Monday, August 20, 2018

Secrets of the Perpetually Tidy: 5 Tips to an Organized House

by Allison Saunders, August 16, 2018 in Homeowners Tips

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I’m a self-proclaimed “neat-freak.” My long-suffering husband can attest to the many hours I’ve spent cleaning, organizing and decluttering our home. It’s not just a chore for me – it’s how I de-stress.
You heard me right: A messy house stresses me out! 
I thought I was alone in this sentiment, but a recent Merry Maids survey revealed that 68% of adults say having a clean home alleviates stress.1 This means that a tidy house can potentially lead to a less stressed lifestyle.
However, as much as it pains me to say, a perpetually tidy house just isn’t a reality. After all, a house is a place where you live, and not, as you may like to believe, a furniture store staging area.
But, if your goal is to simply keep your home as clean and organized as possible, we have tips from a home cleaning expert at Merry Maids, Debra Johnson, on how you can achieve a tidy home.

Have the Right Equipment

You might think the secrets of the tidy belong with the professionals – those wise individuals who can get a stain out of anything by mixing a potion of ingredients from their kitchen cabinets.
The reality is no neat-freak can work their magic without the right equipment. By having the correct cleaning supplies well stocked and at the ready, you can conquer any mess.
“[Make] sure you have the right cleaning supplies,” said Johnson. “Organize them in a caddy you can carry from room to room so you are never searching for a cleaning item. Even better – designate one cleaning caddy per floor so you don’t have to lug it around.”
What follows is by no means a comprehensive list of cleaning supplies, but Johnson considers them her go-to for a clean house:
Secrets of the Perpetually Tidy: 5 Tips to an Organized House - Quicken Loans Zing Blog
  1. All-purpose cleaner – $18
  2. Oil soap – $13
  3. Vinegar – $17
  4. Rubbing alcohol – $18 (pack of 6)
  5. Melamine sponge – $8 (pack of 100)
  6. Latex gloves – $15 (pack of 100)
  7. Microfiber cloths – $17 (pack of eight)
  8. Caddy – $36 (pack of 4)
  9. Scrapping tool – $27 (pack of 25)
This is a good starting point, but customize your cleaning caddy with products that you’re comfortable with using, whether that’s store-bought cleaners or homemade, natural cleaners.

Control Your Clutter Catchers

Even neat-freaks have a dirty little secret: clutter catchers. Clutter catchers take the form of the side table by the front door collecting a pile of junk mail, the bedroom accent chair with a heap of dirty clothes piled high or even the magazine holder in the bathroom with last year’s issues of Vogue.
They’re the outlet for an organized person to be messy, but there’s a way to kick the clutter catchers to the curb: Either get rid of them altogether or embrace your clutter catchers by organizing them.
“An organized house has a way of appearing clean, even if it’s not. Having things simply contained is the first step in helping to make your home appear neat and tidy,” explained Johnson.
Johnson recommends using fabric storage bins as a means to control your clutter catchers. Magazines, toys, unsorted mail and other items can be easily and fashionably contained in fabric storage bins.
Try choosing colors and patterns that blend in with the surrounding décor of your home, in order to make the clutter inside less obvious.
Secrets of the Perpetually Tidy: 5 Tips to an Organized House - Quicken Loans Zing Blog
  1. Fashion Cube Storage Bin – $10
  2. Palm Basket – $98
  3. Magazine File Holder – $13

Create a Command Center

A command center is a central location of your home where you organize mail, schedules, car keys and anything else you need at the ready. Because of this, your command center might attract a ton of unnecessary clutter, and because it’s in a central, visible location, it can give the impression of a messy home.
“Clutter is what makes the home look messiest, so having a plan to organize clutter can help save time when unannounced guests show up,” Johnson explained.
Take command of your command center by organizing your information and items in a clean and easily accessible way. For example, Johnson recommends having a designated space for daily mail, a spot on the wall for a calendar or bulletin board and a place to put your car keys.
If you have roommates or family members in your home, Johnson also suggested creating cubbies or shelves for each member of the household. This can hold personal messages and anything else that might need to be organized and separated.
Secrets of the Perpetually Tidy: 5 Tips to an Organized House - Quicken Loans Zing Blog
  1. Entryway Holder – $61
  2. Large Wall Pocket – $44
  3. Wall-Mounted Calendar Board – $114

