TIME advice

How to Tackle Every Type of Party Stain

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Easy solutions that will make the next couple months of merriment a little bit easier on your closet

Being a clumsy girl is a way of life, but all of the public stumbles and splats never get any less embarrassing. They just happen, and the klutzes among us deal with it. But, this time of year brings up a very specific set of challenges; one rife with cranberry-colored punch bowls, delicious-but-oily finger foods, and celebratory libations that can up the clumsy ante exponentially.

Thankfully, Charles Ickes is an expert who can help a lady out when she’s splotched her new party gear with stains. As Rent The Runway‘s vice president of operations, he oversees the care of the company’s 65,000 ready-to-be-rented garments, including the regular cleaning and intensive stain treating performed by RTR’s in-house “spotters.” A recent Fast Company feature cited “a methodical 20-step process most spotters use to attack a stain to avoid ruining clothing.” Luckily, Ickes’ tips ahead are much more DIY-friendly, and two steps, tops.

We provided Ickes with the most common of clumsy party fouls — ones we’ve committed ourselves — in search of easy solutions that will make the next couple months of merriment a little bit easier on the most prized items in our closet. Party on.

Party Punch
You didn’t mean to gesture to the windows or the walls with your mulled wine in hand. But, you did didn’t you? And, now your pastel ensemble is splotched with deep-red dribbling and your friends have already started with the bib jokes.

The Clean Up
“If the punch is made up of natural juices,” or tannins, as Ickes explains, “acids will help to remove the stain. Good acids around the house would be vinegar or lemon juice. If the juice has red dyes, you may need to let soak overnight in Sodium perborate which is the key ingredient in Clorox 2. Always test a hidden area on the garment [first] to test if the acid will affect the dye.”

Nail-Polish Nicks
If you don’t give yourself a manicure at the 11th hour, you don’t give yourself a manicure at all. But, because of your last-minute primping, you’ve also failed to avoid the fibers on your sweater as you tied on your winter scarf. Nope, sadly that is not festive confetti on your top.

The Clean Up
“This one may seem like a no-brainer: Nail polish remover (acetone) removes nail polish,” says Ickes. “That said, it’s especially important that you check a hidden area of the garment before trying this method out. Also, be [sure to] check the label: If the fabric is acetate, DO NOT use acetone as it will dissolve the fabric. For instance, many slips are made of acetate, so you could end up removing the stain, but putting a hole in the slip.”

The Makeup Ring
It’s 4 a.m., you just got home, and the only thing you want to do is rip off your clothes and hit the hay. But, because of your neglecting to remove your perfectly crafted makeup look, you awake to discover that your dress has removed it for you. That’s…thoughtful?

The Clean Up
“This is a tough one that you may need to bring to an expert,” says our own expert. “Start with water, detergent, and a brush. Hit the fabric with the brush rather than a back and forth motion — this will loosen up the stain. If the bronzer fails to lift, you can try some rubbing alcohol. You can also try Clorox 2 overnight or use a bit of peroxide to remove the stain. Always test the peroxide on a hidden area to make sure the dyes in the garment are unaffected.”

Glitter Overload
In your defense, Clumsy Girl, everyone else at the bash was doused in rainbow glitter, too. And, you won’t be the only one finding it in your favorite knit — or around your apartment — for weeks to come.

The Clean Up
“Glitter is an insoluble soil so it doesn’t break down. Your best bet is to use extra detergent to lubricate the glitter, remove it, and flush it out,” Ickes advises. “Do multiple rinses in the washer with detergent then a final clean.”

Greasy Hors d’Oeuvres
It’s a special occasion and you deserve to go a bit H.A.M on the passed apps if you so choose. And, by H.A.M. we mean prosciutto-wrapped everything, shiitake spring rolls, and all the mini artisan grilled cheeses you can handle. But, watch where you wipe your shiny, post-snack fingers — oops, too late.

The Clean Up
“Dawn dishwashing liquid is a brilliant degreaser,” Ickes tells us. And, for additional help pulling oil from fabric, try sprinkling the spot with baby power and letting it sit for a few hours or overnight before treating the stain. This writer swears by that method.

This article originally appeared on Refinery29.com.

TIME Parenting

Tips for Every Age: How to Raise Grateful Kids

Carlina Teteris—Getty Images/Flickr RF

How to talk to your kids without sounding preachy

The weeks after the holidays can feel like a big let down. After all the expectation—and stress—of the season, both parents and kids may feel a sense of disappointment after all the gifts are opened and the treats are eaten.

But is it possible to flip that script? Can parents encourage kids to stop thinking “what have we got to look forward to now?” and start concentrating on everything they’ve just enjoyed?

We talked with Christine Carter, director of the Greater Good Science Center Parenting Program at UCBerkeley, and author of Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents, to get her practical tips on unleashing the power of gratitude.

The list of the benefits of gratitude is so long “it’s almost ridiculous,” Carter says. “People who are consciously practicing gratitude sleep better, have more energy, and feel more connected to other people.” One study has even proven that kidney function improves when people practice gratitude. And the good news is that it’s contagious. “If I’m feeling strong positive emotion, and I’m sharing that with somebody,” Carter explains, “those emotions spread person to person” through the whole family.

So how can parents get the gratitude conversation started? These are her tips, for any age.

Elementary school kids may be too young to think in terms of classic gratitude, which requires remembering something from the past. But “they understand what a good thing is,” Carter says. “Don’t worry about the time frame. Just ask them to name three good things about their day.” And no matter how old or a young a child, don’t correct them when they express gratitude. “Let them be grateful for whatever they’re grateful for.”

