The SNAP Gap: why millions of Americans will face a food scarcity crisis this month and next

4 months, 19 days ago

The Trump Shutdown is over, but some of its consequences are still playing out. Millions of SNAP recipients will face very real food shortages later this month and next — due to the shutdown itself as well as the underlying inadequacy of the SNAP program (more about this later).

First, some background is in order.

In a well-intentioned move, USDA moved aggressively to make sure February SNAP benefits were distributed despite the government shutdown. They did this by authorizing states (which administer SNAP) to distribute February SNAP benefits to the program’s approximately 39 million recipients on or before Jan. 20.

The next round of SNAP benefits will be distributed in March – when in March depends on the state, and, in some cases, the luck of the draw – some states distribute benefits on a rolling basis, depending on a family member’s Social Security number, case number, or where his or her last name falls in the alphabet.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that seven states, covering just 2 percent of SNAP beneficiaries, issue benefits on the first day of the month. That means the SNAP recipients in these states would face a 40-day gap between Jan. 20 and March 1. That 40-day figure is important; as CBPP notes, SNAP law requires that “no household experience an interval between issuances of more than 40 days.”

What of the other states? Some 21 states issue all, or almost all, of their SNAP benefits within the first ten days of the month. This would mean a gap of 40 to 49 days for those recipients. About half of all states have some households that will have 50 days or more before SNAP benefits are received, unless states change their distribution schedules. 14 percent of SNAP households will experience a gap of 51 to 55 days; 8 percent will see a gap of 55 to 60 days, and 3 percent will face a painful interval of 61 days or more.

Why is this a problem? There are a number of reasons – and they all add up to one sobering conclusion. Things are going to get bad in a hurry for millions of Americans facing food scarcity.

First, SNAP benefits are just too low. The average SNAP benefit is about $1.40 per person, per meal, or somewhere between $125 and $126 a month. Many SNAP recipients can’t make that stretch over a month – much less more than 40 days or longer.

Second, we know (and CBPP reminds us) that SNAP benefits are spent quickly because families’ total income is very low, and once they’ve paid for rent, heat, and other urgent needs, they are heavily reliant on SNAP. Says the CBPP: “It’s well documented that SNAP benefits normally run out for most households before the end of the month. Within a week of receiving SNAP, households redeem over half of their SNAP allotments. By the end of the second week, SNAP households have redeemed three-quarters of their benefits, and by the end of the third week, they have redeemed 90 percent.”

Third, there was a lack of information in many local communities about why February benefits were distributed on Jan. 20 – and the need for rationing them through the next month. USDA did not require states to send households notice of the change in timing. Instead, states tried to rely on a combination of social and traditional media and their partners’ networks to spread the word – with mixed results.

The Washington Post reported that in South Carolina, a rumor was spread that SNAP recipients were required to spend their Jan. 20 allocation by the end of January or lose their benefits entirely, a blatantly false rumor.

Sue Berkowitz, director of the SC Appleseed Legal Justice Center, said the intent may have been nefarious.

“I am afraid it was done by someone who was trying to mislead folk,” she told Voices for Human Needs. “We had a piece up on Facebook about the February benefit, and there were some really ugly comments, which we deleted.”

Nonetheless, Berkowitz said, “My bigger concern is how are people going to make their benefits last for five or six weeks when we know that at best they can last 2.5 (weeks).”

Fourth and finally: many SNAP recipients live on the edge, one crisis away from financial calamity that can cause a shift in resources. Day-to-day emergencies – a higher-than-expected heating bill, a car breakdown, a change in job status — can emerge that force families to use cash on other things when they had planned to use it to supplement inadequate SNAP benefits.

Front-line service providers are worried, to put it mildly.

Simone Gordon is a waitperson, a part-time student, and the mother of a boy with autism. She administers the Facebook group, Special Needs People of Color Single Moms Help Group. The volunteer group, which has grown to about 500 members, regularly helps raise funds for those in dire need – and takes on special projects around the holidays, for example, or if a family is suddenly the victim of a disaster, such as families displaced by the California wildfires.

“As a black organizer, I certainly am concerned that SNAP benefits will run out,” Gordon told Voices for Human Needs. “This has become a major concern in Maryland, D.C. and southern states as food pantries are running out of food. Fundraising efforts to send families food are exhausting and I am horrified of what is yet to come.”

Berkowitz, the SC Appleseed director, added that she is “very worried about the increase in hunger for those folk, it is horrible. I wish we could get our state to think about a way to supplement. I don’t think the food banks will be able to compensate for the gap. They have been capping the number of people they see in Columbia for a while.”

Noting the consequences of shutting down the government over the Administration’s insistence on border wall funding, Berkowitz concludes:

“This did not have to happen. And people understand that the current Administration caused a confrontation that had no relationship to what is really going on at the border, causing people to be harmed.”

Cross-posted from CHN’s Voices for Human Needs.

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A Week In Paris, France, On A $101,000 Salary

6 months, 5 days ago

Welcome toMoney Diaries , where we’re tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We’re asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.

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Today: a communications director working in software development who makes $101,000 per year and spends some of her money this week on roses. Editor’s note: All prices have been converted to U.S. dollars.

Occupation: Communications Director Industry: Software Development Age: 39Location: Paris, France Salary: $101,000Paycheck Amount (Month): $5,000 (I also get food vouchers as part of my company benefits — about $200/month.)

Monthly ExpensesMortgage: $1,235 ($1,185 a month on a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage at 1.15%, with homeowner’s insurance at $50/month)Utilities: $485 for electricity, gas, and waterInternet: $43.75 (includes international calls, TV, and broadband)Cell Phone: $0 ($96 paid for by my work)Navigo Pass: $94Gym Membership: $200Subscriptions: $31.25 (This includes newsletters and business tools for my side business in communications consulting.)House Emergency Fund: $490Savings: $1,000

Day One

5:30 a.m. — On Mondays I take the train to Paris, which costs $15 if I buy my ticket ahead of time online. It’s three times as much if you buy it at the station, so I avoid that whenever possible. I can’t afford property in Paris, but there’s no work in my field where I live, so I work in Paris and live in a rural region about two hours away. My boyfriend, R., and our infant daughter will follow in the afternoon by car. We’ll spend Monday through Thursday afternoon in Paris, where my boyfriend owns a small two-bedroom apartment. $15

7:50 a.m. — It’s my first day back in the office since maternity leave started four months ago. No one else is here yet. I caffeinate with free office coffee and grab some fruit and nuts.

12:21 p.m. — Morning meetings are over, so I duck outside for lunch. I head to the supermarket to stock up on soup, yogurt, and bars for the next week. Paris is a lunchtime minefield, and if I’m not careful, I know I’ll end up spending more money than I can afford. I used to watch my expenses in this area and stick to a strict food budget, but I don’t anymore. It was unrealistic while I was single and working all the time, and it’s unrealistic now that we’re a family of three. When she was my age, my mother had two children and cooked three square meals a day, all while working. Despite the current constraints of my life, I feel like I should be, too, and feel halfway guilty when I cop out by buying bricks of soup. $21.17

5:17 p.m. — I can’t seem to settle down, so I go out for a quick walk around the block. I duck into a Starbucks for an herbal tea, as I’m trying to go to bed earlier and don’t need caffeine right now. I immediately regret throwing away money on vegetable-tasting water. I leave work early. Well, it feels early. I used to stay until 8 or 9 p.m. several days a week, and that’s just not possible anymore with a kiddo. So I get in two or three hours before everyone in the morning and leave around 5. $5.25

5:41 p.m. — I walk to the express train stop right at the Grands Boulevards next to Galeries Lafayette and Printemps. I top up my Navigo pass with a monthly subscription before taking the express train to R.’s place. It’s $94 for monthly access to the Paris metro, trams, buses, and suburban trains across a 60-mile radius of the city. Not great value if you’re just using it to commute within the city, but a steal if you use the suburban stations like I do. There are so many exquisite things in the store windows. When I first moved to Paris, I redid my budget to bump up the amount I thought I’d be spending on clothes and personal maintenance. Living here had the opposite effect, though. For one, everyone seems to wear the same thing all the time. Also, there’s so much trash and junk covering this city — even the pretty, touristy parts — that I’m put off by the idea of buying more stuff and adding more waste to the pile. Black sweaters, Chapstick lips, and eyeliner it is.

6:40 p.m. — We live at R.’s place three days a week, although “live” is a pretty big word for what we do, which is squeeze into his tiny two-bedroom and watch TV until we fall asleep. Before we moved to the country, he was supposed to renovate his place. This hasn’t happened yet, and I’m not sure how long I can live without a basic kitchen and a shower that doesn’t leak. I run some numbers in my head and figure that it will take at least $7,500 to redo the plumbing for the kitchen and bathroom, put in an oven and fridge, and finish the rest of his move. I don’t have that money just sitting around right now, so it’ll have to wait a few months. It wouldn’t bother me that much, but it’s different with a kid.

