Summer is in full swing, and if your house is anything like ours sometimes it feels as if summer sucks the money right out of the front door. Between the high costs of water, air conditioning, having the kids’ home from school and everyone wanting to go places and do things it can seem as if there is never quite enough money for everyone who is demanding it. But how would you like to actually save money this summer?
I know that it may seem impossible, but you really can save money by using these three simple ideas to get started saving and let yourself get creative. Why only three? Because you are busy this summer and it is easier to stick to smaller, defined goals than a broad range of tips of and ideas. Once you get started though you’ll find yourself coming up with even more ways that you can save.
Save Money on Your Energy Bills
One of the easiest ways to save the most significant amount of money this summer is to acclimate your home and family to the natural cycles of heat and humidity. The best way to do this is slowly adjust your air conditioning to higher settings during the day. Take about a week and slowly adjust your settings each day. You may find that your weather is too hot and humid to go without AC altogether, but this method can significantly reduce the amount you spend on air conditioning. In addition, try turning the AC off altogether in the evenings and use ceiling fans, floor fans, and window box fans to keep the cooler outside air circulating through the house.
Also instead of running the dryer use a clothesline and hang them outside to dry. They don’t have to be permanent or bulky structures either. Many are portable so that picky homeowner’s associations won’t have a reason to cite you. Plus, kids can help you hang and remove laundry. And while we are on the topic of sun power why not look into a solar power buyers guide and see if solar panels are feasible for you. There is nothing like paying pennies for your monthly energy bill in the summer because you powered up with the readily available sunlight!
Save Money on Your Water Bills
Water bills can be prohibitively expensive during the summer, especially if you are trying to keep your yard green and also allowing your kids to play in the sprinklers. Well, there are several ways to cut down on your water bills. First off is to reuse all of your water, and I do mean all of your water. Save the water from your baths and showers as well as your dishwater. Mind you, you’ll have to switch to biodegradable soaps and shampoos, but believe it or not, your shrubs, flowers, houseplants and even garden vegetables seem to thrive on recycled water, so don’t be shy!
Another way to save money on water is to buy a kiddie pool instead of letting your children play in the sprinkler. Buy a pool with a cover or rig a mesh cover that will prevent leaves and bugs from getting into the water so that you don’t have to refill the pool as often.
Saving Money by Skipping the Vacation
The idea of not going on a vacation can seem absolutely depressing to most people. After all, isn’t getting away from it all what summer vacations are all about? Now I’m not suggesting that you not take a vacation, but that you don’t go anywhere on your vacation. No mind you, you have to do some preparation for this kind of vacation so that you won’t slip into your usual home routine. You can choose a theme (such as a Caribbean cruise or a Tour de France) and plan your meals and activities accordingly. You can schedule a number of day trips to local attractions that will keep you out of the house. The point is to enjoy your time off without having to pay the ridiculous hotel, restaurant, and resort fees. Just using this idea alone you’ll end up with money leftover at the end of the summer; money you normally would have spent on something else.
While there are dozens of ways to save money over the summer, hopefully these three have given you a place to start so that you can get through the summer without feeling as if your budget has been sucked dry and you can head into autumn with a little jingle in your pocket.
When you think about all the pollutants we breathe outside from the cars, factories, and businesses all around us it may come as a shock to know that in general, INDOOR air pollution is more likely to be a problem for us. Not only do the indoors have their own serious issues, as much as 25% of outdoor pollution can follow us indoors. Inside of doors you will actually find 2 to 5 times the amount of air pollution. Scary! Think about how many hours we spend inside. According to the graphic below it is 90% of our time.
What exactly are we breathing in during that 90%?
Dust mites, pollen, pesticide residue, carbon monoxide, pet dander, VOCs from furniture and paint, dust, mold, mildew, radon, carbon dioxide, car fumes, and much more. Yuck!
The healthy air checklist highlights some ways you can clean up indoor air and it serves as a great reminder about what products to avoid so we can make our homes less toxic. With a few changes in some of our habits and our consumer spending we can clean up our indoor air!
