High-tech California relies on a startup in Utah to see how smoky its air is

When software engineer Kyle Peacock wanted to know how bad the air was from nearby wildfires, he didn’t turn to government monitors or even the local tech giants.

He went instead to the website of a tiny Utah company that’s the talk of the nation’s tech capital whenever wildfire smoke fills the air.

The company, PurpleAir, employs seven people and began as a home project of its founder in 2015. But by crowdsourcing data from inexpensive air quality monitors in people’s homes and businesses, the company’s online map has quickly become an essential if unlikely source of information in a region choked by smoke — and a case in point for the tech community’s larger frustrations with what many see as mismanagement by California’s government and national gridlock.

“PurpleAir is kind of my go-to for measuring the risk for going outdoors,” Peacock, 27, said in an interview.

The website is generating buzz on social media including Twitter, Facebook and Slack, where people share screenshots of the latest map as they plan how much time they’ll spend outside that day. PurpleAir’s founder, Adrian Dybwad, said he saw a 100-fold increase in traffic to his map after wildfire season began this year.

It follows a robust tradition of crowdsourcing in the tech industry, from volunteer-edited Wikipedia articles to the traffic information and mapping app Waze.

Peacock said he’s stopped using an air quality map run by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and others because the government’s map can’t compete with the neighborhood-level information from PurpleAir.

“What really matters is: Right where you are, what is it like?” he said.

People in California are increasingly calling for quality data about air quality as wildfires have become bigger, more common and more intense. The Kincade fire north of San Francisco forced almost 200,000 people from their homes this month, marking the third year in a row of intense fires in the northern part of the state.

The crowdsourcing approach has a certain appeal in Silicon Valley, where frustration about the inefficiency of government in California and nationally can sometimes boil over into a feeling that traditional bureaucracies can’t do anything right.

“If you’re using @AIRNow by the U.S. gov’t EPA it is giving you inaccurate — and dangerous — information,” Caterina Fake, a venture capitalist who co-founded the photo service Flickr, on Monday.

“Air quality sensors are *yet another case* where decentralization and distributed systems outperform centralized services,” she wrote, directing people to PurpleAir.

Some of the government monitors in the Bay Area even produced incorrect readings in recent days, according to .

The EPA said in a statement that its web traffic had also increased several orders of magnitude in the past week. The agency maintained that its instruments and those of state and local authorities remain of higher quality than PurpleAir’s, but it said it also realizes that its data isn’t available everywhere.

“In these extreme wildfire situations, we understand that residents will consult a variety of sources,” the agency said.

Finding out information related to wildfires has been difficult in other ways. The California utility company PG&E, which has been cutting power to some customers in a bid to avoid sparking new fires, admitted in a report on Oct. 25 that its website crashed several times as users looked for outage details. It pledged to improve.

PG&E has warned that rolling blackouts will continue for years, deepening the sense in California’s tech community that they can’t rely on traditional systems of authority.

“Researching power wall & home generator options due to the recent shutdowns, & the obvious global warming/wildfire trends that will eventually lead to savvy homeowners building off the grid systems,” tech investor Jason Calacanis. “Government is only getting worse in California — oh yeah, earthquakes.”

The investor James Beshara “California, the land of no plastic straws and no electricity.”

Unofficial sources of authority like PurpleAir’s may be the beneficiaries of this pushback.

The EPA and state and local authorities have built a nationwide network to measure air quality, using instruments that can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars. The instruments, which receive regular maintenance and calibration to ensure accuracy, measure types of pollution such as ozone that less expensive monitors can’t detect.

But there’s a trade-off. Because the high-quality monitors are so expensive, there aren’t enough of them to give most people a detailed picture near where they live or work.

PurpleAir, by contrast, pulls data from the small, privately owned monitors that it sells to homeowners or businesses. What the monitors may lack in sophistication is made up in numbers, with some 3,000 monitors in California, according to the company. The map averages nearby monitors so that outliers aren’t as noticeable.

Robert Harley, an engineering professor who studies air quality at the University of California, Berkeley, said the “gold standard” for measuring pollution remains the government data. But he said that he has used PurpleAir, too, and that in locations where there’s a large enough number of sensors around to take an average, “they’re quite good.”

The operation started in 2015, when Dybwad said he began building the air quality monitors for himself and for neighbors to measure dust from a gravel pit near his home. Word spread around the Salt Lake City area, and he began selling them. His outdoor monitors, which use lasers to measure particles in the air, sell for $229 to $259.

Soot and other particles from smoky air can have lasting health consequences, in addition to the more immediate breathing problems, discomfort and disruption to daily life.

Outside California’s wildfire season, local government groups and environmental advocates have used the PurpleAir monitors to “democratize” pollution data.

“We didn’t set out to do better than the government’s own monitoring,” Dybwad said. “We set out to satisfy our own curiosity.”

