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They say money can't buy happiness -- but they're totally wrong. First of all, on a log scale, more money does mean more happiness:
Second, psychology research shows that money spent on experiences and stress-reducing, time-saving conveniences (like takeout, cleaning services, etc.) increase happiness and decrease stress.
That's why, despite recent advice (Next Time You Feel Like Shopping, Clean Out Your Closet, Instead), I wanted to share a few recent purchases that have fueled playfulness, health, and safety this summer.
1. POLARIZED sunglasses.
If your sunglasses are not polarized, you're doing it wrong.
While polarized glasses don't offer additional UV protection, their ability to eliminate or reduce glare will make you a better driver (I've literally seen people disappear behind the windshield's glare when I removed my polarized sunglasses – scary!) and lifeguard (I was a lifeguard for two summers in high school, and both pools required me to wear polarized sunglasses while on duty)...
Not only will they reduce the number of new wrinkles you get from squinting...
But they will also increase your enjoyment of water activities.
For example, on a recent paddleboarding expedition:
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I was able to see all the way to the bottom of the lake. I saw frogs, turtles, carp, bass, crappies, and an assortment of underwater plant life – but only when I had my polarized glasses on. Without them, all I saw was bright, blinding light bouncing off the water.
Similarly, last fall, I standing on the boardwalk in Tahoe's Taylor Creek Park, I was gushing about the hundreds of spawning salmon in the water below me. The guy I was with said, "What salmon?"
And a few years back, during an epic road trip to Yellowstone National Park, I couldn't believe how much more detail I could see in the geology and hot springs once I upgraded from regular to polarized lenses.
If you haven't upgraded yet, you're overdue.
I'm currently on my fourth pair of MOTINE Oversized Women's Polarized Fashion Sunglasses UV400, $12.66:
These are polarized, cheap, and oversized, conferring extra sun protection to the skin around my eyes. I also like how they curve, which prevents light from blaring in through the sides as it would if I wore aviators or another design. Not to post a gratuitous booty shot, but you can really see what I mean in this photo:
(I was attempting my first Drinking Bird pose, in honor of the arrival of my Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America.)
No light was sneaking in through the side of these babies!
HOWEVER. I also invested in two pairs of prescription sunglasses this summer. I thought I could see the world perfectly well without a prescription – but everything is crisper and more amazing with even just a slight correction. I used Zenni, which offers prescription glasses and sunglasses for as low as $7, but many of my friends swear by Warby Parker, which lets you try five frames at home for free.
I haven't been able to find any prescription glasses that curve like my Motines, so I just pick the glasses that I think will be best for the activity and time of day (when the sun is overhead, the wrap matters less than earlier or later in the day).
2. Sun protection scarf for arms.
I know this sounds silly, but hear me out.
Summer is a time for epic (and mini) road trips – especially during a pandemic, when other modes of travel are still unsafe, and social distancing remains crucial.
We all know the summer sun is hot, yet many of us don't wear sunscreen in the car. After all, it's unlikely you'll get sunburned if you have your windows up. Why? Automobiles have laminated windshields that protect from both UVA and UVB rays. However, the rear and side windows are usually made of tempered glass which doesn't protect against UVA rays.
While UVA rays don't cause sunburns (that's a UVB thing), they penetrate the skin more deeply and are known to cause skin aging and skin cancer.
Need proof? Check out this photo of truck driver Bill McElligot, whose face clearly shows why sun protection in the car is important.
I'm serious about my sun protection. If I'm doing a long drive, I almost always cover my arms and legs. But if I'm just making a quick drive to the lake, or if I forget to wear long sleeves, I love having my arm scarf thingie. It was a random impulse buy on Amazon ($12 for two pairs) after a recent bike crash that left road rash all over my left arm. (Sun exposure + wound = worse scarring.)
There's no buyer's remorse here – I just wish I'd found these sooner. They're lightweight and cool, super quick to put on and take off, and come in a cute little bag that I can keep on the dashboard or center console.
3. AC outlet portable charger.
It's really convenient to have a portable battery charger for cell phones, and I definitely have a small collection of those.
