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The latest news from Life

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    Citroen C4 Cactus

    • The Tesla Model 3 is famous for its minimal interior and single, central touchscreen.
    • Other automakers are moving the same direction as Tesla with their designs.
    • They aren't common in the US, but I found a very Model 3-esque setup in a Citroën C4 Cactus in Rome.
    • The Citroën C4 Cactus is a quirky French compact crossover SUV. 


    The reaction that a lot of people have when they first slip into a Tesla Model 3 is one of mild shock that there isn't an instrument panel, nor much in the way of controls — just a large, central touchscreen that pretty much runs everything.

    Revolutionary? Sort of. 

    Minimizing visual instrumentation and in-car controls isn't new, but Tesla has taken it to an extreme.

    Other automakers have also taken the plunge. I was reminded of this recently when I visited Rome, rented a car, and wound up at a Citroën dealership. Citroën, in case you were wondering, is a French carmaker that's been around since the early 20th century and has created some iconic vehicles, most famously the DS, which arrived in the mid-1950s.

    Read more: I drove a $29,000 Honda Insight hybrid to see how it stacks up against the mighty Toyota Prius — here's what I discovered.

    Citroën now sells a variety of modern vehicles, and one of the more interesting is the C4 Cactus, a small crossover SUV that has rubbery pillows on its sides, intended to alleviate scratches.

    I didn't rent one of these in Italy, but while I was waiting around at the dealership for a ride to an airport hotel after I returned my car, I checked out a bunch of vehicles I never see in the US. The C4 Cactus stood out. And it wasn't just because of the padded sides.

    Here's a closer look at the C4 Cactus and other Tesla Model 3-esque minimalist interiors. 

    FOLLOW US: On Facebook for more car and transportation content!

    The Tesla Model 3! I reviewed the car a few months back.

    Read the review.



    The Model 3's interior is insanely minimal. Almost no knobs or buttons, with the majority of functions handled by the center touchscreen.



    Personally, I liked it. Takes some getting used to, but after a few days, you wonder why other vehicles are such buttonfests.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    IP gift guide banner

    The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you'll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.

    away carry-on

    • For those who are always on the road, the right gift can help make life easier, more comfortable, or more efficient.
    • From luggage and backpacks to plane-friendly workwear and headphones, this gift guide has the perfect travel gifts for any road warrior.

    People who travel often, whether for business or leisure, tend to be one of two kinds of packers: light, or organized (of course, they can also be both).

    If you have friends or family on your shopping list who spend a lot of time on the road or in the air, this guide has the perfect gift for them, no matter what kind of packer or traveler they are.

    Still shopping for more gifts? Check out all of Insider Picks' holiday gift guides for 2018 here.


    SEE ALSO: All of Insider Picks' holiday gift guides, in one place

    DON'T MISS: 25 creative and unexpected gifts for 'Star Wars' fans of all ages

    The most comfortable travel shoes you can buy

    Wool Runners, available at Allbirds, $95

    Allbirds wool runners come in all colors and sizes and are comfortable enough to wear on the plane, in the city, or even in the hotel gym.



    The latest and greatest e-reader

    Kindle Paperwhite, available at Amazon, $99

    The Kindle Paperwhite is thin, light, waterproof, and has an absurdly crisp screen.



    Performance workwear for her

    Commute and Work Performance Clothing, available at Athleta, starts at $49

    Performance workwear is comfortable, stretchy, and wrinkle-resistant, but looks fashionable and perfect for the office.



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    work from home pajamas

    • Being self-employed will present you with many challenges and advantages.
    • Here, author Jamie Friedlander details 9 things she wishes she'd known before she started being self-employed as a writer. 

     

    In January, I received an unsettling phone call late at night. The magazine I worked as the features editor for was shutting down. The entire staff was laid off. My immediate emotions were shock and sadness. But I also knew this could happen when working in such a volatile industry.

    At 28, I was still at the beginning of my career. I envisioned becoming a full-time freelance writer one day, but I always thought I'd wait until I had more years behind me. But jobs were sparse, and freelancing would allow me to take control of my future. I decided to do it.   

    Now 12 months in, I can say it was the best professional decision I've ever made. I'm making significantly more money than I did when I was traditionally employed, not to mention I have more free time, the flexibility to travel whenever I want, and the comfort of knowing I'm in charge of my own future.

    In the past year, I've learned a handful of things I wish I'd known before I became self-employed as a freelancer.

    SEE ALSO: 10 life lessons of adulthood that my 20-year-old self would never have understood

    1. Ride the motivation tide.

    When I first started my business, I was often given the advice that I should try to stick to a 9-to-5 schedule as closely as possible. After many sleepy Monday mornings and unproductive Friday afternoons, I learned that what's more important is working when I'm motivated. I can get more done in a 6-hour motivational stretch than I ever could in a 12-hour day when I'm just not feeling it.



    2. Don't be afraid to ask where your money is.

    It can feel awkward to follow up on an invoice that's overdue. This is especially true if you're new to the game. Will they not want to work with me again because they find my following up annoying? Am I being too persistent? I've learned you should never feel uncomfortable asking for money you're due. After all, you'd question a paycheck that didn't arrive on time at work, right?



    3. Don't pigeonhole yourself.

    My identity as a writer is and always has been formed around health. Most of my writing is medical in nature, and health journalism is what I'm most passionate about. Every time I took an assignment that didn't fit under this umbrella, I would feel anxious — as though I was abandoning my niche.

    But I've learned it's important to have a breath of fresh air every now and then. After days on end full of health writing, it's often nice to have a break to write about hyperlocal news or personal finance. In fact, I've carved a second niche for myself in personal finance all because I was willing to explore new topics.  



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    donald trump

    • President Donald Trump's trade war with China was the top 2019 concern cited by US economists.
    • 85% of economists surveyed by the Wall Street Journal also said risks for the US economy are tilted toward the downside, the most in at least three years.
    • Only four economists agreed with Trump's suggestion that the Federal Reserve is the biggest threat to the economy.

    Some of the country's top economists are the most worried they've been in years about the US economy.

    According to the Wall Street Journal's monthly survey of economists, about 85% of those surveyed said the risks for the US economy are tilting to the downside — the most since at least the start of 2015.

    And their biggest fear? President Donald Trump's trade war with China:

    • Overall, 47.3% of the economists surveyed cited the back-and-forth tariff fight between the US and China as the top threat to the economy in 2019, the highest percentage for any single threat.
    • 20% cited financial market disruptions as the largest threat.
    • 12.7% pointed to a slowdown in business investment.

    The recent spate of trade fears has been blamed for both the sell-off in US stock markets and businesses' slowing of capital expenditures

    Meanwhile, economists don't agree with Trump's claim that the Federal Reserve's recent interest rate hikes are the biggest threat to the economy. Only 7.3% of the economists surveyed — four out of the 60 total respondents — cited the Fed as their top fear. Fed rate hikes actually came in fifth on the list of risks, as 9% of those surveyed cited slowing global growth as their top concern.

    Read more:Trump's economic sugar high is already fading, and his trade war could make it even uglier»

    The Journal survey seems to align with what major economists on Wall Street have forecast for the year ahead. Economists at JPMorgan, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and Goldman Sachs all agreed that US GDP growth would slow in the second half of 2019, and they say the trade war could make the economic slowdown even worse.

    While none of the Wall Street banks predicted a recession, they also suggested the economic risks were firmly titled toward the downside.

    The US and China have imposed tariffs on $360 billion worth of goods flowing between the two countries: The US slapped tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese goods, and China responded with duties on $110 billion worth of US goods.

    Read more:US companies forked over a record amount in tariffs in October — $6.2 billion! — because of Trump's trade war»

    While the two sides have shown signs of a possible agreement, the tariffs are still in place and the negotiations are fraught with potential pitfalls.

