6 Garage Sale Setup Tips to Best Display Your Items & Make More Money

Picture this: You’re cruising down the street one day, and you spot two garage sales on the same block. The first has racks of clothes, bins of books and records, and a few high-value items prominently displayed near the curb. The second features jumbled, messy piles and boxes scattered across the yard.

Which one would you stop at?

Presentation is crucial to a successful yard sale. You can and should advertise your sale, but you also want to encourage passers-by to stop and look at your wares. If your sale doesn’t make a good first impression, most will just keep going.

No matter how much good stuff your sale has, it won’t bring in shoppers who can’t see it easily. People passing on foot only have your sale in their sights for a couple of minutes at most, and drivers on the street see it for as little as a couple of seconds.

To draw them in, you must show off your sale items so effectively their first glimpse convinces them to take a closer look.

Garage Sale Tips for Presentation

A garage sale has two purposes. It’s a way to declutter your home and bring in some extra cash. And the best way to achieve both goals is to attract as many customers as possible.

When you’re trying to draw in shoppers, pricing isn’t the most crucial factor. Yes, yard sale shoppers love bargains, but if your garage sale items don’t look appealing, no one will even stop to look at the price tags.

So before you even get out the price stickers, you need to spend some time thinking about how to set up your yard sale display to catch the eye.

1. Clean Your Items

Suppose you’re shopping yard sales looking for outdoor furniture. You come across a set that looks sturdy, but the chair arms and backs are coated in grime and their cushions are mildewy. Would you buy them or keep looking for a set in better condition?

That illustrates how important cleaning is. Something that’s otherwise in perfectly good shape becomes a complete turn-off for buyers if it’s covered in dirt. Even if you haven’t used something in years, it can come out of storage sporting a thick coat of dust that makes buyers pass it over.

So before you even think about how to display pieces, give each of them a quick touch-up with a dusting cloth. If anything is especially dirty, take the time to scrub it down with soap and water.

Some garage sale items need more specific cleaning treatment. Run clothes through the washer and dryer to remove dirt and odors, and give shoes a quick polish to remove scuff marks. If you have purses or other bags to sell, clean out dirt and debris from their interiors (and while you’re at it, make sure there’s nothing of value left inside).

2. Show Off the Good Stuff

Shoppers get their first glimpse of your garage sale from either the street or the sidewalk. If all they can see in that first look is a bunch of cheap junk, many will keep moving instead of stopping to browse.

There may be some real gems hidden toward the back of your yard or garage, but many prospective buyers will never see them.

If you want to hold a successful garage sale that attracts as many buyers as possible, put your most appealing merchandise front and center. In my experience, the best yard sale items for attracting buyers include:

  • Antiques of any kind — furniture, houseware, jewelry
  • Appliances
  • Board games
  • Clothing and accessories in good condition, such as shoes and purses
  • Electronics like TVs and stereos
  • Furniture
  • Musical instruments
  • Sporting equipment, including bicycles and camping gear
  • Tools, including garden tools like lawn mowers

In general, large items have more curb appeal than small ones. For one thing, they’re easier to see from the street. Also, little things like cheap toys and kitchen utensils aren’t that expensive to buy new, so they don’t offer the potential for a major bargain.

Another helpful strategy is to display merchandise likely to appeal to men, such as golf clubs or power tools, as close to the road as possible. In my experience, women are more likely to stop at a garage sale than men, so you don’t need to go to as much effort to reel them in.

By displaying things that typically appeal to them most prominently, you’ll attract men as well as women to your sale.

3. Group Like Items Together

Once you’ve drawn customers to your sale, you want to keep them there as long as possible. It might seem like the way to do that is to place everything randomly so shoppers looking for specific finds have to hunt through every table at the sale to discover them. But that strategy is likely to backfire.

As a shopper, I always find it frustrating when a yard sale has no clear layout. If I’m looking for something in particular, such as clothing or books, I want to see all the clothing or books available in one place. If they’re scattered across all the tables at the sale, I’m likely to get frustrated and walk away.

To make shopping easy for your buyers, group similar items together. Make one table for clothing, one for books, one for housewares, and one for toys, for example. That way, people can go directly to the table that interests them and start browsing.

If you have a lot of one type of product, sort it into narrower categories, such as children’s books and adult books.

To make it easier for yourself, sort your merchandise into boxes by category before your sale. On the day of the sale, you can simply bring each box to its own table and start laying everything out.

4. Keep Everything Visible

The easiest way for you to sort goods into categories is to leave them in their boxes. But that isn’t easy for your buyers. No one wants to bend over a box pulling out one baby onesie after another until they find the size and color they’re after.

Haphazard piles of stuff aren’t appealing either. I’ve walked away from more than one rummage sale because all the clothes were in massive, unsorted piles on the tables. Digging through them all to find the few outfits in my size would have taken hours with no guarantee I’d find anything I liked.

To make your sale appealing, lay your wares out in ways that make them easy to see at a glance. There are multiple ways to display different types of merchandise, depending on how much of it you have and what condition it’s in.

Clothing

The best way to display clothing is on hangers on a portable clothes rack. That keeps garments off the ground and makes them easy to sort through. If you don’t have a clothing rack, look for a makeshift alternative, such as an old ladder or a sturdy clothesline strung between two trees.

If there’s no way to hang clothes, the next best option is to arrange them in neatly folded piles on a table. That’s also a suitable way to display clothes for babies and small children.

But note your neatly folded and stacked garments will invariably get unfolded and strewn about as the day goes on, so you have to tidy up your piles from time to time.

Whichever method you choose, try sorting clothes by size, type, and gender. That makes it still easier for buyers to find what they want. A nice added perk is to display garments like coats with their extra buttons if you still have them.

Accessories

There’s nothing more frustrating than finding one shoe in your size and then having to hunt around for the other before you can try them on. You can significantly increase your shoe sales by taking the time to line pairs up together, either on a table or on a sheet or blanket on the ground.

You can display purses and bags on tables, on the ground, or neatly lined up in boxes. Or if you have a large tree handy, you can make an eye-catching display by hanging handbags from its limbs.

Jewelry is a high-value commodity, so it’s worth making an extra effort to display it well.

Wrap a piece of cardboard in fabric, then stick in pins or small nails to hang necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. You can pin brooches directly to the fabric. If you have coordinating pieces, such as necklace-and-earring sets, display them together.

Books & Recordings

Books are easiest to see if they’re arranged side by side with their spines facing out so people can view the titles at a glance.

The easiest way to accomplish that is to line them up on a bookcase or shelf. But don’t use a bookcase you’re also planning to sell because if someone buys it, you’ll have to remove all the books in a hurry and find a new location for them.

You can also display books by lining them up in a box with their spines facing up. Or if you have a smaller selection of books, you can fan them out on a table faceup so shoppers can see their covers.

Whatever you do, don’t stack books in boxes or pile them on tables so shoppers have to lift each one out of the way to see what’s below it. For all but the most dedicated book buyers, that’s simply too much work to be worth it.

These same display ideas work well for audio or video recordings, including CDs, DVDs, video game cartridges, records, and cassettes. (Yes, there are still people who have held onto their old boomboxes and are willing to buy tapes if they’re cheap enough.) Make the titles visible, and don’t force your buyers to dig.

Furniture & Home Goods

When displaying furniture at a yard sale, consider what type of buyer it would appeal to.

Place sturdy pieces suitable for families near the street, where they’ll draw buyers in. Older, worn-out pieces might appeal to students furnishing a dorm room or DIY fans looking for pieces to make over. Display these pieces farther back but with prominent labels indicating their low prices.

Antique furniture creates a bit of a dilemma. On one hand, it’s an appealing item that can attract shoppers. However, if you place a lightweight piece too close to the street, an ambitious thief could snatch it when you turn your back. Large and heavy furnishings can go in the front, but it’s best to place smaller ones close to the checkout where you can keep an eye on them.

For smaller home decor, consider maximizing its visual appeal by creating little vignettes.

For instance, you can toss a bedspread over a couch to show off its pattern and add a couple of matching throw pillows. To sell a set of dishes, lay out one whole place setting on a table, complete with a napkin and flatware, and keep the rest stowed in a box.

Finally, if you’re selling old electronics, make sure you have all their parts — remotes, cords, and the manual if you have it — bundled along with the primary equipment. You can wrap them up and stash them in a clear plastic bag taped to the side.

Customers will appreciate being able to see at a glance that the equipment has all the necessary parts. And if they want to test the device to make sure it works, all the pieces they need are available. Consider running an extension cord to the house for testing purposes or at least having one handy for shoppers to use.

5. Make Space for Everything

Ideally, most of the goods at your yard sale should be on tables, so shoppers don’t have to bend down to look at them. If you don’t have enough tables to display your wares, borrow from neighbors or friends.

Also, look for ways to create more “table” space from scratch. For instance, you can lay plywood over a pair of sawhorses, milk crates, or even cardboard boxes. You can also use any naturally elevated surfaces in your yard, such as porch steps or retaining walls.

If you’ve tried all these tricks and still don’t have enough table space for everything, prioritize. Reserve your table space for high-value merchandise you really want buyers to see and delicate pieces that could break if left on the ground. Everything else can go on blankets or tarps.

Set out comfortable chairs for yourself and any helpers so you don’t have to spend the whole day on your feet. Set them near a small table or another surface you can use for making change and bagging purchases.

