7 Ways to Help Dad Revamp His Space Without Ruining Your Budget

You don't have to go overboard to build your man cave.

When I was a kid, I made my dad a pencil sharpener in the shape of a baseball glove and baseball for Father’s Day. Knowing this, you’d think my dad was a big baseball fan, right? Not so. In fact, I think this is the only baseball related item he has (and it still sits on his desk at the office, all these years later). I guess it’s the thought that counts, right?

While it may not be as charming to make something like this for Father’s Day as an adult (unless you’re an artist, then by all means), you can still get creative with your gift.

Help Him Improve His Space

Whether it’s his game room, workshop in the garage or a different room, giving him something to build out (or upgrade) that perfect sanctuary may be just the ticket to let him know you appreciate all he’s done for you over the years.

Odds are, you won’t be building out an entire room — that’d be a bit pricey for most people’s budget. So, whether you’re thinking of getting him a TV, new work bench or an old school pinball machine, you don’t want to blow your budget. (He probably wouldn’t be too impressed to hear you went into debt for him anyway, now would he?)

So what do you do when you want to get dear ol’ dad something nice for the house without overspending? Well, we have seven ways to save on improving his perfect zen space.

1. Hit up Pinterest

If you have strong craft skills, you can hit up Pinterest and find all types of creative ideas for do-it-yourself projects. All you’ll need are the supplies and some time — perhaps you and dad can do this together and it’s like two gifts in one.

2. Use Seasonal Sales to Your Advantage

Whether dad is a sports junkie or loves movie night, a flat-screen TV isn’t a bad option. And you may be able to find one that doesn’t come with a price tag that makes your eyes pop. While prices won’t fall as low as they do in December (when retailers are looking to clear out their stock for the year) plenty of retailers offer Father’s Day deals on TVs so it isn’t the worst time of year to buy one. Consider shopping at stores that offer price guarantees, so you can get a price match or refund if the television you buy goes on sale for less shortly after you get it. This is a good reason to hold onto your receipt (and check the terms for restrictions on these offers).

3. Look Online for Deals

Many retailers offer seasonal deals on their websites, which Sarah Hall Weaver, the digital content strategist for Eight Oh Two Digital Marketing Strategies pointed out are “often separate from the general sale or clearance pages, but can offer great savings and promotions on well-stocked items you’ve been eyeing.” Stores like Sears, Home Depot and Walmart have online Father’s Day gift pages separate from regular sales with promotions on great gifts like smart speakers, TVs and sports gear from Dad’s favorite team.

4. Don’t Forget About Free Shipping

Shoppers shouldn’t overlook free shipping, especially if it’s on a big ticket item that isn’t easy to transport to Dad anyway. “Take advantage of making that purchase when there are free shipping promotions, especially if it’s a sizable item that might otherwise come with hefty fees,” Hall Weaver said.

5. Don’t Wait to Buy Furniture

Time to replace his workout gear? Perhaps he needs a new patio set? You’re in luck — June is typically considered one of the most ideal times to buy furniture, along with indoor workout equipment and summer sports gear, according to Consumer Reports. Consider using that clearance time to your advantage. Pro tip: Make sure you measure the space before ordering furniture. It would be disappointing to have the movers show up with furniture that can’t make it through the doorway.

6. Use Rewards

Using any credit cards points you’ve racked up can help you save on any purchases. And if you pay with your rewards card, you can reap some benefits too. Just make sure you don’t overspend in hopes of racking up more rewards — carrying a balance means you’re likely to lose out on the perks of these cards because of interest charges. (Want to see how your credit card use is playing a role in your credit? Take a look at your free credit report snapshot on Credit.com.)

7. Stock the Fridge or Cooler

Get Dad a mini fridge for his space and fill it with a collection of his favorite snacks and beverages. Enhancing a room without a fridge? Fill a cooler instead.

Any one of these tips should help Dad spruce up his space, just in case he isn’t in the market for more homemade pencil sharpeners, adorable as they are.

Image: monkeybusinessimages

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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Water Bill Drowning You? Here Are 11 Ways to Lower It

There are plenty of ways to save on your water bill. Check out these 11 ideas.

If you feel like you’re being soaked by utility bills, you may be looking for ways to cut your monthly costs. While utilities like internet and cable TV may seem like obvious targets, your water bill can also run much higher than necessary.

