NicDec 22, 2012
Every company has private documents that may pose a risk to overall production or standing if they were to get out to the public. Much of...
NicDec 22, 2012
Every company has private documents that may pose a risk to overall production or standing if they were to get out to the public. Much of...
We see a lot of deals around the web over on Kinja Deals, but these were our ten favorites today.
Head over to our main post for more deals, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook to never miss a chance to save. You can also join our Kinja Deals Community Facebook group to connect with your fellow deal hunters.#1 macbookRefurbished Apple MacBook (Mid 2017) 12" Laptop, Gold | $820 | Amazon Refurbished Apple MacBook (Mid 2017) 12" Laptop, Rose Gold | $820 | AmazonGraphic: Tercius Bufete
Bonafide deals on Apple MacBooks are hard to find. Refurbished models tend to be the most consistent source for bargains, like this offer from Amazon. Priced at $820, this is $280 less than what’s on Apple’s Refurbished storefront.
These gold and rose gold, mid-2017 Apple notebooks offer 8GB of RAM, an M3 processor and 256GB of storage. But there are caveats: these Amazon renewed products (see: used) aren’t Apple-certified, may arrive with third-party accessories/packaging, and come with a paltry 90-day Woot Warranty.
If you’re in dire need of a MacBook, this is a steal.#2 Instant pot mini ultraInstant Pot Ultra Mini | $60 | AmazonPhoto: Amazon
If you don’t have an Instant Pot yet, or want a compact-sized companion to go with your full sized model, the newest Instant Pot Ultra Mini has a rare sale today on Amazon as part of the company’s 12 Days of Deals.
The Instant Pot Mini is ostensibly designed for apartment dwellers and people cooking for one or two, but now that I own a six quart Instant Pot, I’ve found myself wanting one to cook rice or other side dishes while my main pot is occupied with the main course. The Ultra model has a much better UI and controls than the standard version, plus a pressure valve that automatically closes itself when you close the pot, so you’ll never forget to set it.
In addition to pressure cooking (which is a miracle), this is also our readers’ favorite slow cooker, and one of their favorite rice cookers too. To put a fine point on it: It’s one of the most versatile kitchen gadgets you can own. Today’s $60 deal is literally half its normal price, and easily an all-time low.#3 sony oled tvSony 65" Class 4K Ultra HD Smart BRAVIA OLED TV (XBR65A8F) | $3,000 | WalmartGraphic: Tercius Bufete
This beautiful 65-inch OLED Sony 4K TV is down to $3,000 at Walmart. And if you’re a fan of deep blacks and impressive contrast, pay attention.
As you’d expect from any high-end TV, you’ll get a 4K panel with Dolby Vision HDR. But OLED technology means the blacks will be far richer, and the colors more vibrant than any LCD-based screen you can buy. With Android TV with Google Assistant smarts built-in, there’s no need to buy an additional streaming box.
At $3,000, it’s not impulse buy. But it’s the best price we’ve seen on this set, and for those who choose to invest, it’d be money well spent.#4 rei holiday clearance saleUp to 50% Off Holiday Clearance | REIGraphic: Chelsea Stone
REI is making the holidays even happier with a festive clearance sale that is positively jolly. Starting today and continuing through December 16, the outdoor retailer is taking up to 50% off select clearance items (that’s better than their Cyber Monday sale, which only saw up to 40% savings, by the way).
Outdoor adventurers can seek deals on women’s and men’s apparel, along with a range of gear for camping, hiking, and all things snow. And you cana bet a few of your favorite brands, like Columbia, The North Face, and Patagonia, will be marked down, too. Take advantage of this sale now, and let the knowledge that you saved a bundle give you a warm feeling inside when you head outside in your new gear this winter.#5 Jabra earbudsJabra Elite 65T True Wireless Earbuds | $120 | AmazonPhoto: Gizmodo
Jabra’s Elite 65Ts might just be the best true-wireless headphones out there. In addition to their excellent five hours of battery (plus 15 with the charging case), they feature some of the best microphones in class for calls, compatibility with all the major voice assistants, and even a two year dust and water resistance warranty, so you can work out in them without fear.
Normally $170, you can grab a pair for $120 right now, a match for Black Friday, and the best deal we’ve seen.#6 cuisinart cookware setCuisinart Classic 8-Piec Cookware Set | $100 | AmazonGraphic: Shep McAllister
If you’re still rocking the $10 pans you bought at Walmart during college, it’s time to graduate to a real set of stainless steel cookware. This Cuisinart collection features fast and even-heating aluminum cores sandwiched inside the durable and heat retaining stainless steel bases.
