Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Take Five #5 Tax Preparation

You've filed your taxes, asked for an extention, paid what you owed or happily received your refund. It is done and over. Life is good. You can even put the aspirin back in the cabinet and not think about the Internal Revenue Service until next April, right? Au contraire. Now is the time to get prepared for next year. Starting now allows you approximately a year to prepare, depending on when you prefer to file your return. I like to get it over with as soon as possible and would rather not wait until April. Start now and you can thank me later.

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** Get a Good Accountant. 'Aunt Edna does ours every year.' Or maybe you know a guy at work who knows a guy whose cousin does taxes on the side--And he's cheap. All of that is well and good. BUT if you get audited, I guarantee you, Aunt Edna isn't going with you to the IRS office. A certified accountant will hold your hand through the entire process and do much of the legwork for you. I have been there and done that and I was never more grateful than when the CPA said, 'Relax, Evangeline. This is what you paid me for.'

**2** Get a Tax Preparation Booklet. This will contain information regarding what documents you will need. Most of us know about mortgage interest deductions and child care costs. Only some of us will deduct ad valorem taxes and even fewer will calculate medical expenses to see if we qualify for that particular tax break. These booklets or similar information can be found in your accountant's office and online.

**3** Take Care of Your Receipts. This is so much easier than you realize. The only catch is doing it on a very regular basis. You will need that aspirin if you try sorting through a year's worth of receipts. You will need some sort of containment system. I use a three-prong pocket folder. I used my Tax Prep Booklet to get an idea of what receipts I needed to keep. As I paid the car tags, the receipts went in the folder. Every month I totalled my medical expenses and in early January, my pharmacist provided a print out of those expenses for the previous year. Some years I can use this deduction, some years I can't but it is always worth the minimal effort to find out.

**4** Review Your Status Periodicallly. Occasionally look over the folder, make sure it's organized (all work related receipts kept together, etc) and familiarize yourself with what you can and cannot use as a deduction. Your life rarely coincides with the tax year. If something changes, say, midyear it is best to know it right now instead of the day you do your filing.

It is pretty much a no-brainer: find an expert, organize your information and keep viligant. The problem we all have--yes, that's me--is making ourselves do the work. There is something about the IRS that can put a knot in the strongest of stomachs. It doesn't have to be that way. It is all in the prep work. I'm late in getting started on next year's prep and it's taken me all of an hour to get caught up. I didn't even do it all at once. I just took a few minutes here, a few minutes there and I'm caught up until I sort through my folder in early May. This is not the place to take short cuts. Take a few minutes periodically to get it right. The IRS will be happy and that will keep you happy.

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

How Do You Pay Off Your Debts?

The economic downturn has most of us looking for ways to get on better financial footing. People are thinking of ways, both little and large, to feel safe and out of harm's way.  Most of us are trying to reduce our debt loads or erase them completely. Living without debt and using those former payments to shore up our savings gives us a peace. There are myriad ways to pay off your bills and ten times that many variations. Let's look at three types of debt personalities: Debts First, Save First, and the Debt-Save Hybrid.

If the thought of revolving payments and debt load put a knot in your stomach, you may be a Debts First type of person. DFs are comfortable with a small emergency fund like the plan suggested by Dave Ramsey. Once that emergency fund is in place, the DFs are bound and determined to pay off their debts. They won't rest until they see the final 'paid in full' statement. They exhibit a strong-minded focus and their one goal is to dump the debt. They are willing to sacrifice, scrimp, and scrape together every last penny to apply to debt payments. Their primary asset is the abillity to never lose sight of their goal and maintain the one-track focus that is required to be debt free.

Those that Save First prefer to have a healthy nest egg or emergency fund in place before starting their debt reduction plan. This method is used by people who would rather pay interest charges than live in fear of not having enough funds 'just in case.' Just like the Debt First-type cannot stomach having debts hanging over their heads, the SF's live in fear of being caught off guard. It is that fear that makes them need the bigger savings account as their safety net. What if something happens and there's not enough funds to cover the expense? SFs are comfortable with this plan because it gives them the ability to live in their comfort zone while paying off debts.

There are some people that are a blend of the two types and they are known as Hybrids. The Hybrids have both the need to feel financially safe and pay off their debts simultaneously. This is the category that has the most variations. A Hybrid will find a way to accomplish both goals with little risk to themselves.The benefit to this is the ability to feed both sides of their worrisome equation. For example, a Hybrid may continue making minimal payments on their debt while saving madly until there is enough to pay off a bill completely. The Hybrid will pay off the bill and still have enough money remaining for a small emergency fund. They will start the process over immediately. They keep saving for another big pay off and in the meantime,  that larger savings account gives them a larger emergency fund in case there is a need for it.

