10 DIY Home Renovations for the Thrifty Homeowner

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Whether you’re preparing to sell your home or staying put and craving a refresh, you may be concerned about how renovations can impact your budget. If you’re willing to put in some time and get a little dirty, these DIY projects will help you update your home without taking out a second mortgage.

1. Clean Your Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding can keep your house looking new for years, but it can start to look dingy after a while. Home renovation pros Vicki and Steph Kubiak, from Mother Daughter Projects, say that despite what you may think, you don’t need to hire a pro or rent a power washer to clean your home’s exterior.

“Sometimes the solution to a problem is the simplest and least expensive,” they say. “Cleaning vinyl house siding can be accomplished with nothing more than a long-handled scrub brush, good-quality cleaner, a garden hose, and a little elbow grease.” They recommend this handwashing approach over using a power washer, which can damage the siding.

2. Repaint the Front Door and Update Exterior Accents

Whether your exterior has siding, paint, shingles, or stone, updating your front door can boost the curb appeal of your home. Marty Basher, home design expert for Modular Closets, suggests that you “choose a bold accent color that works well with the rest of the exterior, but also stands out from it, to give the door a bit of a spotlight.” For an even easier project, “change out your house numbers and possibly your mailbox,” he says, “and voila, you have a whole new look and feel when you’re entering your house.”

3. Apply Removable Wallpaper

Updated walls can easily improve your space, but the very word “wallpaper” might make you cringe, especially if you’ve attempted installing wallpaper yourself in the past. Elizabeth Rees, the founder of removable wallpaper company Chasing, states, “Removable wallpaper is a stylish and affordable way to update your space with minimal investment. Moreover, it’s a really easy way to add color or pattern to your space with little commitment.”

Rees also recommends sprucing up the front of your stair steps with removable wallpaper. Just cut strips to size and apply, and your stairs will look good as new.

4. Paint Your Walls

If you prefer a painted surface to wallpaper, you may be surprised by how easy it is to paint a room yourself. The caveat is that you do have to take your time for quality results, especially with project setup. Skip Bedell, home improvement expert from Home Depot, says that preparation is everything and will make the job and cleanup much easier.

“I love CoverGrip drop cloths because they are reusable,” he says. “They also have PVC dots on the back, so they don’t slip or slide as you are painting.” If you don’t feel like doing the whole primer and paint approach, try an all-in-one paint to drastically reduce your paint time.

5. Refresh Your Cabinets

Old-looking cabinets can make for a dreary kitchen. Rather than replacing them, Anthony Navarro, author and co-creator of the online talk show The Wedding Planners, recommends painting them and switching out the hardware for a dramatic update. “If you are not adventurous enough to paint your cabinets, consider changing out one cabinet door in the kitchen to glass, so you can highlight your entertaining glassware, serving pieces, and china,” he recommends.

6. Apply a New Backsplash

A fresh backsplash can give the impression of a much bigger renovation, and the Kubiaks suggest peel-and-stick tile, rather than the real thing. “A new kitchen backsplash is surprisingly affordable and DIY-able for homeowners,” they say. “Peel-and-stick tile makes it a DIY project that can be completed without complicated or expensive tools. These tiles can be cut to size with ordinary tin snips and stick to the wall without added adhesives.”

7. Rejuvenate Your Bathroom

If you’re not in a position to pay for a bathroom renovation, Jamie Gold, a kitchen designer and the author of the New Bathroom Idea Book, suggests upgrading hardware and fixtures, but keeping it easy. “When replacing cabinet pulls, choose new ones that can fit into the same holes so you don’t have to patch old ones,” she says.

Gold also suggests replacing your shower door and fixtures to update the room: “For hundreds of dollars, instead of thousands, you can replace a shower door with a modern frosted style that will hide a builder basic interior, replace a basic showerhead with a handheld model offering massage settings, install a designer-friendly grab bar that doesn’t need to be blocked, or add handsome storage shelves if there’s no niche.”

8. Hang Wall Art

You can change the look of a room by simply hanging artwork. Judy and Jess, the mother-daughter duo behind interior design studio Verandah House, say, “Before you place holes in the walls, measure your wall and mark out the same space on the floor. Lay out your artwork on the floor.”

Alternatively, they suggest cutting out cardboard to the size of the artwork and temporarily affixing them to the wall with a removable adhesive. If you don’t have framed pieces on hand, Judy and Jess suggest heading to flea markets, antique stores, and secondhand shops for vintage artwork.

9. Put Up Window Coverings

New window treatments can dramatically enhance a room without requiring a ton of effort. You can find reasonably priced and easy-to-install shades, curtains, and rods at stores like Target and Home Goods. Basher suggests IKEA’s no-sew curtains that are easy to trim and finish to size.

