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Category Archives for Saving Money

Increasing Your Property Value With a New Roof

The style of your roof can be as unique as your home. When trying to understand your roof or looking to replace your roof, it is important to know the different styles that roofs often come in. Most often the styles available are dependent on the climate you live in.

There are many different styles of roof that you can turn to depending on your climate. Colder climates may turn to an atypical tin roof whereas warm climates may turn towards a flat roof style. Not only is their a difference in the style of roof and materials used, but also in color chosen.

In warmer climates, having a lighter color (not black) roof will make it so that your house stays cooler and doesn’t absorb so much heat.

If you are going to spend the money to get your roof redone, you may as well go a bit further to make it so that your roof becomes a desirable feature within your home.

This can work to increase your property value and draw more excitement into your home. The roof of your home is a largely underused space but when handled correctly can turn into a focal point.

Wood Shingles

If you are looking to stay semi-traditional but don’t want to look like your neighbors, wood shingles are an excellent option. These can add a flair to your home without costing loads of money or extra time to install.

They will protect your home and cost roughly the same to install. Wood shingles also have a drastic positive effect on the value of your home, something to consider if you are thinking about selling your home.

Green Roofing

In the last few years people have become more environmentally conscious. Green roofs are a product of this. Essentially this is a flat roof that has grass and plants growing on it. It has a waterproof, reinforced base which allows the roof to retain water and dirt for the plants to grow.

When compared to a regular shingled roof green roofs are better insulators. They keep your home colder in the summer and warmer in the winter. Also, you will notice less noise inside your home as they insulate against noise pollution. This also allows you to grow a garden and patio on your roof.

Solar Panels

Continuing with the green theme solar panels are taking over. The years have been kind to this roofing addition and the prices have dropped dramatically.

If your home receives a lot of sunlight throughout the year it may be a good idea to look into solar power. Yes there is a high initial cost but switching can actually end up making you money down the road.

Build a Living Space

If your building code allows it a rooftop patio is a great way to not only increase value of your home, but also add more usable square footage. This is an excellent option if you are living in the city or have a smaller home.

Final Thoughts

Your roof doesn’t have to be the same mundane area that it is in so many houses. Paying a bit more attention to give your roof new life can work to drastically increase your houses property value and appeal.

Have you incorporated one of these roofing styles into your home? Let us know how you like it in the comment section below.

When Does a Roof Need to Be Replaced?

Deciding when the best time to replace your roof isn’t always easy. A roof can need to be replaced for many reasons, some of which are not easy to spot from looking at it.

Age of the Roof

The largest factor in determining this is the age of the roof. Every roof has a lifespan that needs to be recorded. Roofs usually last for around 25 to more than 30 years before they need to be replaced. It is important that despite their relatively long lifespan, that they get inspected regularly for potential maintenance. That doesn’t mean they don’t need to be maintained or inspected more regularly.

The following should be considered when deciding how long your roof has left and whether or not it may be time to replace.

Previous Installation

How it was installed is a good way to tell if it needs to be redone. You need to know what to look for, but can easily be done by just looking at it. Once you are on the roof look for the joins. For example, where the chimney meets the slope.

Is there flashing that extends up the chimney? Checking to make sure that it is present and not cracked is important as this is what weatherproofs your chimney and provides watertight seals.

If it is under the 20 year mark but shingles are falling off or you notice leaks, it is recommended to get your roof inspected by a professional. Oftentimes this may be covered by your warranty.

Roof Condition

Just looking at the overall shape is another great way to tell. The most obvious things to look for are moss growing or any discoloration. This is not a good sign.

If there is moss growing on your roof it usually means that water is not draining and instead pooling which creates an ideal spot for nature to take over. This can cause significant damage to not only the shingles and sheathing, but also the frame of the roof. Catching this early on is crucial.

Inspect the Shingles

There are many ways to tell if you need to consider replacing your roof just by looking at the shingles. Obviously if some are missing you will have to investigate and remedy it. But also if they are curling or buckling. This is one of the signs that your shingles are past their life expectancy.

Another warning sign is sand in your eaves. Shingles that start to lose their effectiveness start to shed causing what seems to be a sand build up in your eaves.

If you are experiencing any of these it is time to have your roof inspected by a professional. We recommend you doing a visual inspection of your roof about twice a year to maintain its integrity.

This way you can catch a potential problem early and are more likely to get it covered by your warranty. This is especially true in colder climates where harsh weather and heavy snowfall can do potential damage.

Have you recently had to replace your roof? Talk to us about how you found the process in the comment section below.

