Family Finance
5 Ways to Not Get Divorced During the Homebuying Process
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image of a couple fighting on a bench

Even the most level-headed couples can go a little crazy when hunting for a home. If not careful, stress levels can suddenly shoot through the roof.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Most homebuying decisions swirl around major life changes: marriage, a new baby, job relocation, retirement, and downsizing. Those are tectonic shifts in one’s life, and adding a hefty down payment and a 30-year mortgage to the mix doesn't ease the burden.

Tensions don’t end there. A home isn’t just an investment; it’s a place you’re tethered to for years. You’re literally shaping your future by the neighborhood you choose.

In such an emotional situation, people easily become overwhelmed. In fact, a U.K. report found that 70 percent of respondents thought buying a home was a critically stressful time in their lives. Only one other life event was ranked worse: getting a divorce.

Yet it’s not practical to live in the same place forever. In other words, it’s up to every couple to rethink the way they handle the house-seeking experience, starting with preparing themselves for the reality of the situation.

Decisions, Decisions, and More Decisions!

Any homebuying newbie can relate to how complicated the process can be. When two people are involved, however, the strain amplifies. Luckily, knowing a few upfront expectations and being prepared to make tough decisions can ease the pressure.

First, understand the substantial financial burden. You must openly talk about your expenditure expectations with your partner. Partners can have significantly different ideas of what they are willing to spend to have a comfortable, safe home.

You must also accept that both of your priorities won’t necessarily align. For example, you drive east for work, and your spouse drives west. Whose work is more important if you can’t find a house centralized between the offices? In addition, what if the new home allows your partner to be 10 minutes from relatives, while you have a two-hour trek to visit yours? Until these considerations are aired out, a couple will be far from acing the homebuying process.

5 Ways to Keep Your Marriage Intact During Homebuying

Overall, communication is essential. In fact, with a few steps, you can turn looking for the perfect house into a way to strengthen — not wreck — your relationship:

1. Stick to a budget

Ironically, people often discuss stretching their budgets before they’ve even set them. Take a pragmatic approach, and know your budget first. A fast way to figure out your top monthly payment is by multiplying your combined monthly income by 0.25. For example, if you two make $10,000 a month, your mortgage payment with taxes and insurance shouldn’t be more than $2,500.

At that point, you can work backward. Use a mortgage calculator, like the one provided by Zillow, to figure out that a $2,500 monthly payment equates to a $500,000 house. Don’t even consider asking your mom to co-sign a loan to get more money. Instead, acknowledge the fact that you two can only afford what you can. Accepting this will help you both make decisions logically.

2. Start with the “good,” and work up to “best”

You know you can afford a $500,000 house, but don't initially schedule showings in that price range. The first three homes should be listed at about 20 percent below your budget. As you walk through the homes, notice what you like and what you don’t. For your next house, go up to the $450,000 level. Jot down what you love and hate. Finally, step into a $500,000 home. Is it tremendously better than the $450,000 one? Are its advantages worth an additional $50,000?

By starting at “good” options and moving toward “best” choices, you gain control over the process, and both partners have a chance to air out their objections. But be warned: If you flip the order and start with a $500,000 listing, anything less would seem subpar.

3. Quantify what’s important

Try to quantify preferences to put a more rational tenor on the process. An example is weighing the objective value of school districts and home prices. Typically, a home in a stellar school district will cost up to 25 percent more than comparable homes. Thus, for your money, you would have to get a smaller home to live in a preferred community.

Talk about this not as a way to “steal” opportunity from your kids but as a way to look at the pros and cons of each decision. For example, if you have 15 percent less of a house, your kids could attend a better school. This is a more rational approach than blaming your partner for not caring about your children's education. Quantifying priorities allows both of you to look at the big picture.

4. Speak magic words

Couples involved in buying homes often forget to incorporate productive, positive phrases into their conversations. Even if it doesn’t come naturally, emphasize how grateful you are for your partner throughout the process. Talk about how you appreciate that he or she has helped make it possible to look at better homes. Or admit that you’re blown away by the flexibility you’re seeing in your partner’s willingness to incur a longer commute to work.

While it isn’t an easy feat to be affirmative, you'll end up with better long-term results. You’re starting a new chapter together, after all. Don't you want your partner to know you are here for him or her in this journey? All it takes is a sprinkling of gratitude.

5. Invest in a little reflection

Whether or not you’re religious or spiritual, make time for reflection before signing on the dotted line. This will ground you and your partner and create a sense of much-needed calm. Ask yourself: “Is this really the direction for us? Is this where we’re supposed to be?”

In addition, vow not to bicker about dollar amounts after making your choice. Rather, use your home as a launching pad for the next page of your relationship.

Who has time to heap additional stress into their lives? Avoid the price of a divorce lawyer, and focus on the exciting possibilities ahead that come with buying a new home. The homebuying process might not be a cake walk, but your marriage doesn't have to pay for it.

An entrepreneur at heart, CEO Mike Kalis leads the team at MarketplaceHomes.com, a Detroit-based brokerage that specializes in new construction sales and property management. If you purchase a new home through Marketplacehomes.com, we'll agree to buy yours. Marketplace Homes has sold more than $3 billion in new construction homes through its unique home trade-in system and manages more than 3,500 single-family properties for investors who have 1 to 10 properties. It also offers new-construction homebuyers a guaranteed lease on their previous properties for up to six years.

