Mary Wu, Social Media Consultant

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Halfway there (Google apps and taxes)

Apps Keys Shows Internet Application Or AppIn the U.S., July 4 is the celebration of our nation’s birthday. We often spend the weekend with parties or picnics or family reunions or weddings. The weekend often ends with tired, but happy, people. When you look at a calendar though, July 1 is sort of like “hump day” for the year. The year is now half over (or half begun) and it’s a time to take stock, assess what is or is not working, and plan for the rest of the year.

This might also be a good time to realize that it’s only 6 months until the end of the year and I’m willing to bet that there are a few people that haven’t even begun to think about taxes yet. (WHAT??? You want me to think about taxes in JULY.)

YES, I actually want you to think about taxes in July. Actually, it’s something you should be thinking about every week, or at least every month, and you should be doing some record keeping so that when you do your taxes (or go to see your tax preparer) in 2015, you are somewhat prepared. I realize that sometimes it’s easy to procrastinate, and I want to encourage you to not fall too far behind.

I’m a big fan of various Google Apps (HELLO — FREE!!), so I’m going to point out a few ways that Google Apps can be used in keeping track of your expenses.

Google Calendar https://www.google.com/calendar
Besides allowing you to keep track of your schedule, share your schedule, and syncing with a number of other applications, Google Calendar keeps track of where you’ve been. If you use Google Calendar thoroughly and faithfully, at the end of a week (or month, or 6 months) you can go back through your calendar and check what you’ve done. You can look at each event and see if there’s anything you’ve done that needs to be documented.

Google Maps https://maps.google.com
After you’ve checked your Google Calendar, you’ll realize that you’ve had some travels (meetings or lunches you’ve attended) that you forgot to write down mileage for. This is where Google Maps comes in handy. Just enter your starting location and your destination and you know your mileage (double it for a round trip).

Google Docs https://docs.google.com
Specifically Google spreadsheets. You can use a Google spreadsheet to enter your costs (mileage, advertising, office expenses, deductible meals and entertainment, etc. etc. etc).

Anytime you’re using any type of spreadsheet (Excel, Google Drive, Numbers), I highly recommend beginning with the end in mind. If you’re looking to do your own bookkeeping so that you can either do your taxes or send them to a tax professional, figure out what you’ll need at the end of the year and input the proper categories. (For myself, and many solopreneurs, look at Schedule C).

Next week we’ll look at a few other Google Apps that can make your life easier.

*Disclaimer, I’m not a tax professional.

Shave Time Off Your Commute


waze (Photo credit: tenz1225)


In honor of Administrative Professional’s Week, I’m doing a 5-part series with tips to simplify your life in some way. Today I’m going to tell you about my new co-pilot. On our recent vacation I was driving my friend. John was giving me directions by using his phone and an app called Waze. Like any GPS, Waze will give you turn-by-turn directions, but Waze has the added feature of crowdsourcing your drive.

As with any navigator, you enter your destination and it figures out a route for you to take. However, unlike my GPS unit, it determined the best route by using real-time GPS and traffic reports from drivers. Wazers are able to report to other drivers about traffic or accidents or cars on the shoulder.

If you choose to link it to Faceook, you can even report to your Facebook friends when you will arrive at a location.

Like any navigation tool I’ve ever used, it is a good idea to have some knowledge of your route. (The other day I was at a Starbucks and wanted to cross a major road. Waze would have had me driving around through an industrial park in order to make my left turn. I just drove through a hotel parking lot to turn around.)

While on vacation (and with another driver in the car), my husband and I would often report about minor accidents and cars on the shoulder. I do not make any reports when I’m alone in the car.

But every now and then I’ll be driving along and hear a report of “police ahead,” which might be a useful warning for people who might possibly sometimes tend to drive maybe a smidge above the posted speed limit. Think of it this way, this free app may save you time or traffic hassles, or it may even save you from a speeding ticket.

Waze is available for free on most smartphone platforms.

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In Search Of

In honor of Administrative Professional’s Week, I’m doing a 5-part series with simple tips. Today I want to help make your life easier by introducing you to one of my favorite apps.

Image representing Yelp as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

We recently took a vacation and discovered a wonderful app called Yelp. We’ve probably used it before, but not to the extent we did on vacation. In the “Related Articles” section there is an article titled “The Do’s and Don’ts of Planning a Vacation” and one of their tips is to “do your research.” On past trips I’ve done this (especially with regards to restaurants) either by checking out books from the library (like Zagats guide) or by doing Internet research. Now that we’re living in the age of 4G networks and smartphones, I decided that planning consisted of taking care of the major items (hotels and plane tickets) in advance and waiting to see the mood of the moment when it come to breakfast*, lunch, and dinner.

We were very pleasantly surprised at all the places we found and how well Yelp worked for pricing and ratings. By the middle of the trip, we were depending on Yelp exclusively to help us find food.

About a week after we returned home, my husband and I were planning to go see a friend of mine in a play in a suburb we rarely visit. I realized that I could actually use the same app here in Illinois that I used in California.

Sometimes we do things in a “vacation” mindset or at “at home” mindset and forget that some tools can be multipurpose.**

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*Well – there was only one morning we needed breakfast because most nights the hotel included breakfast.

**I love watching babies in restaurants “discover” the law of gravity. “Let’s see,” says baby, “when I’m at home on my high chair and I drop stuff it falls on the kitchen floor. What happens here.” And then baby realizes, “Not only does stuff fall on the floor, but strangers come and pick my stuff up and smile at me. Let’s try that again.”

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