Preparing for new year ambitions

December marks the joyous excitement leading up to Christmas, which is swiftly followed by New Year’s celebrations. If you are like 58% of the American population, then you have probably already started planning your resolutions for the new year. goalsAlmost 6 out of 10 people start off with the best of intentions to make significant differences in their lives over the following 12 months, but 80% of these have already failed by February.

The majority of resolutions involve health (healthier eating, losing weight, exercising more), money (saving money, spending less money, paying off debt), and spending more time with your friends and family.  Being more productive, and kicking other habits that you no longer want are also common goals that people set for themselves. With this in mind we wanted to take a look at some of the best apps out there that can help you to achieve your goals:

  1. Mint – A really great tool which is an aggregator that allows you to create and mintmaintain a comprehensive family budget. You have visibility of all of your household’s income and expenses, and can easily collaborate with other members of your family.
  2. Personal Capital – Similar to Mint, Personal Capital is a platform where you can track all of your finances. There are many standard capabilities such as calculating your net worth, monitoring debt, and tracking financial goals. Personal Capital has some great capabilities when it comes to planning for retirement through its Retirement Planner. This platform analyzes your investment portfolio (IRA’s, 401k, investment accounts, 529 funds) and provides feedback about your progress, stock allocations, and management fees.
  3. FitBit – Samsung Health, Google Fit, all of these are great fitness trackers which will allow you to set and monitor health trends such as heart rate, distance, steps, weight, and quality of sleep. Many health insurance companies have discounts and rewards available for customers who meet specified fitness goals within these platforms.fitbit.png
  4. Castbox/ Stitcher – One way to kill two birds with one stone is to listen to podcasts while you are exercising. This is a great way to take on new information while your mind is clear, and is also a great way to take your mind off of the stresses of your life.
  5. Blinklist – Many people set out with the goal of reading more books over the coming 12 months. There are some great tools out there that can make this habit much reading tableteasier than it has been in the past. E-readers such as Kindle and Nook provide you with the material you need, wherever you may be. You can buy new books, rent them from your local library, or even share them with friends. For those who are keen to broaden their knowledge, but are put off by the length of time required, there is a solution. Blinklist is a simple tool which provides you with book summaries that allow you to “read” books in just a fraction of the time it typically takes.
  6. Map My Run – This is one of the most popular fitness apps on the market, and it’s easy to see why. This program has a very simple user interface and is super simple to use. They have a goals section where you can set things such as the targeted number of runs per week, monthly miles, days run per week, or total miles over the course of the year. One of the most common goals is to complete 1000 miles within a calendar year.
  7. Ramsey Solutions – This is a platform of knowledge that is likely to be able to ramseyprovide you with valuable information to help you in areas where you need support. Dave Ramsey of The Total Money Makeover fame, started this company with purely financial advice. Since then, the program has developed opportunities for people to learn more about retirement, spending time with family, starting a new business, or making a career change.
  8. Local support groups – As the saying goes, a problem shared is a problem halved. If you are struggling with something that is really holding you back and you are looking for support, please connect with a local support group. This can be done through a simple Google search, can be recommended by your Doctor, and are often supported by community centers such as churches, fire stations, and fitness centers.

What are your resolutions for 2018, and what are some creative ways in which you are planning on keeping on track? We would love to hear your ideas, as well as be made aware of some excellent apps that can make such a huge difference in the pursuit of success. Until next time, stay focused, and Expect The Exceptional in everything that you do.



Homemade for the holidays

As a child, I used to really, REALLY look forward to opening gifts on Christmas morning.  I love surprises, so I was never one to search for gifts ahead of time.  I truly enjoyed guessing what was in those beautiful boxes!  Walking down the stairs on Christmas morning to see what Santa brought and then spending an embarrassingly long time opening gifts from family – who could ask for anything better?  However, as a grown-up and parent, things have begun to change.  I now look forward to others opening the gifts I picked out for them more than anything else.  This year I have spent an added amount of time and love on a number of gifts, as I am making quite a few of them on my own!  I won’t get into details in case one of my family members is reading, but I have truly had such a wonderful time putting together these gifts that are straight from the heart.  Another added bonus to the homemade variety is the money it saves!  Now, admittedly, I am not making macaroni frames so I have had to spend a little.  But when I divide through the number of gifts I will be able to create, it is a very small amount of money per person, yet the gifts are going to mean so much more.  I hope.

