Skip the gift. Show your love with meaningful gestures.

“This would be a much better world if more married couples were as deeply in love as they are in debt.”
– Earl Wilson

Fortunately, you don’t have to choose between crippling debt and true love.

You can have more love and you can have more money. The best way to have more love is to love more. The best way to have more money is to save more. Below are my favorite ways to show love without buying a gift.

Spend quality time with your love.

When couples get together, they often can’t spend enough time with each other. Eventually, the daily routine of life takes over and they spend less time together. Soon, spending time together is no longer special. It’s not bad or boring, it’s just not as special.

Make it special.

Spend quality time with your S.O. Turn off the television and laptops. Put down the phone. Talk to each other. Go for a walk around your neighborhood or a picturesque park. Ride bikes to your favorite part of town. Play chess or a card game.

Find a quiet space and be completely immersed in the experience. Don’t share the time with Facebook.

Read to them.

For many, the memory of a parent reading to them at night is a reminder of a special kind of love. Enhance that memory with your S.O. and read to them. Read to them in bed. Read to them in your living room. Read to them in the park.

Share with them a great story and let their mind’s eye be the movie screen. This is a great way to show love without buying a gift.

My husband once read Winnie the Pooh to me while I fell asleep in bed. I pictured the story clearly in my head until I dozed. The story and the good night’s sleep were wonderful gifts that cost nothing.

Cook for bae.

Cooking feeds the soul.

What better way to say, “I love you” than to fuel the soul?

With the craziness of modern life, cooking has become more of a chore than an experience. Eliminate the chore and make for a memorable experience with your S.O. by cooking their favorite meal for them. Cooking for someone else, putting in the thought, time, and effort is a more personal way to show your love than to take them out to dinner.

This isn’t completely free, but you need to eat anyway. You might as well make it a great experience and show love without buying a gift.

Watch their favorite show or movie with them.

Everyone has a favorite show or movie that their partner doesn’t enjoy. I love It’s a Wonderful Life and can watch it every holiday season. Every. Holiday. Season.

My husband doesn’t like it, and I don’t enjoy it as much when I’m stuck watching it alone. When he’s watching it with me, it means more.

What television show or movie does your partner like that you don’t? Get it, and watch it with them. Show them that spending time with them doing something they enjoy is more important than spending time apart because you don’t have the same exact tastes.

Do for them what they usually do for themselves.

Can your partner wash their car? Pack their lunch? Clean their home? Pick up the dry cleaning? Yes, of course, they can.

Doing for someone what they can do for themselves shows a special kind of love. It makes their day just a little easier. It saves them from a daily chore. It shows that you’re there to make their life better in big and small ways.

Make a carousel of old photos from a trip or experience.

Photos are so ubiquitous today that they’ve lost value. We take a picture. Post it on Instagram. Get a bunch of likes. Forget about it when we take the next picture.

Rinse and repeat.

Dig into the archive of pictures on your phone, an older phone, your computer, or those older CDs you still have. Find special moments or an exciting trip, and put them into a single file or add them to your Flickr account.

Create a carousel of these photos to return your S.O. to a time and place you both cherish. The love you had for each other in that moment will come back. It’s a beautiful way to show love without buying a gift. And it can cement your relationship.

Give them your favorite book with a personal inscription.

Reading a hardcover or paperback book is an organic experience lost in the digital age.

A meaningful book with a personalized inscription is an organic and meaningful way to say to your S.O., “I love you.”

Whether it’s a good story, an educational or inspirational read, giving someone a book says that you want to treat them to something out of the ordinary. The more appropriate the book and heartfelt the inscription, the more the gift says you care.

Say “I love you” at an unexpected time.

It’s special to hear “I love you” from your S.O.

It’s even more special when it’s said at unexpected times.

We become conditioned to hearing it when leaving or returning from work. It’s expected before bed.

It’s not expected when you’re standing in the aisle at the grocery store or in the middle of a phone call. It’s a surprise and means more when it’s said first thing in the morning and in a text during the middle of the day.

As you can see, you don’t have to go deeply into debt to show your S.O. how much you love them.

There are countless free ways to say those three little words — and they mean more than any mere bought gift could.

 

 

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Life and love-handles happen. But it doesn’t have to end there or cost a lot to get back into shape.

Popular exercise and diet trends are all over the board. Their results are often inconsistent or short in duration.

One thing about them that is consistent, is that they’re expensive.

This doesn’t have to be so. Here are economical ways to get back into and stay in shape.

Move it.

The biggest misconception about exercise programs is that complex and expensive choices are better. You must join a fancy gym with shiny equipment and super-fit reps wearing high-end lycra clothes. The more hip sounding the program’s name, the better the results.

These things simply aren’t true. Just move!

Walking consistently comes up in studies to be one of the best exercises people can do. If walking isn’t enough insanity for you, jog or run. If you want to work your quads and hamstrings more, walk, jog or run up and down steps. Malls, office buildings, maybe your apartment building, tracks, and fields are great places for these exercises.

If you have a bike, ride it. If you have access to a low-cost pool, swim in it. If these are too boring for you or you don’t have time for these, house chores and gardening are great exercises. Just get off the couch, turn off the Netflix and move.

Cook it.

It’s a tough truth, but what and how we eat affects our physical shape more than how and how much we exercise. Every single calorie counts. If we’re eating more calories than we’re burning, being out of shape is the result.

Despite all our modern conveniences, we’re busier than ever. This often means we can’t find time to cook at home and opt for dining out or getting take out. Even the healthiest options in most restaurants have more calories than anything we’d cook at home.

A cheap way to get back into and to stay in shape is to simply cook at home, and keep what you cook at home simple. Don’t use more than five ingredients per dish, and avoid processed foods and anything wrapped in cardboard or plastic.

Schedule it.

Humans are creatures of habit. Schedule your exercise for the same time of day every day and make exercise a habit. The key to getting back into shape and staying in shape, whether you focus on diet, exercise, or both, is being consistent.

It will feel difficult at first, but when your mind and body get into the habit of working out regularly and consistently, you’ll find getting to your workouts easier. When exercising becomes routine and your exercises become easier, increase the intensity of your exercises. That’s when you’ll start to see real results.

YouTube it.

If you don’t feel knowledgeable enough to exercise without the guidance of a pro but can’t afford a pro, use YouTube. Search for “exercising” in YouTube. You’ll get 712,000 results. Surely not all 712,000 results are worth your time but you can find good ones and they cost a lot less than any pro.

From yoga to cardio, to Pilates to tai chi, find the exercise programs and the exercise pros that work for you, and watch yourself lose the weight without losing your money.

Don’t pitch it.

Aside from the expensive gym membership to that gym you never go to, one of the biggest costs of becoming a fitness fanatic is the fitness clothing. Truth be told, most of us don’t need a high-performance moisture wicking, organic microfiber.

