Works 4 Me Wednesday: Time Management
Since giving birth to 2 amazing babies I've heard people make comments to me to the effect of... "You amaze me" or "How do you do it all?" I thought hard about this question recently as someone once again put me on some pedestal of super mom. I assure you all, I AM NOT SUPERMOM. You wouldn't believe some of the feelings of defeat and stress I've had recently. But in thinking about how I really do "get it all done" I was able to come up with some time management tools I regularly employ that I can sure with all of you.
* I am a very routine person.
For some people this is "boring." For me it is what makes it possible to accomplish "it all." I wake up at relatively the same time each day. I make and eat meals at the same times. Naptime for my children is the same time each day. And everyone has a bedtime here too. It's what helps me schedule things not only on paper but also in my head. It helps me to know how much "free" time I have to accomplish tasks and not over schedule myself.
*I don't sit.
I'm serious. I don't sit down unless I am driving or eating. As a teacher I am used to being on my feet all day. But, when I do get home each day I don't sit down. As long as I keep moving and remaining standing I am way more productive than sitting.
For some people multi-tasking is not a time saver because they beome side tracked and lose focus. For me it is essential. While making dinner I always make sure to wash dishes as I go. I drop a load of laundry in the washer or dryer while making dinner too. While on the phone I carry a dust rag and bottle of Pledge with me almost always. Or you might fiind me folding a load of laundry too. As I go from one room to another I check to see if there is something I can carry along with me to put away.
*Small doses of Tv.
A few months back we canceled our cable tv service at our home. I haven't missed it for one minute. Rarely do I find I have time to watch tv and frankly, rarely do I feel there is anything on the tv that I really want to see. I use my time in more productive ways. There are moments when I do curl up to watch a movie with my hubby (we have movie date night about once a week), but regular tv vegging is rare in this house.
I am a LIST MAKER! I keep a list for work, a list for home, a grocery list, an errand running list, a menu, etc. I have a list for most everything in my life. It helps me to stay focused on what needs done and prioritize.
My co-workers will say I am not bossy, I just know how to delegate. It's true! When a parent of a student in my classroom asks to come and help or says they can help at home I absolutely take their help! When my hubby asks what he can do, I give him my list of chores to accomplish(see above-lol). I have our children help with loading the washer and unloading the dryer. I let my son feed the pets. I try to share responsibilities whenever I can.
We all have the same number of hours in a day. It's all in how you use them. =) This is what works for me.
Works 4 Me Wednesday: Christmas Cash
It snuck up on me again this year. Christmas! It's October and I am already in high gear trying to put together my full Christmas list and all the trimmings. But honestly, I already have put aside about 50% of my Christmas shopping.
Each January I begin my Christmas shopping with an empty giant rubbermaid container in my basement (in a closet). As I find great deals on items or see unique, one of a kind items I know I won't find again (think vacations and little hole in the wall shops you might stumble upon) I place them in this basket with a note for who the recipient might be. This goes on and on throughout the year. Sometime around October I begin to really get serious. I make a full Christmas list with all the people I will need to buy items for. I take items out of the rubbermaid container and write little notes about what I already have beside the people's names who I already have gifts for. If I totally complete someone's gift I check off their name. (I watch for items I can use Kohl's cash on, gift certificates, coupons, etc throughout the year.)
Once I've gone through my rubbermaid box I can scrutinize the list and see who is left to buy for and what items might be needed to supplement. (I LOVE to put together themed gifts!) Then it's time to head over to my Discover card account online. Throughout the year mty husband and I make about 90% of our purchases using our Discover card. We pay it off EACH AND EVERY month! (We've NEVER carried a credit card balance.) In October we can then cash in our Discover rewards for gift cards to retailers. I like redeeming them for gift cards first because you can usually redeem $40 and get a $50 gift card. Who doesn't like a little something for nothing???
If we still have people left on our list that a gift card just won't do... we then redeem any other reward points for a Discover Money Card (or you can request a check). We use this to purchase any remaining gifts we need to get.
Just as an example... This year we had $350 in Discover points to redeem. (1% back on some purchases, and between 2-5% back on other purchases!) We were able to knock off almost every last item on our list with this amount.
I have a few more items left to get (small things...) but I have made a HUGE dent in our Christmas list and it's only October. This leaves a lot of time in Decemeber for Christmas festivities, caroling, cookie baking, and all that fun without the stress of Christmas shopping at the last minute to find that "perfect" gift.
I certainly don't think using credit card rewards is the best practice for everyone. But if you can pay off the bill every month and still stick to your budget it is a great way to earn some free Christmas presents! It's what works for me.
This week brought with it an interesting proposition for me. For the past 3 months I have gone over on my cell phone bill and not just by a few bucks. I have gone over by like $20 each month (hanging head in shame). So, I could pretend that I wasn't going to let it happen again and that I would be back to my $45/month plan, but chances are I was going to go over again. My needs have changed. I took on the role of Thirty One consultant (shameless plug: www.mythirtyone.com/MelanieQuickel) and with that came a lot more texting and phone calls. With a bit of a bumped up income from this side business I decided I needed to re-invest a few dollars into my cell phone plan. For $5 extra dollars a month I was able to double my call minutes and my text allotment. I think my bases are covered now! (I could have gone with a "smart phone" and a data plan.. but did i really need that???) Here are a few things you'll want to keep in mind when considering your own cell phone bill:
*Do I really NEED the plan I am paying for? Is it worth $100/month to be able to check Facebook on the go?
*Check your cell phone bills for the past 3 months. Are you consistently over or under your plan's minutes or texts? If so, time for a change.
*Are you paying for insurance, road side assistance, or visual voicemail? Do you really NEED these items?
*Switch Carriers. By switching carriers to "Boost" this past month i was able to double my calling minutes and my texting plan for just $5 more. A smaller carrier or the "competition" may be able to give you a better deal.
*Consider a pre-paid phone. These have come a long way and offer a lower bill than a monthly contract.
Overall, you have to decide what is best for you when it comes to a cell phone plan. Every family's needs are different. But there's no reason why those needs have to cost a fortune.
Works 4 Me Wednesday: Home Improvements
For as long as I can remember my husband and I have had a running to-do list on the side of our fridge. This list consists of all the house projects we would like to tackle in the near future (we update the list often and try to keep it to the projects we can complete within the year). The list is often re-written, items crossed out, items added to, and multiple different edits are made throughout the year. Beside each item we put an approximate cost of how much we think the repair or update will cost.
As we see a little extra income come in, an unforseen bonus, a reduction in a bill, Christmas money, or we save somewhere else in our monthly budget we take a look at the list. We find a project that we can tackle with the money we have and we work to complete it. Sometimes this project may take just a few hours (as simple as update the baskets/storage containers in the laundry room). Other times it can take weeks or months. (Our basement project has taken over a year thanks to the flood of 2011 and is FINALLY done!!!! Can you tell how excited I am about this?)
Our house is one of the possessions both my hubby and I work so hard to keep looking nice. We see our house as a reflection of who we are and we LOVE to entertain. We want it to be an inviting, welcome place for family, friends, and visitors. By keeping a realistic list of improvements we want to make we have set goals and kept goals. We have added much value to our investment. But perhaps the greatest reason we keep our list running and continue to improve upon what we have is that in doing so we have turned our house into more of a home.
I don't forsee "the list" every stopping. But at least by keeping it visible we are always working towards saving a little here or there to tackle that "next project." And there is nothing quite like the satisfaction that comes with crossing something off the list. There is pride in knowing we saved, we paid in cash, we worked hard to make it happen, and we can fully enjoy it!