How to Choose Builders, Contractors & Remodeling Pros

Once you've decided to do a project to improve your home, the first challenge will be selecting the right contractor. This often confuses even the savviest of homeowners. But don't worry, we've got your back.

Turning to “neighborhood” web sites or social media for advice doesn't provide the full picture. You can be certain that at least some of the info is biased. Believe it or not, many reviews on the internet are fake (hopefully that's not a revelation). 

Often someone will recommend a service provider for one task, based on their experience in a completely different task. Our recommendation is to get multiple bids and as much info as possible. 

In 2015, a national poll showed that 30% of all homeowners believe the most difficult part of any home improvement project is just finding the right pro to do the job. Because the home improvement market is so complex, it is 

In order to help you out, we've assembled the following list. Use your knowledge and intuition, just as you would when hiring any home renovation professional. Consider the complexity of the project and how to ensure that you hire the right pro. Don’t worry, with the right guidance you can find a great contractor who will make sure your purchase is the ideal one for your home and objectives.

  1. First, make a list of requirements according to your local municipality. Building according to code matters. It matters to quality and to your insurance company. They'll only cover you if you do thing right. 
  2. Collect a list of contractors that meet these guidelines. Ask for recommendations from family or neighbors but be sure to check several sources and verify all licensing, certifications and insurance (that the contractor carries liability insurance that is). 
  3. Once you have a list, contact each provider and ask for an estimate. Usually an installer will visit your home, and if they don't it's a red flag. Use this step to filter out substandard installers and get info up front before a site visit. This will help avoid numerous sales pitches and create a short list of contractors with minimal effort.
  4. After you get the first few quotes, review the information. Take note of the equipment choices, experience, pricing, and availability of each contractor. Then rank each according to your own preferences.
  5. Contact the top 2-3 contractors and request a final estimate. Make sure to talk through the options with each and if you have a preference, ask the pro to revise his/her estimates. 
  6. After you get the final evaluations, create a list of the top factors in your decision and assess the offers on each of the important categories. Your list should include:
  • Availability
  • Licensing
  • Experience
  • Equipment
  • Reputation
  • Price
  • Services Provided

Explanations:
- Services Provided - find out what services are included in the contract. This should include permits, change orders, etc.
- Price - don't automatically accept the lowest price. In fact, we'd advise first choosing the top installer from your evaluation and then negotiating cost with that company.

7. Finally, find out if the installer offers any financing or credit options. Even if you plan on paying for the system in full, some installers have special incentives such as interest fee financing to provide funding until rebates are obtained, etc.

Hiring a contractor can seem like a tough job at first. This is especially true for specialized jobs like installing solar panels. Fortunately, most homeowners who have done renovations themselves are happy to talk about their experiences. Speak to as many homeowners as possible and evaluate what works best for you and your own goals. 

30 Tips for Increasing Your Home’s Value

Home Improvements: Under $100

Tip 1: Spend an hour with a pro.
Invite a realtor or interior designer over to check out your home. Many realtors will do this as a courtesy, but you will probably have to pay a consultation fee to a designer. Check with several designers in your area; a standard hourly fee is normally less than $100, and in an hour they can give you lots of ideas for needed improvements. Even small suggested improvements, such as paint colors or furniture placement, can go a long way toward improving the look and feel of your home.

Tip 2: Inspect it.
Not every home improvement is cosmetic. Deteriorating roofs, termite infestation or outdated electrical systems — you can’t fix it if you don’t know it’s broken. Hire an inspector to check out the areas of your home that you don’t normally see. They may discover hidden problems that could negatively impact your home’s value. Small problems (such as a hidden water leak) can become big, expensive problems quickly; the longer you put off repairs, the more expensive those repairs will be.
Tip 3: Paint, paint, paint.
One of the simplest, most cost-effective improvements of all is paint! Freshly painted rooms look clean and updated — and that spells value. When selecting paint colors, keep in mind that neutrals appeal to the greatest number of people, therefore making your home more desirable. On average, a gallon of paint costs around $25, leaving you plenty of money to buy rollers, painter’s tape, drop cloths and brushes. So buy a few gallons and get busy!
Tip 4: Find inspiration.
An alternative to hiring a designer is to search for remodeling and decorating inspiration in design-oriented magazines, books, TV shows and websites. Simply tear out or print off the ideas you want to try and start your to-do list. Keep it simple — when remodeling on a tight budget, do-it-yourself projects are best.
Tip 5: Cut energy costs.
The amount of money you spend each month on energy costs may seem like a fixed amount, but many local utility companies provide free energy audits of their customers’ homes. They can show you how to maximize the energy efficiency of your home. An energy-efficient home will save you money now, which can be applied to other updates, and is a more valuable and marketable asset in the long run.