Missing water bill payments could eventually hurt your credit. While most utilities don’t report on-time payments to the to credit bureaus, many will report accounts that go into default or collections, which will cause your scores to take a hit. (Want to see where yours stand? Take a look at two of your credit scores free on Credit.com.)

There’s no shortage of common sense methods to cut your water usage and lower your bill. Here are 11 options.

1. Fix Leaky Faucets

Leaky faucets may not seem like obvious culprits — after all, they’re only losing water a drop at a time. But as months go by, those drips add up.

A single drop per second from a leaky faucet can lead to 2,082 gallons of waste water each year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. All you need to do is head to your local hardware store for a repair kit and that repair could save you a lot over time.

2. Run Full Loads of Laundry

You may want to avoid running your washing machine just to clean a few T-shirts and a pair of socks. Not only does that waste water, it puts unnecessary wear and tear on your washer. Only wash full loads of laundry to reduce the number of times you have to run your machine.

3. Limit Your Showers

Showers account for 17% of home water use, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). That long, luxurious shower feels good in the moment, but it drives up your water bill. Try to limit your showers to five minutes or less or cut back on the frequency.

4. Adjust Water Temperature Away From the Sink

If you run your cooking water or drinking water straight from the faucet, you may be wasting water as you wait for it to heat up or cool down. Instead, you can heat cool water on the stove and keep drinking water in a container in the fridge.

5. Wash Dishes Efficiently

Running your dishwasher uses less water than hand-washing your dishes, according to the EPA. If you don’t have a dishwasher, try stopping the drain and filling the sink with soapy water rather than letting the water run.

6. Install Efficient Showerheads

If your showerheads are inefficient, or if you’ve never replaced them, you may want to invest in a low-flow or high-efficiency showerhead. Showerheads today must have a flow rate no more than 2.5 gallons per minute, as specified by the federal Energy Policy Act of 1992.

“Showerheads made before that typically spit out five or more gallons per minute,” said Karen Hoxmeier, Founder of MyBargainBuddy.com. “Switching will save about 136 gallons of water per shower. A water-efficient showerhead will pay for itself after only a few months.”

While you’re making upgrades, here are 17 things homeowners should make sure to do each year.

7. Water Your Lawn at the Right Time

Watering your lawn at the right time of day can reduce the amount of water lost to evaporation.

“Water evaporates quickly into the air during the hottest times of the day, so if you have a lawn or garden that needs watering we suggest doing so in the morning or evening to cut down on water evaporation waste,” said Rob Caiello, vice president of marketing at Allconnect, a company that helps connect consumers with utility providers.

8. Collect Rain Water

You can use a water cistern or any large container to capture rainwater and use that water to hydrate your lawn and garden.

9. Don’t Let the Bathroom Faucet Run

Letting the faucet run while you shave or brush your teeth is wasteful, as most of that water isn’t being used. Fill the sink before shaving and shut off the water as you brush your teeth to reduce waste.

10. Install Faucet Aerators

Faucet aerators limit the water that flows through your faucets, cutting water usage and the energy required to heat hot water. Installing aerators on every faucet in your home can dramatically reduce the water used in your sinks.

11. Install Water-Efficient Toilets

Modern, efficient toilets can use less than 1.3 gallons per flush, according to the EPA. And while low-flow toilets got a bad rap in their infancy, today’s toilets have corrected the poor performance issues that plagued early models. If your toilet is due for an upgrade, a low-flow model can help slash that water bill.

Want more bill reducing hacks? We have 11 ways to save on your electric bill right here. Have other bills you’d like ideas for on how to save? Let us know in the comments!

Image: PeopleImages 

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Financing a DIY Remodel Project? Here’s How Home Depot & Lowe’s May Help

Home Depot and Lowe's both offer ways to finance home improvement projects. Here's how to pick between them.

Now that spring is here, you might be thinking about tackling home improvement projects. Whether it’s a new deck or a remodel of your kitchen, you’ll need to figure out how to pay for the work. And if you’re taking on these projects yourself instead of hiring a contractor, you may be headed to your local hardware store.

If you’re debating between Home Depot or Lowe’s for supplies, perhaps considering their different financing options may help in your decision-making process. (Before you look for financing options, it’s a good idea to take a look at your credit to see how it’s doing and what terms and conditions you may qualify for. You can check two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.)

