Saturday, August 4, 2018

Kaira Movie Review: An average love story

With the onset of monsoon, there are a lot of romantic movies being released in Kathmandu. After Romeo and Muna failed to attract the crowd last week, it was the Aryan Sigdel-starrer Kaira that tested its luck at the multiplexes in the Valley and around the country.

The romantic movie revolves around two characters Jay (Aryan Sigdel) and Kaira (Samragee Shah) who accidentally meet at a bar in Kathmandu. In a topsy-turvy journey, both seem to be ‘lucky’ in all matters except for romantic relationships. The story takes a turn when both of them meet in the Philippines where their love story deepens. What happens next changes and both an emotional ride begins.

The first half of the movie was quite engaging with the director showing the audience how the two characters met and the story behind the growth of their friendship. The half was gripping but there seemed to be something missing as the director tried to show a lot of things. Like most Nepali movies, Kaira too didn’t have an element of surprise–the story Was quite predictable.

The second half of the film failed to live up to expectations and lost its audience halfway through. The story got a bit intense and sad but it was over-stretched.

One good thing that stands out in the movie is the acting. It shows how much the actors have worked on getting their role right. Shah is good and so is as Kaira. Her acting is good, especially in the emotional scenes where she’s poised and natural. I didn’t think she Samragyee had it in her to play such an emotional role.

Sigdel, like always, is natural and calm throughout the film. His dialogue delivery, along with his expressions, is good. What is commendable is the flawless chemistry between the duo.

Other actors like Shishir Rana, Hitesh Sharma, Tsuresh Neupane and Marisha Shrestha are not as natural as the main cast but have complimented the two.

What is poor is the script which seems to have been inspired by a lot of Bollywood and Hollywood flicks. The story is quite good and gripping, but the way it has been presented is poor and shows a lack of originality. The screenplay does not do justice to the story which makes it a bit of a drag and makes the audience wish it was over as many left before the film ended. If not for the actors’ hard work, the movie would have been a poor watch as there a lot of faults with the planning of scenes and sequences throughout the film.

The songs are good as they feature a host of good singers such as Sugam Pokharel, Yubraj Chaulagain, Ketan Chhetri and Shreya Sotang. The cinematography is exemplary with Shivaram Shrestha capturing all the beautiful places in the Philippines elegantly. The wardrobe used is quite good too except for a few scenes in which you feel that Sigdel’s dress up is a bit over the top.

Overall, the movie is borderline average. Having expected so much from it, it disappoints.

Runtime: 145 minutes

Director: Laxman Rijal

Genre: Love story

Cast: Aryan Sigdel and Samragyee Shah

Screening in cinemas near you

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Jajarkot landslide kills four

Kathmandu, August 5

A landslide in Bheri Municipality-3 of Jajarkot district in Karnali province has buried four persons to death on Sunday morning.

The victims include one woman and three men. They, however, are yet to be identified.

Incessant rainfall since Saturday night had triggered the landslide.

DSP Rabindra Bahadur Singh. Chief of the District Police Office, says police have rescued a person live from the incident. He has been identified as local Lal Bahadur Dwar. The policeman suspects that the victims include his wife and child.

“The bodies are yet to be taken out of the debris,” DSP Singh says, “Another house has also been buried nearby. We have moblised another team for rescue there.”

Personnel from Nepal Army and Armed Police Force have also been mobilised.

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Inspiration from Mario Quintana, Toni Morrison, J.J. Watt, and More

Once a month (or so), I share a dozen things that have inspired me to greater personal, professional, and financial success in my life. I hope they bring similar success to your life.

1. Mario Quintana on chasing butterflies

“Don’t waste your time chasing butterflies. Mend your garden, and the butterflies will come.” – Mario Quintana

There are two ways of looking at success in the world.

One of them is the idea that success is something you have to chase. You have to pursue success by “faking it until you make it” and playing whatever games are necessary to get whatever rewards you are seeking.

Another is the idea that success is the result of preparing yourself so that the results you want come naturally, as do the accompanying rewards.

I used to believe strongly in the first route to success, that if you wanted success you needed to get out there now and grab it. What I’ve found, though, is that this kind of success often falls apart. It doesn’t last.

What lasts is the kind of success you built yourself, over time, by making yourself into a better person, the person that’s able to do something well. That takes a lot of time and effort, but that kind of success rarely fails.

I wish I understood the difference when I was younger.

2. Twenty minute time blocks

Lately, I’ve been scheduling my day with twenty minute time blocks. I plan out my morning routine with twenty minute blocks. I plan my work day with twenty minute blocks (usually three blocks of work and one block of break time in a repeating loop).

Why twenty minute blocks? For some reason, it seems to fit everything really well. One hour blocks of work followed by twenty minute breaks tend to match up extremely well with how I work, as I tend to start losing focus after about an hour and twenty minutes is a great amount of time for a “reset,” giving me time to take a short walk or to eat a quick meal.

How do I do this? When I sit down to work, I start a one hour timer. When it goes off, I stop working and go do something else for twenty minutes, then I repeat this until the time I have blocked off for work is finished.

Twenty minute blocks have felt like magic. When the timer goes off, I feel done and ready for a break. When a twenty minute break has passed, I feel ready to give it a go again. It just matches how my life flows.

3. Alexander Den Heijer on feeling tired

“You often feel tired, not because you’ve done too much, but because you’ve done too little of what sparks a light in you.” – Alexander Den Heijer

For me, mental tiredness usually comes from spending most of a day doing things that other people want me to do that are not in line with what I want to do. The more I do that, the more tired I tend to feel at the end of the day.

There are two solutions to this that I’ve found. One, find things that other people want you to do that you also want to do yourself. Ideally, you can get paid for this.

Two, live a life that enables you to at least have some time to do the things you want to do. That might mean living a more frugal life, for example, that enables you to work less. That might mean getting out of a difficult relationship. Whatever you need to do, find some room for yourself.

It’s almost a perfect equation for me. The more time I spend doing things that I truly want to be doing and the less time I spend doing things that I don’t want to be doing, the more alive and energetic I feel.

4. John Doerr on why the secret of success is setting the right goals

From the description:

Our leaders and institutions are failing us, but it’s not always because they’re bad or unethical, says venture capitalist John Doerr — often, it’s simply because they’re leading us toward the wrong objectives. In this practical talk, Doerr shows us how we can get back on track with “Objectives and Key Results,” or OKRs — a goal-setting system that’s been employed by the likes of Google, Intel and Bono to set and execute on audacious goals. Learn more about how setting the right goals can mean the difference between success and failure — and how we can use OKRs to hold our leaders and ourselves accountable.

So, what’s OKR? OKR is a way of setting goals that I’ve been playing around with lately. The idea is to set an objective – what you want to accomplish, in your own words – and a number of key results that describe that objective – numbers you will achieve if you meet that overall objective.

So, let’s say I want to be healthier – that’s my objective. I might set a key result of “losing an average of 2 pounds per week this quarter” and/or “walking 500,000 steps this quarter” and/or “doing 360 minutes of planks this quarter” and so on. You get the idea. Try to make those numbers audacious and right on the edge of what you think it’s even possible to reach.

Then, after the quarter is over (and at the midway point, too), grade those objectives on a scale of 0 to 1, where 0 is no progress and 1 is complete achievement. So, if I walked 350,000 steps in that quarter, I would have a score of 0.7, or a 70%. I basically look at this as a school score on a 90/80/70/60% grading scale.

I’ve actually been doing this during the third quarter of the year, merging this idea with ideas I learned from Triggers by Marshall Goldsmith.

5. Rumi on change

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” – Rumi

The only thing you truly have control over is yourself: your thoughts, your choices, your actions. You can’t control what nature does or what anyone else does. You can only control you.

If you throw all of your energy into changing the world, you probably won’t see a whole lot of success, for a number of reasons. One, you’re not putting your best self forward because you haven’t invested in improving yourself. Two, the world is generally indifferent to you and won’t change just because someone who hasn’t made themselves the best they can be is demanding change.

A much better approach is to focus on improving yourself. Make yourself better so that, in the moments when you have an opportunity to make change, it actually has an impact.

I like to think of this in terms of tossing rocks in a lake. An impatient person might throw handfuls of pebbles in immediately and create no lasting impact. A more patient person, on the other hand, will carefully select the right rock that will create big waves, and that invested time and effort will have a far bigger impact.

