Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Affordable Items that Make Your House Look Chic

by Allison Saunders, March 2, 2018 in Home Decorating

Last fall, we discussed inexpensive ways to make your house look expensive. It’s a hot topic among style-savvy homeowners and seasoned interior designers. After all, who doesn’t seize every opportunity to look good for less? Especially since styles tend to shift every season. We just recently witnessed a transition from midcentury to hygge (HOO-gah) home décor trends.
With the ever-changing tide of interior design, accompanied by a seasonal decoration switch, it can be challenging to stay on-trend – not to mention on budget, when you’re striving to make your house look chic and in style.
However, you don’t have to blow your budget to make your home look like an HGTV magazine. The answer lies in a few low-key elements that have the potential to make a high-impact in your home. And the best part? They’re affordable.

Comfort Over Style

Comfort is a 2018 trend that we can get behind! With the emergence of hygge a Danish concept of togetherness, home décor has shifted from prioritizing form and function to indulgence and coziness.
You will see these concepts take the form of oversized throw pillows and blankets and more scented candles.
“Adding throws and pillows is a great way to introduce bold colors and rich textures to any space,” explained Annie Santulli, of Annie Santulli Designs. “They also tend to be tactile and will keep your guests’ idle hands busy and off their phone – for a minute!”
Santulli revealed that jewel tones are making a comeback in 2018. Pantone announced their bold ultra violet 2018 Color of the Year; bright, bold colors have caught the designer eye ever since.
However, if you’re looking to be economical and would rather select a versatile color that compliments any style, try incorporating neutral throws. You’ll get more bang for your buck, should you decide to shake it up next season.
Faux fur throw blanket
Gray Long Faux Fur Throw $13.99 
Candles are a perfect cost-effective, high-impact addition to any room in your home. They’re more than just source of soft lighting; they cater to your senses of sight and smell in perfect harmony, creating a calm and relaxing vibe in your home.
No really. Smell is psychological, able to affect your mood, sleep and overall physical and mental health. For example, it’s speculated that the scent of peppermint stimulate the mind and body, while scents like jasmine and lavender are supposed to entice sleep and relaxation.
Soy candles
The Burlap Bag Soy Candle $20 
Incorporating candles into a few rooms in your home will not only create a warm, relaxing environment for your guests; it has the potential to affect their very state of mind. Strive to place warm, homey scents, like coffee or fresh baked bread, throughout the home.
Lamps and other lighting fixtures are inexpensive items that can easily change the look of a room. The right – or wrong – lighting has the potential to transform your space, acting as the spotlight to your furnishings and home décor.