Unlike some “true” tri-ply pieces, the aluminum core doesn’t extend up the side walls here, and these pans aren’t induction compatible. But if you can live without that, they’re just $20 per piece in today’s Amazon Gold Box, and should make cooking a lot more enjoyable.#7 boogie boardBoogie Board 8.5" LCD Writing Tablet | $16 | AmazonGraphic: Elizabeth Zimmerman
Permanence is overrated. For evidence, go back and read what you wrote in your LiveJournal when you were 17. How hard does it make you cringe? You never have to feel that way again with the Boogie Board 8.5" LCD Writing Tablet. It allows you to endlessly write, rewrite, erase, and forget, and it’s way better for the environment than using a paper and pen. Just think of all the lists, reminders, and deep, dark secrets that you’ll be keeping out of landfills.#8 intel ssdIntel 545s 2.5-inch 512GB SSD | $55 | eBayGraphic: Tercius Bufete
Solid State Drives, like this 512GB Intel 545s, can do more for performance than, say, a new CPU or more RAM. And for $55, there is no reason to hesitate.
This particular 2.5-inch model is currently marked down to an all-time low, or $40 off what’s currently on Amazon. And even if you already have an SSD-powered PC, you can build reliable, fast external drive for cheap—so go ahead and treat yourself.#9 hunter rain bootsHunter Original Short Rain Boots | $81 | ZapposGraphic: Chelsea Stone
A storm of savings is rolling through at Zappos. We’re midway though the shoe retailer’s 21 Days of Deals, and today’s discount du jour is one you’ll want to make it rain on. Hunter Original Short Rain Boots in a variety of colors and finishes are just $81, down from their usual $140 price tag, for today only. For those who have yet to hunt down a pair of their own Hunters, these boots are the quintessential rain accessory. They come in a rainbow of both glossy and matte hues that are like sunshine on a cloudy day. Not to mention, they’re fun to wear in winter with the addition of a fashionable boot sock. Snag a pair for yourself or for someone on your list before this sale gets the boot.#10 flashlightStreamlight ProTac Flashlight | $27 | AmazonGraphic: Chelsea Stone
It’s always good to have a flashlight handy, lest you be overtaken by darkness at some inopportune moment. This $27 Streamlight ProTac flashlight boasts a 4.4 star rating on nearly 7,000 (!!) reviews, and it just so happens to be down to it’s lowest price ever.
A tactical model that beams out 350 lumens of brightness, this small but powerful light runs on either AA or CR123A batteries and features a helpful hat clip for hands-free navigating. It would be a bright idea to buy one today before this deal goes dark.
Photo: milanvirijevic (iStock), Graphic: Nicole Antonuccio
Dear Salty: Often around the holidays, or throughout the year at weddings and events, we are commonly at an open bar. Most open bars in my experience fall short with bartenders, resulting in extra long waiting time for a drink. To skirt around the slowness, I usually tip the bartender at least $20 on my first round, ask them their name, and thank them for the drink. Most times, if I belly up to the bar for the rest of the event, two or three people deep, that bartender will pour me a drink with minimal or no wait. I’ll even give an additional tip on the second or third round, because it’s clear we have an arrangement, and will sometimes ask for multiple drinks for friends with less patience for waiting. I’ve always felt it better to over-tip in advance than to just be a nice guy in tips as you go or afterwards.
What are your thoughts?
GMS from NJ
Let me state for the record that I love any email from a reader in New Jersey who claims to “have an arrangement” with a guy. Wink wink, nudge nudge, stogies and Goodfellas and all that. Classic.
Okay, so to your question… When you’re at an open bar, you have three tipping options, like you mentioned—but actually, it’s four:Don’t tip at allTip as you goTip at the endTip big at the beginning
Yes, sometimes it’s okay not to tip at an open bar. If the bartenders haven’t clearly set out tip jars, they might have their gratuity for the night included in whatever the hosts paid for the event (this is especially true at weddings). If you want to be generous and try to hand the bartenders a tip, they usually won’t turn it down. But some will—it could be a venue policy—and then you’ll just have to keep that cash in your wallet, moneybags.
As for the other three tipping options, there are pros and cons to each.Tip as you go
This is the most common practice, and it will earn you goodwill with the bartender, since hey, a tip is a tip. Throwing a buck or two per drink into the jar each time will be appreciated and will likely get you a drink faster than the guy who doesn’t tip at all.Tip at the end
I don’t get the logic of this. If you’re going to tip, why not do it by the drink or in the beginning so you can reap all the sweet attention and slightly-more-generous wine pours?Tip big at the beginning
Like you said, this goes a long way to getting an “in” with your busy bartenders. They’d be stupid not to give you priority going forward, and most will. (No need to ask their name or life story, though, especially if they’re really busy.) Of course, your early tip isn’t a written contract or anything, so you’re still at their mercy.
If it were up to me, I’d suggest a more generous tip in the beginning, followed by maybe a buck or two on each round going forward, as you’ve been doing. For maximum impact, make sure that initial tip comes in the form of a round bill—a $5, $10, or $20—rather than a collection of singles so the bartender can fully see your uh, generosity. (To those in the comments who are going to say I always suggest tipping more: 1) Yeah, I probably do, but this is my perspective and 2) You’re at an open bar with free drinks—spread the love, guys.)