Do some people need these? Yes, professional athletes. Are you a professional athlete? If you answer no, then don’t waste your money on pro-quality exercise clothes.

Older t-shirts, including undershirts, are perfect for your new exercise program. Unless your gym shorts or pants will get you put in jail and can’t stand on their own, they’re probably good enough. Heck, even brand new, expensive yoga pants could land you in jail. Save yourself the money and the risk.

Don’t pay for it.

What’s the best price? Free. Local community centers, YMCAs, and colleges often offer free exercise classes or training. This can be to market the facility or to help a new exercise facilitator gain more experience before they start charging a fee. Sometimes it’s an exclusive, one-time offer or part of a package. Likewise, exercise studios and gyms offer free classes or a few free days to experience their facilities.

This strategy may not last forever, but it can kickstart your new exercise regimen. This can, also, provide you with enough information to ensure that you get the most from your YouTube exercising from higher above in this list.

App it.

If you want to just do it, there’s an app for it. There are tons of apps that can help you with anything from running to lifting weights. So, if you do pay to workout at a gym, you don’t have to pay for a gym trainer. Even if you don’t want to work out at a gym, you can find an app that supports your home-based exercising.

See my list of nine apps to help you live healthier, many of which will also help you live wealthier.

Borrow it.

How many friends or family members do you know with exercise equipment collecting dust or doubling as a clothing tree? Help them make space in their home by offering to take their equipment off their hands. You could probably negotiate a serious discount off the original price or even get it for free. My parents had weights, a weight bench, and a treadmill in their basement that they never used, and they just wanted to get rid of it. Some lucky person got a new home gym for free.

If you don’t have friends or family with this problem, you can find “gently used” equipment online or at consignment and resale shops. Just be careful to not fall into the trap of thinking that because everything is cheaper than the original price that you need to buy everything.

As you can see, getting back into and staying in shape doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. In fact, I’d argue that if you can get back into shape with the low-cost and less shiny methods above, you’re more likely to stay in shape.

Do you have any other low-cost tips for getting fit? Let us know in the #Adulting Facebook community

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Don’t let your fate rest in one person’s hands.

A recent study in the U.K. showed that kids no longer aspire to be singers, actors or athletes. They’d rather be business leaders and entrepreneurs.

Well, that’s just dandy. No, it really is.

Sure, I wanted to grow up to be Madonna or even Stevie Nicks. But, for many reasons (obvious and not so obvious) that was never going to work out. I got into business — much to the relief of my parents. That worked out pretty well. I made it to middle-management and life was easy.

Then, I got the bug!

I couldn’t work for someone else any longer, wanted to do my own thing, and I knew what I wanted to do. Then, life wasn’t so easy. The life of an entrepreneur is a roller coaster. However, I wouldn’t change it for the world because now that I’ve survived the good, the bad and the ugly, it’s excellent.

One of the reasons my business is good to me is that I’m no longer reliant on one stream of income. The second and better reason is I’m no longer reliant on one person for my income. Finally, there’s diversity in what I do. Today, alone, I’m working on three of the incomes streams I mention below. If I wanted to, I could choose to do none of them.

To me, that speaks to the power when you diversify your income streams if you want to be an entrepreneur today. Here are my recommendations for you to consider and how I’m using (most of) them.

1. Monetize your blog.

You already know that I want you to become a blogger. I want everyone to become a blogger. I think blogs are as important as resumes. Plus, they can create the opportunity for you to go solo. There are many benefits to having your blog, some of which I’ll include in the following.

One of the easiest ways to make money from blogging is to monetize your blog. Google Ad Sense and Amazon Affiliate Links are probably the two most popular and accessible ways to monetize your blog. There are other companies you can you, but these are the only two I’ve used, so I don’t want to mention them.

When I first started blogging, we used Google Ad Sense that included a banner ad at the top and bottom of our blog and a square ad on the right rail of our blog. Choosing specific parameters, I permitted Google to rotate ads carousel-style on my blog.

Because you make money when people who visit your blog click on these ads, the more traffic you have, the better your return on your investment (ROI). Over time Google Ad Sense and their competition have decreased in their ROI, but they’re still an easy way to make money when you start blogging.

I use Amazon Affiliates for two reasons. The first is I have more control of what I promote on my blog. I don’t run the risk of advertising the vacuum cleaner of the week to my audience who has no interest in vacuum cleaners.

On top of that, I don’t have unrelated banner and square ads taking up real estate on my blog. Amazon Affiliate links are a better way than Google Ad Sense to make money in our experience. We have a blogger friend whose whole business is based on Amazon Affiliate Links.

2. Add affiliate marketing to your blog.

The most lucrative marketing strategy, at least for me, is affiliate marketing. Affiliating marketing is when you establish a relationship with a company to promote or sell their product on your blog.

The reason affiliate marketing is lucrative is two-fold. First, the affiliate payouts are better — at least for the companies I partner. My blog is about personal finance for the LGBTQ community, and all my affiliates are finance related.

The second reason affiliate marketing is lucrative is because I only affiliate with partners that can serve my niche. For example, when I talk about the benefits of refinancing a loan, I can link directly to an affiliate of mine that does that. My readers don’t see an ad for the vacuum cleaner of the week when I’m helping them lower their interest rates.

Another friend of mine has a course about making money with affiliate marketing. If this is something you want to learn, check it out.

3. Start freelance writing.

Freelance writing has been good to me, but it took me a while to earn credentials to become a freelance writer. I’m glad about that. Of course, I wanted to get paid for my writing the first day I started blogging. When I look back on my first blog articles, though, I recognize that they’re horrible.

Blogging for myself for years helped me find my voice and style — learn more about being a better writer. That time was valuable.

When you’re ready to write for others, it’s worth it. It’s helpful, though not necessary, to find clients in the niche you’ve established for yourself on your blog. I’ve seen it’s easier to sell yourself because your portfolio aligns with your potential client’s needs.

That said, I write for Adulting, which isn’t exclusively about personal finance. It’s been fun and worthwhile for me.

Another friend of mine has a course that teaches you how to become a freelance writer, even making it your primary income stream. If this interests you, I highly recommend her course.

4. Connect with brands for brand partnerships.

Brand partnerships are fun! I’ve done everything from simply attending an event to being part of a game show.

As your following grows on your blog, and as your email list gets bigger, and as your social media presence grows, you’ll become an “influencer.”

Fancy, huh?

Simply advertising on television and radio aren’t marketing strategies anymore. Brands partner with people or other businesses that have a following to generate interest and excitement in their products and services.

For this income stream, Twitter has been invaluable. Twitter’s struggling, and many think Twitter’s dead, but for me, it’s been great because it’s the primary way that I’ve been able to connect with top brands in my niche.

