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A Last-Minute Thanksgiving Guide to Everything You Forgot

Hosting Thanksgiving can be fun, but there’ll always be stress involved. Stress leads to forgetfulness, forgetfulness leads to anger, and anger leads to wine-fueled fights with your mother-in-law. Luckily, here are quick solutions to fix whatever Turkey Day gaps plague you, so you can avoid the trauma and drama.

You Forgot About the Appetizer

Sure, it would be great if you had remembered to buy endive and lovingly spoon little mounds of chevre into each tender leaf, but endive didn’t make it on the shopping list, and now you have nothing for your guests to nosh on while you wrap up the main meal. You could send your nephew to the store for a sad veggie tray, or you could use this opportunity to clean out your cabinet and fridge.

First, check your pantry for a can of beans, any beans, and whip up an easy dip. Besides beans, you’ll just need a little olive oil (a couple of tablespoons), some salt and pepper, and then one thing from each of the following categories:.

  • A Tablespoon of Something Creamy: Any kind of nut butter or creamy dairy product will work here, so reach for that last bit of sour cream, yogurt, cream cheese, or even that forgotten chunk of brie.
  • A Flavorful Pinch or Drizzle: Ginger and garlic are good options, but don’t be afraid to raid the fridge for flavorful one-offs, like miso, harissa, fish sauce, chilies, Parmesan, Worcestershire sauce, curry powder, or even tin fish like anchovies or sardines.
  • Some Acid: The juice and zest of half a lemon or lime should get you there, but you could also try a teaspoon or two of your favorite vinegar, or even some mustard, pickle brine, or juice from a jar of banana peppers.
  • A Little Bit of Something Sweet: Any kind of syrupy sweetness you have on hand will work, be it agave, honey, or maple, but there’s nothing wrong with using a little white table sugar or brown sugar.
  • Some Sort of Topping: You could grab whatever herbs you have leftover from other Thanksgiving recipes, or add some chopped nuts or potato chips for tasty texture.

Just blend it all together, top with your garnish, and serve in a bowl with what extra veggies or crunchy carbs you have on hand. (Send someone to the gas station for chips if you have to.)

Next, if you have any extra greens or vegetable tops lying around, go ahead and turn those into a pesto using a ratio of 1:2:2:8 (1 part nuts, 2 parts oil, 2 parts grating cheese, 8 parts leaves or herbs), plus garlic, lemon, and salt and pepper to taste. Carrot tops, random herbs, kale, spinach, and arugula can all be blitzed into this flavorful spread, and you can even use a mixture of all of the above.

Just take a couple cloves of garlic and give those a good chop using the pulse function on your food processor. Add two cups of green stuff, ½ cup of olive oil, ¼ cup of whatever nuts you have in your home, and pulse until smooth. Add a ½ cup of hard, grated cheese, squeeze in half a lemon, and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust as needed.

Finally, do not underestimate the power of ramen dip. Just grab a packet of the super salty flavor packet (any flavor except that weird cheese one) and stir into a tub of sour cream. (Top with scallions to dress it up.) Serve with chips and watch it get devoured.

Beyond dips, a lot can be accomplished with a pack of bacon. In fact, a whole slew of bacon-based appetizers can be assembled with only one or two other ingredients:

  • Bacon + Club Crackers + Parmesan: This is an old faithful recipe of mine by way of The Pioneer Woman. Simply top a buttery Club cracker with a teaspoon of grated parm, wrap half a piece of bacon around it, and repeat until you’ve gone through a whole sleeve. Bake at 250℉ for two hours.
  • Bacon + Brown Sugar: Toss bacon slices with brown sugar, lay them in a single layer on a parchment-covered baking sheet, top with another layer of parchment and place a baking sheet on top of the whole situation. Bake at 325℉ until crispy, about 20-35 minutes.
  • Bacon + Asparagus: Wrap a slice of bacon around a stalk of asparagus and bake at 400℉ for about half an hour.
  • Bacon + Pepper + Cream Cheese: Make a slit in a jalapeno or serrano (warning: these are spicy) and remove the insides. Stuff with cream cheese, wrap with bacon, and bake at 375℉ for about half an hour, until bacon is crispy.

That should take care of the snacks, or you can just do what my family does and buy a giant, plastic tub of aggressively orange cheese balls. That’s never a bad plan.

You Forgot to Buy Enough Booze

Maybe you don’t consider booze to be a necessary Thanksgiving supply, but I’d rather run out of pie than run out of wine. If you somehow underestimated the ethanolic needs of your guest list, don’t panic, you have a few options.

First, check out your liquor cabinet and see what kind of hard stuff you have lying around. You can make a quick punch out of almost anything, as long as you have something strong (liquor), something sweet (juice), and something sparkling (can be alcoholic or not). Feel free to play around with this to fit your palate, but I like a ratio of 1 bottle (750 mL) of booze:1 bottle sparkling wine:6 cups juice. If that’s a little strong for your taste, consider swapping out the champers for ginger ale or Sprite. Some combinations to get you going:

  • Grapefruit Gin Punch: Ruby Red grapefruit juice + Gin + Off-dry sparkling wine
  • Festive Cranberry Punch: Cranberry cocktail + Vodka + Prosecco
  • Rum Punch: Peach orange mango juice + Rum + Cava
  • Communion Punch: Welch’s grape juice + It doesn’t matter + maybe don’t actually do this
  • Beer Shandy Punch: Lemonade + Bourbon + Lager

If you don’t have time for even that, just send someone to go pick up a few cheap bottles of wine. Trader Joe’s, Walmart, and Costco are all good resources with knowledgeable staff that will help you get the most bang for your buck. (Depending on which state you live in, you may not even need a Costco membership to buy wine there.)

You Forgot About the Non-Dinner Guest

Beyond the main meal, it’s likely you’ll have visiting friends and family pop by sometime over the holiday weekend for coffee or cocktails. To make sure you have something to serve besides leftovers, hit the freezer aisle and stock up on these winners.

You can never have too much pie and, if you’re running low on pumpkin, you can always grab a Marie Callender’s Pumpkin Pie ($6.49)—for that classic pumpkin pie experience—or an Edwards Pumpkin Crème Pie ($6.49)—for something a bit untraditional, but very tasty. Both were ranked as some of the best frozen options by The Kitchn, and both can be found at nearly any grocery store.