Most people will fall into one of these categories based on their own life experiences. By nature, I've always wanted to get out of debt first. My small emergengy fund would catch a lot of small inconvenieces but invariably something bigger would come up and out would come a credit card to bridge the gap between the problem at hand and the money on hand. It was a frustrating cycle. Finally, something happened that made me work on a new plan. I used a small inheritance to become debt free. It was a gloriously, wonderful feeling which lasted 30 minutes. That was how long it took from the time I made the last debt payment and my husband came home to let me know he had been laid off from the most stable job a person could have. Everything turned out okay, but I never forgot that feeling of what could have happened. That was when I realized I needed a new plan that would let me sleep at night. It was a slow process to change from being a Saver First to a Hybrid, but I kept at it.

In the end, it is always a work in progress. We have to find what works and realize that if what we're doing isn't working it is perfectly acceptable and financially wise to fine tune our plan until we come up with one that is effective. No one plan is better than another. Some will save you more money in the long run - if you can stick with it. Some will provide peace of mind. All that matters is that you actually utilized the plan of choice to meet your financial goals. Perhaps your plan differs from these listed here. What kind of plan did you use and why?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Eliminate the Chaos

Let me clarify one very important point. I am not a scientist. Nor am I an analyst and I would not translate statistics even if you tried to make me. I bring this up because over the years I've heard the same comment that usually goes something like "A cluttered home translates into a cluttered life."  I have seen no data to prove this, yet, I am a firm believer in it's truthfulness.

I also want to clarify the point that I think 'clutter' is a whole lot more than way too many clothes and tripping over old pizza boxes. My friends laugh at me when I say my clutter talks to me. It isn't a matter of I Hear Dishes. It's more like if I sit down to relax and there's a pile of work to be done, I will become increasingly agitated until I handle it. I know if I don't take care of it now, it will pile up until I get to it later. Now that kind of clutter has morphed into the mental kind, which means I now have twice the clutter.

I think this happens to most of us. We turn on the news and get bombarded with miserable, sad headlines about increasing food prices, war, hungry babies, natural disasters, the list is endless. It's enough to make you want to hide under the covers. Once that gets in our heads, it just spins around until we get to work and we all know that work isn't the most fun place to be. By the end of the day, we are just too drained to think about anything. We just go home, decompress by turning the tv on and now we start the circle going around all over again.

If we could only pigeon-hole these things into individual spaces; pulling them out one at a time to handle it before going on to the next one, we would be okay. There is the problem. The world doesn't work that way.

I think we can come close. I usually feel better about everything if I can just get a handle on one thing.  Since everything seems to have been running amok lately in Evangeline's World, I've decided to try leaning toward a minimalist life. I'm not interested in a monochromatic world with only one knife, one fork, one spoon, you get the idea. I'm interested in pursuing a scaled -down lifestyle at home that will hopefully bring a little serenity and more free time to the other parts of my world.

 First, I only listen to the news long enough to keep up with the basics. If I need to decompress with the t.v. on then I just find something else. Fifteen minutes with a news anchor and you've covered the basics and it is time for me to move on.  The same goes for the weekly newspaper. It is the exact same information the nightly news provides, so why take up space in my head with duplicitous information?

Second, I've perused through my closet and eliminated an embarrassing amount of crap. Yes, crap. Nobody in their right mind needs as many black shirts as I had. I've whittled the entire wardrobe down to what fits well, feels good and makes me feel comfortable and attractive. As a friend once told me, "I would rather have 2 tops and 2 bottoms that fit beautifully and feel amazing than 10 of a wretched assortment that I will never wear." Now when I step in the closet every morning, it's a snap to find something. Everything fits and it all goes together. I did the same thing with the childrens' closet. Hubby is on his own.

Third, I tackled the kitchen. Odd bits and pieces (bunny cake pan, anyone?) were removed and now is there actual open space. It is pleasing to my eye and reads like a clean slate rather than a cluttered- up command center for my family.

