5 Inexpensive Ways to Improve the Look of Your Home

by Sara Seeger 22. January 2014

Home Improvements

It's a new year, which for most of us means it’s time to make a new resolution. Perhaps you want to eat healthier, or go to the gym more frequently, or be a more patient person. How about a resolution that results in not only a better you, but a better home? Make a resolution to dedicate your time and energy to one project each month that improves the look of your home (for those of you who refuse to make resolutions, call it a “plan”). There are many small, inexpensive fixes that can be done to the inside and outside of your house to improve its overall look and value! While you’re stuck inside this winter you can channel your inner creativity and put some of those Pinterest ideas to work.

1. Freshen up Walls with a New Color

Tired of your bland eggshell bedroom walls or bright lemon bathroom walls? Paint is a great, low-cost option to improve the overall look of your home. Changing the color of your walls changes the entire personality of the room. Not sure how a color will look on your walls? The Behr Paint website offers customers the option to preview their vision with a tool that simulates the look of their choice of paint color. Paint stores also sell small jars of paint for you to test-run on a small wall area before committing to the color. The cost of paint and supplies will depend upon the size of the space and the quality of the paint and could cost as little as $100-$150 for an average-size room.

*Hint: Don't just stop at painting your walls. You can also update your front door with fresh paint, or update your kitchen by painting the cabinets which is much more cost effective than a total kitchen restoration!

Crown Molding

2. Add Personality with Decorative Molding

Decorative molding offers a more finished, put-together look. While many homes have baseboards, newer homes often lack the decorative touch of ceiling molding. Once you have the proper amount of molding, you can easily install it yourself. The cost of molding depends upon the size of the room and the style of molding and typically averages $3 a foot. I added decorative crown molding to my half bath to give it a more defined, nautical look (after a fresh coat of paint, of course).

3. Throw Down an Area Rug

Are there stains on the carpet or scratches on the wood floor? Replacing carpet or wood floors can be extremely expensive and time consuming, and in many cases will require the skills of a professional. A more cost-effective solution to this problem is to purchase an area rug. An area rug adds a splash of color to your room and serves to easily hide any unsightly stains and blemishes. Target, HomeGoods, and Bed Bath and Beyond have fairly inexpensive area rugs. Remember to take advantage of sales and discounted coupons!

Crown Molding

4. Accent with a Backsplash

Two rooms in a home that really add value are the kitchen and bathroom. What better way to add a touch of elegance to these rooms than by adding a pop of color in the form of a backsplash. At first thought, adding a backsplash sounds like an intimidating do-it-yourself project, but I decided to dive in and try it. To my surprise it was much easier than I expected! I found the cost of most tile to be about $10 a sheet (I used two sheets), a tub of grout runs about $8, and two self-adhesive panels for the tiles cost me $2/sq. ft. For me, the result was a very affordable bathroom transformation!

5. Plant a Garden

Spring will be here before you know it. Landscaping your front or backyard doesn’t have to be expensive to improve the overall look of your home. Visit your local nursery and grab some colorful flowers. You can plant them around the front of your house or even edge your walkway. Add some fresh mulch to help curb appeal. Don’t have room for a garden? I live in a row home in the city with no grass, so I bought a big, decorative flower pot to sit outside my home. I’m able to change the plants and flowers depending on the time of the year, and a decorative solar light adds interest and showcases the plants.

For more cost effective ways to improve the look of your home- check out our Pinterest board!

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Home Improvements You Never Knew You Could Do Yourself

5 Home Improvements That Add Value

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Digital Tools That Help You Keep Your New Year's Resolutions

by Sara Seeger 13. January 2014

New Year’s resolutions are one of the hardest promises to keep. It’s not uncommon for us to surrender our commitment shortly after we start due to lack of energy, willpower, support, or a plethora of other lame excuses. Fortunately for us, there are convenient apps and digital tools that we can use to help us achieve our resolutions.

Healthy Produce

1. Dieting and Healthy Eating

After all of that holiday overindulging, many of us resolve to eat healthier or diet. MyFitnessPal has a free app and an online tool to assist us with a healthier lifestyle. This digital tool has an easy to use calorie counter where we can search for food and track calories from more than 3 million entries. Record what you eat and the app will calculate the number of calories you’ve eaten. The app also offers numerous exercise options and a motivational tool for you to share your progress with others who use the app. A little friendly competition to keep us on target can’t hurt.

