Planning ahead financially while you can still make the choices


I have a habit of being able to predict the future. Seriously.

Back in November I had a recurring series of panic attacks, and I could not figure out what I was predicting. I just knew something was going to happen. It was bad. I knew I could not continue to keep 7 people on staff (myself included). There was no reason for the panic attacks. There was no reason we could not continue to keep everyone employed. We were coming up on the busiest season of all and we were not at all slowing down. But something was gnawing at me and I could not let it go. 

It was stressing me out and there were staff that were stressing me out (I do not like having that many people in my salon) and they had to go. I let an apprentice go who was not listening to anything I said. She always knew that already or was not willing to adjust her holding techniques, carrying techniques, use a leash - that kind of thing.

The stress did not go away. If anything it got more and more heightened. 

I had to let another groomer go 2 weeks before Christmas. At this point I rather panicked because I was not sure I could pay my bills with her gone. My fill in groomer who was helping out over the holidays had had thumb surgery and it was clear she was back to work way too early, so she had to be let go as well. It was now just four of us. 

I sat down with all my bills laid out on the dining room table and made three piles for  both the shop and the house.

  • NECESSARY ( cannot operate without)
  • LUXURY (but easier to function with)
  • OPTIONAL (not needed to operate and can be gotten rid of if needed)

My NECESSARY pile of bills for my shop included:

  1. Rent 
  2. Electric (our water, gas, sewer and trash bill is included in one bill)
  3. Insurance
  4. Telephone
  5. Payroll (including the processor)
  6. 6% of Percentage of CC sales to repay a small Square Capital loan
  7. Shampoo

The LUXURY bills for the shop are 

  1. Internet
  2. Yard services
  3. Square appointments
  4. Bandanas and Bows

The OPTIONAL bills are

  1. Hulu
  2. Advertising (I do very little)
  3. Website
  4. Adobe Cloud

I sat down and added up all the bills and made three totals. One for each section the adding in the first two and then the 3rd added to it. I am open roughly 25 days a month, so I then divided it up into what it takes me daily to apy each level of important bills. I now know how much it costs me to be open per day, per week and per month. I out that much money away in a savings account every day or make sure to pay one or more bills every day. I put away payroll the same way. DAILY. For me this enables me to budget better than I do without that knowledge.

I repeated it with my household bills. I am extremely fortunate to own my house (paid for) and my husband has a retirement income that allows us to pay for most all of our personal expenses out of his income every month. We do not have that many bills because we are pretty much debtfree. It has not always been that way and I worked very very hard to get it that way.

My monthly personal bills include:

  1. Car payment
  2. Car insurance
  3. Internet
  4. Cell Phone
  5. Light Bill
  6. Dish Network
  7. Homeowners Insurance
  8. Health insurance (my policy and my husband's Medicare supplement)
  9. Dental insurance
  10. Gas
  11. Prescriptions
  12. Dog Food

I made sure that all the household bills could be handled by what my husband has coming in monthly. While I realize that is not feasible for many people it is for us and for that I am eternally grateful. I do cover the "extras" like food, going to dinner, buying whatever we order from Amazon...   but I try to not add to our expenses because I do not want to push the limits of what we can afford. I like to live as simply as possible because I know that I may be required to live on his income at a moments notice if I get sick or hurt.

After doing this evaluation I was still not sure I liked the numbers, so I dropped household trash pick up, closed my ATT account and moved to my internet provider and bought a lawn mower for the grooming shop. That saved me over $350 a month! I like that!  

In January after being closed for a week to paint and renovate, my bather became a bit "unreliable" and I had to let him go.

I order shampoo by the case twice a month. Always enough to get free shipping but in two shipments just to make it easier to pay for it. One day's "saved money" will still cover that cost. 

I now believe my premonition was about things to come. My planning that occurred between Thanksgiving and the outbreak of the COVID19 virus that is wreaking havoc on our world at this time made it much easier for me to survive this. My bills are all paid on time and I am able to pay my essential bills a day at a time, or put that money away and when I have enough (the rent and electric bill is really the only thing that this falls into) to pay the bill it gets paid.

Right now, I am open one day at at time and paying my bills for NEXT MONTH in advance. I got my electric bill today and paid it today. I will have my rent paid by Friday for the month in advance. My personal bills will be paid on the 1st when my husband's final paycheck comes in. I will be able to stay open for another month with no worries. 

In this time of shelter in place orders and mandatory closures, many small shops are scared they are going to have to close down permanently. This may happen and my advice in this article may be too little too late.

BUT! My advice to you guys is this: PAY YOUR MANDATORY BILLS! Ignore credit cards (call to get those payments rolled over). Insurances are cancelling nonpayment cancellations. cellphone and internet companies are not doing disconnects and neither are cable services. Keep your rent paid. Keep your electric bill paid. NO you cannot be evicted in most places and no lights are being turned off but those bills will be due shortly after you are able to reopen in 2-4 weeks. The moratorium on those things will not last forever and if you have 2 or 3 months to make up it will be impossible for most of us. Credit scores may be impacted but everyone's will be impacted. You can fix that if you are still operational. You cannot fix your credit score or pay the bills that are due if the shop is closed permanently. 

