No cash? No problem! Fun and romance can happen without spending your whole paycheck, and may even be better for it.

My husband and I are no strangers to broke dates. We started seeing each other while interning abroad on shoestring budgets and continued to be dirt poor throughout college. Eventually, we graduated and started making decent money, but we still consider ourselves connoisseurs of the reduced-cost rendezvous.

The thing is, there’s no reason why a date needs to be pricey. In fact, those of us looking for a frugal partner may actually want to find someone who can have fun without dropping a week’s salary in the process. There are so many options for a cheap rendezvous, you can even suggest one without mentioning that you’re trying to save some money.

Here are some of the best options for dating on the cheap, pulled from my experience as a dead broke, love-struck twentysomething.

Take advantage of free admission.

Almost every local museum, zoo or other attraction has multiple free days during the year when anyone can visit for no cost. My local botanic gardens offer free admission once a quarter, while the zoo has them once a month.

Free days are usually packed with people, so it won’t be a very intimate experience – but it’s a great compromise for broke couples trying to have a little fun. Heavy crowds can also be a great opportunity for people watching.

You can find when attractions are free by searching “free admission [insert city here]” or subscribing to newsletters related to local events. Newspapers usually have an entertainment section where they list event details, and even your city’s Reddit forum will have information on when attractions are free or heavily discounted.

Get outdoors.

What better way to spend a few hours with someone special than by exploring the great outdoors? Find the best local hikes near you and pack a few snacks, water bottles, and sunscreen. You probably won’t have to pay a dime, except for the cost of gas.

Hiking not your thing? Grab a pair of old roller blades and find some quiet side streets, or take your bikes out for a ride. Being active together is always more fun than a traditional dinner-and-a-movie date, and is usually free or absurdly cheap.

It’s well known that exercising and being outdoors releases endorphins and promotes a happier mindset – perfect for a date.

If you’re not the adventurous type or don’t live near any decent hiking spots, hit up the best parks nearby or take a walk through an interesting part of town. When I first started dating my husband, we’d spend date nights taking walks around the neighborhood. Granted, we were studying abroad in London at the time so walking aimlessly was still romantic and exciting.

We didn’t have much money, but I cherished our walks, even if we covered the same ground every time.

Go to trivia events.

I’m a huge fan of going to trivia nights at my local bar. It’s one of my favorite things to do with friends, and it’s way cheaper than you might think. Trivia events usually last a couple hours, and you can order as much or as little food and drinks as you want.

Trivia on a date is fun because it’s interactive and doesn’t require you to answer repetitive questions like “where are you from?” and “how many siblings do you have?”. You’ll learn so much about the other person, like why they know Selena Gomez’s birthday or how they can list all the Star Trek captains in alphabetical order.

I always eat dinner at home before going to trivia and only order a small appetizer when I’m there, spending around $5 each time. You can find a trivia event no matter where you live or what your schedule is. Plus, it’s the perfect excuse for your friends to meet the person you’re seeing.

Cook together.

One of the most memorable dates my husband and I ever had was when we decided to make lasagna on Valentine’s Day. Neither of us had ever cooked lasagna before, but we thought it would be fun to save money and do something together.

It was a disaster. Cooking lasagna is an intense process, both in cooking and cleaning up afterward. We made enough lasagna to last the two of us for a week, after which we decided to never make it again.

But we had a blast, and I still recommend cooking together as a fun date for broke couples. Pick a recipe you’ve never tried, preferably something new or challenging like Thai Curry or a chocolate soufflé.

The point is to get you both out of your comfort zones, trying new things and embracing the challenge together. If the dish doesn’t turn out well, you’ll have a fun story to share with friends and family.

Make the shopping more exciting by visiting a local farmer’s market or ethnic grocery store together. It won’t be as easy or convenient as grabbing take-out or ordering a pizza, but you’ll have more fun and learn a new skill at the same time.

If you have any other great date ideas that won’t break the bank, let us know in the #Adulting Facebook community. See you there!

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Suffering from renter’s guilt? People making you feel less adult for not buying a house? Dude… please. See why you’re probably better off.

When it comes to the game of adulting, buying a home is often seen as the final challenge. It’s easy to think that once you own a home, your peers will admire you, your parents will respect you, and the Adult Club certificate will arrive in the mail shortly after.

Maybe buying a home was the final step to becoming a true adult at one time, but things have changed. The barrier to entry is much higher, with rising home costs, stagnating salaries and a general frustration with the intense home buying process.

If you have no interest in owning a home, you’re not alone: according to a recent survey from Experian, consumers who aren’t planning to purchase a home in the next 5-10 years have increased by 8% in the last year.

The truth is, buying a house just isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Here’s why.

It’s time-intensive.

Owning a home isn’t just a financial decision. It’s also a question of how you want to spend your time. Do you want to devote your weekends to picking tile patterns, installing a new garbage disposal or fixing the broken toilet?