One thing I would suggest to you, though, pal: Don’t rattle off an order of five to six drinks for your friends each time you hit the bar. Grabbing an extra one for your date, or even two extra for your date and a friend is okay, but if you’re putting in an eight-drink-long order, you’re screwing up the bartender’s flow, no matter how big you tipped in the beginning.
Image: Maurício Mascaro/Pexels
We are deep in what may be the most stressful time of the year—and that’s for people who like the holidays. The travel, the expense, the family dynamics: end of the year celebrations can make a Grinch out of anyone. Here’s how you can get into the holiday spirit without being taught a lesson by various ghosts.
Like many things in life, I think the holidays are something that demand you put work into them if you want to get anything back. If you really don’t want to do that work, my hat’s off to you. But if you’ve just found yourself in a rut, and you are uninspired, here are some tips for learning to enjoy the rest of your year.Have A Clear Beginning
For me, a lot of Christmas and New Year’s stuff is ceremonial. I’m acknowledging family, friends, a year of accomplishments, and new beginnings through the same old archaic behaviors. Yes, it’s basic, but it was also hard wired into my brain at a young age that the smell of pine and tree lights means a period of joy and peace—until the fights over dinner begin.
In years when I didn’t observe the ceremonies early, the spirit didn’t come; on the day of gorging and gift-giving, it still wasn’t there. Make it a point to get in touch with the things that bring up warm memories or bring you pleasure during this time of year. Lifehacker staff shared the ways they slip into the season: visit your decorated downtown, make cocoa and add some peppermint oil, visit the neighborhood where everyone covers their homes in Christmas swag, go places that play Christmas music, put up the tree, watch the Hallmark channel. Let your brain know it is time.Survive The Parties With Alone Time
There is a horrific amount of socializing around the holidays, which is hard for many. If you love them, you probably have your own strategies for getting through work parties and obligatory festivities with as much good cheer as the occasion demands. For everyone else: drink less than you think you need to, give yourself permission to leave whenever you need to, and make sure you schedule a night at home alone somewhere in there to rest, relax and recharge for the next round.
Having time to yourself will make the activity and gatherings easier to take. It’s easy to get caught up in the social whirl, and part of the reason you’re being a Scrooge might be simply exhaustion. Check in with yourself physically and mentally. You might not hate the holidays! You just need a nap.Plan Things With Friends
Let’s face it, the most difficult part of the holidays can be your family. How much you can avoid unpleasant dynamics may not be up to you—or you don’t think it is. So be sure to also plan things with people you like, if that doesn’t include the folks you’re related to. Even if you love your family and they’re perfect, friends may celebrate differently. One writer says friend plans are a huge part of her end of the year ceremonies:
Before December hits, my various friends groups and I start planning dinners for each weekend in December, either at my house or theirs. I love it. It’s more Christmassy than anything I do with my family because we’re all committed to having one hurrah before we move into the new year.Get Gifts Ahead Of Time
I am a panic shopper, which means I end up spending way too much money on the wrong stuff every year. I may never learn, but it’s very true that if you get presents ahead of time, you’re much less likely to be stressed out. Do yourself a favor and make that naughty and nice list very early. Heck, wrap those gifts on Black Friday. You’ll be cool as a cucumber on Christmas morning.Plan Stuff For The Lull
For me, one of the hardest parts of the whole shebang is that quiet time between Christmas and New Year’s Eve because I’m a maniac who loves constant activity. That week always sends me into a spiral—people are out of town, in food comas, and everything’s closed. That’s how it seems anyway, but if you make an effort to find events and stuff to do, you can avoid that depression dip that some (ahem) dread. Go ice skating, to a museum, an exercise class, or a movie marathon. Just find a reason to leave the house and remind yourself the year isn’t quite over yet.Take It Out Of Town
Maybe your best bet is to just avoid the usual holiday hullabaloo all together and get away. Rent a little cabin, go to an island somewhere it’s warm enough to wear a bikini; even taking a night off can make the time feel like it belongs to you again, as one staffer shared:
My boyfriend and I have a Christmas tradition where we get a hotel downtown for one night a few weeks before Christmas. There’s usually a nice tree in the lobby and downtown is nice and decorated, and we get to enjoy some stress-free holiday time alone together before things get all Christmas crazy.Do Something For Someone Else
Okay, you’ve tried it all and you still hate everything that happens from the end of November through January. Fair enough! There’s clearly a market for all these Grinch reboots. But that doesn’t mean it all has to be a total wash: instead of sulking at home, do something for someone else. Volunteer, donate, give your time and money to people who need it. It might not make you feel better, but it will spread a little holiday cheer for someone else.
Photo: Claire Lower
In the case of the hard-boiled egg, the yolk provides all of the flavor. Though it is a reliable and easily accessible source of protein, the white is aggressively bland, and no fun at all without seasoning. Salt (obviously) works well, but if you wish to outright infuse the white of an egg with tons of nutty umami, you should reach for the miso.