Middle school kids have often learned to be grateful for material things, because they’ve been trained in the etiquette of writing thank you-notes. So it’s good for parents to model being grateful for intangibles, like health and family, or a beautiful day. And as kids mature, questions about what they’re grateful for become more complicated, Carter says. If a parent asks, “what are you grateful for?” a child may feel burdened by everything they owe their parents. So non-verbal expressions can be helpful at this age, Carter suggests, like art projects that focus on gratitude. And parents can also help kids to focus on what they’re grateful for beyond the family, by helping them express words of appreciation about other people around them, with questions like, “What do you enjoy about your friends? Or your teachers?”

High school students can begin to think of gratitude in a much larger context. And context, Carter says, is actually key to gratitude. Relative to many other cultures, many children in the U.S. “live in tremendous abundance,” she points out. And that creates what researchers call an abundance paradox. “We’re much more likely to feel disappointed or even resentful when we don’t get what we want,” Carter explains, “than grateful when we do.” How to cut this knot? Studies have shown that “gratitude only arises naturally without cultivation under conditions of scarcity,” Carter says. So high school kids who have been exposed to scarcity, by doing activities like serving at a homeless shelter, will far more grateful than those who don’t.

And it turns out, sad old truth that it may be, the best way for all of us to feel grateful may be to give, rather than to get.

Share the Knowledge: A Time for Family subscription gives the whole family their news the way they like best. Click here to find out more.

TIME Music

8 Spotify Tricks That Will Change the Way You Listen to Music

Spotify
Spotify app Jonathan Nackstrand—AFP/Getty Images

There's a secret visualizer and a way to download songs that aren't on the service

Music fans are plenty familiar with Spotify, the online streaming service that lets users listen to millions of songs on-demand for free or with a no-advertisement subscription.

However, with Spotify’s myriad settings and apps that extend its functionality, you might not be using it to its full potential. Here, TIME rounds up 8 tips that will help users see Spotify in a whole new light:

Hide Your Guilty Pleasures From Friends

The ability to follow friends’ musical habits is one of Spotify’s best features. But maybe you don’t want everyone to know exactly how many times you listened to “All About That Bass” this summer.

On the desktop version, you can select “Private Session” from the main Spotify menu to stop broadcasting your musical selections for a certain period (the same setting is found on the “social” menu within settings on the mobile version). To permanently stop sharing your listening choices, go to the “Spotify” menu, then “Preferences,” and uncheck the boxes for “Share my activity and what I listen to with my followers on Spotify” and “Share my activity and what I listen to on Facebook.”

Improve Your Search Queries

Navigating Spotify’s massive catalogue can be a chore. Next time, try using qualifiers to narrow your search. They work much in the same way as Google search queries. You can specify searches based on artist, title, genre or year. So if you’re looking for just Jay-Z’s output in 1997, “Jay-Z year:1997” to pull up the desired results. Here’s a full list of the search qualifiers you can use on Spotify.

READ MORE Spotify Now Makes Playlists Based On What Your Friends Listen To

Use Folders to Organize Your Music

One criticism of Spotify is that people’s music collections often devolve into a jumble of playlists and favorites songs. Consider using folders to provide more order for your playlists. On the desktop app, go to “File” and then “New Playlist Folder” to create a new folder. Then you can place any playlists you like within the new folder.

Toggle High-Quality Streaming On or Off

Spotify Premium users have the option to enable “high-quality streaming” from the Preferences menu on the desktop, which plays songs at a bitrate of 320 kbps rather than the standard rate of 160 kbps — making everything sound better.

On mobile, songs automatically play at a lower bitrate of 96 kbps to conserve data. All users can bump that figure up to 160 kbps, and premium users can also use the 320 kbps setting. Just be careful, since a higher bitrate will eat into your mobile data plan faster.

Add Songs That Aren’t on Spotify And Listen to Them Offline

Spotify’s catalogue is hardly comprehensive, but users can easily add songs from outside sources to their libraries and listen to them within the Spotify interface. Simply go to Preferences and enable showing tracks from local sources. Those sources can include iTunes, the Downloads folder on your computer, or specific folders that you select.

Even better, if you have a playlist filled with non-Spotify songs and toggle on the “Available Offline” option at the top of the playlist, you can download the songs to your phone for offline listening.

See the Lyrics to Every Song

Trying to prep for your next karaoke session? Turn on the musiXmatch app (you can find it in the “App Finder” tab on the left-hand sidebar) and you can see the lyrics of most songs as they’re playing within Spotify. There are lots of other handy apps in the “App Finer” menu, including recommendation apps that offer features like curated music lists from Pitchfork and Rolling Stone.

READ MORE 6 Biggest Tech Debuts to Watch in 2015

Add a Visualizer

If you miss the cheesy visualizers from your days using Windows Media Player or Winamp, Spotify has you covered. In the search bar, just type in “spotify:app:visualizer” to bring up a range of different visual options that will play in time with your tunes.

Link to a Specific Part of a Song

Want to send a friend “Free Bird,” but skip the pretenses and get right to the guitar solo? Spotify makes that pretty simple. If you’re sharing the URL of a song (a special kind of Spotify-specific link that only works within the Spotify app), add a “#” sound to the end of the character string and then the timestamp you want to zoom to. To get to the “Free Bird” solo at 4 minutes and 25 seconds into the song, for example, you’d write this: spotify:track:1xt1TX045OgURfw0MAcVNF#4:25.

MONEY Holidays

Who Do You Tip Around the Holidays?

The mailman, the haircutter, and the doorman: Who do you tip? What do you give? MONEY's George Mannes asks people in New York about their annual tipping tradition.