You might think it’s a joke that all homeowners spend their free time fixing something around the house, but those stereotypes exist for a reason.

When my pipes get clogged or the gutters get full, I don’t have to worry about taking care of them. I call my landlord, who fixes the problem himself or hires someone else to do it. I don’t have to decide if I want to replace the pipes now or wait a few years.

It limits your options.

Most financial experts say you shouldn’t buy a house unless you’re willing to stay there for at least five years, since that’s how long it takes to see a profit on your investment. That’s partly why people equate buying a home with settling down and starting a family. It’s something you only do when you’re prepared to be somewhere for the long haul.

Owning a home and having a mortgage makes it harder to take a job across the country, to start your own business, or to travel the world. Buying a house doesn’t make sense if you’re the type who’s always dreamed of living abroad or being a digital nomad.

My then-boyfriend and I considered buying a home a few years ago, but now I’m glad we didn’t. Instead, we moved to Colorado where we’ve continued to rent. If we had owned a house, it would have been harder to quit our jobs and move across the country.

It can lead to financial ruin.

Most people assume that buying a home is a decision that every real adult makes when they can afford to. If you have a good job and decent salary, you can afford to buy a house. Many people say it’s the best investment you can make, but it can also be the worst.

Becoming a homeowner ties you to a property in a way that a lease doesn’t. If you’re a renter who needs to downsize, you can get out of your lease early, rent out a spare room, or list your place on Airbnb. Most leases are only a year long, and no one can force you to live there after your lease runs out.

A house is different. Until you find a buyer, you’re stuck with the mortgage, property taxes, and insurance payments. It took my parents four years to sell their house after the Great Recession because of declining home values and high unemployment rates. In the end, they sold the house at a $20,000 loss.

Buying a home isn’t always cheaper, even when the mortgage payment is less than what you’re currently paying for rent. For example, renters insurance is about $10-$15 a month, but homeowners insurance is closer to $60-$100 a month.

Utilities can also be more expensive, especially if your landlord pays for your heating, electric and water bills. If you dive in unprepared, those extra costs could leave you struggling to make mortgage payments and headed down the road to disaster.

What to do instead.

If you don’t want to buy a house now, but anticipate being a homeowner at some point, it’s still a good idea to start saving for a down payment. A basic mortgage requires a down payment between 3.5% and 5% of the asking price, and many experts recommend putting at least 20% down to avoid extra insurance fees.

Start by making automatic transfers to a separate savings account, as much or as little as you want. I wish I had done this years before I was ready to own a house so I’d already have a nice nest egg. Instead I’m saving aggressively, forced to cut expenses, and live on a shoestring budget.

If you decide to never buy a home, you can use that money for a vacation, another deposit into your retirement account, or a new car. You can even use the money to fund your rent indefinitely. If you do want to become a homeowner, you’ll already have a down payment, so it’s a win-win.

Have you decided to opt-out of the home buying experience? We’d love to hear about it in the #Adulting Facebook community

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One person wants kids, the other doesn’t. It isn’t hopeless but it will take some work to get through it. Here are your options.

In relationships, it’s often our differences that bring us together. A creative type might be drawn to someone with a blue collar background and a handyman skill set. A hardcore fantasy fan might be intrigued by a nonfiction lover. Even Yankees and Red Sox fans have been known to get along.

But there’s one difference that hardly ever jives with a healthy relationship: whether or not you want kids.

The need to have children is so hardwired in some people, it can be hard for them to grasp why anyone would forego the chance to pass on their genes. People on the other side of the spectrum might have trouble understanding the allure of changing diapers or going days without sleep.

It’s a contentious issue – so why do people wait so long to bring it up?

If you’re currently in this situation, it’s time to take action. Here’s what you need to do.

Discuss the issue.

It’s easy to bury your head in the sand about this topic. After all, who wants to talk about something as complicated as having children when you could debate what you think will happen on the next “Game of Thrones” episode?

Unfortunately, this is the kind of potential problem that needs to be discussed as soon as possible. If you’re a woman who wants kids and are married to or in a relationship with someone who doesn’t, you can’t wait forever. Female fertility goes down significantly after 35 and the chance of genetic disorders and other problems also increases. If you’re approaching 30, you can’t just ignore the problem for a few years.

Try talking about the question of children together and see where you both stand. If your partner mentioned a few years ago that he wants kids, it’s entirely possible he’s changed his mind since then. If you talk about your priorities early and often, there’s little chance you’ll be blindsided by a change of heart.

Couples who have been together a long time should consider seeing a therapist. They can help flesh out the issue, offer some perspective and lay out the best options for moving forward. For example, are you really averse to having a child because you’re scared that your partner won’t help shoulder the burden? Even if you’re sure you know the reasons why you don’t want kids, it might be easier to discuss the issue with a professional

For example, are you really averse to having a child because you’re scared that your partner won’t help shoulder the burden? Even if you’re sure you know the reasons why you don’t want kids, it might be easier to discuss the issue with a professional present.

