Guest Post: Keeping Your Sanity When the World Seems to Lose It: Are You Spending Too Much on Your Cost of Living?

Guest Post from Linda Bailey

For a homeowner, it is easy to add a variety of services without putting much thought into what you actually need to survive. Many of us will wind up with monthly expenses that are well beyond our means. That’s the power of marketing. Companies will make something sound like an incredible deal in order to entice you to subscribe. However, are these deals really worth the extra money you spend per month?
Phone Service
Phone services can cause a great deal of damage to a strict monthly budget. The major companies will try and lock you into a contract over a certain amount of time and will bill you, or possibly take you to court, if you try to back out. If you are trying to get back on your feet, a variety of services exist that will allow you to pay as you go. Prepaid SIM cards for supported phones can be purchased and thrown away once they are exhausted. Programmable minute cards can be used with certain types of services allowing you to add as little as $5 to your usage. This could save a great deal of money if you don’t use the phone often.

Television Services
Home entertainment is another avenue that many people get caught up in. Companies will make you feel like you’re getting a deal to make as much money as they can. Without exploring your options for finding a better plan, you could be paying far more than you need to. There may be a service available in your area that you are not aware of that can save you even more money.

Internet Services
You may think you need 35MB downstream Internet in order to watch all of your favorite movies or chat with your friends on Facebook, but do you really need that high of bandwidth? Unless you have a family of five that is streaming content simultaneously, high bandwidth services such as these are essentially overkill. Even if there are two or three active gamers in your home, half of that bandwidth should suffice. You could possibly eliminate half of your Internet bill, if not more, by downgrading.

Rent-to-Own
One of the most alluring aspects of rent-to-own locations is the ability to pick up a needed item today and make low monthly or weekly payments over the span of two years to pay it off. One of the problems with this type of service is the amount of money you wind up paying for the specific item. Over the course of those two years, you could have purchased three or even four of the item in question. Unless it’s an emergency and you truly don’t have the money to buy a new appliance, these places can be harmful to your budget. If you want a 62″ LCD television because they are “cool,” then you may need to rethink your strategies. Each of these items you pick up will add to your monthly cost-of-living expenses.

There are plenty of services you pay for that you may not have to. If you are on a tight budget, eliminating as many “creature comforts” as possible can help you live an easier life. Explore your options and find deals that can help you save additional money in the services you wish to keep. You may just find out that you have been spending more than you needed to.

Author Bio:

This post is contributed by Linda Bailey from housekeeping.org. She is a Texas-based writer who loves to write on the topics of housekeeping, green living, home décor, and more. She welcomes your comments which can be sent to b.lindahousekeeping @ gmail.com.

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Guest Post: 5 Multipurpose Furniture Pieces for Smaller Spaces

By: Tali Wee of Zillow.com

Modern-day furniture designers make the lifestyle of studio apartment living much more comfortable. Multipurpose furniture frees up space typically consumed by beds, guest beds, game tables, chairs and desks. Versatile pieces allow condo owners or apartment renters to transform their bedrooms into functional home offices and back again with ease and in just moments. Check out Zillow Digs for ideas on how to configure multipurpose furniture and create stunning, well-designed spaces with little square footage.

Rather than omitting necessary fixtures such as ottomans and desks, consider these five space-savers that serve multiple purposes.

  1. Ottoman Bed For Overnight Guests

Blowing up the air mattress when guests need a place to crash can be a hassle. This twin-size guest bed folds up neatly into a functional ottoman with a slipcover to match the existing design of a room. Keep it in the living room or spare bedroom as decoration, then simply fold it out when the guests are ready to call it a night. The ottoman/beds have mattresses inside, but additional mattress pads for increased comfort are sold separately along with specialty sheets. The ottoman/bed combination can be purchased from Solutions for $199.

From Zillow 1

Source: boconcept.us

  1. Couch that Comfortably Sleeps Two

This is more than a sofa bed. One single uplifting motion reveals a bi-level sleeping option complete with a ladder and guard rail for safety. No further assembly is required on the Bonbon Doc Sofa Bunk Bed. Additionally, a variety of finish and fabric options are available for customizing the piece. All covers are removable and washing machine friendly. Prices start at $6,800.

 From Zillow 2

Source: designyoutrust.com

  1. Decorative Bike Storage

Storing a bike inside takes up valuable floor space and presents a safety hazard. Hang a bike out of the way under this fully functional shelf from Knife & Saw. The Bike Shelf allows cyclists to fashionably showcase their eco-friendly vehicles indoors. Choose between two sizes, standard and small, to best fit an individual space. The Bike Shelf comes in walnut and ash finishes for $299.

