Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hand Me the Scissors....I See a Coupon

Coupon usage seems to fall into two categories. First, there is the couponer who goes through the store methodically searching through a large 3-ring binder, carefully matching coupons to sales and promotions. This is the person who can purchase two grocery carts filled to the hilt and only spend about 14 cents. Then, there are those, like my friend Annabelle, who is tempted by too many coupons. 'I can't use them because they make me overspend. I just start buying everything I have a coupon for and end up spending more than expected.'  They are extreme opposites and  most of us would be better suited if we fell somewhere in the middle.

For the Extremist, coupon clipping is like a military maneuver. It is carefully planned and executed with the precision of a Supreme Allied Commander.  It is impressive to see all the freebies they can score and I often strive to be a little bit more like that. But, I think, you can go too far. I once saw a segment on t.v. about an Extreme Couponer and, to be honest, I think she belonged on one of those programs for hoarders. It is one thing to provide for your family or perhaps take your extras to the food bank and local shelter. It is quite another to be stepping over boxes of ink pens, deodorant, and peanut butter while claiming, 'I don't know what to do with all this. I love the challenge and just can't stop.' Honey, I think you love the challenge just a little too much.

For the HyperClipper, the art of saving money gets replaced with the compulsion to clip every coupon in the free world and shop nonstop. Annabelle has been known to bring home hot dogs and tortillas (among other things) for a family who would rather eat tree bark than that stuff.  It leaves her wondering what to cook and why there's nothing good to eat in the cupboard.

I live in the world of The Happy Medium.  I will never get rich with coupon savings but I do manage to save a little and that always seems to come in handy.  My mom didn't use coupons so it was an acquired skill I picked up as a college student trying to make ends meet without living on bologna sandwiches.  I remember how mortified my soon-to-be husband looked the first time we shopped together. 'You're not going to use those, are you? Here? Where everybody can see you?'  I most certainly was. He turned pale and made a quick exit to the magazine section. He almost had the vapors. I thought about it for a while and asked if I could keep the savings after we got married. He laughed a little and agreed because 'it probably will only add up to a few dollars.'  Actually, it was a few hundred dollars. Five hundred dollars that we saved for our Baby Fund.

I have a few simple rules I follow that allow me to stay in the Happy Medium.  Mostly, I just use coupons for trusted products, and I do try to stock up on non perishables. Occasionally, I'll clip them for a new product. If I'm going to try something new I might as well get a good deal. New products often have really low introdutory prices you can combine with a coupon for a steal.  The coupons are organized in a way that makes sense to me so that they are easy to use. I'm not interested in wasting my time looking for an air freshener coupon. I'm too busy. I need it to be a quick and easy no-brainer. I will shop at several stores but I'm not going to go out of my way  so I will try to bundle shopping with my errands if possible.

The most important thing I do with my coupon savings is actually SAVE it. I have a budget binder and I simply write down the savings. I will periodically add it all up and send that amount to a savings account. If you do not have an emergency fund this is a painless way to get one going. You could just as easily 'snowflake' the money to your debt reduction plan. (Snowflakes are the little bits of money you add immediately to your debt snowball).

I think coupons are a great component to your budgeting  as long as you keep it in perspective and are mindful of how you shop. Do you use coupons?  How successful have you been?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Rainy Day Project

On a recent Saturday, it rained so hard it was nearly impossible to go outside. It became the perfect day to clean up our master bedroom.  All you need are a few supplies, determine which room you want to tackle and about an hour. This example is for a bedroom. Simply modify where needed based on the room you are cleaning.

You will need a trash bag and a few containers. You only need the containers temporarily so they can be anything you have available. I have used boxes, laundry baskets, and recyclable grocery bags. This is not a 'perfection project.' Your goal is only to get the room back in order quickly without spending the whole day doing it. The deep, intense cleaning will come later--unless you become so focused you want to do it now.

First, you will need to come face to face with the cold, hard reality of this messy room. Turn on the brighest light available. Next, take the trash bag then, working left to right and top to bottom, go around the room quickly and get rid of all the trash.  Go around the room and put stray clothes in the hamper.