Indoor Air Pollution infographic from AirFilterBuy.com
There is nothing that says “clutter” like the bales of paper that swamp the average home. With just a few simple steps, however, you too can finally get your head above water and rid yourself of the unsightly paper clutter that seems to be a by-product of modern life and free yourself some precious space. While these are by no means the only ways to go minimalist when it comes to paper, by following these five steps you’ll find yourself well on the way to controlling the paper clutter monster in your life.
If you struggle with clutter in general I highly recommend reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. It is the final chapter, the end all be all solution in my opinion. I own it on audio (no clutter) and I listen to it every couple months to stay inspired but in truth if you follow the method in the book, clutter just stops being a problem for you. I feel that every highschooler should be required to read it!
On to the tips…
Tip #1: Do Your Bills, Taxes, Investing, and Banking Online
One of the largest sources of paper clutter is financial paperwork. While there are still some individuals holding onto the idea of getting paper bills and bank statements in the mail, it is becoming far more common to do all of your financial work online. In fact, it is a rare business or bank that doesn’t offer its customers the opportunity to receive their monthly statements by email. I receive most of my bills via email too. I pay all my bills online via a business website or through direct online bank payment. I still have a book of checks but it will probably last me 5 years. When it comes to taxes, consider doing them online too. Scan receipts into digital photocopies so you don’t have to keep lots of little pieces of paper.
I track and make investments online and through my smartphone. I use an application called Acorns to round up debit card purchases to the nearest dollar and invest the change. I also use Betterment (love them!). They take a specified amount each month from my checking account and invest it for me. I have been pleased as punch with the results and it literally took me minutes to set up online. I track all activity online and access my tax records there too.
Once you have made the switch, you can then go through and purge your filing cabinets. Make sure that you shred any paperwork that contains your personal information. Any paperwork you have left over after the purge you can keep in neat, stackable boxes. Decorative video and photo storage boxes are great for this. You can also scan these items and keep them as a digital file. If you decide to go that route just make sure you backup your files daily.
Tip #2: Subscribe Online
With the advent of smartphones, iPads and tablet computers it won’t be long until hard copy newspapers, magazines and newsletters will be a thing of the past. Now you can enjoy your favorite periodicals right on the screen of your electronic gadgets. If you prefer the look and feel of ‘real’ magazines and newspapers make sure that you rid yourself of those you’ve read instead of leaving them sitting in dark corners where they tend to multiply exponentially. If you want to save a single article, or two, rip them out and keep in a binder.
Tip #3: Organize Your Memories
Another source of paper clutter are mementos, things like greeting cards, letters, homework papers, kids artwork, movie stubs and all manner of other interesting things. It is understandable that you don’t necessarily want to toss these things the way you would old bank statements and dog-eared magazines, there is a way to reduce the visual mess. Simply buy yourself a number of scrapbooks and start getting creative. Condense all of your paper mementos for one year into one book. You’ll be surprised at just how much you can fit in one scrapbook, and the scrapbooks look great lined up on a shelf in your living room.
Tip #4: Be Selective With Your Books
With e-Readers so readily available now, there really is no reason to keep stacks of paperbacks, most of which you’ll never read again. With so many reference materials online now there is also no real reason to keep space-eating dictionaries and reference manuals when they will probably just come out with a new edition next year anyway. Instead, choose the books you want in your home to reflect your tastes and aesthetics. Display them proudly, and don’t waste your precious space on books you don’t need or want.
Tip #5: Condense Your User Manuals
With so many gadgets and gizmos in our homes and lives, chances are you sometimes feel inundated by user manuals and warranty information. The first thing you might do after purchasing or receiving a product with a user manual is see if that same manual is available online. Many times it is. Then you can save it to your hard drive and recycle the paper copy. After you have established what you need to keep, you can use a three-ring binder and a couple folders to store the others. Put user manuals in one and warranties in another. After six months you may want to revisit the issue and see if in fact you do really need to keep the manual for your rice cooker or toaster…if not, let them go.
It is vastly important to see how we can avoid all the paper coming into our lives in the first place and these tips offer ideas on how we can do that. After you’ve tamed the paper beast you will have less clutter and more peace of mind.