Home Improvements: $100-$200

Tip 1: Plant a tree.
If you aren’t planning to sell your house today, plan for the future with a landscaping improvement that will mature over time. Plant shade trees — not only will mature trees make your home more desirable but a fully grown, properly placed tree can cut your cooling costs by as much as 40 percent. Mature landscaping is also good for the environment, providing a necessary habitat for wildlife while adding valuable curb appeal to your home.
Tip 2: Low-maintenance landscaping saves you money now, adds value when you sell.
No question that shrubs and colorful plants will add curb appeal to any home, but when shopping at your local garden center, make sure that you “think green.” Purchase plants that are native to your region or plants that are drought-tolerant; these require less water and maintenance, which means more savings to you and more green in your wallet.
Tip 3: Add a money-saving luxury.
Speaking of water, here’s another way to tap into extra savings; install a water filtration system in your kitchen. Not only do these systems purify your water, they will also lower your grocery bills — no more bottled water. A water filtration system is an inexpensive addition, but it’s the sort of small luxury that homebuyers love.
Tip 4: Improve the air quality inside your home.
Air quality isn’t just about the conditions outdoors. If you have older carpets in your home, they might be hiding contaminants and allergens. The first step to determine if these need replacing is to hire a professional company to test your indoor air quality. If the results prove that your carpets should be replaced, choose environmentally friendly natural products like tile or laminate floors. Hard-surface floors are much easier to keep clean, don’t hold odors, give your home an updated look and, in general, are more appealing to buyers.
Tip 5: Save the popcorn for the movies.
Finally, what’s on your ceiling? Few structural elements date a house more than popcorn ceilings. So dedicate a weekend to ditching the dated look and adding dollar signs to the value of your home. This is a project you can tackle yourself. First, visit your local hardware store for a solution to soften the texture, then simply scrape the popcorn away. Removing a popcorn ceiling may not seem like a big change but one of the keys for adding value to your home is to repair, replace or remove anything that could turn buyers away.

Home Improvements: $200-$400

Tip 1: A messy lawn creates a bad first impression.
Overgrown or patchy lawns and outsized bushes will cause your home to stand out — in a bad way. The good news is that taming your jungle is an easy fix. For a few hundred dollars, hire a lawn service company to trim your lawn and shape your hedges. Your curb appeal will go from messy to maintained without blowing your budget.
Tip 2: Cleanliness counts.
The old adage that you only get one shot at a first impression is true. So, make the interior of you home shine from the moment someone walks through the door. For less than $400, hire a cleaning service for a thorough top-to-bottom scrubbing. Even if you clean your home regularly, there are nooks and crannies that you may miss or overlook. Let a cleaning service do the dirty work to really make your home sparkle.
Tip 3: Visually increase your home’s square footage.
The size of your home dramatically affects the value, but square footage isn’t the only space that counts. Visual space or how large a home feels also counts. The key is to make each room in your house feel larger. Replace heavy closed draperies with vertical blinds or shutters to let light in — a sunny room feels larger and more open. Also, try adding a single large mirror to a room to visually double the space. Finally, clear the clutter. The more clutter, furniture and plain old stuff you have in a room, the more cramped it will feel. For less than $400, add an attractive shelving unit to an underused space and store your clutter out of sight.
Tip 4: Small bathroom updates equal a big return.
Bathroom updates are always a smart move. Even if you can’t afford a full remodel, small changes such as replacing dated wallpaper with a faux or textured finish and replacing old lighting will update the room without denting your wallet.
Tip 5: Add new energy-efficient fixtures.
A functional, decorative ceiling fan is a beautiful thing. It provides necessary light and, in warm months, creates a soft breeze reducing the need for expensive air conditioning. But, an outdated, wobbly, loud or broken ceiling fan is a useless eyesore. Replace old fixtures with new ones to make your home more enjoyable for you now and to increase the bottom line should you decide to sell.

