November 28th, 2016

What To Do When Your Home Office Is The Guest Room

What To Do When Your Home Office Is The Guest Room

It’s wonderful when you can spare a room for your home office, but often enough it has a secondary function a few times a year. It’s a guest room as well. Your private work space becomes a place for your guests to sleep. You’re out of your perfectly set up work space. What can you do without your home office? You have a few options.

Take The Time Off

You have company, it may already be your plan to take the time off or at least work fewer hours. If your work is flexible enough and you can afford the financial hit or have paid vacation time, this may be your choice.

Taking time off won’t work for everyone. No one expects to always have the day off when company comes over when you work outside the home, so don’t assume you have to do so when you work at home. It’s nice to do when you can afford it and it fits into your work schedule, but it’s not always possible.

Explain To Guests That You Will Need The Room During Work Hours

While you obviously cannot do this while your guests are sleeping, if your work hours are during the day, you may be able to continue working as usual. Explain to your guests that they need to treat you as though you are away at work even though you’re just a room away. It’s what you’d have to do if you had a job outside the home, after all.

Show them the space that you will need to have left alone so that you can work. You don’t want their luggage on your desk or office chair, for example, when you want to start working. Point out things that should not be disturbed.

Set Up A Temporary Office Elsewhere

If your work setup is something you can move, you can work in a different space. This will probably be one of those less than ideal places such as your bedroom. This may be your only choice if you need to work night hours or otherwise cannot use your office space due to your guests.

Just as with your regular home office, do your best to make it a distraction-free environment. The kitchen table isn’t ideal for this reason. You don’t want to be in the middle of everything that’s happening in your home while you have company; you want to be a little away from it so you can be productive.

Whatever your solution may be, discuss it with your guests before they arrive so that they’re prepared to deal with the reality of you working at home. Many people have trouble understanding that working at home is just like working any other job, and that they need to let you work. If they need a lot of reminders, try to have another family member help keep them away as you work. You do not want to get in trouble with your job if you can’t keep a quiet work environment due to guests, so if that’s a need, be very clear about why you need quiet and why there are no exceptions, not even to tell you they’re headed out to do something for the day.

Of course, if you can be interrupted, tell them that too, and tell them how much or when. Let them know if too many interruptions will lengthen your work day or give you other problems.

Hopefully, you will have enough time off work that you can enjoy your guests. Make sure your needs and their expectations are discussed in advance so that you don’t have a lot of problems when your guests are in your home.

Disclosure: I often review or mention products for which I may receive compensation in the form of affiliate commissions. All opinions are my own.

November 23rd, 2016

10 Great Games To Play As A Family

10 Great Games To Play As A Family

Playing board or card games is a good way to get everyone off screens and having fun as a family. It’s a good way to get talking about what everyone has been doing. Weather doesn’t matter, and friends can join in too. Games can build skills or just be for fun.

If it’s too hard to keep people off their phones or tablets, you can add in your own special rules, such as “lose a turn” or other in-game penalty for the person who can’t leave their device alone. Sometimes these rules can be as hard on the parents as the kids.

What you play depends in large part on the age of the players. You wouldn’t play Cards Against Humanity with your kids in elementary school, and you probably wouldn’t make your teenage kids play Chutes n Ladders unless they have a much younger sibling. Here are some general suggestions that we enjoy.

Googly Eyes

All my kids, from my second grader to my teenager, love to play Googly Eyes. You roll the dice and move to a square to see which lenses you use – easy, medium or hard. You draw a card to see what you have to draw, and put on glasses that make it harder to see while you draw. Your teammates have to guess what you’re drawing. If they guess right, you roll and move again. Plenty of silliness ensues, and you get to blame the glasses for how badly you drew.

With younger kids, we sometimes go easy on the timer, or declare that everyone uses the easy lenses in the goggles.

Monopoly

The classics still work. Monopoly can be a little challenging for the youngest kids, but many will enjoy it well enough with some help. If not, give it a couple years and try again. I like the traditional version better than the electronic banking version – I think a part of the game is dealing with the money directly.

Make sure you have plenty of time to play Monopoly. As you probably know, it’s not a short game. We leave it set up overnight sometimes, which is risky with cats in the house.

You can change things up if you buy one of the many Monopoly variations, such as Star Wars or Jurassic World. The basic idea is the same, but the properties are different and there can be new rules.