6. Promote Your Sale

No matter how good your yard sale looks, it won’t attract customers if no one comes close enough to see it. That’s why even the best yard sale needs adequate signage.

Before putting up signs, check to see if your town has any regulations about them.

For instance, it might regulate how many signs you can put up, how large they can be, what materials you can use, and where you can display them. It may also have rules about how long before the sale you can put signs up and how long you have after the sale to take them down.

While you’re at it, check all the other local regulations.

Some towns require you to get a garage sale permit, and others limit you to a certain number of sales per year. Putting up signs puts you on the local authorities’ radar, so make sure you’re not running afoul of any rules. Otherwise, the fines could eat into if not exceed your profits.

Once you have any necessary permits and are clear about the signage rules, it’s time to set about making them.

Good yard sale signs are large, clear, and easy to read. Include the address as well as an arrow to point passing motorists in the right direction. If your town allows it, hang signs at all the busiest intersections near your house. From there, leave a trail of signs all the way to your house, pointing shoppers the right way at every turn.

Ensure your yard sale signs include the date and times of your sale as well. I always find it frustrating to see a sign that says, “garage sale,” with an address and no date because I never know if the sale is coming up, currently going on, or already over.

Listing the date and taking down signs once the sale is over ensures shoppers don’t show up on the wrong day.

You can advertise your sale online as well. Sites like Garage Sale Finder exist specifically for this purpose. Many local Craigslist groups have a section for garage sale advertising as well. Other places to put the word out include social media sites like Facebook and Nextdoor.


Final Word

A well-organized garage sale takes more work to set up than a haphazard one.

But putting in this extra effort maximizes the chances your sale will succeed once it gets going. Shoppers are more likely to stop for an attractive sale, and those who stop are more likely to stick around long enough to find something they want to buy.

By taking the time to display your goods well and price them right, you can host a great yard sale instead of just an OK one. And that helps you turn more of your clutter into cash.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Micro Wedding Is Sign of the Times

Micro weddings have become ultrachic in the time of coronavirus. These smaller weddings allow you and your future spouse to exchange your vows, enter into a legal relationship and get access to each other’s health insurance all while living through these socially-distanced times.

What Are Micro Weddings?

A micro wedding is generally a wedding with less than 50 guests. In the before times, micro weddings were often a cost-cutting measure as the most effective way to cut your budget is to cut your guest list.

When you cut your guest list, you’re cutting down on the amount of space you’ll need at the venue. Simultaneously, you’re cutting down on the costs of food, alcohol and favors.

During the time of Coronavirus, micro weddings are helpful to your health as well as your wallet. You may even want or be required to cut your guest list further than the normal standard of 50 guests.

Planning a Micro Wedding

When you’re planning a micro wedding the first thing you’ll want to start with is your guest list. You may only want your closest friends and family there for your big day. Or, in this time of pandemic, you may only want it to be the two of you and the officiant. In some states, you can even eliminate the officiant via a self-uniting marriage.

Whether you have a handful of guests or just the couple at your micro wedding, venues and vendors across the wedding industry have many ways to help you share your big day while saving money.

Get Creative with the Venue

Because you have a smaller guest list, your venue doesn’t need to be nearly as large. Your favorite art gallery might be renting out space, or you might be able to book a private room at your favorite restaurant. If a venue had a minimum guest count prior to 2020, those minimums have likely been reduced or eliminated altogether.

If you are absolutely set on having a larger wedding despite the pandemic, you could book your local park or another outdoor venue to make the event safer. Be sure to remind your guests that they still need to wear masks and observe the 6-foot rule even though the event will be taking place outside.

Newly weds get married as hot air balloons are released all around them on top of a mountain.
Getty Images

Destination Weddings

You may have a bit of pent up wanderlust, dreaming of a destination wedding. Destination weddings are usually micro weddings. Because you or your guests will have to pay for extra expenses like hotel rooms and travel costs, the number of people who can attend usually becomes inherently smaller.

There are certainly some Caribbean destinations that are allowing Americans to visit during the pandemic, and some of the resorts are offering great deals. But despite more and more Americans getting vaccinated, many people are still avoiding air travel. Be prepared for some guests to decline your invitation if air travel is involved.

Instead of air travel, you can either commit to a long road trip through locales where the infection rate is low, or pick a venue within convenient driving distance. Traveling in your car with other members of your bubble is a far safer way to get from point A to point B.

Remember that even if you’re fully vaccinated, there is still potential for you to spread the virus to your guests, your hosts and anyone else you may come into contact with. The more the virus spreads, the more likely it is to harm the unvaccinated, even if those unvaccinated people aren’t in your immediate circle.

Allowing the virus to spread like this also provides it with increased opportunities to mutate into vaccine-resistant variants, which could force us all into lockdown again until boosters for new strains are available.

Invest in Quality Videography

Maybe you never dreamt of having a micro wedding. You might even be upset that you can’t have a huge party with your family and friends.

One way to help soften the blow of having a micro wedding during the pandemic is to share your big day with quality videography. You can either livestream your ceremony or hire a videographer to document the celebration.

Because business has been slower and videography has new importance during the pandemic, some venues and videographers are offering discounts on these services.

Curbside Tastings

The mere fact that you’re feeding less people at your micro wedding means you can spend less on your wedding cake and any catering your micro wedding may require.

During the pandemic, some bakeries, restaurants and caterers are offering curbside tastings to ensure everyone’s safety.

Drive-By Wedding Visits

Maybe in normal times, your sister would have been your matron of honor, but she has a disabled child who is high-risk. Even though you are both vaccinated, her child is not. She can’t risk exposing herself to even asymptomatic cases of the virus as she could unknowingly pass them on to her child.

You still want her to be a part of your big day. If she lives within driving distance, you could schedule a drive-by visit prior to the micro wedding ceremony. Either she and hers could drive by your place, where you’d be on display in your gown or tux, or you could drive by her place, stepping just outside the car to show her how good you look while keeping a masked distance of well over six feet.

It’s not the same. It’s still incredibly sad that she can’t be there, and you might even want to consider postponing your wedding until she can attend. But if the show must go on, these drive-by visits can still provide you both with a special memory from your special day.

Include Remote Readings

If you’re having a Zoom micro wedding, even those who cannot attend can participate in your ceremony. In the case of your sister, she may perform a reading or conduct a prayer through the screen. You can customize your ceremony any way you see fit, using your creativity and the power of the internet to make your micro wedding all that much bigger.

Micro Wedding Ideas for a Smaller Guest List

When planning a micro wedding, you may find that you have a bit of a budget surplus because of these cut costs. Both the budget surplus and the fact that you’ll have far fewer guests at your wedding allow you to get creative and a little more personal with the finer details of micro wedding planning.

Hand sanitizer and face masks are set out for guests to use during a wedding reception.
Getty Images

Wedding Favors

The following are a few favor ideas you might consider for your micro wedding, depending on your budget and your wedding’s theme. The dollar signs are meant to show you the relative expense but the exact dollar amount of each is based on your own budget.

  • Masks. ($-$$) Masks can be custom-printed with names and wedding date, nodding to the extraordinary times we’re all living in while giving your guests a functional gift they’ll be able to use in their day-to-day lives. You may even want to make these favors available to guests upon arrival rather than at the end of the celebration. That way if anyone forgot to bring their mask, they’ll literally be covered.
  • Hand sanitizer. ($) You can find plenty of beautiful yet affordable options for custom-printed hand sanitizer right now. Instead of the “Germ-X” label, your label will include your names, the wedding date and perhaps some adorable quote about love. This is another good favor to make available to your guests upon arrival.
  • Fauci-approved smooches. ($) Want to DIY your micro wedding favors? One cute idea is to get a glass jar, fill it with Hershey Kisses, and affix a label that reads “Social Distance Kisses.”
  • Flip flops. ($-$$) If you plan on driving to the beach for your destination wedding, flip flops can make a great wedding favor. If guests forget about the sand and wear fancy shoes to your celebration, they’ll appreciate the option to switch to beach-friendly attire upon arrival. Because your guest count is small, you can ask each guest for their shoe size beforehand so everyone is accurately accounted for. You can also go the extra mile and order custom flip flops with your names and wedding date printed on them.
  • Custom luggage tags. ($$$) This option is a little more expensive, but if you find yourself with extra padding in your wedding budget you may decide they’re worth it. Luggage tags can serve as a token of hope that life will go back to normal soon and we won’t have to stress as heavily should we have to get on a plane and traipse through the airport.

Guest Book

Similarly, because micro weddings have so few people in attendance, you can use creative ideas for a non-traditional guest book. Your guest book can then be integrated in your day-to-day married life.

Here are some ideas that can be customized to any micro wedding budget:

  • Picture frame. ($-$$$) When you get your wedding pictures back from the photographer, there’s likely to be one photo that just blows you away. Before the wedding, purchase a frame where you can display that much-anticipated picture. Buy a frame with a removable mat. Then, you can have your guests sign the mat in lieu of a guestbook on your wedding day. Their well-wishes can be displayed in your home alongside your favorite wedding photo.
  • Ornaments. ($-$$$) Have you ever known someone who has a tradition of picking up a Christmas ornament on every vacation? Their tree then reminds them of all the journeys they’ve enjoyed. You can do a similar thing for your wedding day — especially if you have a small guest list. Instead of a guestbook, provide ornaments and paint pens coordinated with your wedding colors. Each guest will sign one. Every year, you can display your wedding-day memories on your tree, remembering those who were there with you.
  • Tiles or stepping stones. ($-$$$) Are you and your soon-to-be spouse remodeling? Or doing some landscaping work? If so, you can integrate your wedding day into your design plans. For instance, if you’re doing interior repairs and plan to lay tile, you can put out some tiles at your micro wedding in lieu of a guest book. Each guest would then sign one, and you could integrate your guest book into your home. If you’re doing outside work, you could have each guest sign a wet stepping stone, even adding their handprint if they want to. You can then integrate these stepping stones into your garden.

