SLIDER

AT-HOME REMEDIES FOR HEALING THE BODY AND MIND

2.16.2019


This winter's face-numbing frigid temperatures precipitates a rise in illness and fatalities. Even warm-weather states are pummeled by record rainfall and snow in higher elevations. Curling up in the fetal position beneath your 10-pound down comforter might not be enough to generate enough warmth. Here are a few easy-to-follow suggestions on how to help the mind and body get well faster during the dreaded flu season.

Anti-inflammatory remedies are indispensable during this time of year. Remedies extracted from herbs and berries are extremely potent without the side effects and bitter taste. Trader Joe's Organic Ginger and Tumeric Tea is delightfully fresh with a mild citrus scent. It leaves a lingering warmth and sweet aftertaste. Honey is optional but in my opinion, unnecessary. The soothing and vibrant yellow liquid is ideal for someone with a sore throat or cough-related conditions. Ginger soothes throat swelling and stomach sensitivities like indigestion and nausea while Tumeric fights inflammation, allowing for a speedy recuperation. Tumeric also aids in muscle recovery from aches and pains caused by illness or grueling physical activity. Another cold-weather drink that helps soothe stomach discomfort is Trader Joe's Peppermint Herbal Tea. Those with acid reflux and bloating problems find this herbal mix delicious and calming. Another unexpectedly rejuvenating beverage is Ikea's Linggonberry syrup. A teaspoon of this ruby-red concentrate mixed with a large glass of iced water is simply delectable. The slightly tart fruit has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-bacterial and anti-cancer properties. It's been used to treat urinary tract infections, arthritis and a myriad of other conditions. Many underestimate the power that edibles have to treat our bodies. These may not be as chemically active as certain drugs but they could most certainly serve as supplements to encourage the body to fight on its own. Always make sure to seek the advice of a medical professional when assessing which treatments and holistic supplements suit your needs.


Never underestimate how your mental and emotional state can greatly affect your physical condition. A Netflix documentary entitled Heal explores the mind-body connection when it comes to recovering from injury and disease. The film features individuals with stage 4 cancer and spinal injuries who found alternative ways to treat themselves.

For ten years Dr. Kelly Turner has been studying radical remissions which involve individuals whose cancer cells spontaneously disappear. In the documentary, she cites 9 factors that appear to play a role in the recovery of 1,500 participants, regardless of what cancer-type they were battling. This coveted list includes:

  1. diet changes
  2. taking control of your health
  3. trusting intuition
  4. using herbs and supplements
  5. releasing repressed feelings
  6. positivity
  7. reaching out for help
  8. spirituality
  9. will to live

Turner points out that only 2 of these tools are physical. The piece clearly identifies the indelible mind-body connection. Findings like this remind us that we need to take a holistic approach in medicine. Don't neglect the mental and emotional aspects of yourself. Some physicians believe that stress is the main cause of disease. This concept challenges the conventional approach that many professionals take in rehabilitating patients. Preventing emotional distress and mental clutter are both tasks that many of us are fully capable of doing. We neglect our mental and emotional state because we lose site of what matters while amidst the cacophony of lectures and discourse that plague out chaotic lifestyle.

Meditation, psychotherapy and outside support are crucial in reestablishing overall well-being. Each of our cells, including the diseased ones, are all a part of us. Faith, willpower and emotional fortitude are immense sources of positivity that get passed on to all cells. Something as simple as taking a deep breath on a rough day can help feed more oxygen into your body, increasing circulation and encouraging your cells to deliver much needed nutrients and chemicals allowing it to restore balance. Simple acts of self-love and kindness get shrugged off because we get caught up in work deadlines, personal drama and a number of other factors that we clearly can't control. All of that is wasted energy. Focus on the present moment and the things that you do have control over like your mind and your body.

This article may not change your outlook on self-care in ten minutes but it could serve as a voice of reason reminding you that the simplest answers are right there. The power to restore balance and health is within your grasp. It might even be easier and tastier that you expect.

Photos by: Kate Stone Matheson, Hilary Hahn

AFFORDABLE WAYS TO STAY FIT

1.22.2019


If your notion of health and fitness involves Lululemon tights and a Peloton, it's time to let go of those impractical pricy standards. Bulky equipment and gym memberships can cost you a pretty penny. Some shell out the cash in the hopes that the initial sacrifice compels them to actually do it. Unfortunately, money can't buy you motivation. The drive to succeed in anything comes from within.

YOUR BODY IS ALL THE EQUIPMENT YOU WILL NEED

Dumbbells and Bowflex machines take up space and collect dust. Don't get duped by infomercials into placing an order. There are plenty of options that utilize your body as the main instrument for working out. Self.com published a list demonstrating 53 exercises that focus on a variety of muscle groups. All you need is a floor. Some may prefer using a mat for stability or sneakers for added support. Make sure you're dressed to move comfortably as well. Since this is an at-home routine, no need for fancy designer gear. Pick and choose specific movements that cater to your individual goals. If you're looking to sculpt your buttocks, focus on doing more squats and lunges. 10-15 minutes a day, 2-3 times a week is a great starting point. If you're looking to tackle big goals like losing a considerable amount of weight, gradually increase the time you spend working out. Everyone is different. Adjust your training based on what you feel works best for your own needs.


Another great workout alternative is yoga which is an extremely cost-efficient form of exercise that suits a wide range of body types and lifestyles. The Youtube channel, Yoga with Adriene, caters to pretty much everyone. Adriene's videos feature movements and stretches that focus on a myriad of concerns. Some Yoga positions target the neck and shoulders, others focus on relieving anxiety and PMS. Adriene's quirky and welcoming demeanor draws yogis of all backgrounds. Even those with ailments and disabilities are encouraged to join in. Her channel also features yoga routines that cater to various age groups, like Yoga for Seniors and Yoga for Kids. The popular channel stays up-to-date by tackling emerging conditions like "text neck," which results from improper posture while texting. This fitness resource enables you to customize a workout that suits your physical needs, as well as emotional disposition. Slow breathing techniques, gradual body movements and calming positions aid in reducing mental clutter and emotional distress. Yoga's holistic approach to fitness has the ability to heal, strengthen and empower like no other method.


HEALTHIER FOODS COST LESS

Fruits and vegetables cost less than meats and processed goods. It takes more effort to cook and serve fruits and vegetables but the benefits outweigh the initial effort. Compile a collection of recipes that highlight the scrumptious flavors that fruits and veggies have to offer. Cut back on meat-centric dishes by introducing one vegetarian meal a week. The more you become acclimated to healthier and less processed meals, the easier it will be to adapt to a more nutritious and cost-efficient diet. Swap sodas for fruit juice and water. Switching from whole milk to almond milk can significantly reduce your fat and calorie intake. It can also alleviate stomach discomfort from lactose intolerance. Put together small packets filled with fruits or nuts. When junk food cravings hit, reach for a bag of mixed berries or cashews. Slight adjustments in consumption can make a big difference in your long term health.

