The Value of In-Kind Donations

Want to make a difference in the world?

Yeah, Annie, I would love to. But I don’t have time. And right now, I am so broke that I can’t afford to pay attention!

Trust me, I get it. Money isn’t always an option to give, especially since us single girls only have our income. Have you ever thought about in-kind (non-monetary) donations?

I want to give you some tips for giving in-kind donations to make your donation go further and get yourself a tax write-off.

In-kind donations can take lots of different forms such as:

  • A silent auction item for a nonprofit
  • A bridesmaids dress for lower-income girls to have as prom dresses
  • Housewares for domestic violence survivors to set up their own apartment
  • Furniture for nonprofits that provide housing for refugees
  • Business clothes for women to wear on interviews
  • Gently used clothing for thrift shops who reinvest their earnings into community programs

Not only are these donations fantastic gifts for the nonprofits and those they serve, but it saves items from being thrown away. Clothes get a second life, and old appliances or furniture help set up new households.

There are tax benefits to in-kind donations. According to IRS.gov, here is what you need to do:

  • Make sure your donation is to a fully qualified 501(c)3. You cannot claim deductions to your church’s thrift store if it doesn’t have its own nonprofit tax ID number.
  • Make absolutely sure you have the proper documentation from the nonprofit about your donation. Any donation above $250 must have the charity’s name, the date, and the description and value of the donation. It’s a good idea to do this for any in-kind gift. Any 501(c)3 worth its salt will happily provide this paperwork upon request.
  • You cannot take a deduction for clothing unless it is in good used condition or better.
  • If you donate more than $500 worth of goods, you need to attach IRS form 8283, Section B to your income tax return.
  • Certain items are subject to professional appraisals to determine value. Click the link above for more information.
  • Always ask your tax professional any specific items. I am not a tax professional, and I gave up doing my own taxes a long time ago!

Note: While volunteer time and donated services (teaching a class, helping people prepare tax forms) are exceedingly generous, they are not tax-deductible. The IRS states that only tangible goods can be deducted from taxable income.

Now, to be honest, I don’t get documentation for every donation I make. I ruthlessly purged my closet about three years ago and had three trash bags full of clothes to give to a women’s shelter in my hometown. I didn’t have the time or the interest to categorize every item, let alone bother the shelter for a donation letter. But it was hundreds of dollars worth of clothing I could have written off.

I advocate giving because you really want to—not because you want a tax write-off. Don’t feel like you have to do all the paperwork if you just want to give items away. Do what works best for you. If you don’t have the time or energy to gather receipts or donation acknowledgments, there’s nothing wrong with that. The fact you are giving trumps everything else!

Whether you are helping a women just out of prison furnish her first apartment or adopting a family for Christmas, giving in-kind donations can have a powerful impact that lasts long after you’ve paid the bill. With a little creativity, you can give your unwanted possessions a second life. With a little extra paperwork, you can benefit from the tax deductions in the IRS code.

What do you have in your home that you would love most to give as an in-kind donation? Comment below!

The Single Girl’s Guide to Renter’s Insurance

About ten years ago, I was living at home when my parents got a late-night phone call.

My sister’s apartment building had burned down.

A guest visiting a resident carelessly discarded a cigarette into a trash can. It happened to be right next to the apartment building, and it caught fire in no time.

Thankfully my sister wasn’t hurt, and her cats suffered some smoke inhalation, but they were fine. Her betta fish somehow even made it out unscathed.

The rest of her possessions were shot. Except for a few objects, everything was waterlogged or sustained smoke damage. She had to trash about 95% of what she owned.

She also was the only building resident who had insurance. Her company cut her a check for her insured amount, and she was able to refurnish her apartment after it was rebuilt. The rest of the tenants were not as lucky.

Be a savvy single woman. You only have your income and yourself to rely on to get insurance. My sister’s lesson was a powerful reminder for me to always have renter’s insurance, and I have never been without. It is one of the cheapest insurances to get—most policies run $10-$25 a month, and the following tips will help you decide what renter’s insurance is best for you, and how to find it.

How much insurance do I need?

