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Overwhelmed By Too Many Choices? Here’s How To Simplify

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Overwhelmed By Too Many Choices? Here’s How To Simplify

National Simplify Your Life week occurs during the first week of August and it reminds us that less is more.

Simplicity is an age-old practice. Proverbs 14 states that “the simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps.” That is, an effective person prunes out the unnecessary in order to forge a better path. Islam teaches Muslims that there is “dignity in humility and grace in simplicity.”

Cut the clutter

Choice is good: We love freedom and choice gives us more. But at what point does too many options lead to complexity and stress? How often have you stopped at the grocery to buy a couple of items before eventually finding your shopping cart overstuffed with a dozen purchases. Supermarkets on average carry over 42,000 products, according to the Food Marketing Institute—reflecting the myriad choices we’re forced to make each day.

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“Paralysis is a consequence of having too many choices,” says psychologist Barry Schwartz in this popular Ted Talk presentation. Schwartz, who is the author of The Paradox of Choice, explains that too many options—i.e., complexity—lead to people feeling overwhelmed. And according to his research, that causes non-participation or delay in taking action.

Here are key considerations for simplifying your personal life.

1. Decide what matters (and what doesn’t)

Clutter prevents you from getting organized and being efficient. Simplifying is an exercise of prioritization—so as you focus on what’s important, you’ll ignore what doesn’t matter as much.

Be specific in what you’re trying to accomplish each day and remove all items and activities that serve as distractions. That may mean doing any of the following:

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  • Cancel irrelevant magazine subscriptions
  • Delete apps that waste your time
  • Consolidate your accounts
  • Unfollow people on social media who flood your feed
  • Limit your technology to ones that are actually useful
  • Use all-in-one applications that present most or all of your personal information
  • Donate or sell items that don’t add value
  • Eliminate clutter and organize useful belongings

If you need help, here’s a free app that prioritizes your goals and to-do lists in a priority matrix. And a similar app, Prioritize Me!, lets you select which of your goals are most important.

2. Focus on the 20 percent.

Follow the 80/20 rule which states that 80 percent of effects come from 20 percent of causes. In layman’s terms, that means 20 percent of your activities lead to 80 percent of your effectiveness. If you’re a homeowner, 20 percent of your possessions are associated with 80 percent of your activities. According to the National Association of Professional Organizers, we wear just 20 percent of our clothing. Perhaps it’d be prudent to donate or sell the rest.

If you want technology to help you simplify, the Tody app lets you organize and prioritize tasks. And to keep you on the right track, the mobile app will prompt you when a chore is due.

National Simplify Your Life Week
         July 2016 Capital One Simplify Your Life Survey (1,000+ U.S. respondents, ages 18-54)             

     3. Be practical.

    Love life and personal finances are the two most challenging areas to simplify, according to the July 2016 Simplify Your Life survey by Capital One. A majority (60 percent) of over a thousand respondents said a practical approach is the best way to simplify their finances:

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    • Practical (sensible and straightforward): 60%
    • Mindful (reflective and introspective): 14%
    • Optimistic (positive and hopeful): 14%
    • Ruthless (strict and unrelenting): 6%
    • Creative (unique and unexpected): 6%

    According to the same survey, 41 percent said a mobile app—with access to all account information—was their must-have tool. Most smartphones are littered with random apps. However. it’s essential to know which ones boost your productivity. For example, one tool that comes with Capital One’s Quicksilver and Venture cards and consolidates your account information is Capital One Wallet. It’s a mobile app that allows you to keep track of all your purchases in real-time.

    The paradigm of simplicity requires attention to important matters, and treats the rest as noise.

    National Simplify Your Life Week

      The takeaway

      When it comes to purchasing decisions, consumers often succumb to buyer’s remorse because of unmet expectations, says Schwartz. Moreover, people often have unrealistic beliefs that better alternatives exist—even if the original selection of a product was a great one.

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      Our gadgets and possessions should guide us toward our goals rather than distract and steal our precious time. It’s interesting to note that in the Simplify Your Life survey, only 6 percent of Americans surveyed said that creativity is the best approach to simplifying their financial lives.

      So forget the fancy methods. Rather, do the important stuff and weed out what no longer needs to be done.

      Featured photo credit: Stokpic.com via stokpic.com

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      Marvin Dumont

      Entrepreneur, Disruptor

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      Last Updated on January 5, 2022

      33 Painless Ways to Save Money Now

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      33 Painless Ways to Save Money Now

      In a difficult economy, most of us are looking for ways to put more money in our pockets, but we don’t want to feel like misers. We don’t want to drastically alter our lifestyles either. We want it fast and we want it easy. Small savings can add up and big savings can feel like winning the lottery, just without all of the taxes.

