Life IS What YOU Make it!
Back2School Hacks Update
All info was Updated as of May 9, 2021; and covers topics that will help you prepare for the entire year and make it to school every day;
so you CAN learn (and retain) the information you need to succeed in life...as they claim!
1. Got It, Need It, Want It; I'm NOT Buying It and That's the End of It!
2. Organizing Now Avoids Apologies, Tears (or Needing Bail Money) Later!
3. Be Brave but Not Stupid; and Mind Your P's and Q's!
4. If You Would Just Listen For A Change!
I realize school is only a few weeks away now, BUT I do have several tips that will help ease the hassle just to get back to it; no matter if you are done shopping for supplies, or you're swearing at me now for reminding you (when have you ever been DONE shopping for anything that goes on for 10 months). Whether your kids are starting kindergarten or you are in your last year of university, the methods are the same and will save YOU time, money and effort all through the year; ensuring this will be your best year of learning and progressing yet!
1. Got It, Need It, Want It; I'm NOT Buying It and That's the End of It!
I assume you have a list of necessary items from the school and that you have a vague idea of what else is needed like lunch packs, backpacks, bus passes/tickets and a holder that will work for the person actually using it, hand sanitizer, batteries for calculators, extra chargers for phones, tissue, medication refills and containers to carry it in if need be, insurance for new laptops/supplies/etc changes from pleasure/leisure to regular vehicle insurance to cover the extra driving, after school activity clothing/equipment/snacks, extra locks, an extra inhaler, epipen and/or pair of glasses, etc.
A massive tip is to SHOP ONLINE and have it ALL DELIVERED TO YOUR DOOR IN DAYS! Avoid the screaming, hair pulling, swearing and fighting…just to find a parking spot! Skip dealing with the kids, carts, other parents trying to all avoid the same issues and arguing over who gets the last purple binder on the shelf! In the evening, in your pj's, on your tablet/laptop/etc while relaxing, sounds like the perfect way to shop; to me anyway! The kids can use their phones (depending on age obviously) or other devices looking at clothes, backpacks, etc and then you can go through their 'carts' and decide what you are going to buy before you 'check out' everything at once!
If you prefer to shop in person, sit down with those involved (having to use/wear what is bought) for an hour (or three) and make a list of what you need. You can have each person add what they would like for color, size, etc. Additionally, with a list you will do much less impulse shopping and not end up having to go back three times because you forgot this and that! It is a huge money and time saver as well, especially if you have more than one person to buy for; as you can take advantage of bulk deals or 'buy 2 get one free' deals, etc for stuff like pens and paper. Stores like Walmart or Loblaws/Superstore offer larger bulk packages, which cost much less than individual small packs so even if you are buying for yourself as you enter your last year of university, you will still need enough supplies to get through the entire year and may as well buy it all at once to save even more time, effort and money!
Walmart.com has free pickup of your online order at the stores in the US, and Canada has a similar offer also! They also offer a delivery service for about $10 Canadian in most cities and the US I assume also. Use the Canadian Walmart.ca site if you live there, or nothing will get delivered. They (and many other stores) price match every other store in your area automatically online so you don't have to run from store to store to find the sales either! Just make sure you are on the right country-specific website for that individual store!
