. Recurring requests over the past few years and the results of Binc’s 2016 Bookseller Survey led to the creation of this pilot program. This assistance is meant to keep bookstore staff employed, by helping the store quickly return to normal business operations in the wake of a disaster. The assistance is intended to help the store make repairs, replace furnishings, pay utility bills and other related expenses. Bookstore owners may apply to Binc for assistance with expenses that are not the responsibility of the landlord and are not covered by insurance. The assistance grant will typically cover the difference between what the store’s insurance pays and the demonstrated financial need to reopen the bookstore.

Whether the disaster is wide spread (hurricane, flood, wildfires, tornadoes, etc.) or smaller in scale (building fires, plumbing related floods, etc.), Binc is dedicated to help keep bookstores open and serving their communities.

If your store has experienced a disaster of any size, contact Binc at 866-733-9064 or

Life can be unpredictable, just remember, when disaster strikes . . . Binc has your back!

Shop Local Live Local supports communities and booksellers

There’s nothing like enjoying a good book in an amazing spot. Whether you like to travel far to read a mystery novel by flashlight in a cave network or just find a cozy nook in your nearest park to read a romance, the only thing that makes connecting with a book better is connecting with nature while you do it.

That’s why we here at Binc are so excited for our upcoming promotion in partnership with AdventureKEEN and booksellers across the country. Throughout the month of June, you can support the bookseller safety net and find adventure in your own backyard by participating in Shop Local, Live Local.

During Shop Local Live Local, Booksellers will receive profits from the sale of AdventureKEEN regional titles as usual, but AdventureKEEN will donate its share of profits to supporting Binc in our mission of helping booksellers when they need it most.

In honor of this very adventurous undertaking, we’ve incorporated a choose-your-own-adventure element to this blog post.

If you want to know what kind of adventures AdventureKEEN can take you on, check out this article by the American Booksellers Association.

If you’re a bookseller wondering how you can order AdventureKEEN regional titles for your store to participate in Shop Local Live Local, check out this page!

If you’re wondering why it’s good to read books. Check out this article using science to explain why!

If you’re wondering why it’s good to get outside, check out this article – it’s also backed by the power of science!

If you would like to look at funny pictures of cats who love literature, check this out!

If you’re still reading, it means you survived your internet-choose-your-own-adventure, congratulations! You’re ready to take your adventure outdoors, by way of your local bookshop.

Shop Local Live Local isn’t just a great way for book lovers to support their local stores while finding new adventures in their communities. It takes that support, that love, you show your local indie bookstore with your patronage and it spreads it out to all of the bookstores in the country by providing funding for emergency financial assistance for booksellers.

Binc is providing booksellers with an additional way to thrive during the Shop Local Live Local promotion. The Foundation is sponsoring an in-store display contest with two $100 gift cards on the line for the winners! Simply take a photo of your Shop Local, Live Local display and send it to to be entered for your chance to win.

The promotion wouldn’t be possible without the support of our friends at Ingram Content Group, PGW and edelweiss, who are helping as expert trackers on our adventure with AdventureKEEN.

Getting Creative: Binc supporters help in unique ways

One of the best parts about working to provide a safety net for booksellers is the immense amount of creativity in the book industry. Book lovers and businesses don’t just offer their financial assistance, they think of new and creative ways to leverage their skills to best help Binc help booksellers.

In the past few weeks, we have experienced an outpouring of creative support from companies and individuals across the book industry.

Ingram Content Group offered Binc a burst of support and awareness with their #IngramForIndies campaign during the week leading up to Independent Bookstore Day. The campaign quickly surpassed its goal of more than 40 shares and retweets well before the Bookstore Day deadline and Binc received a $4,500 donation and increased visibility as a result. To top it off, Ingram hosted a raffle benefiting Binc on Bookstore Day at Parnassus Books in Nashville.