 From Zillow 3

Source: theknifeandsaw.com

 

  1. Dining Table Turned Pool Table

No more fighting over how to utilize extra living space. Create both a dining area and game room with this dual-purpose piece. The Fusion Table by Aramith offers elegant and fun designs to match any home’s decor. A leg riser system raises the dining table to 33 inches for standard American pool table height. Select between benches or chairs that conveniently fit underneath the table during a game of billiards. Estimates are quoted through the online table configurator, but the average cost is around $8,000.

From Zillow 4

Source: fusiontables.com

  1. Modular Sofas

Don’t worry about being confined to one shape. Stack and rearrange these cubes to create the perfect seating at any moment. Transform a basic space into a living room, bedroom or office. Multiplo is a conceptual design by HeyTeam that combines versatility in a relatively small package, but it hasn’t been set for production quite yet. Keep an eye out for the progress of this proposal.

From Zillow 5

Source: heyteam.it

These five solutions are just a few of the options available in the trending niche of multipurpose furniture. Most pieces offer storage space along with two or three extra functions with a modern, sleek design. Although brand-name prices are steep, most of these pieces are available as knock-offs, which are sold at Wal-Mart and other discount furniture outlets.

Guest Post: Make Your Home Appealing to a Buyer

 

If you are thinking about selling your home, then you need to begin preparing your home to make sure it is appealing to potential buyers. Keep your home looking nice even when you do not have any viewings coming up because potential buyers might drive past your house to have a look before setting up a viewing and you do not want to be rushing around if someone has set up a last minute viewing. Here are a few tips for you to make sure your home is appealing to any buyers.

–        Temporarily get rid of pets

Obviously, you do not have to keep your pets out of the house for the whole time you are trying to sell, but you may want to send them to a family member’s home while you are showing people around. Some buyers may not like dogs or cats and they could potentially be allergic, so it is best not to have your pets around.

pet

–        Clean your home

Not many people will find a dirty home very attractive, so give it a good clean before anyone comes to view it. If you give your home one good clean, then you will not have to do another big clean again, if you keep on top of it, that is.

–        Make sure it is decluttered

A decluttered home looks more spacious and this is something potential buyers might be looking for. A spacious home is a bonus and no clutter allows the potential buyer to see the home without the mess. Clutter may suggest to a potential buyer that you have something to hide in your home.

–        Make the front look nice

This is the first part of the home potential buyers are going to see, so this counts as the first impression. Make the front of the house look nice by cleaning any cobwebs off the porch and adding a few potted plants. If you have a front lawn, then make sure it is neat.

–        Add simple homely touches

Just adding simple things, such as flowers, around the house can really make it more appealing to a buyer because it seems more like a home.

Obviously these tips will not guarantee a quick house sale for you because it depends on what the buyer is looking for, but following these tips will definitely give you a better chance of selling your home. Basically, just make sure it looks clean and presentable so the potential buyer can see the house for what it really is.

vase of flowers

About the Author: Shelly Flaherty is the mother of two children and she loves everything about property and interior design. She recommends taking a look at Alloy Structures if you are in need of more space quickly!

Guest Post: Stress Reduction Tips for Simplicity During the Holidays

The holidays are often a very stressful time of year. Not keeping stress in check can lead to even more stress during the most wonderful time of the year. The good news is that there are ways to prevent stress and stay sane during the holidays so that you can enjoy your loved ones and celebrations.

Image Source: moastidrom.blogspot.com 

Talk it Out: Find a close friend and just talk to them. Getting whatever is causing your stress off of your chest will make a world of difference. Make sure the person you talk to is trustworthy and not a source of your stress, however. You need to be able to be completely honest and open with this person for them to help you in relieving some stress.

Watch Your Budget: It feels good to buy great gifts for everyone on your list, but your bank account and credit card debt may not like this very much. Finances are a major source of stress during the holidays. Your family will not love you any less if you do not get them the most expensive gifts. They just want your love and company. So, create a reasonable budget and stick with it. You will have less stress and enjoy the holidays a lot more.

Throw Perfection Out the Window: Things are not going to go flawlessly. There may be a hot toy that you will not be able to find, a pie that gets a little burned or you may be a few minutes late to a party due to traffic or weather. The holidays never go perfectly. Just know that things can and will happen and regardless, everything will still be fine. In a nutshell, give yourself permission to let go of the things that are out of your control and do not over-analyze the things in your control.

