TagDIY

13 Cold Weather Tips and Tricks

Indoors

Take vanilla out of the kitchen

When it’s too cold to open the windows, freshen your whole house fast by placing a few drops of vanilla extract on your furnace’s filter. Your house’s heating system will do the rest of the work for you. To scent one particular area, take a small jar and place several cotton balls inside. Dab a few drops of vanilla extract onto the cotton balls. Before putting the cover on the jar, use a nail to puncture a few holes into it for your very own vanilla air freshener.

Make it spicy

To easily deodorize your kitchen, put a cinnamon stick and other favorite spices (such as cloves or ginger) in a mug of water, and microwave it for 2 minutes. Remove the mug and set it on the counter so that the aroma can fill the kitchen. This trick is great for winter, when the scent of the spices will create a warm, cozy atmosphere.

Seal the door

Have a sliding glass door that’s rarely used during the winter? Seal it with duct tape to keep cold air from coming in.

SEE ALSO:  Domestic CEO's How to Make Your Home (and Everything in it) Smell Good

Outdoors

Winterize deck furniture

To keep your metal deck furniture free from rust and wear all winter long, reach for the petroleum jelly Just apply a thin layer (especially in areas where the furniture tends to rust) after cleaning the surface with simple soap and water.

Ease painful pads on pets

Many dogs love to play outside in the snow, but their paws can cause them pain if ice starts to build up between their pads. Before heading out for a winter walk, rub some petroleum jelly between each pad. The ice will stay away and your dog can enjoy the outdoors! If your poor pet’s pads are already cracked or dry, gently rub a little petroleum jelly into her pads while she’s sleeping.

Petroleum jelly is completely safe if your pet decides she wants to lick it off later.

Spray on a little D-fense.

Spray WD-40 in the lining of car doors. Doing this once in the beginning of the winter should keep your doors opening easily.

Baby powder to the rescue

Use baby powder or baking soda to absorb the moisture that collects on the rubber seal lining of your car door. Just wipe the weather strip with a dry cloth before sprinkling on the powder. Repeat every few days in the dead of winter to make sure you can always get into your car.

RELATED: Who Knew's 7 Car Hacks for Winter Weather

Easy undercarriage cleaning

Don’t forget to clean under your car, especially if you live in an area where salt and ice assault in winter.

A trick for these hard-to-reach areas: Run a lawn sprinkler underneath the car and drive back and forth.

Block the lock

To keep your car’s door locks safe from ice during the cold winter months, place a refrigerator magnet over the lock. You can even take an old magnet (last year’s calendar from a local realtor, perhaps) and cut it into pieces that fit perfectly.

Personal Care

Brush to better lips

For lips that need a little extra TLC, especially in the winter, try this effective scrub. Mix together 2 teaspoons baking soda with enough lemon juice to make a paste. Gently scrub the mixture over your lips with a dry toothbrush for a minute or two, then rinse, and apply some petroleum jelly or your favorite lip balm.

Go crazy for cranberry

For a seasonal solution to chapped winter lips—and a great DIY gift idea for the holidays—try this cranberry lip balm! In a microwave-safe bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon avocado or almond oil, 10 fresh cranberries, 1 teaspoon honey, and 1 drop vitamin E oil (from a capsule). Microwave on high until the mixture begins to boil. Remove carefully as the bowl may be hot. Mash the berries with a fork and stir well to combine. After the mixture has cooled for 10 minutes, strain it into a small portable tin, making sure to remove all of the fruit pieces. Cool completely. You’ve made your own great-smelling lip balm!

Sweater cryogenics

If your favorite cashmere or angora sweater is looking a little worn, put it in a plastic bag and place it in the freezer for half an hour. The cold causes the fibers to expand, making your sweater look new again! Who knew there was such a thing as sweater cryogenics?

