Make fall foolproof — Save money by tackling winter house maintenance now

winter home maintenance

As we bask in the lazy days of August, there are subtle reminders that the change of seasons is around the corner – from the school supplies clogging the shelves of big box stores to that one tree whose leaves are reddening prematurely.

Before the first pumpkin spice latte hits the neighborhood coffee shop, take a weekend afternoon to knock out these cold weather household chores while it’s still nice out. You’ll save time – and money – when fall rolls around.

Clean your gutters

Yes, they will likely soon fill up with fall leaves, but now’s the time to remove any debris that may have built up over the past season. Clogged gutters can cause long-lasting, expensive issues around your property – water spilling over can damage your foundation, and heavy gutters can sag and break.

Inspect your roof

Even if you don’t want to climb up on your roof (and if you do, be very careful, as falls are a leading cause of disability), now is the time to do a visual check before the roof becomes hidden by leaves or snow. Use binoculars to get a closer look and note any missing, damage or slipped shingles that should be further investigated by a roofing professional before the rain and wind arrive.

Check your trees

Loose limbs can become hazardous in storms; they can knock out windows – or people passing underneath them, in the worst-case scenario. Cut back branches that are listing or that are too close to power lines or the roof.

Tidy up your landscaping

You might still be enjoying your summer flowers and by all means, continue to. But while you’re in your garden, pull weeds and rake up needles and leaves before the chore gets bigger in the fall.

Organize your garage

Late summer is the perfect time to try out those bikes and see if they are still the right size, or determine that no one is ever going to play ladder ball. It’s much easier to make a decision on what to get rid of when you know for a fact that no one has touched it all season. And there’s still time to hold a garage sale and make a little back-to-school cash.

Have your heating system checked

Need to service your furnace or heat pump? Now’s the time…before everyone else realizes they need to, too. Ditto your fireplace and chimney. You’re guaranteed to get faster – and probably cheaper – service from a repair person who’s not being pulled in a dozen different directions as other homeowners realize their heating element isn’t working up to par.

Get your back-to-school system in place

The night before school starts is not the time to remember that you never cleaned out last year’s backpack. Before the stress of September rolls around, take the time to fill out the paperwork that came in the mail earlier in the summer, sign up for music lessons, create a paper filing system – all those organizational chores that will make your fall less harried.

Coordinate your emergency supplies

What better time to establish your emergency kit than as you’re stowing your camping gear from summer getaways? Rather than relegating it to the attic or a hidden shelf, make an organized plan to have it ready should you need it if the power goes out or there is another weather emergency. Change the batteries in your flashlights and lanterns; wash and store the sleeping bags; replenish the waterproof matches and first aid supplies. While you’re at it, add a stash of non-perishable foods and an extra deck of cards – just in case.

Hang your holiday lights

Seriously…your future self will thank you – the one that’s not standing on a ladder as the wind gusts and the rain pelts. Of course you don’t have to turn them on – in fact, please don’t – but it’s nice to know they are ready and waiting for when the holiday spirit strikes.

And now that your house is ready for fall, enjoy that warm summer evening in your newly prepped yard. You deserve it!

 




Yes, you can make remote workers feel like part of the office – Here’s how

Remote work has exploded over the past decade: The “State of the Remote Job Marketplace” report from FlexJobs finds that roughly 43 percent of U.S. workers performed their roles away from the office at least occasionally in 2017, up from fewer than 10 percent in 2007.

The reasons employees prefer remote work are many, from avoiding a brutal commute to working more comfortably if you have a disability. And even though remote workers are typically highly effective, it can still take a toll on both parties in terms of collaboration.

That’s why companies that commit to making offsite workers feel engaged will reap the benefits in both production and retention. Here are four ways to accomplish it.

  1. Create your own version of “face time.”

Sure “FaceTime” can never really replace real face time, but managers should focus on creating ways employees can seek feedback, whether they are looking for instruction on a project or coaching.