    The fear is that by keeping the current tariffs in place for a longer period of time, increasing current tariff rates, and imposing even more tariffs could drive up prices of imported goods for US consumers and businesses. This would slow investment and consumer spending, harming GDP growth.

    While signs of consumer inflation from the tariffs have been limited to a few items, businesses are already reporting cost pressures and disruptions from the trade war. And the longer Trump's fight with China continues, the more likely it starts to reach the average American consumer

    SEE ALSO: We just got a new sign that the pain from Trump's trade war is getting worse, and it's spreading to even more businesses like restaurants

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Anthony Scaramucci claims Trump isn't a nationalist: 'He likes saying that because it irks these intellectual elitists'


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    TheInsider Picksteam writes about stuff we think you'll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.

    Since you don't have all day to scour the web for noteworthy sales and discounts, we rounded up the best bargains for you to shop in one convenient place.

    Casper

    1.Save up to 20% on Casper Sleep Essential Mattresses

    Casper is one of our favorite mattress startups — and for good reason. Its mattresses provide superb comfort, support, and breathability, all at an affordable price. Today, the prices are even more affordable at up to 20% off. With the deal, you can save $142.90 on the King size mattress.

    Shop all Casper Sleep Essential Mattresses on Amazon now.

    51mBukH+tFL._SL1000_

    2. Save $35 on the Fire TV Stick 4K and all-new Echo Dot Bundle

    The Echo Dot and Fire Stick are two of Amazon's most popular products for creating an interactive smart home and entertainment system. With the use of Alexa, you can easily watch movies, listen to music, order pizza, check the weather, and so much more. Right now, you can save $35 by bundling the two items together on Amazon.

    Fire TV Stick 4K and Gen 3 Echo Dot Bundle, $64.98 (Originally $99.98) [You save $35]

    7197+ IVYqL._SL1500_

    3.Save up to 38% on Sengled smart lighting kits

    Sengled Element LED bulbs save 80% more energy compared to incandescent lighting and are much easier to use. By connecting Sengled products your Echo or Google Assistant devices, you can control the lights in your home with simple voice commands. Right now, you can save up to $50 on Sengled smart lights kit as an Amazon Deal of the Day.

    Shop all Sengled smart lighting kits on Amazon now.

    jaybird bluetooth

    4. Save $46 on a pair of cult-favorite wireless headphones

    The X3 passed our test for Bluetooth sport headphones with flying colors thanks to its durability, excellent sound, and secure fit. It's already a fantastic set of headphones for its usual price of $129.99, but now it's only $83.95 — a great deal for both seasoned athletes and aspiring runners looking for affordable and dependable headphones.

    Jaybird X3 Sport Bluetooth Headset, $83.95 (Originally $129.99) [You save $46.04]

    B1AZw4QMNoS._SL1500_

    5. Save big on sports and outdoor gear on Amazon

    For the twelfth day of Amazon's 12 Days of Deal, the site is having a huge sale on sports and outdoor items. You can save up to 40% basketball gear, boating and fishing equipment, snow gear, hammocks, utility knives, and much more.

    Shop all sports and outdoor deals on Amazon now.

    Amazon Music

    6. Get a 3-month Amazon Music Unlimited subscription for only $1

    Amazon Music Unlimited is a paid music streaming service that has steadily grown into a worthy Spotify and Apple Music competitor. While most music streaming services charge $9.99 a month for unlimited listening, Prime members pay just $7.99. If you want to give Amazon's music service a try, new subscribers can sign up for four months for only $0.99 right now.

    Try Amazon Music Unlimited for four months for $1 now.

    61VZvFduoNL._SL1000_

    7. Save up to 28% on FireTV Edition Smart TVs

    If you're shopping for a new TV, it only makes sense to buy a smart TV — and Amazon has a great selection of Fire TV Editions on sale. With Fire TV technology built in, you can enjoy thousands of channels, apps like Netflix, Prime Video, and Hulu, and utilize the power of Alexa. Right now, you can save up to 28% on models from brands like Toshiba and Insignia.

    Shop Fire TV Edition Smart TVs on Amazon now.

    Fire HD 10

    8.Save $50 on the Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition Tablets

    The Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition Tablet isn't just a toy. With a full 1080p HD display, 32GB of internal storage, and 10 hours of battery life, it's a full-featured tablet optimized for kids. It comes with one year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, which gives kids access to 15,000 popular apps games, videos, and books, a Kid-Proof Case, and a two-year worry-free warranty. Today, you can save $50 on the kid-friendly device at Amazon.

    Amazon Fire HD 10 Kids Edition, $149.99 (Originally $199.99)[You save $50]

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    Hong Kong

    • London-based real-estate consultancy Knight Frank released a report revealing the world's "ultra-prime residential markets" for 2019. 
    • The locations are divided into three segments: Cities, ski destinations, and second-home markets.
    • US cities New York, Los Angeles, and Miami appear on the list, while notoriously pricey San Francisco is notably absent.

    To clinch a spot on Knight Frank's latest list of the world's "ultra-prime" real-estate markets, a city had to have at least three home-sale transactions over $25 million every year since 2015.

    Just 17 places made the cut, and the notoriously pricey city of San Francisco wasn't one of them. 

    Despite it having the highest median home price of any city in the United States, as Curbed LA's Elijah Chiland pointed out, San Francisco simply isn't the site of many multi-million dollar sales. In fact, the most expensive home ever sold rang in at $38 million. The current record sale in Hong Kong is $360 million.

    Knight Frank analyzed sales data and concluded that London takes the top spot for the sheer number of transactions above $25 million since August 2015 — 161 total. Hong Kong, meanwhile, takes the trophy for the most expensive of the ultra-prime markets; for purchases above $25 million, the city saw an average sale price of $54 million over three years.

    In total, nearly half of the markets were categorized as cities, five represent second-home markets, and four are prime ski destinations (three in the Alps and just one in the US). 

    Below, check out the world's 17 top-tier real-estate markets.

    Hong Kong

    Inside the Hong Kong billionaire enclave name-dropped in 'Crazy Rich Asians,' where Alibaba founder Jack Ma may have bought a $191 million mansion »



    London, England

    The 9 most expensive streets in the UK, where you need more than $15 million to buy a house »



    New York, New York

    The most expensive New York City neighborhoods in 2018, ranked »



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    Trump melania mar a lago

    • Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump's private club in Palm Beach, Florida is often called "the Winter White House."
    • He'll spend the holidays there with his family.
    • The heiress to Post Cereal built the 20-acre estate in 1927, and Trump bought it for $8 million in 1985.
    • Its 128 rooms are decked out with lavish interiors and golden decor, Trump's signature.

    President Donald Trump could spend 16 days at his exclusive Mar-a-Lago club this holiday season.

    The Federal Aviation Administration issued an alert warning pilots to avoid the airspace above the seaside resort often referred to as "the winter White House" between December 21 and January 6.

    Trump spent 12 days there for the holidays last year, according to The Palm Beach Post, throwing a lavish party to ring in the new year.

    The Florida resort, which was built in the early 20th century, serves as the first family's weekend getaway, and the president has used it on multiple occasions to host important dignitaries.

    But first and foremost, Mar-a-Lago is a place of lavish luxury. With its ornately decorated rooms and halls, it was built to impress.

    Here's a look inside the sprawling complex, and what it takes to become a member there.

    SEE ALSO: See inside the swanky party at Mar-a-Lago where Trump watched the Super Bowl

    DON'T MISS: Trump's Mar-a-Lago is being slammed as a 'disgrace' after serving caviar with plastic spoons

    The Mar-a-Lago Club is a 20-acre estate with 128 rooms. The heiress to Post Cereal built it in 1927. It spans the entire width of the island Palm Beach is located on, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Intercoastal Waterway.