JUST FOR FUN: Savvy Psychologist's How to Harness Light to Defeat Winter Blues

Your warmest boots

Make your winter boots a little warmer—and make sure they’re completely waterproof—by lining the bottom of the insides with duct tape. The tape will create a waterproof seal, and the shiny silver will reflect your body heat back onto your feet.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

Per Stirpes vs. Per Capita in Estate Planning

Three generations of one familyWhen creating an estate plan, one of the most basic documents you may wish to include is a will. If you have a more complicated estate, you might also need to have a trust in place. Both a will and a trust can specify how you want assets distributed among your beneficiaries. When making those decisions, it’s important to distinguish between per stirpes and per capita distributions. These are two terms you’re likely to come across when shaping your estate plan. Here’s a closer look at what per stirpes vs. per capita means.

Per Stirpes, Explained

If you’ve never heard the term per stirpes before, it’s a Latin phrase that translates to “by branch” or “by class.” When this term is applied to estate planning, it refers to the equal distribution of assets among the different branches of a family and their surviving descendants.

A per stirpes designation allows the descendants of a beneficiary to keep inherited assets within that branch of their family, even if the original beneficiary passes away. Those assets would be equally divided between the survivors.

Here’s an example of how per stirpes distributions work for estate planning. Say that you draft a will in which you designate your adult son and daughter as beneficiaries. You opt to leave your estate to them, per stirpes.

If you pass away before both of your children, then they could each claim a half share of your estate under the terms of your will. Now, assume that each of your children has two children of their own and your son passes away before you do. In that scenario, your daughter would still inherit a half share of the estate. But your son’s children would split his half of your estate, inheriting a quarter share each.

Per stirpes distributions essentially create a trickle-down effect, in which assets can be passed on to future generations if a primary beneficiary passes away. A general rule of thumb is that the flow of assets down occurs through direct descendants, rather than spouses. So, if your son were married, his children would be eligible to inherit his share of your estate, not his wife.

Per Capita, Explained

Older couple signs a will

Per capita is also a Latin term which means “by head.” When you use a per capita distribution method for estate planning, any assets you have would pass equally to the beneficiaries are still living at the time you pass away. If you’re writing a will or trust as part of your estate plan, that could include the specific beneficiaries you name as well as their descendants.

So again, say that you have a son and a daughter who each have two children. These are the only beneficiaries you plan to include in your will. Under a per capita distribution, instead of your son and daughter receiving a half share of your estate, they and your four grandchildren would each receive a one-sixth share of your assets. Those share portions would adjust accordingly if one of your children or grandchildren were to pass away before you.

Per Stirpes vs. Per Capita: Which Is Better?

Whether it makes sense to use a per stirpes or per capita distribution in your estate plan can depend largely on how you want your assets to be distributed after you’re gone. It helps to consider the pros and cons of each option.

Per Stirpes Pros:

  • Allows you to keep asset distributions within the same branch of the family
  • Eliminates the need to amend or update wills and trusts when a child is born to one of your beneficiaries or a beneficiary passes away
  • Can help to minimize the potential for infighting among beneficiaries since asset distribution takes a linear approach

Per Stirpes Cons:

  • It’s possible an unwanted person could take control of your assets (i.e., the spouse of one of your children if he or she is managing assets on behalf of a minor child)

Per Capita Pros:

  • You can specify exactly who you want to name as beneficiaries and receive part of your estate
  • Assets are distributed equally among beneficiaries, based on the value of your estate at the time you pass away
  • You can use this designation to pass on assets outside of a will, such as a 401(k) or IRA

Per Capita Cons:

  • Per capita distributions could trigger generation-skipping tax for grandchildren or other descendants who inherit part of your estate

Deciding whether it makes more sense to go with per stirpes vs. per capita distributions can ultimately depend on your personal preferences. Per stirpes distribution is typically used in family settings when you want to ensure that individual branches of the family will benefit from your estate. On the other hand, per capita distribution gives you control over which individuals or group of individuals are included as beneficiaries.

Review Beneficiary Designations Periodically

Multi-generational family

If you have a will and/or a trust, you may have named your beneficiaries. But it’s possible that you may want to change those designations at some point. If you named your son and his wife in your will, for example, but they’ve since gotten divorced you may want to update the will with a codicil to exclude his ex-wife. It’s also helpful to check the beneficiary designations on retirement accounts, investment accounts and life insurance policies after a major life change.

