Easy Ways to Save Money this Year

If saving money is on your list of resolutions for 2013, you are not alone! Unfortunately, in these challenging economic times, it can be easier said than done. However, taking small daily steps now can really add up by the end of the year. Here are some easy ways to start:

Nix the ATM: We all know that the ATM machine is a wonderful convenience. But remember that every time you use an ATM that is not connected with your actual bank, you could be charged anywhere from $2.50 to $5.00 to access your own money! That really adds up over the course of a year. You may want to use ATM finder apps, bank specific apps or Foursquare to find banks in your area. Or go to the drug store, buy something like a pack of gum, then get cash as well.

Stop Auto-Spending: Items that are automatically debited from your account can really add up. You may even be continually paying for things that you no longer need or use. Magazine and newspaper subscriptions are a good example. Go through your bank statement and discontinue any auto payments that no longer serve you.

Save on Your Phone Bill: These days, many people are cancelling their traditional landline. There are services out there that can really save you money, such as Ooma, where you pay $99. and get free phone service for life! Check your cell phone bill as well. If your plan is more than a couple of years old, often there are better deals out there. Check with BillShrink.com and find out where the best deals are.

Maximize Savings: If you have already saved the recommended 3-6 months of cash for emergencies, good for you! Continue to save, and consider moving some of that money to an investment with a high yield of return.

Simplify Your TV Viewing: Its true, most of us cannot live without basic cable. But do you need all the extra channels, Netflix, and Hulu Plus? Consider cancelling all but one service and see how it works for you.

Monitor Spending: There are a lot of great tools out there to help you track your spending. One great site to check out is Mint.com.

Finding Peace During the Holidays

We all think of the holidays as a time to relax, and spend special moments with our loved ones. Unfortunately, it often does not work out that way! The holidays can also be a time of stress, worry and mixed feelings. Add to it the recent tragic events in Connecticut, and we can be left feeling downright confused and disillusioned.

So how can we get our peace and joy back? Here are some tips to make your holidays a joyful experience:

Focus on What is Important

If we all take a deep breath and focus on what is most important to us, most of us will conclude it is about being with our loved ones, and sharing special moments. Material gifts, or whether the turkey comes out just right are not that important in the big scheme of things!

Get Creative

If your holiday shopping isn’t done, try something different! Give someone a memorable experience instead of a physical gift. Offer to take someone for a picnic on the beach, to spend a day at the park, or take them on an adventure. Those memories will last far longer than what can be given in a box.

Appreciate the Little Things

Happiness is in appreciating the small details of life. If you only allow yourself to be happy after you have accomplished a big goal, you will be missing a lot of valuable moments. Find things you can appreciate and be happy now. Appreciate the sunshine, your health, a smile on your loved ones face. If you turn this into a habit, you will find things to be happy every day.

Give Away Joy

If you focus on giving joy to others, you will find that you are happier too! You will see their excitement and happiness, which will flow back to you. The spirit of giving is also contagious! When you show kindness to others, it inspires them to do the same.

Give it a Rest

Overdoing anything leads to burn out and stress. As hard as it is during this busy time of year, make a concerted effort to slow down. Take scheduled breaks, go for a walk, watch a movie or read a great book. Taking that little break will help revitalize you and keep you calm during what can be a demanding time of year.





Giving Back During the Holidays

The holidays are the perfect time to help those less fortunate than ourselves. Giving back not only helps others, it makes you feel good! If you are inspired to make a difference in someone else’s life this holiday season, here are a few ideas:

1. Adopt a Family: Many charities, like the The Salvation Army have an Adopt-A-Family program during the holidays. When you sign up, you will be matched with a financially struggling family. You can shop for the family, and deliver their gifts on Christmas morning! How fun would it be to see their happy faces?

2. Donate a Tree to Our Troops: The Christmas Spirit Foundation will allow you to send a Christmas tree to our troops who cannot be home for Christmas. All you have to do is to go to a participating tree lot and purchase a tree. It will be sent via Federal Express overseas to our troops! For more information go to Trees for Troops!