The next step is to set up your containers. These are going to be used for such things as recycling, another room, donate, yard sale, etc.  Still going left to right and top to bottom, move around the room and start putting items into the containers. Although you will be moving along at a fast pace, make sure to be thorough. You don't want to make return trips or retrace your steps repeatedly; your goal is to get the room presentable as quickly as possible.

Take the hamper to the laundry room. Return all items to their rightful owners (just leave the container and let them sort out their own things) and place the items to be donated in the trunk of your vehicle. Once you price and store your yard sale items and take the trash out you are almost finished. Straighten the bed, open the curtains to let in some natural light, and turn off the light. 

Of course, if you are revved up and want to do more, then by all means go ahead and do the dusting and vacuuming.  Either way, now you have one less thing you have to worry about.

Pat yourself on the back and enjoy the rest of your rainy day.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lessons from the Parents

There isn't a day that goes by that I do not miss my parents. Sometimes, I feel like they passed away all too soon and I wished they had lived until I was old and gray. I am always reminded of some lesson or something wise I learned from them. I catch myself wondering what they would say or do in any given situation. Although quite simple and timeless, this is some of the best advice I have ever been given:

**1**  Put it Back Where You Found It:  My dad was a stickler for putting things back where they belonged. You save a lot of time if you don't have to go searching for something.

**2**  Save your Raises:  You can always make a withdrawal from your savings account if you need to, but once that extra money ends up in your checkbook it will probably get spent on something unimportant and then it's too late.

**3** You Might as Well Do it Today: My mom was a big fan of the 'Do it Now' philosophy. She did not put off today's work until tomorrow and rarely did things pile up around her ears. She would tell me a project might take a half hour today, but wait until tomorrow and it is going to take an hour simply because of the powers of accumulation.

**4** Buy Your Groceries First:   For some reason, this was the most memorable piece of advice I remember my dad telling me. 'You can solve more problems on a full stomach.'  As a college student trying to make ends meet trying hard to make good grades and make it all on my own, I took this one to heart. No, it wasn't always steak but I ate and stayed healthy.

**5** Your Word is Your Bond: This is what my mom said whenever she was discussing my dad's best trait. 'If you never do what you say, no one will ever trust you.' I've used this advice at every job. Telling my supervisor or client I would do something was as good as having it done. I can say this is the smartest thing I've ever done, not only at work but also with my family and friends. No matter how high-tech this world gets, being trustworthy is the ultimate skill to gain.

**6** Don't let Sentiment get in the Way of your Finances: We had a family friend who was offered quite a tidy sum to sell the family farm. The friend refused because this property had been in her family for many generations. 'I'll starve,' she said  'before I ever sell this farm.'  And she almost did. That piece of property cost a fortune to maintain and it was money she really didn't have, so it fell into awful disrepair. My parents advised me to never be that sentimental.  Don't hurt your future self because of your attachment to an inanimate object.

**7** Work Really Hard When you are Young:  Do this when you are young and have the energy. You are not going to feel like doing it later.

**8** If You are Going to Do Something, then Do it Right: My mom was constantly busy. She did not do anything by 'half.'  If she were working on an art project, then you could pretty much guarantee the work was as neat as possible. People often thought her quilts were machine stitched rather than handmade. Each stitch was painstakingly done precisely and identical to the one before it. I once commented on the neatness and how it was taking forever for her to hand stitch this one particular quilt. 'What is the point of doing it at all if it's going to be sloppy? Where is the pride in that?' Smart lady.

We have all acquired advice from loved ones and mentors that we use in our day to day lives. What is the best piece of advice you ever received?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Do Money Hacks Work? Yes.....and No

Money hacks are the little tricks and techniques used to help us trim costs and save money. Most of you have heard of the 'latte factor.'  Skip the coffe shop, pocket the $5 and in a month you've hacked $100. In my college days, I started using money hacks before I even knew what they were called. My favorite was rounding up the numbers in my checkbook. I just didn't like balancing the thing and it was easier when the figures were rounded up to the next dollar . I did it for the ease of it all, yet in the back of my mind I knew I'd be adding up a few pennies here and there. Flash forward about four years. Without any work, without any sacrifice that one little maneuver had turned into more than $2,000. It gave a whole new meaning to 'happy surprise.' There were other hacks I liked using such as depositing my coupon savings on a regular basis and depositing the remaining funds in my checking account on payday. If there was $10 left on payday then I would deposit that amount into my savings and live on my paycheck until the next one arrived.