For example, if you get divorced then you may not want your spouse to be the beneficiary of your retirement accounts. Or if they pass away before you, you may want to update your beneficiary designations to your children or grandchildren.

The Bottom Line

Per stirpes and per capita distribution rules can help you decide what happens to your assets after you pass away. But they both work very differently. Understanding the implications of each one for your beneficiaries, including how they may be affected from a tax perspective, can help you decide which course to take.

Tips for Estate Planning

  • Consider talking to a financial advisor about how to get started with estate planning and what per stirpes vs. per capita distributions might mean for your heirs. If you don’t have a financial advisor yet, finding one doesn’t have to be complicated. SmartAsset’s financial advisor matching tool can help you connect, within minutes, with a professional advisor in your local area. If you’re ready, get started now.
  • While it’s always a good idea to consult with a financial advisor about estate planning, you can take a do-it-yourself approach to writing a will by doing it online. Here’s what you need to know about digital DIY will writing.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/Georgijevic, ©iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages, ©iStock.com/FatCamera

The post Per Stirpes vs. Per Capita in Estate Planning appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

Source: smartasset.com

The Best Time to Buy a TV, Mattress and More: Here’s Your Guide

Some purchases are tough to plan: car repairs, patches for a leaky roof, a working furnace right before the big snowstorm hits.

But more often than not, you can plan ahead for life’s necessities — and some non-necessities, too.

Before you let an impulse buy drain your bank account, consult our handy calendar of the best time to buy absolutely everything. You might be surprised at the deals each new season brings!

Our Guide to the Best Time to Buy Everything

Be a smart shopper and plan your purchases according to this calendar, which plots the best deals, month by month.

What to Buy in January

Kick off the new year with big savings.

TVs

Retailers know that the newest TVs and other electronics are revealed at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in January. This makes January the best time to buy a TV, thanks to major discounts — as long as you don’t covet the new, fancy models too much.

Calendars

No need to rush to the bookstore in December to get a new wall or desk calendar. Buy one in January to get a discount.

Gym Memberships and Home Fitness Equipment

The pandemic may have kept you out of the gym, and you might still be hesitant to return. But gyms are known to offer big incentives to sign up and get fit in the New Year. Home gym equipment also goes on sale in January, as do scales, according to Consumer Reports. Here’s some guidance on what equipment you need for a good, affordable home gym.

Linens

The yearly tradition of hosting a white sale dates back to the 1870s, when linens were only available in white. But modern white sales include linens and home goods in every color of the rainbow.

Don’t be swayed by sheets with super-high thread counts — you probably don’t know what different thread counts feel like.

Christmas Gear

I know, you have an entire 11 months until you get invited to your next ugly sweater party. But my Goodwill intel reports that January is the best time to find a truly hideous sweater for way cheap. Other Christmas supplies are also on sale in January, including holiday cards and decorations.

What to Buy in February

Fall in love with these deals during February.

Mattresses

Presidents Day is a good time to buy a mattress because it gives you a long weekend to shop with your partner for an item you should both agree on before buying.

That’s why retailers use the holiday to post sales on pricy items many people have put off buying or replacing for a while. Take advantage.

Jewelry

One of the best times to buy jewelry is in February — but only after Valentine’s Day.

Look for deep discounts after retailers remove their rose-colored glasses. It’s not worth paying the “love tax” to celebrate with your sweetheart, anyway.

Also look for discounts on other Valentine’s Day goods, such as cards and chocolate after the holiday itself.

Winter Coats

Winter coats take up a ton of room in your closet and just as much room in stores. Help retailers clear ’em out this month, and you’ll get a big discount.

What to Buy in March

Spring forward by making these smart purchases in March.

A woman carries her luggage down an alleyway in Europe.