“Interesting light fixtures are one of my favorite ways to add glamour to a room and lighting always creates a specific mood for each space,” said Stantulli.
Heather Hess, the lead designer behind interior decorating site, SwatchPop!, suggested to upgrade overhead lighting with a larger-sized chandelier or pendant.
Ceiling light
Glass Globe Ceiling Light $69.99
“This one simple upgrade can instantly make a room look more expensive because it will look custom and create a new focal point in the room,” she said. Additionally, overhead lighting can eliminate unflattering shadows in a room that may be distorting the perspective of your décor.
Adding interesting artwork is a great way to increase the appeal of an area in your home, creating a polished look with the other furnishings and décor.
“You can change the feel of an entire space by adding an oversized piece of art, and then adding a few accessories that pull the colors into the room,” added Santulli.
You don’t need to spend big bucks to enhance your space with artwork and prints. There are many affordable places to get quality artwork for a reasonable price, like Esty.
“As a print shop, we know the value of art and the joy it can bring to a room,” said Melissa Golz, digital marketing manager from Parabo Press, a photo-printing add for design-minded printers. “The best part about decorating with artwork is that once you tire of it, you can always switch it out for something new!”
Forest prints
Forest Prints $11.37
Flowers bring more than just a pretty pop of color to a room. Like candles, they appeal to your senses of sight and smell. And if you know where to go, they can also be a low-cost addition to your home décor.
Grocery store flowers are relatively inexpensive, depending on where you shop. Instead of paying upwards of $100 for an arrangement, you can try your hand at assembling your own bouquet for a fraction of the price.
Add a simple, decorative vase from your local second-hand or dollar store and you’ve added a level of hospitality and comfort to your home.
However, if you don’t have the time to assemble a fresh arrangement every week or so, there are still affordable monthly flower subscriptions at reasonable prices.
Pomponi Daisies with Eucalyptus $55
Details, Details
Home décor details are the sprinkles on the cupcake. They add a level of simplistic sophistication to a room, usually at a more reasonable price compared to home furnishings and furniture. Upgraded kitchen hardware or a backsplash above an appliance may be just a few of the details that can spruce up your kitchen.
However, when you’re looking for inexpensive details that will make a statement, focus on the surfaces of the home that are usually neglected – your walls and floor.
Mirrors are a great statement piece to your wall, having a higher-impact compared to picture frames and wall decals.
By strategically placing a few mirrors near a lighting source to create a reflection, you create dimension and the illusion that your space is far larger than is actually is.
Round glass wall mirror
Round Decorative Wall Mirror $47.49 
Let’s face it. Finding a fashionable, affordable rug can be like finding a magic carpet: impossible and probably somewhere in a Disney movie.
However, it’s not impossible to find a reasonably priced rug to transform your space. All you have to do is find the right rug for a room in your home, in both style and proportion.
If you have wood floors, try finding a rug that’s plush and soft. Not only will this add a new texture to the space, but it also creates a welcoming addition to a room. On the other hand, if you already have carpet and you’re just looking to add another layer to your floor, try opting for a thinner rug.
If you’re looking for a rug to go underneath your furniture, like a dining room table and chairs, make sure the rug extends the correct amount of space beyond the furniture above it, as too short of a rug will have the reverse effect of making your space look less expensive and smaller than it actually is.
Whether you’re seeking a style that’s on-trend or a home that’s more accommodating and comfortable, using these affordable, but high-impact home décor items will transform your space in overall quality.

“Quality over quantity is key to working with a budget,” said Hess. “Quality does not always mean expensive, think of it as high-impact and statement pieces that will add to your room.”

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

How to Invest With Little Money

by Jackie Lam, January 2, 2018 in Saving Money

When I was in my 20s, I thought I needed a good chunk of money before I could get my feet wet with investing. But after poking around the internet, I stumbled upon an article on investing with just $100 a month,  alternating between various index funds to get a diverse mix of investments. This simple strategy helped me get over this misconception that I needed thousands of dollars to be an investor.
Fast forward to the present. With the financial tech boom, there are plenty of products, services and apps to help you invest with very little money. If you don’t have a whole lot to invest, here are some strategies to help you get started investing in stocks.

Try a Micro-Investing App

There are a handful of micro-investing apps such as Stash Invest and Acorns that you can get started with for as little as five dollars. Acorns rounds up the transactions from your bank account and invests your spare change, and Stash Invest has featured portfolios so you can invest in causes or companies you care about. Plus, the monthly fee for such micro-investing apps is only around a dollar a month.
Another type of micro-investing service is Stockpile, where you can buy fractional, or partial, shares of stocks. You only need five dollars to open an account, and there are thousands of stocks to choose from. It costs 99 cents per trade, plus a three percent fee if you pay with a debit or credit card.

Make It a Part of Your Budget

Pay yourself first and create a monthly investment plan of $25, $50 or $100, recommends Larry Ludwig, founder and editor-in-chief of Investor Junkie. “Treat it like a bill,” says Ludwig. “But instead of paying something off, you’re sending it to your brokerage account.”
It doesn’t really matter how much you set aside, as long as you’re saving something. If you’re saving a small amount, such as $20 a month, you can make a single investment every few months.  