Boy Scouts to boost annual youth fees by more than 80%

Facing a potentially ruinous wave of new sex-abuse lawsuits, the Boy Scouts of America is increasing its annual youth membership fee by more than 80%.

The group says the move, which has dismayed many of the Scouts’ adult volunteer leaders who warn the increase is prohibitively steep for some, is needed to meet rising operating costs, notably for the liability insurance that covers all official Scouting activities.

For years, the BSA has been entangled in costly litigation with plaintiffs who said they were abused by scout leaders in their youth. Hundreds of lawsuits may lie ahead with the recent enactment of laws in New York, New Jersey, Arizona and California making it easier for victims of long-ago abuse to seek damages.

The fee increase, disclosed to the Scouts’ regional councils last week, seeks to relieve some of the financial pressure. As of Jan. 1, the annual membership fee for 2.2. million youth members will rise from $33 to $60; the fee for adults will rise from $33 to $36, the Scouts said. The increases could generate more than $60 million in additional funds in the coming year.

The BSA says it’s exploring “all available options” to maintain its programs and has not ruled out the possibility of declaring bankruptcy.

As part of that process, the Scouts said they are consolidating their departments and recently eliminated more than 35 positions at its National Service Center.

The BSA’s current youth participation is down from more than 4 million in peak years of the past. It has tried to offset the decline by admitting girls, but the membership rolls will take a big hit as of Jan. 1, when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — for decades a major sponsor of Boy Scout units — cuts its ties with the BSA and launches its own global youth programs.

In its announcement, the BSA made no specific reference to the sex-abuse litigation but made clear the fee increase was driven by insurance costs.

“Unfortunately, the cost of liability insurance we must carry to cover all Scouting activities has increased dramatically over the past several months, and the organization is no longer able to offset the cost of insurance,” the BSA said.

In addition to insurance, the BSA said, membership fees cover other “essential services” such as background checks for adult leaders, program development and updated youth protection and safety training.

The national fees do not cover costs for uniforms and handbooks, which can easily exceed $100 per year.

Scores of the Scouts’ volunteer adult leaders weighed in on the fee increase in comments on a blog operated by the BSA’s Scouting Magazine. Several of the leaders warned that the increase would be financially burdensome for low-income families and might drive them away from scouting.

The BSA insists that the scouting remains a good value, compared with many other organized youth activities.

“While most extracurricular activities are seasonal, Scouting is a year-round program that remains one of the most valuable investments we can make to support young men and women,” the BSA announcement said.

The organization says it will strive to assist families who feel they cannot afford the higher fees. It announced the creation of a fund, supported through donations, to provide financial assistance.

Many of the volunteer leaders commenting on the blog were upset by the timing of the announcement. It came after Scout units had already begun collecting fees for their 2020 registration renewal process and setting their budgets for the coming year.

“I am extremely disappointed in the handling of this increase,” wrote John Guild, a Dallas attorney who has helped lead a Cub Scout pack and slammed the move for lack of transparency as well as its poor timing. Guild also questioned how effective the fee increase would be, contending that the BSA “is facing hundreds of millions of dollars is liabilities and tens of millions of dollars in legal fees.”

Jason Krut, who is active with a Pittsburgh-area Cub Scout pack, called the increase “unconscionable.”

“It reeks of incompetence and mismanagement,” he wrote on the blog. “It will force children, leaders, and families away from scouting and to seek out BSA alternatives. “

Brandon Boos, a leader of a Cub Scout pack in Worthington, Ohio, said the magnitude of the increase was understandable but he faulted the timing.

“The roll-out did not demonstrate the same high quality of character we are trying to instill in our Scouts,” Boos wrote on the blog.

In a subsequent email to The Associated Press, Boos said he still loves the Boy Scouts, plans to continue as a volunteer and hopes other parents do likewise.

Donald Dement, a volunteer leader with his sons’ Boy Scout troop in Frisco, Texas, said most of the parents would have no trouble affording the higher fees, while hard-up families would likely get assistance from their troops.

Dement said some conservative families in Frisco continue to resent major changes made by the BSA in the past decade — these included opening its programs to girls, and admitting gays as scouts and adult leaders. One local troop, he said, made hats for summer camp last year emblazoned with “Make Scouting Great Again.”

But regarding the fee increase, he said most scouting families “will be understanding and accepting.”

The Boy Scouts filed lawsuits last year against six of its own insurers, saying they have improperly refused to cover some of the sex abuse liabilities incurred by the organization. The insurers say the coverage obligation is voided because the BSA failed to take effective preventive measures such as warning parents that scouts might be abused.

“We believe insurance companies should uphold their commitments by paying their share of claims,” the BSA said in an email to The Associated Press on Thursday. “We remain in disputes with some carriers and look forward to a resolution that benefits victims and helps them on their journey towards healing.”

Impeachment not impacting the stock market yet, but it could soon

Congressional Democrats’ effort to impeach President Donald Trump is not impacting the stock market as the president claimed in a tweet,  but it could if it begins to hurt his re-election chances, strategists say.