Talk about other options.

If breaking up is not something you want to do, there might be a few ways to compromise. For example, you could look into temporarily fostering a child to see if it fulfills your partner’s parental instinct. Fostering is an intense process and a new home can have a permanent affect on a child, but placements are temporary and can let you both see what it’s like to be parents without making a permanent decision.

Fostering is an intense process and a new home can have a permanent affect on a child, but placements are temporary and can let you both see what it’s like to be parents without making a permanent decision.

You could also consider adopting an older child, if you’d rather skip the diapers-and-midnight-feedings stage of parenting.  If you want to start really slowly, try babysitting for a friend or relative to see how it feels before you decide to foster or adopt a child.

You can also talk to people you know who have children and aren’t afraid to share how it really feels to be a parent. These options should not be taken lightly, especially not as a direct replacement for having your own child.

Too much of what we see on TV and in film romanticizes the act of parenting and doesn’t prepare people for what being a mother or father actually means. Plenty of people want kids right up until the point where they actually have them, so make sure you’ve put real thought into the decision. Becoming a parent should be a conscious act, not a product of biological urges.

Take action.

The easiest decision to make is to maintain the status quo. Our comfort zone is soft and cozy, and disrupting it comes with challenges. Unfortunately, if you’ve discussed having a child and haven’t agreed on a decision you and your partner will be happy with, it might be time to say goodbye.

Everyone deserves to try for the life they want, whether it’s filled with babies and diapers or exotic vacations and late nights out. That’s not to say you can’t go along with your partner’s wishes for the good of the relationship, but make sure it’s a decision you buy into.

Don’t lie to yourself or your spouse if you truly can’t see yourself having kids and being happy, or vice versa. The longer you wait to reveal the truth, the worse the break-up will be.

How to prevent this.

It’s always hard to find someone you like, only to break things off because of a difference in priorities. Still, it’s a lot easier to break up with someone three months into the relationship than three years. Even if you’re worried the question will scare away potential mates, consider how much easier it will be to break up before you’ve moved in, met his parents and adopted a pet together.

Bring up your child-free status whenever you feel comfortable, but do it sooner rather than later. It never feels like the perfect time to discuss a sticky subject, so be prepared to feel awkward no matter how you approach the conversation.

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Are you trying to improve and need answers? I mean real answers. Sometimes a wiki just won’t do. Here’s a list of the best books to help you out.

These days, most people look to the internet for all things explanatory, interesting, or otherwise worth knowing. If you want to learn something, there’s usually a resource just a click away.

But when you’re looking to improve as a person, oftentimes the answers provided by a Google search can seem too shallow. You need thorough examination, thoughtful analysis, and a guiding hand that doesn’t skimp on words. You need a real, honest-to-goodness book. Remember those?

Unfortunately, wading through the countless self-help books on the market is a lot harder than scrolling through a list of search results. Here are some of the best titles I’ve read, by some of the most respected names in personal improvement.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Rubin’s self-help book is so much more than any click-bait list you could find online. Of course, she includes the basics like getting enough sleep, exercising and eating well – but she also offers some unique insights, such as seeking out the hobbies you enjoyed as a child.

In the book, Rubin realizes that she once loved children’s literature and Young Adult novels, but gave them up when she became a professional writer. In going back to what she loved in her youth, she reclaims a piece of her happiness she didn’t know was missing.

Rubin’s tips are less woo and more hard work. Waking up earlier to make her daughters a special Valentine’s Day breakfast is hard, but creating memories and traditions is a big part of her happiness. She gives you the tools to follow your own path to happiness, not anyone else’s.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

As a freelance writer, I’m always looking for the latest productivity hack. In The Power of Habit, I found a book that explains how to form the habits that I want and make them a part of my everyday life.

A New York Times reporter, Duhigg delves into how habits are created and how people can change the most dangerous and stubborn habits. He studies addicts who quit after decades of drinking or doing drugs to find the most effective methods and insights.

Duhigg explains that our entire life is based on habits. A series of habits turn into behavior, which becomes the foundation of our personal and professional relationships. Duhigg breaks down habits into their most basic forms and explains how successful people use habits to increase their efficiency and reach their goals.

Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton

I first heard about Glennon Doyle Melton a year ago, and I was intrigued by her brutal honesty. She doesn’t hesitate to write about her struggles with bulimia, alcohol and drugs. Even as a non-addict, I find myself relating to her desire to slip away from the world and everything that’s hurting her.

Love Warrior is the story of Melton’s life, starting with her struggles with bulimia in middle school and ending with the revelation that her husband had been cheating on her consistently throughout their marriage.

