A Totebag change

by July

Starting Monday, May 7, Mémé will take on the role of co-administrator for the blog. Thank you, Mémé!

What does this mean for you?

Submitting post topics:

  • You may submit posts to Mémé at: memetotebag @outlook.com
  • You may continue to submit posts to me at: gntotebag @gmail.com
  • And, of course, you may continue to add post requests in the comments to the SUGGEST TOPICS page in the header of the blog.

Any and all blog communications may be directed to Mémé or to me. We will be in close contact with each other to coordinate all administrative functions as needed. Two administrators looking out for smooth blog operations should be better than one!

Mémé has some ideas that I think can revitalize the blog conversations we have here, so I look forward to that.

We welcome suggestions or comments. Long live The Totebag!

Any other topics on your mind? We have an open thread today.

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Everything must go!

by July

The other day this ad appeared locally.

MOVING Everything Must GO!!

You name it and we are selling it….Lots for Free and Sale

Furniture, Home Accessories, Clothes, Tools, Jewelry, Fitness Equipment, Mirrors, Small Kitchen Appliances, Lawn and garden, Dishes, Glassware, Corningware, knick-knacks, Electronic, TV’s, Anything hanging on walls- ETC.

We Are Taking Nothing with us

Describe your fantasy (or nightmare) downsizing that would enable you to move into a new house on wheels.  What would you keep and what would you get rid of?  What would you move into?  Where would you go?  Mostly motor around or mostly stay put?

Stop trying so hard to improve your life

by July

To Change Your Life, Consider the Easy Route

… What if the key to success isn’t trying hard but not trying very hard at all?

How does this actually work?  We’ve discussed aspects of this idea before.  Don’t overtax you willpower.  Remove temptations.  (Don’t keep ice cream in the house.)  Start with small changes that will develop into good habits.

Use “The Loop” approach.

The trick is to recognize that self-control isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. We can carve out small, manageable areas of good behavior and gradually build trust in our ability to hold fast. I call this approach “The Loop”: First, find a rule that will bring you a little bit closer to your self-control goal, but will be so easy that you have no doubt you’ll be able to stick to it. Then, each day keep track of whether you’ve done it or not. That’s all. Don’t worry about solving the big problem; focus on staying on The Loop. If it starts to feel like a struggle, then dial the rule back to make it easier. As time goes by, The Loop will become second nature and you’ll be able to crank it up to a more ambitious setting.

I’ve used The Loop in establishing some good habits, including exercising and reading more books.  I start out small with modest commitments, and over time I find I’ve developed better habits rather painlessly.  It could be termed the lazy man’s method.

What works for you?  Do you prefer to start off with a more ambitious plan, maybe because you’re impatient?  Do you use a version of The Loop?  Have you tried to make any changes in your life over the last year?  Success or failure?  Any life changes you’d you like to make?  Do you think we’ve become too obsessed with improving our lives?

Keeping up with friends can be good for your marriage

by July

Are you and your spouse one of those married couples “who tend to withdraw into their coupledom”?  Apparently this tends to occur among the affluent.

. . . as income rises, the advantages of married over never-married individuals evaporate and even reverse. While affluent never-married people continue to multiply their interactions with friends, neighbors and family, affluent married couples don’t. This could well be why, at the highest income levels, married people are actually more likely to report depressive symptoms than their equally affluent never-married counterparts.

The advice is to nurture relationships with people outside of your marriage, including going on “double dates”.

Your thoughts?

Open thread

We have an open thread all day today.

I was wondering about this:

Month-long trips

by July

Some of us have expressed an interest in traveling to various locations and staying there a month or more just getting to know and enjoy the areas.  These would likely be post-retirement trips since we typically don’t have the vacation time to do this while we’re working.

To my surprise Miami Beach recently caught my eye as a place to spend a leisurely month.  Maybe I’m too old to enjoy the cool vibe of South Beach, but I’m still intrigued.  Plus it’s just a generally beautiful location that probably offers a number of short side trips that would be worth exploring.  What do you think?  Yay or nay on Miami Beach?

What, if any, locations would you consider for a month-long stay?  Domestic and international.  What locations would you recommend?  Give us details on local activities that would help us decide if they might tempt us.  Let’s share our inside scoop on long-term trip possibilities.

Here’s a retired couple that spends most of the year on long trips all over the world.  Ultimately they built a home in California that precisely meets their needs and was designed to easily rent out to other travelers while they are away.