This depends on how much you own. The average renter has $20,000 – $30,000 in possessions.

  • Make an inventory of everything you own.
  • Figure out how much you paid for it, and what it is worth now.
  • If you have an emergency fund (and you should really have at least $1,000 on hand), you can have a higher deductible.

How do I shop for insurance?

  • Call around to get price quotes. I like to do this every couple years to make sure I am getting the best possible deal.
  • Get quotes online. With the exception of erenterplan.com (which is worthless because there are a lot of zip codes they don’t even offer quotes for, and I mean A LOT, you have to go from site to site for quotes. It’s a hassle, and to be perfectly honest, I got cheaper rates when I made a few calls and talked to actual human beings.
  • Bundle it any existing car/life/etc. insurance. This doesn’t work in my specific case, but it does for a lot of people.
  • Hire an insurance broker. If you don’t have the time or energy to do your own comparison-shopping, you can always have a broker do it for you. While I have never done this myself, there are definitely some benefits, the most important being you have a honest-to-God person in your corner.

Are there any things in my policy I need to be aware of?

  • Some policies don’t cover earthquakes or floods. You may need to purchase separate policies. Consult your insurance company.
  • Know the difference between Actual Cash Value and Replacement Value. Actual Cash Value takes into account wear and tear, and is the actual value of the item. This is cheaper insurance. Replacement Value would be what it actually costs to replace your item with something similar.
  • Know if you policy has a cap on certain items. If you have a $20,000 policy but only has a $2,000 cap on jewelry, you may need to get a rider or extra insurance for heirloom jewelry. 

I sincerely hope nothing ever happens that you would need to cash in your renters insurance. But having it gives you that extra peace of mind you deserve. Don’t be like the other tenants in my sister’s building. Be savvy and protect your possessions!

When was the last time you compared renters or homeowners insurance policies? Comment below and tell us your story!

How Much Car Can You Afford?

Think back to your first car.

What was it? A family car passed from one sibling to the next? An old car from a relative? Something cheap you found in the paper (or online, for you millennials)?

Mine was a 1987 Toyota minivan. Coming from a family of five kids, of course my parents used minivans to haul us around. By the time I reached driving age in the early/mid 1990s, the car was almost 10 years old, which was just as well. I put a lot of battle scars on it.

While many of us have fond memories of the cars we inherited or bought ourselves, owning an automobile is one headache of adulting because they are so bloody expensive.

So because we are one-income households, and many of us don’t live in places with excellent public transportation, cars are a necessary expense.

So just how much car can you afford?

With the average new car clocking in at about $31,000, cars are usually the second most expensive thing you will buy after a house. Except cars lose 60% of their value after five years. At least houses (usually) increase in value!

My car is a perfect example. I have a 2010 Toyota Yaris (her name is Katya, but my coworkers lovingly refer to her as my “meep-meep car” since it’s a subcompact). I bought it new in 2010, and now Kelley Blue Book (kbb.com) estimates its value—in good condition—is exactly half what I paid for it.

I follow Dave Ramsey’s principle that the value of my car is 50% or less of my total income. So if you earn $40,000 a year, your car should be worth no more than $20,000.

There are also other factors to consider when trying to determine how much car you can afford:

  • Gas – As of this writing (August 2017), AAA reports that gas averages $2.28 a gallon nationwide. I’m assuming most of you are not in the Hummer demographic, but buying a car that gets more MPG will save you in the long run. Average out how many times you fill up in a month when you do your budget to keep aware of the costs.
  • Routine maintenance – Oil changes, tire rotation, windshield wiper blades…the list goes on. And the repairs will increase as your car ages. I set aside a certain amount every month in my savings account earmarked for repairs. I fully intend to drive my car until at least 2027, if not 2030. Toyotas last forever, and mine only has 45,000 miles!
  • Taxes – This is harder to determine, but 17 states (mine included) have tax estimators online. You can also call your DMV to see if they can give you a ballpark figure for your budget. Or, worse case scenario, assume what you paid last year will be the same.
  • Insurance – I have already written about how to shop for car insurance. You owe it to yourself to see if you qualify for certain discounts and to carefully research how to get the best deal while maintaining good coverage.
  • Auto club service – I used to have AAA when I drove a very unreliable Subaru. Since I’ve had my Yaris, I haven’t felt the need to have it. But now that she’s 7, that $100 may be a wise investment. As a single woman, this is a great investment, especially if you do a lot if interstate and/or night driving.