These little hacks, and countless others, worked because I made myself use them. Keeping the latte money in my wallet will only guarantee that it gets frittered away on everyday stuff. What is the point of giving up something or making a sacrifice if you don't put your efforts to good use? I think this is the step that trips most of us up. We know what to do; we just drop the ball on the follow-through.

The key is to make it so easy it becomes a no -brainer.

Here's an example of something I did once and regretted.  I sold a piece of furniture and made about $200. Yay me! Now I had some cold hard cash to throw at a debt and inch my way closer to a debt free future. Yeah, well, no, that's not what happened. I made my sale on a Saturday morning. By the end of the day, we had taken the family to our favorite pizza parlor, purchased a new movie, did a little grocery shopping (although that was already budgeted for), and each of the kids got a little toy. I think we did a little flip flop shopping as well. Monday morning rolled around and I got ready to take the money to the bank. All $65. My jaw dropped and my heart fell. A nice hefty payment just vaporized. The smarter thing would have been to go ahead and prepare the deposit slip, place it and the $200 in a sealed envelope until the bank opened.

If you're making money using eBay, never ever bring the money home. Never. Just transfer your profit from PayPal to your bank. When the transfer shows up as a deposit, go online and make an extra payment on a bill or send it immediately to savings. If you are skipping the latte or lunch, go ahead and figure out how much you are hacking and transfer that amount right then and there. You can't spend it if it isn't floating around waiting for you to swipe your debit card.

There are eleventeen million money hacks and if you put your mind to it, you will find the ones that work for you. Make the saving part of the hacking plan easy and watch the money add up. You have to make yourself do the right thing with those little bits of money because it could very well be the foundation to a financial dream you have (vacation, college fund, rainy day money, new home, etc)

 Hacks are often considered to be small amounts of money and many people don't want to waste their time with them because they feel it isn't worth their efforts. However, you need to remember dimes make dollars and you really do want more money, don't you?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Avoid the Monday Morning Hustle

I remember the day clearly. I just couldn't figure out what to wear to work (steel gray suit seemed pretty sharp, so did the red dress that screamed 'power'). For some bizarre reason that little dilemma knocked me a good 15 minutes off schedule. I had no time for breakfast because I couldn't find a clean towel.Even if there were time to eat, there was no way I could have used the curdled up sludge in the milk container. I got to the car and saw that big 'E' on the gas gauge. Well that was just great. And let me just clarify: It was MONDAY. Sleep is a precious thing, especially on Monday mornings. I don't want to have to get up and rush around. I want those extra minutes to saw a few more logs to saw. More importantly, I don't really want to move like a tornado before 8 a.m.

Do  yourself a favor and get a jumpstart the night before.

Charge your cell phone and make sure you put it and your keys in a designated spot. If you will need it, check your wallet for your debit card/cash. Get any toll fees ready as well. Take a look at the gas gauge. 'Empty' will get you nowhere.

Double check backpacks and your briefcase to see if all necessary files are ready, papers are signed and permission slips are filled out. Place them in a spot that makes them readily available. How about near your keys or the door? If a little one is in tow, restock the diaper bag. I've been known to put all this stuff in the car the night before. It sounds over the top, but works like a charm. Go ahead and pack your workout bag and stow it in the car right now.

If someone is sacking their lunch, then get as much of that ready as possible. Prepack the leftovers, get the juice boxes, wash the fruit and measure out the snacks.Check the weather app on your cell phone and get appropriate attire ready for everybody. If it's trash day, haul the can to the curb. Verify breakfast foods are available. Nothing ruins a meal quicker than solid milk.

I often do a few things that feel very specific to my own family's situation but they are very effective. In addition to everything listed I take all hampers to the laundry because it's one less thing to worry about. I pick up as much clutter as I can without doing a total housecleaning.

At my home, we do just enough so that Monday starts off as smoothly as possible without feeling like we spent the entire day working. Everything I do takes a 20 minute investment but the return is priceless. I can put up my feet  and relax the rest of the evening knowing Monday morning is still going to arrive and it will still be a Monday, but at least it I won't have to hustle and hurry so much. I may even save myself from a headache.

