Can a Budget Wedding be Beautiful?

Q: My partner and I are preparing for our wedding, and due to financial constraints it will need to be planned on a strict budget. I’m glad we aren’t racking up huge bills, but I don’t want to compromise on the day of my dreams. Can a budget wedding still be beautiful?

A: Your desire for financial responsibility is commendable. Fortunately, a budget wedding can still be beautiful – even on a tight budget. Here’s how to plan the wedding of your dreams without breaking your budget.

Set a budget

The first step in planning a wedding on a budget is to actually set a budget. Determine how much money you can afford, and are willing to spend, on your wedding and allocate your funds accordingly. Jot down a list of all the wedding expenses you expect to incur, such as venue rental, catering, photography and decorations. Then, prioritize them based on their importance, attaching a higher dollar amount toward your top priorities.

When setting your budget, be realistic about what you can afford. Don’t take on more debt than you can handle, as it can put a strain on your relationship in the long run. Consider cutting back in areas that aren’t as important to you. This might include having a smaller guest list or opting for a simpler, or secondhand, dress. On the flip side, remember that your budget does not need to be evenly balanced as long as the total does not exceed your maximum budget. For example, you can decide to spend a lot of your wedding money on an elaborate dessert table, and hire a no-frills caterer for the rest of the meal. 

Remember, a budget is an opportunity to get creative. Together with your partner, you can find unique ways to make your wedding special without spending a fortune.

Choose a venue

One of the biggest expenses of a wedding is the venue rental. The good news is, an out-of-the-box venue can save you boatloads of money without sacrificing on style and beauty. Consider having your wedding in a park or on a beach; many public spaces offer affordable or even free venue rentals. Alternatively, if you’re set on having a traditional venue, look for off-peak times or consider a weekday wedding, as these can often be more affordable.

Another option for saving on the venue is to have your ceremony and reception in the same location. This can save on transportation costs and can be more convenient for your guests, too. Look for venues that offer both indoor and outdoor spaces so you have a built-in backup plan in case of inclement weather.

When choosing a venue, be sure to keep your overall wedding theme in mind. For example, if you’re going for a rustic feel, look for venues with natural elements like wood and stone. If you’re going for a more modern look, go for venues with clean lines and minimal decor. The venue sets the tone for your entire wedding, so it’s important to choose one that reflects your personal style.

DIY Decorations

Another big-ticket item likely to be on your wedding budget is the decor. To save in this area, consider DIYing some, or all, of your wedding decorations. You can look up tutorials online to learn how to do a job that will bring professional results, and with the help of a few friends, and a minimal investment in materials, you can create beautiful, low-cost decorations for your wedding. This can include centerpieces, floral arrangements, favors and more. 

Another way to save on wedding decor is to repurpose items you already own. Mason jars, vintage books, old picture frames and unique vases can all serve as decor elements for your wedding. You can pick up more low-cost decor items in secondhand shops or borrow from friends. 

Finally, consider renting decorations instead of buying them. Many rental companies offer affordable options for wedding decor, such as tablecloths, chair covers and ceremony arches. This can shave lots of money off your budget wedding while also reducing waste.

A beautiful budget wedding is more doable than you may think. Follow these tips to plan the budget wedding of your dreams.

TikTok Inspo: Did you plan a budget wedding? Tell us about it in the comments. 

Affordable Sustainability 5 of 12-Grow Your Own Greens

If you’re looking for a way to save on grocery bills while reducing your carbon footprint, growing your own vegetable garden can be a fabulous and rewarding endeavor. Follow these tips to learn how to successfully grow your own greens.

Choose the right greens

First, you’ll need to choose which greens you’d like to grow. Vegetable salads have come a long way in the last decade, and you can choose from a wide variety of greens to grow, aside from the ubiquitous iceberg and romaine lettuces. These and other leafy greens, like kale, spinach, mustard and arugula, are fairly easy to grow and extra-tasty when fresh from the garden. 

