Home Improvements You Never Knew You Could Do Yourself

by Renee' Anderson 31. May 2013

Home Improvements

Spring is here, the weather is beginning to get warmer, and I’m ready to kick back and relax!

Wait, there are some things around the house that need to be tended to first. After all, I’d rather kick back and relax on a nice patio than the dirt/mud area in my backyard.

Wait, I don’t have the money to pay a contractor to come out to my house, design and build me a patio. Wait, I’ll do it myself. Seriously, how hard can it be? I mean it’s not like my husband and I work full time and have small children running around getting into as much as they possibly can…sure, we have the free time to build a patio (if we don’t sleep at night). But, do we have the “know-how?!”

DIY Patio

Google?

Google says- YES!

I decided to get this patio started while my darling husband was at work one day. The kids were running around the yard and I walked past a pile of patio pavers that we had lying around from our fire pit project (another DIY), LAST YEAR. I was tired of looking at them lying there and decided I’d fill up the wheel barrel, take them around the house to where I wanted my “patio” unload, and get to work.

I use quotes around patio because my patio and your patio are not the same. There are some elaborate patios that are fantastic, but would that be practical for me to do myself? No. (I didn’t have to Google that one.)

Setting realistic goals (based on the small amount of patio pavers I had and the small amount of money I had to purchase more), I grabbed our pic axe and began loosening the ground. Then I started throwing the patio pavers down, until I realized they were completely uneven. At this point, the kids were done entertaining themselves and were now “assisting” me in building the patio (a.k.a. digging in the dirt to find worms and “cool” insects).

About 10 patio pavers in, my husband arrives home J “Wow!” he says. From there, he got on his smartphone, Googled “make your own patio,” went to the hardware store to buy rocks and sand, leveled the ground and put the patio in! In the end, it took about a week’s time (could have been one day but again, we work full-time and have crazy kids), and $450 for a 150 square foot patio (I told you it was small) vs. $2,500 to have someone else do it for us.

So, I’ve demonstrated one home improvement project you can do yourself, but there are lots more! See our Pinterest page for more DIY ideas.

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5 Home Improvements That Add Value

by Andrew Schreiber 28. May 2013

Home Improvements

As a homeowner you need to realize that there are some home improvements that will boost your home’s value and some improvements that are probably not worth it. One general rule of thumb is that luxury-type renovations and renovations that conform to your specific lifestyle might not always improve value. Things like a pool, in-home studio, or extravagant landscaping do not always add value to your home. The majority of buyers find the following items to be more appealing:

Kitchen Remodel

The kitchen of a home is typically the centerpiece, and people gravitate to that room when looking to buy a home. However, extensive renovations are not always needed. Refinishing your cabinet doors and drawers can make a world of difference. Add a fresh coat of paint to your cabinets and your entire kitchen will have a completely new look. Replacing old appliances can also make your kitchen look much fresher.

Bathroom Remodel

The next renovation that adds value to your home is a bathroom renovation. Again, you do not have to completely gut everything and start from scratch to get a fresh new look. In the bathroom you can focus specifically on fixtures like sink faucet, sink, shower faucet, shower door, etc. These minor improvements can make a bathroom look almost brand new. Re-grouting tile and laying new vinyl tiles is another cost-effective way to make a huge impact on the look of the entire bathroom. Oftentimes new vinyl floor tiles can be laid right over the old floor.

Refinish Hardwood Floors

Hardwood floors are very appealing to a wide range of buyers. Some people are tempted to replace damaged or worn hardwood floors or even cover them up with carpet. You can instead rejuvenate those worn hardwood floors by simply refinishing them. Replacing any damaged boards, sanding, and refinishing them will make them look brand new again. Refinishing a hardwood floor makes it more aesthetically pleasing and makes it really stand out.

