TIME Illinois

Illinois Says It Can’t Pay Big Lottery Winners

Michael Jones
M. Spencer Green—AP Illinois Lottery Mega Millions lottery ticket.

Why you need to win small in the Prairie State

(SPRINGFIELD, Ill.) — Big-time Illinois Lottery winners aren’t getting the largesse. They’re getting left out.

Without a state budget agreement two months into the new fiscal year, there’s no authority for the state comptroller to cut checks over $25,000. That means smaller winnings can be paid out, but not the larger lottery wins.

Susan Rick, who lives in Oglesby, Illinois, planned home fix-ups and a visit to her daughter after her boyfriend won $250,000 last month. But they were told to wait.

Rick tells the Chicago Tribune that if the situation were reversed, the state would “come take it, and they don’t care whether we have a roof over our head.”

Lottery spokesman Steve Rossi says state lottery, like every other state agency, is “affected by the budget situation.”

MONEY groceries

This Is How Much More You’ll Spend at Whole Foods vs. Trader Joe’s

An employee bags groceries for customers at a Whole Foods Market Inc. store in Oakland, California, U.S., on Wednesday, May 6, 2015.
David Paul Morris—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Unless you're living on frozen peas.

When it comes to bourgeoisie supermarkets, stereotypes abound. The regular Whole Foods shopper is obsessed with kale, yoga, and SoulCycle, and “Whole Paycheck” does not, in fact, cost anywhere close to his or her whole paycheck. Trader Joe’s, on the other hand, is for the hipster shopper who’s bougie but broke.

But what about the reality: Is Whole Foods really that much more expensive than Trader Joe’s?

According to a staff writer at SFGate who recently did a cost comparison of popular items, yes. A trip to the store rounding up 30 standard supermarket items will cost you about 20% more—$133.18 as opposed to $109.27—at Whole Foods than it will at Trader Joe’s. This isn’t an exact apples-to-apples comparison because each store has its own brands, but you get the idea.

Previous shopping experiments have yielded similar results. A price comparison of 20 items conducted by Cheapism found that 14 of the 20 items were cheaper at Trader Joe’s than Whole Foods; a DCist comparison shopping excursion found that a bag of quinoa was half the price at Trader Joe’s, and a gluten-free cheese pizza was only two-thirds of the price.

As Business Insider explains it, Trader Joe’s is able to undercut Whole Foods (and other supermarkets) by selling in-house products rather than brands, and by sticking to an efficient “no frills” interior in small stores. The strategy reportedly earns Trader Joe’s twice the sales per square foot, and a clientele that views its products as high quality at bargain prices.

Still, while Whole Foods tends to be more expensive on average (“sometimes because the product is of a high-quality or carries Non-GMO Project verification and sometimes for no apparent reason,” as SFGate pointed out), there were a number of items on the reporter’s list that were priced almost identically at the two stores. Namely, 100% Florida Orange Juice, low-fat organic yogurt, apple sauce, flour, almond butter, Hell or High Watermelon beer, and Clif Bars. What’s more, a basic pack of frozen organic peas was actually more expensive at Trader Joe’s.

In the past year Whole Foods strategically cut prices on some items, and launched a new “values matter” slogan to appeal to consumers who have grown weary of its high prices. Whole Foods is also launching a new low-price supermarket model called 365. So one can be hopeful that the list of more affordable items at Whole Foods-owned stores may grow.

For the time being, shop where you will—but we’d recommend against splurges of the asparagus water variety.

 

MONEY Spending

When It’s Okay to Splurge on Yourself

543194985
Dave and Les Jacobs/Kolostock—Getty Images

"It's a shame to work so hard all the best years of your life, just so you can afford to survive in the worst years of your life."

When Stan Calow was growing up, frugality was a way of life: “You spend as little as you need to, and then save everything else.” So, the 58-year-old engineer and U.S. Army veteran from Kansas City, Missouri always hated spending money.

It took his financial planner, Cindy Richey, to drill the point into him that it was actually okay to enjoy his savings once in a while.

