This is the weekend! After careful analysis of the garage sale market, updates from the Chicago weather teams, a scientific study from MIT…well, not really. More like Joe has finally stopped dragging his feet so the garage sale is finally happening! Thankfully, the forecast is looking good. We’re only doing the sale on Friday and Saturday as I wasn’t sure we would have enough product for Sunday. But who knows, once we’re set up, we’ll see what happens and maybe run Sunday as well.

We’ve been pricing all the items we have up for sale this past week and trying to get things set up in the garage so we can just pull them out on Friday morning.

We came to realize a few things:

  • Pre-printed price labels – must have
  • Plenty of tables – must have
  • Kicking the cars out of the garage so you can set up – must have
  • Hanging up clothes, looks better and doesn’t take up table space – must have
  • We really only had a couple of tables ourselves and wqickly realized we needed more. Thankfully a friend had a few she let us borrow. This will make our presentation look all that much better.

    And forget visiting the local Target/Walmart/Home Center for garage sale supplies. Instead hit the dollar store. Cheap and pretty nice. You don’t want to spend $30 on supplies and start the day having to make all that up first.

    I’ll put together a recap for next week after it’s all done and we’ve sold everything! A guy can hope we sell almost everything.




    Admittedly, I am a bit worried about not utilizing my Excel skills each day. My old job pretty much required me to know a good deal of Excel. Excel was probably the one program aside from Outlook which I couldn’t live without.

    Nowadays, it truly amazes me when I would run into co-workers who didn’t know how to use Excel for what it is, an easy way to collect and calculate data. You know that person, the one who sends you a spreadsheet that is busy as hell with colors, different size fonts, and worse yet – hard coded totals. WTH? Did the person actually break out a calculator (and I don’t even want to know if they used the calculator on the computer or an actual calculator). Ugh, you get what I mean.

    So, I figured I would start putting out some quick how-to’s with Excel formulas. It gives me some Excel practice and can also inform others if they weren’t already aware of some Excel formulas. Now, I am starting with some of the basics. As time goes on I’ll expand and get into the more complicated formulas. But for the first few Excel posts, we’ll keep it pretty straight forward.

    Read More →


    Do you rent your modem from your cable provider? If you do and you have Comcast you’re likely paying between $8-$10/month just to rent that piece of equipment. Did you know you could buy your own? Not only that, but the cost will pay for itself in under a year! We bought ours in February of 2015 for $70. At the $8/month rental fee we were paying, we recouped our money in a matter of 9 months. The best part is that now we’re saving that amount each and every month. Since we purchased the modem, we paid for the modem and already have saved $24 with the savings adding up each and every month.

    A couple of items to note. If you’re going to purchase one, be sure to get one that is compliant with your cable company. And second, put the money in now for a good one because that bad boy will last years and you want to make sure you don’t have to purchase another one until you absolutely have to.

    Yeah, that may sound confusing, but it’s not. Pretty much every cable provider will be able to utilize a Docsis 3 compliant modem but check first. A typical D3 modem with 4 downstream/4 upstream channels can handle 150 meg service. Most of us don’t have anything near that speed tier. However, in thinking about the future, you may want to consider a modem that can handle more channels. Here in Chicago for example, Google Fiber and their Gigabit service is coming here! Talk about truly being able to cut the cord from Comcast!

    Our modem feeds not only our internet services but also our home security system. Don’t be intimidated – a good modem can handle the load. Now if you have phone service from Comcast, they will likely install a gateway which serves as a modem, phone and router. Sure it’s a nice piece of equipment (if it’s the right model), but again, you’re paying for the rental. And cable company phone service? Pfft. I’ll write a review on our MagicJack service, a much, much cheaper alternative. I keep adding items to include in my Cutting The Cord article that is coming soon.

    Oh, and wait until I talk about routers…another piece of equipment where you want to front some money for a really good one.




    Getting, and staying, organized matters because it makes your life so much easier and reduces stress.

    In Your Job

    Being organized is the reason why I can work three days a week at a job that was meant to be full-time. I keep everything in order so I spend a minimal amount of time just trying to refresh my memory about an issue or locating where an invoice might be (I work in finance). My best friends, besides Outlook’s calendar and tasks, is Excel and Word.