Aside from choosing your favorite greens, be sure to take your hometown’s climate into account when selecting which plants to grow. Do some research to identify what kind of temperature and care each of your chosen plants will need (start with the USDA’s Hardizone Zone map for general climate info). Pay attention to how much shade, sunlight and watering each vegetable requires so you will be able to care for them properly. 

Once you’ve chosen your greens, you can pick up seedlings in a local nursery, farmer’s market or home improvement store. If you prefer to grow your greens from seeds, select packets that include instructions for good germination. 

Plant your garden

If you’re working with seeds, follow the instructions on the packet to bring the seeds to germination. Depending on the veggie type, you’ll likely need to plant the seeds inside, in a small pot or shallow container, and then transfer them to the outdoors after they sprout. Tools like rockwool cubes, grow lights and a small fan, can help you provide the ideal conditions for your seeds. 

If you’re working with seedlings, prepare a garden bed or pot with fertilized, moist soil for planting. Dig just a bit to plant the seedling, allowing space to cover the seedling with approximately ¼ inch of soil. Working gently, tamp down the soil around the seedling so there’s strong contact between the seedling’s roots and the soil.

Your greens are ready to grow!

Let your garden grow

Now that you have planted your greens, it’s important to take good care of them to ensure that they grow healthy and strong. 

The most important factors to consider when caring for your greens are water, sunlight and soil. Most greens prefer consistently moist soil, so be sure to water your plants regularly. However, be careful not to overwater, as this can lead to root rot. Additionally, make sure your greens are getting enough sunlight. Most greens prefer at least six hours of sunlight per day, but some varieties, like lettuce, prefer partial shade. Finally, make sure your greens are growing in good soil that is nutrient-rich. If you’re planting in pots, use a high-quality potting mix. If you’ve planted in the ground, upgrade your soil with compost or other organic matter to improve its quality.

Harvesting your greens

The best part of growing your own greens is getting to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Most greens can be harvested once they’ve reached their desired size, usually around 4-6 weeks after planting. Don’t wait for the plants to bolt (send up flower stalks), or you’ll be left with bitter greens. 

To harvest your greens, use a pair of scissors to snip off the leaves at the base of the plant. Be sure to leave some leaves on the plant so it can continue to produce new growth. When harvesting your greens, it’s important to do so in the morning when they are at their freshest. Store your greens in the refrigerator in an air-tight plastic bag or container to keep them fresh for up to a week. Alternatively, you can use your greens immediately for a perfectly fresh garden salad.

Growing your own greens is a uniquely rewarding experience, and it’s great for the environment, too. Follow these tips to successfully grow your own greens.

TikTok Inspo: Do you have a green thumb? Tell us your secrets to growing a beautiful garden.

The Anxious Achiever: Turn Your Biggest Fears into Your Leadership Superpower

Title: The Anxious Achiever: Turn Your Biggest Fears into Your Leadership Superpower  

Author: Morra Aarong-Mele

Hardcover: 272 pages

Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press

Publishing Date: April 11, 2023

Who is this book for? 

  • Anyone in a leadership position who’s ever stressed about feeling anxious in the workplace. 
  • Readers looking to turn their anxiety into success in their career. 

What’s inside this book?

  • A compelling guide to managing the anxiety that accompanies success and leadership from a top-rated podcaster, entrepreneur and mental health advocate.
  • Morra’s personal stories, research-based insights into mental health and practical advice culled through her years in the field of workplace mental health.

3 lessons you’ll learn from this book:  

  1. Anxiety is built into the nature of leadership.
  2. Anxiety should be harnessed into a force for good.
  3. You can learn to resist perfectionism, manage social anxiety and set boundaries to prevent burnout.

4 questions this book will answer for you:  

  1. How can I confront my bad habits and unhealthy coping mechanisms?
  2. How do I deal with feedback, criticism and impostor syndrome?
  3. How do I model and communicate healthy behavior as a leader?
  4. How do I figure out my own anxiety profile so I can recognize and avoid common thought traps and triggers?

