Monday, August 20, 2018

Secrets of the Perpetually Tidy: 5 Tips to an Organized House

by Allison Saunders, August 16, 2018 in Homeowners Tips

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I’m a self-proclaimed “neat-freak.” My long-suffering husband can attest to the many hours I’ve spent cleaning, organizing and decluttering our home. It’s not just a chore for me – it’s how I de-stress.
You heard me right: A messy house stresses me out! 
I thought I was alone in this sentiment, but a recent Merry Maids survey revealed that 68% of adults say having a clean home alleviates stress.1 This means that a tidy house can potentially lead to a less stressed lifestyle.
However, as much as it pains me to say, a perpetually tidy house just isn’t a reality. After all, a house is a place where you live, and not, as you may like to believe, a furniture store staging area.
But, if your goal is to simply keep your home as clean and organized as possible, we have tips from a home cleaning expert at Merry Maids, Debra Johnson, on how you can achieve a tidy home.

Have the Right Equipment

You might think the secrets of the tidy belong with the professionals – those wise individuals who can get a stain out of anything by mixing a potion of ingredients from their kitchen cabinets.
The reality is no neat-freak can work their magic without the right equipment. By having the correct cleaning supplies well stocked and at the ready, you can conquer any mess.
“[Make] sure you have the right cleaning supplies,” said Johnson. “Organize them in a caddy you can carry from room to room so you are never searching for a cleaning item. Even better – designate one cleaning caddy per floor so you don’t have to lug it around.”
What follows is by no means a comprehensive list of cleaning supplies, but Johnson considers them her go-to for a clean house:
Secrets of the Perpetually Tidy: 5 Tips to an Organized House - Quicken Loans Zing Blog
  1. All-purpose cleaner – $18
  2. Oil soap – $13
  3. Vinegar – $17
  4. Rubbing alcohol – $18 (pack of 6)
  5. Melamine sponge – $8 (pack of 100)
  6. Latex gloves – $15 (pack of 100)
  7. Microfiber cloths – $17 (pack of eight)
  8. Caddy – $36 (pack of 4)
  9. Scrapping tool – $27 (pack of 25)
This is a good starting point, but customize your cleaning caddy with products that you’re comfortable with using, whether that’s store-bought cleaners or homemade, natural cleaners.

Control Your Clutter Catchers

Even neat-freaks have a dirty little secret: clutter catchers. Clutter catchers take the form of the side table by the front door collecting a pile of junk mail, the bedroom accent chair with a heap of dirty clothes piled high or even the magazine holder in the bathroom with last year’s issues of Vogue.
They’re the outlet for an organized person to be messy, but there’s a way to kick the clutter catchers to the curb: Either get rid of them altogether or embrace your clutter catchers by organizing them.
“An organized house has a way of appearing clean, even if it’s not. Having things simply contained is the first step in helping to make your home appear neat and tidy,” explained Johnson.
Johnson recommends using fabric storage bins as a means to control your clutter catchers. Magazines, toys, unsorted mail and other items can be easily and fashionably contained in fabric storage bins.
Try choosing colors and patterns that blend in with the surrounding décor of your home, in order to make the clutter inside less obvious.
Secrets of the Perpetually Tidy: 5 Tips to an Organized House - Quicken Loans Zing Blog
  1. Fashion Cube Storage Bin – $10
  2. Palm Basket – $98
  3. Magazine File Holder – $13

Create a Command Center

A command center is a central location of your home where you organize mail, schedules, car keys and anything else you need at the ready. Because of this, your command center might attract a ton of unnecessary clutter, and because it’s in a central, visible location, it can give the impression of a messy home.
“Clutter is what makes the home look messiest, so having a plan to organize clutter can help save time when unannounced guests show up,” Johnson explained.
Take command of your command center by organizing your information and items in a clean and easily accessible way. For example, Johnson recommends having a designated space for daily mail, a spot on the wall for a calendar or bulletin board and a place to put your car keys.
If you have roommates or family members in your home, Johnson also suggested creating cubbies or shelves for each member of the household. This can hold personal messages and anything else that might need to be organized and separated.
Secrets of the Perpetually Tidy: 5 Tips to an Organized House - Quicken Loans Zing Blog
  1. Entryway Holder – $61
  2. Large Wall Pocket – $44
  3. Wall-Mounted Calendar Board – $114

Make Floor Mats Your Friends

If you don’t already have floor mats, they could be the missing link in home organization. Johnson swears by a strategically placed rug or floor mat, asserting it as a neat way of containing furniture and other home items.
“Floor mats inside the home can make cleaning easier and make areas appear more organized – and organization is key to making homes seem cleaner,” said Johnson.
Johnson recommends floor mats for bedrooms, living rooms and especially the kitchen as a way to catch clutter, crumbs and other miscellaneous particles. Floor mats cut the cleaning time in half, as you can shake it outside or vacuum over it.
Don’t forget, they can also be a fashion statement to tie in the décor in a room, so choose a floor mat that works both organizationally and aesthetically.
Secrets of the Perpetually Tidy: 5 Tips to an Organized House - Quicken Loans Zing Blog
  1. Stripe Kitchen Rug – $15
  2. Kitchen Rug – $69
  3. Tufted Area Rug – $234