    When starting my most recent job I started putting together all the notes I was taking into a Word document. This is now my main reference document for all the tasks I perform on an on-going basis. I also have a reference document in Excel that I use daily which contains vendor #s, GLs, etc. so I don’t have to be constantly looking up the information in our finance system. This cuts down on a lot of wasted time.

    Even if you don’t work in finance, I think you’d find Excel and Word can help you with your job. You could use Excel to track clients and their contact information, track a project’s progress, or track time spent on tasks if that’s something you need (or want) to do. For processes and procedures, Word works well as you can organize your document into sections and have Word build an automatic table of contents which makes it easy to skip to the section you need no matter how long the document is (mine is currently 59 pages and continues to grow as I add to it frequently).

    The best part is that not only does documenting what you do, and how you do it, help you be more efficient, it also keeps you consistent. This helps your coworkers in case they need to cover for you temporarily when you’re out of the office. It also helps your boss understand what you do (since they can’t possibly know everything when managing a group of people). In addition, when you decide to move on, your document can be passed along to your replacement which makes it easier to train them, whether that be you, if they are in place before you leave, or your boss/coworkers. It’s truly a win-win!

    At Home

    Staying organized at home allows you to spend your precious free-time with family, friends, pets, or even by yourself relaxing instead of wasting it looking for paperwork, your wallet, keys, etc. I’ve talked before about the different apps I use like Evernote, Dropbox, and Alarmed to keep myself on track.

    Items in your home should have a home of their own, even your wallet and keys. There’s a bin by the door where we both put our keys when we get home. As a result, we never have to run around the house looking for our keys when we leave the house. I also keep my coupons in one spot so I can grab them on the way out. Pretty much everything in the kitchen is kept in the same spot all the time so there’s no wasted time trying to find something. Even my so-called junk drawer is organized!

    Our laundry is organized in the respect that we have three laundry baskets – one for darks, one for lights, and one for dress clothes. On the darks bin I’ve clipped a laundry bag where I put booties and socks. That way they don’t get lost when they are washed and dried together. I’ve yet to misplace a sock mate doing this!

    I’m sure getting your stuff organized can seem daunting to many people, but the end result is so worth it! The sense of satisfaction you feel when everything is put away neatly and easily found later is amazing. The trick is to make it easy to put stuff back where it belongs so you keep doing it.



    Anyone who leans on the OCD side of things such as myself probably has a lot of bookmarks in their web browser. How would you feel if your computer crashed and you lost them all? Personally I would be devastated after cultivating them for years.

    Fear not, there’s a solution, and it’s called Xmarks. This free service is tied to your web browser and syncs your bookmarks on demand (and every time you close the browser) to ensure your bookmarks are never lost. You can access them online wherever there’s an internet connection and restore them should you need to reinstall your operating system and/or web browser (or even if you decide to use a new browser and want to easily add your bookmarks to it).

    This service has saved me more times than I can count, like the time I somehow inadvertently completely deleted a folder full of bookmarks in Firefox. That’s because Xmarks keeps a history of your bookmarks so you can restore what you’ve removed from the browser itself. I love this service and highly recommend it!



    I recently wrote about the benefit of using an RSS feed reader to keep on top of content you’re interested in, and a perfect compliment to that is a great free program called Pocket. Available on the web and mobile devices, Pocket’s primary purpose is to house content you’re interested in reading. You can save your content from several sources directly into Pocket with just a few keystrokes.

    For instance, let’s say you’re browsing your Twitter feed and you come across a tweet that contains a URL to an article that sounds interesting but you just don’t have the time or patience to read it right then and there. You could just hunt through your feed later and try to locate the link, or you could send that link over to Pocket and know it will be there when you have the time to read it.

    I utilize Pocket as a way to keep on top of my Twitter feed and articles in Feedly that I’m interested in but don’t feel like dealing with at the exact moment they appear. When I’m at work with limited break time I’ll scroll through my feeds and just save articles to Pocket so that when I’m home later that evening I can log into Pocket and read all the articles at once. This works great for the deal sites I follow as well when I’m not near my computer and am able to print coupons immediately.

