Merging Finances: Three Questions to Consider

Whether you’re moving in together or getting married, there aren’t many aspects of coupling up that can be as contentious as the merging—or not merging—of finances. There’s no right way to navigate these waters, but it can be tricky to figure out the right balance for your relationship. And while we can’t tell you exactly how to strike that balance, we can offer a list of things to think about while you’re working on it. Here are three key considerations to make when merging finances with your partner.

Ownership.

This can mean ownership of physical items, like real estate and cars, but it can also mean ownership of debt or bills, like college loans or monthly utilities. You might choose to combine all assets into joint bank accounts or keep separate accounts and divvy up the bills. No matter what you decide, it’s important to discuss it all up front so there are no unwelcome surprises, like an avoidable past-due payment.

Spending versus saving.

While you might like to save every extra penny for a rainy day, your partner may prefer to spend those pennies on travel or dining out. If you have opposite approaches to spending, you’ll need to learn to meet in the middle. It can take some time to get used to someone else’s financial habits. Give yourself—and your partner—grace during the adjustment period.

Financial goals.

While it’s important to set expectations and boundaries for day-to-day finances, don’t forget the big picture. Where do you see yourself financially in 10 years? Forty years? Financial planning isn’t just about retirement. Whether you would like to buy a property, remodel an existing one, start your own business, or just have more financial freedom, you’ll get farther in your goals if your partner is on the same page. Don’t be afraid to dream a little, as long as you are dreaming together.

There are no right answers when it comes to merging finances, but communication is key. Start your financial life together on the right foot by having the important conversations early. Your relationship will be better off for it.

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Four Date Night Ideas for Four Different Types of Couples

If you are a resident of Chicagoland, consider yourself lucky! You are in no shortage of fun places to visit. Today, we’ve put a list together of four places guaranteed to make you belly laugh. Because isn’t the whole idea of a double date to be able to let loose and have fun? So, scroll on down and set a date. We promise this will be nothing but fun! Here are four date night ideas for four different types of couples!

For the “Cool” Couples

TRY: KRYPTON VR VIRTUAL REALITY LOUNGE

Escape rooms are so last season. Chicago’s First Virtual Reality Lounge literally helps you lunge into a whole new world! There are tons of virtual realities to choose from, including “flying anywhere in the world”. This is the perfect blend of getting out of the house, having a ton of fun with friends and experiencing something new. Bonus: Its BYOB. Check out their website for more info.

For the “Good Time” Couples  

TRY: LINCOLN KARAOKE

If you prefer non-intimidating looking places, an eclectic mix of people and are out to let lose… you can’t go wrong with this “hole in the wall” karaoke bar. With a solid 4-star rating and over 400 reviews, you can rest assure you are leaving this place with some fun memories. Bonus: they offer Happy hours with 50% off private rooms. You can check out their website here for reservation info.

For the “Daring” Couples 

TRY: WATERIDERS

Listen, we know there are some things that sound really fun to do and you always say you’re gonna do them, but then life happens, and you end up missing out. Don’t miss out on this! a guaranteed unique experience, this is a memory completely worth making with friends. Check out their pricing and rules here but trust us, don’t overthink this whole new way to see Chicago. 

For the “WINNER” Couples

TRY: PINSTRIPES

If you’re into friendly competitions and the words “sophisticated fun” sound like your kind of thing then look no further than Pinstripes. Starting at only $5 per person, drool-worthy dinners and an impressive bar menu, this place is a total no brainer choice for a double date night. You can eat, you can drink and you can Bowl. Bonus: There’s Bocce. Check out their website here.

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In Search of the Elusive Work-Life Balance: 4 Calls to Action

With many people still working from home these days, the line between work and off-hours has the potential to become blurry. But even if you’re in the office, it’s incredibly easy to stay at work too late, bring work home with you, and work when you should be recharging. The work ethic that drives the American dream is still noble and good—but as with anything, you can have too much of a good thing. So you need to know when and how to lift your nose from that grindstone to create a better work-life balance.

If you find that you’re always tired and run-down, or that you get sick often, or that you’re constantly turning down opportunities to spend time with loved ones due to work, then you’re probably working too hard.

Is this you? Take a step back, examine your life, and consider whether the following tips might help:

Set limits on your work.