Home Free Adventures

Create an ad for a marriage partner

by July

What’s the Best Way to Match a B’ful, Homely Bride With a H’som W’stld Groom?
India’s parents use abbreviation-stuffed newspaper ads, not the internet, to seek marriage partners for their children

A majority of marriages in India are still arranged, often with parents meeting before the potential bride and groom get a chance to see each other….

Potential brides are B’ful and grooms H’som. SM4 is suitable match for, and Send BHP means send biodata (or a résumé), horoscope and photo. W’stld is well settled, meaning well paid. Wkg is working. PQ means professionally qualified, T’tot is a teetotaler, and a PSU is a public sector unit—where jobs impress.

The ads also often list the father’s job—fthr sr bnk offcr, or father senior bank officer, for example.

The personals also have their own unique vocabulary. If a woman is listed as “homely” it means she doesn’t work. If a man is issueless (abbreviated as i’less) after a divorce, it means he doesn’t have children. Potential mates listed as having a “wheatish” complexion have light-brown skin.

Let’s play matchmaker.  Write a marriage ad for someone — your children, another relative, a friend, or even yourself or your spouse.  Highlight their most attractive qualities.  (Add in “buyer beware” warnings if you want.)  Do your best sales job!

What’s your opinion of arranged marriages?

Open thread

We have an open thread all day today on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Do you have a neighborhood bar or hangout?  Describe it for us.  Do you wish you had one?  What would it be like?

Family estrangement

by July

Debunking Myths About Estrangement
New research challenges the deeply held notion that family relationships can’t be dissolved and suggests that estrangement is not all that uncommon.  (NYT)

I’ve only recently noticed more cases of family estrangement, both among people I know and among celebrities, and I agree with the myths as explained in this article.  No family is immune, and for the first time I’ve considered the possibility that this could happen in my nuclear family.  It’s sobering.

What are your thoughts?

Your 2017 ‘ta-da list’

by July

Instead of diving into a list of New Year’s resolutions, Gretchen Rubin suggests a Year-End Review with Myself.  One part of the review process involves making an end-of-year ta-da list.  It might inspire you to visualize priorities for the coming year.

Ta-da list:

In episode 134 of the “Happier” podcast, for our weekly “Try This at Home” tip, Elizabeth and I suggested making a ta-da list. Make a list of everything you’ve already accomplished. You’re often pleasantly surprised and energized to see how much you’ve done, and giving yourself credit for your efforts often make it easier to keep going.

What’s on your 2017 ta-da list?  Does it inspire you to build on any specific accomplishments for 2018?

Related, what were your best and worst financial moves in 2017?  Which purchases and financial planning actions were winners, and which were losers?

Cookies

by July

On the heels of the holiday music topic from yesterday, today we can discuss cookies and other holiday sweets.

Frosted sugar cookies are included in my favorites.  I go for the rustic look with no sprinkles or other decorations that take away from the basic cookie and frosting combination.

What are your favorite cookies?  Is baking cookies a holiday tradition?  Do you give sweets as gifts?  Which cookies remind you of your childhood?  Which are your least favorite?  Please share your favorite recipes.  And feel free to discuss other holiday recipes.

How much money do you make?

by July

During a recent dinner conversation I found a sharp division between generations on the topic of sharing salary numbers.  Older employees thought secrecy was a good idea but younger ones thought transparency was best.

Ask Me How Much Money I Make: Pay Gets More Transparent
Nearly half of millennials surveyed said they talk about their compensation with friends, compared with 36% of Americans overall

Managing a generation of young people inclined to share relationship statuses and meal photos on social media requires employers to adjust the way they approach compensation, experts say.

“Pay and promotions are not secretive topics anymore,” says Mary Ann Sardone, who consults with large employers on compensation issues and leads the workforce-rewards practice at benefits consultant Mercer, a unit of Marsh & McLennan Co MMC 1.33% s.

“Companies are spending more time ensuring their pay decisions are fair, and highlighting career paths under the assumption that the information is going to be widely shared,” she says….

When Cameron Feenstra received a job offer this summer from Prattle Analytics, a St. Louis-based research firm, the first thing the 22-year-old did was call his sister. Although he was willing to take a below-market salary for the chance to work at a fast-growing startup, Mr. Feenstra wanted to ensure that his offer of $42,000 was a fair annual salary for his role as a junior quantitative analyst.