3. Clean Your Clutter and Donate It! This is a win-win situation. Clean out your closet for the New Year. Remember it is safe to assume that if you have not worn an item in the past year, you likely are not going to wear it again. Donate your gently used items to the The Salvation Army. What no longer works for you can be a real treasure to someone in need.

4. Volunteer at a Soup Kitchen: There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the faces of the people you help and having an exchange with them. When you volunteer at a soup kitchen, you will have the opportunity to prepare a hot meal for the homeless, and get to serve it them! This will be the first meal many of these people have had in many days. Seeing their faces of gratitude is one of the most rewarding things ever. Go to DoSomething.org and find a soup kitchen near you.

5. Make Greeting Cards for Hospitalized Children: Get out your watercolors, glitter and stickers! Make some fun colorful cards with a heart felt message inside for children that have to spend their holidays in the hospital. Any hospital welcomes this during the holidays. Or contact Cards for Hospitalized Kids for guidance.



Holiday Budgeting Tips

The holiday season is officially here, and that means holiday shopping. It is possible indulge your loved one with the perfect gift and not break the bank! Here are some tips to keep you on track:

Set a Realistic Budget: Before you start shopping, determine how much you have available to spend. Also, don’t forget to include non-gift related items such as gift-wrap, decorations and travel expenses.

Examine Your Gift List: Make sure that your list includes everyone important in your life, without over doing it. Does your mailman or hairdresser really need a gift when a heart felt note would suffice?

Shop for the Best Price: Even if you intend to go to the mall, use the internet to shop for the best price. Sites like pricegrabber.com or nextag.com are great for this.

Don’t Go into Debt: If at all possible, use cash for your purchases. Using cash helps you to better track your spending. If you do use a credit card, experts suggest never spending more than you can pay off in one month.

Always Save Your Receipts: The day after Christmas, retailers are flooded with returns. Remember that whether an item is defective, or the wrong size, an unreturnable item means a waste of money!

Organizing Your Closet for the Change of Seasons

The change of seasons is a great time to reorganize your closet. Having your clothes organized makes getting ready in the mornings a snap and saves you time and frustration! Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Assess What Stays and What Goes: Check your wardrobe for stained or worn items, and anything that is seriously out of fashion. Also, if you have not worn an item within two years, it is likely you will never wear it and it should be discarded. Be sure to donate any useable items to the Goodwill or other local charity.

2. Store Seasonable Items. Store all summer dresses, linen pants, swimsuits, etc. on the top shelves of your closet. If you don’t have room to do this, you can store your clothing in bins and stack them in another room, or even the garage. There are also storage bins that are created to go under your bed, which is a great use of space!

3. Arrange Items by Type. For ease in finding items, keep all shirts, pants and sweaters grouped together. The same holds true for accessories. Keep all scarves, handbags and shoes in grouped in the same place.

4. Use Racks or Hooks. There are a lot of tools out there that can really make your life easier! Use racks to organize your hats and purses for instance. Hooks can be used to hang your scarves, and tie racks can keep ties all together and wrinkle free.

5. Separate Winter Shoes. Use bins or racks to separate all of your cold weather shoes and rain boots from your dress shoes. It’s a great idea to keep your winter rain boots in a bin by your front door for easy access.

The Process of Staying Organized

As challenging as getting organized can be, staying organized is the hard part, and needs to be viewed as a daily discipline. So often people make a monumental effort to get organized, only to have their busy lives take over and before you know it, the mess and clutter is back!

Once you have achieved order in your life, it is important to take these simple steps to maintain what you have worked so hard for:

Look at Your Daily Habits. What are things that you do everyday that contribute to disorganization? Are you so rushed that you don’t have time to hang up your clothes? Or when you come home from work is everything dumped on the kitchen counter (keys, glasses, briefcase, and phone)? Be aware how a simple change in your daily actions can stop disorganization before it starts. Having a designated place to put your phone and keys when you walk in the door can make a huge difference, or taking that extra couple of minutes to hang up your clothes in the evening. It may take a bit more mindfulness as you go through your day, but soon it will become a habit.