Friday, March 25, 2011


Many parents debate the reason for an allowance.  I often hear them using the concept of  'no chores, no pay' as one of the rules for receiving money. I disagree with this method. Your child isn't employed by you and allowance is not their paycheck. It is a tool for financial education. Let's say you remind little Johnny that unless he takes out the trash, there will be no allowance. He could very well say he didn't want the money so he isn't taking out the trash. Now what?  You can't fire him. You are aiming for financial education, not compliance.They are separate lessons. Little Johnny hasn't learned much about money, has he?  Here is the method that is working pretty well for our family.

When our oldest son was five, we decided it was time to start the financial lessons. Chores were not tied into the plan. You have chores because you live here and you do them because that is just what you do. His chores were simple enough to not merit pay. (We make our bed because it looks neat. We feed the dog because she is hungry.) Allowance could be used as he chose with little imput from the parents. A large part of financial education comes from making mistakes and it's better to do that when you are five rather than 25. The first step was all about management.  Savings, giving and investing would come later. Also, the money had to be an amount that would be manageable for a five year old. At the time his favorite past time was Star Wars. He loved the little characters and so the amount of his allowance was enough to cover the purchase of one, which was about $5. I wasn't concerned about tax; that lesson would follow. We didn't want the allowance too low because our first lesson wasn't about learning how to save.

He was very excited about this new adventure.  We would head off every Friday to the local giant discount store for him to spend his allowance. He would carefully make his selection and was very pleased with himself. This went on for several weeks until he decided he would rather have gum. I carefully suggested that might not be a good idea because gum didn't last very long and perhaps a toy or book would be a better choice. He thought for all of half a second and decided gum was the thing to have. I said no more. On the way home, he ripped into that packet and began chewing. Within an hour it was all gone and I still said nothing. It took a few hours but the lesson sunk in. 'Mama, the gum didn't last very long. I wish I had a toy. Can I have more money?' I refrained from the I Told You So's and replied, 'I guess you're right, gum doesn't last very long. You can get more money next Friday when it's Allowance Day again.'  Over time, he has made quite a few mistakes. He realizes what he could have done differently and learns from the mistake. 
We hit upon a winning plan. On that same $5 allowance, combined with a minimal amount of birthday and Christmas money, saved up more than half the price of a very expensive gaming system. Now, at age 12, he donates to charities that touch his heart. We have a Giving Jar in our kitchen where we put some stray $1 bills and change.  He contributes regularly to that jar without being prompted. We've used the money to purchase a meal for an overwhelmed neighbor, we've given it to the Christmas Bell Ringers, and a host of other places.

It is imperative to begin financial lessons when children are young. They are so receptive to the idea and the younger they are, the more simple and fun the lessons can be.

It isn't all that complicated to get started. Decide on a dollar amount and pick a day to serve as Allowance Day. The most important thing you can do is to let your little one decide how to spend the money. Otherwise, it's just you making their decisions for them, which would completely defeat the purpose.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Take Five #2 The Kitchen

Take Five is a regular post that makes the most of what little time you have.  These are quick wins geared toward small projects giving you more control over your finances, time and space.

You are in the kitchen microwaving popcorn for movie time. Here are a few things to do while you're waiting. You can fit in just a few of these before the bell chimes on that snack.

**1**  Plug your cell phone into the charger, and take the receipts out of your wallet.

**2**  Toss out the mismatched lids to the plastic storage bowls.

**3**  Clean out the vegetable crisper.

**4**  Get rid of the weird stuff on the spice shelf.  You've got coriander that expired in 1997. Let it go.

**5**  Refill Fido and Tabby's food/water bowl(s).

**6**  Bag up tomorrow's snacks.

**7**  Empty the dishwasher.

**8**  Polish the counters.

**9**  Do a quick review of the pantry. Add what's needed to your grocery list.

**10** Make sure you have what's needed to pack tomorrow's lunch.

Take Five is small actions that will make a big impact. Do a bit now and save a lot of time later.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Clutter Into Cash: Yard Sale Part Three

In this final post, here is a list of additional information that will be beneficial to your yard sale.