Image © Pexels

Continue reading5 Ways to Not Get Divorced During the Homebuying Process
Math Tips for Smart Shopping
By admin | |

Calculator in a Shopping CartI recently ran across a 2012 article from The Atlantic called The 11 Ways That Consumers Are Hopeless at Math. The title of this article hooked me, and as I began reading I found that there are indeed a few ways in which consumers misunderstand math - and pay the price as a result.

But I also found that most of the so-called “math tricks" that people get caught up in are really better described as number-based psychological hacks, which marketers use to extract every last penny from us that they can.

So it's not so much that consumers are hopeless at math as they are susceptible to being tricked. Which is precisely what a savvy shopper knows how to avoid.

What are some of these mathematical misunderstandings that you should be aware of? And what are some of the most common number-based psychological hacks? Those are exactly the questions we’ll be looking at today, as we finish up the year with a resolution to become even smarter shoppers in the new year.

Sponsor: This episode is brought to you by NatureBox. Discover smarter snacking with a new NatureBox each month. Get your first box FREE when you go to naturebox.com/qdt.

How Much Bang For Your Buck?

The article I mentioned from The Atlantic begins with an anecdote that nicely points out one of the biggest flaws in the way the average consumer shops. Namely, that when it comes to pricing and deals, most people go with their gut instead of taking a few seconds to think things through.

Here's the story: Imagine you walk into a coffee shop, take a look at the day’s specials, and see a sign that says, “Today only, your choice—get 33% more coffee for the regular price, or pay 33% less for the regular amount of coffee!” If you were presented with these two options, which would you choose?

In truth, choosing the best deal isn't always just a question of numbers. For example, if you really wanted more than your regular amount of coffee that day, then the extra coffee option would be a fine choice. But that’s not really what I’m talking about here, so let’s rephrase the question a bit to focus on the math.

The real question is this: Which option is the better deal in terms of dollars spent per ounce of coffee? After all, that’s what we’re really talking about when we speak of being a savvy shopper—getting the most bang for your buck.

Most people's gut instinct is that the two deals are about equally as good.

Most people’s gut instinct is that the two deals—33% more coffee for the same price or the same amount of coffee for 33% less money—are equally as good. After all, they both have the same 33% in them. But let’s do the math to see if this assumption is really true.

Imagine your usual 8 oz. cup of coffee costs $2. In this case, the first option gives you about 1.33 x 8 oz. = 10.6 oz. of coffee for $2, while the second option gives you your usual 8 oz. of coffee for a price of 0.67 x $2 = $1.34. That means you pay $2 / 10.6 oz. = 18.9 cents/oz. with the first option, but only $1.34 / 8 oz. = 16.8 cents/oz. with the second.

So, clearly, the second option is a better deal. While it's tempting to get something "free" for the same amount you usually pay (the first option), in this case, getting the amount you actually want for less money is a better deal—especially if you don't really need that extra coffee anyway. And, as always, the math is there to back you up.


What’s the Best Deal?

People prefer to make choices between similar and easily-comparable options.

As I mentioned at the outset, most savvy shopping skills are really less about math and more about avoiding the number-based psychological hacks that marketers (would love to) play on you. While perusing the news this week, I found an article discussing a perfect example of this kind of sneaky hackery.

This example was originally described in Dan Ariely's book Predictably Irrational, in which he talks about running across an advertisement to subscribe to the magazine The Economist. The advertisement lists 3 possible deals:

  1. Web-only subscription for $59/year
  2. Print-only subscription for $125/year
  3. Print + web subscription for $125/year

If confronted with these options, which would you choose? If you’re anything like the 100 MIT students that Dan Ariely posed this question to, you’d pick the print + web subscription for $125/year; 84% of the MIT students chose that offer, while 16% chose the cheaper web-only subscription.

Not surprisingly, nobody chose the middle print-only option. After all, it’s a pretty bad deal compared to the third option, which gives you the same thing plus something extra, all for the same price. But if that middle option is such a bad deal, why did the marketers even bother to include it?

To answer this question, Dan Ariely removed the second option from the list and presented the two remaining options to another group of 100 MIT students. This time, with just the $59 web-only and $125 print + web subscriptions to choose from, 68% chose the cheaper web-only subscription and 32% chose the print + web subscription. Remember, when all three options were available, 84% of students chose the more expensive option and only 16% chose the cheaper subscription.

So why did the marketers include that strange print-only subscription option? Because they also figured out that more people would choose the more expensive subscription if the print-only option was there.

What’s the math behind this? There isn’t any—this one is purely psychological. Sure, there are numbers involved, but all they’re really doing here is pointing out that people prefer to make choices between similar and easily-comparable options - so when they’re given the opportunity to do so, they will.

It may not be rational, but it is very real. And knowing how to spot this kind of trick is a big part of learning how to use math—or at least numbers—to be a more savvy shopper.

Wrap Up

Okay, that’s all the math we have time for today.

For more fun with math, please check out my book, The Math Dude’s Quick and Dirty Guide to Algebra. And remember to become a fan of The Math Dude on Facebook, where you’ll find lots of great math posted throughout the week. If you’re on Twitter, please follow me there, too.

