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Monday, May 30, 2011

Monday Morning Check In: Building up Reserves

Good morning and Happy Memorial Day! Thank you to all the service men and women who are serving our country at present or have served in the past.

After the flurry of recitals and performances these past two weeks, I can now safely say that summer has officially started here in Central Texas. The hot summer weather has arrived for sure! With summer's arrival also comes an adjustment of finances, as the summer schedule changes. I still teach, but I also perform away from home for several weeks during the summer, and my finances alter accordingly. I have found it safest to build up a reserve during the school year so that I have something to draw from in the event I need funds to cover unexpected expenses. As I prepare to make the shift into "summer frugality," I thought that building up reserves would be a good topic for a blog post.

The word "reserves" is interesting. It not only means a supply of some commodity that is not needed immediately but is available if needed, it also means to keep something back or to refrain from using something. As you can imagine, the subject requires a good deal of self discipline to hold oneself accountable. Reserves can also refer to other things besides money. Here are a few thoughts I have on the subject of reserves.


Finances


I have found it useful to build up a reserve of money in case of emergencies or for use during the leaner summer months. There are several possible ways to do this:

  • Automatic savings program: I use ingdirect.com for this purpose. I set up a recurring auto-deposit from my regular bank account into the special on-line ING account. It is also possible to set this up so that it automatically occurs the day after a pay check is deposited.
  • Designated student tuition: I sometimes take the tuition payments of one or two particular students and put that into my "reserves" savings account.
  • Percentage of income received: I put a percentage of each income deposit into the "reserves" savings account. I make it a habit to "pay myself first" with a savings program and retirement plan. If I deduct the money right at the beginning, then I do not miss it. I have done this ever since I started working.

Emergencies

My husband finds my method of addressing this topic amusing; my family is well aware of my insistence that we are well stocked on essentials (toilet paper).  My family may be amused, but if you have ever lived up north, you will have learned to keep reserves of certain items in the event of bad weather. I recall my neighborhood in Pennsylvania trading household goods between neighbors after a major snow storm hit. We would wade across the street to trade eggs and toilet paper. Now, we may not have snowstorms too often in Texas (more like ice storms), but we do have the threats of hurricanes or tornadoes. With the amount of emergencies that have occurred recently in parts of our country, I think it's a good idea to consider some sort of disaster preparedness program. Here are a few links for information about disaster preparedness:


There are many other links, including organizations such as the Red Cross (www.redcross.org) and the National Hurricane Center (www.nhc.noaa.gov).


Practice

While I began this topic by talking about finances, and I then thought about disaster preparedness, my original thoughts about the topic actually centered on my practicing. Yes, I know, it seems like I strayed far from the topic that I had originally planned to write about.

I build up reserves in my practice. I do this in several ways:

  • I practice on a regular basis so that I am ready at a moment's notice to substitute for someone or to take a last minute gig. Practicing regularly keeps my muscles warm, my joints limber, and my mind and memory fully functioning.
  • I prepare my recital pieces to be ready by memory at least 1 month in advance so that I have time for my memory to become secure. I ask my students to do the same. I have found by experience personally and as a teacher that anything memorized within a month of the performance runs the risk of not being quite solid. I prefer to avoid the stress of wondering whether my memory will hold during the performance.
  • I have a regular listening program. Not only do I regularly listen to material I am learning, but I also listen to other material as well. I find that by having a regular listening program in place, my practice routine is more solid. In the event that an emergency prevents me from practicing (such as having my ring finger get caught in the alpaca shearing clippers a month ago), my listening program will help to fill in any practicing gaps.
  • I practice in the summer for those recitals in the coming year. I like to get ahead in my practicing, because I know that once the school year begins, I will not always have a regular practice time available to me and I may have to rely on catching free moments here and there for practice. I find it less stressful to have learned the bulk of my music for the coming season during the summer months when I have more time.
Happy Practicing!

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