    Source: Town and Country Magazine



    Trump bought the estate and all of its antique furniture in 1985 for a combined total of $8 million.

    Source: Town and Country Magazine



    Today, it serves as the Trump family's playground, but is also open to people who purchase a membership at the club. Back in the 1990s, memberships cost $50,000, but they soared to $200,000 for the final spots after Trump's election.

    Source: Palm Beach Daily News



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you'll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.

    best wheel covers

    • Steering wheel covers transform a part of your vehicle that you touch constantly, so you’ll get a lot of use out of the right cover.
    • The Wheelskins Genuine Leather Steering Wheel Cover is the best one you can buy because it brings comfort, grip, and a stylish look to your car.

    The idea of driverless vehicles is gaining a lot of attention, and rightly so. Just think: Because your hands will be free, you’ll be able to enjoy that giant drive-thru triple cheeseburger with both hands without having to try to steer the car with your knees.

    However, the driverless car is also a technology that’s still several years away, so you’ll be steering your own car for the foreseeable future … and settling for single cheeseburgers you can eat one-handed.

    Until the car steers itself, to make gripping and using the steering wheel in your car more comfortable, a steering wheel cover is a smart purchase.

    These covers don’t cost a lot, especially compared to the price of most add-ons and parts for your car. They also keep the steering wheel cooler to the touch in the summer and warmer to the touch in the winter, plus, covers are great for personalization.

    The best thing about steering wheel covers is that they’re appropriate for any vehicle and any style of driver. Whether you want a cover that’s stylish, provides a sturdy grip, or gives your car a whimsical feel, we’ve found the best steering wheel covers you can buy.

    Here are the best steering wheel covers you can buy:

    Read on in the slides below to check out our top picks.

    The best steering wheel cover overall

    Why you'll love it: Wheelskins' great-looking steering wheel cover is available in a dozen color options and adds a sense of style to any vehicle's interior.

    The Wheelskins Original Genuine Leather Steering Wheel Cover is a high-quality and durable car accessory that's a good investment.

    The genuine leather cover adds a sense of style and luxury to your car, while also improving your grip on the steering wheel. It has a sophisticated look and feel.

    Wheelskins calls it a universal steering wheel cover, so it should fit most cars. The company says the outside steering wheel diameter should be 14 1/2 to 15 1/2 inches, while the grip circumference should be 3 5/8 to 3 7/8 inches.

    As with any steering wheel cover, the leather can be difficult to stretch to fit properly over the wheel. Amazon reviewer Walter Bowser says it took him a while to tackle the task, so we recommend you set aside an hour or more to install the cover.

    Even though it can be hard to put on the wheel, once this cover is in place, reviewers love it. Amazon shopper DocDenver appreciates the way the leather steering wheel makes driving more comfortable. The leather material feels great, especially on extended car trips, and it makes it easier to grip the steering wheel for long periods of time.

    As Car Outfitter says, this Wheelskins steering wheel cover won't fit in everyone's budget, but genuine leather lasts a long time, making it a worthwhile investment.

    Pros: Stylish leather construction, a dozen different color options, gives a good value and durability over time, very comfortable feel

    Cons: More expensive than some other steering wheel cover materials, installation is time-consuming

    Buy the Wheelskins Original Genuine Leather Steering Wheel Cover on Amazon for $52.95



    The best odorless steering wheel cover

    Why you'll love it: Vitodeco's Luxury Leather Steering Wheel Cover doesn't have an odor to it, which is especially nice inside an enclosed vehicle.

    When there's a strange odor inside a car, whether it's fast food or the sweaty workout clothes from the gym, it seems like it's trapped inside the vehicle for weeks … hence the popularity of the tree-shaped air fresheners hanging from the rear-view mirror.

    So when selecting a steering wheel cover, go with one that doesn't add to the odor of the closed atmosphere of the car. The Vitodeco Luxury Genuine Leather Steering Wheel Cover is odorless, thanks to the high-quality leather construction.

    The color selection is more limited than our top pick, but you can get basics like black, gray, beige, and brown. The cover does come in small, standard, and large sizes, so you should be able to find one that will fit your vehicle.

    V Best Reviews likes how the Vitodeco cover is easier to install than some other options, and it also has a dragon scale pattern on the surface of the cover to enhance your grip. Amazon reviewer Enriquealso loves the added grip this steering wheel cover provides, as well as its stylish design.

    Pros: Leather material doesn't give off an odor, thick and durable steering wheel cover design, installation is easier than with some others

    Cons: Limited number of colors available, and they may not match your steering wheel very accurately

    Buy the Vitodeco Luxury Genuine Leather Steering Wheel Cover on Amazon for $28.99



    The best colorful steering wheel cover

    Why you'll love it: Forget about trying to match the color of your current steering wheel and add a fun, colorful pattern with the A-Lightning cloth steering wheel cover.

    If a dull colored steering wheel doesn't match your personal sense of style, the A-Lighting Cloth Steering Wheel Cover is the perfect alternative. This cover features fun colors in a cool geometric pattern, giving it a far different look than traditional steering wheel covers.

    The A-Lighting cover is cheaper than some other options, mainly because it's made from woven flax cloth, but it still offers good grip. The cloth absorbs sweat from the hands nicely, according to Top Ten Review Pro, so the steering wheel won't slip in your hand. It should fit steering wheels that are 14.5 inches in diameter.

    Amazon shoppers love this steering wheel for its fun design and pop of color. One reviewer named Robin Taylor says this cover is easy to install, and it doesn't gve off a bad odor in the vehicle.

    Pros: Great mix of colorful patterns in the cloth, absorbs sweat to prevent a slick steering wheel, quite a bit different than most steering wheel covers

    Cons: Doesn't match your current steering wheel color, doesn't provide the durability of a leather steering wheel cover

    Buy the A-Lighting Cloth Steering Wheel Cover on Amazon for $19.99



    See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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    hospital bills visit

    • Medicaid is a state and federal health insurance program offered to some low-income Americans.
    • Eight months after she was dropped from her parents' health insurance, author Olivia Young had her first medical emergency.
    • She was eligible for Medicaid, which has helped her through $50,000 in medical bills.

    I got through 26 years of life without ever having a medical emergency much worse than the flu. I never had a surgery, save the standard wisdom-teeth removal that nearly everyone underwent during high school.

    That is, until almost immediately after I was removed from my parents' health insurance policy.

    It was like the lyrics of that Cinderella song, "Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)." Growing up, I was always covered as a dependent by my parents' healthcare plan, which allowed me to get annual physicals and anything else I needed (which truly wasn't much).

    Then, eight months after I turned 26 — the age when I, by healthcare standards, became an "independent" — I found myself in the emergency room with kidney stones.

    At the time, I didn't know what was causing me to thrash, scream, and vomit (no, really) from pain. I just woke up one morning in agony and assumed my appendix was bursting, which does require medical attention, I confirmed with a quick Google search. And, to make the situation even worse, I no longer had insurance.

    A year before this incident, I had quit my full-time public-relations job to travel around the world. I was a healthy — or so I thought — vegan marathoner who didn't have a steady income, so when my parents' insurance dropped me, I wasn't exactly rushing to purchase a plan of my own.

    Read more: I'm a burned-out millennial who quit a high-paying 9-to-5 job to travel full time

    A visit to the emergency room

    In fall 2017, I was visiting my hometown in Ohio for a few months before continuing my travels in Australia. While I was there, I started to feel a dull-but-intense internal aching that quickly developed into a sharp, blinding pain. By the time my father rolled me into the emergency room in a wheelchair, I was almost blacked out. I couldn't sit still or speak in complete sentences. The nurses even administered a blood test to make sure I wasn't an addict before they would give me any pain relief.