10. Update Old Floors

Worn out, old floors can set the tone for an entire room, but re-sanding and finishing your floors could be beyond your capabilities. Basher has a fix: “Whether you have old carpet or beat up hardwood floors, a little measuring and a few hours of work over a weekend can spruce up your floors and change the complete look of a room. A couple coats of durable floor paint or peel-and-stick tiles from your local home store can go a long way.”

Fixing up your home doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult—just consider these suggestions for your next home improvement project. If you do decide to take your renovations a step further and need a loan, look up your credit score to get an idea of what you’ll qualify for. Get a free credit report at Credit.com and see where you stand.

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9 Ways to Make a Small Kitchen Feel Bigger

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4 Inexpensive Ways to Boost Your Home’s Value

If you’re planning to sell your home, you’re likely looking for ways to boost its value. The more money you can make from your home’s sale, the better. However, you may have been hesitant to perform some much-needed upgrades due to the cost. Fortunately, there are some adjustments you can make to your home that won’t break the bank. Here are some money-saving tips that will bolster your home’s value in no time.

1. Break Out the Paint

A quick, inexpensive way to increase the value of your house is to paint. A fresh coat of paint can make rooms look like new. But don’t get too wild when choosing paint colors. Your best bet is to stick to neutral shades because they will appeal to a greater number of potential buyers. However, not just any neutral shade will do. A Zillow study found that it’s best to steer away from colors such as dark brown and terra cotta when it comes to interior paint colors. If you do choose to use these colors for the interior, your home’s price might sell for $469 (when using dark brown) or $793 less (when using terra cotta) than Zillow’s price estimate. Homebuyers generally don’t care for these colors.

2. Upgrade Appliances

Know that you don’t have to go out and buy all new appliances that match exactly (and if you’re working with a tight budget, this isn’t a great idea, anyway). The experts at Kitchen.com say it’s OK if your appliances don’t perfectly match, as long as they don’t compete.

If you’re up for bucking the norm, white and stainless steel are both neutral colors, so you don’t have to worry about them clashing. What you should keep in mind is that when one appliance doesn’t match the others, it stands out. You can use this to your advantage and create a strong focal point: Designers often do this with the cooking area by choosing a gourmet range or artistic hood with a different style, color or finish.

3. Change Door Knobs

When it’s time to put your home on the market, details matter. One detail that often goes unnoticed is door knobs. You can add a bit of flair by replacing old doorknobs around your home and on kitchen cabinets. The best part is, a simple door knob upgrade doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Home renovation expert Brittany Cramer said one thing you should keep in mind when updating door knobs is the home’s era. “One of my favorite pieces of advice to give folks is to consider the era of the home before purchasing and installing accessories. You might be a lover of that wrought iron, Tuscan look, but will that style suit your home?” said Cramer.

4. Replace Light Fixtures

Another inexpensive DIY project is to replace home lighting. Updated light fixtures can give any home a lift. The right light fixture can make your home look not only brighter but also modern. In addition, consider replacing outlet switch plates.

[Editor’s note: Chances are if you’re selling a home, you’re also buying one. Check out our tips on how to secure the best mortgage for you.]

This article originally appeared on The Cheat Sheet.  

 

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5 Ways to Save on Gardening

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Each spring, millions of Americans head out to their gardens and get to work growing food. In fact, the number of U.S. households engaged in gardening jumped from 36 million households in 2008 to 42 million in 2013 — a 17% increase, according to the National Gardening Association.

The trend is particularly hot among millennials, according to the association:

Young people, particularly millennials (ages 18-34), are the fastest growing population segment of food gardeners. In 2008 there were 8 million millennial food gardeners. That figure rose to 13 million in 2013, an increase of 63%. Millennials also nearly doubled their spending on food gardening, from $632 million in 2008 to $1.2 billion in 2013.

Such efforts result in a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables that lasts throughout the summer and into fall.

But as every green thumb knows, gardening isn’t always cheap. Fortunately, there are ways to dig yourself out of a potentially expensive hole and still have a garden that is the envy of neighbors.

To create a flourishing-yet-frugal garden — whether it’s a longtime passion or you are new to the hobby — simply rake through these five steps.

1. Invest in Good Tools

If you are new to gardening — or you simply want to deepen your commitment to the hobby — the prospect of purchasing a slew of expensive tools can be daunting. Fortunately, there are ways to get those tools for pennies on the dollar.

Check out sites like Craigslist or Freecycle for bargains. People who are moving often are willing to sell their tools cheaply — or even give them away.

Other places to find cheap tools include thrift stores, garage sales and estate sales. You may even find the ultimate bargain by simply scanning the curbs in your neighborhood on trash day.

Finally, you can organize tool-sharing groups in your neighborhood.

Don’t let your passion for gardening outrun your common sense: If you need a tractor-mower, rototiller or backhoe, it may be more cost-efficient to rent.