Maintain Your Healthy Habits: It may be hard to exercise with family staying at your house, or to stick to healthy foods with so many tempting treats. However, it is important to keep your healthy habits because this will help make you feel better and you will not have to worry about feeling guilty for over-eating or not exercising. Now, this is not to say that you have to be flawless, but instead of eating in excess, eat the portions you would normally eat and then get your workouts in as you normally would. Your body and mind will thank you. It is also important to keep sugar and fats to a minimum because these can make us just not feel our healthiest.

Plan Ahead: Few things are as stressful as getting things done last minute. Get your shopping done in advance and do a check about a month before a big dinner or party to make sure that you have everything you will need. This way you will have an entire month to get those odds and ends. When the big day comes, you will be able to just concentrate on getting everything together and will not be in a position where you have to rush to the stores to find one or two items that are often flying off the shelves during the holidays.

Do Some Deep Breathing: When you feel like steam is about to start coming out of your ears, take 15 minutes, go somewhere where you can be alone and do some deep breathing. If you have a house full of people, go out to your car. Just find a quiet place where you can get comfortable, close your eyes and breathe deeply for 10 to 15 minutes. This will calm your nerves and restore your inner calm.

 

About the Author: Richard Tucker is a father of 2 who has been writing about self-improvement and simple living for many years. When he’s not writing, you can find Rich reviewing energy efficient elevator replacement components.

Guest Post: 5 Easy Ways to Clean Green

5 Easy Ways to Clean Green

Your home is a castle, and to keep it looking its best you must maintain cleanliness. Yet, too many cleaning products contain chemicals that are potentially harmful to the environment and to your health.  This is why many consumers are turning to more natural “green” cleaning options for keeping their homes clean and sparkly, without all the harmful residue and fumes left behind by store bought cleaning products.

Green cleaning is something that you can do to protect your family by reducing irritants in the air and surfaces that lead to allergies and discomfort. Plus, you’ll be able to save money on cleaning products. Many natural alternative cleaning solutions offer the same if not better results as compared to name brand cleaning products. You probably have some of these items around your home already.

 Get Ready to Clean Your Home the Green Way

So, if you are ready to take steps to a safer, and cleaner home, here are five easy ways to clean green:

  1.  Green Cleaning in the Kitchen – Your kitchen is probably the dirtiest spot in the house because of all the traffic it gets in an ordinary week. From handprints and spills on surfaces to smelly sink drains, your kitchen can get a boost with some green cleaning methods. Start out by locating a clean spray bottle. Fill halfway with water and then add ¼ cup of vinegar and a half of lemon squeezed. Spritz surfaces with this natural disinfectant to remove dirt and germs. Use this for mopping floors and for wiping down tabletops and door frames. Put the lemon rind into the garbage disposal and grind to remove sink odors.
  2. Get Your Bathrooms Clean Naturally – Next to the kitchen, a bathroom can be the harborer of tons of germs like e-coli and strep that cause illness. Get your bathroom in tip top shape with green cleaning methods. Grab your baking soda and use this as a paste to clean up hard water stains around the sink, tub, and toilet. Use a gentle scrubbing motion with a wet rag. Leave a nice shine on bathroom chrome and mirrors with a spritz of your vinegar and lemon green cleaning solution.
  3. Laundry Woes Say Goodbye – The laundry room can be a source of dirt, smells and stains on piled up clothes and bedding. To bust this grime in very little time, use natural cleaning elements in with your regular routine. First, ditch the perfumed laundry soap and opt for unscented and dye free formulas. To add fragrance, simply add a few drops of lavender or tea tree oil. Use baking soda to get out stains. Re-use old toothbrushes for treating stains.
  4. Windows and Appliances Shine – The hallmark of a clean home is one that has clean streak-free windows and sparking appliances. Use your vinegar and lemon cleaner on all these surfaces. For windows that are clean without the build-up, use old newspapers to wipe them down.
  5.  Green Cleaning Outdoors – While the inside of your home is starting to shape up, the outside could use a little green cleaning as well. Try removing exterior stains, mildew and rust with a cleaning solution of water and lemon juice. For tough cleaning power on decks, patios, and lawn furniture, try sprinkling with a combination of sea salt and baking powder, scrubbing then rinsing clean. The sun will naturally do the rest.

Keeping your home clean the green way can be a benefit to your family’s health and home’s value. Try the above methods and see how good your home can look in just minutes.

About the Author: Karen Miller has been a leading expert on everything green for over 15 years. When she isn’t writing, you can find her spending time with her family at home or covering freelance stories for Terminix Pest Control Services.

