Dear Employers, Working Parents are Not OK

WFH with Kids

This is an S.O.S.

A working mom gives a plea to employers everywhere: Cut working parents some slack. This pandemic is not over.

Go Stress Free with These 10 No-Cost Strategies

You can go to an expensive wellness retreat to get peace of mind. Or you can use some tips from relaxation experts to bring the peace home. There’s no need to spend money in pursuit of a stress-free life.

We talked to two wellness experts from Miraval Arizona Resort and Spa in Tucson, Arizona, about simple things you can do each day to relieve stress and improve your mental health. Staying mindful and balanced, living in the moment, and avoiding triggers are just some of the techniques they suggested.

Jess Holzworth is a spiritual life coach and yoga, meditation, and breathwork instructor. Carolyn Fike teaches practical meditation and how to incorporate the seven chakras into the practice.

Here are their 10 ways to cultivate a stress-free life without spending a dime.

1. Cultivate Gratitude for Mental Health

With everything going on around us that is worrisome, be it personal or on a larger societal scale, it is important to remember the good things.

“When we get into a negative headspace, it makes our world feel small. But when you’re in a headspace of gratitude, it gives you a feeling of interconnectedness, which is a strong human emotion,” Holzworth said.

Remember the physical things you might otherwise take for granted: Your heart is beating and your legs allow you to walk, for instance. The same is true for your surroundings: Your toilet flushes and you have running water. These are things to be thankful for, too.

Finding simple ways to focus on the positive is a form of stress relief that will “make your heart happy,” Holzworth said. “It has a physical and psychological effect on your whole being.”

2. Live in the Moment Through Mindfulness

Mindfulness is being conscious and aware of surroundings to move as close to being stress free as possible. Thinking about everything you have to do and how little time you have to do it doesn’t accomplish much except cause stress and maybe raise your blood pressure. The same is true for obsessing about the past, which is something you can’t change.

So doing little things to stay in the moment can help mental health and relieve stress levels.

And guess what? It’s not about adding anything to your do list. “It’s just about bringing your full presence to whatever you do, wherever you are, and however you’re feeling,” Holzworth said.

“Sprinkling a few seconds of full presence throughout your day is gradually going to help you increase your capacity to feel more of your feelings and consequently feel more alive.”

3. Work Mindful Micropractices Into Your Life

Little things can bring us comfort and joy — if we pay attention to them. Both practitioners encouraged what they call “micropractices of mindfulness,” or the practice of being mindful about the things we do every day.

So what does that really mean? Both suggested coffee as an example, one thing many of us use to begin our day.

You can turn this simple morning routine into a mindful micropractice, Fike said, by “really taking a moment to focus on feeling a sense of gratitude instead of a mindless routine that we all get into.”

  • Notice the aroma of the coffee grounds.
  • Hear the sound of the fresh coffee being poured into your cup.
  •  Feel the warmth on your hands as you hold the cup.
  • Breathe in the steam and aroma of the fresh brew as you bring it to your lips.
  • Enjoy the taste and the warmth of the coffee in your mouth and throat.

That short period of mindfulness can bring you back into control and relieve stress. And it can be adapted to any simple activity.

“It’s really about opening yourself to the small things like the taste of your coffee. It’s not just about the big things, it’s the little things that bring us comfort and joy,” Holzworth said. “(It could be) the touch of your cat’s fur, the sound of his purr.”

Both suggest looking for brief moments throughout your day when you could incorporate mindfulness. The warmth of towels when they come out of the dryer. The sensation of warm water covering you in the shower. Even the rewarding repetition of folding clothes.

“Anything can be done mindfully,” Fike said.

“Be in the present moment,” Holzworth said. “Life is a gift and it should be treated like that and honored.”

A man in his bathrobe stands on a commuter train while sipping coffee from a coffee mug.

4. Embrace the Commute

Fike said that even your commute to work, school, or wherever you’re going can be a time for mindfulness instead of craziness.

How can your commute reduce stress? Here are two ways:

  • Listen to something you enjoy to help make the drive less stressful.
  • When stopped at a stoplight or stop sign, take a look around. Notice things you might not have seen before, like a store, restaurant, or even a pretty tree. “Some people pretend that Buddha is winking at them when they get a red light,” Fike said.