Until next time, this is Jason Marshall with The Math Dude’s Quick and Dirty Tips to Make Math Easier. Thanks for reading, math fans!

Calculator-in-a-shopping cart image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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10 Money Management Tips to Teach Your Kids About Finance
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Knowing how to handle finances is one of the most basic and important life skills. When you understand how to handle your money, you can avoid falling into financial problems and risks. So teaching your children about money is a key step in preparing them for adulthood. Teach them values and terms, such as saving, and they will grow to possess good money habits even up to adulthood. Broaden your knowledge of finance and money matters and pass them to your kids by reading up. Read LoanStart blog for financial advice and learn the intricacies of financing and loans and how they can help benefit your current financial situation.

1. Integrate Money Into Daily Life

Get your children involved with money. For example, you can have a young child join you at the grocery store to help with shopping. Ask them to compare prices of similar items and discuss why the items may be different. For older children, you might allow your child to watch or participate when you pay bills. Explain the process to them. Let your child know how much money comes in each month and how much you spend on expenses. Show to them how expenses add up.

Involving your children in household finances will help build their financial knowledge at an early age.

2. Give Your Child an Allowance, But Consider the Frequency and Amount

There are several benefits to giving an allowance. For one thing, when your child has money of their own that they can spend at their discretion, they will be incentivized to learn how to handle it. Once the allowance is gone, your child will have to save up to buy necessary items. You can teach your child to be responsible for money management and living within their means by sticking to the rules. Disperse allowance on a regular schedule, and never extend "credit."

Some financial experts recommend giving out an allowance to be budgeted once a month rather than once a week. This gives the child a longer amount of time on how to manage a given amount of money. Also, the larger the amount of money, the more management skills are to be learned.

3. Model Good Financial Behavior

Your children look up to you, so your decisions with money will set an example. Are you late on your bills? Are you living beyond your means? Get your financial situation in order and be honest with your children. Let them know the reason behind your financial behavior so that you can discuss financial planning and management as a family.

4. Teach Your Children About Choices

Let them know the reason behind your financial behavior and embark on sound financial planning and management as a family.

Make sure your children know that there are more ways to use money beyond just spending it. Teach your child to save, invest, or donate to charity, and explain why these options are worth the effort, even if they do not offer the short-term satisfaction that comes with making a purchase.

5. Provide Extra Income Opportunities

Occasionally, you can offer your child an opportunity to make a small amount of extra income by having them do some chores around the house. This will teach them early on about the value of earning money. You can then help them decide what to do with the extra money they have earned.

6. Teach Your Child How to be a Wise Consumer

Before your child buys something new, discuss with them the alternative ways of spending money to emphasize the value of making choices. Teach them to compare shops and items for prices and quality. Show them how advertisers persuade people to buy their products. Encourage your kids to be savvy and critical of ads and commercials.

7. Teach Your Child a Healthy Attitude Towards Credit 

Teach your child how to handle credit. When you think they are old enough to understand what credit is, allow them to borrow an extra amount of money from you to make a major purchase. Talk to them and negotiate how much amount your child will pay you each week from their weekly allowance, and then collect the money and keep track of the remaining balance each week until the debt is repaid.

8. Involve Your Child in Family Financial Planning

Let your child see how you plan your budget, pay bills, how you shop carefully, and how you plan major expenditures and vacations. Explain to them that there are affordable choices, and allow the kids to participate in the decision-making process. You can set a family goal that everyone can work towards.

Explain to your kids that there are affordable choices, and allow them to participate in the decision-making process.

9. Avoid Impulse Buys

Children are prone to impulse buys when they find something cute or eye-catching. Instead of giving in and buying the item for them, let your child know that they can use their savings to pay for the item. However, encourage your child to wait at least a day before they purchase anything above a given benchmark--for example, 15 dollars. The item will still be there the next day and they will have properly decided with a level head if they still want the item.  

10. Get Them Saving for College

College is an important phase that can affect the future of your child. There’s no time like the present to have your teen saving for college. If they plan on working a summer job you can take a portion of that amount and put it on a college savings account. Your child will feel more responsible since their future is at stake with how much they save.

Continue reading10 Money Management Tips to Teach Your Kids About Finance
6 Ways to Save Money on New Clothes
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6 Ways to Save Money on New Clothes

Cut Your Clothing Clutter

If you have a favorite navy shirt, chances are, you rarely wear your second-favorite navy shirt, and never wear your third favorite! If you tend to buy a lot of items that are similar to each other, try organizing your closet by color, so when you pause by that navy polo shirt at the store, you’ll remember just how many navy shirts you already own.

Shop in the Off-Season

For the best deals on clothes, shop in the off-season. Buy spring and summer clothing in July and August, and fall and winter clothing in January and February. (You can often find the best sales right after the holiday season.) It’s sometimes a bummer to buy something you’re not going to be able to wear for six months, but when the time comes to switch seasons, you’ll be happy you already have some new clothes to wear—all of which were purchased on sale!

Befriend Those in the Know

If you have a favorite shop you find yourself spending a lot of time in, make sure to get friendly with the sales staff! Clothing stores often have unannounced sales, or they regularly begin sales on certain days of the week. If you’re down with the people who work there, they’ll often you tip you off. And if they really like you, they may let you put an item on layaway until it goes on sale a few days later.

