Pretend Your Apartment is a Car: Cleaning Tips for Guys

Are you a man? Is your apartment appalling? Why not consider joining the cult of men who clean?

You owe it to yourself to investigate the mysteries of the livable apartment. A new year requires new ways of doing things, so read on for a few quick cleaning tips that will help keep your apartment presentable. (You may discover it’s not as bad as you expect.)

Pretend your apartment is a car
Many a woman has lamented the fact that her man could spend hours detailing his car, but seem blind to household grime. Why not tackle your apartment cleaning in the same way you would your car? Vacuum under all the furniture, dust every corner and surface, and scrub away every bit of mildew in the shower — all with the same single-mindedness and dedication you reserve for keeping your car clean! Once you’ve done a thorough apartment cleaning initially, the gleam will be much easier to maintain and in even less time.

More on cleaning your apartment:
Declutter Your Apartment: What’s OK to Throw Away?Prioritize Your Apartment Cleaning EffortsHow to Clean Your Space in a HurryHow to Keep Your Apartment Cleaning Earth-Friendly

Assemble your tool kit
What man doesn’t like assembling tools for a project? Apartment cleaning is no different than a workbench scheme. Get the right tools for the job, and clean-up will be a breeze.

Here are a few things you may already have on hand to gather together in your cleaning tool box.

• A squeegee for windows, mirrors, shower doors and tile.
• A wet/dry vac. Attach a soft brush attachment and you can spin away cobwebs and dust.
• Car polish. Wipe down your shower stall and door to keep soap-scum from sticking.
• Tennis ball. Spray with a general cleaner and buff away scuff marks on floors and walls.
• Steel wool (fine, synthetic). Good for scrubbing pots and counter gunk.
• Sponges, scrub brushes.
• All-purpose cleaner.
• Mop or Swiffer WetJet.
• Electromagnetic duster.

Create a plan
Guys like solutions to problems, right? So look around. Even the worst mire can be cleaned up with a bit of smart planning. Come up with your own system on your own time. If you’re a night owl who gets inspired at 3 a.m., work your cleaning magic then. Or maybe you’re self-employed and want to get your clean on first thing in the morning. Don’t fight it; go with your particular flow, grabbing any time you can get.

Multitask for success
You likely value multitasking in your work endeavors, so try double duty to clean your apartment, as well.

• Start your bathroom cleaning while you’re getting clean yourself. Scrub the shower while you’re taking one, wipe the sink right after you brush your teeth, and quickly wipe down the toilet with a flushable cloth, after giving it a scrub with a little cleanser.

• Throw on a load of wash while you’re getting dressed or undressed, and start the dishwasher as soon as you’ve finished your last bite of breakfast or dinner.

• Sweep or vacuum your kitchen floor every morning or evening, and never leave a mess in the sink or on counters overnight.

• Vacuum, dust and straighten your living room during the commercial breaks of your favorite show.

A man can take good care of his living space without giving up the image that he just doesn’t care about those things! Implement these cleaning steps, adapting them to your own schedule and needs. Remember that some effort is required – preferably, a little each day – to maintain an apartment space that’s comfortable, livable… and sharable. Your buddies will be impressed — and you can even bring home a friend without wondering where you tossed your boxers!

Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Yuri Arcurs

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Source: apartmentguide.com

What to Know about FHA 203K loans

Buying a fixer-upper is sometimes romanticized by pop culture. While it’s fun to dream, the reality of home renovation is that it can be laborious and draining, especially if the home needs serious help.

Repair work requires energy and resources, and it can be difficult to secure a loan to cover both the value of the home and the cost of repairs—especially if the home is currently uninhabitable. Most lenders won’t take that sort of chance.

But if you have your heart set on buying a fixer upper, an FHA 203(k) loan can help.

The Federal Housing Administration (FHA), part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), insures loans for the purchase and substantial rehab of homes. It is also possible to take out an FHA 203(k) loan for home repairs only, though it might not be your best option if that’s all you need.

If you have the vision to revive a dreary house, here’s info about FHA 203(k) loans and other home improvement loan options.

What Is an FHA 203(k) home loan?

Section 203(k) insurance lets buyers finance both the purchase of a house and its rehabilitation costs through a single long-term, fixed- or adjustable-rate loan.

Before the availability of FHA 203(k) loans, borrowers often had to secure multiple loans to obtain a mortgage and a home improvement loan.

The loans are provided through HUD-approved mortgage lenders and insured by the FHA. The government is interested in rejuvenating neighborhoods and expanding homeownership opportunities.

Because the loans are backed by the federal government, you may be able to secure one even if you don’t have stellar credit. Rates are generally competitive but may not be the best, because a home with major flaws is a risk to the lender.

The FHA 203(k) process also requires more coordination, paperwork, and work on behalf of the lender, which can drive the interest rate up slightly. Lenders also may charge a supplemental origination fee, fees to cover review of the rehabilitation plan, and a higher appraisal fee.

The loan will require an upfront mortgage insurance payment of 1.75% of the total loan amount (it can be wrapped into the financing) and then a monthly mortgage insurance premium.

Applications must be submitted through an approved lender .

What Can FHA 203(k) Loans Be Used For?

Purchase and Repairs

Other than the cost of acquiring a property, rehabilitation may range from minor repairs (though exceeding $5,000 worth) to virtual reconstruction.

If a home needs a new bathroom or new siding, for example, the loan will include the projected cost of those renovations in addition to the value of the existing home. An FHA 203(k) loan, however, will not cover “luxury” upgrades like a pool, tennis court, or gazebo (so close!).

If you’re buying a condo, 203(k) loans are generally only issued for interior improvements. However, you can use a 203(k) loan to convert a property into a two- to four-unit dwelling.

Your loan amount is determined by project estimates done by the lender or the FHA. The loan process is paperwork-heavy. Working with contractors who are familiar with the way the program works and will not underbid will be important.

Contractors will also need to be efficient: The work must begin within 30 days of closing and be finished within six months.

Mortgage LoanMortgage Loan

Temporary Housing

If the home is indeed unlivable, the 203(k) loan can include a provision to provide you with up to six months of temporary housing costs or existing mortgage payments.

Who Is Eligible for an FHA 203(k) Loan?

Individuals and nonprofit organizations can use an FHA 203(k) loan, but investors cannot.

Most of the eligibility guidelines for regular FHA loans apply to 203(k) loans. They include a minimum credit score of 580 and at least a 3.5% down payment.

Applicants with a score as low as 500 will typically need to put 10% down.

Your debt-to-income ratio typically can’t exceed 43%. And you must be able to qualify for the costs of the renovations and the purchase price.

Again, to apply for any FHA loan, you have to use an approved lender. (It’s a good idea to get multiple quotes.)

Home Improvement Loan Options

The FHA 203(k) provides the most comprehensive solution for buyers who need a loan for both a home and substantial repairs. However, if you need a loan only for home improvements, there are other options to consider.

Depending on the improvements you have planned, your timeline, and your personal financial situation, one of the following could be a better fit.

Other Government-Backed Loans

In addition to the standard FHA 203(k) program, there is a limited FHA 203(k) loan of up to $35,000. Homebuyers and homeowners can use the funding to repair or upgrade a home.

Then there are FHA Title 1 loans for improvements that “substantially protect or improve the basic livability or utility of the property.” The fixed-rate loans may be used in tandem with a 203(k) rehabilitation mortgage.

The owner of a single-family home can apply to borrow up to $25,000 with a secured Title 1 loan.

With Fannie Mae’s HomeStyle® Renovation Mortgage, homebuyers and homeowners can combine their home purchase or refinance with renovation funding in a single mortgage. There’s also a Freddie Mac renovation mortgage, but standard credit score guidelines apply.

Cash-Out Refinance

If you have an existing mortgage and equity in the home, and want to take out a loan for home improvements, a cash-out refinance from a private lender may be worth looking into.