7:45 p.m. — R. and our daughter, B., have arrived. I consider stepping out to get noodles from the Chinese restaurant down the street, but R. has just finished an early dinner at his parents’ place a few miles across town. I’m not that hungry, so I eat an apple, make some tea, and answer some emails before it’s time to get B. ready for bed. Goal: no screen time at all while she’s awake. Nighttime is precious. I’m in bed and drifting off to an old episode of House by 9 pm.

Daily Total: $41.42

Day Two

6 a.m. — Alarm goes off at 5:07 a.m. I lie around for five minutes or so before I drag myself out of bed and set off for the 15-minute walk to the express train. I change metros and get off at Strasbourg-Saint Denis to go to the gym. A few bars and sex clubs are still open, and the bakeries are just pulling up their shutters. I realize that the gym has changed its hours since I was last here, pre-birth, and now opens at 7. I grab a seat at Sarah Baker and send a few emails over a double espresso until it opens. $3.30

7:47 a.m. — Finish working out and showering. Time for a quick hop into the steam room before dressing. This gym membership, at $200/month, is my only real indulgence. Unlimited entry to the steam room and sauna alone are worth the price.

8:18 a.m. — At my desk with a free office coffee. I have meetings all morning and afternoon, but I block off an hour from 10 to 11 to squeeze in some writing reports and plans.

9:49 a.m. — Coffee break on the second floor patio. I half want a cigarette, but there’s no way I’d go back to smoking now that I’m nearly 40, have a child, and work to stay in reasonably decent health.

12:23 p.m. — Time for lunch. I heat up a soup and then go out for some bread and a walk. End up getting a cheese roll from the bakery. $1.50

12:39 p.m. — On my way back from the bakery, I see a can of B.’s formula in the window of a pharmacy. I had problems breastfeeding, and as a result, B. started full-time on formula at two months when her weight gain lagged. We use an organic goat milk-based one, which is $37.50 a can here at the pharmacy. I can get it for $17 online by ordering a pack of six cans and using a promo code. I stop in anyway to pick up some ibuprofen for my back and shoulders, which have pretty much been in constant pain since I gave birth. $6.68

1 p.m. — I call a physical therapist when I get back to the office – I have a doctor’s prescription for 15 sessions for my back and shoulders, which will be covered by national health insurance. This therapist comes recommended, but part of his fee isn’t covered by insurance. (Guess that’s why I got an appointment so quickly). I decide I don’t mind paying the extra $50 per session fee out of pocket. My back has been bothering me for years. I can only imagine what it would cost me to get it fixed in the States. $750 isn’t so bad, especially since the payments will be spread out over four months.

1:19 p.m. — R. sends me a text message to let me know to meet him at his parents’ place after I leave work. He doesn’t have a full-time job, and when he’s in Paris, he spends a lot of time hanging out with his retired parents. (He has a net worth 10x mine, mostly in property and stocks, but is cash-poor. His family’s generosity has allowed him to not work full-time or pursue a career over the years.) He and his mother take care of B. during the day. We’re lucky to have this childcare arrangement, I just don’t know how long it’s going to last. I get off one stop before R.’s parents’ place to go by the florist’s shop, where I pick up a small bunch of miniature roses for his mother. $12.50

6:41 p.m. — R., B., and I are in the car on the way home to the apartment. We park a block away and I stop by the Chinese takeout place for fried rice and dumplings to split. We can’t cook in the apartment, so if we eat a full meal at night it’s usually Chinese takeout or sushi. $22.50

Daily Total: $46.48

Day Three

4:43 a.m. — I manage to sleep from about 8:20 p.m. until 4:30 a.m., when I hear B. cooing. I mix up a bottle, feed her, and change her diaper. I probably won’t go back to sleep before I get up and go into town. I hop online and place an order for more formula. It’ll arrive at my house in time for the weekend. $127.43

5:45 a.m. — Out the door as quietly as possible so as not to wake R. and B. I leave $62.50 on the table for R. He’ll probably need to buy diapers for B. and lunch for himself. I don’t mind leaving him money, but it makes both of us feel weird. I don’t like feeling like I’m giving him an allowance, but he has expensive tastes that I can’t afford, and aside from housing, gas, and food, we don’t agree on priorities. Money is a huge sore point between us. We don’t share finances per se, and neither of us has debt, but I pay all of our basics and 90% of other expenses. Plus I contribute to my own retirement. $62.50

7 a.m. — Gym. Treadmill. Listening to RTL through my headphones. I want to start lifting again but I’m not ready. Pregnancy and childbirth were rougher on my body than I was expecting. I hate admitting that I just can’t get up again and bounce back.

9:14 a.m. — At my desk with breakfast eggs and lentil salad from Prêt à Manger ($10), plus free fruit and coffee from the office kitchen, when I get a phone call from R., who wants to know what the money is doing on the table. He “doesn’t need money,” except I know that he does, and the next time we need something or he wants something while we’re out, we’re going to play some stupid game of “Mother May I” that’s going to leave both of us with hurt feelings. He hangs up in a huff. $10

11:15 a.m. — Macarons! One of our favorite partners has stopped by with goodies from Pierre Hermé. Time for an office coffee and a salted caramel macaron. I feel defeated about the R. situation; I can’t win. My salary package finally reached six figures last year, but four years ago I was making a grand total of $34,000. Living in substandard housing for many years and being worried about how I would pay for groceries at the end of the month took a toll on me. It’s why I usually drink office coffee. The idea of going to Starbucks so much that you would want a loyalty card horrifies me. (No judgment, just the residual effect of years of being poor.)

12:30 p.m. — I heat up some soup purchased earlier this week, supplement with a veggie salad and cheese roll takeout from the bakery, grab a pot of yogurt from my stash in the fridge, and head to the lounge to check out the FIFA action happening on the big screen. $6.50

2:20 p.m. — Long distance calls with an American client, who congratulates me on how well I speak English. I’ve learned not to say anything other than “thanks.” Men at my level never get these kinds of questions, like where they’re from or how long they’ve been wherever, whether or not it’s hard to move somewhere completely different, and do they like living in France?

3:35 p.m. — Seven minutes until my next meeting. I order a cool poster of wine — I’m a wine lover and a map geek and want to cover the bare walls of my house with all kinds of maps and graphics. I leave the office at 4:15 p.m. I worked straight through with 20 total minutes of break, so I’m out early to go to pilates at the gym. $24.75

7 p.m. — Pilates is over, I’m showered, and we’re at R.’s parents’ place waiting for traffic to die down so that we can get in the car and drive to mine. I’ll work from home tomorrow. I stopped at Franprix to bring some fruit and chocolate to the in-laws and pick up some diapers for B. She’s gone up a size in the last week, and for some reason the next size up is nearly three times as expensive as the ones she was wearing. I can’t really compare, though, since the packs of diapers have different quantities. This frustrates the comparison-shopping American in me. $26.84

9:21 p.m. — On the road with a sleeping B. in the backseat. We stop to fill up the car and I knock out a few emails before losing the 4G signal about an hour down the highway. $108.51

Daily Total: $366.53

Day Four

5:40 a.m. — Up early and caffeinated with B. fed and diapered. I check emails from my desk downstairs. I remember that I still need to send back a bunch of holiday orders for R. and B. that didn’t fit.

9:15 a.m. — Break for more coffee and a trip to the bakery ($6.25) and post office. I open the huge shutters facing the street and watch the light flood in. This place is so pretty (and cheap), but over the past few months I’ve had the nagging feeling that it was the wrong decision, for lots of reasons. $6.25

9:20 a.m. — Spend more than expected sending back the holiday items and buying stamps. Sending a letter will go up to around $1.25 this year. Crazy. On the way back from the post office, I see our neighbor coming out of the bakery. He’s a mysterious figure who, like me, works in the city. Sharp and well-dressed, in his mid-60s. I have no idea what he actually does or what he’s doing here in this poky little town. His girlfriend is closer to my age, and I’ve been wanting to hang out with her for a few weeks. I make a note to call her. I’m back on calls from 9:30 straight until noon. $45

12:07 p.m. — R. runs downstairs in a panic that we’re going to miss the Friday market. The market comes to town twice a week. Today it’s the fruit and veg wagon, plus the cheese van. R.’s thing is cheese. I’m in the middle of something, so I hand him $40 and tell him to get whatever he likes. He comes back 30 minutes later with two and a half pounds of cheese and $15 worth of muscle car magazines. “Some light reading for the lady,” he smiles triumphantly as he hands them to me. His cheek is incredible, but so is his ability to make me laugh. Market haul includes potatoes, pears, salad, and clementines. And two and a half pounds of cheese. We’ll probably do a raclette tonight. $40

