Organizing your Black Friday shopping trip to save time and money

Woman with Shopping Bags on Escalator --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisThe most chaotic shopping day of the year is coming to stores near you.  Yes. I’m referring to Black Friday, the biggest shopping day of the year, and also the day after Thanksgiving.  According to a new survey by The Nielsen Company, “… nearly one in five Americans will shop the Friday after Thanksgiving (aka Black Friday) and more than half (61 percent) plan to spend $100 – $500.”

If you have no desire to fight the Black Friday crowds, or to shop at all for that matter, you may be interested in a movement called Buy Nothing Day, which falls on the same day. However, if you love the excitement of Black Friday and do plan to join the shopping crowds this year, here are 10 tips to have an organized and successful day:

1.   Plan your holiday budget. Create a holiday shopping budget for the day to avoid overspending and getting sidetracked.
2.  Watch the Deals. Check the local Black Friday sales flyers in print or online, so that you can be prepared to take advantage of the best deals. See links to major retailers’ advertised sales below.  Remember Cyber Monday too for online deals.
3.  Don’t forget your shopping list. You should have a list of the names of the people you wish to buy gifts for, including a list of the gifts and/or gift ideas. If you intend to purchase one of the Black Friday “limited supply” doorbuster specials, include a back-up plan, in case the special sells out before arrive.
4.  Schedule and plan your day. Decide what time of day you will be doing most of your Black Friday shopping. Will you be heading for the doorbuster deals, or leaving the house when the chaos has ended? Plan accordingly.
5.  Plan your shopping route. Include all of the stores and their locations, so that you can maximize your shopping time. Parking is probably going to be a nightmare, so if you know exactly where you’ll be heading and when, it will make your life a lot easier.
6.  Dress for comfort. Wear comfortable clothing (nothing too tight) and comfortable shoes. You can still look cute and be comfortable too.
7.   Eat before you leave and expect food lines to be long. This may seem a bit unusual, but if you want to avoid waiting in the lines at the eatery, consider bringing a boxed lunch. We did this a few years ago on a Black Friday shopping trip, and the only thing we had to worry about was finding somewhere to sit down.
8.   Leave small children at home. Unless you don’t plan to be out for long time, avoid bringing small children, unless they can sit in a kid stroller. It might be too much for them to be out walking for hours on end.
9.   Be patient. If you’re not a patient person, shopping on Black Friday might not be for you. There’s a gazillion people and long lines in most stores, especially in the stores that sell electronics.
10.  Stay alert. Be mindful of your belongings and purchases as you go through the day. It may make sense to take a trip to the car to unload a few bags, so that you can enjoy your Black Friday shopping day, without worrying about putting a bag down and leaving it behind!

All in all, remind yourself not to purchase random items that will end up as clutter.  If it’s not on your gift list you don’t need to buy it.  It’s not a bargain if it’s never used or you can’t find it!

Photo credit:  © Royalty-Free/Corbis

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Howard County Community Shred Event

paper-shredding-eventIf you live in Howard County, Maryland, get ready for the next free shredding event coming up this Saturday in Ellicott City. The county is sponsoring the event and will accept your old documents and sensitive information on Saturday, October 15, 2016. Howard County residents will have the opportunity to get rid of their backlog of shredding at no cost.

The Howard County Community Shred Event will be at the Long Gate Park & Ride off of Route 100 (exit 1A) in Ellicott City, from 9 a.m. -1 p.m. Howard County residents can bring up to 3 bags or boxes of paper to be shredded on-site.

Please note that this is not an e-cycle event. Electronic equipment, batteries etc. will not be accepted.

What: Howard County Community Shredding Event

When: Saturday, October 15, 2016

Where: Long Gate Park & Ride, Ellicott City, Md.

From the Howard County Government website, here is a list of what they will/will not accept:

Items Accepted:

  • Federal and State Tax documents
  • Credit card and other household bills
  • Medical records
  • Pay stubs
  • Mortgage documents
  • Insurance bills

Items NOT Accepted:

  • File folders
  • Manila folders
  • Junk mail
  • Schoolwork
  • Event programs
  • Coloring books
  • Brochures
  • Advertising
  • Magazines
  • Calendars, etc.

Please make sure that your boxes or paper bags are ALSO free of:

  • Batteries
  • Plastic or glass items
  • Binder clips
  • Screwdrivers
  • Scissors, etc.