Sorry

The only bad part about Sorry is how seriously younger kids can take it sometimes. It can help to make sure that the older kids don’t target the youngest one too often. Don’t ignore the youngest either – they need to learn that it’s all a part of the game to have someone target them with a Sorry card at an inconvenient time. Sorry is great when you want a game that won’t take too long.

Uno

Uno is easy enough for even fairly young kids to play, although they won’t get the strategies very well until they’re older. Uno is highly portable, which is why we like to take it camping.

I usually have two decks combined for game play rather than use a single deck. Shuffling is a bit harder, but you don’t have to do it as often and you can have more people in the game.

Give Me The Brain

Give Me The Brain is one of several games my husband picked up during his college years from Cheapass Games. While some of our favorites, such as Bitin’ Off Hedz, are not currently available, some are.

In this game, you are zombies working in a fast food restaurant with one brain to share among you to get things done. It uses cards and a 6 sided die to determine what you’re going to do. You have to finish your work to win, but you need the brain to do that.

Doctor Lucky

Our version. It’s a bit old.

It’s a little complex for young kids, but a lot of fun as they get older.

Kill Doctor Lucky

The goal of Kill Doctor Lucky is clear from its name. You and they other players are competing to see who can kill Doctor Lucky first. The problem is that he is as lucky as his name implies. Once again, this one is best played with older kids, but you’ll have a lot of fun as you do. There will be laughter.

Quirkle

In Quirkle, you make patterns using the color coded blocks to make lines that are the same color or the same shape and earn points. It’s easy enough for ages 6 and up, but fun long past that age. The later part of the game gets complex for younger kids, but you can help them or cut the game short. There’s enough strategy that it won’t bore the adults, always a plus when playing with young children.

Be careful about letting kids play with the squares at other times. That’s how pieces wander off, and you know how hard they are to find later. Not that we’ve dealt with that. Nope. Well, not on this particular game. Might’ve happened to several other games of ours.

Mad Libs

Mad Libs have been around for a very long time and have an incredible number of variations. You can find Mad Libs books for various shows and movies your family enjoys, as well as the traditional ones. As soon as your kids understand what adjectives, adverbs, verb and nouns are, they’ll probably enjoy playing this. There’s also a Mad Libs app if you want it to be even more portable. The basic app is free, but you have to buy story packs. It may involve using a device, but at least it can still be social.

The Game Of Life

My kids love to play The Game Of Life. The careers have changed from what they were when I was a kids, which is a good thing. Some people don’t like the action cards, but it’s fun overall. Expect your kids to roll their eyes if you go all Marvin and say “Life. Don’t talk to me about life,” especially if they get the reference.

Battleship

Battleship may be for only two people, but it’s a lot of fun, and sometimes it’s nice having a one on one game. We had a little bad luck with our first copy of Battleship – half the ships went missing early, we think due to a younger friend of the kids, but it’s hard to be sure. It’s a nice strategy game that doesn’t take too long to play. As with Monopoly, there is a Star Wars version.

What games do you and your family like to play together?

Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we believe will add value to our readers.

November 22nd, 2016

TurboTax Now Hiring For Seasonal TurboTax Tax Support Community Specialist

work at home job leadsTax season isn’t that far away, and TurboTax is getting ready by hiring seasonal TurboTax Support Community specialists to support users on their AnswerXchange online community.

Candidates need a background in business, finance, accounting or tax as well as an understanding of tax laws, tax concepts and tax calculations. They also need to know how to interact with others in an online community. Occasional phone interactions may also be required. See the job listing for more details.

TurboTax is also hiring for other remote positions, such as tax advisor specialists, and some positions require that you be bilingual. Visit their website to check for current openings and select Remote to see what’s available.

Don’t forget to check the online job board here for other finance and accounting work at home jobs as well as many other openings. New jobs are added most weekdays.

Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we believe will add value to our readers.

November 8th, 2016

How To Focus On Being More Frugal

How To Focus On Being More Frugal

Many of us could stand to spend a little less money. It’s so easy for all those little purchases to add up over time. Before you know it, your finances aren’t where you would like them to be, whether you’re getting deeper into debt or having trouble saving money for the future. You have to find a way to focus more on being frugal. These steps may help.

Set a Goal

Why do you want to be more frugal? Are you saving up for a particular item or for the long run? It’s helpful to know why you’re trying to save money.

Your goal can be “spend $100 less per week (or month)” or “save enough for a down payment for my next car by (date).” You might be saving for retirement or college for your kids. You might be paying off massive credit card debt or even a small debt.