4:40 p.m. — I finish up work, we pile in the car, and drive the 10 miles down the road to the butcher shop. It’s the kind of place that tourists love to come for the authenticity. We buy some beef for stroganoff, some smoked sausage for freezing and quick weekend dinners, and a couple of slices of pâté for snacking. Everything is local. $34.76

5:17 p.m. — On the way back, we veer off toward a neighboring village and pass in front of Cédric’s bar to see if it’s open. It is, so we go inside and share a pint of the local microbrew while showing B. around to the regulars we haven’t seen since she was born. We’re back home by 6:30 p.m. I start messing around with a communications plan for the local organic grocery store, which is in danger of closing. It’s not really clear why, but inexperienced management seems to be a factor. It’s one of the few oases of progressive thinking here, and it would be a shame if it went under. I attended the last co-op meeting and volunteered to help where I could: marketing, communications, sales. I stop to make the stroganoff around 8 p.m., then call it a day around 10 after B. is fed and things are reasonably clean. We drift off to an old episode of House. $5

Daily Total: $131.01

Day Five

6:13 a.m. — Wake up to B. glurgling happily beside me. She’s not hungry or dirty, so I check messages before heading downstairs. There’s a WhatsApp from a number I don’t recognize. Then I remember it’s M., a 20-something investment banker I met last summer shortly after R. left me. We had a few dates before R. came back. M. didn’t mind that I was single mom-to-be in my late 30s, but he was scared off by the fact that I was moving to the country part-time. I told him that R. was coming back and we dropped out of contact soon after. He kind of ghosted me on WhatsApp, which is why I’m surprised to see the message. Decide to wait awhile before replying.

6:30 a.m. — M.’s avatar is once again greyed out and there’s no status. I don’t have the mental energy to wonder what just happened. He’s a sweet guy, and I hope he finds someone.

8:17 a.m. — I ‘m caffeinated and the baby is changed, fed, and entertained. R. goes down the street for bread and pastries. $6.98

10:15 a.m. — Working on grocery store messaging when the doorbell rings. It’s the postal carrier with a package. I ask her to wait a second so that I can get her tube of homemade cookies and her yearly tip. In France, it’s traditional to tip service workers a little something at the end of the year. The concept is completely foreign to me as an American, but I play along. Connections mean a lot in a small place like this, and if you’re cheap, crazy, or strange, word gets around fast. $25

11:14 a.m. — Browsing clothes for B. I order a couple more pants and another jacket in a warm, comfy style I bought for her a few weeks ago. She looks and feels like a cuddly little penguin in them. $59.96

12 p.m. — Pâté sandwiches with goods from the butcher, fruit from the market haul, and tea. Then story time with baby, which turns into nap time.

2:30 p.m. — Get up and realize I’m late for a meeting with R.’s real estate agent. He bought a property to renovate in the same town at the same time as I was buying my house. I want to drop off a gift for her since she went out of her way to introduce us to people here, and since the transaction had a lot of ups and downs. Normally I wouldn’t pick up this particular chore, but R.’s not going to do it because it’s a “waste of money” — his words. But I know how hard she worked to get the deal done and smooth things over when things went belly-up with the owners. I want her to know that someone noticed and appreciated the extra effort that she made. $64.44

4:45 p.m. — Just discovered the air wash function of my washing machine. How did I not know about this?! This is going to save a ton on dry cleaning. I also discover that moths have eaten my new-last-season cashmere sweaters that were in storage this summer. I bought them on Grana, but I’m not sure I want to shell out $100 each to replace them. That’s not expensive for a decent cashmere, but it’s still more than I’m used to paying for a basic sweater. I may go with some merino Uniqlo ones for $29 a pop.

5:30 p.m. — Laundry and Columbo marathon until the late hours of the evening. I make a pot of tea and sandwiches, and a bottle for B.

Daily Total: $156.38

Day Six

1:24 a.m. — Can’t sleep. Browsing Amazon for The Feynman Lectures on Physics. I’m looking for something to do; a longer, bigger thing that is greater than the sum of its parts. Raising a child is part of it, but I feel like my intellect is going unchallenged. The last 10 years of my life have been about money and career. I grew up in an unglamorous place on the frugal end of middle class. No one had any particular expectations of me. I arrived at adulthood with no idea of what I should do, and no idea how to do it. Somehow – and most of the time I don’t know how – I arrived here at this place I never expected to be. Mostly because I was tired of worrying if I was going to be able to afford groceries and a house one day. I came to France with dreams of making a living from my translation and writing, but gave up during yet another year of grinding anxiety about finances. I just didn’t have the personal fortitude to push through. I feel like I failed sometimes, and wish that I had pushed anyway.

1:30 a.m. — The Lectures are over $100 for a box set, plus shipping. It’s an unnecessary expense I don’t feel like I can afford right now. I add them to my wish list. I keep thinking about the whole work-money-life thing. We often judge people who synchronize their lives to the fluctuations of the balance sheet and promotion cycle (I used to), but when you’re on the other side of that looking in and hungry…damn it feels good to even get within striking distance. I’m kind of surprised that I’ve pulled it off.

5:32 a.m. — Up and on the train. I got my ticket early, so it was only $15. I put on my noise-canceling headphones and try to sleep. Today’s a big day: the usual Monday meetings plus lunch out. $15

7:20 a.m. — Arrival in Paris. I take the metro to Grands Boulevards and pop into the Prêt à Manger on Haussmann. Get some eggs, a sandwich, and a small bar of chocolate. Fruit, coffee, and sparkling water will be free at work. $11.01

7:51 a.m. — At my desk and answering emails with office coffee.

8:22 a.m. — Scheduling all the little moving parts of an announcement this week. There’s a lot to coordinate and a lot of areas where information can potentially fall through the cracks. I got into marketing and communications by default. Good communication is a real job and an art, though. If I’m doing my job right, everything should look and feel seamless. That’s the part that takes the most work – making the rough edges invisible in order to create and highlight the main messages.

10:05 a.m. — Coffee break with the guys from finance. They’re talking about their next vacations. Realize that I’m happy enough going home on the weekends and don’t feel the need for anything more exotic than pushing a stroller through the forest at the edge of town.

12:03 p.m. — Meet a new friend at a Parisian corner bistro where we’re getting lunch. We met on a Facebook group for single parents a few months ago after R. left me, and she recently wrote to ask me for advice about buying an apartment. It’s the first time we’ve met in person. I also want to ask her about her family lawyer and her experience in the court system here. So far R. has been good with B., but I haven’t been able to get over the fact that he left while I was pregnant, and the fact that there’s increasing tension in our household — especially his badgering about money and our lifestyle in general. $20.08

1:20 p.m. — I stop at a Starbucks on my way back to the office. After hearing my friend’s story, I’m more resolved to at least contact a lawyer. Lately, there have also been some temper fits that leave me feeling on edge and unsafe. On the one hand, I feel gutted knowing that my daughter will probably not grow up with her two parents living under one roof. On the other, I know that this leads nowhere good in the long run, and that I need to sort things out now rather than wait until they get worse. Also, I don’t want her to grow up believing this is okay. It’s going to take a long time to get unstuck from this particular situation, but I’ve resolved to do it this year. $5.75

3 p.m. — Two pieces of fruit from the kitchen to get me through the rest of the afternoon of meetings. I call it a day around 6 p.m., think about going to the gym but am too tired, and get on the suburban train.

8 p.m. — I call in a sushi order for R. and me. One order is more than I can eat by myself, and he’s already eaten at his parents’ house, so we’ll split one order of sushi, tempura, rice, soup, and salad. It’s not great, but it’s food. I’m in bed by 9. $22.50

Daily Total: $74.34

Day Seven

7 a.m. — At the gym and on the treadmill after a 5:40 wake-up call. My goal is to be showered, dressed, and in the office by 8:20. Hope I’ll have time for the steam room. Even five minutes would be great.

11:07 a.m. — See an envelope lying in my bag and realize it’s the check for the plumber. Why have I not sent that back yet? I remember that there’s some complicated tax form that comes along with it that also needs to be completed. I want R.’s dad to take a look at it before I mess something up. I shoot his dad a quick email.

11:32 a.m. — Takeout lunch of pesto salad, lemonade, and a yogurt pot from M&S. I also pick up some chocolates for my team and a can of double-acting baking powder for some cookies I want to make this coming weekend. I text with R. He’s trying to entertain B. with some rudimentary version of a puppet show. It sounds cute, and I’m sorry to be missing it. $20.01

2:45 p.m. — Office fruit won’t cut it today. I’m famished, so I head out for one of those prepackaged triangle sandwiches with egg salad and bacon. $4.50

5 p.m. — My friend T. texts me to let me know he’ll be a few minutes late picking me up. He was one of the first people I met when I moved to Paris. We went out twice but weren’t right for each other, and he’s now dating another friend. We drive to a bar over on the Left Bank where we catch up over drinks every month or two. It’s one of those typically Parisian places with gold-plated furniture, glass tabletops, saucy service, and classics like Picon bières, rosé in pitchers, and vermouth by the glass.

