Last Updated November 19th, 2018

Beware The Secret Sister Gift Exchange

Beware The Secret Sister Gift Exchange

I’m seeing the secret sister gift exchange all over Facebook right now. I have a few friends who are participating, and it just makes me wince. Simply put, the secret sister gift exchange is a pyramid scheme, and illegal.

A lot of people don’t understand that. $10 seems like such a small risk, and it is. But the odds of receiving the promised 6 or 36 gifts is poor, especially since it depends not only on how well you recruit people into it, but how well your recruits bring people into the deal as well.

How Is The Secret Sister Gift Exchange Supposed To Work?

The basic premise is so simple. You send your gift to the person whose name appears at the top of the list you receive. When you send the list to your recruits, you remove the person you sent a gift to, and put the second person’s name at the top. Your name becomes the second name on the list.

There is often a push to do this quickly so that everyone gets their gifts in time for Christmas. Your six people send to the top of the list, and their people, now totaling 36 people, send gifts to you. It sounds wonderful.

Legally, however, this falls under the same laws as chain letters and lotteries. It’s not something you want to mess with. Not many people will get in legal trouble for doing the secret sister gift exchange, but why try your luck? It’s a federal crime, according to the Post Office. It also may be a crime by the laws in your state.

If you have any doubts, check out this notice on Facebook from the USPS. It explains things pretty well.

Do The Math

If you do the math on the secret sister gift exchange, you can quickly see why it will quickly run out, even if everyone finds enough people and everyone sends their gifts. Both of those are pretty iffy themselves.

Six people each finding six people means they need 36 people. Those 36 people need a total of 216 people, who need 1296 people. Keep this going for five more levels, and you need 10,077,696 people. That’s a difficult number, but not completely impossible. Highly unlikely, of course.

It only takes 13 levels to get beyond the entire population of the planet. Even assuming some people participate more than once, it’s not going to happen.

This means it won’t take long at all for people to have trouble finding someone to send gifts. Many people who try to join in won’t get anything in return. Most will simply fail to get a full six people sending gifts, and their people in return will have trouble finding enough people.

You might get a few gifts, but usually, that’s it. Between the number of people needed for everyone to get their gifts and the difficulty in recruiting people, it’s just not going to go that well.

There are also gift exchanges where the focus is on wine. It has the same problem as this one. Just don’t join in. The wine version also presents challenges in shipping it legally.

Talking Friends Out Of The Secret Sister Gift Exchange

It can be hard to call this out as a scam. I’ve seen people call friends names for trying to explain why the secret sister gift exchange doesn’t work or is illegal.

I would imagine that most people have trouble admitting the problems with the gift exchange because they’re already invested in it. They’ve promised to send a gift to someone else, or have even sent it already.

It’s worth a try, even if the friend who posts the gift exchange won’t listen. Someone else might.

Be polite when you try to discourage friends from this. No one will respond well if they feel foolish. You should also remember that the people participating don’t mean to scam or cheat anyone. They’re trying to do something fun. No one in this means any harm by it.

That doesn’t change the legal issues. Or the fact that eventually there are people who won’t get anything in return.

Then there’s the risk in putting your personal information out there for random people. You may know all the people you recruit into the gift exchange, but it’s the people they recruit who will be sending you gifts, and they’ll get your name and address too. Are you comfortable with that?

Alternatives To The Secret Sister Gift Exchange

It may be better to suggest setting up a basic secret Santa gift exchange, where everyone in a group draws a name and buys for one other person. No grand promises of dozens of gifts. Just a simple gift exchange among friends. It’s much simpler and legal when you avoid the chain letter aspects of the secret sister gift exchange. Best of all, you know that everyone gets a gift.

If you want something to feel good about, donate to a local cause. There are lots of wonderful causes out there, and even a $10 donation will be welcome. You won’t get a gift back, but you will have done something good.

As illegal actions go, this is a minor one, and I doubt many people ever get prosecuted for it. But why take the chance when a simpler gift exchange works just fine?

secret sister infographicClick for full size

The secret sister gift exchange isn’t the usual kind of scam I write about here, but it’s popular enough I consider it worth a mention. If you’d like to learn more about work at home scams, take a look at the ones I’ve covered on this site.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated November 17th, 2018

Cooking When The Kids Won’t Cooperate

Cooking When The Kids Won't Cooperate

There’s an image people have of stay at home moms. A part of that image is the perfectly cooked dinner for her family, each and every day. But we stay at home moms know that it’s not always all that easy to do, especially when the kids are young and uncooperative. How do you manage cooking when the kids won’t cooperate?