In the book, she describes how she learned to speak her truth and resolve her lingering body issues. Though I have nothing in common with the Florida-based mother of three, I find myself relating to her truth and wanting to live a more open life after finishing the book.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Liz Gilbert is most famous for Eat, Pray, Love, the 2006 smash hit where she chronicled her divorce and subsequent worldwide soul-searching journey.

But Gilbert’s best work might be her latest – Big Magic, a how-to guide for creative people struggling to fulfill their artistic endeavors. If you’re feeling uncertain about your painting or writing, Gilbert’s book can help you push through your mental blocks.

Some of the book is a little out there, but overall her message is solid. She believes in working on your art as a side project, so you aren’t relying on it for money, and finding what you’re passionate about – not necessarily what you’re good at it.

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

I can distinctly remember the first time I read The Total Money Makeover. I was in high school and had already spent years listening to Dave Ramsey on the radio, driving in my mom’s car. I was familiar with Dave and his style, but “The Total Money Makeover” changed something deep inside me.

Dave uses real-life examples of struggling families to show how they can get out of debt, save for retirement, and stop worrying about money. His trademarked “Baby Steps” formula lays out easy steps that everyone can take.

There’s no wondering about which debt you should pay off first or if you should save for retirement before your child’s college education. This book is a foolproof system and anyone who follows it is guaranteed financial success.

Are there any books that have greatly influenced your life? We’d love to hear about them over at #Adulting Facebook community!

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Are your retirement dreams bigger than your 401(k)? If you’re ready to retire, but your wallet isn’t, here are some ideas to get you on your way.

If you’re thinking about retirement, you’re probably ahead of the curve. Most Americans don’t have enough saved for their golden years, and a substantial amount have nothing saved at all. If a retirement fund is your nest egg, most people haven’t even started looking for a chicken!

If you want to retire early, you’re going to need to get creative. Living costs continue to rise, the future of social security is dubious at best, and most experts predict that millennials will struggle to retire on the same timeline as their baby boomer parents. It’s a harsh reality, but it doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon.

Here are a few practical ways to retire when you want – and one you probably haven’t thought of.

Keep a budget.

When your heart is set on early retirement, you need to hit those numbers consistently in order to reach your goal. If you stop contributing to your 401(k) for a few months to pay off some debt or go on vacation, you could miss your target retirement date.

Stay on track with a budget and designate how much you can spend per category. Not sure how much you should budget? Track your spending first to see what your current numbers are, then see if you need to make any changes.

“Once you’ve tracked your spending for a few months, you’ll be able to see spending patterns,” said anonymous early retirement blogger Mrs. 1500 of 1500 Days.

Earn more money.

When you decide to retire early, you’ll probably find that you have to save far more than the average person. Your two choices are to live below your means or find an additional source of income. Depending on how much you make and when you want to retire, even living below your means might not be enough.

Go through the math and see how much you need to save to reach your goal. Can you do that on your current income? Or will you need work more?

Mrs. 1500 said people should “get a second job, improve [their] current earnings, get a side hustle or use [their] funds to invest in passive-income producing ventures such as real estate, stocks that pay dividends, or Private Money Loans – essentially being the bank for investors.”

Know your number.

Being aware of how much you need to retire is crucial. Some people assume you need millions, while others think Social Security and Medicare will be enough to string them along. Both answers are probably wrong.

Everyone’s number is different and depends on their lifestyle, location and when they plan to retire. There are many retirement calculators online to help you figure out how much you need, but you should see a financial planner if you want a personalized figure.

Mrs. 1500 said you should save 25 times your annual spending “so that you can safely withdraw 4% every year.”

Downsize your home.

Housing costs make up the largest portion of the average consumer’s budget, and a hefty mortgage can delay retirement.

Instead of holding onto your home, find the least expensive option you’ll still be happy with. You might even have enough equity in your current house to pay off a new mortgage. Many retirees like the convenience of a condo where they’re not responsible for mowing the lawn or general maintenance.

A smaller house will also come with lower utilities, property taxes and more. Use the difference to save for retirement.

Move to a cheaper country.

Your nest egg might be too small for a retirement in America, but it could be just enough to spend your golden years overseas. Many South American and Asian countries offer a low cost of living and welcome American expats.

Joseph Hogue of Peer Finance 101 lives in Medellin, Colombia with his wife and son. Their total living expenses equal $1,400 a month – a sum far smaller than anywhere they could find in the US.

“That includes health insurance for a family of three, internet, cable and all the amenities we had when we lived in the States,” he said. “The city is the second largest in the country and has a metro system as well as everything you’d expect in a large metropolitan area.”

Other popular options include Belize, Thailand, the Philippines, and Nicaragua. In many of these destinations you can live on $1,000-$1,500 a month and get access to the same level of healthcare as you had back in the States. Many of these countries have significant expat communities where you can meet other Americans.

“Sometimes it can feel like you never left at all,” Hogue said.