Luggage

Don’t wait until a week before your big family vacation to get a new suitcase. March is the best time to buy luggage, as it’s on sale to entice shoppers who are desperate to be done with their snowy, dreary winters and who crave a little spring break.

Just don’t forget where you put it when it’s time to pack.

What to Buy in April

The smart shopper always plans ahead.

Tools

You don’t have to wait until Father’s Day to find excellent prices on tools and home improvement gear.

If you’re eager to start your home DIY projects in the spring, go ahead and shop now.

Sneakers

Everyone’s finally going outside again. Let sporting goods stores make it easier for you to keep up with your New Year’s resolution (remember that?) by discounting those new kicks.

What to Buy in May

Is your refrigerator running? If not, May is a great time to get a new one.

Baby Gear

I understand you’re not going to time your baby’s birth to get the best deal on all their accoutrements.

But if your kiddo needs a new stroller or high chair, May is a good time to shop, according to Consumer Reports — especially if you can grab the Memorial Day deals.

Refrigerators

New refrigerator models debut in the summer. Shop in May to get last year’s model at a better price.

You can’t tell the difference between last year’s refrigerator models and this year’s, right? Didn’t think so.

Also look for deals on other necessities like freezers, oven ranges and air conditioners, according to Consumer Reports.

What to Buy in June

Here come the… deals?

A young girl watches a movie on her iPhone on a plane.

Vacation Tickets

Hopefully 2021 proves to be a better year for travel. Planning a summer vacation? Travel early or late in the summer instead of during peak times. And you’ll pay less for airfare if you can travel midweek.

Outdoor Gear

Now that summer is in full swing, outdoor gear — like tents, backpacks, lanterns and even fitness gear — is marked down.

Cookware and China

June is typically peak wedding season, and stores hope you’ve planned ahead to buy wedding registry gifts.

Now is when those items are discounted, and it’s the perfect time to replace or upgrade what’s in your own cabinets.

What to Buy in July

Don’t sweat these savings.

Furniture

New styles hit stores in February and August, so retailers spend much of July clearing out old stock, especially over Fourth of July weekend — making this the best time to buy furniture.

Dehumidifiers

July means humidity. Pick up an older version of a much-needed dehumidifier in July or August, according to Consumer Reports.

What to Buy in August

The dog days of summer offer some amazing bargains.

Computers (Except Apple Products)

Computer manufacturers typically release their new models in the summer, so back-to-school sales are a great time to buy last season’s model. The specs probably won’t be different enough for you to notice, unless you’re a hardcore gamer or designer.

Apple products, however, typically get announced in the fall, so hold off to get that new MacBook.

Grills

Grilling season doesn’t stop at the stroke of Labor Day. Buy at the tail end of summer to enjoy your grill until almost Thanksgiving (OK, depending on where you live).

What to Buy in September

Back to school? More like back to the checkout lane.

Thanksgiving Flights

Generally, September is the best month to buy Thanksgiving flights.

Swimsuits

Even though your local pool might be closed for the season, you should think about stocking up on swimsuits for next year.

A House

This might not be a frequent purchase, but if you’re in the market for a new home, it can help to hold off past the busy spring and summer buying seasons.

Your costs typically drop a few percentage points at the end of September (after the kids have gone back to school), making this the best time to buy a house.

What to Buy in October

There’s a joke about spooky deals in here, but I won’t make it.

Denim

Jeans typically get discounted in October, after back-to-school sales have ended and families are stocked up on fall attire.

Patio Furniture

Goodbye summer, hello savings.

It’s worth checking out the patio furniture if you don’t mind storing it over the winter. When that first warm spring day hits, you’ll be ready to bask in the sunshine.

Leaf Blowers

October means fall leaves — and they are likely covering your yard. Pick up a leaf blower, and while you’re at it, get ready for the snowy days ahead with a snow blower, according to Consumer Reports.

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What to Buy in November

The days get shorter, but the deals get bigger.

Small Appliances

This time of year is ripe with rock-bottom prices on giftable small appliances.

If you’re looking for a blender, food processor, coffee maker or anything else that’ll proudly take up space on your kitchen counter, it’s worth waiting until Black Friday sales begin in stores and online.