TIME psychology

How to Eat Healthy: 5 Easy New Tips From Research

utensils
Getty Images

Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

You know you should eat healthier. But it’s not easy. Temptation is all around and willpower, well, isn’t.

The solution is in making better choices. Psychology. But most of the answers we hear aren’t legit.

So I called a guy who knows the real deal: Brian Wansink.

He leads food psychology research at Cornell University and the White House chose him to revise US dietary guidelines.

He has a great website and is author of two smart books on the subject of tricking yourself into eating better:

Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think

Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions for Everyday Life

I posted about his work before but this time I wanted answers straight from the man himself. And, man, did he ever deliver.

What you’re going to learn in this post:

  • The easy thing to do while shopping that prevents you from buying junk food.
  • How to not fall for the tricks and traps of restaurants.
  • The 2 secrets to not snacking too much at the office.
  • How to stay disciplined at events and holiday gatherings — without making the host feel bad.
  • How superheroes can help you make better food choices.

Yeah, I said superheroes can help you eat better. Seriously. In fact, let’s start there…

Ask “What Would Batman Eat?”

Cookies calling your name? Ask yourself “What would Batman eat?”

Brian’s research showed this got kids to pick apple slices over french fries. Here’s Brian:

We found we could get kids to choose the healthier food much more often if we simply asked what their favorite superhero or their favorite princess would do. Even if they responded “french fries”, half the time they took the apple slices. It simply causes an interruption in their thinking that causes them to pause, hit the reset button inside their head and think again.

Sound crazy? Research really does show that thinking about fictional characters we love can help us make better decisions.

In fact, thinking about superheroes can even make you physically stronger. (I’ll be asking “What would Batman lift?” at the gym tomorrow.)

But some of you might be thinking, “He said that works for kids, Eric.”

Doesn’t matter. It’ll work for you too. Here’s Brian:

The same thing works for adults. If you’re faced with a decision like, “Should I eat dessert?” think of an admired person in your life. Say to yourself, “What would my cool friend Steve do?” You’ll find that about a third of the time it will be easier for you to make healthier decisions.

Ladies, feel free to envision Wonder Woman — unless you’re more the Catwoman type. (Hey, I don’t judge.)

(For plenty more awesome tips from Brian’s books click here.)

Okay, so you’re thinking about Batman when you eat. (I’ll bet you look dashing in a cape.) But the food war is often won or lost at the supermarket.

So what can you do to make sure you’re buying the right food in the first place?

Chew Gum While You Shop

Crazy, right? Believe it or not, a stick of gum in your mouth prevents junk food from entering your shopping cart. Here’s Brian:

We found that when people popped sugarless gum in their mouth it made them less hungry. It soothed cravings and some people even reduced how many snack foods they bought by about 90%.

Here’s the important thing to remember: not all gum is created equal. Go for sugar-free bubble gum or sugar-free mint gum. Other kinds can actually increase appetite. Here’s Brian:

But one of the things we also found is that it can’t be sugared gum or even flavored gum because that can work in the opposite direction. The stuff that works best is sugar-free bubble gum or sugar-free mint gum. Those are the two craving killers.

(For more on how the magic of gum can change your life — including make you smarter — click here.)

With superheroes on your mind and gum in your mouth you’re well on your way. But what about when you’re in a restaurant?

Now you need to think like a real estate agent: location, location, location.

Navigating The Treacherous World Of Restaurants

Watch where you sit. Did you choose a booth? You’re 80% more likely to order dessert and 80% less likely to order salad.

Sitting by the TV? You’re much more likely to order BBQ. Sitting closer to the bar? Guess who’s going to be drinking more than they thought?

Where are you safe? Head for a window seat. Here’s Brian:

People who sat in booths were about 80% more likely to order dessert than people sitting in a normal table and you’re about 80% less likely to order salad. People sitting near windows were much more likely to order salads. People sitting at tall tables were almost two to three times as likely to order chicken or fish. If you’re sitting within ten feet of a TV set you’re much, much more likely to order barbecue than not. If you are seated at a table close to the bar, on average, your table’s going to be ordering three more beers than the table that’s farther from the bar.

And those menus aren’t haphazardly thrown together. They are often marvels of psychological trickery.

Anything highlighted, in a box or a different font is going to catch your eye and you’ll be more likely to order it.

Be careful when reading the descriptions. Clever names and appealing adjectives make you 28% more likely to pick something. Here’s Brian:

Anything that’s in the corners or in a box or highlighted or in a different font or has an icon next to it has a huge leg up in its likelihood of being chosen. The description of a menu item has a tremendous impact not only on whether we’re going to order the item but also on how much we’re going to like it. In our research we found a real difference between calling something “Succulent Italian Seafood Fillet” instead of just “seafood fillet.” People are about 28% more likely to take it. And they’re also willing to pay about fifteen to twenty percent more for it.

So how do you find something that’s healthy and tasty? Ask the server, “What are three of your lighter items that are most popular?” Here’s Brian:

If you want to get something a little bit healthier ask the server, “What are three of your lighter items that are most popular?” You don’t want to say “What are your healthiest things?” because all she’s going to do is point at salads.

(For more of Brian’s advice on how to eat smart at restaurants, click here.)

So you’re good in the supermarket and at restaurants. But what about all that eating you do at work?

How To Stop Snacking At The Office

Keep two words in mind: distance and happiness.

As we’ve talked about before, distance is a big, big deal. You eat less when food is farther away and more when it’s closer. Here’s Brian:

People ate half as much if we simply moved the candy dish off their desk and placed it six feet away.

Simple barriers have the same effect.

