Never Overpay for Eye Wear Again

47c94-2016-08-042b20-36-16Buying glasses can be a costly affair. At least a hundred dollars for the frames, then you have to add in the cost of the actual prescription lenses…My mom paid up to $400 for a pair for me when I was just a kid. It isn’t fair, why should people who are born with bad eyesight have to empty their bank accounts to buy something to help them see? I literally couldn’t go to school without my glasses/contacts because I am blind as a bat.

Glasses are expensive around the world. Even when I was living in China, it cost a couple hundred Yuan, which is a lot in that currency. In the UK, for an adult, it could cost a hundred pounds. I tried to keep my eye bills cheap by buying Walmart frames, but it was still pricey.

Then a friend told us about the sight Zenni Optical. She said she bought frames for only $6.95. I thought it was one of those internet scams, or they were some badly made Dollar Store glasses. I didn’t bother looking into it, until after my mother ordered her first pair (bad eyesight runs in the family). They were awesome! Super colorful, and with the glass lens, plus shipping, she still paid less than $20.

The way it works is you have to already have a valid eye prescription. You copy it into their system, and then you have to measure your own head so you know the width you need for the frames. Then, you go through their huge selection and pick out your favorite. Not all the frames cost $6, those are the older styles or the ones that didn’t sell out yet. But, even for a on trend frame, you are only looking at $12-$20. I’ve bought a $12 frame, UV protected lenes, for around $25. It is affordable! And because it is so cheap, you can purchase multiple pairs to go with different outfits or styles. Color coordinated glasses is something I never dreamed I could have with my limited budget.

42246049_236112797253370_2217672660681228288_nZenni also does sunglasses. Now, I wear contacts 80% of the time, and only use my glasses when I wake up and before going to sleep. However, my mother uses her 24/7. While driving, she needs sunglasses. She tried buying the oversized ones that were in style in the mid-2000’s and wearing them over her prescription glasses but they weren’t comfortable. She also tried the clip on sun glasses, but they don’t really work either. But, her Zenni sunglasses (which were less than $10) have lasted her for years.

My family uses nothing but Zenni, so if you are vision impaired like I am, I suggest you use NOTHING but Zenni. Also, Zenni didn’t pay me to do this, I’m just sharing the #doitcheap philosophy by offering up a good glasses website.

How To Get FREE TV

40854025_239718670047988_5278440134482591744_n.pngIn the US free television no longer really exists. You can get PBS and some channels, but only if you have a satellite or an antenna. And you know what I mean by antenna, the two metal rods that sit on top of your TV and you point them in a certain direction to better reception.

Well, in the UK there is so much free TV! Honestly, I don’t think people need to pay for cable in the UK because the free channels have so much to offer. Channel 5 plays drama, movies, cooking shows. Channel 4 has reality tv, documentaries, and soap opera. BBC has movies, documentaries and obviously some of the worlds best news. All 3 of these channels (and several more) are all free! Once a year you do have to pay for a tv license, which is basically to have access to anything on your tv. But the cost is minimal, I don’t know any household that doesn’t have it. Stations like Channel 4 or ITV are able to keep the cost to consumers so low by charging for commercials and some brand endorsements. Certain shows will say they are sponsored by a toilet paper brand or beer.

Why is it that the UK can offer so much free entertainment, but the USA can’t? America is supposedly a very wealthy country, we can afford to have the world’s largest military. But simple thing like health care or TV can’t be free? I can’t find any  logic for why the UK offer’s its residents so much and the US offers so little.

So, do you want to find a way to get these free channels? Most of them offer their shows online with streaming. You can gain access to all of them (except BBC) by creating an online account with your social media like Facebook. They might have a lock for people watching from outside the UK, but you can easily get around that by using a VPN. A VPN is basically a work around where it tricks a website into thinking you are in the UK or a certain country, when you really are not.

I’ve included a list of the free channels you can check out below, and some of the shows I like on them.

BBC: I love the docuseries on here! The Sex in Britain one is very compelling.

ITV: It is terrible, but I love to watch Bridezilla’s.

Channel 4: You have to watch the Great British Bake Off! It is homely cooking with friendly competition.

Channel 5: Rich House Poor House is such an interesting show! It forces two families to swap lives for a week so the rich can see how it feels to live on the bread line.

The Blogging Sites You Should and Should Not Use

I’ve been blogging on and off for more than 5 years. I’ve gone through 10 different layouts, 4 different names and 3 different hosting sites. I’ve tried all the popular ones, and these are my experiences. Hopefully, I can save you some hassle (and money).