You can get food and most toiletries items from Walmart, 7-11, T&T, No Frills, almost every store and restaurant within your postal code/ZIP CODE delivered for less through Instacart.com in the US and Instacart in Canada within an hour; or prebook for later that day or the next even. A personal shopper goes to the store, shops, pays (using your already approved card online, which they have no access to) and delivers your items to your door! They use the list of items you added to your cart on the store site, accessing it through the Instacart site, and you can provide alternative or substitute items in case what you want is sold out; special notes on shopping and delivery/parking/etc; and your phone number so they can text or call you if they can't find what you want. The service also sends you texts to let you know when the shopper has started, what items were found or not; and you can track when the shopper will arrive at your door. I used Instacart.ca several times when I was in Toronto, Canada and found it AWESOME! Cost is only $3.99CDN for delivery from 1-6 hours the same day, with a 5% service fee on orders over $35, or you can subscribe to a yearly plan and all orders over $35 have free delivery all year! Tipping can be added ahead of time or after the final bill on the site, or you can tip at the door in cash if you prefer. The prices are the same or even better than the stores, and there are sale items as well as price matching just like in store. I am going to try it again soon now that I am in a different city; but color me IMPRESSED with the service of Instacart in Toronto, most definitely!...*If anyone working at INSTACART see this: HIT ME UP with a Sponsorship, Partnership, Affiliate Links, etc PLEASE!*
In Canada Red Flag Deals is a website that features all the store flyers in your area, which saves large in time and effort let me tell you! Open each store flyer in a different window/tab, and go through them one by one, making note of sales on ONLY what you have on your list and take a picture with your phone if you can't print out that flyer, to take to the store with you for price-matching. The flyers are updated as they come out and usually you can look at the current week's deal as well as their 'next week flyer' if it is close enough to their turnover date. There are some sites in the US and other countries that offer viewing of local store flyers and deals as well; and searching Google for the ones in your country/area will get you to the site that can help you where you are.
DollarTree.com offers FREE Shipping to Your Local Store in both the USA and Canada (with some restrictions), or free delivery to your home, both after you spend a certain amount. They have thousands of stores in both countries and their prices are $1.00 US ($1.25 in Canada) for EVERYTHING! Basic school supplies as well as household, crafts, automotive, and even food items are standard products offered and the quality is great--obviously it depends on what you are buying, but I have had NO issues with their stuff in years. Delivery is not in every location, but if you click the link above, you can see where this service is offered nearest you. If you are in Canada, click the link above, scroll to the bottom of the home page to 'DOLLAR TREE STORES' the second to last green bar option with a plus (+) sign beside it. Click that and the last choice in that drop-down menu is 'DOLLAR TREE CANADA'. Click that and you will be taken to the Canadian site so that your items can be shipped within Canada and avoid duty, fees, time, etc in crossing borders as well.
Get a PREPAID VISA card from ANY bank (you don't have to be a customer of the bank to buy a prepaid card from them) and use that ONLY for all online transactions. This way it is NOT connected to your credit cards, bank accounts, etc so if lost or stolen, the only money lost is what you put on it ahead of time. Call the 1-800 number immediately should this happen as they will cancel that card and send you a new one while transferring the balance from old to new cards, but check this yourself first as all banks differ. It gives similar protection that is on a VISA credit card for example, but the money is instantly deducted so if you don't have enough on the card the purchase won't be approved; and you are not accumulating more debt as it is money you already assigned and pre-paid for those items. There are NO monthly fees of any kind, it can be loaded and used as you want and not used for periods of time as well--again check with the bank as each has different rules for time periods of inactivity on all cards. There is NO PIN, NO cash-back, and NO extra amount of 'credit' for you to ring up so it is a safe bet all around! There is a fee to buy the card in the first place (about $10 Canadian) and it costs $2 (if that) to load it the very first time but that is all. The card charges you about 3% of the total cost of your purchase as a service fee when the transaction happens and that is it! *Note: Scotiabank in Canada has discontinued their prepaid VISA cards as of July 2019.
Another option is to have the VisaDebit (debit) card from your bank instead of just a plain debit card. Whenever you want, you can tell the cashier to charge it as a CREDIT instead of as a debit. It works the same way however there are no debit charges as it is processed as a visa (credit) transaction..a fabulous little known yet massive money saver when traveling even within the country as each ABM or debit card purchase can be an added $5 charge after both the other bank/machine charge and your own bank service fee for the horrible 'crime' of using a different bank than your own! LOL
Just FYI; This is awesome for travel anywhere an emergency reserve of money if other cards don't work, and to protect your bank and credit cards from fraud. I used to think it was rare for a store or even a bank to 'accidentally' charge your card (especially when you are traveling in another country); but I found out the hard way in Costa Rica for the first time in early 2016, that I was very wrong! I couldn't get the machine to work so I went in to the teller at 'my' bank--or the Costa Rican version of it anyway, and withdrew money from my account in that currency with help of the teller. I found out a few days later when my bank card wouldn't work that he also did another separate large withdrawal AFTER I LEFT which temporarily put me in the red and suspended my card, in addition to him charging me another $5.00 teller fee for that transaction too; which is how he got caught! LOL The teller had made copies of my passport and bank card/info (as is standard in other countries); but they are not supposed to use the info to take money for themselves later! I contacted my bank with a message via my online account, they replied in 24 hours that it was definitely fraud; and the amount was refunded within a week thankfully! A pre-paid card not tied to my bank account/credit card would have prevented that second transaction from being possible!