A woman gets her wedding gown fastened in the back.

Wedding Gowns

Bridal shops are slow before the proposal rush during the holiday season, so the few weeks before Thanksgiving is a good time to start trying on gowns.

Ask about sample sales and last year’s styles that may be priced to move.

What to Buy in December

Celebrate the season… by shopping smart, obviously.

Swimming Pools

If your family’s been begging for a backyard pool, December is the best time to have one installed. It might be chilly, but pool pros would rather avoid working on 90-degree days!

Plus, when their workload slows in the winter, many contractors are willing to lower their prices.

Toys

Toy deals stick around after those Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales in November.

Even if you’re done with holiday shopping for your little ones, consider picking up their favorite character and activity toys while they’re still discounted to stash away for birthdays.

Lisa Rowan is a former staff writer and producer at The Penny Hoarder.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

5 DIY Homemade Cleaners Your Apartment Needs | Apartminty

How do you achieve a natural clean without the hefty cost? Create your homemade household cleaners!

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Source: blog.apartminty.com

How to Transition Your Kids’ Rooms

As your children grow and change, so should their bedrooms. However, if you were to revamp their rooms with every changing interest, favorite color or boy band, you would not only be spending a lot of time, but also a lot of money. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re looking to transition a child’s room as he or she continues to get older.

Start With Change in Mind

Designing a child’s nursery when you’re expecting is a fun and exciting experience. What parents may not plan for, though, are the unforeseen changes that the room might need as the child grows. Create a nursery with neutral wall colors and an open floor plan for playtime. It makes an easier transition that you can work with each changing year.

Consult With Them

When you’re planning to revamp your children’s room after a few years, make sure to consult with them. It’s likely they won’t hold back in letting you know what they want. You can enhance a child’s creativity and production levels if their rooms are filled with things that excite them.

Choose the Right Items

There are certain pieces of furniture and décor that can grow with a child. For example, a desk is a piece of furniture that can be added into a room and never seem to lose its importance, whether they’ll be endlessly creating works of art in coloring books or filling out college applications. Other items can include a classic bedframe and a monochromatic comforter.

Work Slowly but Surely

Make sure to try not to overwhelm your child with a lot of changes at once. If you’ve decided that it is time to “grow up” from the nursery, it may be best to do it little by little. Most parents choose to start with a new bed before gradually continuing to swap out the old with the new.

Remember Teen Tips

During the teen years, make sure to declutter (that garage sale money can go to their college fund), freshen up with a new paint job, and provide grown-up accessories. Allow room for self-expression, but with limits. For instance, you can frame posters instead of using thumb tacks or tape directly on the walls. A bold rug is fine for the time being, especially if it protects the carpet or floor from food spills or shoe marks.

Raising children can be one of the greatest joys in life, so make sure their room reflects that! Take these tips with you over the years and let the DIY project become a fun one you and your child can look back on.

The post How to Transition Your Kids’ Rooms first appeared on Century 21®.

Source: century21.com

10 Home Updates That Are Worth the Money

Homeownership is one of the most time-tested ways to build wealth in the U.S. It can help you build wealth thanks to home appreciation — but this isn’t always guaranteed (just ask anyone who bought a home right before 2008). 

Another way to build wealth through homeownership is by upgrading your home, thereby increasing its value. The idea is that when you eventually sell your home (or pass it on to your heirs) it’ll be worth even more than simply keeping up with basic home maintenance alone. 

And since you spend around 90% of your time indoors, you might as well enjoy your home a bit more while growing its value.

10 Impactful Ways to Raise Your Home’s Value

The opportunities for upgrading your home are endless. But if you’re aiming to boost your home’s value, some upgrades are better than others. You’ll also need to consider whether you feel comfortable with certain DIY projects, or if you prefer to hire a professional. 

You could rig-up a picket fence made of the leg lamps from A Christmas Story if you really wanted to, after all, but chances are it’d decrease your property value (if it didn’t burn down your house in the process, that is). 