Put Your Pay Raises Toward Investing

For every raise you get at work, put aside an amount (e.g., 50 percent) toward investing, like an employee-sponsored 401(k) plan, suggests Ludwig. “Not only are you saving more with every paycheck, you also have some reward for the increased salary.” Plus that pay increase won’t go toward something willy-nilly, or cause lifestyle inflation.
You can also make a commitment to put aside a set amount on a consistent basis, recommends Laura D. Adams, personal finance author and host of the Money Girl PodcastFor instance, if you’re already investing, make a goal to increase your contribution by at least one percent per year. “You’ll build wealth faster and have a comfortable retirement to look forward to,” says Adams.

Invest in Your Company’s 401(k)

Take advantage of your employer-sponsored retirement fund, whether it’s a 401(k), 403(b), or 457, recommends Adams. “I recommend making it your go-to investment choice because it’s convenient, cuts taxes, and may come with free matching funds from your employer,” says Adams. “You typically choose mutual funds, index funds, or exchange-traded funds from an investment menu.”
Even if you only have $50 or a month to invest, don’t be ashamed to participate in a retirement plan, says Adams. Remember: There’s no minimum amount you must invest each year, and you can increase or decrease your contribution amount at any time.
If you’re not making contributions to an employer-sponsored fund that offers a match, you’ll be leaving money on the table. Try to contribute at least enough to get the full match. If you have questions, reach out to your human resources department or your plan representative.

Invest in Low-Cost Funds

When you’re investing, you’ll want to be aware of all the fees involved, such as expense ratios, which is a percentage of your investment, a fee to open and close accounts, transfer funds, front-load and back-load fees, and the costs per trade.
You’ll always want to be mindful of the fees involved when you invest, but this especially rings true when are investing with smaller amounts. Consider investing in low-cost index funds and exchange traded funds (ETFs), recommends Stephen Rischall, a financial advisor and founding partner at 1080 Financial Group. “By investing in a fund, you can diversify your holdings and spread the risk across many different companies,” says Rischall.
Some major online brokerages don’t charge any transaction costs, and investing platforms such as Robinhood don’t charge fees. (However, there are separate FINRA and U.S. SEC fees.)

Automate Your Savings 

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can’t start investing if you only have a small amount to put aside, points out Adams. “Even on a tight budget, there are many options to make your money grow,” says Adams. “The best strategy is to automate it.”
“Automation works because it forces you to maintain good savings habits and prevents you from spending money that you shouldn’t,” says Adams. “It’s a barrier you set up that allows you to outsmart yourself so you manage money wisely.”
To start, set up an auto transfer that deposits a set amount from your checking account to you investing account, service or app each month. Be sure to choose a date that coincides with your payday, and keep an eye on it to make sure you aren’t overextending yourself. If you want to be cautious, automate a small amount, and bump it up over time.
As you can see, you don’t need a ton of cash to started with investing. You can get the ball rolling with just five bucks every month. It’ll help you learn the ins and outs of investing, and make it a priority. In turn, your money will grow and help you build wealth.

Monday, December 4, 2017

5 Affordable Ways to Stage Your Home This Fall and Winter

by Jessica Santina, December 1, 2017 in Home Buying/Selling

Selling your home in fall or winter may not be ideal. After all, once daylight saving time ends, home buyers don’t usually enjoy going to look at new homes in the evening, when it’s dark.
But that doesn’t mean you should give these seasons the cold shoulder. You’ll just need to overcome some challenges to show your home in its very best light.
Lori Matzke, a professional home staging expert in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and the owner of HomeStagingExpert.com, says you don’t need to sink a ton of money into staging your home for fall and winter.
“The biggest investment you should make is with elbow grease,” she says.
So, roll up those sleeves! Here are five wallet-friendly staging tips:

