Category Archives: Tips

Money Woes

Money Woes

There is a saying, “Money makes the world go around” ~ and it does in the sense that it is the currency that our world operates by. Money is part of our day-to-day lives. It changes hands daily for goods and services. We buy items at stores … we buy food at restaurants … we buy gasoline for our cars … we pay our bills. Like numerous other businesses, Tracy Helps You provides a service to our clients, and we get paid for those services. For payment, we accept checks or cash.

Earlier this week, I got a crash course on being on the receiving end of several counterfeit twenty dollar bills. Like many people, I pay most of my household bills online. It’s simple and convenient – schedule the amount and the date, click OK, and you are done. Except, that I forgot about an annual insurance payment that is taken directly from my account each year. Not a big deal … I just had to deposit more money into the account before the bill payments cleared. I also forgot that the banks aren’t open on Labor Day, so I did the next best thing. I counted out $300 in twenty dollar bills (counted out 15 bills, checked 3 times), put them with the deposit slip into a sealed envelope and put them in my banks “night deposit” vault.

Tuesday afternoon, I signed into my online banking to just make sure that all the payments and the deposit went smoothly. I’m glad I did, because instead of a $300 deposit pending, there was a $240 deposit pending. I made a trip to our local bank branch and was informed that 3 of the $20 that were in my envelope were counterfeit bills and were being sent to the Secret Service. To say that I was shocked would be huge understatement.

They explained that they confiscate the bad bills and sent them off to the Secret Service for verification, and that I basically just lost $60. She advised me to check out their website to learn more about how to spot a counterfeit bill and what to do if you find one.

So, I went home and spent a couple of hours learning about counterfeit money. I encourage you to please take some time and learn for yourself … here is the website www.secretservice.gov. Just click the Investigation drop-down menu toward the top of the page and then click on “Know Your Money”. It takes you to a PDF file showing all the safety features that are incorporated into each denomination of US currency.

The reason for me telling you all of this is to share my unfortunate experience and to pass along some knowledge to hopefully prevent you from having a similar experience.

Tips from a Pet Sitter

5 Tips When Hiring a Pet Sitter / House Sitter

Hope these Tips “help” when you are choosing the person you will be hiring to care for your pets and home while you are away.

  1. Always meet with the pet sitter in your home. Watch how they interact with your pet and how your pet interacts with them. Be alert for any hints that it may not be a good match … animals are usually a pretty good judge of character 🙂
  2. Before you leave town, make sure to write the pet sitter a note with all the pertinent details that you had previously discussed. It will be good for them to have the instructions to refer back to while you are away.
  3. Leave contact information for the vet, as well as, for someone local (like a neighbor or nearby family member) they can call in case of an emergency.
  4. Remember to write down important codes / passwords for the pet sitter (like for the garage door, TV & wifi) to use during their time of taking care of your pets and home.
  5. Let the pet sitter know if you have other services scheduled to take place while you are gone (like the housekeeper comes around 2 on Thursdays … or … someone is coming to power wash the deck at 10 am on Monday). Speaking from experience, it’s not fun to be startled … for either party 🙁

Pet Sitting, House Sitting & Pet Care are a few of the many services we offer at Tracy Helps You. Is there any way we can “help” you ?

 

Raising A Friendly Cat

My Top Tips for Raising a Friendly Cat

 June 4th is “Hug Your Cat Day”, according to the Days of the Year website (https://www.daysoftheyear.com/days/hugyourcatday/). So what better day to write about cats 🙂

I love animals … cats, dogs, birds, hamsters … animals of all kinds. Well mostly, snakes and spiders are kinda creepy. Pets are wonderful, they can be a true companion.

I’ve had many people comment that my cats are so friendly when
they visit my home. They have said that they thought cats were
aloof and stand-offish ~ I think most people believe this 🙁
While many cats might behave this way, I think my cats prove
this idea isn’t totally true. I think it has a lot to do with how they
were raised and depends on what they experienced during their
kittenhood.
Here are my tips:
  • Try to not leave them home alone a lot when they are young kittens. I believe this is the most important time for them in learning to be social. If they a alone a lot they will learn to be happy being off by themselves and seem aloof.
  • Be affectionate with your kitten. Hold them gently like you would a baby (cause they are).
  • Hug and cuddle with them. Pet them, rub their belly or behind their ears – they will start to purr.
  • When they are sitting on your lap, gently push on the pads on their paws, making their claws come out … this motion will become familiar for them and will help them to trust you when you trim their nails.
    Talk to them and use their name frequently, they will learn
    to answer and come when you call them. They are very
    intelligent.
    A firm “no” with a slight clap of your hands will usually stop
    any unwanted behavior. I don’t think you should ever hit or
    swat your cat. Some people use a spray bottle filled with
    water to spritz the cat to stop a behavior (I’ve not tried it).
    Play with them, teach them tricks, give them treats … make
    them part of the family.
    Our fur babies have the run of the house. We treat them as
    beloved members of our family. They each have their favorites
    napping spots. They are well trained, friendly cats who know they
    are loved <3

    If you ever need someone to take care of your fur babies while

    you are out of town, please give me a call. I’ll love on them for

    you while you are away from home <3

You've Got Mail ... Email

5 Tips for Managing Your Email Inbox

A year or so ago, I wrote a post about organizing and managing your piles of paperwork and junk mail. These days, I get more, actually much more email than snail mail. Email is a wonderful tool for business as well as for personal use. It is great to have (nearly) instant responses.

