Budgeting Made Easy

Like everyone else, I’ve been on the hunt for an online budgeting system that will keep me organized, and manage my money flow without needless complications.  Too often budgeting is a low priority simply because programs are complex and inflexible.  I want to know where my money is and how I can manage it with as little effort as possible.  Luckily these three companies have worked out the kinks, and created budgeting tools that are not only easy to use, but effective in organizing funds and saving money.

Screen shot 2013-02-21 at 10.48.53 AMThis is a great comprehensive budgeting system that links all of your accounts, categorizes your spending, sends timely alerts about low balances and bill payments, and creates graphs that track spending and performance to clearly state how you can achieve short term and long term financial goals.  MINT has mobile apps, bank level security, and best of all it’s free.

Screen shot 2013-02-21 at 10.49.22 AMIf you want to spend less time managing your money this is the system for you.  Everything is always up to date on your phone or computer, so that you always know how much money you have in each category.  It’s simplicity, professional webinars, and claim that most users see immediate savings within the first month, are just a few of the reasons why this is a great budgeting tool.

Screen shot 2013-02-21 at 10.54.26 AMBuxfer is a helpful free program best suited for younger, more inexperienced budgeters looking to get a handle on their financial situation.  It aids in determining what is owed, how to save, and best of all, develops simple habits that will sustain long term financial stability.

Modern Kids Room – Stylish Storage

As small as they are, children seem to have more possessions than the average adult. You have a beautiful home and want to keep it that way, so tame their toys and give their rooms a fresh modern look with these well designed storage pieces.

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This tree from Nurseryworks is actually a bookcase that adheres to the wall.  It holds about 100 books and adds a creative and functional element to any kids room.

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Always losing their backpacks?  Not any more!  With these Can’t Miss Wall Kobs from Land of Nod, kids can easily organize their bags, clothes, and jewelry.

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Entice your kids to play while they clean with these LEGO storage boxes found at the Container Store.  They stack easily and different colors help to distinguish which toys are in each one.

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I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t mind having this as my bed!  The Duet Bunk Bed by Nurseryworks looks amazing and provides storage on the top and bottom..  The cubbies come in six bright colors that are sure to match any room.

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This kids cobalt chalk table by P’Kolino is the ideal place for your kids to be creative.  The chalkboard top is removable so that craft supplies can be stored neatly below.

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Ferm Living Face Painted Boxes prove that basic storage boxes can be colorful and cute!

4 Ways To Keep Your Mail Under Control

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Mail.  No I’m not talking about the kind on your computer.  I’m referring to the piles of envelopes stacking up all over your home.  Snail mail isn’t the most popular way to communicate any more, but it still plays a role in our everyday lives.  Personal cards, bills, magazines, and junk mail find their way into the average home practically everyday, whether we like it or not.  To keep those scary, teetering mountains of mail from becoming an avalanche, here are four easy ways to get your mail under control.

1. THE IMPORTANCE OF A TRASH CAN.  Keep one by the front door and instead of putting it off, take 30 seconds (really it won’t take longer than that!)  and put junk mail straight into the recycling bin.  Even if you don’t open the relevant mail, this process alone will cut down the size of the pile by at least 50%.

2. CUT TIES.  Over the years you’ve undoubtably signed up to receive mail from dozens, if not hundreds of businesses.  You might not be interested in receiving store promotions, catalogs, or flyers any more, so it’s time to cut ties.  Take the next 3-4 weeks to collect the irrelevant pieces of mail, and one by one contact them and request to be taken off of their mailing list.  This might be a little time consuming, but it will save you time in the long run, and reduce the amount of waste in your home.

 3. IT’S TIME TO AUTOMATE.  No one likes spending time on bills, which is why automated payments are the way to go.  Most businesses are recommending online bills, but take it a step further and set up your monthly bills on automatic payment.  This will save time, cut down on the mail you receive, and keep all of your bills safely in your inbox rather than in a heap on your dining table.

4. HOME SWEET HOME.   Create a place where all of your mail goes, whether it’s for later that day or the end of the week.  Put a bin on your desk, use an empty drawer in your entry way table, or put a basket in your kitchen.  Whatever you choose to do, be consistent and only put mail in one designated location so that a habit is formed and ultimately maintained.  Make a plan to go through your mail at least once a week, and input a reminder on your phone or calendar, so that every week the mail gets sorted.

