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Refinishing Your Kitchen Cabinets: Paint vs. Stains

November 21, 2016 2:03 am

So you've got new kitchen cabinets. Congratulations! But now what? For those wondering how to finish their brand spanking new cabinets, we run down the pros and cons of painting vs. staining—the two most popular finishing avenues.

Pros for paint
- It's flawless. Regardless of the color you choose, painting your cabinets covers up any quirks or blemishes in the natural wood, which can often be magnified by staining.

- Your color choices are endless. When it comes to picking a paint, the world is your multi-colored oyster. Get crazy and really customize the look and feel of your cabinets.

- Paint sticks to lower quality materials. If your cabinets are not made of wood (think particle board), paint is your BFF. It sticks to these materials just as well as higher grade wood options, and no one but you will know the difference.

Cons for paint
- It looks more uniform. Remember those natural quirks we mentioned? Well you may not want to cover these up. If you're looking for a more natural, country vibe that highlights those stunning features like grain and knots, opt for a stain over a paint.

- It's pricey. While not too expensive in the grand scheme, paint is more expensive than a stain, so if budget is a concern, take heed.

- Harder to touch up. Even if you can't find an exact match for your cabinet color, when you're working with stain, odds are you'll have better luck blending touch-ups in stain than with picky paint.

Source: Houzz

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Must-Read Financial Tips for First-Time Parents

November 21, 2016 2:03 am

So a babe is on the way? Congrats! Along with the chaos of, well, everything that is to come, your finances are soon to get an upheaval as well. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it will cost upwards of $245,000 to raise a child born in 2013 to the age of 18 – and this does not include college. Feeling that bank account burn already? Below are 5 tips for rocking your budget as a new mom or dad.

1. Tweak the budget. Your new little one is going to cost a pretty penny. From hospital costs to diapers and child care, budgetary stress is an added strain on you as a new mom or dad. Look for any un-necessaries you can slash to make room for more baby dollars. The more prepared you are, the better.

2. Track your spending. Don't just make that budget and set it aside. Set a monthly meeting with your spouse to look over your spending, make sure you're on track, and identify any problem areas or potential saving pockets.

3. Learn your tax credits. I bet you didn't see this one coming. Being a parent has some advantages at tax time, so talk to your tax professional about the child tax credit, the earned-income tax credit (EITC), and the child and dependent-care credit, all of which can save you mad money come tax tie.

4. Automate, automate, automate. Not only can automation help you avoid bouncing bills, but by having money withdrawn from your account, you can pad up your savings, too. Figure out how much you can part with every month and automatically squirrel it away into an emergency savings account, a college savings account, or both.

5. Set financial goals. While creating a budget and savings plan is great, setting goals for your family can help you stay on track. Looking to have a set amount in a college account by the time your kid hits 18? Do the math and decide how much you need to save monthly to hit it. Is an annual family vacation a must for connecting? Figure out how to stash some cash for that, and then make it happen. Don't forget to be realistic (a tour of Europe with a two-year-old wouldn't be that fun, anyway), and forgive yourself if it takes some time to get on track.

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Keeping Kids Active in Cooler Temperatures

November 18, 2016 1:57 am

(Family Features)--As the weather gets colder, it can be harder to motivate kids to step away from their computers and devices and get off the couch. However, it’s essential for kids to participate in active play all year round. According to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regular physical activity helps build and maintain healthy bones and muscles, promotes psychological well-being and reduces feelings of depression and anxiety.

Sadly, physical activity is becoming less of a priority in kids’ daily routines. A recent survey conducted by Let’s Play, an initiative from Dr Pepper Snapple Group to make active play a daily priority, found that 64 percent of parents said busy schedules stand in the way of more active play for their children, up from 56 percent in 2015.

Each season brings its own opportunities for play, and fall is no exception. Families can beat the cold weather blues and stay active together by trying some of the following activities:

Plan a nature walk to find inspiration and materials for art. Even though it’s chilly outside, your family can still get out and enjoy the outdoors. Bundle up and take a nature hike with your kids around the neighborhood or at a local, national or state park. Encourage your kids to collect items like pinecones, acorns and leaves as you go and to be on the lookout for wildlife to observe. After the hike, take out art and craft supplies and help them create projects with the items they found.

Plan an indoor scavenger hunt. When a really cold day comes along, send your kids on a fun and active scavenger hunt around the house, searching for items that you can hide in advance. Work together as a family to locate the items or create some friendly family competition to see who can find all the items first. Having the family move around the house with a mission prevents the temptation of staying on the couch in front of the television all day.