After much prodding, the message finally got through. Calow and his wife just returned from a trip to France, touring the chateaux of the Loire Valley, just like they had always dreamed.

Says Calow, who learned about the fragility of life by serving in Kosovo: “I wanted to live life while I’m still young enough to enjoy it.”

It’s a tricky dilemma for many of us. As much as pundits tell us to scrimp, and save, and sacrifice for the future, when is it actually okay to spend a little on yourself and enjoy this life that passes all too quickly?

Indeed, according to a new survey, many of us are not enjoying it enough.

When Wells Fargo asked affluent Americans about what they regretted most about their finances, 15% said “not having enjoyed their money more”.

It is an honest answer that you do not often encounter in financial surveys. After all, splurging on yourself is typically seen as selfish and gauche.

But as some planners point out, it’s your money, and you should not be made to feel bad about enjoying it occasionally.

“People are so nervous about outliving their money, and sometimes they shoot too far in their saving,” says Joe Nadreau, director of innovation and strategy for Wells Fargo Advisors. “You don’t want to come to the end with $3 million saved, but having sacrificed your whole life along the way.”

Of course, leaving an inheritance is still an important consideration, according to 57% of affluent Americans in the Wells Fargo survey.

But just remember that once the will is read, you are six feet under, and no longer around to witness your family enjoy that wealth.

A Bank of Memories

So try thinking of the concept of ‘inheritance’ a little differently: Instead of purely in terms of dollar bills, consider it as a set of memories, which you can create together as a family while you are still alive.

“We have recently noticed a sizable uptick in clients who are more interested in sharing their wealth in the form of experiential gifts,” says John Fowler, a planner in Keller, Texas.

“It might mean taking the entire family on a cruise, or paying the airfare to fly in to see grandma and grandpa in Arizona, Colorado, or Florida. At the end of the day our clients realize stuff is just stuff, but with a little effort, they can create a memory for their families that will last a lifetime.”

Keep in mind that splurging on yourself doesn’t mean you become miserly with others. It is not an either/or proposition; You can treat yourself once in a while, and also be generous with charitable causes that are meaningful to you.

“People call me all the time to get permission to enjoy their money, which I heartily give them,” says Dave Ramsey, a popular radio host and author of “The Legacy Journey.”

“Often the thing that breaks it loose for people is to increase their giving. Because the more generous you are, the more you get permission to spend on yourselves.”

As for Kansas City’s Stan Calow, he looks forward to traveling the world with his wife, and enjoying future grandchildren. It was hard to get him to enjoy those savings, but now he’s making up for lost time.

This thought, in particular, came to mind when he was walking the streets of Paris recently:

“It’s a shame to work so hard all the best years of your life, just so you can afford to survive in the worst years of your life.”

Read next: When It’s Okay to Splurge on Yourself

MONEY Travel

Tricks for Making Travel Cheaper

Travel + Leisure's Jacqueline Gifford shares tips for traveling well...for less.

Getting a great deal on a summer vacation doesn’t have to be difficult, and there are several things you can do to bring down your holiday cost.

Try a low-cost airline. Airlines like Norwegian Air and Wow Air offer cheap flights abroad.

Take a layover. It might take longer, but the price often beats a nonstop flight.

Be flexible. Certain days of the week are cheaper than others.

Travel in the off-peak season. Figure out when the shoulder seasons or low seasons are for your destinations, and try to go then.

Get a credit card with no international fees. You don’t want to get home and find out you were slammed with a lot of foreign transaction fees. Check out our Best Credit Cards.

Bundle. It’s often cheaper to bundle airfare and hotel together through an online travel agency.

 

TIME 2016 Campaign

Jeb Calls For ‘Disrupting’ Government

Jeb Bush
John Locher—AP Republican presidential candidate former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks at the Maverick PAC conference in Las Vegas on July 17, 2015.

His ideas: veto spending bills, cut government workers, restrict lobbying

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush pledged to challenge the ways of “Mount Washington” Monday, highlighting his record in Tallahassee and how he hopes to “disrupt” the federal government by challenging a “culture of spending.”