My utter and complete devotion to the fermented soy bean paste is not a secret, but wrapping eggs in the stuff didn’t occur to me until I saw Samin Nosrat do it on Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. (It truly is the show that keeps on giving.) In the Salt episode, Samin meets up with Nancy Singleton Hachisu, and the two of them proceed to wrap hard-cooked eggs in miso, then let them hang out for four hours before gently removing the paste. I tried it for myself, and I can confirm that the result is a salty, funky, flavorful egg, that requires nary a sprinkling of sodium chloride. If you’re thinking “wow, it would take a lot of miso to encase a dozen eggs,” you are correct but, once removed from the eggs, the miso can be used for another purpose, so it’s a very cost-effective use.
Miso-cured eggs are pretty perfect all on their own, but I can’t think of a better way to up your deviled egg game, and nothing delights at a holiday party quite like a deviled egg. (They’re also very pretty, as the miso renders the whites delightfully tan.)
Krispy Kreme is making it a little easier to spread the holiday cheer around your office tomorrow, by offering a dozen of its original glazed doughnuts for just a buck.
Wednesday is Krispy Kreme’s annual ‘Day of the Dozens.” To celebrate 12/12 (get it?), the company is offering a dozen doughnuts for a $1, with the purchase of another dozen of any kind of doughnut at regular price.
The deal is limited to just two discounted boxes per person, so if you have a larger office you might want to bring along a pal as well.
And if you’ve never been to Krispy Kreme on a promotion day, be forewarned: there will be a line. Probably a long one. So you’ll want to give yourself some extra time in the morning if you do plan on stopping by on your way to the office.
If you get there and the line is too long, Panera is still offering its free bagel-a day promotion until the end of the year, which could provide a slightly healthier breakfast alternative.
Suaoki 12V Mini Air Compressor | $12 | AmazonGraphic: Shep McAllister
This tiny tire inflator has been a hit with our readers, and now you can get it for just $12. Toss it in your glove box, or even in your spare tire well, and you’ll never again be forced to scrounge together quarters to use the air pump at a gas station.
Image: Courtesy of the Podglomerate
As a parent raising a kid in The Time of the Screens, I am often trying to strike that balance between allowing him to explore age-appropriate technology while also determining how much is too much.
Just last night, as we were leaving my son’s karate class, he began complaining that all his little karate buddies bring their Nintendo Switches with them to play before training starts and he is the only one who isn’t allowed to bring it. Without hesitation, I dove right into one of my favorite (i.e., annoying) lectures:
“I am not the parent of those other kids; I’m the parent of you,” I began. “It’s my job to raise you to be able to function in the world, and a big part of life is about waiting. You have to be able to wait for five minutes for something to start without having a screen in your face.”
I was missing the point, he told me: “It’s not that I can’t wait; it’s that I feel left out.”
Oh. The answer was still no, but it was a reminder for me that kids view screens less as a distraction from real life and more as a way to bond with each other.
We are raising a generation of kids who are using devices and connecting with each other through technology in a way we didn’t—and in some ways, still don’t—experience. So when I heard about a new podcast called “Their Own Devices” with the tagline “MTV Parents Raising YouTube Kids,” I knew I had to check it out.
The show is hosted by Marc Groman (a former White House tech and privacy adviser) and David Reitman (an adolescent medical physician), who are married and raising their teenage son. They dive into topics like social media, screen time, online gaming and privacy—and they interview other parents, experts and actual teenagers.
Marc says he and David have studied these issues as professionals but now they’re experiencing them from a personal angle with their own son. They created the podcast to share their expertise and experiences with a broader audience.
“I have worked on some of the most challenging and high-profile privacy and cyber security issues facing society today,” he says. “David speaks with teens and their parents every day about social media, gaming, sleep deprivation, anxiety, sexting, and a wide range of issues large and small. We know the issues. We understand the tech. We’ve given advice hundreds of times to others. And then one day, it’s our kid with the smartphone, game console, laptop and social media. Suddenly, we saw the issues from a different perspective.”
In the very first episode, which was released in November (new episodes are available each Thursday), I learned a few things from 17-year-old Athena that blew my mind.1. All about the “finsta”
A finsta is a fake Instagram account; teens often have their regular Instagram account that their parents know about and then a secret “finsta” account where they post totally different content. Athena says all of her 100 finsta followers are also finsta accounts themselves. But, she says, the stuff posted to finstas isn’t necessarily bad.
“I think that’s where things start to get a little bit twisted,” she says on the show. “Cause a lot of times parents think whatever my kid is hiding from me must be harmful or bad, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes it’s just for privacy or it’s just, ‘You wouldn’t understand this so I’m going to hide it from you.’”2. Teens don’t exchange phone numbers anymore
“What’s your phone number?” has apparently been replaced by “What’s your ‘snapcode’?” Athena said teens don’t text much; they message each other through apps like Snapchat instead because “it’s way easier.” The main exception? Her parents. “Every time I try and teach them how to use Snapchat, it does not work. At all.”3. They get burned out on social media, too
Every last picture in her feed is so heavily edited and “perfected” with filters, Athena says, and kids know how to pose juuust right for the most flattering look that sometimes, she needs a break from the un-reality of it. In fact, for the past year, she’s restricted her own social media use by not scrolling through her feeds first thing in the morning.