Home Depot Consumer Credit Card

With the Home Depot consumer credit card (which you can read a full review of here), you will receive 0% financing for six months on any purchase of $299 or more. After the promotional period ends, the annual percentage rate (APR) will change to a variable rate of 17.99%, 21.99%, 25.99% or 26.99%, depending on your creditworthiness. There is no annual fee with this card, but it charges deferred interest, calculated from the purchase date if you don’t pay your balance in full by the end of the promotional period.

Home Depot Project Loan

If you need a longer window to pay off your project, especially if you’re doing a large project (think projects like entire room remodels or additions), a Home Depot project loan could be another option. You can borrow up to $55,000 and have up to 84 months to pay off the loan. The first six months are considered a purchasing period during which you only pay interest on the amount borrowed, based on a 7.99% APR. The APR stays the same after this introductory period, but you’ll start to pay off the balance in monthly installments as well.

Why You Might Choose Home Depot Financing

The options at Home Depot and Lowe’s are similar, but there are key differences that could push you in either direction, depending on your preferences. With the Home Depot consumer credit card, there will be times throughout the year when Home Depot offers extended promotional financing beyond the standard six months. Some offers could be as long as 24 months. If you make your purchase during this period, you’ll have more time to pay for your project with no interest.

Lowe’s Consumer Credit Card

When using the Lowe’s consumer credit card there are a few options. You can either elect to receive a 5% discount on your purchase or special financing on purchases of $299 or more. One special financing option is to receive 0% APR for six months. If you go this route you will be charge deferred interest if the balance is not paid by the end of the six-month period. If you think you will need more time, you can choose to borrow for up to 84 months with a fixed 7.99% APR. Just be aware that if you take advantage of the special financing offers, you will not be able to receive the 5% off offer as well.

Why You Might Choose Lowe’s Financing

If you don’t need special financing and just want a discount, the Lowe’s consumer credit card might be the best choice. Because you can earn 5% off every purchase, the overall cost of your project could be considerably reduced.

Alternatives to Home Depot or Lowe’s Financing

If you want to earn rewards for your purchases or extend the 0% APR period, you might want to consider a credit card instead. Here are a couple of options.

Chase Freedom Card

This card allows you to earn rewards on purchases and offers an introductory 0% APR for 15 months on purchases and balance transfers. After the introductory period, the APR will change to a variable 15.49% to 24.24%. When you sign up for the card, you receive a $150 bonus after you spend $500 within the first three months. The card also comes with rotating 5% cash back categories each quarter. There is a limit of $1,500 per quarter on bonuses, which typically include home improvement stores once a year. All other purchases earn 1% back. This card comes with no annual fee.

Citi Simplicity

If you want to boost the time you have to pay off your home improvement project, the Citi Simplicity card might be an option. (Full Disclosure: Citibank and Chase advertise on Credit.com, but that results in no preferential editorial treatment.) With this card, you receive an introductory 0% APR for 21 months on purchases and balance transfers. Once the introductory period is over, the APR changes to a variable 14.24% to 24.24%. This card also comes with no annual fee and will not charge a late fee.

Looking for more ways to spruce up your house? Check out our annual homeowner to-do list.

Image: andresr

At publishing time, the Chase Freedom and City Simplicity cards are offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

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11 Ways to Save If Your Heating & Cooling Bills Are Boiling Over

Heating bills can shoot up as the temperature drops. Here are ways to cut costs while keeping warm.

It’s one of the facts of modern life: Keeping your home the right temperature can get expensive, whether you’re in a studio apartment or a spacious house, you may be paying more than you have to in order to heat your home. Fear not! There are several ways you can cut back on how much you’re spending on temperature control in your home. Here are 11 ways to lower your heating or cooling bill. (And if you’re looking for more ways to save on your monthly home expenses, you can check out these seven easy ways to save on your cable bill.)

1. Seal Your Windows

Windows that are improperly sealed can leak air, losing energy and causing your heating system or air conditioner to work harder.

“Gaps around the window frame allow air to leak, so caulk any gaps in the seals to save on your heating bill,” said Richard Ciresi, owner of Louisville Aire Serve, a heat and air conditioning company.

2. Upgrade Your Windows

You can also upgrade your windows to more energy-efficient models.

