Saturday, November 09, 2013

Things I Like

I was considering calling this the "Things I Like -- Frugal Edition", but really, anything I really enjoy is going to be relatively frugal, because spending money carelessly is not something I like.  Perhaps I should call this "Things I Like -- Fun Edition" because both of these are fun.  Cheap fun.

First, Yellow Tail Bubbles.  These are solid champagnes (flat, the white is a bit Gew├╝rztraminer-like), but the brilliance comes in the cork.  The Zork, to be exact, a resealable champagne cork that works better than any champagne-sealing-solution I've tried before.  I can open one of these babies for Friday Happy Hour, have a glass or two a day, and still have plenty of nose tickling bubbles by Wednesday.  Amazing, really.  Moderate champagne consumption, without those silly little bottles.  Yellow Tail even has a video about the Zork.

Second, these Ikea funnels.  (We have the red ones.)  They made great bath and pool toys all summer, but where they really shined was at the beach last month.  The dome shape made for awesome futuristic cities and dome topped ziggurats (bucket + funnel).

 And the funnel itself could be filled with wet sand and dripped into drip castles or used to decorate the aforementioned cities.  Hard to beat for $1.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Lessons from Project 333

I've just finished 3 months of Project 333, where you wear 33 peices of clothing for 3 months.  I chose a modified approach -- I didn't count shoes or accessories in my 33 pieces, and since this was an exercise in editing my closet, I gave myself carte blanche to donate anything that wasn't working and replace it (it couldn't stay in my closet, though!).

Throughout the project I kept a spreadsheet of what I wore, how often, and my thoughts on the individual pieces and outfits.  I found this the most useful part of the project, allowing me to refine what worked, what didn't, and why.  You can check out my spreadsheet.

One of my favorite outfits from the last 3 months

Here are 10 of the lessons I learned during the project:
1)  Fabric matters -- pay attention!
2)  Dress for the life you have.
3)  Comfort trumps style (but both together are great!).
4)  Know what colors flatter you.  For me, "soft autumn" colors like muted reds, greens, pinks, mustard yellow.
5)  Know what flatters your shape.
6)  With a small closet, everything has to earn it's place.  If it's not carrying it's weight, let it go.
7)  It's OK to wear the same dress 5 Sundays in a row, or the same skirt twice in a week, especially if you feel fabulous in it.
8)  1 piece you feel fabulous in is worth 3 that you feel OK in.
9)  Accessories can add a lot of variety.  (This project pushed me to use more accessories to spice up my wardrobe of basics.)
10)  It's OK to spend a lot on one piece you will wear a whole bunch.  It doesn't make as much sense to spend a lot on special occasion clothes.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

9 Ways to Simplify your PTA

I've just finished a year as a local elementary PTA president, and here are my thoughts on simplifying the work a PTA does.

1)  Get out of the concessions business -- use food trucks instead.
Concessions are low-profit, high risk and take a lot of volunteers to run.  Instead, hire a food truck to come and feed your folk -- the food may be better, and it's a lot more fun.  Some vendors will even give you a small cut of their revenue from your event.

2)  Move your volunteer sign ups online.  Use SignUpGenius or VolunteerSpot.  You no longer have to nag the same people to get volunteers.  Your volunteer base will be wider.  Added bonus:  after a year, you'll have a record of how many volunteers you used last time!

3)  Hold Spirit Nights.  Spirit nights are events where your community shows up at a restaurant or entertainment venue to have fun together, and your PTA gets a cut of the money they spend.  Our most successful spirit nights were roller skating -- fun for the whole family, healthy, low cost.  All you have to do schedule the event and promote.  (Some require teacher participation -- which is more work.)

4)  Limit your spirit gear.  "Spirit gear" -- t-shirts, coozies, sweatshirts, key rings, bags etc with your school's name on them.  Inventory management is not simple, nor is it fun.  Simplify this job by limiting your gear to a single shape & color of t-shirt.  It's enough.

5)  Limit your fundraisers.  Pick the one that is the most profitable and/or "honest" and put a lot of effort behind it.  Fundraisers are also a ton of work -- even the "easy" ones.  Do one, and put a lot of effort into making it successful.  If you're going to work that hard, make it one that feels "right", rather than a peer pressure project.

6)  Look for high impact work.  For us this was grants & community sponsorship.  Find strong individuals to run that work. 

7)  Tie meetings in to school events -- and keep them short.  Related -- find out the smallest number of general meetings you are required to have per your bylaws, and just have that many.  Publicize board meetings or committee meetings for people who want to be involved.  Consider sending out meeting minutes from board meetings via e-mail to keep people informed.

8)  Provide information in as many ways as possible, but focus on electronic rather than physical media -- on a website, facebook, and an email list.

9)  See if you can use your school's phone system to inform parents of events.  This was our biggest PR win -- sending out voice alerts the afternoon before an event.  I never tested it, but suspect that we could have done this and skipped newseletters, stickers, etc.