You may also be interested in:

More Maryland shredding events
Organizing Your Important Documents

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The Clutter Buster Guide to Tidying Up – An Organizing Q&A Seminar

organizing-q-and-a-flyer-timebanking

Join me on Thursday, September 22nd at the Time Bank Social Skills Happy Hour for an Organizing Q&A at the East Columbia 50+ Center in Columbia, Md!

Please RSVP directly to the Columbia Community Exchange at 410-884-6121 or email CCE at  CommunityExchange@ColumbiaAssociation.org

Time: 3pm
Location: 6600 Cradlerock Way, Columbia, Md 21046

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More Maryland shredding events

proshredJust a quick announcement of 3 more community shredding events in Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties in MD by ProShred Baltimore.  Feel free to share with anyone you know in the area who might appreciate this information.  If you’re outside of the area, check the ProShred website to see if there’s an event near you (US).

Shredding Company: ProShred
Date: Saturday, September 17, 2016
Location: Arundel Federal Savings Bank, 4179 Mountain Rd, Pasadena, MD
Time: 10:00AM to 1:00PM

Date: Saturday, October 1, 2016
Location: Destinations Credit Union, 8767 Satyr Hill Road, Parkville, MD
Time: 1:00 PM to 3:00PM

Date: Saturday, October 22, 2016
Location: Gambrills Arundel Federal Savings Bank, 1049 MD-3, Gambrills, MD
Time: 10:00AM to 1:00PM

Enjoy the rest of your week!

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Tips for preventing identity theft

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Tips for preventing identity theft

Organizing your documents is an important step to stay on top of where your important papers are, but with the digital world we’re also living in, there’s still more we can do.   The following list is a good starting point to change your daily habits to protect your identity, but don’t stop with this list.  Think about your lifestyle and what other steps you may need to take.

Here are 6 ways to prevent someone from stealing your personal information or identity:

    1. 1. Shred sensitive papers that you don’t need for taxes, including:
      – Finance-related statements
      – Pre-approved credit card statements
      – Paid bills
      – Any paperwork or documents with social security numbers, credit card numbers, date of birth or other sensitive and personal information.  Please note that this is a general list and not conclusive.
    2. 2. Be careful with what you share online.  For example, if you’re on Facebook, you’re not obligated to share your date of birth, home city, city of birth, state, province, school, college, etc!  Take a moment to go through your privacy settings and uncheck boxes under the Privacy settings that are not necessary.  It’s best to set it to Friends only and allow only Friends of Friends to contact or search for you.  Also, only accept friends from people you know. Just because the person is connected to a friend doesn’t mean that they’re legitimate.  One step further is to not allow your name to appear in search engines outside of Facebook.  This helps to keep your profile more private.    This option is also under the privacy settings (at the time of this post).

3. Always use Virus Protection software on your computer, otherwise you will be prone to hacks and viruses.  Once installed, set it on autopilot so that it scans for viruses at least weekly.   This is very important and is a small price to pay to avoid someone hacking into your computer and stealing your information, or crashing your hard drive.

4. Never give away personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call.   To be sure, before returning a call, search online for “common phone scams” and then add the culprits to the Do Not Call List.

5. Be careful clicking on email links and attachments from “friends“.  If you receive an email from a friend with just a link, and maybe a comment like, “Check this out”, delete it.  Most friends are going to give you a bit more info before adding a link.  Also, NEVER open attachments from people you don’t know.  These are almost always viruses.

6. Check your credit report at least once a year at one of the 3 credit reporting companies, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax (US).  You can get 1 free copy each year via www.AnnualCreditReport.com.

Check my website on the Stop Junk Mail and Spam Mail page for a list of organizations to stop pre-screened credit card offers and more.

You may also like:

Local shredding events in Maryland
5 easy organizing tips for dealing with the mail
Organizing your important documents

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Free shredding events in Maryland

community shredding event prince georges countyIt’s that time of year again for getting your boxes of sensitive papers out of the closet to be shredded at a shredding event near you. Identity theft is on the rise, and although we can’t control the companies and organizations that store our personal information, we are able to control how we discard of our sensitive papers at home.

If you’ve been meaning to get some paper purging done to prepare for the next free community shredding event, here’s your chance if you live in the Montgomery or Prince George’s county area (Md).   For Howard County, Md area residents, no announcements have been made yet for their Fall events, which are usually held in October.

?This Saturday, September 10,  local TV station, NBC4 and Allstate will be sponsoring a community event in the Largo, Maryland campus of the Prince Georges Community College in Lot B.   Shred-it will be offering this free service, of which there is a limit of 5 boxes of sensitive paperwork.  No electronic media, electronics and binders will be accepted at the shred day.

