To Heck with the Joneses! Why “Keeping Up” Is Actually Keeping You Down—and Nine Good Reasons to Stop Doing It

Donna Skeels Cygan

Donna Skeels Cygan

The American Dream has evolved past the humble “white picket fence.” Way past. We all strive for the “nice” home (as defined by HGTV and Pinterest) as opposed to the cozy one, keep a perpetual car payment instead of driving an older model, and chauffeur kids to an endless array of pricey activities rather than sending them outside. Call it creeping consumerism, entitlement, or plain old peer pressure. The point is, we see our hectic and expensive lifestyles as normal—and it’s time we realized that keeping up with the proverbial Joneses is actually extravagant and irresponsible.

          The Joneses you’re trying to keep up with aren’t the doctors and lawyers two streets over, says Donna Skeels Cygan. They’re the middle managers, teachers, and laundromat owners next door, and—guess what?—they’re as anxious and unhappy as you are. That’s why she wants us to reframe our perspective on what’s “normal” and adopt a simpler lifestyle with less debt and stress.

          “Fulfilling lives are lives based on your core values, not the ones society dictates,” says Cygan, author of The Joy of Financial Security: The art and science of becoming happier, managing your money wisely, and creating a secure financial future (Sage Future Press, 2013, ISBN: 978-0-989-77844-2, $24.95, www.joyoffinancialsecurity.com). “It’s amazing how many of us feel we have to live in the right neighborhood or drive a new car just because our peers do.

          “Often, happiness means making a deliberate choice to stop keeping up with the Joneses,” she adds. “You have to pay attention and get mindful about where your money goes. It’s worth the effort. The consequences of living beyond our means outweigh the short-term satisfaction we feel when we pull out a credit card to make another upgrade. Lavish spending just does not make us happy at all (at least not for long). Sane, smart money management does.”

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Back to School: Reduce Your Symptoms for Heartburn and Acid Indigestion

With the average cost of these supplies reaching more than $300 for middle and high-schoolit’s no surprise that parents may be stressed and may be experiencing symptoms like increased acid in their stomach causing indigestion. Rolaids offers some tips below on how parents can better manage back-to-school stress and reduce symptoms of increased acid in their stomachs.

Heartburn Symptoms

The primary symptom of heartburn is a painful, burning sensation in the chest. It occurs when stomach acid backs up into your esophagus, usually because the opening between your stomach and esophagus isn’t working properly.

Acid Indigestion Symptoms

The common symptoms of acid indigestion, or upset stomach, include a feeling of fullness during or after a meal, burning or pain in the upper abdomen, nausea or bloating.

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2014 Back to School Gift Guide

It’s that time again! Can you believe it?

It’s just about time to start packing up the kids to send them away to college. For some parents, it’s your first time that someone is leaving the nest; for others, it has become second nature.

Whether your child is going into their freshman year or starting graduate school, we have a list of recommended school supplies for their dorm or apartment.

Also, just a special thank you to those of who also sent in your back-to-school gift ideas and suggestions for 2014. If you’re looking for a gift idea, our annual gift guide features a wide variety of gift ideas in the categories below:

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5 New Skin Care Habits for Fall

Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 7.24.42 AMFall’s cooler temperatures and windy climates can throw our skin for a loop and leave our skin dry, irritated and flaky. Changing seasons call for a few change-ups in our beauty routine! Dermatologist Dr. Marnie Nussbaum recommends incorporating these 5 habits into your daily ritual for a smooth, soft transition into fall. Try adopting 1 habit per week for 5 weeks to avoid shocking your skin!

Switch Cleansers. Start with the basics – If you’ve been using a shine control cleanser (or skating by with a bar of soap), make the switch to a more hydrating, soap-free cleanser. Coconut oil-based cleansers like Sebamed Clear Face Cleansing Foam are one of the most effective moisturizing and anti-aging ingredients, and act as antibacterial active ingredient that removes bacteria to prevent the formation of new pimples. ($19.95 at SebamedUSA.com)

Don’t Stop Using Sunscreen. Don’t be fooled by lower temperatures. Cover exposed skin with sunscreen, just as you would in the summer. UV rays are just as strong when hitting the slopes or walking in the rain as they are on the beach. Applying sunscreen daily is the easiest way to prevent sun damage, protect your skin, and not to mention – look younger. Try using products that offer Broad-Spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection, and have a SPF of 30 or greater.

Move to a Heavier Night Cream. Recover and restore your skin after a long summer with a heavier night cream like Sebamed Anti-Dry Night Intensive Cream which works to protect, smooth, calm and regenerate the skin without clogging pores. The intensive and rich properties of this Night Cream stimulate the skin’s own renewal process overnight for fresher skin by morning. The pH value of 5.5 promotes the skin’s own acid protective barrier against dehydration and irritants. ($23.95, SebamedUSA.com)

Exfoliate Flaky Skin. In the summer, we don’t need to exfoliate often. As temperatures cool, practice exfoliating once a week to keep dry flaky skin from shedding around the nose and chin. Select a soft facial scrub (those made with rice bran are less rough) that also uses naturally hydrating ingredients like avocado, coconut or almond oils to avoid excessive dryness and irritation. Immediately following, moisturize with balancing night cream.

Maximize Moisture in the Shower. Our skin loses water to radiator heat and dry air all day long. Replenish and balance moisture content by using a hydrating body wash and lotion every time you shower, like Sebamed Anti-Dry Derma-Soft Wash Emulsion and Hydrating Body Lotion. To prevent dry, crackly, irritated skin, pat (don’t rub) skin dry after a hot shower and apply a moisturizer within 3 minutes to seal in hydration. (22.95 each, SebamedUSA.com)

Sebamed

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Easing Back-to-School Jitters

mary_jo_rapini-2010By Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC

School bells are ringing and kids are everywhere. As you drive slowly through school zones, you can see and feel the excitement in the air. Kids are walking to school, getting out of buses, and being dropped off on the curb. Some of them look excited and are laughing, while others look confused, withdrawn and afraid. Parents have a powerful influence over their child no matter how old their child is in regards to their school-year success. Easing back-to-school jitters is an important step that parents should prepare for and encourage their child to prepare for as well.