Stationary

Things are a lot more hopeful right now with somewhat improved vaccine distribution, but there are still so many unknowns. As you plan your micro wedding during uncertain times, you might want to familiarize yourself with some Corona-era additions to the wedding stationary world:

  • Change-the-date announcements. Change-the-date cards are now incredibly common for wedding postponements. Just like wedding invitations, these cards range from cute and witty all the way to incredibly formal. You can look for a template that matches the tone of your wedding day.
  • Virtual wedding invitations. Maybe you’re doing your part by giving the virus as few opportunities to mutate as possible. That’s why you’re doing a Zoom micro wedding with just the two of you plus your officiant. Paper invitations to your wedding are still a beautiful touch, but the most convenient way to invite your guests to livestream the event is through a virtual invitation. With virtual invitations, your guests will have access to a clickable link where they can participate in your ceremony live.
  • Elopement announcements. Whether you elope or simply choose not to announce to anyone but your micro wedding guests that you’re getting married, after-the-fact wedding announcements are a good way to include family and friends. Prior to the pandemic, these were commonly used for elopements, so you can find plenty of templates online even if they predate 2020. But you can also find pandemic-specific announcements whether you eloped or did, indeed, plan and have a few guests. Ideally, this announcement will contain a link to a wedding website where friends and family can view either pictures or video of your celebration after the fact.

It can be hard to break it to family or friends that they are either not invited or are uninvited to your wedding. But you are not the only one going through this situation. The silver lining is that because so many couples have faced the same circumstances, there are plenty of templates online and professionals who have worded the same sentiment for numerous clients. You don’t have to stress about the wording on your own.

Brynne Conroy is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder. She blogs at Femme Frugality.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Paying taxes as a freelancer

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice. See Lexington Law’s editorial disclosure for more information.

Paying taxes as a freelancer can be a bit more involved—and expensive—than paying taxes as a W-2 employee. When you’re a freelancer, you’re the boss. That’s great if you want some flexibility, but it also means you’re self-employed, so you are responsible for both the employer and employee parts of employment taxes.

When you work for someone else, your paycheck amount is your pay minus all appropriate deductions. That includes deductions for federal and state income taxes as well as Medicare and Social Security contributions.

But what you might not realize is that your employer covers part of the Medicare and Social Security amounts. As a self-employed individual, you have to pay the total amount yourself. That’s 12.4 percent for Social Security and 2.9 percent for Medicare—a total of 15.3 percent of your taxable earnings, not including federal and other income taxes.

When Do I Have to Start Paying Taxes as a Freelancer?

According to the Internal Revenue Service, if you earn $400 or more in a year via self-employment or contract work, you must claim the income and pay taxes on it. The threshold is even lower if you earn the money for church work. If you earn more than $108.28 as a church employee and the church employer doesn’t withhold and pay employment taxes, you must do so.

What Tax Forms Should I Know About?

Freelancers report their income to the IRS using a Form 1040, but they may need to include a variety of Schedule attachments, including:

  • Schedule A, which lists itemized deductions
  • Schedule C, which reports profits or losses from their freelancer business
  • Schedule SE, which calculates self-employment tax

These are only some of the forms that might be relevant to a freelancer filing federal taxes. Freelancers must also file a tax form for the state in which they live as well as with any local governments that require income tax payments.

If you’re planning to do your taxes on your own as a freelancer, it might be helpful to invest in DIY tax software. Look for options that cater specifically to home and business or self-employment situations. These software programs typically walk you through a series of questions designed to determine which forms you need to file and help you complete those forms correctly.

Six Tips for Doing Your Taxes as a Freelancer

As a freelancer, chances are you spend a lot of your time attending to clients and getting production work done. You may not have a lot of time for business organization tasks such as accounting. But a proactive approach to paying taxes as a freelancer can help you prepare to do your taxes and pay what can be a surprisingly big bill each year.

Here are six tips for handling taxes as a freelancer.

1. Keep Track of Your Income

Track your income so you know how much you may need to pay in taxes every year. Keeping track of your numbers also helps you understand whether your business is profitable and how you’re doing with income compared to past years.

You can track your income in a number of ways. Apps and software programs such as QuickBooks and Wave let you manage your freelance invoices and track income and expenses. Some also help you generate financial reports that might be helpful come tax time.

Alternatively, you can track your income in an Excel spreadsheet or even a notebook, as long as you’re consistent with writing everything down.

2. Set Money Aside in Advance

It’s tempting to count every dollar that comes in as money you can use. But it’s wiser to set money aside for taxes in advance. Depending on how much you earn as a freelancer, you could owe thousands in federal and state taxes by the end of the year, and if you didn’t plan ahead, you might not have the money to cover the tax bill.

That can lead to tax debt that comes with pretty stiff penalties and interest—and the potential for a tax lien if you can’t pay the bill.

3. Determine Your Business Structure

Make sure you know what your business structure is. Many freelancers operate as sole proprietorships. But you might be able to get a tax break if you operate as an LLC or a corporation. Talk to legal and tax professionals as you set up your business to find out about the pros and cons of each type of organization.

4. Know About Relevant Deductions

As a freelancer, you may be able to take certain federal tax deductions to save yourself some money. Tax deductions reduce how much of your income is considered taxable, which, in turn, reduces how much you owe in taxes. Here are a few common deductions that might be relevant to you as a freelancer.

Home Office

You can take the home office deduction if you’ve set aside a certain area of your home for use by the business. The IRS does have a couple of stipulations.

First, you have to regularly use the space for your business, and it can’t be something you use regularly for other purposes. For example, you can’t claim your dining room as a home office just because you sometimes work from that location.

Second, the home has to be your principal place of business, which means it’s where you do most business activity. You can’t claim the deduction if you normally work outside the home but sometimes answer work emails while you’re in the living room.

Equipment and Supplies

You can also deduct the cost of equipment and supplies that you buy for your business. That includes software purchases and relevant subscriptions, such as if you pay monthly for Microsoft 365 or annually for a domain name.

Make sure you have backup documentation for any business expenses you deduct. That means keeping receipts that show what you purchased so you can prove that the expenses were for business. You also have to be careful to keep business and personal expenses separate—art supplies for your child’s school project, for example, wouldn’t typically be considered valid business expenses.

Travel and Meals

Meals and travel expenses that are related to your business may be tax deductible. If you stay in a hotel, book a flight or incur other travel expenses that are necessary for the running of your business, you can claim them as a deduction. The same is true for 50 percent of the value of meals and beverages that you pay for as a necessity when doing business.

The IRS does set an “ordinary and necessary” rule here. For example, if you’re traveling to meet with a client and you need to eat lunch, that is likely to be considered necessary. But if you opt for a very lavish meal for no other purpose than to do so, it might not be allowed under the “ordinary” part of the rule.

Business Insurance

If you carry liability or similar insurance for your business, you can deduct it as a cost of doing business. You may also be able to deduct the cost of other insurance policies if they are necessary for your trade.

5. Estimate Your Taxes Quarterly

The IRS offers provisions for estimating your employment taxes on a quarterly basis. Self-employed individuals, including freelancers, can make these estimated tax payments, too. Paying as you go means you won’t owe a large sum every April, and if you overestimate, you may get a tax refund.

Quarterly payments are due in April, June, September and January. They can be mailed or made online. Depending on how much you earn, you may need to make quarterly estimated tax payments to avoid a penalty at the end of the year.

6. Consult a Tax Professional

As you can see just from the basic information and tips above, paying taxes as a freelancer can get complicated quickly. Consider talking to a tax professional to understand what all your obligations are and how best to reduce your tax burden using legal deductions. You might be missing a major deduction every year that could save you a lot of money.

And remember that as a freelancer, you’re running your own small business. That means paying attention to all your finances, including your credit report. If you ever want to take out a business loan or seek other funding to grow your business, you might need to rely on your good credit score.

Check your credit score, and if you find inaccurate negative information making an impact on your score, contact Lexington Law to find out how to get help disputing it.


Reviewed by Cynthia Thaxton, Lexington Law Firm Attorney. Written by Lexington Law.

Cynthia Thaxton has been with Lexington Law Firm since 2014. She attended The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia where she graduated summa cum laude with a degree in International Relations and a minor in Arabic. Cynthia then attended law school at George Mason University School of Law, where she served as Senior Articles Editor of the George Mason Law Review and graduated cum laude. Cynthia is licensed to practice law in Utah and North Carolina.

Note: Articles have only been reviewed by the indicated attorney, not written by them. The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, act as legal, financial or credit advice; instead, it is for general informational purposes only. Use of, and access to, this website or any of the links or resources contained within the site do not create an attorney-client or fiduciary relationship between the reader, user, or browser and website owner, authors, reviewers, contributors, contributing firms, or their respective agents or employers.

Source: lexingtonlaw.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

bathroombathroom

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

kitchenkitchen

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

hallwayhallway

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

What to Pack in a 72-Hour Emergency Kit: Printable Checklist

Prepare a disaster now before it’s too late.