Between car payments, gas, etc., your car should represent about 10-15% of your budget. If it gets up toward 20%, you may want to rethink if you have too much car for your personal situation.

Cars offer the freedom to take you wherever you want to go, but they do require expense and planning. Budgeting for you car will make emergency trips to the garage less stressful and empower you to control your finances

What kind of car are you currently driving? Is it draining your budget, or is it manageable? Comment below!

Wrap Dresses for the Plus-Size Woman

Dresses.

Some women brag they haven’t worn one since the Reagan administration. Others embrace them.

And, really, what is better than a dress? Throw it on, easy breezy, and you are ready to go. Make it casual with a jean jacket and Converse sneakers or glam it up with pearls and heels. Usually I pair it with flats and a cardigan, and I’m good to go.

Have you ever considered giving a wrap dress a try? You actually have two options:

  • A wrap dress usually has a front closure made by wrapping one side across the other, tying the sash at the back or at the hip, and hidden buttons may be involved. They almost always have v-necklines.
  • A faux wrap dress is very similar, except that it made to be slipped over the head. There is no opening in front, and usually has an empire waistline.

They reached icon status in the early 1970s with Diane von Furstenberg’s designs. While many people hailed her wrap dress as revolutionary, the design is actually an old one. British-born designer Charles James created what the christened the “taxi dress.” While it looks innocent enough, he cheekily suggested he called named it so it could be put on and taken off in the back of a taxi.

Take a look at it and decide what you think:

Diane von Furstenberg certainly popularized the look, and it’s easy to see why the wrap dress is a staple in many women’s closets:

  • They were created to hug the curves of every woman, no matter if she is hour-glass shaped or has a rectangular silhouette.
  • Faux wrap dresses are even more flattering because they accent the chest and the empire waistline ensures the stomach and hips aren’t an issue.
  • Bright and bold patterns and vibrant colors make the wearer stand out in a crowd.
  • Lengths can suit any desired hemline, from mini- to maxi-skirts.
  • It is favored by famous women from Michelle Obama to Kate Middleton.
  • It is seen as a symbol of feminism and women’s liberation because it is easy to put on and even easier to take off.

Unfortunately for us plus-size women, DVF only goes up to a straight size 14 in her couture and ready-to-wear line. So where does that leave us?

Never fear.

If this article has whet your appetite for wrap dresses, there are several plus-size designers who offer beautiful wrap dresses:

  • My personal favorite is Igigi. They do mostly faux wraps, and I have one I live in during the fall and winter months, as well as my LBD. Made in San Francisco, I can personally attest to their quality and excellent cut. $128-$180.
  • Kiyonna probably has the largest selection of plus-size wrap dresses. They offer both classic and faux wrap dresses in a wide variety of patterns and solid colors. I have never worn one myself, but one look at the reviews of the dresses on their site will tell you how much their customers love them. $60-$118.
  • ASOS Curve also has most faux wraps ranging from casual to formal/wedding guest quality. $24-106.
  • Ashley Stewart has a lovely selection of mostly faux wraps, many on sale as of the time of this writing (July 2017). I really like the variety of patterns they offer, from python to bold, tropical colors. $26-$60.
  • Retailers such as Lane Bryant, Macy’s Saks, Neiman’s, and Nordstrom’s carry wrap dresses as well, but it depends on their stock.

Because it hugs your curves and is so easy to wear, why not give a wrap dress a try? With such a large range of price points and styles, add one to your capsule wardrobe. And who knows? You may have found yourself a new fashion addiction!

Have you ever worn a wrap dress? Comment below!

Photo credit: Glamour magazine

How to Dress Like a Thin French Woman If You’re Not Thin Or French

There is just something magical about how women in France dress.