Screenshot (26)Blogger: Blogger is the blogging platform created/run by Google. I started my first blog on this hosting site. (Awww baby writer) It is like blogging with training wheels. It is very basic, but that is what you need when you are just starting out. Instead of using it to generate traffic, or be the fanciest blog on the block, I used Blogger as the place to really nail down my personal voice. Writing content is easy, as is adding embedded links and pictures. The best part is how straight forward it is to design the layout how you want. In addition, it links so well with your Gmail, Youtube, and Google profile. The help page was useful, and if I had further questions I always got prompt responses. I was never able to get Google Ad Sense to work…which is ironic because Google is the host… I recommend Blogger for the new writer who is just exploring what blogging is and where they want to take their writing. I give Blogger a 6 out of 10.

Screenshot (27)Wix.com: Wix was my second hosing site. I transitioned from Blogger to Wix because I thought Wix could generate more traffic and take my blog to the next level. I was wrong. I will say the layout was better than Blogger, although it took me much longer to arrange the way I wanted. It had more options for personalising my various pages. They have free images to add to the blog, but they make it difficult to Pin on Pinterest. It was the prettiest version of my blog that I have had. However, I paid a premium rate so I could have Google Ads…and Wix never gave them to me. I was paying a fortune to the company every month for services they never delivered. The Wix help is HORRIBLE! They mostly redirect you in a circle on their FAQ page. The traffic for my blog went waayyyy down on Wix. They do nothing to help with blog promotion, which Blogger did. And the final issue is it is next to impossible to leave Wix. They bill you for things separately, so I tried to cancel my plan and domain, and I managed to cancel for one of them. But, Wix continued to charge me for hosting a blog that no longer existed. The website wasn’t live online, but I was paying for it….When I complained, they refused to refund. And the free version they offer for blogs is next to useless. Wix is not a good host for a blogger, maybe for a different kind of website but not for a writer. I give Wix a 2 out of 10.

Screenshot (28)WordPress: This is the 3rd blog host I have tried. It is a bit more complicated to use than Blogger, but they layout looks better. I have been able to personalise it to my liking. The help page is equal to Blogger. Creating content is easy, and they offer a lot of stock images which is crucial to a small writer. I still don’t have Google Ad sense. All blog hosting sites now charge you to use Google Ad sense, and it is only worthwhile if you have a lot of traffic. But, if you have a lot of traffic, most sites offer you abs for free. So, is not the ideal situation. The one thing that WordPress is spectacular at is attracting traffic to my blog! I’ve gotten more likes and follows with WordPress than any other hosting site. The free version is more than enough for me. I would say this blog is good for the writer who knows their content, knows what they like, and is prepared to put in a bit more work to make their website look how they want. If Blogger is for a beginner and Wix is for NO ONE, then WordPress is for the intermediate-advanced blogger. I give WordPress a 7 out of 10 (so far).

If you are a new (or old) blogger and you are thinking of switching your hosting platform, or upgrading, read this! I wish I had found more honest reviews of hosting sites before I started out. I would have saved myself a lot of time and money. Please comment and share which sites you like or hate!

Beachbody is a Scheme that You Should Not Waste Your Money or Time On

Fixed beachbodyYou’ve probably stumbled across at least one transformation picture that gave credit to Beachbody and Shakeology on your social media. Beachbody is one of the biggest fitness companies in the USA & Canada and is estimated to be worth over $1.2 billion.[1] Unsurprisingly, the company was eager to expand, and after a year of buildup, Beachbody UK launched in October 2017. I’m a fitness lover, so I was naturally curious about the latest and greatest trend.

Beachbody has an ingenious business plan. In the late 2000’s it switched to a model that utilized regular people and their social media contacts. The new ‘sellers’ of the Beachbody product were called ‘coaches’. These were customers who used the product and were then recruited into the company. Currently, Beachbody has around 360,000 coaches[3] (I am estimating the number of coaches that have joined in the UK).

The coaches earn income by getting commission from ‘challenge packs’, Shakeology, gear and by recruiting new coaches. The coach recruitment is the best way for coaches to up their income. Beachbody gives coaches regular monetary bonuses for the number of coaches they have recruited below them (if this seems like a pyramid scheme, it is a very similar setup). Some of the more famous Beachbody coaches make over six figures per year. Becoming a coach is billed as a great, easy, fast way to make money at home.

