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An Organized New Year

Along with the many resolutions made this time of year, a lot of us will resolve to be better organized in 2007. One in four New Year’s resolutions is broken within a week, and half are broken within a month, researchers have found.

Why do we all seem to be masters of broken promises and procrastination? Florida-based author Pete Greider suggests that, along with the mind’s state-of-the-art ability to figure out what we should do to improve our lives, there remains some primitive wiring that often causes us to do something else instead.

How to do it
It is possible to keep your good intentions from being lost in the shuffle, Greider stresses, and offers these effective strategies:

• Spotlight what’s important, such as saving money. Make a game of being thrifty, so you won’t land among the 20 percent of Americans who have no money left after paying living expenses each month. Shop for bargains and don’t be ashamed to use grocery-store coupons, especially those that offer double-cents-off on certain days.

• Make a log of your possessions by using a software program and digital photos to back up your insurance claim in case of theft, flood, or fire. Taking advantage of the ubiquity of digital cameras and the Internet to aggregate photos and information, these programs help people turn boxes of receipts and other materials into an orderly, up-to-date account of what is covered by insurance. The IRS also will accept this if you include the cost or copies of the receipts.

• Get rid of those stacks of books and periodicals piling up throughout the house. Donate the books to churches or hospitals and senior centers. Popular paperbacks and recent magazines are often requested by U.S. military personnel overseas.

• Be financially prepared for any disaster by keeping enough cash on hand for a weekend away. Keep $50 in one-dollar bills—stores might not be able to make change or accept credit cards if the electricity is disrupted.

• Tame your paper tiger. Join the nearly one-third of Americans who pay their bills online. You’ll have an extra couple hours a month to enjoy a movie or start that book you’ve been wanting to read.

• Update your will, living will, health-care proxy, and power of attorney. Make your death easier for loved ones: indicate in writing who should be notified of your demise, the type of funeral you want, whether you prefer flowers or charitable contributions, etc. List where your executor can find your insurance policies, bank accounts, safety deposit boxes and keys, real estate holdings and related documents, marriage and birth certificates, passports, military records, and Social Security cards.

• Work on those long-put-off home renovations. Pick up a setback thermostat for about $100 at the hardware store. When you are sleeping, it will automatically adjust the heat or air conditioning and save you hundreds of dollars in a year or two.
• Buy a paper shredder for $50 or so. When it comes to identity theft, household thieves are a bigger threat than Internet hackers.

• Check those old savings bonds. More than $12 billion worth that have stopped earning interest are languishing in desk drawers and safety deposit boxes. To determine if your bonds have stopped earning interest, go to www.publicdebt.treas.gov/sav/savstop.htm
.

• Change mail habits. If you dump unopened mail in a desk drawer where it stays for weeks, start opening the mail over a trash can.

• Plan dinner meals for the coming week. This habit will encourage you to eat dinner at home more often. You’ll make fewer trips to the grocery and will save time and money on gasoline.



ORGANIZING HELP

There’s plenty of help available if you want to change your habits. Consider the Quicken Home Inventory Manager from Intuit, or Home Manager from www.kzsoftware.com to record basic information on what’s in the house.

Send those books and magazines to Operation Paperback, www.operationpaperback.usmilitarysupport.org, and Books for Soldiers, www.booksforsoldiers.com.

The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook is a good resource for planning meals.

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