What people are saying about this book: 

“Aarons-Mele has written an astonishing book. This is not a book for just anxious achievers–it’s a book for any human being who wants to transform their mental health.” – Andy Dunn

“Armed with the concepts in this well-researched, raw and vulnerable work, you will learn how to take anxiety and channel it toward a powerful purpose.” — Rita McGrath

“Great leaders take their mental health seriously. The Anxious Achiever gives you the skills to do it.” – Dorie Clark

TikTok Inspo: What did you think of The Anxious Achiever? Share your own review with us in a 15-second video. 

A Review of the Most Popular Workplace Communication Platforms

There are so many popular workplace communication platforms available today, each of them offering a range of features to support team collaboration and communication. Here are some of the most popular platforms, along with a brief overview of their key features.


Slack is a cloud-based communication platform that allows teams to communicate and collaborate in real-time. It offers a range of features including direct messaging, group channels, file sharing and integration with other tools. Slack also offers a mobile app for iOS and Android, which makes it easy to stay in contact with the team while on the go. 

Users love Slack’s screen share and video conferencing, claiming it’s quicker than competitors, but they don’t love the lack of customizable backgrounds or the minimal storage capacity on the platform. 

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is a unified communication and collaboration platform that integrates with other Microsoft services, including Exchange, SharePoint and OneDrive. Teams offers real-time messaging, video and audio calls, file sharing and integration with a wide range of other tools and services. 

Microsoft Teams offers benefits like advanced chat features with badges, GIFs and stickers, which always make workplace communications more fun. Also, many companies will not need to make an additional purchase to use Microsoft Teams, as it’s included in Microsoft 365, which they may already have. However, there are some disadvantages to this platform as well, such as limited capability for internal communications, challenging navigation and a complicated search interface. 


The video conferencing platform that exploded during the coronavirus pandemic is still a favorite among businesses across the world. The cloud-based platform allows teams to hold virtual meetings and webinars at no cost, with extra features and unlimited meetings available through subscription. Zoombombs are an unwelcome part of this platform, but virtual backgrounds are a favorite among users, because who doesn’t love attending a work meeting from outer space? 

Google Workspace (formerly G Suite)

Google Workspace is a suite of cloud-based productivity and collaboration tools that includes Gmail, Google Drive and Google Meet. Workspace offers real-time collaboration on documents, spreadsheets and presentations, along with video and audio calling, making it a popular choice for remote teams. The live Docs and Sheets, which can be reviewed, edited and updated by any team member who’s been granted access, make teamwork easy. However, some users complain of integration issues with Google Meet. 


Asana is a project management and team collaboration platform that allows teams to track their work, set and manage tasks and share files. Asana offers integration with other tools and services, as well as a mobile app for iOS and Android. Users find the task calendar to be super-convenient and user-friendly, though some complain that the mobile app is too limited and that too many emails result from use of the product.

Each of these platforms has its strengths and weaknesses, so the right choice for your team will depend on your specific needs and requirements. 

Your Turn: Do you use one of these platforms at work? Tell us what you love about it in the comments.

How do I Choose a Credit Card that Fits my Lifestyle?

Q: I’m looking to open a new credit card, and I’m confused by the options. How can I find a credit card that best fits my lifestyle?

A: There are many types of credit cards. The one that’s best for you depends on your life circumstances as well as your financial habits and goals. Let’s take a quick look at five kinds of credit cards so you can better choose the one that best fits your lifestyle.

  1. Low-interest cards

Low-interest, 0% APR (annual percentage rate), or balance-transfer cards, all offer very little or no interest charges for an introductory period. This period can last as long as 18 months, or even longer. After that, the card’s ongoing APR will kick in on the remaining balance and any ensuing charges. 


  • Pay off debt quicker with the no-/low-interest period
  • Consolidate debts into one monthly payment
  • Qualify even with a low credit score


  • Ongoing APR can be higher than average 
  • Transferring debt to a new card can trigger overspending with the newly available credit
  • There’s no external motivation to pay off debt that’s been transferred to a low-interest card, as credit cards have no end dates, unlike loans. 