“The overspending, the overreaching, the arrogance, and the sheer incompetence in that city – these problems have been with us so long that they are sometimes accepted as facts of life,” Bush said of Washington, D.C. “But a president should never accept them, and I will not. We need a president willing to challenge the whole culture in our nation’s capital – and I mean to do it.”

In remarks outlining a portion of his domestic policy agenda, Bush reiterated his call for sustained 4 percent annual economic growth and hinted at forthcoming tax policy and entitlement reform proposals.

“The ultimate disruption of Washington is to reject, as I do, the whole idea of a government forever growing more, borrowing more, and spending more – beyond anyone’s ability to control or even comprehend,’ he said.

Bush embraced a federal Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution to limit government spending, and said he supported efforts by House Ways and Means Committee Paul Ryan to give presidents a line-item veto over expenditures. “It’s time to revive Veto Corleone,” referencing the nickname he earned in Florida for cutting down spending bills.

Bush suggested a “three out, one in” rule for federal workers in a bid to cut government payrolls, with exceptions for national security jobs. “This policy can, on its own, reduce the size of the federal bureaucracy by 10 percent within 5 years,” he stated.

Calling for broad reforms to civil service laws, Bush said he wants to bring federal pay in line with private sector pay, eliminate across-the-board raises for workers, while making it easier to fire under-performers.

Highlighting lobbying reforms he signed in Florida, Bush said he hoped to sign similar legislation in Washington, saying the definition of “lobbyist” should be expanded to those who work as ‘government relations’ and ‘government affairs’ specialists, and that their meetings with lawmakers should be publicly disclosed online.

Bush also endorsed an extension of a ban on lobbying by former members of the House and Senate to six years, while saying he would support legislation tying lawmaker pay to their voting attendance — a veiled swipe at the Senators running for the White House who have missed votes on the campaign trail.

“A bill to dock the pay of absentee members might not pass the House or Senate,” Bush said, “but at least it would get them all there for a vote.”

Bush has long had government largess in his sights. In his second inaugural address in 2003, he rhapsodized about his dream of gutting government. “There would be no greater tribute to our maturity as a society,” he declared on the steps of the state capitol, “than if we can make these buildings around us empty of workers–silent monuments to the time when government played a larger role than it deserved or could adequately fill.”

TIME Money

Why ‘Don’t Worry About Money, Just Travel’ Is the Worst Advice of All Time

Chelsea Fagan is a writer and founder of The Financial Diet, a (non-boring) blog about personal finance.

It demonstrates only a profound misunderstanding about what 'worrying' actually means

I have an internet acquaintance that I’ve been following on social media for a little over two years now, an all-around nice, smart girl who blogs and does odd jobs and has recently decided to go back get a Master’s. In Europe. For a degree that, by all reasonable accounts, is probably not going to lead to a great job. And she knows this, I think, because she talks about it as “an opportunity to learn and expand her mind,” more than any sort of preparation for a future career. Which is fine, but the truth of the matter is that she is able to enjoy such freedom — to be a wanderer of sorts who enjoys travel, study for the sake of study, and long conversations over good dinners — because she comes from a good bit of wealth and, if not subsidized entirely, never has to worry about her safety net. She won that particular bit of genetic lottery, and it’s useless to begrudge her the freedom that fate bestowed on her.

But it is useful — important, even — to begrudge her the attitude that comes with it, one that is all too prevalent amongst young people who do not have to worry about the foundations of their future financial security: This idea that you must travel, as some sort of moral imperative, without worrying about something as trivial as “money.” The girl in question posts superficially inspiring quotes on her lush photos, about dropping everything and running away, or quitting that job you hate to start a new life somewhere new, or soaking up the beauty of the world while you are young and untethered enough to do so. It’s aspirational porn, which serves the dual purpose of tantalizing the viewer with a life they cannot have, while making them feel like some sort of failure for not being able to have it.