You usually must have at least 20% equity in your home to be eligible, meaning a maximum 80% loan-to-value (LTV) ratio of the home’s current value. (To calculate LTV, divide your mortgage balance by the home’s appraised value. Let’s say your mortgage balance is $225,000 and the home’s appraised value is $350,000. Your LTV is 64%, which indicates 36% equity in the home.)

A cash-out refi could also be an opportunity to improve your mortgage interest rate and change the length of the loan.

PACE Loan

For green improvements to your home, such as solar panels or an energy-efficient heating system, you might be eligible for a PACE loan .

The nonprofit organization PACENation promotes property-assessed clean energy (or PACE) financing for homeowners and commercial property owners, to be repaid over a period of up to 30 years.

Home Improvement Loan

A home improvement loan is an unsecured personal loan—meaning the house isn’t used as collateral to secure the loan. Approval is based on personal financial factors that will vary from lender to lender.

Lenders offer a wide range of loan sizes, so you can invest in minor updates to major renovations.

Home Equity Line of Credit

If you need a loan only for repairs but don’t have great credit, a HELOC may provide a lower rate. Be aware that if you can’t make payments on the borrowed funding, which is secured by your home, the lender can seize your home.

The Takeaway

If you have your eye on a fixer-upper that you just know can be polished into a jewel, an FHA 203(k) loan could be the ticket, but options may make more sense to other homebuyers and homeowners.

SoFi offers cash-out refinancing, turning your home equity into renovation money.

Or maybe a home improvement loan of $5,000 to $100,000 seems like a better way to turn your home into a haven.

Check your rate today.



SoFi Loan Products
SoFi loans are originated by SoFi Lending Corp (dba SoFi), a lender licensed by the Department of Financial Protection and Innovation under the California Financing Law, license # 6054612; NMLS # 1121636 . For additional product-specific legal and licensing information, see SoFi.com/legal.

SoFi Home Loans
Terms, conditions, and state restrictions apply. SoFi Home Loans are not available in all states. See SoFi.com/eligibility for more information.

Third Party Brand Mentions: No brands or products mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.
External Websites: The information and analysis provided through hyperlinks to third party websites, while believed to be accurate, cannot be guaranteed by SoFi. Links are provided for informational purposes and should not be viewed as an endorsement.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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Source: sofi.com

4 Things to Tell Your Boss If You Want to Work From Home

These days, more and more employees are working from home on a regular basis. In fact, Global Workplace Analytics says that about 2.8% of the total workforce work from home at least half time. Nearly all U.S. workers say they’d like to work from home at least part-time, and about half the workforce say they could  work remotely at least some of the time.

But what if you’re not one the lucky ones who stumbles into a job that already allows working from home, whether sometimes or on a regular basis? In this case, you might need to convince your boss that working from home is a good idea.

And, in fact, working from home is a good idea, much of the time. It can actually save you money, and it can reduce your overall stress level. And if you’re like many people, you might actually get more done in less time when you’re working from home.

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But those arguments, especially the ones that are mostly beneficial to your personal life, may not be enough to convince your boss to let you work from home. Here are four more convincing arguments to try:

1. Better Productivity

Working from home isn’t a good fit for all jobs, but for some types, studies show that working from home actually increases productivity.

2. Reduced Overhead Costs

Outfitting an employee with an office or even cubicle comes with overhead costs. Not to mention all that water you flush down the toilet on bathroom breaks! In fact, many large employers started moving employees to work from home positions specifically to reduce overhead costs. (Of course, you’ll be taking on some of those costs by working from home — increased electricity and water usage can eat into your savings on commuting. You can try some of these easy penny pinching tips to help offset those costs.

3. Fewer Sick Days

Having the ability to work from home often curbs the number of sick days you take. You might not drag yourself into the office when you’re feeling under the weather, but you may opt to work as normal from your comfortable couch. Your fellow employees will appreciate fewer germs, anyway.

4. At-Home Workers Are Happier (& Stay Longer)

If working from home is really important to you, and if you’re in a field where it’s common, you may be more likely to stay in your job for the long term if you are allowed some flexibility to work from home. You don’t necessarily need to tell your boss this, but you can show that employees who work from home are happier in their jobs.

Making Your Proposal & Pulling It Off

Now that you’ve got some arguments in your back pocket, how do you go about actually asking your boss to let you work from home? Here are a few steps to take:

1. Create a Formal Proposal

Don’t just approach working from home by the seat of your pants, especially if it’s not already a common practice in your workplace. Instead, create a formal proposal for what working from home would look like for you.

What tasks would you accomplish at home? How would you handle meetings and phone calls? Would you be available during certain hours online? How would you keep track of the tasks that you’re working on at home? What sort of accountability system could you build in?

Put all this into writing. When in doubt, talk to someone else with a job similar to yours who works from home. See what kind of arrangements they have with their employers, and go from there. If others in your organization work from home, talk to them about their written work plans, too.

2. Pre-empt Your Boss’s Concerns

When you’re creating your proposal, try to think about it from your boss’s perspective. What concerns will he or she likely  have? You know this person best as a supervisor, so you can likely anticipate how the conversation will go.

Again, talk to others in your organization who work from home sometimes or regularly, and use that as a jumping off point. You’ll want to work those points into your written proposal, preferably, or at least address them in your conversation with your boss.

3. Propose a Trial Run

Don’t just jump in and ask to switch your in-office job to a full-time, work-from-home position. Instead, propose a trial. You may want to propose a part-time work from home schedule of one to three days per week at first. And you should also suggest trying to work from home for a period of thirty to ninety days before you and your boss formally evaluate the situation.

Starting with a trial period can help make working from home more palatable. Plus, if you’ve never worked from home before, you may find that a blended schedule of in-office and at-home actually suits you better than working from home full-time.

4. Be Flexible

Go into the conversation with your boss with goals and a proposal, but be willing to take his or her feedback into account, too. Be flexible in what you’re asking for, and be prepared to give up ground if that’s what you need to get your foot in the door. Maybe your three days a week goes to two, or your 90-day trial goes to 30. It’s still a start!

5. What Else Can You Give Up?

Oftentimes, people who really want to work from home are willing to take a pay cut to do so, or at least forgo a big raise. This means that evaluation time can be a good time to ask for work-from-home privileges. If you get a great review and are offered a raise, consider counter-offering a smaller raise with the ability to work remotely part-time.

Maybe you’re not willing to give up a raise, but you have other privileges you could lay on the table in order to work from home. Or maybe you feel you’ll be so much more productive at home that you can tackle additional responsibilities. Either way, you could give a little to get a little in this conversation.

6. Prove You Can Do It

Finally, when you do get to work from home, don’t take advantage of the situation. Put 100% into your work each day, and set up your lifestyle so that you’re more productive than ever. Keep track of your goals, metrics, and to-do lists, so that if there’s ever a question of whether or not you can work from home well, you’ve got data to back up your answer.

[Editor’s note: It’s also a good idea to keep track of your financial goals. One way to do that is to check your credit scores. Credit.com’s credit report summary offers a free credit score, updated every 14 days, plus tools that help you establish a plan for how to improve your scores.]

Image: AlexBrylov

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Source: credit.com

Couponing Do’s & Don’ts — How to Save Money Shopping With Coupons

You’ve probably already used coupons at some point in your life. According to a 2020 survey by Statista, almost 90% of respondents reported having used coupons for shopping. Considering that coupons provide a fast, free way to reduce spending on groceries and essentials, it’s clear why coupons are so popular.

But to make your couponing efforts more successful, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the tips and tricks successful couponers use. The last thing you want to do is waste time collecting coupons only to realize none of them is valid when you’re checking out.

If you’re relatively new to couponing, start slowly by bringing a few paper coupons to your next shopping trip. Over time, you can incorporate more of these couponing do’s and don’ts to save more.

Couponing Do’s

Couponing doesn’t have to feel like a marathon or take up hours of your week. By following one or more of these couponing do’s, you can start to trim your monthly spending — and ultimately save more money.

