Bookkeeping Love + Empowerment: Part 1

written by Bari Tessler January 19, 2013

Golden Nugget #2: Money Practices.

Should you hire a bookkeeper, or learn to do it yourself? This is the question today. Let’s navigate through this tricky terrain together.

But first: Light a candle. Whip out the dark chocolate. Insert body-check-ins galore.
Let’s dive into the Money Practice part of this work… 

True Story

Back in the day, I was on a mission to make sure everyone did their own bookkeeping. I was a big-time pusher of bookkeeping, with chocolate.

I felt everyone needed to be empowered with their numbers + their relationship to money. And, doing one’s own bookkeeping + chocolate was the way to do it.

You see, up until my late 20’s, I was a full-on creative, African dancer, authentic movement, psychotherapist-in-training kind of gal.  Anyone who lived with me during graduate school for psychotherapy knew that I would simply throw away my bank statements. (“What does one do with such a thing???” I thought.)

This was the perfect metaphor for my relationship with money and my lack of consciousness, understanding and respect. I really did not know what to do and there was no meeting place for me + money. Back then, money & I had an estranged relationship, in a big way.

Meanwhile, I always knew I was smart, but not in traditional ways. I wasn’t “good at math” or always seemed to make it more complicated than it really was. My “I’m not good at math” story somehow got projected on my relationship to money + bookkeeping, and I stayed very unconscious in this area.

Then one day, while I was a counselor in the Mental Health Field, I was turned on to Excel and Quicken! Holy Moly. What a day. It felt like the heavens parted. I was suddenly aware and excited by the other side of my brain and i liked it. I started to feel empowered and confident with a system. A money system! Who would have thought? Certainly not I.

It quickly became clear to me that there was more going on here then just regular old bookkeeping + number crunching. As a creative-sensitive gal, I could FEEL it and could sense there was a back door into this world in a more creative way than ever imagined. This was a road to something . . . and I knew I needed to explore and know about in this life-time. I could sense that, as strange as it seemed at the time, this bookkeeping stuff was going to help me with my life, my work and my relationships. 

I had this sneaking suspicion (intuitive whisper) that I was not alone in my need for this work and that one day I would craft this into money work and a process for my entire community. I’m good at sniffing these things out, and thankfully, I listened.

Everyone around me probably thought I was going crazy learning this bookkeeping stuff — taking a seriously wrong/odd detour to my life’s work. But I knew I was onto something essential and important.

So, I jumped tracks in my career. I started looking at everything I could about bookkeeping and tracking systems and trusted that I was in a transition period in my life…a stepping stone…to my real work.

Pretty soon, I hung up my shingle as a bookkeeper. I immediately started a bookkeeping business and it paid a lot more money than a counselor working for a non-profit, with a Masters degree!

This was fascinating.

But even more fascinating to me was the fact that I was barely ever asked about my credentials. Rather than really learning about my skills and qualifications, prospects were more like:

“HERE, take my books away from me. Do them for me. Pllllllease. I JUST DON’T WANT TO HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THIS!”

I learned a lot during this time. And, to this day I am so grateful to have harnessed these skills and tools.

Looking back now, it’s easier to connect the dots. Psychology & healing work —> bookkeeping & numbers & systems —> now: an integrated framework bringing together these two seemingly distant worlds, at the heart of The Art of Money program.  

Back to the big question.

Should you hire a bookkeeper or do it yourself?

In my years as a bookkeeper, and years since as a financial therapist, I’ve heard a lot of bookkeeping love stories, and bookkeeping heart breaks.

Here’s one I’ve heard a lot:

“I gave over my bookkeeping to a bookkeeper, and then {insert disempowerment or disaster experience}, so I started doing it myself, learned the system and finally felt so empowered around my finances. Then, I decided to hand it back over to a new bookkeeper, with a completely different perspective, and it’s such a better experience.”  

Here’s one more:

He is another creative, therapist type. He did some great foundational work in my course, and in the process got on, a free online tracking system. However, ultimately he discovered he needed a more robust tracking system for his biz. Then I watched him make himself a bit crazy trying to choose “the perfect bookkeeping system”. For a good year. (Note: no judgment here — we all have different timing for our readiness with this stuff — and I honor that so fully.) Well flash forward: I just ran into him and heard that he finally decided to get someone to teach him Quickbooks so that he could do the bookkeeping by himself. He says it has been so good for him, really helping him grow his income and he’s feeling mega-empowered with his new knowledge.

There are lots of ways to forge a conscious money path.

I’m not quite as die hard as I used to be about do-it-all-yourself bookkeeping + chocolate. There’s a bit more grey area, and a few more choices.

I still am a big advocate for doing bookkeeping on your own, even just for a period of time (3 months, 6 months, a year?). I cheerlead my students to get in there, learn the language, learn a tracking tool, and understand your money patterns in a very hands-on way.

If this seems scary to you (and it does to many of us at first), see how can you re-frame it. This is not a lifelong sentence. It’s just a short period of time to experiment and check things out.

After a period of time of learning to do the bookkeeping by yourself and actually doing it, a couple things may occur:

#1: Perhaps you will pass that puppy right along to a bookkeeper.

You’ll know it’s time to do this if you have learned:

  • the language of numbers, money, and bookkeeping
  • how to navigate around a bookkeeping system
  • how to read your income and expense reports
  • how to review your numbers 

Even though you may choose to hire a bookkeeper after learning these things, you will still be able to (and even want to) check in on a monthly basis to review and learn where you are on- and off-track. This is so important and helpful.

#2: Perhaps you won’t pass this onto a bookkeeper.

You may happen to fall in LOVE with tracking, like I did. This may totally surprise you (as it did me), and you may continue your tracking practice for years to come, happily ever after.

Either way, taking time to dive right in clarifies what is so.

At the end of the day, you have 4 choices:

1. Stay unconscious and ignore this essential aspect of life. (Please don’t do that, dear friend, it’s so painful.)
2. Do it for yourself for a while. Learn. Start with beginner’s mind (which is super challenging as an adult, but also so rewarding).
3. Get a bookkeeper trainer to teach you and hold your hand. You can do it yourself without doing it alone.
4. Hand it over to a bookkeeper to do most of it for you, although still participate in some parts, especially the end-of-month review.

(And yep: you’ll be guided to choose and implement your bookkeeping system, for both personal, couple and business finances, when you join The Art of Money community. I love this part of the work!)

Your turn

  • What is the right path for you, right now? Really and truly?
  • Would it be helpful to learn this language, the systems, and a tracking tool?
  • Do you imagine this to be empowering?
  • Can you sense that if you do your bookkeeping on your own for a period of time, that your awareness with increase in a significant and important way?
  • Are you starting to kick and scream as you read this?
  • Are you feeling hopeful, ready to take this on?

One more thing:

Life is a long time. (Hopefully). Your money relationship is a long-term commitment, and things are always evolving. We go through life changes, family changes, career changes — and so much that affects our money relationship. Your only lifelong commitment is to the practice (just like your self-care practice, or your spiritual practice, or anything else). Remember, you can always change your mind. You can always shift, and try something new. Just head in the direction of clarity, peace, and empowerment — and you’ll do just fine.

Friendly reminder: Do a body check-in.

And come back early next week for a super-fun and informative interview with Jessica Reagan Salzman, Bookkeeper Extraordinaire.  She’ll be a Guest Teacher in The Art of Money.  And, in the next golden nugget she’ll be giving you her take on how to know whether you should hire a bookkeeper, and what questions to ask when you do. 

Stay tuned!


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