Keep It Simple

When you’re buying clothes, always go for classic looks rather than modern, trendy ones. A blue V-neck T-shirt will be fashionable year after year, while something with more exotic colors or patterns will go out of style quickly. By choosing the basics, you won't have to buy as many new articles of clothing each season.

Take It to the Tailor

Going to a tailor may seem like an expensive proposition, but it’s often worth it if you unearth a good deal on a suit or other item of clothing that doesn’t quite fit. Found some jeans for ten bucks that look great but are an inch too long? A jacket that’s a steal, but a bit too baggy in the arms? For a small price, you can get these items custom-fitted at a tailor. And you’ll still be saving a bundle from what the normal retail price would be.

Revamp Shoes and Purses Yourself

Not happy with the color of a handbag or pair of fancy shoes? Instead of buying new accessories, turn that unbecoming chartreuse into an elegant black with a can of shoe color spray. You can pick up an inexpensive can of shoe color from a repair shop, then revamp those heels yourself instead of paying someone else to do it for you.

Get more great tips on our podcast by subscribing on iTunes or Stitcher. You can also sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook for our daily tips!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Financial Considerations When Getting a Divorce
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In a recent episode, I shared that I would be doing a 4-part series on divorce.  I’ve been divorced for 5 years now and wanted to share what has worked for me, my ex-husband, and our 8 kids during this time. While divorce is not easy, time does help heal, and when your focus is putting your kids first, it is absolutely possible to maintain a healthy, happy family relationship.

My first episode in this series was 5 Expert-Approved Ways to Talk to Your Kids About Divorce.  My second episode in this series was 5 Ways to Co-Parent with Your Ex-Spouse. 

There really isn’t anything easy about divorce. Thankfully, as I discussed in the first two episodes, there are strategies and thoughtful ways to navigate through some of divorces issues, especially if the two parents are willing to put their personal differences aside and focus on their kids. In addition to the emotional turmoil that encompasses divorce, there is also another difficult component that couples must deal with and that is the financial aspect. 

After 25 years of marriage and 8 kids, Mighty Mommy had to get her financial house in order and make some significant adjustments going from a two-income household to a single income.

Here are four financial considerations, as backed by the experts, to keep in mind if you are thinking of or getting a divorce.

1. Get Your Financial Documents in Order

The entire divorce process is completely overwhelming, and when you begin to delve into the financial ramifications, the stress is taken to a whole new level. Once we began having our small tribe of kids, we decided I would leave my career to be home with our family. During the last 10 years of our marriage I went back to work part-time as a freelance writer but by no means was I contributing significantly to our income. My ex-husband managed the majority of our financial affairs so when the reality of our divorce settled in, I knew the first thing I had to do was get a handle on every aspect of our financial status. I honestly wasn’t sure where to begin, but my divorce attorney recommended I start by gathering all my financial documents.

Maryalene LaPonsie, contributor to USNews.com writes in 7 Financial Steps to Take When Getting a Divorce that “as soon as you know you’re getting a divorce, collect all the financial documents you can.” She continues, by stating that these include:

  • “Bank statements”
  • “Credit card statements”
  • “Tax returns”
  • “Retirement account balances”
  • “Appraisals for valuable items, if available”

In addition, other documents to consider are:

  • Mortgage Statement, including any Home Equity Loans and purchase information
  • Checkbook Registry for the last year
  • Any other long-term debt account statements you may have, including car loans

2. Know Your Income and Expenses

When we began our divorce proceedings, I admit I was far more focused on my emotional state than my finances. 

When we began our divorce proceedings, I admit I was far more focused on my emotional state than my finances.  Because my ex was the one who paid all the bills and the sole provider for most of our marriage, I never worried much about the details of our 401(K) plan, life insurance policies or what our overall assets and debt totaled.

One piece of advice I received many times over was that I needed to know what our budget was so I could begin to realistically know what my living expenses would be. 

Jason Silverberg, CFP at Financial Advantage Associates, Inc. and author of The Financial Planning Puzzle, told me via email: “If there was one singular, most important piece of financial advice that I could offer someone going through a divorce, that would be to understand where everything is and what everything’s worth. Without knowledge of what you own and who you owe money to, you really are going to have a hard time moving forward. You’ll also want to understand all of your sources for income and all of your monthly expenses as well. This will help you have a good handle on your budget to provide you critical understanding, so you can make smart financial decisions.”

He went on to say, “This exercise should be done both prior to as well as after the divorce. This way you can get a sense for how your household budget will operate on one income.” To help divorcing couples realize these figures, Silverberg has created the Personal Financial Inventory (1 page worksheet) inside the Picking up the Pieces eBook.

This exercise was extremely enlightening as I realized exactly where every penny (and then some) was going on a monthly basis. I was also able to gauge how much income I would need to start making in order to support these bills in addition to the child support and alimony payments I was receiving. One important factor to consider with child support is that it will decrease as your children get older, so I had to continually modify my budget based on this decrease. At first, it was overwhelming to see how much money I would need to keep our household running, but when you are armed with the figures and you pay attention to your monthly cash flow, it becomes easier to make adjustments. The fact of the matter is that some of the extra splurges such as frequent trips to the hair salon or buying my kids their usual top-of-the line items like sneakers or sports equipment had to be adjusted to what I could now afford. My kids have had some disappointments in this department, but they appreciated how we were trying to work together as a family-unit so that their lifestyle wasn't affected as drastically as it could've been which balanced everything out.


