Ideas on How to Stay Organized and On Budget

Ideas on How to Stay Organized and On Budget

Many of my sorority sisters think that I have an easy job. I take that as a compliment because that likely means I make it look easy. Planning successful events can be anything but easy, however. You have to keep incredibly detailed notes and stay hyper-attentive at all times. My biggest piece of advice is to get a system you are comfortable with and then stick with that system.

Mine is a twofold system, coopted from the last social chair and improved on by me. When she showed me how she did things, I was excited. I am definitely a pen-and-paper girl, so I was excited to create a Party Binder. I take it with me just about everywhere I go. The girls on my committee joke that it is like a loyal boyfriend.I know they appreciate all the work I do. Inside the binder are ideas for future events as well as notes from past events. I write down menus; locations; music ideas; and contact information for vendors, social chairs, and other people like that. Once an event is over, I evaluate it. I write down what went well, what didn’t, how many people attended (if we didn’t sell tickets or it is a big crowd, it is a best-guess). It just works for me. If you more of a tech kind of person, there are apps out there that you can use to track stuff or you can just have a file on your computer. Since I know I am turning this job over at some point, I think that something I can just hand the next girl is the way to go—but to each her own.

To stay on budget, I keep copies of receipts with each event and review it so I can be better at estimating costs for stuff I’ll need at the next party. I keep a running tab on how much I have spent and how much is left in my budget for the year in there as well. The treasurer loves that! I meet with her twice a month for a few minutes to turn in my receipts and receive an update on what is left in the account. It helps catch any discrepancies in my math and prevents receipts from wandering off. I don’t want any surprises come the end of the year and neither does she! My best advice is to be thoughtful with your money. The stuff you’ll re-use, or that the most people can enjoy, are the things I spend money on first.

The other half of my system is a digital calendar. The chair before me required everyone to subscribe to a free online sorority calendar. I really liked that idea so I kept it. I have one girl on my committee whose whole job is to find out social events from the school and add them, along with our stuff, to the calendar. She uses a different color for mandatory events that everyone has to attend. This way, sisters can plan their study and work schedules around everything and it is all very clear cut. I have an additional calendar for myself and my committee because we often have be there earlier than everyone else and that kind of thing. I set reminders on my phone so that I always know where I am supposed to be and why. Meetings with other social chairs and stuff like that come through 20 minutes prior so that I never forget where I need to be next. It is super helpful to me and I definitely recommend it! I also set reminders for things that I need to follow up on, like confirming rental stuff and venues.

My last suggestion is to keep everything in once place all the time. My binder stays in my backpack unless I am using it, and my backpack has a hook right next to the door in my room. This way, I don’t have to waste time looking for it. File your receipts and deduct them from your budget as soon as you can so that your balance is accurate. Also remember the more detailed you are in your notes, the better off you are. You might not need all to know every detail if you need to find a piece of information, but it is easier to read through it to find what you need than hope you remember the info just in your own head.

So that is what works for me. Feel free to adapt these ideas to something that will work for you! Good luck!!

New Room in the House!

I live in a sorority house on campus and I love it. You are never alone and can seek company whenever you like. You can go to the lounge, sit on the back patio listening to music with earphones, or go from room to room to see who is at home. You have “sisters” galore and loneliness is not an option. You can invite family and friends any time you like during visiting hours. The rooms are spacious and well equipped. All you do is bring your clothing, a pillow, and a nice quilt. They supply linens, towels, and the rest. Each room has curtains and a cute colorful rug. It is as good as your room at home. You can fill the walls with posters, photos, artwork, or whatever you like. You take it down when you leave. Sometimes at the beginning of the school year, we change rooms. Some people want a roommate or a different window view. New pledges are arriving and we must accommodate them. Usually it is a matter of random luck what you get. If you know the house well, you can make a request. That’s what I just did. One girl was leaving to go for a semester abroad and she had a huge room at the end of one hall. It had a double bed which suits me fine. I like to stretch out. I wanted this room and put in my dibs for it.