Before you pack your bags, do some research on your chosen destination. Make an approximate budget and factor in flights back home, which may be pricey and exhausting.

Are you prepared for retirement? Do you have any other tips to get ready? Let us know over at the #Adulting Facebook community!

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Feeling like a stranger in a strange land? It can be hard to start over in a new city. But part of the fun is making new connections and finding a new crew.

When my husband and I moved from Indianapolis to Denver a couple years ago, I left behind a solid core of friends that made up the bulk of my social life. I was sad to leave them, but confident I could do the same thing I’d done when changing schools as a child or moving out of state for college – maintain my old friendships and start some new ones.

While I had no problems staying in touch with my friends from Indiana, making new relationships was so much harder than I ever expected. Not only did I lack any kind of social base to start from, but I had just left an office job to start my career as a freelance writer. You don’t realize how important the workplace can be as a social tool until your only office mates are a husband and two dogs.

It took some time, but eventually, I was able to meet some great people and form lasting friendships. Here are some of the methods I tried, and how well they might work for you.

MeetUp.

MeetUp is one of the best tools to find new friends with similar interests, and almost every major city has an active MeetUp community.

MeetUp is a haven for groups based on every kind of interest imaginable. I’ve joined book clubs, art journal groups and card-game nights. Many of these have hundreds of members, so don’t expect to see the same faces every time. But if you attend the same event frequently enough, you’re bound to make some connections that stick.

Go to two or three events before you decide you don’t like a group. It can take time to get out of your comfort zone and feel at ease around total strangers, but since most MeetUp groups are based on a specific activity you’ll always have something in common.

Make sure to look at the age range of the groups you’re interested in. I once joined a movie MeetUp without realizing I was the youngest person there. I went a couple times, but ultimately decided I couldn’t make close friendships with people close to my parent’s age.

Bumble.

This tip is only for the ladies. The dating app, Bumble has a feature where women can look for other women to be friends with. When you download the app, choose the BFF setting when prompted. You’ll only see profiles of other women who want to find a new shopping buddy or movie companion.

Bumble starts by showing you a series of photos. Like many dating apps, you swipe right on the prospects you like and left on the ones you don’t. At first, I swiped right on almost everyone, but I quickly realized I wanted to be more selective.

Almost half of the girls I saw said they loved drinking wine and going to brunch – but doesn’t everyone? I decided to swipe left on anyone who had such a generic profile. I swiped right on girls who said they loved comic books, playing with their dog or reading detective novels. I wasn’t trying to be judgemental, but it’s easier to make a connection when you have something in common.

I met a couple cool girls through the app, but staying in touch on a long-term basis proved harder. That’s not an indictment of the service, but you’ll need to invest some time and energy into the app if you want it to pay off long term.

Volunteer.

When you’re in a new city, it can be hard to get the lay of the land. What events are cool? Which museums are worth going to? Where can you find the best ice cream?

Volunteering for local events is one way to have fun, explore, and make friends in a new city in the process. Most volunteer spots last several hours, so you’ll have time to chat and get to know people. Plus, you often get free swag or privileged access.

If you hear about a local event that sounds interesting, but you don’t want to go alone, contact the organizers to see if they need volunteers.

Sports leagues.

Joining a local bowling league is the best way I’ve made friends in Denver. We played one game a week for six weeks, meeting at the same time and place consistently. Having a regular time to hang out proved to be the key to making a new group of friends. When you sporadically attend functions, you don’t get the consistency that’s required to solidify new friendships. Seeing the same people once a week made it easier to develop actual relationships.

We started planning other activities together pretty quickly, like going to the movies, attending musicals and going on short hikes. Eventually we started watching “Game of Thrones” together every Sunday and later transitioned into a weekly trivia group when our bowling season ended.

Every city has local sports leagues you can join and participate in. Most people won’t care if you’re unathletic, as long as you have a positive attitude and a cursory knowledge of the sport. Often, groups go out afterward for drinks or dinner, giving you another opportunity to establish roots.

Moving to a new city is the perfect chance to find new friends and reinvent your life with people who you can enjoy time with.

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Some struggles make us lose hope. Make us feel lost. If you are dealing with anxiety or depression, there is hope. There is a path to wellness.

There’s no denying it – depression and anxiety are on the rise in the United States. Whether you attribute the uptick to societal factors or heightened awareness of mental health issues, it’s clear that many Americans are suffering without a clear path to wellness.

Thankfully, treating these issues is exceedingly more simple than people realize – which isn’t to say it’s easy. There are tried and true methods that, if used appropriately and consistently, have a high chance of improving the symptoms of anxiety and depression. It may be an uphill battle, but it’s a hill worth climbing.

Successful treatment looks different for everyone, so keep an open mind. Here are some basic steps to take if you don’t know where to start.

Catalog your feelings.