SELF-MOTIVATION IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS

Find creative ways to spark the desire to take action. Writing down a to-do list can help give you direction and drive. As you cross each item out, you get a sense of achievement that can further propel you forward. Collecting photos that illustrate your end goal on a vision board  can instill inspiration when you feel discouraged. A reward system can motivate you to reach specific goals along the way. Just make sure that each reward doesn't derail you from achieving success. Treat yourself to a hearty vegetarian lasagna at a restaurant or a cup of low-fat yogurt with fresh berries. Working out with a buddy can help you stay on track while also providing a source of encouragement and support.

All of the tips listed here are meant to help improve your health while also reducing your workout and grocery expenses. All the tools you will ever need is within your grasp. It's just a matter of having the drive and diligence to keep at it. Longevity is the most difficult part of staying fit but the rewards it reaps make it all worth in the end.


Photos by: Kelly Russo & Lum3n

PROTECT YOURSELF FROM HACKERS

1.15.2019


Hacking is an indiscriminate culprit, notorious for affecting droves of unsuspecting victims regardless of their socioeconomic status. The infamous Equifax hack of 2017 exposed as many as 143 million social security and driver's license numbers (NY Times article). Such sensitive data is enough to leave one's entire financial standing in ruins. The best way to combat such catastrophic attacks is to implement preventative measures. Technology is instrumental in such protective procedures. Whether you're tech savvy or a tech novice, these simple steps can reduce the likelihood of identity theft and fraud.

TIDY YOUR DIGITAL POSSESSIONS AS IF THEY ARE TANGIBLE ASSETS

Sort out all your digital goods. This includes usernames, passwords, online accounts, apps and files. Decluttering digital assets involves knowing what you have and getting rid of all that's unnecessary. Do you have multiple social media accounts or apps that you no longer use? Is your phone littered with dozens of unused apps? Closing inactive accounts can prevent your personal information from being readily available in multiple places. Check with a financial advisor about best practices when managing multiple bank and retirement accounts. Make it a habit to do a regular inventory check on all online assets.

PROPERLY MANAGE PASSWORDS

Have a written copy of all usernames and passwords on a notebook or piece of paper. Also include serial numbers or key codes for applications. This hardcopy should be kept in a secure place at all times. Having your passwords in your notes app may seem convenient at first but it can lead to a multitude of issues. What if you get locked out of your phone? If your phone is stolen without a passcode, someone can easily acquire all your login information. If the notes app is synced in the iCloud,  your account information is vulnerable to corporate hacks.

Password management apps are growing in popularity. These are a great option for managing multiple logins. Whichever app you choose, make sure it has been vetted by tech authorities like CNET or The Wirecutter. Don't allow yourself to be completely dependent on the app. Have a copy of your passwords in your long-term memory, along with the previously suggested hardcopy. One great tip is to manually log into all accounts at least once a month. It's a great way to regularly monitor your data for discrepancies while also training your brain to continuously remember your passwords.

Another important aspect of password management is the quality of the password itself. Make sure your passwords are long enough and unique. Passwords like "1234" or the word "password" are an absolute no-no. Once you've created sufficiently complex passwords, make sure you change them at least once a year. Companies that have large amounts of sensitive data require employees to change their passwords every three months. Once or twice a year should suffice for most of us.

Passwords should be treated like physical house keys. They are your first line of defense against thieves and scammers. The more accounts you have, the more vigilant you need to be when managing these precious keys.


EMPLOY ADDITIONAL SECURITY MEASURES

You can supplement passwords with two-factor authentication. This feature adds an additional layer of security. A code is sent to you via text or email which must be entered during each login. Email services like Gmail and Yahoo Mail implement the use of an app to verify a user's identity. The app can either generate a code for you to enter during the login process or simply ask you to to confirm a request to sign in with a tap. The additional step prevents hackers who have your password from getting in.

Google is offering USB or lightning connection keys as an additional security measure. The Titan Security Key must be inserted into the computer or phone you are logging into. This comes in a bundle that also includes a wireless bluetooth enabled key. These keys serve as physical versions of a password which need to be present during each instance that a user logs into their Google account.

Enabling your computer's firewall is another effective tool in the battle against data breaches. The feature blocks outside connection attempts. In addition to this, you can also enable encryption which scrambles your data, making it undecipherable to outsiders. Turning off bluetooth and wifi on mobile devices keeps them on lockdown. This blocks criminals who are trying to access your data from making wireless transfers or connections.

The endgame to every heist is to gain more buying power. Hackers sell private information to generate revenue. They can also go after people's financial assents and credit line, enabling them to make extravagant purchases. Victims end up with inaccurate credit reports and steep declines in their FICO scores. A more extreme measure to protect yourself from data thieves is by freezing all your credit reports. Calling the three main credit reporting agencies to ask for a freeze on your reports is an effective way to prevent hackers from permanently ruining your credit and future buying power.

Think of each of your gadgets and digital assets as windows into a virtual house that holds your precious personal data. Hackers and scammers will do everything they can in order to successfully break in and steal your private information. Protect yourself by enforcing these tactics because oftentimes, online data can be worth more than tangible belongings.

Photos by: Victoria Heath, Edgar

RIDICULOUSLY SIMPLE BUT IMPACTFUL NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS

1.08.2019



January is a great time to contemplate simple actions that can vastly improve the coming year. These straightforward and attainable tasks are meant to help you live a richer life, while also helping you better navigate through its many complications.

TAKE A MOMENT TO LOOK UP THE NIGHT SKY

We all get caught up in the stresses of everyday life. Our minds are constantly embroiled in a myriad problems that need solving, a Friday deadline looming ahead, a friend who needs a shoulder to cry on, a spontaneous purchase that might drain your account once the bills come in. Taking a few seconds to look up might be just what you need. That moment to exhale while marveling at the vast universe above is enough to give one a little perspective. Breathe in the oxygen to relax the brain and focus your mind on something faraway and inconsequential. Some may call it grounding, centering or meditating. I simply call it taking a moment for yourself. It's a small reminder of how lucky you are to be living in a planet that happens to sit right in the Goldilocks Zone, allowing it to be habitable by life. Beyond that precious mass is a vast and wondrous infinite extension of existence. These small moments of being absolutely present is crucial, if you wish to truly live. Otherwise, you'll be locked into a repetitive mundane existence, eternally plagued by anxiety. Perspective is an infinitely useful tool. This ritual is a great reminder of how you can implement it in any situation, no matter how complicated it may seem.