Whether it’s Brigitte Bardot in a black turtleneck, black skinny ankle pants, black flats, and a silk scarf, or Vanessa Paradis in a simple white dress and black blazer, these ladies have an effortless chic that exudes a je ne sais quoi.

And women our size can look just as chic.

Yeah, right, Annie. Both Brigitte and Vanessa are thin Frenchwomen. How am I supposed to look as good as a plus-sized woman?

The answer is très simple, my friend. Read below for French style secrets that will help you look great at any size:

  1. Start with a neutral palette. You will not see many Frenchwomen walking around with a canary yellow shirt and royal blue pants. Their closets are teeming with black, navy, gray, and beige, with a few accent colors in there. I’ve blogged about the importance of a capsule wardrobe, and having a neutral color scheme lays the foundation.
  2. Pick quality over quantity. Many more Frenchwomen see their clothing as investment pieces. Stores in France can only have sales legally in the months of January and July, so finding deals there is rather difficult. They will pay extra for a two-ply cashmere sweater that lasts, rather than a single ply that won’t last an entire winter. They will favor durable leather shoes instead of cheap made-in-China synthetic ones that will last a few months. Choose quality pieces that are well made rather than the fast fashion so prevalent today.
  3. Gym clothes are for the gym. Full disclaimer: I am so guilty of breaking this rule. And often. But Frenchwomen usually aren’t wearing yoga pants, running shorts, tennis shoes, and athleisure wear when they are out running errands. They wear work-out clothes only for the work-out, but otherwise they wear street clothes.
  4. Embrace flats. Of course there are Frenchwomen who love their heels, but you are much more likely to see ballet flats, loafers, moccasins, or oxfords than anything else. And if your feet are as jacked up as mine are with bunions and no arches, your tootsies will thank you.
  5. Fear not the horizontal stripe. I remember working on my fashion badge as a Girl Scout in the 1980s. We had a wardrobe consultant come and talk to us, and I can still remember to this day hearing, “Fat women shouldn’t wear horizontal stripes. It only makes them look fatter.”

It’s 2017. Screw that.

There is nothing more quintessentially French than the classic Breton stripes, especially on a shirt. Who cares if we’re plus-sized? Who cares about the traditional fashion advice? Rock the stripes, and know you look good doing it.

  1. Add a touch of whimsy. Whether it is a concert/band t-shirt under a black blazer, Converse sneakers with the classic Breton shirt and skinny jeans, a vintage piece of costume jewelry with your little black dress, or a leather pencil skirt with a crisp button-down shirt, find a way to communicate your sense of fun through fashion.
  2. Think timeless, not trends. Frenchwomen do buy trendy items, but they are the exception to their wardrobe, not the rule. By all means buy a fun piece every now and again. But you won’t find many Uggs, decorative ponchos, jeans with rhinestones on the back pockets, or super low-rise jeans gathering dust in their closet. Classic, basic pieces stand the test of time.

You don’t have to go and start follow all these rules. Start with one and commit to it for a week, whether it is leaving the running shoes for the treadmill or wearing neutrals with just a pop of color. Find what works best for you and incorporate it into your daily life.

 Which of these rules sounds easiest for you to follow? Comment below!

My First Facial

OMG you only now got your first facial?!

Yeah, yeah, I guess I don’t get out much. How I made it to my late thirties without a facial is beyond me.

I thought this would be a fun topic to blog about, so I got a recommendation from my sister, is good friends with an esthetician. Both of my sisters have seen Melissa for years, so I knew I was good hands.

Melissa works out of an unassuming office building, and I loved the tranquil pale blue walls and gold accent art on the wall. She had prettily arranged products for sale on shelves, and the chairs at reception where white.

After filling out four pages of forms about my skin, allergies, etc. I got settled onto her table. She popped on a Pandora playlist of soothing music like oceans sounds, and it wasn’t hard to relax.

The first thing she used was a green tea antioxidant cleanser, then added a 17% glycolic acid cleanser to help exfoliate. I honestly couldn’t feel my skin being cleaned, but the cleanser smelled fresh and was cool on my face.