    Olivia YoungWhat came next was a five-day stint in the hospital packed with an array of CT scans, two cystourethroscopies, and a steady flow of medicine that I knew I would never be able to afford. I begged the doctors and nurses to let me leave, knowing the bills were mounting by the minute. But instead of discharging me, they sent a patients' rights representative to my room to explain Medicaid.

    Medicaid is a health-insurance program offered to low-income Americans and funded by both the federal and state governments. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also called Obamacare, gave states funding to offer Medicaid to many more of their low-income residents, though some states decided not to take it.

    Ohio was one of the states that expanded its Medicaid program under the ACA. In Ohio, you can qualify for Medicaid if your annual income is less than roughly $16,800 for a single person, a requirement I had no problem fulfilling with my minuscule freelancer's salary (and to answer the question you're probably asking: Yes, I do live on $1,000 per month).

    The representative walked me through the application process, and I was approved for full coverage almost immediately. But I wasn't quite in the clear just yet.

    It was surprising (or, rather, horrifying) to receive about a dozen bills totaling $50,407 in my mailbox weeks after I was released: $27,158 for the hospital stay itself, $1,874 for a few hours in the emergency room, $801 for anesthesia, and the list went on. The bills, I learned, were being sent to my previous insurance provider, which, of course, refused to pay them because I was no longer a member.

    Spared a lifetime of debt

    So, I boarded my flight to Australia, as planned, with $50,000 in medical bills on the brain. It took me three months (and countless international calling minutes) to get my former insurance company taken off of my digital health file before Medicaid would pay so much as a dime. Then, I was tasked with having each service provider rebill Medicaid individually.

    Some were harder to get in touch with than others. About $3,000 worth of bills ended up in the hands of collections agents before I could square them away. Now, one year after my kidney-stones emergency, I'm still struggling to get the last few bills paid.

    Nonetheless, four-digit figures are much easier to live with than five-digit figures. Today, my kidneys seem to be stone-free, and I've been spared a lifetime of debt thanks to Medicaid, of which I'm still a member today. Slowly, I am easing out of the poverty bracket and lining up healthcare plans for the future because I certainly won't be wandering the streets without health insurance anymore.

    Want to tell us your healthcare story? Email Zach Tracer at ztracer@businessinsider.com.

    SEE ALSO: I spent college studying and interning, but I didn't realize I'd missed a huge opportunity until it was too late

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: A spectacular meteor shower is coming this weekend — here's what you're actually seeing


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    The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you'll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.

    download 1

    Despite our best efforts, we're not getting any younger, and our holiday shopping lists aren't getting any shorter.

    With just a month left before the gift-giving extravaganza begins, it's high time to kick into high gear, and finish (or let's be honest, start) your gift-buying process. And as onerous the task may seem, the good news is that as the number of gifts you have to buy has expanded over the years, so too have the places from which you can purchase said gifts. So if you don't want to spend hours on end in a mall, perhaps you'd be better off doing your shopping from the comfort of your couch, and browsing a surprisingly robust selection from some unexpected retailers.

    Whether you're shopping for an athlete, a newlywed, or a jet-setter, some of our favorite places to buy holiday gifts are also the most underrated.

    You'll never have to set foot into a crowded store ever again, and you'll still find a wide range of unique gifts that ought to please even the most persnickety of recipients. And even if not, it's the thought that counts, right?

    Browse on to see some of our favorite places to discover gifts for the special people in our lives, and realistically, for ourselves, too.

    Still shopping for more gifts? Check out all of Insider Picks' holiday gift guides for 2018 here.


    SEE ALSO: All of Insider Picks' holiday gift guides, in one place

    DON'T MISS: 26 fun gifts that grown-up Disney and Mickey Mouse fans will love

    Urban Outfitters

    Shop for gifts at Urban Outfitters here >>

    Ah, Urban Outfitters. The origin of every teen's wardrobe (no, was that just me?) is also the origin to some great and surprisingly unexpected gifts. Urban has put together a gift guide that includes the top 50 gifts of the year, and it runs the gamut from clothing to roller-skates to pillows — surprisingly unexpected, right?

    While I thought that my days of shopping at Urban were long behind me, I've been pleasantly surprised by the increasingly creative catalog the store has managed to put forth year after year, and you may be as well.



    UncommonGoods

    Shop for gifts at UncommonGoods here >>

    Based in Brooklyn, New York, it comes as little surprise that the gifts from UncommonGoods are, as the name suggests, uncommon. You won't find any cookie cutter presents (unless you're looking for a novelty cookie cutter) at UncommonGoods, and may be surprised by the multiplicity of thoughtfully designed artisanal items.

    The online store is also one of the only ones we've seen that has a separate section for teens (they're different from both kids and adults, as we all know), so if you have a particularly angsty child in your life, this may be the place to look for placation.



    Everlane

    Shop for gifts for her at Everlane here >>

    Shop for gifts for him at Everlane here >>

    For responsibly sourced, ethically made, and effortlessly chic clothing, Everlane is the place to go. Admittedly, the clothes from this retailer are an ideal gift any time of the year, but if someone has been particularly good to you in 2018, you could always reward them with a cozy cashmere sweater or a classic backpack.

    Everlane's gift guides for him and her already feature plenty of gifting options that are as timeless as they are simple, and are sure to remain a hit for many holiday seasons yet to come.



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    best products 2018 6

    Thousands of product tests and reviews later, here we stand at the end of the year, excited to present to you our 2018 Insider Picks Hall of Fame.

    The point of Insider Picks has always been to discover and share with you the best of the best. Still, we have some personal favorites that are truly the cream of the crop and we want to make sure you don't miss them.  

    These are all the tech gadgets, kitchen appliances, clothes, shoes, home products, and personal care products that impressed us and rose above everything else we reviewed in 2018. Some are new product launches, while others are just new to us.

    You'll find an explanation for why we loved it, plus a link to the original review or related guide so you'll have all the information needed to decide whether you want to join each product's fan club.

    See the 36 best products we reviewed in 2018 below.

    Crane & Canopy sheets

    Sheets and Sheet Sets, $35 to $249, available at Crane & Canopy

    Read more about the best sheets you can buy for your bed here

    Crane & Canopy is a startup that began selling easy-to-use duvet covers in 2012. Since then, the company has branched out into sheets, comforters, pillows, blankets, towels, washcloths, and more.

    I tried a set of striped sheets from Crane & Canopy and I loved them. Not only are the sheets silky smooth and soft straight out of the package, they also come in several fun prints and colors. I chose the gray and white striped sheets, because they make for a nice, neutral base layer for my bedding. Malarie Gokey, Insider Picks guides editor



    The Sonos soundbar

    Sonos Beam, $399, available at Amazon

    Read our review of the Sonos Beam here

    Once a year I make a significant "treat yourself"-style tech purchase, and in 2018 that was the Sonos Beam. Sonos’ compact soundbar carries over the best features from the company’s Sonos One speaker: built-in Alexa, support for Apple’s AirPlay 2 software, and excellent, well-balanced sound.