SAVOR YOUR FOOD

Take the time to really enjoy the food you're eating. Studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between food enjoyment and nutrient absorption. Participants from Thailand were fed two dishes with the same amount of iron. One  is an authentic Thai dish while the other is Swedish. The individuals who consumed Thai cooking absorbed twice as much iron (Cool Mannutrition article). This implies that eating isn't merely a chemical process. Emotional, psychological and sociocultural factors also play a big part in feeding our bodies.

This falls under the self-care resolution category. It's important to eat the dishes that you enjoy the most. Eating healthy doesn't have to entail eating unsavory dishes like plain chopped vegetables. Look for enticing recipes that stimulate the palate. Be aware of food textures and consistencies that are more pleasing to you. It also helps to have less distractions while eating. It's much harder to truly savor a meal when you're busily discussing a serious topic with a friend. Put away all distractions like social media or live streaming apps and really take the time to fully absorb and enjoy what you eat.

DO SOMETHING CHILDLIKE

Allow yourself the freedom to be a kid again. Whether it's treating yourself to a cup of pudding or watching cartoons. Yes, it's perfectly fine to watch Winnie the Pooh as an adult. If you feel strange doing this alone, do it while babysitting. It's important to allow that youthful version of ourselves to come out every once in a while. This is important because we are the most genuine version of ourselves as children. Connecting with childhood memories and our little-er selves, allows us to better understand what we want, who we are, and where we need to go. As adults we've been trained to put on hundreds of facades and walls to protect ourselves. At times, the only way to break down these walls is to lure out that fearless little kid who doesn't care what anyone else thinks. It's an exercise to help release the preconditioned behaviors imposed on us, allowing for a more in-depth introspection. For parents, this could help you better understand your kids. Those who are single may find a sense of freedom and seld-assurance lost through time.


LAUGH MORE

Laughter truly is the best medicine. Your emotional disposition has a huge impact on your body's ability to recover from stress and disease (Mayo clinic article). There are so many ways to inject a little giggle here an there. You can stop by a comedy club or simply put on a Netflix comedy special. I highly recommend Ellen's Relatable. If you're in Japan you could join the yearly laughing festival. The Japanese people believe that laughing has spiritual powers. Laughter can indeed change the energy of a space. A room filled with laughter feels like home. Surround yourself with positive and uplifting people. Another effective and less tedious way to inject joy into your life is to find people who are generous, funny and nurturing. Regardless of what your current state of affairs may be, a little levity may be just what you need to brighten a dreary outlook.

MAKE YOUR BED

Making your bed first thing in the morning is an activity that benefits the mind and body. This practice gives you a sense of control and relieves anxiety. Tidying allows you to start the day right by being extra productive. Plus, it's one less thing you have to tidy after a long exhausting day at work. It also gives your muscles as chance to warm up and stretch out. The bigger the bed, the better. If you sleep with a partner, this is a great practice to enforce teamwork and coordination as a couple. This seemingly simplistic task also benefits your room energetically. Think of it as a poor man's Feng Shui.

These resolutions may seem trivial at first but the more you practice them, the stronger the impact you'll feel as the months go by. I believe in easy to follow resolutions that can yield the most benefits. Don't overcomplicate your list with elaborate tasks and responsibilities. The idea is to improve your quality of life and not to overburden yourself with too much work and unreasonable expectations.

Photos by: Tim FosterJustin Young & Pablo Merchán Montes

HABITS TO ACQUIRE FOR AN ABUNDANT 2019

1.01.2019


Is your bank account looking sparse after countless holiday shopping trips? Food platters and gifts leave quite a dent on a budget after all the confetti has settled. If you feel like you've fallen a few steps behind on your quest to build wealth, fret not. Once you've conditioned yourself into practicing these habits, you'll be back on the path to an abundant 2019.

We expend so much energy on reprimanding actions frowned upon by money gurus. Instead of focusing on the negative, why not channel our efforts towards reinforcing productive habits? This alternative approach alleviates anxieties over past mistakes. We're less likely to stress if we focus all our thoughts and efforts on things we can change. This forward looking method has better chances for success because it gives us a sense of control and restores the willpower back in our hands.

TAKE A MOMENT TO PAUSE BEFORE MAKING A PURCHASE

Shopping becomes a compulsion in times of distress. Whether we're reeling from a breakup or are simply having a bad day at work, emotional turmoil is what drives us to compulsively shop. We thirst for immediate gratification only an empowering transaction can provide. This momentary high counteracts the grief stricken state we are currently embroiled in. That's why we call it "retail therapy."

The best way to combat this is with time. Some enforce a 24-hour rule, others implement a 30-minute interval before swiping a credit card or clicking on the "place order" button. It may take a few minutes or a few days. Eventually, the urge to buy dissipates as rational thinking is reinstated. Think about approaching money the same way you do with food. Before ordering a slice of cheesecake at the end of a meal, allow your stomach to catch up and digest. You'll find that you may not want that extra slice. That momentary gap saves you from unnecessary expenses along with a large dose of buyer's remorse.

CHECK YOUR ACCOUNTS REGULARLY

Consistently monitoring your monthly statement and account balance keeps you aware of spending limits. Knowing how much money you have enables you to make better money decisions. It's important to know whether spending on a vacation or splurging on a pair of designer shoes is within you means. Start by initiating this checkup on a monthly basis. The more often you do it, the better.

Besides bank accounts, your credit report also plays a part in determining your buying power. Once a year, check your free yearly credit report through Annualcreditreport.com. Inquire if your bank offers free access to your FICO score. This is another way to tract your financial health.

This habit is also a means of protecting yourself from identity theft and fraud. It enables you to catch suspicious transactions in a timely manner. If you take too long to file a report or claim, the bank may deny you coverage for lost funds. Initially, this process may feel tedious and difficult to stomach if your finances are not in order. Once you get your net worth up to more respectable levels, you'll find this ritual motivating. As your balance makes its way up, your confidence builds.

TRACK BARGAINS WHEN PURCHASING NECESSITIES

If you make it a habit to know when sales events happen, you save big on routine purchases. This significantly boosts your yearly savings. One additional tip is to pay attention to when gas prices drop. Find out when these dips occur by checking the news or through an app on your smartphone. Grocery stores have cyclical as well as sporadic sales. Ask to receive notifications by signing up with their mailing list. Awareness pays you back tenfold when it comes to buying items which are fixtures on your shopping list. Toiletries and food are nonnegotiable. Purchasing them on sale substantially reduces their blow on your budget. This opens up possibilities to save for other short-term or long term goals.