Make It Look Sweet from the Street

Start with a good pair of clippers.
“Get rid of old trees and shrubs. That’s a huge factor in curb appeal,” Matzke says. “A lot of people keep overgrown trees and shrubs because they’re emotionally attached to them, but as soon as the house sells, the first thing the owner does is cut that tree anyway.”
Remember that natural light is at a premium in fall and winter. Buyers want to see light coming into a home, so if it appears shadowed by trees and hedges, the home won’t look inviting.
If you’re worried about leaving behind stumps or bald patches in grass, try mulch.
“It’s about $3 a bag, and it makes a huge difference and covers a lot of indiscretions,” Matzke says, adding that big patches of missing lawn may require a few pieces of sod.
Also, consider painting your front door. Paint adds color and a feeling of freshness.
Invest in a nice new doormat. “Avoid those ‘We’re cat people’ mats or anything specific or quirky,” Matzke says. “A simple color or ‘Welcome’ will work.”

Get Rid of Those Trinkets and Extra Furniture

Nothing ruins the illusion of open space like those little knickknacks and collectibles littering every surface. Pack up the doll collection, the little picture frames, the candles and the souvenir paperweights.
“Box up everything that’s smaller than a football and that you don’t absolutely need,” Matzke says. Pack up about two-thirds of your possessions to create an illusion of space, which buyers find appealing.
Matzke even suggests clearing out furniture you plan to take with you, such as buffet cabinets or bookshelves. “It just makes the house so much lighter and more open,” she says. “If you’re not taking it, get rid of it now.”

Lighten and Brighten

Eliminate excess shadows inside your home to maximize the light.
New light fixtures or even just new, clean shades for old lamps make a home seem fresher and brighter.
Remove heavy, dark or dirty blinds and drapes. If you’re concerned about privacy, replace them with sheer drapes to let in light while also preventing others from seeing in.
Also move furniture away from walls and out of corners by about 6 to 8 inches, Matzke advises.
“Don’t fill the corners of rooms,” she says. “Open corners create visual square footage. Buyers like to see at least three full corners of a room, so really edit down what’s taking up space.”

Update Colors and Fabrics

Tattered fabrics and upholstery. Dated cabinetry. Radical paint colors. These things keep buyers from connecting with your space. In cold-weather months, people want a home to feel cozy and inviting, so if your home’s decor looks unkempt or old-fashioned, they won’t want to spend any more time there.
Paint is a small way to make big changes. First, neutralize.
“Get rid of all those different colors,” Matzke says. “Lots of colors make a space look small and boxed-in. Create a nice flow by painting in neutral colors; it makes a home look 10 times bigger.”
Update cabinetry with hardware and apply new stain, varnish or paint. Tighten up loose hinges and buy an inexpensive bottle of orange oil cleaner to bring back shine and luster on old wooden cabinets.
And don’t forget bedding. “Often, people have these really nice homes but their bedding is old, dated and mismatched,” Matzke says. “If you don’t want to invest in all-new bedding, maybe flip the old ones over or just use a neutral-colored blanket.”
The same goes for couches and other upholstered items. If your couch or chair cushions are dirty, try flipping them over. Or, for a modest investment, new slipcovers give dated-looking furniture a contemporary look that’s more inviting.
“The new slipcovers they make now look great. They have elastic and fit like a glove,” Matzke says.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

If your floors are dirty or worn, consider buying new ones. Now might be a great time to look around for retail promotions and sales.
“A lot of carpeting and flooring stores do one year of interest-free financing with no payments for six months or more. Especially around the holidays,” Matzke says. “When the house sells, you can pay it off right away. But buyers can’t see past bad flooring. And you might get a better price on your house if you update the floors.”
Finally, Matzke offers this advice: “Find a real estate agent who has a good eye for staging. That can be a big help and they’ll usually do it for free, or at least a consultation to offer specific suggestions.”

