Archive for April, 2012

When to Outsource Personal Tasks

Personal finance

When does it make sense to outsource personal tasks to others?

This is a subject I’ve been thinking about recently because for the first time in my life, I’ve used a lawn service.  This started with me being ill—I was sick for nearly a month and wasn’t well enough to cut the grass.  But now my health has returned, and I’m left with a tough decision whether to continue the service or not.

One of my neighbors (perhaps noticing the lawn service does a better job than me) made the point that I should continue with the service.  She has her own business (in the same industry as me) and stated I would be better off “billing an extra hour at $200.00 an hour) while paying $30.00 for the lawn service.  She considers this a net $170.00 transaction.  Her business is so busy, in fact, that she attempts to outsource any activity that costs less than $200.00 per hour.

So, for her, it would make perfect sense to outsource everything from lawn services to house cleaning to perhaps even food shopping.

The problem is that my business doesn’t have enough work to justify using a lawn service.  In other words, I can’t find an extra hour to bill during the time I would normally be cutting the grass.  I imagine my neighbors theory is that I would still be better off taking the extra hour and using it to generate more business.  That is to say, if I spend the extra hour doing nothing, then I would be better off cutting the grass myself.  If I could, however, utilize that hour to bring in extra business, work on marketing, free up time for more billing later on, then perhaps I should continue to pay someone else to cut my grass.

There are, of course, other considerations.   I hate cutting grass and do a lackluster job (probably because I hate it).  That said, it’s probably the one time each week I’m forced to go outside and be active.  Perhaps the time away from my office leads to greater productivity when I return to work?   There’s also an element of personal pride—-as a (seemingly) healthy twenty-eight year old, I feel that there’s no reason why I should be paying someone else to cut the grass.

Another task that I tend to outsource is car washing.  I do not have a nice car and I’m not the kind of person who would take very much pride in the car I drive even if it were nice. That said, I want my car to at least look presentable.  Accordingly,  I would rather pay $10.00 to run my car through the car wash real quick rather than to take a whole afternoon to get my car spotless just to have it covered in green pollen (spring, summer), leaves (fall), salt (winter), or bird crap (all year long) within a few days anyway.


In our busy modern world, we’ll all be forced to make more choices regarding whether to outsource certain personal tasks.  When we do, there will be more factors than whether we could earn more money during the time saved.  Being able to actively manage one’s life with regard to what tasks we perform v. which tasks we outsource, may be a key to success in the modern era.  After all, isn’t who we are somewhat related to what we spend our time doing?





Excel Related Exercise/Test (Vlookup, Sumif, Countif function), Are You Ready?

Excel Test

Today, after helping out a reader, it got me thinking about a new feature that could be added to this blog, excel exercise or tests. I will be giving one such exercise today and then publishing the answer next week. Obviously, readers that come here are at all kinds of different levels so it would be a challenge to have an exercise that would work for everyone. This is an exercise that tests your knowledge of the vlookup, sumif and countif functions as well as a special question that will require you to use a nested if & and function.

I would of course invite you to write comments and questions in the comments section of this post. However, please refrain from posting the entire solution:) If you do have it, simply say so, I will communicate with you to get the file by email:)

Ready for the challenge? If so, start here:

Step #1-Download this spreadsheet

Step #2-Using one of the functions described, get the correct number in column “E”. It should be one formula that you can then drag down that will use the correct %. Then, using the chart at the bottom left and the same function, fill out column “F”

Step #3-Calculate the amount to be financed (Selling price – down payment) in column G

Step #4-Fill out the commission to be paid out to each agent. It should be calculated as follows. They get paid only on the amount to be financed. They actually get paid:

2.5% if that amount is over or equal to $200,000
1.5% if it is lower than $200,000

Step #5-Using one of the formulas, calculate the correct commission for each seller in cells B22-23

Step #6-Using another one of the formulas, count how many sells each agent made in C22-23

Step #7-The branch has an extra bonus where the bank manager will receive $10,000 for any loan that is over $250,000 with a loan term (amount to be financed) of 20 years or more AND an interest rate of 5% or more. Please enter a formula in I4 that you can drag that will give you the bonus amount for each loan.