As Dan Ariely said in my interview with him, when Google’s New York office put M&M’s in containers people ate 3 million less of them in one month:

Here’s an experiment that Google did recently. The M&Ms in their New York office used to be in baskets. So instead they put them in bowls with lids. The lid doesn’t require a lot of effort to lift but it reduced the number of M&Ms consumed in their New York office by 3 million a month.

So that’s distance. What about happiness? It’s important to understand the psychology of workplace eating.

When you aren’t having fun at work you often tell yourself you deserve to eat more because you’re working hard.

If you enjoy your job more (or have fun going out to eat with colleagues at lunch) you’ll find this happens less. Here’s Brian:

You see food as a reward you deserve because you’re doing something you don’t want to do. “I’ve been working all day so I deserve a snack” or “I deserve more to eat tonight at dinner.”

(For more on how to be happier at work, click here.)

And now we come to the most sinister and dangerous of all the scenarios: get-togethers, dinner parties and holiday gatherings.

Say “no” to food and you could insult the host… and that often turns into an excuse to binge. What to do? Brian has answers.

How To Avoid Gorging At Events And Holiday Gatherings

Here are the two tricks:

  1. Only eat the food the host prepared themselves. No chips, pretzels or stuff out of a box or bag.
  2. Take a tiny amount of what they prepared — but make sure to ask for seconds. You don’t eat much, but the host knows you liked it.

Here’s Brian:

Our research found that people ate 11% of their calories at Thanksgiving before they even eat dinner. The peanuts, the Chex Mix and stuff like that. One of the biggest reasons that people say they overeat at Thanksgiving is they don’t want to offend their host. So the easiest way to not offend your host and eat 10% less is just don’t eat the stuff that she bought at the store. And the second thing is that nobody remembers how much you take of something but they do remember whether you asked for seconds. So just take a little bit the first time but make sure you ask for seconds and that she hears you. All she’s going to remember is that you really appreciated what she made and asked for more.

(For more tips on how to handle eating at gatherings, click here.)

Armed with these tips you should be ready for anything. Let’s round them up and get more insight from Brian.

Sum Up

Brian’s great tips for healthy eating are:

  1. Ask “What would Batman do?” (Fill in the name of anyone you admire… though Batman is an excellent choice, in my utterly biased opinion.)
  2. Chew sugarless bubble gum or mint gum while you shop for groceries.
  3. At restaurants, be careful where you sit and watch out for menu tricks. Ask the server for popular lighter options.
  4. Enjoying your work and distance from food can prevent you from overeating at the office.
  5. At get-togethers only eat what your host actually prepared. Eat a small amount but ask for seconds.

Research shows we have a crazy relationship with food sometimes. But you can overcome a lot of this with simple deceit and trickery.

What makes this so much fun is that the person you need to trick is you.

Brian and I talked for a while so there are a number of other great tips that I’ll be including in my weekly email (including the one sentence that helps people stop overeating immediately.) Join now to learn more.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Join over 145,000 readers and get my free weekly email update here.

Related posts:

How To Get In Shape Using Psychology: 6 New Tricks From Research

What 10 things should you do every day to improve your life?

How To Make Your Life Better By Sending Five Simple Emails

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.

MONEY Holidays

The Ultimate Guide to Holiday Tipping

Want to give a holiday tip, but don't have a clue how much to give? Here are some helpful guidelines from the etiquette experts.

‘Tis the season to be jolly, but instead I often find myself stressed when I realize I have no clue how much to tip my hairdresser. Or my housekeeper. Or my garbage collectors. If you’re like me, you have a list of people you want to thank for helping to make your life easier throughout the year. If you’re also like me, you have no clue about what gratuity levels are considered typical, stingy, or even generous.

That’s why this year I reached out to a couple of highly regarded experts to get the inside scoop. Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas says, “The first rule of thought is to gift and tip within your budget. No one wants to see you struggle to tip through the holidays if you have just lost your job, or you are having trouble paying the rent.”

“Tips are subjective,” adds Jodi RR Smith of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting in Marblehead, Mass. “Tips are dependent on your relationship with the individual and the norms for your area, as well as your budget.”

With that in mind, here are some helpful guidelines from the experts to help you (and me!) navigate gratuity gifts as the year comes to an end.

Home Services

These are the people who help out around the house, so you have more time to earn money to hire people to help out around the house!

  • Babysitter: Cash or gift card equivalent to one or two night’s pay. I talked to someone who used to sit for my kids and she told me, “It’s nice to know you’re appreciated. A small gift is a nice token of appreciation and helps keep a sitter loyal to a family.”
  • Nanny/Au Pair: The equivalent of one week’s salary and a handmade gift from your child. “A live-in nanny or a nanny that spends most of the day with your children is invaluable,” says Gottsman.
  • Housekeeper: A cash gift equal to one week’s pay. “If you use a service, and you don’t see the same person on a regular basis, or the person is brand new,” says Gottsman, “you may not feel obliged give a tip at all. If you have a relationship with the person(s), or they come weekly, consider a gift card per person or a tip equivalent to one visit.”
  • Pet Sitter: One day to one week’s worth of service. “Our pets are our family and someone that takes care of them while we are on a trip, or walks the dog on a regular basis is worth their weight in gold,” says Gottsman.

Apartment Living

You’ll want to keep happy all those folks who make apartment living nice.

  • Doorman: Between $20 and $200. (This range seems huge to me. I’ve never lived in an apartment with a doorman so I’d love to hear those of you who do ring in on this one.)
  • Custodian/Superintendent/Handyman: $20 – $100. “If they have saved you in the middle of the night when your toilet was overflowing or jumped your car more than once when you forgot to turn off your headlights,” says Gottsman, a holiday tip would be helpful.”
  • Parking Attendant: $10 – $50
  • Landlord or Building Manager: $50 (cash or gift card)

Homeowners

While homeowners don’t typically have doormen to tip, they do have a host of service providers to gift.

