Today is payday! I still get excited on payday. You'd think the feeling would wear off after all of these years, but it hasn't. Not even FICA and the assortment of taxes and insurance deductions has dulled my enthusiasm for seeing money deposited into my account every two weeks. Naïve? Perhaps. But there is something exciting about seeing money sitting there. I should point out that this feeling lasts for only about a day. Then I get to watch — with much less enthusiasm — money drain out of my account as I pay bills, buy groceries and fund my newest expenses: diapers, formula and daycare. So the money leaves with the same swiftness it appeared, and with much less fanfare. And while my check has improved since my very first real payday when I was 17 and working at a pizza joint after school for as little as the law would allow, my budgeting hasn't. I am a bad estimator.

It's of little consolation that I am not alone in this. Of all the reader questions that come in to us here at Grounds Maintenance, our No. 1 business-related question is how to estimate expenses and bid jobs with more accuracy. Fortunately, we have access to some of the best business people in the industry when it comes to pricing your services, and readers who look to us for information aren't relying on the Cindy Ratcliff methods of finance. According to the experts from The Brickman Group, who contributed to our cover story (“Dollars by Design,” page 10), there is no magic one-size-fits-all method of estimating your expenses for a job. That's what makes it so hard. It's even harder when you're bidding a design-build job. While bidding a maintenance job is a little more straightforward, bidding a design-install job involves many more elements unique to the site you're working on. Thankfully, the article offers some commonly overlooked expenses to guide you as you plan, as well as advice to help you get back on track if you see that you're beginning to go over budget as the job progresses. While even the best estimates are often not as precise as planned, the more accurate you can estimate, the better your chances of staying on budget and earning the profit you projected. And, unlike me, you'll have an excitement on payday that lasts longer than one day.

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