There are some days when kids just don’t want to be out from underfoot. Or you just have too much going on with them that day, and despite being home it’s really hard to find a way to get dinner cooked.

No parent ever claimed that it was easy every day.

If you’re wanting to provide your family with a home-cooked meal every day you have to figure out how to make it work. If you plan ahead and have a few tricks up your sleeve, you can do it.

Plan Ahead

You don’t always know when the kids are going to be difficult. But that doesn’t mean you can’t plan ahead. Knowing early on what you’re going to make for dinner or lunch can keep you from making rushed decisions and allow you to make healthier meals for your family.

If you can plan your weekly menu on a convenient day for your shopping, you ensure that you will have the ingredients you need for each meal. There are few things when you’re cooking more frustrating than to think you know what you want to make and realizing you’re out of a vital ingredient.

chopped vegetables

Chop Early, Chop Often

Think about the various fruits and vegetables you buy. How often do you need to chop them for dinner or even just for snacks? Wouldn’t your life be easier if they were ready to go when you needed them?

Don’t bother buying them chopped from the grocery store. They cost quite a bit more that way as a rule. Instead, chop them up at home. Find the time and get it done. Having fruits and vegetables ready to eat or cook with means that you’re more likely to eat them.

Of course, don’t chop too many fruits and veggies ahead of time. They go bad faster after you’ve chopped them, and you don’t want to waste food. Carrots may last a long time after being chopped, for example, but you know how fast bananas go bad. Make sure you consider how well each one lasts before you cut it up early.

Use Your Freezer

No, don’t put the kids in there. It may be tempting some days, but it just makes people talk about you.

When you can, make double recipes and put the excess in the freezer for another night. You’ll have to learn what freezes well; some vegetables really don’t do so well after being cooked then frozen. But you can make extra of just the meat part of the meal if you like and have a much easier time preparing dinner another night.

Chopping early works well with your freezer too. You can cut meats up right after buying them, and then freeze them. This works especially well if you can prep them to a point where all you have to do is defrost a meal and throw it into the crockpot, oven, or Instant Pot.

Some people will make enough meals to last a week or even a month, and freeze them for later use, all at once. I don’t get that organized as a general rule. Doubling up works much easier, in my opinion. My one exception is when we get meat at Costco – that’s too much to have in the fridge for long at all. That’s one of the ways I do my double bacon feta burgers, although it often comes out as a double recipe. If I’m making burgers, especially with bacon, my family will probably want some that night.

If you want to get serious about freezer meals, check out books about once a month cooking.

crockpot

The Crockpot Is Your Friend

I love my crockpot. I can start dinner at a time convenient to me. First thing in the morning or just 4 or so hours before we need to eat. The flexibility is wonderful when you aren’t sure how you’re going to get time to cook at dinnertime.

This is especially useful if your kids are in a lot of activities that run right up to dinnertime. You can save a lot of money if you don’t feel like you have to eat out every time just because it’s so late. The crockpot will keep dinner warm for you.

Using a crockpot isn’t the only time you can start dinner well in advance. Soups can simmer for hours and need only occasional attention. Think about the meals that have longer cooking times but aren’t all that hard to prepare.

So Is The Instant Pot

If you can’t get things cooking soon enough for the slow cooker, using the Instant Pot is another great idea. There are a lot of great recipes available for the Instant Pot, and it’s pretty fast.

One of the most important things you should understand about cooking with an Instant Pot is that the cook time doesn’t start until the pot is at pressure. If a recipe says to cook for 12 minutes, expect it to take several minutes for the pot to come to pressure before that 12 minute countdown starts on the timer.

stir-fry

Stir Frying Is Quick And Easy If You Have The Ingredients Ready

This is one of the big reasons for Rule 2. If you have your meats and vegetables chopped in advance, stir frying takes relatively little time. Throw on some rice, stir fry the meat and vegetables with a little sauce, and you have dinner.

Tacos are also popular and easy if you have the veggies prechopped. It’s fun to let everyone who’s old enough assemble their own.

Keep The Kitchen Organized And Clean

With kids, it’s easy to have dishes stack up. Take a few moments and load the dishwasher or wash the dishes after every meal. It just adds to the stress when you’re trying to cook and the kitchen is an absolute mess.

As the kids get older, they can help with this or even handle most of it. Silverware and plastic containers are easy for even young kids to handle. Once your kids are responsible enough and tall enough, they can put away breakable dishes as well.

Know When To Use The Microwave

Sometimes the microwave just adds to the chaos. It’s incredibly easy to use and convenient most times, but other times it’s one more thing to do when practically everything else is ready.