CONDITION YOURSELF TO SAVE 

This habit applies to a number of different behaviors. Saving leftovers at a restaurant is a familiar money saving tactic. Applying this mentality to the rest of your lifestyle radically increases your net worth in the long run. Cutting down excess usage on everything you buy, including toiletries and other household supplies, decreases monthly expenses. It also reduces the number of trips you have to make to the store.

Being conscious of how much you consume and how much you set aside yields a myriad of benefits. This principle also comes into play when maintaining your health. Curb unhealthy eating habits by cultivating a saving mindset.  Swap expensive junk food for cheaper produce. Reducing overall consumption keeps your body trim and your pockets full. The healthier you are, the less likely you might incur medical expenses later on. These habits employ small changes that have immense long term effects in multiple aspects of your life.

Instead of using up your entire paycheck, consider putting aside extra money into a separate savings account. If you need a stronger motivator, try switching to cash. Tucking away money in a drawer gives you a sense of how quickly it compounds. Having a tangible representation of your assets brings awareness to how much you are giving up when you make unnecessary purchases. This mental conditioning aids in successfully establishing a frugal mindset. Setting aside money reaps immeasurable benefits later on.

KEEP YOUR SPACE ORGANIZED AND CLEAN

Maintaining the space where you live and work has a direct correlation with your ability to function efficiently and think clearly. Knowing where everything is saves you time and energy when trying to get work done. Maintaining a clean and comfy haven allows for a more restful sleep in the evenings. Creating a system that suits you prevents mishaps like forgetting to file your taxes or getting audited by the IRS. Start with a simple to-do list. Over time, the habit sticks and you'll find creative ways to adjust your behavior to optimize performance in any task you're entangled in.


LEAVE ROOM FOR ASPIRATION AND DAYDREAMS EACH DAY THAT PASSES

Foresight is the key to never losing your way. Knowing where you wish to be and who you aspire to become keeps you on the path to a fruitful life. If you're a visual person, tack on pictures and cutouts of things you're drawn to. If you're a wordy person like me, journaling is vital in painting a vivid picture of your future. Hone in on successful influencers and public figures that you admire. Pining for a particular lifestyle may seem like pointless daydreaming at first. In time, these aspirations become stepping stones towards achievable goals. You need to first pinpoint a destination before getting somewhere. Harness those dreams as a source of inspiration, not expectation. Think of the future as a fluid entity, vacillating between different possibilities. As long as you stay passionate in all your endeavors, you'll be on a path of abundance free from regret.

Habits are tiny building blocks for manifesting a desired outcome. Productive behaviors counteract perceived limitations and greatly improve quality of life.

Photo by: Shannon Litt & Elsa Noblet

WHAT TO LET GO BEFORE THE NEW YEAR (2019)

12.25.2018

One of the most cathartic practices when starting a new year is purging everything that is no longer serving you. As with every cycle, there needs to be a sloughing off of old outdated elements. Are you hanging on to a coat that you haven't worn in a year? Still hung up on a past relationship that did you more harm than good? The last week of 2018 is the perfect time to contemplate which things you want to keep and which ones you are better off living without.


DIGITAL DETOX

In this age of tech-dependency, it doesn't hurt to cut back on online addictions. Think of all the time you could have spent on more productive endeavors if you cut back on mindless gaming apps. These diversions may seem harmless at first, but overtime, they impede you from living your life. Gaming can be a very addicting and isolating activity. Those consumed by it become less productive and connected with the world outside the console. Despite seeming like a dire situation, small changes can remedy such conditions.

One way to counteract digital fixation is by unfollowing accounts and people that don't add anything to your quality of life. Ex-boyfriends/girlfriends should be unfollowed immediately. Make sure that the people left on your feed add something positive to your life. Do they provide encouragement and levity when you need them the most? Do these figures inspire you to to be a better version of yourself by motivating you into action? One example is an account that posts healthy recipes. This resource saves you time, keeps you away from overpriced greasy takeout and helps you maintain a nutritious diet. If you're a designer, following artists enriches the quality of your work. Each time you consider clicking that "follow" button, take a moment to evaluate whether this account can directly improve your life.

It's time to sort through the address book in your smartphone. Delete contacts that involve toxic or superficial connections. Purging ex-partners saves you from embarrassing drunk calls or text messages. It's difficult to cut ties abruptly, but removing them from your contact list is a very powerful first step. You might also have doctors or accountants that you no longer work with. Take all these extras out. A majority of the names on your list should be people who you are in constant contact with. If you stumble upon friends that you haven't been in touch with for a while but genuinely want to keep, don't erase them just yet. Now might be a great time to give them a call and see how they are doing. This also gives you the opportunity to check whether the contact information you have is up-to-date.

The next step involves deleting apps that no longer fit into your lifestyle. Apps that lie dormant on your device screen should be removed to make room for ones that you actually use and need. Think about how you would like the upcoming year to be. Do you aspire to make more money next year? Find apps that help you achieve this goal. Perhaps, keeping Uber is a good idea if you intend on making some cash shuttling people around. If you are looking to improve your diet and consumption, swapping a restaurant app for a calorie tracking one might be a good idea. The key is to continuously curate apps that benefit you on a daily basis.

Replace games that turn you into a mindless zombie with a reading app like Overdrive. This allows you to access audio and ebooks from all public libraries. All you need is a library card to log in. It's a great way to continuously improve brain function while still entertaining yourself. People who choose books over social media gain a wider vocabulary and are able to maintain mental focus and clarity. Choosing apps with substance is like consuming foods with high nutritive value.

Recycle old gadgets for store credit or cash. Collect every single tech item that you no longer use. Stores like Best Buy and Apple give store credit for old devices that are still working. If the item is completely dead, I recommend having them properly dispose of it. If you have friends or relatives that need a phone or tablet, ask them if they would like to adopt one of your fully functional ones. If you are hanging on to these old contraptions because of precious data, move everything over to your current phone or computer. Heaps of junk take up space that should be reserved for things and tools that serve a purpose.


STREAMLINE YOUR WARDROBE

Christmas break is the best time to open up your closet and fish out those well-loved items that fit. Once these gems have been identified, then you can decide on how you want to purge the rest of the clothes. This is the time to be brutal. If it doesn't cater to your current size and shape, consider donating it to charity. If you don't remember buying it and have no intention of wearing it, it needs to be passed on to someone who will love it more than you do. Trendy items that may look out of place during the upcoming spring season should be purged as well. Barely used trendy clothes can be resold at a Buffalo Exchange. Poshmark is a popular mediator when it comes to reselling luxury brands. The strategy is to hone in on a specific target market which will likely pay you the highest price. Once you are finished removing the articles that you no longer need, you can now reorganize your closet. Make sure all clothes are as visible as possible. This prevents repeated accumulation of unused clothes. The KonMari method can help with that. Having a closet filled with thoughtfully chosen clothes significantly shortens the time it takes for you to get ready in the morning. It also cuts back on the daily stresses of rushing to work.