Monday, September 18, 2017

How to Know You’re Getting a Good Deal

by Ashley C., September 12, 2017 in Saving Money

Have you ever purchased an item and then a week later it goes on sale? You want to kick yourself for not being patient and waiting for the sale. You work hard for your money and you want to make it goes as far as possible. Paying your mortgage, car payment, car insurance and other miscellaneous expenses can consume a significant part of your budget. It’s important to find ways to make each dollar count.

There are many tools to help you navigate the web and find the best available deals. It’s also important to develop positive spending habits that can help ensure you are confident in the prices you pay for your purchases.

Shop in the Comforts of Your Own Home

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a personal shopper that could help you find the best deals? DealNews.com keeps their eyes on millions of products and finds the best deals possible. Their deal hunters update the site about 200 times a day with bargains they find from across all of the most popular retail sites.

The other great thing about this site is it takes you directly to the sale they reference. You can also customize a newsletter that sends you deals from retailers and items you are interested in. Just sign up and shop away.

Brad’s Deals shops 3,800 web retailers daily for the best rebates, sale prices, store rewards and coupons. You can easily navigate this website and set up a buyer profile with all of your favorite items. It makes finding a deal simple.

If you have found a deal you are excited about, make sure to check out RetailMeNot.com  for coupon codes before completing your purchase. Every retail site has a promo code input, a lot of times you can find a code to use on this site. You can also subscribe and they will send you deals and promo codes for retailers you are interested in.

Ever searched online for a specific item? Do you notice that search engines like Google aggregate multiple sites with different prices for similar items? This is a feature called Google Shopping. If you are looking for a specific product and want the best price, this is a great place to start. It compares various websites to yield the best price offered.

Another great tool that allows you to compare prices is FreePriceAlerts. This is a plug-in you can add to your browser. When you are shopping on your favorite retail sites, this tool will automatically send you price comparisons from different sites. You do not have to register to use the tool but if you do, you can set a price you would like an item to reach.

Find Deals On the Go

Shopping may not be a priority. If you are in the market for a specific item, you can download several apps that will help you compare sites and find the best deal for the items you want.

One of the leading retail sites in the world has an app that may change the way you shop. Amazon has a feature that alerts you with price notifications. You can set up the app to watch a certain item and send you notifications when there is a change in its price. You live a busy life, it’s nice to have Amazon do the work for you.

ShopSavvy empowers shoppers to purchase wisely. Tell the app what items you’re searching and it will keep an eye out for the best price and major sales for your favorite stores. Scan the barcode of any product and you will instantly see several sites that are selling it online or locally.

If you want to try out another barcode scanner, RedLaser can be of service. Quickly scan any barcode and your item will appear with a range of prices from multiple sites. Within seconds you can find a price that fits your budget.

Adjust Toxic Shopping Habits

Beyond these countless tools, it’s also important to have positive shopping habits. There’s no point to using these tools if you have toxic shopping habits. Here are a few habits you may want to give up to make sure you don’t bust your budget.

Impulse buying –hopefully using these sites will eliminate the urge to impulse buy. Take your time to find a deal that will fit your budget. Online shopping makes impulse shopping simple. Take your time and make sure you really need the item you are looking for.
Buying just to buy – spending hours online shopping can fill your head with items you would never have considered buying. Just because it’s a great deal doesn’t mean it’s something you need to add to your household. It’s not a great deal if you don’t need it.
Using credit – it sometimes makes sense to use a credit card instead of your debit card. However, this could get you into trouble if you aren’t careful. Make sure your purchases are planned and fit within your budget. Also, be cautious about store credit cards.

Word of Caution

If you are surfing the web for the best deal, you want to ensure your information is protected. Check for security settings and make sure when you check out that you see a green lock, which indicates the site is secure. You also want to ensure that you completely understand each retailer’s return and exchange policies. You don’t want to get stuck with an item that is not up to your standards or is damaged when you receive it.

Now you have the tools you need in order to be a champion shopper. Now go find the items of your dreams!