But frozen pie isn’t the only chilly superhero, if you want to serve something that is just as easy but a little more high-falutin’, grab some frozen puff pastry. Puff pastry is a dough that can do both (sweet and savory) so grab some sheets and make one or more of the following delectable bites:

  • Super Easy Plum Tart: Cut pastry into squares and prick with a fork. Fan out some pretty plum slices and sprinkle with sugar and freshly ground pepper. Bake for about half an hour at 425℉ until golden brown, and drizzle with honey before serving.
  • Make a “Croffle”: Place puff pastry in your waffle iron and crisp it up. Serve with Nutella and strawberries.
  • Savory Cheese Straws: Mix a cup of grated parmesan, a teaspoon of garlic powder, and a teaspoon of paprika together in a bowl. Cut puff pastry into strips and twist to form straws. Brush straws with egg wash and dredge through cheese mixture to coat and bake for about ten minutes at 425℉ until golden brown.

If the holiday has left you too tired to cook, just put a pot of coffee on and set out some sweet, seasonal liqueurs like peppermint mocha Kahlua, Frangelico, or Bailey’s. No one will be angry about that.

You Forgot to Make Name Cards or a Centerpiece

No one has ever said “You know, that was a nice dinner, and the turkey was superb, but I just can’t get over the lack of festive name cards and/or centerpiece.” No one has ever said that because no one gives a damn about tablescaping, which means you don’t have to worry about forgetting them. If, however, you want to give your guests a conversation jumping off point, consider printing out these festive Thanksgiving Mad Libs.

This will hopefully stimulate pleasant, non-political conversation at the dinner table. If that doesn’t work, scroll back up to section two of this article and pick a punch. (Communion punch is your nuclear option.)

Illustration by Sam Woolley. Photos by Didriks, Isaac Wedin, and Iris.

A Last-Minute Thanksgiving Guide to Everything You Forgot

Hosting Thanksgiving can be fun, but there’ll always be stress involved. Stress leads to forgetfulness, forgetfulness leads to anger, and anger leads to wine-fueled fights with your mother-in-law. Luckily, here are quick solutions to fix whatever Turkey Day gaps plague you, so you can avoid the trauma and drama.

You Forgot About the Appetizer

Sure, it would be great if you had remembered to buy endive and lovingly spoon little mounds of chevre into each tender leaf, but endive didn’t make it on the shopping list, and now you have nothing for your guests to nosh on while you wrap up the main meal. You could send your nephew to the store for a sad veggie tray, or you could use this opportunity to clean out your cabinet and fridge.

First, check your pantry for a can of beans, any beans, and whip up an easy dip. Besides beans, you’ll just need a little olive oil (a couple of tablespoons), some salt and pepper, and then one thing from each of the following categories:.

  • A Tablespoon of Something Creamy: Any kind of nut butter or creamy dairy product will work here, so reach for that last bit of sour cream, yogurt, cream cheese, or even that forgotten chunk of brie.
  • A Flavorful Pinch or Drizzle: Ginger and garlic are good options, but don’t be afraid to raid the fridge for flavorful one-offs, like miso, harissa, fish sauce, chilies, Parmesan, Worcestershire sauce, curry powder, or even tin fish like anchovies or sardines.
  • Some Acid: The juice and zest of half a lemon or lime should get you there, but you could also try a teaspoon or two of your favorite vinegar, or even some mustard, pickle brine, or juice from a jar of banana peppers.
  • A Little Bit of Something Sweet: Any kind of syrupy sweetness you have on hand will work, be it agave, honey, or maple, but there’s nothing wrong with using a little white table sugar or brown sugar.
  • Some Sort of Topping: You could grab whatever herbs you have leftover from other Thanksgiving recipes, or add some chopped nuts or potato chips for tasty texture.

Just blend it all together, top with your garnish, and serve in a bowl with what extra veggies or crunchy carbs you have on hand. (Send someone to the gas station for chips if you have to.)

Next, if you have any extra greens or vegetable tops lying around, go ahead and turn those into a pesto using a ratio of 1:2:2:8 (1 part nuts, 2 parts oil, 2 parts grating cheese, 8 parts leaves or herbs), plus garlic, lemon, and salt and pepper to taste. Carrot tops, random herbs, kale, spinach, and arugula can all be blitzed into this flavorful spread, and you can even use a mixture of all of the above.

Just take a couple cloves of garlic and give those a good chop using the pulse function on your food processor. Add two cups of green stuff, ½ cup of olive oil, ¼ cup of whatever nuts you have in your home, and pulse until smooth. Add a ½ cup of hard, grated cheese, squeeze in half a lemon, and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust as needed.

Finally, do not underestimate the power of ramen dip. Just grab a packet of the super salty flavor packet (any flavor except that weird cheese one) and stir into a tub of sour cream. (Top with scallions to dress it up.) Serve with chips and watch it get devoured.

Beyond dips, a lot can be accomplished with a pack of bacon. In fact, a whole slew of bacon-based appetizers can be assembled with only one or two other ingredients:

  • Bacon + Club Crackers + Parmesan: This is an old faithful recipe of mine by way of The Pioneer Woman. Simply top a buttery Club cracker with a teaspoon of grated parm, wrap half a piece of bacon around it, and repeat until you’ve gone through a whole sleeve. Bake at 250℉ for two hours.
  • Bacon + Brown Sugar: Toss bacon slices with brown sugar, lay them in a single layer on a parchment-covered baking sheet, top with another layer of parchment and place a baking sheet on top of the whole situation. Bake at 325℉ until crispy, about 20-35 minutes.
  • Bacon + Asparagus: Wrap a slice of bacon around a stalk of asparagus and bake at 400℉ for about half an hour.
  • Bacon + Pepper + Cream Cheese: Make a slit in a jalapeno or serrano (warning: these are spicy) and remove the insides. Stuff with cream cheese, wrap with bacon, and bake at 375℉ for about half an hour, until bacon is crispy.

That should take care of the snacks, or you can just do what my family does and buy a giant, plastic tub of aggressively orange cheese balls. That’s never a bad plan.

You Forgot to Buy Enough Booze

Maybe you don’t consider booze to be a necessary Thanksgiving supply, but I’d rather run out of pie than run out of wine. If you somehow underestimated the ethanolic needs of your guest list, don’t panic, you have a few options.