1. Do Know Where to Find Coupons

The most basic step in starting to coupon is to collect them. Ideally, you can gradually build a stash of coupons for the stores and brands you frequently shop so you can always find some savings at the register.

To begin your coupon hunt, plan your weekly meals around sale products if possible. That helps you find discounts without even having to coupon. To find in-store sales, look for digital flyers on grocery store websites.

Another resource is Flipp, a free app that provides weekly flyers, deals, and online coupons for over 2,000 stores. Flipp has weekly flyers for stores like Aldi, Kroger, and Walmart. You can clip deals you find to the in-app shopping list to help you keep track.

Once your virtual or paper shopping list has all the food you need for the week, finish the list with any household essentials you need to restock, like toilet paper or cleaning supplies. You’re now ready to track down coupons for everything on your shopping list.

There are several free websites you can use to print paper coupons. These websites include coupon databases and brand websites like:

Coupons.com, Coupon Sherpa, RetailMeNot, and Valpak also have mobile apps that let you find and redeem digital coupons at the register. If you don’t want to spend time and money printing coupons, apps are your best resource. You can also try other mobile coupon apps like Grocery Pal and The Coupons App, which have digital coupons for grocery stores like Aldi, Albertsons, Kroger, Food Lion, Safeway, and Publix.

Between paper and digital coupons, you should find savings on some of the products on your weekly shopping list. If you can’t track down a specific coupon, searching online for the product name plus “coupon” is another tactic to try.

Finally, if you subscribe to a Sunday paper or get coupons and ad flyers in the mail, take a few minutes to scan for coupons you need. If you spot an incredible coupon for a product you buy regularly, you can scoop up a few extra newspapers on discount at a dollar store the following day or look online for the same coupon.

Also, don’t forget to check out those coupons they print out at the register after checkout (sometimes called Catalina coupons). Those are typically based on your specific purchases, so there may be something in there you can use. Others may be percent-off discounts on your total sale price if you spend over a certain amount.

You don’t have to go overboard and find duplicates of every coupon for your shopping list. Find as many as you can, and remember to check expiration dates so you shop in time to save.

2. Do Combine Coupons With Cash-Back Rewards Apps

Coupons usually provide a percent discount or certain dollar-off amount to let you save. But if you want to save even more on your weekly grocery haul, you can use cash-back rewards apps to earn rebates for buying certain products.

Just like searching for coupons, you can research rebate opportunities before heading to the store to earn cash back for products you were going to buy anyway. Popular rewards apps you can use include:

  • Ibotta. Earn cash back for buying specific products from Ibotta partners and uploading your receipt to the app for proof of purchase. Ibotta works with over 1,000 brands, and there are always offers on groceries and everyday essentials. You can redeem cash back through PayPal, Venmo, or free gift cards when you reach $20. Read our Ibotta review for more information.
  • Fetch Rewards. If you like Ibotta, Fetch Rewards is another must-download app. With Fetch Rewards, you earn points for buying products from dozens of popular brands. An advantage of Fetch Rewards is that you can redeem many free gift cards once you reach $3, which is possible in a single shopping trip. Read our Fetch Rewards review for more information.
  • Checkout 51. Checkout 51 is similar to Ibotta. Download Checkout 51, select offers to shop for, and upload your receipt to earn rewards. Checkout 51 works at stores like Aldi, Albertsons, Costco, Kroger, Meijer, and Walmart. You get a check when you earn $20 in cash back. Read our Checkout 51 review for more information.

There’s still nothing wrong with using paper coupons or mobile coupon apps if that’s all you have time for. But to save even more, it’s worth trying cash-back rewards apps alongside your couponing efforts.

3. Do Sign Up for Store Savings Cards

Sign up for rewards cards at the stores where you shop. Store rewards cards typically provide shoppers with additional savings in the form of reward points or discounts. Plus, some loyalty programs also send additional coupons in the mail.

Reward cards also help you earn more with Ibotta since you can connect cards from retailers like Meijer, Kroger, and Wegmans to your account. Once you connect a card, Ibotta automatically detects whether your purchase qualifies for cash back and pays you.

4. Do Stay Organized to Maximize Savings

Organize coupons to keep them easily accessible when you shop. The last thing you want is to miss a coupon when checking out or — even worse— forget your coupons at home.

Your organizational system doesn’t have to be complex or expensive. For casual couponers, a coupon wallet on Amazon costs around $10 and comes with dividers to group coupons into different sections, like meat or produce.

If you prefer managing everything from your smartphone, you can also use the free SnipSnap app to transform paper coupons into digital ones. Once you snap a picture of a paper coupon, Snip Snap uploads it to its database so you can use it while on the go. The app also tracks expiration dates and sends reminders about expiring coupons.

5. Do Know Your Store’s Coupon Policy

Does your grocer double coupons, price-match, accept competitor coupons, or give rain checks if sale goods are out of stock? If you don’t know, research coupon policies online. Grocery stores and general retailers like Walmart and Target outline coupon rules on their websites. To find a policy, use a browser to search for the name of your store of choice plus “coupon policy” (for example, “Kroger coupon policy”) or look for a frequently asked questions section on the website. These policies help you save even more money, and they aren’t always prominently advertised. Things to stay informed about include:

  • Price Matching. Stores don’t like losing a potential sale because a competitor has a slightly lower price tag, so many are willing to price match. Price matching is when a store adjusts its price to match a sale at another local store.
  • Competitor Coupons. Your store may accept competitors’ coupons, but you should clarify who their competitors are. For example, Publix accepts coupons for competitors’ private-label products, whereas Meijer doesn’t take competitor coupons at all. But some stores are more specific than Publix. Lowes Foods accepts competitor coupons only from select competitors, like Aldi, Food Lion, Target, and Walmart.
  • Rain Checks. When you want to buy an out-of-stock product, some stores issue rain checks, which guarantee the current price when it’s back in stock. But many stores have specific rules for rain checks. For example, Publix only issues one rain check per household per day (in addition to other, sometimes product-specific restrictions).

6. Do Know Local Stores’ Best Deals & Sale Patterns

You can get the most out of any coupon when you shop at the stores with the best deals for that product type, such as canned goods or toiletries.

That requires paying attention as you shop around. Over time, you learn each local store’s pricing quirks and sale patterns. For example, perhaps your local Walmart’s bakery section regularly puts bread and bagels on sale during certain days of the week. Or maybe your town’s Kroger has better prices and more frequent discounts on frozen meals than your local Publix.

As you learn this type of information, you can be more selective about where you shop for individual products. You don’t have to waste time and gas shopping at multiple stores for a single grocery trip, but for specific products, it can make sense to coupon at stores that are more likely to have deals or just better prices on that product category.

7. Do Start Slowly

When you first start couponing, it feels intimidating if you’re redeeming dozens of coupons and have a lot of numbers to crunch.

For your first few shopping trips, focus on the highest-value coupons, the ones you know are worth using. That might look like bringing three 50%-off coupons or your highest-dollar-value-off coupons.

You can even try using coupons on sale products, but don’t get too creative until you’re comfortable calculating whether things are good deals and handing over coupons at the register.

8. Do Try Stacking Coupons

Combining a coupon with a store sale is a simple way to stack savings. But you don’t have to limit yourself to just stacking coupons with sale prices. Stores like Dollar General, Meijer, and Target let you stack a manufacturer’s coupon and store coupons to save even more.

For example, if Target has Planters peanuts on sale for $2, you can use a $1 Target coupon for Planters products and a $1 Planters manufacturer’s coupon to score a free can of peanuts. You can find store coupons online or in your favorite store’s weekly flyers.

If you can’t get something for free, try stacking coupons with store sales and apps like Ibotta to maximize savings.

For example, there’s a 50%-off clearance sale on a $3.99 Red Baron pepperoni pizza, bringing the price down to $2. If you have a $1 manufacturer coupon, the price is just $1. But since Ibotta has a $0.75 rebate on Red Baron pepperoni pizza, you just scored an entire pizza for only $0.25.