Decide which is really easier for you. Throwing the potatoes in the microwave just minutes before you need them or throwing them in the oven an hour earlier. Steaming vegetables in the microwave or steaming them on the stove. The faster method sometimes is better, other times adds to the last steps of cooking a good dinner. Which works best for you?

cooking together

Let The Kids Help When Possible

Younger children in particular love to help cook. While you can’t have young children stirring a pot on the stove, they can do things such as help to make the salad if the vegetables are chopped for them.

Older children may be at the point where they should be learning to cook, chop or just set the table. Assign chores and make a routine of it. They may complain and it may be harder for a little, but if it’s a routine there will eventually be less for them to complain about. It’s just a part of how they can help keep your home running smoothly.

Best of all is when you can tell one of the kids that it’s their night to make dinner for everyone. It’s good practice for when they grow up and head out on their own. It’s also a great break for tired parents.

I assign whole weeks during the summer to each of my kids where they have to help make meals at an age appropriate level. This includes having input on meal planning and grocery shopping. The older ones have to prepare entire meals on their weeks, while the youngest only has to help with the cooking.

Kids Like Lazy

You know those nights when you just don’t have the energy to make anything, so you just let the kids have cereal or something? You may feel bad, but your kids might just love it. If your parents did that when you were a kid, did you enjoy it? It will likely be the same for your kids.

I know the thing my kids like about nights that I tell them to figure out their own dinners is that they get exactly what they want from the food available. The selection may be limited, but there’s usually something that each child is delighted to eat.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated November 15th, 2018

40 Home Business Gift Ideas For Entrepreneurs

40 Home Business Gift Ideas For Entrepreneurs

Birthdays and holidays are a great time to get others to help you improve your home business. It’s hard to know what to ask for sometimes, but even harder for others to know what gifts you want if you don’t ask. I’ve gathered some ideas to help you build up a list of home business gift ideas.

Education

Udemy – Udemy has a lot of online courses that could be very useful to anyone running a home business. You could learn to develop apps, improve your social media or writing skills, learn about digital marketing and more. The courses are reviewed by students, so you can see which are likely to be worth your time and money.

Conference Tickets – If there’s a conference coming up in your industry, wouldn’t you love someone to get you tickets? They’re a great way to catch up on what’s happening in your industry and make new connections. Events such as Affiliate Summit, BlogHer, Social Media Marketing World and more can make a huge difference to a home business owner who is looking for ways to take their business to the next level.

Books – Get on Amazon and find books related to your industry that you’d like to read. Add all of them to your wish list. Here are some selections to get you started.

The key to picking a great book to gift to an entrepreneur is to know what they’re struggling with or want to learn. If they’ve told you that they’re having trouble getting results from their social media, for example, a carefully chosen book in that area may be welcome.

Remember that some things change fast in business. A book on online marketing that is a few years old may be badly out of date, while one on motivation is still relevant.

Equipment

Microphone – If you have ever considered starting a podcast or posting videos, a good quality microphone would be a great investment. The Blue Yeti is a popular choice, but there are many to choose from.

One option to consider is whether a desktop microphone will be preferred to something that can be clipped on. This depends, in part, on where the person you’re shopping for works. If they’re at a desk all the time, a desktop microphone should work wonderfully. Some people, however, prefer the mobility of a clip-on microphone, especially when making videos.

microphone gift

Camera – How good is your camera? The ones in smartphones are pretty impressive these days, but if you want to get serious about high quality photography on your website, a better camera may be in order.

Consider whether they’re likely to use the camera to make videos as well. A camera that takes high definition video and can take sound input from a microphone will be a big help in that case.

Second Computer Monitor – I love having two monitors in my home office. My setup isn’t ideal, as one is attached to my laptop, but I’ve still noticed how much it helps to have a second computer monitor at times. The most useful setup is usually to have them side by side, which doesn’t work with keeping my hands at a good level with my laptop. Even with that disadvantage, having two screens is worthwhile so that you don’t have so much clicking back and forth to see different pages.

Tablet Computer – A tablet computer such as an iPad Pro can be very useful if you want to work on the go. It’s so much easier to carry around than a laptop.

Make sure you know which operating system the person you’re shopping for is comfortable with. Someone who has Apple everything isn’t going to be as happy about the gift of an Android something or other, and vice versa. In many cases, it’s much easier to share apps across devices if they’re all the same OS.

Laptop or Desktop Computer – A new computer can be a wonderful gift if yours is getting old. Something a bit faster and less cranky is always nice.

Performance is always key with computers. You don’t want to give someone a computer that isn’t as good as what they already have. More RAM and more memory are always good, as are faster processors.