First, check out your liquor cabinet and see what kind of hard stuff you have lying around. You can make a quick punch out of almost anything, as long as you have something strong (liquor), something sweet (juice), and something sparkling (can be alcoholic or not). Feel free to play around with this to fit your palate, but I like a ratio of 1 bottle (750 mL) of booze:1 bottle sparkling wine:6 cups juice. If that’s a little strong for your taste, consider swapping out the champers for ginger ale or Sprite. Some combinations to get you going:

  • Grapefruit Gin Punch: Ruby Red grapefruit juice + Gin + Off-dry sparkling wine
  • Festive Cranberry Punch: Cranberry cocktail + Vodka + Prosecco
  • Rum Punch: Peach orange mango juice + Rum + Cava
  • Communion Punch: Welch’s grape juice + It doesn’t matter + maybe don’t actually do this
  • Beer Shandy Punch: Lemonade + Bourbon + Lager

If you don’t have time for even that, just send someone to go pick up a few cheap bottles of wine. Trader Joe’s, Walmart, and Costco are all good resources with knowledgeable staff that will help you get the most bang for your buck. (Depending on which state you live in, you may not even need a Costco membership to buy wine there.)

You Forgot About the Non-Dinner Guest

Beyond the main meal, it’s likely you’ll have visiting friends and family pop by sometime over the holiday weekend for coffee or cocktails. To make sure you have something to serve besides leftovers, hit the freezer aisle and stock up on these winners.

You can never have too much pie and, if you’re running low on pumpkin, you can always grab a Marie Callender’s Pumpkin Pie ($6.49)—for that classic pumpkin pie experience—or an Edwards Pumpkin Crème Pie ($6.49)—for something a bit untraditional, but very tasty. Both were ranked as some of the best frozen options by The Kitchn, and both can be found at nearly any grocery store.

But frozen pie isn’t the only chilly superhero, if you want to serve something that is just as easy but a little more high-falutin’, grab some frozen puff pastry. Puff pastry is a dough that can do both (sweet and savory) so grab some sheets and make one or more of the following delectable bites:

  • Super Easy Plum Tart: Cut pastry into squares and prick with a fork. Fan out some pretty plum slices and sprinkle with sugar and freshly ground pepper. Bake for about half an hour at 425℉ until golden brown, and drizzle with honey before serving.
  • Make a “Croffle”: Place puff pastry in your waffle iron and crisp it up. Serve with Nutella and strawberries.
  • Savory Cheese Straws: Mix a cup of grated parmesan, a teaspoon of garlic powder, and a teaspoon of paprika together in a bowl. Cut puff pastry into strips and twist to form straws. Brush straws with egg wash and dredge through cheese mixture to coat and bake for about ten minutes at 425℉ until golden brown.

If the holiday has left you too tired to cook, just put a pot of coffee on and set out some sweet, seasonal liqueurs like peppermint mocha Kahlua, Frangelico, or Bailey’s. No one will be angry about that.

You Forgot to Make Name Cards or a Centerpiece

No one has ever said “You know, that was a nice dinner, and the turkey was superb, but I just can’t get over the lack of festive name cards and/or centerpiece.” No one has ever said that because no one gives a damn about tablescaping, which means you don’t have to worry about forgetting them. If, however, you want to give your guests a conversation jumping off point, consider printing out these festive Thanksgiving Mad Libs.

This will hopefully stimulate pleasant, non-political conversation at the dinner table. If that doesn’t work, scroll back up to section two of this article and pick a punch. (Communion punch is your nuclear option.)

Illustration by Sam Woolley. Photos by Didriks, Isaac Wedin, and Iris.

What Neural Networks, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning Actually Do In Your Apps

When an app claims to be powered by “artificial intelligence” it feels like you’re in the future. What does that really mean, though? We’re taking a look at what buzzwords like AI, machine learning, and neural networks really mean and whether they actually help improve your apps.

Read more…

What Neural Networks, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning Actually Do In Your Apps

When an app claims to be powered by “artificial intelligence” it feels like you’re in the future. What does that really mean, though? We’re taking a look at what buzzwords like AI, machine learning, and neural networks really mean and whether they actually help improve your apps.

Just recently, Google and Microsoft both added neural network learning to their translation apps. Google said it’s using machine learning to suggest playlists. Todoist says it’s using AI to suggest when you should finish a task. Any.do claims its AI-powered bot can do some tasks for you. All that’s just from last week. Some of it is marketing fluff to make new features sound impressive, but sometimes the changes are legitimately useful. “Artificial intelligence,” “machine learning,” and “neural networks” all describe ways for computers to do more advanced tasks and learn from their environment. While you may hear them used interchangeably by app developers, they can be very different in practice.

Neural Networks Analyze Complex Data By Simulating the Human Brain

Artificial neural networks (ANNs or simply “neural networks” for short) refer to a specific type of learning model that emulates the way synapses work in your brain. Traditional computing uses a series of logic statements to perform a task. Neural networks, on the other hand, use a network of nodes (which act like neurons) and edges (which act like synapses) to process data. Inputs are then run through the system and a series of outputs are generated.

That output is then compared to known data. For example, say you want to train a computer to recognize a picture of a dog. You’d run millions of pictures of a dog through the network to see what images it decided looked like dogs. A human would then confirm which images are actually dogs. The system then favors the pathways through the neural network that led to the correct answer. Over time and millions of iterations, the network will eventually improve the accuracy of its results.

To see how this works in action, you can try out Google’s Quick, Draw! experiment here. In this case, Google is training a network to recognize doodles. It compares the doodle you draw to examples drawn by other people. The network is told what the doodles are and then trained to recognize future doodles based on what the past ones look like. Even if your drawing skills suck (like mine do), the network is pretty good at recognizing basic shapes like submarines, house plants, and ducks.

Neural networks aren’t the right solution for everything, but they excel at dealing with complex data. Google and Microsoft using neural networks to power their translation apps is legitimately exciting because translating languages is hard. We’ve all seen broken translations, but neural network learning could let the system learn from correct translations to get better over time. We’ve seen a similar thing happen with voice transcription. After introducing neural network learning to Google Voice, transcription errors were reduced by 49%. You may not notice it right away and it won’t be perfect, but this type of learning genuinely makes complex data analysis better which can lead to more natural features in your apps.

Machine Learning Teaches Computers to Improve With Practice

Machine learning is a broad term that encompasses anything where you teach a machine to improve at a task on its own. More specifically, it refers to any system where a machine’s performance at completing a task gets better solely through more experience performing that task. Neural networks are an example of machine learning, but they are not the only way a machine can learn.

For example, one alternative method of machine learning is called reinforcement learning. In this method, a computer performs a task and then it’s graded on the result. The video above from Android Authority uses a chess game as an example. A computer plays a complete game of chess and then it either wins or loses. If it wins, then it assigns a winning value to the series of moves it used during that game. After playing millions of games, the system can determine which moves are most likely to win based on the results of those games.