Make Floor Mats Your Friends

If you don’t already have floor mats, they could be the missing link in home organization. Johnson swears by a strategically placed rug or floor mat, asserting it as a neat way of containing furniture and other home items.
“Floor mats inside the home can make cleaning easier and make areas appear more organized – and organization is key to making homes seem cleaner,” said Johnson.
Johnson recommends floor mats for bedrooms, living rooms and especially the kitchen as a way to catch clutter, crumbs and other miscellaneous particles. Floor mats cut the cleaning time in half, as you can shake it outside or vacuum over it.
Don’t forget, they can also be a fashion statement to tie in the décor in a room, so choose a floor mat that works both organizationally and aesthetically.
Secrets of the Perpetually Tidy: 5 Tips to an Organized House - Quicken Loans Zing Blog
  1. Stripe Kitchen Rug – $15
  2. Kitchen Rug – $69
  3. Tufted Area Rug – $234

Get Into a Routine

The real secret of the tidy is having a schedule or routine for cleaning their home. Divided by day, week or month, those who have pristine places have a cleaning process predetermined in order to keep a clean and organized home.
Johnson suggests adopting a daily and weekly routine that will divide and conquer chores in a realistic way that has the best results – starting with the problem areas of your home.
Secrets of the Perpetually Tidy: 5 Tips to an Organized House - Quicken Loans Zing Blog
Image: Merry Maids
Based on your personal needs, some tasks, like washing dishes and laundry, might not need to be done every single day, but by getting into the habit of cleaning as you go, you can maintain a tidy house.
“Keep in mind, you can divide chores into nightly tasks so an entire day isn’t dedicated to weekly cleaning,” Johnson reminded. “Map out a plan of attack, formulate a checklist of tasks and knock them out one by one.”
A messy house can feel overwhelming, but by tackling the problem areas in your home one by one, you can clear out clutter and truly achieve a tidy, organized house. For all the messes you can’t clean up, don’t hesitate to call the professionals at Merry Maids for a helping hand.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Behavioral Finance and Financial Health

by Catherine Alford, March 1, 2018 in Credit & Debt

The study of behavioral finance is a combination of economics and psychology. People who are experts in behavioral finance examine how people’s emotions affect their financial decisions. Last year, behavioral economist Richard Thaler won the Nobel Prize for his work on this topic.
What many behavioral finance experts have found is that people don’t always make rational decisions when it comes to money. In fact, we kind of do the opposite.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, though. We all make financial mistakes from time to time. Many of us wish we would have known more about money when we were younger. We have regrets about purchases and get into debt. It’s human nature to have flaws, especially when it comes to handling money.
So, how does behavioral finance affect debt repayment? Below are some ways that our behaviors and emotions can get us into debt, along with some suggestions on how to combat them to improve financial health.

Only Thinking of the Present

Your future, including your retirement years, seems like it’s a long way away. In fact, according to an episode published on Slate, “One aspect of our nature that’s to blame [for overspending] is called present bias – the human tendency to emphasize now over later.”
For many people, loans don’t seem that bad because they enable us to get the car we want or the education we want right away (and worry about paying it off sometime in the future). Unfortunately, the bills will hit eventually, and what we thought was far away will be here before we know it.
One way to conquer this way of thinking is to know how much you’re paying in interest any time you take on debt. It’s common to think about how much you can afford monthly; instead, think of the total cost of the item you want. Your $20,000 car will actually cost much more over time once you add in interest. The loan you took out to refinish your bathroom means your bathroom might cost much more than that initial $5,000, once you’ve paid for it over time.
Once you know how much interest you’re paying to your financial lenders, you’re less likely to take out loans you don’t need. Save yourself the interest and save up for your purchases ahead of time.