Instead, try one of these investment-friendly upgrades, according to the 2020 Cost vs. Value Report from Remodeling Magazine:

  1. Stone Veneer
  2. Garage Door Replacement
  3. Minor Kitchen Remodel
  4. Replace Siding
  5. Replace Windows
  6. Deck Addition
  7. Replace Entry Door
  8. Replace Roof
  9. Remodel Bathroom
  10. Major Kitchen Remodel

1. Stone Veneer

Estimated cost: $9,357

It’s no secret that finding ways to add curb appeal is one of the quickest remodeling wins to increase your home’s value. Right now, one of the hottest trends is adding manufactured stone veneers to the exterior of your home, generally around the base or as accent walls. 

You can DIY this, but it might be better to hire a professional because the materials are expensive. Plus, if you do it wrong, you could waste a lot of money and end up with a wonky result. 

2. Garage Door Replacement

Estimated cost: $3,695

If you’re not keen on spending tens of thousands of dollars, a relatively quick win you can go for is simply replacing your garage door with a better model that includes a lifetime warranty. Again, this is one that’s better left to the pros because it’s an especially dangerous job for newbie DIYers. Besides, installing it yourself is likely to void the warranty anyway.

3. Minor Kitchen Remodel

Estimated cost: $23,452

If you don’t mind sitting around in some construction dust for a little while, doing your own minor kitchen remodel is definitely within the scope of DIYers. It’s also a common home remodel on HGTV and other media. 

To reach the value-add touted by the survey, you’ll need to replace your oven or cooktop, refrigerator, cabinet doors, countertops, drawer fronts, flooring, and add new paint and trim. It requires a lot of changes, but if you have time to watch a few YouTube tutorials, you can do it yourself fairly easily. 

4. Replace Siding

Estimated cost: $14,359 to $17,008

Another big curb-appeal booster is simply replacing your home’s siding. But not all siding is created equal. Fiber-cement siding costs slightly more and recoups slightly more of the cost. The difference, however, isn’t huge and might vary for your individual case. 

Vinyl siding is easier to maintain and install, but isn’t as fire-resistant as fiber-cement — an increasingly important consideration if you live in the arid West. No matter which type you choose, you might need to rent specialized equipment, like scaffolding, unless you’re an NBA athlete working on a single-story house.

5. Replace Windows

Estimated cost: $17,641 to $21,495

Old, leaky, rackety windows aren’t great for curb appeal or energy-efficiency. That’s why replacing them can also be a good idea. If you’re nervous about smashing them (and we wouldn’t blame you), you can hire a professional. Otherwise, it’s a job that’s possible for most DIYers. 

If you have standard-sized windows, you can get ready-made windows from a home supply store. But you’ll likely need to custom-order them to fit your own home. 

6. Deck Addition

Estimated cost: $14,360 to $19,856

Decks are one of the easiest home additions to DIY, as long as you have basic carpentry and tool safety skills. You can take your time with decks since they’re outside of your home and not directly in your everyday living space. Composite decks are slightly more expensive than wooden decks but have the advantage of longevity and less maintenance necessary over the years.

7. Replace Entry Door

Estimated cost: $1,881

Another easy and low-cost project, replacing the front door gives you an instant boost to your curb appeal. Just about anyone can do it with the help of YouTube video tutorials and a good, strong arm. 

8. Replace Roof

Estimated cost: $24,700 to $40,318

Your roof is literally the cap to your home. Replacing the roof is a big job, and although hammering in shingles seems easy (and it is), it’s generally best left to the professionals. A professionally-installed roof comes with a warranty, and takes a day or two to complete.

If you DIY this home improvement project, you’ll lose the warranty, and it could take you longer to complete the job. And the longer your roofing project lingers, the longer your home is vulnerable to damage. 

Another point to remember — metal roofs are far more expensive than asphalt shingle roofs, but they also tend to last longer and require less maintenance.