    The Beam gets louder than its small size would suggest, and it never sounds distorted. I’ve used it while watching movies, playing video games, and listening to music, and it’s sounded universally excellent. The Beam can’t quite compete with the immersion from a 5.1 surround sound setup, but it doesn’t have to. I live in a small, New York City apartment, and the Beam has given me a home theater system that was easy to set up and enjoy. Brandt Ranj, Insider Picks associate editor



    A Peak Design backpack

    Peak Design Everyday Backpack 20L, $259.95, available at Amazon

    Peak originally began as a camera accessory company, but its Everyday backpack and travel bags are great for, well, everyday use — not just for carrying cameras. The reconfigurable internal shelves can be adjusted quickly for any needs. I use this bag for my daily commute to work, and even as my daypack when I travel. I'm also a fan of Peak’s travel backpack and packing tools. David Slotnick, Insider Picks senior reporter



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    LuLaRoe founders

    • The Washington State Attorney General's Office appears to be investigating the multilevel marketing company LuLaRoe, according to sources who were contacted and interviewed by the agency. 
    • One former LuLaRoe seller said the agency is helping her get a refund worth nearly $7,000, which she has been trying to secure from LuLaRoe for seven months.
    • Two people said investigators have obtained data, including consultants' sales numbers, from LuLaRoe. 
    • The Washington State Attorney General's Office said it doesn't comment on the status or existence of investigations. LuLaRoe did not respond to a request for comment.

    The Washington State Attorney General's Office appears to be investigating the multilevel marketing company LuLaRoe, sources with knowledge of the investigation told Business Insider.

    The agency has helped secure refunds over several months — some worth thousands of dollars — for former sellers of the company's clothing who reside in Washington, according to five former consultants who said they were recently contacted and interviewed by an investigator with the agency.

    Topics covered during these interviews were wide-ranging and included LuLaRoe's business practices, ordering processes, and quality issues with the company's clothing, sources said. Two people said investigators have obtained data, including consultants' sales numbers, from LuLaRoe. 

    The Washington State Attorney General's Office said it doesn't comment on the status or existence of investigations, but Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson provided the following statement in regard to LuLaRoe. 

    "I'm aware my office has received complaints about LuLaRoe," Ferguson said. "If Washington consumers are having problems getting refunds, they should contact my office."

    LuLaRoe did not respond to a request for comment.

    One woman told Business Insider that Ferguson's office is helping her get a refund worth nearly $7,000, which she has been trying to secure from LuLaRoe for seven months.

    LuLaRoe stated in an April 2018 email — which was reviewed by Business Insider —  that it would pay her that amount for inventory that she had returned to its warehouse after she exited the business. 

    Hundreds of former LuLaRoe sellers have also said they have been waiting for months for refunds from LuLaRoe, as Business Insider has previously reported. These refunds are for unsold inventory, which LuLaRoe said it would buy back from retailers who exited the business. 

    Amid all this, LuLaRoe is also facing a $49 million lawsuit from its chief supplier, Providence Industries, which alleges the clothing company has failed to pay its bills for seven months. LuLaRoe has denied the claims in the lawsuit.

    SEE ALSO: LuLaRoe is facing mounting debt, layoffs, and an exodus of top sellers, and sources say the $2.3 billion legging empire could be imploding

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: The true story behind the name 'Black Friday' is much darker than you may have thought


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    Donald Trump looking down

    • President Donald Trump was reportedly in the room with Michael Cohen and David Pecker, the head of American Media Inc., when they were discussing during the 2016 campaign season how to quash negative stories from women who say they had affairs with Trump.
    • It's unclear what Trump said and did during the August 2015 meeting with Cohen and Pecker.
    • "But if Trump is now in the room ... you now squarely place Trump in the middle of a conspiracy to commit campaign-finance fraud," a Justice Department veteran told NBC News.
    • Trump has denied that he directed Cohen to break campaign-finance laws and said it was Cohen's own fault if anything he did on Trump's behalf was illegal.
    • But prosecutors have a slew of corroborating evidence detailing Trump's involvement in the hush-money payments.
    • "This is what prosecutors, jurors, and sentencing judges call 'compelling evidence of a conspiracy,'" a longtime former federal prosecutor told INSIDER.

    When prosecutors on Wednesday announced a nonprosecution agreement with American Media Inc., they raised eyebrows when they revealed that the company's head, David Pecker, met with Michael Cohen "and at least one other member" of the Trump campaign.

    The purpose of the meeting, prosecutors said, was to discuss how to quash negative stories about President Donald Trump's relationships with women.

    The person was not named in the portion of the document titled "Statement of Admitted Facts." But legal scholars said that if it was Trump, it could add to already mounting legal and political troubles the president faces in the wake of his longtime lawyer saying he broke campaign-finance laws by arranging hush-money payments to two women at Trump's direction.

    On Thursday, NBC News reported that the unnamed person in the room during the August 2015 meeting was Trump, then a Republican presidential candidate. Trump's possible presence at the meeting was first reported by The Wall Street Journal last month.

    Trump, who is said to be increasingly concerned about the possibility that he will be impeached, fired off a series of tweets early Thursday denying that he directed Cohen to coordinate the payments. He said it was Cohen's own fault if anything he did on Trump's behalf was illegal.

    NBC News' report appears to poke another hole in Trump's already shaky defense in the Southern District of New York's case against Cohen, who is quickly emerging as one of the most dangerous cooperators against Trump.

    Michael Cohen

    Cohen pleaded guilty in August to several counts of tax evasion, bank fraud, and campaign-finance violations, which stemmed from the hush-money payments.

    The first was to the former Playboy model Karen McDougal by AMI, the parent company of the National Enquirer. The company spent $150,000 to purchase the rights to McDougal's account of a 10-month affair with Trump but never published her story. Cohen has said that both he and Trump were involved in coordinating the payment.

    The Manhattan US attorney's office's agreement with AMI said Pecker "offered to help deal with negative stories about that presidential candidate's relationships with women by, among other things, assisting the campaign in identifying such stories so they could be purchased and their publication avoided."

    The second payment was $130,000 to the porn star Stormy Daniels in October 2016 to keep her from discussing what she says was a 2006 affair with Trump.

    Daniel Goldman, a former assistant US attorney, cautioned to NBC News that the agreement didn't detail what Trump said or did in the meeting.

    "But if Trump is now in the room as early as August of 2015, and in combination with the recording where Trump clearly knows what Cohen is talking about with regard to David Pecker, you now squarely place Trump in the middle of a conspiracy to commit campaign-finance fraud," he said.

    Trump's attorneys have argued that the payments were a "simple private transaction" and did not constitute campaign-finance violations because they were made to protect Trump's family and businesses. But Trump's lead defense attorney, Rudy Giuliani, has previously insinuated that if Daniels had broken her silence so close to the election, it could have swayed the outcome in Hillary Clinton's favor.

    The SDNY's agreement with AMI said the company's "principal purpose" in making the payment to McDougal "was to suppress the model's story so as to prevent it from influencing the election."

    Prosecutors also have a tape recording of Trump and Cohen discussing the payments and the setting up of shell companies, as well as referring to Pecker, who news reports have suggested has a history of burying potentially damaging stories about Trump.

    Cohen's and AMI's admissions about the payments, moreover, were made under penalty of perjury.

    "This is what prosecutors, jurors, and sentencing judges call 'compelling evidence of a conspiracy,'" Jeffrey Cramer, a longtime former federal prosecutor in Chicago, told INSIDER earlier Thursday.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Anthony Scaramucci claims Trump isn't a nationalist: 'He likes saying that because it irks these intellectual elitists'


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    Hodinkee Hermes

    • Watch website and retailer Hodinkee has announced its latest collaboration, this time with Hermès.
    • Two new luxury watches are available, one for $7,650 and the other for $14,700.
    • Hermès isn't as well-known as Rolex or Omega, but it has a long horological history and has kept itself relevant through its collaborations with Apple.

    Hodinkee, the watch website and online retailer, has collaborated with some impressive names in horology to bring limited-edition timepieces to consumers. My personal favorites have been two affordable watches with Swatch, but Hodinkee has also worked with names such as Zenith, Omega, Laurent Ferrier, and TAG Heuer.