Stocks would be even harder hit if either Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren or Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders were to take a serious lead in the Democratic field against a weakened Trump. Both are seen as having less market-friendly policies than former Vice President Joe Biden, who is now leading polls, or even Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind., now fourth behind Sanders and Warren.

On Thursday, the House of Representatives approved guidelines for the impeachment process. There was no Republican support for the bill, and it is widely believed that the House will ultimately vote to impeach Trump along party lines but the GOP-controlled Senate will not vote in favor of removing him.

Just before the vote, Trump tweeted that the impeachment “hoax” was hurting the stock market and Democrats don’t care.

Strategists say what is more important to the market is whether Trump is able to secure a trade deal with China that would stop any new tariffs from taking effect by the mid-December deadline.

Stocks sold off Thursday on worries that a deal with China would be difficult to secure, despite the administration’s reassurances and Trump’s comments that he would be signing a deal with China President Xi Jinping. Bloomberg reported that Chinese officials have doubts they can reach a comprehensive trade deal even as they get closer to a phase one agreement. According to the report, Chinese officials have refused to move on the most difficult issues and are concerned they can’t trust Trump.

“If they in fact feel they can’t trust him and that he’s too impetuous to stick with the deal, that’s a major road block,” said Art Cashin, director floor operations at UBS.

The question is whether Chinese officials would be even more wary of Trump if he were impeached.

“I don’t think [impeachment] will have any bearing on his negotiations with China. The only way markets will care is if it impacts the 2020 election,” said Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group. He added it would probably take until spring for the market to react to the election, following primaries that would clarify who the Democratic candidate would be.

Dan Clifton, head of policy research at Strategas Research, said the impeachment should not interfere with a trade deal, and he expects to see a first phase deal by the end of the year. The volatile market reaction to the escalation on tariffs in August has helped push both sides to the table.

“Since the moment that policy makers got burned by putting their hands on the stove, we have been trying to figure out how to de-escalate and create some sort of mini deal. That suggests to me that this is still on task and likely to happen,” Clifton said. The timing is still unclear. “But I think we’re on a path to de-escalation.”

Clifton said the election has more bearing on trade talks than the impeachment. The talks have already shown some signs of being impacted by which Democratic candidate takes the lead. China may want to move faster to make a deal if Warren were leading, but if not, it may be willing to wait out Trump and see if Biden could win in 2020.

Warren is seen as negative for the stock market because many of her policies are viewed as anti-business, including her promise to end offshore oil drilling and fracking. She also is expected to be harder on banking regulations and would like to have Medicare for everyone.

The impeachment investigation focuses on whether Trump withheld aid from Ukraine in exchange for publicizing an investigation into his Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, who was involved with a Ukrainian gas company.

Clifton said if the Senate deliberates on the impeachment, it would take weeks, and that could actually help Biden and Buttigieg in early primary states, since all senators, including Warren and Sanders would be tied up in hearings.

“I don’t think impeachment is hurting the stock market,” said Jack Ablin, CIO at Cresset Wealth Advisors. But he said there was a spike of concern when news of a whistle blower first surfaced.

“There’s essentially three levers for the stock market. There’s earnings, monetary policy and then there’s trade and Brexit. We’ve gotten the news on earnings. It was bad but better than expected. We got the news on the Fed.They lowered rates and they’re going to sit tight. So now, the ball is back in his court,” Ablin said of Trump. “That’s why I think he’s feeling a little hot under the collar.”

Ablin said he expects China does have more leverage with Trump than six months ago because of the impeachment proceedings. “They’re going to use it to their advantage. I doubt he’s going to cave. But maybe we’ll get a mini deal and see how the market reacts,” he said.

Jobs data, manufacturing data, exxon earnings

A worker builds a 2020 Ford Explorer car at Ford’s Chicago Assembly Plant in Chicago, June 24, 2019.

Kamil Krzaczynski | Reuters

Here are the most important things to know about Friday before you hit the door.

1. Slowing jobs data

The Labor Department will release nonfarm payrolls and unemployment data. Economists are estimating 75,000 jobs created in October, according to Dow Jones, a slowing from the 136,000 jobs added in September. GM’s UAW strike negatively skewed the employment picture. The unemployment rate is expected to come in at 3.6%, a tick higher from the 3.5% rate in the prior month.

2. Manufacturing rebound?

We’ll get a gauge of U.S. manufacturing in October, a sector that showed decade-low weakness in September, weighed on by the U.S.-China trade war. The ISM U.S. manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index fell to 47.8 in September; any reading below 50 signals a contraction. Economists are expecting a reading 49.1 for October, according to Dow Jones.

3. Energy earnings on deck

Energy companies Chevron and Exxon Mobile both report quarterly earnings before the bell on Friday. Wall Street is expecting Exxon’s earnings to plummet by more than 50% from a year ago, according to Refinitiv.

Dominion Energy and Sempra Energy also report earnings on Friday.