6. Idea Paint

I recently visited the office of a friend who had each wall of his office covered in Idea Paint and I quickly realized the huge benefits that such an environment would have for me.

Idea Paint is basically paint that turns a wall into a whiteboard. You can write on it with dry erase markers and erase what you’ve written with dry erasers.

Every single wall of his office was painted with this stuff, which turned his entire office into a giant whiteboard, and he was really using it. There were notes and diagrams and to-do lists and other things everywhere. Brainstorming sessions, quick jottings, half-formed presentations… it was like he had dumped his brains out on the walls, and it was amazing.

I would really, really, really love to paint my home office with this stuff. If we ever do decide to build a new home and I have a home office, this is how I will paint the walls.

7. Marcus Aurelius on power

“You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.” – Marcus Aurelius

The path of success in life isn’t in going out there and changing the world around you. You can’t really control those outside events; at best, you can influence them.

How does effective and lasting influence occur? It comes when someone with the right skills and traits pushes at the right place at the right moment.

Those right skills and right traits are built with time. They’re built with the constant choice to make yourself better. They aren’t found overnight.

Similarly, the right place at the right time is often found with a great deal of reflection and study and observing the world around you.

You control you. Improve yourself – your skills, your thinking, your ability to observe – and you’ll be ready for when the right moment comes.

8. Stephen Duneier on how to achieve your most ambitious goals

From the description:

How you define Stephen Duneier depends on how you came to know him. Some define him as an expert institutional investor, while others know him as a large scale installation artist, avid outdoorsman, professor, decision strategist, coach, business leader, mindfulness extremist, author, speaker, daredevil or Guinness world record holder. In his talk, Stephen explains that what truly defines him aren’t titles, but an approach to decision making that transformed him from someone who struggled with simple tasks to a guy who is continuously achieving even his most ambitious dreams.

What’s the core message here? It’s kind of the theme of this edition of “A Dozen Pieces of Inspiration” – putting effort into improving yourself or improving your routine, even if that improvement is seemingly a tiny one (he refers to them as a “marginal adjustment”).

He does this by breaking down self-improvement gestures into really tiny bits – five or ten minute tasks. What can you do in five or ten minutes to move you just a little bit toward your goal? If you want to get healthier, maybe you could do pushups and jumping jacks for five minutes. If you want to learn a new topic, maybe you read a difficult book for ten minutes. When you’re done, you go off and do something else. (I kind of like twenty minute blocks, as I noted earlier.)

The key is marginal adjustment – just finding a little thing you can change in your daily routine and then sticking with that little change. Make that one change and keep making the decision to stick with it.

9. Thomas Jefferson on trying something new

“If you want something you never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.” – Thomas Jefferson

If you want something new in your life, you can’t keep doing things the way you’ve always been doing them.

If you don’t want financial stress, you can’t keep spending money like you always have. If you don’t want career stress, you can’t keep staying in the same job doing the same things. If you don’t want relationship stress, you can’t keep treating your partners the same way you always have.

You have to try something new.

Trying something new isn’t easy. It’s often hard and it’s often scary. It can also feel like you’re not making any progress, especially after the “honeymoon” period is over.

Again, I’ll repeat: doing things the way you’ve always done them will give you the same results you’ve always had. If you don’t like those results, you either need to do things differently or learn to live with them.

10. Toni Morrison on the responsibility of freedom and power

“If you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.” ― Toni Morrison

There comes a point in the life of most people when they realize that they have “enough,” and that continuing to chase more and more and more is an endless road that will never lead to happiness.

At that point, many people begin to struggle with purpose. Why am I doing this? What’s the use? They either find a state of contentment or a state of frustration.

For me, I’ve found that the idea that I can help others once I’ve found that sense of “enough” to be incredibly exhilarating and inspiring. The constant endless road toward “more” leaves me feeling drained, but knowing I have “enough” and anything more that I achieve will help lift others is exciting for me.

11. The Band feat. the Staples Singers – The Weight

This comes from The Last Waltz, a Martin Scorsese documentary covering the last concert given by The Band, an influential musical group in the 1960s and 1970s. The concert featured a lot of guest performers on many of the band’s well known songs, but this one takes the cake.

The song itself is a good performance, but when the Staples Singers, particularly Mavis Staples, join in, the song goes to a whole new level. Her voice is amazing and the song just flows along.

There’s this sense of underlying joy here, where you can feel everyone enjoying themselves while performing beautiful music. That brings me back to this performance over and over again.

12. J.J. Watt on the bill of success

“Success isn’t owned. It is leased, and rent is due everyday.” – J.J. Watt

Our natural, default state, when we’re not working for anything and just wandering through life, is usually not nearly enough to get us the things we want in life. In order to have those things we want, we have to become something more than that default state. We have to become better than that.

The catch is that the process of becoming better isn’t just something you do once and call it good enough. Rather, it’s something that you always do. You work on it until it’s a part of you and it’s ingrained in you, but that natural default version of you still lurks inside.

If you don’t keep an eye on yourself, if you don’t keep working for that better you, you will slide backwards. Being a better version of yourself is a daily thing, not a “once in a while” thing.

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Friday, August 3, 2018

Historic day for Nepal cricket: Rhinos beat Dutch in close encounter


Kathmandu, August 3

Nepal’s national cricket team registered its first-ever ODI victory against the Dutch in Amstelveen in the second of the two-match series between the two sides.

Nepal, having won the toss, decided to bat first on a sunny day in Amstelveen. Nepal’s batsmen looked to dominate the Dutch bowling attack from the beginning, but the hosts continued to take wickets at regular intervals. But it was pacer Sompal Kami who rescued the innings to push Nepal’s score past 200. Nepal could only muster 216.

The Dutch, meanwhile, seemed to be in cruise control in the beginning of their innings. But Nepali bowlers took wickets when it mattered and swung the match in favour of the tourists.

It was skipper Paras who claimed the last Dutch wicket to wrap up the Dutch innings and complete Nepal’s first victory in ODI cricket in the final over of the match.

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The Magic System for Getting Out of Debt and Building Wealth Quickly!

Whenever I’m on a road trip and I don’t happen to have an audiobook or a podcast available, I’ll spin the radio dial and listen for something interesting. I actually really like local radio shows that cover things that are actually going on in that area, so I’m usually seeking out things like that.

One thing I often hear as I’m spinning the radio dial are advertisements for all kinds of things: local restaurants and car dealerships and so on. I usually keep turning the dial, but for some reason, I always stop on the ads talking about people’s money.

You’ve heard them – they’re the kinds of ads that talk about getting out of debt really quickly or building wealth quickly or things like actually turning your debt into wealth.

I’m always amazed at the incredible claims that these programs make. They really do make it sound like all you have to do is sign up for this program or go to this seminar and suddenly all of your financial problems are solved.

The thing is, all of them are usually selling some minor variation on the same plan. It’s a super simple financial plan that I absolutely guarantee will get you out of debt really quickly and help you start building wealth faster than you know it. All you have to do is start following the plan.

Here it is – the core secret behind all of those “get out of debt quick” and “get rich quick” plans that sound enticing on the radio. Are you ready?

Spend less than you earn, make that gap as big as you can, and do something smart with that gap.

That’s it. That’s what every single one of those programs boils down to, with the “do something smart” varying a little bit but usually starting with “paying off your debts as fast as humanly possible starting with your highest interest debts.”

The truth is that this basic advice is also at the backbone of virtually every personal finance book you’ll check out at the library, too. Sure, they might vary a little in terms of what “do something smart” actually means, but the overall framework of spending way less than you earn and doing something smart with the difference is the key to all of it.

So, how do you make the magic happen?

You start by cutting your spending hard. That’s what all of these plans will end up suggesting to you, whether they do it subtly and lightly or they push it hard.

As I mentioned earlier, almost all financial plans you read or hear about or watch boil down to you having some freed-up resources to get rid of your debt and start saving for the future. How do you get those freed-up resources? There are two routes – earning more or spending less – and only one of them is immediately available to most people. You can always choose to spend less because that’s a choice you control, whereas your income is usually at least partially out of your control. Thus, cutting your spending is usually the first step, as you have to have some resources to start with.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s no question that earning more is a good thing when it comes to building lasting financial success, but you can’t just flip it on and off like a switch. If you could, everyone would be earning a mint… but that’s obviously not the case. Keep working toward improving your career and your earnings, but don’t use dreams of a big salary in the future as a justification to spend money today. If you want quick results, you’ve got to start with what you have, and what you have is the ability to cut back on your spending.