2. Search for Cheap Seeds — & Don’t Overbuy

When you buy seeds, never get more than you need. Many dedicated gardeners have loads of leftover seed from previous seasons. It’s easy to fall prey to this mistake, especially when seeds are on sale.

If you do buy extra seeds, keep them in a cool, dry place so you can use them next year. Refrigerate them in an airtight jar or plastic container.

Some types of seed — including beet, cucumber, muskmelon and tomato — can be stored for at least five years. Others, including sweet corns and onions, may be good for just one or two years.

Also, as the growing year wanes, look for cheap, end-of-season seed. You can find it everywhere from eBay to your local supermarket.

3. Create Your Own Mulch & Compost

If you plan ahead, you can avoid purchasing mulch or compost from a gardening store.

Instead of bagging leaves in the fall, shred them for mulch. Follow the process recommended by HGTV.

Another idea is to ask road crews clearing trees and brush if they will dump their wood chips at your place. Crews may be willing to off-load their materials rather than having to haul them away at the end of a job.

It’s also easy to create your own compost. Eggshells, coffee grounds and filters, fruits and vegetables, grass clippings, shredded paper, and leaves are all prefect compost ingredients.

Some city and county governments also give away mulch or compost.

4. Use Recycled Items Around the House

Repurposing household items can help reduce your gardening expenses.

For example, an old Better Homes and Gardens article recommends using a simple cut-off gallon milk carton as a scooping tool or a starting bed for seedlings. And a discarded door can be used as a wall in the yard for climbing roses.

5. Collect & Store Rainwater

If you are not careful, the large water bills you rack up when irrigating your garden can wash away many of the savings you gain from growing your own produce.

Fortunately, there is a simple solution to this problem: Collect rainwater in barrels. If you find a good deal on a rainwater barrel at a store, go ahead and buy it. But any type of barrel or large bucket that you have lying around the house will do.

[Editor’s Note: Gardening can be a fun hobby. It also provides light exercise and sunshine, and it can have an impact on your grocery budget. Still, if you’re looking to pay off debt, reduce your overall expenses or put away some savings, a vegetable garden may well be part of your plan, but it’s unlikely to be the one ticket that turns a difficult financial situation around. To help you get on a better track, you can monitor your financial goals, like building a good credit score, each month on Credit.com.]

More Money-Saving Reads:

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10 Home Hacks That Save Time & Money

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It’s time to cast aside your cynicism. It turns out that the best things in life ARE free – or darned close — at least when it comes to little touches that make life a little easier and your house a little homier. Doubt it? Try these 10 home hacks and you will believe:

1. Banish Odors

Forget the fancy and costly sprays and plug-ins. In a small pan, mix water, vanilla extract and cinnamon, then simmer the concoction on low heat. Your home will smell fresh in no time.

2. Dry Clothes Faster

Don’t have a lot of time to wait for those jeans or that shirt to dry? Toss a dry bath towel in when you put wet clothes in the dryer. You’ll cut drying time way down (and cut energy costs, too!).

3. Freshen a Smelly Room

Easy enough: Just place two to four dryer sheets in a spray bottle, fill the bottle with water, and then add 1 tablespoon of rubbing alcohol. Voila! Your own effective, low-cost freshener is ready for you to spray.

4. Keep Your Pants Up

A zipper that won’t stay up doesn’t have to be a constant irritant. Slide a run-of-the-mill key ring through the hole in the zipper’s tab. Then hook the ring to the pant button above the zipper. Instant fix!

5. Solve the Toilet Brush Dilemma

Rather than returning a dripping toilet brush to its holder, tuck it between the toilet bowl and lid (dripping brush inside the bowl, of course). After a few minutes it’ll be dry enough to store.

6. Stop Static

Fashion two tin foil balls and toss them in the dryer with your clothes. They will keep your clothing static free.

7. Get at Corner Dirt

Don’t spend a fortune on extra vacuum attachments. Tape a cardboard tube – the kind that is in the center of wrapping paper – to your vacuum hose to get into tight spaces. Bend and flatten the tube to suit your needs.

8. Triumph Over Stuck Trash Bags

You know how, when you try to pull your full garbage bag out of the plastic container, it does not want to come out, because there’s a vacuum? Drill a few small holes in the lower part of your garbage pail and you can remove bags without struggle.

9. Keep Trash Bags in Place

Here’s a way to address another irritation related to garbage bags: Take a few pieces of inexpensive sticky-tape picture hooks and use them to attach garbage bags to the lip of the trash cans to keep them from slipping down.

10. Organize Your Clothes for Easy Reach

Do you spend time digging through clothes in your dresser, or even frustrated by a well-organized pile? Try this: Stack your clothes in the dresser vertically (not in horizontal piles as the picture here shows) to find your favorites easier. Bonus – you’ll save space, too.

You can also save time and money by keeping your credit in good standing. Checking your annual credit reports is a good way to do that, as is checking your free credit scores, updated monthly on Credit.com.

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