“I would see pictures of the night before, people doing their own thing, and they always look really happy ... and (I) wouldn’t be there,” she says in the interview. “And it’s like, oh, well that’s annoying. And it would just put me in a terrible mood.”
Image: rawpixel on Unsplash
Money mistakes are a dime a dozen. Except, you know, they end up costing us a bit more than that.
To prevent those costly financial blunders, we asked some financial advisors and professionals what clients tend to get wrong—and you should do differently going into 2019.Think More Critically About Your Resolutions
Don’t make News Year’s Resolutions. They don’t work.
Set your goals now, or in early January (after the holiday). The goals need to be realistic. This is key. If they are too hard or not remotely achievable, most folks give up before they even start. When setting goals, start small, then move up. For example, if you are contributing three percent to your 401(k) plan, increase it to four percent. Then plan six to nine months down the road to increase it to five percent.
Similarly, if your cash reserve fund is only one month’s living expenses, give yourself a period of time, say six months, to [get to] two months’ living expenses.
Small steps that are actually implemented have a much higher chance of staying implemented. Then you can go from there and again, slightly raise the goal.
The other thing people need to do is check in with their goals. This doesn’t mean following every movement in the stock market. This means reviewing your progress. This should be quarterly.
— Thomas Scanlon, CFP, Raymond James
The tumultuous markets sometimes cause people to quit contributing to their retirement plans, when we should do the opposite and continue to defer into our 401(k) or other retirement plans. If you are worried about volatility, you should still contribute, especially if you are many years away from retirement. Markets have historically gone through periods of decline and subsequently recovered.
— Kathleen Grace, CFP, United CapitalTake a Closer Look at Your Tax Bill
As you prepare to file your taxes, we recommend that you take a close look at your itemized vs. standard deduction. People who normally itemize may end up taking the standard deduction this year due to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act nearly doubling the standard amount, which went from $6,350 to $12,000 for a single filer ... Many filers choose to take the standard deduction for simplicity. For those who historically claim an itemized deduction, we recommend looking at how the newly increased standard deduction may impact their refund.
— Christina Taylor, senior manager of tax operations at Credit Karma TaxSwitch to an Online Savings Account Already
Most people are still using their primary bank savings accounts with a “brick and mortar” bank. These still mostly pay only tiny amounts of interest. Many online savings banks are paying 1.9 percent or more, with FDIC insurance. Why not earn more interest on those savings?
— Karen Lee, CFP, Karen Lee & AssociatesRemember It’s Time in the Market That Counts
Timing the market vs. time in the market. Statistics show most active managers lag, and trying to time markets presents more risk for individual investors. While it may not always be comfortable to stay invested, so long as the world economy continues to improve and grow, investors should be rewarded with time and compounding growth on their investments.
— Shannon Lynch, CFP and senior financial advisor at Personal Capital
Remember, time is your most important investing asset. Similarly,
Review how your portfolio is allocated – and make sure that its riskiness is in line with your level of risk tolerance. Having a portfolio that is riskier than you are really comfortable with may have helped boost your returns while things are going up but it can present an issue if markets turn, especially if it causes you to overreact and sell in the depths of a downturn. Solid investment strategies require staying invested through full investment cycles – going to cash when the market is down takes your temporary paper losses and turns them into realized loss of capital and often means you will not participate in the eventual market recovery. Having a reasonable investment strategy only really works as intended if you stick with it and don’t chase returns in up markets and panic sell in down markets.
— Michael Ciccone, CFP, Tradition AdvisersBe on the Defensive When It Comes to Your Credit
In 2019, be more proactive about protecting your credit. Check your credit card accounts online daily and make sure each transaction is legitimate. Online credit card fraud has been increasing, and you can save yourself from having a giant headache if you catch a fraudulent purchase before too much damage has occurred.
And don’t forget to check your free annual credit reports, too. This is how you can catch a fraudster who has opened a new account in your name. There are three major credit bureaus and every 12 months, you’re entitled to a free report from each bureau. It’s helpful to get a credit report from one of the bureaus once every four months. That way, you get a glimpse of your credit report throughout the year.
— Beverly Harzog, consumer finance analyst at U.S. News & World Report
Here’s how to check your credit reports, and here’s how to protect yourself from scammers. One step you should definitely take: Freezing your credit accounts. Just don’t forget to check in on the financial accounts that don’t appear on your credit report as well.Cut Down Investing Expenses
Most people don’t realize the substantial impact that high expense ratios can have on their investments. A one to two percent annual fee on a mutual fund may not sound like much, but when it’s applied to a growing balance over the course of decades it can easily result in having several hundred thousand dollars less than they would have otherwise had. It’s not only the direct fee amounts that are lost, it’s also the opportunity cost of the growth that would have otherwise occurred on the amounts paid in fees. There’s a simple calculator at this link that demonstrates the impact. There are plenty of low-cost index funds available these days, with a tremendous amount of academic research backing up their use for individual investors.