Writing down your feelings is one of the most basic strategies to cope with feeling anxious or depressed. The University of Rochester Medical Center recommends journaling to combat “stress, depression or anxiety.”

I write in a journal every day, chronicling how I’m feeling and what’s bothering me. When I’m in a funk I can’t explain, I automatically reach for my notebook. On a basic level, documenting your mental condition allows you to separate yourself from negative emotions by playing the part of an objective observer.

I also use thought records to document my anxiety and change my reaction to it. A thought record is a simple worksheet where you catalog what the situation is, what you’re thinking and how you feel. Then you write down how rational your thoughts are, what the more rational response would be and how likely it is that the rational response is correct. Cognitive behavioral therapy practitioners believe when they change their thoughts, they can change their feelings and behavior.

For example, if you think your friend will be mad you forgot her birthday, you could write down a thought record saying why you feel bad, what you’re thinking about yourself and what your friend’s likely response is. Thought records can help you see when you’re blowing things out of proportion and how to manage your problems more effectively.

Stay connected.

Depression often robs victims of the energy and desire to do the hobbies and activities they once enjoyed. It can take away the motivation to work out, eat healthy and stay connected to your social circle. The problem is, staying involved with your friends and pastimes is one of the few ways you can feel better.

Start small. Invite a friend or two over for a movie night where you don’t have to do anything except provide a DVD or turn on Netflix. Meet a former coworker for coffee or a drink. If a pal is having a party, try to go for at least an hour.

“I can usually count on a few things to help or at least distract me from how I’m feeling for a bit,” said Kelly Whalen of Centsible Life. “Those include reading, walking outside, petting my fluffy dog, taking a nap or a little window shopping.”

You should also consider finding a group of peers who are dealing with depression as well. Talking about your problems with people who understand can make you feel less alone in your struggles. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America has an online support group you can join, as well as a private forum where you can write out your feelings.

Find a therapist.

A licensed therapist or counselor can be an incredible tool in fighting depression or anxiety. Unfortunately, many people assume that the only therapists available are ones who charge $200 an hour.

Not so. Almost everyone can find a low-cost therapist if they look hard enough. Your doctor might have some recommendations on where to look, so start there. A local university with a psychology department will also have an in-house clinic where you can meet with current students or graduates. Low-cost or free clinics often have a therapist on staff.

On average, these clinics charge anywhere from $5 to $40, and many have a sliding scale system based on income. I’ve had good experiences with inexpensive therapists and consider them a necessary tool in fighting anxiety and depression.

Talk to a doctor.

You should talk to a doctor about medication if therapy, journaling and working out don’t alleviate your anxiety or depression. Only a medical doctor can prescribe pills, so make an appointment with your primary care physician and not your counselor or therapist.

Don’t worry if it takes some time for the medication to kick in or if you don’t like how it feels at first. Many patients need a few weeks to adjust, so be aware of that. Your doctor can alter the prescription as need be if you’re not feeling better after a month or so. If you decide you don’t like it, ask your doctor how to taper off. Withdrawal symptoms are common and can be debilitating if you don’t scale back appropriately.

If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, it can take time to work through it. Try to find what works best for you.

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Want to keep it tight with your crew? It takes effort. But it’s totally worth it.

Developing good relationships is the primary reason we’re on earth.

Human contact is essential for both your mental and physical health. In fact, studies show that those with strong emotional ties are healthier and live longer than those without.

But building those bonds takes time and effort. Even if you consider yourself a good person, it can be hard to maintain relationships, especially as work and other commitments take more of your time.

As you build your squad, here’s how you can develop relationships meant to last:

Learn to listen.

You probably already think of yourself as a decent listener.

But consider this: Do you actually listen when your friend is or partner is talking? Or do you think of what you’re going to say in response? Do you really hear them? Or are you judging what they’re saying?

Hearing is easy, but listening is hard.

It’s hard to listen mindfully, without wondering how long it’ll be before you can say something. But listening is vital to developing a good relationship, no matter if it’s with a boss or the cashier at your favorite donut shop.

“I don’t necessarily have to agree with what’s being said, but acknowledgment goes a long way towards building those important relationships,” said Elle Martinez, author of Jumpstart Your Marriage & Your Money.

Listening is like meditation. It requires focusing on one singular object and bringing your mind back to that focus when it starts to drift. It’s one of the hardest skills to master, especially if you’ve spent most of your life half-heartedly paying attention to your friends.

Stay in touch.

How many relationships lose traction because one of you fails to keep in touch? Keeping track of people is hard, but it’s made so much easier now with the advent of Facebook and other forms of social media.

Try to stay in touch, even if it’s as simple as sending a text or message saying you’re thinking of them and hope they’re doing well. I even created a recurring calendar reminder to call my grandmother. I always forget to call her, so I set it for a time when I know I’ll be free. I also keep a stack of blank greeting cards handy so I can send close friends and family personal cards when it’s their birthday.