You may even set multiple goals. Most of us, after all, have several things we should be saving money for, that next car, the kids’ college, a house, retirement. Don’t overdo the goal setting – you want goals you can reach with some effort.

Write Down Everything You Spend

Writing down everything you spend, making a spreadsheet for it or using a budgeting app can really help you figure out where all your money is going. Finding out how much you spend on what seems like small purchases can be a real shock.

Look At Where You’re Overspending

With detailed information about what you’re spending and where, you can figure out where you’re spending too much money. The answer won’t always be a comfortable one, and changes won’t always be easy.

Some people will be able to get their finances into better shape simply by eating out less or going out for coffee less often. Others will need to make bigger changes, such as cutting cable television. There can be hard decisions to make, such as whether you need to find a cheaper place to live, even though moving itself has expenses. Hopefully you don’t have to do anything drastic to get your finances back in shape, but sometimes that’s what it takes.

Make Your Budget and Spending Rules

Now that you’ve reviewed where your money is going, it’s time to figure out how you would like to spend your money each month. Time to make a budget.

Some things are easy to put into a budget, such as your rent or mortgage, and other recurring expenses. Other expenses, such as food and clothing will take more careful thought. You may need to average these out over time to get a good estimate for your budget, and then see how well your budget matches with reality.

Don’t forget that some bills will change by the season. Your power bill may be much higher in the summer, for example, if you have an air conditioner and use it during that time of the year to keep your home more pleasant. Then there are birthdays and holidays that you may spend money on at certain times but not at others. Be prepared for those expenses too.

Such bills can still be a part of a monthly budget, even if it’s an amount your save and roll over until the time comes to spend it. Planning ahead for such things means their costs won’t hit your regular budget too hard.

Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself

You goofed and spent too much. You’ll be over budget this month, a little or a lot. This whole thing has gone wrong. Now what?

The most important thing to do here is not give up. Look at where you went wrong and why. Could it have been avoided? Was it a self control issue or beyond your control? What can you do to avoid such situations in the future?

Sometimes you may go over budget because you didn’t give yourself enough leeway. You set too strict a budget and just couldn’t handle the pressure you put on yourself. Many people do that. If you make sure that your budget has room for a little fun spending, you can often keep it under better control than if you completely deny yourself that little treat.

It’s often more helpful to give yourself permission to get a small treat occasionally, rather than completely giving it up. Find a reasonable balance for your needs, so that you’re still spending less without feeling utterly deprived.

If things were completely out of your control, don’t feel bad about it. Cars break down at inconvenient times, for example, and it can be very hard on a budget to deal with such things. Ideally, build room for such things into you long term budget, rather than considering it a part of your weekly or monthly budget.

Don’t Give Yourself Too Much Leeway

Being too hard on yourself is often counterproductive, but so is giving yourself too much leeway. Give in too often on the urge to spend money and you may as well not have a budget at all.

If you realize that you are going off budget too often, look at why. Is it a matter of self control or is it a problem with your budget? There are times when you need to take a look at your own behavior and decide to do better. Other times you may have miscalculated your financial needs.

Budgeting Apps Can Help

If you have a smartphone, you will probably find it far easier to track your budget using an app rather than a program on your computer or on paper. This way you’ll always have your budget information with you, right at your fingertips. Here are some popular apps to consider.

Mint

Mint is a very popular budgeting app because it can do so much for you. It connects securely to your bank to make it easier to track your spending. It’s made by Intuit, the same company that makes TurboTax®. They use 256 bit encryption and 128 bit SSL to keep your information safe.

The Mint app makes it easy to set up your budget, but it also alerts you to unusual expenditures. It also gives you your credit score for free, which certainly can’t hurt if you’re saving up toward a house or car.

Mint is available free for iPhone, iPad and Android.

You Need a Budget (YNAB)

You Need a Budget gives you four rules to make budgeting easier. These are give every dollar a job, embrace your true expenses, roll with the punches and age your money. Visit their website to learn more about what these rules mean.

YNAB is free for 34 days, then $5 a month or $50 a year. Students can get a free year by sending in proof that they are a student. Their average user saves quite a bit more than that, so the expense can be worth it. At the very least, you can try it long enough to know whether or not you’re willing to pay for the service.

They offer live online classes every day, help guides, a blog, podcast and YouTube channel to help you change how you think about money. The app syncs with your bank and credit card accounts so that you can keep up with your financial situation.

YNAB is available for iPhone, iPad and Android.