I prevailed and found myself moving my stuff one afternoon. I first had to go out and find a highly recommended mattress protector in just the right size. This may be silly, but I didn’t like the idea of sleeping on the same mattress as a hundred other girls who had once lived in this room. I know they change them now and then, but who knows how long it had been. If you don’t bring your own mattress (and who does that?), you take what you can get. So, what if there are sorority sisters of yore who haunt the room with their memories. I will take care of the mattress with my new protector. It is easy to slip on and zip up and it is made of waterproof fabric vinyl. This means that it is soft and comfortable. No dust mites can ever slip out from the old mattress. You are assured of no risk to your health. They don’t cost a fortune and are essential for anyone who lives in an old boarding house. Isn’t that what a sorority is?

The mattress protector fit perfectly and I could slip over the top my bottom sheet without tearing it in the corners. My quilt was a tiny bit small but I also bought a cut lace bed skirt so it looked fine. The pillow shams are in the same cut lace so it looks like grandma’s room at home. With the rug in this new larger room (much bigger and more attractive than my old one), it makes for a welcoming space.

Think of the Parties We Could Have!

My job in the sorority is to plan the events, large and small. Fortunately, the girls like to party so we have lots of things always going on. We have had a formal ball with a couple of fraternities, a Halloween bash in costume, a Christmas gift exchange, numerous barbecues and pot luck dinners, and of course a Valentine’s Day sweetheart dance. I just keep thinking up things to do to socialize and have fun. We go on hikes, beach outings, scavenger hunts, and picnics. We are a very active group.

I doubt if I will run out of ideas but just in case I asked the house mother to put in a large, sturdy inflatable above ground pool in the empty backyard. It is not being used for anything except our patio barbecues. There is a ton of space and all future sorority members will love it. I did some research online and showed her the prices and models. She said she would check the sorority funds that had been collected over the years from dues. We could also have a fund-raising party and invite former members who wanted to keep the fun alive. Our alumna keep in touch so this would be an excellent way to proceed once the house mother approves. We measured the space and looked for a pool that would be large enough and not be mistaken for a kiddie size. When I say inflatable, I mean high-quality vinyl on a movable frame. There are even steps that descend into the water for easy access and retreat. There can be a heater and an automatic cleaning system so no one will have pool chores. You can use chemicals if you like and we would buy the most non-toxic. I am getting very excited thinking of the parties we could have. When we entertain on premises it is always inside and we miss the opportunity to enjoy ourselves on balmy nights.

The pool would be an asset to the sorority and it could serve for private use apart from an opportunity to invite guests. There is nothing like a cool dip to enliven the senses on a really hot summer afternoon. It may not be for swimming as there would be no lanes, but you could bring kids over and splash about. As one of our sorority do good projects, we visit a local children’s club and they don’t have a pool. It is more about daycare than anything else and they need volunteers. Some of us go on a regular basis and having an above ground pool would be a real coup. I am begging the house mother and she seems to be coming around.

Pool update: it is two months later and the pool has been installed. It is a beautiful azure blue with deep purple trim around the edges that is in lieu of the tile you find in permanent in-ground pools. The girls give me all the credit and are excited about the inauguration party I have planned. You are all invited.

So Proud of Daphne

As we progress through college from freshmen to senior year, change is imminent. Some of the girls leave to go on for higher education to become teachers, doctors, lawyers, or accountants. One of my sorority sisters, Daphne, has been accepted to her preferred nursing school. I am so proud of her. Always the event planner in the group, I am going to throw a party. It will have a medical theme and the decorations will reflect it. It is hard to be amusing with hospital items, but I am going to be funny with a heating bag (so old-fashioned, but we all know it and associate it with ailments). The bag will hang over the table and small flowing flower will shoot out from its sides like floral liquid from punctures. There will be party favors consisting of candy pills in plastic bottles. The place mats are those waterproof cloths they use in hospitals. I just have to cut them in half. I will not, however, serve hospital food on trays, but that would be hysterical. It would spoil the party as what you eat and drink at a party is everything.

The girls are all chipping in to get a really good stethoscope and they can cost a pretty penny. We want her to start out right. We got a 3M Littmann 27 inch electronic ambient noise reduction model. This brand is tops in the business. Not knowing the details, I checked out the specifications. The new technology for this item cancels out on average 85% of background noise that is known to interfere during auscultation. It stores 12 second tracks onboard as well as a ten-second comment to notate the sound. How fabulous is that! I like the idea of the snap tight soft-sealing eartips. It should make for better comfort while the tight seal takes care of ambient noise. It has to have a state-of-the-art sound sensor. With a stethoscope, that’s what it is all about. It is akin to a high-end cardiology model. It has great sound amplification and is highly rated by users for trouble-free operation.