Join a class or indoor sports team. Whether you are playing a favorite sport or learning a new one, it is always more fun with other people. Longer stretches of active play are often more likely to occur with friends or siblings. Sign your children up for an indoor sport or class they have never tried before, such as gymnastics, rock climbing, swimming or dance. This allows your children to learn something new, meet kids their age and be active for an extended period of time.

Volunteer. While giving back is always in season, this time of year is a perfect opportunity to teach kids about giving back to those in need and being grateful for what they have. Sign the whole family up to volunteer at a local soup kitchen, participate in a toy drive for a children’s hospital or help out at an animal rescue shelter. Your children will not only be active, but will also grow emotionally, socially and intellectually as a result.

Source: LetsPlay.com

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Pull Your Holiday Table Together with a Tablescape

November 17, 2016 1:57 am

With the holidays looming, many are busy planning their holiday home décor. One decoration often overlooked is the tablescape – the decoration of your holiday table.

These top tips can help you pull together a festive tablescape this holiday season.

Think about the centerpiece: The centerpiece can tie the full look together. Fill a lantern with pumpkins, go for fall florals, or add a table runner to add various sizes of pumpkins lining the table.  

Create the look based on atmosphere: Think through all the details including where you will eat, who will attend, and how big of a crowd you'll host. You can still have a dinner al fresco with Edison bulbs or have a formal dinner for a larger group with stylish, party dinnerware that looks like the real deal. 

Expand décor beyond the table: Spreading leaves on a side table, adding candles and other thematic décor throughout the house can make decorations cohesive.

Themes don't need to be traditional: If you're going for different look this holiday season, At Home offers its Grateful Shores line – complete with driftwood and pumpkin decor that have a nautical twist.

Source: http://www.athome.com/.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Four Steps for Downsizing Your Home

November 17, 2016 1:57 am

(Family Features)--For one reason or another, you’ve determined the house you’re living in has become too much to handle. Seniors, empty nesters or those moving from a suburban home into a loft or apartment in the city all face similar challenges when it comes to downsizing.

For example, after Judy Raphael’s husband was diagnosed with dementia and moved to a nursing home, it became difficult for her to take care of her large house the couple had lived in for 23 years. At first, Raphael tried to maintain the house by herself, but things started to pile up and soon the house was in need of serious repairs.

“There were a lot of unknowns on what was wrong in the house – from mildew and mold to the driveway that needed to be replaced, the list goes on,” Raphael said.

When it comes to downsizing your living space, you can start preparing with these steps.

Determine what’s next. Think about what type of lifestyle you want to live moving forward, but take into account how much space you’ll actually need to accommodate that life. Whether it’s a smaller house or alternate option like an apartment or townhome, the first step is to decide what you’re looking for in your next living space. This can also help you figure out what items will move with you and what will need to be sold, donated, thrown away or left behind.

Assess what you actually need. Now that you’ve determined that downsizing is your best option, you’ll need to figure out what size, space and things you need. Maybe there’s a pile of stuff collecting dust in your attic or basement that can be sold or donated, or maybe you believe you can move all of your belongings into a more compact area. Either way, a downsize means going through storage spaces, closets and room in your home to determine what stays behind and what goes with you.

Sell your home. Raphael knew she needed to fix the house before it would be considered sellable, but knew she could not manage it alone. Working with a reputable real estate brokerage will help you sell your home faster, and with ease.

Stay organized during the move. You’ve now spent a ton of time and energy going through old things and boxing up possessions for the big move – don’t let that time go to waste by allowing your organization to fall apart on move-in day. Make sure you store items in places that make sense, going room-by-room in an organized fashion.

Source: homevestors.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Plan Your Outdoor Living Space

November 16, 2016 1:57 am

(Family Features)-- Nothing makes your home feel more expansive than functional outdoor spaces. Whether you're planning a deck, an outdoor kitchen or a poolside patio, read on for quick tips to make creating your outdoor oasis exciting and easy:

Get digitally inspired
The Internet is a great place to get your creative juices flowing. There are countless online resources to help homeowners create and plan their ideal outdoor living space. A great starting point is perusing the outdoor living projects posted on social media channels, such as Houzz and Pinterest. For more inspirational images and valuable information, check out the websites of home and garden magazines, contractors and decking manufacturers.

