Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Website Wednesday: Birthday Tracking

Every Wednesday I write about websites that I visit often.

One of the ways I keep in contact with friends and family is to send birthday cards. It is amazing how fast the years fly by, and for some friends it guarantees that I will touch base with them at least once a year.

Back in the days when we were both working, I used my calendar program all the time. Birthdays and other important dates were right there on my screen because that program was open on my computer almost every day.

Once we retired and started traveling, I no longer was using a calendar, so a few birthdays slipped by. At that point, I carefully programmed all the birthdays into my cell phone's calendar/alarm function. The phone would beep a reminder to me a few days in advance and I'd send out a card.

But, as we relaxed more into this low-stress life, I tended to forget to charge my cell phone. When the battery died, of course it couldn't send me the reminders. Plus, when we travel to more remote areas with poor cell phone coverage, the battery dies even more quickly because the phone uses more power in analog mode.

The final straw was when the phone pooped out completely and I had to buy a new phone. The two calendar programs were completely incompatible and I was going to have to enter all those birthdays in again. That's when I started looking for an on-line reminder program. turned out to be just the ticket for me. This free site allows me to enter up to 120 birthdays or other events. They encourage you to use nicknames for the person, rather than full names to protect their privacy. I enter the person's first name and maybe a last initial, plus the year of their birth: Spencer G '92. That way I can remember how old the nieces and nephews are. I also enter anniversaries the same way, Smith '88, so I know that next year is a big 20 year event.

The site also asks for the person's email address, but it isn't required. I ignore that request. I can always add it later if I want the site to send an electronic birthday greeting card, although I prefer Hallmark's online cards.

Three weeks before the date, sends me an email reminder. That timing is great for folks I send gifts to and I have time to find a present and mail it. Even if we can't get email for a few days, this early reminder is plenty of warning. Seven days before, I get another email. That's plenty of time to buy a nice card and mail it. One last email arrives on the day of the event which may or may not prompt a phone call.

I don't find the emails intrusive; I just delete them after reading them. The three reminders are the only email the site sends me. No spam, no junk. If that changes in the future, I will cancel the account.

I also use the site to remind me to pay our quarterly estimated federal income tax, and a few other odd dates. I've been using this system for 6 months now, and it works well for me.

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