This could be a commitment to coming home on time every day, or a daily or weekly limit on the amount of time you spend doing work-related things outside of normal working hours.

Say no.

Be realistic about what you can accomplish during the time you’ve allotted. Don’t take on extra tasks that you don’t have time for. It’s better to do the necessary tasks very well, than spread yourself too thin and do everything poorly—or end up sick in bed as a result of stress.

Set expectations.

If you’re really overloaded because your employer expects too much, it’s time to push back and set reasonable expectations. Take control of your work life and your health because no one else is going to do it for you.

Set aside time to relax.

This means different things to different people. Maybe you would love nothing more than to sleep in and do nothing on Saturday. Maybe you’d rather join a sports league or taking up knitting. Whatever it is, build that recharge time into your schedule and stick to it.

A healthy work-life balance requires a delicate balancing act and periodic recalibration. Check in with yourself occasionally to reevaluate and make sure you’re maintaining it. With summer just around the corner, there’s no better time to make sure you’re in a position to make the best of it. And you can’t do that when you’re overloaded with work.

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Work-Life Balance: A Personal Lookback

After graduating last May, I started my big girl job in the big city! I went in bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, but I soon came across something for which I was not prepared: just how hard it is to maintain a work-life balance in the winter. Between the snow, the wind, and the sun setting in the middle of the afternoon, finding the motivation to do anything productive is HARD. This is especially harder for those in relationships, as the lack of excitement can leave the relationship feeling like hitting a wall. After navigating this phenomenon for the past few months, I want to share with you two ways to maintain a work-life balance with a partner in the wintertime!

Cook with friends!

I don’t know about you, but once I’m home, all I want to do is take a warm bath, put on my PJs, curl up on the couch with a big bowl of popcorn, and binge-watch Netflix. However, after a few days of this with a partner, it starts to feel like we’re in a rut. Luckily, there are so many activities couples can do indoors to keep the spark alive. One way to do this is to use websites and apps in which you pick a meal and the company sends you the ingredients needed to make that meal! After you find your best couple friends using Couplr, cooking together is a great way to try something new, while growing the friendship between the couples!

Practice self-care!

The other side of the work-life balance coin is taking the time to practice self-care. Some of my favorite solo self-care activities include reading and journaling. As a couple, we take this time to talk through the relationship. A great way to do this is saying things we love about the relationship, as well as things we can do to improve together. Having these conversations is so important to keeping the relationship prosperous.

 

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Three Things to Discuss Before Having Kids

If you want to have children, chances are you have already discussed this with your spouse. That’s important. For many people, having kids—or not having kids—is a relationship deal-breaker. But when your first bundle of joy arrives, so do brand-new friction points that can stress your relationship. This is completely normal—having a child is a huge, life-changing event that requires adjustment. And it’s definitely not possible to discuss everything with your spouse before the baby is born. But if you can get on the same page with your partner in a few key places, you’ll enter parenthood with a better idea of what to expect, and be better equipped to weather the inevitable storms that will come. Prepare by agreeing on a few different topics before having kids. Three big ones are reviewed here. 

Medical philosophy

Depending on your mindset, the topic of vaccines for your baby can be polarizing. But whether you choose to vaccinate on schedule or go another route, you should definitely make sure you and your spouse are in agreement before your baby is born. In those early days, the shot schedule is fast and furious, so having a plan in place will help reduce friction and stress.

Co-sleeping

Some parents prefer to co-sleep with their children for years. This can be easier for mom if she’s nursing and provide a sense of closeness that the whole family enjoys. But it can also disrupt sleep and cause fathers to feel distant from their partners. Like many aspects of parenting, co-sleeping is something that you can’t truly form an opinion on until baby comes. But it’s still a good idea to have some idea of how you and your partner feel about it before you become parents.

Discipline

I know. You’re wondering why we’re talking about discipline for a newborn who can’t do anything independently except cry and poop. But that tiny tot won’t stay tiny forever. At some point you will find yourself having to set boundaries, and mete out the consequences when your child crosses them. Discuss appropriate forms of discipline with your spouse to get an idea of where you each stand.

You can’t plan for everything, and nowhere is that more true than when it comes to having kids. Above all, parenting teaches us to be flexible. But taking the time to discuss key aspects of child-rearing with your spouse before having kids is never a bad idea. It will help you find common ground, and you will likely become closer in the process.