There are tons of nooks and crannies I am cleaning out a little at a time. I just keep asking myself, "Do I want this? Am I willing to dust/clean/maintain it?"  Currently I want more free time and less clutter. That peace of mind is priceless to me and I'm willing to eliminate the above-mentioned crap in order to appreciate the open space and the serenity it brings. I intend to keep weeding out what is cumbersome, time consuming, irritating and unnecessary. Do you know what? The more I do this, the more space I have and the more peaceful my home and I become.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Troubled Times

Gas prices are currently the highest recorded for the month of April, federal employees missed a shutdown by the thinnest of margins, and people are living on paychecks that are not keeping up with inflation. We wake up everyday wondering, 'What next?'   On some level, we are all concerned about what could be looming on our financial horizon that could knock us for another loop.

You have probably examined your expenses and made adjustments to your budget. Perhaps the larger things, such as vacations and large purchases, have been winnowed down to a minimum. You have pared back dinners out, shop the clearance rack and gourmet coffee is a thing of the past. You may even wake up in the morning dreading the thought of another day, another financial misery.

Take a deep breath. It doesn't have to be that way. Here are a few more things that can be done with minimal effort and will not only yield a great financial return when all are combined, they will put a confident step in your stride because you will know you've done even more to protect yourself  from any future economic calamities.

**1** Join a local credit union and sign up for a Christmas Club. Most will take deposits as low as $5. When you get that check in November, you will have a cash and carry holiday.

**2** Be energy wise.  Full laundry loads, adjust the thermostat accordingly, cut off unneeded lights.

**3** Let the kids use their allowance to pay for their gaming accounts and school store purchases.

**4** Find an alternative to the cable-internet bundle.

**5** Pay yourself $1 everytime you use your washer. Possible yield $25-$60 per month.

**6** Get healthy. Maintenance medication is very expensive.

**7** Can you make homemade cheaper?

**8** Break money goals into smaller pieces. If you can't see yourself not eating out for a month, try not eating out this weekend only. Goals are more achievable when they are more manageable.

**9** Quit throwing away leftovers. 'Redecorate' them into an entirely different meal so it's more enjoyable to your palate.

**10** Send coupon savings, rebates, overpayments, etc straight to your savings (not checking!)

**11** Shop off season and spend pennies on the dollar.

**12** Plant a garden. My yard is the size of a post card and only two little pepper plants supplied enough to dry and crush for my spice loving husband with plenty left. Crushed and placed in small shakers purchased at the local discount store, they made simple little hostess gifts for family barbecues, etc. It cost  next to nothing and it was a very enjoyable project.

**13** It is warm outside. Drop the gym membership and go outdoors.

**14** Utilize that warehouse membership (we once paid for a membership and used it only once in 12 months. What a waste!)

**15** Determine your gas usage for the month and withdraw that amount of money. If gas prices drop, continue withdrawing the higher amount and create your own Gasoline Slush Fund.

**16** Stay on top of those Due Dates. No late fees are allowed.

**17** Save part of your mortgage/rent payment from each check (if you are not paid once a month) instead of having a huge strain on a single pay period.

**18** Limit grocery shopping to paydays (except for perishables) to avoid frequent unnecessary purchases.

**19** Prioritze your goals for the day so you aren't running in circles. I've been known to waste both time and gas (money) by having to go back to the store for something.

**20** Go online and deposit $10. Do it every Friday. That ten is better off in you online savings account than in some drive- through paying for you to SuperSize your fries.

We can all agree that times are tough. And don't you feel just a little better knowing you are doing all you can to keep the wolf away from the door?  We will still have to make the hard choices, but by making a lot of smaller ones, perhaps we will reach a point where not only do we stave off the wolf, we smack him in the head so hard, he goes away for good!

Pat yourself on the back. You are making smart choices to protect your financial future.

Monday, April 11, 2011

How to Pay for Baby

Congratulations! A new baby is on the way!  Once the news of your impending arrival settles in, you may be overwhelmed by the finacial enormity of your little bundle of joy.  It is incredible how something so tiny can cost oh-so-much. Happily, there is a lot you can do to help save every precious dollar possible.

Here is a little bit of my own story: My husband and I hoped to start a family right away, so we began planning early. Although that may not be your situation, these tips will still apply. I didn't really want a baby shower and by the time my dearest friend as well as a sister-in-law offered, Baby already had everything. Yes, everything. We had all we needed and then some. We did it with a simple budget and did not sacrifice quality or quanity.  We actually did have one party when my husband's employer threw HIM the baby shower and I was tickled that Daddy got to be the center of attention! Let me add that loved ones, friends, and neighbors did contribute, but the majority of purchases fell to this new mom and dad. Our guidelines were simple: Incur no debt. We valued safety over 'pretty' so the crib and carseats were where we focused a lot of attention. The clothes did not have to be haute couture but had to be well made. Lastly, because of the safety concern, we wanted two carseats. We chose not to move the seat between our two vehicles for fear of being in a rush and not reinstalling it properly. We had months to save up so we felt comfortable with the decision.