One sorority sister who knows her way around stethoscopes, having worked as a teen in her father’s office, added that it has a USB drive and comes with free software for heart and lung sound visualization. I can see that we are getting our money’s worth. I am flabbergasted by the ability to store sounds in patient records or transfer them to doctors for analysis. You can select the type of head and tubing you want and I am glad that my sorority sister knew just what that meant. Who knew that a stethoscope can have Bluetooth features to transmit sounds. I didn’t know that it mattered that a stethoscope be lightweight and comfortable to use. A real bonus is that you can have your name printed on the tubing so it is visible to patients. What a gem hanging around a nurse’s neck!

Midterms Suck!

No one likes midterms even though it means that the semester is half over and we are that much closer to our life goals. We love school and being in a sorority and find it all a wonderful way to pass the time to full adulthood when we are responsible for ourselves. Being on your own seems far away as I think about it and now is the time to make most of communal fun. We can beat mid-term stress as a group by having a diversion. Nothing that would take us away from our studies, but an activity that would be fun and a stress buster. I vote for a children’s style party in the backyard, complete with a cotton-candy machine and an inflatable bounce house. Of course, there will be great food and drink and we will invite our neighbors in the adjacent sorority houses. It will be a big bash.

The bounce house was the most fun because while we have had outdoor parties, we never had this accoutrement. It is not just for kids. We all loved jumping up and down inside and hiding among the rubber colored balls. We weren’t completely hidden like tots are, but it was silly fun. We laughed so much that our stomachs hurt. We spent all day outside on a glorious sunny day. We took lots of photos to put on Instagram which would help us recruit new members come next fall. We certainly look like we are having a super good time. We only had to pry one girl away from her books. The rest of us preferred the diversion and got back to studying later that night after a fabulous barbecue. It was simple far, hotdogs and hamburgers, but perfect for a childhood theme. Do you remember those bounce houses that your patents rented for birthdays when you were a kid? We all associate them with the freedom and laughter of childhood.

It was hysterical how two or more people in a bounce house can crash into each other. These inflatables are designed for small kids. They come in themes like boats, castles, spaceships, and animals. You can put whatever you want inside on top of the balls. They are a nice cushion, but you might want more inflatable vinyl as the floor. You can hide candy and prizes and have a scavenger hunt. We must do this more often, but midterms come but twice a year. We won’t fear them if we know we can associate them with some group fun. Our sorority has the reputation for special events that are unique and satisfying. No boring frat parties with too much warm beer for us. We can blast music from our sorority house speakers to attract those near and far. We let the world know that this is an exciting time of life for those in our age group. It is said that you never forget your college years. I know I won’t.

Another Successful Fundraiser for Charity

Most people don’t think too much of the greek life. They think that we are a bunch of drunken, stuck-up rich kids who basically sit around hazing each other. That is very untrue. Sure we have parties and the like, but we are college students. There are always social events going on here put on by the greeks or by someone else. While we have our share of bad apples and get bad press sometimes, so do lots of other student organizations.

But we aren’t just about parties.Most greek organizations, especially those with national headquarters, have a philanthropic cause. We actually do good things! Some organizations work on a national level (meaning all the chapters around the country work with the same charitable group) and others work within their communities. Either way, greek organizations donate money, time, and their talents to benefit others on a regular basis. It was one of the reasons I wanted to join greek life in the first place! My sorority focuses on raising funds and awareness for women’s heart disease (because it is actually the number one killer of women). Because it is such a widespread issue, we can work it on two fronts—locally right here around theschooland on the national level. We went to a few women’s groups and taught them the early warning signs for heart attacks in women, and we also do fundraisers and other events.

And that is where I come in!

