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Home Improvements: Some Things Should Be Left to the Pros

by Renee' Anderson 23. April 2015

Home Equity Loan and Lines of Credit

It's true that saving money is important. However, sometimes you need to spend a little in order to not lose a lot. You know what I mean? No? Okay. Let me explain.

As you consider whether to hire professionals to handle your next home improvement project or do it yourself, there are some things to keep in mind.

  • How much is time worth? Often times, doing things yourself slows down the process. This could be fine, IF you’re not working on a time sensitive improvement like a new roof (you’d want to get your leaky roof fixed before the next big storm).

  • Is the type of improvement you’re doing something that could result in further damage? Pluming, for example, is a trade. If your project requires a complicated plumbing aspect, are you really skilled enough to do it? Or is it possible that you would make a mistake and end up with water damage, which could cost more money to fix than it would have to hire a plumber in the first place? Let’s be realistic here, people. We all would like to think we can do anything and everything, but sometimes the smarter person is the one who sticks to what they’re good at.

  • Wall demolition. Do you know which walls in your house are load-bearing walls? If your answer is no, do NOT knock anything down! If your answer is yes, do you know how to work around them? Sometimes it’s better to have a professional assess the situation before you decide if your wall demo project is a DIY or not.

  • Just because you see it on YouTube or Pinterest does NOT mean you can do it too. These days, you can pretty much find a YouTube how-to video on anything you search. That does not mean you should attempt to do just anything that there’s a how-to video on. For all you know, it could be a professional whose been doing it for 25 years and they just make it look a lot easier than it is. Not to mention, their situation may not be exactly like yours, i.e. if you decide to follow a video on building your own patio and it’s time to pour the concrete, perhaps you didn’t think about the fact that the weather where the how-to video was filmed was 70 degrees, but it’s 95 degrees where you are and the concrete starts to harden before you can get to it. (I mean, you’re not a professional, so let’s be honest, you’re not moving at lightning fast speed.)

While it might be fulfilling to complete home improvement projects yourself, there are just some things that should be left to the pros.

Finance Your Renovations with a Home Equity Loan or Line of Credit

If you found this article useful, be sure to check out these related articles:

Using Home Equity Loans and Lines of Credit to Your Advantage

5 Inexpensive Ways to Improve the Look of Your Home

Quick Tips for Staging Your Home to Sell

10 Things You Can Do to Help Save the Earth

by Renee' Anderson 22. April 2015

Save Money Recycling

Really? Surely it doesn’t matter what I personally do, it’s not really going to impact much, right? Wrong. You’d be shocked at what just you, as one person, can do to impact the earth.

Here’s the thing, I’m busy. I don’t really even know what I can do, and I don’t really have time to figure it out, let alone take the extra steps to do it. This was my train of thought, until my 5- and 3-year-old kids started asking me why we don’t recycle. I danced around the topic for a while, but they kept pushing. Then I notice things piling up next to the trash can because they wanted to recycle these items (and of course I haven’t "had time" to get a recycling bin for our house). Yeah, okay, time for me to get onboard.

1. Recycle

On a family trip to Home Depot, I spotted a medium-sized blue recycling bin. My husband then picked up a big blue outdoor recycling bin from our trash collection provider. Done. It’s seriously amazing how much of our "trash" is actually recyclable. And since our trash only gets picked up once a week, it’s also nice that we now have two big bins to fill up!

2. Use water efficiently

Easy peasy! Just do simple things, such as don’t let the water run while shaving or brushing teeth, repair all toilet and faucet leaks right away, and run your dishwasher only with a full load. Why does this matter? It takes lots of energy to pump, treat, and heat water, so saving water reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

3. Change light bulbs

Replace lightbulbs with ENERGY STAR® qualified products. This will help the environment AND help you save money on energy bills. When shopping, always look for new appliances or even home electronics that are ENERGY STAR products.