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In case this is something that interests you, I have compiled a list of ideas for homemade gifts that will not make people put on a fake smile and look around for a non-existent receipt.  I hope it can be of some use to you this year!

  1. Drink kits – whether it is a hot cocoa kit for the kids, or a hot toddy kit for mom and dad, providing someone with all of the ingredients for a yummy winter drink is a great idea and something they will certainly use on those snowy nights ahead!  Yes, people probably have hot cocoa powder on hand, but do they also have marshmallows, crumbled peppermint and chocolate stirrer sticks in their pantry?  Probably not.  Other kits that are fun are ice cream sundae kits, cookie making kits, and even beer bread kits!  (My mom and I did this one year, just put the bread ingredients in a plastic bag, wrap it in burlap and attach a tag that says “just add beer!”)
  2. Ornaments – granted, these are a once a year gift and one they probably won’t get much use out of this year, but if they are made well enough, they will last for years to come.  This year, I spray painted small wooden shapes purchased at Michael’s, drilled holes in the top, mod podged pictures on the front and tied a ribbon!  So easy, and so durable!
  3. Coasters – I did these a couple of years ago and they were a big hit.  I purchased tiles from Lowe’s, but just found them online from my new favorite store Menard’s for only $.14!, and again mod podged pictures onto the front.  I also added felt pieces to the back to prevent scratching and now my family has adorable pictures of my children to place their drink glasses on!
  4. Spa gifts – depending on how natural and how homemade you want these to be, this could take a little more planning to purchase the required items.  But everyone uses lotion and shaving cream and lip balm, so wouldn’t it be great if you could provide them with a homemade version that actually works, and does not include all of those unnatural ingredients?  Amazon has everything you need to make a yummy smelling spa treat for the special people in your life.
  5. *Hats and scarves – this time of year, we are reminded that we can never have too many scarves, hats and mittens.  And if we can happen to find a pair of mittens that match, bonus!  What if we had the whole hat, mitten and scarf set still intact?  Oh right, that’s impossible.  So a matching set will always be a much appreciated gift, and they will think of you and feel thankful every time they put them on.
    *disclaimer: only choose this option if you are actually skilled at knitting or crocheting, and also only if you promise to use solid, neutral colors.  We don’t want to make people feel like the dog in the picture up above!

These are just a few ideas, but they all include a spoonful of love and that’s all anyone really wants this time of year!  Good luck, and please let me know how it goes in the comments!

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Choosing a service provider for you home or business

As a homeowner, it is very common to find yourself in need of a service provider to perform tasks that you don’t have the time or skill to do yourself.  Whether you are in search of a painter, plumber or even someone to hang your Christmas lights, finding someone to perform the needed service at the time and cost that you need can be a daunting task.

Recently, I was looking for a painter, as well as someone to clean out our fireplace.  For the painting job, I had two different companies come out to give me a quote.  The men who arrived were vastly different from one another.  The first could best be described asbusiness, composition, creativity “old school.”  He was an older gentleman who used paper, pen and a calculator to jot down the measurements in the kitchen.  He was obviously not trying to sell me anything, simply took down the information he needed and gave me just the facts regarding the job at hand.  He told me he would email the quote as he got everything calculated.  The second man was a born salesman.  He played with my son, made jokes and told me all about the charitable work his company does.  He used an iPad to take down the information and was able to give me a quote right after he plugged in the calculations.  Verdict?  I actually preferred the first guy.  His quote ended up being significantly less than the second guy and I appreciated that he a no-nonsense sort of person.  While I enjoyed speaking with the second guy, I was not looking for a friend; I just needed someone who could come in and get the job done quickly, and do it well.  It was a bonus that he would cost less, although as you’ll find from my fireplace search, this is not the most important factor.

