Archive for June, 2012

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5 tips to help you get out the door and on the road to vacation

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It’s vacation time of year! Many people are getting packed up and ready to go someplace for a little rest and relaxation. However, if your family is anything like ours, the actual getting out of the house and on the way part is sometimes easier said than done.

I’m more of a “let’s get this show on the road” kind of person, and my husband is more, um…”methodical” when it comes to getting on the road, and that can make for some interesting preparations. However, over the years, we’ve gradually found a system that helps us meet my need for speed, and his need to check everything twice (or 3 times, or 20…).

These are some of the things we’ve found helpful:

1. Create a re-usable task list (store it in your phone) - A list of tasks that need to be done the night before, and the morning of departure helps keep us on track, and we don’t have to recreate it each year. Be sure to include, “turn off the water to the washer”.  Just trust me on that one.

2. Load the things that can be safely kept in the car the night before - While it’s not a great idea to leave everything you own in the car all night, we go ahead and put bulky items such as beach chairs and fishing poles in the car.

3. Do as much food preparation as possible the night before - Decide what needs to go in the cooler and make sure everything fits. I even put all the cooler items on the same shelf in the refrigerator so I can just grab them and go. It may also be helpful to bag up car snacks, and pack the non-refrigerated items so they’re ready to go out the door.

4. Banish the habit of, “We’ll do it on the way out…” - Sometimes we have to push ourselves when it’s late and we’re still packing, but things go much more smoothly when we gas up the car and get cash the day before we leave.

5. Inspect each family member’s version of, “I’m packed.” - Our kids are older, and they can pack their own bags, but it’s very helpful to visualize their handiwork the night before we leave because it seems, “packed” can mean everything from, “I thought about what I want to take”, to, “Here’s my 5 bags, where should I put them?” Looking at what they’re taking has been helpful in avoiding surprises.

Do you have any hints about getting up and out of the house to get on the road to vacation? Do share!

Mobile banking tames chaos

Categories: Productivity

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Mobile banking is one of my favorite ways to tame the disorder in my life.

To no one’s surprise, as my kids have gotten older I’ve found myself handing money out more frequently. As you might imagine, distributing money on the fly can sometimes create havoc in the ol’ checking account balance as we can lose track of our balance when we’re out and about.

When I was growing up, if I was lucky, my mother or father would hand me a $20 before I went somewhere, but these days, our kids aren’t always with us when they need money. This becomes especially significant when they first start driving and may have spent inadvertently spent their gas money on lunch or clothes (Let’s just say I’ve heard *ahem* of other people’s kids doing stuff like that) and they need to get home from somewhere.

Both of these describe instances can be remedied with a touch of my smart phone. Since my bank has a mobile banking app, I can easily check my bank balance, and if one of my kids needs money or it’s time to pay them their allowance, I can do it, no matter where I am. It’s nice not to have to worry about getting to an ATM or a computer,

Another mobile banking benefit some banks have is mobile deposit. We have one account where you can deposit checks by scanner with a desktop computer, or we can even take a picture of the check with a smart phone and deposit them that way. That nifty feature has saved me lots of trips to the bank, and my older kids can quickly deposit checks from work and babysitting.

If you have a smart phone, I highly encourage you to check with your bank about any mobile banking features they offer. My experience has been that it’s safe, convenient and easy to learn, but alas it hasn’t solved the problem of not enough money.

Do you save time by doing your banking on a smart phone? Tell us about it!

College dorm shopping

Categories: Organization, Productivity

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My daughter recently graduated from high school, and, like many new grads, she’s off to college in the fall. (Eek! I will have a kid in college in just a few short weeks. OK, it’s 11 short weeks, but still…college!)

Since this is our oldest, we’ve been busy trying to learn about everything and prepare for what lies ahead. While the preparation is ultimately her responsibility, we still have lots of things to learn as parents. So far, the biggest lesson for us has been that our own college experiences aren’t really applicable to anything.

I spent a little time shaking my theoretical stick at what goes into college admissions and preparations these days, but even though I work at a college, I’ve come to learn that many things are just different for today’s students even when something was “good enough for me”.

Most things are done online, social media is key to getting information and finding roommates, and it doesn’t always have to be a “rite of passage” as a freshman to live with a stranger in a cinder block room the size of a postage stamp with a communal bathroom down the hall.  Also? The washing machines will text you when the cycle is done. (I know!)

However, one thing that remains constant is that there’s always going to be a list of “what to bring”.

More experienced college parents will probably chuckle at my freshman parent ways, but in the interest of avoiding a 4-digit Target bill in a strange city after forking over tuition and such, I have been trying to plan ahead a little by attempting to make a thorough list and buying and/or gathering things as I go.

I understand that students don’t need most of the stuff they bring, you have to carry it and there’s not much room. But, as far as I can tell, there are some start-up things they need, and I’ve been doing my best to get some things in order.

Even though we weren’t sure where she’d be going to school, I actually started purchasing things at Christmas, since getting “college stuff” was exciting.  Two birds, one stone, if you will. I started with items such as a small tool set, a hand vacuum, one of those pop-up laundry hampers and an array of no-damage sticky hook and squares, all things that can be used in any housing situation.

Since then, I’ve divided the list into different sections and am trying to tackle one division at a time. For example, I started with, “Study/Desk” earlier this year and I gradually acquired a box of items such as: a desk lamp, tape, tape dispenser, stapler, staples, a good pencil sharpener, some decent scissors, a ruler, a pencil holder, blank CDs, flash drives etc. While none of those items are especially glamorous, they’re needed, the cost can add up and I don’t want her to strip our desk at home of them.

Other areas I’ve worked on recently are “Medicine and First Aid”, “Clothing” (iron, small ironing board, hangers, stain release, detergent, etc.) “Storage”, “Cleaning” and “Repair”. She’ll be in a suite with a partial kitchen, so I’ve gotten just a few items classified as “Eat/Kitchen”.

The haul is accumulating in the dining room, and while the results aren’t especially attractive right now, I hope my attempts at shopping will prove useful and get her off to a good start:

Of course, she gets to shop for the fun stuff like bedding and decorations and I’ve had to remind her that this stuff is a one-time purchase for us and not to expect this every year!

How about you? Do you have any hints for college dorm shopping or just getting ready for college in general?

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