Setting up a weekly or monthly phone or video call is one way to generate regular communication, but it’s wise to offer additional options, such as “office hours” a couple of times a week when managers make it clear they are available for questions. Managers may let their virtual team know that they’ll be available from, say, noon to 1 p.m. three days a week, alerting them that’s a good time to call, text or send a Slack message for immediate feedback.

  1. Make conference calls more inclusive.

If you’ve ever been the sole caller amid a conference room full of team members, you know how isolating that can feel. That’s why managers need to be careful to prevent the offsite worker from feeling like a side note.

First, make sure your tech is up to par so that the sound is clear, and there’s as little lag time as possible. Then set up ground rules where people in the conference room introduce themselves before speaking – unless it’s a small team where there’s no room for confusion. Be fanatical about curtailing side conversations that can happen when colleagues gather together so that the person on the phone doesn’t feel left out.

One genius way to avoid all the meeting miscommunication is to have everyone call in on their own separate line. Often the rhetoric is clearer when you’re not gathered around a squawky speakerphone, and the remote workers won’t feel as though they’re missing out by not being there at the table.

Finally, if you’re working in different time zones, try to find a mutually agreeable time, or at least rotate the calls so that the remote worker isn’t constantly forced to call in during the wee hours of the morning or dinner time.

  1. Build team camaraderie.

Yes, there are times that the team is all going to go to happy hour to celebrate a promotion or have a birthday lunch. But there are ways you can include your offsite employees, too, with a little creativity. For example, you could have the account win celebration in a conference room equipped with video chat. For extra points, surprise a remote employee by sending them their own birthday cake on their special day or have lunch delivered to their home so you can all “eat together.”

Make sure their role in team success is always acknowledged, whether through a company-wide email or newsletter or an announcement at a town hall that’s broadcast to them, too.

In addition, consider whether there are times that you could include them in person. For example, if they live reasonably close, consult their calendar first and schedule the celebratory lunch with ample lead time so they can plan to attend. If they are farther way, consider the value to be had by bringing them in a couple of times a year for team meetings or other events so they can enjoy the in-person dynamic that contributes to success.

  1. Keep the lines of communication open.

Above all, make it clear that remote employees can have your ear just as readily as the onsite team members can. While you don’t have to be constantly “on call,” it’s a good idea to respond to emails or texts as soon as is feasible so your employee doesn’t feel as though they are being ignored because they are not down the hall.

For many teams, a chat app like Slack can take the place of casual in-person conversations. Everyone will feel more cohesive if they are able to trade banter, along with project logistics, via an informal channel.




7 Ways To Save on Commuting Costs – One Will Work For You

The thought of having to pay just to go to work can be annoying, but most of us do. In fact one 2015 survey found that the average American spends $2,600 on their commute.

Certainly all those gas costs, parking fees and tolls can take their toll. If you’re looking to reduce your outlay, check out these seven ways to help reduce your commuting costs.

  1. Figure out the optimum time to commute.

Sometimes we can’t just waltz into work whenever we want, or we might have a daycare schedule to work around, but if you do have a modicum of flexibility, you might be surprised at the difference in your commute that even 30 minutes or so can make. And less time on the road translates into burning less fuel – not to mention patience.

Given the amount of flexibility your personal schedule allows, test the waters by going in at different times or use an app like Waze to scope out various commute times to see what’s best. You might see a significant difference by leaving your house earlier – and many downtown garages even offer you a better rate if you park before a certain time. Use the extra time to get work done in a quiet office or even just grab a relaxing breakfast and catch up on some reading. You also might find that evening commutes dissipate around 6:30 or so; you could use that time to hit your office’s fitness center or run some errands.

  1. Optimize your route.

And speaking of traffic apps, never leave home without one working for you. Even if you are convinced that a certain route is fastest, anything can happen to cause an unexpected traffic jam on a given day. Best to know what streets to avoid before you’re stuck in the crawl.