  • Garbage Collector: Between $10 and $25 per crew person. In many areas, tips left taped to the trashcan lids can be stolen (I’ve had several friends tell me this happened to them.) If you miss your crew during the day, Gottsman suggests arranging to drop the gift off at their corporate office.
  • Lawncare: $10 per crew person.
  • Snow Removal: $10 per person.
  • Pool Cleaner: One week’s pay.

Work

These gifts are more personal than those traded during the office Secret Santa.

  • Your Boss: $0 or a group office gift. “It’s not necessary to give your boss a large or expensive gift,” says Gottsman. “Consider an office gift pool or bring a tray or holiday goodies for the office.”
  • Your Office Assistant: A bonus, gift card, or small gift.

School

Show teachers and staff you appreciate all their efforts to educate Junior (even if Junior doesn’t).

  • Your Child’s Teacher: Many schools encourage parents to contribute to a class gift. If your child’s school doesn’t, consider a small gift with a note and/or a handmade gift from your child. A teacher friend of mine told me, “I always love and save handwritten notes. If they come with a gift or gift card — to anywhere at all — that is appreciated, too. But, it’s the notes that keep me going.”
  • Classroom Aide: If there is not a group classroom gift, a small gift with a note and/or a handmade gift from your child.
  • School Lunch Attendant: $20 per attendant, if you have a child with special dietary needs, and school policy allows such gifts (check with your child’s school office to be sure). Says Gottsman, “A lunch attendant who is vigilant when it comes to your child’s food allergy is worth their weight in gold.”
  • School Secretary: A small gift or gift certificate.

Personal Care

The people who keep you and your family looking good should know you appreciate their work, too.

  • Hairstylist: The cost of one session or a gift. “Hair stylists become our confidants,” says Gottsman. “It would be uncomfortable to arrive empty handed the last week of the holiday season.”
  • Shampoo Attendant: A small gift or $5 – $20.
  • Manicurist: The equivalent of one visit or a gift.
  • Massage Therapist: The equivalent of one session or a gift.
  • Personal Trainer: The equivalent of one session or a gift. According to Gottsman, “Personal trainers often double as counselors. A tip of one service or a gift that has personal significance would say happy holidays.”
  • Pet Groomer: The equivalent of one service or a basket of treats from your pet.
  • Personal Healthcare Nurse: The equivalent of one week’s pay.

Gift Wrap Your Gifts, Too

When preparing your holiday gratuities, Smith says, “Tips should be crisp, new bills placed in an envelope with a card or note of appreciation.” For the financially strapped, Smith suggests a heartfelt note of thanks along with a thoughtful and inexpensive gift like homemade cookies. Gottsman agrees and offers further suggestions like a pot of fresh herbs from your garden or a basket of scones with homemade jelly.

When to Skip the Tip

Gottsman also suggests adjusting your tips according to level of relationship and frequency of service. “Everyone has different lifestyle preferences and providers,” says Gottsman. “One person may use a hairstylist once a week while another person may visit the salon every three months. If you don’t see them regularly and they can’t remember your name, you may opt to skip the tip.”

If the relationship is solid, though, Smith says that skipping the tip is akin to telling your service providers they’re not valued or to imply they’ve done something wrong. If a gratuity is not in your budget for this year, consider the alternative suggestions above. However, “when your finances are fluid again,” Smith suggests, “please do tip them.”

Related:
Who Can You Get Away With NOT Tipping Over the Holidays?

Read more articles from Wise Bread:

How to Wrap Gifts with Leftovers
Regifting: A Simple How-To Guide
25 Great Gifts for $5 or Less

TIME Travel

How to Get Paid for a Flight Delay

20-ways-to-travel-better
Andrew Myers

20 ways to travel smart

There are two types of travelers in this world: those who put up with the difficulties and occasional indignities of travel and those who are determined to triumph over them.

If you’re in the former camp, take note: with so much new technology available at your fingertips—and so many companies coming up with innovative solutions to travel dilemmas—there’s no reason to suffer in silence any longer.

For the past year, Travel + Leisure’s Trip Doctor news team has been testing and evaluating ways to travel better. Among our finds: a new breed of flexible airfare search tools that are making it easier to find lower-priced tickets that work with your schedule and travel parameters.

We also uncovered some enterprising services that will help you get paid—handsomely—when your flight is delayed or your luggage goes missing. And once you’ve arrived in your destination, we’ve identified simple ways that you can access a gym (a good one), stream your favorite television shows, connect to Wi-Fi for free, keep your business attire looking sharp, and ensure that your essential mobile devices never run out of batteries.

We even looked closely at the real reason some bags don’t make it to their final destination. And we asked Google Maps to analyze its traffic data to help us pinpoint the best (and worst) times to hit the road before a major holiday.

The result of all this research: your road map for how to travel better in 2015.

No. 1 Get Paid for a Flight Delay

If time is money, then air travel collectively owes us all. Tipping the scales in travelers’ favor: Berkshire Hathaway’s new AirCare insurance, which offers generous compensation for a fixed rate of $25. Delays of two or more hours get you $50; if you miss a connection, there’s a $250 payout. And tarmac delays of more than two hours get you $1,000. (A bag delayed by 12 hours is worth $500.) You can purchase a policy up to 24 hours before departure time and payments are often instantaneous— wired into your bank or PayPal account.

Strict European Union regulations mean that passengers departing from any European airport (or flying a European carrier into the union) are eligible for compensation of up to $750 for a delayed, canceled, or overbooked flight. Here in the United States, travelers who are involuntarily bumped from a flight could be owed up to $1,300. AirHelp will go after your money for you, minus a 25 percent commission.