Again, I’ve only partnered with brands I believe in, and that align with my business’s mission. I don’t want to bring my readers to an event where they’ll be sold something that will sabotage their goals and our relationship.

As my social media following has grown, I’m having discussions with brands that aren’t in my niche but with whom there could be a symbiotic relationship.

5. Become a public speaker.

Public speaking is also fun after the nauseous pit in your stomach goes away, at least for me. Now that I’ve overcome that feeling, public speaking has been good to me.

Having a voice on your blog makes getting into public speaking because people and businesses want to know what you have to say before they hire you to say it. Again, having a social media following helps, too. Companies like it when you can attract an audience to an event.

Public speaking can be very lucrative once you’re even slightly established. If you get into public speaking, you’ll do some gigs for free. Just like with your first articles, you’ll eventually feel that not getting paid for your first public speaking gigs is a good thing.

Once you’ve gotten better at the craft, the trajectory to earn good money is slightly less than vertical. An added perk with public speaking in cities where you don’t live is that the people and businesses that hire you expect to pay for your travel, hotel, and some food.

Another friend of mine has a public speaking course, that’s all about how to get into the public speaking space. It’s the course I use and some of his templates I still use today.

6. Become a podcaster.

Honestly, I fell into podcasting totally by accident. Thank heavens I did fall into it.

I love podcasting because it’s a wealth of information. I’m gay. My husband’s gay. Our platform is personal finance for the LGBTQ community. One might think that I know my community inside and out. But I don’t. There is so much that I don’t know — and my podcast helped me see that.

When I learn something new on my podcast, I research it and learn how my business can help. This new knowledge gives me content for future podcasts, freelancing writing, and articles for my blog that link to affiliates with solutions. See the cycle?

Podcasting has also been a good income stream for me. Some of my brand partnerships have happened in part because I’ve included my podcast as a selling feature with the partnership. Also, because brands want to connect with my niche, the LGBTQ community, brands have asked to sponsor my show.

7. Sell courses.

I’m creating my first course now. As you can see from all my recommendations above, many online entrepreneurs create courses on topics they’re capable of teaching. Even before you start doing any of the above, you may already be an expert in something you can teach.

That’s great! Don’t wait. Create your course. Make your course your main platform.

Is it easier to sell your course after you’ve generated a steady stream of traffic to your site and after you have a substantial social media following? Yes.

Is that the only path? No.

I have another friend/colleague, who established her course as her platform and her blog traffic and social media following followed.

Being creative with marketing your course may make my above recommendations easier or unnecessary.

8. Be a social media manager.

My next two recommendations aren’t income streams for me, but I know many people for whom they are.

Social media is essential for bloggers. It can be a full-time job itself. In fact, for many bloggers, it is. That’s why they hire out their social media to social media managers. As your business, brand and social media following grow, it’s harder to stay engaged with your social media followers personally. Your blog traffic and your social media following are your bread and butter. Don’t dismiss it.

The good thing about becoming a social media manager is that if you like (or are already good with) one or more social media platforms, research on YouTube and with podcasts how to become a social media manager for someone else, and you can make yourself a nice income.

As with anything, you may need to start at the bottom of the income ladder, but it won’t be long before you can make this a part of your income stream.

9. Help others by becoming a virtual assistant.

Though I haven’t been a virtual assistant, I desperately need one. The job description for a virtual assistant is broad, and you can define it on your terms. Virtual assistants:

• Manage emails
• Manage calendars
• Manage social media
• Help with editing
• Website/blog design
• Research
• Act as personal assistants
• Other random items

What and how much service you provide will help determine how much you charge, commensurate with experience. If you need, start out simple and small. As time goes on, add more skills to your resume and increase your prices.

The most significant selling point of being a virtual assistant, in addition to the income stream, is that you virtually assist from literally anywhere in the world. It’s in the job title. Want to work from Idaho Falls? Do it. Want to work from a beach in the Caribbean? The option is yours.

These are just nine ways you can diversify income streams. They’re not the only ways. Hopefully, these nine will get your entrepreneur brain churning on all the ways you can make money in addition to working for your boss or working for yourself.

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Is there really hope in the friend zone?

You feel something. They don’t. You want something. They don’t. You try, you show up, you’re available, and they say, “Let’s just be friends.” Ugh!

The “friend zone” has thwarted many a would-be lover.

The friend zone can become the danger-zone if it’s not treated with caution. For the would-be lover, every glance, slightest nicety, and hint of attraction (valid or otherwise) are always seen as prospects for a hopeful future.

All too often, unfortunately, such hopes are dashed and hearts crushed when the would-be lover’s prospect finds prospects elsewhere.

Five areas within the friend zone can make it the danger-zone.

Proceed with caution.

Friends in the friend zone aren’t friends with benefits.

One of the benefits of being single for many is the opportunity to mingle sexually. In today’s more sexually open culture, people choose to be single for longer and enjoy the benefits of having friends with benefits.

Two adults who don’t want a relationship but are sexually active can be a match made in heaven. That is, as long as both sexual partners stay on the same relationships/sexual plain. For someone stuck against their will in the friend zone, a night of benefits can be too confusing to let the friendship last.

Don’t merge the friend zone with benefits.

Friends in the friend zone don’t expect a free dinner.

We’re still ironing out gender norms. For that reason, deciding who pays for what is a little more confusing today than it used to be.

To each their own, of course, but it’s not fair to expect a would-be lover stuck in the friend zone to pay for nights. The occasional treat may be okay, but when it starts to feel like a relationship, act like a relationship, and look like a relationship, then the friend zone is disrupted. It becomes a one-sided relationship.

Friends in the friend zone should be sure to keep the friendship equitable to not confuse the would-be lover. You need to pay as much as you let the other person pay.

Friends in the friend zone aren’t rebounds.

Having a would-be lover in the friend zone is nice. It boosts confidence and can fuel the ego. It’s a safe space. It can also feel like a place of refuge when your relationship with your significant other goes south. When one relationship repels you, you’re often attracted to the relationship of least resistance.

Unfortunately, a one-night stand for you can confuse for a friend stuck in the friend zone. Therefore, find your rebounds and one-night stands in other zones. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself with more than one strained relationship and make repairing either too hard.

Friends in the friend zone don’t replace partners.

Having the advantage of a friendship doesn’t mean you can take advantage of your friends, especially those in the friend zone.

If you start to feel like your friend in the friend zone is becoming your go-to friend, a BFF of sorts, they may start to interpret your friendship as more — or begin to resent whatever relationship there is.

When one person wants more than another, lines can become easily blurred. It’s up to the one who established the lines not to cross them.

Friends in the friend zone aren’t like other friends.

Friends in the friend zone are special friends who can quickly be taken advantage of and feel taken advantage of by the would-be love. We all have who would bury a body for us if we needed and who wouldn’t expect anything in return – well, except maybe a good bottle of whiskey.