It’s all about bringing yourself back “to something more pleasant rather than something irritating,” Fike said.

Think of these moments as reminders. “A reminder of impermanence, a reminder to be mindful, a reminder not to take the red light personally. They are all reminders to slow down.”

5. Pay Attention to Your Senses

“Anything engaging your senses is going to increase mindfulness and bring you into the present moment,” Holzworth said.

That can be the sight of a beautiful sunrise or sunset, the smell of flowers, the sound of the ocean or the taste of something yummy.

“How many times do you literally inhale your food? Instead, slow down and chew it. When you chew your food thoroughly and mindfully, it’s amazing how different it tastes,” Fike said. “When you’re eating anyway, why not do it mindfully?”

Finances can cause stress. To combat that, check out these six ways to treat yourself and your wallet to find some inner peace.

6. Relieve Stress with Laughter

Why does the sound of a baby giggling instantly make us happy?

First of all, because we noticed it. “That’s a mindfulness moment,” Holzworth said.

Next, because we usually giggle, too. “Even us giggling is a mindfulness moment.”

Laughter is a break from the part of your brain that is analyzing and planning, she said. It’s a way to engage the part of your brain that is intuition, creativity, insight. “When we giggle, we let our guard down a little bit. It’s a complete relief. Laughter is great for our health.”

If a giggle can help, think of what a good belly laugh could do to lower your blood pressure and relieve stress?

7. Breathe to Relieve

You need to breathe to live, but breath can reduce and relieve stress, too.

Holzworth explained that there is a sympathetic and parasympathetic part of the nervous system. Both control the involuntary functions of your body. The sympathetic nervous system helps your body handle stress — think “fight or flight” reflexes. The parasympathetic system controls your bodily functions when at rest — think “rest and digest.”

“Unfortunately, I’d say the majority of our population, and especially right now, is living sympathetic-dominant,” Holzworth said. “These people are existing in this world of fight or flight response in a state of stress.”

That means that to live a stress-free life we all need more parasympathetic responses in our lives, or moments when we are rested, rejuvenated, relaxed and restored.

That’s where your breath comes in.

“Your breath is a master regulator. Taking a few deep breaths is going to stimulate your vagus nerve and send a signal to your brain that says relax and calm down,” she said. “Just close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, and I guarantee everybody who does that is going to feel better.”

8. Find Your Own Way to Meditate

Meditation means different things to different people. Fike said she didn’t connect to silent meditation at first, so she embraced guided meditations for help with stress reduction.

Mindfulness and meditation go together, but are not the same. Simplified, mindfulness is being aware, and can fit into many parts of your day. Meditation is often an activity for a certain period of time.

Many apps and YouTube videos exist to teach you the basics, guide you through short meditations and offer other meditation exercises.

As you’re trying them out, Fike said, it is important to find a voice that resonates with you and that you like listening to. If you don’t like the voice, you won’t pay attention to what they’re saying.

Almost all guided meditations will involve focusing on breathing and reminding you about your physical body, such as the feeling in your toes and the top of your head.

There are also walking meditations and meditations around simple tasks you routinely do.

You can meditate anywhere your feet are, Fike said, such as moving from the couch to the bathroom.

“What you’re focusing on is how your feet are moving, how your feet feel as they connect to the ground, how your bones, tendons and muscles all work in symphony with each other as you put one foot down and lift the other one up.

“It’s just taking a break to focus on something that you normally wouldn’t do.”

A mom plays with her children as they put boxes over their heads while being silly.

9. Detox From Your Electronics

Phones and other electronic devices are our constant companions, but putting them down for even a few minutes can be a way to focus on the present and remove potentially stressful triggers.

Fike recommends not letting your devices beckon you, especially when you’re having a conversation with someone else. Most things do not need an immediate response.

Your blood pressure and stress hormones will thank you if you just put the phone down for a while.

10. Don’t Stress About De-stressing

Both Fike and Holzworth said trying to be stress-free isn’t about changing behaviors or adding all kinds of things into your already busy day. It’s about incorporating things you already do to help reduce stress.

Fike uses her own mindfulness and meditation practices as an example. These practices can show how life literally slows down and you can combat stress.