    Prices have ranged widely, with the pieces typically selling out quickly.

    Hodinkee's latest partnership is with Hermès, a French brand that's well known in traditional high-fashion circles but is somewhat obscure as far as its watches go (Hermès history with horology goes way, way back, however).

    There are two new pieces, a time-only watch that comes in just under 40mm, rendered in steel; and a GMT, also just under 40mm, in palladium. Both are on a blue alligator strap and feature Hermès in-house caliber H1950 movement.

    These are very good-looking, modern watches — not too big, not too small, with exactly the right amount of French flair, supported by Swiss movement-making. 

    Read more:This sleek-looking watch is easily one of the coolest in the world — and it costs only $150

    "The collaboration between the two brands began more than three years ago, with conversations in Switzerland between Hodinkee founder Ben Clymer and Hermès Creative Director Pierre-Alexis Dumas," Hodinkee explained in a statement.

    "These occurred as Hermès continued investing heavily in its in-house watchmaking capabilities and Hodinkee was rising to prominence as one of the leading voices in lifestyle coverage. Over the next few years the two stayed in touch, eventually agreeing that a limited edition product, one that represented both brands in a meaningful way, would be an exciting adventure on which to embark."

    The pieces are officially named "Slim d'Hermès for Hodinkee" and are based on the Slim d'Hermès design that arrived in 2015.

    A history of admiration for HermèsHodinkee Hermes

    "Hermès is a brand that I have long-admired personally and professionally," Clymer wrote in an email to Business Insider.

    "Their eye for design, focus on quality, and attention to detail make them a luxury powerhouse," he continued. "In terms of watchmaking, this allows them to be uniquely positioned, as they are able to draw inspiration from a variety of sources within the brand's portfolio as well as produce watches that are 'in-house.' This further solidifies Hermès as a serious watch manufacturer while at the same time pushing forward the design language of timepieces."

    Price-wise, the watches aren't wildly expensive by the standards of the mechanical watch world, but they are very much luxury items. The time-only is $7,650 and the GMT is $14,700. Just 100 of the former and 24 of the latter will be produced, each with a unique blue dial and "numbered and engraved 'EDITION HODINKEE' on the back and the sapphire window showcases the beautifully finished Hermès" movement, the website said.

    The watches will be available exclusively through the Hodinkee shop.

    Hermès isn't as well-known as Rolex or Omega, but it has kept itself relevant through its collaborations with Apple, creating exclusive digital faces and leather straps to accompany versions of the Apple Watch. In this context, the Hodinkee partnership makes perfect sense, as the website has been engaged with the Apple Watch since the device was launched and has never shied from expressing admiration for Hermès legacy. 

    SEE ALSO: This sleek-looking watch is easily one of the coolest in the world — and it costs only $150

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: 11 Apple Watch tips and tricks


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    4

    • DJ Khaled's waterfront Miami home has been listed for $7.99 million.
    • The waterfront mansion has five bedrooms, six bathrooms, and an enormous sneaker closet.
    • The home is flush with luxury amenities, including a boat lift, an elevator, a wine cellar, and an outdoor entertaining area.

    DJ Khaled's home is the stuff of sneaker-lovers' dreams — and it's now on the market.

    The Miami villa is listed at $7.99 million by Janet Ben Zvi of ONE Sotheby's International Realty.

    DJ Khaled, 43, is a DJ and producer. He also, as Business Insider's Angela Johnson previously reported, launched a luxury furniture line called We The Best Home in September; the line includes lots of "leather, gold, and high-end features."

    A similar attention to detail — and appreciation for the shinier things in life — can be seen throughout his home.

    Read more:A new report reveals the 17 most popular housing markets for the world's richest people, and a notoriously expensive city is missing from the list

    According to a new report from Knight Frank, Miami is one of the world's most popular housing markets for the world's richest people. It's a growing market in which many of the top real estate sales come from penthouses in residential developments. Khaled's house now joins the likes of a $68 million penthouse, which could shatter the state's record, as some of the Miami area's glitzy real estate offerings.

    Here's a look inside the mansion:

    SEE ALSO: Tour the most expensive zip code in Florida — the mysterious members-only island where millionaires pay $250,000 for access

    READ MORE: Here's what the most expensive house for sale in every US state looks like

    According to The Wall Street Journal, the home sits on a half-acre of property on Dumbfoundling Bay in Aventura, about 20 miles north of Miami.

    Source: The Wall Street Journal, Google Maps



    The home is located in an ultra-exclusive gated community ...

    Source: Janet Ben Zvi of ONE Sotheby’s International Realty



    ... and has unobstructed views of the bay and city, according to Janet Ben Zvi of ONE Sotheby's International Realty.

    Source: Janet Ben Zvi of ONE Sotheby’s International Realty



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    coffee table books 4x3 (1)

    Unlike the dog-eared, beaten-down tomes inhabiting the bookshelves of a home, coffee table books are a more refined species.

    They have license over the prime tabletop real estate, and are typically used as both an accent piece, a personal thesis statement, and entertainment for guests patiently waiting for their host to emerge from some other room.

    Coffee table books have the visibility, exclusivity, and the freedom — no, the encouragement — to be mostly full of beautiful, mesmerizing photos. Below are 19 of the very best ones. Bring them as host or hostess gifts, give them as presents for friends who will love the sentimentality of a keepsake ode to a hobby, or pick one up for your own happy perusal.

    Below are 19 of the best coffee table books to give as gifts.

    Looking for more gift ideas? Check out all of Insider Picks' holiday gift guides for 2018 here.

    Living in the Desert” by Phaidon

    “Living in the Desert”, $27.94

    This book is deeply satisfying for anyone interested in architecture, the desert, or contemporary homes. It showcases unique residences across the US, Europe, Asia, Australia and beyond, illustrating the ways in which they interact with the sensitive, arid desert land. Picture blue water, long-fingered shadows of Yucca leaves at midday, and low homes disappearing into red dirt.



    “The Missoni Family Cookbook” by Francesco Maccapani Missoni

    “The Missoni Family Cookbook”, $34

    The Missoni family is best known for their bright knitwear, but they’re also known for their entertaining, including well coveted Fashion Week dinner parties. This aptly colorful cookbook is curated by Francesco Maccapani Missoni, son of Angela Missoni, and details the family’s favorite delicious recipes. It’s the perfect mix of fashion and food.



    “1000 Record Covers” by Michael Ochs

    “1000 Record Covers”, $18

    Record covers are a unique time capsule of our life and times, and this coffee table book curates 1,000 that address such topics as love, life, death, fashion, and rebellion — serving as a symbol for particular times in our own lives, as well as in our collective history.



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    engagement ring

    • Buying an engagement ring is exciting, but it takes a lot of research. Paying for the ring is something you'll need to consider, too.
    • There are a few different ways to pay for a ring, including saving and paying outright or taking out a loan.
    • One of the easiest ways to pay without depleting your cash reserves — and without having to pay interest or loan fees — is to use a credit card with a 0% introductory APR. That way, you can take your time to pay without having to pay interest (until the introductory period is over).  
    • There are a few options, but our choice for the best card with a 0% introductory APR is the Chase Freedom Unlimited. After the 15 month 0% introductory period, a variable 16.99-25.74% APR applies.

    Buying an engagement ring is a big deal. It's a thing that takes research, patience, and decisiveness. As Josh Marion, a vice president at Ritani, an online diamond and jewelry retailer pointed out in an interview with Business Insider, buying an engagement ring "is a decision on par with buying a car or a house — you can't just jump into it."

    Of course, whenever you start thinking about an engagement ring, it's not long before the cost comes into play.