MAKING ROOM FOR SELF CARE

Take a good look at everything you use on your face, body and hair. Are you using expired toothpaste? Is your mascara getting crusty. Be sure to check all topical treatments in case they may have gone bad. Now is the time to fine tune and evaluate your self-care products. Is the moisturizer you're using breaking you out? Need a better shampoo to combat dryness? Everything in your collection has to benefit you in some way. If it's doing more harm than good, then it needs to be left behind along with 2018. If you have recent purchases that might work better for someone else, set those aside to give away. Once you've cleared your drawers of all the toiletries and beauty products that don't work for you, then you can determine what you might need to buy. If you desperately need a mascara replacement, choose wisely. The goal is to have a minimal yet effective regimen up and running this coming new year. The focus should always be on caring for you in the most efficient way possible.

REGIFTING OPPORTUNITIES

If you find yourself surrounded by Christmas presents that don't necessarily tickle your fancy, consider keeping them for regifting next year. Write the name of the giver on a post-it note to avoid regifting it back to them or their family. Gift cards don't expire in California so hang on to those precious store credits. If they become partially used before next Christmas, you can always pay for a refill at the retailer that sells them.

TRANSITION INTO SOMETHING YOU ASPIRE

This transitional period is absolutely crucial in setting the tone for the upcoming new year. Let go of everything that's holding you back to make room for new and wonderful opportunities this coming 2019. Every moment is a chance for a fresh start, but Christmas break is the optimal time to do a revamping.

Photo by: Thought Catalog & Alexandru Acea

HOW TO MAKEOVER YOUR GENES

12.18.2018


Everyone attributes most traits and behaviors to their genetic makeup. Many feel hopelessly trapped in the body they inhabit, yearning to look better, feel stronger and be smarter. Based on what we were taught and what we experience, to a large extent, we are limited by our human anatomy. These limitations in turn, impede our aspirations and create a border fence, that hinders us from expanding the vast fields of our unbridled potential.

What if you could defy your genes by altering your looks, your physical build and your intelligence? What if you could eradicate everything that's been holding you back from your ambitious endeavors and impossible dreams? I see you scratching your chin. Suddenly, this blog sounds like it's turning into a fantasy novel. I'm not promising a full-on instantaneous metamorphosis like what those shapeshifters from the Marvel Universe are able to do. I'm alluding to something less blatant yet quite detectable on a molecular level.

Research done on Epigenetics is slowly changing minds with regards to the malleability of the human genome. This field of study focuses on the mechanisms built into our DNA that determine gene expression. Recent studies indicate that diet, lifestyle and upbringing can affect whether certain traits are switched on via the epigenome (Learn Genetics video). Another fascinating discovery is that these alterations may be passed on to future generations (What is Epigenetics article). Arbitrary gene morphing may be beyond our reach right now, but it sounds like we have the ability to choose which trait carried by those genes can actually take effect. This can render undesirable traits dormant while the coveted ones can freely manifest themselves.


Could the epigenome be the key to the fountain of youth? Companies like EpigenCare are now offering a DNA testing service that provides you with a guide on how to care for your body and skin to get the best physical outcome. You get a list of topical recommendations as well as foods that can help repress unwanted traits like wrinkles. If you're looking to curb the aging process on your own, here are a few small changes can make a world of difference. Lower your carb intake. Sugars are especially harmful in shortening telomeres which are the end caps of DNA. Telomeres shorten over time which causes aging. Sugar accelerates this process. Sodas and sweets might make you feel like a kid, but they have the opposite effect on your body. Switching from butter to olive oil is another nifty anti-aging trick. The phenol compounds in this precious substance represses the expression of genes tied to chronic inflammation. This condition causes us to age by altering the body's composition, slowing down metabolism and weakening immunity. The easiest way to thwart "inflammanging" is by consuming some good old fashioned EVOO. Brightly colored red, orange and green produce are another great addition to your diet. These flavonoid-rich foods contain phytochemicals that fight the oxidation process and also reduce inflammation. They take down cell-damaging free-radicals and mask inflammation causing genes (Oxford Academic articleEpigenetics.com article). The mythical fountain of your isn't a sparkly golden spring in a hidden cave. If you shop wisely, your fridge could work just as well as this fictional concept. Who knew a little bit of grocery shopping could do your body so much good?


As society turns to holistic and natural methods of nourishment and self care, the practice of meditation has gained immense popularity among a multitude of socioeconomic groups. Everyone from your hipster neighbor, to comedian Jerry Seinfeld are joining the meditation movement. Research indicates that zen-loving individuals who regularly practice meditation are able to gradually increase their brain size. The areas with considerable brain tissue growth are those expected to thin out with age, indicating a possible age-reversal in their thinking cap. Scientists at MIT state that the tissue thickening occurs in the areas involved in attention and sensory input. This implies a significant improvement in brain function. Those interviewed in the study, notice an improvement in attention, mental clarity, stress management and memory. These are all qualities associated with youthfulness which means that one is able to sustain the same youthful characteristics even at an older age. The thickness in tissue growth is proportional to the amount of time the person has been taking part in the meditative ritual, proving that these participants are actually changing the physical structure of their brain with continuous practice. Because this study is still young, more data is needed to grasp the full spectrum of benefits that meditation can bring (Harvard Gazette).

We may be born a certain way, but science is discovering that not everything is carved in stone. Each of us is a living breathing complex organism. These studies reinforce the unlikely reality that we have the capability to invoke molecular changes in our bodies. We each have the ability to modify our physical shortcomings and pass on only the traits that we want our children to inherit. The hidden mechanism tucked away in our double helix is almost like a gift that we were meant to one day discover to unlock our true potential.


Photos by Matthew SchwartzRod Long & Joshua Earle

EXTREME FRUGALITY TIPS THAT CAN DOUBLE YOUR SAVINGS

12.11.2018

Serious about saving? Whether you're desperately needing to pay off interest-incurring loans or planning a summer trip, the tactics listed here are guaranteed to get you closer to your financial goals. Over time, these seemingly insignificant changes have a huge impact on your ability to put aside enough money.

SALES

The first rule in extreme frugality is to buy only when there's a sale. It takes more effort to schedule your shopping trips during sales events, but it will save you the most money. Sprouts Market holds cyclical promotions for different product categories. Every four months, their vitamin section offers a generous 25% off. All year round, grocery stores cut prices on select items to quickly sell off perishables before they expire. Nordstrom is known for their half-yearly sale, held every July. Department stores need to constantly make room for the upcoming season's collections. Even the CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, admits to taking advantage of huge discounts at the popular luxury chain (Business Insider video). With continued diligence, your shopping habits will seamlessly adhere to this principle. Saving then becomes second nature.