While neural networks are good for things like pattern recognition in images, other types of machine learning may be more useful for different tasks like determining what kind of music you like. To wit, Google says its music app will find you the music you want when you want it. It does this by selecting playlists for you based on your past behavior. If you ignore its suggestions, that would (presumably) be labeled as a failure. However, if you choose one of the suggestions, the process it used to give that suggestion is labeled as a success, so it reinforces the process that led to that suggestion.

In cases like this, you might not get the full benefit of machine learning if you don’t use the feature a lot. The first time you open Google’s music app, your recommendations will probably be pretty scattershot. The more you use it, the better the suggestions get. In theory, anyway. Machine learning isn’t a silver bullet, so you could still get junk recommendations. However, you’ll definitely get junk recommendations if you only open the music app once every six months. Without regular use to help it learn, machine learning suggestions aren’t much better than regular “smart” suggestions. As a buzzword, “machine learning” is vaguer than neural networks, but it still implies that the software you’re using will use your feedback to improve its performance.

Artificial Intelligence Just Means Anything That’s “Smart”

Just like neural networks are a form of machine learning, machine learning is a form of artificial intelligence. However, the category of what else counts as “artificial intelligence” is so poorly defined that it’s almost meaningless. While it conjures the mental image of futuristic sci-fi, in reality, we’ve already reached milestones that were previously considered the realm of future AI. For example, optical character recognition was once considered too complex for a machine, but now an app on your phone can scan documents and turn them into text. Describing such a now-basic task as AI would make it sound more impressive than it is.

The reason that basic phone tasks can be considered AI is because there are actually two very different categories of artificial intelligence. Weak or narrow AI describes any system that’s designed for a narrow task or set of tasks. For example, Google Assistant and Siri—while powerful—are designed to do a very narrow set of tasks. Namely, take specifics series of voice commands and return answers or launch apps. Research into artificial intelligence powers those features, but it’s still considered “weak.”

In contrast, strong AI—otherwise known as artificial general intelligence or “full aI”—is a system that can perform any task that a human can. It also doesn’t exist. If you were hoping that your to-do list app would be powered by a cute robot voiced by Alan Tudyk, that’s a long way off. Since virtually any AI you’d actually use is considered weak AI, the phrase “artificial intelligence” in an app description really just means “it’s a smart app.” You might get some cool suggestions, but don’t expect it to rival the intelligence of a human.

While the semantics may be muddy, the practical research in AI fields is so useful you’ve probably already incorporated it into your daily life. Every time your phone automatically remembers where you parked, recognizes faces in your photos, get search suggestions, or automatically groups all your vacation pictures together, you’re benefitting either directly or indirectly from AI research. To a certain extent, “artificial intelligence” really just means apps getting smarter, which is what you’d expect anyway. However, machine learning and neural networks are uniquely suited to improving certain kinds of tasks. If an app just says it’s using “AI” it’s less meaningful than any type of machine learning.

It’s also worth pointing out that neural networks and machine learning are not all created equal. Saying that an app uses machine learning to do something better is a bit like saying a camera is better because it’s “digital.” Yes, digital cameras can do some things that film cameras can’t, but that doesn’t mean that every digital photograph is better than every film photograph. It’s all in how you use it. Some companies will be able to develop powerful neural networks that do really complicated things that make your life better. Others will slap a machine learning label on a feature that already offered “smart” suggestions and you’ll ignore it just the same.

From a behind-the-scenes standpoint, machine learning and neural networks are very exciting. However, if you’re reading an app description that uses these phrases, you can just read it as “This feature is slightly smarter, probably” and continue doing what you’ve always done: judging apps by how useful they are to you.

Illustration by Sam Woolley.

How to Make Screen Time Rules That Work for Your Family

Not long ago, pediatricians recommended limiting the amount of time kids spend on phones and tablets to just one or two hours a day, with toddlers getting none at all. That has changed, and now parents are supposed to make sure kids have a healthy relationship with their devices. Where do you begin? Here are a few ways to approach the task.

Remember That Screen Time Isn’t Everything

Especially when children are young, it’s tempting to assume that any time they look at a phone or a tablet or a TV, they are wasting their time. But not all screen time is the same: children might be drooling and staring at a dumb cartoon, or they might be playing a game that requires creativity or problem solving. Once they get a little bit older, they might be using “screen time” as a way to communicate with their friends, or research real-world activities like crafts they want to build or decisions about what to buy with their allowance.

If you want to set limits, pay attention to what your child is actually doing when they have “screen time.” I see a huge difference between my seven-year-old watching videos versus building things in Minecraft. (I feel truly conflicted when he watches videos about Minecraft—he’s passively consuming media, but he’s also learning skills that he turns around and uses to create.)

Rather than setting time limits, Devorah Heitner, author of Screenwise: Helping Kids Thrive in Their Digital World, suggests encouraging children to spend their time on more creative pursuits: making videos rather than watching them, for example, or learning to code their own video games when they are old enough.

You may still feel you need to set limits, but they don’t have to be restrictions on spending time with screens at all. Instead, you could use a tool like Circle to block access to certain websites at certain times. And you could follow the American Academy of Pediatrics’ guideline to keep mealtimes and bedtime tech-free.

Make Sure the Phone Isn’t the Only Fun Thing Around

We know that children need real-world play time, and interactions with real people. But just like us, they can gravitate to electronics because those devices are more convenient to use. “Are the dress-up clothes and the legos and the musical instruments as accessible as the screens?” Heitner suggests asking yourself as you look around your child’s environment.

If you’re trying to eat healthy, we’ve already explained how you can manipulate your environment to make healthy food more available and junk food out of sight and out of mind. That’s the same idea here. Even if you set firm rules, kids may spend their time whining about when they can watch YouTube next. But if their favorite toys are easy to get to, they may forget about the phones and tablets, at least temporarily.

That may mean an inconvenient tradeoff for you as a parent: watching videos can keep kids quiet, and is definitely less messy than a Lego explosion.

Look at Your Own Media Use

It’s hard to get kids to look up from their phones if you never do, either. I’m definitely guilty of this, especially if I’m on deadline. Heitner mentions that sometimes she has to arrange meetings with people in other time zones, so she can’t always put her phone away in the evenings. But she makes sure to put her phone away at certain times of day as part of her family’s routine.