“I’m not sitting in the lotus position, meditating for an hour in silence on the top of the mountain,” she said. “I am a real life human being with real life problems and real life challenges. I take my real life experience and I present it to people who are also living real life.”

If you think that a stress-free life means upending the way you exist, you’ll just get overwhelmed. If you think that a stress-free life means upending the way you exist, you’ll just get overwhelmed.  Get used to looking for self-created stress triggers.

“It’s really just about bringing more consciousness to your existence and how you interact, not only with yourself, but the rest of the world,” Holzworth said.

Tiffani Sherman is a Florida-based freelance reporter with more than 25 years of experience writing about finance, health, travel and other topics.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

10 Cheap Honeymoon Ideas to Keep the Budget Under Control

The rice? Thrown. The garter? Tossed. The photos? Snapped.

You tuck away for a quick minute to check your bank account and all signs point to Honeymoon Unlikely!

Don’t freak. Romance doesn’t have to cost a lot. And we’ve got 10 ideas for romantic and cheap honeymoon ideas that don’t break the bank. But first, before you even venture down the honeymoon path, there’s some things you can do to soften the blow and find the perfect affordable honeymoon destination.

Try to look for ways to reduce cost on your big day so you have more money to splurge on your trip.

Ask family and friends for potential discounts or tips on inexpensive travel options. And lastly, make sure you add honeymoon cash to your registry. Websites like Zola and Honeyfund make it easy to crowd-fund the honeymoon of your dreams.

It may come as a surprise but the average American couple spent about $19,000 on the wedding and reception in 2020. That’s down from $28,000 in 2019. Blame the pandemic that forced smaller weddings to maintain safety regulation and social distancing requirements.

Cheap honeymoon destinations are in the eye of the beholder, sort of like the bride and groom, right? The important thing is to know your budget before you start planning. Maybe you’ll spend a couple nights in a luxury hotel and another couple camping on white sand beaches.

Want to have enough money for a honeymoon? Check out our 90 super smart ways to save on the wedding and reception.

10 Budget Friendly Honeymoon Destinations

The following 10 ideas for budget friendly honeymoon destinations won’t leave your bank account on the brink of a breakdown. Whether you want to take off for a farflung romantic destination with fewer tourists or hit the open road for a slice of Americana, we’ve got honeymoon ideas for you.

1. Exotic but Make it Affordable

Don’t let a smaller budget deter you from a more tropical honeymoon. You can travel to exotic locations and not go broke.

Case in point: Southeast Asia and specifically Thailand. The majority of the cost for Thailand will be flights. But you can choose less expensive lodging, food and excursion choices to keep your total cost lower. Flying into Bangkok from most major American airports costs between $1,000 to $1,800.

From there focusing on less-touristy areas like Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai can cost you less than $50 a day. A few days going cheap, will allow you to indulge a bit at an all-inclusive resort like the highly popular Nature Beach Resort.

Nestled along Thailand’s Lonely Beach, this resort features 60 individual bungalows for travelers, a restaurant, bar, swimming pool, and spa. Rates for middle of the week, double rooms with sea view is less than $60 a night.

2. Direct Flights are the Best of the Cheap Honeymoon Ideas

Keeping your honeymoon cost low all comes down to where you’re based. Research affordable direct flights from your destination. For example, a direct flight from Miami to St. Croix, Virgin Islands is on average less than $250. Check out the Carambola Beach Resort, a quaint 144-room all inclusive 4-star beach resort that features poolside bar, a bar/lounge, and an outdoor pool and a short walk to Davis Beach and Annaly Bay Hike and Tidal Pools, Cane Bay and Cane Bay Beach.

If you’re flying from Los Angeles, look for affordable flights to the resorts of Mexico’s west coast or even to the Bahamas, one of the world’s most affordable honeymoon destinations. Non-stops start at about $350, which is a bargain for flying across the country and a bit farther.

With so many islands to explore, including Exuma, Paradise Island, and Eleuthera, a cheap flight to the Bahamas opens many doors to tropical indulgence, and that includes horseback riding on the beach.

How to stay within your wedding reception food budget — without resorting to a buffet.
A couple enjoy a staycation in their backyard.