Online clothing merchants hold spontaneous short-term flash sales. Keeping webpages bookmarked helps keep tabs on limited-time offers. Be sure to check your favorite online shops on other occasions besides Cyber Monday or Black Friday. Beauty stores might do a Mother's Day special. Gyms usually do a summer promotion to capitalize on swimsuit season. Some sites like Vitacost.com offer long-term bargain prices. I recommend this seller for greener product options. The initial effort that you put in, will eventually pay you back in compounded extra savings.

USAGE

Use a reasonable amount of product. Commercials show kids topping their toothbrush bristles with a generous heap of toothpaste. This is just for looks. In reality, you only need a dime-sized amount of toothpaste. Using a durable toothbrush with a large head reduces the need for more toothpaste and rigorous brushing. The Radius Scuba brush lasts for up to a year and cleans more efficiently than an electric toothbrush.


Gauge how much you really need by starting small. This applies to everything from lotion to pasta. A nifty trick when using a serum or moisturizer is to apply it on a damp face. This allows the product to spread out evenly and absorb more deeply into the skin. You'll waste less, while still getting the full effect. Determining how much you really need extends the life of a purchase, preventing you from spending too soon after the last shopping trip.

STORAGE & CARE

Store items properly. Choosing the right container prevents wastefulness. Check all  pepper shakers and ketchup dispensers. Do they release the right amount? If they don't, consider switching them out. Edibles expire more quickly if they are not properly preserved. Produce must be kept in waterless containers to prevent molds. Make sure all "best before" dates are visible. These labels remind you to finish them before they go bad. Don't buy more than what you can consume. Resist purchasing the larger bundle to avoid wasting excess perishables.


It's also important to store clothes and other items, like electronics, properly. Folding instead of hanging clothes saves space and prevents them from stretching out. I recommend looking up the Konmari method for additional organization tips. Electronics should be used and kept in the coldest areas in the home. Heat causes tech gadgets and equipment to deteriorate faster.

The same is true for beauty products. Keeping serums and moisturizers in the refrigerator extends their usability. Make sure all bottles and containers are closed properly after every use. Cleaning beauty tools regularly prevents them from wearing out and rusting. Maintenance and care improves longevity and effectiveness. The longer they last, the longer you are able to put off spending for another refill or backup.

Most of these habits may seem like tedious work, but the benefits they reap in the long run has an immense ability to compound. Every penny saved really does add up over time. A consistent savings of 25% on necessities generates a rate of wealth accumulation greater than the stock market's 7% average yearly return.

PLACES TO SHOP


B & H Photo
This online retailer is a haven for techies. On top of discounts, items are sold tax-free if you don't live in New York, and ships free. They sell a broad variety of products. The website is among the few that still sell older software versions with perpetual licensing, which means it doesn't require a subscription. B & H offers everything from computer adapters to extremely high-end DSLR cameras.

Sprouts
The rapidly growing farmers market offers an abundance of affordable organic food. Its vitamin and beauty sections offer a vast array of certified organic and all-natural alternatives. They also sell freshly-made baked pastries, as well as made-to-order artisanal sandwiches. The grains and legumes section has a wide selection to choose from.

Target
For fresh meats and berries, discerning grocery shoppers prefer this outlet. Target tends to draw a large volume of buyers, so their edible items get sold and replaced quickly. The produce you're picking up is likely a new batch. Dry goods is sometimes a mixed bag. Some medicines are cheaper at Target while Walmart offers cheaper toiletries.

Target is also a great source for rare fashion finds. The brand will occasionally collaborate with well-known designers in creating exclusive yet affordable clothing lines. Many vouch for the durability and quality of their wearable merchandise.

Walmart
The behemoth retail chain is great for basic necessities. This warehouse offers the best pricing for generic items like cleaning supplies and toiletries. Most people aren't too fussy about these disposable goods.

RESEARCH RESOURCES


The Wirecutter
Run by the New York Times, this informative resource ranks the best and most affordable in every imaginable tech category. It also covers services like phone plans. They test thousands of options offered by an extensive range of brands. Top-rated products are listed based on consumer preference. Whether performance or cost is your priority, this site hones in on the cheapest and rarest finds.

Google Shopping Tab
When looking for a specific product on google, type out the name on Google's search window. After the search results are done loading, click on the shopping tab on the menu bar. You'll see a list of online sellers, as well as brick-and-mortar ones nearby. Prices are conveniently displayed side by side for comparison. This allows for a more efficient and expansive search.


Photos by Jakub Kapisnakrawpixel, Tookapic & Christin Hume

THE LONGEST TREASURE HUNT IN HISTORY IS NOW AVAILABLE TO BINGE WATCH

12.04.2018


Looking for a series with substance to watch this holiday break? A treasure hunt lasting two hundred and twenty years is now on television, inviting viewers to witness groundbreaking discoveries that might just rewrite history. Two brothers from Michigan embark on an elusive quest to solve the mystery behind The Curse of Oak Island. Legend states that seven must die before the island reveals a great treasure.


This is unlike any broadcast you've seen before. The hunt spans across continents and generations. Members of the team travel long distances in pursuit of solving the island's perplexing revelations. The show features well-renowned scholars who vividly illustrate a progression of events that lead back to the shores of the mysterious North American island. Cue animated graphics that plot out a timeline, highlighting pivotal points in the past. Then, it cuts to a reenactment depicting a Spanish galleon caught in a swirling fury of an angry sea. Just like that, it pulls you in.

The History channel program clearly doesn't fit the superficial reality show stereotype, this one portrays genuine connections. Rick and Marty Lagina are authentic, smart and relatable. Viewers see them connect with the team, their nephews, as well as treasure hunters who came before them. There is a moving scene between a teary-eyed Rick and Leelamb Restall, who lost family members to this ruthless quest. She passes on her brother's journal to aid them on their journey. Behind the long-drawn pursuit are real people revealing a small slice of their life to audiences.

The centuries-long expedition demands a considerable amount of investment. Rick's passion for finding answers has led to many scholarly connections that continues to help direct the team's pursuits. Marty's engineering and business background helps support the more technical side of this endeavor. Rick is the passionate beating heart of the group while Marty serves as the analytical thinker. With their combined knowledge and resources, the team is able to efficiently implement historical know-how and sophisticated equipment to unravel the island's secrets. They've made earth-shattering discoveries as faraway as France. They continue to utilize large-scale machinery to remove obstructions that hinder them from getting to the truth. It all started out as a childhood dream of finding out what happened on those murky shores. Years of relentless dedication and hard work has led them to this pivotal point in the quest to solving the mystery.

