Time Management: Benefits and Resources

Time management is one of the most underrated skills a person can have. With the right time management skills, you can prioritize your daily tasks, remain better organized, and achieve your short- and long-term goals more successfully. Without proper time management, you may find yourself missing deadlines and feeling stressed or overwhelmed.

Here’s some advice.

Keep a Meticulous Daily Planner

Whether it’s a physical planner or a digital one on your computer or phone, keeping a detailed daily planner is a must. Planners are great not only for keeping track of deadlines and appointments, but for tracking your short- and long-term goals as well. If you’re thinking of going the digital route, look into options that will sync across your devices (work computer, personal laptop, smartphone, etc.) so you’re never without the information you need.

I’ve been using CultureCode’s “Things” app for Mac and iOS.  It’s an app I use every day and would be lost without it. I can keep track of multiple projects as well as simple tasks. You can also schedule repeating tasks daily, weekly, monthly or annually if need be.  It all seamlessly backs up to the cloud and syncs to all of my devices.  It’s on the pricey side, but I find it to be well worth it.  You can learn more here.

Know How to Prioritize Your “To-Do” List

Sometimes, simply writing down a “to-do” list isn’t enough. Although I’m a big fan of digital tools, I occasionally create a to-do list on paper. When you’ve got a lot to do and not a lot of time, being able to prioritize tasks is a must-have time-management skill. Begin by writing down a list of everything you need to get done (whether it’s for the day, for the week, or for the month). Working off that list, number each item in order of due date, importance, and amount of time required. This will help you prioritize what needs to be worked on first and what can maybe wait until later.  This has helped me really focus on what “needs” to be done instead of what I “want” to get done.

Recognize and Avoid Time-Wasters

Finally, learn to identify your daily time-wasters and find ways to avoid them during your workday. Social media is a huge time-waster and productivity-killer for many. If this applies to you, consider installing a browser blocker app or plug-in that will prevent you from visiting your known time-wasting sites (like Facebook or Twitter) during your dedicated work hours. You’d be amazed at what a difference this can make in the way you use your time throughout the day.  It doesn’t take much to find yourself down a huge rabbit hole.

Learning how to better manage your time is a lot easier than you may think. Try implementing these tips in your work day to see just how much more productive you can be and how you can make better use of your precious time.

How are you managing your time?

Weekly Cartoon: Pet Pest

Pet cockroach

I’m sure you’ve seen one like this and thought the same thing….

When Kids Start Their Own Businesses

Lucy Van Pelt, the famous crabby girl from the Peanuts cartoons, used to offer psychiatric help for 5 cents. And we’re all familiar with the suburban “lemonade stand.”  Most of us would like to encourage our children’s foray into entrepreneurship. How can you do it, and at the same time teach children valuable, realistic lessons about money and business?

Know that the soil is fertile. Children are very interested in learning about entrepreneurship. But school guidance teachers are notoriously under-equipped to offer children much in the way of helping them along this path. Here’s how you, the parent or guardian, can step in and help guide the process:

Getting Started

First, more than ever, you have to dot the I’s and cross the t’s. For example, city officials are now known to cite children for operating unlicensed businesses – even the simplest and most innocent lemonade stands. Remember when police in Coralville, Iowa shut down 4-year-old Abigail Krutzinger’s lemonade stand after only 30 minutes? Whether the business is local or online, one of the first lessons you can help kids learn is how to comply with the law.

It’s also a great way to teach kids about risk. For example, your kids may want to start a lawn mowing business. Great. But they’ll need to buy a mower. You could provide the mower, but it may be a better lesson to lend them the money to buy a mower. They can pay it back, with interest, from their proceeds. And if the business fails? They’re still on the hook – they can pay back the loan by doing chores. Just like adult business owners who take out a business loan – that loan must be repaid, even when business is bad.

Don’t feel bad about charging the kids interest – you can drop that money into their college savings account, so it goes to them anyway!

Getting Help

The schools are generally not equipped to teach young entrepreneurs very much. Many teachers have never run a business themselves. That’s where the National Center for Teaching Entrepreneurship comes in. The NCTE is a non-profit, nationwide organization that works with schools to help children – especially low-income children – learn the basics of entrepreneurship.

When they start a new program in a school, they run a local “boot camp” to help teachers and interested parents and volunteers orient themselves to the program. They then work through local teachers, school administrators and community volunteers to help budding entrepreneurs get the training and mentorship they need prior to graduating from high school.  To see if there is a program in your area, or to go about starting a program, visit   http://www.NCTE.org.

The world of work is changing.  Getting your children exposed to business and entrepreneurship early, can position them to thrive in the future.

Weekly Cartoon: Exploding Money?!

Money explodes too

Hope everyone enjoys a long and safe holiday weekend!

Getting the Best Price on a New Car

Happy man driver smiling standing by his new carYou may think getting a good deal on a brand new car may be next to impossible.  It is if you don’t prepare for and have a negotiation plan ready when you go car shopping.  Here are some tips to make your car buying experience easier and help you get the best price possible.

Determine your needs and budget
Before you start shopping, determine how much you can afford to spend on a new car.  Next, ask yourself, “What do I really need in car?”  Make a list of your “must have’s.” After that, write down the options you’d like to have.  Finally, visit manufacturer and dealer websites to see what cars and options fit your budget.

Consider other costs
Once you have a few models in mind, check with your insurance company about much your premium will be to insure them.  Compare the fuel economy ratings for the vehicles you’re considering at the EPA’s website, http://www.fueleconomy.gov.