**1** Check local ordinances regarding permits for your area. If you have a Homeowners Association, read your Covenants to make sure yard sales are permisssable.

**2** You want to place signs in high traffic areas near your home but you have to be careful regarding right of ways and easements.  Local law enforcement  or a City Hotline can provide you with this information.

**3** Get the kids involved. My children get to keep any money from the sale of their toys. The money is theirs to use as they wish. It is several lessons rolled into one: decluttering, choosing how to handle money, deciding what is needed and what has outlived its current usefulness. My oldest child understands this completely and has become quite adept at gathering and pricing things for a fair profit.

**4** Try keeping things as orderly as possible. True, it's 'yard sale' not 'upscale'.  However, in order to buy your items, people have to be able to actually see them. Refold as needed. Try grouping like items together. I once dragged a living room  table outside just to display an entire box of Halloween knick knacks. The first guy who stopped took a single glance and bought every piece. I made $20 for less than five minutes worth of work.

**5**  Keep a few carboard boxes available. You will need these to haul the leftovers to your favorite donation site. Get a receipt for tax purposes.

**6** There are a few exceptions to the donation rule. If --and only if--you are planning another yard sale, it is acceptable to retain the items you truly feel will sell in the future.  Great sellers would include, but not be limited to,toys, puzzles, books, kitchen items and tools.

**7**Consider an old fashioned lemonade stand.They are just plain fun. Place this venture close enough for customers to be tempted while still allowing plenty of elbow room. There is no need for anything elaborate. A small table with some chairs for the kids to use will be sufficient. Cover the table so it looks clean and bright. A plastic pitcher filled with ice and beverage along with some cups are pretty much all you need. Let the kids make a colorful sign and you are all set.  Our next yard sale will be coming up shortly and my oldest has already asked to set up his own lemonade stand with the proceeds going to the same animal shelter where we adopted our puppy.

**8** Save plastic bags for your buyers' purchases.

**9** Let people know if you intend to have a future sale. A great yard sale will draw repeat business. I once commented to a lady that she looked familiar. 'I should,' she said. 'I came before and bought about 50 skeins of yarn and all the baby clothes you had.'  I like that kind of familiar. I hope to see her again!

**10** It is acceptable to impart important information to a buyer. No one will be interested in knowing a certain  bowl was used by your  Aunt Effie to set up housekeeping with in 1954, but I did manage to sell some relatively obscure book once when I let the buyer know it was the last year the book was saddle stitched. Keep your information brief, interesting and neutral.

As the series ends, let me say that yard sales can serve a multitude of purposes. You free up a lot of needed space. That means less time managing and cleaning things you didn't really want to manage and clean in the first place. Now you have a little more time. You end up with a little cash (I hope you end up with a LOT).  With minimal investment you have taken steps to improve your space, time and finances.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Clutter into Cash: Easy Yard Sale, Part One

This series is about taking your 'treasures' and transforming them into cash. The art of the yard sale did not come naturally to me. I didn't even know what one was until I was in college and would not have gone near one even if my life depended on it. For some unknown reason, I thought they held a certain 'ick factor.' That all changed after I got married and started a family.  I was certain the attic would collapse under the weight of all that accumulating stuff. As luck would have it, I have a darling neighbor who likes to hold a sale about twice a year and we have become quite good at it. We aren't pros but we enjoy ourselves and certainly appreciate the newly found space we end up with. Part One of this series is all about the prep work.  This is going to be the foundation to your success. 

Note: Our yard sales occur twice a year; one in the spring and one in the fall. We treat them as 'Neighborhood Sales.' Although we benefit from the traffic generated by multiple participants, we are each responsible for our own items and money. We keep everything in our own yards. Sometimes, it's just the two of us and then there are times when we've had four or five families participating. This information will also work for those doing an individual sale.

As soon as one yard sale is over, I am preparing for the next. I have several (okay, more than several) 66 quart, clear storage boxes that I press into use for this purpose.  I prefer clear because I want to see what's inside at all times. I put a box on my closet floor (you could put one in every closet if you chose), along with some price stickers nearby. As I come across something I want to sell, I do several things. Every item is cleaned, then priced before going in the box. Clothes are free of damage and neatly folded.  Toys have all pieces accounted for as well as directions.  Household items are bright and shiny.  I try to make sure everything is as ''showroom new' as possible before it is priced and placed in the box. It doesn't have to be perfect but the better the presentation, the better the price, the better the profit. This whole process takes mere minutes and adds temendously to your bottom line.  Once the box is full, label it YARD SALE  and store it. If space permits, set up individual boxes in a spare room or garage, each with a different purpose (clothes, books, gadgets). The more organized now, the smoother it will be later.