But having an AC charger has been a big game changer for summer 2020. I'm going all my work remotely now, and the longer my laptop stays charged, the longer I can work from my lakeside "office."
The one I have is no longer available, but when I searched on Amazon, I saw comparable products for $88-$110. Just make sure it has three prongs if your laptop charger requires three prongs, and you probably want a few USB ports, so you can charge other electronics (your hotspot, your phone, your bug zapper, etc.) simultaneously.
My "coworkers," Redgie and Enzo, are eternally grateful for this wonderful innovation.
4. Portable bug zapper.
Here's the thing about having an outdoor, lakeside office:
The light from your laptop is going to attract bugs.
While I'm still bugged from time to time, sitting beside a bug zapper has greatly reduced this problem. I accidentally ordered one that doesn't have a battery, so I always need to bring the portable charger to plug it in. If you don't want to carry around extra cables and electronics, make sure you get one with a battery. None of the zappers I saw on Amazon had GREAT reviews (most were in the 3- to 4-star range), so it might be worth considering buying locally.
The full set-up on any given "lake office" day: laptop, Pinky Up Coconut and Lemongrass herbal tea; water; DEET bug spray; a bug zapper; a Luci lantern, long sleeves, pants, and socks; polarized sunglasses; phone/hotspot charger; and, of course, a Chuckit.
5. Chenin blanc.
Normally, the lake where I spend the most time in the summer is Cayuga, in Upstate New York. And you know what they say: when in Ovid, do as the Ovidians do.
That would be riesling.
Pour plaisirs, pour plaisirs! Checking out Toro Winery; other favorites are Hosmer, Thirsty Owl, Americana, and Buttonwood Grove -- but, of course, you won't want to miss Myer Farm Distillery, where you can compare corn vs. wheat whiskey, ginger vs. lavender vodka, gold barrel gin, and so much more. And obviously, you'll want to hot air balloon over the lake and the gorges.
My travel plans were interrupted this summer, meaning no Cayuga Lake Wine Trail... but through my Naked Wines membership (they convinced me to join through one of their $100 off your first order campaigns... but I've been really happy with it and continue ordering every month), I discovered a new favorite: chenin blanc.
Described as having kind of a honey limestone flavor, this varietal has an awesome body and a playful spirit. Even if you prefer reds – or hate whites! – you might still fall in love. It's produced in only four places: South Africa (though they tend to do a lot of new oak aging, which can crush the spirit a little), France, USA, and Argentina. Color and fruit characteristics and sweetness vary dramatically depending on terroir, as well as how long the winemaker lets it ripen.
I started with the Miriam Alexander California Chenin Blanc 2019 by Alexandra Farber (and I was super stoked that my new fave was crafted by a female winemaker), and am excited to continue my chenin blanc journey.
6. BSeen Glow Collar.
I've talked about this before. But I continue to feel grateful for this on a nightly basis, so I'll talk about it again.
I love being outside at night – whether night hiking, jogging, playing guitar, camping, or working at my lakeside office by moonlight. And the only "people" who enjoy being outside more than me... are the dogs.
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But it's hard to focus on my work if I can't see where the dogs are, and it's less fun to be out if I'm worried the dogs aren't visible to vehicles.
Which is why my my BSeen LED Glowing Pet Collars are the best $10 I've ever spent.
They're super bright, waterproof, and rechargeable.
No other $10 product has decreased my stress and increased my enjoyment more than the glow collar.
And no matter how many times I use it, it still makes me chuckle. It's like many-a-passerby have said to me:
"Your dog looks like it escaped from a rave!"
Yes, small amounts of well-spent money can buy unexpectedly large amounts of happiness – though one thing it can't buy is a good attitude. Your summer is likely not going as planned. There have likely been some major disappointments and stressful news events. A lot of whether you can have a happy, healthy, and enjoyable summer is going to come directly from your willingness to do so.
For tips on how to overcome rumination and practice cognitive reframing, check out:
Have a great summer!
About the Author
Eva is a content specialist with a passion for play, travel... and a little bit of girl power. Read more >
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