    Once you mark an article as read in Pocket it still lives in your archive which is searchable (as is your inbox). It’s useful for saving stuff that you think you might want to reference later but don’t want to bookmark in a browser never to be accessed again.

    If you decide to check out Pocket please feel free to come back here and comment on what you think about it. I love it and have been using it for a long time as it’s a perfect companion to Feedly. Sure, you can save articles in Feedly to be read later but I like Pocket as it’s the one stop place for all my articles regardless of their source (Feedly, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, the web, etc).



    The last entry centered around what you can do with Evernote, so I think a natural extension of that is Dropbox. Whereas with Evernote you can store all your notes, Dropbox lets you store all your files in the cloud so you can access them from the web, your computer, your phone, or your tablet. It’s a very handy service, and best of all, it’s free!

    You can create as many folders and sub-folders as you like and you can even configure it so that every photo you take on your phone is automatically uploaded to Dropbox (although with the Photostream option on the iPhone you might not want to do this).

    Your Dropbox folders are private by default but you can make them public to share files with friends/family, or even designate a particular file as shareable and provide a link to retrieve it. In addition, there are many apps that work seamlessly with Dropbox, such as Notesy which saves all your notes in a Dropbox folder.

    Dropbox is a free service I couldn’t live without and I highly recommend it to keep your life organized. Once you install it, check out these articles for ideas on how to enhance your Dropbox experience:

    Top 10 Dropbox Apps for iOS, Android, Windows and Mac OS X
    Five Free Dropbox Tools You’re Not Using (But Should Be)
    Dropbox Addons

    Feel free to share your favorite ways to use Dropbox in the comments.



    Have you heard of Evernote? A lot of people have, but surprisingly, many have not. And that’s unfortunate because it’s a handy little free service that allows you to store and access notes wherever you are. There’s a desktop version for your home computer, an app for your phone (iPhone or Android), and you can access your account via a web browser anywhere there’s internet access. Talk about convenient!

    There’s no limit to what you can use Evernote to track, but here’s what I use it for:

    Conversations – I track conversations I’ve had with companies, particularly for those I have to contact repeatedly for answers. I note the date, time, person I spoke with and the results of that conversation. I include screenshots from websites where necessary. This saved me when disputing a charge for my local newspaper as I had a screenshot that contradicted what I was told. So again, another money saver.

    Donations – I take pictures of the items I’ve donated and note their donation date, where they went, and a brief description of what is pictured. This helps jog my memory when a year later I’m wondering why something has “disappeared”. In addition, I keep track of monetary donations made to the local food bank and other charities so I can record them when tax season comes around.

    Home Inventory – Ever buy, let’s say, toilet bowl cleaner, only to come home and realize you already have three bottles of it in the garage? Well I have, but I don’t anymore. I keep an inventory of my cleaning products in Evernote so I know when I’m low on something and when I have plenty of something else. Of course this requires discipline to keep the list updated so your mileage may vary.

    Location of infrequently used items – Nothing is worse than tearing apart the house looking for your packing tape or the window fan you stored away once it got colder outside. Well, if you make a note of where you put them you wouldn’t have that problem! So whenever I put something seasonal away, I make a note of its location for reference later. This also works well if, like me, you have a garage full of storage totes. I have many of mine color-coded (orange for Halloween, red/green for Christmas, pink for Valentine’s Day, etc) but if you use more than one for a given holiday/season it’s great to label them with a magic marker with a number and then note what is stored in each one. It will save you from digging through multiple totes to find what you’re looking for.

    Evernote Food Review

    Products / Food – I take photos of products or food I’ve tried and paste them into a note with my impressions. I can’t tell you how many times this has saved me from buying something at the store I already tried before and didn’t like. No more waste! On the flip side, it helped me recall items I did like so I could buy more.

    Travel Ideas – I use my travel notebook to keep track of future places I’d like to visit and build an itinerary from there. Eventually I end up moving the details into Excel because I’m a nerd like that but Evernote is great for the preliminary planning process.

    I’m sure there’s lots of other uses for Evernote but the above are just some ideas based on how I use it. Feel free to share your suggestions in the comments.