9. Remodel Bathroom

Estimated cost: $21,377 to $34,643

As long as you’re not making major changes to the plumbing and electrical systems underlying the fixtures, a bathroom remodel is possible on your own. This is an especially common remodel for many DIYers, because along with the kitchen and the bedroom, it’s a daily-use room. 

10. Major Kitchen Remodel

Estimated cost: $68,490 to $135,547

If you’re looking to bring a 1950s-style kitchen into the 21st century, it’ll take a bit more than some extra spit and glue. You’ll need to make big changes, like adding in a vented range hood for those blackened-fish tacos, new recessed and under-cabinet lighting, new cabinets, and even adding in an island for better cooking options. For that reason, it’s usually better to hire a professional team who can make sure everything’s wired up right. 

Your Mileage May Vary

Here’s something to consider: on average, you’ll only recoup a portion of your cost if you complete the upgrade and then sell your home in the same year. That might seem a bit disappointing — shouldn’t you be able to recoup all of the cost, and then some?

Remember, your specific case might be very different depending on a lot of factors, like what area of your home could use work. For example, if your exterior looks tired and the siding is falling off, upgrading that rather than adding a new deck might give you a better payoff. 

Another factor affecting your return on investment is how long you let your home’s value appreciate, before selling it. Adding a stone veneer can help you recoup 96% of your cost in the first year. However, in the second year, consider whether you can boost the value of your home by more than you paid for the upgrade. 

If you plan on selling your home in the future, asking a local realtor or real estate investor which upgrades are best for your particular home can be worthwhile. After all, market conditions vary dramatically cross the country and no two homes are exactly the same. 

The post 10 Home Updates That Are Worth the Money appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

How to Protect Your Credit While in the Military

Around a third of active military service members in 2019 said they didn’t pay all their bills on time, and close to that number of military spouses said the same. Military service can require some serious financial planning. But many service members might not realize how joining the military impacts their credit—and how their credit can impact their military career.

Find out more about the
relationship between a military career and credit below. Plus, get some
information about resources that can help military members protect their
credit.

How Your Credit Can Impact Your Ability to Join the
Military

No matter which branch of the
military you want to join, you have to meet certain eligibility requirements.
Specific requirements vary by service branch as well as the level of security
needed for the job.

The military does conduct background checks to determine factors such as whether you have a criminal background. A credit check is often included by some branches because the state of your financial situation can help provide a picture about your overall reliability. And if you’re dealing with a great deal of debt or have negative items on your credit report, it could make you vulnerable. Someone in financial distress could be at greater risk of illegal or questionable activity to generate money.

You can be denied military enlistment if you’re in financial trouble, such as if you have a number of collections in your credit history. But it’s actually more likely that poor credit will impact your ability to move up within a military career. That’s because Guideline F of the National Security Adjudicative Guidelines outlines financial considerations that may disqualify you from various levels of security clearance.

Failing to meet those requirements could result in revocation of security clearance. And that could mean losing your job with the military. Any time enlistment depends on a security clearance, the same could be true for simply joining up.

How Joining the Military Affects Your Credit

Joining the military doesn’t
have a direct impact on your credit. You won’t get points on your score because
you’re a service member, for example. However, you might want to pay attention
to your credit because you could be subject to greater financial monitoring
depending on your position and security clearance.

Being in the military can also create some challenges that relate to credit. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling notes some common financial trends and challenges experienced by military members and their families, including:

  • Struggling to pay bills on time. According to NFCC, service member households are more
    likely to pay bills late than other US households. In some cases, this might
    simply be due to challenges associated with managing daily activities, such as
    bills, when you’re deployed or moving from place to place regularly.
  • Putting major decisions on hold. More than 70% of service members or their spouses say they
    put major decisions, including buying a new home, on hold during military
    service.
  • Sticking to a budget.
    More than 50% of active military members and/or their spouses say they don’t
    manage a regular budget.

Protecting Your Credit While You Serve

That doesn’t mean it’s
impossible to maintain a strong credit score while you serve in the military.
In fact, a number of resources are available to help you do just that. Here are
just a few tips for protecting your credit while you’re in the military,
particularly when you’re deployed.