Make Space in Your Schedule for a Daily Pick Up. Set aside a little time in your day to keep up with daily organization. Maybe it is 15 minutes before you leave for work, or when you get home. Pick up the daily clutter that has accumulated; wipe down the counters, clear the kitchen sink. This daily maintenance will do wonders for keeping order in your home.

Get Help When You Need It. If you are unable to keep up, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Whether you need to enlist the help of a mother’s helper, housekeeper or professional organizer, take action when needed. The sooner you get some help the better.

Be Realistic. Many of us hold ourselves to unreasonably high standards. Women often fall into this, and feel that they must have a perfectly clean and organized house, all while raising children and working full time. Make sure you do not set yourself up for failure and set reasonable goals for yourself!

Make a Family Commitment. Rally the support of your family to help. Everyone benefits from living in a clean, organized space! When everyone does their part, your home stays organized and you just may find some extra time in your day to do something you enjoy!

Simplifying the Holidays

Once Halloween is here, the next two months can feel like a blur. Are you ready for the holidays? For many of us, the holidays are a stressful time of year, and become more about getting it all done, than truly enjoying what the season is about. However, with a little advanced planning and the proper attitude, the holidays can truly be a fun and magical time for you and your family. Here are a few tips to make it happen:

1. Adjust Your Expectations: Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. We put ourselves under immense pressure to set the perfect Thanksgiving table, or give the ultimate gift. This does nothing but wear us out before we begin! Consider your priorities this holiday season, and decide what things are really important to you. This can include cherished family rituals, or attending a holiday event. Let the less important details go and focus on your priorities first.

2. Create a Master To-Do List: Start off the holiday season by creating a master to-do list, which includes everything that needs to be done. This list can include anything from gifts to shop for, parties to attend, and any other special holiday activities. Set yourself a deadline or due date for each item to help keep yourself on track.

3. Create a Holiday Command Center: Somewhere in your home, create a holiday command center. In this space, you will include all your wrapping paper, greeting cards, lists, a phone, computer and an address book for instance. Keeping everything holiday related in one central area helps you to stay organized, and also saves time. How often do you start wrapping a gift only to realize your cant find the scissors or tape?

4. Think Ahead: The more prep work you can do ahead of time the smoother your holiday season will be. Wrap your gifts as you purchase them rather than on Christmas Eve! In planning ahead, don’t forget your kitchen. Clear out the clutter in your pantry and refrigerator, and slowly start assembling special holiday ingredients that you know you will be using. If you have an extra hour on Sunday, make a batch of refrigerator cookies. Then when unexpected guests come by all you have to do is pop them in the oven.

5. Out With the Old, In With the New:  As you unpack your holiday decorations, discard anything that is worn, or in ill repair. As you set up your wrapping station, throw away old paper scraps and tangled ribbon. This will not only clear your space, it will show you what you need to purchase this holiday season. It’s a good idea to keep a running list of items that you will need as you do this, so you will be ready to shop when the time comes.





Most of us have a problem keeping our offices clear of clutter and staying organized. Our daily tasks take priority, and soon our desks are a disorganized mess of things that need to be filed, need our immediate attention, and everything in between.

We all know that when your office is organized, your mind is clear to focus on the tasks at hand, and you are not spending critical time shuffling through the mess to find what you need.

With a few quick adjustments, you can make a big dent in organizing your office and enhancing your surroundings at the same time! Here are some key tips:

Store Documents that You Must Keep: We all have documents that are too important to discard, but you don’t need to refer to them very often (think signed contracts, tax returns and past bank statements). Box these documents up and store them. One great way to do this is to purchase different colored boxes, which are available at office supply stores. Use a different color for each subject matter, such as taxes in red, contracts in blue, and so on. Then when you need to refer to one of these documents, you will know precisely which box to go to.

Keep Your Desk Clear: While it would be nice to go “paperless,” the reality is we have important documents and papers that we need to refer to on a daily basis. Nothing says clutter like assorted paperwork strewn across your desk! A perfect solution for this is to have trays on your desk for different categories of paperwork. You could have one for things that require your immediate attention, back burner projects, and incoming and outgoing correspondence, for instance.