Contact free drop off and pick up

I want to say that at the time of this blog posting the following protocol is being used at my salon. This is subject to change with very short notice based on the local ordinance for sheltering in place being changed. I am NOT telling you to open, and I am not condemning you if you decide to open. I AM TELLING YOU that if your area has a shelter in place order in effect you need to clarify with your local, county or state governmental agency that issued the order to verify whether or not grooming is considered essential or allowed under exceptions. 

The USA CDC requirements for SOCIAL DISTANCING require you stay 6 feet away from another person. That is literally YOUR ARMS OUTSTRETCHED and THEIR ARMS outstretched (roughly). If you are within that range you are not practicing safe social distancing practices.


Years ago, an employee of mine used to wish wistfully for a way to do drop offs and pick ups without actually having to come face to face with the owners of the dogs. "You know, a revolving door that only the dogs would fit in would work!" She exclaimed one day. Another day she said "Too bad you can't put them in a tub like they do at the bank". I used to laugh at her all the time because she was so adamant that there HAD TO BE A WAY!

WELL! Leave it to a worldwide pandemic to figure out ways to make this happen.

Last week we instituted "one client at a time" drop off and pick up and were locking the doors in between clients to limit everyone's exposure to the Covid19 virus. Then a shelter in place order was issued Friday afternoon. It was not available to see what the order actually said until after we had closed, so we had to close Saturday pending the review.

Our local order allows us to remain open (WHEW!) provided was can "meet or exceed the CDC requirements for social distancing". WELL POO!  There is literally no way to do curbside pickup or meet people in the car, or even do what we had been doing which is to swap out their leashes from ours or take them from the owner in the lobby and still maintain 6 feet of space. I worried all day Saturday while I did more deep cleaning (and napping) at my house with nothing coming to mind. 

I went to bed and slept very fitfully. My plan had been to try to prepay next month's rent, electric bill and phone bill before we closed. I mean, we know it is coming. I really don;t think I got 3 hours of sleep (prednisone at the dose I am taking it prevent sleep anyway most of the time) but when I woke up an hour later than my normal (6:30am) I sat up and said out loud (waking up my husband) I KNOW WHAT TO DO!

I am fortunate enough to have a back yard area for boarding and grooming dogs to go outside easily and safely to potty, so we set up a pop up shade tent with a cage bank of 2 kennels inside the fence. We cut the grass and adjusted the gate so that it will open easier and placed a camera outside to be able to see the dogs and anyone coming inside the fence. I printed a lot of signs and put them in document sleeves I had bought for recipe cards. 

I set out to make every client aware of the process and verify their appointments for the day ahead. 

The way we are working it is as follows. The clients are to pull forward to to the "drop off zone" and call us (the phone number is on the sign hanging on the gate) and then come into the fenced area and place their dog(s) inside one of the kennels; hopefully they have walked them first. After they are back in their car I go outside and take the dog from the holding kennel and bring them inside, then immediately go back out, swap out towels and sanitize the gate and kennel handles. I placed paper towels and hand sanitizer as well as Lysol spray and a cleaner next to the kennel bank for people to use if they like. I will sometimes meet people at the door and talk to them once they are on the other side of the gate. We are doing everyone as a call when ready, so it is easy. I call them to pick up, they call me when they get here and I repeat the process. We are taking credit cards over the phone for payment and any cash or checks that have to be used by clients are taken (wearing gloves) straight inside and placed into the UV/Ozone disinfectant box for 20 minutes.

I am wearing a mask at all times these days so I am masked and gloved when I go outside to retrieve pets. I change my smock or wear a waterproof apron over my smock (that is easy to spray with cleaner and disinfect) to protect myself. I bought a few masks and a LOT of filters in January before I was diagnosed with Sarcoidosis but knew it was a possibility. I have a years worth of filters for my dust masks onhand and I am super happy I have them. If I was having to ear an N95 respirator that our local health officials needed I would not be doing it. It was one of those things that I did going on a hunch. MAN I am glad I listened to my hunch!

As you can see in the last photo above, the Wyze camera is catching the video well. I have an ALEXA SHOW sitting next to my station and the Skill for the Wyze camera is on there. I can access it with my voice., It gives me a HUGE sense of calm knowing I can see the pets even if they are out there for no more than one minute.

My clients are almost all being great about this process ,which is good because even after the risk is lessened in our area and the SIPO is repealed, this may be the way we do things for the foreseeable future.  As of today, our hospital is treating over 125 actively positive cases of COVID19, and over 1025 people are waiting for results of testing in our ONE COUNTY ALONE. As an immunicompromised person I am taking no changes. I have bills to pay. I want to take care of my clients for as long as I can. I do not want to jail for murdering my husband. I want to be alive when this is done. I am being overly cautious but I do not care. It is for everyone's safety we are doing what we are doing. The one or two clients that are giving me a hard time can go somewhere else.