The New Year is about to roll in, which means it's probably time to become a new you. And what better way to shake into that new and uber-productive self then changing up your schedule to be the maximally effective person you always dreamed of being?
According to the well-studied folks at Psychology Today, you're probably waking up too late, staying up too late, and your body is, correspondingly, all kinds of messed up. "Our near-constant exposure to artificial light has... [left] our bodies and brains struggling," Holly Pevzner writes for the popular magazine. Of course, if you're already pulling the 6am rise-and-shine, you might be among the high-achievers of which Laura Vanderkam, bestselling scribe of such texts as What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast and I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time, told the popular news magazine, The Week, that "They rise early. Almost all have a morning ritual."
Since so many people tend to wake up later, the early riser is also placed at an advantage next to their still-snoozing compatriots. "You need to wake up before the insanity starts," Eric Barker writes for The Week. Waking up early also sets you straight on setting some goals for yourself, another common habit among the high achievers or generally happy people, as reports a popular study that appeared in Journal of Happiness Studies all the way back in 2007. But the early rise promises something even more primordial than the late years of the Bush administration. Michael Grandner, who helps direct the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at the University of Pennsylvania, dropped some serious knowledge on Psychology Today when he warned that "[Our] natural rhythms have been gravely disrupted."
All of us live in some constantly-lit times and all that illumination has left our bodies scrambling--per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most people spin over five hours a day on things like Netflix and interacting with other people but don't, according to Psychology Today, correlate that with any particular feeling of happiness or satisfaction. All of our so-called leisure time happens in such small and measured chunks that we can barely feel anything at all, anymore. But how do you plan on reorienting your entire way of being in this hectic rat-race of on-line living? Here's some tips!
- Wake up once, not a hundred times. "When you hit the snooze button, you coax your brain to rewind to the beginning of the sleep cycle," writes Psychology Today, this time citing research by another academic, Edward Stepanski of Rush University. Of course, anyone who knows a snooze button already has some idea of this.
- And on that note, do more things earlier. Jennifer Ackerman's classic work of pop-psychology, Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream: A Day in the Life of Your Body, informs us that "most of us are sharpest some two and a half to four hours after waking." Do things then.
- "The average person spends 28 percent of the work week managing email," Psychology Today reminds us. Check twice a day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Remind the working world that you're the one that knocks.
- Take naps, if you can. Sara Mednick, back in 2013, gave a TED talk titled "Give it Up for the Down State" to promote her celebrated work of advice titled Take a Nap! Change Your Life, recommended taking naps, urging everyone "to take a break." And even NASA recommends taking naps, per Richard Wiseman's Night School: Wake Up to the Power of Sleep: "[NASA] pilots who take a twenty-five-minute nap in the cockpit...are subsequently 35 per cent more alert, and twice as focused, than their non-napping colleagues." If your workplace is not as conducive to naps as, say, NASA, Psychology Today, recommends nap-like activity such as "paperwork, photocopying, or collating."
- Socialize after dusk. Back in the day, Jacqueline Olds of Harvard Medical School reports, hunters and gatherers would choose the sunset hour to gather themselves into a socially cohesive whole. "Dusk is when people had to be especially aware to stave off dangers they couldn't see…[so] it was the time of day we'd group together for safety," Olds remembers. Psychology Today recommends posting on Facebook.
As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.
Extensive Plants and Greenery
A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.
As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.
There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.
Usable Outdoor Furniture
Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.
A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.
Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.
Acting Quickly Out of Emotion
Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.
Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.
Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation
Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.
If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.
Donating Unusable Materials
Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.
Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.
Strictly Giving at Year's End
As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.
With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.
Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.
The Age of Your House
Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.
The One-Percent Rule
An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.
The Square-Foot Rule
Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.
The Mix and Match Method
Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.
Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.