Great choice for: consumers looking for a way to consolidate their debt, pay it off quicker and lower their overall interest. 

Not recommended for: consumers who are likely to spend more when having high available credit and who are unlikely to pay off their debt before the introductory period ends. 

  1. Secured credit cards

These credit cards are starter cards requiring the cardholder to make a deposit before they open the line of credit. The card issuer will hold this deposit for a fixed amount of time as collateral in case there’s a missed payment. At the end of this time, which generally runs from eight to 12 months, the card issuer will return the deposit if there is no outstanding balance on the card. The consumer can then close the account and open an unsecured credit card. 


  • No credit history required
  • Impossible to max out and land the consumer in deep debt
  • Great way to build credit for the young and/or unbanked


  • Requires collateral for the full credit limit
  • Minimal credit limit
  • Steep interest rates
  • Annual and other fees are common
  • May not report to all three credit bureaus 

Great choice for: consumers looking to build their credit history from scratch or repair past credit troubles.

Not recommended for: consumers looking for a long-term card with a generous credit limit and favorable terms. 

  1. Low-balance cards

Another starter card, these are intended for new credit card owners who may not have a robust credit history, or none at all. Cardholders will need to prove they pay their bills on time and lead a financially responsible life. The starting credit line will be modest, but using some of the funds and paying the bills on time can be an excellent way to boost a low score.


  • Does not require a strong credit history; may not require one at all
  • Gateway to “real cards”


  • Low starting balance
  • High interest rates

Great choice for: beginner credit card holders with slim credit histories or none at all. 

Not recommended for: consumers with high debt who are looking for more credit from a card with easy eligibility requirements. 

  1. Rewards cards

These credit cards offer the cardholder some kind of reward, such as gas points, cash back or travel points, for every dollar spent. Some cards only reward specific purchases, and most will have limits on the amount of reward points that can be issued per billing cycle. Rewards cards often come with other fringe benefits, such as auto insurance on car rentals, discounted hotel stays and more. 


  • Rewards can be significant 
  • Generous credit limits 


  • Generally require a strong credit history and high credit score
  • Can have complicated rules about rewards, including spending caps, rotating bonus rewards and loyalty tiers
  • Tend to have high annual fee
  • Interest rates can be high

Great choice for: consumers with high credit scores who spend a lot of money on their credit cards each month and are able to pay the balance in full.

Not recommended for: cardholders who will find the rewards system too complicated and own an expensive card without reaping any benefits. 

  1. Retail cards

Retail cards, or store cards, can fall into two categories:

  • Closed loop–can only be used by the associated retailer, like the Target RedCard™.
  • Open loop–sponsored by a retailer and backed by a major credit card network. Can be used anywhere.

These credit cards tend to offer lots of kickback in the form of ongoing discounts, cash back and special promotions. 


  • Many cards offer a sign-up bonus
  • Ongoing discounts


  • Can have smaller credit limits
  • May have steep interest rates
  • Often require high credit scores

Great choice for: Loyal customers of a specific brand who have excellent credit scores.

Not recommended for: the budget-averse shopper, as these cards can become another way to rack up lots of debt.

There are so many choices when it comes to credit cards! Use this guide to help you make the choice that best fits your lifestyle. 

Your Turn: What kind of credit card(s) do you own? Tell us what drove your choices in the comments. 

Is Your Tax Refund Too Big?

Q: I’ve filed my taxes, and I’ll be getting quite a sizable refund this year. I love getting free money in my checking account, but I’ve heard this may not be a good thing. Am I doing something wrong?

A: Everyone loves getting money from the government, but your concerns are absolutely valid. Let’s take a look at why an extra-large tax refund may not be in the taxpayer’s best interests, along with how to lower a refund in the future. 

What’s wrong with a big tax refund?