GoodBudget

GoodBudget is an app version of the envelope system so many people have used through the years. It can help you save for big purchases as well as manage your regular expenses. The basic app is free, but you can pay if you want the Plus system ($5 a month or $45 a year) which includes unlimited envelopes, unlimited accounts, use across 5 devices, 5 years of history and email support.

GoodBudget is available for iPhone, iPad and Android.

Wally

If all you really need is an expense tracker, Wally may be a good choice for you. It’s free, which is nice if you don’t need a lot of extra help. It doesn’t link with your accounts; instead you enter expenses yourself or photograph the receipt. Paid features may be added in the future.

Wally is available for iPhone, while Wally+ is for Android.

Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we believe will add value to our readers.

November 1st, 2016

What Is the Worst Work at Home Advice You’ve Ever Received?

What Is the Worst Work at Home Advice You've Ever Received?

There’s a lot of advice about working at home out there, some good, some bad. Recently, I decided to find out what the worst work at home advice people have ever gotten is. Trouble is, after contacting several sources, I only got two responses, both through HelpaReporter.com. I liked them, and so I will share them now.

The first comes from Samuel Wheeler of SD Equity Partners. It’s a real estate equity firm in San Diego that has several remote employees. They were given this advice at a networking event!

“What your employer doesn’t know, won’t hurt them. Leave out non-important details that may make you look bad.”

I cannot stress how wrong this is. A good employer wants to help every employee succeed. Without a transparent flow of information companies cannot help their employees grow. Companies succeed by collecting data, analyzing the data, and creating new policies to help both the staff and the business succeed.

Telecommuters that leave out details, especially negative ones, are hurting themselves in the long run because their company will not know or be able to help due to lack of information. People make mistakes from time to time and good companies will not hold mistakes against their employees.

I have to agree that failing to tell your employer about things just because you’re worried about looking bad is a really bad idea. Good communication between employer and employee is vital, and all the more so when you aren’t in an office together.

This doesn’t mean you need to tell your boss everything that happens in your work day, but if it has to do with your job performance, they generally need to know. You might be surprised at what they can do to help you. It might not be right away, but the only way things will get better is if your employer knows! Swallow your pride and admit it when there’s a problem.

The next response came from Max Robinson of Ace Work Gear. It has to do with working late at night.

I’ve worked from home for the past 7 years of my life, and although I was excited to start with I was very nervous as well, so I asked a friend of mine who worked from home for advice. She said that the best thing about working from home is that you don’t have to stick to a 9-5 schedule, and that she tends to do most of her work late at night. I tried this for a week and found it to be terrible advice. It takes me far longer to get work done at night as my brain tends to shut off after 9pm, so I had a very unproductive week! I much prefer to get up early and get as much work done as I can in the morning, so I can relax during the evenings and get a good sleep.

This is a more personal preference, but there’s a very good point to be made here. What was good advice to his friend was terrible advice to him. She loves working late at night, while he doesn’t function at all at night, and prefers to get things done early.

What you should take away from this example is that you need to set your work hours by when you are most productive whenever you can. Don’t assume that you have to be a night owl or an early bird to be productive at home. Work when it’s best for you, not when someone else says is best.

I can think of other examples of bad work at home advice, such as “work at your kitchen table.” It’s necessary for some people, but if you have alternatives, it’s not ideal at all. It’s too noisy, and it’s hard to make a good setup that won’t be disrupted regularly. The same goes for working on the couch or in your bedroom. You’re better off if you can dedicate a small home office space with a door you can close. Not everyone can do that, but it’s the ideal.

Then there’s keeping your kids around while you work. I’ve been able to get away with that the entire time I’ve worked at home, but it is not a good idea for everyone. Some jobs require your full attention or a quiet room, and if you have children underfoot, that isn’t going to happen. Be realistic about how much of a distraction your children are when you need to work, and figure out a babysitting exchange, have local family members help if they’re willing, get your spouse involved during the hours they’re home… find a way to handle the distraction that comes from kids and watch your productivity soar.

So much work at home advice is bad because it shows that many people don’t take working at home seriously. They treat it more as a hobby than a job or business. If you want to succeed, that’s not a good idea.

I’d love to hear from any readers about bad work at home advice they’ve received. It’s fine if it’s bad due to your personal preferences rather than advice that’s bad for everyone. Just share advice that hasn’t worked for you personally.

Disclosure: I often review or mention products for which I may receive compensation in the form of affiliate commissions. All opinions are my own.

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Disclosure: Home with the Kids is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. I also review or mention products for which I may receive compensation from other sources. All opinions are my own.