If you want to prepare for an emergency but don’t know which supplies you need, download our printable checklist PDF to help you assemble a 72-hour emergency kit.

Emergency supplies to pack in a 72-hour “go bag”

With the frequency and severity of natural disasters increasing every year, emergency preparedness is more important than ever.

In an emergency, the federal government’s readiness website ready.gov recommends being prepared with a disaster kit (also called a “go bag” or “bug-out bag”). The kit should contain enough food, water and emergency supplies to survive for at least 72 hours after a disaster.

72 hour emergency kit supplies

10 basic survival kit supplies

  1. Water (1 gallon per person per day)
  2. Food (3-day supply per person)
  3. First aid kit (bandages, ointments, gauze pads, cold/hot packs, tweezers, scissors, hand sanitizer, isopropyl alcohol wipes)
  4. Medications (prescription medications plus over-the-counter pain relievers, allergy medicines, antacids, anti-diarrhea medications, laxatives)
  5. Flashlight or headlamp and batteries, plus light sticks
  6. Pocket knife and multi-tool
  7. NOAA weather radio (battery-powered or hand-crank), plus extra batteries
  8. Waterproof matches or lighter in a waterproof container
  9. Cellphone, backup battery and extra charger (solar charger, if possible)
  10. Cash (small bills), credit cards, prepaid phone card

Some emergencies, such as imminent snowstorms or hurricanes, create circumstances in which supplies are difficult to secure even days beforehand. The COVID-19 pandemic taught us just how difficult it can be to get certain supplies during severe outbreaks of illness.

Other emergencies, such as ice storms that wipe out power lines or earthquakes that block roads, make it impossible to get supplies. Power outages may close stores (or they may work on a cash-only basis). Wildfires, floods and tornadoes sometimes require quick evacuations with minutes’ notice.

It may be days or longer before help arrives, roadways are cleared or you get clearance from safety officials to return home. Assembling a bug-out bag containing the items listed in our 72-hour kit can help you prepare for most types of emergencies.

Additional personal supplies

Personal supplies are essential for security and comfort in compromised conditions, whether you’re in populated or isolated places. For instance, if you evacuate to a shelter, supplies may be limited or bedding inaccessible. In an isolated area, you might need tools to open cans of food or build a DIY shelter against the elements.

Keep in mind that you may lose electricity or cell service in an emergency. GPS may be unreliable, or you might lose your phone contacts. Have “old-fashioned” backups written on paper so you can reach people or know where you need to travel.

Carrying copies of important documents also can make it easier to prove your identity, access assistance, and stabilize finances after a disaster. Besides ID documents, consider packing copies of your marriage certificate, tax return, insurance policies, deeds, wills and medical records.

A lot depends upon the crisis you’re preparing for, but careful and proactive planning will cover the basics for most scenarios.

Bedding and clothing

Tools and equipment

  • Wrench or pliers (to turn off utilities)
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Manual can opener
  • Hatchet
  • Collapsible shovel
  • Whistle (to signal for help)
  • Plastic sheeting and duct tape (to shelter in place)

Documents and paperwork

  • Emergency phone numbers for family members
  • Local maps
  • ID documents (driver’s licenses, passports, birth certificates)
  • Legal documents (power of attorney, wills, trusts)
  • Financial documents (tax returns, deeds, insurance policies)
  • Medical info (medications, chronic conditions, immunizations, allergies, surgeries)

Personal hygiene and sanitation

  • Dust mask
  • Plastic cutlery
  • Toiletries (soap, toothbrush and toothpaste, feminine hygiene items)
  • Plasticware for food storage
  • Prescription glasses, contact lenses, saline solution
  • Plastic bags
  • Alcohol or bleach
  • Garbage bags and twist-ties
  • Disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer
  • Paper towels and toilet paper

Specialized items

  • Note pads, markers, pens, pencils, crayons
  • Books, games, puzzles for small children
  • Bottles, formula, diapers, wipes and diaper rash cream for infants
  • Assistive equipment for elders
  • Pet food and extra water, medication and leashes or crates for pets

Download and print our 72-hour kit checklist PDF

Download and print this 72-hour kit checklist PDF to keep handy during preparation. Once you’ve built your kits, store a copy with each one for easy refilling and repacking.

Download the Rent.com 72-Hour Emergency Kit Checklist

Customize your kits as needed, with different supplies for different emergencies. If you’re sheltering in place, for example, you might need plastic sheeting and duct tape. For evacuating from your home, sleeping bags and pillows would be more important.

Also, different areas experience different disasters, requiring different items in emergency kits. Specific weather emergencies require corresponding supplies.

Hurricane preparedness kit

In hurricane-prone regions, an emergency kit is vital. You may have to evacuate several days in advance and be stuck in traffic. Or, after the hurricane passes, it could be days or weeks before you can return home.

So create two plans: one for evacuation, the other for sheltering in place. Print and laminate each, if you can.

There’s a chance you’ll be evacuating or sheltering for a long time, depending upon regional damage. Plan to include rain gear (raincoat or poncho, waterproof boots), extra changes of clothing and waterproof matches or lighters. Also, seal your important documents — including cash — in a waterproof plastic bag.

Additional hurricane kit items can include water purification tablets, towels, duct tape, scissors and work gloves. Once an impending hurricane is announced, people often panic, making it difficult to gain access to even the most basic supplies.

Earthquake kit

Earthquakes often happen without any notice at all. You may need tools to quickly shut off utilities. Also, consider a fire extinguisher in case falling debris severs gas or electrical lines.

Extra dust masks can protect you against breathing in dust from falling debris. You might also need other tools, such as a shovel, ax, broom and rope.

If you live in a building with upper floors, have a rope ladder handy for a quick escape. Pack each person a pair of sturdy shoes with thick soles to protect feet from broken glass, wood splinters, nails and other debris.

72-hour kit tips

Store your emergency kit supplies in duffel bags, rolling bins (including coolers or suitcases) or other easy-to-grab containers. Watertight is best.

Be sure household members will be able to lift any emergency containers. The idea is to “grab and go” with the most essentials you can carry, in case evacuation is necessary.

Keep your kit in a dry area of your home. Refresh the contents every year. Make sure foods aren’t expired, clothing still fits and medications haven’t reached their expiration dates. Routinely refill and replace medication and food as needed.

Source: rent.com

Living Room Remodel: Should You Do It?

Living room makeovers can happen in various stages—they don’t have to be all or nothing. Simple, affordable updates like new lighting, paint or flooring can have a big effect on the room’s welcoming vibe.

Whether you have the budget for a total overhaul or you’re just looking for an easy update, there are some ways to get the living room remodel that works for you.

Recommended: Home Improvement Cost Calculator

Living Room Remodel Ideas: Top Elements To Change

Layout

Effective use of space makes a room feel comfortable and inviting. If your living room seems underused, perhaps changing the layout will make family and friends want to hang out in it more often.

For someone moving into a new home and starting with a blank space, looking first to the layout of the room is a good starting point. Where do you enter the room? Where does your focus go first? Are the windows situated for convenient placement of furnishings?

If you’re currently living in the home, but the living room just isn’t functional, look at the layout in terms of what can be easily changed.

What in the room do you regularly use, e.g., couch or closets? Where do piles tend to accumulate? Do the windows cause a glare on the television? Is your furniture arranged to allow for good traffic flow? The more effortlessly the room setup can support your daily movements, the better.

Recommended: Home Equity Loans vs Personal Loans for Home Improvement

Windows

Windows not only let light in, they affect our perception of how large, open, and welcoming a space is. Replacing them can be pricey, but might increase a home’s value and can generate energy savings: On average, 25% to 30% of a home’s energy use is due to heat gained or lost through the windows .

If the window itself is fine but the aesthetic is not, new window trim or window treatments can make a world of difference. Painting dark-stained trim can make a space feel lighter, brighter, and more modern.

Updating window treatments with floor-length curtains adds drama and interest, while Roman shades that fit inside the window casing keep things unobtrusive while still adding texture.

Lighting

Lighting is functional, of course, but it can also be an aesthetic choice. Think about taking a picture indoors with or without a flash: Room lighting has that same sort of visual resonance, affecting how the other elements of the room appear and how you feel in the space.

In choosing lighting for your living room remodel, consider if you want the fixture to recede out of sight or be a visual focal point. How bright or dim, warm or cool do you want your light levels? Where in the room will you need the most light? And adding dimmer switches to any lighting setup gives you loads of control.

Ceiling

Like the sky outside, what’s hanging above our heads indoors dramatically affects how we feel in a space. If you have a textured or popcorn ceiling, refinishing it to be smooth can instantly brighten and update your living room. It’s a messy DIY project, but one experienced painters or contractors can do while keeping the mess to a minimum.

If the ceiling would benefit from a new coat of paint, veering from the standard white might give the room a stylish quality. Light hues can create the illusion of a taller space, while something a little darker can evoke coziness.

Flooring

Along with layout and paint, flooring has perhaps the biggest impact on a room. It’s a large, dominant, visual element that affects how sound echoes in the room or carries beyond it, how much light reflects into the room, and how much dirt shows up.

When buying a new home, checking what’s under the carpet might reveal lovely hardwood floors in pristine condition—or it might reveal a mess of a subfloor. Knowing what you will have before signing the mortgage agreement will allow you to make a plan for any needed renovations. For a quick change, don’t underestimate a simple area rug.

