Category Archives: Tips

3 Easy Tips to Create a Savings Plan You Will Stick To

savings plan Am I right when I say that most of us wish we had more money saved up for those rainy days?  If you are like J and I then you are saving for a specific goal in mind, like a new car, vacation or in our case, a down payment on our first house.

With 2014 rocking and rolling it’s time to really get started on those resolutions that we set, right?  If you’re like me, some of my resolutions involved saving more money.  I dreamed big and I want to make sure that I reach my goals.  Here are some tips to get off on the right foot and to make sure you create a savings plan you will stick to:

1) Set the magic number. Don’t be overzealous and chose a monthly savings amount that is half your take home pay.  Make sure that you can survive, comfortably if you are setting back an amount each month.  Take a look at your monthly bills and expenses to see where your money is going.  Then decide, as a team what amount can be put into savings.  If you find yourself wishing to put more aside each month then take a good hard look at your discretionary spending like eating out and see what you can cut down.

2) Pick where the money is going to go.  This might sound strange, but it’s important to know where your savings is going to go, as in – which account will the money be housed in.  There are many different options out there, but the key point is that you do not want it easily accessible.  With that said, you want to be able to reach your money within a few business days in case of a real emergency, but you don’t want the ability to make a few simple clicks of the mouse and clean out your hard earned savings account.  What worked for us was having our account at a separate bank then our day-to-day checking account.  That way if we need money, we have to make the effort of going to the bank with our savings and make a withdraw.  That extra step keeps us reminded of what we are working towards.

3) Set the plan in motion.  The final step in setting up a savings plan is getting it started.  Once you come up with the amount and the place the money will be housed then the next step is to pick a start date.  If you are in between pay periods then it might be best to wait until the next payday.  That way you can start with clean slate and have a positive start.

Also, I have found that we have the best success when we pull out our money for savings as soon as we receive our paychecks.  That way the money is out of sight and we are left the amount of money that we have budgeted for.  It helps eliminate the temptation to over spend.

 

20 Ways to Declutter and Clean Up Your Life

ways to declutter
Now with the new year fully rolling it’s time to get a handle on things, don’t you think?  I was sitting here just thinking how I function so much better when my house is clean.  I do not know about you, but every once in awhile the mood to deep clean sets in; and I feel like nothing in my life is going right until I get my house in order.

There are things you can do so that life does not pile up and you can keep everything smooth sailing.

1) When the mood strikes to clean stick the rule of 5.  In every room get rid of 5 items.  Throw away old magazines, remove items that do not belong in that room, or get rid of something that you haven’t used in ages.

2) File as you go.  Get a bill in the mail, then file it immediately.  Do not let bills and other important documents pile up on your table.  Go ahead and put them in their proper place when you get them.
Ways to De-Clutter 3) When cleaning your bedroom, always make the bed first.  It will look like a huge improvement and act as a shelf as you tidy up.

4) Go through your closet at least 4 times a year to get rid of clothes you no longer wear.  You can create a donation box in the basement or garage, but by cleaning it out multiple times a year you will keep the closet looking neater and be doing a good thing.

5) Fold your bed sheets together and then place them in a matching pillowcase.  Your sheet sets will be together and your linen closet will look so much nicer.  That way when your parents are visiting and need a towel you won’t be embarrassed.

6) Open your mail next to the trash can.  That way any unwanted pieces go straight to the trash and not onto your countertops.

7) Use plastic boxes, cubes, and other gathering places to organize.  Sure you may need all of those office supplies, but after awhile they start looking bad on top of your desk.  Use a coordinating canvas cube to gather all of your items then slide onto a bookshelf.

8) Do one small task a day so that it does not get overwhelming.  Sweep the kitchen floor one day a week, vacuum another, straighten up yet another day.  By dividing tasks to separate days you can conquer a lot easier.

9) Keep a jar on top of the dresser and where you place your keys to collect loose change.  If you are prone to carrying change in your pockets then having a collection spot where you come and where you get dressed helps from loose changing being all over the place.

10) upgrade to a universal remote.  You may have a remote for the TV, the DVD player, the surround sound, and even your cable box.  That’s a lot of remotes so get rid of the clutter by upgrading to one do-it-all remote.

