Editor’s Note: Today’s article is from Kosmo. It takes a little time, but there’s a personal finance nugget in it. In fact, it reminded me of an old article that I had written ten years ago and gave me the perfect opportunity to link to it.
I should have a new article early next week. I have been putting time all week into getting my dog boarding website live. I’m also trying to finish strong with my other 2023 goals.
On Thanksgiving, I wanted to share a piece of fiction I had written several years ago about a most unusual Thanksgiving. (It’s this story. Warning – it’s not for those with a weak stomach).
I quickly realized that the site was down. Even worse, I couldn’t log into the admin console to see the problem.
Even worse than that, I couldn’t log in to the admin console for a different site I run for a friend of mine.
Sick to my stomach
While I haven’t done much with The Soap Boxers in recent years, I had poured a lot of effort into it over the years. The idea that all that effort had gone down the drain was sickening.
I felt even worse about the site that I managed for my friend. It was a digital recreation of a journal her grandfather had written a hundred years ago.
I did have a sliver of good news. I had a backup of my WordPress database. For The Soap Boxers, the backup was seven years old. I was serious when I said I hadn’t done much with it in years. I hadn’t even realized that I stopped receiving emails with the backup files. In those seven years, I had added fourteen posts to The Soap Boxers – and most were pretty boring book reviews. Losing those wouldn’t cause me to shed any tears.
The backup for my friend’s site was “only” a couple of years old, and nothing had been added since the backup was made.
I had my backups, and I was ready to go. I had set up the backup process with a couple of clicks. Surely restoring would be just as easy?
The first thing I wanted to do was test the process. I did a fresh install of WordPress on a new directory of another domain just to play with it.
Within minutes, I realized that there was a problem. While there was a way to import posts, it imported a new format that was completely different from my file. This was not going to work. Could I back my backups (in SQL format) into the WXL (WordPress eXtended RSS) format that I needed to be able to import the data? I didn’t immediately find a way to do this.
At this point, I started blowing up Lazy Man’s inbox and asking if he could jump in and help. (Editor’s Note: I was on vacation and not checking my inbox as much as I should have been.) Eventually, the conversations steered me in the direction of importing the data directly into the back-end database.
I tweaked the scripts so that they would work with the new database. Then, I ran the script. The site immediately stopped working. I did another fresh install and tried the script for my friend’s site. That site also stopped working immediately after running the script.
I eventually realized that one particular database table was the culprit. If I skipped that table during the import, the site worked! (Note: it was the Options table.) Two days after finding the problem, I had a functioning backup.
Now that the process was tested, I blew away my existing site and rebuilt it from scratch. At this point, I had a site that had about 95% of the functionality it had once had. That was a huge win, considering the scenario I had been in a couple of days earlier.
I learned some lessons during this process.
First of all, I needed to pay attention to my backup process. After functioning for many years, it had stopped working seven years ago, and I hadn’t even noticed.
I also should have paid more attention to how the import process worked. If I had realized that the import process now required the new format, I could have pivoted to exporting that format. That would have made the process much simpler. Instead, I had exported data that couldn’t be easily imported.
What does this have to do with personal finance?
I often write articles that are on the periphery of personal finance. You’re probably wondering what this could possibly have to do with personal finance. Don’t worry; there’s a connection. You can learn from my mistakes and use my experience to your own benefit.
Make your own data backups
Regardless of what software you use for personal finance, you should back up your data. This is true even if your data is stored in the cloud.
I’m a Mac user and use SEE Finance to keep track of my finances. I routinely save a backup to my hard drive. I then copy the backup to an external hard drive and to a cloud storage location. If my computer crashes – or if I simply make a mess of something in the software – I can easily restore from my backup.
It’s important to store at least one copy of the backup in an offsite location. Backing up to an external hard drive protects you against a hard drive failure, but if you have a house fire, there’s the risk that all copies of your data will be destroyed.
What if there’s a fire?
Speaking of fire, let’s talk about insurance.
If you’re like me, you have a lot of stuff in your house. In the case of a fire, you’ll have to provide an inventory to your insurance company so that they can properly reimburse you for the loss. Your ability to recall the contents of your house will directly impact the amount of money you get.
Some household items are easy to remember. You’ll easily remember your big-screen TV, laptop, dining room table, and bedroom set. But there are many things you’ll forget. How many pairs of jeans do you own? Dinner plates? Screwdrivers? Spools of thread? If you’re simply relying on your memory, you’ll forget a lot of things.
Technology to the rescue
There’s a simple solution to this problem – video. Every year, do a home audit. Take a video of the contents of your house. Go from room to room. Take a video of the walls, the contents of drawers, everything you can think of. You can even provide audio commentary describing certain items.
While this process is definitely a pain in the rear, it will save you a lot of time if there is a fire. Just as importantly, it will save you money, as you won’t be reliant on your memory to recall every single item you’ve accumulated during your lifetime.
Do you back up data?
How good are you at backing up your data? Have you been burned by the lack of a backup – or have you been saved when your backup came to the rescue?