Recommended: Top 10 Home Projects With the Highest ROI

Molding

Molding hits the sweet spot of a decorative finish that feels structural. The trim around windows and doors, crown molding and baseboards, picture and knee rails—all inform the character of a space and add visual interest and structure. In particular, if things feel blank or sterile, adding decorative trim can make a space a little more impressive.

Paint

Fresh paint works wonders. Even if you don’t have time or budget for anything else, reimagine the wall color. Samples painted on the wall will show how the room’s light will affect the paint. Many paint brands now also offer virtual ways to “paint” your room.

Just as a room’s lighting can affect your mood, paint color has an effect on one’s psyche, too. For instance, the color blue has been shown to have a calming effect, while red has a stimulating effect and can create feelings of excitement or even stress in some people.

Furniture and Decoration

You can replace it, move it, or just pull it from another room. Alone or in conjunction with other major changes, furniture and decor have a major effect on the finished space—and keeping layout top-of-mind when selecting furniture will help make sure it’s the right stuff for the space.

Using online room planners or going old school with graph paper to map out, to scale, what will go where is a good way to experiment without the heavy lifting.

The Takeaway

Deciding how much you can—or want—to invest in a living room remodel is likely the place to start after deciding changes need to be made. Some changes, like moving furniture from one room to another or changing a paint color, can probably be done inexpensively. But if the living room makeover is a total one, additional funding might be necessary. That’s where a home improvement loan from SoFi might help.

With lower interest rates than credit cards and no fees, using a SoFi unsecured personal loan to pay for home improvements can get your home into loveable condition in no time.

Check your rate on a home improvement loan from SoFi.



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.

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.

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Source: sofi.com

13 Ways a Food Vacuum Sealer Can Save You Money on Groceries

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything. Virtually no market has been left untouched, and that’s especially true of Americans’ grocery shopping and food-related habits.

People are eating at home more often and even baking their own bread. And food preservation systems like vacuum sealers are surging in popularity, according to The Business of Business magazine. It makes sense. With all the stocking up we have to do to limit the number of grocery trips we take, we now need a way to keep all our spoils from spoiling.

With an initial investment of between $20 and $100 or more, depending on type and quality, plus the cost of vacuum-seal bags or storage containers, it costs a little to get started. But ultimately, they can save you much more money in the long run.

Ways a Vacuum Sealer Can Save You Money

One of the selling points of vacuum sealing is that it can help you save money. But can it really save you enough to justify its expense? That depends on what you’re currently doing to save on food and other goods. But if any of these cost-cutting measures would help, the vacuum sealer is probably worth much more than its weight in gold.

1. Eliminate Food Waste

Food waste is a significant problem in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans discard between 30% and 40% of their food.

A separate 2020 study published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics (and covered by Forbes) backed that up, finding that the average household wasted 31.9%. Those researchers estimated this waste to cost the average household $1,866 per year. A family that can cut food waste in half can save nearly $1,000 per year.

And a vacuum sealer can help you do that. For example, you can buy a large package of meat, cook half of it, and vacuum-seal the rest for later in the week.

You can do something similar with other foods, like fresh fruit and vegetables or cheese. Use only the amount you need, then seal the rest for later, and you’ll finally manage to get through every last bite before it goes bad. But wrap cheese in parchment or wax paper before sealing it to absorb the cheese’s natural moisture (which can cause it to deteriorate) and prevent sticking.

For foods you plan to reach for frequently, such as cheese and fruit, use a plastic vacuum-seal container or reusable plastic bag with a handheld model. For foods you plan to use all at once, such as meat, you can use a traditional countertop model with bag rolls, which allow you to create custom-size bags.

2. Buy in Bulk

If you’ve ever been to a warehouse store like Costco, you’re familiar with the absolutely massive packages of food they sell. Buying meat in 20-pound bulk packages can be cheaper than buying it in a grocery store, but what family can eat 20 pounds of beef before it goes bad?

There are just some things you shouldn’t buy in bulk if you can’t eat them quickly enough. But a vacuum sealer changes the game by extending the shelf life of what you buy.

Using a countertop sealer and custom bags from rolls, you can seal and store many kinds of food long term if you follow the best method for each.

  • Meat. Seal meat in meal-size portions. According to United Kingdom vacuum-sealer company Grutto, vacuum-sealed meat lasts up to two weeks in the refrigerator and between two and three years in the freezer. According to FoodSafety.gov, that’s double to triple the time compared to storing without the seal. How long a specific meat lasts depends on the variety. But in general, discard any meat that smells off, has undergone a color change, or feels slimy or sticky.
  • Beans. According to USA Emergency Supply, dry beans can stay good for up to 10 years at room temperature. If you vacuum-seal the beans, which reduces the amount of moisture that can reach them, that can extend their shelf by another 10 years.
  • Rice. White rice has a long shelf life, but brown rice can go bad within six months at room temperature. According to USA Emergency Supply, vacuum-sealing brown rice can extend its life to as long as two years and extend white rice’s shelf life to a full decade.
  • Flours and Meals. Flour usually has a shelf life of about a year, but USA Emergency Supply notes that vacuum-sealing it can make it last for up to five years at room temperature. To seal flour, place it in your freezer for four days to a week to kill any insects or bugs in it. Then, place the flour in a brown paper bag. Label the bag if desired and fold the top over, but don’t roll it down (air must be able to escape). Place the paper bag in a vacuum-seal bag and seal it. Wrapping it in a paper bag first prevents flour from getting sucked into the sealer. Note that the vacuum-sealing process compresses your flour, so this method is best used by those who measure their flour by weight (ounces or grams) rather than volume (cups). You can use the same approach to seal other dry powdered or ground goods, such as cornmeal, corn flour, or breadcrumbs.
  • Cheese. Wrap your cheese in some parchment or wax paper to absorb its natural moisture before sealing. According to online cheese seller Cheesy Place, this storage method can extend cheese’s freshness by months or longer. However, soft cheeses don’t tend to freeze well.

Before you run out and stock up on everything on this list, note that you’re only saving money if you’re getting a good deal on things you’d buy and use anyway.

3. DIY Dump Recipes

Cooking after a long workday is a daunting task. Sometimes, all you want is something simple with as little prep work as possible.

On days when chopping, slicing, and cutting sounds like a colossal chore, dump recipes can help you put a home-cooked meal on the table with minimal effort. All you have to do is dump the ingredients into a casserole dish or slow cooker or scatter them on a sheet pan, no other prep required.

With a vacuum sealer, you can make DIY dump-meal packets and toss them in the fridge or freezer until you need them.

4. Batch Cooking

Mornings can be chaotic, especially if multiple people are trying to get out of the house. But taking some time to batch-cook ensures you have a filling breakfast that doesn’t involve golden arches, even when you’re short on time.

Batch cooking involves spending a day or two, usually over the weekend, whipping up large batches of food for the week or month ahead. And a vacuum sealer makes your batch-cooked food last even longer.

For example, spend a Saturday putting together some vacuum-sealed breakfast pouches with nuke-and-go meals like breakfast burritos, pancakes, or mini-quiches for days when time just isn’t on your side. Just pre-freeze anything that might squash when sealed, such as rolls. You can then store them in either the freezer or fridge.

And batch cooking isn’t just suitable for breakfast foods.

At lunch, being limited to an hour-long break makes it tough to avoid popping out for fast food every day. But things like hand pies, soup, chili, and stir-fries all keep well in a vacuum-sealed packet. Freeze hand pies before sealing to keep them from squashing. For liquids like soups and chilies, pour the contents into a regular zip-close bag and freeze them flat. Then remove them from the zip-close bag, and vacuum-seal them, placing them back in the freezer for long-term storage or in the fridge for use that week.

If you store them in the freezer, transfer them to the refrigerator the night before. By the time lunch rolls around the next day, they should be mostly defrosted, and a microwave can finish the job.

You can even use a vacuum sealer to batch-cook weeknight freezer meals for evenings when cooking just isn’t an option. Batch-cook large quantities of dishes like lasagna, meatloaf and mashed potatoes, or meatballs for spaghetti or subs, and vacuum-seal them in meal-size portions.

For lasagna, meatloaf, and mashed potatoes, pre-freeze them in smaller containers before removing them to a vacuum-sealer bag.

5. Long-Term Leftovers

Cooking large meals means having leftovers. But it can get boring to eat the same thing repeatedly, especially if you make a considerable amount.

Having a vacuum sealer means you can seal and store these leftovers for weeks or months instead of days like you can in the refrigerator.

You can also freeze leftovers into homemade TV dinners. For example, instead of freezing a leftover half of meatloaf, quart of mashed potatoes, and leftover veggies separately, put enough of each for one person into several vacuum-seal storage containers. All you have to do when you want something easy to eat is take it out of the freezer and reheat. They’re perfect for lunches or hectic school nights when you’re eating dinner solo.

6. Buy Food in Season

If you visit the grocery store, you can buy many fruits and vegetables year-round, but you may notice the price and quality of some foods varies throughout the year. Even though modern supply chains mean you can buy most food items any time of year, fruits and veggies are seasonal products.

With a vacuum sealer, you can buy food while it’s in season — or pick it from your own garden — when it’s at its cheapest and freshest. When you seal it, you preserve its freshness and quality.

Before vacuum-sealing vegetables, blanch them by boiling them for a few minutes, then dropping them into an ice bath. Dry them thoroughly, and place them in a vacuum-seal bag. According to the University of Minnesota Extension, blanching helps preserve the veggies’ flavor, color, and texture.