Also check with your bank if they are connected with the Global Banking System for ABM machines. If so, there is almost always at least one bank in another country that you can use their machine to withdraw in that currency directly from your own bank and the exchange rate is charged at the Bank fo Canada rate at that moment instead of whoever is processing it in whatever country for whatever added charges! Royal Bank is not part of the Global System for instance, yet Scotiabank is; so when in the US, you can use Bank of America ABM machines for withdrawing in US funds with NO added ABM fees on a Scotiabank account but it would cost an added $5 to use a Royal Bank card as well as an additional fee for using a 'different bank' and an added fee by the bank machine you are using as well...and don't forget the currency exchange rate too! It can also be a supreme hassle too, so ask your bank ahead of time to be sure of what you can do where, and double check fees in all areas you will be in!
2. Organizing Now Avoids Apologies, Tears (or Needing Bail Money) Later
Buy and use a large calendar and a marker (ideally one that you can write on, erase with a paper towel and re-write on), as an invaluable organization tool for everyone in the house, especially when it comes to getting organized enough to prevent everyone from arriving at school (and/or work) in tears, half-dressed and/or with no lunch!
Do a trial run or three of the main route to the school(s) with all those involved so that each person knows in advance of that first and most hectic day how to get there, which bus/train numbers to take, names of the streets used, and roughly how long it will take at that hour of the morning on those roads with everyone else out there, and their little dogs too! Take a few alternate routes and make note of them so that you can detour easily if need be. Also point out and note spots like 24/7 restaurants or police stations along the way that kids can go to if they get lost/have problems with anyone bothering them or need help in any way and grab the phone number and address of said places for future reference if needed by taking a picture of the store/info with your phone. It also saves priceless amounts of time, gas, the strain on your vocal cords and possible injury to your middle finger from having to be extended so many times in one short trip to get to school...so you can learn how to NOT do these things!
A little bit of pre-planning once a week (depending on how busy your household is), in matters like who has to feed (and walk?) the pet, who does the dishes and when, who makes/preps the lunches the night before, who does laundry and when, and who helps with batch cooking breakfast and suppers for the family, etc is priceless in many areas (see my FREE budgeting book on my site, via Smashwords.com, and/or all retailers worldwide on ways to cut time, effort and cost in organizing your meals as well as your time and money!). It can be a nightmare just keeping track of all the 'extra-curricular' activities that seem to take up any 'free' time for EVERYONE other than the actual 9-3 or so school hours! It is great to keep busy and active, but if the activities are taking up so much time that everyone is too exhausted to even enjoy life or just sit and chill at times; it's no longer helping anyone.
Hold a house meeting at least once a month if not weekly, depending on how many people are in your household, and how well they listen and do what they are told! Decide who will be doing what on a regular or rotating basis for a week to a month at time; at least to keep the house from being condemned, the kids fed and clothed, and the neighbors from calling the cops about the screaming sessions 5 minutes before it is time to leave every morning as 'someone' repeatedly searches for the homework that it turns out the dog really DID eat…because it was left (unfinished) where it shouldn’t have been in the first place, with half a peanut butter sandwich smeared all over it! (who is NOT laughing at their own version of this meltdown scenario here)?!
3. Be Brave but Not Stupid; and Mind Your P's and Q's!
Obviously, you will do your best to keep your kids safe, but life has its own way of not listening to you either; so talk to your kids about the dangers of letting people give them rides--especially if they don't know them too well. I gave my kids a 'code word' that in the event there was EVER anyone telling them that: 'your mom said I am to pick you up because…' they were to back away from the person while asking loudly for the code word. If the person did not say the word immediately, they were to start running in a different direction towards other people or an open store/restaurant/etc AND screaming to attract attention and stop any possible issues from happening. Thankfully, they never had this problem but I honestly believe that if you asked them today, they would still know that word!