NBC 4 (Washington DC) adds, “To keep this event safe and secure, please do not bring batteries, flammables, combustibles, electronic equipment (hard drives), media materials (DVDs, CDs, tapes), binders, or hanging files.”

The NBC Comm?unity Shred takes place is from 8am-11am, and they ask that you arrive by 11am and remain in your car.  For directions, visit the event page here on the NBC 4 Washington, DC website.

 

 

Silver Spring Shred Day:

America Recycles Day Shred Day Montgomery County Silver Spring MdFor residents in Montgomery County,  Montgomery County’s Division of Solid Waste is celebrating America Recycles Day by holding a Confidential Paper Shredding/Recycling & Clothing/Household Item Reuse Collection event at James Hubert Blake High School, in Silver Spring, Md.

This free community shredding event also takes place this Saturday, September 10, and is from 10am – 2pm.  They ask that you stay in your vehicle and be in the drive-through by 2pm.  See flyer for details here and on the website.

As you’ll see from the flyer, there will also be a donations truck from the National Children’s Center who will be accepting household items, furniture and clothing in good condition.  Check the flyer for specific details on what’s accepted at both events.

I occasionally share events in my email newsletter.  If you would like to keep abreast of shredding events, sign up for my newsletter here and receive a free Organizing Goals worksheet.  Although I focus on the Maryland area, I will also note the shredding companies that are hosting a similar event nationwide.

Photo(s) credit: NBC4/Jacquie Ross

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Tips for getting rid of your stuff

Organized-Exit-Station-edited Decluttering is the first step to getting organized, and although most people know this, they can be stuck with holding onto items until they know it will be used by someone who needs it and will appreciate it.  The larger well-known charities will take most items in good condition, but sometimes it’s nice to give to a smaller charity or even to a school, library or hospital.  Here are 10 tips and ideas for getting rid of your stuff that you may not have thought of:

1.  Look for consignment stores in your area or similar stores that will buy your stuff.  Give them a call or stop by to ask for their policies to see if this option will work for you.

2.    See if you can find a nearby thrift store or church on the way to or from work, or where you would normally run errands.  A convenient location we will make it easier to drop of donations on a regular basis.  If there isn’t one nearby, call a charity that means a lot to you who will pick up in your area, and then get into the routine of donating on a monthly basis.

3.    Want to sell on eBay, but don’t have the time or expertise?  Visit the website to find an eBay trader in your area.  eBay traders will do all of the work and sell your items for you.  Their payment is a percentage of the profits.

4.    Ask friends or family if they need your hand-me-downs or household goods that are in good condition.  College students may appreciate donations when they’re moving into a dorm room for the first time.

5.    Preschools and some art departments in elementary schools may take your excess craft and back-to-school school supplies.

6.    Children’s hospitals may take your toys that are in good condition, but do check CPSC Recalls (US) first to make sure the items have not been recalled.

7.    Some Goodwill and Best Buy stores will take old electronics, including cell phones, televisions and computers.  Call your local branches to check to see if they offer electronics recycling.

8.    Second hand book stores, libraries and hospitals may take used books in good condition.

9.    Organizations like “Success in Style (US)” will take your gently worn professional attire.

10.    Check with your local homeless or domestic violence shelter to see what items they are in desperate need of.

If you know of other ways of parting with items, please share by mentioning them in the comments.  Happy decluttering!

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Spring community shredding events in Baltimore, Md and DC metro

shred daySpring cleaning is underway, and for those us still accumulating paper, we also need to regularly purge old and no longer needed paperwork.  If you have a large amount of sensitive paperwork due to a recent spring clean session, you may find yourself dreading the thought of shredding it all in your standard home shredder! This is why I like to pay attention to any local community shredding events coming up in the area in the spring and fall, so that I can also share them with you.

Companies like AllShredMd, ProShred, Shred-It, The Shred Mill and FreeSecureShredding are wonderful companies who occasionally offer free or low fee shredding events and will shred your paperwork onsite at the shredding event.

Please note that some of the events may be fundraisers, so please consider a small donation if you attend a shred day fundraising event.  The following are a few community shredding events in April in the area (Maryland-Baltimore metro/Washington, DC metro).  If you live outside of this area, visit the company websites with national chains to see if they are offering an event near you.