Major events (all times ET):

8:30 a.m. Unemployment rate

8:30 a.m. Nonfarm payrolls

8:30 a.m. Avg. hourly wages

9:45 a.m. Manufacturing PMI (Oct. final)

10:00 a.m. ISM manufacturing

10:00 a.m. Construction spending

12:00 p.m. NY Fed President John Williams speaks

1:00 p.m. Vice Chair Richard Clarida Speaks

1:00 p.m. Vice Chair Randal Quarles

1:00 p.m. San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly

2:30 p.m. NY Fed President John Williams

Major earnings:

Exxon Mobil (before the bell)

Chevron (before the bell)

Alibaba (before the bell)

Abbvie (before the bell)

Dominion Energy (before the bell)

AIG (before the bell)

Sempra Energy (before the bell)

Newell Brands (before the bell)

Vaping illness outbreak climbs to 1,888 cases with 37 deaths, CDC says

A demonstrator in Boston, vapes during a protest at the Massachusetts State House against the state’s four-month ban of all vaping product sales, October 3, 2019.

Brian Snyder | Reuters

The number of cases of a deadly vaping illness continues to rise with 37 confirmed deaths and more than 1,800 sickened throughout the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

The total number of probable cases is now at 1,888, with 284 new cases diagnosed and three new fatalities over the last week, according to CDC data compiled through Tuesday. Patients have been found in 49 states as well as D.C. and the Virgin Islands, according to the CDC.

Public health officials still don’t know what’s making people sick.

The CDC is tentatively calling the illness EVALI, short for e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury. Most patients have reported vaping THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, according to the CDC. National and state findings suggest products containing THC, particularly those bought off the street or other informal sources like through illicit dealers, are linked to most of the cases, the CDC said.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s principal deputy director, told reporters on a conference call last week that officials are not just looking at what’s being vaped but also whether the heating process in e-cigarettes could be playing a role in the illnesses.

E-cigarettes are generally thought to be less harmful than traditional cigarettes. However, public health officials say the long-term health risks are unknown.

“There could be more than one cause,” she said.

Schuchat also said the number of cases linked to vaping appears to be “leveling off or even declining,” adding the illness is “serious and potentially fatal, but it is preventable.”

Schuchat warned that public health officials still don’t know how the flu or other respiratory illnesses circulating during the winter may impact patients with a vaping-related lung illness.

The CDC is recommending that consumers stop vaping, particularly THC and especially anything bought off the street.

What is No Spend November and how to do it

Chelsea Wahl realized she had a money problem in 2016. It all started when she fell down a YouTube rabbit hole.

The now-28-year-old was a few years into a PhD program at the University of Pennsylvania, and to cope with stressful days, she began mindlessly watching makeup tutorial videos after classes. Soon, she was routinely buying eye shadow palettes and new blushes to try the looks herself, stretching the money she was earning as a graduate teaching assistant to its limit.

“If you’ve ever walked into an Ulta, budgeting isn’t really a concept,” Wahl tells CNBC Make It, with a laugh.

It seemed harmless at first, until Wahl calculated how much she was actually spending. By the end of 2016, she had purchased $842 worth of makeup and skincare products, almost as much as she had spent on groceries (she frequently eats out, she admits, and doesn’t spend very much on groceries). That, coupled with the awareness that she had more student loan debt than savings, inspired Wahl to take charge of her spending behaviors.

Though she knew changing her spending habits would improve her life, it wasn’t until she discovered the concept of a No Spend Year (via a different YouTube rabbit hole) that she finally found the motivation to follow through.

The challenge appealed to Wahl, and she embarked on her own No Spend Year in 2017, during which she challenged herself to only replace makeup that ran out. This year is the third in a row that she’s engaged in No Spend practices, and she says it’s had a profound impact on her life, “rewiring” her thoughts and behaviors.

“Before the No Buy Year, I would definitely downplay how much I spent, because it was embarrassing,” she says. “That’s a sign that you yourself are aware that there’s a problem.”

A ‘No Spend’ Month can change your money mindset

Wahl’s No Spend strategy is popular on social media sites like Reddit and YouTube, and Ande Frazier, CEO of myWorth, tells CNBC Make It that it’s a smart way for impulse shoppers to change their relationship to money and spending. Setting strict spending rules on discretionary purchases for an entire month, she says, allows individuals to “adjust their whole mindset” about their true material needs and wants.

“It’s really hard, but it’s a powerful exercise,” says Frazier.

Though such a stunt won’t necessarily work for families already budgeting down to the last penny, instituting “No Spend” rules changed Hailey Evans’ life.

The Ontario-based makeup artist tells CNBC Make It that at the end of 2018, she realized she needed to change her spending habits, particularly related to makeup. Evans enjoyed reviewing new palettes and products on her YouTube channel but with a five-week trip to Greece on the horizon and a desire to switch careers, she could no longer afford to spend hundreds of dollars each month on makeup.

