Inspiring Ideas from Bottom Line’s Experts

With 2015 rapidly approaching, we asked a wide range of our experts to share one thing they did in 2014 that went so well for them that they would recommend our readers try it in the coming year.

Edgar Dworsky: I saved money by comparing online and in-store prices at the same store. Major retailers increasingly are offering different prices online than in their own stores. This seems to be particularly common at Walmart, Sears and Kmart. When I helped a friend replace his major kitchen appliances last summer, I found that he could save $550 by buying at Sears.com, compared with buying the same appliances in a Sears store. When I shopped for a barbecue grill at Kmart, I saved around $80 by buying in a store rather than at Kmart.com. The only way to know is to visit both the website and the store. If you have a smartphone, you can check the online price while in the store. If the online price is lower, some stores match it.

David Borenstein, MD: I took up an exercise I didn’t think I’d like. As a doctor, I’ve recommended yoga to patients many times, but I had resisted doing it myself. I thought a stiff old guy like me wouldn’t have enough flexibility. In 2014, my wife finally shamed me into trying it—and I was surprised to find that I liked it. I’ll never be as flexible as some people in my yoga class, but I’m a lot more flexible than I was, which has helped me avoid injuries. Before I started doing yoga, I thought I would have to give up playing squash soon because of the risk for joint and muscle injuries. Now I can play without getting hurt.

Maxwell Ryan: I painted my kitchen black. This year, I painted the walls of my kitchen above the counters black. I then installed open stainless steel shelving rather than cabinets on those black walls. The dark backdrop made the stainless shelving, glassware, white plates and bowls and light-colored countertops look just wonderful when lit by the bright halogen bulbs I have in my kitchen. People tend to think of black as dark and foreboding, but it actually is a very warm color when used in decorating—in contrast, it’s white that feels cold to the eye.

Hollye Jacobs, RN: I teamed up with partners who could help me spread my ­message. Though the book I wrote about surviving breast cancer became a New York Times best seller, I knew that the vast majority of women diagnosed with breast cancer would never see it. When I reflected on my priorities, I realized that my main objective was not selling as many books as possible but helping as many people as possible. This year, I teamed up with partners who could help me achieve that goal. For example, the insurance company Allstate agreed to offer a condensed digital version of my book for free to everyone diagnosed with breast cancer between October 2014 and October 2015 (Allstate.com/SilverLining). I also did a video for ­Bottom Line on my personal experience with breast cancer (BottomLinePublications.com/chats/hollye-jacobs-video-chat). What I know is that all life experiences have a value and a silver lining worth sharing.

Barbara Oakley, PhD: I took MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), Internet-based college-level classes with wonderful videos and optional exams and student discussion forums. They’re free and open to anyone who signs up. I took several MOOCs this year in preparation for teaching one myself, and I enjoyed them tremendously. My favorites were “A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior” taught by Duke University professor Dan Ariely…and “Human Evolution: Past and Future” taught by University of Wisconsin-Madison professor John Hawks. You can explore the options at Class-­Central.com.

Dan Baker, PhD: I held my tongue to help my relationships. I have been judgmental with the people closest to me over the years. If I thought that one of my adult children—or someone else I cared about—was making a mistake, I let him/her know. But I’ve been hearing the clock ticking lately, and that has made me focus on what’s really important—my relationships with my children. The decisions they’ve made with their lives were their decisions to make, not mine, and my criticisms only pushed them away. Now I ask myself, Is what I am about to say going to bring me closer to this person or drive a wedge between us? If it’s the wedge, I think of a better way to say it or I don’t say anything at all. Sometimes what’s not said is more important than what could be said.

John La Puma, MD: I talked up the health benefits of guacamole. I taught 50 physicians in the Northern California area how to make ­guacamole, because it is among the healthiest of foods. Sure, guacamole is high in fat, but the fat in avocados—the essential ingredient of guacamole—is monounsaturated. Unsaturated fats are “good” fats that help to reduce cholesterol and quiet inflammation. Avocados also are rich in potassium, which helps control high blood pressure…fiber, which helps people feel full, discouraging overeating…antioxidants, which are believed to reduce the odds of heart disease and cancer…and many vitamins and phytonutrients. The other ingredients in guacamole are healthy as well. For example, chile peppers help to boost metabolism and improve intestinal health. You can serve your guacamole with vegetable dippers, or use it as a sandwich spread. My guacamole recipe is at DrJohnLaPuma.com/recipes/donnas-basic-guacamole.