It takes little time to send them out, but means the world to get a hand-written note in the mail. Relationships are like cars. They need regular tuneups to function or they’ll die.

Bring up problems early.

I have a theory: the best friends I have are the ones I’ve had some sort of disagreement with. If I’m willing to bring up a difficult subject with you, it means we’re good friends.

But it’s never easy to bring up something with a close friend. I hate confrontation, and most people agree with me. Fortunately, every time I’ve brought something up, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of the other person. It’s always led to a closer relationship, and I’ve never regretted it.

I usually feel uncomfortable doing this in person or over the phone, so I try to write it out. I can take my time writing out my grievances and I know that I won’t say something hastily I’ll regret later. Plus, then the other person has the option to respond in print or in person.

When you have a problem you want to discuss, try bringing it up with a neutral party first. A third-person can provide a different perspective and tell you if you’re actually in the wrong. I usually discuss friend issues with my husband first, since he can tell me if I’m being unreasonable.

Give feedback.

What most people are looking for is acknowledgment in this world. That’s why many of us seek validation through likes and hearts on social media.

Give that to your loved ones by commenting on their recent career news or by supporting their side business. Odd as it sounds, developing good relationships in today’s world includes participating on social media with them.

If your friend just started dating someone new, text her a few weeks in to ask her how it’s going. She’ll love to hear that you care about her relationship. Bring it up if you see her in person. One of the characteristics that differentiates a strong relationship from a weak one is if you bring up things that are important to your friend before they have to. That shows real commitment and dedication.

Every interaction you have, try to mention or ask something that the other person cares about. They’ll be delighted that you remember and care so much.

Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Make your people feel good and they’ll never forget it.

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A 5-year plan doesn’t have to be a boring cliche. Instead, create a kick-ass plan that adds meaning and purpose to your life.

It’s one of the most common questions in a job interview: what is your 5-year plan?

While you might have the right answer to give to the HR rep interviewing you, you might not know what you actually want to accomplish in your life.

Do you want to stay on the trajectory your career is on? Or do you dream about switching fields?

Fortunately, there are a few strategies you can use to make significant changes in your life and to fulfill your dreams. Read below to find out how to create a 5-year plan that gives you purpose.

Make a list of your dreams.

The key to creating a plan that will add value, purpose, and meaning to your life is to determine what the end goal is.

Do you dream about starting your own business or switching to a new industry? Or do you want to leave home and travel the world?

Before you can hammer out the details of a plan, you need to start with the end goal.

“Once you have an idea of what you truly want, it gets easier to work backward on the milestones you need to hit to get there,” said Elle Martinez of Couple Money.

So think of what your end goal is. Is it to stay home with your kids and not have to worry about money? Is it being able to take care of your parents full-time? Or do you want to devote yourself to the nonprofit you care so passionately about?

The idea here isn’t to reach your goals next week. You create a 5-year plan so that you can make reasonable, achievable steps. It’s about progress.

Once you know what your ultimate passion is, you can start to work backward to determine what your next steps are.

Talk to an expert.

Sometimes you need help if you’re trying to figure out what to do with the next five years of your life. After you’ve exhausted your significant other, your best friends, and your family, it’s time to find someone who knows what’s up.

Try to find an expert in the field that you’re interested in. This can be someone who graduated from the same college as you, someone active in the community, or even a person you admire that you found on Twitter.

Don’t limit yourself to local people, if you can’t find anyone who fits your description. You can contact people via Twitter, LinkedIn, or any other social media platform they might have. If you know where they work, you can reach out there.

Before you meet up, bring a list of questions with you. Nothing annoys a busy person more than someone who’s asked for a favor and who’s not prepared for it. You can create a 5-year plan that is reasonable after talking with someone who’s been there. You can create meaning and be realistic about where you’re headed with a little outside perspective.

Always send a thank-you note afterward, either by email or the traditional snail mail route. Keep in touch with that person and don’t always be asking them for a favor. You want the relationship to be reciprocal.

Follow what interests you.

For most of my high school and entire college career, I dreamed of becoming a newspaper reporter. I read the best writers, wrote as much as I could and shadowed reporters I admired. But then I got my first real reporting job at a small newspaper in Northwest Indiana and hated it.

I worked evenings and covered fires, robberies, and car accidents. In a town of 30,000, the topics we covered sometimes felt trivial.

It was then that I started blogging about living frugally. I had decided I wanted to pay off my student loans early and was trying to learn all I could about personal finance. I started reading books and blogs and finally asked my boss if I could start a blog at work about living frugally.

That’s how I discovered I loved writing about money, especially from my own point of view. I found myself focusing more on the blog than on my other assignments, and people noticed. When I left that gig to work at a nonprofit, I started my own blog. That led to the freelance writing career I have now.

If you’re not happy with where your life is going, you need to figure out where your passion truly lies. Sometimes you can only do that by giving something a trial run. There’s nothing wrong with including stepping-stone jobs and trial runs as you create a 5-year plan.