There are a lot of ways to do this. Switch to buying all store brand items when you go grocery shopping. Start shopping at a discount grocery store. Cut your cable and go with Netflix. Cut your landline. Switch cell phone carriers. Shop around for better insurance. Eat at home more often. The number of things that a person can do in their life to cut spending is practically infinite. You just need to find the things that you can cut hard that have a minimal impact on your life.

If you do that seriously, you’re going to suddenly have plenty of money to stop living paycheck to paycheck and start knocking down those debts rapidly and then, when the debts are gone, start building wealth.

The key to all of this is in the word “seriously.” If your “cuts” add up to stopping at Starbucks one less time this month, you’re not going to see any change in your life for a very long time. You have to cut and cut hard.

Every time you see a little extra in your checking account from those cuts, start paying down a debt. Start making extra payments on your highest interest rate credit card, as big as you can make them. When that’s gone, move on to the next one. When they’re all gone, celebrate… but keep going, because now you have the opportunity to build wealth. Start throwing a lot of money into your 401(k) or your Roth IRA. Start saving for a home. Start saving for whatever your goals are.

It is that simple. It’s kind of like magic. Just get a grip on your spending today and keep that grip and you’ll be in far, far better financial shape down the road.

If you’re sitting there thinking to yourself that this is obvious, you’re right. That doesn’t change the fact that 78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and much of the remaining 22% have some form of debt.

It might seem “obvious” and “simple,” but if that’s true, why isn’t everyone doing it?

It’s because although the strategy is “obvious” and “simple,” it’s hard to actually execute. It’s easy to talk the talk. It’s much harder to walk the walk.

If you can just start doing it, though, your life will change. If you can manage to spend less than you earn paycheck after paycheck, month after month, year after year, you will see profound changes in your financial life. Your debts will melt away like ice cream on a hot summer day. Your account coffers will start growing like a hungry twelve year old.

All it takes is spending a little less and sticking with that change, and then, maybe later, earning a little more. Then, take that money you’re not spending and that extra money you’re now earning and do something smart with it. Be patient and keep doing that and your life will change.

It’s amazing how something so simple, something that virtually anyone can do, can have such profound results, but that’s exactly how it works.

I should know. Several years ago, I was in debt up to my eyeballs, living in a tiny apartment, with tens of thousands of dollars in student loans, two car loans, and three maxed out credit cards. Today, I own my own home and have zero debt. The first step I took – and the only change I made in the first couple of years when I was making the debt vanish – was to simply cut back on my spending, cut back seriously, and stick with the cutbacks. That’s it. Eventually, I figured out how to improve my earnings a little, but by then, the snowball was already rolling down the mountain.

See? It’s magic. And you can do it, too. All you have to do is move from thinking about it to doing it.

Good luck!

Related Articles: 

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Thursday, August 2, 2018

New job market for Nepalis: Seychelles interested to recruit guards for jail security

Kathmandu, August 3

The smallest country in Africa, Seychelles, has expressed its interest to recruit Nepali guards to employ them for prison security.

The country says it wants to recruit the works through a government-to-government agreement.

Spokesperson at the Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security, Deepak Dahal, informs that the country has already sent a draft of the memorandum of understanding to begin the recruitment process.

Dahal says the Ministry will take an appropriate decision after conducting a study about the host country’s economy, labour laws, climate and facilities to be provided to the workers. He claims the government will keep the welfare of labourers at the centre while finalising the deal.

Therefore, the Ministry wants to ensure handsome pays for the workers and their own security at first.

Prisons in this island country are among most well-facilitated jails in the world. Officials of the Ministry believe that the African country wanted to employ Nepali guards for the security of these prisons because Nepalis have historically been known for their bravery.

Until now, a handful of Nepalis have reached the country for employment on their own.


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The Wisdom of Frugality: The Environmentalist Case for Simple Living

wisdom of frugalityThis is the seventh entry in an eight-part weekly series that provides a detailed look at the book The Wisdom of Frugality by Emrys Westacott. If you’re new to the series, feel free to hop back to the first entry.

This chapter of The Wisdom of Frugality takes direct aim at one of the biggest benefits often cited for living a simpler frugal life: it’s environmentally friendly. A frugal person, as the argument goes, uses far less resources than an affluent person and thus puts less of a strain on the global environment. Many people carry this concept forward and use it as a big part of their moral justification for frugality.

Historical Background

This part might not seem relevant to frugality, but bear with it.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, there was no need for people to be concerned about the environment. The individual actions of humans in a pre-industrial society did not add up to nearly enough to cause environmental damage on a scale that could consistently cause significant and widespread harm.

Nature was seen as a wild force for man to exploit. It was far beyond the ability of man to control it or interfere with it in any significant way; rather, man found ways to accentuate the benefits of nature and minimize the negative impact on human life.

Over the centuries, humans gradually developed technologies that allowed them to exploit more and more of the earth’s resources, eventually leading to the Industrial Revolution and widespread exploitation of those resources.

Alongside the Industrial Revolution, a backlash of sorts arose in the form of Romanticims, which lauded natural untamed landscapes and distrusted artificial things. This eventually developed into a broad tradition, with people like Henry David Thoreau rejecting many aspects of technology and eventually growing into the modern environmental and political movement.

The Environmentalist Argument for Frugality

Frugality and environmentalism find a great deal of overlap because of similarity in tactics. Both of them find a great deal of value in minimizing one’s use of the Earth’s resources and getting as much value as possible out of the resources that we do use.

The idea of “reduce, reuse, recycle,” for example, is as much at home with an environmentalist as it is with a frugal person. Both will seek to get as much value out of things as possible, but for somewhat different core reasons. The environmentalist wants to reuse and reduce in order to minimize their impact on the Earth, while the frugality wants to reduce and reuse in order to minimize the expense.

The specific tactics that both groups use in their daily life tend to match up really well, too. Strategies like using less water, consuming fewer manufactured goods, using less electricity, and finding low impact things to do with one’s time are strategies that both frugal people and environmentalists share, even though they may be doing those things for different reasons. Often, frugal people and environmentalists are on the same page with broader initiatives in the community, like having an effective mass transit system, which lowers overall environmental impact (great for the environmentalist) while also lowering individual cost (great for the frugal person).

Objections to the Environmental Argument

However, a great deal of synergy in tactics doesn’t add up to full agreement. While there may be some overlap between the beliefs and tactics of the environmentalist and the frugal person, there isn’t perfect alignment.

First of all, ecological impacts are often difficult to articulate and evaluate. Things like biofuels and rechargeable batteries might seem to be environmentally friendly on the surface, but the full picture of their environmental impact often isn’t nearly as clear cut. For example, rechargeable batteries often require some very environmentally unfriendly practices and materials requirements to manufacture, for example. They may be frugal, but are they environmentally friendly? It’s a bit harder to tell for sure.

This is true for larger strategies that might seem like great synergy between frugality and environmentalism. Is it more environmentally friendly to install solar panels on your home than to keep buying from the grid? What about the manufacture of those panels – what kind of impact does that have? Figuring that out becomes very difficult, whereas crunching the numbers to determine the cost-effectiveness of such a choice is much more cut and dried.

The thing to remember when being skeptical of ecological impacts of individual choices is that it’s good to be skeptical of the individual practices, but recognize that the overall principle – reduction of environmental impact – is a good one.

The second issue to consider is the fact that simple living isn’t always green living. A great example of this came from the “burn barrel” we had when I was growing up. We didn’t have trash service and the only real option for trash removal was to haul it to a dump that was many miles away, so instead we had a “burn barrel” – an old barrel that my dad picked up somewhere – in which we burnt our trash. When the barrel became full of ash (and with a few unburnt items in there), then we’d pay to have it hauled away. It was far cheaper than actually having trash service, but far less environmentally friendly.

In retrospect, the environmental cost of services out in the country where I grew up was much higher than it would have been in the city. The environmental cost of running power lines, water lines, roadways, and other such services to us out in the country was enormous. Furthermore, to have access to other services, like grocery stores, we had to drive quite a few miles.

The idea of “simple living in the country” is really only environmentally friendly if you decide to completely go without a lot of basic services. Some people in rural areas do eschew a few services that people in urban or suburban areas might expect (such as speedy internet), but people in rural areas do expect an awful lot of the basic services that all Americans expect, like drivable roads, drinkable water, and so on, and those services have a pretty big environmental footprint when they’re offered in rural areas.