1. Place an Active Duty Alert on Your Credit Reports

An active duty alert is like a fraud alert. It’s a notice on your credit reports that encourages lenders to take extra precautions when approving credit in your name. In some cases, creditors may be required to contact you directly or otherwise verify your identity when approving credit. This makes it harder for someone to pretend to be you and apply for a loan or credit card.

Active duty alerts also remove you from insurance and credit card offers for up to two years. That means that providers can’t do a soft pull on your credit report and send you a preapproved offer in the mail. This reduces the potential for someone to take that preapproved offer and open credit in your name without you knowing about it.

Active duty alerts are free.
You can request one from any of the three major credit bureaus and ask that it
let the other two know to do the same. Active duty alerts last for one year, so
you’ll need to request them annually if desired.

2. Understand Your Rights Under the Servicemembers Civil
Relief Act

The SCRA offers some protection for military members when it comes to civil legal action, including those related to financial matters. Some of the protections under this act include:

  • Rate cap. In some cases, if military members have high-interest debt from before they joined, they may be able to get the interest rates reduced to no more than 6%.
  • Default judgment protection. In civil cases, a default judgment occurs when one person doesn’t show up to a scheduled hearing. If default judgments are allowed, the judge decides in favor of the party that showed up. Due to the nature of their occupation, military members may be protected from default judgments if they aren’t able to make a hearing due to their military service.
  • Repossession and foreclosure. In certain cases, creditors must get court orders to repossess or foreclose on property of an active service member. This typically requires that the military service person took out the loan on the property before enlisting or otherwise going into active duty status.

3. Understand Your Rights Under the Military Lending
Act

The Military Lending Act provides a number of protections for active military members who are seeking credit during their service. Some provisions of the act include:

  • Capping interest, including
    finance charges and fees, on loans to 36% regardless of credit score and other
    factors.
  • Limiting what creditors can ask you to agree to, such as mandatory arbitration clauses and mandatory
    payments from your paycheck.
  • Protection against prepay penalties if you pay the loan back early.

For any
questions about your individual circumstance regarding FCRA or the MLA contact
your military branch’s legal office for guidance.

Credit-Related Perks for Military Members

As a current or former
military service member, you may also have access to perks that help you build
and manage your credit and personal finances. Here are just a few.

  • Special credit card or loan offers. Military members have access to several credit card offers that others do not, including USAA cards with low interest rates. And you might qualify for a home loan backed by the VA, which can help you gain access to potentially better terms or lower down payment requirements.
  • Free credit monitoring. Starting October 31, 2019, military members can access free credit monitoring via the credit bureaus.
  • Access to Personal Financial Managers or Personal Financial Counselors. These are individuals trained to help military members and their families manage money and credit in a positive and proactive way.
  • The Department of Defense Savings Deposit Program. If you’re deployed to an active combat zone and receiving Hostile Fire Pay, you can build your savings with this program. You can deposit up to $10,000 and earn 10% interest on it.

NOTE: The CARES Act specifically provides some protections to military personnel and veterans during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. This includes protections for VA-guaranteed loans for those experiencing financial hardships.

Check Your Credit After Deployment

Understanding your rights and
what resources you have available—as well as taking proactive approaches—can
help protect your credit while you’re in the military. But no plan is
foolproof, and mistakes can happen. So, it’s important to check your credit
reports whenever you return from deployment and regularly even when you’re not
deployed.

If you find anything on your credit that isn’t correct, you have a right to challenge it. DIY credit disputing is possible, but it takes more time than active duty military members might have. Consider working with a credit repair firm such as Lexington Law, which has tools to focus verification and challenges for military personnel. Working to challenge inaccurate negative items can help you protect your credit so you can protect your security clearance and your financial future as well.

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Disclosure: Credit.com is owned by Progrexion Holdings Inc. John C Heath, Attorney at Law, PC, d/b/a Lexington Law Firm is an independent law firm that uses Progrexion as a provider of business and administrative services.


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