6 Things to Do in Baltimore to Cool Off

by Andrew Schreiber 19. July 2013

With this treacherous heat wave sweeping over Baltimore, everyone is looking for ways to cool off. If you’re tired of sitting in your house in front of the fan, here are some fun things to do in Baltimore to stay cool:

1) Devour a Snowball

One of the best ways to cool off during this current heat wave is to treat yourself to a delicious snowball. I feel sorry for people outside of the Baltimore area who have to live through their hot summers without the option to head down the street to a local snowball stand. Stands have all kinds of flavors, from watermelon to cotton candy, egg custard to root beer – you can even have your snowball topped with marshmallow. There’s bound to be a flavor for everyone! Check out this list of top snowball stands in Baltimore to find one near you.

Fresh Oranges

2) Enjoy an Orange Crush

Those of us who are of age and need a refreshing drink to help us through the heat should consider cooling off with one of Baltimore’s famous orange crushes. Fresh squeezed orange crushes are readily available at bars and restaurant throughout Baltimore. Be careful though – they are so refreshing that after relaxing for an hour or so, you may realize that you’ve already had 3 and might be feeling a little buzzed. If you’re not a fan of orange think about trying another flavor such as grapefruit or watermelon.

3) Wander the Aquarium

The National Aquarium in Baltimore is one of the coolest places (and I’m not just talking temperature) to visit in the summer. Step inside this iconic Baltimore landmark and you’ll find yourself surrounded by huge water tanks and some of the deadliest creatures of the sea. If you’re coming to avoid the summer heat, you might want to skip over the rainforest exhibit.

4) Visit a Museum

The city of Baltimore is filled with history and culture. One of the best and “coolest” ways to surround yourself with history and culture is to visit one of the many Baltimore museums. A museum is a great, air conditioned change of pace on these hot summer days. There are museums in Baltimore for everyone’s interests, not just the history buffs.

Baltimore Museum of Industry

To list a few:

Walters Art Museum
Baltimore Museum of Art
Baltimore Tattoo Museum
Sports Legends Museum
Baltimore Museum of Industry

5) Go See a Movie

Visiting a movie theater on a hot summer day is a perfect way to cool off. Overall, movie theaters are a dime a dozen, but if you’re looking for a more unique experience, Baltimore won’t let you down. Try Landmark Theatre in Harbor East, equipped with a full bar, for a fun and modern experience. If you’re of the more classical style, I recommend checking out the Charles Theater to catch the latest flick and cool off for a few hours.

6) Challenge Your Friends in Duckpin Bowling

Another great way to cool off is to go bowling. Any type of bowling will do the trick, but if you want to do it in true Baltimore fashion, you’ll go duckpin bowling. It’s a great way for a group to spend an evening out of the heat. There are a variety of duckpin bowling options available around Baltimore, including Patterson Bowling Center and Stoneleigh Lanes.

If all else fails, just wait an hour, because it seems like that's how quickly this Baltimore weather can change dramatically. So when we're NOT in the middle of a heat wave, be sure to check out these fun FREE things to do outdoors in Baltimore.

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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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