4 Tips for Holiday Shopping

Does holiday shopping stress you out? Do you feel like you spend time shopping in stores or online, but don’t get what you need? Here are four ideas for better holiday shopping:

  • Shop with a list: Use a list when you shop to help keep you focused. If you do the thinking/planning before heading to the store, you’ll save time and money. It can also help when you are online shopping!

  • Even if it’s on sale, if you don’t need it, it’s not a bargain.” I heard someone say this on the news this week, and it is great advice! Don’t buy something just because it’s on sale. Ask yourself: Do I need this? When will I use it? Do I know where I’ll keep it?

  • Shop at home first. Do you have a “gift” closet or bin (or lots of bins)? Do your shopping for gifts here before buying more. Be sure gifts for kids you are saving are for the right age. If not, donate them.

  • Don’t shop for things, shop for experiences. Experiences or memberships are some of my favorite gifts to get and to receive. Museum memberships, movie gift cards, classes, or a day out with the gift giver are gifts that anyone would enjoy receiving.

  • Bonus tips on list-making: Making an Effective List Add a Photo to Your Digital List

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Organize Your Safe Deposit Box

Safe deposit box: do you have one? If you do, do you know what’s in it?

When I had to get a copy of my daughter’s birth certificate recently, I found that I didn’t know what important documents we had at home, and what we kept in the safe deposit box.

This is one of those less-fun organizing projects (even for me), but one that is critical for every family.

  • First, make sure you have one place at home for the important documents you may need quick access to, such as passports, birth certificates, and your original wills. Gather these documents and get them in one place that you will remember. One client calls this folder her “proof of identity” folder; it’s a name she can remember and she knows exactly what’s in there.
  • Next, take an inventory of your safe deposit box. (If you don’t have one, get one at your bank!) Yes, this means making the time to get to the bank and get to your box. While reviewing the contents you can write down notes on paper or your smartphone, take a picture of what’s inside, or even type up a list. I made notes on paper and then typed up a document at home.
  • Let others in your family know about your safe deposit box inventory and have it filed in a place they can find it.
  • What should you store in your safe deposit box? Things that are valuable and you need to hold on to, but that you don’t need immediate access to. Here’s a good summary of what to keep in there, and what not to keep.

Now you can relax and you’ll be ready when you need to find your vital documents.

December Donations

When sorting papers or dealing with mail, my clients often put aside requests from non-profit organizations, arts groups, and schools to make an “end of the year gift.”  The folder or pile grows and grows.

Well, the end of the year is around the corner!  Now is the time to pull out that folder or get to that pile of requests, and make your decisions.

Here’s what to do:

  • Find your folder or stack of donation requests.
  • Grab your checkbook, or your laptop if you pay online.
  • Sort requests by organization/group, and throw out multiple requests from the same place.
  • If you write checks, keep a list with the organization’s name and the amount you gave this year.  Use this list to be sure you get all the acknowledgement letters.
  • If you pay online, you should receive an email confirmation. Set up a file in your email program and file all the confirmation emails here.

With a few simple steps you’ll make your donations and be ready for tax time.

Tips for Tag Sales

It’s Tag Sale time here in New England! If you’ve done the hard work of purging and sorting items, be sure you are set up to have the best sale possible.

Check out the helpful tips in this segment from The Today Show, including:

  • Hang clothes from an inexpensive garment rack
  • Organize items by “departments” such as electronics, kitchen, or clothes
  • Use a corkboard, shelves and stands to display items at eye level
  • Provide as much information as possible on the tags, including size and materials

Featured in the segment are the fabulous all-purpose aprons from Raw Materials Design, designed by my cousin and That’s Neat! blog contributor, Janna.

Need more inspiration to get organized for a tag sale? Janna also wrote this post for my blog with her great ideas on how to hold a successful tag sale.

Happy Sales!

Clear Store Card Clutter

Just in time for the shopping season: organize those store club cards! It seems like every store gives out a preferred customer card. What to do with them all?

First, pare down the cards. Which ones do you really use when you shop? Keep only the ones you use the most, and lose the rest.

Now you need to find the cards easily. For some people, this means keeping them on their keys. That didn’t work for me, but I found a great product that does: the card wheel by Real Simple.

I’ve been using this little case for months now and it works; it keeps all the cards together and I only have to find the case in my bag. And the best part: the cards can be scanned right through the plastic sleeves so I don’t even have to take them out. The card wheel makes the cards easy to find and easy to use. Try it out, or share your way of clearing the card clutter in our comments.

A Valentine’s KISS = Keep It Super Simple

This month, enjoy time with your valentine…but why not also spend a little time getting organized for tax day on April 15th?

Preparing for taxes doesn’t have to be complicated, and often the simplest systems are the easiest to maintain. So this month, don’t forget another kind of KISS = Keep It Super Simple. Here are some KISS tips to help you organized before tax day:

  • Gather all the tax documents arriving in your mail, like W-2s, bank and mortgage interest statements, into one folder. Keep the folder near where you open the mail and as soon as you get these important tax documents, drop them in.
  • Collect all your receipts that may be used for deductions. I keep my personal deductions in a section of an accordion folder with my bills. I keep business deductions in a separate envelope in my office file cabinet. I have one client who uses clear plastic bags to organize her receipts, both personal and business. Throughout the year she finds a receipt, and puts it in the bag. It’s super simple, and it works!
  • If you have to do the same preparation process for taxes each year, make a list of the steps. After several years of preparing my business taxes for my accountant, last year I finally made a checklist of what documents I needed to gather, what calculations I needed for my home office deductions, etc.  I know that using my checklist will save me time this year.