3.  Consider What Professionals Will Represent You

There are important considerations to keep in mind when choosing which divorce professionals will represent you. Adrienne Rothstein Grace writes on the Huffington Post, 3 Steps to Prepare for Your Divorce, that you must align yourself with the right professionals.  She explains “First, think about the divorce process you and your spouse will want to undertake and ask yourself the following questions:

  • “Is this going to be an acrimonious divorce? Or will my spouse and I cooperate?”
  • “Do I already know about all of our household and personal finances? Or do I suspect that I may be out of the loop on some assets, debts or income sources?”
  • “Do I trust my spouse to be cooperative and forthright?”
  • “Do I have any reason to believe that I will feel intimidated by my spouse during these proceedings?”
  • “Are we both focused on the wellbeing of our children?”

Grace says that “If you believe that you and your spouse will cooperate and will have joint best interests in mind while negotiating, then you might want to choose a divorce mediator or embrace a collaborative divorce. Those options are less costly, more private, and usually result in a more peaceful settlement process. However, if you’re not certain about finances, or cannot trust your spouse to be completely above-board and cooperative, then you might hire a traditional divorce attorney, who will only have your interests in focus while they help negotiate the complexities of your divorce.”

My ex-spouse and I decided to retain individual divorce attorneys. In addition, we also hired a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, (CDFA) at the recommendation of each of our lawyers, who met with us jointly to give us a complete overview of what our financial future was going to look like. It's a huge wake-up call when you see all the numbers in front of you on paper.  At our first meeting with the CDFA I learned quickly that I was going to have to go back to work, full-time to sustain the home we lived in as well as the upkeep, taxes, insurance, and basics like groceries for our large family. 

It's a huge wake-up call when you see all the numbers in front of you on paper.

If you surround yourself with competent, caring professionals who will guide you through this very delicate journey, you will have made an important investment in your family’s future, financial well-being.

4.  Stay in the Financial Know Throughout Your Divorce

Throughout your divorce, you’re bound to get all kinds of advice from friends, family, co-workers and other concerned individuals that will be looking out for you and have your best interest at heart.  This can be both helpful and draining depending on your relationship with these people.  When I began divorce proceedings, I too received lots of comments and suggestions from well-meaning folks, but I also decided I wanted to be armed with my own facts so I began reading lots of articles and books as well as listened to informative podcasts about divorce, particularly financially-related pieces.

My QDT colleague, Laura Adams, Money Girl, recently did an wrote about divorce in Getting Divorced? Here's How to Protect Your Money. She interviewed Stan Corey, a divorce expert and author of a new book, The Divorce Dance. This podcast had some terrific insight and some of the topics she and Corey cover in this interview include:

  • Different types of divorce proceedings that you can choose
  • The biggest mistakes that can cost you financially in a divorce
  • Why relying on a single family law attorney can be a bad idea
  • Tips for dividing up financial assets the right way—especially when you’re not so financially savvy
  • How to get divorced when you don’t have much money to pay for it

As you continue down the path of your divorce, surround yourself with as much information as you can, so that you will be able to make the best decisions possible for you and your children.

Five years later, I am still watching my financial picture very carefully.  I work full-time and do freelance work on the side in order to maintain my home and other living expenses.  I am extremely grateful that my ex-husband is very supportive of many of our 8 children’s extracurricular expenses, but the reality is I’m responsible for my own financial future so I have learned to be extremely careful with purchases and expenses.

The final topic in this divorce series will revolve around putting your kids first after the divorce.

How have you managed your finances during a separation or divorce?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section at quickanddirtytips.com/mighty-mommy, post your ideas on the Mighty Mommy Facebook page. or email me at mommy@quickanddirtytips.com. Visit my family-friendly boards at Pinterest.com/MightyMommyQDT.

Be sure to sign up for the upcoming Mighty Mommy newsletter chock full of practical advice to make your parenting life easier and more enjoyable. 

Images courtesy of Shutterstock.

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How to Plan a Budget If Your Home Is a Fixer Upper
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When your home is a fixer-upper, it can be difficult to even know where to start with a renovation. The list can be overwhelming—fix the patio, change out the mustard yellow carpet, buy furniture, paint the house. With a never-ending to-do list, planning a budget can seem virtually impossible.

By sorting through your list of wants and needs and focusing on essentials, you can outline a budget that won’t keep you up at night. Here are some tips on how to plan a budget for turning your fixer-upper into your first dream home.

How to Plan a Budget If Your Home is a Fixer Upper

1. Sort through the “wants” and “needs.”

Where do you even start with a renovation budget? With a limited fixer-upper budget, it’s essential to make functionality the first priority. When the roof is leaking and your fridge is dead, this is where the budget begins. First, determine what infrastructure items require repair or an essential upgrade, as these are typically big-ticket items. Next, focus on beautifying projects that will reap benefits in the long run, like bathrooms and kitchens. Hold off on budgeting fancy appliance upgrades and expensive decor if you already have working items—these can come at a later time after you take care of all the essentials.

