How to Change Your Bank Without Stressing (Too Much)

Posted By on October 5, 2011

Switching banks to avoid new debit card fees? See the organizational how-to below.
When the Bank-Who-Won’t-Be-Named announced they were adding fees for using debit cards, consumers have been quick to express anger.

You know it’s pretty serious when the first bank to announce these new fees keeps getting their website hacked, and a member of Congress is urging people to “vote with their feet” and leave the Bank-Who-Won’t-Be-Named.

I left this particular bank two years ago, and my new bank is one of the ones considering adding debit card fees. If this happens, I’ll probably either bury my money in the backyard or join a smaller bank or a credit union – which is more consumer friendly.

What banks are counting on to keep your business is that switching banks is a pain in the butt. But you can make the process much easier with a little organization.

Do Your Homework

First, go through your bank statements and compare it with your bills. Make a list of the bills you pay via snail mail, automatically, or online. Also make a list of services, such as Amazon and Groupon, that you may use on a regular basis.

Go back through your bank statements for the past three to four months to make sure you capture any other bills or payments you make through your debit/credit card.

Second, shop around for banks, comparing their fees, numbers of ATMs, online services and other features. Once you select a bank, sign up for a new checking account. More than likely, you need some token amount to open the account.

If you have direct deposit from your job, find out how much time Human Resources needs to change your direct deposit account. When you have your new account number, go down to HR and fill out their form to change your direct deposit information.

Start anew – sans fees

Log onto each of your bills and change your account information as soon as you have your new debit card and account information.

In addition to your bills, you may regularly order or use services such as Amazon, Paypal, Groupon, etc. You can go in and change them in all in one fell swoop or wait to change the account information until you actually make a purchase or use the service.

After your paycheck hits your new account, monitor the old account and make sure any outstanding charges have hit. Once everything has hit, close the old account and say adios to the old bank and their evil fees.


Be Organized to Stay Safe, Ready to Evacuate

Posted By on September 26, 2011

In recent weeks, we’ve watched dangerous grass fires break out near Houston and Austin. Several of our employees at MD Anderson who work at the Bastrop and Smithville campuses were among those who lost their homes in the devastating fires.

The fires broke out on the heels of the anniversaries of Hurricanes Ike and Carla, both of which caused tremendous damage in our area.

Ironically, September is National Preparedness Month. Are you prepared for a disaster? No one thinks it will happen to them. But it can.

Be safe. Be prepared. Be ready.

Here are some tips to keep you and your family safe:

  • Keep important stuff together. This includes insurance policies; birth and marriage certificates; your photo ID and passport; mortgage papers; your house inventory; medical and veterinarian information, etc.
  • Scan important documents and place them in the cloud, such as Dropbox, Evernote and other services. You can encrypt files to add another layer of security.
  • Scan your photos and keep copies on the cloud or services such as Flickr, Kodak Gallery and Shutterfly. I still have a box of photos to scan in myself.
  • Practice fire drills with your family and have a meeting spot, such as the neighbor’s driveway.
  • If you have a second-story home, purchase a fire ladder to make an escape.
  • Change the batteries in your smoke alarm twice a year during the time changes.
  • If you have gas in your home, install a carbon monoxide detector.
  • Keep your car in good working order in case you need to evacuate.
  • Have clear walkways in your home. Could firefighters and paramedics safely enter your home to help you?
  • Know where your stuff is. If you had to evacuate your home, could you grab the important stuff you need and the sentimental items you want?

As you can see, a little preparation goes a long way in keeping you and your family safe.


What Can You Do in 15 Minutes?

Posted By on September 19, 2011

You can get a lot organized in 15 minutes

We’re all busy. Just ask us.

It’s very easy to look around your house, see everything you need to do and just camp out on the couch. But you can accomplish quite a bit in 15-minute increments.

So what can you do in 15 minutes? Here are some tasks you can tackle.

  • Unload and reload the dishwasher.
  • Go through a stack of papers, and toss the ones you don’t want.
  • Shred a stack of paper through the shredder.
  • Delete junk email.
  • Clean out the refrigerator.
  • Clean off the kitchen counter.
  • Clean off your coffee table.
  • Fold a load of laundry.
  • Sort your recycling.
  • Pay your bills.
  • Make a grocery list.

What can you do in 15 minutes?


Organizing Product Review: Pinterest

Posted By on September 7, 2011

After seeing a couple of Pinterest posts on Facebook by my friends, I decided to check out this new virtual pinboard site. I am officially hooked!