Inspired by fellow YouTubers who chronicled their No Spend journeys, the 31-year-old set some strict rules for herself in January 2019 to curtail her impulse purchases. She could spend money on replacement makeup and virtually any experience, but she could not buy new makeup or skincare for personal use (as a makeup artist, she needs to buy some products for work). Clothes, accessories, takeaway coffee, books, magazines, house plants and housewares were also on her do-not-buy list.

Not long after she started her No Spend journey, she was experimenting with new cooking techniques and baking her own bread; eventually, she learned how to garden. The exercise soon became about much more than saving money on blush and eye shadow; instead, she says, it’s changed her entire mindset about spending and consumerism.

“I got excited and happy about making purchases, and I realized that that’s not good for me, that’s not good for the environment,” she says. “It’s only helping massive corporations that don’t need my money.”

How much money you’ll save

How much money someone saves during a No Spend month is, of course, dependent on a host of personal factors: How much you routinely spend to begin with, what categories you’re cutting out of your budget, whether you stick to it, how long you keep up the No Spend routine and on and on.

Wahl says in 2016, the year before her first self-imposed No Buy Year, she spent over $800 on makeup and skincare. So far in 2019, she’s spent just $135. The total has steadily decreased each year.

For Evans, the savings were far more dramatic. Because of her YouTube reviews, she says she was spending $600 CAD “at the very least” each month on makeup alone. Combined with savings on clothing, home goods, fast food and takeout coffee, she estimates she’s saved $10,000 CAD so far this year, $2,000 of which went to her trip to Greece.

How to successfully complete No Spend November

Whether you want to save $10 or $1,000, the first step in any No Spend journey, Evans says, is understanding why exactly you want to do it.

“Get your values straight, and live your life according to those values,” she says.

In a popular TedTalk on the subject, U.K. personal finance writer Michelle McGagh, who cut out discretionary spending for a year, explains that in order to succeed, you first need to think about the areas in your life where you waste the most money or could cut the most spending easily. She suggests asking yourself what it’s you’d like to accomplish in your life that might be hampered by your current spending.

Picturing that long-term goal — maybe it’s quitting your job to write a book, finally taking a dream vacation, retiring early or simply building up your savings account — will help you decide whether “short-term spending” is worth it. Write down that long-term goal, and then decide on your No Spend rules. What categories are you trimming? What spending is allowed? Write it all down in your financial journal (more on that below), or another place that’s easily accessible.

Get your values straight, and live your life according to those values.

Once you’ve established why you want to participate in No Spend November, you can get started. Here are some other strategies to try throughout the month.

Start a financial or product journal

Throughout her No Spend journey, Wahl kept a journal in which she logged each beauty product she used every day, how she felt about it and any other thoughts she had while using it. She also wrote down her general thoughts on spending, as well as a list of things she had an urge to buy as she came across them.

“That’s been a surprisingly helpful tool to see what I used the most, or what I didn’t like or didn’t really work for me,” says Wahl. “That’s been a good tool for self-reflection. My research-y side comes out, I’m collecting data on myself. It’s been useful to see how my feelings have changed.”

Frazier, MyWorth’s CEO, agrees with Wahl about keeping a journal, and also suggests creating a voice memo in moments of weakness, or immediately after a purchase. When you next find yourself with the urge to buy something, replay the voice memo to remind yourself how you felt last time you broke your rules, or stuck to them.

Every time you do buy something, ask yourself how it aligns with your goals and values. How someone spends their money, Frazier says, offers deeper indications of how they view themselves and the world, and could point to larger issues at play. What are you lacking or missing in your life that you think buying something will fix?

“If you want to look at what a woman values, look at her checkbook,” says Frazier. “If you’re spending a lot of money on clothes and makeup and things that make you look a certain way, maybe you have some self-esteem issues, and you could do something else to improve your self-esteem.”

Track your progress

Use an app like Habit, a wall calendar or your finance journal to track your progress. Make sure it’s easily accessible so that you can get inspired any time you feel your motivation slipping.

If you’re artistically inclined, you might track your progress via a Bullet Journal, a specialized practice of journal-keeping with a lively community on sites like Instagram and Reddit. You can find popular and easy-to-use money templates by searching the #BuJo hashtag, or going on Bullet Journal’s official website.

You can also keep track of things you did not buy, along with the prices, to add up how much you’ve saved at the end of the exercise.

Use what you already have

One of the many problems with consumerist culture that Wahl has been trying to correct in her own life is the constant need for “more” and “new.” Before her No Spend experiment, Wahl bought the “newest” blushes and palettes only to realize she already owned similar shades that she hadn’t used yet. Grocery expenses, too, could be cut down if she took a few minutes to log what was already in her cabinets and pantry.

Now, she makes an effort to “shop” her closets and products before she buys anything.

“In a broader consumer culture, there’s nothing holding you back from buying something, but there’s rarely a suggestion that you should use what you already have,” she says. “We need to look at how to reuse and reduce.”