“New windows are a big investment, but not one without substantial reward,” said Larry Patterson, a Glass Doctor franchisee. “Replacing your old windows with double or triple-pane energy efficient glass can save you up to 30% on your energy bills.”

3. Get a Programmable Thermostat

Programmable thermostats can cut energy costs by automatically adjusting the temperature while you’re away, reducing the energy wasted on heating or cooling an empty home.

“Investing in a programmable thermostat is one of the simplest ways to save money on your heating, as you set your heating to turn on and off at specific times throughout the day,” said Max Robinson of Turnbull and Scott Heating.

You can program your thermostat to turn off while you sleep or while you’re at work and turn back on when you wake up or get home, Robinson added.

4. Change Your Air Filter

Your furnace uses air filters to keep dust from clogging your vents and circulating through your home. When the filters are dirty, your system has to work harder to push air through. Air filters are affordable and easy to switch out, and doing so will help your heating system run more efficiently. You should swap out new air filters every few months.

5. Open Your Vents

Closed vents can waste a lot of energy. When you turn on your heat, make sure your vents are open.

“Blocked or closed vents and registers make furnaces work harder than they should,” Ciresi said. “Blocked vents do not allow for proper airflow. The furnace will continue to run but the rooms won’t heat up. Always unblock and open all vents and registers before running the furnace.”

6. Reduce Hot Water

The energy spent heating your water contributes to your heating bill. You can reduce your hot water usage a few different ways: Take shorter showers, avoid the hottest water settings and wash your clothes in cold water.

Water heaters are often set at a higher temperature than is needed. You can lower your water heater’s base temperature to 120 degrees, which is sufficiently hot for most household needs.

7. Use a Space Heater for Small Rooms

Smaller rooms can be heated by an electric space heater. While this method still uses electricity, it’s far more energy efficient than using gas heat.

“The rest of the house will be cooler, but this shouldn’t be an issue if your entire family is gathered in one room,” Robinson said.

8. Check Your Outlets

Even your outlets can leak air and reduce the energy efficiency of your home. Make sure to check your outlets for drafts.

“Electrical outlets in exterior walls are usually a major source of drafts, as it is rare for insulation to be used in these areas, and when it is it is often incorrectly installed,” Robinson said. “Luckily it’s easy to correct this. Use a simple foam sealant to fill any gaps around the outlet, and place a gasket over the front of the outlet.”

9. Check Your Insulation

Your walls, attic and other home areas must be properly insulated. If not, the temperature will be much harder to control. Make sure to check your insulation, or hire a professional if you’re not sure how.

10. Find an Alternative Payment Plan

Many energy companies provide alternative payment plans. Some will reduce your bill for reducing your energy consumption, while other plans might lower your payments based on income. Check with your energy provider to see what alternative plans they offer.

If you’re doing things yourself, you may want to consider funding these projects with a store credit card that offers you rewards for your purchases. (You can read our review of the Home Depot credit card here.) Before you apply for any new plastic, it’s always a good idea to review your credit so you know what types of cards you may qualify for. You can see two of your scores free, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.

11. Change Your Attire

If you’re cold, you can always turn down the temperature a few degrees and bundle up. Don’t neglect your feet and head, areas that can lose a lot of body heat. Fuzzy socks and a knit hat should do the trick. And if you’re looking to escape the heat? Try a bathing suit and a cool body of water — You can see 28 ideas on how to save for your next big adventure here.

Inspired to do some renovations? Before you head out to your local hardware store, you may want to check out our 6 ways to save at Lowe’s and Home Depot.

Image: DGLimages

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7 Ways to Save at Home Depot

Want to do more around your house without spending a ton of money? Here's seven ways to lower your costs when shopping at Home Depot.

If you work in the home improvement field or love do-it-yourself projects, there’s a good chance you’ve spent some significant time and money at Home Depot, one of the country’s largest suppliers of home improvement merchandise. But enthusiastic Home Depot shoppers know that, even after hunting down great deals, the bill can quickly spiral out of control at the register.

Luckily, there are many tricks that can save you a lot at Home Depot. Here are seven ways you can cut costs on your next expedition. 

1. Discounted Gift Cards 

Websites like Cardpool.com and Raise.com provide discounted Home Depot gift cards that save you a percentage of the total gift card value. For instance, as of writing this, Raise.com had gift cards discounted with up to 5.1% off their total value. 