5:22 p.m. — T. orders us each a glass of champagne. We’re celebrating a career accomplishment of his today. I admire his resilience and work ethic.

7:20 p.m. — R. and B. get home about 30 minutes after I do. R. is hungry and wants Chinese. I go across the street, order, and sit down to wait for another our fried rice and dumplings. Takeout and lunches out are a bigger portion of our budget than I’d like, but we really can’t do any differently right now living in a place without a kitchen four days a week. $22.50

7:25 p.m. — Making lists in my head of stuff I need to get within the next week. I order some baby pictures of B. $73.75

7:31 p.m. — I go ahead and buy my train ticket for next Monday. The online price has inexplicably gone from $15 to more than double. The national rail service is trying out dynamic pricing, except it’s not dynamic, it’s just bad and half-baked. $31.25

7:45 p.m. — Back at home, eating with one hand and cuddling B. with the other. I make a deposit on some baby books at Shakespeare & Co. I’m trying to get B. into a bedtime routine. She has some books in French, but only one or two in English. I’ll go pick up the books during one of my lunch hours next week. $25

11:41 p.m. — My eyes snap open after sleeping for two hours. I can’t sleep. This has been happening a lot lately. As usual for the past few months at night, I’m worried about something. Objectively, life is good. It hasn’t felt this way in a long time, though – last year was horrible and full of fear of instability. But then I look at the result: a beautiful, healthy baby girl, and my health is good. My salary and career are better than they’ve ever been. I’ve bought a house I can afford and have been careful to not squander the seeds of long-term financial security. I’m making new friends and volunteering again. I just wish I could relax.

Daily Total: $177.01

If you are experiencing domestic violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224 for confidential support.

Money Diaries are meant to reflect individual women’s experiences and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29’s point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.

The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here. Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here:

Have a Money Diary you’d like to share? Right now, in addition to our ongoing diaries, we’re looking for potential diarists along the following themes:

Women over age 45: We want to read your Money Diaries! Submit here.

What’s your sign? Are you a strong-willed Taurus? An always tidy Virgo with a perfectionist streak? Or maybe an adventure-seeking Sagittarius who always sees the glass half full? If you strongly identify with your astrological sign and want to write a Money Diary, get in touch with us here. (Get excited star gazers: We’re looking to run one diary from each sign!)

Have you been working for at least 8 years and seen your salary increase or fluctuate? If so, fill out this form for a chance to be featured on our Salary Story series!

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A Week In Los Angeles, CA, On A Joint $120,000 Income

7 months, 2 days ago

Welcome toMoney Diaries , where we’re tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We’re asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.

Today: a stay-at-home mom whose husband makes $120,000 per year. She spends some of her money this week on a Snickers bar.

Occupation: Stay-At-Home MomAge: 36Location: Los Angeles, CAMy Husband’s Salary: $120,000 His Paycheck Amount (Biweekly): $2,950 (after health insurance)

Monthly ExpensesRent: $2,100 (We rent a two-bedroom apartment in a suburb of L.A. with a very good school district. We used to own a house in the city, but we sold it and moved when my son started kindergarten, in order to get into a better district.)Loans: $0 (We both paid off our student loans, and we both drive used cars we bought for cash.)Car Insurance: $165 Cell Phone: $145Internet: $80 Electric: $75, but this varies month to monthNetflix: $11Kids’ Gymnastics: $168 Audible: $15Transit Pass: $50 Preschool: $335 Hulu: $12HBO: $15 Tithe: $310 twice a monthKids’ Colleges Funds: $250 ($125 into each)Retirement: $1,050 pre-tax

Day One

8:30 a.m. — My husband leaves for work around 6. He drives to the transit station and takes the bus from there — it’s a lot less stressful than dealing with L.A. traffic, but it adds about 30 minutes to his commute each way. The kids and I wake up around 7:30, and I feed us fruit and toast. After getting the kids dressed, I drop my son off at elementary school and my daughter at preschool. My children are both on the autism spectrum, so they receive services at school. My son gets speech and occupational therapy, which are paid for by the school district, and my daughter receives ABA therapy at school, which I pay for through my health insurance. Because she’s under 5, there isn’t a copay for the ABA services she receives, so I don’t have to spend anything out of my own pocket.

11 a.m. — While my daughter is in school, I head to the grocery store to pick up some sparkling water. I buy myself lunch: prepackaged sushi and a ginger kombucha. I love kombucha! My mom says it tastes like non-alcoholic wine — maybe that’s why I like it. $12.15

12:30 p.m. — Pick my daughter up from school and make her a sandwich for lunch. Now it’s time for her second ABA session today, which will go for two-and-a-half hours. She receives 40 hours of ABA therapy per week. It would bankrupt us if we had to pay for it out of pocket — so I say a prayer of thanks that we live in California, where ABA therapy is covered even for those on Medi-Cal. Then I say a prayer of thanks for our health insurance.

3:30 p.m. — After picking up my son from school, he starts his ABA session for the day. Because he is older than 5, there is a $15 copay for each of his sessions. He receives 15 hours of ABA therapy per week. Our max copay for the year is $1,500, and we usually reach it by April each year. We have the option of having our copays covered by Medi-Cal because our children each have a disability, but I don’t utilize it because I feel like we make enough money that we can cover it on our own. It’s the conservative in me, I guess — I don’t want to take anything I don’t really need. $15

7 p.m. — When my husband gets home from work, we take the kids out to a restaurant for dinner. My son is on the mild end of the autism spectrum, and my daughter is moderate, so taking them out to dinner is doable for us. We have a gift card from my parents, so we splurge and order sodas, an appetizer, and dessert ($84.83). My son loves to draw, so he draws pictures on his menu while I walk my daughter to and from the bathroom a few times (she’s potty-training).

Daily Total: $27.15

Day Two

8:30 a.m. — Make the kids breakfast (fruit and toast again) and drop my son off at school. Then I head back home with my daughter, where she starts her first ABA therapy session of the day. This session lasts three hours.

10:15 a.m. — Once a week, I take my daughter to speech and occupational therapy, which each have a copay of $15. Her ABA therapist attends with her. $30

12 p.m. — When we come home, she has a lunch break before the next one starts at 12:30. I make us peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with milk. I remember last year when she had so much trouble drinking from an open cup, and I smile as I watch her do it now. The therapy is working.

1 p.m. — While my daughter is working with her therapist, I pay our credit card bills, sweep and mop the kitchen, and run two loads of laundry (which costs $1.50 to wash and $1.25 to dry). I usually listen to one of my audiobooks while I fold. I just finished Pride and Prejudice, which was wonderful. It’s funny how the dynamics of Jane Austen novels are so much like high school — who is dating who, dealing with crazy friends and parents, etc. $5.50

3:30 p.m. — Pick up son from school, and he begins his ABA therapy session. My daughter’s second session of the day has ended, and she is beginning her third, which will run two-and-a-half hours. Three-session days can be tough on her — so the therapist who works with her in the evening is usually pretty easy on her, and they mostly play with her toys. My son is working with his therapist on developing a “circle of trust,” so he knows to treat strangers differently than he treats family and close friends. So many things that are intuitive for most kids need to be taught explicitly for mine. I’m mostly optimistic about the future (which is why we have a college fund for each of our kids), but I do worry about it sometimes. $15

Daily Total: $50.50

Day Three

8:30 a.m. — I make breakfast for us, and then drop both of the kids off at their respective schools. I notice how most of my days look exactly the same. I have a little time to myself, and I think for a minute about going to the beach, but I decide against it and go home. I watch my favorite show on Hulu, This Is Us, and make some coffee.

12:30 p.m. — Pick up daughter from preschool, make us lunch (sandwiches), then she begins her second ABA session.

1 p.m. — I’m browsing Facebook and see that my aunt has put up a fundraiser for her birthday for Autism Speaks. It’s very sweet of her — I know she’s thinking about us. I donate $5. $5

3:30 p.m. — Pick up my son from school and he starts his ABA session while my daughter begins her third session today. $15

6:30 p.m. — Both kids are done with therapy for the day! My son has homework to complete for school afterwards. I marvel at how hard he works every day. I help him finish his homework while my daughter watches a video on my phone, and then I make us chicken with crackers and mixed veggies. I love frozen veggies — they’re easy to prepare, and they never go bad. I hate wasting money. My husband comes home around 7, and he and my son play the Lego Star Wars video game for an hour while I put my daughter to bed.

Daily Total: $20

Day Four

8 a.m. — It’s Saturday!!! I make us pancakes for breakfast. We all love pancakes. My daughter only likes them when they’re plain, but my son has just started to let us put syrup on his. My husband covers his in peanut butter and syrup, and I eat mine with a little butter.