It’s a way for the upper classes to pat themselves on the back for being able to do something that, quite literally, anyone with money can buy. Traveling for the sake of travel is not an achievement, nor is it guaranteed to make anyone a more cultured, nuanced person. (Some of the most dreadful, entitled tourists are the same people who can afford to visit three new countries each year.) But someone who has had the extreme privilege (yes, privilege) of getting out there and traveling extensively while young is not any better, wiser, or more worthy than the person who has stayed home to work multiple jobs to get the hope of one day landing a job that the traveler will assume is a given. It is entirely a game of money and access, and acting as though “worrying about money” on the part of the person with less is some sort of trivial hangup only adds profound insult to injury.

I was able to travel, and even though I paid for my life abroad with my own work, it was still a result of a healthy amount of privilege. I was from a middle-class family who I did not need to support or help financially, I knew that I could always slink back to their couch if things didn’t work out, and I had managed to accrue a bit of savings while living at home for the few months before I left. There are millions of people who have none of these things, and even if they wanted to pay for travel on their own, would simply not be able to because of the responsibility or poverty they lived with. For even my modest ability to see the world, I am eternally grateful.

And what’s more, I understand (perhaps even better after having traveled a good amount) that nothing about your ability or inability to travel means anything about you as a person. Some people are simply saddled with more responsibilities and commitments, and less disposable income, whether from birth or not. And someone needing to stay at a job they may not love because they have a family to take care of, or college to pay for, or basic financial independence to achieve, does not mean that they don’t have the same desire to learn and grow as someone who travels. They simply do not have the same options, and are learning and growing in their own way, in the context of the life they have. They are learning what it means to work hard, to delay gratification, and to better yourself in slow, small ways. This may not be a backpacking trip around Eastern Europe, but it would be hard to argue that it builds any less character.

Encouraging that person to “not worry about money,” or to “drop everything and follow their dreams,” demonstrates only a profound misunderstanding about what “worrying” actually means. What the condescending traveler means by “not worrying” is “not making it a priority, or giving it too much weight in your life,” because on some level they imagine you are choosing an extra dollar over an all-important Experience. But the “worrying” that is actually going on is the knowledge that you have no choice but to make money your priority, because if you don’t earn it — or decide to spend thousands of it on a trip to Southeast Asia to find yourself — you could easily be out on the streets. Implying that this is in any way a one-or-the-other choice for millions of Americans is as naive as it is degrading.

Everyone needs to forge their own path to financial independence and freedom. And perhaps you are lucky enough that your path involves a lot of wandering around, taking your time, and trying a bunch of new things — because you know that security will be waiting for you at the end of the rainbow. That’s fine, and there is no need to feel guilt or shame over your privilege, if only because it’s unproductive and helps no one. But to encourage people to follow your very rare path, because you feel it is the only way to spiritual enlightenment or meaning, makes you an asshole. It makes you the person who posts vapid “inspirational” quotes that only apply to a tiny percent of the population who already has all the basics covered. And God forbid anyone who needs the money actually does follow that terrible advice, they won’t be like you, traipsing around South America and trying degrees for fun. They will, after their travels are over, be much worse off than when they started. And no souvenir keychain is going to make that reality sting any less.

This article originally appeared on The Financial Diet.

Read next: 3 Credit Cards That Will Save You Money on Summer Travel

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Money

These 3 Decisions Will Change Your Financial Life

Make these decisions consciously

There’s nothing worse than a rich person who’s chronically angry or unhappy. There’s really no excuse for it, yet I see this phenomenon every day. It results from an extremely unbalanced life, one with too much expectation and not enough appreciation for what’s there.

Without gratitude and appreciation for what you already have, you’ll never know true fulfillment. But how do you cultivate balance in life? What’s the point of achievement if your life has no balance?

For nearly four decades, I’ve had the privilege of coaching people from every walk of life, including some of the most powerful men and women on the planet. I’ve worked with presidents of the United States as well as owners of small businesses.

Across the board, I’ve found that virtually every moment people make three key decisions that dictate the quality of their lives.