“A great parenting tactic is to be honest with our kids when we’re busy,” she says. “But I also think we shouldn’t have a default be that we’re always connected and never unplugged.”

Decide Which Rules Make Sense

I didn’t really name my kids off the winter storm lists, but I was tempted.

When the AAP announced their 2016 guidelines about device use for kids, they also launched a Media Plan tool that helps you make a list of rules that work for your family. As you go through, you can check off rules for each of your children, and add your own as you go.

I hoped that the result would be a concise list of family rules I could post on my fridge, but the tool produced a lengthy printout. Still, it was useful to go through all of the rules and consider which ones I actually wanted to follow, and which I didn’t.

The biggest impact of the AAP’s guidelines, Heitner says (and I agree!) is that parents no longer have to pretend that they do, or should, set strict limits on screen time for their children. And we don’t need to look down on families who give their kids more screen time than we do. “It’s harder to talk to other parents because we’re so busy judging them,” she observes.

Without the guilt of the old rules, it may be easier to speak more openly with other parents about what they do when their child throws a tantrum about giving up the screen at bedtime. Or how they decided whether their middle schooler was ready for their own phone. Preschool teachers and special needs therapists (such as speech therapists) are a fantastic resource on early childhood learning, she points out. If you feel comfortable discussing tablet use with teachers, you can get great suggestions for apps that are appropriate for your child—or even for offline activities that could help your kid’s playtime to be more well rounded.

Illustration by Sam Woolley. Photos by Roy Luck and Josh Engroff.

What Really Happens When You File for Bankruptcy

What Really Happens When You File for Bankruptcy

Bankruptcy is a last resort for people and businesses, including Gawker Media, the company that owns this site. Many companies, like United Airlines and General Motors, file for bankruptcy and continue business as usual. Individuals file for bankruptcy and often emerge in one piece, too. There’s a lot of confusion and misconception about bankruptcy, so let’s talk about how it affects your finances.

http://lifehacker.com/as-you-may-hav…

The Differences Between Chapter 7, 13, and 11

In general, people file for bankruptcy when there’s no way in hell they can meet their debt obligations. Popular assumption is that those people are bad with money and take out too much credit card debt. Sure, that happens, but often, people and companies file bankruptcy after a major financial blow. It might be a lawsuit debacle. It might be digital obsolescence. It might be an unexpected illness.

http://lifehacker.com/what-you-shoul…

A lot of people think bankruptcy wipes out any and all debt obligations, but that’s not the case. You still have to pay up, and how you’ll pay up depends on what kind of bankruptcy you file: Chapter 7, Chapter 13, or Chapter 11. There are other types of specific bankruptcies, too (Chapter 12 is for farmers and fishermen, for example), but these three are the most common.

With Chapter 7, you may have to liquidate certain assets (like a car or a second home) to pay off at least some of the debt. Most of your assets are probably exempt, but it depends on your state, your financial situation, and whether or not that asset is essential. You have to meet certain eligibility requirements to file, and income is perhaps the most important one. As legal site Nolo explains, there’s a whole set of criteria to determine your income eligibility, but generally, you have to have little to no disposable income.

With Chapter 13, you get a plan to pay off your debts within the next three to five years, but you get to keep your assets. After it’s all said and done, some of those debts will likely be discharged. You have to qualify, though, and that means your secured debts can’t be more than $1,149,525 and your unsecured debts cannot be more than $383,175. Secured debt is debt that’s backed by collateral, like your house or car.

Chapter 11 bankruptcy works kind of like Chapter 13, but it’s reserved for businesses, and basically means a reorganization or restructuring for the company. Businesses can file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, too, but again, that means a liquidation of assets, so Chapter 11 is usually a more attractive option. Companies get to keep their stuff and keep their creditors at bay while they continue their operations, but they have to come up with a plan to pay off at least some of their debt, or get it forgiven.

What Happens When You File

When you file for bankruptcy, you get an “automatic stay.” Basically, this puts a block on your debt to keep creditors from collecting. While the stay is in place, they can’t garnish your wages, deduct money from your bank account, or go after any secured assets.

Ironically, bankruptcy isn’t free. The filing fee alone is a few hundred bucks for Chapter 7 and 13, and nearly $2,000 for Chapter 11. And then there are the attorney fees. You can file without a lawyer, but it’s not recommended since bankruptcy laws can be tough to navigate. Upright Law estimates the fees for Chapter 7 are $1,000-$2,000, and Chapter 13 are $2,200-5,000. Chapter 11 costs a lot more. Over at Forbes, attorney Robert Bovarnick explains:

In my experience, attorney’s fees run about 4% of annual revenue. If your company has $2,000,000 in revenue, expect to pay between $75,000 and $100,000 to your bankruptcy lawyer–and there may be expenses for accountants and other professionals on top of that.

You’ll also have to take a class or two. The government requires individuals to take credit counseling 180 days before you file, and you also have to take a debtor education course if you want your debts discharged.

A couple of weeks after filing, you’ll have to attend a “creditors meeting,” which is basically what it sounds like: a court meeting between you, your bankruptcy trustee, and any creditors who want to attend. They’ll all ask you questions about your financial situation and decision to file bankruptcy.

Your Assets Get Liquidated With Chapter 7

Nolo says that in most cases, Chapter 7 debtors don’t have to liquidate their property (unless it’s collateral) because it’s usually exempt or it’s just not worth it. They explain:

If the property isn’t worth very much or would be cumbersome for the trustee to sell, the trustee may “abandon” the property — which means that you get to keep it, even though it is nonexempt…Most property owned by Chapter 7 debtors is either exempt or is essentially worthless for purposes of raising money for the creditors. As a result, few debtors end up having to surrender any property, unless it is collateral for a secured debt…

After the creditors meeting, your trustee will figure out whether or not to liquidate your stuff. If it does get liquidated, that means you’ll have to either surrender it or fork over its equivalent cash value to pay back your debt.

You Get a Payment Plan With Chapter 13

With Chapter 13, you get a plan to pay off your debts, and some of them have to be paid in full. These debts are “priority debts,” and they include alimony, child support, tax obligations, and wages you owe to employees.

Your plan is based on how much you owe and what your income looks like, and it will include how much you have to pay and when you have to pay it.

The “Best Interests Test” for Chapter 11

After filing for Chapter 11, the company has to come up with a reorganization plan for their business and finances. While they can continue operating as normal, they do have to run major financial decisions, like breaking a lease or shutting down operations, by the bankruptcy court. Creditors and shareholders can offer their input on these decisions, too. This plan is basically an agreement between the debtor and creditors about how the company will pay its future debts.