Of course, if you’re the more technical sort, you may be able to buy parts to upgrade their old computer. This is cheaper, but not practical unless you know how to put the new part in. It is fun, however, to take an otherwise good computer from “adequate” to “amazing” with just the right new part.

Laptop Cooling Pad – A laptop cooling pad can extend the life of your laptop by ensuring that it is always well cooled, even when you use it on your lap with a blanket.

I bought one of these recently for my laptop when its fan was struggling to cool it. This problem came close to destroying my laptop.

A cooling pad won’t save your laptop if the fan completely dies or if something else goes wrong, but it can drop your laptop’s temperature nicely. Some of the reviewers on Amazon have shared the results of tests they’ve done on various laptop cooling pads, and the results can be significant.

I chose the Havit HV-F2056, which has a lot of great reviews. So far, I’m delighted by it. If you have a laptop, I strongly recommend getting one. Be ready for a cold lap, though.

laptop cooling pad

Smart Speaker – A smart speaker such as Amazon Echo or Google Home will be welcomed by many people. They’re a nice way to play music in your home, and they can answer questions for you. There have been problems here and there, and there can be privacy concerns, but those don’t seem to limit the interest much.

Whiteboard – A whiteboard is good for brainstorming or visualizing goals. It’s an easy way to keep ideas and goals in sight while you work.

This gift idea works best for an entrepreneur with an available workspace. It’s hard to use a whiteboard if it’s not hanging on the wall or otherwise readily available.

Don’t forget a variety of colors for the dry erase markers. It helps a lot if you can color code or sketch things out.

Sit-Stand Desk – I love my sit-stand desk from Autonomous. Appropriate heights can be programmed in, making it easy to change positions throughout the day. They say either sitting or standing all day is bad for you, but changing positions is better. You don’t have to get a full size desk – there are units that simply lift the keyboard and monitor on the desk you already own.

Office Chair – A good, ergonomic office chair is a must for anyone who spends long hours working in a home office. No one wants to be hurting at the end of the day due to a poor quality chair.

Proper back support is essential, as is a comfortable seat. You don’t have to get an office chair with a headrest unless that’s a preference. Most people don’t spend that much of their workday leaning back anyhow.

office chair

UPS Battery Backup – Having a UPS battery backup is a huge help for anyone who uses a desktop computer. There’s no worry about losing all your work if the power goes out. It’s less important with laptops, since they already have batteries.

Backup Drive/Personal Server – Having a backup drive or personal server can be a lifesaver if your computer dies. My husband’s computer inexplicably quit working recently – won’t even boot far enough to turn on the monitor. Fortunately, his hard drive was fine. Also, fortunately, we have a backup drive of our files anyhow. You don’t want to lose all your home business files because your computer goes kaput.

USB Flash DriveThese little drives come in handy so often. They’re great when you need to move data from one computer to another. They come with enough storage now that they can do some good work as backup too.

Alternatively, sign up for an online backup service. These can be very reasonably priced, and their data will be safe even if their home is subject to a disaster.

Portable Charger – I love my portable charger for those days when we’re on the go. It’s not necessarily just for work – they’re great when you go on vacation too. It’s nice not having to worry about running out of charge on my phone or camera while out and about.

Choose a portable charger that carries enough charge for multiple devices. It’s not at all uncommon for an entrepreneur on the go to have several devices with them.

Laptop/Messenger Bag – My laptop bag was one of my favorite gifts several years ago. I still use it any time we travel. It’s so nice having an easy way to carry my laptop.

When gifting a laptop bag, remember that more than a laptop will be in there. That’s why pockets, lots of pockets, is often a good idea. Make sure it’s big enough for their laptop and any necessary accessories.

laptop bag

Noise Cancelling HeadphonesNoise cancelling headphones are great if you have a lot of background noise in your home office. You can get ones that will work with your phone if you have to call people, or just use them to listen to music while you work.

Square Card Reader – Square is great for home business owners who sometimes take credit card transactions in person. Its small size makes it convenient to carry around, plus it can be connected to a mobile phone, so payment processing can take place anywhere they have a data connection.

Moleskine Notebook – For the home business owner who likes to take a lot of written notes, a Moleskine notebook is a great choice. They’re attractive and functional. You can step it up a little with a Moleskine Evernote Smart Notebook. It allows you to digitize your notes, which can be a huge help when ideas really get going.

Fitness

Basic Exercise Equipment – Some basic exercise equipment to be kept in your home office makes it easier to get a quick workout in during the workday. It doesn’t have to be a lot. Some hand weights are a good start.