Guest Post: Planting a Vegetable Garden in an Outdoor Space

Planting a Vegetable Garden in an Outdoor Space

Everyone is taking about how important it is to eat enough fresh vegetables, yet far too often it can be expensive to get five servings a day. One of the most cost effective and rewarding options is to plan a vegetable garden right in your own outdoor space. From backyard gardens to rooftop container gardening, anyone can start living the good life as a vegetable grower.

Outdoor Vegetable Garden Ideas

Here are some ways to plant a vegetable garden in any outdoor space, whether you live in the country or the city.

Raised container gardening is very easy to try for a first time grower or anyone looking to control the gardening space. This is especially helpful if you have a small yard, or want something in easy reach. For older people or those with handicaps that prevent a lot of bending and lifting, a raised vegetable garden can be ideal. Start by choosing your raised container type and size. You may want to start with a wooden frame placed on top of a solid surface. Add your soil; get it to the proper pH level, while you start your seedlings indoors. Then, plant for each season of vegetables tending to the weeds and pests.

Porch, veranda and patio gardening offers so many unique opportunities to grow healthful vegetables in limited space, without all the digging and soil prep that a traditional garden requires. Choose the plants you would like to grow and determine the type of root depth and space each plant needs to be healthy. Then purchase low cost containers made from porous material, like terra cotta, and fill with soil and starter plants. Use trellises to support vines, and use the right amount of watering and fertilizer to keep your plants producing. Or you may try an upside-down planter for tomatoes and peppers.

Your back yard outdoor entertainment areas can be a great location for planting a vegetable garden too, because they offer plenty of shade and shelter from the elements. Choose to add a small flower bed along one side of your house and include a few colorful vegetable and herb plants too. Red peppers, carrots, and parsley often look stunning nestled among flowering shrubs. You can also try hanging plant containers and grow your vegetables above your head, somewhat out of sight from guests, but in easy reach for salads.

In many urban and suburb regions, entire neighborhoods are participating in communal vegetable gardening to support a more sustainable lifestyle. This means you may be able to get together with those in your community to earn approval to plant vegetables in a local park instead of letting it go to ruin. While you can benefit from having access to a wider array of fresh vegetables, you can also provide a bountiful harvest for local food pantries and soup kitchens for those dealing with homelessness and poverty. This can make not only a difference in your life, but to others at the same time.

Growing a vegetable garden outdoors can be a highly rewarding experience that’s good for your health, your food budget and your environment.

 

About the author: Lindsay Parrich is a renowned freelance writer with many years of experience with the home & garden industry. She also covers humane rodent control companies such as Bird-X in her free time.

Guest Post: A Green Home is Easier than you Think

 A Green Home is Easier than you Think- by Brianna Perkle

While I very much want to have a green home, I’ve sometimes been confused and a little flustered about the best ways to make it happen. I’m not super-organized, and I didn’t want the effort to take over my life. Luckily there are lots of ideas that are just a few clicks away.One of the simplest things to do is recycle. It was easy to set up bins to separate each type of recycling as I went along, and trash day has become a breeze. On the flip side, I also try to buy things with containers made of post-consumer recycled products.The inside of my house has been “re-energized” with compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and tighter seals around windows and doors to prevent excess energy usage.

image credit

When I remodel my kitchen in the coming months, the focus will definitely be on green alternatives. I’m replacing the lot—dishwasher, fridge, microwave, and stove—and the new versions will all have an energy star label. This means they’ll use less energy while still providing me with excellent results.

image credit

Green cleaning products can now be found in almost every major grocery store. These new cleaners not only keep toxins out of the environment but out of my lungs as I use them. Those with asthma or other breathing issues find this especially helpful.

In my search to be live green, I found many other ideas that are simple and easy to accomplish.

  • Buy USDA Certified Organic coffee. This means it has been grown with sustainability in mind.
  • Put your computer in sleep mode if you’ll be away for more than 20 minutes, or set it up to automatically sleep after that much time.
  • Bring your own bags when shopping. Some retailers will now pay you for not leaving with one of their plastic bags.
  • Plug your electronics into an energy-efficient power strip, and shut the strip off at night to prevent a constant energy drain.
  • Turn off the tap while you brush your teeth. You’ll reduce the amount of wasted water and lower your water bill.

It takes some thought and effort to have a green home, but it’s not difficult and the results will have an impact for generations to come. Start with a few small steps and let the good feelings push you to do more. If I can be green, anyone can!