She then put a fresh, hot washcloth on my face to wipe it off. That felt ah-mazing. It was hot, rough, and took to sweet-smelling potions off my face.

Melissa then put a paper mask over my eyes so that I wouldn’t be blinded by the super bright light she put in my face. She carefully examined my skin for imperfections, blemishes, and to see what needed the most work.

I try to take really good care of my skin; and Melissa commented how good my skin looks for my age. I slather on my Oil of Olay in the morning and then creams at night. I also avoid the sun like the plague. Melissa decided that I needed a good exfoliation more than anything else

The next thing she used was an antioxidant facial oil. She did a facial massage, lightly rubbing my forehead, eye sockets, cheeks, chin, neck, and shoulders. It was fantastic. I very much enjoyed chatting with Melissa about skincare up to this point, but I slipped into a numb stupor and simply enjoyed my tired skin being massaged.

Melissa then put on coconut papaya enzyme with what felt like a makeup brush. It was cold, goopy, and tickled. But it did the trick and sloughed the dead skin cells off my face.

The last thing she put on my face was hyaluronic acid serum to moisturize, soften, and to bind moisture to face. It contains vitamin C to moisturize and brighten the skin. Then she put on a moisturizing goji berry mask on top of it, which had a great peppermint smell to it. The berry mask tingled just a little bit, but that’s how I knew it was working.

Then she covered my eyes and steamed my skin. I could feel the tingle deep in my skin, though it was maybe a little uncomfortable to have steam on my face on a hot August afternoon. It wasn’t too bad—it only lasted eight minutes.

She also massaged my arms. She had to very nicely tell me to relax here, because my default mode is “tense” pretty much all the time. It was by far the nicest part of the facial.

Then she finished with another hot towel.

I will tell you Melissa has a new devoted customer. My skin looks and feels bright, clear, and like I had five years taken off. And that massage made my stress melt away. Melissa’s knowledge about skincare was mind-boggling, and I learned more in one hour than I had in the previous ten years about my skin.

Because she charges such reasonable prices, I can see this as something I can enjoy every couple months. I look forward to seeing her again!

Have you ever had a facial? If yes, what do you love about it? If not, what’s holding you back? Comment below!

How to Buy Plus-Sized Clothes on eBay

eBay is amazing. It is literally the world’s biggest consignment shop.

I never have any luck when I hit the thrift shops. Why would this be any easier?

eBay is an often overlooked asset for expanding your plus-size wardrobe, and allowing you to try different labels without the hefty price tag retail would subject you to.

You can find designer brands, international designers, and, if you’re lucky, smaller indie labels on eBay. Some are new and in pristine condition. Others are gently used but still in great shape. Whatever you’re looking for, here are some things to keep in mind when buying clothes on eBay:

  1. Shop with a specific item in mind. I find that mindless browsing can lead to mindless buying. Knowing exactly what you want will help you save time, narrow your search, and save you money in the long run. If I want a silk shirt, I am not going to look at poplin shirts or t-shirts. Keep your eye on the prize.
  2. Know exactly what size you are for each different fashion label. I am a size 22 in Lane Bryant pants, but a 20 in Marina Rinaldi skirts. Taking a couple minutes to Google the company’s measurements will save you money from buying something that doesn’t fit.
  3. Read the measurements carefully. I don’t trust sellers who don’t list measurements on the product listings. Read the item description to ensure the seller is talking about the measurements laid out flat or if they are guessing the entire circumference.
  4. Ask questions. If they don’t list measurements, ask away. You have the right to know if the item will fit or not. My experience is the vast majority of eBay sellers are customer-service oriented, and will respond to you within 24-48 hours.
  5. Know the material of the garment you are ordering. You can have all the measurements in the world, but 100% silk does not have the same elasticity as 100% cotton.
  6. Get every detail if you are buying a used item. There’s nothing wrong with buying used, but check the buyer’s feedback to see if they are reputable and will disclose everything. Ask them to send pictures of the defects. I’m OK with having a scuff on a shoe or a little tear in a hem, but I want to know that beforehand. (I was selling a shirt on eBay one time and set it on fire. I had to cancel the sale. True story. LOL.)
  7. Cheaper does not always mean better. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: quality over quantity. I will pay more for a used Lafayette 148 pencil skirt than a new White Stag skirt. Because I have a very specific item in mind, I’m not wasting money on cheaply made clothes I don’t want.
  8. See if the seller offers refunds. Though it wasn’t such a big deal to me a few years ago, I now often find myself only buying from sellers who offer refunds. Yeah, many charge a restocking fee, but I’m OK with paying that if it means I get most of my money back if the item isn’t just what I was looking for.