Not Keeping Emotions in Check

How many times have you made a purchase because you wanted to celebrate something or make yourself feel better after a bad day?
Research from NerdWallet showed that “nearly half of Americans (49%) say emotions cause them to spend more than they can reasonably afford.” Stress, excitement and sadness were noted as being the top emotions associated with overspending.
I know I’m guilty of this myself. In fact, just recently, my kids did something I was proud of and instead of going home for lunch, I said, “Let’s go out to eat and celebrate!”
My husband and I, caught up in the emotion of the day, ended up getting cocktails at lunch (something we never do) and then had a $70 bill to pay at the end of the meal.
After this meal, my husband and I both felt sheepish. We let our emotions take over when it came to spending decisions and spent a lot on eating out instead of eating at home. This is how many people end up in debt – they spend money after giving way to a strong emotion.
The best way to combat this and to prevent going further into debt is to take a pause before you make a decision or a purchase. Ask yourself, “Am I buying this because I need it or because I feel happy/sad right now?” Sometimes, taking a pause and doing a check of your emotions can prevent you from making a spending misstep.

Not Automating Your Finances

Thaler used his research to encourage companies to automatically enroll their employees in 401(k) plans. The reason is that if left to their own devices, people neglect to enroll in retirement plans and, instead, use their earnings for other things. One article estimates that because of Thaler’s research, he helped add $29.6 billion to retirement accounts.
The same idea applies to debt repayment. I automate every single debt payment that I can. This includes my credit card payment and all of our student loan payments, which are thousands of dollars a month. Automating my payments prevents me from paying them late. This setup also reminds me to watch my spending because everything is auto-deducted, and I don’t want to overdraft.
If you don’t automate your debt payments, you run the risk of spending that money on other things.
Ultimately, learning a little bit about behavioral finance can help us to repay our debt more confidently and quickly. Also, try not to beat yourself up if you’ve spent irrationally in the past. Behavioral finance shows us that humans often spend based on emotions and get into debt because they’re thinking only of the present, not the future. However, by being more aware of this, you can help improve your financial situation, to build a more sound financial future.

Monday, June 18, 2018

What My Father Taught Me About Money

by Doria Lavagnino, June 11, 2018 in Money Matters

Let’s face it: Most of our parents play a major role in how we relate to money. They are often our first financial advisers, ideally giving us thoughtful feedback and guidance on how to handle — and not handle — our personal finance.
My own father was the most important financial literacy teacher I’ve had. His life embodied financial struggle and survival, but he eventually reached a position of strength.
When he came to this country in the mid 1950s — a decade after World War II — “financial literacy” didn’t formally exist. He had been raised in Italy, then a war-ravaged country, where he endured famine, nightly bomb raids, and the wrath of fascism.
All the same, he yearned for a bright future. He was young, hungry for success, and eager to have a shot at the so-called “American dream.” Perhaps most important, he had nothing to lose.
His financial life was an epic journey. He started with empty pockets and ended up as part of the one percent. This group — sometimes vilified, but often comprised of honest and hard- working entrepreneurs — shouldn’t be thrust into the same category as disingenuous businesses that commit fraud. They are not one in the same.
As the president and co-founder of CentSai, a financial literacy platform, I often return to the basic money lessons I learned from my dad. There are no guarantees of financial independence for anyone, but these have helped me along the way:

Don’t Live Beyond Your Means

For several years when my dad was getting his business off the ground — introducing a soil erosion product called a gabion to the United States — he could barely make ends meet. He initially lived in a dank room at the YMCA on 34th Street in New York City, then later in a shoebox apartment in the Bronx.
He had no discretionary income. He had to learn to budget to survive. He watched his expenses like a hawk. This budgetary discipline remained throughout his life. Even when money was no longer an immediate concern, he would still drive past a gas station that was offering gasoline at a price five cents higher than what he would pay elsewhere. “Why should I waste money?” he would ask me. Being young and impatient, I preferred convenience, but watching these small decisions shaped me.
Money matters, and anyone who tells you otherwise either hasn’t worked for it or lives in a utopia.