Home Improvements: $400-$750

Tip 1: Even small changes in the bathroom equal a big return.
A great room to update for less than $750 is the bathroom. The two rooms that benefit most from even small renovations are the kitchen and bathroom. One cost-effective change — like replacing an outdated vanity, old plumbing and lighting fixtures or adding a new tile floor — will guarantee a lot of bang for your buck and give your bath an updated, modern look.
Tip 2: Any kitchen update equals added value.
The same rule applies in the kitchen. You don’t have to start from scratch to create a winning recipe. For maximizing your home’s value, kitchen updates are key. Start by swapping out just one item, such as a stained sink or ancient microwave for shiny new stainless models. Even small kitchen updates will add big value to your home.
Tip 3: Replace any worn carpets or area rugs.
Take a look at your home’s soft flooring. Are your carpets and area rugs stained or worn? Nothing turns buyers off more than the thought that they will immediately need to replace all of the flooring in a home. Ideally, you may want to replace them all, but if a limited budget puts a snag in that plan, start by replacing the carpet in the room that shows the most wear and tear and replace the others as your finances allow.
Tip 4: Keep up with regular maintenance and repairs.
Walk around your home and make a list of all the little things that are broken or in need of repair. Individually, small repairs might not seem important, but if every room has just one thing wrong, those small things will add up to create the impression that your home has been neglected. If you don’t feel comfortable tackling the repairs yourself, hire a handyman for a day and watch your “to do” list disappear. Staying on top of maintenance today eliminates problems down the road should you decide to sell.
Tip 5: Get help with getting organized.
Hire a professional organizer for a day. They will show you how to organize various rooms in your home and teach you tricks for keeping it organized. How does this increase your home’s value? Simple — a clutter-free home appears cleaner and larger, which is more attractive to homebuyers and therefore more valuable.

Home Improvements: $750-$1,000

Tip 1: Go tankless.
Upgrade your standard water heater for a tankless model. Most old-fashioned water heaters keep 50 or so gallons of water hot, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, whether you use the water or not. Tankless water heaters heat only the water you need as you need it. Not only will they save you money now, but they’re an eco-friendly and cost-effective update that today’s homebuyers are looking for.
Tip 2: Upgrade your appliances.
Eighty-six the old-school appliances for sleek new energy-efficient ones. An appliance with an Energy Star label has been certified by the government to use 10-50 percent less energy and water than conventional appliances. Matching stainless appliances will not only look great now, but will make your home shine brighter than the competition should you decide to sell.
Tip 3: Go for the green.
Everyone loves a yard with thick, green grass. For less than $1000, in a weekend’s time, you can replace your existing patchy mix of weeds and grass with fresh new sod. You’ll be amazed at the difference this one change will make in your home’s curb appeal and value.

Home Improvements: $1,000-$1,500

Tip 1: Spruce up your ceilings.
One of a room’s most neglected spaces, the ceiling, makes up one-sixth of a room’s total area. Updating your home’s ceilings will net a lot of bang for the buck while adding architectural interest. First, if you still have popcorn ceilings, hire a contractor to scrape them smooth. To add a sophisticated custom look to a smooth ceiling, install crown molding or box beams for a coffered look. Ceiling millwork, an attractive feature prevalent in older homes, is rarely found in newer construction. Adding small touches like these will help your home stand out from the pack.
Tip 2: Update your home’s entrance.
The look of your front door and entrance play heavily into the overall curb appeal of your home. As visitors enter, the front door serves as the transition into your home and is part of their first impression. Entry doors are architectural components that should complement your home’s overall design, not detract from it. If your existing front door isn’t up to par, head down to your local home improvement store for a more energy-efficient and attractive replacement. Whether you choose a solid wood door or one with decorative stained or cut glass panels, a welcoming entrance will definitely increase your home’s bottom line.
Tip 3: Consult a design pro.
If you’re unsure of which design style or paint color to use, hire a designer. They’ll use discriminating taste and a trained eye to help with making the big decisions. Also, remodeling your home with a cohesive plan in mind makes all of your choices easier and ensures a pulled-together finished look. So, when you get the right mix of time or money, you’ll know exactly which project to take on next.

Home Improvements: $2,000-$3,000

Tip 1: Kitchen or bath remodels are always a safe bet.
Improving your home is a solid investment at any level — but if you have up to three thousand dollars to spend, a great place to start is by upgrading either the kitchen or bath. Either room is a good choice and you don’t have to do a complete floor-to-ceiling remodel to reap financial benefits. In fact, modest kitchen or bath updates can be your best bet for a big return, netting, on average, an 80-85 percent return.
Tip 2: Protect your investment.
For most people, their home is their single largest investment, so treat it that way. Hire a financial planner to work out a strategy for protecting your investment by analyzing all of the financing options that are available. A financial whiz can tell you if you should refinance to lower your monthly payments or pull out some equity to pay for value-adding improvements.
Tip 3: Bring the outdoors in.
Consider turning two standard windows into an opening for beautiful French or sliding glass doors. Full-view glass doors really brighten up the space and a light and airy room is always more attractive. Also, with a view of the outdoors, the room will feel much larger. Another bonus is that modern doors are energy-efficient, cutting down on heating and cooling costs. That means more cash in your pocket now and a financial bonus should you decide to sell.