Friends in the friend zone aren’t that kind of friend because they may feel deserving of more than a bottle of whiskey.

Should they expect anything in return for small favors? No, but people in the friend zone can easily see what’s not there because they want to see what they want to see.

Every relationship and every kind of relationship has its own boundaries. Staying within those boundaries, especially when you’re put contrary to your desires, can be hard. When you’re the one who sets those boundaries, it’s important to not cross them.

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Bad news. Your relationship is probably already over. You just don’t realize it yet.

You get home from an emergency TP run. That’s when you realize the cashier tied the handles in a double knot. You need to go — and it’s practically impossible to get that knot untied.

The scary thing is that sometimes it’s easier to untie a tight knot in a plastic bag than it is to notice when your relationship is over.

If you’re experiencing any of the potentially unnoticeable experiences below, don’t just let the knot sit there because you don’t want to tackle it. Make the effort to untie the knot, and run far, far away.

1. If you prefer to spend time with anyone or anything other than your partner.

It’s time to end your relationship if you’d rather spend more time in unnecessary work meetings or driving behind a person going five miles an hour under the speed limit than with your partner, spouse, or significant other.

If watching paint dry or waiting for water to boil feels more productive than spending another minute with than your other half, your relationship is over.

2. If residents in a nursing home have a bigger future than your relationship.

If, in your heart of hearts, deep down inside your soul, you know your relationship isn’t going anywhere fast, medium, or slow, end it before it goes any further. Rose’s heart in Titanic will forever go on and on for Jack, but your love is dead in the water. That’s a sign you need to pull the plug on your relationship faster than you hit the “skip” button when that Celine Dion song sneaks onto your playlist.

3. If you’re on again and off again and then on again.

It’s off. It really, truly is off, and one or both of you just can’t seem to stay off. The only thing worse than a returning ex is recurring herpes — especially if the returning ex is the person who gave you those recurring herpes.

It may have been fun in high school to have the drama of the on-again-off-again relationship, but adulting isn’t high school, and high school relationships aren’t an example of mature adulthood.

4. Visions of breaking up have replaced your meditation ritual.

Stress is only useful in pressure cookers, and “stressed” is only good if you’re reading it in a mirror. (Hint: stressed backward = desserts.) If you’re significant other causes you more stress than a work deadline or that recurring dream in which you forgot to study for the big exam, it’s time to end the stress and stop being stressed.

A healthy relationship is a partnership of equal helping each other to become better people, not a partnership that requires daily doses of Celexa.

5. You’re already sleeping with other people.

If you’re in a relationship that doesn’t allow you to sleep with other people and you’re sleeping with other people, you’re no longer in a relationship. The sooner you tell your ex that they’re now your ex, the sooner you’ll eliminate the risk that Clark Gable III (of Cheaters fame) will show up at your doorstep. Besides, it’s better if you and your ex both can move onto healthier relationships.

6. You fight more often and longer than Mayweather and McGregor.

If you’re relationship consist of more fights than dinners, it’s a sign you should end the fighting by ending the relationship. Healthy relationships don’t consist of fight after fight (or fights that last all night).

End this relationship and find one with a better chance at including a diamond ring instead of a boxing ring.

7. If You’re not Paula Abdul and M.C. Kat.

They say that opposites attract, but you’re not a magnet nor a pop star. Relationships are interesting and exciting when you each have unique characteristics and interests. But, if you have less in common than James Carville and Mary Matalin, you might not have a future.

If you disagree with every word your partner makes and cringe at every breath your partner takes, you have no synchronicity and the relationship is over.

8. If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it’s a duck.

If you feel like friends, talk like friends, and live like friends, you’re friends. We never want to hurt our friends, so we often don’t want the “relationship” to end. Even though it sounds cliché to say, “Let’s stay friends,” sometimes that works.

I mean, look at Will & Grace.

9. You have more fun with yourself than with your partner.

If you’d rather be alone than spend more time when your partner than don’t waste another minute with your partner. There’s nothing wrong with wanting the occasional alone time, but if you want alone time more than you want together time, don’t try to stay together forever.

9.5 You have more fun with yourself than with your partner.

If you’d rather polish the pearl or clean the pipe more than lie with your other, it may be time to go solo in life and bed. This isn’t to say that going solo when you’re having relations is bad, it’s just that healthy relations include a healthy amount of copulation.

It’s probably true that if your relationship is over you already know it. It’s just a matter of saying “it’s over.” Stein’s Law states that things that can’t go on forever won’t. If the end of your relationship is inevitable, then don’t avoid it.

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Not getting the downtime you deserve? Here’s how to ask for a vacation.

If you’re like me, you work to travel.

You can’t travel, though, unless you can get away from work. Even if you don’t have the travel-bug, staycations are worth it. But getting vacation time is necessary if you plan to get away at all.

Studies suggest that men who don’t take a vacation at least once a year are 32% more likely to die of a heart attack. It’s miserable to die for work. For that reason alone, you should vacation as much as you can.

The problem is, it’s easier to get a child to stop saying “no” than to get a boss to start saying “yes” to more time off. Here are ways to go up, up and away and far and away (yes, that’s two movie references in one sentence).

Negotiate vacation time before taking a job.

The absolute best time to arrange adequate vacation time (read: more vacation time than you’re offered) is to negotiate the amount of vacation you want — or think you can get — before you accept a job offer.

Before you sign the employer/employee contract, you have the leverage to negotiate more of what you want. The more the hiring manager wants you, the more leverage you have. Sure, you could negotiate yourself out of a job. But, in most cases, by the time negotiations start, the hiring manager has usually made their decision and put in the time to extend the offer.

If, during the negotiation, you feel like you’re starting to lose, stop. Just remember that negotiating before you accept an offer is optimal. Negotiating afterward isn’t impossible; it’s just improbable.

Negotiate vacation time before taking a promotion.

If you’re reading this article after you have a job, all hope isn’t lost.

Getting vacation time isn’t a matter of applying to another company, either. Just ask for a promotion within your current company. A job promotion often comes another opportunity to negotiate for more. You’ll already be talking about a pay increase, so you might as well throw in talk about a vacation increase.

It’s likely that your company has salary and vacation policies established by its human resource department, but everything is negotiable — especially for the right person for the right promotion. The better your current job performance and the better you interview for a promotion, the more likely you are to get the pay and vacation you want.

Swap increased pay for increased vacation time.

All salary negotiations run the risk of stalling. All businesses have budgets. Maybe the person hiring you doesn’t have complete control over what they can offer you. They probably have a range to stick to.

If you’re not satisfied with the salary or pay offered, negotiate your other benefits. Along with vacation time, you can ask for more sick time or the ability to work remotely on a regular basis. Everything’s on the table, so create the full-employee benefits package, commensurate with the job, you want.

Be awesome enough to request more vacation time.