Another great example of how the frugal option isn’t always the most environmentally friendly option is the choices faced when buying fresh produce. Local, organically produced items are going to have a lower environmental impact than produce that came from a factory farm several thousand miles away… but the local organic produce is going to be more expensive because the factory farm methods squeeze a lot of cost out of the system.

How does a person decide what the right choice really is? It’s not an easy decision no matter what you choose. There ends up being several reasonable choices when it comes down to balancing various environmental factors, and often the “best” choice ends up being influenced by other factors like health benefits, the impact on the local community, and so forth. Often, this best choice does not end up being the least expensive choice, which can put a price conscious person at odds with an environmentally focused person.

Furthermore, it can be argued that the choices of individuals make no real difference. The actions of governments and corporations will make the real difference, not individual frugal choices. The things I do in my daily life have very, very little impact on the environment compared to the impact of large scale agricultural businesses and manufacturing businesses.

This is the reasoning that many people use for individual poor behavior. “I can’t possibly make an impact,” goes the logic, “so it doesn’t matter what I do.” Thus, people excuse their own unethical and damaging behavior.

The thing is, individual actions multiplied many times can make an enormous difference. Consider, for example, a community that has limited water in its reservoir that agrees to some general water use rules within the town. If everyone chooses to conserve a little, everyone has enough water for their needs. An individual person isn’t going to be able to fix the water issue through severe cutbacks or non-use, nor is that individual going to be able to singlehandedly drain the reservoir, but when lots and lots of individuals agree to limit their water use to merely meet their needs rather than all of their wants, there ends up being enough water for everyone to meet their needs.

This pops up over and over again. When people agree to use restraint when utilizing common resources like water and wood and other such things, there’s enough for everyone to have their needs and sometimes their more important wants met. If individuals assume they have no impact and then uses the resources recklessly, then simple arrangements where everyone has their needs met can never occur and some will be left without needed resources.

When lots of people take little steps, economies of scale kick in. For example, if everyone in America gave a single dime toward a cause, that cause would suddenly have $30 million dollars. Little efforts are only small when they’re seen in isolation – if they’re repeated by everyone and looked at from a distance, they appear enormous.

Another counterpoint is the idea that our best hope for fixing the environment lies in technological innovation.. Many of the tools that we have for keeping our environment healthy come from technological innovation – solar panels (and their steady improvement), wind power, algae power, tidal power, tools for environmental cleanup, and so on. As powerful as frugal living can be, it can’t fix the damage of the past and it can only somewhat alter our trajectory going forward. Technology has the capacity to fix our past mistakes and radically alter our path going forward.

The problem is that technological innovation, as it’s happening, often has a huge environmental impact itself. It can take a ton of resources to go from whiteboard idea to something that works, and that first version that works is usually very rough and takes a long time to refine. In other words, development of the technologies that we really need to make things better is going to require some significant short term environmental impact, and there’s not even a guarantee that those technologies will help. Furthermore, other technological innovations will likely continue to increase our use of resources while we stumble towards any kind of solution to the environmental impact of that resource use.

Stepping up activities that are causing the problem is illogical. It’s the equivalent of eating more when you’ve just been given a prescription for diabetes medication. Yet it’s essentially a requirement if we believe technology will just fix everything.

Many people hope that this research will happen as a result of the economic booms that have come from the development of earlier research into high-demand products. The reality is that the kind of research that’s done in the wake of a successful product is usually not in solving big societal problems, but in developing a follow-up product. Apple’s R&D department didn’t start trying to solve humanity’s deep questions once they developed the iPhone. Instead, they went to work on the iPhone 2 and the iPad.

Final Thoughts

Most of the arguments that people make in favor of frugality are individual arguments. They look at things purely in terms of the individual – how can I get the most value out of this situation, considering my needs and wants and my financial bottom line? The environmental angle is an attempt to move beyond that individual approach. How does frugality come into alignment with larger societal needs? It happens to line up well with being green.

When you start looking at frugality through the lens of what our moral obligations to others actually are and how we live them out, it’s clear that frugality can be a major part in terms of living out our obligations to our community and the world. If we live a less expensive and simpler lifestyle, we’re left with more resources with which to use to make the world a better place, plus we’re consuming fewer resources ourselves. There are a lot of ways we can use those resources to make the community and the world a better place.

In short, frugality is a powerful supplement to a public service oriented lifestyle. If volunteerism and other forms of public service and public work are a major part of your life and you want to actively work to make the world a better place, then frugality plays a strong complementary role in that because it reduces the amount of time and energy and money you need to commit to meeting your living expenses, which thus increases the amount of time and energy and money you have available to commit to the causes you care about.

There’s another interesting underlying issue in all of this: just because something feels right doesn’t mean that it is right. It might feel “right” (for an example that hits home here in Iowa) to buy ethanol-supplemented fuels, but the significant reduction in fuel efficiency plus the environmental cost in the conversion of plant matter into ethanol means that I’m not convinced that what “feels” right actually “is” right (the jury is still out for me on this one, to tell the truth). It takes a lot of work to move from what “feels” right to what actually “is” right, and that sometimes means giving up on some tightly-held beliefs. That’s a kind of effort that’s in short supply in the world, sadly enough.

Next week, we’ll tie up this book with some final thoughts on the book as a whole and what it means for people practicing frugality today.

The Wisdom of Frugality Series:

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Secondhand Clothes from a Personal Stylist: I Tried ThredUP’s ‘Goody Box’ Service

Whether or not you enjoy shopping for clothes, sometimes a little assistance for time-saving or style-shifting purposes can be helpful. Until recently, companies that specialize in new apparel such as Stitch Fix and Nordstrom’s Trunk Club have cornered the online personal shopper market. The basic process works like this: You create a profile detailing your budget, style, and fit needs, and a stylist sends you a box full of clothing, accessories, and shoes for a fee. You choose the items you want to keep and send everything else back within a designated timeframe.

I’ve been intrigued by the concept, but as someone who keeps her wardrobe to a minimum, likes to host clothing swaps, and generally shops resale stores wherever possible to cut back on supporting the throw-away, fast-fashion industry, I’ve been hesitant to try such subscription crate services.

Enter ThredUP’s new customized “Goody Boxes,” and an excited me.

ThredUP’s Goody Box: New-to-me, just-for-me

ThredUP, the largest online thrift store, has been in the secondhand business for almost a decade. The company used to deal only in one-to-one buying and selling, but recently debuted its online customized curation program: the Goody Box. Instead of a getting a crate full of new clothes chosen by a personal stylist, you receive an array of custom-picked secondhand fashions.

The process will sound familiar. After setting up a profile, you have the opportunity to include additional notes to your stylist; I asked for no leather or fur, and wrote that I tend to wear a lot of black and would appreciate some bright color options. You can also share more details about your style by favoriting items currently available on the site, or by linking to a personal Pinterest board.

Right now, the fee for the service is $10, but it’s technically a non-refundable deposit: You receive $10 in credit toward whatever items you decide to keep. Once a box arrives at your doorstep, you have seven days to try everything on and return what you don’t want. ThredUP includes an itemized sheet that lists each piece and its price, along with a free USPS return label. They’ll also send you multiple reminder emails about the return deadline, so you don’t accidentally get stuck with everything if you don’t want to add all of it to your wardrobe.

I ordered my first box last month, and a second box immediately after receiving my first, and here’s what I found.You

You can get high-quality secondhand goods online.

My biggest worry about buying secondhand items online concerns quality. As a resale shopper, I’m used to rigorously checking every inch of each item I want to buy, and I still sometimes bring home pieces that are more used than I first expected.

And if I’m honest, while the ThredUP site is clean and user-friendly when it comes to filtering for sizes, colors, price, and the like, the photos of the clothing aren’t the most appealing. The clothing is secondhand… and it shows. It’s often floppy, wrinkled, and doesn’t quite fit the display mannequins. You only get two photos of each item, typically front and back, and the descriptions are fairly minimal.

However, all the clothing I received in my two Goody Boxes was in good shape — no tears, holes, stains, weird markings, or otherwise heavy use. A few items I received were brand new with the original tags still in place. I’ve also watched a handful of Goody Box unboxings online, and while some people had concerns with sizing and style, only one person complained about a quality issue. It’s given me more confidence in purchasing one-off resale items, at least from ThredUP.

I loved the element of surprise.

