Monday, January 11, 2010

The Organizing Bug

January seems to be the time for the retailers to focus on all of the organizational supplies we need to make our lives better. We just need more filing cabinets, filing folders, pretty magazine holders, a bulletin board and a new calendar, and our lives will be perfectly organized from the get go!

I don’t know about you, but adding more stuff to an unorganized space has never worked well for me. In fact, it has usually had the opposite effect and simply added to the clutter that is already there! The organizing efforts that have worked for me involve sorting, purging, and recycling a majority of the stuff that has consumed an area, and then as a last step, looking around to make sure that I had a place to put it. After I get rid of nine-tenths of what turned out to be unnecessary stuff, I usually find that I already have an appropriate place to house it.

Some of us live pretty organized lives almost by second-nature. Some of us are baffled by organization and don’t know where to start. I must confess that I’m living by FLYlady’s mantra: “You can do anything for 15 minutes” and applying that to my own organizational processes. (Check out to learn more about her encouraging system of “Finally Loving Yourself.”)

I’m wondering what organizational attempts you’ve made recently as the New Year has begun! Have you cleaned out the kids’ closets? Organized your home office? Started gathering papers and files in preparation for filing taxes? (UGH!)

I’m tackling the neglected music room at my church this month. Several people and I have volunteered time to “crisis clean” (another FLY lady term!), and now we’re at a point where we can begin to organize and sort specific areas of the room. Every time I’m up at church, I’m spending at least 15 minutes in there, tackling a pile of something, slowly bringing order to a room that nourishes the creativity of the musicians who use it.

How about you? This month, 15 minutes at a time, let’s all tackle the biggest organizational struggle we have, and let’s see what happens! Share your trials and triumphs here, and let’s encourage each other with the progress we’re making!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Good, Pleasing and Perfect: Time Management

Lately I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the various ways I spend my time. Or to be more precise, I’m wondering what has happened to make the last two weeks fly by in a blur! With numerous ways to grow a business, and tons of options to pursue, the choices seem limitless. And yet with every choice I make, my finite allotment of time is affected.

The adjective structure good, pleasing, and perfect has been rattling around in my head, demanding attention. There are good things that I can choose to become involved with, but they also may consume bits of my time that should be reserved for different opportunities. I may want to take on a project that looks like fun (pleasing), but if it has little long-term value, I again may be allocating my time towards a venture that is stealing resources away from my long-term goals. And it has occurred to me (more than once!) that if my time is consumed with good and pleasing activities, I may not recognize nor have time for the perfect opportunities that do come along!

I also think that sometimes we’re presented with opportunities that can have attributes of all three of these categories at the same time! Hang with me for a minute while I explain. I have spent an inordinate amount of time over the past few weeks dealing with one high-maintenance client. While I’ve been frustrated by my client’s “speaking to think” methodology to put simple projects together, I have realized that I have allowed him to think that wasting my time is acceptable. Working with him is a good opportunity, and when I can nail down specifics, it is fun for me to create the products he’s ordering. However, this account has the potential to reach the perfect category—and yet it hasn’t! As I have pondered this scenario, it has become apparent to me that I have a few things that I need to take responsibility for. I’ve realized that I need to set some clear boundaries with this customer, and when simple advice crosses over into the land of consulting, I need to be clear about that and start billing him accordingly. I have a few policies and procedures to think through and then communicate to my clients, so that all of us have a better idea about what to expect from each other.

Good, pleasing and perfect are categories that are helping me balance my time in Everyday Economy. How about you?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Savings Tips for Grocery Shopping

· Always make a list before you leave home! Buying things not on your list is a budget buster! Even better: Take five minutes and flip through the grocery ads to see what is on sale each week--even if you use a website like or to help construct your list. If you are almost out of TP at your house, you need to know where its price is discounted this week, even if the current price in the ad isn’t sale-worthy enough to make it on a list.

· Coupons (Qs) are paper money, but they don’t pay unless you use them! Figure out a way to organize them, either by cutting them out each week and filing them in a canceled check file or by writing the date on each packet of coupons from the newspaper, and filing the whole insert by date. I cut out Qs every week, because it helps me know what products I have Qs for—which comes in handy when we’re out of TP and no one has TP on sale that week! But if that overwhelms you, then just file the circular and let the Coupon Mom or the Grocery Game tell you each week where to find the Qs you need. The important thing is to find a system that works for you and do it. It doesn’t take as much time as you think, and the savings are worth it!

· Read the writing on the Q—that’s where the details are. I’ve had clerks tell me that I had to buy the item that was pictured, when the Q clearly said “ANY product.” The writing on the Q is the rule, and if you encounter a cashier who is poorly trained, do not be embarrassed to politely ask to speak to a manager. You spent time planning how to save money at this store, and using the Q is your paycheck. Do not allow poor employee training to interfere with your savings. Smile and be polite, but hold your ground. And if you really have a bad experience, it’s worth a call to the corporate office the next day, as they may send a coupon or two of their own to retain your business.