Hard Work Is Your BFF

My dad knew how to hustle. After establishing a small office on 42nd Street and 6th Avenue in New York, he started driving around the U.S. selling his product. Barely able to speak English, he started pitching it to the forest service, various engineers working for local municipalities, and anyone else who would listen. He would drive across the country several times a month, exhausted but determined to succeed.
As an early-stage entrepreneur, he was responsible for driving his product sales along with another partner. Every new sale or relationship gave him the strength to go further. Twenty years later, his company had grown to about 50 people, who manufactured gabions for Canada and all of the Americas. He retired at 55.
I realize that financial independence is not a top priority for everyone. And unless you win the lottery, it doesn’t happen easily. The news inundates us with supposed overnight successes. We just never hear about the 10 years of sweat, blood, and sacrifice that went in to a venture before it became well known. Keep doing your thing and don’t get distracted or easily discouraged.

You Don’t Need an MBA to Understand Business, But You Do Need Instinct

Nowadays, we are put under so much pressure to become educated in school, and often accrue debt at the start of our professional lives. But my dad did not graduate from college. I think he may have had the equivalent of an associate’s degree. What he did have was drive; charm; the “gift of gab”; and an insatiable curiosity about world events, personal finance, and economics.
He also had a sharp “sixth sense” about business. We all do to some degree. If something doesn’t make sense or seems too good to be true, it likely is. Scammers often prey on people who are afraid to ask questions about money for fear of looking dumb. Whether it’s the fine print on a loan or a return on an investment that doesn’t seem possible, there are no dumb personal finance questions.

Failure Sucks, But Never Let It Stop You

At one point in his career, my dad got kicked out of his own company by his investors. My parents’ car was repossessed. They nearly lost their apartment. For a few months, money became exceedingly tight, and their future looked grim.
Rather than throwing in the towel, my dad found new investors. He let his anger become a catalyst for reinvention, slowly regaining his clients one by one (or stealing them, depending on how you want to look at it). And yes, he enjoyed it.
Financial setbacks happen, and sometimes they are completely unexpected. That’s why protection in the form of insurance and emergency savings is essential, especially in our gig economy. Moreover, hitting some bumps (or craters) in the road does not give you a license to give up. Sure, a handful of people are exceedingly unlucky, but grit, determination, and mindset can take you just about anywhere.

Never Stop Learning About Money

Later in his life, my father became a student of the financial markets. He was completely self-taught, learning through networking, observing, doing, and reading publications such as the Wall Street Journal. There was no democratization of finance like there is today: no internet, no CNBC, and no Jim Kramer.
The markets were played by the elite. Day trading was impossible. But my dad taught himself about various financial instruments and plays: stocks, bonds, treasury-bond laddering, going long or short, hedging, and the relationship between a world event and its financial effect. For example, when bad weather hurt orange crops, he would go long on orange futures, knowing that scarcity creates demand.
Luckily, today people don’t have to learn all of this on their own like my father did. There are many sources of unbiased financial information that can help you make smart decisions. Knowing how to invest, the proper diversification of a portfolio, and how much one needs to live comfortably in retirement are some basics everyone should calculate.

The More You Give, The More You Get

My father was a big believer in paying it forward — in other words, giving to his family or to charity with no strings attached. He gave with great joy. He preferred giving anonymously, as he was a down-to-earth man until the end, and he shied from accolades.
That said, he always made sure he was protected. He kept a low profile and never lost sight of the fact that the world can be a tricky and treacherous place, particularly when it comes to money.
My father would be 91 this Father’s Day. I often wonder what advice he would give me in my current entrepreneurial ventures. One thing is for sure: I am as bullish on financial literacy as my dad was. He just didn’t know it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Father’s Day Gift Ideas for Every Type of Dad

by Miranda Crace, June 11, 2018 in Holidays

Searching for the perfect gift to get Dad this Father’s Day? The hunt for the perfect gift can be tiring – but we’re here to help!
We’ve done the hunting for you and segmented the gifts based on personalities and interests. Show your father figure how much you appreciate him this Father’s Day with any of these great gift ideas!