11 a.m. — For lunch, we take the kids out to Souplantation, a salad bar/buffet restaurant. The kids both eat macaroni and cheese, and my husband and I get salad and too much other stuff, although I limit myself to one cornbread muffin. $20.71

2 p.m. — My husband and his friends have football season tickets, and there’s a game today, so he heads over to the stadium. It works out to about $20 for each game. I go with him to one game per season — I’m not a big fan of football, but I enjoy hanging out with him and his friends. The game itself is super boring for me, though. By the second quarter, I always end up rooting for the clock. After he heads out, I take the kids to an indoor playground nearby. I follow my kids as they run around — my daughter climbs into the big tunnel structure, and I get a little nervous about her getting lost inside, but my son is staying with her so they’re easier to keep track of. $44

6 p.m. — I pick up some pizza on the way home from the playground. Pepperoni for the kids, and Hawaiian chicken for me. There’s some leftover for tomorrow. $36.86

Daily Total: $101.57

Day Five

8:30 a.m. — We have leftover pizza from last night for breakfast. Then my husband and I get the kids dressed for church. My son will wear a button down shirt if we let him choose which one. My daughter hasn’t shown a preference in clothing yet — and I’m actually looking forward to the day when she tells me she doesn’t want to wear something I’ve picked out.

10 a.m. — When we arrive at church, we put our tithe in the offering box near the front of the sanctuary. We tithe $310 twice a month, which works out to about 10% percent of my husband’s take-home pay. When we get our tax refund at the end of the year, we tithe 10% of that too. Our church has a food bank and pays for diapers when a single mom needs it or for other emergency expenses that might arise in the community. But even if they didn’t, I tithe because our family has everything we need, and not everyone does, so we have a responsibility to give what we can.

1:30 p.m. — After church, we take the kids to Costco for lunch and grocery shopping. We eat some hot dogs first, then we go inside and buy bread, fruit, milk, and frozen entrees to eat throughout the week. $178.84

6 p.m. — We share a rotisserie chicken and some potatoes that we picked up at Costco earlier today. Delicious!

Daily Total: $178.84

Day Six

8:30 a.m. — My husband has the day off, so he helps me get the kids ready for school today. I love Mondays — it’s nice to have him home. He takes our son to school, and I take our daughter. Then he plays Fallout 76 for an hour or so.

10 a.m. — I go to the deli and pick us up some sandwiches for lunch. When I bring them home, we eat together and talk about the week. It’s nice to spend some time together without the kids. $16.79

3:30 p.m. — I pick my son up from school. On our way to his speech therapy appointment, I stop at The Coffee Bean for some much needed caffeine. I get myself drip coffee because it’s ready faster than anything they have to make with espresso, and I get him a bottle of water. $4.75

3:45 p.m. — I take my son to his speech therapy appointment and pay a $15 copay. His ABA teacher is waiting — he’ll attend the appointment with my son and come back to our house after for a three-hour session. One more $15 copay. $30

4 p.m. — While my son is at his speech therapy appointment, I stop by the gas station and fill up my car. I pick up a Snickers bar, too, and eat it as I drive back to pick him up. $46.30

6 p.m. — My husband makes dinner, and he always goes all out when he cooks. Tonight it’s carne asada with homemade guacamole. It’s as delicious as it sounds. My son eats the tortillas and picks at the meat. My daughter eats the meat and picks at the tortillas. I enjoy every bite.

Daily Total: $97.84

Day Seven

8:30 a.m. — I wake up early and make banana-oatmeal muffins for breakfast. I also make a pot of coffee, which is really good, because I have a coffee maker that grinds the beans before it brews. The coffee tastes fresh and delicious. The kids and I get ready, and I take my son to school.

9 a.m. — My daughter begins her first ABA session for the day. I talk to her therapist a little. Some of the technicians who work with my kids are really friendly and want to chat, and some want to get straight down to business. Most of them are at least 10 years younger than I am and just starting out in their careers, so they’ve all got a lot of interesting stuff going on in their lives. They’re all really nice, which makes sense, because you don’t get into this line of work unless you’re nice.

11 a.m. — I spend $19.99 on iTunes for a game I play on my phone. It’s the one expense I have that’s completely ridiculous, but I plan for it, and I just give myself permission to waste the money. I end up spending about $40 a month on the game, and I really like playing it. I can’t think of anything I could spend that money on that would give me more pleasure than the game does. It’s just this dumb “free-to-play” game that ends up costing money once you play it long enough. But I like it, so YOLO. $19.99

12:30 p.m. — My daughter and I have sandwiches for lunch, and then she starts her second ABA session for the day.

3:30 p.m. — I pick up my son from school and he begins his ABA session, while my daughter begins her third ABA session today. His session has a copay, and hers does not. $15

7 p.m. — My husband arrives home, and I head out to my support group, who I meet with once a week. I love this group. There’s a donation basket that gets passed around so I always put a few bucks in — it’s a lot cheaper than therapy. Today I put in $5. We all take turns going around the room and talking. Today I talk about how I want to make an effort to get out of the house more while the kids are at school. I tell them I’m thinking of volunteering at my son’s school library — they always need parent volunteers. When it’s over, I stay a few minutes to chat with the others, then I head back home. My husband has put the kids to bed, and we watch some TV before we go to bed, too. $5

Daily Total: $39.99

Money Diaries are meant to reflect individual women’s experiences and do not necessarily reflect Refinery29’s point of view. Refinery29 in no way encourages illegal activity or harmful behavior.

The first step to getting your financial life in order is tracking what you spend — to try on your own, check out our guide to managing your money every day. For more money diaries, click here.

Have you been working for at least 8 years and seen your salary increase or fluctuate? If so, fill out this form for a chance to be featured on our Salary Story series!

Have a Money Diary you’d like to share? Right now, in addition to our ongoing diaries, we’re looking for potential diarists along the following theme:

Have questions about how to submit or our publishing process? Read our Money Diaries FAQ doc here:

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The secret to saving for long-term goals is understanding how much you’re spending every day. Mint can help you keep track. Click here to learn more.

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Check out our list of some of the best phone games, here.

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UX And HTML5: Let’s Help Users Fill In Your Mobile Form (Part 2)

10 months, 8 days ago

UX And HTML5: Let’s Help Users Fill In Your Mobile Form (Part 2)

UX And HTML5: Let’s Help Users Fill In Your Mobile Form (Part 2)

Stéphanie Walter


In this second part, I want to focus more on mobile-specific capabilities. HTML5, for instance, has brought us a lot of really cool features to help users fill in mobile forms and format their data. We will see in detail how HTML5 attributes can help you with that. Then, we will go beyond “classic” form elements and see how to use mobile capabilities such as the camera, geolocation and fingerprint scanners to really take your mobile form experience to the next level on websites and in native applications.

Helping The User Format Content With HTML5

In the first part of this series, we saw some general advice on how to display fields. Now it’s time to go a bit deeper and look at how a few well-crafted lines of HTML5 code can improve your mobile forms.

HTML5 Mobile-Optimized Goodness

HTML5 opens a whole world of possibilities for optimizing forms for mobile and touch devices. A lot of interesting new input types can trigger different keyboards to help users. We can also do some interesting things with capturing media directly in the browser.

Entering Numerical Data

input type= number

The HTML5 <input type=number> attribute restricts an input field to numbers. It has a built-in validation system that rejects anything that is not a number.

In some desktop browsers, this input is presented with little arrows on the right that the user can click to increment the number. On mobile, it opens a keyboard with numbers, which decreases typos and form-validation errors. The input’s look and feel depend on the operating system.

On the left, Android’s keyboard, and on the right, the iOS keyboard with numbers.

On the left, Android’s keyboard, and on the right, the iOS keyboard with numbers. (Large preview)

The input should allow for decimals and negative numbers (but few keyboards respect that). As explained in the W3C’s specifications, “a simple way of determining whether to use type=number is to consider whether it would make sense for the input control to have a spinbox interface (e.g. with ‘up’ and ‘down’ arrows)”. This means that the input is not supposed to be used for credit cards or area codes.

With so much happening on the web, what should we really pay attention to? At SmashingConf New York 2018 🇺🇸 we’ll explore everything from PWAs, font loading best practices, web performance and eCommerce UX optimization, to refactoring CSS, design workflows and convincing your clients. With Sarah Drasner, Dan Mall, Sara Soueidan, Jason Grigsby, and many other speakers. Oct 23–24.

Check the speakers →

SmashingConf New York 2018, with Dan Mall, Sara Soueidan, Sarah Drasner and many others.

The pattern And inputmode Attributes

To add some restrictions to your number inputs, you could use the pattern attribute to specify a regular expression against which you want to control values.