The posts I saw on Instagram by these coaches made it seem so good. They got to work out, get paid, and “help others live a happier life”. I was skeptical, but if this was legitimate then it was perfect for me. Unbeknownst to my friends and family, I joined Beachbody as a coach to investigate the inner workings of the business and to understand what was going on behind closed computer screens.

Below is a list of all the things you will never be told by Beachbody coaches or in the training, in addition to my personal warning about why you should not fall for the Beachbody mystique. Let’s start with the limited benefits Beachbody offers you.

  1. The ‘meal plan’ given to you is very similar to what most doctors recommend for losing weight. The emphasis is on portion control and getting your daily amounts of fruit, vegetables and protein. All this information is readily accessible online. Beachbody contributes by giving you Tupperware containers to divvy out your allotted portions for each food. The containers are color coded but the same thing you can buy from Walmart.
  2. The workouts are decent. Some are a bit dated in clothing and music, but otherwise you get a good sweat. Each move is explained and demonstrated. You also get a day by day workout, so you don’t have to plan anything. Overall, I think Beachbody has a good thing going with their workouts. However, the price is a high compared to similar things on the market like Fit Body Guides or Fitness Blender.
  3. They have a helpful customer service. I had to call customer service twice, once for a postal inquiry and once for a refund question. Both times I got the answer I wanted and the staff was very friendly.

Now, for the many problems I found with Beachbody.

  1. You must invest way more than people tell you. To begin as a coach, you pay £39.95 to join, then you are forcefully encouraged to purchase a challenge pack that includes your first months Shakeology, access to workouts, and the online coaches training. This costs you £160.00 + VAT, but you get a 25% discount as a coach and you get the £39.95 coach fee waived with purchase. This works out to an even £160.00 just for your first month! After that you pay £15.95 per month for access to your coach website and the training library, and £95.00 for your monthly order of Shakeology. So, the monthly running cost is roughly £120.00 including VAT + shipping. To break even, in commission you would need to sell a minimum of 3 challenge packs a month. Coaches try to play this amount down to potential new coaches by saying it is a small price to pay to be your own boss. But…is it?
  1. It is not a quick or easy way to hustle some side cash. The social media posts I saw from Beachbody coaches made it seem simple! Post work out pics, show you are drinking Shakeology, and people will want to join your challenge group. What Beachbody neglects to tell is that you must constantly talk people into joining your challenge or coaching group.The work doesn’t stop there, after you have walked people through the joining/payment process, you now must put in effort to guide them through workouts, provide emotional support, and basically be a life coach for half the money you would normally get. I would estimate that you need to network for at least 3 hours per day and assist in your challenge groups at least 1-2 hours to earn a slight profit.
  1. You become the creepy stalker character from ‘Friend Request’. To get new coaches below you (so you earn bonuses) and customers you must stalk, harass, and annoy people into working with you. Beachbody even have a suggested formula that coaxes people into agreeing. First, you study their profiles, and find something you have in common. Then, you randomly message them with something like ‘I see you are an avid hiker like me! That is so cool, where are some of the places you have climbed?’ Now, you have a conversation going and you can eventually slip in that they should join your Beachbody challenge group. In case they have some objection like money or time, Beachbody has pre-prepared responses designed to refute their concerns. It is straight up stalker material.
  2. You are persuasively encouraged to drink Shakeology. Shakeology is one of the biggest sellers for Beachbody. It is a drink with a ton of added vitamins and herbs that is supposed to curb cravings, make you eat less, and basically help you lose weight along with the workouts. I was most cynical of this aspect of Beachbody. It tastes good, like cake batter, but immediately after my heart was unnaturally racing and I got the runs. Concerned, I went to a pharmacist to ask about Shakeology and interactions with my medication, and was told that there was no way to know because so many of the ingredients weren’t tested for interactions and were likely not fully researched. I told my Beachbody mentor that I wasn’t comfortable selling a product I couldn’t drink for health reasons. She reacted aggressively, saying my concerns were unfounded, and I should try to drink it for at least 8 days for my body to adjust. Her suggestion that I should drink it for at least a week made me think there was something else going on. I took my bag of Shakeology and went through the ingredients list. It shared ingredients with soda, and energy drinks, as well as using artificial sweeteners that haven’t been thoroughly studied. I can’t say positively (I am not a medical professional), but I’m suspicious that Shakeology might be mildly addictive.
  1. It is almost cult like. Once you are in Beachbody it is really, hard to get out. Your coach will put in a lot of effort to keep you in the program. If you want to cancel your coach membership you have to file online paperwork and then wait weeks before they officially cancel your membership. You must also call to separately cancel your monthly Shakeology. You cannot cancel this online anywhere. And, if you want to return any products for any reason, it is a trial! In the UK, the official return address does not show up in the Royal Mail Postal system. I tried calling Beachbody for a different address, was given the same one, then told to pay to use their special Beachbody courier who sent it to an address in a different region than the one advertised on the Beachbody UK site.
  2. It is concerning that Beachbody puts all legal responsibility on its coaches. If you do not follow their scripts word for word, and someone attempts to sue for injury, breach of contract, whatever, the coach, not Beachbody is liable. A dangerous place to be if you are a small business owner with no insurance.