Pick a word that is not something easily figured out by others, such as a someone's favorite food, a color, or the name of a tv show, book, etc and yet also easy enough to remember. It helps if this word is something they see or hear every day at home as a type of 'reinforcement' in their mind to remember the word. Many parents write the name and even address or phone number on their kid's backpacks and all supplies to help identify what is who's when in school; but this also is not the best idea as anyone walking behind them instantly has their name and any other info to try to begin a conversation with them. Kids forget their name is on their backpacks for all to see, and sometimes will not even question how a stranger can know their name…which is what leads to the crap that we see on the news all the time sadly. There is no need to create paranoia/fear/hate and we should all be aware that not everyone cares, nor is everyone kind or even honest; but we can all learn to enjoy life not fear it, and be brave but not stupid!
The standards of common sense and respect also should be discussed or refreshed as well. Saying please, thank you, excuse me (and not with the drawn-out Steve Martin attitude either Lol) and being helpful if asked (depending on conditions obviously); will get them a lot farther in school and life, than 'beaking off' to everyone about everything with a bad attitude. Also remind younger kids to beware of strangers who ask them to 'help find a dog' and not to take candy/treats/drinks from anyone they don't know well!
Smiling and being polite can diffuse ANY situation before it starts at any age; and learning the meaning of the word 'NO' (or at least the fact that there ARE consequences to ALL actions), is much easier when you are young! If you don't believe me, look at all the 2-80 year-olds (how sad is THAT age range) that throw drama fits anywhere at anytime to get whatever it is they want, and until they get what they want! Parents can ignore their screaming kid on the bus or in a store or restaurant (just like at home) all they want; but the other people in the store or on the bus are forming a flash mob and discussing what it WOULD take to straighten out the PARENT asap, and end that nonsense once and for all! LOL It may be 'cute' when a kid mouths you off at 4 years old; but it's NOT so funny when they are in their teens, 20's and 30's and lipping off their boss, a judge, their spouse, etc!
It's easier to teach now than rescue later; and much less painful and costly for all involved too!
4. If You Would Just Listen For A Change!
Check out the FREE read of my budgeting book for ways to organize, save time, money, effort and more in ALL things household, food, activities and life in general. The entire site is readable in 103 languages via Google Translate! Also available in English only for FREE download worldwide via your favorite eBook retailer (Amazon charges $0.99 cents US).
Also, join the monthly SeeWhatsNew Emailing on the home page with the red button and get a promo code for your FREE copy of my Awesome Adjustable Meals recipe eBook! Learn hundreds of ways to make feeding/nourishing your brain and body easier, healthier and cheaper, so that you CAN make your school year and life in general, YOUR version of BETTER on YOUR terms! We all know the brain and body don't work well (or retain knowledge) without proper nourishment, which is why they have breakfast/lunch programs in schools.
The SeeWhatsNew Updates page on my site has hundreds more hints and tips like 'cheat codes' in a game to getting over common health issues, food tips, and more to help keep you moving and healthier--if you're into that sort of thing... ;)
There are a ton of DIY tutorial videos almost ready that are 'watch and learn'; instead of 'read and imagine' versions of the same kind of 'this-is-how-i-do-it-baaabbby!' information as my site/books and more...and YES I have been 'saying' that for a while now I know; but I also have 14,000 excuses and reasons, like every other person in the world I have to deal with, as to why I haven't got my work done yet, and why you should just keep waiting...quietly! LOL (Actually I moved from one side of the country to the other, got sicker than I was when still traveling, and am still 'settling' back where I originally was, now 2 years later!) I will post on social media and send an email when the videos are released; so please join the mailing list and/or check back often!
Have an awesome day, breathe deep, exhale all the stress, worry and dread of these tasks that never seem to end; then smile and laugh as you remember that YOU and ONLY YOU have CONTROL over it ALL (baawwahahaha)!
Make YOUR life what YOU want it to be, and NEVER. GIVE. UP!
Sending hugs and laughter, and asking you spread them- instead of a virus to all you know as well!
Andy B. :)