That’s it:) Best of luck:) The answer will be published one week from now:)

Do You Need to be An Accountant to Understand Personal Finance?

Personal finance

Whenever a friend finds out that I write about personal finance they automatically assume that I know everything about financial issues. I get jumped with questions about mortgages, interest rates, the economy, and all sorts of financial issues. The truth is that personal finance in itself isn’t as complex as the economy or mortgage issues. You don’t need to be an accountant or a personal finance blogger to understand personal finance.

Personal finance is simple. It really is.

If you love finances and want to get into accounting you need to look into accountancy apprenticeships to see what options are available. The good news is that you can learn a ton about personal finance without earning a formal degree first.

You don’t believe me that personal finance is simple? Let’s look at a few examples.

Saving money.

Saving money is all about spending less than you earn. You get your paycheck, pay your expenses, cover your other costs, and then save the rest. You don’t need a background in investing to save money. You just have to spend less money than you put out. That’s all there is to that.

The reason that most of us can’t save money is because we spend far too much. We live an unrealistic lifestyle and spend money that we don’t have. This causes debt and the inability to save money. Once you’re in debt it often leads to a vicious cycle where you’re trying to play catch up and get sped up on your bills.

This is why it’s important that you keep it simple and start saving money as soon as you can.

Making more money.

To make more money you don’t have to earn a Master’s degree or work 80 hours per week. You just need to use your God given skills. You just need to solve problems. You need to do something that others are willing to pay for. That’s all there is to making more money.

Organizing banking.

Banking seems to be complex at first. We want to outsource this work becomes it appears to be intimidating at first. The truth is that all you need to do is open an online banking account, create a few sub-accounts, pay your bills, move your money around when you need to, and that’s all. Banking isn’t anything complex. Banking isn’t just for accountants or those with an investing background. You too can deal with your own banking right now. You can spend a boring afternoon on getting your banking in order. Once you get your bank accounts setup you can maintain them by only logging on for a few minutes on a weekly basis. You don’t have to use any fancy software or be stuck on your computer all hours of the day.

Are you ready to master your finances? I hope you believe now that personal finance is nothing to be afraid of. It’s time to conquer this intimidating world of personal finance.


The Client Is Not Always Right (Clients to Avoid/Protect Yourself Against).

Personal finance

I work in a professional field where I am relied upon for advice.  Unfortunately, sometimes my clients or prospective clients don’t like what I have to say.   They want to force me to take actions to achieve their goals—they want to ignore all the red flags and warnings.  Assuming a legal line hasn’t been crossed, should I help them achieve what they want?  That’s a difficult question I have to ask myself nearly every week.  Here are some of the excuses people use to question your advice as a professional:

“I had a Friend in the Exact Same Situation and Their (Professional) Did X and Achieved Y.”

When I hear this line of reasoning, I have to remind the individual that every matter is different.  The factual realities of two matters will never (or rarely) be exactly the same.  Laws change, people change, the world changes—–every day.  Providing some resources to the client or prospective client showing why you’re standing behind your advice can also be helpful in this situation.

“We Need to Achieve Y.”

The best professionals find a way to achieve their client’s goals.  A focus on creativity can sometimes move walls.  But every so often, there is a situation where even if the client’s goal can be achieved, it might be a pyrrhic victory.  Sometimes the best thing to do in this situation is to write a formal cover your ass (CYA) letter to your client.  You can say:

“You have asked me to do X, Y & Z.  I have advised you that the following results might occur should I assist you in your request.  Moreover, I have advised against pursuing X, Y & Z.  You have indicated, however, that despite my advice, you still wish to pursue X, Y & Z.”

“I don’t care about the (money, etc), this is about the principle.”