I don’t typically like a lot of surprises, but the possibility of finding something completely unexpected and perfect for me is one of the reasons I love resale shopping. Others may find digging through disorganized racks at their local Goodwill, Arc, or consignment shop tedious (like my husband), but the hunt has always been part of the appeal for me.

I was giddy when my Goody Box arrived, and I dove in with a treasure-hunting attitude. You can choose a theme for your box, such as “9 to 5 Styles,” “Take Me Out Outfits,” or “Tropical Getaway,” if you’d like a little more control, but you can also pick the “Just for You” custom mix and let your stylist go wild (or classic, or boho, or whatever you ask of them). As thredUP co-founder and CEO James Reinhart admits in a letter sent with my first box, “We know we won’t get it all right all the time,” but their mission is to “inspire a new generation of consumers to think secondhand first.”

When it came to my boxes, Reinhart’s quote hit it on the button. I did receive some of the brightly colored items I requested, but I also received two leather purses, a leather skirt, and a petite-size dress for my 5-foot 7-inch body. They went straight back into the box, and when they asked why I was returning these items, I made sure to let them know. (It is worth noting that a few weeks after giving this feedback to thredUP, the company sent me a “Second Chance” email. It explained that they had noticed I didn’t love many items in my box, and if I was willing, wanted to give me a deposit-free opportunity to try another. I get that they want to sell more product, but I did appreciate that someone noticed — and, of course, I said yes.)

The cost is low.

While ThredUP does charge that non-refundable, $10 upfront fee for its Goody Box service, you do get the 10 bucks back as a discount if you keep and spend at least that much on an item.

In the box, you get about 15 items in minimal packaging — each priced to fit the “ budget per item” cost you choose when you sign up. I selected the lowest possible, $20-$40, which seemed high to me, until I realized it’s really just a guide. About half of the designer label clothing and accessories I received came in around $12 an item. I felt like most of the prices were comparable to those I typically find at a locally owned boutique consignment shop I frequent.

A big cardboard box, cheery polka dot tissue paper, and some bubble wrap is the extent of what you’ll find around your nicely folded items — all of which you can reuse when packing up for returns. Shipping is free, as are returns, which are processed through the U.S. Postal Service. You’re not required to commit to a subscription plan, so you can order as many or as few times as you like, on your timeline.

Compared to Stitch Fix, which charges a creditable $20 stylist fee for items that average $55 apiece, or Trunk Club, which sends items in the $100-to-$300 range and charges a $25 creditable stylist fee, ThredUP’s Goody Boxes are a consignment-shop caliber bargain.

The impact is potentially high.

No, I don’t anticipate that a Goody Box will change your life. The impact I’m referring to here is the environmental one — which, of course, you can contribute to simply by buying secondhand locally or online. The Goody Boxes just offer another way to access the resale market and make an impact on the world around you.

“Fashion is the second-most polluting industry in the world surpassed only by petroleum,” wrote Emily Farra in Vogue last fall. “Basically, when you buy something old and previously-loved, you’re extending its lifespan and reducing its carbon footprint. Picking up brand-new clothes all the time (and disposing of them just as quickly) drives demand for nonstop manufacturing, which contributes to the fashion industry’s incredible waste.”

Cheers for more options.

Related Articles

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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Hidden Key to Frugality: Seeing More of the Options

Recently, I was talking to a friend that I hadn’t seen in ages about what we might do if Sarah and I visited them. Naturally, we started talking about sharing a meal.

My friend immediately suggested that we meet and dine somewhere in her area and offered up a handful of suggestions. I looked them up and it turned out that they were all pretty pricy.

I made another suggestion. “Maybe we could just meet in a park somewhere and put together a simple picnic. You can just bring some stuff you have on hand and we can bring the rest. Just tell us what we should bring. We can stop at a grocery store on the way.” To me, this sounded better anyway, as it let us be outside in the nice weather and enjoy the beautiful landscape of a park rather than the ordinary decor of a restaurant. Even better: the cost of such a picnic for all of us was far, far less than any of those restaurant options – and likely cheaper than any restaurant in the area.

This idea had never even crossed her mind. She seemed to love the idea, but it had never even occurred to her to do such a thing. She had simply locked onto a few particular options (mostly expensive restaurants in the area) and chosen from among them.

I’m not here to shame my friend or anything. What she did is something that we all do: we’re trying to solve the so-called “problem of choice.”

What I mean by that is that in any given moment or situation, we’ve got a ton of different choices we can make. If we were to examine all of those choices, we’d never get around to actually making a decision. So, instead, we instinctively rely on some simple rule that we pull out from somewhere inside of us to cut down the options drastically. My friend’s internal rule was obvious: a good friend is coming from out of town and we’re going to share a meal, so let’s go to a good restaurant together so that it’s a simple dining situation and we can focus on conversation.

We make this kind of mental cut-down all of the time. We do it when we’re grocery shopping and see 35 different kinds of pasta sauce, which we quickly trim down to a couple of options. We do it when we’re thinking about what we want to do this evening. We do it when we’re choosing a book at the library.

We’re faced with a ton of options, so many that we can’t really devote adequate time or consideration to each one. Instinctively, we find some way to pare down those choices into a tiny subset, and then we make our choice from that subset.

One of the most powerful things I learned during my transition from being a heavy spender to being a rather frugal person is that altering that instinct of paring down choices was absolutely crucial in living a more frugal life.

My instinct, when I come across a situation with a multitude of choices, is usually to cut off most of the expensive options right off the bat. When a friend comes to town, I don’t even consider a dinner at one of the most expensive places around. When I’m buying pasta sauce, I don’t even consider the stuff that costs several dollars a bottle. When I want to read a new release, I don’t even consider buying it at the bookstore. Instead, I start considering the options that are left. Maybe we could have a dinner at the park, or I could make something at home. Maybe I’ll buy this inexpensive brand that doesn’t add any sugar to the sauce, or this medium-level brand that’s on sale today. Maybe I’ll check out the book at the library, or wait until it’s in paperback, or put it on my Amazon wish list.

That’s my initial instinct, but that instinct did not come naturally. I had to build up that instinct within myself, and it’s really not easy to change that kind of instinct. Here’s how I manage to reprogram those kinds of instincts.

First, I started second-guessing a lot of my choices when I had more time to think about them. I started thinking deeply about my specific shopping or dining or other choices when I was driving my kids to soccer practice or waiting for the dentist or using the bathroom or anything else that didn’t require my mental focus. I’d go back through those situations where I spent money and I’d simply walk through them, piece by piece.

I would try to re-evaluate those situations through the lens of a factor that was really important to me and that I wanted to change in my life, which, at the time, was being a more frugal person. I wanted to make those decisions in a way that was more careful with my money and my time and my energy – but particularly my money. So I would try to re-evaluate the things I had done solely from the perspective of money. Did I do things in the least expensive way possible? Were there other approaches that were less expensive that didn’t bring other problems to the table.

Along with that, and I consider this the most important part, I started intentionally looking for more options than the ones I initially considered.

For example, let’s say that my gut instinct when my friend came to town was to go out to eat at an expensive restaurant and that I initially chose from the three or four best and most expensive places in town because my instinct was to cut the many, many options down to those three or four places. But what if I looked at more options? There are a lot of places to eat within a 30 minute radius of here. There are also many possibilities centered around making food myself.

The question becomes how do I actually filter down all of these options? A good place to start is to ask why I filtered them so quickly down to the three or four expensive places. Well, my reasons there were that I wanted to have a good meal with my friend, one that wouldn’t require me to invest my attention in food preparation when he was around so that I could instead focus on my friend, and perhaps, to a lesser extent, I wanted to impress my friend with my restaurant choice.

So, if my goals really are to have a good meal that we’ll all enjoy, to be able to focus on my friend instead of food preparation, and (to a lesser extent) impress my friend, how can I achieve those things while spending less money? As I noted earlier, why not have a picnic meal at the park? I could choose a park with a great natural view and pack some interesting foods to eat that might surprise his palate. With a picnic, the food prep work is done in advance – we don’t even have to stop our conversation to order food! The location and some nice food choices would serve the lesser desire to impress, such that it is.

What other choices are there that could fulfill those goals? I could make a meal at home that’s largely finished when my friend arrives, with the table already set, and I could just toss the dishes in the sink when it’s done, which would make for a good meal and time to focus on a friend rather than a meal. The “impress” part would come from a decent homemade meal and the openness of my home. I could also seek out a low cost “hidden gem” restaurant in my area, which would definitely cut the costs and perhaps impress my friend with my bargain-finding ability.

