How to Save Money on Christmas Spending

Work from a Budget

Make a list of everyone you plan to give holiday gifts to this year with an estimate of what you want to spend. Add a small buffer for unexpected gifts for people you forgot to include, or for people who unexpectedly gave you a gift and you feel you must reciprocate. A gift card or homemade Christmas baking works well for these situations.

Research Ahead of Time

Spend some time getting gift ideas for everyone on your list. Once you have an idea of what you’re going buy, comparison shop on-line.

Pay Cash

It’s easy to overspend when you’re charging purchases to your credit card. When the money is coming right out of your bank account, you’re more likely to spend less.

Organize Your Shopping Time

The easiest way to stick to your Christmas gift budget is to block out a couple of specific times to shop and complete it during those times. Browsing leads to overbuying. If you plan to shop online, make that one of your designated shopping sessions.

Don’t Get Sucked in by a Sale

That foot massager may be a great price, but does it fit your budget? Does anyone on your list want a foot massager? If not, leave the “bargain” behind.

Don’t Buy for Yourself

It’s easy to see things you would like, while you’re out buying gifts for others. Even if it’s something you need, ignore it. Your bank account will be in better shape if you don’t give in to temptation.

Track Your Spending

When you see the numbers adding up, you’re less likely to overspend. Your log can be compared to your budget to ensure that you’re sticking to your plan.

Shop All Year

Shopping under pressure leads to overspending. Keep your eyes open all year round for sale items that will work for your gift requirements. If you shop early, you’ll save money and feel less stressed as the holidays approach.

Use eBay and Craigslist

Often you can find brand-new merchandise at bargain prices.

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How to Organize Your Day

Do you ever rush out of the house in the morning, five minutes late, only to realize you left something important behind? Do you find yourself scrambling to complete an endless list of tasks at work before leaving the office for the day? You know these transitional times can be the most disorganized of the day. However, they don’t need to be. With a few simple routines, you can keep your mornings and evenings–not to mention the times between–more organized, less stressful, and more efficient.

Decide What Needs to be Done First

Take out a piece of paper and pen. Make three columns on this paper. Title each column: personal life, job and community.

List everything you need to do this week under each of these headings.

  • Place an “A” next to everything in each column that is a high priority.
  • Place a “B” next to everything in each column that is a medium priority.
  • Place a “C” next to everything in each column that is a low priority.

Next, review everything under “A” and number them according to importance, with 1 being the highest priority. Do the same for columns “B” and “C”. Determine which hours of each day are going to be allocated to each of your headings: personal life, job and community. Within the hours allocated, go to the designated column and start with the item labeled “A1″, then go on to “A2″. When you’ve completed all the “A’s”, go to “B1″ and so on. When the time is up, move on to another column.

Make Trade-Offs

Plan when you’re going to tackle tasks and allow enough time to complete all or part of them. Work on difficult jobs first, or at a time when you’re at peak performance, saving the less stressful tasks for when you have less energy.

The idea here is to slot your tasks into the places where they’ll fit best. Certain tasks will always need to be done at specific times, of course—you can’t eat breakfast the night before—but by scheduling tasks for the times when you’ll be able to do them most efficiently, you’ll save time and frustration.

Get Your Routines in Place

With your task list in hand, develop routines for each part of the day in which you do similar tasks. Your routines should not only cover the tasks listed, but should also outline the order in which they occur. For example, your night-time home routine might look something like this:

  • Wash dinner dishes.
  • Set kitchen table for breakfast.
  • Prepare lunch for tomorrow; put lunch bag in fridge.
  • Put papers and supplies for work in briefcase.
  • Check weather for tomorrow.
  • Choose outfit based on weather forecast.
  • Get ready for bed.
  • Set alarm for morning.
  • Read, then go to sleep.

The idea is to get a sequence of tasks on paper, and to follow the sequence as best you can.