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Adulting: Three Little Habits that Have a Big Impact

After years in the nest, setting out on your own is exhilarating—and maybe a little daunting. Sometimes it can take years to feel as adult as you appear on the outside. Whether you’re 21, 25, in your thirties (or older!), you still may not feel as though you’ve got everything figured out. That’s ok. It’s normal. And most of us feel that way at some time or another. But there are some effective, and simple, ways to take the reins and feel like you’re in control of your life. These are habits that are useful for all of us, no matter what stage we’re in. But they are particularly relevant in that transitory period after you’ve completed your education and are ready to set out on your own. Here are three little habits that have a big impact:

Live within your means

When you are finally making a living for yourself, especially if you’ve been a poor student in the recent past, it can be so tempting to go nuts spending money. You earned it, and you’re in charge now. But it’s crucial to make sure you’re not spending more than you make. It’s also important to make a habit of saving. 

Some sources say you should save 20% of your after-tax income. If you can’t, commit to a smaller amount that you can put away each month. When an emergency hits, you’ll be glad you have a nest egg. And you’ll be more confident in your ability to weather life’s ups and downs when you have a safety cushion. 

Pull yourself together

You don’t have to put on a suit, or full makeup and heels, but you do need to groom yourself and get dressed. Every day. If you’re a recent college graduate, maybe you have been used to going to class in your sweats. Pandemic Zoom life also got everyone comfortable being a little sloppier than normal. But pulling yourself together on the outside helps you feel put-together on the inside. It’s a habit that’s worth cultivating.

Get enough sleep

This is easy for some people and really dang difficult for others. You know which you are. If you’re still staying up late just because there’s no one around to tell you to go to sleep, stop. There are tons of benefits to getting enough sleep, including better productivity, minimizing health risks like heart disease and diabetes, staving off depression, and improving your immunity, just for starters. Plus, you just feel better when you’re well rested. That episode can wait until tomorrow night, so go to bed!

 

These three little habits are small, but they have a big impact that extends into other areas of your life. Pick one and start working on it today. You won’t regret it.

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Fixer Upper: 4 Easy Home Improvement Projects

Summer is upon us, pandemic restrictions have eased, and hopefully you will find yourself with a little free time on your hands. But summer isn’t just a great time to enjoy being outside. The more relaxed pace makes this season a good time to tackle small home improvement projects around the house that can have a big impact.

From improving an unsightly corner of your home to upgrading a room, here are four ideas for easy summer projects that will invigorate and inspire you to flex your DIY muscle.

Give your half bath a facelift.

Changing the whole look of your guest bathroom can be as easy as replacing the mirror with a statement piece and adding a rug or new hand towels. If you’re willing to put in a little more work, consider a new paint job. Half bathrooms are typically small enough that it doesn’t take long—or much paint—to repaint the whole thing. The small wall area also means that you can experiment with bolder colors than you’d choose for a larger room. Try a deep copper or a vivid plum—or create a statement wall with stencils or wallpaper.

Reorganize a closet.

Warning: This project is addictive. Once you’ve redone one closet, you may want to do all of them. Making over a closet can be as simple as purging items you no longer need and reorganizing the ones you choose to keep. Or you can remove closet doors, install new hardware or turn an unused storage space into a fun office or reading nook.

Create a mudroom.

The entry of a house or apartment can be the hardest area to keep organized. You can help bring order to this space—and the rest of your home—with some clever organizational wizardry. Try removable self-adhesive hooks on a wall near your front door, with a boot tray or small shoe rack underneath. Having a place to keep your stuff will motivate you to put it away, and make it easier to find when you are trying to get out the door in a hurry.

Organize a collection.

Whether we’re talking purses, baseball caps, scarves, or ties, it can be difficult to keep a collection of items organized. If space is at a premium, try displaying them as art in a hallway. Or utilize the underused space on the back of a bedroom door. You can store purses or belts in a repurposed wall file organizer, or install decorative hooks for scarves and hats. Best yet, collect it all for donation!

A home improvement project like one of these is the perfect summer pastime. Happy DIYing!