Good companies do what they can to retain good employees — and keep them happy. If you’re not up for a job promotion and you don’t want to leave, you can still negotiate a vacation increase by being so awesome they can’t deny you one.

Being awesome isn’t enough, though. It also helps to be smart. Wait for the appropriate time and circumstances to ask about getting vacation time. If it’s a recession and your firm has frozen salary increases or is laying off employees, it’s not the time to ask for more vacation. If your boss is having a bad day or your team is overloaded, don’t bother asking for more time off.

If your company is performing well, your team’s firing on all cylinders, and your boss has a grin on their face, that’s a good time to ask for more.

Propose a remote work/play vacation.

Thanks to the internet and computers, more jobs can be performed any time of day from anywhere in the world. As time goes by, more businesses are acclimating to letting their employees work remotely, if only on a limited basis.

Studies show that providing employees with even limited remote-working flexibility can boost performance. Just this year, my husband’s employer approved employees working remotely to extend vacation time. Therefore, we can fly somewhere for a week-long vacation, and he can continue that “vacation” another week by working while we’re away.

To be fair, this is more of a perk for me than for him. But, he enjoys taking me out to dinner in an exotic location after I spend the day at the beach and he spends the day working pool-side (sarcasm off).

Take unpaid leave.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. If you aren’t getting vacation time as desired, you can always take unpaid leave. Unpaid leave isn’t always available, though. But, if there’s that option, it can be one way to get in some downtime.

Unpaid leave is just what it sounds like: time away from work without a paycheck. Remember, the more unpaid leave you take, the less take-home pay you end up with. Be sure your budget supports such a move and don’t sabotage long-term saving and investing goals.

Buy vacation time.

The option of last resort is to buy vacation time. Again, not all businesses offer this choice. Buying vacation time means your company will take money out of your regular pay in exchange for time off.

I didn’t know this was an option until I read my human first employer’s human resources manual a year after I was hired. It’s just as well because I started buying vacation time, thinking that it was incredible.

I sure did enjoy getting vacation time, but I didn’t love the smaller paychecks that followed. Unlike taking unpaid leave, vacation time that’s bought continues to plague you after your vacation ends.

Taking vacation is a good and necessary part of working. Too many of us (Americans) take too few vacations. While I’m doing my part to raise the average, make sure you do your part, too. If you need or want more vacation than you have, these seven tips will point you in the right direction.

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Certain things go as you get older. Is your cognitive ability a casualty? Learn what you can do to keep your skills sharp.

Why is the scenario below a common occurrence in my everyday life?

Me: Hi, I’m John.
Maximus Lazarus Falcon: Hi, John. I’m Maximus Lazarus Falcon.
Me: It’s nice to meet you.
Maximus Lazarus Falcon: It’s nice to meet you, too.
Me: Um, what’s your name again?

Now that I’m in my 40s, one might claim that I’m starting to suffer from a decline in cognitive skills. Au contraire! I’ve always lacked such cognitive skills. I’ve been struggling to remember people’s names for as long as I can remember anything.

What are cognitive skills?

As LearningRx.com says, “Cognitive skills are the core skills your brain uses to think, read, learn, remember, reason, and pay attention. Working together, they take incoming information and move it into the bank of knowledge you use every day at school, at work, and in life.”

A common belief is that we lose our cognitive skills as we age. The truth is that we gain our cognitive skills between birth until about 18 to 20 years old. At that point, some cognitive skills decline, and some continue to improve. Even in our older age, as some cognitive skills decline, other stay stable.

The reason why I couldn’t remember people’s names in my 20s is likely because I lacked cognitive attention skills. I’m not ADD or ADHD. I just lacked and maybe continued to lack solid cognitive attention skills. As I age, my inability to recall people’s names whom I’ve met less than six times (apparently) could be attributed to a decline in my cognitive memory skills.

What cognitive skills tend to improve with age?

Cognitive intelligence skills tend to improve and outperform younger people only because older people have acquired more knowledge and experience over time. Likewise, reason and problem-solving skills tend to develop because every year a person doesn’t die they’ve rationalized and solved more problems. Coming up with a solution for an older person may take longer than for a younger person, but they can find a solution, and often a better one, because of their history. Consequently, wise people in movies, think Yoda, tend to be or look much older.

Another cognitive skill that may improve or, at least, stay consistent until much later in life is cognitive attention skills . Therefore, a three-year-old can’t sit still for three minutes, and a 40-year-old can listen to a two-hour lecture on cognitive skills.

Another cognitive skill that typically improves or maintains homeostasis is language proficiency. Older people have lived longer and, therefore, have heard, read and used more words. An expected improvement is vocabulary is why we expect our wise, old sages to use more than one and two-syllable words or to use more than 140 characters to make important policy decisions.

What cognitive skills tend to decline with age?

Aging isn’t all roses and sunshine. Some cognitive skills do decline. That’s why you get upset when driving behind an older person.

Memory is often the first cognitive skill to be recognized as declining. By now, it’s almost expected and, at first, it’s humorous. I have three nieces and no matter whose name I’m trying to recall, I always recall the other two first. This why we chuckle when we walk into another room to get something only to forget the very thing we went into that room to get.

Of course, the humor may someday end. For this reason, it’s scary when an older adult goes missing. We’ve all heard the stories of older people who went for a drive and ended up hundreds of miles away in another state.

How can you maintain or slow the decline of cognitive skills?

As with our physical and mental health, best maintaining cognitive skills comes down to “use it or lose it.” That is, of course, unless there are extenuating circumstances such as an illness, accident or disease.

Exercise more

Also along the lines of physical and mental health, physical exercise is one of the best ways to fight the decline of cognitive skills. Studies show that just 60-minutes of exercise three times a week has a positive effect on cognition. So, get moving, no matter how old you are. I recently read that 40 is the new 20. Join me in getting fit!

Stimulate your brain

Learn something new. Try a new hobby. Watch documentaries and foreign language movies. Read more, especially on topics that make you think. Play games such as crossword puzzles, chess, Trivial Pursuit, Jeopardy, Poker, Rummy and even Memory.

All these will make your brain work and keep it working longer. So, start playing, just avoid betting when playing. For more brain stimulation, add more culture to your life.

Stay positive and reduce stress

Depression and isolation have been shown to have an adverse effect on the elderly in numerous ways, including causing a decline in cognitive skills. Research indicates that “not only do we know of the cognitive deficits present during acute depression episodes but we also know that some cognitive deficits do not completely go away even when depression is in remission.”

Look for ways to stay social and engaged with friends and family. As we age, we tend to want to stay home. This is the exact opposite of what we should do.

It’s, also, beneficial for us to engage in creative ways to stay positive. It’s impossible to stay depressed when you’re dancing naked in your living room or surrounded by amazing people – but maybe don’t do both at the same time – well, why not? Go ahead and dance naked in your living room surrounded by awesome people.