2. Smoking Cessation

There are numerous apps that can help smokers nix the habit. One such app is called, Quit It Lite. Quit It is a free app that uses motivation to encourage and support smokers to quit and to motivate ex-smokers to stay away from tobacco. This app tracks the number of cigarettes a person doesn’t smoke, the amount of money a person saves by not smoking, and shows the health benefits of a tobacco-free lifestyle, all while calculating a ranking that is specific to the individual. So, if the health benefits aren’t enough to motivate a smoker to quit, the financial savings may do the trick!

3. Learn Something New

Tired of trying to achieve the same New Year’s resolution year after year? Why not set your sights on learning a new language? Duolingo is a free app and website tool that allows users to master up to six languages through engaging games that assess reading, writing, and speaking skills. You can choose to compete against yourself to maintain high scores, or if you need a little extra motivation, you can compete against friends. This app makes learning a language fast, fun, and convenient.

Organization

4. Get Organized

Do you have a lot on your mind? Do you forget important events like meetings, birthdays, or (yikes!), wedding anniversaries? EasilyDo Smart Assistant is a free app that proactively reminds you of important events. It also organizes contacts, checks traffic reports, sends bad weather notifications, and tracks packages- all in the convenience of one app. This app allows you to save time and stay on top of everything you need to remember so you can stay out of the “doghouse.”

5. Help Others

Interested in giving back to your community? VolunteerMatch is a free app and website tool that allows users to connect with great causes. Users can search more than 62,000 available volunteer opportunities to find the perfect match for them. The app enables users to search geographically to choose organizations near their home, work, or school. This option gives people the flexibility to volunteer outside of their own “backyard.”

6. Get Your Finances in Order

Many people resolve to manage their money better, specifically to spend less and save more. Mariner360, from 1st Mariner Bank, can assist with this goal. Mariner360 is an online individual money management tool that helps users develop, track, and continuously monitor their expenses and budgeting strategies. It is free to all Online Banking customers, and is robust enough to track all of your accounts, regardless of financial institution. Start your New Year off on the right foot and set solid financial goals with Mariner360.

Organization begins with Mariner360

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How to Be More Productive

by Stacy Tharp 7. January 2014

Productivity

As one year comes to a close and another year begins, one of the most common sayings you hear is “where did the time go?” Time is something that always seems to get away from us, and something we have absolutely no control over. We do, however, have control over how we use that time. We’d all like more time to spend with our family, our hobbies, or just relaxing. Here are some tips on how to be more productive and make the most of your time.

Set a Daily Schedule

The to-do list is not a new concept, but it is an essential ingredient to having a productive day. Whether you make your to-do lists on post-it notes or use an electronic tool such as Wunderlist or Todoist, it’s something that should be done daily. Not only is it important to list the tasks that need to be completed, you should schedule a specific and realistic time frame by which each task should be completed. Setting deadlines for yourself throughout the day will help you avoid procrastinating.

Examine Your Internal Clock

Figure out what time of day you are the most productive, and schedule your most challenging tasks during that time frame. Don’t confuse your most productive time for your most awake time of day. You want to be the most focused at this time. For the time of day that you are the least focused, schedule your most mundane tasks that don’t require as much thought.

Get Energy Boosts from Smart Sources

You lose energy when you are hungry and tired. Eat snacks regularly throughout the day, but make sure you choose the right ones. Foods high in simple sugars will zap all of your energy, but foods high in protein and fiber will give you a healthy, long-lasting energy boost.

Regular breaks are also necessary to remain productive. The sun is a major source of energy, so if you start to lose focus, take a break and head outside for a few minutes.

Exercising and getting a good night’s sleep on a regular basis are other ingredients to a productive lifestyle.

Don't Multitask, but Batch Together Similar Tasks

Contrary to the popular resume skill of multitasking, it is more efficient to focus on one task at a time. However, it does make sense to batch together tasks that are similar to one another. For example, if you have several phone calls to make, make them all in a row. You should also set aside time to respond to emails rather than interrupting what you are doing every time you receive an email throughout the day.

Whenever Possible, Automate

Don't waste time doing anything that a computer can do for you. At work, set up email rules to help you sort through your email. At home, use online banking to set up automatic bill payments and transfers.

You should also use a personal finance manager to set a budget and savings goals. Once you set up all of your accounts, your personal finance manager will do the rest of the work for you.

At the End of the Day, Clean Up and Reflect on Your Day

Take a look at your to-do list at the end of the day. Did you get everything done? If not, why? Did you put too many items on your list? Did you spend too much time on Facebook? Then, put everything you were working on away until the next day. Walking into a room or office filled with clutter can be daunting, so make a new do-do list for the following day and repeat tomorrow!

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

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