Adjust as Needed

Your self-management plan may not work the first time you try it. There will be times when your self-management process falls apart. As you follow your routines throughout the week, you’ll things you’ve forgotten, or find you can take care of several tasks at the same time

Your routines should be flexible enough to accommodate changes. Sticking to a routine that doesn’t work is as inefficient as not following one. These steps are not static but need to change and grow with you. Make time to review your process and see what changes can be made.

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Schedule Time for Self-Reflection

Self-esteem problems don’t develop instantly. They grow over time, sometimes so slowly that we don’t notice change taking place. We run into a major roadblock in our lives and suddenly, we lack the emotional strength to bounce back.

It’s important to make self-reflection a routine. Whether daily or weekly, we need to make a concrete appointment on our calendars. Put effort and intention into your self-reflection. See how you can enhance all areas of your life to improve your emotional, mental and spiritual balance.

Take an honest look at these searching questions:

  • How do I feel about me today?
  • What have I achieved?
  • What have I enjoyed?
  • What have I done to look after me?
  • Have I done anything I will regret?
  • Have I held true to my values?
  • Have I been myself?
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7 deadly sins of speakers and presenters

It takes a lot of preparation to craft the kind of speech or presentation that is going to grab your listener’s attention. Once the speech is crafted, you need to spend a lot of time practicing, so as to make sure you keep their attention.

Listeners don’t give their attention lightly and it doesn’t take much for it to wander. Here are seven bad speaking habits that will guarantee your listeners will be focusing on other things, instead of what you’re presenting.

  1. Rambling – if you don’t know where you’re going, the audience is not going to follow. If you do not have anything to say, sit down! No one has ever complained about a speech that ended early.
  2. Speaking in a monotone – not only are you at risk of losing their attention, but you might also even put them to sleep. Speaking in a monotonous voice is a real communication killer. When you don’t vary the pitch of your voice, it is difficult for the listener to maintain any interest in what you’re saying.
  3. Appearing to have limited topic knowledge – people come to listen because they expect you know what you’re talking about. You need to know your topic backwards and forwards. Research your topic thoroughly while preparing your speech.
  4. Poor eye contact – lack of eye contact creates a barrier between you and the audience. Make a connection to the listener; they want to know you’re speaking to them.
  5. Pacing, wandering, or fidgeting – often a sign of nerves, it can be distracting to the audience. You may not eliminate the nerves, but preparation and practice can reduce the appearance of nerves.
  6. Lack of preparation – if you haven’t made the effort to prepare, why should the audience make the effort to listen?
  7. Poor storytelling skills – nothing communicates concepts better than stories. If you want to hold on to the listener’s attention, learn to tell stories well.
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How to write an elevator speech

Our public relations director came by my office recently with a prospective volunteer board member. As part of the introduction, the director asked me to outline my role, in 30 seconds or less. Well… I hemmed, hawed, and took about 90 seconds to stammer out a rambling answer.

Time to write an elevator speech.

What is an elevator speech?

An elevator speech is a brief description of what you do, or a point you want to make, delivered in the time span of an elevator ride (say, thirty seconds or 100-150 words).

Why use an elevator speech?

It is important to be able to quickly introduce an organization, product, service, etc. to potential stakeholders. You only have a few moments to make a first impression. Investing time in developing and rehearsing an elevator speech can make the difference between gaining a new customer/supporter and walking away empty-handed.

What are the key elements of an elevator speech?

Your elevator speech should have three elements:

  1. Who you are?
  2. What you do?
  3. How you do it?

Three steps to take when developing your elevator speech:

  1. Prepare, prepare, prepare – This is a short speech that needs to sounds like it’s being delivered off-the-cuff. That means you need to put a lot of work into writing and editing. Then, once you’ve completed the process, go back and edit some more.
  2. Practice, practice, practice – Know your speech well enough so you express your key points without sounding as though the speech was memorized. Let it become an organic. Practice in front of mirrors and role-play with friends
  3. Tell a story – Avoid a dry recitation of facts. Listeners will retain more of what you tell them if you share a story.