To top it all off, shop with a cash-back credit card to earn even more. The goal of couponing is to find deals whenever possible and get creative to stretch the value of every dollar you spend.

9. Do Use the Overage

When your coupons exceed the sale price of a product, it produces an overage. While that doesn’t invalidate the coupons, most often, that means you get the product for $0.

However, certain retailers apply overages toward other products in your shopping cart. For example, say you get an overage of $0.50 on a box of Betty Crocker chocolate cake mix by using a manufacturer coupon and sale price. Overage-allowing retailers apply the $0.50 overage to another product in your cart.

Walmart and Kroger are two major retailers that apply overages to your cart. And Walmart is one of the few retailers that pays cash back for overages (except on purchases made using government benefits, so save coupons for purchases you make when you’re not using your SNAP and WIC benefits). Kroger issues overages on a merchandise return card (essentially, a Kroger gift card). If you’re in doubt, look up your store’s coupon policy online to learn about overage rules.

10. Do Present Coupons in the Right Order

You can maximize your savings by handing the cashier your coupons in a specific order. For example, if you have a store coupon for $5 off a $20 purchase, use that coupon first. Otherwise, your other coupons might negate the $5 coupon by discounting the total amount of the sale to less than $20.

Some stores automatically apply your coupons correctly, so the order doesn’t always matter. But to be safe, give the cashier the price-minimum coupon before you use any other coupons.

11. Do Get in & Get Out

Know what you plan to buy before you go to the store, and stick to your shopping list.

If you stay in the store too long, you become susceptible to their marketing ploys, and you may end up spending more money. Get in, get the deals, and then get out.

If you shop during less busy grocery shopping hours, like during the week or at night, your trips will also be faster than battling weekend shopping crowds.

12. Do Stock Up

If you spot an incredible couponing opportunity on nonperishable goods or products you use frequently, it’s generally a smart move to stock up. It ensures you benefit from the deal as much as possible and lets you use more coupons before they expire. It’s an excellent way to set up long-term emergency food and supply storage.

Stacking coupons and store sales lets you score the lowest price possible when stocking up. For example, if Green Giant canned corn is on sale for $0.99 per can and you have several BOGO coupons or manufacturer coupons for $0.50 off per can, you can stock up on as many cans as possible to build your food storage for less than half the regular price.

Some stores limit the number of sale products you can purchase at once. If a store puts a limit on something and you need more of it, visit other store locations to create your stockpile.

Stocking up also lets you be pickier about when you use coupons. For example, if you run out of toilet paper, shop your emergency pantry first. You can replace your emergency supplies when you’re able to stack a sale and a coupon rather than buying full-price TP without a coupon.

That’s especially important for edible pantry goods. Canned and dried foods last a long time, but even they eventually go bad. This method ensures your emergency supplies are always safe to eat. If you have to throw them away, you won’t save any money (and may be in trouble if you need them during a bona fide emergency).

But before you come home with 30 cans of creamed corn, make sure you have a place to store it. You can convert a small area of your home, like a guest room closet or second bathroom linen closet, into your emergency pantry.

13. Do Donate the Excess

When couponing, you sometimes encounter scenarios where you can get so much of a free or cheap product that you can’t even use it all before it expires. It’s still a better deal than purchasing without a coupon, but the thought of letting all that product go bad doesn’t sit well with most people.

Instead of turning down an incredible deal, look into ways to donate excess couponing successes to people in need. Charities like homeless shelters, food banks, and women’s shelters make excellent candidates for donations. You can also reach out to local churches and community outreach programs to see if they need certain supplies.

You may even be able to take a charitable contribution tax deduction.


Couponing Don’ts

If you ever watched shows like TLC’s “Extreme Couponing,” successful couponing looks like hours of dumpster diving for coupon flyers, endless clipping, and (in some cases) being way too frugal.

But couponing doesn’t have to become your full-time job. You don’t need to make things overly complex either. As long as you follow couponing best practices and avoid some common couponing mistakes, your savings can benefit without transforming your living room into a coupon-clipping factory.

1. Don’t Shop Without a Meal Plan

Shopping with a meal plan is an often overlooked couponing tip, but it’s crucial to saving money. If you don’t have a plan to use the products you’re buying each week, you’re more likely to waste food.

Additionally, shopping without a menu makes you more likely to buy convenience food: frozen pizzas, hot dogs, and other fast meals. While these are delicious, they’re not conducive to eating healthy on a budget.

When building your shopping list, plan dishes that line up with products you have coupons for. For example, you find a $1-off coupon for two bags of Sargento cheese, a $0.25 coupon for Classico pasta sauce, and a coupon for $1 off two boxes of Mueller’s pasta. You can plan to make lasagna for dinner one night that week and macaroni and cheese as a side for another meal.

Or perhaps you find a coupon for an ingredient that’s central to many dishes, like chicken or ground beef, that also happens to be on sale. You can plan to make several recipes that use that ingredient, then stack the sale and coupon for even more savings.

If that sounds intimidating, affordable meal-planning services like $5 Meal Plan provide a month’s worth of dinner recipes and various breakfast and lunch ideas for only $5 per month.

2. Don’t Use a Coupon on a Full-Price Product

If you use a $1-off coupon on a full-price two-pack of SlimFast protein drinks for $5.68, you still pay $2.34 per beverage. But if you wait until SlimFast is on sale, you can save even more money. For example, if SlimFast goes on sale for 20% off, you can buy two drinks for $4.54, use your coupon, and pay $3.54, or $1.77 each, saving nearly 40% on your purchase.

That’s why operating with an emergency pantry is such a good idea. If you need to restock on an ingredient or product that day, you have to use coupons even if you miss a sale (or worse, pay full price without a coupon). But if you can afford to wait, you can save money in the long run by shopping during sale periods and with coupons more often.

3. Don’t Buy Something Just Because It’s on Sale

Don’t let sale prices trick you into buying something you don’t typically use just because it looks like a deal. If you use coupons without thinking, you inevitably buy things that are a waste of money or products that expire before you have a chance to use them.

Jumping on every great deal out there significantly lightens your wallet and defeats the whole purpose of couponing. That said, if you find a fantastic deal on something you can donate, there’s nothing wrong with couponing for charity.

4. Don’t Be Brand-Loyal

Prego or Ragu spaghetti sauce? Skippy peanut butter or Jif? Which brand should you buy? The answer: whichever one you can get the cheapest using your coupons.

Many people start couponing because of a major life event, like job loss, pregnancy, or too much debt. Those aren’t the times to be brand-loyal. You need to save money, and you can’t do that if you pass on deals because you prefer specific brands.

And sometimes, the cheapest bet is to go with the store brand, even if it means passing up on a coupon or sale for another brand.

For example, at Walmart, the Great Value line is extensive, covering a range of affordable grocery products and everyday essentials. If your coupons can’t beat Great Value, it’s probably best to save them for another time.

Plus, many retailers give coupons for their own brands through register coupons and coupon mailers, so you can still find ways to save on already affordable store brands.

5. Don’t Use Every Coupon

Some coupons don’t represent real savings. For example, a coupon for $0.50 off two boxes of brand-name cereal doesn’t result in much savings. That’s only $0.25 off each box. Even during a good sale, the coupon may not take the total price down to a better deal than the store brand. Wait for a better coupon and another sale.

Sometimes, you also have good coupons nearing their expiration dates but no sales on the goods you need. Let them expire. You don’t have to use the coupons, especially if you have to buy a brand name at full price to do so.

Couponing is about saving money, not getting good deals on brand-name products.

If you really need something, buy one or two of them now and wait for a sale to buy in bulk.

6. Don’t Waste Time

It’s easy to fall into the couponing trap of spending so much time searching for deals and preparing to shop that you’re turning couponing into a part-time job (there are better side gigs to make extra money).