First, it’s important to note that a tax refund is not “free money” from the government. A tax refund is actually the government’s way of returning the extra money you paid them throughout the year. Essentially, you’ve been lending the government money all year, and they’re now paying up on the loan.

But it gets worse. When you lend the government this money, they return it dollar-for-dollar without paying you any interest. Contrast this to any kind of consumer loan, in which the borrower pays a percentage of interest on every payment they make toward the loan. If you landed a $3,000 tax refund this year, you’ve given the government a $3,000 interest-free loan!

Finally, consider the various ways you could have used these funds this year. The extra padding in your checking account could mean the difference between just making it through the month and having some breathing room in your budget for stress-free money management. If things are extra-tight now – as they are for many – that missing money may have put you over the edge and into debt. You could have been investing that money and watching it grow. Or, maybe you would have put that money toward saving for a short- or long-term goal. Instead, that money went to the IRS, month after month, and it’s just now being returned to you.

How do I know if my tax refund is too large?

The average tax refund for the 2021 filing year was $3,039. If your refund is close to this amount, or it exceeds it, it’s likely too large. Make sure you take steps toward lowering your refund amount for the next tax year so you can put those funds to better use.

However, under specific circumstances, a taxpayer may actually be better off with a bigger refund. For individuals who are unlikely to save any extra money throughout the year and would squander the extra funds, a bigger tax refund might be the better choice. These taxpayers may find it easier to make responsible money choices with a lump sum at year’s end as opposed to smaller sums each month. If you fit into this category, consider keeping your refund on the large side.

How do I lower my tax refund next year?

If you think this year’s tax refund was too large and you want to lower next year’s amount, you’ll need to make some changes now. 

If you’re a salaried worker, ask your employer for a new W-4. Check your withholding amount to see how you can adjust it to have less money withheld each month, and more money in your pocket throughout the year. Claiming more allowances on your W-4 will decrease the amount of money withheld on each paycheck. You may want to speak with an accountant to make the best choices on your form. 

Everyone likes getting free money, especially when it comes from the government. But a large tax refund isn’t free – and it’s usually not good news. Use this guide to learn about why a large tax refund may not be in your best interests, and how to change it going forward. 

Your Turn: Have you voluntarily lowered your tax refund? Tell us about it in the comments. 

Time to Move or Time to Improve? Moving Vs. Home Improvement

Q: My family is growing out of our current home and we’re desperate for more living space. My house can also use a major face-lift. I’m wondering: should I move to a new house, or make some major improvements to my current home?

A: Choosing to move to a new home or to make improvements to your current home is a big decision. The right answer will depend on your general financial situation and other personal circumstances. Here, we’ve outlined the pros and cons of each choice so you can make the decision that is best for you. 

Moving to a new home

For most people, a home is the largest purchase they will make during their lifetime. It can take years to save up for a down payment on a home, and many months of planning and wise decision-making before a home purchase is finalized. 

Pros of moving:

  • Opportunity for a fresh start. You can choose a new location that better suits your needs, such as a superior school district, proximity to family or work or a more desirable community.
  • More living space. This is especially beneficial if you have a growing family or want to add more amenities to your home, such as a home office, designated playroom or gym.
  • Potential for appreciation. If you buy a home in an area that is experiencing growth, your property value may increase over time, resulting in a return on your investment.
  • No dealing with renovations. If you purchase a home that’s already in move-in condition, you won’t have to deal with the headache of renovations at all. 

Cons of moving:

  • Exorbitant upfront costs. Moving to a new home doesn’t come cheaply. You’ll need to spring for closing costs, a down payment, the actual move and for any new furniture you may need to purchase for your new residence. Selling your current home will also cost you in renovations, agent fees and title insurance.
  • Emotional attachment to your home. Did your son take his first steps in the kitchen of your current home? Did your dog have her puppies in the garage?  If you’ve been living in this home for many years and it holds lots of happy memories, you may be reluctant to leave. 
  • Difficulty finding the perfect home. You may need to settle for a home that is less than perfect in many ways. That may end in more stress and regret.
  • Stress of selling your home. The housing market is unpredictable, and you may not be able to sell your current home for the desired price. Of course, if you don’t own your current home, this does not apply to you.
  • Potentially higher interest rate on your mortgage. If rates have increased since you bought or refinanced your current home, or your credit score has slid, you may end up with a higher interest rate on your new mortgage. That could mean paying much more over the long run.