I hope you will browse eBay and see what different labels it has to offer, and that you will find something you can afford, and that you can’t find in the stores where you live!

What is the best item of clothing you have ever purchased online? Comment below!

101 Free or Cheap Date Ideas

1. Attend a county fair.
2. Attend a festival of a culture different from yours.
3. Attend a free home improvement class at a big box store.
4. Attend a high school sporting event.
5. Attend a lecture about a lecture you know nothing about.
6. Attend a political rally.
7. Attend a sporting event that isn’t baseball, basketball, football, or hockey.
8. Attend church services at a different denomination.
9. Babysit a friend or family member’s kid.
10. Binge watch a TV series you’ve never seen.
11. Borrow a croquet set and play in the backyard after a few beers.
12. Buy sidewalk chalk and play hopscotch.
13. Camp out in a pup tent in the backyard.
14. Check out a local observatory.
15. Check out free music at local bars or coffeehouses.
16. Do a free/low-cost fitness class.
17. Do as the Europeans: grab a baguette, cheese, fruit, & wine. Enjoy a sunset.
18. Dust off your belt buckle and go to a rodeo.
19. Enjoy some really bad karaoke.
20. Examine cool vintage vehicles at an auto show.
21. Experience a sunrise or sunset together.
22. Explore a new neighborhood or nearby town.
23. Feed geese at the nearest lake.
24. Find a bad movie on Netflix.
25. Find a free movie outside.
26. Find a free music festival.
27. Find bargains at estate sales.
28. Find the most useless kitchen utensil at the culinary store.
29. Fly a kite.
30. Get caught up in the excitement of roller derby.
31. Get free paint samples and then create a collage with them.
32. Get your picture taken with as many statues as you can find in town.
33. Go fishing.
34. Go for a long drive with no particular destination.
35. Go for a picnic.
36. Go mini-golfing.
37. Go on a hike.
38. Go on a photographic excursion. Take pictures of alphabet “letters.”
39. Go to a matinee.
40. Go to a poetry slam at a coffeehouse.
41. Go to open houses for expensive properties.
42. Go to Trader Joe’s/Whole Foods for free samples.

43. Go to Walmart and take a picture to submit to “People of Walmart.”
44. Grab your bowling shoes and hit the lanes.
45. Have a pillow fight.
46. Have a wine tasting at a local vineyard.
47. Hit the batting cages (not literally!).
48. Hit the local farmers’ market.
49. Hit the open mic night at a comedy club.
50. Hit the steepest hill and go sledding. Bonus points for an improvised sled.
51. Hit up some garage sales for a bargain.
52. If you can, find and old-fashioned drive-in movie theatre.
53. If you still have an arcade, play all the two-player games you can.
54. Learn a card trick on YouTube to impress your friends and family.
55. Learn a new board game.
56. Make a board game a strip version of whatever it is.
57. Make a dessert with a fruit you’ve never tried.
58. Make a high schoolers’ day – see a high school drama production.
59. Make a movie with nothing but an iPhone.
60. Make each other brunch.
61. Make scavenger hunts for each other.
62. Make up new constellations with names and backstories.
63. Make your own soap and blow bubbles outside.
64. March in a demonstration for a topic you’re passionate about.
65. Marvel at the beauty of a local butterfly garden.
66. ..Organize a game night with friends.
67. Organize a potluck with friends.
68. Participate in a First Friday celebration.
69. Patronize your local roller rink.
70. People-watch at the mall or airport.
71. Pick up a game of hoops at the park.
72. Play on the swings on the playground,
73. Play tennis in a local park.
74. Play trivia at a bar.
75. Put a jigsaw puzzle together.
76. Rake leaves for an older friend. Jump & play in them, then rake them up.
77. Roast marshmallows on the stove to make s’mores. (Please don’t set a fire!)
78. Run in the sprinkler in the backyard.
79. See all the creepy crawlies at the zoo.
80. See how long you can make $10 at your nearest casino.
81. See the smashy-smashy at a monster truck rally.
82. Shop for Halloween costumes at the thrift store.
83. Take a day and see how much crap you can sell on Craigslist.
84. Take a hike at a local state park.
85. Take a low-cost adult learning class in something you both suck at.
86. Take each others’ boudoir shots.
87. Take in a local art gallery.
88. Take in an arthouse movie.
89. Take your bikes out for a ride in the country.
90. Take your clubs to the driving range.
91. Test drive expensive cars.
92. Try a new sport like pickleball.
93. Turn a bad movie into a drinking game of your own rules.
94. Turn Scrabble in to drinking game with the rules of your choice.
95. Visit a pumpkin patch.
96. Visit a small museum.
97. Visit an organic farm.
98. Visit local haunted places at night – if you dare.
99. Volunteer together to walk dogs at the humane society.
100. Watch a movie in a pillow fort.
101. Write really bad poetry for each other.