The takeaway is that some decline in cognitive skills is inevitable, however, in many cases, we can at least slow that decline. Likewise, some things get better with age, so it’s not all negative. The more aware we are of the signs of declining cognitive skills and the more steps we take to slow that decline, the better.

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Living healthier takes time, commitment, and information. If you have a phone, you have the information, the rest is up to you.

The gig-economy isn’t great only because it makes working excellent and entrepreneurship more accessible. I love the gig-economy because it is also creating mic-dropping technology.

The gig-economy created Uber and Lyft that has elevated the taxiing experience. It has brought us robotic crop pickers. The gig-economy has made waiting 36 hours for my Amazon package a long time!

There are other ways life is getting better. Picture it! Ten years ago, a little company called Apple invented something smaller called the iPhone and this made phones “smart.” Finally, there was a device small enough to fit in a pocket that played music and people could talk to and text with each other on it.

The world was amazed.

That little Apple, though, knew the greatest part of its invention was its “app technology.” Now anyone could create technology to add to these phones that improve life in the 21st Century. One such way apps are helping humans is with healthier living. Below are some of my and my friend’s favorite healthy-living apps. Try some and live healthier, too.

Exercise.

Zombies, Run!

As a fan of running and a bigger fan of The Walking Dead – so much so I’m even still watching Fear the Walking Dead – I’ll start with my personal favorite. Zombies, Run! combines a little virtual reality, gaming, music and fartlek.

That’s right. I said fartlek. Fartlek is Swedish for “speed play” and is an efficient way to lose weight and get in shape because it fluctuates the heart rate.

Zombies, Run! plays music while you run and notifies you when a zombie starts chasing you. If you don’t speed up, you’ll die. Not really, but it’s fun to pretend. There are 200 missions, and you’ll collect supplies and points as you go.

7 Minute Workout

Have 60, even 30 minutes to exercise? Me, either. The amazing gig-economy isn’t putting more hours in the day. That’s why I love the 7 Minute Workout app because I can usually find 7 minutes to workout, sometimes 14, sometimes 21 and . . . you get the picture.

The 7 Minute Workout app has 72 exercises, 22 workouts that can create up to 1,000 variations and the app progresses with your fitness level to make sure you don’t plateau or regress. I especially love that the 7 Minute Workout includes both aerobic and anaerobic exercises, as most training apps focused only on aerobic exercises.

iScubaToo

Jerry Garcia, the lead singer and a founder of The Grateful Dead, once famously said that he never would’ve tried drugs if he had tried scuba diving first. Aside from being Nancy Reagan’s most ardent ally, scuba diving is great for the mind, body and spirit.

CEO and Founder of iScubaToo, Chad Nash says of scuba diving, “It’s great for both the mind and body by keeping you present at all times. It’s a kind of meditative state. You don’t have to be the most physically fit to dive to start, so it fits everyone. From there, you can move onto other active, healthy opportunities.”

iScubaToo helps you easily find, rate, review and connect with dive shops around the world. Not all dive shops have quality safety or equipment ratings. This app works like Airbnb and Uber but for divers to find quality dive shops anywhere in the world.

Yoga

I love yoga! The human body is the best weight-machine, and we take ours everywhere. Unfortunately, many think they can only get a good weight workout at the gym, but that’s not so. So, let’s combine tranquility with technology.

Down Dog

Who doesn’t like to do it doggy style? Not only is Down Dog a great whole-body stretch and mild inversion yoga pose, but it’s also a great app. If you’re intimidated about doing to a yoga studio and falling all over yourself in front of strangers, or you simply don’t have the $1,000,000 to buy a yoga studio membership, check out Down Dog.

Down Dog claims it has so many sequences that you could never run out of content. That’s great because that keeps you challenged. Along with sequence and instruction, Down Dog plays appropriate music for a “studio-like yoga experience from the comfort of your home.”

Yoga Wake Up

If you like to do your yoga early in the morning like me to do yoga, it’s hard to go from an earth shattering alarm to a gentle yoga experience. That’s why I love Yoga Wake Up.

Yoga Wake Up wakes you with peaceful, meditative sounds rather than a noise that lets miners and steel workers know their shifts ended. It also lets you start your yoga practice with “slow, delicious morning stretches from the warmth of your covers.” That makes me want to wake up several times a day.

Meditation.

Deep Sleep with Andrew Johnson

Have trouble falling asleep at night? You’re not alone. According to the National Sleep Foundation, about 45% of Americans report having trouble falling asleep at least once a week.

Deep Sleep with Andrew Johnson, brought to you by Michael Schneider, is the answer. I don’t know a single thing about either of those men, but they’re the only strange men I allow in my bed because their app and Johnson’s calming Scottish voice helps me fall asleep when the sheep refuse to jump the fence.

Omvana

For pure, lotus-sitting meditation, I love listening to Vishen Lakhiani’s 6 Phase Meditation on the Omvana app. In 21 minutes, Lakhiani walks listeners through a comprehensive meditation routine that includes connection, gratitude, forgiveness, visualization, daily intention and blessing.

As an overly-scheduled person with a perpetually wondering mind, Omvana helps me exercise uninterrupted meditation and feel the full effects of that kind of meditative focus.

Healthy eating.

Lose It!

Studies consistently show that one of the best ways to lose weight is to track your eating. But, keeping a ledger of the food you eat all day, every day and having to track the portion-size and calorie count of everything you eat sucks more than sucking lemons. That’s why Lose It! is great.

Lose It! lets you track the food you eat three different and easy ways. The first is by searching its database rather than going to some random site referred to you by Google. The second is scanning a bar code, if one’s available. Now, you can take a picture of your food and the resident experts at Lose It! will let you know how many calories you’re eating.

Lose It! connects with other apps, like other fitness trackers, and lets you set goals and track your progress.

Fit Men Cook

How can you find meals that won’t make the eyes of the resident experts at Lose It! pop? Get the Fit Men Cook app. Fit Men Cook gives easy and affordable meals that can be prepared in advance. It helps you to choose healthy meals and not succumb to a fast food meal because of time.

Fit Men Cook even makes grocery shopping easier. Based on the meals you choose to eat that week; Fit Men Cook will create a grocery list that can be checked off as you toss items into your grocery cart.

Plus, even if you can’t find a single recipe that you like, Kevin Curry, who invented Fit Men Cook, is delicious in and of himself.

Embrace the gig-economy. Embrace apps. They’ll help make you happier, healthier, and because most apps are free, they may make you wealthier.

Do you use apps to help you have a healthier lifestyle? What are some of your favorites? We’d love to hear about it over at the #Adulting Facebook community

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Amassing debt is easy. It’s a lot harder to answer the “how” and “why”. These answers can help you avoid mistakes and they can help you remedy them.