According to Food Vac Bags, sealed and frozen vegetables stay fresh for two or three years in the freezer compared to the normal eight to 12 months the National Center for Food Preservation says vegetables can stay frozen without vacuum sealing.

To vacuum-seal fresh fruit, start by cutting (if necessary) and freezing the fruit on a flat baking sheet. That prevents it from getting squashed during the sealing process. Place the frozen fruit into bags (preferably in single-use serving sizes) and seal. According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, sealed frozen fruit can stay good for up to 12 months. And according to VacMaster, sealed fruit stays fresh for up to two weeks in the fridge.

7. Store Herbs & Spices

Dried herbs and spices have a long shelf life, but they tend to lose their flavor relatively quickly. If you compare the smell and taste of a new spice jar with one that’s a year or two old, you’ll notice the difference.

People use some spices frequently throughout the year, but others are more seasonal. For example, cloves are a popular component in wintery dishes but may not appear as often during other seasons.

Vacuum-sealing spices can help preserve their freshness longer. If you notice you haven’t used certain spices for a while, place them in a small paper bag with the top folded or a plastic zip-close bag with a couple of small holes in it, then place that bag in a larger vacuum-seal bag. Pre-bagging prevents the spice from getting sucked into the vacuum, which could damage the machine. You can unseal them when you need them and don’t have to worry about them losing flavor over time.

You can also use a vacuum sealer to preserve fresh herbs as an alternative to store-bought dried ones. First, blanch the herbs by dropping them into a pot of boiling water for a few seconds, then immediately transfer them to a bowl of ice water. That helps them stay fresh for even longer in a vacuum-sealed packet. Just make sure you let the herbs dry completely before sealing them.

Note that herbs might not look nice after vacuum sealing, so they won’t be good garnishes. Vacuum-sealing just preserves their flavor. According to FoodSaver, frozen, vacuum-sealed herbs can stay fresh for months.

8. Save Space in Your Kitchen

Vacuum-sealing eliminates a lot of bulk. That can save you space in your refrigerator, freezer, and pantry, meaning you can worry less about space.

For example, vacuum-sealed meats, like ground beef, can have a much slimmer profile than meat packaged in the Styrofoam trays from the grocery store. Repackaging them in your own vacuum-seal bags also lets you control the quantity and shape of each chub.

If you like soup and chili, you can vacuum-seal loads of it without taking up too much room. To save space, spoon it into a zip-close bag, seal it carefully, and place it on a flat surface, like a baking sheet, to freeze. You can then remove the frozen meal from the zip-close bag and seal it in a custom bag. That gives you a flat package that’s easy to store in the freezer, either by stacking multiple bags or storing them straight up and down, like a file folder. The flat freezing method also makes it defrost quickly.

Sealing things like beans or grains lets you customize the way you store your dry goods. Some of these products come in awkward packages that are floppy and cumbersome in tight storage spaces. Vacuum-sealing pulls out all the air, creating a sturdy package that doesn’t shift as you search for other goods. Use reusable bags with a handheld sealer so you can grab what you need and reseal. Or you can use a vacuum-seal canister for even greater stability.

You can also seal bags of frozen vegetables or fruits in a single layer to reduce the amount of space they take up in your freezer. That makes it easier to keep them out of the way until you need them. You can also try sealing vegetables in smaller servings so you can use them in a meal without having to reseal what you don’t need.

9. Marinate Faster

Marinating meat or vegetables before cooking adds flavor. But marinating takes precious time. Many recipes call for placing food in the marinade hours before you cook — or even the night before — hardly ideal for on-the-go parents or professionals.

Vacuum-sealing the food in plastic bags can help you marinate it much faster. Make your marinade and pour it over the food into a custom bag made from a bag roll, then vacuum-seal it. With this method, marination takes only half an hour, though you can leave it longer if you want more flavor or tenderness.

When marinating, avoid letting liquid get into your vacuum sealer. A popular strategy is the paper towel method. Just put a paper towel between the food and the top of the bag. The towel catches liquid before it gets sucked into the vacuum sealer. As an alternative to paper products, you can use cheesecloth or something similar.

10. Sous Vide Cooking

Sous vide cooking relies on cooking food sealed in glass jars or plastic bags in a water bath at a precisely regulated temperature. You can use a sous vide cooker without a vacuum sealer, but vacuum-sealing yields the best results.

Using a sous vide cooker makes it easy to cook meat to the exact doneness you desire. Since you can set the temperature of the water bath precisely, the food never heats above a set temperature. That means getting the perfect level of doneness every time you cook with no risk of going over. If you like, you can even give it a quick sear on high heat after it’s done.

That’s fantastic news for those pricey steaks you splurged on. But it can also save you money by letting you buy cheaper cuts of meat. According to Serious Eats, sous vide’s low and slow cooking with consistent temperatures tenderizes the meat.

Sous vide machines are perfect for summer cooking since they don’t heat your home the way ovens do. Plus, you can keep the sous vide running while you’re not home.

You can use it to cook almost anything that benefits from cooking at precise temperatures, such as eggs or meat.

And with sous vide, you can cook your sides along with your mains. For example, toss some sliced potatoes, smashed garlic, milk, and butter for mashed potatoes into one vacuum-seal pack and some broccoli, olive oil, salt, and pepper into another and cook those along with a salmon steak or pork roast.

You can even sous vide foods straight from the freezer.

11. Waterproof Your Valuables & Emergency Supplies

If you’re planning a trip to the beach, expecting a large storm, or simply want to keep your valuables safe, you can use your vacuum sealer to waterproof them.

For example, you can seal things like important documents, your kids’ priceless artwork, and comic books or magazines. But be careful, as the vacuum could transfer the ink to other surfaces, make pages stick together, and crimp the edges. Instead, place them between cardboard sheets to prevent damage, then slide them into a custom-size bag from a roll and use the seal-only function. To ensure they’re also protected from fire, place them inside a fire-resistant envelope before sealing.

Vacuum-sealing is also a safe and efficient way to store emergency supplies like matches, candles, batteries, and flashlights. If a storm knocks out your power or damages your home, you’ll have dry equipment you can use while you wait for help. You can also seal away some cash so you have emergency funds to use during a disaster, when credit card networks may be down.

12. Camping & Hiking

Packing for a hike or family camping trip can be challenging, especially if you plan to stay overnight. You can only fit so much in your backpack without it becoming overly bulky, and you want to minimize weight as much as possible.

The vacuum-pack method works best for consumables or things you can otherwise leave on the trail or at the campsite unless you want to use reusable bags and pack a handheld sealer in your backpack.

A vacuum sealer draws the air from your provisions’ packaging, making it easier to carry more supplies. As a bonus, it weatherproofs the things in your bag so you can keep essentials like food and clothing dry, even if you’re hiking or camping in the rain. And it’s cheaper than buying larger bags or more expensive waterproofing equipment.

13. Save Storage Space in Every Room

The kitchen isn’t the only place storage space is at a premium. Vacuum sealers can help you pack away things you don’t use frequently and reduce the amount of space they take up.

If you want to vacuum-seal bulky items, like comforters and winter coats, you must buy special bags that work with your vacuum cleaner. But you can use your regular countertop kitchen vacuum sealer for smaller items.

For example, you can use a vacuum sealer to store seasonal items, like heavy winter socks, mittens and gloves, and scarves, until it gets cold again. You can just put the bags at the bottom of your sock drawer, where they take up a fraction of the space.

You can also use a sealer to seal things for backup or long-term storage, such as old baby clothing you plan to reuse for your next child or extra tea towels, handkerchiefs, or bulk-purchased cotton balls to protect them from water damage and pests, even if you store them in the garage.


Types of Vacuum Sealers

Before you buy a vacuum sealer, it’s crucial you understand the pros and cons of the different types of sealers and the kinds of containers they work with.

  • Countertop. Traditional countertop vacuum sealers are the most versatile. But they need space on your countertop, at least temporarily, which is a negative if countertop or storage space is already at a premium. Countertop sealers are designed to work with bag rolls, which allow you to create custom-size bags. But most also work with generic sealable containers and reusable bags via a hose you can attach to the unit. Countertop vacuum sealers tend to have the most efficient seal of the three when used with the bag rolls. But if you need to access something frequently, such as cheese or snacks, you have to create and seal a new bag each time. And they’re clunky to use with containers and bags if you don’t plan to keep it on your counter. Countertop sealers usually cost between $25 and $50 for a cheaper model, such as the NutriChef, up to $200 or more for a high-end model like the FoodSaver V4840.
  • Handheld. Smaller handheld vacuum sealers don’t take up much space. However, they only work with specially designed boxes or bags that are more expensive than generic vacuum-seal bag rolls. Handheld sealers often run between $20 for a budget unit and $30 for a more powerful sealer like the MXBold. That said, they’re not as powerful as countertop models, and some air will eventually get into the package after you seal it due to points of entry and escape in the sealing hole and zipper. That makes them best for short-term sealing or foods you reach for frequently.
  • Specialized Vacuum Sealers. There are a lot of specialized sealers that are designed to fit different needs. One example of this is the Vacuvita, which starts at $300. It sits on your countertop full time and is intended for frequent sealing and unsealing. It’s also more suitable for things like bread and chips, which a traditional sealer would crush. But it doesn’t lend itself to long-term storage. Then there are chamber vacuum sealers, like the VacMaster chamber sealer. They’re expensive but highly efficient and quieter than many other sealers. They’re great for people who want to customize how they seal food or who have lots of things to seal at once. It can also vacuum-seal liquid like marinades and soups for long-term storage. Chamber sealers are often commercial equipment, but there are comparatively less expensive prosumer (professional-consumer) models for home use.