11) Clean out the medicine cabinet. You may have duplicate boxes of the same, exact medicine or you may expired meds that need to be tossed.

12) Clean out the fridge once a week.  Trash old leftovers or the food that no one is planning on eating.  Check expiration dates and toss the ones that have gone bad.
Ways to DeClutter13) Be honest about those craft projects.  Have any unfinished projects laying around?  Well it’s time to be honest with yourself – are you ever going to get them done?  If the answer is no, toss and if the answer is yes, set a specific completion date.

14) When your donate box is full, take it to the car.  That way it is out of the house and easier for you to drop off.

15) Do the dishes each night.  Nothing feels better than coming into a clean kitchen each morning.

16) Set the timer for 10 minutes every other day to walk through the house to find items that are in the wrong place, no longer wanted, or old and needs to be trashed.

17) Take the trash out the moment the can is full and on your way grab the trash for bathrooms and bedrooms.

18) Wipe down the bathroom counter after brushing your teeth before bed.

19) Concentrate on one area at a time.  It’s easy to get side tracked by a different room, especially when you are putting things away.  Stay on the task at hand and finish one specific area.

20) Remember what is important.  Don’t toss items that hold a special place in your heart.  Just make sure that you find a special place for them.

How To Write A Personal Mission Statement

The definition of a mission statement is to give purpose or direction for a business.  It is the company’s meaning of existence.  A personal mission statement is just that, but for you, the individual.

Defining your personal mission statements will probably take several drafts.  And then after you have written a few drafts, write more.  Until it’s perfect.  It’s going to be frustrating.

If you are trying to remind yourself what you are all about then a mantra will point you in the right direction.  Especially in the online world of blogging, Youtube, Pinterest, Google Plus and so much more.  It is easy to get a split personality without even noticing.
define yourself
First things first on developing your personal mission statement – determine your values.  What do you believe in?  What are you most passionate about?  Think about keywords and phrases that stand out to you.  It’s time to brainstorm.

Here are a few that stand out to me:

Passion // Creative // Family // Making money count // Gaining knowledge // Fabulous

In the end there is no right or wrong way to write a personal mission statement.  Remember that it is an expression of who you are and how you want to present yourself to the world.

Be proud of what you have created.  Hang it on the wall and make it beautiful!

Time Management Tools: Pump Up Your Efficiency

time management

Today we are introducing the last post in the time management tools series.  You can probably tell from the title that we are going to work on amping up our efficiency levels.

You can read my previous post about time management here about getting yourself organized.  Now that you’ve set your priorities it’s time to amp up your efficiency.

One of the most important things to increasing your efficiency is knowing what you are good at.  Then doing something with the rest.   Delegate.  Delegate what you aren’t good at or do not have the skills for.

If you have a friend that is excellent at taking pictures then plan a day in the park so she can knock out your photos for you.  It might cost you a lunch for the favor, but she could get credit for the photos and you don’t have to suffer through them.  The one key part is that you have to be organized and know what pictures you want shot.

Fiverr is a great source for all things.  You can find someone to tweet your products to their followers, design a cover page images for your Facebook page, write a bio for you and all of these services are only $5.  Five bucks – that’s it.  It’s a pretty good deal if you ask me.  Do you not want to waste time in your down area?  Then search Fiverr and I bet you can find someone to do it for you.

Another great way to pump up your efficiency is to setup your workspace to work for you, not against you.  Know what type of environment you work best in. Quiet?  Soft music in the background?  Alone?  With others?  Then that’s what you should surround yourself with.  Have a clean space that you can spread out on.  Make sure you have all the tools you are going to need.  Being good at this point requires that you plan your day.  That’s where the last part in the series comes into play.  You have to be organized and know what you want to get done.

My favorite part of developing time management tools is by rewarding yourself when you save time.  Even it’s just a pat on the back or a piece of your favorite candy.  A little recognition goes a long way.  When you save yourself time you gain so much more.

Time Management Tools: Get Organized

time management
Welcome back to the time management tools series.  We are developing skills to become masters of our time.  So that we can do more, successfully.  We’ve talked about setting a value to your time so that you can do more in your day, which you can read about here.

If you have probably heard the next advice before, but it shouldn’t be taken lightly.  It’s the stepping stone to developing your time management tools.  Please do not skip this next step: set priorities.