No. 2 Understand Code Shares

Think you’re getting credit for all your frequent-flier miles by traveling on a partner airline? Not necessarily. Each partnership works differently: some offer full mileage and elite-qualifying credit for tickets on other carriers; others offer reduced (or even no) credit. And because some domestic loyalty programs calculate miles based on dollars spent (rather than distance flown), you may even bank more miles if you buy directly from a partner airline. Check the terms of each code share with your preferred carrier before booking.

No. 3 Beat Holiday Traffic

When hitting the road on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving or the Friday before Christmas—among the busiest days of the year—planning down to the hour can make a difference. With the help of Google Maps, we’ve charted the traffic patterns around four of the country’s biggest cities.

The data from Chicago, D.C., Los Angeles, and New York City reveal that on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, 4 p.m. is the worst time to travel, while 5 p.m. is the worst time to travel on the Friday before Christmas.

Methodology: Google Maps analyzed the total number of cars on the road at a given time, looking at the speed of vehicles with location-services-enabled android smartphones. Traffic is measured for the year 2013.

No. 4 Use a Digital Assistant

If you’re a Google user, it’s time to get on board with the app’s built-in digital assistant, which puts Siri to shame. More than just a smart voice search, the service scans your Gmail and Google Calendar for booking details and appointments, learns your preferences via your browsing history, and monitors your daily habits to deliver relevant updates (local weather, currency conversions) within the app. What you’ll get:

Real-time Updates: Get info about flights, including delays and gate changes, starting 24 hours before departure.

Scheduling Assistance: Based on traffic and your preferred mode of transportation, it’ll tell you when to leave for the airport, a dinner reservation, and meetings and appointments.

Rebooking Help: If your flight is canceled, Google provides a direct link to Google Flight Search, which displays alternative flights.

Itinerary Management: A new feature launching this month pulls up your flight and hotel confirmations, restaurant bookings, and more. Simply say “OK Google, show me my trip.”

No. 5 Get Through Customs Faster

Good news if you travel to Asia on business: for the first time since its introduction in 1997, the APEC Business Travel Card is available to American citizens. What that means: preclearance and expedited immigration processing in 21 member destinations (China, Singapore, Australia, and Mexico, to name a few). If you are already part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Trusted Traveler network (Global Entry, SENTRI, or NEXUS), apply through CBP’s online system, GOES. Or start an account with GOES, and request to be enrolled in both programs at the same time.

Read the full list HERE.

More from Travel + Leisure:

TIME apps

4 Apps For Managing the Absolute Chaos That Is Your Email Inbox

email phone
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The best new apps for sorting and managing your email

Email is no longer just about communicating with friends or colleagues. These days, our inboxes are also the repository for office tasks, travel plans, social network notifications, shopping offers, and login info for dozens of other services. But unless you’re militant about deleting or sorting emails as they arrive, it’s likely you’re still hundreds to thousands of emails away from the promised land known as Inbox Zero.

The best new apps for sorting and managing your email have one thing in common: They help you quickly clear messages, whether it’s into a folder or straight into the digital trash.

From Google’s brand new Inbox app, which retools the email interface, to an app that deals with newsletter subscriptions in one fell swoop, these email apps sort out the inboxes that have become the hub of nearly all our online activity:

Inbox by Google

Gmail users have seen a fair number of redesigns since Google’s email service launched a decade ago. Google’s spam filters are already the best at clearing the chaff from the wheat. Priority Inbox separates the inbox into important and less important mail. Last year’s introduction of the tabbed inbox further sorts less important email into categories such as promotions and updates.

Now Google has launched Inbox, a standalone app for Gmail accounts that drills deeper into organizing your email. Email is still bundled by conversation thread, but the new interface displays messages in auto-sorted bundles: travel, finance, promotions, social and updates, plus individual email that’s addressed to you personally. Tap on a category to see every new email by its subject line.

The travel and finance categories are particularly useful additions to the original tabbed inbox. These categories make it easy to find itineraries and transaction confirmations.

Even more useful is the ability to check off whole bundles of email without having to open them, such as updates (which include social network notifications and order confirmations) or promotions (offers that aren’t particularly relevant). At the top of each bundle is an option to check it as done, which sends it to an archive you can peruse later, or move the email to another folder.

If you open a message, more one-click options await. You can pin important email so that it stays at the top of the inbox, snooze messages so they reappear at the top of the inbox at a specified time or checkmark them done (an action that delivers a particular thrill of achievement).

If a conversation thread contains images, calendar appointments or PDF attachments, a preview appears beneath the subject line, handy when you’re scanning for particular files.

In this new, minimal interface, a + icon in the bottom right serves as the compose function for new email, reminders or contacting your last three messaged contacts. Google’s instant messenger has been moved up to the toolbar, where you can access other Google services such as Calender or YouTube as well as toggle a switch to see only pinned messages. All other features, including sent mail, drafts and custom folders, are hidden away in a drop-down settings menu at the top left.

An app for iPhones and Android phones offers added features including swipe actions to deal with email. Like the desktop app, the apps let you checkmark a bundle of email as done or tap on the bundle to view all email; then swipe right to check off or left to snooze until a particular time. On the phone, you can also set the snooze alarm to occur at a specific place by GPS location — handy if you want an email pop-up at the office or a shopping offer to reappear when you’re back home.

Supports: Gmail

Great for: Sorting email without having to create complex rules; scanning a busy inbox for important information and attachments

But: It’s only for Gmail accounts

Overall: Accurately sorts emails into an intuitive interface that makes it very easy to take action on the important emails and clear the less important ones

Get it: Sign up for a beta invite at inbox.google.com; download the smartphone app from Google Play or App Store.