How to Deal with Toxic People in the Workplace When You Hate Conflict

I hate conflict at work.

God, I hate conflict. It is so much easier to bury my head in the sand just do my own thing rather than have those “I feel…” conversations when dealing with difficult people.

I am writing this blog post as much for you as me. We all have toxic people we deal with in the workplace, and most women avoid direct conflict. If you don’t have a significant other to bounce ideas off of, it can be particularly difficult.

I have identified four toxic personality types you may encounter in the workplace, and how you can work with them without all-out conflict and without sacrificing all your sanity.

Keep in mind that these are a general overview, and what works for one Debbie Downer may not work for another. Every office has its own different culture and vibe, but the following advice comes from 15+ years of being in the adult workforce. Just remember: You have the right to a sane work environment. Here are a few tips for navigating the professional jungle.

The Debbie Downer. The Negative Nancy. The No-Matter-How-Good-Things-Are-It’s-All-Doom-And-Gloom.

Ugh.

The first line of defense is to minimize contact with these folks. I find myself just sticking to work topics with negative people for my own sanity. It’s not being passive-aggressive; I only have a finite amount of positive energy, and I am not going to let toxic vampires suck it away.

It takes a lot of practice, but I’ve learned that taking everything with a massive grain of salt and with a twist of humor also helps. I never validate Debbie’s negativity, and I take my stand, letting Debbie know I will not stoop to the level of whining about everything. I am work to do a job, not whine about every little thing.

The Micromanager. Me oh my…this is a toughie. These bosses are emotionally taxing, yet there isn’t much you can do if you aren’t the boss. Here, the best advice I can give is to be as trustworthy as possible. Show your boss you are capable of doing your job without a lot of direction. And if you ask for more work, they are more apt to see you as a go-getter than a slacker.

Another tactic is to keep positive lines of communication open. Let them know what you are doing in a project. Report good news as you get it. Ask them if you need help. That is another way to get your boss to buy into trusting you. And bosses who trust you are far less likely to micromanage.

The Busybody. The Gossip. The Snoop. Pretty much everyone has one of these. Gossips should be treated much like the Debbie Downer. I stick to work topics as much as possible, offer no extra details to any story, or play dumb when it comes to giving them the latest “scoop” (if they come to me looking for deets, I either remain vague or just say, “I don’t know”).

I understand that some people see gossip as a way to make friends or bond. And I’d be a liar if I said I never gossiped about a coworker. But the older I get, the less drama I want, and the more I keep my mouth shut. If I don’t engage them, the worst they can say about me behind my back is that I’m not chatty.

The Bully. This toxic personality is the worst. Literally the worst. I’m not going to spend much time on it because I actually wrote an entire blog post about this earlier this year.