Dive into design
Designing a deck starts with the same questions as planning interior rooms, such as whether it will be used for relaxing, grilling or socializing. Determine how to incorporate those activities into your space by exploring the possibilities with online apps. Trex offers several ready-to-build Deck Design Plans representing today’s most popular and versatile designs. Once a user selects a design, the tool provides the details of the deck’s dimensions and materials needed, as well as an overview of the design’s benefits so that homeowners can be assured they are selecting the ideal layout for their planned outdoor living activities.

Decide on details
When planning, have fun exploring the many design elements that are available for customizing your deck. You’ll need to decide early on if you want to incorporate features like built-in seating, planters and storage, as well as add-ons such as a pergola or outdoor lighting, which can add comfort, character and convenience to your outdoor living space.

Incorporate railing
As one of the most visible parts of the deck, railing can provide design inspiration and should be considered from the outset. Available in a wide array of styles, shapes and materials, you can tailor your railing to personalize and frame your outdoor space.  

Understand costs and value
To ensure your dream deck remains within reach, keep costs in mind. Several factors will affect the price, including the size and shape, along with any extras you incorporate. When evaluating expenses, think beyond the initial material and labor costs and peer into the future. With wood decks, the costs of sanding, staining and painting add up over time. Over the life of a composite deck, the reduced maintenance costs of simple soap and water cleanings add up to a greater return on investment – not to mention the value of all the time spent enjoying the deck rather than maintaining it.

Source: trex.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tips for Buying a New Furnace

November 16, 2016 1:57 am

Whether you're snagging a new furnace for your just-purchased home, or replacing your old clunker with an updated option, below are top tips for those looking into a new furnace for their home

Size matters – One of the most important factors when buying a furnace is to have a professional installer examine the size of the house and then determine the size of the furnace necessary for the space. A furnace that is too large leaves gaps in temperature as it turns on until it overwhelms the thermostat. The house ends up cooling down until the next cycle and creates an inconsistent temperature. A furnace that is the right size for the space, however, will be able to better regulate a constant temperature.

Fewer emissions – Being energy and environmentally conscious does not have to stop at the furnace. With Napoleon’s HYBRID 150, the fuel comes from three different sources – wood, oil or electric. This furnace is one of the cleanest and most efficient combination solid fuel-burning furnaces on the market today. The furnace switches from wood to oil or electric automatically and if the furnace runs out of wood a second thermostat will keep the house nice and toasty even if you are not at home.

Don’t buy on price alone – Always be sure to ask a professional installer, contractor or reputable salesperson about annual operating costs for whatever furnaces you may be looking at. While there are a variety of factors to consider, price should not necessarily be number one. Efficiencies, however, can vary drastically depending on price, which means that if you pay more up front now, you’ll still enjoy lower heating bills 10 or 15 years later.

Get the right documentation – Any reputable installer or manufacturer will be sure to not only include the purchase agreement and warranty information but also explain exactly what you are getting. If you feel confused or unsure about anything don’t be afraid to ask.

Correct installation and maintenance – Furnace installation should be done by a trained professional as not only can it be a safety hazard but if anything is off it can severely impact your efficiency and therefore your heating bill. Regular maintenance, generally in the fall, will keep the furnace performing like it should, keeping your family warm and your wallet a little fuller.

 Source: Napoleon

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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8 Tips to Protect Your Identity

November 14, 2016 1:57 am


Identity theft is more than just someone tapping into your bank account. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, an estimated 17.6 million U.S. residents experienced the misuse of their personal information in 2014, up from 16.6 million victims in 2012. 
 
“Fraudsters can use your personal information to conduct a variety of illegitimate transactions, such as opening bogus accounts, filing tax returns and getting access to medical care,” says Doug Johnson, American Bankers Association’s (ABA) senior vice president of Payments and Cybersecurity Policy. “As a result, consumers are urged to safeguard their personal information before it gets into the wrong hands.”

ABA offers the following tips to help consumers protect themselves from becoming a victim of identity theft:

Don’t share your secrets. Don’t provide your Social Security number or account information to anyone who contacts you online or over the phone. Protect your PINs and passwords and do not share them with anyone. Use a combination of letters and numbers for your passwords and change them periodically. Do not reveal sensitive or personal information on social networking sites.

Shred sensitive papers. Shred receipts, banks statements and unused credit card offers before throwing them away.

Keep an eye out for missing mail. Fraudsters look for monthly bank or credit card statements or other mail containing your financial information. Consider enrolling in online banking to reduce the likelihood of paper statements being stolen. Also, don’t mail bills from your own mailbox with the flag up.