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclop…

The plan also has to pass a “best interests” test. This test ensures creditors will get as much money under the Chapter 11 as they would if the debtor filed for a Chapter 7 liquidation.

Filing usually takes a couple of months to wrap up, but it takes considerably longer for the actual bankruptcy to come to a close. According to Credit.com, Chapter 7 bankruptcy is generally pretty quick and closes in a few months. This makes sense, since Chapter 7 liquidates your stuff to pay off debts quickly. Chapter 13, on the other hand, can last up to five years. According to Nolo, some Chapter 11 cases can wrap up in a few months, but six months to two years is a more common time frame.

What Happens to Your Credit

Your credit score will plummet with a bankruptcy. The higher your score, the more you’ll fall. FICO estimates someone with a score in the mid 700s might see a drop by over 100 points. Of course, a low score can make your life difficult in many ways.

In general, Chapter 7 and 11 bankruptcies remain on your credit report for ten years, and Chapter 13 stays on for seven.

After bankruptcy is all said and done, most debts are discharged, but not all of them. Student loans aren’t typically dischargeable in bankruptcy, for example. Here are a few other non-dischargeable debts, according to Sutton Law:

  • Tax debts
  • Alimony and child support
  • Divorce-related debts, including property settlement debts.
  • Debts for some fines or penalties.
  • Debts for personal injury or death caused by drunk driving

In some cases, student loans are dischargeable after a bankruptcy, but you have to pass a federal test for hardship, and the Department of Education says it’s rare.

https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans…

Bankruptcy is usually a desperate remedy to a helpless situation. Knowing how it works and what to expect can help you navigate some of the misconceptions and figure out what the process actually entails.

Photo: Kaspars Grinvalds (Shutterstock)

How to Flirt With Finesse

How to Flirt With Finesse

You might dress well, have a cool job, and be blessed with beauty, but flirting is where the real magic of attraction is, especially when it comes to first impressions. In fact, good flirting is often more effective than good looks, and it’s something anybody can learn how to do.

Make Friendly, Lasting Eye Contact With a Smile

Eye contact is pivotal when flirting, and Marin suggests it’s the best way to indicate your interest. It means the difference between a friendly “how-do-ya-do” conversation and a “I’d really like to get to know you” conversation. Whether you’re across the room or already talking, eye contact has been shown to boost feelings of attraction. In one study, published in the Journal of Research and Personality, strangers were asked to stare into the eyes of other strangers. After holding a mutual, friendly gaze for two minutes, most participants reported increased feelings of passionate love toward the stranger.

Marin says the trick to flirtatious eye contact is to maintain your gaze longer than usual. If you spot someone across the way, try to meet their gaze, hold it for a few seconds, and look away. Repeat this a couple times and, if they aren’t giving you weird looks, then make your approach. Be cautious, though. While a kind gaze does wonders, an unbroken, wide-eyed stare is creepy. If you’re worried you’ll go overboard, use the triangle technique and smile. Nothing says “I like you” like a big ol’ smile.

http://lifehacker.com/use-the-triang…

Approach From the Front

How to Flirt With Finesse

The wrong kind of approach will end things before they even start. When you see someone who piques your interest, Vanessa Marin, licensed marriage and family therapist and Lifehacker contributor, recommends you always approach from the front. Nobody likes being snuck up on by a stranger, and Marin notes this is especially true for men trying to approach women.

If they’re facing away, either make your way around, or wait for them to move. And if they’re at the bar, at least grab a seat next to them instead of rudely tapping them on the shoulder. Approaching them from the front also gives you both a chance to catch each other’s glance and gauge interest.

Give Compliments That Go Beyond Looks

Compliments are great for flirting, but they’re also a dime a dozen. Dr. Nerdlove, dating columnist and Kotaku contributor, suggests you step things up and compliment them on something they had a conscious hand in:

Complimenting somebody’s looks is both unoriginal and not terribly interesting. Letting someone know that you appreciate, say, their fashion sense or their insight, on the other hand, shows that you get them on a personal level.

“You’re cute” and “you have pretty eyes” aren’t going to cut it. If you can’t think of something that appeals to their choices, Marin says you should at least try and give them an unusual compliment. Say something like “you have a very confident-sounding voice,” or “you seem like someone who knows how to get the best out of people,” or “you have a delightfully offbeat personality.” Leave them with a compliment that will stick with them and make you unique.

Also, ditch the pickup lines and cheesy one-liners. One study, published in the journal Sex Roles, suggests that both men and women hate “cute-flippant” opening lines. Overall, participants in the study preferred openers that were more innocuous or direct. So skip the “Are you wearing space pants?” lines and try to strike up an actual conversation about the venue, music, or a mutual friend. Otherwise, just go for it and offer to buy them a drink or make a unique compliment.

http://lifehacker.com/the-best-ways-…

Use Appropriate Touch to Show Interest

How to Flirt With Finesse

A light touch, done carefully, is an extremely effective form of flirting for both men and women. Light touching shows interest beyond a doubt. Additionally, your flirting may not be as obvious as you think it is, so it’s a great for being more direct, as long as the situation allows and the atmosphere is appropriate. When someone is certain that you’re interested, it’s easier for them to respond in kind.

In the book Close Relationships, Dr. Pamela Regan, a professor of psychology at California State University, suggests there are three main types of social touch. The first is “friendly,” which is like a light shoulder push, shoulder tap, or handshake—not ideal for flirting, but good for testing the waters. The third type, “nuclear,” is the super obvious types of romantic touch, like a soft face touch or brushing someone’s hair out of their face, and is far too abrupt and forward for flirting. “Plausible deniability,” the second type of touch, is right in the middle and it’s where you want to be. It involves gentle and informal touching around the shoulder or waist, and the almost-always effective touch on the forearm. One study, published in Social Influence, found that a light touch on the forearm increased the chance participants would give out their phone number or go on a date. Just be sure the atmosphere is right when you try it, or you might make them feel uncomfortable.

Use Playful Teasing to Your Advantage

People want what they can’t have, and a little playful teasing shows that you’re interested, but also draws people in. Nerdlove recommends a simple technique called “pushing and pulling,” where, like a kitten with a string, you dangle a compliment within reach, then pull it back. Here are some of Nerdlove’s examples:

“You’re the coolest person I’ve met… at this bar, anyway.” “Holy crap, you really are such a nerd, it’s adorable!” “It’s a shame you seem like a nice person, you’re giving me the most inappropriate ideas.” “You’re awesome, I never meet people like you; get away from me, I just can’t talk to you.” “We’re never going to get along, we’re too similar.”