If you make these decisions unconsciously, you’ll end up like majority of people who tend to be out of shape physically, exhausted emotionally and often financially stressed. But if you make these decisions consciously, you can literally change the course of your life today.

Decision 1: Carefully choose what to focus on.

At every moment, millions of things compete for your attention. You can focus on things that are happening right here and now or on what you want to create in the future. Or you can focus on the past.

Where focus goes, energy flows. What you focus on and your pattern for doing so shapes your entire life.

Which area do you tend to focus on more: what you have or what’s missing from your life?

I’m sure you think about both sides of this coin. But if you examine your habitual thoughts, what do you tend to spend most of your time dwelling on?

Rather than focusing on what you don’t have and begrudging those who are better off than you financially, perhaps you should acknowledge that you have much to be grateful for and some of it has nothing to do with money. You can be grateful for your health, family, friends, opportunities and mind.

Developing a habit of appreciating what you have can create a new level of emotional well-being and wealth. But the real question is, do you take time to deeply feel grateful with your mind, body, heart and soul? That’s where the joy, happiness and fulfillment can be found.

Consider a second pattern of focus that affects the quality of your life: Do you tend to focus more on what you can control or what you can’t?

If you focus on what you can’t control, you’ll have more stress in life. You can influence many aspects of your life but you usually can’t control them.

When you adopt this pattern of focus, your brain has to make another decision:

Decision 2: Figure out, What does this all mean?

Ultimately, how you feel about your life has nothing to do with the events in it or with your financial condition or what has (or hasn’t) happened to you. The quality of your life is controlled by the meaning you give these things.

Most of the time you may be unaware of the effect of your unconscious mind in assigning meaning to life’s events.

When something happens that disrupts your life (a car accident, a health issue, a job loss), do you tend to think that this is the end or the beginning?

If someone confronts you, is that person insulting you, coaching you or truly caring for you?

Does a devastating problem mean that God is punishing you or challenging you? Or is it possible that this problem is a gift from God?

Your life takes on whatever meaning you give it. With each meaning comes a unique feeling or emotion and the quality of your life involves where you live emotionally.

I always ask during my seminars, “How many of you know someone who is on antidepressants and still depressed?” Typically 85 percent to 90 percent of those assembled raise their hands.

How is this possible? The drugs should make people feel better. It’s true that antidepressants do come with labels warning that suicidal thoughts are a possible side effect.

But no matter how much a person drugs himself, if he constantly focuses on what he can’t control in life and what’s missing, he won’t find it hard to despair. If he adds to that a meaning like “life is not worth living,” that’s an emotional cocktail that no antidepressant can consistently overcome.

Yet if that same person can arrive at a new meaning, a reason to live or a belief that all this was meant to be, then he will be stronger than anything that ever happened to him.

When people shift their habitual focus and meanings, there’s no limit on what life can become. A change of focus and a shift in meaning can literally alter someone’s biochemistry in minutes.

So take control and always remember: Meaning equals emotion and emotion equals life. Choose consciously and wisely. Find an empowering meaning in any event, and wealth in its deepest sense will be yours today.

Once you create a meaning in your mind, it creates an emotion, and that emotion leads to a state for making your third decision:

Decision 3: What will you do?

The actions you take are powerfully shaped by the emotional state you’re in. If you’re angry, you’re going to behave quite differently than if you’re feeling playful or outrageous.

If you want to shape your actions, the fastest way is to change what you focus on and shift the meaning to be something more empowering.

Two people who are angry will behave differently. Some pull back. Others push through.

Some individuals express anger quietly. Others do so loudly or violently. Yet others suppress it only to look for a passive-aggressive opportunity to regain the upper hand or even exact revenge.

Where do these patterns come from? People tend to model their behavior on those they respect, enjoy and love.

The people who frustrated or angered you? You often reject their approaches.

Yet far too often you may find yourself falling back into patterns you witnessed over and over again in your youth and were displeased by.

It’s very useful for you to become aware of your patterns when you are frustrated, angry or sad or feel lonely. You can’t change your patterns if you’re not aware of them.