Baltimore area (Baltimore, Columbia, Ellicott City, Timonium, Bel Air):

GreenFest-Post-Card-jpeg-450x310Columbia: Howard Community College Shred Day at GreenFest
All Shred – Saturday, April 16 – 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. (rain or shine)
Howard Community College in the Burrill Galleria, Columbia, Md.
10901 Little Patuxent Pwky, Columbia, MD United States
This event will be during the Howard County GreenFest.  Learn more about GreenFest, and also the 20 Minute Clean-up in Howard County, Md on Earth Day in my article here on Examiner.

shred day bbb howard county 2016Timonium: Better Business Bureau Shred Day at the Maryland State Fairgrounds
Saturday, April 16 – 8 a.m. – 11 a.m. (rain or shine) –

North Gate Area, Maryland State Fairgrounds
3 bags and boxes per car
For more information go to Maryland State Fairgrounds Shred Day
During the event, you will also be able to recycle computers and cell phones and BBB staff and representatives from partnering organizations will be available to answer questions about preventing identity theft and provide resources for victims. [Source: BBB]

Baltimore: ProShred Fundraiser for Baltimore Hebrew Congregation
Sunday, April 17, 2016 – 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm
7401 Park Heights Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21208

Ellicott City: The Shred Mill Fundraising Event at Howard High School
Saturday, April 23, 2016 – 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Howard High School Parking Lot
8700 Old Annapolis Rd, Ellicott City, Md 21043
Benefiting the Howard High Football Team

Baltimore: Community SHRED-IT Fundraising Event
Shred-It – Saturday April 30, 2016 – 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Calvary Lutheran Church, 2625 East Northern Parkway, Baltimore, MD 21214
A $5 donation, benefiting the church, is requested.
Up to 10 boxes of paper per person.
We hope to see you there! http://www.shredit.com/en-us/baltimore-en

navy shred-eral shred dayBel Air: Navy SHRED-eral Day at Navy Federal Credit Union
Saturday, April 23 – 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
5 Bel Air South Parkway, Suite 101, Bel Air, MD
Go to the Navy SHRED-eral events page here for more information.

Timonium: ProShred Fundraiser for Timonium United Methodist Church
Saturday, April 30, 2016 – 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.
2300 Pot Spring Road, Timonium MD 21093

Washington, DC Metro area (Rockville, Olney,  Annapolis, Gambrills, Laurel etc.):

freesecureshreddingOlney-Sandy Spring: Sherwood High School Community Paper Shredding/Recycling and Clothing/Household Item Reuse, Olney-Sandy Spring, Md
Sunday, April 10 – 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
300 Olney-Sandy Spring Road, Sandy Spring, MD 20860
Check rules and for updates on website in case of inclement weather:
Montgomery County Shredding Events

Rockville: Energy Credit Union Shred Event
All-ShredSaturday, April 23 – 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
805 King Farm Blvd
Rockville, MD

Various: Navy SHRED-eral Day at Multiple DC area/Eastern/Southern Md
Saturday, April 23 – 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Shred Event Locations:
Accokeek –  7001 Berry Road, Accokeek, MD
Annapolis –  825 Bestgate Road, Annapolis, MD
Gambrills – 1356-A Main Chapel Way, Gambrills, MD
Glenarden – 2200 Petrie Lane, Suite 536, Glenarden, MD
Laurel Lakes – 14260-B Baltimore Avenue, Laurel Lakes, MD
Lexington Park – 46241 Corporate Way, Lexington Park, MD

Go to the Navy SHRED-eral events page here for more information.

If you know of any others in the area this Spring, please share in the comments.  I will try to update with more events later in the spring for May and June, if I hear of any.  Now, put it on your calendar, and get some paper decluttering done so that you get it out of your house!

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Creating a plan to cook more, eat better and live healthier

finding time to cook-Flickr-EverJean

Photo Credit/Flickr-EverJean

Many of my clients complain about not having enough time to cook, and of course, they feel that it’s easier to pick something up from a local restaurant or fast food joint, than it is to shop for ingredients and prepare a meal when they get home from work.  For many busy professionals and busy families, making a weekly, or even monthly plan can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be if you know where to start.  Start small by picking a favorite meal type.  For example, a slow cooker meal, an oven roast or casserole can provide a good hearty and healthy meal for a family, for one or two nights, and before you know it you’ll be cooking enough for 3 or 4 nights a week.  Even one home-cooked meal a week is better than no home-cooked meals.