  1. Take public transportation.

Seems obvious, right? But you might not have realized that in many cities, public options have improved from just the slow city bus. Many areas have spent big bucks on light rail or other choices that can get you where you’re going even faster and more comfortably. And if you’re in one of the many urban areas that offer scooters for public rent, you can cover that “last mile” even quicker.

  1. Check into any benefits for commuting reimbursement.

Many times your onboarding process might have been so hectic that you didn’t take the time to fully understand all the benefits available to you. According to the Society for Human Resource Management’s 2018 Employee Benefits study, about 13 percent of companies offer a transit subsidy and 12 percent offer a parking subsidy so make sure you’re not inadvertently forgoing it.

  1. Get the best price on gas.

With gas prices on the rise, you want to get the best value you can. Some stations seems to adjust depending on the day of the week, so watch your pump to see if there’s any pattern and fill up when it’s cheapest. Also consider using an app like GasBuddy that crowdsources gas prices so you can make sure you’re getting the best deal around you.




Tackling the summer slide: Promote employee productivity with a twist

The lazy days of late summer are great…unless it’s your employees who are feeling a little bit too much summer fever. Because even though it’s the time of year when we want to hit the pool, the beach or the park, the work still has to get done.

However, employees have become more emphatic about “work/life” balance, and offering appealing policies can help fuel retention, an issue on the minds of almost every HR professional these days. That’s why it’s important to do what you can to promote employee-friendly offerings, while not turning the place into a free-for-all.

Here are six ways that companies can help their employees feel like they’re getting a little taste of summer while still getting the work done.

  1. Take meetings outside.

Remember when you were in school, and your teacher let the class take their reading circle to the playground on a sunny day? Heaven! Outside is the only place employees want to be, enjoying a little breath of fresh air. And it might even help them work better: According to the L.L.Bean 2018 Work and the Outdoors Survey, 86 percent of indoor workers would like to spend more time outside during the workday, with nearly three-quarters saying it would improve their mood and lower their stress levels. So see if you can indulge the team by heading out for a meeting in a nearby park or even in a green corner of the parking lot.

  1. Relax the dress code.

There’s something about capris and sandals that make you feel like you’re on vacation even if you’re working. If it’s appropriate for your workplace, consider loosening your dress code, even if it’s only on Fridays.

Make sure to put sensible limitations on the rules, such as no tank tops or athletic wear, or other specifics that are important for your particular office. If needed, remind employees that the relaxed dress code only applies to them when they are not meeting with clients or any other role restrictions you deem necessary – and recommend they keep a back-up outfit in the office in case they need to slip into something more professional for an unexpected meeting.

  1. Offer flexibility when it makes sense.

This can be tricky because not every workplace or department can accommodate flex hours equally. After all, phones still have to be answered, and client needs still must be met. But if there is an opportunity for team members to come in earlier a couple days a week – and thus leave earlier– make that an option.

“Summer Fridays,” where the office closes at noon, have become more common and probably won’t surprise clients. Or, if the phone or floor absolutely must be manned, see if you can at least rotate among the departments so there is still coverage. Of course, you have to emphasize that flexible hours don’t mean the work doesn’t get done – it just means staff has some choice of whenit gets done.

  1. Plan something fun.

Of course everyone has a different definition of “fun,” so take your culture and employees’ personalities into account before you plan an outing or event. Here are some great ideas for activities that are liable to please everyone, no matter their age, interests or abilities.

  1. Surprise them with a treat.

Same as the teacher taking the class outside, nothing says summer and “playing hooky” like the ice cream truck. So some Wednesday afternoon when it’s business as usual, surprise the office with a box of popsicles or ice cream sandwiches – or iced lattes if that’s more your team’s vibe. An unexpected treat can go a surprisingly long way in engendering employee’s goodwill and loyalty.