It’s difficult to find any negative reviews about Beachbody and their coaching schemeBeachbody 2 online. It took deep internet research to find a few blogs that had somewhat un-positive things to say, but they all still had pro-Beachbody quotes worked in. I attribute this to a very strongly worded coach contract all new coaches must agree to prior to accessing Beachbody. One section forbids an active coach from posting ANY negative reviews/comments/opinions online while still working as/with Beachbody.

I began this project because I wanted to see if Beachbody’s overwhelmingly positive reputation was as honest as it appeared. It wasn’t. Personally, it was an extremely hostile experience. I had internet trolls comment on my photos, my mentor attempt to brow beat me, and I got ill off Shakeology. I suggest that you do not join Beachbody as a coach to earn money. If you are purely interested in the workouts, they seem safe and effective, but drink Shakeology after seeking a doctor’s advice.

In a bid to quiet the people who might suggest I wrote this because I am upset I didn’t make any profit, let me give a breakdown. Several weeks into coaching, I did have several people who were ready and willing to pay to be a part of my challenge group and several people ready to join me as coaches. I would have gotten a profit from both aspects of the Beachbody business if I continued. I worked the program exactly as outlined by Beachbody. I want to also clarify I returned all profits and cancelled my Beachbody membership before I wrote this, I made zero profit from the business, and I have not violated any confidentiality. All of this information is accessible on their website and via research. 

[1] Beachbody Executive Team – Fitness, Nutrition, Diet, Weight Loss Official Web site Beachbody UK Fitness – http://www.Beachbody.co.uk. Beachbody LLC. (2017). Retrieved November 06, 2017, from https://www.beachbody.co.uk/product/about/executive-team.do
[2] Beachbody History – Founding Date – Beaching Coaching Started in 2007. (2014, March 13). Retrieved November 06, 2017, from https://fitdadchris.com/beachbody-history/
[3] Company Overview. Beachbody LLC. (2017). Retrieved November 06, 2017, from https://www.beachbody.com/product/about_us/company_overview.do

Google Might Soon Be In China, and What That Mean’s For You

China pictureGoogle is taking some heat this week from its employee’s. Many aren’t happy to discover that Google is attempting to develop a Chinese friendly search engine. This means that it would be a search engine like Google, but it adhered to the censorship guidelines/laws that the Chinese government have in place for the country. The Google employee’s are mad because they feel that their work is being used for “unethical” things and they Google is no longer the moral compass they expected the company to be for the tech world.

Since when do employee’s get to dictate what a company does? Teacher’s don’t design the school curriculum, the state governments do that. Do teacher’s get up in arms because they have to teach stuff they don’t like? Rarely. As an English teacher, I don’t like that I need to teach students to eliminate their native accent when speaking English, but I do it because that is what I am paid for. I think the Google employee’s have been given more control and rights within their company than most employee’s. Now, they are taking advantage of that.

Honestly, I don’t blame Google for wanting to re-enter China. It has the worlds biggest population, and literally gives Google access to billions of people. All tech companies want to be popular there. So, of course Google is trying to work within the restrictions to get their company more revenue and users. I don’t blame Google, it is a smart business decision. Google isn’t removing more information from the Chinese people, so, why be mad at the company? As the saying goes: Don’t hate the player, hate the game. Meaning don’t be mad at Google for acting like a smart business and playing China’s game.

An article with more details on this issue is here. Furthermore, this article claims that Google is the one that left China. I would argue that Google was unceremoniously blocked by the Chinese government and just “claimed to leave”. I was living in China in 2008 and I can tell you that Google was hard to access due to censorship even then. So, Google may have been heralded as this moral company for refusing to give into censorship, but it was really a clever marketing scheme to spin the fact that China wasn’t allowing Google access anymore.