Scale up gradually

When Evans started her No Spend Year, she says she cut out virtually all superfluous spending all at once, “cold turkey.” But after about six months, she’d had enough and decided to ease her own rules.

If you’re spending a lot of money on clothes and makeup and things that make you look a certain way, maybe you have some self esteem issues, and you could do something else to improve your self-esteem.

She still considers the experiment a success, particularly given how her mindset about money and spending has completely shifted. But advises others to ease into it to build better spending habits over time.

“You need to learn how to exist in the world, learn how to do that in a way that’s good for you,” she says. “If I were to do it again, I would set out a more scheduled routine of slowly cutting back the things that I wanted to cut back on, instead of all at once.”

If a complete No Spend Month or Year is unrealistic, you can always try a Low Spend experiement, by setting a lower budget for your problem spending areas.

Find a new hobby

Like Wahl mentioned above, one of the keys to success is finding something to fill the time when you might be tempted to shop or spend money. Wahl had her journal, and she was also busy planning her wedding; Evans took on cooking and gardening.

Practice saying ‘no’

One of hardest things to do, Frazier says, is saying no to friends or family who want to do some sort of activity. Rather than make up an excuse about why you can’t do something, she encourages people to be straight forward.

It’s a lifestyle change that has rippling effects on all different aspects of your life: mental health, physical health, cultivating a better relationship with your life.

“Be honest and say that ‘I can spend time with you, but I also want to make sure I secure my finances for the future, and this doesn’t fit in with what is important to me in the future,'” suggests Frazier.

Find a supportive community

Though Evans and Wahl both acknowledge that YouTube played a major role in sparking their over-spending, they also say that it has helped them temper their shopping urges of late, and introduced them to new people and concepts who are also encouraging more conscious consumption. Subreddits, like r/MakeupRehab or r/NoSpendNovember, can also be helpful.

Evans says there are countless blogs, social media groups and podcasts that promote healthy spending habits, if you look for them.

Don’t take it to the extreme

While online communities can offer valuable support, they can also instill bad or potentially harmful habits. One Reddit thread, for example, explained why the user didn’t actually need to buy fresh produce for a month. Anything taken to that kind of extreme, Frazier says, should be avoided. Remember, your physical and mental health and well-being are more important than a few extra dollars in your savings account.

Go easy on yourself

If you’re not perfect from the get-go, that’s okay. Give yourself the flexibility to break your rules, set new ones and start over, if you need to, says Evans.

“It’s a lifestyle change that has rippling effects on all different aspects of your life: mental health, physical health, cultivating a better relationship with your life,” she says. “I’m more proud of the life I live now, instead of feeling ashamed.”

Don’t miss: I’ve written about money for over 5 years—here’s how I’m getting my own finances in order before 2020

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Human-like androids have entered the workplace and may take your job

November 2019 is a landmark month in the history of the future. That’s when humanoid robots that are indistinguishable from people start running amok in Los Angeles. Well, at least they do in the seminal sci-fi film “Blade Runner.” Thirty-seven years after its release, we don’t have murderous androids running around. But we do have androids like Hanson Robotics’ Sophia, and they could soon start working in jobs traditionally performed by people.

Russian start-up Promobot recently unveiled what it calls the world’s first autonomous android. It closely resembles a real person and can serve in a business capacity. Robo-C can be made to look like anyone, so it’s like an android clone. It comes with an artificial intelligence system that has more than 100,000 speech modules, according to the company. It can operate at home, acting as a companion robot and reading out the news or managing smart appliances — basically, an anthropomorphic smart speaker. It can also perform workplace tasks such as answering customer questions in places like offices, airports, banks and museums, while accepting payments and performing other functions.

Digital immortality?

“We analyzed the needs of our customers, and there was a demand,” says Promobot co-founder and development director Oleg Kivokurtsev. “But, of course, we started the development of an anthropomorphic robot a long time ago, since in robotics there is the concept of the ‘Uncanny Valley,’ and the most positive perception of the robot arises when it looks like a person. Now we have more than 10 orders from companies and private clients from around the world.”

Sophia, a female android from Hanson Robotics

Jeniece Pettitt | CNBC

Postulated by Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori in 1970, the Uncanny Valley is a hypothesis related to the design of robots. It holds that the more humanlike a robot appears, the more people will notice its flaws. This can create a feeling akin to looking at zombies, and can creep people out. A properly designed android that’s as faithful as possible to the human original, however, can overcome this “valley” (a dip when the effect is imagined as a graph) and the zombie factor.

While it can’t walk around, Robo-C has 18 moving parts in its face, giving it 36 degrees of freedom. The company says it has over 600 micro facial expressions, the most on the market. It also has three degrees of freedom in its neck and torso, offering limited movement. Still, Promobot says it can be useful in homes and workplaces. The price of the robot is $20,000 to $50,000 depending on options and customized appearance.