How To Create A $1,000 Emergency Fund, Month by Month

All financial advisers such as David Ramsay and Suzanne Orr will advise that every household should have an emergency fund.  For a lot of people, just the thought of saving money when you’re living paycheck to paycheck is a joke.

The Paycheck to Paycheck Epidemic

In fact, a 2016 CareerBuilder survey of 3,200 full-time workers and 2,100 full-time hiring and human resource manager found that 75% were living paycheck to paycheck.

It’s not that working people don’t want to save; it’s just that too many of us are struggling with trying to pay the rent and put gas in the car.

By the time the month is over, there’s nothing left to save.

To help end the vicious paycheck-to-paycheck cycle, we put together this month-by-month guide to get you on track — and potentially put $1,000 in your bank account.

Month 1

Open an online savings or checking account and deposit $5. Heck, roll your quarters if you have to.

There are a bunch of great online banks, but one of our favorites is Aspiration because they offer an interest rate around 100x what a normal bank offers — plus there are no monthly fees.

Starting small may not seem worth it, but getting started is an extremely important first step! Just trust us.

Month 2

This month we want you to save $15 in your new savings account. Again, if you can do more, awesome!

An easy way to earn $15 is with Paribus — a free tool that searches your emails for companies that owe you money.

Once you sign up, the app scans your email archives for any receipts.

If it discovers you’ve purchased something from Amazon, Target, or one of the other 16 retailers listed on their website, it tracks the item’s price and issues you a refund if there’s a price drop during the return period!

You don’t have to do anything!

Need a different idea?

If you’re a regular Amazon shopper, you can earn money each month contributing to Shoptracker’s research on what people are buying online.

Download and connect it to your Amazon account. It’ll instantly send you a free $3 Visa gift card, plus another $3 for every month you keep it installed.

Month 3

Your goal is to work up to saving $100/month in the savings account. It seems lofty, but we’re going to help you earn it.

For this month, try and put $35 in the account.

An easy way to do is with these two market research companies: Opinion Outpost & Vip Voice.

These panels will pay you for your opinions on politics, movies and other subjects. If you sign up for both, you should easily make an extra $35/month (most surveys pay between $3-$4 each for 20 minutes of your time).

Heck, sometimes I fill them out while I’m watching Netflix.

Need a different idea?

Try selling some of your old stuff online. You can sell virtually anything on letgo.

This intuitive app lets you snap a photo and upload your item in less than 30 seconds.

Not only does it remove a lot of the hassle of selling things online, it’s 100% free to use.

But there are also apps for selling more specific stuff to people who might actually be looking for it.

For instance, you could sell old CDs, DVDs, Blu-rays and video games, cell phones and iPods to Decluttr.

Congrats! You’ve saved your first $55. That’s something to be proud of!

Month 4

Alright, this month it’s time to try and put away $100. It sounds daunting, but we’ve got a few ideas that might help…

You can try our list of 16 Companies giving away $1,810.25. These companies want you to try them out and will pay you to do so. Some of them are easier than others, but just check it out.

Or how about mystery shopping? Before our CEO Kyle Taylor became a blogger, he was a full-time, professional mystery shopper. And he got pretty good at it — earning around $5,000/month.

Here’s a list of the companies he worked for. None of them will charge you money to sign up. And if a mystery shopping company ever tries to charge you, it’s a scam. Stay away from those.

We know a lot of people are already working two jobs, but mystery shopping can help you earn money and relax with your friends/family at the same time.

Keep an eye out for restaurant mystery shops — you get a free meal and you get paid!

Months 5 – 12

Continue saving $100/month for the entire year. We want your year-end account balance to be $950.

Here are some ideas on how to make your extra $100/month:

How to Make $750/Month Selling Used Books

Get Paid $50 to Write a Guest Post

How to Make an Extra $50/Week Working for Amazon.com

How to Get Paid $200/Month Testing Websites

Year 2

It’s important to continue saving at least $100 each month.

Use your regular paycheck for living expenses and save any extra money you make from the ideas on this site.

Once you’ve reached year two, you’ve saved nearly $1,000. At this point, it might be a good idea to open an investment account.

Just one more piece of motivation: If you can continue to save $100/month for the next 20 years, you could end up with $106,022! Can you imagine? More than $100,000 in a bank account!

You can do this. End the cycle today.

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