Start by asking yourself how much time you want to dedicate to couponing. The answer could be 15 minutes on Sunday to look through coupon apps or a couple of hours every week to do more thorough research.

With a time commitment in mind, you should also work efficiently. Some tips to save time when couponing include:

  • Only clipping paper coupons you know you’re going to use
  • Turning clipping into a family activity (don’t forget safety scissors for the younger ones)
  • Linking store loyalty cards with apps like Ibotta to avoid preselecting rebates before shopping

You can also order groceries online and use coupons to save both time and money. Online grocery shopping gives you plenty of time to scout deals and coupons and do the math without feeling pressured. It also saves you from clever marketing tactics that induce impulse buys. They try to do the same things online, but you have more time to talk yourself out of it. And you can typically use the same or similar coupons online you do in stores.

For example, at Kroger, you can load digital coupons onto your Kroger Plus card and have them automatically apply to your online grocery order. And if you pick up the order, you can also use paper coupons (Kroger only accepts their own digital coupons for delivery). Just make sure you hit any free pickup minimums to ensure you’re really saving.

As long as couponing is enjoyable and effective, you’re on the right track. Plus, as you gain experience, you’ll find certain coupon apps or websites work best for your shopping habits and become even more efficient at growing your coupon supply.

7. Don’t Print Coupons You Don’t Use

Online printable coupons from websites like Coupons.com can save money. But you still use computer paper and ink to print the coupons, which costs money and wastes paper.

Many people print every online coupon available and then throw most of them away. Print online coupons as you need them. Save any you’re interested in but don’t need as a PDF or browser bookmark.


Final Word

In many ways, learning to coupon is a series of stages. At first, you use a few tips that are convenient to save, like buying products you have coupons for. As you become more comfortable, you start to mix in tricks like coupon stacking and simply using more coupons per shopping trip. If you start loving the process, you eventually graduate to extreme couponing, where it’s possible to score entire grocery hauls for almost pennies on the dollar if you get it right.

Whatever stage you’re in, the goal of couponing is to save more of your money. How much time you spend on it is up to you.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Spring Cleaning: 6 Tips to Keep Your Apartment Allergen-Free

Indoor allergies caused by dust mites, pet dander and mold trigger allergy and even asthma symptoms in millions of indoor allergy sufferers each year. Spring cleaning is on the horizon!

While it is impossible to make your home completely allergen-free, below are a few tips to clear most of the bothersome allergens from your apartment.

Dust your surfaces

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Dust is the most common cause of indoor allergies, but be careful how you dust, because you can actually make your allergies worse by kicking up dirt and debris while you’re cleaning.

Use a wet or treated cloth that attracts dust, minimize dust-catching clutter and clean dusty surfaces, such as ceiling fan blades, regularly so that dust doesn’t have a chance to accumulate.

Vacuum

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To really ensure your space stays allergen-free, any carpet or rugs should be replaced with hard flooring, but that might not be an option in your apartment. Instead, use a vacuum that has a HEPA filter that traps dust mites, pet dander and other allergens, and try to vacuum at least once or twice a week.

Wash your bedclothes

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Dust mites thrive in bedding, so wash your sheets, blankets and pillowcases once a week in hot water, then dry them in a hot dryer, to kill all the dust mites. Also, encase mattresses, comforters, pillows and other non-washable items in allergen-proof covers.

Go green

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Many cleaning products have harsh chemicals that can trigger allergic reactions in people. Opt for environmentally-friendly cleaning products instead. These contain plant-based, natural ingredients. You can also make many common household cleaners using things like baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice.

Reduce pet dander

dog on floordog on floor

A protein found in the saliva and dead skin of dogs and cats is a common indoor allergen. If you have pets, vacuum frequently and wash your pet once a week. You can also keep them off your bed and furniture and even designate certain areas of your apartment as pet-free areas. And if know there’s a certain pet that you know sets off your allergies, don’t get that type of animal. Unfortunately, a short-haired dog or cat will still cause an allergic reaction.

Go on mold patrol

bathroom moldbathroom mold

Spores from mold and mildew can get into the air and cause allergies and even sickness. Run an exhaust fan after you take a shower, and replace any bathroom wallpaper with tile or mold-resistant paint. Replace moldy or mildewed curtains and moldy carpeting.

Following these guidelines should keep your apartment relatively allergen-free, and you’ll be much more happy and healthy.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

18 Simple Storage Tips for Small Apartments

The average U.S. household has 300,000 things in it.

From the tiniest thumbtack to each book on your shelf and every piece of clothing hanging in your closet, there’s a lot of stuff to keep organized. It’s even more daunting if you’re bringing it all into a smaller apartment.

Many people tend to look at a smaller home and see what’s missing — space. Yet, fewer closets and less built-in storage doesn’t mean you’re missing out on somewhere to put your stuff.

If you’re smart with your furniture choices, color picks and organizational tactics, every corner of a small space can become a “beloved spot.”

Cut the clutter

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When working with a smaller living space, your goal, according to Michelle Crouch writing for Reader’s Digest, should be to remove clutter not create more storage space. Clutter can manifest as items you want to keep, but not display, as well as things that you no longer need.

Certain keepsakes you want to hold onto can spend some time in a storage unit until you have a larger home. Paper records, greeting cards, mementos from special events (that aren’t that special anymore) and old letters from past relationships are all things that no longer need to follow you from place to place.

In fact, having a smaller apartment can help you triage what you really want to keep with you. What’s left can either go into storage or head to the round file (a.k.a. the trash.)

Rearrange what’s left

After narrowing down your necessities, take a look at your apartment for hidden storage opportunities. Each room can yield more space than you may think upon the first inspection. Taking a close and thoughtful look can help you find the right place for all your belongings, even in a small apartment.

Bedroom

bedroombedroom

There are two areas in your bedroom that can be great for storage — your closet and under your bed. Maximizing space in your closet is possible with a variety of storage ideas. From special hangers to repurposing household items, your closet can hold twice as much stuff as you think.

  • Use vertical space: Stack shirts or pants on shelves
  • Shower curtain hangers: Install these in your closet to hold scarves, belts or even tank tops freeing up drawer space in your bedroom for bulkier items
  • Over-the-door shoe organizer: Less stuff on the ground helps your small space feel less cluttered
  • Under-bed storage: Even if you have a bed that’s lower to the ground, special storage bins exist that will slide under. Store your off-season clothing here to free up more space for the items you need.

Bathroom

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Tips for organizing small spaces are handiest in the bathroom. It’s most likely the tightest space in a small apartment, but there’s room to spare in there, too. Overlooked areas ideal for extra storage include above the toilet and inside cabinets.

  • Over-the-toilet shelf: Since it slides in around the toilet, you’re not adding to the footprint within the bathroom. This is a great place to hold toiletries that don’t fit on the sink.
  • Over-the-door hooks: Perfect for wet towels or bathrobes
  • Shower caddies: Hang these over your shower head to hold soap and shampoo
  • Small storage containers on the inside of your bathroom cabinets: A great place for your hairdryer and straightener
  • A wine rack or special shelf for fresh towels: Putting them up on the wall makes sure they aren’t taking up valuable closet or cabinet space. It also looks decorative if you incorporate towels in vibrant colors.

Kitchen

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The best way to increase storage space in your kitchen is to add more counter space.

  • Make use of all free space: Large bowls have a lot of space in them. Condense your Tupperware or dishes by putting smaller objects inside of larger ones.
  • Appliances for storage: No cabinets, no problem! Your oven or microwave is a great place to keep dishes, pots and pans out of sight.
  • Portable chef’s cart: Put cutlery or even small kitchen appliances under it, then wheel the cart near an outlet when you have to plug in something. It gives you an extra surface to prep food, and you can move it out of the way when you’re done.
  • Wall hooks and over-the-door storage: Hang large utensils, pots and pans, cleaning supplies and even pantry staples

Living room

living roomliving room

Most likely the largest room in your apartment, the living room can serve as a catch-all for the stuff you need to store that won’t naturally go somewhere else.