Questions to ask before deciding to move

Before you go ahead with the decision to move to a new home, ask yourself these questions: 

  • What are the market conditions like in my current neighborhood? Will I be able to get my asking price on my home within a short amount of time?
  • What are the market conditions like in my desired neighborhood, and how are they trending? Will I be able to find a home that suits my needs and is within my price range?
  • Do I have enough money saved up to pay for the move? Will I need to wait until I sell my home or take out a bridge loan to cover the gap?
  • Is this a good time for my family to move?

Improving your current home

Now, let’s take a look at the option of improving your current home with a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC). A HELOC gives you quick access to cash by using your home as collateral. You can withdraw the funds, as needed, over a period of time known as the draw period. When this time is over, you’ll no longer be able to advance funds and will repay the loan, with interest, over the repayment period.

You can also take out a Home Equity Loan (HEL), which will provide you with one lump sum, generally at a fixed rate and payment, and you start paying back immediately. 

Pros of improving your home:

  • Completely customize to fit your needs. When you design your own home, you can have it customized to perfectly suit your family’s needs and your own tastes. Think trampoline floors in the playroom and built-in bookshelves in the family room.
  • No stress of relocating. When you renovate your home, you can continue to enjoy the same home and neighborhood you’ve lived in for years. 
  • Increase the value of your home. Home improvement projects increase your home’s value, increasing your net profit when you do decide to sell in the future. 
  • Save on moving costs. Why pay thousands of dollars in closing and moving costs when you can have a beautiful new living room for the same price?

Cons of improving your home:

  • Stress of renovations. Dealing with a home improvement project can be super-stressful. There are loads of decisions to make, an endless mess and workers in your home at all hours of the day. 
  • Risk of foreclosure. Taking out a HELOC or HEL puts your home at risk of foreclosure if you are unable to make the payments. This can have long-term consequences on your credit score and financial stability.
  • Additional debt. A HELOC or HEL adds another debt to pay each month, which can be a burden on your budget. 

Questions to ask before deciding to improve your home

Before you go ahead with the decision to improve your current home, ask yourself these questions: 

  • Can I afford the monthly payments on a HELOC?
  • How much will a home improvement project cost me?
  • Will I be able to handle living in a construction zone?
  • Do I want to continue living in this neighborhood?

Your Turn: Have you chosen to move or to improve? Tell us what drove your choice in the comments. 

Affordable Sustainability 2 of 12-Going Organic on a Budget

Going organic is a great way to improve your personal health and the health of the environment. By choosing organic products, you can help reduce the amount of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers that are used in the farming and harvesting of food products, which can have devastating effects on the soil, water and air. 

Fortunately, going organic does not have to mean spending big. Here’s how to go organic on a budget.

Prioritize your purchases 

If you’re on a strict budget, you likely won’t be able to go completely organic all at once. Choose what’s most important to you, and start there. For example, you can choose to buy organic produce, but opt to continue using non-organic cleaning products. Eventually, when you’ve found ways to work new expenses into your budget, you can move on to another area until you’ve completely embraced the organic lifestyle.

Buy in bulk

Purchasing products in bulk can often save money, and this is especially true for organic products. Look for bulk bins at your local natural grocery store for steep savings on all things organic. You can also consider joining a club store to get discounted prices on organic products in large quantities. If you can’t finish all your bulk organic purchases before they go bad, you can always partner with a friend and split the costs.                                                             

Shop the seasons

In-season produce generally tastes better than off-season fruits and vegetables, and it’s cheaper, too. Choosing organic produce that grows locally while it’s in season locally can significantly bring down your grocery bill, even after going organic. A quick Google search can tell you what’s currently in season in your area of the country.