After talking about salaries with friends and family, and consulting anonymous career and salary-sharing websites such as Glassdoor, Mr. Feenstra decided to negotiate for more money, even though it was his first real job in the field.

“People who don’t ask around never learn how to negotiate, because they don’t know where everyone else is” in terms of salary as a reference point, Mr. Feenstra says. He got a pay bump to $45,000 before accepting the offer.

The attitude shift has put greater pressure on employers to explain why some workers are paid more than others and to formalize compensation and promotion practices, says Kristina Launey, a partner at law firm Seyfarth Shaw LLP, which specializes in labor and employment issues.

What do you think?  Secrecy or transparency?  Do you believe that secrecy helps perpetuate the gender wage gap?  Do you share salary information with co-workers, friends, or extended family members?

Why Do We Keep Salaries Secret?

Do you want to share, at least anonymously?

Decluttering your kitchen

by July

29 Things to Get Rid of in the Kitchen (That You Won’t Miss)

  1. Take-out menus.
  2. Sugar packets.
  3. Parmesan cheese and red pepper packets from pizza deliveries.
  4. Decorative bottles of herb-infused olive oil.
  5. Duplicate salad tongs.
  6. All but one each of large, medium, and small spatulas.
  7. Half-used candles.
  8. Magnets you’re intending to fix.
  9. Advertising magnets.
  10. Kids’ meal toys, including character cups.
  11. Extra napkins you picked up from the burger joint.
  12. Ketchup packets.
  13. Chipped mugs.
  14. Aunt Jane’s highball glasses that you never, ever get down from the top shelf.
  15. The George Foreman grill you’ve used twice in the history of your decade-long marriage.
  16. Anything more than four hot pads.
  17. Stained or holey dish towels.
  18. All but five of the nice glass jar food containers and lids you’ve been hoarding.
  19. The serving platter that you never liked but kept because it was a gift.
  20. Take-out chopsticks.
  21. Extra whisks.
  22. Duplicate ice cream scoops.
  23. The cheese slicer.
  24. Old water bottles that you never reach for.
  25. Tupperware without lids.
  26. Lids without tupperware.
  27. Duplicate can openers.
  28. Duplicate garlic presses.
  29. Baby utensils you no longer need.

Any of these things hanging out in your kitchen right now?

If you have any of these items, can you justify keeping them?  Any other kitchen things you know you should discard?  On the other hand, what kitchen things are you missing or coveting?

Open thread

We have an open thread all day.

This is the time of year for deciding on a health insurance plan and other employee benefits.  It can be complicated.  Our plan includes the use of a health advocate at no extra cost.  Among the services offered are open enrollment assistance, care coordination, and assistance with complex medical conditions.

Have you completed your enrollment paperwork?  Any questions or advice to offer?

DIY or do-it-for-me?

by July

Homeowners’ Shift Away From DIY Projects Dries Up Paint Profits
Rising incomes and a stronger housing market have many hiring professional painters

Homeowners are increasingly leaving painting to the pros, complicating business for paint makers and retailers…..

“More and more is being done by the professional painter,” said Dan Calkins, president of global sales at Benjamin Moore & Co. “People just don’t have the time.”

Nicole Buddin, a 31-year-old marketing manager in Chicago, recently hired pros to help paint her new house in the suburbs after she and her husband painted their condo in the city themselves three years ago.

“It’s just so time consuming,” she said. “We swore we wouldn’t do that again.”

Whether it’s home renovations, repairs, or maintenance, it seems the people around me are relying more on professionals.  Maybe it’s because we’re getting older!

Have you noticed a “shift from DIY to do-it-for-me”?  Did you used to do more around the house?  Any DIY projects planned for this long Thanksgiving weekend?  Is tomorrow’s meal DIY or do-it-for-me?

Gift ideas!

by July

Let’s share holiday gift ideas.

I was prepared to hate everything about Oprah’s Favorite Things gift list, but when I saw a tempting cashmere sweater and the  “Letters to Me, When I Grow Up” book for children, I got sucked in to thinking about shopping for a few items.

Are you shopping for any of these hot toys?

What’s on kids’ wish lists? Here are 14 of the hottest toys for the holidays

And then you have the minimalist approach.

Here’s an idea: what if you decide to gift only experiences this year? How much more memorable will your holidays be?