Decide on a “target” price
Consult an online price guide to find out the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) and invoice prices of the cars you’re considering.  The final sales price is usually somewhere between the two.

Find your best financing option
Shop around at various financial institutions to see which one is offering the best rate.  Keep in mind you might only qualify for the best rate if you have an excellent credit history.  Check the manufacturer’s websites for special deals being offered by their finance companies.

Know your vehicle’s trade-in value
Determine your car’s trade-in value by visiting an online valuation site such as Kelly Blue Book or Edmunds.  Be conservative when assessing the condition of your car.

Investigate incentives
Check out the special offers on manufacturers’ websites.  You might find cash rebates, cut-rate financing, or other sales incentives.

Take a test drive
Take a proper test drive.  Otherwise, how will you know if the car has enough head and legroom for you and your family?  How will you know how it handles and if you’ll enjoy driving it?

Start a bidding war
Get online bids for the car you want from multiple local dealerships and some not-so-local dealers.  Take the lowest bid and see if the other dealers are willing to beat it.

Negotiate the best price
Make the car’s invoice price your first offer.  The dealership will most likely make a much higher counteroffer.  Raise your offer incrementally until you agree on a price that is within your target range.  Never start the negotiation with the car payment you can afford to make.  Keep that information and your financing deal to yourself or the dealership will make you an offer to fit your target car payment.  That’s good but not when you could have gotten the car at a lower price.

As you’ve learned in this post, getting the best price on a new car starts with your research into the car you want, followed by your leg work on finding the best incentives and financing.  After all that, you’re ready to visit the dealership and get the car you want for the price you’re willing to pay.

Enjoy More Summer Fun For Less

Movie night in the pool.jpgSummertime is here. That means pricey vacations for some and new wardrobes for others, but don’t let the expenses get you down. Follow these tips for summertime savings.

Check out the bargains at the thrift store
Before hitting the mall to buy your summer wardrobe, visit the thrift store first. Spring cleaning means many thrift stores have high quality, gently worn items. You may be able to outfit yourself for the summer at a fraction of the cost.

Look for discounted gym memberships

Don’t already belong to a gym but thinking about joining one? Now’s the time. Many workout enthusiasts move outdoors when the temperatures rise. So, many gyms offer special rates only available in the summer.

Spruce up the indoors while enjoying the outdoors
During the summer, many retailers slash the prices of interior home goods, such as refrigerators and other appliances, cookware, and indoor furniture. Take advantage of the discounted prices if you’re in the market for home goods.

Use online tools to plan travel

Before booking your hotel or buying your plane tickets, check out some online tools that could save you money. Use online comparison tools and travel websites to get the best prices and fares. Also, visit sites like Venere, Airbnb, CheapOair, and Jetsetter for coupons and discounts.

Take advantage of the summer harvest

Warmer weather usually means plenty of locally grown produce. Support your local farmers and enjoy savings by signing up for a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program. You’ll get a box of fresh fruit and vegetables regularly for a price lower than what you’d pay at the grocery store.  You can also grow your own food. Get to work and turn that unused section of your backyard into a vegetable or herb garden.

Buy store-brand items

When shopping for organic goods, buy store-brand items. Generic brands are usually just as good as the pricier labeled brands and cost less.

Save on gas

Gas prices rise when the temperature rises, especially around the Fourth of July weekend. Making sure your car is running as efficiently as possible will cut the gas it consumes.  Consider carpooling or public transportation to further cut your gas cost.

Clean out your attic, basement, and garage

Go through your attic, basement, garage, or other storage area and benefit. Sell some of your old, unwanted items at a garage or yard sale. Remember “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” Consider selling more valuable items online. You might find things still in good shape, like a beach umbrella or chair, that you can use again this year.

Consider your options

Do you really need to take an expensive beach trip? A summer membership to a pool or swim club is generally much less than the cost of a one week beach trip. Is that hot summer concert really worth the cost of the ticket? Host a summer bash at your house instead and avoid traffic.

As these tips show, you can have fun in the sun and protect your budget at the same time.  What tips do you have to share?

Remembering Dad on His Special Day

Cute daughter and her father having princess time.As you look forward to Father’s Day next week, odds are good that you’re planning a barbecue or other get-together to celebrate dad. In some families, the traditions are time-honored and sacred while other families are far more casual about their Father’s Day activities and celebrations.

However, you choose to celebrate your father, finding the perfect gift for the man who taught you to ride a bike, mow a lawn, and throw a punch or who wiped your tears after your first broken heart, waited up to all hours of the night to make sure you arrived home from your dates safely, or agonized the first time a boy held your attention longer than five weeks; can be difficult.

Surely by now he has all the #1 Dad coffee mugs, Grill Master t-shirts, and gaudy socks and ties your money can buy. Sometimes, remembering dad on this special day is the best way to find the perfect gift. Consider gifts that let dad know just how much he means to you today and has meant over the years as an authority figure, role-model, guiding hand, and infinite source of support.

Think of the memories you’ve shared over the years. Whether it’s special camping trips growing up, theme park vacations, roller coaster rides, a love of B-movies, shooting hoops in the driveway, or of watching college football together on Saturday afternoons, dad has been there for you over the years – through thick and thin.

This is the time of year to remember those moments and celebrate them. Whether through photographs, portraits, planning special trips together, or drumming up your own game of hoops, getting tickets to watch your favorite football team, or simply having long talks about those precious and special memories. Remembering dad doesn’t require a special day. He’s near and dear to your heart every day. But on this special day, make a point of sharing your fondest memories for dad with the man himself. Let him know just how special he is and how much he means to you.