Now that you’re aware of the power of these three decisions, start looking for role models who are experiencing what you want out of life. I promise you that those who have passionate relationships have a totally different focus and arrive at totally different meanings for the challenges in relationships than people who are constantly bickering or fighting.

It’s not rocket science. If you become aware of the differences in how people approach these three decisions, you’ll have a pathway to help you create a permanent positive change in any area of life.

This piece was adapted from Tony Robbins’ new book, Money Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom.

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com

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MONEY

How to Be in Your Friend’s Wedding and Not Go Broke

groomsmen
Alamy

Being in a bridal party isn't all fun and games, especially when the tab comes due.

Being in a wedding may be an honor, but it’s expensive. Like, really expensive. Like, “I have to spend hundreds of dollars on clothes and travel then buy you a present to thank you for the opportunity” expensive. According the the most recent American Express Spending and Savings Tracker, the cost of being in a bridal party is now $701, up 13% from 2014.

But an honor is supposed to be priceless — or at least not send you to the poor house. Here are some ways to trim the bridal party sticker shock:

The Attire

Navigating sartorial demands is tricky because you’re limited to the wishes of the bride and groom.

Fellas, there’s not much you can do to reduce the cost of a tuxedo, but some tux shops do offer discounts when everyone rents from the same place. Unless you plan to wear it four or more times in the next few years, you’ll want to rent instead of buy.

Ladies have a little more wiggle room here. Once the bride has settled on a color and style (a process during which you can advocate for the lets-get-different-dresses-that-express-our-personality-and-are-consequently-cheaper approach) you can start scouring the recesses of the internet to find “gently used” dresses. Tradesy has a bridesmaid section, but steadfast options like Ebay can also help you find discounted dresses. Also, a local tailor may be cheaper than a bridal salon for alterations, so shop around before settling on a seamstress. And remember, you’re probably only going to wear the dress once — no need to splurge for a perfect fit, just enough tailoring to help you feel confident.

The Gift(s)

The American Express study also found that the average cost of a wedding gift is $106, plus an additional $77 for the shower gift, $86 for the bachelor/bachelorette party, and $89 for the engagement party.

One way to avoid racking up the gift expenses is by offering to contribute to the wedding in a creative way. Good at graphic design? Ask if they need help designing the invitations. A photographer on the side? Offer to take the engagement photos. When your friend tries to compensate you for your work, tell them it’s your present to them for their special day. Not only will your skills make a touching gift, they will also save the bride and groom money in the long run.

If your creative skills aren’t up to par, you still have options. First, try getting to the registry ASAP, before the cheap options (trivets! wooden spoons!) get scooped up. Pairing them with other low-cost items can help you create a themed gift (i.e. measuring cups + mixing bowel + cookie cutters = starter set for bakers) without selling your soul to pay for the professional stand mixer. If the registry still isn’t an option, you can buy off the list – just make sure you keep the couple’s style and preferences in mind, and always include a gift receipt.

The Logistics

Buddy up. With hotel rooms averaging $141 nationwide, split the cost with a fellow member of the bridal party. And though it’s hard to strategize when to get the cheapest flights, studies suggest booking 50 to 100 days before the event to get the best deal.

The Parties

Again, booking early can help transportation costs, but also consider Airbnb for cheaper lodging. For wild nights, consider locations that offer a high concentration of bars and restaurants so you can walk from place to place instead of relying on cabs or renting a limousine. You can also double down on the weekend by hosting both the bachelorette and bridal shower at the same time. It cuts travel costs in half, and one trip means less time off of work.

Bridesmaids are also often tasked with throwing the bridal shower, and food, decorations, alcohol and favors add up fast. One way to curb the cost is to host the event in someone’s home instead of renting out a room in a restaurant. You’ll avoid rental fees and have more flexibility with food and alcohol. It’s also a chance to flex your Pinterest muscles and adopt a DIY approach. Unless you want the shower to be a complete surprise, run generic ideas past the bride. If she’d rather not have the shower at someone’s home, consider parks (have a backup plan for weather), fraternal organizations or community spaces in condo or apartment complexes as well as her favorite restaurants.