— Steven Fox, CFP and founder of Next Gen Financial PlanningMake the Hard Choices
It is likely that even though Social Security will be around, it may not pay out what you think it will ... In today’s world, we are all responsible for ourselves. It used to be that the unions would take care of the workers and they would make the financial decisions on the worker’s behalf and that managers and other mid to high level executives had pensions.
We don’t have that anymore. It is every man for himself. We have to make hard choices about whether to live in the moment or save and invest for the future. Social Security will not save us. The government will not save us. We need to make sure that we educate ourselves (and others) to do the best that we can to live within our means so that we can have a life that is worth living in retirement. This current working generation will likely not have the means to support itself in the same standard of living that our parents had.
— Monica Dwyer, CFP, Harvest Financial AdvisorsCheck Your Withholdings
The end of the year is also a good time to review your paycheck withholding—the amount of federal income taxes taken out of your paycheck by your employer. If it’s too much you may get a refund; too little, you could have taxes due. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Acts will impact the paycheck withholdings of most Americans, and those affected will see a material impact on their tax refund. Most Americans will notice their withholdings have decreased, which means they’ve likely been getting a little more cash in their paychecks. If that’s the case, they’ll likely see a lower refund than they’re used to. Keep in mind, any changes made to your withholding at the end of 2018 won’t go into effect until the 2019 filing season and will not impact the 2018 tax year.
— Christina Taylor, senior manager of tax operations at Credit Karma TaxTake Advantage of Credit Card Rewards
Many consumers don’t take advantage of their credit cards’ rewards programs. It’s a new year, so make a resolution to read the rewards program details for each rewards card you have. If it still seems unclear, then call your issuer. Master the details and keep track of the rewards either by setting up your own Excel spreadsheet or by using a free app. Once you start using your rewards credit cards strategically, then you’ll be able to profit from your credit cards.
— Beverly Harzog, consumer finance analyst at U.S. News & World ReportThe More Specific, the Better
Have a specific financial plan - specific being the operative word. Many people make the mistake of setting objectives that are too vague such as “pay off debt” or “save more money.” Instead, have clear and measurable financial goals. For example, commit to putting $200 toward your highest interest credit cards every month and $20 a week into an emergency fund. This makes it easier to track progress, stay motivated and adjust your plan if needed.
— Bethy Hardeman, personal finance expert at TallyPrioritize Your Savings
Save 15 percent of your income off-the-top. Have it deducted automatically so you never see it in your checking account. Here is what your investment order should be:
1) Build your emergency fund
2) 401(k) contribution to your company match
3) HSA contribution if you are eligible for one
4) Roth IRA
5) After-tax investment account or max-out the 401(k). If your 401(k) has a Roth option and you are in a low tax bracket or make under $200k (single) or $400k (joint), use the Roth option. Especially if you’re younger than 55.
— David J. Haas, CFP, Cereus Financial Advisors
Check your beneficiaries annually on all life insurance and IRA’s or 401(k)s. I regularly see people with ex-spouses or dead parents as their beneficiaries. NEVER leave the beneficiary on an IRA to “The Estate.” This disallows the option for your heirs to “stretch” those un-taxed earnings over their lifetimes!
— Karen Lee, CFP, Karen Lee & Associates
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, as the song says, the time when parents pull out all the old favorites to enjoy with their kids: The Polar Express (book only, avoid the movie), A Charlie Brown Christmas, various Grinch incarnations (animated>>>live action), and in a few years, Die Hard. For now, though, in case your list of holiday specials is feeling repetitive, A.V. Club parents again offer some of our favorite holiday pop culture treats to share with the kids, including some idyllic books, picture and otherwise; a classic Muppet guest star; and a certain movie that straddles the holiday season between Christmas and Halloween.The Nightmare Before Christmas
Everyone knows that The Nightmare Before Christmas is a great Halloween movie for 8-year-olds. What my family pre-supposes is: Maybe it’s a great Christmas movie for toddlers? I don’t mean to re-ignite tedious and pointless debates about which subgenre of holiday movies it “truly” belongs to (obviously it’s seasonally appropriate from September through December), but I will say that despite the many creepy-crawly details, it’s a surprisingly good starter of a Christmas movie, in that it’s longer than a regular Christmas special but (at just 76 minutes with credits) shorter than most other features. We introduced it piecemeal to my then-2-year-old daughter last year, just showing her videos of “This Is Halloween” and “What’s This” as holiday primers in song—another testament to this movie’s utility for younger kids.