Keep Up with Your Filing: Filing is something that we all dread, and let’s face it, it is low on the list of priorities. When filing gets out of control however, chaos can result! There are great desktop sorters available where you place your papers to be filed throughout the day. When the time comes to do your filing, documents are presorted and the process goes much quicker!

Find Dedicated Places for Odds and Ends. Find a home for items that you need regularly, such as your phone charger, Ipad or appointment book. Decorative storage boxes can be a great solution here, and they are often available in various colors and finishes, so they look stylish sitting on a bookshelf or side table.

Simple Ways to Streamline your Day

Do you hit the ground running when you wake up? Are you moving hurriedly through your day from the moment your alarm goes off until you collapse in bed at night? You are not alone! Here are some easy ways to streamline your day and hopefully restore a little more calm to your life!

1. Don’t Answer Emails in the Morning. Many of us check our email and facebook page right when we wake up. In order to control your time and your stress level, you need to take charge of your electronic communications, rather than being a slave to them. Designate a specific time during the day to read through your emails and respond. You may need more than one check in period throughout the day, but the key is to designate a set period of time and stick to it.

2. Use a Daily Planner. If you do not already use a daily planner, you should give it a try! Also, many phones have apps that can help organize your day, create to-do lists, and keep track of daily reminders. One great app is called reQuall, which works on most commonly used cell phones.

3. Make Time Spent Waiting Productive. Whether you are sitting in traffic, or waiting to pick up a child from school, that down time can be extremely productive if used correctly! You could use this time to brainstorm, make to-do lists, or plan meals for the week ahead.

4. Plan Your Grocery Shopping. We all have to run to the store for a quick item here and there, but to minimize this time drain plan for one big shopping trip per week. Make a list and pick a time when the store is least crowded, like first thing in the morning. A little advanced planning can save you hours a week and also saves gas from running back and forth to the store.

5. Start the Night Before. To streamline your mornings, start your day the night before. Make the kids lunches, and plan their outfits (and yours). Pack your briefcase and have the coffee pot ready to go. Its amazing how these little adjustments save time and stress!



Getting Organized for Back to School


It is hard to believe, but it is almost time for the kids to go back to school. When school starts, parents are often caught off guard and despite their best efforts, the first day of school feels stressful and a bit chaotic.

This year, start the year off on a calm and organized note. As a parent, if you approach the shift in routine in an organized fashion you will not only reduce your stress, but your child’s stress as well.

Here are a few tips to start the school year off right:

Start Shifting Their Schedule: During summer, kids are usually allowed to stay up late, and sleep later in the morning. Several weeks before the start of school, start to gradually shift their schedule towards going to bed early and getting up early. By the time school starts, your children will be adjusted to the new school schedule, and their morning wake up call will be infinitely more pleasant for all concerned.

Clean Up: The beginning of the school year is the perfect time for a fresh start. Go through your child’s clothes, and separate out anything that does not fit, or is bad repair. Clean their rooms, and remove all unnecessary clutter, particularly in their study area.

School Supplies: Sit down with your child and make a list of all the supplies they will need to start school. This could include everything from socks to paper. There are a lot of sales on these items this time of year, so stock up on things you will use throughout the school year as well.

Create a Master Calendar: Things can get hectic when school starts, and usually everyone’s schedules are different. Create a master calendar for the family, so that so everyone can see each other’s schedules. It’s a great idea to create an area in your home or office that includes the master calendar, and an area for organizing papers. A filing bin is perfect for this, where your children can leave their graded homework and notices brought home from school. An outgoing bin can collect items to return to school like assignments and signed documents.

What’s for Lunch? Make sure that you are prepared for school day lunches ahead of time. Stock up on everything you will need at least for the first week, so you don’t find yourself running to the store at 9:00 at night for sandwich bread. Stock up on items that you use daily when they are on sale, like bottled water, napkins, snacks and juice boxes, for instance.

Plan the Night Before: Even with the best laid plans, mornings can be hectic. Do what you can the night before to ease the pressure such as laying out your children’s clothes, and preparing lunches ahead of time.

Be Positive: Kids may complain about going back to school but in reality, they are often looking forward to it. Your positive attitude will go a long way towards your children starting their school year off right.