    Whenever you decide you're ready to propose to that special someone, how much you spend on the ring, whether you're resetting a diamond that has been in your family for generations or buying a new one, is a personal decision. There's a ton of advice out there, and plenty of schools of thought, but there are no hard and fast rules; ignore anyone who tells you that you absolutely have to spend three months' salary, or that you have to spend a certain amount for each year you've been together. 

    However much you decide to spend, though, chances are it'll be a lot — likely the most expensive thing you've ever bought. When I proposed to my (now) wife, that was certainly the case — not counting college and grad school, of course.

    One thing that's for sure, though, is that you shouldn't spend outside of your means. When you're ready to pop the question, and in a financial position to do so, there are a few ways to pay for an engagement ring.

    The first, and most obvious, is to save up enough money and buy it outright. However, there are reasons you may not want to do this. For instance, you may want to keep a cash cushion in case of emergency, rather than committing to spending it all at once. After all, that's why people finance things like new appliances or cars.

    The next option is to finance the ring with a loan arranged through your jeweler. Using loans to make major purchases and keep cash on hand can be a smart financial move, and in some cases, the loans offered by your jeweler may fit your needs. However, other times they may not have the best terms or interest rates, and you generally won't get any cash back or rewards on the purchase.

    Fortunately, there's a third option, which is what I went with. Instead of taking out a traditional loan, or financing a ring through a credit card offered by the jeweler, you can open a new credit card that has a 0% introductory APR on purchases for a certain amount of time. 

    jewelry shopping

    When I bought the ring, I opened a card that had that introductory APR for the first 15 months. That meant that instead of paying cash all at once, I was able to charge the ring to the card, and pay it off over a bit more than a year without having to pay any interest. As a nice cherry on top, I even got a signup bonus for opening the card, and cash back on the ring itself, which I was able to put right toward paying it off.

    It was basically free money for buying the ring.

    The key is that you make sure you pay off the whole thing before the introductory APR ends and the normal one becomes effective. In my case, I decided to be safe and divided the total cost of the engagement ring by 14. I paid that amount each month, and that way, I was finished paying off the whole thing a month early.

    A great feature is that you have extra flexibility if you go this route. If you come into some extra cash, or decide that you want to just finish the payments from savings, you can pay off the balance in full at any time.

    While there are a few different cards that offer introductory APRs, the one I would pick now is the Freedom Unlimited card from Chase.

    That's because in addition to offering a long 15-month term on the 0% introductory purchase and balance transfer APR (which goes up to a normal 16.99-25.74% variable APR afterward), it offers 1.5% cash back on every dollar spent, and a sign-up bonus of $150 when you spend at least $500 in the first three months of opening the card. 

    Put another way, if you were using the card to finance a $3,000 purchase, you'd get $195 total cash back.

    Plus, if you have a premium card from Chase, like the Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve, or Ink Business Preferred, you can turn your Freedom Unlimited's cash back into Chase Ultimate Rewards points instead, and move those points to the premium card. That way, you can do things like transfer the points to frequent flyer partners, which is usually a much more lucrative way to use them than as cash back.

    Regardless of which route you choose to go toward paying for the ring, this is an exciting time, but you have a lot of research to do. If you’re not sure where to start, Ritani offers a number of guides on picking out diamonds and settings, as well as how to go about actually buying the ring.

    Click here to learn more about the Chase Freedom Unlimited card from Insider Picks' partner The Points Guy.

    DON'T MISS: The best credit card rewards, bonuses, and perks

    SEE ALSO: Here’s how to make credit cards work for you — instead of the other way around

    Join the conversation about this story »


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    Lifestraw

    • Part of the fun of hiking, camping, climbing, and other outdoor activities is all the great gear that goes along with the adventure.
    • Buying gifts for the outdoorsman or outdoorswoman on your list is tricky for several reasons, largely because of how much most good outdoor gear costs.
    • We've put together a list of 20 great gifts for the camper, climber, paddler, or general outdoor enthusiast on your list, and all of them cost less than $20.

    As an avid hiker, camper, kayaker, and guy who generally likes to be outside whenever possible, I know I can be hard to shop for when it's the gift-giving season. You'd think someone with a hobby would be an easy mark for holiday gift-getting, but us woodsy types are kind of the opposite: Most outdoor enthusiasts already have all the gear they need. In fact, most already have redundant gear many times over. Don't get me wrong, I can justify my seven puffer jackets, four hiking packs, and six pairs of trail running shoes, but I probably can't justify asking for any more such gear for Christmas.

    Beyond the already having it all problem, there's the fact that great outdoor equipment is rarely cheap. Unless you're looking to drop a few hundred bucks on the best hiking boots, tent, or bivy sack out there, you're unlikely to buy something that will be a game changer for your outdoorsy gift recipient. And, truth be told, outdoorspeople tend to be picky, usually preferring to select their own kit and with strong opinions on brands, product categories, and design attributes.

    So that's three strikes — redundancy, cost, and pickiness — against buying gifts for the outdoorsman on your list.

    What's to be done, just go with an Amazon gift card? No! Not at all, we can do better than that.

    Instead, get that outdoorsy guy or gal one of the great pieces of gear I've curated for this guide; it's a good chance they won't have this stuff yet. And if they do, hey, at least you only spent $20 maximum, right?

    Still shopping for more gifts? Check out all of Insider Picks' holiday gift guides for 2018 here.


    SEE ALSO: All of Insider Picks' holiday gift guides, in one place

    SEE ALSO: 27 great gifts for travelers — from $400 custom Bose headphones to $16 TSA-compliant cocktail kits

    LED stakes to make your tent visible and secure all day and night

    UCO StakeLight Tent Stakes with LED Ligh and Emergency Strobe, $17.80, available at Amazon

    Any camper will tell you that one of the best parts about a campout is returning to your tent in the dark and tripping over a tent wire. Even better is stubbing your toe on a tent stake that you also manage to dislodge, making the entire tent collapse in the process. And all you wanted to do was pee. Prevent this all-too-common tableau with UCO StakeLights, the tent stakes with built-in LED lights. They softly illuminate the ground around your tent, helping prevent trips or toe stubs, and adding a bit of welcome glow to the campsite beyond.



    A portable straw that makes all water drinkable

    LifeStraw Personal Water Filter, $11.99, available at Amazon

    With a LifeStraw, basically any source of non-saline water is safe to drink. You can plunge one of these water filters into a puddle, a pond, or a glass of water you suspect might be less-than-pure. A LifeStraw cleans about 1,000 gallons of water before it needs a new filter cartridge, so its happy recipient will be covered even on multi-day or multi-week adventures. And don't worry if you get a LifeStraw for someone who already has one; I keep one in each car and with my gear. Redundancy here is a good thing.



    A double-walled, vacuum insulated mug to keep your beverages hot or cold

    SIMPLE DRINK 12oz Stainless Steel Insulated Coffee Mug, $18.99, available at Amazon

    Your camping buddy surely already has one of those ubiquitous titanium camping cups, and those things are great for being so lightweight, but they don't do much at all for keeping a drink hot or cold. For that, you need a double-walled, vacuum-sealed mug with a good, securely fitting lid. And as it happens, Simple Drink makes one that costs less than $20. 



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    Fool with smartphone

    • Password-management company SplashData releases an annual list of the 100 worst passwords of the year. 
    • This year's list shows that people are still using the worst password from last year. 
    • If your password made the top 25, or even the top 100, it's probably time to change it. 

    Have we learned nothing from the numerous hacks and leaks in recent memory?

    Apparently not.

    Password-management company SplashData released its annual list of the 100 worst passwords of the year based on 5 million leaked passwords on the internet. The worst passwords continued to be "123456" and "password."

    Some of you have switched things up, as there are several new entries to this year's list, like "donald" ranked at number 23, presumably inspired by President Donald Trump. 