The Curse of Oak Island is propelled to success by the incredible artifacts that continue to be unearthed, as well as their compelling ties to history. It is astounding to witness the show grapple with evidence that allude to a myriad of possibilities assumed to be mere myth. Everything from the original manuscripts of Sir Francis Bacon, to gold hidden by pirates and Spanish naval ships, are said to be hidden beneath the soil. Even the jewels of Marie Antoinette are believed to be buried there. Structures housing part of the treasure are thought to be built by French and Portuguese Templar Knights. All of these historical figures play a part in enriching the tale that make this island legendary.

The family friendly show takes us on a journey through history. Treasures, pirates and secret societies come to life. Except this time, documented history corroborates with tall tales that turn out to be truer previously thought.

Sources:

Curse of Oak Island Website

Photos by Ylanite KoppensAndreea Swank


HOLIDAY GIFT ALTERNATIVES THAT REQUIRE LESS MONEY & STRESS

11.27.2018

During the holiday season, many are compelled to participate in a cycle of relentless mall-hopping and late night online-scrolling. Those tasks put a severe strain on both health and finances. Before you pull your hair out, trying not to suffocate amidst a sea of shoppers, take a look at these alternatives to traditional Christmas presents.

FOOD

Don't think of food as a table filled with platters holding a variety of sweet and savory options. Think small. Is there a particular dish that means a lot to someone in your life? Food is impactful and cost-efficient. Baking your partner's favorite dessert from scratch is more meaningful and well thought out than a pricy golf set. Perhaps, having a cook-off with neighbors might spark some joy in a dreary household. Holding an impromptu friendmas gathering before everyone flies off to see family is a genuine way to show generosity, rather than painfully striving to out-gift each other.

Edibles nourish our bodies and lift our spirits in so many ways. Food is built into societal norms as a reason for gathering, as well as an expression of recognition, affection and unity. Moms heal and comfort their sick children with chicken noodle soup. Co-workers toast champagne in recognition of someone's recent promotion. Sharing a decadent chocolate soufflé on a first date is enough to ignite a romantic spark.

From childhood, our senses are conditioned to associate elaborately garnished pastries served during gatherings with a cause for celebration. Evidence shows that mankind has gathered in groups to partake in communal meals for 500,000 years (NatGeo article). Food plays a big part as an incentive to form communities but it also enhances relationships among members of a particular pack.

Eating is a multi-sensory experience. Precious memories echo clearly in our thoughts as if they just happened yesterday because of the tastes, smells, sights and sounds. Eye-catching intricate cake piping, the sweet aftertaste of hot chocolate still tickling your tastebuds, each play are part in enriching a memory, as well as  in strengthening human bonds (Huffington Post article).


EXPERIENCE

Do you know a Potterhead who deserves a ride on the Hogwarts Express? You might enjoy it as much as they will. Experiences last longer in our memories. Things break, wear out, go out of style and eventually stop working. Collecting stuff or adding to other people's pile merely contributes to the stresses of everyday life. You'll be surprised at how much fun you can have getting in a snowball fight with friends or taking someone special to a fireworks show. Experiences have an immeasurable long-term effect on us. We forget that the holidays is all about procuring life's joyful moments.

Shared experiences are powerful binding forces that sprout out life-long connections and strengthen existing ones. This is best illustrated by studies done on soldiers deployed for battle (ZME Science article). Nearly half of those surveyed (45%) claim to feel closer to their military brothers than their biological families. This illustrates how going through an uncommon journey with someone establishes enduring ties and reinforces human connections.

Orchestrating an event or activity with someone is a lot of fun and doesn't have to be tedious or pricy. Coordinating a Harry Potter movie marathon doesn't cost much but it generates a whole lot of enjoyment. Find out whose live-streaming subscription has the films. Bring a few bags of microwave popcorn. Just like that, you're ready to relive the magic.

If you were to rummage through your closet of holiday memories, the ones that stand out involve events and activities rather than material acquisitions. Most people will remember a multitude of embarrassing moments from a road trip embarked on decades ago. Few will recall the color of the dress they got for Christmas last year. As we all age, intangibles grow in value while physical gifts tend to wane in importance.


TIME

This is possibly the most overlooked and undervalued commodity of all. Author Joshua Fields Millburn, shares his biggest regret in his documentary, The Minimalists. He spent his early adult life climbing the corporate ladder while neglecting loved ones along the way. A single voicemail from his mom changed it all. She was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer and had a short time left to live. Millburn became a minimalist upon realizing that time should be spent with people and not on amassing wealth and accolades. Do you have a relative or friend that you haven't spoken to this busy Christmas season? Give them a call and ask how they are doing.


Don't waste the holidays in malls or parking lots. Spend time with the people you care about. It doesn't have to be extravagant or expensive. Snuggling in bed or having a chat by the fireplace costs nothing but the memories they create are priceless.

Photos by Henry Be, Dmitry Sovyak and Simon Matzinger

USING COLOR TO CHANGE PERCEPTION

11.20.2018


Try staring at a red screen for as long as you can without blinking. Now, quickly switch to a white screen. Do you see a flash of blue?

Staring at a red screen causes the photoreceptor cells that perceive the color red to become overworked and weak. Once you switch to a white screen, you are left seeing its complement (blue) because the cells that detect red are still recovering. This is called cone fatigue.

There's a lot more to color than what meets the eye, as illustrated by this activity. The ability to see various shades of light has influenced the way we live in so many ways. Throughout the centuries, color has shaped cultural norms, societal structure and even served as emblems for ideological movements.

Color is more than a can of paint or a tiny pixel on a laptop screen. Choosing the right hue can liven the ambiance of a dinner party or convince someone to hire you. These easy to follow guidelines can help paint a vivid picture of what you want your life to be.
Wearing multiple shades of the same color creates an elegant and understated look. A monochromatic color scheme is very fitting in a work or business setting. This color harmony minimizes distractions and lets your personality and eloquence shine through. The popular technique garners compliments by simulating an aura of professionalism. It makes any outfit or decor look like it's been put together by a stylist or designer. In reality, anyone can do it. Just pick one color, then build the look by adding different shades and textures with the same undertone. This works with makeup, interior design and fashion.  

Incorporating small amounts of a color creates an area of focus to direct the eye to. Adding a vibrant accent chair can make a living room look striking. Picking up a neutral-colored purse can add a touch of sophistication to an outfit. This strategic use of color is very effective in highlighting a particular feature. The crimson red chair placed in a pre-dominantly beige room shown above, behaves much like a red lip does on face sporting an all-natural makeup look. It draws you in, like an arrow pointing towards a specific location. Whether you want your lips or your lounge chair to be the star of the show, color can easily make it happen.