  1. Ask your team what they want.

And finally, if you’re out of ideas for helping employees enjoy these last few weeks of summer, find out what would make them happy. They might appreciate leaving an hour early to head out on a bike ride with their kids or coming in an hour late so they can enjoy a morning kayak session or an extra-long lunch break to soak up some rays at the park.

The bonus is that by surveying your employees, you’ll have some great intel to use when planning summer 2019.




Summer-proofing Your Exercise Routine: Six Tips for Fun and Safety

The heat is on – and that can make exercise challenging. However, there’s no reason to put your exercise habit on hold just because of the heat. It is important, however, to take some precautions to keep it pleasurable – and safe. Check out our suggestions to feel the burn, but not get burned.

 

Realize that exercising in the heat can be dangerous.

First, never downplay the risks of exercising in the heat – potential side effects include heat exhaustion and heat stroke if you aren’t careful.

 

Stay hydrated.

This is the No. 1 way to stave off the dangers mentioned in the first point. Hydration is important for sweat, which we sometimes consider a bad thing, but it’s actually the body’s natural mechanism for cooling off. That’s why you should drink plenty of water before and during your workout and then drink up throughout the day. You also can up your water intake with foods like watermelon and cucumber that have a high water content – and are refreshing, to boot.

One way to determine if you are drinking enough when exercising in the summer is to weigh yourself before and after a workout. Experts recommenddrinking 150% of the water weight you lost during the workout over the next few hours to replenish.

 

Check the forecast.

Before you head out, check the temperature to make sure it’s not too hot, but also look into the air quality. Sometimes when it’s hot, the air quality can deteriorate, which can lead to headaches or lung and breathing problems. Your town might have its own updated site, or check out AirNow, a service of the Environmental Protection Agency.

And don’t forget your sunscreenif you’re exercising outdoors.

 

Time your workouts carefully.

If you’ve never been a morning person, there’s nothing like a hot summer day to turn you into one. Many exercisers find that mornings are ideal to exercise, for the cooler temps of course, but also the pleasant byproduct of a gorgeous sunrise. And of course, if you take care of exercise first thing in the morning, you won’t be tempted to slough it off as your day gets busy.

On the flip side, some people prefer an evening workout. Just make sure you are exercising with a buddy someplace well-lighted and safe, if your session keeps you out in the dark.

And whether you’re enjoying the cool mornings or evenings, make sure you are wearing reflective clothing for safety if you are anywhere near cars.

 

Take it to the water.

Summer is the ideal time to take the plunge into learning a new water sport. Whether you want to try your hand at stand-up paddle boardingfor a core workout, kayaking for an upper body session or water skiing for an all-over burner, a new sport can keep your workout fresh – and is liable to work muscles you didn’t even know you had.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with a good old pool workout if you have access. Swimming laps is a relaxing, low-impact cardio workout, and you can up the burn by doing any exercises you would do on land in the water for extra resistance, from running to arm circles.

 

Take it inside.

If you belong to a gym, summer is the perfect time to take that bike ride to a stationary peddler or your run to a treadmill. You might even learn something about your effort and stride when you pay attention to the machine’s feedback. Working with a machine also allows you to control the intensity of your workout, so throw in some hills or intervals that you might not normally encounter.

It’s also a great time to try a new class. Check out your gym’s offerings and give Zumba or spin a whirl, if you’ve never tried it. Shaking up your routine is not only more interesting, but can yield a huge fitness boost.

If you don’t belong to a gym, try the same tactic with an exercise program or DVD. Try a new workout you find online or on your cable package, or download a fitness regime that you can do on your own. Many boot camp style workouts require nothing more than your own body weight, and maybe a mat and some light weights so you can bust out those moves anytime, anywhere.

 

No matter what strategies you want to try, the important thing to remember is that it’s important to maintain your fitness program even during the lazy days of summer. Your body will thank you for it, through increased physical and mental fitness.




