Easy, Quick, Inexpensive Upgrades: Change Out Mismatched Light Switches

Disclaimer:  My husband has electrical experience.  If you do not have electrical experience, you likely should not attempt this improvement; instead hire an electrician or skip this update.

Remember how my husband and I switched out our light switch plates?

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Our white switch plates still did not match the beige/cream switches.  And worse, many of the light switches in this house were black–or worse, were originally black but had been painted white.  Ugh.  So ugly!

For a couple of dollars and less than 10 minutes of time each, my husband was able to switch out these light switches.


So much better!

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Shred entered and cleared receipts.

Yesterday you worked on entering receipts.  Continue working on that task today if you aren’t finished.  But also work on today’s task:  After you have entered a receipt in your notebook, app, spreadsheet, or financial program and ensured it cleared your statement, do one of two things with the receipt:

  1. File it if you might need to return an item on it, if the item is under warranty, if the receipt creates a taxable event, or if there is another genuine reason to keep the receipt, OR
  2. Shred it if none of the above apply.

If you handle this task once a month, entering and then filing or shredding receipts, you’ll never have to deal with boxes of receipts again.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

Time required:  About 15 minutes for several months of receipts, but I have an industrial shredder.

Begin entering receipts.

We have talked about receipts in the past.  They can become overwhelming if you don’t take care of them regularly.  I strongly recommend putting your receipts in an envelope each month and processing them (at least?) once a month.

So how do you “process” your receipts?  Each family handles its finances differently. I start by entering my receipts for the month into Quicken.  You can use a a spreadsheet (I did so when I had only one bank account and paid cash for everything.)  You could also use another financial program.  You can be like my parents and write every expense down in a notebook.  I strongly recommend including the date of the purchase, the store, and the amount, but I also would encourage you to keep track of how you are spending your money.  For example, I separate even my grocery store receipts into groceries, blow money (to elaborate, any soft drinks purchased in our home are purchased from blow money budgets, not with our grocery budget), household (laundry detergent is an example), and health and fitness expenses (the OTC Nexium I have to have).  In Quicken, I split the transaction.  I used separate lines when I used a spreadsheet.  Determine what method works for you.

Let me talk about Quicken for a second.  (I promise that I’m not getting paid to do so.)  I used Microsoft Money for years and am still bitter that it was discontinued.  But I decided in 2010 that Quicken was a decent substitute, even if it didn’t keep track of investments and had a clunkier interface.  Since then, I’ve learned about and downloaded Microsoft Money Plus Sunset, and again, I like it better, again because of its cleaner interface, its ability to track investments, and its various calculators and planning tools.  (I will say that I don’t connect to any of my accounts using either of these programs.)  Regardless of whether you use either of these or another program entirely, I will say I definitely prefer using a program to using a spreadsheet because I can reclassify money spent more easily and more quickly if I decide to rebudget.  And I don’t have to keep adding up amounts spent on, say, my gasoline budget each year as I would with a paper notebook.

At any rate, start entering/recording your receipts if you haven’t been already.  Start with February’s and go backward, month by month until you catch up or get to the cut-off date you previously determined.

One more thing:  I keep my receipts for non-cash items until my next monthly statement arrives and I verify that all of the amounts are correct (and that the items won’t need to be returned).  But if I enter a cash receipt and know I won’t be returning any items on it (such as a receipt to Krispy Kreme or even a Food Lion receipt for milk), I shred that receipt as soon as I enter it.  Consider doing the same to get rid of paper as expeditiously as possible.  I was able to spread a handful of receipts for January and February today.  The rest of the receipts for February go back in my envelope until I clear them with my bank or credit card statement (in March).

Time required:  However much you need.  I spent hours on this process, but I was a couple of months behind . . . and I was watching the Daytona 500 (even though I said I wouldn’t), so I wasn’t really giving this task my undivided attention.  🙂

Sheldon Cooper enjoys organizing, too!

I’ve reached season 6 of “The Big Bang Theory,” and tonight I watched the episode that included this scene:

I can so relate!  I’m like Sheldon Cooper; I’m an organizing savant!  🙂

Can you relate?  Or are you like Howard, who created the messy closet in the first place?

Disclaimer:  Obviously, I don’t own the content of this video, and I didn’t post it, and I am somewhat certain that the person who posted probably doesn’t have the rights to do so either.  I do love “The Big Bang Theory,” so much so that I own all nine seasons of it on Blu-Ray, and I would encourage you to buy it on DVD or Blu-Ray as well.  🙂

Bonus task: Program your TV channels into your guide.

Where I’m from, ABC was channel 3, CBS was channel 5, NBC was channel 10, and FOX was channel 15.  But my husband and I haven’t lived in our respective hometowns in several years, and even though we did live in this particular city several years ago, we still aren’t used to the channels here.  And we don’t have cable, which generally has a guide that would label all of those channels for us.  Given that we watch TV less than once a month, we choose to have only an antenna.

Last week, I watched American Ninja Warrior, which is on NBC.  Yesterday, I wanted to watch the Daytona 500, which was broadcast on FOX.  Both times, I had to look up the local affiliate channel using Google.  While doing so did not take me long, I did want to stop looking up this same information each time I want to watch TV.

So I programmed the information into the guide on our television.  It will be helpful on those rare occasions when we watch TV, but also will make life a little easier for our visitors this week.

Time required:  About 15 minutes, but only because I realized after I’d finished the first time that I hadn’t been saving my changes and thus had to redo the names.

Also, I handled this task during the news.  I’m glad I don’t watch every day.  It’s stressful!

Just shred it!

In the last few days, I’ve talked about opting out of prescreened credit and insurance offers and unsubscribing from the worst junk mail offenders.  But let’s be honest:  Slaying the junk mail dragon is pretty near impossible.  At some point, you will spend more time unsubscribing than you would just to shred the junk mail.  And you’ll be incredibly frustrated, too.  So at this point, you should decide how much time you’re willing to invest–and probably keep it to a few minutes a week from this point forward.

Otherwise, you’ll feel as though you’re losing your mind.  Ask me how I know.  🙂

Time required:  Less than 10 minutes of shredding per week.

Unsubscribe from the worst junk mail offenders.

I’ve already touched on how much I hate junk mail.  I talked yesterday about opting out of prescreen offers of credit and insurance.  Today I would encourage you to determine the worst offenders in your battle against junk mail.  Then call or e-mail these entities and ask them to remove your address from their mailing list.  In my experience, companies typically comply with the requests for removal.  (On occasion, the representative of a unsolicited catalog will tell you who sold your name.  I received a pet supplies catalog at my home address, and given we have no pets, I asked who sold my name.  The representative told me the United States Postal Service had sold my information. The United States Postal Service claims it does not sell addresses.  Who’s lying?  I don’t know.  This article is interesting, though.

One final note:  Although I’m sure there is a way to “opt out” of having my privacy sold for money by various entities, I decided to discontinue business with any companies selling my information.  As an example, I unsubscribed completely from Highlights magazine, partially because it was one of the worst offenders I encountered (partially because I am discontent with some of the changes that have taken place since I was a subscriber in my childhood).  At any rate, you may want to do the same.  Or not.  Your choice!

Time required:  About 5 minutes per offender.