Consider these experiences: concert tickets, a home-cooked meal, tickets to a play or a musical, breakfast in bed, a back rub, a foot rub, a full-body massage, a holiday parade, walking or driving somewhere without a plan, spending an evening talking with no distractions, making-out under the mistletoe, visiting a festival of lights, cutting down a Christmas tree, watching a sunrise, skiing, snowboarding, sledding, dancing, taking your children to a petting zoo, making snow angels, making a batch of hot apple cider, taking a vacation together, watching a wintertime sunset.

What other experiences can you give to someone you care about?

Is this a trend?

Majority Of Americans Would Skip Holiday Gift-Giving, Survey Says

Take a poll:

Have you peaked yet?

by July

Here’s the age at which you’ll earn the most in your career

Does this graph match your experience?

Here are peak years for other parts of your life.

The age when you hit ‘peak loneliness’ – and other life milestones
A new study has found that 35 is the age at which men feel the most lonely. But when might you feel the most creative or content?

Of course each of us charts our own course for peaks and valleys so these broad conclusions can be meaningless for any one person.  Are you on the fast track for some of these milestones but a late bloomer for others?  Share your observations.

Suburbs and more

by July

What to Do When You’ve Picked the Wrong Suburb

It can be hard choosing a home to buy, and sometimes mistakes are made.  Do you know anyone who believes they chose poorly?

The Suburb of the Future, Almost Here
Millennials want a different kind of suburban development that is smart, efficient and sustainable.

Apparently millennials are still choosing suburban life, but suburban life is evolving.  Do you agree with the changes described in this article?  What other changes do you foresee?

The Best Places to Live in America
MONEY identified 100 spots that offer a healthy economy, affordable homes, and a high quality of life.

Did your town make the cut?  Some local residents were “shocked” and “disappointed” that our area was not included.

When you want to lose ‘just a few’ pounds

by July

Many of us would like to lose just a few pounds, maybe 10 pounds or less.  Often the extra weight has slowly crept up slowly over the years.

At 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, Mr. Edis, the chief executive and a founder of the smart-car start-up Dash, cuts an impressive figure to other people. But when he takes off his black V-neck T-shirt, he can see the extra pounds (he would like to be down to 185). And he is not fine with it.

Is Mr. Edis realistic?  Many of us are in his shoes, wishing to lose just 5-10 pounds. Partly it may be because we wistfully remember our body’s glory days, roughly from the teen years to mid thirties, and we’d like to recreate some of those bygone images.  Realistically it is nearly impossible for the average person to continue to weigh the same as they did back in their twenties so perhaps we should give up that hope once and for all.

Here’s someone else who’s gained a few pounds along the way.

‘I used to be 106lbs but now I’m 126lbs!’: Cher, 71, reveals she no longer fits into her crazy Seventies costumes… but she refuses to throw them out

What about you?  Do you want to lose just a “few” pounds?  Or do you believe that’s a fool’s errand and have accepted that you’ll probably carry that extra weight for the rest of your life?  Some of us here have lost considerably more weight, or are currently working on losing more.  Are you happy with your weight or do you fret about it?

Open thread

Today we have an open thread all day.

Locally we celebrate Columbus Day in a big way, but I wonder if that will soon change.

Should the United States Celebrate Columbus Day?

Here’s the NYT’s opinion on how “symbols of hate” should be treated.

Robert E. Lee, Christopher Columbus … and Pétain?

Should I throw out my Dr. Seuss books?

Dr. Seuss museum to replace mural after complaints of racism

Labor Day open thread

by July

We have a Labor Day open thread all day.

Here’s something to try.

Find your True Cost of Living

There are many cost of living rankings out there, but most of them give cost of living averages for the “average American household.” Here’s the issue – the “average American household” doesn’t exist. Income and expenses vary widely between a single millennial to a household of two parents and three kids. Our cost tool explores the costs and expenses of living in a place based on your own, specific needs.

The True Cost of Living tool allows you to add details like household size, income, occupation, and even food preferences.

 

Open thread

We have an open thread today all day.

Here’s a topic on my mind.

How to Pack a Suitcase

Many of you will be pleased that packing cubes are recommended.  Right now I’m looking for a more efficient toiletry bag, one that hangs on a hotel door hook..

In shopping for a rolling bag recently I noticed that four wheels (spinners) seem more popular than two wheels.  I prefer two wheels because it’s slightly more compact and I don’t notice the extra ease of a four-wheeler.

At what age did your children become mostly responsible for packing their own suitcases?