School jitters don’t begin the first day of school. Most likely, they were going on during the last third of the summer. Sometimes parents are so busy with work and vacations that many forget to look for the signs. Did your child act more moody, restless, fatigued or erratic? Many kids have these feelings and adjust fine after school has started, but 15% do not. These 15% may have difficulty adjusting to the school year, and may require parental interventions to help them get on track.

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5 Strategies to Stay Sane, Be a Happy Single Mom and Raise a Positive Family

By Erika Oliver

I didn’t plan to be a mom. I planned to be a career woman that took a city by storm. Well how hard could that be? I have a couple of college degrees and even though I didn’t have parent role models to pattern after, I’m smart and can figure things out.

Yeah right. Where was the warning label? “Parenting is the most strenuous, scary and unappreciated job on the planet. Prepare to give your soul, sanity and wallet.” It’s true that parenting also offers unimaginable rewards and fun but it’s the moments of utter shock and being pressed to your limits that I wasn’t prepared to navigate.

If you didn’t expect to be a parent (especially a single parent), thought parenting would be easier, or are breaking negative family patterns here are my words of survival – and in many cases triumph – to keep yourself intact and raise a wonderful, loving, and gloriously positive family. [Read more...]

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Spirituality for “Science” Brains: A Step-by-Step Recipe to Tap into Your Spiritual Nature…without Abandoning Logic

 Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 12.41.42 PM“Science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.”  —Albert Einstein

If you’re a science-minded person, you may assume that you’ll never understand or experience the “touchy-feely” realm of spirituality. Accessing this side of yourself might just be as simple as following the scientific method.

By Thomas J. Strawser

You know you have a pretty good life. All of your basic needs like food, clothing, and shelter are met, as well as more than a few “wants.” But even as you take inventory of all that should fulfill you, you can’t shake the nagging feeling that something is missing. Or maybe you don’t feel that life is all that great. Perhaps you’re worn down by the stress of unemployment, or grieving a loved one, or dealing with crushing anxiety or depression. Either way, you can’t help but wonder: Would my life be better if I believed in God?

Sure, spirituality is supposed to be a source of happiness, fulfillment, and comfort. And it would be great to know your lost loved ones have passed on to something more than a box of dust and bones. But you’re a logical, science-minded person and, frankly, you like it that way. You just can’t bring yourself to believe in what you can’t see. Can you?

 Actually, you can. In fact, you can use the scientific process to help you find and validate a belief in your own Higher Power.As a practical person, you know the scientific process helps us discover solutions that work. And you use the results every day: Just think about wind and electricity. We can’t see these things, yet we believe in them because we can observe their energy and power. Every person has a reservoir of unseen inner spiritual energy that very few ever use.

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Why Are We in Denial about Death? 

Physicians and Family Members Must Find the Courage and Compassion to Talk about Dying … before It’s Too Late.

By Linda Campanella

I was with my mother and father when the oncologist told Mom the recommended course of treatment for lung cancer that had metastasized to her brain was “palliative, not curative.” Because we are a medical family (my father is a radiologist), we understood what the word “palliative” meant in this context, and there was no misunderstanding the meaning of “not curative.”

The cancer was terminal; it was going to kill my mother. Any treatments would relieve symptoms, but would not cure the disease.

Before we left the oncologist’s office, appointments for initial radiation therapy and chemotherapy sessions were made, and the overall course of treatments had been explained. But, in these anxiety-inducing and grief-filled moments when our family’s journey through incurable, terminal disease was beginning, not a word was said about the full spectrum and promise of palliative care or about the gift hospice would represent when the journey was coming to an end.

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2014 Dads and Grads Gift Guide

grads_and_dadsThe months of May and June can sometimes catch gift givers off guard. With Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, as well as high-school and college graduations, there are suddenly many people to shop for in your life in such a short time span. To help our readers, Pittsburgh Better Times has prepared its 4th Annual Gift Guide for Dads and Grads. 

Also, thank you to our readers who also sent in their gift ideas and suggestions for 2014. If you’re looking for a gift idea, our annual gift guide features a wide variety of gift ideas for moms in a variety of categories including home, fashion, beauty, family, and fitness.

If you have other suggestions, please let us know and we’ll add it to the list!

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8 Spring Cleaning Ideas for Less Clutter & More Cash

By Andrea Woroch

Spring has finally sprung and with it, the powerful desire to de-clutter your life. Spring cleaning doesn’t just help you get organized, it can save or make you money, too.

1. Coupons
If you spent the early months of 2012 clipping coupons in resolve to save more money, you likely have overwhelming stacks of vouchers spread through kitchen drawers that go unredeemed. Clean up that coupon clutter with the mobile app fromCouponSherpa.com, where you can easily browse for paperless coupons on-the-go and even download digital grocery deals directly to your store loyalty card so you never miss a discount.

2. Wardrobe
Spring is a great time to reorganize your wardrobe as winter clothes can be swapped with warm weather essentials. It’s also a good time to unload the unworn stuff. Since we tend to wear only 20% of our wardrobe 80% of time, you likely have clothes that can go. Try putting away items at one end of the closet after each time their worn so that at the end of the month you will have a visual reference of what you can part with.

Though donating is great, consider selling the designer stuff at a local consignment shop for extra cash or check out online consignors like CovetShop.com.

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