3. Time to Take a Staycation-moon

After a busy and hectic wedding, it’s not out of the ordinary to not want to do a thing except relax. There are no rules to honeymooning. Instead of jumping on a flight, why not opt to stay in a luxury hotel in your area or hop around to some of your favorite spas. The price may be more than you would normally pay, but if you’re not spending it on travel, why not?

Resort-pass is a great option to explore pricier hotels for a day-cation. HotelTonight is also great for last minute hotel booking.

4. Use Your Points

One of the most economical ways to travel is by using credit card points. But it takes planning and begins way before the big-day.

One way is to choose and apply for the credit card that will yield the most points and be strategic with how you will spend. Then you’ll want to figure out how many points it will take to go where you want to travel.

Is there a way to earn double points by purchasing groceries during a certain month or clothing another? Or maybe party favors or spa services are the way to earn the most points. Be sure to purchase during those times to rack up the most points possible.

The Southwest Rapid Rewards Visa Card is a great option to earn points towards the honeymoon of your dreams. Referring a friend can easily earn you 10,000 points towards travel. And of course all points count towards travel on Southwest.

Weddings seem to be back on in full force after a lull caused by the pandemic. But one thing that might continue is the more affordable micro-wedding. 

5. Tropical Vibes of Beautiful Beaches

Mexico’s Cancun is not only ranked as one of the best honeymoon destinations in the world, it’s also an affordable romantic getaway. Known for its 14-miles of white sand beaches, Cancun is filled with affordable all-inclusive resorts.

Many U.S. airlines offer many cheap airfares to Cancun from gateway cities, including Miami, Newark, Las Vegas and New York. Checkout online travel sites like Expedia and Orbitz to find low fares.

Who says you have to leave the United States to enjoy a beach getaway? Florida has plenty of palm trees and beautiful beaches to quench your thirst for a romantic honeymoon, and that includes the Florida Keys.

Opt for a lesser known location like Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. Tucked away along Florida’s east coast, about 30 miles north of Miami Beach, this small Florida town is known for its small-town quaintness and natural beauty. This is the perfect location for a couple looking for old-Florida style, great fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving excursions and small romantic inns and hotels.

Check out the historic Mexican-style Hacienda Blue Seas Courtyard hotel. Every room in the unique boutique hotel features a full kitchen, and there are no resort fees or parking fees at the hotel. That screams affordable honeymoon destination. Watch the sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean and then head to one of the area’s many golf courses. Or ask the concierge to point you to a scuba diving excursion for beginners.

6. The Road Trip is the Affordable Honeymoon Destination

Ditch the TSA check in for the open road.

Choose a destination based on your tolerance for road trips and how long you are willing to drive for the perfect honeymoon destination. For some that means 4 to 5 hours in the car, for others it could be as long as 8 to 10 hours.

A couple look excited as they drive in an old red convertible.

To save money, utilize apps like Gas Buddy to find the most affordable gas stations along your journey. Make your trip more memorable by picking locations along the way to stop and enjoy.

Pro Tip

Consider joining a gas rewards program to save up money for your honeymoon driving trip. We've rounded up the six best gas rewards programs. 

7. Give Back the Love

Did you know you can volunteer during your vacation and potentially offset some of your expenses. A volunteer vacation/honeymoon is not only a smart way to potentially save some cash, it’s also a great way to kick off your married love story giving back to those in need.

More than 100,000 travelers volunteer each year with the International Volunteer HQ organization. Choose from more than 50 destinations that offer from 1 week to 24 weeks of travel. Volunteer projects range from construction and renovation of community buildings in Buenos Aires, Argentina to coast and waterway conservation in New Zealand. Travelers pay for their trips, but the prices are greatly reduced and most include airfare, travel to and from the airport, meals and lodging.

While in your destination split your days between volunteering and getting in some couples romance. And depending on the location, you may be able to get into some outdoor adventure.

8. Romantic Mountain Getaway

Trade in the beach and bikinis for altitude and hiking boots for the best cheap honeymoon destinations ideas.

Asheville, North Carolina, is a great destination to enjoy the mountains and hiking trails, funky and fine dining, art and nightlife. Just a few miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway, Asheville is easy and affordable to get to from many major cities, including Atlanta, Baltimore, Charlotte, Chicago, and Dallas.