Mailbox

If you deal with email mostly on your phone, Mailbox offers a sleek, compact interface with an impressive number of ways to deal with an email based on lengths of a swipe. From the inbox — that is, without opening an email — you can swipe to the very right of your screen to mark the email as done or swipe to a slightly nearer right to trash it. Swiping to the very left lets you add the email to a list to buy, read, watch or any number of custom lists (such as Work or Logins, in my case), while swiping to the mid-left snoozes the email for a variety of time periods, including Someday (set by default to three months later).

Granted, learning the right length of swipe to do what you want takes some doing, but once you get the hang of it, checking off dozens of emails without having to click away from the inbox becomes incredibly simple.

Auto-Swipe alerts the app to start learning what you normally swipe on. In time, it’ll prompt you to ask whether it should “always snooze till later,” for example, for your Twitter updates.

Supports: Gmail and iCloud

Great for: Gmail and iCloud mail users who deal with email mostly on their phones, although there’s also a beta desktop client for Mac OS X Yosemite users

But: Emails are not sorted; they appear in a single list, where updates mingle with newsletters and conversations with friends. If you use Gmail with the tabbed inbox, Mailbox can seem chaotic.

Overall: It offers excellent functionality packed into the swiping gesture that’s so natural on mobile, but you’ll find fewer organizational features than in Inbox or even regular old Gmail.

Get it: iTunes and Google Play

Unroll.me

If you’re suffering from subscription email overload, Unroll.me offers an incredibly swift means of dealing with all those messages. Once you’ve linked Unroll.me to your email, it presents all the services that are sending you regular emails (221 for me) plus the option to unsubscribe to them individually from a single page.

After that, any remaining subscription emails get condensed into a single email that Unroll.me sends you once a day. After all, who knows when that Groupon email might contain the mythical deal of a lifetime?

Supports: All email services

Great for: Managing subscription email cleverly; you can still get wind of offers without having them mixed among email that requires action

But: Unroll.me alone probably won’t be enough to completely streamline your email

Overall: It’s an easy, intuitive way to bundle subscription email you want and get rid of the ones you don’t.

Get it: Unroll.me

Mailstrom

While the other services on this list clean up your email for you by sorting bulk mail into folders you can check later, Mailstrom goes deeper. Once synced to your email account, it scans and analyzes your inbox so that you can view it by different parameters — sender, recipient, subject, when it was received and more — and do the bulk sorting yourself.

It’s an enlightening way to view your emails. You can dig up forgotten emails from particular senders or recipients or see what month of the year you’ve received the most email.

Mailstrom also provides a much quicker way to bulk delete. For example, you can delete everything from, say, your telecoms provider, especially if it was sent last year, or you can delete every email pertaining to a particular subject line, no matter who the senders and recipients are.

Mailstrom offers a wide variety of actions. In addition to delete and archive, you can also choose chill, which hides selected messages until a later date, or expire, which auto-forwards future emails from the sender to a set folder. You can also check off selected mails to mark as spam or block in future. It’s worth noting that some of these features are also possible in email services such as Gmail or Outlook by creating custom rules. (Check out our latest tips for using Gmail here.)

Mailstrom has a subscription fee of $49.99 a year with a free trial that lets you delete up to 1,234 messages. (When I reached around 500 deleted messages, I was offered a discount on the annual fee to $39.99.)

Supports: IMAP email, including Gmail, Outlook.com, iCloud

Great for: Reaching inbox zero

But: The annual subscription fee of $49.99 may be a touch high if you don’t need its unique inbox analysis features.

Overall: This is one of the most comprehensive inbox control apps out there; however, it may offer more features than many users need.

Get it: Mailstrom.co

This article was written by Natasha Stokes and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Travel

Use a ‘Fake’ Location to Get Cheaper Plane Tickets

Passport with boarding pass inside
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Most people don’t know there is a simple trick to get a cheaper flight on an airline’s website

I can’t explain airline pricing but I do know some plane tickets can be cheaper depending on where you buy them or, even better, where you appear to buy them from. This is all about leveraging foreign currencies and points-of-sale to your advantage.

For reasons I never quite understood, every time I tried to book a domestic flight in another country, the prices were always exorbitant. But, say, once I was in Bangkok, that same flight that was once $300 would fall to $30 almost inexplicably. This phenomenon is because a ticket’s point-of-sale—the place where a retail transaction is completed—can affect the price of any flight with an international component.

MORE ‘Seat kickers’ voted worst passengers on airplanes

Most people don’t know there is a simple trick for “changing” this to get a cheaper flight on an airline’s website; it’s how I managed to pay $371 for a flight from New York to Colombia instead of $500+. Though it can be used for normal international flights, it often works best when you’re buying domestic flights in another country. (Point in case: A Chilean friend once told me Easter Island flights were much cheaper to buy in Santiago instead of abroad.)

To demonstrate how this scheme works, we ran a one-way search from Cartagena to Bogotá—two cities in Colombia—for June 17 on Google ITA, Kayak and Skyscanner. To keep things simple, I’ll ignore a VivaColombia flight that Skyscanner found because Google ITA and Kayak do not include smaller airlines in their searches. Instead, we’ll be comparing two large airlines that fly this route, LAN Airlines and Avianca.

MORE 5 ways to be an airplane aggravation

Unsurprisingly, Kayak takes a U.S.-centric approach. Going the path of least resistance, a Kayak search shows that the cheapest flight on LAN is $116 and the cheapest flight on Avianca is $137. If we run this exact search in Google ITA with New York City as the point-of-sale, we see those exact numbers. Skyscanner returns similar results: the cheapest flight on LAN is $114 and on Avianca it is $136.

posoption-mh
Where to change point-of-sale in Google ITA.