I will give two pieces of advice, which served me well (and, believe me, my last workplace bully was absolutely savage): Treat them better than they treat you, and don’t take their behavior personally. Bullying always reflects on the bully, not the victim. So don’t let their crappy self-esteem make you wallow. Keep your conscience clear.

Of course there are times when you do need to deal head on with emotional leeches, but hopefully this post will give you a few ideas how to treat your crazy coworkers without sacrificing your dignity. Or mental well-being. Because you are strong. You are kind. You are special. Your job needs you!

Without naming names to protect the guilty, who was the absolute worst person you worked with or for? Comment below!

Day Trips for the Single Girl

Picture this: You’re a single girl. You are going bonkers because you want to leave town, but have neither the time to take off work, nor the funds to go very far.

Wow, that sounds familiar.

I want to highlight two recent road trips I took, and each was done within three hours. With just the littlest bit of planning and a great travel companion, you can take a memorable day trip without the time or financial commitment of a regular vacation.

TRIP #1: DODGE, NEBRASKA, POPULATION 612

OK, so this trip was actually four or five months ago. But my BFF Angie suggested going to a new restaurant, simply called “Eat”, to sample their 100% locally source menu.

I’m a foodie. It didn’t take much convincing.

This is Angie. You wish your bestie was as awesome as she is.

Cranking the tunes, we drove off into the prairie sunset. We remarked on all the pretty farms, enjoying the way the light played off the snow.

About halfway to our stop, Angie cried, “Look!”

She popped a U-turn right on the highway and made a beeline to Czechland Lake Recreation Area. Though the sun was almost down, the light danced on the water. The new moon hung in a silvery crest in the east as geese made their way to the half-frozen lake in their perfect V-formation. There was no limit to the horizon as the twilight colors crept onto the plains.

Angie and I posed for some goofball pictures and selfies. Neither one of us is a lake person per se, but we had fun doing what two best friends do in a beautiful sunset with their cameras.

Back on the road.

When we arrived in the bustling metropolis of Dodge, Nebraska, it was, well…a typical Nebraska town. One police officer, one bar, one tiny grocery store, two Catholic churches, two funeral homes (side-by-side on Main Street, oddly enough).

And Eat.

Eclectically decorated and great service. Angie and I fell in love with it instantly.

Lightly tempura-fried green beans, onion rings and (blech!) mushroom.

Pasta with beef tips from 50 miles away. With local carrots and broccolini.

Homemade German chocolate cake and coffee ice cream.

The pictures speak for themselves. Angie and I wined and dined our way to Eat, and it was with happy tummies we drove home in the dark, sated from our gastronomic voyage.

TRIP #1: ELMWOOD, NEBRASKA, POPULATION 634

This trip was planned by my mommy.

That’s Joann.

Mom wanted to go to this tiny town about 30 minutes away from where we lived so we could visit the home of one of her favorite authors, Bess Streeter Aldrich.

I’m more of a diehard Laura Ingalls Wilder fan myself, but mom loves the turn-of-the-(last) century, homespun tales of love, family, and sometimes heartache.

Three churches, one convenience store, and one teeny library only open 17 hours a week make up the village. But with its charming downtown district, manicured lawns, and well-maintained parks make this a great stop.

Built right at the beginning of the last century, the house we visited is only open a few hours a week. But it has period furniture and some of the author’s possessions. The house looks quite similar to when Aldrich last lived there in 1946.

As a writer, I loved Aldrich’s desk. It had a flat writing surface, but there was a wheel on the side you turned, and the desktop flipped over to reveal a typewriter underneath! I loved how clever it was, and it was a beautiful piece of furniture.

My mom was over the moon to see the beloved home of her favorite writer, and I was happy to be her companion on this little road trip!

Both of these little excursions may not seem like a big deal, but I got to visit two places I normally would not have visited. One of them was with my bestie, and the other was with my madre. I ate spectacular food and got a wonderful dose of Nebraska history, both of which always inspire me.

So grab a friend, an aunt, a sister, a niece, or whoever is laying around. Find a cool destination about an hour from where you are and just go!

What was the last day trip you took? Comment below!

 

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