When we turned on our gas fireplace this year, we were disappointed to find that there were no flames.  While my husband is capable of doing many things around the house, bioethanol burner, burner, ecofriendlydealing with a gas line is not one we were willing to risk messing up.  I called around to several different service locations and was able to speak with three people from whom I got quotes.  Each place quoted a different amount, and while my initial tendency was to go with the cheapest option, after speaking to the man at the most expensive place, I decided that was going to be our best bet, and here’s why:  the two cheaper places simply gave me numbers; I asked for how much it would cost, they found out where I lived and gave me a quote.  However, the third guy took a little more time to assess the situation.  He asked what kind of fireplace we had and some more questions about how it operated.  He listened to the problem we were having and gave some suggestions as to how we could fix it on our own.  When I explained that my husband had been working on it and I was just making the phone calls, he gave me his name and offered to walk my husband through some troubleshooting tips over the phone when we had time.  So when it came time to choose which company we wanted to use, we obviously felt that the third company, while more expensive, would take the time to make sure we were completely satisfied and we were confident that the work they did would be solid.  It was worth it to shell out a few extra bucks, because in return we were receiving peace of mind that the job would be done right.

Companies like this fireplace company, as well as Royal Services, never claim to be the cheapest.  But they stand behind their extra cost, offering you the added service of contact with a human being who will go above and beyond to ensure you are satisfied with the service you receive.

Have you experienced a company who has gone above and beyond, and have you been willing to pay more it?  Tell us about it in the comments below!


Ways that you can give back to your local community

This time of year, giving back is on the forefront of our minds.  As we look around at our own situations, we often feel blessed for all of the good in our lives.  This feeling is sometimes followed by guilt, remembering that not everyone has so much to be thankful for.  Consequently, we begin to wonder: what can I do to give back?  In case you have asked that question lately, here is a list of ideas to get you started!

  1. Local church – whether you belong to a church or not, they are always looks for volunteers to help with various things, as well as donations of clothing or food.
  2. Participate in a charity fundraiser – find an organization that is close to your heartrunner-888016_960_720 and run in the 5K, or volunteer at one of their fundraising events.
  3. Volunteer as a coach in the local parks and recreation sports program – this is a great way to get involved in the community, as well as give a child a role model that they may be needing in their life!  In Johnson County, KS you can simply lg on to the parks and rec website for opportunities.
  4. Salvation Army bell ringer at Christmas
  5. Lead a charity event at your place of work – This is great for team building. Check out Royal’s website to learn about the different community outreach programs in which they have become involved, it’s a great place to get ideas!
  6. Clean up – Volunteer your time in helping to clean up the local school playground in preparation for the start of the school year. Collect litter from the highway or help clean the local stream in your neighborhood.
  7. Make a financial donation – if you feel you are too swamped to attend an event, dollar-660223_960_720financial donations are always appreciated.  Just make sure you know where your money is going to be used!
  8. Volunteer at a local soup kitchen – soup kitchens are full of volunteers around the holidays, so try volunteering at another time of year when they truly need the extra help.
  9. Get involved with an inmate program designed to help people prepare for life after jail.
  10. Create an event yourself to support a charity – if you can’t find something you are passionate about, make up your own event!
  11. Find someone in need and personally help them – make a grocery run for your Basket, Groceries, Vegetables, Fruits, Food, Asparaguselderly neighbor, or buy a few toys for the kids down the street whose dad just lost his job.
  12. Carry a survival pack in your car that includes socks, gloves, toothpaste, a toothbrush, some snacks etc. that you can give to homeless people when you see them.

These are just a few ideas, and most of them are things you can do all year long!  Do you have any other things you like to do to give back?  Leave your ideas in the comments below!


How to Shape Your Company Culture

Company culture has quickly become one of the most important predictors of a company’s future success. With this in mind we are always looking for ways in which we can take even better care of our team. We most definitely live by Richard Branson’s idea of:

“Train people well enough so they can leave,
treat them well enough so they don’t”

I truly believe in this statement, and look forward to seeing it come to fruition over the coming years at Royal Services! 

Source: How to Shape Your Company Culture