Choose colors based on their psychological effects. Blues are very calming, especially for young boys. Food companies use shades of yellow and red to rev up consumers' appetite. Purple and gray are the colors of nobility and sophistication. They add opulence to a color combination. Amber evokes nostalgia while green is deemed the most intuitive color. In multiple cultures, red is strongly associated with love and passion. Red roses sell like pancakes on Valentine's Day because they are an expression of love. Color is the nonverbal language that instantaneously eases our anxieties, tugs at our heartstrings and influences our actions. It some instances, color speaks more eloquently and loudly than words. 

Numerous books explore color theory in further detail. Color specialist Leatrice Eiseman writes a plethora of books on color. She discusses techniques on how to communicate with color and their effect on audiences. Her books are a great resource for designers and novices alike. Eiseman previously ran a company called Pantone, that publishes a yearly color forecast. It cites prevalent colors in the upcoming season as influenced by fashion, the economy and current events.

Seeing beyond the surface of what a color reflects back can bring awareness to its many untapped uses. Beyond the sheen and pearlescent finish is a language that man has played an integral role in defining and speaking.

THREE LIFE CHANGING BOOKS

11.13.2018


Whether you're in dire need of a complete lifestyle turnaround or simply looking to improve on a specific discipline, these three publications are sure to make an indelible impact.

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
by Eckhart Tolle
1997
(psychology, spirituality, philosophy)

Written by an esteemed scholar, educated in the hallowed halls of Cambridge, this book takes on an analytical approach to psychology and spirituality. Simply put, it talks about living in the present moment. The New York Times bestseller cautions readers about mental attachments to the past and future. So eloquently written, the words redirect your thoughts and emotions to a sense of clarity that often takes decades to achieve in a therapist's office. People suffering from varying levels of emotional distress will find this book to be indispensable. Whether you choose the audio or print version, its effect is unwavering.

The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn't Have to Be Complicated
by Helaine Olen and Harold Pollack
2016
(finance, investing, money)


Harold Pollack made a splash in the world of finance with his astonishingly simple approach to finance. On an index card, Pollack consolidates decades of financial knowledge that enabled him to pull his family out of desperate circumstances. Pollack succinctly enumerates nine tips. Some are familiar, like saving twenty percent of your income. Others incorporate more complex concepts, like making your advisor sign a fiduciary oath. The book delves deeper into every suggestion and the reasoning behind each. The piece is the ultimate beginner's guide to getting out of any money catastrophe.

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up
by Marie Kondo
2017
(minimalism, organization)


Who knew that teaching the world how to clean up their room would be such a global hit? Written by a Japanese organizing consultant, this book instigated an intercontinental decluttering phenomenon. Hundreds of youtube videos feature people from all walks of life demonstrating this decluttering system, dubbed the Konmari method. Marie Kondo believes in keeping only what sparks joy. Konmari is a structured method which involves purging, evaluating, then organizing consistently. Many claim to have improved their physical, emotional and mental well being after letting go of unnecessary things.

Simplicity is the singular thread that weaves all three books into society's collective consciousness. These widely respected authors are tapping into a unifying demand. There is a need to revert to the fundamentals. Whether you're trying to tidy up an apartment, balance a checkbook or clear your mind of irrelevant thoughts, keep these books in your back pocket. May they serve as a reminder that the simplest solutions are within your grasp.

Sources:

Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
by Eckhart Tolle

The Index Card: Why Personal Finance Doesn't Have to Be Complicated
by Helaine Olen & Harold Pollack

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up
by Marie Kondo

Photos by: Nicole Honeywill, Anna, Francis Duval

QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE AN UPGRADE

11.06.2018


Fall and winter signal the release of a whole new crop of must-have tech gadgets. Product launches precipitate a sense of urgency, compelling consumers to preorder right then and there. Is it absolutely necessary to have the latest and greatest? Here are a few questions to ask before jumping in.

Do you have realistic expectations for the upgrade? A shiny new health-tracking smart watch won't make you skinny in a week. The latest tablet won't turn you into an illustrator overnight. Smart devices are exceptionally intuitive multi-taskers but at the end of the day, it's you that actually gets things done. The will and drive to succeed rests fully on your shoulders. A purchase should not be your main source of motivation to achieve a goal. These are merely tools that help along the way.


One mistake that I caution people not to make is upgrading too soon. You may end up getting something that is costly and much too similar to what you already have. Companies are refreshing their product line at a faster rate. If you find yourself drooling at a store's window display on launch day, be careful not to let emotions dictate your purchase. There should be a compelling enough reason for the switch. Does your current gadget fail you too often? Are there features and benefits unique to the newer model that can significantly improve your experience? It's all about differentiating real-life needs from unbridled wants.

Are you choosing to upgrade because of features that are unnecessary? Buying should be about fulfilling your individual needs and not about frivolously acquiring overpowered gadgets, with functions that you may never use. Take a moment to think about it. Do you really need to drive a race car to pick up some milk at the grocery store? If all you need is a device for checking email and browsing the web, there's no need to buy the juiced-up custom-configured overpriced version. People worry about getting an underpowered tool which is a rarity these days. The competitive nature of the tech industry has led to the proliferation of software and hardware that cater to professionals' needs. Almost every single flagship phone in the market is able to take professional-looking photos and videos. These mobile devices are configured with processors that rival desktop computer versions. Future-proofing is a good idea, but overspending on unnecessary features will only leave you with empty pockets. If longevity is your concern, pay attention to the brand and its reputation for quality. You can save hundreds by purchasing a device from a reputable seller that doesn't have the unnecessary bells and whistles.

Do you have a budget robust enough to pay for the acquisition and maintenance? The cost of having a brand new device can have an immediate impact on your paycheck. It can hurt you down the road as well. If you break it, how much will it be to fix? Always be mindful of how it will affect your bank account and credit. Because phone pricing has skyrocketed in recent years, a single purchase can have a dramatic effect on your budget. A single gadget can cost you eight months worth of food. This harsh reality is masked by shrewd marketing techniques. Retailers entice buyers with flashy demos and affordably priced monthly payment plans. These require a credit check that can affect your FICO score for a certain amount of time. If you are planning on taking out a house or car loan, it might affect your chances of getting approved. Don't shrug off financial responsibilities just for the sake of treating yourself. Make sure your upgrade doesn't affect your ability to pay for more urgent necessities.

These questions are meant to save you from making rash decisions that could hurt your finances. Tech companies invent contraptions that blow our minds and expand our capabilities. Our job is to sort through these freshly built machines and choose what works for our daily needs.

Photos by: Roidon Kutsaev & Ash Edmonds
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