College majors, career paths, and salaries

by July

Students’ career paths after college are often surprising and difficult to predict given students’ majors. Not only do students from the same major transition into a surprising variety of occupations, they also earn very different incomes: to take one example, the 3.4 percent of English majors who become managers earn a median salary of $77,000, while the 8.3 percent of their counterparts who become elementary and middle school teachers earn $51,000. Different career paths and the associated earnings differences for students with the same college major are pervasive and important for understanding both the benefits of college majors and of college itself.

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, we have calculated annual median earnings for men and women of various ages who have graduated with a particular major and entered a given occupation. For each group of college graduates, we show the most common types of jobs, as well as the fractions of graduates who are unemployed, out of the labor force, and employed full- or part-time. In addition, among each group of workers with a particular major, we show the range of annual earnings and the percent who obtained education beyond a bachelor’s degree for the most common types of jobs. This interactive is intended to be a resource for those who seek a better understanding of how their college major can be used, as well as those interested in how college specialization and the labor market interact.

You can play with the interactive charts at The Hamilton Project.  Unfortunately these charts don’t take into account one of our favorite topics, college selectivity.

Open thread

by July

Open thread today all day.  To start off, here’s a question for you.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve done for love?

That question comes from this Q&A a Day: 5-Year Journal.

The Q&A a Day Journal shows you what was going through your head each day—for five years of your life. Simply turn to today’s date, answer the question at the top of the page, and when you finish the journal, start over. As you return to the daily questions again over the years, you’ll notice how your answers change, or don’t!

So, what’t the craziest thing you’ve done for love?  Did it work out well?

What do you think of this journal or other ones that allow the writer to jot down short entries?  Do you keep a journal or sometimes wish you did?

The three P’s of perseverance

by July

… The seeds of resilience are planted in the way we process the negative events in our lives.

Sheryl Sandberg’s latest book is about building resilience.  Have you heard of the “three P’s”?

… After spending decades studying how people deal with setbacks, psychologist Martin Seligman found that there are three Ps — personalization, pervasiveness, and permanence — that are critical to how we bounce back from hardship,” Sandberg said. …

Here are more details.

Sheryl Sandberg spoke about her husband’s death in public for the first time in an emotional speech

Resilience is a critical life skill.  Some people seem to possess an abundance of resilience, but how much of it is is nurture and how much nature?  In other words, how much can be taught?  Do you think teaching about the three P’s can help?  Looking around you at relatives, friends, colleagues, and others, do you understand why some are more resilient than others?  Or is it mostly a mystery?  What are your thoughts?

Something else to consider. Are totebaggers as a group highly resilient, or is it more that they have not been severely tested?

Questions to get a conversation going

by July

7 Questions Interesting People Always Ask in Conversations
Replace those typical (and boring, I may add) questions like ‘What do you do for a living?’ with these refreshing questions that lead to great conversations.

I’m not crazy about some of these questions, particularly the first one.  Do you like these questions?  Do you typically use them in conversations?  What are some other good questions?

For fun, let’s get to know each other better and answer these questions in the comments.  If you’re up for this, answer all seven or pick a few.

1. What’s your story?
2. What was the highlight of your day (or week)?
3. What is one of your most defining moments in life?
4. What book has influenced you the most?
5. What was your dream job growing up?
6. If you could know the absolute and total truth to one question, what question would you ask?
7. Why did you choose your profession?

Let’s get clean

by July

32 Unexpected Places You Should Be Cleaning In Your Home
Gross. Just…gross.

I’ll admit our sliding-glass door tracks and my jewelry have not been cleaned in a long time.  There are other places that I prefer not to think about.

Revealed: The cleaning mistakes that could make your home DIRTIER – from making the bed too often to using a feather duster (so how many are YOU guilty of?)

Who knew it was a mistake to make your bed too often?

What cleaning mistakes do you make?  Which places do you neglect to clean on a regular basis?  Are you a clean freak, at least about some things?  Or are you a slob?  Or in between?  Any cleaning tips to share?  And tell us how you handle any family conflicts that arise from different preferences among household members.

How much do you love your job?

by July

4 Reasons I Chose To Stick With A Career I Don’t Love

Reason #2 has been mentioned here a few times.

I was fortunate that I loved my careers, if not always the specific jobs.  I even loved many of the part-time jobs I had while going to school because they involved photography, which I enjoy and even considered as a career..

What about you?  Do you love your career?  Do you love your job?  If not, why do you stick with it?  What “passions” would be part of your fantasy jobs?  What have you observed among people around you?