These are the tips that helped us:

**1**  Begin saving dimes (or some other coin) strictly for the baby. Turn those into the baby's first bank deposit.

**2** Sign up for every Baby Club possible. You get tons of free items and coupons that will save you not only money but also time. My favorite grocery store Baby Club issued coupons for deli items and those were greatly appreciated on the days when we were brain dead from sleep deprivation.  We  saved hundreds (and hundreds) of dollars just doing this one thing.

**3**  Stock up on diapers in a variety of sizes. My own firstborn had more than a thousand diapers before he even arrived. At first, we were not brand loyal. We stocked up on just about every brand that was a great value.

**4** Also stock up on wipes, shampoos, lotions, etc. If  a certain brand doesn't work for you, it can be repurposed. My mom gave me a particular baby wipe that smelled medicinal. Tucked under the bathroom cabinet, they were perfect for wiping down counters and lasted for months. Shampoos can become shaving gel, etc.  Or just donate them to a shelter or another new mom.

**5** Indulge your inner junk foodie with a Kiddie Meal. Be sure to ask for a toddler toy and tuck those away in a zip bag. These are perfect for rainy days or when you need to keep Baby occupied in restaurants and doctor's offices. I craved the little hamburgers on a regular basis and those tiny toys saved my sanity on the days when my little one just couldn't be calmed with the ordinary distractions. Priceless.

**6** Shop the clearance racks. Certain items, such as burp clothes, socks,linens, onesies, and sleeper gowns, are pretty much seasonless. It's also okay to shop ahead for additional clothes if you are comfortable with that.

**7**  Start clipping coupons for everything. Diapers, wipes, food, games, photography sessions, detergent, spot removal, light bulbs, carpet cleaner (trust me) and formula will come in handy. If you choose to breastfeed, those formula coupons can be passed along to a friend. Don't forget battery coupons. You do not want the mobile or the swing to quit working!

**8** If ordering online, look for coupon codes and discounts on shipping.

**9** Thrift shops and yard sales are great ways to save on clothes and crib linens. For peace of mind and safety's sake, leave the carseats and cribs there. High-end consignment shops are excellent sources for many items including toys, books and storage options. We did this with our toddlers and saved a small fortune.

**10** Contact manufacturers and get on mailing lists. The freebies and coupons alone will save you hundreds.

Very often, time is money. Here are some tips that will save a few minutes here and there, along with a few dollars:

For the-mom-to-be, go out and purchase as many pretty pj's as you can. They should be cute, comfortable and the kind you don't mind answering the door in. This was the best thing I ever did. People understood completely when I answered the door like this. I got to stay comfortable. If  Baby spilled, I could be a quick change artist and best of all, if I wanted to lay down, I didn't have to change. You need to treat yourself those first days gently and comfort should be a priority.

Make sure you have some meals that are in the freezer and oven ready. This way,you,  Sweetie or Grandma can just plop it in the oven and dinner is good to go. I started doing this when I was seven months pregnant and had more than enough ready.

Try to stock up on anything you think you might need prior to the baby's delivery. Things like pantry staples, medicines, pet food, etc. Little by little, put things back. My husband is scared of the grocery store and was able to manage 'a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk.' He would have run screaming in the other direction if I'd sent him with a real list. Make it easy  for those who will be helping you. In addition, my husband and I picked up two or three take out menus and gift cards to some places that were located near his job. We would pick a place, decide what to eat and before leaving work at the end of the day he would call in the order and pick it up on his way home. It wasn't anything too fancy, but it was great not having to cook.

If adoption is the blessing your family will be receiving, it may be challenging to utilize some of these tips. After all, you may not know the exact due date or exact age of your precious angel. However, there are some universal basics you can follow: All toddlers need sippy cups, soap and suncreeen. They need linens in classic colors. Trust me on this one: even if they are out of diapers, go ahead and buy wipes of some kind. Look for coupons for classic, gender-neutral games and toys.

Children are expensive. Joyous, but expensive.  The key is to do as much as possible as early as possible while spending as little as possible. However, I will offer a word of caution. There are many products on the market that simply are not needed. You will be the expert on your child and that means you get to decide what to purchase and what not to purchase. If you want a giraffe humidifier, then get one. Just try to get it on sale.