The one big catch with giving any exercise equipment is making sure it’s welcome. You don’t want someone to feel that there’s a hidden message in the gift.

fitness gifts

Exercise Ball – An exercise ball is great for core exercises. It’s also useful as an office chair.

Treadmill Desk – For those who are more ambitious, a treadmill desk may sound like a good plan. It may be more difficult to type while using one for some people. If you can make it work for you, it’s a great way to keep moving while you work.

Gym Membership – Not only will a gym membership help them get fit, it gives an excuse to get out of the house more often.

Activity Tracker – It’s far too easy to be sedentary with many home businesses. A good activity tracker can be that little bit of encouragement needed to get up and move.

Decor

Posters or Art Prints – It’s their home office – it doesn’t have to be plain. The kind of posters or other wall decor depends on what you like and how professional your office needs to look. If you have clients come in, you have to consider them. If no one ever comes to your office or sees it on video, it’s all about you!

Fun Stuff – What do they like? My office has dragons, some Harry Potter stuff, Doctor Who stuff, Star Trek stuff… you get the idea. Go to Think Geek if you need ideas.

For The Home

Smart Thermostat – A smart thermostat makes it much easier to control the temperatures in your work environment. You can set up the basic program for what you usually want household temperatures to be, and change if if needed using your smartphone.

Fire Safe – A fire safe is a perfect place to put all your important documents, both for your business and your personal life. You can even keep your backup drive in one. You may never need fire protection for these things, but if you do, there may not be time to think about how to save them at that moment.

Shredder – Having a shredder is a great way to take care of those papers which shouldn’t be thrown directly into the trash. Most are also good enough to shred old credit cards too.

Video Doorbell – A video doorbell, such as Ring, can help you decide whether or not it’s worth it to answer the door during your work hours. The ability to know who’s there is a huge help when you don’t want to be interrupted, but you’re also expecting a package.

Food & Drinks

Stainless Steel Water Bottle – I love my stainless steel water bottle. It’s one of the ways I make it easier to drink water throughout the day. The straw lid I use minimizes the chances for a spill, which is great.

water bottle

Travel Mug – A good travel mug will be loved by anyone who drinks their coffee or other hot drinks on the go. They help prevent spills, which is great for having your coffee in the office too.

Coffee – Some good coffee, or just some gift card to Starbucks or a local coffee shop, will be welcomed by many home business owners. A good source of caffeine is a great help most days. A good coffee maker is also worth considering.

Chocolate – For those who don’t drink coffee (me!) or who just love chocolate (also me!), some good quality chocolate is always a welcome gift. It makes a quick snack while working or taking a break.

Healthy Snacks – Having some healthy snacks available to grab and go is great for those busy days.

Help

Childcare – Whether you offer to take the kids yourself or pay a babysitter, having the kids out from underfoot can be a huge help to the home business owner. This is especially true when kids are small and clingy.

Relaxation

Slippers – Is the floor of your home office ever cold? A nice pair of slippers will help you deal with that in comfort.

Massage Equipment – At the end of the day, a massage will probably always sound good. It’s much easier to get one if you have the right equipment. Alternatively, a gift card to a good local spa would be a great idea.

Big Red ButtonFor those days when you need to pound something in frustration. We all have those days.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated November 5th, 2018

Your Computer Has Gone Kaput! How Will You Work On Your Blog Now?

Your Computer Has Gone Kaput! How Will You Work On Your Blog Now?

Have you ever thought about what you would do if the main computer or another device you run your blog with went kaput? It’s the setup for a really bad day. It’s much harder to work on your blog when one of the main tools you need fails.

It doesn’t matter whether you rely the most on a computer, tablet, or your smartphone. When the main device you use to run your blog starts going bad, you have a serious problem on your hands.

This is the kind of problem it’s best to prepare for in advance. If you have a plan in place for those times that things go wrong, you’ll lose less working time if you’re prepared for problems. It’s not like you’ll always have warning.

In this case, I’m talking about problems that make your computer completely unusable time. Not problems that you can fix fairly quickly. You should know how to handle those as well.

This is about the problems where you don’t know right away if it’s worth fixing or if you’re better off getting a new machine. The kind of problem where you may be down for days or weeks waiting for a repair.

The kind of problem I’m dealing with as I write this.

quiet home office

How I Work On My Blog Without My Computer

I’m using my backup computer right now. My laptop’s fan has gone bad, leaving the whole computer at risk of overheating and burning out the system. My repair guy said two weeks to get the new fan. So I’m on the spare computer.

I have to admit – I HATE my spare computer. It’s slow, the keyboard is just different enough to be annoying, and the setup overall is just different enough to make working a little more difficult. It’s also shared with the rest of the family, so I have to give it up sometimes. Worst of all, it’s in a common area of the house rather than my nice, quiet home office. All in all, it’s hard to work on.