Technology has advanced very quickly in the last couple of decades. We now live in a 24/7 world, where practically everything is available at a moment’s notice. Gone are the days of typing a letter, mailing it, and then waiting a week or more for a response. Nowadays, people get impatient if they don’t get an instant response to an email they sent.

As a result, nearly everyone has at least one, if not more, email addresses. I have both personal and business email addresses … all told, I have 6 email addresses. Do you have more than one?
Email inboxes fill up fast. Some people get hundreds every day. It can become overwhelming very quickly.

Here are some tips I try to follow monthly:
• Create sub folders to file emails you will need to refer back to at a future date.
• After reading an email, delete it or file it away in the appropriate folder
• Try to respond right away … saving it for later keeps the inbox cluttered.
• If you get too many emails sales ads from stores, you can request to receive fewer by changing your preferences or unsubscribing completely.
• You can delete multiple emails at one time by using the search bar to find all the emails from a specific sender, then click on check all, then click delete all.

Once you get your inbox emptied out, try to stay on top of it by setting aside some time every month to keep it manageable. It will take less and less time each month.

I hope these tips prove “helpful” for you 🙂

New Car

Tips For An “Almost” New Car

They say that the best time to get a great price on a new car is at the end of the year. The year-end deals are supposedly the best you’ll get all year … they want to sell the current models to make room for all the new models.
If you are like me (and most likely many others), buying a new car just wasn’t on the to-do list last month. To be totally honest, I wouldn’t want to start having car payments again – no matter how great a deal they could give me.
That being said, I wouldn’t say no to some upgrades and TLC for my SUV. Here are some of my ideas (aka my wish list):
• Get it detailed or at least a thorough cleaning –
inside & out, complete with a new air freshener
• Remote starter for those really cold / really hot days
• A dashboard docking station to hold my phone / GPS unit so I can see my driving directions without taking my eyes off the road
• A new bluetooth enabled sound system with satellite radio
In my opinion, having these upgrades done would be better than getting a brand new car ~ no car payments 🙂

Time Change

10 Seasonal Chores To-Do When You Change the Clocks

It’s that time of year again … time to change the clocks back one hour.

I love almost everything about autumn, except for the time change. We “gain” an hour, but I hate that it is full on dark by dinner time. It seems like I have a harder time adjusting to this each year than the year before. Is it age related? Oh well …
Continue reading

Handmade Gift Ideas for the Holidays

Handmade Gift Ideas

It is a glorious September afternoon. I’m working on my blog post while sitting on my new patio enjoying the beautiful weather. It is warm & sunny with a gentle breeze blowing through the branches of my gi-normous maple tree.

So (on one of the last days of summer) … I decide my topic will be about ideas for making a handmade gifts for Christmas. That’s right, I said Christmas … but only because you need plenty of time to plan and work on your gift projects. Otherwise, I am a believer of enjoying each holiday as it comes, not rushing it 🙂

I have always loved doing crafts. Making or creating something is a labor of love. I feel like the finished product has a little piece of me in it ♥ However, I have learned (the hard way) that in order for me to love making the gift for someone, I have to allow plenty of time to finish it … not be rushed to get it done in time.

That being said, here is my game plan:
• Search Pinterest, craft websites & blogs to pick the projects I want to make
• Only choose a handful of recipients, so making the gift remains a joy ~ not become a burden.
• Decide early on who will be getting what gift
• Buy all the supplies I will need for each project ahead of time, (that way I can have multiple projects going at the same time)
• I’ll work on the gift while watching TV in the evening
• I can switch up which gift I’m working on, so I don’t get bored … like I can work on my knitting project if I don’t feel like making jewelry.

Some of the handmade gifts I given in the past are … a knitted or crocheted scarf, note cards for stationary, jewelry, Christmas ornaments, personalized photo frames, a “scrapbook style” keepsake shadow box, bath salts, and, of course, baked goods 🙂

I really enjoy giving handmade gifts to friends. I feel that because time is such a valuable commodity, the time I spend making the gift communicates how much I care about them. I hope they enjoy receiving them. Of course, because it is so time consuming, I only choose a few friends to make gifts for each year. My other friends receive store bought gifts … I love shopping too <3

I haven’t decided what I want to make for this year’s gifts yet, but I’m glad I’m starting to think about it early … because, as we all know, times flies by quickly.