Change-Makers: The Yellow Tulip Project

Photo of Julia Hansen, founder of The Yellow Tulip ProjectOn an early May evening this year in Portland, Maine, a radical art exhibition quietly opened on the edges of the city. It was called I Am More: Facing Stigma and featured life-size black and white photographs of 22 people from the wider community.

There were artists, doctors, real estate agents, high school students, mental health advocates, and poets ranging from 14 years old to 69. The images, created by the photographer Lissy Thomas, were accompanied by a short description of how each person identified themselves. “I am a doctor. I am a father. I suffer from depression.”

The exhibition was organized by The Yellow Tulip Project, a non-profit organization formed by a 16-year old high school student from Portland called Julia Hansen. The organizers had put out a call on Facebook, to see if people would be willing to step forward and publicly share their experiences of living with mental health issues or of being impacted by the suicide of a loved one.

Smashing the stigma

It was personal experience that compelled Hansen to set up this project. When she was a sophomore in Portland, she lost a best friend to suicide. Six months later, her other closest friend also took her own life. Emerging from the grief and shock of the deaths of her two best friends, Hansen then did something transformative.

She wanted to bring discussions of depression and mental illness out of the shadows of high school culture and into the light. So she set up The Yellow Tulip Project, and crafted “Tulip Teams” in schools throughout northern New England. These volunteers would become advocates for mental wellness within their own school walls and build “Hope Gardens”—where yellow tulip bulbs are planted in schoolyards and community spaces every fall.

Yellow was the favorite color of one of her best friends, and the tulip the favorite flower of another. “The tulips kind of represent my depression,” explains Hansen. “The bulbs are there and they’re in the cold and dark. But in the spring they’re forced to push up through the ground and bloom, to see the beauty again.”

A rising trend

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults (that’s 18.1 percent of the adult population of the U.S. or nearly one in five). Data from the National Institute of Mental Health shows that in 2016, an estimated 16.2 million adults (6.7 percent of the population) had at least one major depressive episode that year.

These statistics are mirrored in the workplace. Mental health issues are the fourth most common cause of both short-term and long-term private disability insurance claims—the key reasons why people take prolonged time off work.

This form of disability is one that many struggle to talk about. It’s something that actor and writer Will Wheaton—famed for his role in the iconic film Stand By Me—discussed in a speech at the Ohio chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) which he then recounted in a blog that has since gone viral.

Julia Hansen believes that one of the best ways to heal this epidemic is to build educated communities. She encourages people to come together in real life to create gardens and communal spaces where conversations about things like depression can naturally flow.

She says this is something we can all help to cultivate. The key is to normalize the conversation. “We want to build strong, supportive and educated communities that support people struggling with mental illness,” she explains. “One day we hope that we can all speak openly about mental illness in the same way that we speak about physical illness.”

Change-Makers is a series of blogs where The Council for Disability Awareness highlights people who are raising awareness and normalizing conversations about disability in their communities. Do you know of someone doing extraordinary work? Write to us at info@disabilitycouncil.org  

Pictured above, Julia Hansen. Image courtesy of Lissy Thomas. 




How Summer Vacations Boost Workplace Engagement

Family at the beach.As the summer vacation season kicks off, now is a good time for HR to be reminding employees and managers about the value of time out of the office.

Vacations are critical to the emotional and physical health of your workforce — and new studies show that they build a far more engaged, happy, and productive workforce.

Unlike other developed countries, the United States has no mandated number of days off for employees. A quarter of Americans have no paid vacations at all. This has an impact on wellness. 

A 2017 CareerBuilder survey revealed that 61 percent of workers self-identified as burned out in their current job, with 31 percent reporting high or extremely high levels of stress at work. A third of all workers (33 percent) said they had not taken nor were planning to take a vacation that year.

Why aren’t people taking time off?

A survey from Project Time Off in 2017 reveals a key reason why people are avoiding vacations: they think it makes them look like a less committed worker. Thirty eight percent of employees wanted to be seen as “a work martyr by their boss”. Yet as the report states: “What those nearly four-in-ten employees do not understand is that work martyrdom not only does not help them advance in their careers; it may be hurting them.