But it also makes working possible.

I have most of the tools I use installed on this computer as well as my laptop. Some had to be updated when I made the move over, as it has been long enough since their installation to matter.

I use the Chrome browser because it syncs my account with whichever computer I’m using. That’s a huge help.

I also work on Google Drive as much as possible. This way I can use any computer to type up blog drafts and not worry about losing them. Yes, I could just type up drafts in WordPress, but this way I never have to worry about accidentally hitting “Publish” rather than “Save Draft” when a post isn’t done.

Not that I’ve ever done such a thing.

Never.

No way.

Well… you know how these things go. We all make mistakes.

I’ve also moved my office chair over because it’s about 1000x more comfortable than the one at the spare computer. I think I know something I need to get for the family for Christmas.

computer problems

Plan Ahead For Problems

If you want to be ready to deal with technical problems as a blogger, the most important thing you can do is plan ahead. This way you know what you’re going to do when things go wrong.

You don’t have to have a spare computer to keep working, for example, if you have apps set up on your phone or tablet that will allow you to keep working. They may not be as easy to use, but they’re better than nothing. WordPress, for example, has an app available that you can use with your blog. It’s a little different from the usual version, but better than not being able to blog at all.

Keeping as many of your files as possible in the cloud makes it much easier to keep things going when your computer has problems. You don’t have to worry about your files if they’re always backed up somewhere.

If you have multiple computers in your household, make sure that more than one has a setup you can use. Use Chrome or another browser that syncs your account no matter where you sign in. Know which online services can temporarily replace any software that you can’t move to another machine. Many image editing tools are online, so you can still make great blog images easily, regardless of which machine you’re on.

And keep it in the cloud when possible. Keeping most of my files online rather than on my computer has proven to be a huge help many times.

Yes, there are security risks.

But your regular device has security risks too. If your computer gets a virus, your data is at risk. Don’t fool yourself about the risks that you hope to avoid.

Automate When Possible

One of the great things about blogging is that there are a number of things you can automate. Not only does this make your daily routine easier, but it also helps when things go wrong.

I use Hootsuite and Tailwind quite extensively, for example. This way, when I can’t get online, I still have posts going out on my social media. I can handle the social side of things later when my equipment is behaving.

The key is to remember that you can’t automate everything. You can schedule tweets, pins, and so forth, but you can’t be social automatically. Eventually, you’ll have to go in and take a look.

You can also have blog posts scheduled out in advance. How far out depends on how far ahead you can manage to work.

If you can manage to keep a week ahead on your blog posts, for example, that’s a week to deal with problems when they crop up. It’s not a bad idea.

No, I’m not usually a week ahead unless I’m going on vacation. It takes a lot of work to get ahead. But when you can manage it, it’s a huge help.

WordPress makes it super easy to schedule blog posts to go out later. In fact, scheduling is one of the first things I do when working on a post. Usually, it’s for the next morning, but sometimes it’s days away.

help laptop

Sometimes All You Can Do Is Take Time Off

No matter how carefully you plan ahead for problems, sometimes there’s only one thing you can do – take some time off.

If you’re down for a day or two, it’s usually not that big a deal unless you have something planned for those days and you absolutely must get online.

Take advantage. Take some time for yourself or go do something with your family.

Relax.

Do everything you can to avoid taking excessive time off. Sure, your blog will keep getting traffic if you do nothing for a time, but do you really want to leave it alone all that long?

I doubt it.

When my laptop needed its screen replaced, it was gone for most of a month. I was furious about it taking so long, but it was a warranty repair, and I didn’t have a choice of which shop. My next computer won’t come from that same place most likely. If by some chance I do go there, they’ve already lost all chances of selling an extended warranty, even though I used said warranty for that screen replacement. Service simply took too long. I couldn’t take that much time off my blog in good conscience.

If you’re having a repair done under warranty, you may be offered a loaner computer, which can help. Just make sure you’ve wiped all your personal data and signed out of everything before you return it.

But even if you don’t have a way to work the way you normally do, you have options. You may even be able to work on a computer at the library for a few hours if that’s the only way to get things done.

You can also brainstorm, even if you don’t have a computer available.

When my kids were in soccer, that’s what I would do during their practices. I didn’t have a smartphone at the time, so I would sit there with a notebook and brainstorm ideas.

No internet, no computer, but I could still get things set up for later.