What this thinking process does is that it allows me to reset the instinctive “cutting down” of decision making in my mind, moving me to another set of options in common situations. When a friend comes to town now, I usually think of a picnic in the park (as I did with an old friend from Wisconsin just a month or so ago when he and his family came through town) or a simple dinner at my house (as with a visit from another old friend less than a week ago) or a low cost “hidden gem” restaurant (as with an old co-worker a month or so ago). My cut down includes the old desire to be able to focus on the friend, but it adds in the cost constraint and reshapes the desire to impress. That’s now my instinct in those situations.

This type of “reshaping” of my spending instincts takes time and it also takes creativity and assessment of more options than I once considered. I can’t just rely on the expensive instinctive choices that I relied on in the past. Instead, I have to figure out what my real constraints are, then look for options in my life that meet those constraints. The thing is, once I begin to see that there really are a number of options that fit those new constraints, that old instinct starts to fall and the new “instinct” starts to rise. The new choice becomes the automatic one.

If you follow this process with the decisions you make in your life, you will start to reshape your instincts over time. That’s exactly what happened to me as I gradually shifted from instinctively wanting to spend money to instinctively finding other options. When I do find situations where I instinctively want to spend, I put time and thought into rebuilding that instinct in a better way. Again, the challenging part is creativity and thinking about more options than you’re initially considering.

Master your instincts and you master your spending.

Good luck!

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The Average Credit Score Is Getting Higher

You don’t have to look far to find troubling financial news. Whether it’s excessive student loan debt or an increase in credit card delinquencies, it seems like there’s never any good news coming out of the consumer finance world.

When it comes to credit scores, however, the news is actually quite encouraging. In fact, the average credit score is going up and a surprisingly large number of people have great credit scores.

Both FICO and VantageScore routinely keeps tabs on the country’s average credit scores, also known as a score distribution. According to FICO, America’s average credit score has been trending upward for around a decade. In fact, in 2017 the average FICO score topped 700 for the first time in history. And, according to VantageScore, the average VantageScore credit score is 675, and 35% of its scores are above 760, which is an elite score using any definition.

Why Credit Scores Are Higher

It is not a surprise that the meltdown from a decade or so ago coincided with a drop in average consumer credit scores. In October of 2009 the average FICO credit score in the United States dropped to 686. Prior to the peak of the housing crisis, 18 months earlier in April of 2008, the average FICO score had been 690.

Since the recession, the average score has been steadily climbing upward. Why? There are certainly many factors that contributed to the increase, but the bottom line is credit scores have increased because our collective level of credit risk has improved, and our credit reports are cleaner.

Less Risk = Better Credit Scores = Cheaper Credit = More Disposable Income

Both VantageScore and FICO’s credit scoring models are designed to help lenders and other companies predict risk. The stated design objective of these credit bureau-based scoring systems is to predict the likelihood that a consumer will pay 90 days late or worse on any credit obligation within the 24 months after their score is calculated. That’s called a Performance Definition.

When actions on your credit reports indicate that your level of risk has improved, credit scoring models reward you with higher credit scores. For example, if you previously had late payments on your credit reports, but you’ve been on time with all of your bills for the last few years, your credit scores will climb slowly over time.

According to FICO, the following factors have contributed to the rising average score:

  • Fewer people have serious delinquencies on their credit reports in the last two years. Remember, payment history is the most important component of your credit scores, accounting for around 35% of your score points. With the number of serious delinquencies on credit reports decreasing, it makes perfect sense for scores to be on the rise.
  • Fewer people have minor delinquencies on their credit reports in the past year. FICO considers not only the number of delinquencies on a credit report, but the recency of those delinquencies as well. According to FICO, repayment behavior by consumers has been improving overall.
  • There are fewer collection accounts on credit reports. Normally collection accounts are bad for your credit scores. This drop in the number of consumers with collection accounts is one more reason for the average FICO score improvement.
  • Fewer people are applying for new credit. This is somewhat of a surprise. There are fewer credit pulls from lenders, and therefore fewer “hard inquiries” on people’s credit reports. That equals lower risk, and higher scores.

That’s just the average though — has your credit score risen in the past few years? If you’re trying to improve your credit, here’s a 12-month plan to get your score in good shape, and a trick to give your credit score a quick boost.

Related Articles:

John Ulzheimer is an expert on credit reporting, credit scoring, and identity theft. He has written four books on the topic and has been interviewed and quoted thousands of times over the past 10 years. With time spent at Equifax and FICO, Ulzheimer is the only credit expert who actually comes from the credit industry. He has been an expert witness in over 230 credit related lawsuits and has been qualified to testify in both federal and state courts on the topic of consumer credit.

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Hearing on CJ nomination: Personal bodyguards provided to panel members

Kathmandu, August 1

As the Parliamentary Heading Special Committee has remained undecided over the controversial nomination of Acting Chief Justice Deepak Raj Joshee for the top judicial position, members of the panel have been provided with personal bodyguards ‘considering their security sensitivity.’

Nepal Police Headquarters decided to mobilise its personnel for the security of lawmakers as they might be attacked over the decision that the Committee is expected to make today.

A meeting of the Committee is underway and it is expected to decide whether to endorse or reject him. As the ruling parties are against the nominee, Joshee is likely to get rejected and the main opposition party Nepali Congress is likely to protest the verdict.

Of total 15 PHSC members, seven have been provided with the service today. Other members were already enjoying the service.

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49 complaints against Armed Police Force in three months

Kathmandu, August 1

The Complaint Hearing Section of Armed Police Force Headquarters says members of the public have filed as many as 49 complaints against the Force in past three months.

Six of the complaints are about financial irregularities, five about gender-based and domestic violence, five about activities against good conduct, five about transfer and promotion, five about United Nations peacekeeping missions, two about financial irregularities and 17 about miscellaneous issues.

DIG Baburam Pandey says 46 of the complaints have already been addressed.

“The rest three complaints will be addressed at the earliest by assigning focal persons for individual cases.

Of the complaints, five were filed via email and Facebook whereas 18 were registered via telephone.

Likewise, the Force is effectively addressing complaints filed against the force via Hello Sarkar, according to Pandey.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

59 Nepal-India border pillars reconstructed

Tulsipur, August 1

As many as 59 border pillars have been reconstructed along Nepal-India border line in Dang district.

A joint team of  officials from both the countries had initiated the rebuild of border pillars since three years back.

The reconstruction bid was initiated when the border pillars made up of bricks and cement started falling apart.

Chief District Officer of Dang, Gajendra Bahadur Shrestha shared the information that the broken border pillars were rebuilt on consensus of Nepal and India

“With this, only five border pillars remain to be reconstructed in the area”, he said, adding that Nepal reconstructed 14 main and 21 auxiliary border pillars.

“Nepal needs to erect other four main and one auxiliary border pillars”, said Armed Police Force official Tulsi Ram Dahal.

There are 37 main and 77 auxiliary border pillars along the 83-km Nepal-India area in Dang alone.



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30 Ways to Show Your Love and Still Be Frugal

My wife and I have been married 15 years, and dated for six years prior to marriage. During that time, we’ve had three kids, lived through moves and career changes and great moments and tragedies, and yet we’d still rather spend time with each other than anyone else. I love her in more ways than I can possibly subscribe – best friend, romantic partner, mother to my children, participant and leader in the community… I could go on and on and on.

A big part of that feeling of continued love and closeness after all of these years is that we’ve managed to figure out how to show each other that we love each other in a variety of simple ways. She knows how to make me feel loved, I know how to make her feel loved, and we both do it regularly. Over time, we’ve figured out how to do it without buying gifts for each other or performing huge romantic gestures for each other.

So, why am I posting this almost at the opposite end of the year from Valentine’s Day, the “romantic” holiday? The simple truth is that being romantic and showing someone you love them is a tremendous “everyday” thing to do. There are few things that will solidify a relationship more than simple romantic gestures done unexpectedly but not infrequently.

Here are 30 of these free (or highly inexpensive) gestures that we’ve used throughout the years. I strongly encourage you to try several of these and see how your partner responds to them, as some types of gestures of love work better for some than for others.