  • Decorative boxes: They can fit under coffee tables or desks, and can hold almost anything. Store magazines, board games and puzzles, along with any personal items you want to keep but don’t need to display.
  • Book cart: If your couch is set up against a wall, consider moving it forward a little bit to create even more storage space. Slide in a cart to hold all your books in a way that’s easy to access.
  • Portable desk: Living rooms in small apartments often double as an office. Make the space less cluttered with the convenience of wheeling your small, portable workstation back into a corner when it’s not in use.

Hallways

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While not technically a room, don’t dismiss the potential for storage in seemingly useless spaces. Your hallways are the perfect location for things like coats, shoes or umbrellas.

  • Coat rack: Give your guests a spot to hang their coats when they visit, rather than tossing them on a chair or your couch
  • Shoe cubby: Clear some space off the floor and keep your shoes organized

A word about shelving

Small storage shelves can go in almost any space in your home. They’re a universal space-saving device because they turn wall space into storage space. Especially in corners, which can feel like unusable areas of your apartment, shelves can save the day.

Trade in the cute, framed pictures you’ve put up on one wall and install shelves for instant storage. Deeper shelves can hold small bins, masking the appearance of anything that’s not so cute, and special corner shelving units nestle in nicely. There are so many shelving ideas out there, it’ll be easy to incorporate a few in your apartment.

After everything gets put away

Now that you’ve found a spot in your apartment for all your stuff, it’s time to decorate. Just because you have a small space doesn’t mean every nook and cranny has to go to holding stuff.

Leave a little room to make things pretty and transform your small space into the perfect home.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

15 Words That Could Add Value to Your Listing

When it comes to writing an effective listing description, don’t hold back. If you’ve got it, flaunt it!

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Why do some homes sell for a premium? Timing, for starters. An analysis of 24,000 home sales in “Zillow Talk: Rewriting the Rules of Real Estate” also reveals listings with certain keywords tend to sell for more than expected.

“Bottom-tier homes described as luxurious tend to beat their expected sale price by a whopping 8.2 percent,” write co-authors Spencer Rascoff and Stan Humphries. “Top-tier homes described as captivating tend to beat theirs by 6.5 percent. That means, if your home’s estimated home value is $110,000, but your listing includes the key word ‘luxurious,’ you could pocket an extra $8,965.”

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If one of the following words accurately describes your home, you might want to consider adding it to your listing.

1. Luxurious

As mentioned above, lower-priced listings with the word “luxurious” sold for 8.2 percent more on average than expected. “Luxurious” signals that a home’s finishes and amenities are high-end. This is a huge selling point, particularly in this price range.

2. Captivating

Top-tier listings described as “captivating” sold for 6.5 percent more on average than expected. Unlike the word “nice,” “captivating” provides a richer, more enticing description for buyers. Plus, it’s less open to interpretation. Anything can be seen as “nice,” but “captivating” sets a high bar.

3. Impeccable

On average, listings in the bottom tier with the word “impeccable” sold for 5.9 percent more than expected. Like “captivating,” “impeccable” is a rich adjective. It also implies something about the quality of a home: The features are desirable and the home is move-in ready.

4. Stainless

“Stainless” is typically used to describe kitchens with “stainless steel appliances.” It’s in your favor to talk up these features in your listing — especially if your home is in the bottom price tier. In our analysis, lower-priced homes with the word “stainless” sold for 5 percent more on average than expected.

5. Basketball

On average, lower-priced homes with the word “basketball” sold for 4.5 percent more than expected. This may seem like an odd word to include in this list, but when you consider the context it makes sense. Among lower-priced homes, a basketball court — or even better, an indoor basketball court — is a huge selling point. While it may not stand out as much among higher-priced homes, it’s definitely worth mentioning in this price range.

6. Landscaped

It’s just as valuable to describe your yard as your house. In all price tiers, listings with the word “landscaped” sold for more than expected on average. The biggest premium was seen among lower-priced listings, which on average sold for 4.2 percent more than expected.

7. Granite

In the same vein as “stainless,” “granite” is typically used to describe countertops or another high-end home feature. Listings with the word “granite” sold, on average, for 1 to 4 percent more than expected across all price tiers.

8. Pergola

Not only should you include high-end home features in your listing description, you should also mention features not found in every home. They’ll help your listing stand out, especially if buyers are searching for homes online by keyword. The data shows mid-priced listings with the word “pergola” sold for 4 percent more on average than expected.

9. Remodel

Was your home recently remodeled? It may be worth mentioning. On average, bottom-tier listings with the word “remodel” sold for 2.9 percent more, middle-tier homes for 1.8 percent more and top-tier homes for 1.7 percent more than expected.

10. Beautiful

While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, a beautiful feature like a view may be worth noting. Lower-priced listings with the word “beautiful” sold for 2.3 percent more on average than expected.

11. Gentle

“Gentle” may seem like a weird adjective to have in a listing description. It’s typically used to describe “gentle rolling hills” or something about a home’s location. Top-tier listings with the word “gentle” sold for 2.3 percent more, on average, than expected.

12. Spotless

You may think all homes are spotless when a buyer moves in, so it’s not worth mentioning in a listing. But when it comes to lower-priced homes, cleanliness isn’t always a given. In this price range, listings described as “spotless” sold for 2 percent more on average than expected.

13. Tile

Much like “stainless” and “granite,” “tile” is a great word when it comes to describing the features of your home. A newly tiled backsplash or updated bathroom tile not only indicates a home’s aesthetic value but also sends a message to buyers that the home’s been well cared for by the current owners. Bottom-tier homes with the word “tile” in the listing sold for 2 percent more on average than expected.

14. Upgraded

On average, lower-priced listings with the word “upgraded” sold for 1.8 percent more than expected. Most buyers will agree that upgrades are a selling point. They indicate a home not only looks nice but also functions well. Spelling out which features have been updated is a good approach, so buyers have the right expectations when they see your home.

15. Updated

“Updated” sends a similar message to “upgraded.” But in addition to speaking to the quality of a home, it signals that something old has been replaced with something new. This is a great fact to communicate to potential buyers, as evidenced by the data. Mid-priced homes with “updated” in the listing sold for 0.8 percent more on average than expected.

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Source: zillow.com

In-Laws Visiting? 15 Ways to Tidy Up in No Time

Let’s start off by saying that if your in-laws give ample notice before they step on your welcome mat, you’re in pretty good shape. In many families, in-laws are notorious for popping up at a moment’s notice, but that’s another topic for another day.

It doesn’t matter if your mother-in-law (MIL) and father-in-law (FIL) are arriving in two hours or two days, you surely want to do all you can to make sure your apartment is as presentable as possible. Do you worry about what your spouse’s mother will say if the cleanliness of your space isn’t up to her standards? Does she have the audacity to conduct a sneaky dust test with her fingertip as she slyly strolls through the apartment?

We understand that your place might never be spotless from top to bottom. And honestly, who has time for that? But if you’re focused on doing at least a little tidying up before the ‘rents make their debut, here are some crafty and creative ways to quickly get your pad in better shape.

  1. Focus on surfaces that tend to gather a lot of dust and fingerprints – TVs, computer screens, table tops, toilets, and mirrors. Grab a cleaning towel, spritz it with your favorite all-purpose cleaner – a really good smelling one – and do a lap or two around your apartment wiping down every surface within reach.

  2. Sink full of dishes? Either wash them quickly or load them into the dishwasher. Those who don’t own a dishwasher (or even if they do and it’s already full) sometimes resort to stashing dirty dishes in the oven. Odd choice, but this should be your last option only if you know for sure there are no plans for a home-cooked meal. Just know that if MIL decides to test your baking skills on a whim, the jig’s up. If you do end up giving in to this last minute trick, don’t forget to return the dishes to their rightful location once the in-laws have left the building.

