Extending Binc Assistance with Resources

At Binc we are always pleased to be able to pay overdue bills for booksellers. We know from experience that these payments give great relief to the household. Over the past twenty-two years of paying bills for booksellers, we have come to realize that this is only part of the solution, however. More often than not, additional help is needed. This help can take the form of partnering with another organization to add additional financial support, helping to negotiate existing bills, or providing financial education for the future. Whatever the need, Binc strives to provide additional guidance to each bookseller who reaches out to us for assistance, with the ultimate goal of preventing another financial hardship.

Calling on years of experience, Binc has compiled a useful Resource Guide to help anyone struggling with a wide variety of unexpected events. Whether you are experiencing serious medical expenses or are struggling to pay mounting utility bills, there are organizations out there ready to help beyond Binc. One important service that we provide, is helping to match booksellers with national and local assistance to supplement any help the Foundation provides.

Large national organizations like the Red CrossUnited Way and Community Action Partnerships are often the best places to begin a search for additional assistance. They are depositories for a wide variety of assistance resources specific to geographic location. We frequently refer to an amazing site called Need Help Paying Bills that lists resources by state, county, and city. These sites will provide a variety of resources from rent and utility assistance to food pantries and local thrift stores.

Medical expenses can be overwhelming and affording needed care is often difficult on a bookseller’s salary. One great Binc partner is NeedyMeds. They can help lower prescription costs or help you locate a no-cost or low-cost clinic. You can search their site by diagnosis or by prescription. NeedyMeds even has a funding platform for major medical expenses called HEALfundr.

If you are looking for help negotiating existing medical bills, we have compiled some tips in this flyer Medical Bill Negotiation How-To. Whether before your scheduled medical care or following emergency surgery, Binc strives to help booksellers maneuver the frustrating and confusing maze of health care billing.

Binc’s Resource Guide also has links to organizations geared to improving your financial well-being. There are some great websites with very useful and easy to follow steps to help booksellers save and work toward a healthy financial future. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is the government website with a wealth of information to help manage bills and credit. NerdWallet can help you make informed decisions about credit cards, bank accounts, loans and more. Check out their thorough comparisons before making financial choices. Sign up for the newsletter at The Simple Dollar and money saving tips and timely and useful articles will come right to your inbox.

We are always looking for more resources to share with booksellers, so if you have a favorite, please feel free to pass it along!

Booksellers Overcoming Disaster

 

Every year Mother Nature finds ways to remind us of her power. Wind, water, fire and ice all combined to make the 2017 year one of the worst disaster years in recent memory. Getting through a disaster, natural or otherwise, whether as an individual, a family or a business requires planning and the help of your community, both local and industrywide. Libris and the Book Industry Charitable (Binc) Foundation have put together a disaster checklist to help you be better prepared in case the worst happens.

Having provided insurance services to the book industry since 1997, Libris knows a lot about the claims process after disasters, and more importantly, how to prepare your business beforehand. Whitney Balaun, business development specialist with Libris, advises you first to know your policy. Make sure you understand what is covered and not covered. For instance, many bookstores often have special events, she said, adding that Libris’ policy has outstanding special events coverage, where some carriers have events exclusions. At the holidays, the Libris policy flexes to cover your seasonal increase in merchandise, whereas many other policies do not.

Most policies also exclude flood and earthquake. If your bookstore is in an area where this is a concern, you need a standalone policy for this coverage. Does your policy have a waiting period on business interruption or a wind and hail deductible? That knowledge is helpful in your disaster planning. Save contact information for whom you’ll call to call when you need to file a claim.

“FEMA says more than 40 percent of businesses never reopen after a disaster,” said Balaun. She recommends that booksellers start by identifying and assessing their hazards: how old is your building; how up-to-date is your fire sprinkler system? How many exits do you have and are they clearly marked for customers?

“Another area to consider is how you can strengthen your supply chain,” she said, adding that business disruptions will break the chain: You may be cut off from book suppliers. You may be unable to open for business due to building damages. All create a critical issue, quickly draining your financial reserves and weakening your customer relationships.

“What’s your Plan B, in case of an emergency?” she said. “That’s why we’ve created this checklist – so you can think through all these potential issues and prepare before there’s any threat of danger. Don’t wait until the threat is imminent – under the pressure, you won’t be able to think clearly and may forget important steps.”

Even with the best of planning a natural disaster can create a critical financial hardship for booksellers and bookstores. In those cases, the Binc Foundation serves as a safety net to help aid in recovery. Last year the Binc Foundation assisted a record number of stores and booksellers impacted by hurricanes, wildfires, and floods. Whether a bookseller’s home was destroyed by fire, a store was forced to temporarily close after a damaging storm, or a bookseller’s family couldn’t pay their bills because the wage earners were not able to work after a disaster, the Foundation was able to step in and help.

In one instance, a bookseller’s home was severely damaged in the flood waters following Hurricane Harvey. With no family living nearby and all hotel rooms within commuting distance filled to capacity, the family was forced to move back into the damaged home as soon as the waters receded. Binc helped purchase cleaning and building supplies to help make the home livable again. The bookseller was able to continue working at the bookstore by day, while working each night to repair their home. Kit Steinaway, Program Manager of the Foundation marveled, “The resilience and determination of these booksellers facing unbelievable loss was both heartbreaking and inspiring. Their desire to help the bookstore stay open and staffed while struggling with their own personal losses, speaks volumes to the dedication of booksellers.”

We all know that in the book world, “community” is more than just a catch phrase; it’s a way of life. The bookselling community shows its true character during times of greatest need. Last year we saw it manifest in many ways, with publishers helping damaged stores restock, booksellers offering up spare rooms in their homes to displaced colleagues, and communities digging in to help repair and reopen stores. Booksellers look out for each other and are always concerned for someone who “has a greater need than I do.” When we all pitch in to help each other, we strengthen the entire book industry and create a caring community of book people.

With another disaster season underway, both Libris and Binc have already heard from booksellers who have weathered Hurricane Lane, Hurricane Florence and the every present California wildfires. In our wish for very bookstore and every bookseller should make sure that they are prepared, Libris and Binc have put together this Disaster Checklist. Please download the checklist, store it on your computer at work and at home and use it to make sure your shop and family are prepared when Mother Nature decides to strike again.

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.