Congratulations on your newest family member.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Take Five #4 Company is Coming

You have guests coming. Perhaps you've known for a while, or it's a spur of the moment kind of thing. At any rate, you are short on time and you need to get your space ready. Whether you have a dedicated guest room or will be repurposing your office, you can do a few things to make your guest(s) feel welcome without exhausting yourself in the process.  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** Give Junk the Ole Heave Ho: Take a basket and walk through the room. Pick up anything that is out of place and belongs elsewhere. If your office is also your guest room, straighten up your desk, put away client files and make it as neat as possible. Set the basket outside the door.

**2** Sweet Dreams:  The primary use for the room will be for your guests to rest, so the bed is the most important thing in the room. Strip all linens off the bed and place in the basket you left outside the bedroom door. Spray the mattress with fabric refresher. Quickly, dust the furniture.

**3** A Little Space, Please: Guests will need a place to put their things, so empty a dresser drawer or make space with extra hangers in the closet. Before leaving the room, spread some carpet freshener/baking soda on the carpet.

**4** Bright and Shiny Faces: You don't want a guest looking in a dirty mirror. Quickly give the bathroom a once-over. Make sure there is plenty of soap (a fresh bar is always nice), toilet paper, fresh towels, etc. Double check the shower, clean the toilet and wipe down the sink and mirror. If it smells stale or 'flat,' add some potpourri or air freshener of your choice.

**5** The Goody Basket:  Look through the samples you've been saving from the dentist, home parties, etc. Fill a basket with anything your think your guest might need, but will hesitate to ask for. Examples would be toothpaste, floss, tissues, mouthwash, antacids, lotion, headache relief medication, or a nail file. Place in a spot easily visible to your guests.

**6** Go To Your Room: Replace the linens, making sure to have an extra blanket nearby. Vacuum or clean the floor.  Some fresh flowers or a lovely potted plant would be appreciated as well as a night light if necessary. Consider a carafe of ice water with glasses.

**7** Conquer the Clutter: Pick up the basket and distribute those uneccessary items elsewhere.

Depending on the length of stay and the age of your guests, these tips can easily be modified to suit their needs.

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

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Go Fly a Kite

I bet you know these people: Kimber and Jackson work all day. They leave work, pick up the kids and grab some take-out before heading to Little Jimmy's soccer game. On Tuesday and Thursday, Kimber takes daughter Melody to piano lessons, dashes home to check Jimmy's homework before Jackson heads out to the seminar he is giving for a work related project. Then there is the PTO obligation, all the church functions, book club, family dinners and that awful Saturday where they realize there are 3 birthday parties on the same day. Is it any wonder these people are cranky, complaining and taking headache medication on a regular basis?

Or maybe you are Kimber and Jackson. You're doing the best you can to enrich the lives of  your family and it is beginning to backfire in a major way.  So, what can you do?

Go fly a kite.

Grab a nap, take a breather or just don't do anything. You need to put the brakes on and just stop. I often wonder why we do this to ourselves. Why do we overschedule ourselves and everyone else until we are on the brink of collapse? Does it make us feel better? Are we keeping up with the Joneses? Are our kids better than the neighbors' because they are oboe-proficient?

Take a look at your schedule. I bet you are stretched so thin you're about to snap. Maybe you cannot get it all done and you end up with mediocrity as a result because there's simply too much going on. Did you ever wonder if your kids or spouse felt the same way?

I think we often feel guilty if we don't try to pack everything into our already-tight schedules. If we don't try improving our kids, then we aren't good parents. If we don't volunteer for every single project, then we are bad people. It is a vicious cycle that we just keep perpetuating. It is perfectly okay to dial it down just a little. I do not condone abandoning everything or the things that truly matter. Volunteering and church choir may be the things that give you heartwarming pleasure. You should keep those activities and consider stepping down from PTO and the bridge club. The same principles apply to your children. Let them be kids. Just plain ole kids that know how to find shapes in the clouds and love to finger paint. Nobody wants an overscheduled, stressed child.  Go ahead and eliminate some of the excess. My kids have ample down time and their imaginations are flourishing. They are well-rounded and less frazzled; thus improving family time as well.

Time management is an invaluable tool in our daily lives. This isn't really the time for multitasking but a period for reflection and deletion. Think about what brings the most happiness and fulfillment. Focus on those things and they will become more enjoyable. Delete the things that never put a smile on your face. You have the right to say, 'Thanks for asking, however, I can't fit it into my schedule now. Perhaps later.' Enjoy the free space you've made on your calendar.