And even though the financial tab for the shower often falls on the ladies, you groomsman may not be in the clear for long. Jack and Jill wedding showers are on the rise.

The Alt Option

Remember, if money is tight, being honest with your friend from the very beginning can help avoid a lot of headaches in the future. You can say no to the opportunity, and hopefully your friendship is strong enough that the bride or groom will understand. Start by acknowledging how honored you are to be offered a part in their day, but explain that financial constraints might keep you from performing your duties. You can finish the conversation by offering to help in other ways, like hosting the bridal shower or helping with last minute crafts and decorations. Besides being open with them, you also want to have the conversation as soon as possible to avoid causing last minute stress for the happy couple.

Read next: 8 Cost-Cutting Wedding Hacks

MONEY Smart Spending

How to Splurge (on National Splurge Day!) Without Busting Your Budget

pile of gifts
Paul Taylor—Getty Images

Or feeling remorse.

We’ve all been there: The excitement of a big splurge purchase can turn into feelings of guilt or even disappointment in as much time as it takes to walk through the checkout line.

But believe it or not, splurging done right can actually be good for your happiness and even your budget.

“Allowing yourself to have a splurge and enjoy it can actually keep you on track with your other budgeting goals,” says Kit Yarrow, professor of consumer psychology at Golden Gate University, author of Decoding the New Consumer Mind, and a MONEY contributor.

Thursday is National Splurge Day, a faux holiday created by Adrienne Sioux Koopersmith about 20 years when she came up with the idea for the celebration – you guessed it – on a whim. But with a little thought, you can make the most of your splurges today.

Splurge on Experiences

One way to get the highest happiness out of your splurge buys is to spend on experiences, says Michael Norton, professor of business administration at the Harvard Business School and co-author of Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending.

An evening out with friends or a vacation is a more reliable way to get the most bang-for-your-splurging-buck. And the happy memories from the experience usually last longer than material goods.

“The key pitfall of splurging is that when we splurge, it tends to be on stuff: TVs, clothes, iPhones,” Norton says. “But research shows that stuff fails to pay off in much happiness.”

Splurge on Others

There is a new body of research that shows the tremendous emotional rewards of splurging on other people, says Yarrow. Simple gestures like taking someone out to lunch or buying them something they’d never get for themselves can help you feel happiness in your connection with them.

“There is a rich reward that you get back from treating somebody else,” says Yarrow. “You can’t buy that level of emotional reward for yourself.”

Splurge Within Your Budget

But what about splurging on a budget? A virtually sure-fire way to feel guilt after a splurge is to spend outside your budget. Norton notes that worrying about debt has an enormous negative effect on your mood.

“When splurging, committing to stop before you go into the red helps to ensure your purchases will increase rather than harm your happiness,” Norton says.

Smaller, planned splurges will also help you stay in your budget, adds Yarrow. “Think of shopping like dieting: If you’re in deprivation mode for a long time, it ultimately leads to an unplanned binge.”

Splurge Without Spending

And you can always “splurge” on things that don’t cost a lot, or are free. Make time for yourself to do something you enjoy, like taking a run with your dog or watching a movie with loved ones.

With a little planning this National Splurge Day, you can feel like you treated yourself with no price tag attached.

 

TIME Diet/Nutrition

9 Health Foods That Aren’t Worth the Money

mixed-berries
Getty Images

Check whether these health food costs are equal to their nutritional benefits

After handing over what feels like your whole paycheck at Whole Foods, it’s not uncommon to wonder whether the health foods you picked up are worth the dough you dropped.

Amid the constant reports about the most superior of superfoods, it can be tough to keep track of not only the healthiest newcomers, but also which previous darlings are still worth your grocery dollar. Eat This, Not That! has rounded up some of the most publicized health foods and analyzed whether their place in your budget is equal to their nutritional benefits.