Use online banking to protect yourself. Monitor your financial accounts regularly for fraudulent transactions. Sign up for text or email alerts from your bank for certain types of transactions, such as online purchases or transactions of more than $500.

Monitor your credit report. Order a free copy of your credit report every four months from one of the three credit reporting agencies at annualcreditreport.com.

Protect your computer. Make sure the virus protection software on your computer is active and up to date. When conducting business online, make sure your browser’s padlock or key icon is active. Also look for an “s” after the “http” to be sure the website is secure.

Protect your mobile device. Use the passcode lock on your smartphone and other devices. This will make it more difficult for thieves to access your information if your device is lost or stolen. Before you donate, sell or trade your mobile device, be sure to wipe it using specialized software or using the manufacturer’s recommended technique. Some software allows you to wipe your device remotely if it is lost or stolen. Use caution when downloading apps, as they may contain malware and avoid opening links and attachments – especially for senders you don’t know.

Report any suspected fraud to your bank immediately. 

Source: American Bankers Association (ABA)
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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3 Rules to Simplify Your Holiday Entertaining

November 14, 2016 1:57 am


(Family Features)—The hustle and bustle of the holiday season may feel overwhelming at times, and for hosts throwing holiday parties, sticking to formal cooking and dining traditions can be time-consuming and stressful. In the season dedicated to spending time with family and friends, experimenting with simple entertaining ideas and informal settings can allow for more time to enjoy the party with your guests.

To simplify your festive soiree, try these insider tips from Macy's Culinary Council, the national culinary authority featuring some of the nation's leading chefs from across the country.

Simple Satisfaction
Sometimes less can be more, even when trying to impress guests. Chef Nancy Silverton suggests using quality ingredients like flavorful lettuces or vegetables. There is no need to mask them with fancy sauces; the ingredients can speak for themselves. A simple drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, squeeze of lemon and some sea salt is enough to dress up a dish that guests will deem delicious.

Less of a Mess 
Complicated cooking methods that require too much cookware and gadgets can keep hosts in the kitchen instead of socializing with guests. Chef Rick Bayless says his focus is on simplicity and ease in the kitchen, such as using the least amount of pots and pans possible to accomplish the same goal. Try a one-pot dish in a slow cooker to reduce kitchen clutter and ensure easier clean-up.

Comfort Is Key
A less formal seating arrangement encourages relaxation and comfortable dining for all. When entertaining, Chef Johnny Iuzzini places chairs and stools throughout his home for guests to enjoy as they please rather than structuring how and where they sit and eat. Place appetizers on the coffee table or create a buffet-style spread on your dinner table. This informal layout allows for a laid-back atmosphere where hosts can easily mingle with guests.
 
Source: Macys
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Would You Sell Part of Your Home to Investors?

November 14, 2016 1:57 am


We bring you important points in housing each week—and this week (literally!) is no exception.

A new startup, Point (Point.com), aims to make homeowners free of debt and able to unlock the wealth in their home—but to do that, a homeowner must sell a portion of the equity in his or her home to Point’s investors.

How does it work? A homeowner provides some basic information about their home and household finances. Point instantly assigns homeowners pre-approval or denial based on the information they provide.

If pre-approved, Point provides a provisional offer based on the data provided—that offer is typically for between 5 percent and 10 percent of the home’s current value. To be eligible for Point, the owner(s) need to retain at least 20 percent of the equity in their home after Point's investment. The homeowner then completes a full application and provides documentation for the Point underwriting team. 

Within approximately a week, Point will schedule a home valuation visit, which the homeowner covers— generally between $500 and $700. Once the valuation is complete, Point will share the appraiser's report with the homeowner.

If the valuation is deemed acceptable by the homeowner, Point will finalize the offer following the appraisal and receipt of all supporting application documents, and call the homeowner to meet with a notary to sign the Point Homeowner Agreement.

Point then files a Deed of Trust and Memorandum of Option on the property in the county recorder's office. Once filings have been confirmed, Point transfers the offer funds (with less than 3 percent escrow and processing fees) electronically to the homeowner’s bank account.

If the homeowner sells his or her home within the agreed-upon terms, then Point will be automatically paid from escrow. If the homeowner does not sell his or her home, he or she can buy back Point’s stake at any time during the term, at the then-current appraised property value. 

Would you sell part of your home to investors?
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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