 Controlling your time is as much about the hours on the clock as it is the value you receive from those same hours. Look over your schedule and see if there's room to improve it. You will feel like a whole new person.

I give thee permission.

Saturday, April 2, 2011


I try very hard to stay on top of it all.  I make a concerted effort to take care of the little things so they do not turn into big ones. Simple tasks like washing clothes every other day and tracking  receipts  keep them from piling up around my ears. Unfortunately, sometimes events happen and the best laid plans fall by the wayside.

Take my friend, Hammond, for example. We have been friends our whole adult lives. He has always been organized and well prepared, which might explain his sunny disposition and positive outlook on life.  Quickly, it all came crashing down around him. Hammond is employed full time in an industry that is commission-pay only. Because his pay can vary greatly he has to be viligent when it comes to his finances. His mother became very sick and within six weeks had passed away. The responsibility of taking care of his elderly father fell to him. He did such a good job taking care of everything and everyone that his own world came crashing down around him.  I called to check on him and I could hear the defeat in his voice "I'm looking around my house and it looks like a nightmare. Clothes and bills are scattered everywhere. The plants are dead and the kitchen smells weird. Or maybe it's the clothes that smell weird. I don't even know where to start." I offered to help and he agreed. I had one ground rule. I would not wash his personal laundry. We've been friends forever but I draw the line at socks and skivvies.

Bright and early the next morning I showed up with some strong coffee and we got started. We needed to prioritize and we needed to multitask. I suggested he handle the bills while I tackled the house. He took a clothes basket (it was the easiest to grab) and started putting papers in it. The poor guy was pulling mail out of his car, off of the counters, dresser, refrigerator and the floor. He needed a large work space so the dining room table became the desk for the day. Sorting quickly, he eliminated the sales papers, catalogs (they were outdated by now) and other junk mail.  He had been so busy helping his dad, he literally had several months worth of bills to sort through. I suggested this method: One by one, go through each bill. There is no need to open them just yet. Simply, sort through them and organize by type. Type X credit card in one pile, Type Y credit card in another, and so on. He ended up with multiple stacks including cable, utilities, and the like. Next, Hammond went through each individual stack looking for the most recent bill, tossing the rest. As a side note, he also found a rebate check and a birthday card with money in it. Now the stack was whittled down to a manageable pile. He took each one and assessed the damage. Some required a simple payment. Others required a phone call in which he explained the hardship and reason for the delay. In a few cases, the creditors deleted late fees and were very understanding. This sounds really simple and it was for the most part. However, it did take some time and patience on his part.

While Hammond tackled the money, I worked on the house. As the linens washed, I sprayed fabric freshener on the mattress, curtains, and sofa. I multitasked by spraying the tub cleaner and while it worked it's magic, I went on to something else. You can get a lot done in those 15 minutes you are waiting. Can you say 'vacuum'? I tossed out the dead plants and knocked the dust off the furniture. With the exception of the tub, there was no deep cleaning going on. The goal was only to get Hammond back on track, not get everything to a high shine. I removed all the science projects living in the refrigerator. Most of the containers got tossed out too. They were awful and we were scared of them. I wiped down the shelves and straightened up the kitchen a little.

Next, we decided to divide and conquer. While he did some grocery shopping (he knew better than I did what he wanted  to buy), I dropped off the dry cleaning  We were pretty much home free at this point.

 At some point we have all been knocked off course by one thing or another. The best anyone can do is recognize that it happened and try getting back on track as fast as possible.  Assess what matters most and begin there.  It could easily take a day or more to get caught up but at the end of the day, you will be right back on track.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Take Five #3 Weekend Prep

It is such a great feeling to come home on Friday and know you have total freedom until the alarm goes off Monday morning.  Hold it there, fella. Take a couple of minutes to get ready for the weekend and then you can relax.

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** Gather up all your work clothes and get them ready to drop off at the dry cleaners.

**2** Make sure your work shoes are clean and not in need of repair. If they need some attention, then bundle the errand and drop them off when you take in your dry cleaning.

**3** Get the week's receipts out of your wallet or briefcase.

**4** Repack your gym bag.

**5** While making dinner, come up with a quick meal for later. There is no need to spend all your down time in the kitchen.

**6** Quickly scan your main living areas and pick up everything that is out of place.

**7** Sort through the mail and dump the junk.

**8** Scan your calendar for upcoming events and plan accordingly.

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