“These self-proclaimed work martyrs are less likely (79 to 84 percent) to report receiving a raise or bonus in the last three years than those who do not subscribe to the work martyr myth. When it comes to promotions, they are no more likely to have received a promotion in the last year than the average worker (28 percent), showing that the work martyr attitude is not helping anyone get ahead.”

Melinda Gates addressed this topic in her first LinkedIn post after Microsite acquired the platform in 2017 — pointing out how this workaholic culture can be particularly damaging for women. “The American workweek has soared from less than 40 hours to nearly 50 in the time since that issue of Fortune was published,” she wrote. “Technology has made it harder to pull away from our jobs, and easier to wonder whether a night off or a long weekend is damaging our careers.

The benefits of the summer vacation

New data from a O.C. Tanner survey shows a clear correlation between those who take regular vacations and their overall emotional health and happiness on the job.

Sixty six percent of respondents said they regularly take a vacation that’s at least one week or longer during the summer months, and nearly the same percentage (67 percent) said it is somewhat or extremely important for them to do so. This is what they then found in the regular vacationers:

  • Dedication to the Job: 70 percent of respondents say they are highly motivated to contribute to the success of the organization, as opposed to only 55 percent of respondents who do not regularly take a week-long summer vacation.
  • A Sense of Belonging: 63 percent of respondents say they feel a sense of belonging at the company where they currently work, as opposed to only 43 percent of respondents who do not regularly take a week-long summer vacation.
  • Loyalty: 65 percent of respondents say they have a strong desire to be working for their organization one year from now, as opposed to 51 percent of respondents who do not regularly take a week-long summer vacation.
  • Viewed as a Good Employer: 65 percent of respondents say their organization has a reputation for being a good employer whose people do great work, as opposed to just 46 percent of respondents who do not regularly take a week-long summer vacation.

In another example discussed in Harvard Business Review, one company implemented a mandatory week off once every seven weeks for all staff. The result? “Creativity went up 33 percent, happiness levels rose 25 percent, and productivity increased 13 percent.” The company concluded that once every seven weeks was perhaps excessive, but nonetheless the sheer productivity and creativity that came from having a rested and recharged workforce benefited the entire organization.

So the next time you hear a manager complain about a worker requesting a vacation, show them the data. And if you haven’t already, now is the time to be instituting a positive and proactive vacation policy.




7 Fixes to Make Your Home Easier to Navigate If You Have Arthritis

Kitchen counter with high stools.Arthritis doesn’t just affect the AARP set. In fact, it’s the leading cause of work-related disability, affecting nearly a quarter of adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Arthritis is actually a “catch all” term for more than 100 joint-related diseases and conditions, including gout, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.

If you’re one of those suffering with this disability, you know how challenging even the simplest tasks can be. But while major home renovations might seem daunting, there are some relatively easy hacks that can make a home friendlier for those living with arthritis.

1. Add some kitchen gadgets.

Yes, we all have too many one-use items like garlic crushers and potato ricers. But if you love to cook (or just love to eat) and have arthritis, we can guarantee that some additional tools will never be perceived as clutter in the “gadget” drawer or on the counter. Here are four that are likely to become indispensable:

  • Jar opener: Grip the top better without having to squeeze harder
  • Food chopper: Put down the knife and let this handy helper do the work
  • Appliance knob grips: Make the knobs on your stove, faucet, and other appliances bigger and easier to grasp with these enlarged coverings
  • Grabber: Easily retrieve dropped items without bending or stooping

2. Make two quick fixes for a safer bathroom.

While you might not want to undertake a bathroom overhaul, there are two must-do fixes you can implement:

  • Raised toilet seat: This goes right over the existing one to make it easier to reach without altering your existing fixture.
  • Bars and handrails: Bathing safety should never be taken lightly. Grips will ensure you don’t slip getting out of the shower or tub, and they now come in more decorative-looking choices these days — more like a towel bar — in a variety of finishes to lessen an institutional feel.