This is what it looks like:

<input type=”number” id=”quantity” name=”quantity” pattern=”[0-9]*” inputmode=”numeric” />

You can use this pattern to bring up the big-button numeric keyboard on the iPhone (but not the iPad). This keyboard does not have the minus sign or comma, so users lose the ability to use negative numbers and decimals. Also, they can’t switch back to another keyboard here, so be careful when using this.

Also, note that patterns can be applied to any other type of inputs.

Using only this pattern won’t work on most Android phones. You’ll still need a combination of input type=number and the attribute to make this work.

Android and iOS demo with input type=number, pattern and inputmode.

Android and iOS demo with input type=number, pattern and inputmode. (Large preview)


If you only want to trigger the mobile numeric keyboard but don’t want to deal with the type=number and pattern mess, you could use a text input and apply the inputmode=numeric attribute. It would look like this:

<input type=”text” id=”quantity” name=”quantity” inputmode=”numeric” />

Unfortunately (at the time of writing), only Chrome 67 mobile supports this, but it should be arriving in Chrome desktop 66 without a flag.

To learn more about how to enter numbers in a form, read “I Wanted to Type a Number”.

input type=tel

If you want users to enter a phone number, you can use the input type=tel. As you can see in the screenshot below, it triggers the same digits on iOS’ keyboard as the pattern attribute described above. Due to the complexity of phone numbers across the world, there is no automatic validation with this input type.

input type=tel on Android and iOS

input type=tel on Android and iOS (Large preview)

Entering Dates

Even if they are technically numerical data, dates deserve their own section. There are a few HTML5 input types for entering dates. The most used is input type=date. It will trigger a date-picker in supported browsers. The appearance of the date-picker depends on the browser and OS. To learn more on how browsers render input type="date", I recommend you read “Making input type=date complicated.”

A date-picker based on input type=date on Android and iOS

A date-picker based on input type=date on Android and iOS (Large preview)

There’s also type=week to pick a week, type=time to enter a time (up to the hour and minute), and type=datetime-local to pick a date and a time (using the user’s local time). So many choices!

Example of date-picker with more options on Android

Example of date-picker with more options on Android (week, date and time, etc.) (Large preview)

input type=date works well for booking interfaces, for example. You might have some needs that require you to build your own date-picker, though (as we’ve already seen in the section on sensible defaults). But input type=date is always a nice option if you need a date-picker and don’t want to bring a whole JavaScript library into the website for the job.

Yet, sometimes not using type=date for dates is better. Let’s take the example of a birth date. If I was born in 1960 (I’m not — this is just an example), it would take me many taps to pick my birth date if I was starting from 2018. On Android, I discovered recently that if I press on the year in the picker, I get a sort of dropdown wheel with all of the years. A bit better, but it still requires a fair amount of scrolling.

A user told me on Twitter:

“I’m born in 1977 and can confirm the annoyance. The more time it takes to scroll, the older you feel :-(”

So, maybe birth dates are not the best candidate for date-pickers.

With Android’s date-picker, even though you can press and hold the year to get a year-picker, picking a birth date is still tedious.

With Android’s date-picker, even though you can press and hold the year to get a year-picker, picking a birth date is still tedious. (Large preview)

URL, Email, Tel And Search

Mobile phones hide some other keyboard and input-optimization goodness that enhance the user’s experience when filling in a form. The devil is in the details, as they say.

Using the input type=url field will bring up an optimized keyboard on mobile, with / (the slash key) directly accessible. Depending on the OS, you can also give quick access to commons top-level domains, like the .fr in the screenshot below. If you long-press this button, shortcuts to other top-level domains will appear. This also comes with automatic browser validation that checks that the URL’s format is valid.

input type=url keyboard on Android and iOS

input type=url keyboard on Android and iOS (Large preview)

The input type=emailfield brings up an email-optimized keyboard giving quick access to the @ symbol. This input requires the presence of @ somewhere in the field in order to be valid. That’s the only verification it does.

input type=email keyboard on Android and iOS

input type=email keyboard on Android and iOS (Large preview)

The input type=search field brings up a search-optimized keyboard. The user can directly launch the search from a button on the keyboard. There’s also a little cross to clear the field and type a new query.

input type=search keyboard on Android and iOS

input type=search keyboard on Android and iOS (Large preview)

Range And Color

The last two input types we looked at are not particularly optimized for mobile, but by using them, we can avoid having to load heavy custom JavaScript libraries, which is a good idea for mobile users.

input type=range provides a visual UI slider to input a number. The UI for this control is browser-dependent.

input type=color provides an easy way for the user to enter a color value. In many browser implementations, this comes with a color-picker.

input type=range and input type=color on Android and iOS

input type=range and input type=color on Android and iOS (Large preview)

HTML Media Capture: Taking And Uploading Pictures And Recording Sound

I remember the time of the iPhone 3, when Apple would not even allow a simple input type=file to be used on a website, for security reasons. Those times are long gone. With the HTML media capture API, it’s now possible to access different sensors of a device. We can capture photos and videos, and we can even record voice directly in the browser.

The accept attribute lets you specify what kind of media to accept in the input: audio, image, video. The user can give the browser direct access to their camera, for example.

The code looks like this:

<input type=”file” id=”take-picture” accept=”image/*”>

The accept attribute is set to image. The browser asks whether I want to access the camera directly or the files on the device.

The accept attribute is set to image. The browser asks whether I want to access the camera directly or the files on the device. (Large preview)

The capture attribute lets you specify the preferred mode of capture. If you add the capture attribute on top of the accept attribute, you can make the browser open the camera or voice recorder directly.

<input type=”file” accept=”image/*” capture> // opens the camera>

<input type=”file” accept=”video/*” capture> // opens the camera in video mode

<input type=”file” accept=”audio/*” capture> // opens the voice recorder

The mobile browser directly opens the capture mechanism: on the left, the camera, on the right, the video recorder.

The mobile browser directly opens the capture mechanism: on the left, the camera, on the right, the video recorder. (Large preview)

For more details on how to use media directly in the browser, read the section “Accessing and Handling Images, Video and Audio Directly in the Browser” in my article on the secret powers of mobile browsers.

HTML5 Autos: Autocorrect, Autocomplete, Autofill, Autocapitalize And Autofocus

HTML5 comes with a slew of automatic attributes. To enhance the mobile experience, you will want to be smart about what can be automated and what can’t. Here are some general rules of thumb:

Disable autocorrect on things for which the dictionary is weak: email addresses, numbers, names, addresses, cities, regions, area codes, credit card numbers.
Disable autocapitalize for email fields and other fields where appropriate (for example, website URLs). Note that type=email does the job for you in recents version of iOS and Android, but disable it anyway for older versions or if type=email is not supported.
You can set the autocapitalize attribute to words to automatically uppercase the first letter of each word the user types. This can be useful for names, places and the like, but, again, be careful with it, and test it.

Use input type=email for email addresses. If you don’t, at least deactivate auto-capitalization. No email address starts with a capital letter.

Use input type=email for email addresses. If you don’t, at least deactivate auto-capitalization. No email address starts with a capital letter. (Large preview)

For input type=tel, set autocomplete="tel".
You could use autofocus to give the focus to a control element when the user loads the page. But just because the user opens the “contact” page, it does not mean they are ready to jump right to the first field of your form. So, again, use it wisely.

In this example, we could use autofocus to take the user directly to the first field once they’ve clicked on the button.

In this example, we could use autofocus to take the user directly to the first field once they’ve clicked on the button. (Large preview)

If you want more autocomplete options, a whole list is on the WhatWG Wiki. Just make sure you use the right ones. Implement, test, and test again.

HTML5 Form Validation

I won’t get into the technical details here, but you should know that HTML5 has a built-in form-validation API for many fields. It’s nice if you don’t want to use a JavaScript library to display inline validation messages. Here are the main things you need to know as a UX designer about HTML5 form validation:

The validation message is a browser control. You can’t style it in CSS, and it’s different for every browser.
You can change the text of the message in JavaScript using setCustomValidity.
CSS3 provides :invalid, :valid and :required and other pseudo-classes for HTML form validation. These get triggered on blur, so are pretty much useless for now.

HTML native form validation in an Android browser

HTML native form validation in an Android browser (Large preview)

In “Native Form Validation, Part 1,” Peter-Paul Koch goes into detail on why HTML and CSS form validation doesn’t really make forms better at this time.

Offline Support To Save User Data

A lot of things can go wrong, especially on mobile. Mistakes happen. A user could mistap the back button in the browser and lose all of their data.

If the user comes back to the page, it would be nice to display their data again. The same goes for if the browser crashes or the user closes the tab. You can store the user’s data in local or session storage to ensure nothing gets lost if something goes wrong. Geoffrey Crofte has written a JavaScript library to help you with that.

If the connection is lost as the user is submitting the form, they might also lose the data. To avoid this, you could use a combination of the** HTML5 offline API** and the Service Workers API to:

store the data in the cache,
try to automatically send it again when the connection comes back.