The solution you seek may rely on having more than one kind of sealer. But you’ll most certainly need more than one type of storage solution. And there are several types to choose from.

  • Bag Rolls. Traditional countertop vacuum sealers work with special bag rolls, which are customizable. They’re essentially long tubes of plastic. You use the vacuum sealer’s seal function to melt the plastic together on one open end of the bag, cut the bag to the size you want, and fill it. Then you use the vacuum-and-seal function to pull out the air and seal the remaining open end. They’re also relatively inexpensive. However, you can’t reuse them, which means you need to restock regularly. These are optimum for long-term storage because they have the best seal and lose less vacuum over time than any other storage method.
  • Reusable Bags. Reusable bags are a fixed size and more expensive than bag rolls. But you can use them more than once, which can save you money in the long run. They’re suitable for foods you plan to use often because you can reseal them rather than discard them and start over like you have to do with bags from rolls. But they aren’t as impervious as the custom bags. The sealing hole and zipper are potential points of air introduction, and they can lose vacuum over time, meaning they’re not ideal for long-term storage. They can be a pain to clean and fully dry, and it’s best to avoid using them for things like raw meat or foods that can stain, such as tomato sauce.
  • Specialized Mason Jar Lids. You can buy special vacuum-seal Mason jar lids to seal jarred foods. For long-term storage, these are best for staples like cereal and dry goods. Vacuum-sealing with them isn’t meant to take the place of proper canning techniques. But they’re fine for short-term storage of things like soup and chili.
  • Plastic Storage Containers. For leftovers and meal prep, you can’t beat vacuum-seal storage containers. They’re expensive but reusable. But over time, these containers’ seals may weaken, especially if the initial seal isn’t good or there’s too much moisture in the container.

Just ensure whatever container you buy works with your sealer model.


Final Word

Vacuum sealers are useful kitchen gadgets that can help you save space and money. However, they’re not one-size-fits-all. You may even need a couple of different types of vacuum sealers to meet your needs.

For example, a countertop model that works with bag rolls can help you vacuum-seal foods for long-term storage. But you’ll probably prefer to keep a handheld model for everyday use, like storing leftovers in the fridge or sealing cheese or deli meat for lunches.

With vacuum sealers, the possibilities are endless. You can vacuum-seal almost anything, so you might find new and interesting ways to save space and safely store things throughout your home.

Source: moneycrashers.com

Diderot Effect – Psychology of Buying Unnecessary Things & How to Avoid

When I relocated to a new city, I moved from the apartment where I had lived for seven years to a newer one that had been better maintained. When I started unpacking my belongings, I was struck by how shabby my stuff looked in comparison and overcome with the impulse to buy new things for this beautiful apartment.

Thankfully, before I pulled out my credit card and started a buying frenzy, I remembered a short essay I’d read in a college philosophy class and realized I had fallen prey to the Diderot effect.

What Is the Diderot Effect

Named for the 18th-century French philosopher Denis Diderot, this effect describes the phenomenon in which the introduction of a new purchase or gift makes your existing possessions look dingy, old, or unexciting, thus sparking a spiraling pattern of consumption.

Say you buy a new couch, and you start looking at your existing area rug and side tables with a critical eye. So you replace those, and now your whole living room looks newer — at which point, the bedroom furniture starts to look outdated.

The Diderot effect is all around us, and it influences our purchase choices across all categories: the clothes we wear, the items we use each day, even our cars and houses.

So what is the Diderot effect, how does it work, and what can we do to avoid falling victim to the endless cycle of consumption and spending it provokes?

The Origin of the Diderot Effect

A French philosopher active during the Enlightenment, Denis Diderot was perhaps best known as the co-founder of the Encyclopedie, a general encyclopedia published between 1751 and 1772.

Diderot also wrote widely, publishing a number of essays on a range of topics, including “Regrets for my Old Dressing Gown, or A warning to those who have more taste than fortune” in 1769. This is the work in which he describes the phenomenon that would later be coined “the Diderot effect.”

The story goes that Diderot was either gifted or purchased a new dressing gown, which prompted the now-famous essay in which he laments this acquisition. “My old robe was one with the other rags that surrounded me,” Diderot writes.

But once he has the beautiful new robe, everything around him starts to look shabby in comparison, including his physical appearance underneath the robe. He feels the new robe demands that his other belongings keep up with the same high standards, so he begins replacing his old possessions with new ones.

Out go the modest prints he had tacked to the wall, to be replaced with framed paintings instead. He replaces his old straw chair with a new leather one and acquires a fancy inlaid armoire. The rate of accumulation snowballs from there, until he finds himself with debts he must pay by continuing to work and write.

In his essay, he warns readers, “Let my example teach you a lesson. Poverty has its freedoms; opulence has its obstacles.”


The Diderot Effect in Modern Consumerism

Consciously or not, we express ourselves through our possessions, whether they’re brand-new luxury goods or well-loved items passed down through several generations.

Possessions aren’t the only way to tell the world who we are, of course, but they are one of the subtle ways we convey our sense of self to others, often without needing to say a thing. How many times have you tried on an article of clothing or looked at a piece of furniture and thought, “This just isn’t me”?

When we buy things, we want them to fit into our existing tastes and standards. However, when we bring something new into our lives, we can’t help comparing it to the things we already own, which makes us look at the old items with a more critical eye.

Before you know it, the purchase of a new couch leads you to replace everything in the room, from the furniture to the light fixtures, in an effort to make it all “match.” What started as a new sofa becomes a spiral of consumption with no end in sight.


How to Avoid the Diderot Effect

You can probably identify examples of the Diderot effect in your own life. It’s common, especially in our consumer-driven culture.

Thankfully, there are a number of ways to avoid falling prey to the Diderot effect and stop the spending snowball before it picks up too much speed. Here are a few tactics to try.

1. Reduce Your Exposure to Temptations

The less exposure you have to brand-new things, the less likely you are to desire them. No one who lives in modern society can escape advertising entirely; marketing is simply too ubiquitous. But you can do everything in your power to reduce the temptation.

Stay away from physical stores, which are deliberately laid out to trick you into spending more. Avoid online shopping and unsubscribe from marketing newsletters and store emails. Cut down on the amount of junk mail you get and stop following shops and brands on social media.

If you don’t see as many ads or items beckoning for you to buy them, it’s much easier to control your desire for newer, fancier, more expensive stuff.

2. Put the Brakes on Your Consumption

If you have to tell yourself no each time you encounter something you might want to buy, you’ll quickly exhaust your reserves of self-discipline. Instead, set parameters for yourself and your family so you only have to make a single decision.

For example, you might decide you’re done with purchasing clothing new. You can buy secondhand and vintage items, and if you can’t find exactly what you want in those marketplaces, you simply don’t buy anything.

This way, you’re not saying no to fast fashion or retail stores over and over again, every time you walk past one on the street or get a tempting flyer in the mail. You simply decided to say no once and never look back.

Think about how you can impose a similar restraint or rule for your spending in other categories. Maybe it’s as simple as not buying any new furniture or household goods until your credit card debt is paid off, or doing a no-spend month or pantry challenge with your family.

Perhaps you choose a limit for your shopping budget, and once you hit that limit, that’s it for the month — the envelope system is a great way to do this.

3. Lend and Borrow

Instead of buying new stuff, borrow what you need and lend what you have. This strategy can sometimes take a little more effort, but the payoff can be tremendous, both in the cost savings you’ll see and in the relationships you’ll be able to forge with your friends and neighbors.

From lawn mowers to power tools to camping equipment, explore all the ways that you can borrow instead of buy, and be equally willing to lend what you own. Host a clothing swap with your friends. See if your local public library, church, or community center has a kitchen- or tool-lending library. Join a Buy Nothing group or other frugality group in your area, and talk to your friends and neighbors about how to pool your resources.

Borrowing not only saves you money, but it also prevents you from falling into the trap that Diderot did. Rather than buying new items that make the old ones look less exciting, you see these things for what they are — utilitarian items to be borrowed, used, and then returned to their owner — rather than a reflection on you and your tastes.

4. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle

Get into the habit of making what you already own last as long as possible.

Instead of replacing a piece of electronic equipment when it breaks, see if it can be repaired. Instead of buying your child a new backpack every school year, have them reuse last year’s or switch with a sibling or friend.

Instead of buying a whole new wardrobe for a new job, refashion or repurpose a few key pieces to quell your desire for something new and match your current aesthetic.

6. Match New and Existing Items

When you’re purchasing items for your home, pay close attention to the items you already own. Look for colors, materials, and designs that fit well with your current stuff instead of feeling at odds or out of place.

Go into a purchase expecting to own each item for a long time, and only purchase things that will fit in with — rather than stand out from — what you already have.

The same goes for your wardrobe. Look for pieces that work with your current clothing and accessories so you can easily mix and match rather than feeling compelled to buy an entirely new wardrobe.

You can still introduce new elements into your style if you want to make a change, but do it gradually rather than overhauling everything in one fell swoop.

7. Follow the “One In, One Out” Rule

One surefire way to avoid thoughtlessly bringing new things into your house is to stick to a “one in, one out” rule. By this rule, every time you bring something new into your home, you must get rid of something else.