The key here is to absolutely avoid negging or backhanded compliments, like “you’ve got a great smile, even with those teeth.” Keep it playful, friendly, and make it abundantly clear that you’re teasing. Do it with a big smile, have fun (and be self-deprecating when it’s right) and while you’re at it, use your teasing as an opportunity to do some flirty touching.

Nerdlove says good flirting is about riffing and playing off what one another says. Don’t force a change in the conversation, and keep things light. Also keep in mind that some people don’t like teasing or witty banter, so be ready to switch gears. If you say something unfunny or upsetting, apologize and change the topic. Don’t make it about you, and don’t shift the blame on them, like “I’m sorry you were offended.” Acknowledge that you messed up and move on to a happier subject. When in doubt, Nerdlove suggests you just be a great listener. It gives people a chance to open up about themselves, and gives you a chance to relax.

http://lifehacker.com/how-to-be-a-go…

Read Signals and Take a Hint

How to Flirt With Finesse

Things won’t always go your way when you flirt, so it’s important to know when to throw in the towel. Nerdlove suggests it all comes down to watching the other person’s body language and listening to how they respond. If you see these signals, dial it back:

  • They’re being polite, but unresponsive.
  • Their smiles are quick smirks that don’t look authentic.
  • They give short, uncomfortable laughs.
  • They’re not volleying back jokes or questions.

Nobody likes an overbearing flirt; It’s pushy, awkward, and super skeezy. Also, people talk. You never know when one bad social interaction will make things worse for you in the long run. If you swing and miss, shake it off, save face, and give it a shot another day.

http://lifehacker.com/how-to-read-bo…

Illustrations by Angelica Alzona.

The Honda CR-Z Is Nearly Dead (In Japan)

Good Morning! Welcome to The Morning Shift, your roundup of the auto news you crave, all in one place every weekday morning. Here are the important stories you need to know.

Read more…

What Zombie Debt Is and How It Can Come Back to Haunt You

What Zombie Debt Is and How It Can Come Back to Haunt You

On Last Week Tonight, John Oliver bought $15 million in outstanding medical debt just to prove how easy it is to start a debt buying company. It was debt that regular people owed, presumably from surgeries, hospital stays, medical procedures and so on. Instead of buying the debt to turn a profit, Oliver forgave it. All of it. The segment outlined the many flaws of the debt and credit industry, but specifically the concept of “zombie debt,” or old, forgotten debt that somehow resurfaces.

As legal site Nolo explains, zombie debt is debt that “is very old or no longer owed.” It’s debt that comes back to life when a collection agency buys it for cheap. It’s not the same as maxing out a credit card and being unable to pay or being flooded with bills you can’t haggle down. Zombie debt is often invalid, and collectors use intimidating, sneaky tactics to get people to pay.

How Zombie Debt Works

Debt collectors make money when they buy old debts incredibly cheap and get people to pay a portion of the original amount that’s bigger than what they paid themselves. Theoretically, that doesn’t sound so bad, right? Collectors just help companies reclaim lost funds, and, after all, we should all repay our debts. Fair enough.

http://twocents.lifehacker.com/what-to-do-whe…

In practice, though, debt collecting is a very shady business, and zombie debt exemplifies this. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) lists some common types of zombie debt:

  • debts you already settled with a company or other debt collector
  • debts that were discharged in bankruptcy
  • time-barred debts you may have forgotten or overlooked that are past the statute of limitations
  • debts that no longer show up on your credit report, generally after seven years
  • debts you never owed, like debts resulting from identity theft

It’s easy to say “If you have past debt, you should pay it.” Zombie debts don’t work this neatly. As the FTC points out, they’re often the result of identity theft and they can even be debts you’ve already settled.

How Debt Collectors Get Around Time-Barred Debts

The FTC warns that you can restart the clock on the debt’s statute of limitations if you make (or just promise to make) payments. This is important because it’s how debt collectors turn a profit.

“Statute of limitations” means debt collectors can sue you for a limited amount of time to collect your past due debt. After that time, those unpaid debts are “time-barred,” and a debt collector can’t sue for time-barred debts. This time frame—the statute of limitations—varies depending on your state. Here are the statutes of limitations for all 50 states.

When you restart the clock, collectors can sue you, and many of them do. When consumers ignore these lawsuits, which happens often, they have to pay up, which can lead to wage garnishment.

However, don’t get “statute of limitations” mixed up with the time limit for negative items to stay on your credit report. Most unpaid debt falls off your credit report after seven years from the date it becomes delinquent, no matter how many times that debt is bought or sold. That’s separate from the statute of limitations.

How to Deal With Zombie Debt

Sadly, not all of us will be lucky enough to have a cable news show buy and forgive our zombie debt. We’ve told you how to deal with debt collectors before, and the cautionary rules are generally the same for dealing with zombie debt.

http://twocents.lifehacker.com/what-to-do-whe…

As you can see in the Last Week Tonight segment (and as you may have experienced yourself), debt collectors can be nasty. They use all sorts of tactics (and in some cases, intimidation and outright lying) to intimidate you into paying, from calling you nonstop to contacting your friends and family members.

http://lifehacker.com/ask-these-ques…

Thanks to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), debt collectors are not allowed to call during certain hours, use foul language, or make threats, though. So if you’re dealing with an agency breaking the rules, you can report them to the FTC. Also, abusive or threatening language are also red flags, so make sure you don’t have a scam on your hands, and here are a few questions you can ask to expose a fake debt collector. The FTC lays out your rights in dealing with debt collectors.

Assuming the agency is legit, your next order of business is to tackle them head on and make sure the debt is valid. Check out your credit report and see if the debt is listed. If not, the zombie debt may be a result of identity theft, and you can find sample letters to help dispute the debt at identitytheft.gov.

From there, ask for a “Validation Notice.” Consumer Reports explains how this works:

Even if the caller gives plausible-sounding answers, request a “validation notice” to verify the debt. The notice, which must be sent within five days of initial contact, must include the amount of the debt, the name of the creditor, and a description of your rights under the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers sample request letters, too. To avoid restarting the statute of limitations, don’t even discuss the debt until you receive that notice.

http://lifehacker.com/get-debt-colle…

If you do indeed owe the money and believe you need to pay, dealing with collectors can still be tricky. We’ve written a guide to help you navigate the process, though.

http://lifehacker.com/how-to-settle-…

In most cases, dealing with zombie debt is easier said than done. A quirky television host might come to your rescue, but don’t count on it. At the very least, you should familiarize yourself with your credit report, know the statute of limitations on any past debts, and understand your rights.