When you are buying a new home or fixing up your current one there are numerous things to consider. Just one of them is flooring, but this is a biggie. You have to consider price, how long it will last, how easy it will be to install, and how easy it will be to clean and maintain.
Hardwood floors are the desire of many because they look so good and they last so long. They are also quite pricey though. Vinyl is pretty cheap but how long until someone scuffs it up or tears it? It is also ugly. Carpet is not too expensive but it is a major pain to keep clean.
What do you do with all these choices?? You look at all the options and you weigh the pros and cons until you come up with something you can live with. The chart below with home flooring options from DirectBuy has all of the most common choices and how they stack up in regards to cost, durability, installation, and cleaning. I would also add sustainability and toxicants to the criteria personally. In general the cheaper options are going to be more toxic to produce and more toxic to the owner (like vinyl and carpet). The natural options of stone, bamboo, and hardwood will be safer, more sustainable for the planet and yet more expensive. There may be some that fall in the middle of the spectrum, like ceramic tile. So it comes down to more than just cost, quality, install, and cleaning. It comes down to your values as well and what you are willing or able to pay. If your current flooring doesn’t align with your desires and values or money is the determining factor…you can use this handy chart to plan for next time.
Presented by DirectBuy.com
It’s the New Year! Have you made any resolutions? Do any of those resolutions involve your home? Well, they should. Your home is your castle. It is the place where you find peace and a place to recharge. Making your home a reflection of the person you hope to be this new year will make reaching your goals even easier!
Here are four New Year’s resolutions for home decorating to help you get started.
1. Clear the Clutter!!!
A clutter free home is an important step to clutter free fitness, finances, parenting, marriage, you name it. When we clean up the physical mess we are also cleaning up our attitude and outlook without even knowing it. When is the last time a messy, cluttered kitchen made you happy? Never, you say? Well, do something about it! Clear out clutter.
Resolve to clear clutter in steps. It’s indeed overwhelming to look at your whole house and imagine tackling it all at once, not stopping until it’s finished. Instead, approach it on a room-by-room basis, resolving to clear the clutter from, say, one room a month. You could even begin with corners of rooms to make it even less overwhelming – say, clear the clutter from one corner of the living room every Saturday for four weeks. Then move on to the next room or area.
2. Organize Your Stuff
You won’t be throwing away or donating everything – there will be “stuff” you’ll need to organize and store in a way that’s aesthetically pleasing. Here are some suggestions.
* Baskets are definitely your friend. Baskets can be used to hold items like shoes by the front door, CDs, DVDs, remote controls, and all those adapters for cell phones and computers. Plus they can be bought second hand. My local thrift stores are swimming in baskets.
* Decorative boxes are also handy. They can be slipped onto shelves and look like decorative pieces but they’re actually holding stuff.
* Metal baskets with an without canvas liners are awesome on shelves.
* Luggage can be a great place to store things when it is not being used to travel. Vintage luggage might even look nice enough to keep out as part of your decor.
* Check out my post on Plastic-Free Storage Solutions!
3. Healthy Decorations
A good goal for this year is to bring in houseplants. They are not only beautiful; they detoxify indoor air. Sources say this is even more important if you have a lot of electronics in a room. Another beautiful item that can increase the health factor of your home is an essential oil diffuser. Diffuse therapeutic essential oils in your home to keep you well and to enhance your health. Plus they make your home smell incredible!
4. Go Minimalist
Clearing clutter is important but not bringing it into your home in the first place is a preemptive step. It is also easier and less stressful to live with minimalism in mind. A big trend in books and media has been getting back to a simplistic, minimal lifestyle. Many want to have a life that is free of complications; a life that has been pared down to its most basic and fundamental needs. Minimalist decor is no muss no fuss. Get rid of all those couch cushions. Get rid of all those knick-knacks. Pair down to one bookcase full of your absolute favorite books. Stream videos instead of buying them. Stop buying toys!
Declare that this year will be the year that your home becomes a reflection of your hopes and dreams. When it does you will see that your dreams look more attainable.