Outdoor Improvements

Making your home appealing from the curb with your landscaping or siding can make your home stand out from others. Homes are just like anything else - you want them to make a good first impression. One important thing to remember is that although buyers want appealing landscaping, many don’t want the burden and responsibility of maintenance. So avoiding overly elaborate landscaping or high-maintenance plants can be important. Finally, adding a patio or deck is a good way to spruce up the appearance of your home. An area where guests can be entertained outdoors is always a good thing.

Know the Marketplace

It is very important to know what market the house lies in. Be sure to renovate your home to the standards of the area. You don’t want to renovate your kitchen with granite countertops and the bathroom floor with marble tile if your home is worth $150,000. The value you are adding will not be seen by prospective buyers in that particular marketplace. The same goes for higher-end neighborhoods; your renovations might have to be a bit more involved in a more upscale neighborhood. You want to offer features and improvements that are consistent with your neighborhood.

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What Should You Do with Your Graduation Money?

by Andrew Schreiber 21. May 2013

Graduation Money

Graduation is on the horizon for many high school and college students. That means there are many things to look forward to - one being graduation money! Having been a broke college student not too long ago, I know of the desire to blow it all on a summer vacation, a new car, or partying. Graduation marks many peoples’ entrance into the “real world,” and that can be a scary thing. We have to start thinking about our mounting debt, finding a job, and becoming financially independent. Although the smart things to do with graduation money are not always the most attractive or fun options, they can help ease your mind and provide some comfort. Below you will find some suggestions as to what to do with your graduation money.

Save

Graduating from high school is often the first time we receive a large sum of money, and it can be very tempting to blow it all on fun things. However, before you do anything else, this is a great time to open your first “adult” bank accounts. Personally, this was when I opened my first bank accounts; I opened both a checking and a savings account after my high school graduation party. Banks often have some good account options for people newly entering adulthood. Parents, this is a good opportunity to teach your new graduate about earning interest and the importance of beginning to save at a young age.

Graduating from college means you are entering the “real world” and you need to be more aware of the uncertainty that could lie in your future. Having an emergency fund is very important in order to be financially secure. No one can predict the future, so having money set aside just in case is definitely a good thing. Losing a job, medical issues, or car troubles are all examples of things that could potentially happen that we should be financially prepared for. These are all stressful situations, so having an emergency fund set aside to provide a financial cushion is both comforting and important for the future.

Buy Something Useful

Graduating from high school is a big accomplishment, but it is not the end of everyone’s educational career. In the fall you may be going off to college, so why not use some of the money to purchase something useful for this next chapter in your life? Spending money on something you will need in college can be important as well as fun - like a laptop or tablet. Some less fun (yet important) suggestions are textbooks or a new suit for job interviews.

Pay off Debt

I think we can all agree - receiving money as a college graduation gift is one of the most needed gifts anyone could give you. One of the best things to do with the money is pay off your most expensive debt. When I say expensive, I mean the debt that has the highest interest rate - not necessarily the highest balance. Typically the most expensive debt college students have is credit card debt followed by private student loans. Paying off a large sum of debt can be very relieving which can energize you to want to pay off the rest sooner!

Open a Roth IRA

This is another option that really promotes the importance of saving money. A Roth IRA is a good option for younger individuals to start saving for retirement. Now I know most of you are thinking, “I JUST graduated…why do I need to think about retirement?” Well, the best answer I can give you is two words: compound interest. Investing $100 at age 18 at an expected return of 8%, your $100 investment will be worth over $3,300 when you’re 65 years old. See why it’s so beneficial to start saving early for retirement? Opening a Roth IRA is a good idea for high school graduates or current college students. The contribution limit makes it a good investment for younger people.

Splurge

Yes, it is recommended to get in the habit of saving early and saving often, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be allowed to spend ANY money on yourself right now. So take a percentage of the money you receive from graduation (maybe 10-20%) and use it on whatever you want! Go out with your friends who will soon be moving on in different directions, or go on a shopping spree. Using some of the money for something fun will hopefully show that you can have a good balance of having fun and being responsible. Saving money for the future does not mean you have to sacrifice enjoying life today; just remember - you don’t need to enjoy life too much!

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