These days, if I don’t want to get online when I’m out brainstorming, I can still pull my phone out and type up notes for later. It works more or less the same as writing it out.

shattered

Decide Whether To Repair Or Replace

Just because your computer has a problem doesn’t automatically mean you need to replace it. Often enough, a repair will be enough.

The repair my laptop needs is one I’d be able to handle easily on my own with a desktop computer. Switching out a fan on a desktop computer is easy. I’ve done it before. Loosen a few screws, unplug the fan, put in the new one and attach it, and you’re done.

I looked at what my laptop would need and noped away from that. Laptop parts are much smaller and fussier than I like to deal with. It’s getting a professional repair.

The basic consideration when it comes to repair or replace is cost. How close to the replacement cost of the computer will the repair come?

Too close, and you may as well replace the thing. You’ll probably get an upgrade at the same time.

Replacing has its own problems, of course. You have to move all your data and reinstall all your old software. Sometimes this is difficult because you already used your registration code on the old machine, and the software won’t let you use it over again.

This is why I like knowing how to do basic computer repairs on my own. I can keep my repair costs down while extending the life of my equipment.

Many desktop computer repairs are surprisingly easy, especially if you find a good tutorial for it online. They’re much easier on desktop computers than on laptops, of course. I’m not bold enough to do much work on a laptop computer yet.

Don’t even get me started on smartphone and tablet repair. I’m not remotely ready for that.

But a good repair shop can handle things quickly, professionally and at a good price. If you find the right one, you won’t have to worry about attempting a repair you aren’t comfortable with or replacing equipment for minor failures.

What If You Have A Work At Home Job?

Of course, if you have a work at home job with a required schedule and your computer goes down, it’s time to talk with your employer. Depending on the kind of schedule you have, you may need to notify them of even a brief problem with your internet connectivity.

If you’re going to be out of service for more than a shift or so, do your best to find a way to get back to work.

If your employer provided the equipment and their stuff failed, they will probably be pretty helpful in getting you back to work. But if it’s your own equipment, they will likely expect that you can handle the problem with a minimum of fuss.

Talk to your employer, especially once you know how serious the problem is. Most will be understanding, provided you don’t simply disappear on them for the duration.

Be sure you have access to a contact number or email that doesn’t rely upon your work computer. Phone numbers are best because they don’t rely on you having an internet connection. It’s kind of hard to send an email or start a chat about your internet being out when your internet is, in fact, out. Depending on your location, after all, you may not even have access to your phone’s data plan.

Don’t Overstress About Lost Work Time

I know it’s terribly stressful when you had a schedule all set and a plan in place, and now it’s all in ruins. I’ve been there.

But some problems are out of your control. What matters most is how you handle problems as they come up. If you have a plan in place, it will be much less of a crisis.

Letting stress take over doesn’t help anything. It’s more likely to slow you down.

Instead, focus on what you can do, even if it’s not work related. Lost time can be made up later if necessary.

You’ll be fine.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

Last Updated October 29th, 2018

How To Claim Your Work at Home Space

How To Claim Your Work at Home Space

Many people who work at home don’t really have a good space for it. Not all homes have enough room for a separate home office, but having a dedicated work at home space makes a big difference.

I know that it’s easy to feel as though you don’t need a separate space. You may be working in your kitchen or living room and feel that you’re doing just fine.

And maybe you are.

But it’s more likely that you could do better if you had your own work at home space. Somewhere that you won’t be interrupted so often. A place where you have more control over the background noise. And where you can keep all the stuff you need to be productive without someone moving it on you.

Where Will Your Work At Home Space Be?

The first question you need to answer is where your work at home space can be in your home. Depending on your home, this may be easy or difficult to answer.

The best solution is to find a room in your home where you can set up a home office. A place where you can close the door has a lot of advantages when you’re working at home.

Some work at home jobs require this, for example. If you’re on the phone with customers a lot, they want you able to close the door so that you have a quiet place to work. You may also be required to have a door you can close if you have to keep information private for legal reasons.

But not every home has an available space where you can do this. And not every work at home job requires it.

It’s not at all uncommon for a work at home space to be a small desk in whatever nook you can fit it into. While it’s not as private as a room with a door, it can be enough.

And if you can’t manage that, there many people who work at home at the kitchen table or sitting on the couch. Do what you have to do to succeed.

Truth be told, this flexibility is one of the great things about working at home. If your job or business doesn’t require that you stick to one spot, you can work in a lot of different places. You can even head out to the coffee shop or coworking space if that suits your needs.

corner home office

What Are The Basics Your Work At Home Space Needs?

The next thing you need to consider when planning your work at home space is what you need in there. This can vary quite a bit, depending on what kind of work you do at home. Start with the basics. You can upgrade later.