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Resilience: The Secret Upside to 2020

Resilience: The Secret Upside to 2020

The good news about the dumpster fire that was 2020 is that we’ve got nowhere to go but up in 2021. At least, that’s what we’re telling ourselves. But as the new year begins, we think it’s time for some introspection and some virtual pats on the back. The catastrophic year is finally over, and you’ve lived to tell the tale. And in the process, you’ve developed more resilience.

That’s amazing.

And it’s something that you shouldn’t take for granted. Because it turns out, resilience is a trait that is developed, not inherited. 

According to this 2012 article from the American Psychological Association (APA), resilience is born of a combination of thoughts and actions that anyone can learn. And you can strengthen your ability to weather difficulty by:

  • building and maintaining strong connections,
  • taking care of yourself,
  • finding a motivating purpose, 
  • staying positive, and
  • seeking professional help if and when you need it.

We were pretty gratified to read this list, because most of these bullet points are things we’ve already talked about on our blog throughout 2020. We have tried to bring you tiny rays of hope and sunshine through our posts by talking about socializing remotely, the importance of self-care, staying sane by helping others, and challenging yourself to practice gratitude

It turns out, these ideas aren’t just for getting you through a hard day or week.  They actually prime you to build resilience for the long-term.

Building resilience is like building a muscle. It requires pain, sweat and time, and the process of getting there can be a drag. But in the end, it makes you stronger and more powerful. And that’s something that will serve us all well, in 2021 and beyond.

Here’s to a positive and productive new year wherein each of us becomes stronger and more resilient. Happy New Year!

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Double couple competition: How to put on a cooking challenge evening

Modern Solutions for Modern Problems: Double Date Ideas, from the team at Couplr

Double Date Ideas, from the team at Couplr

Double date ideasIf you’re like most long-term couples, you are probably well past the honeymoon phase of your relationship. Thus, you have likely experienced the unavoidable “married life” rut. The good news is there are many ways to keep it alive and thriving, with one of them being…you guessed it! Double Dating.

According to a study in Science Daily, double dating can be a great way to reignite passion for your significant other. Having another couple to share personal details with has been proven to help make you feel closer to your partner.

Let’s face it, passion is one of the first things to go in a long-term relationship. It takes a lot of work to keep the passion train going. Not surprisingly, the antidote to breaking that “dry spell” is introducing new options.

So how exactly can you strengthen the bond with your partner via double dating? Glad you asked. See below for two expert tips.

Indoor Double Date Ideas

Play the question game

This tactic has the power to solidify a couple’s unity and increase partners’ attraction to one another. On your next date night, ask everyone in your group questions like, “Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?” or “If you could go back in your life and change any one experience, what would it be and why?”. If you would rather stick to small talk, you can try questions like “When was the last time you walked for more than an hour?”.

Get Out

The typical couple spends their free time “staying in”, which can get pretty boring. Setting the commitment and feeling the pressure to make a “night out” worthwhile pushes you to try things outside of your comfort zone. Most of the time, it ends with you having a genuinely good time. Not only will you get to reconnect with old friends or make new ones, but it may be good for your relationship!

Introducing new experiences with another couple does not only break the every-day mold. Such interactions have been proven to help us perceive our relationship in a whole new light. While most of our day-to-day interactions are now online, our double dating life doesn’t need to be. Oftentimes, couples may want to hang out with others, but they run into decision-making fatigue and are not quite sure what to do. So here are some suggestions!

Put together a cooking challenge at your home!

Double couple competition, double date ideasIf you and your couple friends are foodies, or just enjoy watching any of the myriad cooking shows on television these days, why not throw a mystery ingredient cooking challenge party?

Cooking challenge shows vary in their rules and complexity, so if there is a particular program that you love, feel free to adapt it to your liking. The plan laid out below allows for some friendly competition for a group of four. If you prefer your competition a little more cutthroat, invite a few more friends over to serve as judges.

The rules

Each person is responsible for one dish: appetizer, entrée, side dish, dessert. Depending on the size and functionality of your kitchen, you can either all cook at the same time, two at a time, or one at a time.

The catch

Each individual will need to use a provided set of mystery ingredients to make their dish. You and your friends can decide how best to do this – will one person do all the shopping, or will each person create a mystery ingredient bag for a particular course?

To keep it fun and manageable for everyone, don’t make your mystery ingredients too outlandish, or too disparate. A combination of shrimp, navel oranges, cocoa powder, and bok choy? Challenging, but doable. Rocky road ice cream, anchovies, turnips, and eggs? Maybe not so much.

