How to Choose a Home Security System

home securityWe haven’t talked about home security systems before, and a recent comment thread spurred us to give the topic its own post. While you may find it hard to name many companies beyond ADT (the country’s biggest security company), new technology has opened the market to lots of competitors. Some of those, like SimpliSafe (which a few readers have recommended) even let you install a home security system yourself.

If you’re not interested in a full home security system, one reader pointed out that you can find many home-safety items online. She found security company stickers (pros and cons here), a special light that makes it look like someone’s at home watching TV, and a barking dog alarm. It’s also easy to find online tips for making your home safer, from displaying fake security cameras to using motion sensor lights outside — but if you want to install the real thing, which will not only help keep your home safe but reduce your insurance premiums as well, we’ve got many tips to share today.

Looking at the lengthy list of home security companies can be overwhelming, but we’ve gathered some reviews, ratings, and other information to help you sort out the choices:

(Pictured: P is for Protect, originally uploaded to Flickr by Angelia Sims.)  
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Household Wednesday: Best Portable Speakers

best portable speakersThis is another entry in our very occasional feature on household items — see our previous discussions on the best sheets, best towels, indispensable kitchen items, and more.  

Ladies, what are your favorite portable speakers — whether for use at your office, around your home, or in the great outdoors? I’ve been on the hunt for a while now and thought I’d pose the question to the group. I recently bought a very affordable one that was recommended by the usual place I go to for these things, The Wirecutter. Not only was the sound horrible, though (and I am not an audiophile), but my toddler managed to break it within about two weeks. (The Amazon Echo is our default kitchen speaker, but it requires an outlet. I’m not sure I feel strongly enough about Alexa to get Amazon’s more portable version, the Tap.) After my “my cheap speaker sounded lousy and then broke” experience, I’m open to spending more on one but am hesitant because I feel like I ought to have a greater plan in mind. One of my friends did this — he and his wife bought a Sonos speaker pretty much every year for their big holiday present to themselves; after a few years they had a multi-room system. (Do note that Sonos speakers require WiFi, so if you hope to use them on a picnic or some such, you may be out of luck.)

So let’s hear it, ladies — which are your favorite portable speakers? Are they part of a greater home system or plan, or did you buy yours for some other reason (like the super-cute and affordable Kate Spade polka-dot speaker, pictured)? (This should be a separate post entirely, I suppose, but does anyone have strong opinions on their headphones or earphones? I just bought my husband these Bose earphones for Fathers’ Day.)

Pictured above, clockwise: SoundLink® Mini II Bluetooth® Speaker / UE BOOM 2 Wireless Bluetooth Speaker / kate spade new york ‘le pavillion’ Bluetooth® speaker

Further reading:   

  • Best Portable Mini Bluetooth Speakers [CNET]
  • The Best Bluetooth Speakers of 2016 [PCMag]
  • Amazon Echo vs. Amazon Tap [NerdWallet]
  • 5 Best Wireless Speakers Under $300 [ConsumerReports]

Psst: our favorite podcasts for working women, and my favorite songs, for no reason whatsoever. 

Dining Etiquette: 10 Things to Know About Business Lunches

dining etiquetteHot on the heels of our discussion about how not to gain weight over the summer recruiting season, we thought we’d round up some of the readers’ top tips on dining etiquette, collected from our last discussion on the topic. Ladies, what is your top tip for dining etiquette? What etiquette mistakes do you see interns and summer associates making that you wish you could correct, and what mistakes did you make? 

  1. Don’t be the odd one out. To prevent awkward situations, e.g., ending up as the only person eating an appetizer while everyone waits for you to finish so they can have their entrees, feel free to ask your colleagues if they’re planning on ordering an app or starting with a main course. If they don’t order drinks, don’t order a drink. And, although it probably goes without saying, don’t make a habit of choosing the most expensive thing on the menu.
  2. Choose wisely. This classic advice is worth sharing: Don’t order something that’s hard to eat and/or likely to be messy.
  3. Avoid appearing “high-maintenance.” When you order, don’t ask too many questions of the server (remember that waitress scene in “When Harry Met Sally“?), and don’t make a zillion modifications to your meal.
  4. Don’t make a big deal about special dietary requirements. Meaning: a few questions or exclusions are fine — a 15 minute interrogation on different menu options isn’t. Check out our posts on eating gluten-free or being the only vegetarian at a business lunch where there’s nothing you can eat for more guidance. If you need to make a game plan, consider calling the restaurant ahead of time with your questions (so that you don’t have to spend an inordinate amount of time explaining your requirements and ordering your food).