1. Steel-Cut Oats

Ah, steel-cut oats: One of the most vaunted of health foods, they connote a bearded artisan prepping your breakfast by hand with a blade. But the romance doesn’t match the reality. A can generally runs you upwards of $8, and each bowl requires about 20 minutes of cooking time. That’s not an ideal investment of your money or time, as their nutritional profile is almost identical to rolled oats. Although steel-cut oats have a slightly lower glycemic index, you can feel fine about reaching for a $4 canister of two-minute Quaker Oats: A half-cup serving has only 150 calories plus 4 grams of belly-filling fiber.

2. Low-Carb Bread

At prices topping out at $7 to $8 a loaf, low-carb bread is an inexplicable commodity. Your first-line healthy option is to pick up whole-grain bread instead. While it’s not as ideal a whole grain as quinoa or oats, whole grains of any stripe increase satiety and have heart-protective effects. (Just make sure your bread is whole grain, not multigrain, which has more sugar and less fiber).

3. Fresh Berries

Nutritionally, fresh berries are a totally worthy addition to your grocery bill. But you can still get their benefits while stretching your dollar. Berries possess polyphenols—which prevent fat from forming—and frozen berries have the exact same nutritional value as fresh. Plus they can cost about half as much, and you can get them year-round.

4. Turkey Burgers

Long held to be the far superior alternative to beef, turkey burgers can actually have as much fat and a bit less protein than their more traditional cousin. Plus, store-bought ground turkey can contain dark meat, which boosts the fat content up to 20%. If you want to feel virtuous, go for grass-fed beef, which has belly-blasting omega-3 acids that turkey doesn’t.

5. Pomegranate Juice

Remember this craze? Pomegranate juice is still ringing up tens of millions in sales annually. Don’t contribute. A two-serving bottle can cost you $5, and while you could just eat the fruit—which will give you the same amount of antioxidants plus more fiber and less sugar—it’s far better to eat a cup of blueberries or cranberries instead. They’ll give you almost three times the antioxidants, along with demonstrated fat-burning benefits at a fraction of the cost. Looking for a natural way to supercharge your sex drive? Go ahead and buy; that’s something this drink truly is good at—just be sure to add water before you down a glass.

6. Superfood Powders

Chlorella, camu camu, $30 tubs of green powder with words like “Wonder” and “Vibrance” on the label: they claim to be packed with nutrients, but we can only take their word for it. The nutritional supplement industry is unregulated, and there’s a big question mark about the benefits these supplements provide, particularly in the wake of recent studies that show that multivitamin pills may have little or no benefit. Stick with the tried and true—legit research shows that spinach, chard and Chinese cabbage, among others, burn belly fat.

7. Almond Milk

For those of us simply averse to cow’s milk rather than actually lactose-intolerant, the almond version can be a tasty alternative for cereal and coffee. Just be realistic about what you’re getting: A hydration entity, not a health food. At around $4.50 a carton, almond milk contains very little protein (around one gram) and sweetened versions can have up to 13 grams of sugar. Instead, opt for full-fat or 2% milk, and a pick up a package of almonds for a fat-burning snack. If you’re lactose intolerant, stick with almond milk, but also pick up the package of almonds to get the protein and fat-burning benefits of the nuts that the milk just can’t provide.

8. Whey Protein

It may be the go-to supplement for muscle-builders, but whey protein’s benefits are offset by its tendency to cause belly bloat. And the price makes it a doubly bad deal: A canister can run near $30 for a few dozen servings, which provide—at most—about 25 grams of protein. You can get the same amount of protein from four eggs or a medium-sized chicken breast, which are packed with stuff you want (fat-burning nutrients such as choline, in the case of eggs) and lack the things you don’t (artificial sweeteners and flavors).

9. “Light” Olive Oil

With its heart-protective and weight-loss benefits, olive oil is a health food that needs no substitute. The “light” version doesn’t mean what you think it does. Light olive oil is a highly processed mixture of different oils, and it contains about the same amount of fat as extra-virgin olive oil. It’s just lighter in color. EVOO has higher levels of oleic acid, which researchers say can spot-reduce abdominal fat.

This article originally appeared on Eat This, Not That!

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