Grow your own

If you have the time and space, consider growing your own organic greens and herbs. You’ll enjoy the unique satisfaction that comes from growing, harvesting and eating your own foods, and you’ll have access to inexpensive organic produce that’s fresh and ready to eat. 

Shop the farmers market

Your local farmers market is a great place to find fresh, locally grown organic produce at affordable prices. You’ll find organic meat, dairy and other products at the farmers markets while supporting local farms.

Stalk your favorite organic brands on social media

Brands will often alert their followers to fantastic deals and discounts that may otherwise be missed. As soon as you find an organic food brand you love, follow it on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. If it has a newsletter, sign up for it. Ask to be included in promotional emails and text message alerts, too. This way, you’ll never miss a sale.

Look for store brands

Lots of grocery stores, like Target and Trader Joe’s, now offer their own line of organic products. These tend to be a lot cheaper than companies that are not affiliated with a specific store. Just remember to read all ingredients carefully when shopping store brands to ensure you’re actually getting what you believe you’re buying.

Buy frozen or canned food products

Frozen and canned organic products can be a more budget-friendly option than their fresh counterparts. These have an almost infinite shelf life as well, so it’s a good idea to stock up and save these goodies in your freezer and pantry.

Shop smart

Finally, follow the basic rules for smart shopping to save on your organic purchases. Plan your menu around the sales, and always shop with a list. Take a smaller cart, or even a basket if you can swing it, and if you always find yourself blowing your budget at the grocery, shop with cash. 

By following these tips, you can make the switch to an organic lifestyle without breaking the bank. While it may require some planning, the benefits for both your personal health and the environment make it well worth it.

Your Turn: Have you gone organic and done so on a budget? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

5 Ways to Communicate More Effectively at Work

Knowing how to effectively communicate with your coworkers is essential for ongoing success. Effective communication helps reduce misunderstandings, fosters a positive workplace vibe, encourages productive collaboration and helps prepare team members for challenging situations the company may experience. Here are five ways to communicate more effectively at work.

Be clear and concise

The fewer words you use to communicate, the better. Try to keep your written and verbal communications while at work as short and direct as possible. This is not the time to show off your high-level vocabulary. Use simple, clear language, avoid technical terms and keep it brief for more effective communication. 

Actively listen 

In our screen-addicted world, active listening is a lost art. Be the team member who is known to really listen and pay close attention to the message someone is sharing. When a coworker is talking to you, or you’re reading an email from a colleague, don’t do anything else. Try to hear them out without jumping in to offer your own solutions or an outrageous story that tops theirs. Listen, validate, ask clarifying questions and then respond.

Watch your body language

Effective communication isn’t only about what you say – it’s also how you say it. Your body language speaks volumes; when communicating with coworkers, make sure it’s sending the same message as your words. Avoid crossing your arms or tapping your foot. Both behaviors communicate impatience and an eagerness for the conversation to end. Make sure you’re facing the person you’re speaking with and maintain eye contact throughout the conversation. Try to relax your facial muscles so you don’t look angry or tense, even if you’re feeling particularly stressed at the time. Positive body language can help keep the conversation smooth and productive for everyone.

There’s an app for that

While there’s no tech that can replace a face-to-face conversation, a communication app can help team members share workplace updates and developments in real-time. Apps like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Asana and Google Hangouts offer features like chat rooms, video and audio calls, task management and more.

Upgrade your emails

Most people shoot out emails mindlessly throughout the workday. Follow these tips to ensure you’re hitting all the right bases with your online missives:

  • Write descriptive subject lines. This will grab the attention of the recipient and let them know you aren’t wasting their time. 
  • Start with a great greeting. According to a survey from Perkbox, the most popular email greeting lines are “Hi,” “Hello” and “Good morning/afternoon”. The most annoying? Overly pompous greetings like “To Whom it May Concern”.
  • Break up your text to make it more readable. Use bullet points, numbered lists and paragraph breaks to keep the text flowing.
  • Don’t bury the lead. Make sure the most important point of your email isn’t buried at the end of a long paragraph the recipient may not even read. 
  • Sign off politely. End with a “Thanks” or “Have a great day”.

