(Real Simple) -- Visit a bathroom in a home in the Netherlands and you might find a good idea staring you in the face: a list of birthdays important to your host posted opposite the toilet. Why in that spot? To assure that it's viewed regularly.
While you may not want to sacrifice your bathroom aesthetics for the sake of remembering key birthdays, the more often you see the dates, the more likely it is you'll remember them.
As founder and "Exalted Queen Mother" of the Red Hat Society, an international network of women over 50, Sue Ellen Cooper chooses to keep her long list of reminders in the kitchen.
"I have a list of every significant birthday taped to the inside of my pantry door," she says. "It's impossible not to see those dates every time I open the pantry."
Whether it's inside a cabinet, on the refrigerator, or bookmarking a page in the novel you're reading, place your list in a spot where you are likely to view it every day and you'll always be aware of an impending birthday. Real Simple: How to handle a milestone birthday
Use a perpetual calendar to remember birthdays
Traditional calendars are less than ideal for keeping track of birthdays, as they require you to pencil in all your important dates each year.
A perpetual calendar solves that problem by charting the months without naming the day of the week for each date. Find 5-by-14-inch calendars for $10 at www.galison.com. You can also download a printable perpetual birthday-reminder calendar (for free) at Hallmark.com, or use the Real Simple: Birthday reminder worksheet.
Similar to a perpetual calendar but used exclusively for birthdays, a birthday book allows you to jot down birthdays without having to rewrite each date yearly.
Keep it somewhere visible, though, such as on top of a coffee table or on your desk, as opposed to placing it on a bookshelf, where it may get lost amid your Steinbecks and Angelous. The 2 3/4-by-4 1/4-inch pocket birthday organizer from Fred Flare ($8) will fit in your handbag, so you can commit dates to memory as you wait for your latte.
Track birthdays in your day planner
For some, a day planner or a Filofax is preferable to a wall calendar because it's portable.
Erica Ecker, a.k.a. "The Specialist," is a New York City-based organizational specialist who recommends writing birthdays in a day planner with a colored marker. "Pick a unique color," she says, "so that when you go to rewrite the dates for the next year, the birthdays stand out."
Ecker also inserts mini Post-it notes as "birthday alarms." Insert one in the planner a few days ahead of the first birthday for which you would like to send a card. This way, you'll get the card in the mail on time. Once you've done that, move the Post-it ahead in the book to a few days before the next important birthday.
If rewriting birthdays feels like too much of a chore, jot down birthdays on the tabbed section dividers before each month in your day planner. Then you can simply pull out the dividers the following year and place them before each month in your new planner. Real Simple: Look great in your birthday photos
Remember birthdays with computer reminders
With a free membership at Yahoo!, you can take advantage of the site's calendar feature, which allows you to schedule all kinds of appointments with alarms sent to your Yahoo! Messenger account, mobile device, or e-mail address. If you choose to share your calendar with friends and family, they can view your dates and add their own. Cost: Free.
This service features an easy interface, e-mail or text-message reminders, a selection of e-cards, and an option to send flowers.
BigDates will remind you of a birthday via a cell-phone text message or an e-mail with suggestions for cards and gifts. You can even sign up for a service that will send a paper card to someone through the U.S. Postal Service ($3, plus postage). The downside is that it's slightly impersonal; you don't get to compose the message in your own handwriting.
Boasting a tasteful, simple, and thoughtful interface, this site assigns each member her own Web page so she can direct friends and family there to input their birthdays, rather than having to collect the information herself.
Birthday Pal keeps track of as many birthdays as you like and will send up to four different reminders per birthday. It also automates the process of birthday collection by sending an e-mail to friends requesting their dates.
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