Photo by Ryan Jorgensen – Jorgo

Financial Literacy Alone Won’t Fix Your Money Problems

Financial Literacy Alone Won’t Fix Your Money Problems

Unless you were born into riches, you’ve probably dealt with money troubles. Financial problems can be a struggle, and “financial literacy” is the go-to solution to building good money habits. Create a budget, learn some basic rules, and poof! Our money woes are cured. That’s not all it takes to improve your finances, though. Not by a long shot.

http://twocents.lifehacker.com/no-matter-what…

Financial literacy is, in a nutshell, understanding how money works. It’s very important, and it’s not difficult to learn. In fact, there are a handful of free resources to help you learn all about money. Those lessons can be helpful tools. However, if it were as easy as learning some basic math and rules, we’d all be awesome at money. Less of us would struggle with debt, live paycheck-to-paycheck, or overspend on stuff we don’t need.

http://lifehacker.com/how-to-break-t…

Many people assume financial literacy is the key to fixing these problems, though. For example, we recently wrote about the first thing you should do to get your money in order (figure out why you want to get it in order). Many of you had other ideas, like:

  • Figure out how to budget
  • Pay off your debt
  • Record all of your transactions
  • Learn about compound interest

These are the basics, and it’s absolutely important to have this knowledge in your arsenal. But these answers miss the point. Personal finance goes beyond this knowledge: it’s personal. And it’s important to understand why money is such a challenge for so many people. That way, we can tackle that challenge at full force and learn how to use those tools.

Money Is More About Behavior Than Basic Rules

Whether it’s basic budgeting, negotiating salaries or lower prices, or investing for the future, people often ask “why don’t they teach this in schools?” Well, they do teach this in schools. The problem is, teaching it is not that simple.

Years ago, I interviewed Laura Levine, President of Jump$tart Coalition, an organization dedicated to bringing financial literacy to classrooms. She told me one of the biggest challenges they face is deciding exactly who should teach financial literacy lessons:

There isn’t a way to identify where all the finance teachers are. If you teach algebra, there’s very little debate that’s in the Math Department. But personal finance might be social studies or consumer science or business. There are a lot more variables…Personal finance and financial education are very complex and very nuanced. We want to make sure we’re really assessing and seeing what makes it effective. But we’re not waiting for a perfect solution to get started.

In other words, money isn’t just math. It’s also behavior. Here are a few behavior-related lessons that helped me get my finances in order more than any rules:

Some financial solutions are indeed pretty straightforward, but in general, if you assume money is as easy as setting up a budget, you’ll probably be really frustrated and disappointed later, when you have trouble sticking to that easy budget. It’s not hopeless, though. When you acknowledge just how much money management money depends on habits, willpower, and other behaviors, you can better focus your energy and effort.

The Rules Don’t Always Work

There’s another reason basic financial rules (like “spend less than you earn”) won’t solve everything: they don’t always work.

For example, when I was in student loan debt, I bucked the “save 3-6 months of expenses for an emergency” rule. Instead, I saved a few hundred bucks for an emergency and focused on paying off my debt instead. I wanted to pay my loans asap so I could properly save for the future, and I had a safety net (moving back in with my parents) to fall back on if times got really tough. I took a chance and bucked the rules, and it gave me the confidence to take control of my finances. Plus, I saved a lot of money on interest. It’s not a smart move for everyone, and not everyone agrees with it, but it worked for me.

The point isn’t to break the rules for the sake of breaking the rules. The point is that life is complicated, and the rules are often oversimplified to the point of being ineffective, just so they can be easily taught to others. They’re so oversimplified, in fact, financial experts rarely agree on them.

http://twocents.lifehacker.com/money-advice-n…

Don’t get me wrong—education is important, whether it’s history, grammar, sex ed, or financial literacy. However, unlike grammar rules, personal finance isn’t cut and dried. A lot of it depends on your individual situation, which makes it complicated.

You have to consider your own financial situation and mindset and do what works for you. Sometimes, that means bending the rules. For example, let’s say you start to pay off debt using the stack method (paying off high-interest debts first). It makes the most sense on paper because of compound interest, but let’s say your debt is so overwhelming, you get discouraged and give up on it altogether. The debt snowball (paying off smaller debts first) may work better. The snowball method bucks the basic rule of compound interest, yet research shows it works better for most people because the psychology matters more than math. In short, people aren’t computers.

http://lifehacker.com/5940989/pay-of…

What to Focus on Instead

Okay, you get it. Money management is more about behavior than rules. How do you learn to be good at money, then? Like most habits and behavior, it comes down to practice.

In high school, I was on the soccer team, and I sucked. My coach, bless her heart, explained how it all worked. I had to kick the ball with my foot at the right angle. I had to account for my position when I passed. I followed these rules meticulously, yet I still sucked. Finally, my coach told me, “Forget the rules. Practice your skills.” She put me in more games. She made me practice longer and harder. Eventually, I got better (not great, but better).

You can say the same for money, I think. The rules are useful and necessary, but without practicing your real-world skills, they will only take you so far.

Like a lot of habits and behaviors, the sooner you get started, the better. This is why it’s important to teach kids solid money habits early on (another thing Jump$tart is trying to do). For example, you could:

Many of us don’t grow up learning money skills, though. Our parents were just as bad with money as we are. If you didn’t get these basics yourself, yes, you need to learn the mechanics of building a budget, but more importantly, you need a solid reason to motivate yourself. If you don’t see a need to worry about money, what’s the point in learning skills or rules?

Before anything, it’s important to have a clear idea of why you want to get your money in order, whether it’s to travel more or to support your family. Without motivation, you’re just learning rules for the sake of learning them, and that won’t be nearly as effective as learning the rules to reach an important goal.

http://twocents.lifehacker.com/the-first-thin…

From there, you build better habits when you navigate your weak spots and challenges. For example:

http://lifehacker.com/treat-savings-…

It’s impossible to nail down the exact habits you need to improve your finances, because, again, so much of it depends on your own situation and personality. The overall point is: when you’re ready to fix your finances, it helps to be prepared for the work that goes into it. When we understand that money is more about mindset and behavior, we’re in a better place to fix the real issues so we can use those rules to our advantage.

Illustration by: Sam Woolley