I decided to throw a sweetheart dance (get it?) and sell tickets. I chose a night after a big game here at school so that there would be lots of people around looking for something to do afterward. And to further the campaign, we made it a Go Red For Women event—meaning instead of putting on your little black dress, we asked all the ladies to wear a red dress instead. I had a catering menu of heart-healthy foods that everyone loved. Lots of elegant fish, grilled chicken, and steamed veggies.  Believe it or not, there were hardly any leftovers! We also had a donation table at the door, as well as some signs made up by some of my sisters who are nursing students with some reality-check information on it about women and heart disease. We sold a bunch of tickets in advance but we had even more at the door, which was great. We ended up with a lot of money to donate to charity. People kept telling me what a great time they had. Both of those things made all the energy and thought I put into this dance really worth it. It is one thing to have a packed house full of people having a good time and it is a whole other feeling knowing that they are all together because of something you thought of and knowing that it is helping a worthy cause.

Well, time to get this makeup off my face and then I am off to bed. Night!

Sometimes Being Away at School is a Real Bummer

I adore my parents and really miss them sometimes. I am particularly close to my dad. We spent so much of my childhood together playing his version of football (alas, he had no son), learning to swim, and hiking in the woods. We camped every summer and he taught me to light a fire to cook our dinner. We had an inflatable kayak for runs down the river. I have so many fond memories and tons of photos to prove it. It is hard to grow up and leave for college. You give up these special childhood times and it is never the same when you go home. You are now an adult. You sometimes dream you are still learning how to dive on the high board with dad or are getting help from him with your homework. I helped him celebrate every birthday and it breaks my heart that I must miss the upcoming one. My mom is having a party and I can’t attend as I have finals. I do have a special gift which I am sending. I decided on a really good quality automatic watch that will keep better time than his old one. He never buys things for himself. I feel so bad that I can’t be there to see him open it.

I got a stainless-steel round watch as he is not a gold tone kind of guy. He likes practical things as a rule and nothing fancy. The watch, however, is state of the art and has all the latest bells and whistles. You never have to wind it and it automatically changes twice a year at daylight saving’s time. How fantastic. He always used to complain about being late for appointments. My mother had to remind him or someone had to call him a day ahead. Now he will have no problem making these important dates. The dial is easy to read: black against a white background. The date is visible below the center point. It has Swiss watch making ingenuity. That means top functionality and design. The materials are excellent. It has a sapphire crystal, a see-through exterior and is totally scratch resistant. I love the polished brush finish. While you can spend up to a thousand dollars or more for a self-winding watch, for half that amount I got good value. I know he will love it and think of me every time he looks at his wrist.

I got a phone call from Dad the day the gift arrived. It hit on his birthday so he opened it at once. He told me he was beyond thrilled. I was so thoughtful and the perfect daughter. What more could an offspring want to hear? I had indeed put a lot of thought into the present knowing his needs and taste in mind. I didn’t need to reach too far to prove we were still close. Of course, we still are.

The Fine Art of Organizing a Mixer

Ah, the mixer. Arguably the most important events the social chair puts together next to the semi-formal and formal. Since I am obligated to host one of these every other week—the other week, we typically are invited somewhere by the fraternities—they can get kind of dull. The trick is to keep making them fun. Seriously, you can only go to so many luaus and toga parties. And those are typically thrown by the boys because they have no imagination or finesse whatsoever. But if you don’t throw fun parties, you won’t get invited to fun parties and then you fail as social chair. And I do not fail.

The whole point of a mixer is for people, typically in the different greek organizations, to meet each other. They are actually a really good rush tool as well, so they need to be well planned. Since I have been in this job, I have learned that there is definitely a fine art to organizing a mixer. The first thing is that you need to have the other people agree to come right up front. It’s the first question the girls are going to ask—who is going to be there? That means I have to have an answer. I try to rotate it around but a lot of the girls have boyfriends in one frat, which makes it easy to get them to hang out with us. Once you have boys locked down you can decide on the actual focus of the party. You need a draw. Ours aren’t mandatory for the girls to attend so I try to make it worth their time. If there is a sporting event, televised or at the school, that is a built-in get-together. Plus more of the guys will come that way. Holidays are also a big draw. There is another sorority who has Halloween on lockdown, you don’t dare throw a party that night (unless you don’t mind standing around in an empty room) but we do a fairly popular Bunny Hop right before Spring Break, and we had an Ugly Sweater Contest for our holiday party. I’ve also had “stress-buster” parties during finals week. Anything to make it stand out from what other sororities are doing will get people to come and—more importantly—have fun. Once you have the reason everyone is going to get together, you have to decide what to serve them. Beer can get boring but everyone expects it. So I try to at least rotate what kind of beer we serve. We don’t always have real food at these, but when we do, again, I like to serve different things. You can only stand around a frat house lounge drinking flat Bud Light and eating stale tortilla chips so many times before you want to run away screaming. To break the monotony, sometimes I will find a bar or a club to host the mixer at. These cost more and can affect attendance, so I have to do them strategically.  But we always have fun when we go out, so it can be worth it. And there you have it—a mixer.