Tips for success

Engaging with Other CouplesMake sure your kitchen is well-stocked.  You’ll want a good selection of cookware as well as butter, oil, salt, pepper, and spices. You may want to have staples on hand like Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, flour, cornstarch, and lemons. The more you have to work with, the more creative you can be! And don’t forget to plan for some fun cocktails or mocktails. You’ll need something to wash down the culinary masterpieces!

Don’t forget to plate your dishes – after all, cooking show judges never fail to penalize bad presentation.  Then sit down and enjoy the fruits of your labors while you make your critiques (gently, now!). Since this is all for fun, the losers need not pack their knives and go. But you might want to make them do the dishes!

Play a new (board) game!

There’s ALWAYS a new game on the market you’ve been wanting to try. Why not now? When else do you have countless hours on your hands to actually experiment with a new game?! Find it online, order it, and spend a few hours learning how to play it. Who knows – maybe you’ll become masters at it! Here are some fun games to play with multiple people:

    1. Apples to Apples
    2. Cards Against Humanity
    3. What do you Meme?
    4. Settlers of Catan
    5. Monopoly
    6. Clue
    7. Code Names
    8. Charades
    9. Pictionary
    10. Never Have I Ever

board game

Host a movie night!

We’ve all got that never-ending “to-watch” list. Sometimes, watching them with others is more fun than watching them alone! We’re sure that every couple has one. Why not share your list with another couple and find a movie or two (or five, we won’t judge) to binge-watch your night away together? Don’t forget to warm up your home and stock up on popcorn and hot chocolate!

Movie night

Outdoor Double Date Ideas

Attend a beer-brewing class!

When winter just won’t go away, and spring seems just a distant dream, it can be hard to drag yourself and your significant other out of the doldrums. You may find yourself hibernating indoors, doing the same old things. But that’s no way to spend the prime years of your life!

If you’re looking to shake things up, we recommend taking your next double date to a beer brewing class. Learn something new, and a few weeks later, you can open up a bottle of home brew and toast to your friendship – and your new hobby.

There are several options for brewing classes in the Chicago area.

The Pursuit Supply Company

Outdoor Double Date IdeasThe Pursuit Supply Company at 4316 W. Irving Park Road stocks supplies for all your quirky food-related DIY hobbies, and they also offer classes. In addition to beer brewing, you can take classes in photography, wine-making and coffee roasting!

Brew & Grow

Brew & Grow (3625 N. Kedzie Avenue) offers both beginning home brewer classes and advanced classes, should you decide this is a pastime you’d like to get explore further.

Gnome Brew

At Gnome Brew, 2026 W. Montrose Avenue, you can learn to brew your own beer in just one hour. If you really want to geek out on home brewing, you can also keep your eye on the shop’s events calendar for free public lectures. Other events include the home brew bottle share meet-ups they host on the second Thursday of every month.

Make It The Best

And if you’re looking for a memorable and light-hearted Valentine’s Day double date, Make It The Best at 9030 S. Hermitage Avenue has you covered with an evening of winemaking, dinner, and dancing on February 14. The shop also offers beer brewing and wine-making classes throughout the year.

Enjoy a great activity with friends and stock your fridge with drinks for the next get-together at the same time!

Take a food tour!

Chicago is well known for its extensive range of cuisine. While there are many well known stops, a lot of the best eateries are hidden away and hard to find without guidance. Taking one of the many famous food tours around the Chicago area can help you discover new favorites that you will keep coming back too, and who doesn’t love sharing the experience of good food?

Food tour, double date ideas
Image taken from chicagofoodplanet.com

Chicago Food Planet Tours

Chicago Food Planet Tours are critically acclaimed by sources like USA Today, Chicago Sun-Times, and Bon Appetit. They have a range of different tours for you to choose from that include everything from tours of the West Loop to a Chinatown tour. These tours range anywhere from $50 per adult to $75 per adult, and take anywhere from about 2-3 hours. These are pretty extensive tours, with some of them taking you to 5 different locations!