  3. Scented candles will be a savior. The earlier you light them up, the better. No scents on deck? Here’s an easy alternative: boil a small pot of water and add slices of lemon or lime. No fresh citrus on hand? Sprinkle in some cinnamon or nutmeg. Learn how to make do with what you have!

  4. No time to get all your odds and ends completely out of sight? Group like items together. Random pens all over the apartment will appear disorderly, so gather them in a row on a side table instead. You can do the same by neatly stacking or lining up items like shoes, books, magazines, bathroom products, pencils, crayons, etc.

  5. Is one of your bedrooms just a complete disaster? Close the door and forbid anyone to enter. If the door locks, even better.

  6. Throw junk mail in the trash. Any other mail should go into a junk drawer, assuming there’s room.

  7. Will the in-laws be making their debut at night? Light dimmers will work wonders to keep your mess from taking center stage. Not only will it hide your mess, but it’ll set a calming ambiance.

  8. No time to sweep, mop and vacuum? Vacuums actually work pretty great on hard surfaces too, not just carpet. Just test out a small area first to make sure it doesn’t scratch your hardwood, tile or another solid surface.

  9. Grab a grocery or trash bag and take a lap around the apartment gathering items that need to be trashed.

  10. You can also use this bag trick to gather items for certain rooms. So if the living room is littered with items that belong in the home office, collect them in the bag and place the bag in the office to organize later.

  11. If the visit is really last minute, grab a basket or bag, gather everything that’s out of place and place the basket in an inconspicuous area like the laundry room, utility closet,  bathtub or on top of the fridge.

  12. Got pets? Give every sofa and chair a quick brush to get rid of pesky hairs.

  13. Empty the trash. This goes for the kitchen, bathroom and wherever else a waste bin might be located. Essential oils, carpet freshener, and cinnamon all are great for making an empty trash can smell good.

  14. Are the in-laws already en route? Power up iTunes, cue up your favorite three to five songs and press play. Vow to have your apartment looking new and improved by the time the playlist ends. You will also work up a good sweat, so pat yourself on the back for mastering the art of multitasking!

  15. If time runs out and you’re still not finished cleaning, strategically place the vacuum cleaner in the middle of the living room or hallway. Then declare, “Oh, you just caught me in the middle of cleaning up!” This message will convey that you acknowledge the mess and you’re tending to it. Hey, a little white lie never hurt anyone.

Does this list sound exhausting or even unrealistic? Here’s a radical idea: don’t clean at all. Welcome your in-laws with open arms. But if you see them giving your space a major side eye, politely let them know that you are a busy person and, on any given day, this is what your apartment looks like. Let us know how that goes.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock / Creatista

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Source: apartmentguide.com

Here Are 8 Home Repairs You Can’t Afford to Ignore

During preparations for her nightly baths, Laura Starrett noticed the water pressure wasn’t as strong as it once was. She had also received an alert from her utility company that she had used more water that month than she had before.

“Then I realized I’d left my sprinklers on and they were running every day, so I thought that’s why I got an alert that I was using a lot of water,” said the recently retired homeowner in Jacksonville, Florida.

So she turned the sprinklers off.

Then Starrett got another alert saying her water bill was going to be $1,000. A plumber came out, listened to the pipes and heard water running. Turns out, a backyard pipe was leaking.

“You just hope it will go away,” Starrett said. “But I knew there had to be something because your water just doesn’t just disappear.”

According to a survey by Travelers insurance company, 42% of homeowners put off a needed repair during 2020. Much of it was the concern about having someone in their house during the pandemic. Of those, 19% said they tried to fix the problem themselves and failed, and 22% just left it broken.

That can lead to a bigger and often more expensive problem, says Angela Orbann, vice president of property and personal insurance at Travelers.

“I typically think of this as what’s cosmetic versus really critical, and sometimes that can be a fine line for a homeowner,” she said. “You shouldn’t delay things that can lead to bigger issues.”

8 Home Repairs You Can’t Afford to Put Off

1. Anything Involving Water

A water spot on the wall or ceiling can mean a leaky roof or a leaky pipe. If not fixed, the leak will just get bigger and can destroy floors, walls, furniture and more.

“Any time you notice a stain, those should be addressed immediately because that indicates you potentially have moisture entering your home. Moisture in small amounts will not turn into mold, but if left, mold and continued damage will occur so it is important to address these situations when they occur,” said home inspector John Wanninger. He and his INSPECTIX team in Nebraska have inspected more than 30,000 homes..

The same goes for a leaky faucet, running toilet or dripping water heater.

“The cost of allowing a running toilet to run will cost more over the course of a month or two than it would have cost to fix it up front,” he said.

Don’t ignore higher-than-normal water bills. As Starrett realized, they were a sign something was wrong somewhere.

2. Anything Involving Electricity

Do you have lights that flicker? Switches or outlets that stopped working? Breakers tripping? GFI outlets that won’t reset?

These can be signs of electrical problems.

“A flickering light can be something as easy as a loose light bulb or it could be something as severe as a loose wire,” Wanninger said. “Any of those things when it comes to electricity should be considered important and time sensitive.”

In houses built between 1965 and 1974, connections in some older aluminum wiring may be failing. Older houses built in the 1950s and before had knob and tube wiring. The connections could be going bad.

Circuits can be overloaded. Sometimes when people update their homes, they don’t update the wiring.

Electrical problems can lead to fires, and fires can lead to injury or property damage.

3. Pests

Bugs and rodents might be small, but they can cause big issues.

“Termites can do an extensive amount of damage over a period of time. If they go undetected for three or four years, minor damage becomes pretty heavy damage,” Wanninger said.

There’s no telling how long pests like termites and carpenter ants have been chewing before you noticed them, so taking immediate action is important.

Be on the lookout for signs of termites and carpenter ants and what they leave behind:

  • Sawdust or wood damage.
  • Mud tubes.
  • Discarded wings near closed windows, doors or other access points.
  • Large black ants.
  • Faint rustling noises in walls.
  • Holes in cardboard boxes, especially on the bottom.

As for furry pests, they can spread diseases with their droppings and can chew through insulation.

“When you hear noises in your attic, it’s often either mice, rats, squirrels, or raccoons. In any case, it’s something that should be addressed immediately because left unattended they can all cause an extensive amount of damage,” Wanninger said.

4. Peeling Caulk and Paint

See #1: Water.

If caulk comes loose and peels away, water gets in and you know what happens then and it isn’t good.

“We don’t think about cracked joints in your tile bathroom. It doesn’t look severe and it doesn’t look like a big issue, but as time goes on, moisture gets in there and deteriorates the shower board and the material behind the wall. Before you know it, you get yourself a $2,000 or $3,000 repair,” Wanninger said.

The same for paint. Paint is like skin for the house. It protects it from water and pests. Removing that protection can cause problems.

5. Broken or Malfunctioning HVAC

Having a lack of climate control isn’t just an uncomfortable inconvenience, it can lead to bigger issues.

“If the humidity is too high in the home, it will pass through the drywall and enter the attic area,” Wanninger said. “If you get moisture on your windows in the wintertime on the inside of the glass in your house, it is an indication your humidity level is too high.”

In the winter, that moisture can freeze and eventually melt, causing a leak. In the summer, excess moisture can lead to mold and mildew.

If you notice your HVAC isn’t working as it should, taking care of it before it breaks can reduce stress on the system and possibly prevent a bigger issue.

6. Cracks

Some cracks in walls and foundations are harmless, but they aren’t something to ignore.

“One thing concrete does is crack, it’s pretty standard,” Wanninger said. “If you get cracks in foundation walls or floors that are considered expansive or starting to displace at a greater level, that may be the indication that you are having structural issues or movements that need to be reviewed before they become a bigger issue.”

Keep an eye on the size of the cracks. Measure the length and width periodically and note any changes.

7. Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

It sounds simple, but replacing batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors should happen immediately after they begin chirping, even if it happens in the middle of the night.

“At two o’clock in the morning when the thing does start chirping, your mind says you’ll fix it tomorrow and tomorrow never comes,” Wanninger said.

Better yet, replace your batteries annually when you change your clocks for Daylight Saving Time.

8. Darkening Ceilings Near Fireplaces

If you notice darkening on your ceiling or a sooty smell in your house, it could mean your fireplace isn’t drafting properly. That could bring deadly gasses into the house.

“There’s no second-guessing that. It would cause carbon monoxide poisoning,” Wanninger warned.

Tiffani Sherman is a Florida-based freelance reporter with more than 25 years of experience writing about finance, health, travel and other topics.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Portable Washing Machines: No Laundry Room Required

The saying goes that the only two things in life that are certain are death and taxes. They forgot about laundry.

Whether you’re sending it out or doing it yourself, laundry happens. Even if you end up buying a few extra pairs of socks to extend the inevitable, laundry will still be there. What isn’t certain, is exactly where you’ll have to do it.

Cleaning clothes can quickly become a huge pain if you’re unable to do your laundry at home. Lugging a full hamper down to a laundry room, hoping machines are available, digging in your pockets for quarters, all to scurry back and forth in time to save your machine from someone else stealing it. It’s a process many of us like to avoid but can find it hard without washer and dryer hookups in the apartment.

There’s a solution. Go portable.

The portable washing machine

Full washing machine running with a wicker hamper beside itFull washing machine running with a wicker hamper beside it

You’re not going to get a full load of laundry into a portable washing machine, but it will do the trick when it comes to giving you in-unit laundry when you don’t have washer-dryer hookups.

Portable washers stand around three feet high and are about two feet wide. They’re lighter than a full-sized machine by a significant amount, making them easy to move around.

Using a portable washing machine is easy, but it does need access to a sink. For that reason, you’ll want to put the machine in either your kitchen or bathroom. They may be in the way while running, but don’t worry about them having to stay in the middle of a room. Because they’re easy to move, you can store portable washers somewhere else between laundry loads.

Deirdre Sullivan of The Spruce suggests you invest in a special dolly to make moving your portable washing machine even easier. She says:

“While portable washers are movable, their size and weight can make them pretty unwieldy. A telescopic furniture dolly designed to double as an appliance base will make moving your machine a breeze.”

Setting things up

With an outlet and a sink close by, you have all you need to get a portable washing machine up and running. There may be a lot of steps, but the basic setup involves a faucet to attach a hose to for the water to go into the machine and a sink for another hose go into to drain the water out.

Next, plug in the machine to get it up and running. Once the setup is complete, you add detergent and run it like a normal washing machine. For any other specific instructions, consult the manual that comes with your particular model of machine.

Lightening the load

Because of its size, it will take more loads to do your laundry with a portable washer than if you used your laundry room. If you typically broke your laundry up into four loads: lights, darks, delicates and sheets and towels, you’ll most likely have to double your loads.

A good strategy is to plan on doing laundry more often. Having a unit in your apartment makes this easy. Rather than running back and forth to the laundry room, giving up an entire day of the weekend, you can now throw a small load in when you get home from work each night.

Picking the right machine

There are two primary types of portable washing machines. Top-loading, single-stream machines will “fit in more places and run through the entire wash-rinse-drain-spin-dry cycle without having to do anything,” says Dan Nosowitz from the Strategist.

Side-by-side portable washing machines have two compartments and require an extra step to go from wash to spin. The spinner compartment can also sometimes be smaller than the washer, meaning you can only wash as much as fits in the spin compartment unless you want part of the load to sit wet while the other finishes a cycle. These machines can also be slightly larger.

Other features unique to each portable washing machine can help narrow down your decision even more. It’s important to know what you’re looking for when you begin the search. According to Jody Healey from The Hunt Guides, a few things to think about before shopping around for a portable washing machine are:

  • Size of overall machine
  • Capacity of the washing tub
  • Cost
  • Electric vs. manual power
  • Need for portability, based on how often you’ll move the machine around
  • Location of the spinner, and whether it should be separate from the washer

The cost of owning a portable washer

Person folding laundry on their deskPerson folding laundry on their desk

Basic portable washing machines start as low at $80 new, although it may be worthwhile to check for used machines in good condition online first. You may find a machine with a few more features at an affordable cost.

Buying new machines above the basic level can cost up to a few hundred dollars. Machines at the top of the line, with more bells and whistles than you may actually need, can cost as much as $800. This is what the initial purchase will set you back, but the real cost comes from actually using the machine.

What you spend

Regular use of a new appliance in your home impacts utilities. Your water and electricity bills will increase, although probably not too much. You also lose access to your bathtub or sink while the portable washing machine is in use, so it costs you a little space.

A cycle does often take longer than a standard machine and the loads are smaller. This means it’s going to take longer to wash all your clothes using this method, so the biggest cost of using a portable washer may be time.

Another potential cost of a portable washing machine is the damage it can cause to your apartment’s floor. Machines can produce a lot of moisture on their underside. This can lead to floor damage you may end up paying for when you move out of your apartment. Make sure to keep the machine away from carpet and hardwood floors to cut risk.

What you save

On the flip side, what a portable washing machine can save you may make the costs worth it. This is a great option if your apartment doesn’t have hookups and you’re overusing the coin-operated laundry room in your building.

Save the stress of worrying about having access to a machine at the time that’s best for you to clean your clothes. Save the annoyance of clothing going missing or someone taking your clothes out of a machine, leaving them wet and at risk of getting dirty all over again.

A portable washing machine gives you the added security of doing your laundry in your own home. The machine is always available and nobody else can mess with your stuff.

The portable dryer decision

Woman using clips to hand wet clothing on a drying rackWoman using clips to hand wet clothing on a drying rack

To own or not to own a portable dryer, that is the question. While a portable washer is necessary to get your clothes clean, having a companion dryer isn’t always a must. If you’re interested though, they do exist.

They work like a full-sized dryer, tumbling your clothes with blown-in heat, but like a portable washing machine, these dryers are smaller. Basic models cost around $90 but can get as expensive as $600 based on the features you need.

“All that you have to do is pop your clothing into the dryer and allow it to dry the items completely, putting your mind at ease…” says the site, OMO, who also shares that using a dryer saves you from having drying clothes taking up space needed for other purposes.

Speaking of space, if you have enough of it to hang laundry to dry, you can save money on the added electricity costs from running a portable dryer. Remember, hanging clothes to dry means they’re going to drip. Aim for a spot over your bathtub or somewhere where a puddle won’t be damaging or dangerous if it forms.

Invest in some metal hook clips or something similar for a space-saving trick to get more drying space on your shower rod. You can also place a collapsible drying rack into your bathtub for clothing. If you decide air drying is best, consider doing laundry at night so clothes can dry while you sleep and get put away easily the next day.

Go for a combo

Woman dropping dirty socks into the washing machine from the perspective of the washerWoman dropping dirty socks into the washing machine from the perspective of the washer

Another portable option is a washer/dryer combo. These are slightly different than if you buy a portable washer and dryer separately. The dryer in a combo machine does not use heat to dry. Instead, it spins the clothes to wick the water away, which means clothing may come out a little damp.

Still, a compact and lightweight machine, some combo units can wash and dry at the same time, speeding along a complete laundry cycle. The cost is right around $100 on average, and the most frequent complaint is that the dryer doesn’t get lint off clothing (there’s no lint trap.)

Get the laundry clean

While it’s ultimately all about getting your clothes clean, having an alternative to using the building laundry room may sound appealing. Before deciding to go portable, make sure to check with your property manager that it’s OK to use this type of appliance in your apartment.

Your lease may prohibit them based on the age of your building and whether you have on-site laundry. Once you get the green light, it’s time to find the best portable washer, dryer or washer/dryer combo that works for your space.

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Source: apartmentguide.com