Once there you can take advantage of free activities for a few days like hiking the Shenandoah National Park to the Smoky Mountains. Take in some culture by walking the gardens of the Biltmore Estate and stroll downtown Asheville downtown to indulge in the great dining and craft brew scene to cap off your romantic trip.

9. Montreal Mon Ami

Want a Parisian experience without the price of flying to Europe?

Montréal is a great option. Located in Canada’s Québec province, Montreal is the province’s largest city. Couples can explore the old world charm of the cobblestone villages, gothic buildings and urban alleyways filled with artists and live performers.

The Hotel Place d’Armes Old Montreal is a great location for couples. The 4-star historic hotel was originally built in the 19th century and features six studios, five penthouses and a spa.

A couple eat ice cream on a pier in Seattle.

10. Explore Coastal U.S. for Affordable Honeymoon Destinations

Are you a couple that enjoys wine, hiking in the woods or exploring western history? The West Coast —from Southern California through Oregon and onto the border in Washington State — is a great option for honeymoon destinations.

Cities like Seattle and Portland offer inexpensive experiences that pack a lot of memories. Take a scenic tour by air of Seattle or toast to your union in Oregon’s Stoller Family Estates winery. Small coastal towns also offer ideas for a romantic getaway, including towns along the Pacific Coast Highway.

On the east coast you can enjoy the beach, historic towns and country byways. Pack a romantic picnic and don’t forget the fine wine. You don’t have to spend a lot on wine either. Check out these six fabulous wine suggestions at under $14 a bottle.

Watch the sunset on the Outer Banks in North Carolina or soak in haunted history in Savannah, Georgia. That might not exactly scream romantic destination but it just might when you have to hug each other tight to keep away the spirits.

Contributor Nicole Hutcheon is a veteran journalist whose work has appeared in Ebony Magazine, 83 Degrees Media, Tampa Bay Times, Richmond (Virginia) Times-Dispatch, and Florida Designers Review.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Moms of Young Kids Desperately Need Time to Themselves. Here’s How to Actually Make It Happen

Alanna Gallo Kids

Believe it or not, it’s actually good for kids to spend time away from you.

To make more time for yourself, it requires boundaries, and raising independent kiddos.

The Extra Debit Card Can Build Your Credit and Save You Thousands

If you have a low credit score — or even no credit at all — you know how detrimental it can be to your finances and life goals.

It can stop you from opening a credit card or buying a house. And if you can get approved for a loan, the interest rate will likely be through the roof — costing you thousands of dollars more than you should be paying.

For example, two people leasing the same car, on the same terms, but with different credit scores could see a difference of $6,000 in their total payments. It’s wild!

Yet the traditional ways of raising your credit score can take time, money and effort. But a debit card — yes, a debit card — called Extra can help raise your credit without any of the traditional hassles. And it could give you rewards like a credit card, too.

Get the Benefits of a Credit Card (Without the Risks)

Extra’s debit card lets you earn positive credit impacts without the risks or barriers associated with secured credit cards. There’s no credit check, no interest rates and no deposit required. Plus, you get to keep your money in the bank account you’ve always used.

But how can a debit card improve your credit and earn you rewards like a credit card? Extra figured it out.

You sign up by securely connecting your bank account and getting a credit limit based on your cash balance (without a credit check!). The process is simple, and Extra has a 99% approval rate. Then, every time you make a purchase with your Extra card, they’ll spot you the cash now and pay themselves back the next day.

At the end of the month, all of your purchases are reported to the credit bureaus as credit-worthy payments — just like a credit card company would. And you’ll earn rewards on those successful payments.

But since you’re only spending money you already have, there are no sky-high interest fees that a credit card could tag onto a balance at the end of the month. Those alone could be more than 20% and potentially thousands of dollars surrendered to The Man.

Start Building Your Credit With The Extra Debit Card

Having good credit can have such a big impact on our lives — but we never realize just how much until our score dips into the “fair” or “poor” category. That’s why Extra is making it so easy and stress-free for people to build or improve their credit.

It takes just a few minutes to sign up for an Extra debit card, and you can get all the perks of a credit card without the risks of one. You can save thousands of dollars in interest, build your credit score and stress less over the barriers your lack of good credit puts in front of you.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

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