How and Why You Should Teach Gender To Your Kids/Class

Gender picWhile teaching English this summer, I was fortunate enough to work for a company that had a spectacular text book. It encouraged open discussions in English, and didn’t just talk about the boring topics like shopping, movies, etc. My level 4 book had a section on gender issues. This is a subject I studied quite a bit at university, and follow in the news, but not one I have ever taught. So, I challenged myself to teach gender to students with English as a second language.

Hands down, this was one of the hardest subjects I have ever had to teach. Not because of a lack of knowledge, but because it involves such sensitive issues that society has coached us to not discuss publicly. Well, I did and it was the best class I have ever led.

I began by having the students create a list of issues related to gender, not only for women but men as well. Here are some things we came up with for men; custody rights, mental health stigma, body pressure, lack of support for sexual abuse, paternity leave, inability to cry. For women; pay gap, hormones being used as an excuse for feelings, maternity leave, pressure to find partners, tampon tax. This list is only a small sample of the massive ideas my students developed.

I then did something very controversial, I told my students I was going to make some statements that might be upsetting but I encouraged them to disagree with me. I said: Gay is against nature and wrong. Women are the lesser sex. Transgender/transsexual’s are just a mental disorder. The reactions I got were astounding. All of my students (even the quiet ones) got up in arms. They debated me, fought me. They spoke more in this class than in any other. They were understandably angry at my narrow minded statements, but it was only after we finished our discussion that I admitted that I didn’t agree with a word I said. I showed them how by phrasing things in that method got them to talk more than any other way could have.

Unfortunately, while teaching this subject, my boss overheard me. My company is very clear that they do not require me to give in lesson plans, and they do not censor what I teach. But, my boss did not like what I was saying or how I was saying it. He couldn’t tell me to stop, he had no authority to because our manager had already given me the Ok. So, instead, he pulled me aside and claimed I was “talking too much for an English class” and he refused to hear my explanation. Just because he didn’t like what I said, he literally told me to stop talking in class.

That is what our society does. If people don’t like what one person says, they make them be silent. Especially in regards to issues related to gender like LGBTQ+ rights or equality among the sexes. It makes people so uncomfortable! I felt uncomfortable discussing it, but I am glad I did. Because, I had multiple students write me thank you cards saying that my gender class was their favourite class of the summer. Many even said an adult had never talked to them about these issues, and they were grateful I did. It was wonderful for me to hear that, but also sad to know that 16 year old kids had never had someone discuss gender issues with them. These are vital to encourage a tolerant, accepting world. We need EDUCATION around this, and all issues, to ensure there is a better tomorrow.

 

Buy This If You Are Renting or In a Dorm

Screenshot (21)I don’t frequently do reviews, unless something truly warrants my attention. But, hands down the best investment I have ever made is a foam mattress topper. I have moved every year since I was eighteen. I’ve lived in three different states, and two different countries.

The one thing that has stayed constant in all that is, I move into furnished houses/apartments. I don’t move furniture, just clothes. And all of the beds in the places I have moved to have been less than heavenly. Usually, they are old, threadbare, and covered in stains. For a lot of these years, I’ve been a poor university student, or struggling graduate. I could not afford to buy a new mattress every time I changed homes. So, for five years, I just accepted having a bad back from constantly sleeping on terrible mattresses.

Then, one day I got smacked with the worst food poisoning of my life (and I’ve lived in East Asia so that says a lot) and I was trapped in a bed where I could feel every single metal spring. It was agony. In a haze of vomit, I rush ordered a foam mattress topper off Amazon Prime. It cost me £50 and was the only cheap, highly rated option that had next day delivery.

From the minute I put it on my ancient bed, everything turned magical. It was like laying on a cloud. I’ve moved three times since I bought the mattress topper. And the only thing I have always brought with me is this foam pad of heaven. The foam mattress topper is nearly two years old, and it hadn’t worn down. The eggshell like top is still visible, and there are no dents from my partners larger frame.

No matter where I live, from now on, I will always buy or bring with me a foam mattress topper. They can compress into a box, and it ensures I always get a good nights rest. For any university student, or anyone renting a house that comes fully furnished, this is an investment you will NEVER regret. Plus, you can find them for fairly cheap, and it will save you loads in coffee and chiropractor costs because you won’t have a bad back or lack sleep due to your bed arrangement.