To learn how to code this, check out the article on “Offline-Friendly Forms”.

Mobile Device Capabilities Can Take the Experience To The Next Level

In part 1, we stuck to the basic common HTML form elements and attributes for enhancing mobile forms. But mobile devices capabilities now go far beyond displaying HTML, CSS and JavaScript web pages. Those little devices come equipped with a lot of sensors. And we will be able to use many of those in native apps and on the web to make our users’ lives so much easier.

Detecting The User’s Location

In the previous section, I wrote about pre-filling information for places and addresses. That’s a good start. We can go one step further. Instead of asking users to type a location, we can detect it. Meet the geolocation API for the web. There are also native iOS, Android and Windows Phone geolocation APIs.

Citymapper is a website and an app that helps users plan their travels. When the user goes into the first field, they see the “Use current location” option. If they select it, they are asked to allow the browser to access their geolocation data. This is the geolocation API. The browser then autocompletes the location it found and, the user can proceed to the destination field. The native app works pretty much the same way.

Citymapper proposes the user’s current location as the starting point for the journey.

Be Smart When Asking For The User’s Permission

You might have noticed in the previous video that I had to agree to give access to my position to the Citymapper website. In the browser, the user handles permissions website by website, API by API.

You also need to be careful how you ask for permission. The user might refuse access to the geolocation, notification or other API if you ask too soon. They also might refuse if they don’t understand why you need the permission. You get one chance; use it wisely. After that, it will be almost impossible to recover. I’m an Android power user, and even I have to search around for the options in my browser when I want to reset the permissions I’ve given to a website. Imagine the trouble your users will have.

Here is some general advice on asking for permissions on the web:

Don’t be the creepy geolocation or notification stalker: Don’t ask for permission as soon as the user arrives on your website. They might not know about you or your service yet.
Let the user discover your website and service. Then, ask for permission in context. If you want to access their location, ask them only when you need it (Citymapper is a good example).
Explain why you need permission and what you will do with it.

Citymapper asks for access to the user’s location only when it needs it. Clearing permissions after the user refuses it can get really complicated because the user will need to search through their settings for that website.

Citymapper asks for access to the user’s location only when it needs it. Clearing permissions after the user refuses it can get really complicated because the user will need to search through their settings for that website. (Large preview)

If you want to go further, Luke Wroblewski (yes, him again) has created a nice video to help you with the permission-asking process.

A Better Checkout Experience

A big area of improvement for forms is the whole checkout payment experience. Here again, sensors on the device can make this an almost painless experience. The only pain will be the amount of money the user spends.

iOS Credit Card Scanner

In the previous section, I wrote about autodetection of credit cards and autocompletion features based on the user’s previous input. This still means that the user has to type their credit card data at least once.

Apple has taken this to the next level with its credit card scanner. Since iOS 8 in Safari, users can use their camera to scan and autocomplete their credit card information. To perform this magic, you will need to add the autocomplete cc-number attribute and some name to identify this as a credit card field. Apple doesn’t have much official information on it, but some people did some testing and put the results on StackOverflow.

Safari also has autofill options that users can use to add their credit card, allowing them reuse it on multiple websites.

The credit card scanning option appears when Safari detects a field that matches the credit card format. If the user already has a card registered on the phone, they can use the autofill option.

The credit card scanning option appears when Safari detects a field that matches the credit card format. If the user already has a card registered on the phone, they can use the autofill option. (Large preview)

Take Checkout One Step Further With Google Pay API

Google launched something similar: the Google Pay API. When implemented on a website, the API eliminates the need to manually enter payment information. It goes one step further: It can store billing and shipping addresses as well.

The user gets a dialog in Chrome that displays the various payment information they’ve stored. They can choose which one to use and can pay directly through the dialog.

The Google Pay API pop-up triggered on an e-commerce website

The Google Pay API pop-up triggered on an e-commerce website (Source) (Large preview)

A standardized version of the Payment Request API is currently a W3C candidate recommendation. If this gets implemented in browsers, it would allow users to check out with a single button, which would request the API. Every step thereafter would be handled by native browser dialogs.

Making Authentication Easier

Mobile phones are, in most cases, personal devices that people don’t usually share with others. This opens up some interesting opportunities for authentication.

Magic Link

I use a password manager. I don’t know 99% of my passwords. They are all randomly generated. In order to log into a new Slack workspace, I must:

open my password manager,
enter my master password,
search for the workspace,
copy and paste the password into the Slack app.

It’s a tedious process, but Slack was smart enough to provide a better option.

Many users have they mail synchronized on their phone. Slack understood that. When you add a new Slack workspace in the app, you can either log in using the password or ask for the “magic link” option. If you opt for the latter, Slack sends a magic link to your mailbox. Open the mail, click on the big green button, and — ta-da! — you’re logged in.

Behind the scenes, this magic link contains an authentication token. The Slack app catches this and authenticates you without requiring the password.

When using the magic link option, Slack sends you an email with a link that lets you connect to your slack without having to enter your password.

When using the magic link option, Slack sends you an email with a link that lets you connect to your slack without having to enter your password. (Large preview)

Fingerprint For Smart Identification

I do almost all of my banking on my mobile device. And when it comes to logging into my bank accounts, there’s a world of difference between my French Societe General bank app and the German N26 app.

With Société Générale, I have a login string and a passphrase. I can ask the app to remember the login string, which is 10 random digits. I’m not able to remember that one; I use a password manager for it. I must still remember and enter the six-digit passphrase on a custom-built keypad. Of course, the numbers’ positions change every time I log in. Security — yeah, I know. Also, I must change this passphrase every three months. The last time I was forced to change the passphrase, I did what most people do: choose almost the same passphrase, because I don’t want to have to remember yet another six-digit number. And of course, I was damn sure I would remember it, so I did not enter it in my password manager. Rookie mistake. Two weeks later, I tried to log in. Of course, I forgot it. I made three failed attempts, and then my account was blocked. Fortunately, I only use this account for savings. In the app, you can ask for a new passcode. It took almost one week for the bank to send me a new six-digit passphrase by paper mail to my home address in Luxembourg. Yeah.

N26, on the other hand, uses my email address as the login string. I can remember that without a password manager. When I want to log in, I put my finger on the start button of my Xperia phone, and that’s it. In the background, my phone scans my fingerprint and authenticates me. If that does not work, I can fall back to a password.

Same device, two apps, two totally different experiences.

Dropbox has another example of fingerprint authentication.

Dropbox has another example of fingerprint authentication. (Large preview)

More and more apps on both Android and iOS now offer user the possibility to authenticate with a fingerprint. No more passwords — it’s an interesting and elegant solution.

Of course, people have expressed some security concerns about this. For the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), biometrics is not considered secure enough. It advises combining biometrics with a second factor of authentication.

Fingerprint sensors can also be tricked — yes, like in spy movies. Did you hear about the plane that was forced to land because a woman learned of her husband’s infidelity after using his thumb to unlock his phone while he was sleeping?

Facial Recognition And Face ID

In 2018, Apple launched the iPhone X with the brand new face ID. Users can unlock their iPhone X using their face. Of course, some other Android phones and Windows tablets and computers had proposed this feature earlier. But when Apple launches something, it tends to become “a thing”. For the moment, this technology is mostly used as authentication to unlock phones and computer.

There are some pretty big challenges with facial-recognition technology. First, some algorithms can be fooled by a picture of the person, which is easily hackable. Another bigger concern is diversity. Facial-recognition algorithms tend to have difficulty recognizing people of color. For instance, a black researcher had to wear a white mask to test her own project. The researcher is Joy Buolamwini, and she gave a TED talk about the issue.

Some facial-recognition software is also used by some customs services to speed up border processing. It is used in New Zealand and will be used in Canada.

Most of us have seen enough science fiction to see the potential problems and consequences of systems that use facial recognition at scale. This kind of technology used outside of the private space of unlocking phones can get controversial and scary.

Google: One-Tap Sign-Up

If a user has a Google account, they can benefit from Google’s one-tap sign-up. When visiting a website and prompted to create an account in an inline dialog, the user doesn’t need to enter a password. Google provides a secure token-based password-less account, linked to the user’s Google account. When the user returns, they are automatically signed in. If they store their passwords in the Smart Lock, they get automatically signed in on other devices as well.

Google’s one-tap sign-up dialog

Google’s one-tap sign-up dialog (Source) (Large preview)

Note: This is an interesting password-less solution. Of course, by using it, users are linked to Google, which not everyone will feel comfortable with.


You can do a lot of really cool things when you start using mobile capabilities to help users fill in forms. We need a mobile-first mindset when building forms; otherwise, we’ll get stuck on the desktop capabilities we are familiar with.

Again, be careful with the device’s capabilities: always have a fallback solution in case a sensor fails or the user refuses access. Avoid making those capabilities the only options for those functions (unless you are building a map app that relies on geolocation).