It’s fun to track your savings! After a recent shopping trip, I paid $16 for $56 worth of groceries. I saved $40 using coupons and my store loyalty card, which means that I saved 72% off retail price that day. Said another way, I paid 28% of the retail cost of my groceries on that trip. I spent 45 minutes (gathering my list, finding the Qs and doing the shopping) to save $40. Tracking your savings each week shows how much money you are saving, and inspires you to continue the hunt for the best bargains! Happy shopping!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Tools of the Trade

Every occupation has its own specific tools of the trade. A construction worker is never far from his tool belt. A painter keeps her brushes and color pallet nearby. The Everyday Economy lifestyle benefits from gathering several simple tools and keeping them close by.

Comparison shopping is greatly aided by a small calculator, whether in the store aisle or scanning advertisements at home. Multiplication and division skills tend to fail me when I’m in a hurry, and yet a quick computation easily distinguishes between a bargain and a money-waster. Many cell phones have a calculator feature, so explore this option and learn how to use it, or find an inexpensive calculator that will fit in your wallet.

Consider acquiring a white board for making lists on the side of the refrigerator. While it may be true that elephants never forget, I do! My board is divided into list sections for the grocery store, the warehouse store, and big box retail stores.

When the last bottle of salad dressing is removed from the pantry, I write it on my grocery list. As I notice more and more threadbare socks going through the laundry room, the big box store column gets an entry. The warehouse store gets a notation when I run low on powdered milk.

For many years I used a paper list to track these details, but I finally figured out that I never purchased everything on my list at one time. Invariably the list would get lost, and I would wind up trying to reconstruct it on another piece of paper, where the cycle would repeat itself. The white board approach allows the versatility of making a list and erasing items after they are purchased, resulting in an up-to-date picture of household needs.

Another helpful tool in the quest for Everyday Economy is to view store advertisements on a weekly basis. The daily newspaper is a tremendous asset in identifying sales in the area, which can save both time and money. While the Sunday edition has both coupons and a myriad of advertisements, the Wednesday paper carries grocery story ads. Several businesses are using other days of the week to insert their circulars into the newspaper, and every day there are numerous display ads that promote special deals or provide additional coupons to local businesses.

It has been my experience that a subscription to the local newspaper more than pays for itself with the coupons it provides, but if cost is a concern, most retailers post their ads online. Reading things on a computer screen is slower than reading from paper, and depending on your internet connection, downloading the graphics-loaded ads may take some time. However, some web sites also allow you to personalize and print a shopping list, which can be a time-saving measure.

Reading the ads doesn’t do any good, however, unless you can remember which stores have what deals each week. Designate a notepad to record the weekly specials that catch your eye from your ad research, and keep it next to the white board on the refrigerator. As you prepare to go shopping, transfer any white board notations to the store list you’ve already created from the weekly ads.

A calculator, a white board, the weekly ads and a notepad are all tools for success. But tools don’t work if you don’t use them. Find a way to make these ideas work for you, and you’re on your way to a lifestyle of Everyday Economy.

Everyday Economy

Everyone’s talking about the economy and its negative impact on our daily lives. Words like “lingering recession,” “rising unemployment,” “stimulus package” and “deficit spending” stir up feelings of uncertainty and fear about what the future will bring.

In response, Americans are searching for ways to economize. Money management is a buzzword, and for those who are unemployed, making ends meet is a crucial concern. Others struggle with too much month and not enough money from meager paychecks.

Economy is not a negative word, regardless of its current popular usage. Thriftiness has more substance than pinching pennies. Time management, resource conservation, and efficiency considerations all have a rightful place in the discussion and deserve careful consideration.

Throughout history, Americans have proven themselves to be a resourceful lot in this land of opportunity. Benjamin Franklin’s pithy advice, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” has as much relevance today as in the era he dispensed it. The generation that lived through the Great Depression honed their creativity and resourcefulness out of necessity to survive difficult circumstances.

As we all know, deficit spending is not a viable option for our own personal checking accounts. Everyday Economy is based on the belief that it is possible to do more with less, and that it’s even feasible to have some fun along the way. Saving money and conserving time and other resources are valuable lifestyle options—not just crisis management tools.

As a one-income household, my family of seven actively practices the principles of Everyday Economy. My full-time job is to manage the resources of my family, and to do so, I’ve needed to take a hard look at time management and resource allocation, in addition to discovering new ways to stretch a dollar.

Everyday Economy is the adventure of re-exploring subjects that are typically taken for granted. Re-defining a dated economic concept brings its relevance into our modern lives. Re-applying these new ideas enhances both the economy and the efficiency of our lives.

The Greek philosopher Plato said, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” The time has come to re-think our standard ways of using resources, saving money and spending our time.

Send in your ideas, and together we’ll discover the realities and benefits of practicing Everyday Economy.