To sign up, ask for an invitation on the website or receive an invite from a friend on Pinterest. Once you join, download it onto your computer so the “pin it” button is on your Favorites bookmark list. You can also download the free apps for your smartphone and iPad.

What it is: Pinterest is a virtual pinboard, and you can create your own boards with your own topics. So far, I have boards on home renovation, organization (of course!), shiny object syndrome (sparkly things!), crafts, inspiring things, and funny things. If you’re surfing on the web and find something you like, go to Favorites and select “Pin it.” In the pop-up box, select the item you want to pin, assign to one of your boards, and write a description.

With Pinterest, you can follow the boards of other people, “repin” items you like on other people’s boards and put them on your board, and make comments. When you click on a photo on someone’s board, it will go to the original link if you want to check it out. The site is easy to use.

Why I like it: It’s a great way to organize your thoughts, things and projects you like. For the new ebook 100 Days to Christmas 2011 there are links for holiday crafts and recipes to Pinterest boards that author Jennifer Tankersley created for the book. I’ve seen people use for wedding and event planning and also to create gift-giving guides.

Another reason I like it is that it sparks my imagination and creativity. I love discovering new ideas and approaches, and I’ve stumbled across brilliant things.

Drawbacks: You may have to watch how much time you spend on the site. It could be addictive, not that I’m complaining.


100 Days to Christmas

Posted By on August 29, 2011

100 Days to Book by Jennifer Tankersley

It is probably funny to think about Christmas when we’re in the middle of triple digital heat and a drought.

Reading the new ebook “100 Days to Christmas” is stirring up the thoughts of fall and winter holidays. Holidays can cause stress and anxiety amid a whirlwind of plans, but author Jennifer Tankersley is here to help you get ready while keeping your sanity and, more importantly, your enjoyment of the holiday season.

Tankersley is the creator of ListPlanIt, a website devoted to all sorts of checklists for your life. As a big lover of Christmas, she created this daily guide for those who love the holidays and for those who find it all terrifying.

As a professional organizer, I often encourage my clients to break large projects into smaller, less overwhelming steps. Tankersley takes the same approach with the holidays.

The book begins with a daily tip on September 16 and runs through December 25. You will find tips on planning not only your Christmas, but also  Halloween and Thanksgiving too. Her step-by-step approach reminds you – in the musical words of Faith Hill – “just breathe.” Let’s be honest. We can make ourselves into crazy people during the holidays because we want things to be perfect.

I have to admit that for the past couple of years, I’ve found the holidays to be a bit draining. Reading 100 Days to Christmas has motivated and inspired me for the coming holiday season, and that alone is priceless.

To buy your copy and for daily tips, visit 100 Days to Christmas and have yourself a Merry Little Christmas. And a Happy Halloween and a Happy Thanksgiving.


Plan Your Staycation

Posted By on August 15, 2011

People need vacation time to renew and recharge themselves, but it seems Americans don’t take vacations as much as they should.

When I posted an ABC News article on Facebook about the importance of vacations, one of my friends said it was hard to truly take a vacation when you work from home and can’t afford to take a vacation.

So how do you take a staycation and stay away from work?

First, make your staycation a digital free vacation. Don’t look at email and social media. In fact, keep off the computer if you can. Turn it off and unplug. Once you spend a few days off, you may have a full inbox, but you will be in a better mood and better shape to deal with it.

Second, just because you’re staying home, doesn’t mean you have to stay at home the entire time. Are there day trips you can take? Is there a museum exhibit you want to see? A restaurant you want to try? Get out there and try something and some place new.

Third, do something nice for yourself. Check out Groupon, Living Social and other deal sites to see if you can pick up a deal on a massage, pedicure, or yoga class. If you don’t want to go somewhere else, pamper yourself at home.

Fourth, read a book. Stay away from work-related tomes and pick up a fiction book or memoir. If you’re not interested in a book at the moment, pick up a few magazines and include ones you normally don’t purchase. Personally, I’m a sucker for British decorating magazines.

Fifth, become a kid again. Run through the sprinklers, take naps, eat sno-cones, do a puzzle, watch cartoons, have cake for breakfast, play games, and play dress up with your fancy clothes. Go crazy.

Sixth, hang with friends. If you haven’t talked to an old friend in a while, give them a call or meet up for coffee. We need our friends. If you feel like your social life has been too reliant on Facebook, then it’s time to spend time face-to-face with people.

Seventh, spend time in nature. My idea of camping is a motel without a hair dryer, but we need to spend some time in nature. Sit outside and read a book, take a nap in hammock, or go to your local zoo or park.

With these tips, you can leave work behind and have a happy and healthy staycation.