A quick summary:

  • Be sure you have somebody to mix with beforehand. Get with their social chair and set a firm date.
  • Make it worth their time to come. Have a fun concept or a cool location. Know what people will likely be doing anyway and build something around that if you ca-.
  • Don’t be boring with what you serve. It doesn’t always need a clever tie-in to the “theme” but it is a good way to get people in the door AND stay there.

Hope you find this helpful when you plan your next mixer!

Not My Usual Weekend

I didn’t grow up with guns in the house and never even knew what a gun safe was. My father didn’t hunt or feel he needed a weapon for protection. He always thought he would rely on the prompt action of the police should something happen. I respect everyone’s right to own a gun and don’t make a big issue about it one way or another; it is just not for me—now or in the future. Maybe if I hear of a nearby robbery or mugging I will feel a bit different about it. Meanwhile, my experience with guns is very limited. At summer camp, they offered riflery but I chose swimming and archery instead. The kids enjoyed the air rifles when they were old enough to qualify for the classes, but I wasn’t among them. Now it is a different tune.

I went home one long weekend with a sorority sister and to my surprise, the plan was to go hunting with her father in the woods. I balked at first since this was not my idea of a good time, but at least an expert would go along. He would teach me the ropes and help me handle my rifle. We aimed for rabbits which were overrunning the local farms. That didn’t make me feel any better, but I wanted to cooperate as I was a guest in their home. Right before the designated hour, my friend’s father opened his gun safe which was carefully locked in the basement. He pulled out three rifles that were unloaded. He said we don’t carry a loaded weapon into the fields but wait until we get to our stakeout spot. He carried my rifle and showed me the best way to distribute the weight and where to point it, even though it was not loaded. We had a quick breakfast and set out for the hunt. I was a bit apprehensive.

The day wore on and I did take a shot now and then. My friend and her father each “bagged” a few bunnies. I was glad that I didn’t. I just watched and learned, but I knew I would never go hunting again. Don’t look so gloomy, my friend said. We are going to eat the rabbits. It is not a matter of killing for its own sake. We do have an obligation to thin the population or local farmers won’t have much of a crop. I understood. It was just that I didn’t want to participate in any kind of massacre, needed or not. I was so glad when dinner time rolled around. The rifles were returned to the gun safe and I emitted a sign of relief. Let them stay there until the next father-daughter hunt. But I won’t be there. I think my friend knew not to invite me again. Of course, I was not surprised to see roasted rabbit on the table. I had eaten it many times in restaurants and why should this time be different. It was just that I saw it being killed. Yes, I get it. It was so fresh.

Planning a Family Reunion Everyone Can Enjoy

I have a large family. And they are all very…supportive…of me and let me plan birthday parties and the like. Or at least, they did until I went away to school. Now I only see them at holidays and birthdays in the summertime. I usually don’t get to plan anymore because they figure I’m “always so busy” or something. So I decided to host a family reunion last summer. Some of my cousins thought I was crazy; first of all, they still all see each other pretty regularly. I am the only one who really went away somewhere. Second, my family is big. And opinionated. How was I going to make sure everyone had a good time?

The answer was easy. Here’s how I did it.

The first thing you need to do when you are dealing with a party for a large group is to set a date. Set it as early as you can. Be prepared to badger people and remind them. Try to schedule it around a weekend or a day that the majority of people will have off. Once you have a date that most people can agree on, figure out where you are going to have it. Think logistically. If you have a big backyard but only one bathroom, inviting 50 relatives to your house might not be the greatest idea you’ve ever had. You can try your luck renting a portapotty or you can have it somewhere else. You also have to think logically. If you plan an outdoor BBQ, will there be a sheltered space for everyone if it rains? Are there going to be small kids there? If so, is it child-friendly? Is there anything to do, or are you planning on feeding everyone and then sending them on their way? Questions like these will help you narrow down the type of location. Once you know what you need in a venue, it is easier to find a good place to hold your reunion. A centralized or familiar pace works best. I decided to rent a pavilion on a nearby lake.