Pricing is what causes a lot of potential customers to walk away. Your items aren't treasures anymore. If they were, they would not be on a table in your driveway. You can't expect a person to pay $20 for some soup bowls when they can go to the nearest store and pay that for brand new ones. You have to put away the pride and sentiment and be reasonable. A fair rule of thumb is usually about 10 percent of the retail price. Also, take into account the season. A surfboard may fetch a little more in spring than fall. A word of caution: Know your items and their value. This is where I made my biggest 'uh oh.' I was trying to sell some inherited pieces I could not use. I placed a $3 sticker on what I thought was a less than desirable map in a plastic faux gilt frame. When the buyer asked to open the brand new SEALED box I realized it was a gorgeous map in a cherry frame. That night I did some checking and learned it retailed for $250. Gulp. I bet I could have gotten more than three Georges for it. If you are unsure of an item's value, then save it until you've done your research.

Advertising is a must for a successful sale. You can do this with very little or no money. My neighbor and I rotate placing an advertisement in our local newspaper. One of us pays and one of us places the ad. Any additional neighbors that join in benefit from the free advertising.  Carefully word it to attract buyers. Use phrases such as 'Multi Family' or 'Neighborhood Sale'. Buyers love one stop shopping. Some crowd pleasers  that could be listed are tools, kids items, baby things, furniture, bicycles and anything that may be seasonal or school related. Some of my biggest sales included a new homeowner  and parents going on summer vacation.  We always hold our sale on the first Saturday of any given month and place our ad the previous Thursday so people have time to map out their destinations. Other forms of advertisement include using the bulletin board at work, church, the daycare or gym. Be sure to take advantage of social networking sites. Tell everyone and ask them to spread the word. Put up a simple sign at your neighborhood entrance on the evening before your sale and  plant the seed in the minds of the going home traffic.

The thing I love about yard sale preparation is how easy it it. There isn't any hard choices to make: take an item, clean it up, put a price sticker on it, put it in a box. Make a sign and tell some folks. By game day you are good to go. There is no rush and whether your sale is in two weeks or two months, these steps will make it easy.

Friday, March 18, 2011


Left sock, right sock, left shoe, right shoe.  Although it sounds like a forgotten line from a Dr. Seuss classic, it is actually how I've gotten dressed for as long as I can remember.  My husband drops his keys in the exact same place every day. We all have habits and many of them are so ingrained in us we don't even give them a second thought.

By developing a few easy habits, you can get a firmer grip on your finances without putting forth much effort. Let's concentrate on your wallet or purse.

**1** Pick a Card, Any Card: Whether you use them for convenience or think they are the work of the devil, we have credit cards. Chose the one you want to focus on. Perhaps it is the one with the highest interest or the one with the lowest balance. Your goal is develop the habit of thinking about this one card whenever you pay the bills. I love the feel of pen and paper, so I keep a credit card statement in my ledger. I see it often because I've developed the habit of reviewing the finances daily. In doing so, I stay on track and feel like I'm getting ahead. You will start telling yourself, 'It's time to pay the bills so let me see where I stand with X.' By being mindful you will begin to focus on eliminating this debt without even realizing it. Amazingly, this will take root very quickly in your financial psyche.

**2** Change is Good:  The change you are carrying is heavy and you aren't really spending it. When you come home at the end of the day, empty it into a jar. Use it for fun money, an extra payment, the gift/vacation/new tire fund or anything you want it as long as it is put to good use and kept out of a vending machine.

**3** Never Leave a Paper Trail:  Another end of day move is to get the paper out of the way. This is a big deal. It is way too easy to forget your debit receipt from this morning's gas and coffee run and, oops, now you have an overdraft charge. I strongly recommend logging in transactions as they happen but sometimes the real world happens.  Make yourself log them in immediately or devote two minutes after you get home to log them in. This one is non negotiable.