2. Hunt for Coupons & Deal Alerts

You can look out for Home Depot flyers and coupons in your mailbox or in the store, but you can also get alerted to special promotions, deals and offers by signing up for Home Depot’s email or text alerts. Signing up right now will also get you $5 off your next purchase of $50 or more. 

3. Work the Low-Price Guarantee 

Home Depot offers a low-price guarantee for both online and in-store purchases. For online purchases, Home Depot will match any competitor price, including the item price and shipping costs. For in-store purchases, Home Depot will beat competitor prices on identical items by 10%. You’ll have to bring the ad, printout or photo to the cash register when you check out. Several exclusions apply to this policy, including custom products, open-box merchandise and auction pricing. 

4. Rent Equipment 

For equipment you’ll only use once or twice, you might want to evaluate the cost of renting versus buying. Many items can be rented on an hourly, daily or weekly basis at a fraction of the cost. For instance, we found a $188 leaf blower that can be rented for $23 a day. If you only need to blow leaves once a year, this can be a much more cost-effective option. 

5. Visit the Clearance Section

Many Home Depot locations have clearance sections located throughout the store (although they can sometimes be hard to find). Check out the far reaches of the store for deeply discounted items. 

6. Consider a Home Depot Credit Card

Home Depot offers a credit card (we’ve got a full review here) to help their customers finance home improvement projects. Home Depot is currently offering an introductory 0% annual percentage rate (APR) for all purchases of $299 or more if you pay off your balance in six months. They also offer cardholders up to 24 months of interest-free financing for special categories such as roofing supplies or custom kitchen cabinets.

If you were already planning on charging your Home Depot purchases to a credit card, you could avoid interest by taking advantage of these offers (although you can also avoid interest by paying off your balance in full each month).

Remember, before applying for any credit card, it’s a good idea to check your credit scores to see where you stand. You can get your two free credit scores, updated every 14 days, right here on Credit.com.

7. Join the Garden Club 

Avid gardeners should take a look at the Home Depot Garden Club, an email and text alert club that delivers special garden promotions and offers right to your inbox or mobile device. Plus, Home Depot is currently offering $5 off your next purchase of $50 or more when you sign up.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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9 Ways to Make a Small Kitchen Feel Bigger

tiny-kitchen

Image:Sarah Bossert

 

 

 

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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.  

 

Image: Tempura

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7 DIY Ways to Make Your Grass Greener

ways-to-make-your-grass-green

Image: andresr

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Angie’s List Is Now Free (Kind Of)

angies-list-free

Good news, home improvers: Angie’s List is now offering free membership. The home reviews site, which has grown to more than 10 million subscribers, announced its Green tier earlier this month, which will allow members to access reviews free-of-charge.

The company also revealed two new premium membership tiers, Silver and Gold, which offer guarantees of services beyond the reviews. Here’s how each tier works, according to the announcement.

Green: Free, nationwide access to companies in more than 700 service categories, plus more than 10 million verified customer ratings and reviews

Silver: All Green-level features, plus Angie’s Fair Price Guarantee and Angie’s Service Quality Guarantee. Chat and email customer support are also provided, along with discounts for $24.99 a year.

Gold: All Green and Silver features, plus complaint resolution and customer support via phone for $99.99 a year.

Among the new features the company is adding each quarter are “project pricing, scheduling and financing (through partnerships), handyman chat line, a home emergency service line” and instant hiring.

Hiring a Contractor 

Improving your home can add tremendous value to its resale price, which can be helpful when and if you decide to sell. However, it’s important to do your research before hiring a contractor, as the last thing you want is for him to walk off your lot without finishing the job — or to damage your property.

Home improvements and/or repairs cost serious money, so you also want to be sure that you can handle the strain on your wallet. After all, you don’t want to go into debt if it’s possible to put the project off for a few months and save the money to pay for it. (If you’re already in debt, perhaps you want to set the project aside altogether and concentrate on getting control of your finances instead.)

If you’re considering taking out a personal loan to finance your home improvement or repair project, it’s a good idea to make sure your credit is in tip-top shape before you apply, as this will help determine what kind of terms and conditions you may qualify for. You can view a summary of your credit report, updated monthly, for free by visiting Credit.com.

More Money-Saving Reads:

Image:?David Sacks

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5 Ways to Save on Gardening

home_garden

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.]

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Image: PeopleImages

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