Next, you have to decide what kind of entertainment to provide. When you have something like a family reunion, there are many different age groups and people with a variety of interests. In order for people to have a good time, you need to provide different types of activities that will appeal to the majority of attendees. This is your family, so think about the things they would want to do. Sometimes it is as easy as arranging the seating into little conversation pockets so they can chat in small groups, or as big as hiring a DJ. Luckily my venue choice helped me out with most of that. It was near a playground, had kayak rentals for the adventurous types, and there was a volleyball net. There was a covered area where we could eat and be free from the sun and bugs.There were also clean, indoor facilities that would accommodate everyone. I decided on a potluck so nobody felt too put out making the all the food and I didn’t have to get money from everyone. I checked with everyone to make sure there were no duplicates (otherwise we would have gotten four serving bowls of Great Grandma’s Potato Salad. One’s enough, thanks) and gave suggestions when people didn’t know what to bring.

Then you have to set the mood, so to speak. I didn’t have to do a lot of setup or provide much in the way of decorations. I made a family reunion banner as a kind of as a photo backdrop and that was it. I lucked out in that it was a nice day and so the lake looked more beautiful than anything I could have hung up. That’s more of a preference thing I think. It is another time where you have to know your crowd and whether they are going to be looking for tablecloths and centerpieces or if they expect a piñata or fireworks.

Just a warning, though: if you do too good of a job, your family might be like mine and expect it to be an annual event!

Party Planning is in the Details

Creating a memorable event is not easy. If there is anything I have learned as social chair, good parties do not just happen. Good parties are made. There is always some poor organizer pulling their hair out in the corner because something didn’t go exactly the right way while everyone else is having a great time all around. Been there, done that! The most successful parties I have thrown have worked out because I put a lot of time, effort, and thought intothem.

It sounds overwhelming, I know. But focusing on details will make things a lot easier. The first one is how you plan to let people know about your event. The way you invite people will really set a tone for your event. For example, if you are throwing a casual get together, it is fine to text people to let them know all the info. However, if you are going for a black tie kind of thing, a printed invitation letting your guests know the dress code will be appreciated. The design of the invitation will also give the attendee some idea of what kind of event it is. An invitation cut in the shape of a bib is going to clue people in that it is baby-related right away, whereas an invite on heavy cardstock with a lined envelope is going to scream “fancy party!”

Always check out a venue beforehand. Really evaluate the space you plan to use so you’ll know what you need. It will help you figure out the best way to use the space. A party at home might have everything you need, but it might require rearranging furniture to create a dancefloor.Renting a banquet hall may give you all the space you want but you may have to provide your own lighting or seating. Knowing that kind of thing beforehand makes your job way easier. This way, you can add setup time into your schedule or get rental equipmentin time for the big event. This is also the time where you plan for how you are going to decorate. It is up to you whether you want to go big with decorations but choose them thoughtfully. I’ve had sorority sisters buy every item on the shelf at the party store that went with the theme of the party with no idea how to use it all. Or you start getting everything ready and realize you are about twelve balloons short for your balloon arch. If people are going to be sitting at tables, a centerpiece is a must. They need something to look at besides just each other. You can go small or tall. Just be sure that it does not block the view of people sitting across from each other. So—tall, thin vase of tulips=great. A medium-sized, bushy topiary=not so much. Decide whether you need to make a seating chart—if everyone knows everyone, you might not need one. But if there are different groups or lots of singles, assigned seating can ease any awkwardness.

Have some kind of entertainment. Don’t just wait for that one drunken frat boy to start building a tower of beers. Have something for people to do. Whether it is a party game, eating a meal, dancing, or something else entirely, be sure that there is more to do than just staring at one another. Don’t assume because they know each other that the conversation will flow naturally. Give them something to talk about and a reason to interact with each other.

And there you have it: get these details right and you are going to have a great party on your hands.