Don’t allow yourself to simply set the old item out by the curb and forget about it. Instead, try to sell it on Craigslist, figure out how to donate it to a secondhand store like the Salvation Army, or give it to a friend or family member.

This is more work than simply putting something out for the trash, but that’s the point. By creating a little bit of work for yourself, you’ll be better able to resist the urge to buy new things except for when you really need them. This makes it harder to simply whip out your credit card and buy your way to a whole new living room while kicking the old stuff to the curb.

8. Reframe How You See Physical Objects and Symbols of Wealth

When you see a big new house or shiny car, instead of feeling envious, remind yourself of all the expenses that come with maintaining those pricier items. A bigger house means bigger expenses, from higher monthly payments to higher heating and cooling costs.

A luxury car not only costs a fortune but also requires costly insurance and upkeep. Remind yourself that living more modestly frees up your money for important financial goals, such as saving for retirement or reaching financial independence.

Rather than striving to acquire bigger and “better” things, practice gratitude for what you already have. Consider this famous quote from Epicurus: “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”

What are the things you once hoped for that now you take for granted? Make a list of those and revisit it the next time you find yourself wanting to redecorate or upgrade.


Final Word

By employing these tactics before my instinct got the better of me, I was able to keep my new house purchases to a minimum and avoid going over budget. I bought only the things I really needed and picked objects that fit within my current aesthetic.

Using Craigslist and relying on carpentry and other DIY skills to retrofit existing storage solutions and decor, I made my apartment homey and comfortable without falling victim to the Diderot effect.

Source: moneycrashers.com

5 Ways to Prepare Your Apartment for Summer

If you’re like us, you’re enjoying planting flowers and putting away your heavy sweaters as winter gives way to spring. The warmer weather is always welcome – until it gets too hot, that is. Summer’s not far off, and with it will come soaring temperatures that can leave you uncomfortable in your apartment.

You can’t stop the weather, but you can prepare your home ahead of time so those sweltering days don’t bother you too much. Here’s how to ensure you’ll be cool as a cucumber when the heat hits.

1. Have your air conditioner inspected

5 Ways to Prepare Your Apartment for Hot Weather5 Ways to Prepare Your Apartment for Hot WeatherYou don’t want to wait until you really need it to find out your AC is broken. Test your air conditioner sometime this spring. Does it not blow out cool air? Does it make weird noises or seem to work too hard? If there’s any problem at all, call your apartment maintenance crew out to fix it.

2. Improve insulation around windows and doors

Most people think of beefing up their insulation when they’re preparing for winter, but the same principles apply during the summer: You want your comfortable, cool air inside and the hot air outside. Block drafts by caulking gaps and installing new weather stripping (you may want to call the maintenance crew to do this for you). Hang curtains and blinds to keep direct sunlight from entering your apartment.

For a fun, easy DIY project that’ll keep you comfortable and save you money, check out our tutorial on making your own draft stoppers.

3. Clean the vents on your dryer

You already know that you should clean out your lint trap after each load of laundry. But you also need to clean the vent that directs excess hot air outside your home about once a year. If you don’t, you’re creating a fire hazard (talk about hot!) and some hot air that should be directed outside may instead blow back inside.

Cleaning your vent is an easy process. Here’s how to do it:

  • Unplug the dryer and pull it away from the wall.
  • Loosen the clamp that attaches the vent to the dryer and pull the vent away.
  • Use the hose attachment on your vacuum cleaner to suck up the excess lint and debris that’s collected in the vent.
  • Reconnect everything.

Another option to save money and keep you cooler is to use a drying rack to let your clothes air-dry instead of using the appliance.

4. Change the direction of your ceiling fans

To cool down a room, the ceiling fan should rotate counter-clockwise. This pushes the air downward, creating a wind chill effect that can make you feel as much as 4 degrees cooler than the room actually is. Creating this breeze is an energy-efficient and easy way to keep your home feeling much cooler. (In winter, you’ll want it to rotate clockwise so the warm air that gathers at the top of the room gets circulated.)

If you don’t have a ceiling fan where you want one, ask your maintenance crew to install one for you. You may have to buy the fan yourself, but they should be able to mount it on the ceiling for you.

5. Have plenty of ice on hand

Whether your fridge has an automatic ice maker or you have to do it the old-fashioned way with cube trays, you’ll want plenty of ice on hand when summer hits. Drinking an ice-cold beverage does a lot to cool down your body temperature, so make sure your freezer and ice maker are in good working order.

How do you keep cool in your apartment during the summer?

Image credit: Shutterstock / Jen duMoulin, You Touch Pix of EuToch

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Source: apartmentguide.com

Are Kit Homes Worth the Investment?

You can order anything on the internet these days—even a house. But as with other online purchases, it’s a good idea to do some research first.

Kit houses are often considerably more affordable than a new home custom built from the ground up. And just like other homes, they have the capacity to appreciate in value (though it’s not guaranteed).

Read on to learn whether or not a kit home might be the right investment for you.

What Is a Kit Home?

Kit homes, or modular homes, are sent to buyers in pieces so they can construct the building themselves (albeit usually with professional help). Think of it like an IKEA purchase, except you’re buying the whole house, not just a set of drawers… and you might need a crane to get the pieces together.

Remember the Sears mail-order kit homes? The catalog, debuting in 1908, offered all the materials and blueprints to build a house. Sears is estimated to have sold around 75,000 kit houses by the time the catalog was discontinued, in 1940. Many of the homes are still standing.

These days, kit houses come in a huge variety of designs and styles, from one-room log cabins to three-bedroom homes with sleek, contemporary designs. Many companies offer a menu of layout options, or buyers may be able to customize the features of a kit home before it’s sent to the construction location.

(Note: Kit homes are different from mobile homes. They’re built on a standard foundation, just like any other “brick-and-mortar” house, and cannot be moved to a new location once they’ve been installed.)

How Much Do Kit Houses Cost?

Case in point: According to HomeAdvisor, the average modular home costs $40 to $80 per square foot in and of itself. But with all of those other factors considered, the organization estimates that modular homes end up costing $100 to $200 per square foot, which works out to a range of $180,000 to $360,000 for a 1,800-square-foot home—or $270,000 on average.

That doesn’t count any land purchase, property taxes, or furnishings. So make no mistake about it: Even with a kit, building your own home is an expensive venture.

As with any other kind of house, a kit home’s cost depends in part on its size, design, and quality of materials. And while you can find kit home shells online for shockingly low prices, it’s important to understand that the cost of the kit home is just the start of the total building project cost.

A buyer must also consider any shipping cost and taxes, the cost of the foundation, the cost of preparing the property to be built on (including clearing the land, connecting to the grid, digging wells, and installing septic, if necessary), and, usually, the labor costs of actually putting the home together.

That said, HomeAdvisor estimates that the cost of building the same size custom home from scratch using contractors ranges from $350,000 to more than $1 million. So if you have an undeniable urge to DIY your homeownership venture, a kit house might well be the more affordable option. Just remember, either way, it won’t be cheap!

Furthermore, whether or not a kit home ends up being a more cost-effective choice often depends on location. While kit houses are almost always cheaper than homes designed by contractors when you’re living in an urban area, for those in rural zones, it may be cheaper to do it the old-fashioned way.

Recommended: Home Affordability Calculator

Do Kit Homes Hold Their Value?

One of the main reasons many people choose to become homeowners is to put money into an asset that has the capacity to appreciate in value over time. That way they can feel assured that the money they’re spending to keep a roof over their heads isn’t disappearing into the ether and that they can sell the home later and make a profit.

The good news: Many real estate professionals agree that kit or modular homes can appreciate in value over time and are often appraised similarly to stick-built homes (as opposed to mobile homes, which often depreciate in the same way that vehicles do).

But as with all things in life, and particularly in money, nothing is guaranteed. A kit home’s existing and ongoing value will depend on its location, quality, and level of maintenance, and just like other houses, might benefit from home improvement projects before selling.

Recommended: Renovation and Remodeling Cost Calculator

Can You Finance a Kit Home?

Even with their relatively low costs, kit homes are often expensive enough that most buyers will be unable to pay in cash and will need to finance the project. However, because a kit home is not an existing structure, the most common route for financing is a construction loan rather than a traditional mortgage.

Construction loans work differently than mortgages do: They’re much shorter-term loans, generally needing to be paid off in a year or less—although construction-to-permanent loans, which roll over into a traditional 15- or 30-year mortgage once the home has been constructed, do exist.

Construction loans can also be used for significant home renovations, such as building a home addition. For smaller home improvement projects, a personal loan will often suffice.

Keep in mind that because construction loans don’t come with collateral (i.e., an already-standing home structure) for the lender to repossess should the loan agreement fall through, they can be harder to qualify for than traditional mortgages.

Recommended: How Do Construction Loans Work?

The Takeaway

Kit homes allow buyers to avoid the costs of a custom stick-built home by delivering blueprints and materials to put a house together. But the base price of a modular home is just one part of the total expense.

Whether your homeownership journey involves a kit home or contractors, or you opt to purchase an existing home, SoFi offers financial products that could help make your dreams a reality.

SoFi offers a range of mortgages with competitive rates and a down payment as low as 5%, and also offers no-fee, low-interest personal home improvement loans of up to $100,000.

Either way, you’ll open the door to a host of exclusive member benefits.

Find your rate on a SoFi fixed-rate mortgage in two minutes.



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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