Bobby’s Bike Hike

Private tour,, double date ideas
Image taken from bobbysbikehike.com

Are you and your double date looking for a bit more activity in your day? Bobby’s Bike Hike provides food tours both in a walking format and a biking format. One of their better known options is the Bikes, Bites & Brews tours that they provide, which are 4 hour 12-13 mile trips! Their walking tours are often within the 1-1.5 mile range, which makes them accessible to any level of physical fitness. The prices of these tours vary from $48.75 per adult to $69.75 per adult. They also offer private tours, if that is more your style.

Rebecca Wheeler’s Tours

If you and your double date are looking for something led by a specialist, Rebecca Wheeler’s tours are exquisite. Rebecca Wheeler is a traveler and a cooking instructor. She can lead you through Chicago’s neighborhoods and share her deep knowledge into the culture and history of the food and locations that you visit. All of these tours are private, which makes them much more intimate than a large group tour. Currently Rebecca offers tours of Argyle (Southeast Asian cuisine), Chinatown (Chinese cuisine), and Devon (Indian and Pakistani cuisine). For 4 adults, the price per adult would be $93.75, but this price lowers for every adult you bring with you!

Chicago Walks, double date ideas
Image taken from chicagofoodwalks.com

Geek out at the Adler Planetarium!

Adler After Dark

The Adler Planetarium hosts a popular 21+ event once a month that transforms the museum into a prime adult entertainment hotspot. You are allowed to peruse the museum itself in the company of other adults rather than the rambunctious families that usually occupy the space. If you have never been to the planetarium, they have a large variety of exhibits that are all expertly designed. The Astronomy in Culture exhibit takes you through the history of astronomy and teaches you about old tools like the astrolabe and how people used them before navigational technology existed.

Adler Planetarium
Image taken from adlerplanetarium.org

 

 

 

 

Chicago’s Night Sky

Another popular exhibit is Chicago’s Night Sky. It focuses on the problem of light pollution and how we can change our design philosophies to lessen the problem. This area includes the Historic Atwood Sphere that lets you see what the night sky would have looked like in 1913 without any light pollution. The Atwood Sphere is also the oldest planetarium on exhibit and recently got refurbished. Other popular attractions at the Adler Planetarium includes the Clark Family Welcome Gallery, the Community Design Labs, and the Doane Observatory. You also have access to unlimited sky shows in one of their state-of-the-art theaters.

Other Adler Events

Along with all of these great exhibits, the Adler Planetarium hosts live entertainment, lectures, and special guests depending on the theme of the month. They also provide themed alcoholic beverages, as well as food from their café. The food isn’t your usual basic fare. They often have an impressive menu including a hotbar stew, soup, and daily specials that range from turkey and goat cheese wraps to astro burgers. The price of these tickets are $25.00 per adult, but if you happen to be a member, they are only $12.50.

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Helping Others

Helping Others: 5 Tips for Staying Sane through the Process

It’s summer, the weather is beautiful, and you want to be hanging out with your loved ones. Only, the coronavirus is still out there.

It can be easy to get down in the dumps about social distancing. If we’re not careful, the strain can really take its toll. We’ve brought you ideas for socializing from a distance, taking care of yourself, and using creativity to bolster your relationships.

As the pandemic continues, here are a few more ideas to help you get through this time by helping others. Read on for our top 5 ideas for staying sane while giving back.

1 Write a letter

An actual handwritten letter put in an envelope with a stamp on it. Letters are rare these days. How excited would you be to find one in your mailbox? That’s what we thought. Write to a friend or family member and make their day.

Helping Others

2 Donate

You can donate your time or your resources. UChicagoMedicine has a list of places that can use donations including food, supplies, and even blood, which is needed now more than ever

3 Pick up trash.

There might not be as much of it lying around as during a normal summer, but beautifying your neighborhood’s parks and green spaces is a great way to give back while staying socially distant.

4 Check in on your friends and neighbors

Especially the elderly and those who live alone. You never know what someone might be going through. Your phone call or email could lift someone’s spirits on a difficult day.

5 Volunteer

Food banks and other community organizations always need volunteers. Social services around the country have been working overtime to provide food to families whose children depend on school meals for nutrition, and they are in need of volunteers. Spending a few hours helping others will help lift your spirits amid uncertainty.

Sometimes looking out for others is a form of self-care. We hope these tips have given you ideas for taking care of your community and yourself at the same time. Stay well and healthy.

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