Three things to avoid with your elevator speech:

  1. A speech that sounds canned – If you recite something you’ve memorized, you run the risk of sounding stilted and unnatural.
  2. Avoid jargon –Keep it simple. Avoid using terminology that is meaningless outside of your industry or organization.
  3. Rambling – Being familiar with your speech will help keep on track.

Next time I’m asked, I’ll be ready.

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39 Phrases Everyone Should Know and Use

I remember a visit at the Greyhound depot, pick up a couple of parcels. As I walked through the door, I heard a customer berating an agent in loud and abusive terms. The customer had expected something to be there for pick-up and it wasn’t.

The more the customer screamed and threatened (and it was screaming), the more agitated the agent became. The confrontation resembled a playground fight between two children, not a business transaction.

I felt sorry for the agent. Her manager was sitting in an office behind the service area, aware of what was going on, but not intervening. I wanted to give the manager a boot and say, go out there and support your staff.

The agent also seemed ill-equipped to deal with the situation. If she had any training in dealing with angry customers, it wasn’t apparent from her actions.

A dozen or so years ago, I attend a workshop on interpersonal communication skills. One of the “tools” handed out was this sheet of phrases that could be used to communicate in diverse types of situations.

I’m not suggesting—as the workshop presenter did—that memorizing a sheet of phrases is going to solve all your communication issues. I can’t imagine the Greyhound agent would have been well served by having this list taped to her station, along with a communication flow chart.

Interpersonal communication is too complex to be bound merely by fixed rules. However, effective interpersonal communication skills can be learned and developed.

Any complex skill needs a foundation on which to build. This list of phrases can serve as such a foundation. Look at areas which are weaker communication skills for you and then look at the kinds of phrases you need to add to your lexicon.

Always appropriate

  1. Please
  2. Thank you
  3. You’re welcome

Reaching out to people

  1. Hi, I’m… What’s your name?
  2. Excuse me, I see you every day in the hall and I want to introduce myself. I’m…
  3. I understand how you feel.
  4. I would feel that way too in your situation.
  5. I can see this matter is especially important to you.
  6. This is what I hear you saying.
  7. Tell me more about it.

Cooperating and compromising in a conflict

  1. I gather you don’t agree. What’s the reason for your objection?
  2. Why won’t this work?
  3. I have a problem I’d like to discuss with you.
  4. Let’s talk this over. When is a good time for you?
  5. Let’s see how we can reach our mutual goal.
  6. It’s in our common interest to reach an agreement.
  7. How can I help you meet your needs?

Giving and receiving criticism

  1. It’s important for our relationship that I tell you about an issue that is making it hard for me to work with you.
  2. I’m not blaming you for my feelings. I’m just describing how I feel.
  3. I’m not attacking you as a person; I want to focus on your behaviour that is preventing you from moving ahead.
  4. That never occurred to me, but I’ll give it some thought.
  5. I’ll consider that and get back to you.
  6. Let me think over what you said and then discuss a different approach.

Acknowledging errors and mistakes

  1. I’m sorry.
  2. I was wrong.
  3. I accept responsibility.
  4. Yes, it happened, and it was a mistake.
  5. I don’t have an excuse. I have an explanation if you want to hear it.
  6. You have a right to feel the way you do.
  7. Here’s what I learned from the situation and what I’ll do differently in the future.
  8. We know what the problem is. Let’s focus on solutions.
  9. How would you like the problem resolved?
  10. What do you think a fair solution would be?
  11. Here’s what we can do to correct the problem.

Gossip and rumours

  1. I understand you have been saying…
  2. Do you really mean what I hear you’ve been saying?
  3. I’ve heard that, but it’s just a rumour.
  4. If it’s not true, it won’t be said anymore, will it?
  5. This may be an isolated incident, but I’m going to conduct my relationship with you quite differently from now on.
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