Though Skyscanner actually has the best prices, let’s not stop there. Instead of using an American city as the point-of-sale, let’s use Colombia as the point-of-sale, something that can only be searched for in Google ITA. You actually don’t have to tweak a thing because the departure city is usually set as the default for this option — that said, it’s possible to change this to any place in the world you want. The main difference is we’ll get the price in Colombian pesos and that’s *exactly* what we want.

Prices shown in Colombian pesos.

In this new search, the cheapest flight on Avianca is 116,280 COP and the cheapest flight on LAN is 173,820 COP. That of course means a lot of mumbo jumbo to most people, so let’s convert that over to U.S. dollars. The same Avianca flight now approximates to $61.59 while the LAN flight is $91.96. In short, you’d be saving $22.04 on the LAN flight and $74.41 on the Avianca flight by simply paying in a different currency. The price difference between the cheapest flight in both the U.S. and Colombia search is $54.41. That’s how much you’ll end up saving just by comparing the flights in different currencies.

Where to select a different point-of-sale on the Avianca site.

Now the real problem is that we’ve got to find a place to buy this ticket in pesos since Google ITA won’t tell us where to go for that. I head directly to the Avianca website, which brings us to the U.S. price—about $137—for the flight. That’s not what I want though. I start again, but this time I click on the upper right-hand corner and select Colombia as my country and English as my language. (Other airlines may not always offer the ability to keep using the site in English. How good is your Spanish?) It’s not using the same thing as a VPN, but this mimics the idea that you are buying from a different location other than the U.S.

I search again. Sometimes I’m not always able to get the same exact fare I see in Google ITA, but I almost always manage to get something cheaper than what Kayak calculated for me. In this case, the cheapest flight available is 136,000 COP or $72.14, a bit more than what I was told but still less than Kayak’s price. To save the most money, make sure you pay in a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. In total, I manage to get a flight about $43.86 cheaper than what any U.S. site quoted me.

Actual price shown on the Avianca site.

Even if you don’t have a travel-friendly credit card, it still might be worth it to pay the fees just to pay in pesos. In this case, the standard foreign transaction fee 3% surcharge would only cost you an extra $2.16 to book the flight. The exact percentage will vary depending on the terms of the card issuer, but in short, you still come out ahead.

With a little adjustment, this trick can also be used for purchasing international flights. The most obvious points-of-sales to check for generally include the destination country and the country where the airline is based in. I mean, you can also go ahead and check for every single country out there, but that’s real dedication that even I don’t have time for.

Though most of the time it works out that I get some sort of discount—which can range from a few dollars to over a hundred dollars—by leveraging foreign currencies against each other, it doesn’t always work all the time. Sometimes, in fact, the cheapest airfare is the most straightforward fare you’ll find. But hey, just so you know.

This article originally appeared on Map Happy.

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TIME Family

Tips on How to Talk to Your Kids About Ferguson

A Ferguson firefighter surveys rubble at a strip mall that was set on fire when rioting erupted following the grand jury announcement in the Michael Brown case on Nov. 25, 2014 in Ferguson, Mo. Scott Olson—Getty Images

Experts suggest that it's important to get the conversation going

We’d all love for our kids to be able to get along with all kinds of people. And school curricula are full of chatter about how to celebrate our diversity.

But the fact is, people from different backgrounds don’t always see eye to eye. And sometimes those tensions can raise deep questions for kids, like the nationwide protests that have erupted over the events in Ferguson, Missouri. These stories may be especially disturbing for kids when they involve children near their age, like Michael Brown or Trayvon Martin.

Race is such a tough topic that it can be tempting to avoid, especially for white families, who are three times less likely to discuss race than families of color, according to a recent study by the Journal of Marriage and Family. But race is an important subject for every family to address. Research suggests that kids who talk openly about race in their families are less prejudiced and that kids who make friends from different backgrounds have better social skills.

So how can we talk with our kids, not just about diversity, but about the tensions our differences can create?

Elementary School: Young children may be frightened by the images they see on the news, Cynthia Rogers, an instructor in child psychology at Washington University in St. Louis has observed. It’s important to let them share these feelings, and also to assure them that they are safe. But even at a very young age, studies have shown, kids already notice the differences between themselves and others. So, experts like Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton, professor of psychology at Berkley, recommend that parents talk about difference. The central message to communicate: it’s okay to be different. In fact, our differences are something to explore and celebrate.

Middle School: Just as with anything else, kids learn best about race by actual experience, not lectures. As kids form friendships in middle school, encourage them to connect with kids from different backgrounds. Don’t be afraid to talk about those differences with your kids. And be open to the fact that your family isn’t “normal” to everyone else. In fact, when we connect with families from different backgrounds, we may learn just as much about how different we seem to them.

High School: At this age, students will be aware of big events like Ferguson, and have their own opinions, Marcia Chatelain, a Georgetown University professor with a focus on African-American history has noted. So parents can encourage high school students to share those thoughts and feelings. And also encourage them to learn about the history of race and civil rights, so that their understanding can grow as they absorb new perspectives.

The bottom line on talking about race with kids: just talk. We don’t have to have all the right answers for our kids to grow up with less prejudice. We just have to start the conversation. And if you want to go a bit deeper on how to use the events in Ferguson as a springboard for more discussion, a bunch of academics have put together some reading lists on Twitter under the hashtag #fergusoncurriculum

This post originally appeared in the T/Parents newsletter. Sign up to get it in your inbox every week.

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