Labor Day Road Trip Tips

Labor Day Road Trip Tips & Advantages

Labor Day weekend is upon us. I know I’m not alone when I sit here shaking my head, thinking “where did the time go? Summer just flew by !!

Although there are still a few weeks before Autumn officially begins, Labor Day Weekend is (for all practical purposes anyway) the unofficial end of summer. Many families celebrate this long holiday weekend by taking a road trip.

Traveling by car has many advantages for families … especially those with young children 🙂

~ AAA has reported that the price of gas hasn’t been this low since 2004. Spending less at the pump puts more $$ in the vacation budget — sounds like an advantage to me.

~ Your kids are in familiar surroundings … in their own car seat, have their own toys, their favorite snacks, etc.

~ You can take as many breaks as needed – when you need them. You can get out to stretch your legs or sooth a cranky child.

~ You choose meal times and where to eat.

~ You could go “old school” for the weekend … unplug (give your electronic device their own vacation). You could use an atlas to map out your route. If you happen to miss a turn off along the way, just say “we’re taking the scenic route”.

~ Continuing with the “old school” theme, you can play games like “I Spy”, or sing songs together, color / work in puzzle books, or play the license plate game, etc. Have light-hearted conversations … use this time to re-connect with each other without electronic distractions.

~ Take time to make unplanned stops … pull over to the see kitschy things like “the world’s largest ball of yarn” 🙂

These “old school” ideas may sound corny, but they will help make some wonderful family memories … memories your families will cherish for a lifetime (even if they never get posted on facebook or twitter) !!

(Photo Credit to Getty Images)

Back To School Tips

Top 5 Tips & Sanity Savers for Smooth Back to School Mornings

Back To School

In my humble opinion, a peaceful & out the door on time “back to school” (or any other busy) morning really begins with an organized & planned out night before 🙂

Here’s what has worked for me in the past (my kids are grown)…

(1) Have everyone’s lunch made & packed into their lunchbox / cooler, then store in the frig overnight. It will be easy to just grab-n-go in the morning.

(2) A hot breakfast will be easy if you have it pre-planned and pre-cooked beforehand. You can cook over the weekend, then just warm it up in the microwave. Set the table / have as much stuff out & ready to go as possible. Make sure to get everyone up early enough to have time to eat … feeling rushed is not the best way to start the day.

(3) Make sure all the backpacks (and briefcases) are packed and ready to go near the door. Be sure all forms that need a signature are signed … homework is in the proper folder … library materials that are due, etc.

(4) Pick out the clothes for the next day, get everything together – down to the shoes. Then you won’t discover their favorite jeans are dirty, or someone can’t find their shoe = no meltdown 🙂

(5) Try to do showers in the evening … it will help to free up congestion in the bathroom while everyone is trying to get ready at the same time in the morning.

Bonus tip:

Establish a “No Electronics Before School” rule (yes, for grown-ups too) It’s much easier to communicate when people are not staring a screen 🙂

I hope these tips will help you establish a good routine that works for your family. Please share some of your ideas and “tried & true” tips with the rest of us 🙂

Getting Organized - Email

Getting Organized ~ Email

I’m old enough to remember the days before email was even a word. In the mid 90’s I set up my first email account through AOL … like as in “You’ve Got Mail” (love that movie, btw). Remember the weird ringing tone as the dial up connection to the internet was made. It was fun sharing jokes and stories with family and friends. However, important things were still mailed through the Post Office … affectionately known as “snail mail”.

In today’s world, email has made snail mail practically obsolete … practically, but not totally. We all receive plenty of “junk mail” to attest to that. You can read about my tips about organizing paper clutter here.

These days, our electronic inboxes are overflowing with emails … some are from family & friends, some are business/school related, some are household related, but many, a great many, are advertisements.

I try to “organize” my email accounts monthly. I have a couple … personal and business.
Today, I’ll concentrate on my personal/household account. I’ve had the same email address for many years. That being said, I’m on many mailing lists that are no longer important to me. Here’s an example, as many of you know, I homeschooled my kids. My youngest graduated in 2011 … and I still receive emails from homeschool textbook companies 🙁 Instead of just deleting them, I unsubscribed so I won’t receive future emails from them. I also made adjustments to the frequency that I receive emails from companies that are still relevant to me but I don’t necessarily want to hear from on a daily basis. I also usually just delete all those forwarded jokes (sorry) … I just don’t have time to read them all, especially since I’ve probably seen many of them floating around on Facebook or Twitter.

I created separate folders and “filed” important emails that I may need to refer back to in the future. I have also created a new email address that I use strictly for signing up for free giveaways and following blogs, etc. I don’t have to check this daily, only when I have a little time for some leisurely reading. It is there when I need it and then my other email inbox doesn’t get clogged up so quickly 🙂

After my initial inbox clean up (which I admit, took awhile), I now delete and file stuff from my smartphone whenever I have a few minutes of downtime between clients and appointments.

Hopefully, I’ve inspired you to take a look at your inbox & get it more organized 🙂

Photo credit to SeanMacEntee