When was the last time you used accounting in your daily life?
Was it last year, when you did your taxes? Last month, when you paid your bills? Yesterday, when you bought lunch at the salad kiosk?
The last time you used accounting was approximately 20 seconds ago, when you decided to click on and read this article.
Even if it was unconscious, the mental steps it took to decide to click were still 100% good old debit and credit measures. What will I pay with? My time and attention. What will I get back? Hopefully some useful knowledge, an amusing article, a life-changing perspective shift.
Don’t set the bar too high.
While there are thousands of articles about how accounting can be applied in your everyday life, none of them seem to understand how an accounting mindset truly permeates every single decision we make.
After all: Time is money.
Wake up to your alarm… and don’t press snooze!
How did you budget your time this morning?
Look! Budget is even in the phrase.
You probably did some mental math last night before you set your alarm. How many hours of sleep do I need? How much time do I need to get ready in the morning and get to work on time?
If accounting is traditionally defined as the summarizing, analyzing, and reporting of finances, and time is money… it follows that our daily process of:
-Summarizing (What did I do yesterday morning?)
-Analyzing (Did I really need to cook a full breakfast?) and
-Reporting (Dear self, you spent 20 minutes scrolling through social media)
… are only possible with an accounting mindset.
Plus, accounting is necessary for informed decision making, cost planning, and measuring performance. Sound familiar? Let’s look:
-Decision making (When should I set my alarm for?)
-Cost planning (If I press snooze, will I still have time to shower?)
-Measuring performance (I realize I feel crummier if my mornings are rushed)
From the minute you wake up and decide to press snooze or not, you’re using accounting.
Should you even go to work today?
Remember when you were a kid and you tried to convince your mom you had a stomach ache so you could stay home? There was no cost associated with skipping school as an eight-year-old.
As an adult, it’s another story.
You know how much you’re getting paid, how much PTO you have, and whether you risk irking your boss if you skip. Generally, your brain adds up all the money, social capital, and days you might need off for sickness or emergency, and finds that yeah, you really do need to go to work.
This mental cost-benefit analysis ultimately can’t justify taking random days off just because you feel like it, and your internal accountant knows it.
Brush your teeth, take a shower…
If you’re wondering how these habits are accounting decisions, haven’t you learned yet? Every decision is an accounting decision.
Do you have enough money this month to pay your water bill? Then brushing your teeth and taking a shower are financially justified actions. Are you running low on toothpaste or shampoo, and mentally make a note to stop by the drugstore after work? You’re taking inventory.
Do you know that if you don’t brush your teeth and shower, you’ll show up at work looking like a scraggly goblin, promptly get fired, and end up broke and homeless on the street?
Sounds like an accounting decision to me.
Will you make breakfast (or not)?
Even the act of making breakfast is an accounting decision, dependent on your fridge inventory, how much time you’ve budgeted this morning, and whether or not you’d prefer to outsource.
In fact, the choice between preparing your own food and eating out is one of those daily accounting decisions that everyone makes, at least three times a day. We have to take into account the time saved with prepared meals versus the higher cost.
Do you have more of a deficit of time or money? Your personal budget of these two resources will likely make the decision for you.
How will you get to work?
A year ago, back in the old days, most of us worked away from home.
And how did we get to work? Car? Bike? Public transportation? The costs and benefits associated with each of these modes of transportation are part of our daily accounting equations.
Does the time and convenience of having a car outweigh the cost of its purchase, registration, and maintenance? Will the cheaper cost of a bike outweigh the inconvenience of a longer commute? Does my personal wish to respect the environment tip the scales towards public transportation, even if it’s slower and less reliable?
Gas costs how much?!
You really want to stop for coffee…
Your last stop this morning before work is your first blatant accounting interaction.
You want coffee, so you swing by a drive-through.
First, you decide what to order. Is this habitual? Have you budgeted monthly for your $4-a-day coffee habit, or is this a whim? If it’s a whim, you are probably unconsciously acknowledging that you have enough money in your personal account for this expenditure.
Next, what will you pay with? Cash? Debit? Credit? If it’s cash, will you get a receipt to make sure you record this expense? Or will you put it on a card and expect your bank to keep track of it?
You probably glance down at your receipt to make sure they didn’t over-charge. This habit is an informal act of reconciliation, or making sure two financial records match. Is the price on the receipt the same as the price on the board?
Let accounting improve your life
If accounting is this universal, what can we learn?
Well, like a traditional accountant, keeping track of expenditures of time and money are the first steps towards making sure both are used with maximum efficiency. Analysis and honest self-reporting will let you know the areas you can improve. And when you measure continued performance, using informed analysis to direct your decision making in all areas of your life?
You’ll discover that an accounting mindset can improve not only your finances, but your productivity.
And if you need help with the more traditional aspects of accounting for you or your business, contact us here.