When the topic of credit card debt came up on the Adulting editorial calendar, it only made sense to assign it to one-half of the Debt Free Guys.

In case you’re not familiar, my husband and I acquired $51,000 in credit card debt despite having years of experience in financial services. The reason we amassed that impressive total was that we were living and spending unconsciously and trying to make up for years of insecurity and self-doubt.

Our story is just one example of how people find themselves in more debt than they can handle. There are numerous reasons why people get into debt.  Below is a list of what to look out for so you can avoid getting into debt yourself. And if any of these describes your story, know that there is a way out.

Don’t know their financial goals.

It’s my belief (and my husband’s) that more people are in debt than there needs to be because they aren’t clear on what their financial goals are.

It’s like knowing your destination when you’re in the car. The very first and most important thing you need to know is where you want to go. You can have the nicest car, years of experience driving, and it may be a beautiful, bright, and sunny day. But if you don’t know where you want to go, you’ll never get there.

This issue was my challenge. I didn’t know what my financial goals were and so I spent my money on any and everything. I sought short-term, easy satisfaction rather than long-term, secure satisfaction.

Don’t know their life goals.

The sister reason why people get into too much debt is that they aren’t aware of their life goals. Financial goals and life goals are not synonymous.

For example, our stepson just graduated high school. He recently asked for help to create a plan to ensure he’ll be financially secure, not necessarily wealthy, but stable. Financial security is his financial goal. After doing some exercises with him, we’ve since attached a dollar sign to what financially secure means to him and how to get there.

His life goal is to be an artist. He’s currently interested in videography and photography and is going to college for photography. He knows there’s a chance he won’t make a fortune in photography, but in that instance, his financial goals will support his life goals.

Without knowing what you actually want and developing a strategy to get it, you’ll go in any direction the wind takes you. Have you met people like that? Every time you meet them, they have a new goal, they’re moving elsewhere, they’re focused on something new.

Try to keep up with the Joneses.

It is challenging to live in such a consumption society. Everywhere you turn, someone has something newer and nicer than you. Whether it’s your neighbor or the guy on television who you want to be like or be with, it’s easy to get sucked into competitive consumption.

My sister and brother-in-law experienced this in their neighborhood. Theirs is an interesting case study. They lived in a quiet area full of homeowners about their age and children all about their children’s ages. They were all middle-income earners, all within the same income bracket.

Sure enough, when a neighbor did an upgrade to their home, suddenly several other neighbors did upgrades. When someone bought a new car, suddenly there were new cars all over the neighborhood. It all ended finally when one couple said they had to move away because the competition was hurting them financially.

Trying to keep up with The Joneses is like trying to live someone else’s dream. In either case, you’ll never achieve true happiness if you’re living someone else’s life.

They don’t know how to manage money.

Most of us never learn how to handle money. It’s a major disservice of our school system. We motivate and encourage our students, regardless of student loan debt, to get the best and highest job possible, and yet they don’t know how to manage their money.

Being financially secure is not contingent on how much money you earn, but how you handle the money you do earn. With the accessibility of the internet, there is a host of financial information at anyone’s fingertips.

They live and spend unconsciously.

This issue is synonymous with sticking your proverbial head in the sand. Often people live and spend unconsciously because taking the time to learn about their financial situation would mean they’d have to live and spend better. Whether they earn too little income to support their lifestyle or are trapped in an increasing cycle of amassing debt, they continue not to pay attention because it’s easier than addressing the truth.

Unfortunately for many, they learn Stein’s Law the hard way. That law says that if something can’t go on forever, it won’t. Stein’s Law is why most of the emails my husband and I receive are from people who are about to file bankruptcy or have reached retirement age and can’t retire.

They just divorced.

Divorce can be paralyzing to one’s life and finances. No part of divorce is fun, and it can leave both parties bruised emotionally and financially.

Not only is divorce itself expensive due to legal and court fees, but the division of assets rarely seems fair to both sides. The compound effect is that contractual obligations, such as requirements to repay debts, don’t disappear when you divorce.

Over 75% of Americans are in debt. It’s logical to conclude that 75% of couples in America who get divorced also have debt. Those debts must still be repaid despite the status of your marriage.

They have unexpected or large medical bills.

Healthcare in the United States is not getting cheaper, and a health scare or issue can easily wipe out one’s life savings. Even with an increased usage of HSA accounts and access to retirement funds to cover medical expenses, the wrong ailment can ruin one’s financial life.

For this reason alone, more Americans need to have an emergency savings account. But, with the estimation that 47% of Americans would go into debt if they had a $500 emergency, we have a long way to go.

They have an addiction.

People don’t make logical decisions when they have an addiction. You might automatically assume that this point is about gambling. To be sure, gambling does ruin a lot of people’s financial lives. They lose life savings and acquire numerous, even sketchy forms of debt.

This point also applies to people with drug and alcohol addiction who may make poor financial decisions that can cause them to acquire debt. It’s easy to get wrapped up in letting debt subsidize your addiction.

They don’t understand how credit cards work.

In part, because many people don’t understand money, most people don’t know how debt works. We receive too many emails from people saying that they weren’t aware that their interest rate could increase. They assume that the only reason their credit limit increased was that they’re doing well financially. They assume that the only reason they were offered a credit card was due to their creditworthiness – because they’re doing well with their existing credit cards.

That’s simply not true.

Just as with purchasing investments, it’s important for people to understand the nuts and bolts of how credit works. This is where reading the fine print helps and reading personal finance blogs that you can trust helps even more.

They’re unemployed or underemployed.

Even though the economy has been recovering since 2008, and wages are increasing, too many people are unemployed or underemployed. The economy is changing, and more jobs are being automated.

It’s incumbent upon American workers to increase their skill-sets and diversify income streams. This is one of the reasons why I recommend to everyone –everyone – to start a blog. Regardless of your career or skill set and regardless of what direction you want to take your career, a blog is a critical component of future career and financial success. Some people, in fact, think having a blog is more important than having a resume.

These are the top 10 reasons why many people find themselves in more debt than they can manage. Once you know what to look out for, it’s easier to avoid the mistakes. If you see yourself in one or more of the reasons above, now that you know your problem, you’ll more quickly remedy it.

Have you experienced one or more of the reasons above? Were you able to climb out of debt? We’d love to hear about it in the #Adulting Facebook community.

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We’re used to our mundane schedules. Take a break and experience the world around you. Give your life some oomph.

I find that when my life starts feeling ho hum or repetitive, it’s because I’ve gravitated towards a routine of cheap and easy. I, personally, get easily sucked in a cycle of wake, work, sleep, repeat because I’m often focused on a goal.

These feelings tell me that I need to add a dash of excitement to my life and experience a little culture outside my office.  It’s important to get outside of my own head and into someone else’s.

I live in a great city within a great state that has a lot to offer. Despite this, I need to take the initiative to make the most of it. These are some of the ways I get my culture-fix.