3. Purchase items in smaller quantities.

Yes we all love the thrill of saving money with bulk buys, but a huge bottle of soap or laundry detergent can be unwieldy. At the least, make sure you have assistance to put the larger contents into a smaller container for everyday use.

4. Make sure there are no trip hazards.

Check that your flooring is smooth, but not slippery. That might mean replacing worn carpet or covering slick hardwoods with carpet. If you don’t want to cover your lovely floors, you can consider area rugs, but they can be especially dangerous since it’s easy to catch a toe under the corner. Ensure they are stuck to the floor with sticky mats.

5. Climb carefully.

A two-story home can be a challenge if you have to navigate the stairs frequently. The best advice is to make sure that your items for daily living are downstairs, so even if your bedroom is up, you won’t be making multiple trips up and down the stairs. You can even equip a downstairs powder room with a second set of supplies you use frequently, like your toothbrush and toiletries, to eliminate trips.

If you do have to navigate stairs, at least occasionally, make sure that they are covered with a nonstick surface, such as a runner that is anchored down. Then make sure the handrails are easy to grasp – a rail on each side is best, so you might want to install a second one. Another trick is to put colored tape on the edge of each step to make them more visible.

6. Swap out more comfortable seating.

Low chairs and couches can be hard to rise from so make sure that at least your favorite chair is a comfortable height. A dining table that’s counter-height, outfitted with bar stools, can be a smart switch.

7. Declutter and reorganize.

The best overall tip is to take sure that your house is easy to navigate. That means getting rid of excess items that are in your way, from unnecessary furniture and lamps, to closets that are so stuffed you can’t locate the item you are looking for.

Then organize the house to your comfort, such as keeping everyday items within arms’ reach. That might mean moving dishes around in your kitchen, reshelving staples in your pantry to be at eye level and making sure that the most frequently worn items are front and center in your closet or drawers.

These few easy fixes can help you live more easily with an arthritis disability.




8 Creative Ways to Enjoy Summer That Don’t Cost a Fortune

Ferris wheelIs everyone playing while you’re working? We get it: It can feel painful to sit at your desk when the weather warms. But there’s no reason to forfeit fun in the sun.

Here are eight ways to enjoy summer, without going into debt on a pricey vacation.

At work

1. Eat lunch al fresco: There’s nothing like an hour in the sun to recharge your batteries. But don’t waste money on an overpriced salad at the local café. Brown bag it to a park or even just a nearby bench, then take a stroll after you’ve eaten. At least one study has connected a lunchtime walk with increased enthusiasm and less fatigue and stress when workers returned to the office.

2. Ask about flexible hours: Something about a sunny summer morning makes you want to get out of bed with the birds (or the birds might just be waking you!). Some people prefer to get their day started and head straight into the office, then leave earlier to enjoy an extended late afternoon. See if your HR department will allow you to flex your hours at least part of the week and then take advantage of an early departure to enjoy an afternoon hike or a spin on the Ferris wheel at the local carnival when it’s less crowded. You can even finish your work at home later that evening if you need to.

3. Take the meeting outside: Everyone is feeling the same summer fever so be the hero and move from your boring conference room to an outdoor location. Even claiming a far corner of the parking lot can feel like a respite when you feel the sun on your face.

4. Take days off strategically: If you’re not able to plan an extended getaway, see if you can create your own mini trips. The trick is to take Fridays off so that you have three uninterrupted days to play. Plan short getaways to nearby towns, go camping or just be a tourist in your own town on a staycation. (Trust us: There’s nothing like taking in a matinee to really feel indulgent!) Try taking every other Friday off in July and August and see how much summer fun you can cram in without dealing with crowds and overpriced lodging and travel costs.