    Check out the top 25 most used and least secure passwords of 2018 and whether yours made the cut. 

    1.    123456    (Rank unchanged from last year) 
    2.    password    (Unchanged) 
    3.    123456789 (Up 3) 
    4.    12345678 (Down 1) 
    5.    12345 (Unchanged) 
    6.    111111 (New) 
    7.    1234567 (Up 1) 
    8.    sunshine (New) 
    9.    qwerty (Down 5) 
    10.    iloveyou (Unchanged) 
    11.    princess (New) 
    12.    admin (Down 1) 
    13.    welcome (Down 1) 
    14.    666666 (New) 
    15.    abc123 (Unchanged) 
    16.    football (Down 7) 
    17.    123123 (Unchanged) 
    18.   monkey (Down 5) 
    19.    654321 (New) 
    20.   !@#$%^&* (New) 
    21.    charlie (New) 
    22.   aa123456 (New) 
    23.   donald (New) 
    24.    password1 (New) 
    25.    qwerty123 (New)

    Don't congratulate yourself too much if your passwords didn't make the top 25. Check out the rest of SplashData's list of 100 worst passwords.

    If your password made the top 100 worst passwords list this year, you'd probably do well to change it. SplashData recommends you:

    1. Use passphrases of twelve characters or more with mixed types of characters. 
    2. Use a different password for each of your logins. That way, if a hacker gets access to one of your passwords, they will not be able to use it to access other sites. 
    3. Protect your assets and personal identity by using a password manager to organize passwords, generate secure random passwords, and automatically log into websites.

    SEE ALSO: If you shopped at these 16 stores in the last year, your data might have been stolen

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: A hacker reveals the most secure thing you can do to your passwords


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    donald trump

    • Federal prosecutors are reportedly looking into whether President Donald Trump's inaugural committee broke the law by misspending some of the record money it raised from donations last year.
    • The investigation stems in part from a recording investigators obtained when they raided the property of Michael Cohen, Trump's former longtime lawyer, in April.
    • Cohen is proving to be a key asset to prosecutors, who are following the money.
    • Cohen has pleaded guilty in two other ongoing criminal investigations into Trump's business dealings and activities during the campaign and has quickly emerged as one of the most dangerous cooperators against the president.

    On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported that prosecutors at the Manhattan US attorney's office are in the early stages of a criminal investigation into whether President Donald Trump's inaugural committee misspent some of the $107 million it raised from donations. 

    Prosecutors are also reportedly looking into whether the committee's top donors gave money in exchange for access to the White House, favorable policy platforms, or influence over incoming administration positions.

    According to The Journal, part of the investigation stems from what prosecutors found when they seized documents and materials from the property of Michael Cohen, Trump's former longtime lawyer, in April.

    The report said that among those materials was a recording of a conversation between Cohen and Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a former adviser to First Lady Melania Trump who worked on the inaugural events.

    In the recording, The Journal reported, Wolkoff expressed concern about how the committee was spending the money it had raised. It's unclear when the conversation took place.

    Cohen is quickly emerging as one of the most dangerous cooperators against Trump as federal prosecutors close in on the White House.

    He pleaded guilty this year to charges stemming from two separate investigations. In the first, conducted by the Southern District of New York, Cohen pleaded guilty in August to several counts of tax evasion, bank fraud, and campaign-finance violations, which he said he made at Trump's direction.

    Last month, Cohen also pleaded guilty to one count of lying to Congress as part of the special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Cohen has been cooperating with both offices since the summer.

    Read more:Trump was reportedly in the room when Michael Cohen was discussing hush-money payments with the publisher of the National Enquirer

    Trump inauguration

    This isn't the first time questions have been raised about whether wealthy individuals funneled money to Trump's inaugural committee to influence the incoming administration after the 2016 election.

    Earlier this year, it was reported that eleven days before the inauguration, a prominent Russian oligarch met with Cohen to discuss improving US-Russia relations under Trump.

    The Russian energy tycoon Viktor Vekselberg met with Cohen at Cohen's office on the 26th floor of Trump Tower, the American businessman Andrew Intrater told The New York Times in May.

    Intrater, a relative of Vekselberg who donated $250,000 to Trump's inaugural committee, is the head of the US investment firm Columbus Nova. The company paid Cohen approximately $500,000 in consulting fees between January and August 2017 and is a subsidiary of Renova Group, a Russian conglomerate founded by Vekselberg.

    Intrater told The Times that Vekselberg and Cohen met three times. The second time was during Trump's inauguration, which was attended by at least six Russians aligned with Russian President Vladimir Putin, including Vekselberg.

    Shortly after the inauguration, Columbus Nova signed a $1 million consulting contract with Cohen, a deal that's now reportedly under the scrutiny of federal investigators.

    Read more:DOJ veterans say Trump's latest defense in the Michael Cohen case is rarely successful and could spectacularly backfire on him

    michael cohen

    Cohen was sentenced to three years in federal prison on Wednesday after he pleaded guilty in the SDNY's investigation.

    The same day, federal prosecutors announced that they had reached a non-prosecution agreement (NPA) with American Media Inc. (AMI), the parent company of the National Enquirer, which spent $150,000 to purchase the rights to the account of Karen McDougal, the model who said she had a 10-month affair with Trump. 

    Trump's attorneys argue that Cohen's payments to buy the silence of McDougal and of the porn star Stormy Daniels, who Cohen paid $130,000 in October 2016 to keep her from discussing what she says was a 2006 affair with Trump, were a "simple private transaction" and did not constitute campaign-finance violations because they were made to protect Trump's family and businesses. The National Enquirer did not publish McDougal's story.

    The NPA with AMI said the company "admitted that its principal purpose in making the payment was to suppress the woman's story so as to prevent it from influencing the election."

    Trump on Thursday denied directing Cohen to coordinate the payments to McDougal and Daniels. But later that day, NBC News reported that Trump was in the room when Cohen was discussing with AMI head David Pecker how to quash negative stories about Trump's relationships with women.

    "The timing and surrounding facts, which include a NPA with the Enquirer, show a pattern of purposeful concealment with the sole intent of hiding the truth from the electorate a month before the election," Jeffrey Cramer, a former longtime federal prosecutor in Chicago, told INSIDER earlier this week.

    "One by one, the career DOJ prosecutors are removing possible Trump defenses," wrote Neal Katyal, the former acting US solicitor general. "Now it isn't just Cohen, but also AMI, saying these hush money payments were made to influence the 2016 Presidential election, and knock out the so-called '[John] Edwards defense.'"

    Read more:Federal prosecutors are blowing holes through all of Trump's defenses in the Michael Cohen case

    Robert Mueller.

    Cohen's cooperation is also likely opening new doors for Mueller's office as his team follows the money while investigating the Trump campaign's financial ties to Russian interests.

    Cohen admitted last month to misleading congressional investigators about his and Trump's involvement in the Trump Organization's push to build a Trump Tower in Moscow at the height of the election.

    Prosecutors wrote in their criminal information against Cohen that he "discussed the status and progress of the Moscow Project" with Trump "on more than the three occasions Cohen claimed" to the Senate Intelligence Committee and that "he briefed family members" of Trump within the Trump Organization about it.

    Cohen's lawyers later said he was "in close and regular contact" with Trump's lawyers and White House staffers while he was drafting false testimony to give to Congress. His former lawyer, Lanny Davis, also told Bloomberg this week that Trump knew Cohen was planning to lie to Congress and did not advise him against it.

    Grace Panetta contributed to this report.

    Join the conversation about this story »

    NOW WATCH: Anthony Scaramucci claims Trump isn't a nationalist: 'He likes saying that because it irks these intellectual elitists'


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