Virtual music.

My number one, all-time favorite way to gain culture is from music – virtual music that is. It’s not that I don’t like concerts. It’s just that with YouTube, iTunes, Amazon and Spotify, you can listen to almost any song ever made from any time in history, anywhere in the world, for a nominal fee (if there’s a fee at all).

How amazing is that!

I frequently and consciously make myself look for and listen to music I don’t necessarily gravitate towards, nor love. Occasionally, I learn to love a sound or a song and often I’m surprised that I loved one my whole life and never knew it.

I often listen to Radio Roulette. Radio Roulette allows you to choose the station, album, or song your music platform recommends for you. Usually they fit in with your genre of choice, but now and then they throw something crazy in there, and it can be exciting.

Unvirtual music, big and small.

Now, if I didn’t have to live within space, time and a budget, I’d listen to live music on site every day of the week and twice on Tuesday (I don’t even know what that means, but I hear it a lot). Live music is far and away my favorite way to hear new music.

Nothing can beat the energy of artists entertaining their fans. This is why bigger bands and singers say they prefer smaller venues. Smaller venues are more intimate, and the performer connects better with their audience.

Of course, if you can sell out The O2 Arena, who wouldn’t?

Choose friends who like live music to do a musical round-robin. Each of you takes a turn finding live shows to watch, ideally the person who chooses the show already likes the music and the others don’t know about it.

Talk talk.

I’m the same as most of you and spend the bulk of my day online. My job requires it. Then, as the human species evolves, we seem to spend more of our personal time online. I like to face-this and snap-that like anyone else. However, I do fear losing the art of conversation.

Studies continue to show that people are spending more time online than with actual people. When many of us do go out to walk amongst other humans, we find it hard to engage and empathize with each other. Some of us even acquire agoraphobic traits.

Therefore, I force myself to get out and talk verbal-to-audible with other humans. I like to hear what’s going on in their lives. I like to revel in their triumphs and support them in their tribulations. I like to understand their points of view, especially if they don’t align with mine.

You’ll think I’m a fuddy duddy (especially after that), but I believe it’s nearly impossible to hold an honest, tempered, political debate online. Virtual discussions lose tone and inflection. They don’t have eye-contact or show emotions. They’re very one-sided, too. When we’re responding online, we’re trapped in our thoughts rather than engaged in conversation.

Consequently, we don’t learn anything from virtual debates. Our opinions aren’t necessarily challenged. Virtual discussions are the virtual opposite of the Socratic Method. If Socrates had to live in a world of virtual debate, it might’ve killed him.

Café o-lay.

Speaking of music, conversations, and debates, find them in a café. In many European countries, the cafes are where it all happens. They listen to live music, hear book or poem readings, engage in enjoyable conversations and interesting debates all while enjoying a well-crafted latte.

Modern, American-style coffee shops that have made their way around the globe have become more transactional and less experiential. But, the true cafes exist, and they’re not traded on the U.S. stock. Look for those small mom-and-pop shops.

A night (or a day, or a minute) at the museums.

This may seem like an obvious one, but I can’t tell you how many times I visit a city and someone who lives there tells me they’ve never been to this museum or that museum. Or, they’ve only gone to a certain museum because I was in town.

There are so many museums, big and small, everywhere in the world. They’re fascinating and historical. They tell us stories and share experiences.

Most museums offer free or discount days, if money is your concern. Many have delicious cafes and restaurants inside or outside that can enhance your experience.

Fully take advantage of these. I was recently at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City for the first time and had the opportunity to see Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night in real life. I had seen it countless times in posters, books and TV before, but I never experienced it in person. I’m positive that most people have seen and will see Starry night countless times in their lives on posters, in

I’m positive that most people have seen and will see Starry night countless times in their lives on posters, in books, and on TV too. The amazing difference between those images of Starry Night and not the real painting is that the actual painting seems alive.

What makes it so magical and historically significant is how Van Gogh made a painting come to life. As you look at it, it moves. It has depth. It’s as close to living as a painting will ever get.

That’s why I was astounded by the crowd of people around the original painting all taking pictures of it with their phones. I looked directly at it the entire time I was in front of it because I figured I can look at a replica any time.

Document it.

Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime are bringing documentaries into our living rooms. In the days of yore, wherever that is, you had to go to a movie theater, usually an art-house theatre, to see documentaries. Unfortunately, this gave limited audiences to some amazing pieces of work and cultural experiences.

Now, thousands of great documentaries are available at our fingertips. I know it’s easier to watch Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead (guilty!), but many documentaries offer excitement and education all in one. They introduce us to people who are so much like us, but other than via the documentary, we’d never know of them.

Roam.

This is just my fancy way of saying travel. In fact, I should say, “TRAVEL!” I have never gained more culture than when I’ve gone abroad and to new places within my own country, which in some parts can feel like a whole different world.

It’s easy to believe that what we see in the news is reality, but it’s barely as real as reality television. Are all places like your backyard? No, and that’s the point. But, is everyone else living everywhere else experiencing the beginning of the apocalypse? No, and you can’t really learn that without going there.

With as vast and diverse as our country is, you don’t even have to leave our borders to experience different cultures. So, this doesn’t have to be an overly expensive cultural experience.

As Saint Augustine said, “The world is a book and those who do not travel only read one page.”

Read.

Speaking of reading, one of the cheapest ways to travel through space and time is reading a book – a good, old-fashioned, paper book.

Yes, I loved my Kindle, and I downloaded a library of books because of it. But, nothing beats holding an organically made book in your hand. It seems like others agree, too. Print sales rose 3.3% in 2016 over 2015. Consequently, e-book sales have been dropping around the globe.

There’s just something about reading a traditional book in an authentic café drinking a crafted latte. That may sound snobbish, but you can have that whole experience for $20. So, I think of it as economical and grounded.

You can’t travel in time . . . yet . . . and, if you can’t go to a place now, the next best thing is reading a book in which you create your own visuals. Not only are books relaxing, they’re also inspiring. They make the mind think and exercise the brain.

Get lectured.

I learned that listening to lectures doesn’t have to stop in college. I also learned that, contrary to college, I now enjoy listening to lectures. For many, this has been inspired by TED Talks. However, college campuses, convention centers, churches and community centers around the world offer all different varieties of lectures, many of which are free.

Challenge yourself by going to a lecture you’re inherently opposed to hearing. Reinforce your beliefs by going to lectures by people you know. The most valuable part of a conversation is the listening part. Lectures without hecklers offer only the listening part, which can be good for the mind.

Of course, you don’t have to do these to gain culture, and this isn’t an exhaustive list. But, do something that takes you off your couch and out of your comfort zone. It can only lead to more fulfillment or knowledge.

What are some ways you experience culture? What effect do these experiences have on you? Tell us about it in #Adulting Facebook community.

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