After work/ on the weekends

5. Find a festival: Art. Music. Food. Doesn’t matter. Nothing says summer like a festival. Beware of some that can be budget busters, especially if rides are involved, but many even allow you to browse for free or a nominal fee. Find samples to graze on or bring your own snacks. But do enjoy that elephant ear if you’ve been craving one!

6. Grow your own produce: A summer vegetable garden will get you outside and also help you eat healthier — while saving a bundle on weekly produce. If you’re not one for a green thumb or don’t have ample space, a farmer’s market is a great alternative to once again — be outside.

7. Streamline your errands: It can be brutal to spend a lovely afternoon running errands, but we all need to grocery shop and get the dry cleaning. Or, do we? Sometimes ordering online can actually save you money, even despite the nominal service or shipping fee, since you won’t be tempted to impulse buy, a habit that costs Americans a whopping $5,400 annually If you must do some errands in person, plan them efficiently, which not only saves time, but gas, as you avoid backtracking.

8. Use “nature’s gym:” Summer mornings are glorious times to go for a walk or bike ride, and even if you work full time, there’s still plenty of light to do the same in the afternoon — maybe even hit a nearby hiking trail or play an active game of tag with the kids. Bonus: You can probably put your health club membership on hold to save some cash. Many gyms allow a “freeze,” until it’s, well, freezing.




9 Ways to Save Money on Fruits & Vegetables

Bowl of vegetables on a wooden table.Are you one of those people who buys fruits and vegetables only to let them spoil? Your intentions may be good but your actions waste nutritious food and your hard-earned money.

Here are nine sure-fire ways to save money on fruits and vegetables.

1. Plan a weekly menu

If you go to the grocery store without a plan for how you’ll use your purchases, chances are you’ll buy things you may not need and miss ingredients that could have completed a meal idea. Save time and money by putting together a menu plan, with at least your daily dinners for the week thought through. Plan to use ingredients that ripen quickly early in the week and longer-lived produce later and you’ll avoid a lot of potential waste.

2. Know how to properly store your produce

Tomatoes in the refrigerator? No way. Herbs on the counter? Definitely not. Knowing the proper way to store your fruits and vegetables can make a huge difference in how long they last.

3. Don’t always buy organic

Studies have shown that pesticides used on non-organic produce can build up in the human body. But not all fruits and vegetables have the same amounts of residual pesticides. This list from the Environmental Working Group shows you some of the conventionally farmed fruits and vegetables that are perfectly fine to buy.

4. Buy what’s in season

Seasonal fruits and vegetables are frequently less expensive than those that are out of season and must be shipped from warmer climates. They also typically taste better. Don’t know what’s in season? Ask your grocer or check the Department of Agriculture Seasonal Produce Guide.

5. Buy what’s on sale

Planning your weekly menu around the fruits and vegetables your local market has on sale can result in significant savings over time. Plus, you’re more likely to use those products since you have a plan for them.

6. Stock up on frozen foods …

Of course, the items you need on a regular basis aren’t necessarily going to be on sale when you want them. That’s why it’s good to stock up on the frozen version of these items when they’re on sale. Frozen corn, green beans and other staples last for months in the freezer, and those without any sauces or seasoning are particularly versatile.

7. … & canned goods

The same goes for canned items like crushed tomatoes, pineapple and beans. Buying several cans when they’re on sale means you’ll always have them when you need them.

8. Grow your own

Even if it’s just some herbs in a window box, growing your own produce can save serious money, especially if you cook a lot. You’ll spend pennies on the dollar compared to buying at your local grocer or farmers market.

9. Join a CSA

If you want the freshest vegetables and fruits delivered throughout the growing season, Community Supported Agriculture can be a great and frugal option. CSA groups are all over the country, especially metropolitan areas where access to farms may be limited. A word of caution, though: You may end up with large quantities of fruits and vegetables, so you’ll need a plan for sharing, cooking or preserving them.

This article originally appeared on Policygenius. The Council for Disability Awareness is an affiliate partner of Policygenius.