Here are some tips to get started with a healthy meal plan:

  1. Plan your meals for the week and note down the ingredients needed so that you can shop for everything once a week, or every other week.
  2. When you do have some time to cook, prepare several meals at once using similar ingredients.  Freeze extra portions for another day, or divide into lunch-sized portions, and don’t forget snacks.
  3. Keep basics in your pantry so you’re not constantly running out to the store; or worse, giving up and eating out. The Simple Dollar website has a nice list of recommended items for a well-stocked pantry here: Staple Foods You Should Always Have On Hand.
  4. If you’ve had a particularly busy week and haven’t had the time to shop for ingredients, check your pantry and refrigerator to see if you can create a meal using what you have on hand. A client of mine is very happily using the Paprika Recipe Manager.  Right now, I just keep recipe favorites in my Evernote app, but will be looking at recipe apps myself soon.
  5. Keep healthy snacks in your refrigerator and pantry, such as apples, bananas and pears. When in season, add blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, grapes and plums. Berries can be bagged into portion sizes and stored in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to eat. Be sure to label the containers or baggies. If your refrigerator or freezer is packed, create an inventory list so that you always know what you have before heading to the grocery store.
  6. Instead of rushing around in the morning, make your lunches for the week, either all at once, or the night before.  This will save time in the mornings.   Store in individual containers so that you can quickly grab one as you run out of the door for work or school.
  7. In addition to fresh fruit, other healthy snack ideas include granola, nuts, dried fruit and fruit cups. Hard boiled eggs, applesauce and yogurt are also good options, but may need to be kept in a small cooler bag.
  8. For recipe ideas, visit websites like Pinterest provide great visuals of meals and snacks you can make at home.  You can also fnd recipe apps online by doing a simple search.  Mobile apps tend to come and go, so it’s best to do a search when you need one and try to find a popular one that has stood the test of time.

Julia A. Wolfson, MPP, a CLF-Lerner Fellow at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and lead author of the study, says, “When people cook most of their meals at home, they consume fewer carbohydrates, less sugar and less fat than those who cook less or not at all – even if they are not trying to lose weight,”    Source.  These are great reasons to try to cook more at home.  At least you know what’s in your food when you cook at home.

If your kitchen is cluttered and not in the best condition to prepare meals, do start with decluttering first.  Once the countertops are cleared and the cabinets are organized, it will make cooking so much easier and a lot more fun!

 

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Holiday budget mistakes to avoid

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Holiday Budget Tips

Were you able to create a holiday budget?  If yes, you’re way ahead of the majority of people who are now purchasing gifts, entertaining and attending holiday parties.  However, before you finish up your holiday shopping, let’s step back for a moment. You may have made a few small mistakes in your holiday budget, so identifying them now will save you a lot of stress later on.

If you’re holiday shopping is done, but you did go over budget, check out these tips to see how you can avoid going over budget next year:

1.    Buying the first item you see:
You may have budgeted for it and you be able to afford the latest electronic gadget for your child, so you head out to the big box electronics store to pick it up, but have you done your research?

Is this the cheapest you can get it for? Are there any promotions or online promotion codes that could save you money? Just because it fits your budget doesn’t mean you should spend that amount. You may be able to save some money. Chances are, there will be a few surprises during this holiday season and a little money saved now may come in handy later.

2.    Not tracking your expenses: One of the most common mistakes people make when creating a budget is they don’t actually track how much they’ve spent.  No elaborate spreadsheets needed here.  Your budget tracking system doesn’t need to be fancy.  Simply write down how much you have to spend, who you have to buy for and then leave room to write down how much you’ve spent. Clip receipts to the paper so you can quickly do the math, and you’re set. Don’t walk out the door before actually creating a system to track your expenses.

3.     Not factoring in unforeseen expenses:
It’s almost a guarantee that there will be some unexpected expenses during the holidays. If you don’t leave room in your budget for these expenses, you may find yourself in debt when the holiday season is over. Create a miscellaneous expenses category in your budget and allocate some money toward it. That way, you won’t be stressed about unplanned expenses.

4.    Keeping up with the Joneses:
All too often we buy gifts to impress others.  We all know that it is really the thought that counts, so don’t let your pride and ego get you into trouble.

5.    Buying too much: 
It’s easy to go overboard during the holidays. Learn the value of scaling back.  Purchase 3 quality gifts instead of 12.   Scale back on the decorations and really focus on quality instead of quantity.

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the holidays and to go overboard and overbudget.   Instead, take the time to get yourself organized, make a plan and follow the plan.

You may also like:
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