A few weeks later, I decided to take a shot at the whole movie, vowing to shut it off if she got freaked out, and it simply didn’t occur to her to find it frightening. If almost everyone in a movie is creepy, crawly, and possibly dead, it’s not that big a deal, and the stop-motion animation is a nicely tactile match with the season of elaborate decorations (and if you’re not decoratively inclined, maybe you can just throw on the movie instead). Other kids’ mileage may vary, of course; one thing I’ve learned from parenthood is that age-appropriateness is tricky to pin down in your own kid, never mind someone else’s. My now-3-year-old still finds the snow monster in Frozen skippably scary, but I took her to the recent seasonal re-release of Nightmare for her first real movie-theater trip, and she didn’t flinch once (well, maybe at the Nutcracker And The Four Realms trailer, but I think Nightmare prepared her well for that, too). Of course, it was the weekend before Halloween. But seriously, “What’s This” is an all-time great Christmas song.Suggested age: 3 and up, why not? [Jesse Hassenger]The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
My worn, dog-eared copy of The Velveteen Rabbit is as shabby as the titular toy itself these days. But I still pull it out to read to my (now middle-school-aged) children, just as I’ve done since they were helplessly strapped into bouncy seats, forced to listen to me and my daily aural menu of picture books. Even with (or maybe because of) its particular brand of pathos, The Velveteen Rabbit has always been a particular holiday favorite of mine. It starts out in such a celebratory fashion, at a family Christmas party, where a boy receives the titular rabbit for a present. But it is not love at first sight, as the rabbit then has to hang in the nursery with other forgotten toys, hearing about enraptured tales of what life was like when your child loved you enough to consider you real.
Of course, that fate eventually happens to our own dear rabbit, as his whiskers get rubbed off from too much cuddling and some stuffing sticks out from his once-lustrous velveteen coat. Still, the velveteen rabbit is so happy with the boy he loves that he doesn’t care, until a bout of scarlet fever comes along to mess everything up (see also: Little Women), until the velveteen rabbit is transformed at the end. When I think about The Velveteen Rabbit too much, I think it’s about death, and the mysterious wondrous transition that possibly comes afterward. For the kids, though, I highlight the part about how the velveteen rabbit wasn’t the fanciest, or most modern, or most expensive present the boy had, but the most loved, which is the most important thing.Suggested age: Strapped-into baby seats and up [Gwen Ihnat]
AdvertisementJohn Denver And The Muppets’ A Christmas Together soundtrack
John Denver And The Muppets’ A Christmas Together is a fun, goofy viewing experience, but I’ve only managed to get my kids to sit down for parts of it before they inevitably get distracted by something newer and less John Denver-y. We’ve had much more success incorporating the soundtrack into multiple holiday activities like baking, decorating the tree, and pushing plastic geegaws around on the carpet. Even by the generous standards of entertainment made for an audience ranging in age from 3 to 41, A Christmas Together soundtrack has some rough patches in the middle. The songs are slower and a bit more maudlin, qualities that help expose some of the chintziness of the electronic orchestration. But the big, uptempo group songs take full advantage of that manic Muppet enthusiasm to deliver cheery, energetic renditions replete with the little asides and non sequiturs mumbled between the characters. But honestly, even the cheesiest songs are as integral to the fabric of the Muppet experience as the wit and mania. If it was too cool, it wouldn’t be the Muppets. And that also applies to Christmas.Suggested age: 3 to 41 [Nick Wanserski]Richard Scarry’s Best Christmas Book Ever
When I was a kid, one of my favorite books was Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever. I’d spend hours poring over those little animals in people clothes doing people things. Because I grew up in Florida, it introduced me to concepts that were foreign to me: “Oh, that’s a ‘scarf.’ Those are ‘mittens.’” So it’s no surprise that as soon as I learned there was a Best Word Book holiday equivalent, I got it for my kids. Richard Scarry’s Best Christmas Book Ever features little vignettes (the Pig family’s “Best Christmas Present Ever,” “Trouble At Santa’s Workshop”), games (“The Trip To Grandma’s House”), and even sheet music for “Jingle Bells” and other classics. It’s all set in the Scarry-ubiquitous Busytown, but, this time, Busytown is all decked out for the holidays. Even Lowly Worm is there in his apple car, outfitted with track treads for the snow.Suggested age: 2 to 7 [Marla Caceres]Little Santa by Jon Agee
Holiday media has so many Santa Claus stories that you may not feel the need for another. But there are also a lot of bad Claus tales out there, so before your kid stumbles upon Santa Claus: The Movie and inundates you with questions about Dudley Moore, why not start them out with something easier and less cluttered? Jon Agee’s picture book gives a quick primer on Santa’s childhood as part of a family growing tired of their cold, desolate life at the North Pole. Naturally, Young Santa doesn’t share their yearning for a relocation to Florida, and the book uses this (minor) conflict as the springboard for another Santa origin story. The writing is fine, but the standout element is Agee’s adorable illustrations, especially in the oversized hardcover (a board-book version is also available). Seeing Santa as a scrappy little kid might be kind of a mindblower for little ones who know him only as a towering figure of myth, and might even assuage some of those Mall Santa fears. Whether it’s the book or TV version of The Life And Adventures Of Santa Claus, the Santa Clause trilogy, or Kurt Russell’s Santa spectacular, kids who celebrate Christmas tend to be inundated with Santa stories at some point. Think of Little Santa as a nice set of training wheels.Suggested age: 2 to 5 [Jesse Hassenger]