Over and over again in my business, I see people who are fighting (for the principle) get burned…..badly.   They will ignore rational and logical ways to move forward and insist on either (proving they are absolutely right), or, more often, (trying to inflict pain or revenge on somebody else.).  Again, a CYA and perhaps even withdrawing as the services provider might be necessary when dealing with such clients.    It’s nice to have principles, but to an extreme, anything can become dangerous.

“I hired you because you’re cheap and I guess you get what you pay for.”

If you sell yourself short in pricing a professional service, then people will think you suck.  This is a tough thing to learn, but people who only shop based on price are nearly impossible to work with—-90% of the time.  (in my experience).  The best thing to do is to price yourself fairly and market yourself on your skills, customer service, etc., rather than your price.  Don’t be the Walmart of CPA’s or lawyers or dentists—-or you’ll be treated accordingly.

“I Come to You Because the Last Professional Screwed Up”

The truth is they probably stiffed the last professional and now they are going to stiff you.   Another possibility is that they are simply tough to work with and will soon be griping about how much you “screwed up.”  If  you take on enough clients like this, make sure you upgrade your malpractice coverage.

The “I know more than you,” Client

You’re not going to change this person.  Either accept that you’ll be tortured or get out while you can.

The “I don’t have the money right now, but”

There’s no time like the present.  Somebody wouldn’t walk into Subway and request a sandwich that will be paid for later.  Your professional services must be paid in advance (or at least a retainer, payment plan, etc) because if they don’t have the money now they probably never will.


These are just a few of the difficult client types.  Sometimes the best thing to do is to get out or never take them on.  Remember to always CYA.

Excel Sample of Multiple Nested If And Or

Excel function tutorials

Today I wanted to show a quick example of a question that I received that is fairly easy to answer provided that we do it one step at a time. Here is the comment that was posted:

“Please Help me w/ this PROBLEM..
it gave me a hard time making a formula of this…

If Age is greater than 100 and less than 5, you are going to display “Age is out of range”. If Age is greater or equal to 5 but not greater than 12, you are going to display “You are a pupil”. If Age is greater or equal to 13 but not greater than 16, you are going to display “You are a highschool”. If Age is greater or equal to 17 but not greater than 22, you are going to display “You are a bachelor”. Lastly if the age is greater than 22 and less than 100, you are going to display “You may marry if you already have a job.”

The trick here is simply to go one step at a time. Let’s take the conditions one by one. The most difficult one is the first.

If Age is greater than 100 and less than 5, you are going to display “Age is out of range”

This is a simple example of a nested “if or” function (see the tutorial here)

=IF(OR(B2<5,B2>100),”Age is out of display”,””)

Then, it’sa simple a matter of replacing the “” by the appropriate condition, one step at a time.

“If Age is greater or equal to 5 but not greater than 12, you are going to display “You are a pupil”.

=IF(OR(B3<5,B3>100),”Age is out of display”,IF(B3<=12,"You are a pupil",""))

If Age is greater or equal to 13 but not greater than 16, you are going to display “You are a highschool”.

=IF(OR(B4<5,B4>100),”Age is out of display”,IF(B4<=12,"You are a pupil",IF(B4<=16,"You are a highschool","")))

If Age is greater or equal to 17 but not greater than 22, you are going to display “You are a bachelor”.

=IF(OR(B5<5,B5>100),”Age is out of display”,IF(B5<=12,"You are a pupil",IF(B5<=16,"You are a highschool",IF(B5<=22,"You are a bachelor",""))))

Lastly if the age is greater than 22 and less than 100, you are going to display “You may marry if you already have a job.”

=IF(OR(B6<5,B6>100),”Age is out of display”,IF(B6<=12,"You are a pupil",IF(B6<=16,"You are a highschool",IF(B6<=22,"You are a bachelor","You may marry if you already have a job"))))

Here is the final result!

As you can see, writing this from zero would have been rather difficult but by adding one condition at a time, it becomes much easier. You can download the spreadsheet here.