If your business is primarily or entirely online, such as blogging, the main things you need are your computer and desk. If these can be separate from what the rest of the family uses, that’s a big step in the right direction. There are few things more frustrating than having to sort out conflicting priorities that keep you entirely from working.

When you have only one computer in the family and the kids need the computer for their homework, what do you do but give it up? That’s why you need your own if at all possible.

A space to work on your business also makes it easier for you to set rules about when you are working. Even if you aren’t in a separate room you can set rules about what the kids can and cannot bother you with while you work.

The biggest challenge comes in when you can’t claim a separate space directly and you have to set up your home office in a shared area, maybe even a shared computer.

No matter whether you share your workspace or have a quiet home office separate from everything else, you have certain needs in order to work productively. This can include a calendar, reference materials, telephone, writing materials and so forth.

Your computer needs the software that you use in your business. You may also find that a dual monitor setup helps with productivity (seriously, try it if you can, it’s amazing!). These things require space.

laptop home office

Talk To Your Family

When you know which space you want to work in and what you need for it, talk to your family about it. It doesn’t matter how simple your needs are or if you need to claim a full room. Talk to them.

Sometimes they’ll be happy to let you have the space. Other times you’ll meet up with resistance.

It can be hard on a family to give up a portion of the house to be used as a home office. There are always other things the space could be used for.

This is why many home offices are also guest rooms. It’s a good way to compromise on the space. You may still need to talk to guests about your needs during their visit, but you’ll have the room to yourself much of the time.

Even when your family is understanding about your needs, you need to ensure that they will respect what this means. Just because they want you to use the space you need doesn’t guarantee that they truly understand what you will need from them when you work at home.

bedroom home office

Go Beyond The Basics

My work at home space has changed a lot through the years. What I’ve been able to claim has depended on the space we had available and the needs of the family.

When my kids were little, my home office was shared with my family. I had my own computer, and a shared desk (big desk). Much of my work time was with either one of the kids or my husband on the other computer. It made for a bit of a challenge when working.

With this little space I kept a part of the desk and a file cabinet for my work. As I do work entirely online, my needs in terms of space are relatively few.

But the real hardship was having other people underfoot when I wanted to work in peace. Sharing my space meant that I had to claim my space mentally as much as physically. I couldn’t let what the others were doing on the computer distract me overmuch. Playful children didn’t make that easy.

These days, I have a lovely home office with my own desk and a door I can close. Working in there is so much more comfortable and productive. And of course, my kids are older and much better at letting me work most of the time.

Think about the little things you need to keep your workday going smoothly. Throw in a water bottle and for the most part, I’m good to go most days. But other people need more.

Some people like some background noise as they work, for example. I always suggest streaming music rather than turning on a television, simply because music is much easier to ignore. Music can make your day much more pleasant without taking away from your ability to work.

Puzzling out the little details on how you can set up your home office space takes time, but it’s worth the effort. You can increase your productivity and your contentment with your work when your workspace suits your needs. In time, you’ll find exactly what you need to make an amazing home office for yourself.

wood home office

Where Does The Money Come From To Do All This?

If you don’t have a lot of money to spare, it’s difficult to figure out where to get the money to create that perfect work at home space. Not everyone can afford to just go out and buy a new desk or the other things you’d like to have in your home office.

So what do you do?

There are a few options for setting up your home office on a budget.

Option 1: Garage Sales

You might be amazed by how much stuff you can get for your home office at garage sales. I paid $5 for my office chair at a garage sale, and it is by far the best office chair in the house. My husband has tried to claim it a time or two, even though we bought it for my office, but that only gets him the death glare. It’s not happening. Mine!

Pay attention to garage sales in your area, and you can fairly quickly pick up a desk chair, file cabinets and anything else your home office needs without spending a fortune.

You may even find some of the electronics you need, although you have to be very careful that everything still works, and get any computers checked for viruses before doing anything. Used electronics are kind of a gamble, but you can make it work.

Option 2: Build It Over Time

You can also improve your work at home space over time. Start with the basics, and then add to it as your budget allows.

If you have a laptop or tablet you can work on, for example, all you need is a quiet place where you can work undisturbed. It doesn’t have to be in the perfect spot in your home. Look around and figure out what the best space is for you to work.

Work toward having the money for the next thing you’d like for your workspace. It might be a desk, a second monitor, a better place to keep your supplies, whatever it is you need.

Remember the money you spend on your home office is an investment. You may be able to write some or all of it off on your taxes as well. But the key thing here is to buy the things that will make you more productive so that you can earn more money from home.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post may be 'affiliate links.' This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.

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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.