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How Not to Gain Weight Over Summer Recruiting Season

how not to gain weight over summer recruiting seasonSummer recruiting season: always a trying time for those among us trying to maintain our weight (to say nothing of those of us trying to diet)! I still stand by my old advice on how to diet during the recruiting season, but I thought we’d refresh the post with a guest post from a good friend of mine, L, still in the trenches (which is to say, still attending recruiting cocktail parties and ritzy lunches).  Thank you, L! – Kat. Check out more resources for summer associates, here!

When I was a summer associate (in a year I will not name, but it was pre-economy collapse), I gained twelve pounds in about as many weeks.  A quantity of food I had previously called “lunch,” I started calling “an appetizer.”

Now, however, after navigating many more summer programs, I’ve figured out how to strike a good balance between having fun (free food!  free drinks! bonding!) and still managing to maintain a healthy lifestyle – and fit back into my fall clothes when the summer program comes to an end.

For many, recruiting events are a chance to eat at amazing restaurants and try delicious food, and I’m not discouraging you from participating in that experience.  But if you are concerned about gaining weight, then decide each meal whether the calorie splurge will be worth it.  For when it won’t be, here is my advice:

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Difficult Coworkers: Temper Tantrums, Crying, and More

difficult coworkersHow do you deal with difficult coworkers, such as those who are overemotional or throw temper tantrums? Should the strategies for dealing with difficult coworkers differ if it’s a small office versus a big one? Reader M has a great question about dealing with an assistant prone to temper tantrums:

I’ve seen several postings about crying at work, but my question is about how to deal with temper tantrums. I have been at my 9-attorney firm for a year. The partner’s legal assistant also works for me. Several times, she has gotten so frustrated with the printer or other machines that she slams or throw things. Offering to help has not worked. How to respectfully deal with the inappropriate behavior? (This partner is rarely in the office, and the other does not get involved.) Or ignore it?

WOW. I’ve heard a lot about screamers in law firms (and have dealt with a few myself, even ducking a few flying redwelds and binders) but they were always high-level, super valuable employees — and I must say I always thought that was why they were able to get away with such behavior. Specialized knowledge, good relationships with clients, unique insights — but I’ve never heard of a fungible, easily-replaced employee throwing such tantrums and expecting to stay in their job. So I think you have to approach this with the presumption that she is NOT easily replaced, and if you make too many waves about this (as the new hire) then you will be the easier one to replace. A few quick ideas for how to deal:

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Tales from the Wallet: What to Do When You’re Facing “Frugal Fatigue”

frugal fatigueHow do you prevent “frugal fatigue,” also sometimes called “savings burnout”? It’s that feeling that you’ve been scrimping and saving and you have no money and the debts are still there and you’re not getting anywhere and dammit you just want to not think about it and buy what you want for a little while? I know readers have talked about this, and when I was writing the post about my budget spreadsheet, I realized that I have another spreadsheet I use also that, for me, prevents this kind of frugal fatigue: my “snapshot spreadsheet.”  This is how I personally prevent frugal fatigue, but I’m curious to hear from you guys — ladies, how do you prevent savings burnout? Do you rely on Mint or YNAB to give you an accurate picture of your net worth? How do you track net worth changes? Do you have similar ways of recognizing and patting yourself on the back for major monetary accomplishments, like debt payment or saving? (These particularly are helpful in guarding against savings burnout!) 

Pictured: Vera Bradley Georgia Wallet, $98 at Zappos in six colors. Love the fun inside lining! 

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