4. Bank online

Pay bills and view statements online instead of through the mail. It's faster than writing checks and waiting for a paper statement in the mail, and you don't have to store all of that paper. If you’re a 1st Mariner customer and have yet to set up Online Banking and register for eStataments, do it now! If you’re not a customer but would like to take advantage of our Online Banking features, just open up an account and enroll in Online Banking and eStataments at the same time…get started saving the earth right away!

Fun Fact- If everybody in the United States started dealing with money online, it would save almost 19 million trees every year [source: IdealBite].

5. Get a programmable thermostat

Stop wasting energy when you aren't home and when you're sleeping (on a different floor). Not only is this another way to save the earth, but you will save on your energy bill as well…win, win.

6. Buy local food

This is another one that has more than one benefit. Buying food that is grown locally will help eliminate transportation (trucks, ships, etc. produce pollutants), and will allow you to support your local businesses. Visit farmers or use a CSA (community-supported agriculture) service to get fresh produce.

1st Mariner Bank Reusable Bag

7. Reusable fabric bags

Bring them with you when you go shopping. I have plenty of these bags lying in my closet, but I have to admit, I don’t actually USE them to shop with. So, one of my contributions to Earth Day this year will be to bring my reusable bags with me when I head out to the grocery store later today. Seriously. You can hold me accountable if you want. Check back in, I’ll take pictures.

8. Compost

Composting your food and yard waste reduces the amount of garbage that you send to landfills and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. And once you set up a composting system -- basically a bin in your kitchen to put in compostable waste, and a bin in your yard where it can decay -- all of that rich fertilizer is free.

9. Plant a garden

Gardening is not only something you can do to help save the earth, it can also be a fun and relaxing hobby! Plant some veggies and fruits that you will eat so that you don’t have to buy them at the store. Also try to make your yard friendlier to wildlife. Plant lots of different types of vegetation. All kinds of creatures will visit your yard if you provide them with reason to be there.

10. Spread the word

Tell everyone! Peer pressure…for a good cause, of course! Let others know how easy it is, and that they can truly impact our earth.

Fun find- calculate your household's carbon footprint. Use EPA's Household Carbon Footprint Calculator to estimate your household greenhouse gas emissions resulting from energy use, transportation, and waste disposal. This tool helps you understand where your emissions come from and identify ways to reduce them.

If you found this article useful, be sure to check out these related articles:

7 Ways to Save Money Recycling

Infographic: Earth Day 2014

Spring Clean Your Finances in 6 Days - Part 1

Top ATM Safety Tips

by Andrew Schreiber 16. April 2015

ATM Safety

When you’re at an ATM, you may feel somewhat vulnerable. It’s important to acknowledge your vulnerable state and take steps to minimize your exposure. Here are some tips to help you stay safe at an ATM.

Be aware of your surroundings.

It’s best to use an ATM in a well-lit area that is visible to others. Avoid ATMs that are not facing the road or have blind spots (i.e. on the corner of a building). In addition to the location of the ATM, it’s also important to be wary of any suspicious people or situations nearby. If you feel the least bit uncomfortable, leave and find another ATM.

Put your cash away immediately.

If you are withdrawing money, you should put it away immediately once the cash has been dispensed. You’re probably thinking that it’s important to count the cash to make sure it is the right amount. Yes, it is important to count the cash, but do so in a safe area. You should never count it in a public area.

Limit your time at the machine.

You should go to an ATM with a “game plan.” What is your purpose for going to the ATM? Are you making a deposit, withdrawing money, transferring money, or checking your balance? Whatever your reason to use the ATM, make sure you complete your transaction in a timely matter. The less time you are in a vulnerable position, the better.

Daytime is better than nighttime.

I understand no one plans their day around going to the ATM. However, it is better to go to the ATM during the day. Typically, there is more activity and better visibility during the day. If you have to go at night, make sure it is a visible location and is well lit.

If you found this article useful, be sure to check out these related articles:

It's Fraud Season: Protect Yourself

How Identity Thieves Steal Your Information

Things to Do before You Leave the Country



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