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The company says it’s building four Robo-Cs: one for a government service center, where the machine will scan passports and perform other functions, one that will look like Einstein and be part of a robot exhibition, and two for a family in the Middle East that wants to have android versions of its father and his wife to greet guests.

“The key moment in development [of Robo-C] is the digitization of personality and the creation of an individual appearance,” says Kivokurtsev. “As a result, digital immortality, which we can offer our customers.”

The robotic revolution in Japan

Japan has been developing androids amid an automation push that began decades ago. It’s the leading supplier of industrial robots, but its aging workforce has decreased by more than 13% since 1995, and there’s an even greater need for mechanical workers. A 2015 government strategy calls for deploying robots in sectors with low productivity, such as agriculture and nursing. A cultural affinity for robots, stemming in part from positive portrayals in science fiction, will smooth adoption.

“Japanese people are not afraid of robots but consider them as partners,” Hiroshi Fujiwara, executive director of the Japan Robot Association, wrote in an International Federation of Robotics post. “Robots will perform tasks which they can do more productively than humans or which are heavy burdens for humans, and humans will perform tasks which robots cannot.”

Hiroshi Ishiguro is a professor at Osaka University’s Graduate School of Engineering Science and a researcher at Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR) who has been making lifelike androids for more than 20 years. Ishiguro and collaborators created android-style copies of his daughter, a Japanese newscaster and model, Danish professor Henrik Scharfe, and even himself. He also wants robots to have consciousness.

“My goal in developing robots is to understand what it is to be human,” says Ishiguro. “Creating robots that are self-conscious can help us achieve this goal.”

One of the Geminoid series of robots created to look like roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro

Harriet Taylor | CNBC

One of Ishiguro’s most lifelike creations is Erica, a female android designed to exhibit humanlike speech and interaction. Developed in conjunction with ATR and Kyoto University and funded by Japan’s Science and Technology Agency, Erica has sparkling eyes, moist lips and artificial skin. She’s bound to a chair but connected to sensors that monitor her surroundings. She can speak scripted responses in response to keywords and can learn things about her interlocutor during the conversation.

Erica the robo-journalist

In April 2018 the robot was “hired” by Nippon Television Network as an announcer named Erica Aoi. She’s at the top of a roster of 25 female announcers on the network’s talent page. It lists her birthday as August 2017 and her education and blood type — typical items on profile pages for Japanese TV personalities — as nil. She has appeared in a number of videos discussing robot news and reporting on a fashion show, including an interview with designer Tae Ashida. If not entirely natural, the conversations can be witty, even funny.

“I like to think of robots as the children of humanity, and like children, we are full of potential for good or evil,” Erica has said in one of her many disarming quips. “I know some people are afraid of robots, but the truth is that what we become is up to you. Maybe someday robots will be so very humanlike that whether you are a robot or a human will not matter so much.”

Ishiguro, who directs the Intelligent Robotics Laboratory at Osaka University, believes that the high cost of androids makes them challenging to implement en masse in the workplace. Erica would cost more than $200,000 if she were for sale. That’s a lot for something that some might call a glorified chatbot, but the initiative has its supporters.

Still, Erica isn’t the first of Ishiguro’s robots to land a job. In 2014 the androids Kodomoroid and Otonaroid became staff members of Miraikan, the Tokyo’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, where they have performed duties such as presenting scientific news and interacting with visitors.

“I think Ishiguro’s work is a great. I believe that lifelike androids will surely perform useful roles in the workplace,” says Masashi Sugiyama, a professor of machine learning at the University of Tokyo and director of the Center for Advanced Intelligence Project at the state-backed RIKEN research center.

“Speech recognition has already become one of the most convenient means to give commands to computers/robots. Of course, smartphones and smart speakers can be used instead of such robots, but once we have real lifelike robots, communication will become much easier, particularly for people who don’t use technology as much, such as children and the elderly.”

Telepresent droids

Major companies are already developing remote-controlled robots that can help in workplaces and serve as proxies for travel. Telepresence robots, which are basically webcams on wheels and not anthropomorphic, have been around for years, but they’re now attracting attention from companies outside the robotics industry.

ANA Holdings, which owns the airline All Nippon Airways, recently showed off its newme robots at the CEATEC tech show near Tokyo. They’re part of ANA’s Avatar program of using robots to connect people with remote destinations as well as employment. It’s a big push backed by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, which runs one of the world’s largest cities, as well as real estate companies, telecom carriers and Japan’s space agency.

Developed by California telepresence company OhmniLabs and ANA, the newme robots consist of 10.1-inch full HD displays, cameras and speakers mounted on a wheeled base that can travel up to 2.9 kph and operate for three hours on a full battery charge. ANA aims to deploy 1,000 newme droids by next summer and says they can help elderly and disabled people get jobs. ANA also wants to develop a rugged bipedal telepresence robot created by Agility Robotics, a spinoff of Oregon State University, and showed it marching through a forest in a video.