5 Ways to Stay Stress-Free This Holiday Season

Savor sips of aromatic pumpkin lattes, light the freshly cut fire wood, and get cozy in a snuggly  sweater, because the crisp fall air is here!  Enjoying this peaceful seasonal shift is easy, until you see stores glittering with those familiar colors.  All of a sudden a sense of doom overcomes you, something more terrifying than your Halloween costume.  Christmas is only a measly two months away!  Yes this time of year can be overwhelming because of holiday parties, home decorating, gift buying, and traveling, but here are a few tips to make it stress-free, and (gasp!) joyful!

5 Ways to Stay Stress-Free During the Holidays

1. Who’s been naughty or nice?  Compile a list of everyone you need to purchase a gift for.  Think this over carefully, and remember to add commonly forgotten people like co-workers, domestic staff, employers, and neighbors.  Once you have the list, jot down gift ideas next to their names so that shopping trips can be effective and time efficient.  Don’t underestimate the beauty of giving a gift card!  Kids and people you don’t know as well will appreciate your kindness, so don’t feel like you’re being impersonal. It’s also important to set a budget, and even though this seems difficult, stick with it so that in January you won’t have a credit card bill you can’t afford.  Keep this list with you on your phone or in your wallet so that when you start shopping (Hint: It’s time to start!), or when you happen to be in a store on a different errand, you’ll already have ideas for each person and be ready to buy.

2. Deck the halls!  Things might be in a tangle, or items may have been misplaced over the last 10 months, so sort out what you have.   Once everything is laid out for decorating, involve your kids, family, or friends in the process.  Turn on Christmas music, heat the cocoa, and you’ve just turned one of your chores into a fun holiday tradition that helps your sanity.   You might even be inspired to get creative, and use your decorations differently than you have in the past.

3. Here come the guests.  Everyone has decided to celebrate at your house this year, which means your home will soon be buzzing like a hotel.  If you have a guest room, then you’re already half done, but make sure everything is in place.  Set aside fresh clean bedding, a supply of fluffy towels, and if you want to go the extra mile, provide a robe and a selection of books from your collection to lay out on the nightstand.  If you don’t have a guest room then you have a little more to prepare, but now is the time to find the air mattress and create a plan to convert one of your rooms into a pleasant temporary home for your guests.

4. I have nothing to wear!  This may seem like a minor issue, but most people have several work and/or family related parties to attend during the holidays, and scrambling at the last minute to find something suitable for the occasion isn’t the way to go.  You might already have several options in your wardrobe, but if not, set aside some time to buy a few items that will serve you well, and keep you out of stores the week before Christmas.  (Don’t forget to make a haircut appointment now!  Salons book up quickly from November-December, so make sure you schedule a quick trim while you can.)

5. Sugar cookies or pecan pie?  Look through your recipes and select a variety of options.  To be doubly sure you choose the right ones, start introducing some of the dishes into your nightly/weekly family dinners.  These trials will show you how much work and time will be involved in making each recipe.  An added bonus is that your meals leading up to the Christmas will be laced with seasonal treats, and the critics at your dining table will help you determine which ones are good enough for the big day.

Use these 5 tips so that this year is all about celebration, family, and food!

Closet Envy

Magazine worthy closets with all of the bells and whistles are alluring, however you can make your existing closet worthy of praise by making a few simple alterations.  Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, get creative and think of what you CAN do!

1. Start transforming your ordinary closet by disposing of items that are stained, don’t fit any more, and haven’t been touched in 6 months – 1 year.

2. Lay out your remaining clothing and accessories and practically consider how to put them back in an orderly way.  This is a personal plan, so do what works best for you!  For instance, if you’re tall think about raising the height of your adjustable clothing rods, or if you’re a visual person try color coding all of your clothing.  Really think about what you will and won’t do, because no matter how good it looks to stack pants in a neat pile,  it won’t work if you hate folding.

3. To make this space more attractive, place items that you love within eye level or display them on a shelf, so you’re drawn into your closet.  If there is open shelving and it would be helpful to have bins or baskets to organize and contain smaller items,  first look through your house to see if you have a matching set or series of something.  (Most families have more organizational tools on hand than they realize.)  It’s best to get storage units that match, so whether this is something you already have, or you are required to purchase a few items, it’s worth it.

4. Finally, make sure your closet is functional.  Change light bulbs to add more wattage to see clothing better, add a compact step stool to make high shelves easily accessible, have a few good quality hangers for new clothing, and paint the interior your favorite color or a good classic neutral.

These changes aren’t expensive, and they don’t require calling a contractor for a complete makeover.  That gorgeous closet with the perfect lighting, and expansive layout may be a dream you can fulfill one day, but you don’t have to spend a lot of money or time to get a closet you love.  Remember, having that kind of closet doesn’t mean  you’ll necessarily be a more organized person!  Whether it’s a small closet or a large one, it’s up to you to keep it functioning well.