The Sports Fan Dad

Does your dad yell at the TV while watching a game like the refs can actually hear him? If you’re shopping for an avid sports fan, pair one of these gifts with tickets to a local game or an at-home tailgate, and he’ll be thrilled!
Father’s Day Gift Ideas for Every Type of Dad - Quicken Loans Zing Blog
  1. Philadelphia Eagles 3-Piece BBQ Set – $50
  2. The Golden Age of American Football – $39
  3. Cleveland Cavaliers Lebron James Replica Jersey – $60

The Handyman Dad

For the dad who is always taking care of things around the house, get him something he’ll actually use. The Leatherman Super Tool has 19 tools in one. It may feel like he has everything, but does he have everything in one?
Father’s Day Gift Ideas for Every Type of Dad - Quicken Loans Zing Blog
  1. Leatherman – Super Tool 300 Multitool – $80
  2. Nest Thermostat – $250
  3. 20-Volt MAX Lithium-Ion Cordless Drill/Driver and Impact Combo Kit – $179

The Outdoorsman Dad

If the guy on your list is more likely to be on the hiking trails on a Saturday then stuck indoors, these gifts might be the perfect fit! We’ve got everything from an insulated mug that will keep his coffee warm on a camping trip to a guide for all things outdoors.
Father’s Day Gift Ideas for Every Type of Dad - Quicken Loans Zing Blog
  1. YETI Rambler 14 oz. Stainless Steel Vacuum Insulated Mug with Lid – starting at $25
  2. The Kaufmann Mercantile Guide: How to Split Wood, Shuck an Oyster, and Master Other Simple Pleasures – $20
  3. Merrell Moab 2 Vent Low Hiking Shoes – $100

The Foodie Dad

From trendy salt plates to a classic at-home smoker, the dad who loves cooking (or just food in general) will be excited to open any of these gifts on Father’s Day. Take him from home cook to master chef in one fell swoop.
Father’s Day Gift Ideas for Every Type of Dad - Quicken Loans Zing Blog
  1. Carry On Cocktail Set – $90
  2. Masterbuilt 2-Door Propane Smoker – $164
  3. Himalayan Salt Plate with Salt Plate Book – $60

The Tech-Savvy Dad

Pixels and gizmos and gadgets – Oh my!
For the tech-savvy guy in your life, get him something new and useful that he might not have yet, but definitely wants! The Oculus Go is a virtual reality headset that allows him to immerse himself in over 1,000 different experiences.
Father’s Day Gift Ideas for Every Type of Dad - Quicken Loans Zing Blog
  1. FitBit Versa Smartwatch – $200
  2. Oculus Go – $200
  3. Sony – SRS-XB21 Portable Bluetooth Speaker – $70

The Fashion-Conscious Dad

No normal tie will do for the fashion-conscious dad. Help him elevate his style with something like a gift set from the Tie Bar, which comes with coordinating socks, pocket square and tie. You can splurge and get him a gift card to Trunk Club, which provides him with a personal stylist.
Father’s Day Gift Ideas for Every Type of Dad - Quicken Loans Zing Blog
  1. “Lacie” Faux Leather Duffel Bag – $85
  2. Trunk Club Personal Stylist Gift Card – starting at $50
  3. Novelty Navy Gift Set – $39

The Fun-Loving Dad

What’s a better gift for Father’s Day than a literal dad joke? A bouquet of salami – delicious and hilarious. “Who’s Your Daddy?” Star Wars coffee mug – 100% dad approved. Book of the greatest dad jokes – something you might regret later, but Dad will like it.
Father’s Day Gift Ideas for Every Type of Dad - Quicken Loans Zing Blog
  1. Olympia Provisions Salami Bouquet – starting at $50
  2. The World’s Greatest Collection of Dad Jokes – $4
  3. Star Wars “Who’s Your Daddy”? Father’s Day Coffee Mug – $13
No matter which gift you get your special guy for Father’s Day, there’s a good chance he’ll love it.