Write your partner a note describing things you appreciate about them, then stick it in a place where they will find it soon. Just think of two or three things you really value about your partner and write a note listing those things, in your own handwriting. End it with a simple statement of love, sign it, and then put that note in their backpack or in their car or some other place where they’ll find it.

Hold your partner’s hand when you’re sitting near each other or walking somewhere together. Just reach over and interlace your finger with that person that you love and hold on for a little while. Not only is the handholding itself a nice thing to do, it also requires some general physical closeness.

Make your partner’s favorite dinner and then clean up everything, leaving the kitchen and dining area nicer than when you started. For me, that usually means making some kind of curry with rice or naan bread. I’ll often write something bland and generic on the meal plan and then prepare it so that the house smells like curry and is just about finished when she walks in the door from a day of teaching.

Look for the little things your partner likes, buy them (or even stock up on them) when they’re cheap, and give them out over time. What little things does your partner buy as little treats for themselves? What’s their favorite kind of candy or gum? Maybe your partner likes to buy a pack of Magic cards every once in a while, or maybe they’re into craft beer and you can buy a bomber of something unusual that they’ll like. Just get that little item spontaneously. Even better, if you see an opportunity, stock up on that item and hide the extras somewhere, and then slip one into your partner’s bag for the day every once in a while.

Block out a chunk of time that the two of you can spend together regularly, even if that means shouldering some extra tasks for a while, and alternate those chunks between things you each enjoy. The key is to wall off that time and make sure that other tasks aren’t interfering or distracting from it, which might mean taking a task or two you don’t otherwise want to do. My wife and I try to wall off a couple evenings a week for either binge-watching a series on Netflix together (her thing) or playing a board game together (my thing). Sometimes, we’ll mix that up – she’ll pick the board game, or I’ll pick the series to binge watch.

Look your partner straight in the eyes and say, “I love you.” It’s so simple, but it’s sometimes harder to do than you expect. Yet, when it’s done from the heart, it can really connect the two of you.

Lay close to your partner when falling asleep. Just cuddle up close for a little while as you’re drifting off. Yeah, sometimes it can get kind of warm, especially in the summer, but you don’t have to stay tightly cuddled for the whole night, just for a little while with your arm around your partner.

Handle your partner’s least favorite chore without asking. What does your partner do regularly around the house that they hate doing? Just do it for them. Take out that trash. Wash those dishes. Clean out the grease trap. Change that light bulb. Whatever the task is that your partner hates, do it for them without being asked.

Pick a bundle of wildflowers and give them to your partner. It’s generally legal to pick true wildflowers in open public areas such as roadsides, as indicated here. Just go pick some wildflowers with long stems and bring them home and put them in a vase for your partner. Just make sure the flowers are truly wild and that you’re not trespassing or violating traffic laws to do so.

Quietly trade some service for an evening of babysitting and plan an evening together without your partner expecting it. Find someone who would be willing to watch your kids for an evening (or overnight), and then work out some kind of swapping arrangement for a night of babysitting with them. Hold that night of free babysitting in your pocket and then plan a “date night” of some kind, all without your partner knowing about it at all.

Write a thoughtful appreciation of your partner and share it publicly, perhaps on social media. Think about the things you wish the whole world knew about your partner, put those things down in words, and share it with the world. Social media is a convenient place to do it, but be creative – maybe there’s another opportunity in your life for a public showing of this kind of appreciation. When I was in grade school, the spouse of one of my teachers did such an appreciation on an empty bulletin board near the teacher’s classroom.

Put your arms around your partner at unexpected moments, especially at home. Just walk up behind your partner, put your arms around your partner, and rest your head on their shoulder or back. It’s such a simple gesture, but it’s a deeply romantic one that just signifies pure love, especially for people who long for the human touch. My wife and I do this regularly and it always feels good for both of us.

Warm up your partner’s car on a cold winter morning. If it’s cold outside, just walk outside fifteen minutes or so before your partner is about to leave and start their car for them, turning on the heat so that it’s nice and toasty when they get inside. If there’s been snow or ice, clear it off for them. It’s a little gesture, but it’s one that shows a great deal of love because it saves them from getting cold and dealing with frosty windows.

Write your wedding vows carefully in marker or a thick pen on card stock, put them in an inexpensive frame, and hang it in your bedroom. Put it over your bed if there’s a spot on the wall. Those words will remind you every day of the commitment you made and they’ll remind your partner every day of the commitment you made to them.

Plan a “lunch date,” then pack a picnic and meet in a park. It can be really hard for two working adults, particularly parents, to find time for a “date,” so instead of searching through your evenings for a date night, look in the middle of your day. Pick a day to have lunch together, then pack a picnic lunch and share it together in a park before going back to work.

Think of something that you really appreciate about your partner, and then just say, “You know, you’re really amazing at…” and tell your partner about that thing you find amazing about them. It can be something small, like how amazing the meal they made was, or it can be something big, like how good they are at parenting. Just find something that your partner does well that you really appreciate, then voice that appreciation in sincere words.

Kiss your partner when your partner arrives home from work or from any extended period when they’re out of the house. Pull your partner close and just give them a quick kiss when you haven’t seen them for several hours or for longer. It’s a simple gesture that takes just a second, but it keeps those romantic fires burning in a marriage.

Take care of a responsibility for your partner and encourage your partner to use that suddenly-free time to enjoy one of their hobbies. If your partner has a responsibility or a task ahead of them, simply take care of it for them and encourage them to spend some time just relaxing or doing something fun that they value. Take care of the list of errands and let your partner spend s few hours curled up reading or doing something else they enjoy.

Make your partner a batch of their favorite cookies (or other snack) and handle all of the prep and cleanup yourself. Does your partner flip for your chocolate chip cookies? Does your partner go on and on about the breakfast burritos that you make? Maybe your partner absolutely loves from-scratch marshmallows. Whatever it is, make a big batch of that thing yourself and handle all of the prep work on your own.

Establish a regular frequent routine where it’s just the two of you together, even if it’s something as simple as a shared beverage on the back porch after the kids are in bed. Make this something that occurs every day or at least multiple times a week, just a simple moment that’s shared between the two of you. For us, when the weather is nice, it’s usually some time sitting on the porch together after the kids are in bed, or on the couch together if the weather is colder, with no real distractions around us, talking about whatever comes to mind.

Kiss your partner’s ear and whisper in it that you find your partner unbelievably attractive right now. This is another one of those five second bursts of romance and passion that you can slip into almost any moment quite easily. Just lean in to your partner, whisper in their ear a bit, and give them a kiss on their earlobe. Since the words are quiet and private, use your imagination regarding what you say, but make it exciting and flattering.

Pack a lunch that they can take to work tomorrow (and maybe leave a little positive note or other trinket in there). Just assemble a lunch for your partner to take to work the next day so that they can just grab it and go when they leave in the morning. In that lunch, slip in something surprising, like perhaps one of their favorite small treats or a positive and loving note for your partner to discover.

If you have children, plan days or blocks of quality family time where you’re all engaged in the same activity that inherently allows for conversation and direct interaction. This can be surprisingly romantic if you have children. Just find a project that everyone in the family can do together and work on it in a focused way, with lots of socializing and communication and conversation built in. A board game can be good, as can yard work or gardening. Fill it with some glances at your partner with a little smile on your face.

Take a deck of inexpensive playing cards and write a romantic appreciation on the face of each one, then play a two player card game with it. If you can’t think of romantic appreciations, riff on this idea a little and find things to write on each card that draw you together in some other fashion. Perhaps the deck of cards could contain nothing but the dates of important moments in your shared lives.

Apologize, from the heart, for something you did wrong in your relationship that still bothers you, and put the blame squarely on yourself and ask for forgiveness. We’ve all made mistakes, and we’ve all made them without adequately apologizing for them. Some of those mistakes wind up held in our heart, eating away at us over time, and they can sometimes eat away at the people we love, too. The best way to fix that and to truly show love is to genuinely apologize and put the fault on yourself. No excuses, no blame on anyone but you. It’s hard, but it’s incredibly worthwhile to actually do this.

Listen to their problems and concerns without interruption, and just give words of empathy and encouragement at the end, not solutions (unless you’re asked). If your partner has something on their mind, sit and listen to their problems. This doesn’t mean being distracted by your phone or not listening while thinking of the next thing to say. Listen. Ask questions only for clarification. Instead of offering solutions, offer words of empathy and encouragement.