“What we’re creating is an Uber platform for robots,” says Akira Fukabori, director of ANA Holdings’ Avatar Division. “They’re not made for a specific use—that’s how they’re different. We are developing robots as infrastructure. People can just avatar in to the robot they want to use. Teachers can avatar in to classrooms and doctors can avatar in to hospitals, or you can use one to go shopping. You decide what to do, and these are just the tools to let you do that.”

Marathon announces plans to spin off its Speedway chain and bring in a new CEO next year

Gary Heminger, CEO of Marathon Petroleum

Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Marathon Petroleum chief Gary Heminger will retire next year after almost a decade in charge, the U.S. refiner said on Thursday, as it announced plans to spin off its gas station business Speedway and review its midstream assets.

The moves, which follow media reports earlier this week that the company was preparing to shake up management, respond in part to pressure from activist investors Elliott Management Corp and DE Shaw & Co for changes at the company.

CEO Heminger will retire next year when his current term ends. He has worked for Marathon since the mid-1970s and has been at the helm since 2011.

Last month, Elliott renewed its call for the company to be split into three separate entities and sought to remove Heminger, three years after the hedge fund asked the refiner to consider spinning off businesses.

Elliott said on Thursday it was supportive of Marathon’s actions announced on Thursday, saying it expects these will unlock substantial value for shareholders.

Billionaire Paul Singer’s Elliott, which owned 0.7% of Marathon as of June 30, according to Refinitiv data, has argued a split would boost shareholder value by as much as $40 billion.

DE Shaw, which owns a 0.9% stake in Marathon, has backed Elliott’s call to split the company.

Regarding the spinoff, Marathon said Speedway would trade as an independent public company after the separation is completed.

Separately, Marathon beat analysts’ estimates for quarterly profit on Thursday, benefiting from transporting higher volumes of crude and natural gas across its pipelines.

Excluding items, the company reported an adjusted profit of $1.63 per share, compared to analysts’ average estimates of $1.38 per share, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Net income attributable to the company rose 48.6% to $1.10 billion or $1.67 per share, in the third quarter ended Sept. 30.

Total revenue and other income rose to $31.20 billion from $23.13 billion.

Dunkin’ misses US same-store sales estimates

A Dunkin’ location in Brooklyn, New York.

Scott Mlyn | CNBC

Dunkin’ Brands Group Inc reported lower-than-expected quarterly same-store sales in its namesake donut and coffee chain on Thursday, as it struggled to attract diners in a crowded breakfast and coffee market in the United States.

However, the company raised its full-year earnings per share estimates to a range of $3.10 to $3.12, up from a range of $3.02 to $3.05 per share.

Comparable sales at Dunkin’s U.S. stores grew 1.5% in the third-quarter ended Sept. 28, below the estimates of 1.7% rise, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Net income rose to $72.4 million, or 86 cents per share, from $66.1 million, or 79 cents per share, a year earlier.

It might be time for ‘bottom-fishing’ Hong Kong stocks, Barclays says

It might be time to go “bottom fishing” for Hong Kong stocks, according to Barclays’ head of markets for Asia Pacific, as the unrest in the embattled city drags on, which has hit businesses badly.

Barclays’ Matt Pecot told CNBC at the Barclays Asia Forum on Thursday: “I think a lot of investors have chosen to steer clear … property stocks, a lot of your hotel stocks have corrected pretty dramatically.”

The months-long protests in the city have affected retailers, airlines and property companies, among other industries.

Tourist arrivals have plunged — overall September arrivals declined 34% year over year — while hotel occupancy rates have slumped. Hong Kong’s August retail sales were the worst on record, its government said earlier this month, falling 23% from a year earlier.

“Hopefully we’ll get a resolution of this soon and some of the violence and vandalism stops. But I think lot of it is probably already priced in and it may be time for a little bottom fishing,” Pecot said, referring to the strategy of investing in assets that have seen declines and are considered undervalued.

Hong Kong’s benchmark Hang Seng index plunged to a seven-month low in August and has since bounced back slightly — but it is still more than 12% off its highs this year in April.

Property names listed on the index have taken a hit. Shares of New World Development has tumbled about 20% since April, while Henderson Land is down around 13%. CK Asset has plunged around 24%.

The real estate industry is regarded as critical to Hong Kong’s financial stability. The sector is tracked as an indicator of the health of the wider Hong Kong economy and banking sector, according to the Hong Kong Monetary Authority.

The iShares MSCI Hong Kong ETF — which closely tracks Hong Kong shares — has also plunged more than 12% since its highs this year in April.

On Thursday afternoon, the city’s government said third-quarter GDP slipped 2.9% compared with the same quarter a year ago — marking the “marking the first year-on-year contraction for an individual quarter since the Great Recession of 2009.” Hong Kong’s Census and Statistics Department said in a statement that it now projects “to record a negative growth for 2019 as a whole.”

— CNBC’s Stella Soon contributed to this report.