These actions are not revolutionary. They are classics that have been around for quite some time.  Once you begin to worry less about your finances, the results will feel revolutionary. Occasionally, we just need to be reminded of what works best.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Take Five #1

Like so many, I struggle with never having enough hours in the day. Take Five is a regular post that makes the most of what little time you have.  These are quick wins geared toward small projects giving you more control over your finances, time and space.

**1**  Your cell phone is a mess. While you're waiting for the doctor to show up, start deleting games you never play. Clear out unneccessary texts and emails. Reorganize the phone's screens to something more user friendly. I have a screen for items I use regularly (weather, news) and one for working (calculator, email, messaging). You get the idea.  Time is saved when you no longer have to keep searching for what you need.

**2** While you are in your child's car line up, grab a plastic grocery bag and start cleaning out door pockets, consoles and floorboards. Somehow, my cupholders become repositories for the kids' candy wrappers, therefore I do this on a regular basis.

**3**  Did you just pay your bills online? Sign in to your bank and quickly balance the checkbook. If you have let this one slide for a while, the first time may take a little longer. However, if done daily or every few days, you remain up to date and eliminate all the guesswork of how much money you really have.

Take Five is geared toward small actions that will make a big impact. Do a bit now and save a lot of time later.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Lesson Learned

Some lessons just have to be learned the hard way. I was headed to a very important meeting and could not be late. The fact that I was already running behind made me agitated and sweaty (doesn't that sound pretty?) I got into my car and gave myself a once-over in the rear view mirror. My lovely coiffure had a huge spike sticking out of the side of my head. It was not there five minutes ago. Honestly.  I dashed back inside my house, found a hairbrush and tamed the beast.  Now I was really late so I hurried back to my car and took off. At the stop sign, I checked the mirror to make sure the hair was behaving only to discover the make up mistake. How did I miss all of this before? Most people would not view this as a problem but I am not most people. I am the kind of person that carries no make up in her purse. If it isn't lip balm, I just don't carry it. I was so late now that turning around to go home for a repair job was not an option. I desperately checked my purse for something--anything-- to salvage the disaster upon my face and Sweet Mother of Abraham, I had powder! I dropped the darned powder puff on my lap leaving a huge dusting of 'le creme au natural' on my dark slacks. I had to do something fast and I was getting more frustrated by the minute. I searched my car only to find a Nerf bullet and a mini marshmallow.

A dear friend always says 'use what you have and do what you know.'  Well, I've got a toy and some sticky food and I know that ain't gonna cut it. But what could I do?  I should have just left it alone but I didn't. I got pulled over for driving too slow and was caught applying cosmetics with a Nerf bullet.

I finally made it to the meeting with my dusty britches, wopsided makeup, a ticket and sweating with frustation. The time of the meeting had been changed so I was very, very early.

And here is the lesson: Sometimes slowing down just a little will save you time in the long run. It would have only taken a few minutes to look  in the mirror at the hair and make up. I would have caught the time change for my meeting if I had double checked my notes. I added to my chaos by mismanaging my time. The whole headache could have been avoided and instead of wasting 25 minutes, I could have spent ten minutes or less preventing it.

How it all Began

There was never enough time to get it all done. Never enough money for each and every goal. Never enough space to put every single thing. At least it seemed that way to me. I knew I was getting crushed under the weight of the chaos. I wanted a change. Clearly, I could not put more hours on the clock, plant a money tree or suddenly attach a dozen more rooms to my home. Yet, I knew if I just hunkered down and set my mind to it there was a chance I could fix some things that were within reasonable expectation.

I decided to create a Whine List.  Everything that bothered me made the list--big, small, the huge and the teeny weeny. If it felt problematic, I wrote it down.  The next step was to walk away. Just  long enough to catch my breath and let it all sink in.  I took a deep breath, picked up that ugly list and began.

What could I fix right now? Surely I could come up ideas that would help. If I could do it, then I would be enriching my life as well as that of my family. I took notes, I read and when I finished all that I read some more. It all started coming together and slowly I began to make the little changes that sometimes led to bigger ones.

This blog is the ongoing, everchanging mission  that I've undertaken. I hope you will join me.