If you’re in a long distance relationship, make an “overnight kit” for your partner in your bathroom so that they have the toiletries and other items that they need when visiting. Find out what your partner’s preferred toiletries are and stock up on them. Have them easily available, too, and don’t just hide them away. Having those things in hand makes them feel more comfortable where you live and, by extension, more loved.

Give your partner a lengthy, slow, and patient massage. Take your time with it and focus on the pleasure that your partner is getting out of the massage above all else. Pay attention to their tense and sore places and massage them gently to take away the discomfort and pain. Let them get completely relaxed. If they drift off to sleep, that’s completely fine, because it’s a sleep of comfort and peace and love.

When your partner is doing some task that’s helpful for both of you (such as mowing the lawn), bring your partner a refreshment in the middle of that task, like a cold drink. A simple gesture like this shows strong appreciation for the fact that they’re taking on a hard task, plus love and concern for the effort they’re putting in. Something as simple as a cold washcloth or a cold drink on a hot day in the middle of a hot task can have a huge impact and mean so much.

Set aside some time each day to “check in” with your partner, ideally face to face, but by phone if necessary. This is just a moment to check in and make sure the other person is doing all right and ensuring that things are going okay in their life and that you’re in touch with what’s happening in their life. That kind of constant awareness of your partner – and encouraging that kind of awareness in your partner – can bring people incredibly close. My wife and I do this face to face each evening, usually as we’re preparing dinner or right after the kids are in bed. We do it when either of us are traveling without the other as well.

These are all simple ways to show your partner that you love them without resorting to extravagance. Depending on how your partner feels love – touch, word, action, time, gifts – the strategies on this list will help them feel that love from you.

It is that constant sense of love in a romantic relationship that can keep the fires going for years and years. It’s all about finding ways to show that love and figuring out how your partner feels that love from you. When you figure it out, the romance sticks around forever, and it doesn’t have to involve going broke for expensive gifts or experiences.

Good luck!

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The post 30 Ways to Show Your Love and Still Be Frugal appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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When You Should (and Shouldn’t) Use a Personal Loan

Deciding whether to take out a personal loan is a “personal” decision, but it’s also one that’s rife with risk. If you borrow money you cannot pay back, you can end up with all sorts of consequences that make your life more difficult. This could include ruined credit, additional fees and interest charges, and even bankruptcy.

But, that doesn’t mean personal loans are a bad deal all the time. Really, any loan can be a valuable financial tool if used wisely and responsibly — and with a plan in mind.

Still, it’s wise to consider when a personal loan would benefit you, when you should avoid borrowing money, and when a different financial product may just be a better deal.

When You Should Get a Personal Loan

Before you pull the trigger on a personal loan, you should make sure you understand how a loan could benefit you or hurt you. Here are some signs this financial product may be perfect for your needs:

You want to borrow money with a fixed interest rate and fixed monthly payment.

One of the biggest benefits of personal loans is the fact they offer a fixed repayment schedule and a fixed interest rate. This means you’ll be able to agree to a set monthly payment ahead of time, and you’ll never be surprised by a larger-than-usual bill.

If you need to borrow money but don’t want any surprises along the way, a personal loan may be exactly what you need.

You need to borrow money for a specific purpose and pay it down over time.

While you can use the funds from a personal loan to cover any expense you want, these loans are best for people who have a big expense they need time to pay off. This could include surprise medical bills, a new motor for your car, or a roof you had no idea you would need to replace this year.

With a personal loan, you can borrow a set amount of money then pay it back over several years. Most personal loans are offered in amounts up to $35,000, and your interest rate could be as low as 3%, depending on your creditworthiness.

You’ve used a personal loan calculator to figure your new monthly payment, and you’re sure you can afford it.

Just because you qualify for a personal loan, that doesn’t mean you can afford it. Before you take out a personal loan, you should use a loan calculator to find out your future monthly payment based on how much you want to borrow and the interest rate you can qualify for.

From there, you can take a look at your budget and expenses to see if the loan payment stretches you too thin. If it does, you should probably hold off on getting a personal loan — at least for now.

Your credit is in good shape, so you can qualify for a loan with an attractive rate and loan terms.

While it’s possible to qualify for a personal loan if you have poor credit or a thin credit profile, you’ll pay a much higher interest rate for the privilege of borrowing. How much? Some personal loans for people with bad credit come with an APR of over 35%!

If you have bad credit, you may want to put off your personal loan until you can take steps to boost your credit score. Start by getting any late bills you have up to date and make sure you make all your other monthly payments on time. Paying down debt and credit card balances can also have a marked effect on your credit, since your utilization makes up 30% of your FICO score.

If you need access to credit to improve your credit score, you can also consider a secured credit card or a credit builder loan.

You want to consolidate high-interest debt into a new loan with a lower rate.

One of the best uses of a personal loan comes into play when you have a lot of high-interest debt. Of course, this is mostly just true if your credit is good enough to qualify for a personal loan with a great APR.

If you consolidate high-interest debt into a new personal loan with a lower, fixed interest rate, you’ll start saving money right off the bat. Going from several payments to just one each month can also simplify your finances and make debt repayment that much easier to bear.

When You Should Skip a Personal Loan

While any of the reasons above are good ones if you want to take out a personal loan, there are plenty of reasons to skip personal loans — or any other type of loan — altogether. There are also scenarios where a different financial product would be more beneficial.

Some of the reasons a personal loan may not be for you include:

You’re struggling to keep up with your debts and need more cash to stay afloat.

If you’re struggling to make payments on credit cards, student loans, or other bills, chances are good borrowing more money will not help. In fact, borrowing more cash just to stay on top of your expenses could lead to a debt spiral in a hurry. After all, adding one more monthly payment to your life is probably a bad idea when you can’t keep up with the payments you already have.

If you’re truly struggling to keep the lights on as it is, it’s probably wise to take a holistic look at your finances before you borrow money. Consider where you could cut to improve your cash flow and whether you need to switch to a bare bones budget for a while.

If you can cut your spending in any way, you may be able to improve your financial situation without borrowing more.

You need money to fund college tuition.

While there’s nothing wrong with borrowing money for college, a personal loan is rarely the best deal. Most borrowers would be a lot better off taking out federal student loans to pay for school since they offer lower fixed interest rates and federal protections like deferment and forbearance.

Federal student loans also qualify for income-driven repayment plans that come with low monthly payments and, in some cases, eventual forgiveness of your loans after 20 to 25 years.

You want to splurge for a vacation or new furniture.

If you want to splurge for something expensive, borrowing money could leave you in a world of hurt. A vacation to Hawaii may sound like something you won’t regret borrowing for. However, paying off that trip for the next several years would surely change your tune three or four years afterward.

There’s nothing wrong with splurging, but you should try to save up the money to pay in cash if you want to treat yourself. Trust us; buying something you truly want is a lot more fun when you pay with money you already have.

You want to refinance a small amount of debt.

We already mentioned how a personal loan can be used to consolidate high-interest debts into a better financial product. However, this is mainly true when you have a lot of debt to refinance and need several years to pay it down.

If you only owe a small amount of debt you could pay down in a few years or less, you may be a lot better off with a balance transfer card. Balance transfer cards offer 0% APR on balance transfers for up to 21 months. Some even come without any balance transfer fees, which can help you pay down debt without any additional costs.

You want to remodel your home.

If you want to remodel your home, a personal loan can absolutely work. Still, you should also consider a home equity loan. These loans work similarly to personal loans in that they offer a fixed interest rate and a fixed monthly payment for a specific set of time. The difference is, home equity loans are secured — meaning your home acts as collateral, making it less risky for the lender — so they usually offer lower interest rates than you can get elsewhere.

Another option is a HELOC, or home equity line of credit. These loans work as a line of credit you can borrow against, and they tend to come with variable rates. Once again, rates on these loans tend to be lower since you’re using your home as collateral.

Fees for both home equity loans and HELOCs tend to be low, but you should watch out for origination fees and closing costs. Also keep in mind that some home equity loans and HELOCs are offered with no fees and extremely low rates.

The Bottom Line

A personal loan could help you achieve myriad financial goals, but it could also cause as many problems as it solves. Before you apply for a personal loan, take stock of your financial position and make sure you know what you’re getting into. Personal loans can be valuable financial tools, but they can also lead to years of stress and debt.

Holly Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer and the author of Zero Down Your Debt. Johnson shares her obsession with frugality, budgeting, and travel at ClubThrifty.com.

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The post When You Should (and Shouldn’t) Use a Personal Loan appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

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