Effective communication makes the nine-to-five life smoother and more productive. Use these tips to improve your workplace communication.

Your Turn: Are you an effective communicator at work? Or are you still a work in progress. Share your best tips and experiences in the comments.

Tax Tips 2023

Tax season is here again! Before you start stressing over those forms, though, read this guide for what you need to know about filing taxes in 2023. 

Dates to know

Take a note of these important dates as you start preparing your 2022 taxes.

  • The tax filing deadline is April 18, 2023.
  • The extension deadline is Oct. 16, 2023. 

Make sure you have all the forms and information you need well in advance so you can get your return filed in time. 

Changes to the tax code

Here are some important tax code changes to note as you prepare to file.

  • Changes to the income tax brackets. The income ranges for each of the seven tax brackets have increased to account for inflation. Visit to ensure you’re filing correctly.
  • Increase in the standard deduction. The 2022 standard deduction increased to $12,950 for single filers, $19,400 for single heads of household and to $25,900 for married couples filing jointly.
  • Decrease in charitable deductions. The deductions for gifts and donations to public  charities in 2022 are limited to 30% of Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) for contributions of non-cash assets if held for more than one year, and to 60% of AGI for cash contributions.
  • Increase in Health Savings Account (HSA) contributions. For 2022, the maximum you can contribute to an HSA is $3,650 for an individual and $7,300 for a family. Individuals age 55 and over can contribute an additional $1,000. 
  • Decrease in the Child Tax Credit. Tax credits, which decrease your tax liability dollar for dollar, are more desirable than tax deductions. The Child Tax Credit was temporarily bumped up in 2021 as part of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). In 2022, the credit returns to $2,000 for children aged 16 and younger. The credit phases out at an AGI of $400,000 for joint filers and $200,000 for single filers. For other qualified dependents, you can claim a $500 credit. 
  • Decrease in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC returns to $500 for eligible taxpayers with no children. 
  • Decrease in the Child and Dependent Care Credit. In contrast to the $8,000 credit of 2021, the Child and Dependent Care Credit returns to a maximum of $2,100 in 2022. 
  • Increase in estate tax exemption. This exemption, indexed to inflation, increases to $12.06 million for 2022.
  • Increase in the annual gift exclusion. In 2022, you can give money to your loved ones without incurring tax liability, or use up any of your lifetime estate and gift tax exemption, up to $16,000 per recipient (up $1,000 from 2021).

Tax code information to know

Other parts of the tax code that are important to know and haven’t changed much for 2022 include the following:

  • Itemized deductions-for most filers, it makes more sense and is simpler to take the higher standard deduction. However, if you have lots of tax-deductible expenses, you may benefit from itemizing your deductions. 
  • State and local taxes-deduction for state and local income taxes, property taxes and real estate taxes is capped at $10,000.
  • Mortgage interest deduction-the mortgage interest deduction is limited to $750,000 of debt. However, people who had $1,000,000 of home mortgage debt before Dec. 16, 2017 will still be able to deduct the interest on that loan.
  • Medical expenses-only medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of AGI can be deducted in 2022.
  • Miscellaneous deductions-no miscellaneous itemized deductions are allowed.

Retirement contributions

Don’t forget to maximize your retirement contributions for 2022:

  • The deduction limit for 401(k) contributions for 2022 is $20,500, or $27,000 if you’re over the age of 50. 
  • The maximum tax deductible contributions for IRAs is $6,000, or $7,000 if you’re over the age of 50.

Tax time can be stressful, but you don’t have to go it alone. Use this guide for a smooth, stress-free tax season.

Your Turn: Have you already filed your tax return? Share your best tips with us in the comments.