      Some easy ways to save money:

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      1. Online rebate sites. Many online sites offer cash back rebates and online coupons as well. MrRebates and Ebates are two I like, but there are many others.
      2. Sign up for customer rewards. Many of your favorite stores offer customer rewards on products you already buy. Take advantage.
      3. Switch to compact fluorescent bulbs. The extra cost up front is worth the energy savings later on.
      4. Turn off power strips and electronic devices when not in use.
      5. Buy a programmable thermostat. Set it to lower the heat or raise the AC when you’re not home.
      6. Make coffee at home. Those lattes and caramel macchiatos add up to quite a bit of dough over the year.
      7. Switch banks. Shop around for better interest rates, lower fees and better customer perks. Don’t forget to look for free online banking and ease of depositing and withdrawing money.
      8. Clip coupons: Saving a couple dollars here and there can start to add up. As long as you’re going to buy the products anyway, why not save money?
      9. Pack your lunch. Bring your lunch to work with you a few days a week, rather than buy it.
      10. Eat at home. We’re busier than ever, but cooking meals at home is healthier and much cheaper than take-out or going out. Plus, with all of the freezer and pre-made options, it’s almost as fast as drive-thru.
      11. Have leftovers night. Save your leftovers from a few meals and have a “leftover dinner.” It’s a free meal!
      12. Buy store brands: Many generic or store brands are actually just as good as name brands and considerably cheaper.
      13. Ditch bottled water. Drink tap water if it’s good quality, buy a filter if it’s not. Get 
          a reusable water bottle and refill it.
        • Avoid vending machines: The items are usually over-priced.
        • Take in a matinee. Afternoon movie showings are cheaper than evening times.
        • Re-examine your cable bill. Cancel extra cable or satellite channels you don’t watch. Watch the “on demand” movie purchases too.
        • Use online bill pay. Most banks offer free online bill paying. Save on stamps and checks, and avoid late fees by automating bill payment.
        • Buy frequently used items in bulk. You get a lower per item price and eliminate extra trips to the store later on.
        • Fully utilize the library. Borrowing books is much cheaper than buying them, but in addition to books, most local libraries now lend movies and games.
        • Cancel magazine/newspaper subscriptions: Re-evaluate your subscriptions. Cancel those you don’t read and consider reading some of the other publications online.
        • Get rid of your land-line. Do you really need a land-line anymore if everyone in the family has a cell phone? Alternatively, look into using VOIP or getting a cheaper plan.
        • Better fuel efficiency. Check the air pressure in your tires, keep up with proper auto maintenance, and slow down. Driving even 5MPH slower will result in better fuel mileage.
        • Increase your deductibles. Increasing the insurance deductibles on your homeowners and auto insurance policies lowers premiums significantly. Just make sure you choose a deductible that you can afford should an emergency happen.
        • Choose lunch over dinner. If you do want to dine out occasionally, go at lunchtime rather than dinnertime. Lunch prices are usually cheaper.
        • Buy used:  Whether it’s something small like a vintage dress or a video game or something big like a car or furniture, consider buying it used. You can often get “nearly new” for a fraction of the cost.
        • Stick to the list. Make a list before you go shopping and don’t buy anything that’s not on the list unless it’s a once in a lifetime, killer deal.
        • Tame the impulse. Use a self-enforced waiting period whenever you’re tempted to make an unplanned purchase. Wait for a week and see if you still want the item.
        • Don’t be afraid to ask. Ask to have fees waived, ask for a discount, ask for a lower interest rate on your credit card.
        • Repair rather than replace. You can find directions on how to fix almost anything on the internet. Do your homework, and then bring out your inner handyman.
        • Trade with your neighbors. Borrow tools or equipment that you use infrequently and swap things like babysitting with your neighbors.
        • Swap online. Use sites like PaperBack Swap to trade books, music, and movies with others online. Also, look for local community sites like Freecycle where people give away items they no longer need.
        • Cut back on the meat. Try eating a one or two meatless meals every week or cut back on the meat portions. Meat is usually the most expensive part of the meal.
        • Comparison shop: Get in the habit of checking prices before you buy. See if you can get a better price at another store or look online.

        Remember that saving money is not about being cheap or stingy; it’s about putting money into your bank account rather than giving it to someone else. There are many ways to save money, some you’ve never thought of, and some that won’t appeal or apply to you. Just pick a few of the ideas that sound doable and watch the savings add up. Save big, save small, but save wherever you can.

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        Featured photo credit: Damir Spanic via unsplash.com

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