This is the end of a series of two really long articles in which I’ve given you some general UX and usability advice and best practices. In the end, what matter are your form and your users. Some things described here might not even work specifically for your users — who knows? So, whatever you do, don’t take my (or Luke’s) word for it. Test it, with real users, on real devices. Measure it. And test again. Do some user research and usability testing. User experience is not only about best practices and magic recipes that you copy and paste. You need to adapt the recipe to make it work for you.

So, in short: Test it. Test it on real devices. Test it with real users.

Smashing Editorial
(lf, ra, al, il)

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5 Steps To Taking Powerful Underwater Photos

11 months, 24 days ago

During the summer holiday season, underwater photography is something that spontaneously comes to our mind. Diving and sunbathing sometimes aren’t enough – taking underwater photos can make our vacation much more adventurous!

Thanks to a plethora of gear options that are now available,  underwater photography isn’t reserved only for professional photographers – even amateurs can do it with more affordable equipment.

These tips will help you better understand how to shoot underwater images and what equipment you will need to make these incredibly fun summertime photos.

1. Understand Equipment Options

There are endless options when it comes to different brands of underwater bags and housing made for both video and photography. Some of them are better than the others, so it’s really important to read reviews before buying anything –many cheaper underwater bags tend to start leaking at some point. Underwater housing from Ikelite is one of the most popular choices in terms of this type of gear.

In case you’re just looking to have some fun during summertime, instead of buying expensive equipment you should consider renting or buying a GoPro. In the event that you decide that underwater photography isn’t something you want to pursue further, you can still use a GoPro for anything else since it’s really versatile.

If the safety of your gear is your main priority and you want some truly great photos, you should consider  Nikon AW1 instead of GoPro. This Nikon is waterproof, shockproof and freeze proof with interchangeable lenses.

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

2. Choose Your Location Wisely

The quality and the overall atmosphere of your underwater photos will depend a lot on the location. A heavily chlorinated pool is usually not a good choice. Even if the water inside the pool seems clear to you, it’s probably going to look very hazy in your photos. There are many chemicals in the water that you can’t see, but your camera can.

A body of water such as a freshwater lake or clear saltwater is a much better choice. They are also likely to have very lively flora and fauna, which means you’ll have a wide selection of subjects to shoot.

Photo by Jacob Owens on Unsplash

3. Use Wide Angle Lenses

In order to cut down on the amount of water between your subject and your camera, you need to stay as close to your subject as possible. This is actually the only way to keep the subject entirely in the frame, without focusing issues.

If you’re not positioned close enough to your subject, you won’t be able to focus correctly and you’ll probably have some clarity issues – just remember that water is rarely crystal clear no matter what it looks like to you.

If you’re shooting in an environment where distortion doesn’t matter too much, you can play around with fish-eye lenses. On the other hand, for close-up portrait work, you can shoot with something like 40 or 50mm. Portrait lenses such as 85mm are wonderful but too tricky to handle underwater.

Photo by Marco Assmann on Unsplash

4. Be Patient

If you’re working with models, you should understand that it’s very difficult to pose underwater.  Most people automatically close their eyes while diving, so even this simple task of keeping the eyes open can be overwhelming sometimes.

For the same reason, underwater models can barely see the camera and photographer  – it’s just a dark blob to them.

Models should first learn to keep their face looking natural and relaxed underwater and later on practice various body poses. As a photographer, you can help them by making a list of poses they can practice on land before going underwater.

Photo by SweetIceCreamPhotography on Unsplash

5. Post-Processing Matters A Lot

Chances are you won’t be quite satisfied with your underwater images straight out of camera.  This shouldn’t discourage you at all – the majority of those amazing underwater photos you see on the internet are heavily post-processed.

Shooting through water will always affect clarity and sharpness and add a blue cast that you may want to remove. In case your lighting conditions are less than ideal, you may end up with lots of noise in your underwater images due to increased ISO.  Luckily, the majority of these issues can be fixed with skilful editing.

If you’re not sure how to edit your underwater photos, you can take a look at this great tutorial.


Underwater photography is truly enticing and fun, but never easy. It can be physically exhausting and time-consuming, but it is incredibly rewarding at the same time.

Thanks to this genre of photography,  we can capture and admire some of nature’s finest secrets and open our audience’s eyes to the beauty of the hidden underwater worlds.

The post 5 Steps To Taking Powerful Underwater Photos appeared first on Light Stalking.

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This $610 million real estate company doesn’t have an office for its 8,000 employees — instead, everybody works from this completely virtual island (EXPI)

1 year, 1 day ago

eXp speedboat (end)Screenshot

If you’ve ever wondered what the next phase of working remotely could be like, look no further than eXp Realty. 

In most respects, eXp is your typical real estate brokerage company. It employs thousands of licensed agents to help clients buy and sell their homes. And business seems to be good: eXp’s stock price has almost quadrupled since this time last year, giving it a market cap of over $610 million.

What sets it apart is that, rather than having agents stop by a physical office for meetings, presentations, or technical assistance, the company’s 8,000 employees go to work on a virtual island. A small office in Bellingham, WA serves as its headquarters because of “a legal requirement,” the company says, but the real work gets done in the digital realm.

The company says that maintaining a virtual office gives it some advantages.

“We found that we have an ability that’s hard to find in the physical world,” said CTO Scott Petronis, referring to the ease of internal communication. 

Not only can employees report to work regardless of the weather, but there are no restrictions on how many employees the offices can support, no campus maintenance fees, and no geographical limits on recruiting talent.

“It’s a great feeling to know that we can hire great talent regardless of where they are in the world,” said Petronis.

I got to go on a tour of eXp’s virtual offices, alongside Petronis and VP of Marketing Mitch Robinson. I sat at an introductory meeting, toured shared spaces, went to a beach, rode a speedboat, and got to meet some of eXp’s employees, all without leaving my seat. 

Here’s what it’s like to work out of a virtual campus:



When I first signed on, I saw this man staring back at me. It took me a minute to realize that I was supposed to customize this guy to look like me.

I used the app from my desktop PC, but there’s a mobile app, too. The app comes with some limitations: You can only hear audio, not see the virtual world. It’s really meant for taking conference calls in a pinch.

There aren’t too many options to play with, but I was able to adjust my hair color, skin color, and face type. There were actually more options for clothes than personal appearance.

A company Representative says that eXp is always trying to add new options, including religious head wear and seasonal clothing. We’re also told that some employees change their avatar’s clothing every day, just like in the real world.


Once I was ready, I found myself in an outdoor area of some sort, and I located my tour guides: eXp CTO Scott Petronis and VP of Marketing Mitch Robinson.

The controls were easy to get used to — you can either click around to move, or else guide yourself with the arrow keys. When someone was talking, their speech bubble turned light blue to let you know it’s them.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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Venus Williams uses these 7 workout moves to keep her body in killer shape

1 year, 5 days ago

Venus Williams workout routineVogue/YouTube

Tennis star Venus Williams revealed her workout routine in a video with Vogue
Williams starts with some air squats to help get “firm glutes.”
She then does some side-lying clams because “they help your tushy look amazing.”
Williams also recommends a few sets of medicine ball crunches for a full body workout.
She then holds a plank for as long as possible, adding some variations and leg kicks to add to “the burn.”
Once she’s done with the plank, she moves on to a plank rotation with weights and leg raises.
She then does a few sit-ups with weights.
Lastly, she does some exercise ball push-ups, making sure to extend as far as possible.
Watch her full routine below.

Youtube Embed: // Width: 800px Height: 450px

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A Victoria’s Secret Angel shaves her face every week for clear skin — and you’ll want to try it immediately

1 year, 18 days ago

Josephine Skriver's skincare routineHarper’s BAZAAR/YouTube

Victoria’s Secret Angel Josephine Skriver shared her nightly skin-care routine with Harper’s BAZAAR.
She starts by removing her makeup with some Garnier Micellar Cleansing Water ($8.99) before cleansing with Karee Hays Hydra Cleanse ($42), which she says is suitable for sensitive skin.
Skriver then uses her customized Karee Hays Koji Pads ($176) to help balance her skin tone.
Before applying moisturizers, she sprays a generous amount of Avène Thermal Spring Water ($14) “to help [them] absorb better into the skin.”
She then applies a layer of Theraderm OPC Reparative Serum ($72) and some Theraderm Eternox Peptide Crème ($95) to help “prevent wrinkles.” 
Skriver also said that she will gently shave her whole face with a disposable razor once or twice a week to help clear her skin.
When she has time, she also likes to use a sheet mask such as the SNP Animal Otter Aqua Mask Sheet ($5) to treat her skin.
Lastly, she applies some Maybelline Baby Lips Lip Balm ($4.49) and a spritz or two of perfume as a finishing touch. 
Watch her full tutorial below.

Youtube Embed: // Width: 800px Height: 400px

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