How to Plan a Budget If Your Home is a Fixer Upper

2. Consider purchasing used over new.

Give your budget more flexibility by going for used over new with certain big-ticket items. Used appliances, for instance, can be found in great condition from other remodels or homeowners upgrading to the latest technology. Used furniture is also a fantastic way to keep your fixer-upper budget low. Don’t forget—sofas, vintage chairs, tables and more can be easily reupholstered and refinished. They’ll look brand new for just a fraction of the cost. 

How to Plan a Budget If Your Home is a Fixer Upper

3. Be ready to DIY with a gift card.

As a first-time buyer, there’s a 99 percent chance you’ll be diving into the realm of DIY. Learning one or many DIY skills will not only come in handy with home repairs in the future, but it’s a fantastic way to keep labor costs low. If you’re worried your DIY supply budget will get out of hand, however, shop with a gift card to your local hardware store. That way, you’ll always be working with a fixed amount of money and won’t be tempted to add on any expensive extras. It’s a guaranteed way to keep your budget in check.

How to Plan a Budget If Your Home is a Fixer Upper

4. Get creative.

Fixer-uppers are great hands-on projects, and creative solutions are key for keeping your budget in line. For items like cabinetry that may be in good condition but out of style, get creative with refinishes to bring new life into your space. Give your kitchen a fresh take by painting cabinets in a modern shade, or reface them for a whole new look without the added cost of all-new cabinetry. Replace hardware on cabinetry, furniture and built-ins to make your pieces feel brand new. Even outdated fireplaces, doors, furniture and windows can go a long way with a fresh coat of paint and new hardware. Consider this cheap alternative to help save room in your budget for the fun stuff.

How to Plan a Budget If Your Home is a Fixer Upper

5. Let the professionals help.

Whether you’re starting with the kitchen or diving into a full-scale remodel, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. No matter what your budget, a professional’s advice can help ensure that your renovation has as few hiccups as possible. City codes, minute details and hidden elements can wreak havoc on projects, so let a master guide you through those hurdles instead of trying to blindly tackle them yourself. Don’t let the potential price tag deter you from investing in having expert guidance—many architects and designers have options for paying an hourly rate. This is a great option, especially for fixer-upper and DIY projects, as it allows your plans to be looked over by professionals without the price tag of a full design scope. 

What are your must haves for your fixer-upper?
 
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Kerrie Kelly is a California interior designer who has helped many young couples choose their “first-home-together” decor. Kerrie writes on her design experiences for The Home Depot, offering homeowners ways to save money without compromising design.
 
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8 Tips to Save Money on Meat
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TipstoSaveMoneyonMeat

Buy It in the Morning

Looking for deals on meat? Hit up the supermarket in the early morning. That’s when they’ll be restocking the meat case, and you’ll have the best bet at finding a deal.

Buy in Bulk

Ask at the deli counter of your supermarket for “bulk ends,” and ask if there’s a discount! These end bits of sliced meats are too small to slice in the machine, but can be sliced or cubed at home. They’re often offered at half off!

Befriend the Butcher

When does your supermarket mark-down meat? It’s as easy as asking the butcher. Especially if you’re friendly, he or she will usually be happy to let you know this valuable savings secret.

Market Watch

Supermarkets have started using their own wording on meat packages to make you think that the product you are buying is a better grade than it really is. Most of the major chains are buying more select-grade beef, but may call it by any number of fancy names such as “top premium beef,” “prime quality cut,” “select choice,” “market choice,” or “premium cut.” Be aware that these titles don’t actually mean anything!

Ask for Discounted Cuts

Grocery stores make a lot of money on meat, so it’s not surprising that they display the priciest cuts in the case! Experience dramatic savings by instead asking the butcher to slice different cuts for you from the same primal (or section) of the cow or pig. These cuts can be as little as one-fifth the cost of the expensive, pre-packaged cuts, and they’ll be just as tender and tasty. Here are a few discounted (yet delicious) cuts you can ask for: Instead of buying ground beef, ask the butcher to grind up a bottom round roast for you. If you’re looking for rib eye steak, request chuck eye. (You may need to ask the butcher to cut a 4-inch roast off the front of the boneless chuck, then to peel out the chuck eye and cut it into steaks.) Instead of pork tenderloin, buy an entire loin roast and ask the butcher to cut it up for you.

Buy Bigger Hams

If you’re going to buy a canned ham, purchase the largest one you can afford. Most smaller canned hams are made from bits and pieces glued together with gelatin. Cured hams are injected with a solution of brine salts, sugar, and nitrites. The weight of the ham will increase with the injection, and if the total weight goes up by 8 percent, the label will usually say “ham with natural juices.” If the weight of the ham increases by more than 10 percent, the label must read “water added.”

Make Your Own Patties

Never buy meat that’s already been shaped into patties (unless it’s on sale). Instead, buy your own and shape into patties yourself. Place a sheet of waxed paper between each, then place the entire stack in a resealable plastic bag and put in the freezer.

Leaner Isn’t Always Better

Even if you want to prepare low-fat meals, you don’t always need to buy the leanest (and most expensive) ground beef. If you’re preparing hamburgers on a grill or on a broiler rack, most of the fat will be lost during the cooking process, so stick with the moderately lean varieties.

For more ways to save money from all over the internet, check out our Saving Money board on Pinterest. And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook for daily tips!