If you do not know what task is the most important then you will waste your time.  As mentioned in our previous post – assign a value to each activity that you want to get done.  By establishing a value to each task then you know which one to tackle first and which one can wait.

When you have a full to-do list people tend to put their faces down and get to work.  Majority of people do not look up to see which tasks can be done quickly, which ones are more important.  So you have tendency to get side tracked by the minute stuff.

By taking a few minutes each day to evaluate your activities then you make a powerful to-do list.

By creating a to-do list you are making a map for your day that you can follow.  Try to pick at least three things that you want to get done each day.  Tackle them and then move on to the lesser important tasks.  If you try to spread yourself too thin with too many tasks then you won’t actually get anything fully completed.

Three tasks.  That’s manageable and not overwhelming.  If you would like to read the first post in our series, take a look at it here.

Time Management Tools: So You Can Do More

time managementDeveloping time management tools are key in your professional life, personal life, and just to keep your sanity in the crazy of it all.

Almost everyone has felt at some point that there wasn’t enough time to get it all done.  If only you could have just 2 more hours in your day.  You could get your to-do list done, have more time to spend with family, cook more homemade meals, and sleep the recommended eight hours a night.

However learning time management tools will help you achieve more in just 24 hours. The first thing you have to do is give your time a monetary value.  They say time is priceless, invaluable if you will.  But if you do not know how much your time is worth then it is easy to let the unimportant tasks consume your day.  The value can be whatever you want or feel is appropriate.  For me, my day job bills my time out at $100 per hour.  Now that might be way too much for my personal time, but that’s what I am use to so that is what I use.

After you have valued your time then decide how much you are willing to “pay” for each activity that you want to do.  Is hand wrapping Christmas gifts worth an hour of your time over putting everything in a bag with tissue or paying someone $5 to wrap the gift for you.  Now do not get me wrong, I love living a frugal life.  I like to save my money and spend it wisely.  However, the time I could be wrapping gifts is time I could be spending writing a freelance article that will pay me money.  That’s how you have to look at your time.

I tend to work on merelynne.com during the evenings, after J has gone to bed and it’s just me with the two pups sitting downstairs.  For me that time of day is my discounted rate.  I can’t do too many other activities at 10pm.  J is in bed, most businesses are closed, and my friends are at home with their families.  Therefore, it’s perfect to spend an hour or two pouring over articles to learn how to grow my little blog.

Next, I work a day job from 8-5 so that time is pretty valuable.  Because if I am taking off work to do something else than I am missing out on my pay.  This activity that requires to be done between 8-5 better be worth it.  It takes a lot for me to miss out on actual money.

Finally, early mornings are the worst for me.  I am not a morning person. At. All.  I despise the mornings.  I mean the idea of getting up to go to the gym early in the morning is similar to going to get a root canal.  It’s just not worth it.  That means that if I am having to get up before the sun rise then it better be one of the most important tasks.

Driving to see my family is one thing I will get up early for.  Taking the dogs to vet.  Spending time with J.  You may notice a trend here.  Morning tasks are usually strictly saved for family.

Time management tools are important to have.  When you value your time and then value your tasks you will see what is important and what can be done at another time.  Next up on the time management series we are going to talk about getting organized.  If you’re just joining in on the time management tools series then you can read the first post here to learn all about it.

Time Management Tools Series

time management tools

Welcome to my series on developing time management tools.

I’ve been tossing around this idea for the past few weeks to talk about time management tools.  Not just talk about it, but also share what I’ve learned from trial and error, from others, and from all the books I’ve read.  I’ve mentioned here how I love to read books that make life easier.  Developing time management tools will make your life so much easier and you will be so much more productive.

Now for a little confession, you see time management is a touchy subject for me.  I haven’t always been good at it.  I can still hear my Dad’s voice in my head saying “You are burning the candles at both end.  You are taking on too much.”  Yet, I would never take his advice.  In the end, I would wind up sick and exhausted.  In high school I would plan in one day what should have probably been done in two.  Just because I hate missing out and I want to get every memory that I could.