#IngramForIndies combined digital awareness, fundraising and a swell soiree (Courtesy Photo/Ingram Content Group)

Ingram isn’t alone in providing creative corporate support for the bookseller safety net. Take Basil Software, for example. The company has been long-time Binc supporters. But this year Basil found a creative way to help Binc even more. Basil is offering a one-time donation for every one of their customer stores who joins as a $20/month sustaining donor during our Campaign to Sustain.

Creative giving doesn’t stop with corporate supporters. Binc Ambassador Ann Patchett has offered an autographed copy of her latest award-winning novel Commonwealth to anyone who becomes a minimum $20/month sustaining donor.

The first 80 people to join Binc as a $20/month sustaining donor during Campaign to Sustain will receive an autographed copy of Ann Patchett’s latest novel!

Bookstores can also partner with Binc to help spread awareness and raise funds. Bank Square Books and Savoy Bookshop and Café recently provided Binc with several copies of Neil Gaiman’s latest book, Norse Mythology. Current sustaining donors who successfully encourage their friends and family to join during Campaign to Sustain will be entered for a chance to win one of five copies.

Bank Square Books and Savoy Bookshop and Cafe donated fabulous prizes for existing sustaining donors who encourage friends and family members to join during Campaign to Sustain.

Binc’s partnerships extend beyond help with our annual donor drive. Looking forward, we are planning a June collaboration with AdventureKEEN with the help of Ingram and edelweiss. The campaign is called “Shop Local, Live Local,” and will direct the company’s profits from June sales of regional AdventureKEEN books to support Binc. Booksellers and store owners interested in participating in the event can find more information here.

The people who care about booksellers are some of the most creative and generous people in the world. We want to hear from you because we know you have great ideas. Call us. Email us. Message us on social media. We want to work with you to strengthen the bookseller safety net.

Campaign to Sustain aims to help additional booksellers

The annual Campaign to Sustain is here! This is your opportunity to join the ranks of other authors, booksellers, store owners, publishers and readers who have made a commitment to help maintain our safety net for booksellers.

This year, Binc’s goal is to add 80 sustaining donors at $20/month. The additional support will make it possible for the Foundation to help an additional bookseller every month of the year. Yes, that’s right, you can help 12 additional booksellers this year.

Binc Ambassador Ann Patchett has offered to sweeten the deal. The first 80 sustaining donors who join at $20/month or more will receive an autographed hardcover copy of Ann’s latest award-winning book, “Commonwealth”! 

Ann isn’t the only one is making this Campaign to Sustain the best yet. Basil Software has offered to make a one-time donation for each of their customers who join as a sustaining donor at $20/month or greater.

If you’re still on the fence about becoming a donor, here are a list of reasons why now’s the best time to Think Binc:

Booksellers need your help.

There aren’t many retail positions that require as much education as being a bookseller. With the average public college debt above $25,000 and tuition rates continuing to rise, providing a financial safety net for the people who answer the call to promote literacy in their communities is more important than ever.

Becoming a sustaining donor protects the people who put books in the hands of people who need them.

Helping booksellers helps communities. Whether they are putting the perfect coming-of-age story into the hands of a young reader or helping someone find the perfect cookbook for backyard homesteading, booksellers enrich the lives of their customers. Binc sustaining donors make sure that enrichment continues, even when life throws booksellers a curveball.

Small donations make a big difference.

The Foundation provides booksellers with emergency help when they need it the most. When you become a sustaining donor, you make it possible for Binc to help booksellers before an emergency becomes a financial catastrophe. By working together with other book people, combined donations of any size become part of a substantial force for helping booksellers.

It’s tax-deductible and super easy.

Binc is a nonprofit organization and provides a number of options for how to become a sustaining donor. You can donate using your debit or credit card, directly from your bank account, or through payroll deduction.  Click here for details on how to set up payroll deduction at your store or company.  

You love books by Ann Patchett.

Who doesn’t love books by Ann Patchett? Helping us reach our goal by becoming one of 80 new sustaining donors means more than just reading the new Ann Patchett book – which Publisher’s Weekly described as a “funny, sad, and ultimately heart-wrenching family portrait,” – It means you get a copy signed by the author herself!

Help us reach our goal by becoming a Binc sustaining donor.