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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How to Clean and Polish Your Wood
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Clean furniture and floors

Remove water rings

If you have kids, you probably have watermarks on your finished wood table. Use a little petroleum jelly to remove the white stains. Just rub the area with the jelly and let it sit for several hours (or even overnight). Then rub again with a soft cloth—the stain should disappear.

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Another way to erase water rings

Does your wood furniture have white rings left from wet glasses? Remove them with a mixture of 2 tablespoons corn oil and enough baking soda to make a paste. Apply the paste to the rings and let sit for at least 1 hour before rubbing the area gently. Or give mayonnaise a shot: Rub a tiny bit (1/2 teaspoon) on the ring and let it sit overnight. In the morning, just wipe with a damp cloth and the ring should be gone!

Erase wood scratches and dents

Head to the kitchen for a solution. For tiny scratches in your wooden table or floor, rub vegetable or canola oil into the surface. The oil will darken the area and help it blend in.

Related: 6 Items You Can Use to Cover Wood Scratches

Whip up your own wood cleaner

It’s simple: Just combine the juice from one lemon with 2 cups vegetable or olive oil. Use it just like you would use a store-bought cleaner, and fill your room with the fresh scent! Use this on your furniture or floor.

A very light coat will nourish the wood and help protect the finish, but be sure to rub it in well so it doesn’t leave a residue.

Steal a secret from your shoes.

Does your wooden coffee table, dresser, or dining room furniture have visible scratches? No sweat! Use a similarly hued shoe polish to fill in the offending marks.

Deep clean and shine

Your wooden kitchen cabinets may look clean, but over time, they can develop a sticky film. To eliminate it, mix 1 part vegetable or coconut oil with 2 parts baking soda, and rub on the cabinets. Remove the paste with a damp cloth, and then dry with a clean rag. You’ll be surprised at how much brighter they look!

See also: How to Bring Your Outdoor Furniture Back to Life

Polish furniture and floors

Get gorgeous wood floors

Those tannins in black tea also work wonders to shine and richen the color of hardwood flooring. Simply rub on some brewed tea (keeping moisture to a minimum) and let air-dry.

Save flat beer to shine furniture

Stale beer is a great cleanser for wooden furniture. The next time you have flat beer left over, don’t dump it out. Instead, use it to dampen a soft, clean cloth, then wipe it onto your wood furniture. Finish with a dry cloth for an amazing shine.

Give old wood new life

We love the antique look of old wooden furniture. But sometimes “old” just looks, well, old rather than “antique.” Get wood gleaming again and smooth away any imperfections and scratches with an easy trick that is amazingly effective. You only need two items that you probably already have in your kitchen: oil and vinegar. (Yep, like the salad dressing!) Mix 1/4 cup white or apple cider vinegar with 3/4 cup olive or vegetable oil. Dip a soft cloth in the solution and rub on for a brand-new look.

You can choose to add 8 to 10 drops of an essential oil (we like lemon, orange, or tangerine) for a sweet scent.

Prevent polish buildup

Excess polish can leave a dull finish on wooden furniture. To remove it, mix together 2 tablespoons white vinegar and 2 tablespoons water. Apply to the surface and wipe right off. Cornstarch will also do the trick: Sprinkle a little on the furniture and polish with a soft cloth. 

Just for fun: Is the 5-Second Rule True?

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6 Fun, Inexpensive Ways to Revamp Furniture
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FunInexpensiveWaystoRevampFurniture

Dresser Storage

If your country kitchen is running out of room, consider a dresser. Even though you’re used to bureaus being only for bedrooms, it can be a valuable addition to a kitchen for storing napkins, utensils, and more. Repaint the dresser in colors to match your kitchen and you’ll have guests asking where you got your newest piece of kitchen furniture.

Don’t Discard Dingy Dressers

If your furniture is weathered or out of style, that’s not necessarily a reason to replace it. There are plenty of ways to spruce up old dressers, chairs, and tables. Everybody loves quilts, so why not drape one over that old chair that needs re-upholstering? You can also try using colorful fabrics on the fronts of nightstand and dresser drawers. Just get some scrap cloth from your last project or from a fabric store, and attach it to the dresser drawers with a staple gun. To have even more fun with it, we like to paint part of the piece and color-coordinate it with the cloth we’re using.

Handled With Style

If your cabinets are getting old and worn, you can revive them just by replacing the knobs and handles. A good variety should be available inexpensively at your local hardware store. They’ll make your kitchen or bathroom look brand new!

A Gift for Decoration

Dress up an inexpensive set of plastic drawers by covering them in wrapping paper. Choose some paper you love (you can even pick several coordinating designs), and cut the pieces to fit the size of the drawers. Then spread a crafting glue/sealer, such as Mod Podge, on the plastic and smooth the wrapping paper onto it, being careful to eliminate bubbles. Allow to dry, and apply a coat of sealant on top. Not only does the paper look beautiful, but it also hides the contents of the drawers, making everything appear neat and tidy.

Matching Not Necessary

You’ve probably noticed this at the restaurants you frequent, but it’s becoming more and more acceptable nowadays—even hip—to eat your meals on vintage, mismatched chairs. Instead of spending a fortune on a dining-room set, go for the mismatched look and hunt for your chairs at thrift shops and used furniture stores.

Brighten Up the Bookshelf

If you’re looking for an easy, inexpensive way to add a pop of color to a room, look no further than the bookshelf. You can paint the interior back “wall” of the bookshelf a color that either contrasts or coordinates with your decor. It will add a modern touch for not a lot of money! 