As I’ve gotten older I still hate missing out, but have learned how to be better at time management.  That way I can take on a lot, still have fun, and get things done without getting myself sick.  It’s a pretty good feeling to know that you have a lot on your plate and have it all under control.  I guess I thrive in those situations or get something weird out of them.  I am not sure which, but my brain is hard-wired to be busy.

Sitting still was never fun for me.  Ever.

In this series I am hoping to share some time management tools that can help you do more and be more successful.   I plan on sharing tips so you can get organized, do more, and boost your efficiency.  Can’t wait to get this party started!

Advice To My 21 Year Old Self

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Older and wiser seem to be true with each year that passes.  I can look back on my years in high school, college, in the graduate degree program with fondness.  Each section of my life is better than the last, and for that I am happy.

I’ve written a post about going back to college and what I would do differently, which you can read that here and I’ve written a letter to incoming college freshmen, which is here.  But there are so many facets to that time of your life that maybe we should just keep it simple with the advice.

Here is what I would love to tell my 21 year old self:

1) take risks
2) go to Taco Bell at 3am
3) say yes more to adventures
4) love yourself
5) be your biggest fan because your professors, bosses and sometimes even friends won’t
6) wear better shoes, your future feet will thank you for it
7) start running, it’s harder to get in the habit when you work full time
8) don’t get wrapped up in the small stuff, if you won’t remember it in 5 years then don’t stress
9) intern more, get more experience in a variety of fields
10) tell your parents you love them every chance you get

Cheers!

10 Tips To Start Your Day Off Right

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I love advice from others, but sometimes you just have to learn things the hard way.  Most of the time when it comes to sleeping, or not sleeping enough, you come across ideas that tend to stick out.  At this point in my life with everything I am striving for, such as working hard to start a career, having this lovely blog that I post on, being married, loving two dogs unconditionally, and having a passion for DIY projects it’s hard to get enough sleep.

But the biggest tip I ever received was never to get more sleep, but it was to start your day off right.  So, here are my 10 tips to start your day off right:

1) wait to check your email
2) give yourself time to decompress in the morning
3) plan the night before – what is the biggest thing you have to get done tomorrow?
4) know what you are going to wear before you get out of bed
5) pack your lunch the night before – saves money and stress of having to do it before you leave
6) eat breakfast
7) take care of urgent tasks as soon as you get to the office
8) pick 3 things to get done for the day whether it be work related or personal – what will you be the most upset with if it doesn’t get done?
9) say good morning to your coworkers – it won’t kill you to be nice and it might be recipricated
10) leave in plenty of time to get to work on time

Cheers!

What I Would Do Differently As A College Student

In college you have friends, professors, advisors and mentors that you follow and look up to.  With all of that help and guidance it’s hard to say that you ‘missed’ anything.  But for me there a few things that I wish I could have done differently.  Now that I am older and maybe a little wiser I would like to pass down that infinite wisdom to other college students.  I wrote a letter to incoming freshmen a few months ago, but there are always new areas to learn from.

First, take more pictures.  Back in my day I didn’t start college off with some fancy iPhone that could snap video and pictures with a click of a button.  Nope, I had to carry around a digital camera in my clutch.  Sometimes that oversized wristlet did not go with my outfit and I wasn’t about to leave my ID, money or phone at home so the camera was left behind.  Man, if I could go back to some of my favorite memories and just have a camera in my hands – that would be awesome!  I would love to have documentation of those crazy, awesome, never happening again moments.  Mainly for proof that it actually happened and then secondly so that I don’t forget 30 years from now.

Second, intern more.  I had one real intern throughout college.  It was for a local advertising firm.  I liked it just fine.  It was not what I dreamed of, which is probably why I am not pursuing advertising today.  I learned the hard way, real fast about office politics and why Ms. Big Client’s kid got all of the good assignments even though they were a complete screw up and had no idea what responsibility was.  While I sat at the front desk answering calls and designing the boss’ personal Christmas party invite.

If I could go back, I would have found an internship each semester to do and possibly a second one during the summer months.  I would have not worked so much at a job I no longer have so that I could have experienced more in fields I was interested in.  I could have built my resume to be pretty strong and made a lot of connections in the real world.

That’s it.  Two simple pieces of advice for today’s college students.  Read it, learn it, and then go do it.  Don’t regret your actions so that you can not move forward, but simply learn from others so that you can better yourself.

Cheers!