AdvertisementThe Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
You may not think of The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe as a Christmas story, but C.S. Lewis’ timeless children’s fantasy novel has a better claim than Die Hard: Santa’s the hero. While Aslan, the talking lion Jesus stand-in, is central to the book’s mythology, the turning point of the story—in which four children venture into the magical land of Narnia, currently under the thrall of an evil White Witch—involves Father Christmas visiting Narnia for the first time in a century. He gives the children presents (a sword, a bow, a healing potion), which they eventually use to save the day. Afterward, they meet Aslan, who takes them through to the climax of the story, but it’s Santa who actually breaks the White Witch’s hold on Narnia and allows for Aslan’s return. Beyond Wardrobe’s Christian allegory (which Lewis’ contemporary J.R.R. Tolkien criticized as too obvious and clunky), the story also imparts the most important lesson of all at this time of year: Winter is evil, and being cold sucks. The Witch imprisons Narnia by covering it under a blanket of snow, and takes people prisoner by freezing them into statues. And hope only returns to the land when Father Christmas melts the snow and returns life to the land. Because Santa knows the best gift of all is being able to go outside without a coat again.Suggested age: 4th grade and up [Mike Vago]
Photo: Eran Menashri
What’s your favorite mental hack? How do you trick your dumb human brain into doing its job right? Hacker News, a forum for people too nerdy for Reddit, traded their favorite tricks in a thread started by simonswords82. Here are the best.
Simon names a few tricks used by the chairman of their corporate board. One is the 10/10/10 rule: Before making a decision, he considers how he’ll feel about this decision in 10 minutes, 10 months, and 10 years. This, says Simon, helps the chairman look past present circumstances and consider long-term consequences.Manage your thoughts and feelings
Hacker News member cdicelico names “suspension of judgment” and “suspension of value judgments”: When your opinion of something is dictating your mood, thoughts, or actions, interrogate that opinion. Can you downgrade it from a value judgement (“this is bad”) to a feeling (“I feel this way about this”), or to no opinion at all? (Personally, I’ve found this method essential during brainstorming, when other people’s great ideas can sound bad at first glance or before further development.)
“If I’m getting upset, I’m probably wrong.” That’s nothrabannosir’s mantra. “It’s a specific kind of feeling, when my brain starts protecting itself against information that proves me wrong.” But he checks for it any time he has a flare of anger. “I find it hard, and I wish I could say it gets easier, but it doesn’t. It sucks being wrong, and it’s humiliating.”Control your habits
“Utilize laziness,” says sanj. “I don’t install Facebook on my phone; I have to use the crappier web version. I block Reddit on my laptop, so I have to use my phone. Just by making stuff not ubiquitous, you add a little mental friction to using it that dissuades its usage.”
Member jjclarkson has a small card in their office listing eight tactics and systems for productivity, including “always be knolling.” Knolling is a simple organization habit, as described by artist Tom Sachs:Scan your environment for materials, tools, books, music, etc. which are not in use.Put away everything not in use. If you aren’t sure, leave it out.Group all ‘like’ objects.Align or square all objects to either the surface they rest on, or the studio itself.
Stevenkovar has advice on overcommitting: “Default to ‘no.’ Simple math: if you say no to almost everything, you are free to say yes to the really important things. This is a skill you can practice and get better at. This is more specific to deals and opportunities than spending time with colleagues, friends, and family. However, if you find yourself constantly in meetings or going out, start saying ‘no’ until it feels special each time, or you get home feeling energized instead of drained.”Get things done
HN member Insanity names one of the simplest, most fundamental hacks: when they have so much to do that they don’t know where to start, they write down a to-do list on a piece of paper. This is an extremely common tactic among the successful people we interview on Lifehacker. Most productive people can’t hold all their tasks in their head, but most days you don’t need a complicated to-do app to track all your tasks. A paper list can’t distract you with bells and whistles.
Dboreham adds: “Write down what you have done. It can be (for me) hard to remember, giving rise to the mistaken feeling that you’ve achieved nothing.”
Bsaul has another simple productivity tip: “Whenever you can’t motivate yourself to start working on something, think about the smallest thing you can perform and make it your only goal for the day.” You’ll make the project feel less scary, and you’ll usually accomplish a lot more than that small goal. But even if that’s all you get done, it’s way better than doing nothing because you’re intimidated.
Of course, you can also build out more elaborate to-do lists. But here’s how to keep those lists doable, instead of further intimidating yourself with all you need to accomplish. According to HN member beat: “Never ever write down a ‘task’ that cannot realistically be done in a single sitting of work. If you can’t do it in an afternoon at worst, it’s not a task, and needs [to be] broken down further.”
You can read more hacks, plus threads full of people trying to correct each other’s grammar, in the original thread at Hacker News.