Get more great tips on our podcast by subscribing on iTunes or Stitcher! You can also sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook for our daily tips!

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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7 Budget Friendly Tips for a Room Makeover
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Sometimes the need to redecorate a room doesn’t line up with when the budget allows for a full makeover. In those times, it’s good to have a few budget friendly ideas to spruce up the space. These seven tips are things that can be done even when funds are tight.

1 – Rearrange or Swap with Other Rooms

The most budget friendly thing you can do when redecorating is to look for inspiration from the other rooms in your home. Often times, especially in larger homes, there are pieces of furniture and other décor that could be moved from one room to another to make a free update to the space. If you are thinking about updating your master bedroom, consider using pieces from your office, the living room, and even the outside patio. Taking a piece from another room can provide just the change you are craving in the space you want to update.

2 – Paint Furniture

If you found a piece of furniture in another room that can work based on the shape and size, but it doesn’t quite match, consider painting the furniture. This is also a great option for updating old wood furniture that you’ve had in the room for years, or even furniture that you just found at a thrift store or rummage sale. Changing the color of furniture with spray paint is a quick and easy way to give it an entirely new look in less than a day’s time.

When determining if a piece of furniture can be painted, look for pieces that have good structure and very few flaws to the shape. When you paint, gouges and scratches can become more pronounced, so if you find a few imperfections, fill them with wood filler and sand them smooth before painting. If you are painting metal furniture, make sure to sand off any rust spots to ensure the rust doesn’t spread after you complete the makeover.

3 – Paint the Walls

If you want to make a bigger impact in a space, consider investing in a can or two of paint. Many rooms can be completed with one can of paint, but for more drastic color changes (like from white walls to dark blue walls or vise versa), you may need two cans to allow for multiple coats to get the walls fully covered.

If you don’t want to paint the entire room, consider painting an accent wall to give it a pop of color. If you have more time than funds, you can invest a few hours, a quart of paint, and a roll of painters tape into making a design on a wall instead. You might add a single stripe, a chevron stripe, or some free-hand circles around the room. You can get creative with the accent designs to make the room as fun as you want it to be.


4 – Have a Plan

One of the biggest things you can do to keep a makeover project budget friendly is to have a plan and a little patience. Think about it like this: if your car dies and you need a new car, you are at the mercy of the people who are selling cars at that exact time. If you are able to plan ahead on the purchase of your new car, you have significantly more bargaining power because you don’t NEED to purchase it immediately. You can wait for a better price to come along.

The exact same thing is true when it comes to purchases for your home. If you are determined to buy things on a certain day, you are at the mercy of what’s available on that exact day in the shops you can get to. If you’re able to instead plan the project, decide what you are going to look for, and then purchase when you find the items at the right price, you are in a much better position to find bargain pieces.

5 – Keep Your Eyes Peeled

Once you have your budget makeover plan in place, keep your eyes open for the perfect pieces everywhere you possibly can. Tour your neighborhood on the weekends to see if any of the neighbors are selling the perfect pieces on rummage sales. Search Craigslist and online rummage sale sites to catch when the items you need pop up for sale. Walk through thrift stores on a weekly basis and keep your eyes peeled for the perfect used items. And don’t forget to watch the clearance racks at your favorite stores to see what goes on super sale. I personally love walking through Target on the days they mark down their home décor items. It feels like a treasure hunt to find just the right throw pillows or wall art to fit my plan. When the items are on clearance, it’s an even bigger success knowing that I didn’t spend even close to full price on the perfect pieces.

6 – Change Light Fixtures

If you are handy, or you have a friend who is familiar with electrical wiring, you may want to consider changing out the light fixtures in your home to quickly update the space. Having light fixtures that are decades old often means that they are in an outdated style or finish, which can make the entire space look out of date. By swapping them out with an eye catching light fixture that you found on sale or at a thrift store, you can make a big impact change in that one item. One of my favorite stores to check for items like light fixtures is the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Many cities and towns that have a Habitat for Humanity program also have a Restore where they sell good quality home fixtures that have been removed from homes that were remodeled. It is a store where one man’s trash truly is another man’s treasure.

7 – Change Flooring

The final tip is definitely more hands-on, but can make a large impact in a room if you have just a little bit more money to spend and a weekend’s worth of time. Changing the flooring in a room can create a big change for not as much money as you are probably imagining.

Laminate flooring has come a long way in the last 5 years, and you can now buy a variety of great looking laminate flooring for less than $1/square foot. This lightweight, easy to install flooring can be printed with images of wood, stone, or other designs to give your room a totally new feel. Considering most bedrooms in homes are close to 12’ x 12’, that means you could change the flooring in a room for under $150.

If that is outside your budget, you still have options. Consider getting a large area rug to anchor the room. These are typically available at stores like Ross and Home Goods for $50 or less. Not only can they add a pop of color to your floor, but you can move them into new rooms if you ever feel like rearranging in the future.

Having a strict budget shouldn’t keep you from having a space that you love. For under $200 there are a number of quick changes you can make to your home. Mix and match a few ideas and you’ll be surprised at how quickly a little time and a few dollars can change the feel of your home.

Until next time, I’m the Domestic CEO, helping you love your home.

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