Make it real.

Sometimes it’s not enough to keep a dream in your head. You have to visualize and make it real. Try creating a vision board with images that reflect your dream and the path you’ve chosen to follow. Include quotes and inspirational figures of people you admire. You can also use a life map to set your course.

Don’t be afraid to share your dream with other people. You never know who will have the right connection or give you the best piece of advice. Plus, when people hear your dreams, they might be inspired to give their own a test drive.

The more comfortable you are with expressing your true desires, the less afraid you’ll be to really take on a new challenge.

As you create a 5-year plan meant to give the next few years of your life purpose, keep in mind that you will need to figure out the next years after that. Keep revising and updating as your purpose changes. As long as you are moving forward, and you are able to take steps to reach your goals, your life will have purpose.

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There’s a lot of suspect information floating around about money. Avoid these myths and show your money who’s boss.

Since I write about personal finance, I’m used to advising my friends about their own finances. It seems that every time I bring up the subject, I find myself correcting people.

With most of the information available readily on the internet, how is it possible that there’s so much misinformation?

But even I sometimes find out that something I believe is wrong. Personal finance is a complex topic, full of changing rules and expert advice. Read below to see if you believe any of these common money myths.

All adults need life insurance.

When I got married, I called my insurance agent a few days later to ask about life insurance. I felt so grown up, thinking about my future and impending death.

But my agent told me I didn’t need a life insurance policy. I didn’t have a mortgage or a child with my husband, so there was little reason to pay for a policy. If he died, I could still support myself.

I was relieved to know that I didn’t have to buy an extra form of insurance. I’m a fairly cautious person, but I like being able to avoid spending money if I don’t have to.

Of course, there are other factors at play, such as how much cheaper life insurance costs while you’re younger. You can also consider funeral costs for your parents if you pass. While you might not need life insurance right now, keep it on the back burner. It’s something you might consider before you hit 30 and rates go up.

Investing is risky.

Recent surveys indicate that millennials are afraid of investing, either because they don’t understand the markets or they’re shell-shocked from growing up during two recessions.

But Dani Pascarella, CFP and founder of wealth coaching firm Invibed, said that people who don’t invest are guaranteed to lose money.

“The current rate of inflation in the U.S. is around 2.2%, but most savings accounts pay less than 1% in interest,” she said. “That means if you don’t invest your savings, you are actually losing your purchasing power.”

That’s not to say that any form of investing is better than a high-yield savings account. People lose money every day in the stock market. But finding an investment that will not only beat inflation, but also provide a healthy return, is possible. You can research investing on your own, use a robo-advisor, or hire a financial planner.

And you might be surprised that you can start investing with very little. Companies like Acorns allow you to start with pocket change.

I need to keep a small balance on my credit card.

One of the most persistent credit myths is that you need to have a small balance on your credit card for the card issuer to report on your credit report. Some people mistakenly believe that if they pay off their balance every month, the issuer won’t report any activity on your account, which won’t help your credit report.

Not true. The only way a credit card company will report zero activity on an account is if you pay off the balance before the statement is posted. Once the statement is posted, you can pay off the entire balance with no fear of what it’ll do to your credit report.

This myth is dangerous because it entices people to keep a balance on a credit card that likely has a high interest rate. There’s no reason to pay interest fees every month, especially not for the false reason of boosting your credit score.

All debt is bad.

Most financial experts agree that you should avoid debt whenever possible. But not all debt is bad, and if you’re careful, you can use debt to create more revenue.

“The rich actually use it as a tool for building wealth,” Pascarella said.

For example, rental properties are a popular form of investing. Borrowers take on mortgages on properties that they believe will provide a solid stream of income. Not only do these rent payments pay for any expenses, they also provide a tidy profit.

Many business owners also got started by borrowing money, from a bank, family members or other companies. Without that initial loan, they wouldn’t be able to build their empire.

Renting is throwing your money away.

This is a myth I’ve heard a lot, mostly from people who buy a house way too quickly. They believe that a home is an investment and always better than renting.

But owning a home is expensive. Closing costs, private mortgage insurance, property taxes, homeowners insurance and maintenance fees can quickly drain your bank account. In general, if you plan to own a home for five years or less, you’ll likely lose money on the deal. That’s partly because when you first take out a loan, your initial payments mostly go toward interest. Only later do the payments skew more toward the principal.

That means if you sell a home three years after you bought it, you’ll have little equity to gain from it. Plus, the market isn’t likely to change that much in a short period of time, so you’re not able to get a huge rate of return.

Unless you plan to settle down in an area for more than five years and are prepared for the responsibilities of a house, stick with renting.

You don’t have to fall victim to these money myths. Instead, think about what matters most to you. Create a financial life around what you hope to see in your own future, and look for solid information that will help you on your path.

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