Get Into a Routine

The real secret of the tidy is having a schedule or routine for cleaning their home. Divided by day, week or month, those who have pristine places have a cleaning process predetermined in order to keep a clean and organized home.
Johnson suggests adopting a daily and weekly routine that will divide and conquer chores in a realistic way that has the best results – starting with the problem areas of your home.
Secrets of the Perpetually Tidy: 5 Tips to an Organized House - Quicken Loans Zing Blog
Image: Merry Maids
Based on your personal needs, some tasks, like washing dishes and laundry, might not need to be done every single day, but by getting into the habit of cleaning as you go, you can maintain a tidy house.
“Keep in mind, you can divide chores into nightly tasks so an entire day isn’t dedicated to weekly cleaning,” Johnson reminded. “Map out a plan of attack, formulate a checklist of tasks and knock them out one by one.”
A messy house can feel overwhelming, but by tackling the problem areas in your home one by one, you can clear out clutter and truly achieve a tidy, organized house. For all the messes you can’t clean up, don’t hesitate to call the professionals at Merry Maids for a helping hand.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Behavioral Finance and Financial Health

by Catherine Alford, March 1, 2018 in Credit & Debt

The study of behavioral finance is a combination of economics and psychology. People who are experts in behavioral finance examine how people’s emotions affect their financial decisions. Last year, behavioral economist Richard Thaler won the Nobel Prize for his work on this topic.
What many behavioral finance experts have found is that people don’t always make rational decisions when it comes to money. In fact, we kind of do the opposite.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, though. We all make financial mistakes from time to time. Many of us wish we would have known more about money when we were younger. We have regrets about purchases and get into debt. It’s human nature to have flaws, especially when it comes to handling money.
So, how does behavioral finance affect debt repayment? Below are some ways that our behaviors and emotions can get us into debt, along with some suggestions on how to combat them to improve financial health.

Only Thinking of the Present

Your future, including your retirement years, seems like it’s a long way away. In fact, according to an episode published on Slate, “One aspect of our nature that’s to blame [for overspending] is called present bias – the human tendency to emphasize now over later.”
For many people, loans don’t seem that bad because they enable us to get the car we want or the education we want right away (and worry about paying it off sometime in the future). Unfortunately, the bills will hit eventually, and what we thought was far away will be here before we know it.
One way to conquer this way of thinking is to know how much you’re paying in interest any time you take on debt. It’s common to think about how much you can afford monthly; instead, think of the total cost of the item you want. Your $20,000 car will actually cost much more over time once you add in interest. The loan you took out to refinish your bathroom means your bathroom might cost much more than that initial $5,000, once you’ve paid for it over time.
Once you know how much interest you’re paying to your financial lenders, you’re less likely to take out loans you don’t need. Save yourself the interest and save up for your purchases ahead of time.

Not Keeping Emotions in Check

How many times have you made a purchase because you wanted to celebrate something or make yourself feel better after a bad day?
Research from NerdWallet showed that “nearly half of Americans (49%) say emotions cause them to spend more than they can reasonably afford.” Stress, excitement and sadness were noted as being the top emotions associated with overspending.
I know I’m guilty of this myself. In fact, just recently, my kids did something I was proud of and instead of going home for lunch, I said, “Let’s go out to eat and celebrate!”
My husband and I, caught up in the emotion of the day, ended up getting cocktails at lunch (something we never do) and then had a $70 bill to pay at the end of the meal.
After this meal, my husband and I both felt sheepish. We let our emotions take over when it came to spending decisions and spent a lot on eating out instead of eating at home. This is how many people end up in debt – they spend money after giving way to a strong emotion.
The best way to combat this and to prevent going further into debt is to take a pause before you make a decision or a purchase. Ask yourself, “Am I buying this because I need it or because I feel happy/sad right now?” Sometimes, taking a pause and doing a check of your emotions can prevent you from making a spending misstep.

Not Automating Your Finances

Thaler used his research to encourage companies to automatically enroll their employees in 401(k) plans. The reason is that if left to their own devices, people neglect to enroll in retirement plans and, instead, use their earnings for other things. One article estimates that because of Thaler’s research, he helped add $29.6 billion to retirement accounts.
The same idea applies to debt repayment. I automate every single debt payment that I can. This includes my credit card payment and all of our student loan payments, which are thousands of dollars a month. Automating my payments prevents me from paying them late. This setup also reminds me to watch my spending because everything is auto-deducted, and I don’t want to overdraft.
If you don’t automate your debt payments, you run the risk of spending that money on other things.
Ultimately, learning a little bit about behavioral finance can help us to repay our debt more confidently and quickly. Also, try not to beat yourself up if you’ve spent irrationally in the past. Behavioral finance shows us that humans often spend based on emotions and get into debt because they’re thinking only of the present, not the future. However, by being more aware of this, you can help improve your financial situation, to build a more sound financial future.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Top 10 Tips Every Renter Should Know

by Melanie Pinola in

When you’re a renter, you have more flexibility in moving and deciding where to live. There are other pros—and cons—of renting, though, so here are our top 10 tips to make life as a renter easier.

10. Don’t Let Poor Credit Limit Your Ability to Rent

Poor or no credit can make renting an apartment more difficult, but it’s not impossible if you come armed with things like a letter of recommendation from former landlords or agreeing to a larger security deposit. Then you can work on improving your credit (even without credit cards). Regular rent payments can help improve your credit history too.

9. Choose Between a Managed Property or Renting from a Landlord

Managed communities and individual landlords both have their pros and cons. With a management company, it’s easy to contact someone if there’s a problem and there’s a maintenance staff to help you out. With an individual landlord, however, you have more neighborhood options and more room to negotiate rent. Either way, pay close attention to who you’re renting from so you don’t end up in a difficult relationship.

8. Start Your Apartment Search with the Right Tools

These days we have tons of tools to help you find the perfect next place to live. The five most popular ones among Lifehacker readers? PadMapper/Craigslist, Hotpads, Lovely, Tulia, and WalkScore. When you’ve found a potential place, ask the right questions to make sure it’s a good fit (talk to neighbors, ask the landlord about maintenance requests, and so on). Bring along some essential documents if you find a place you want to grab right away.

7. Upgrade Your Rental Without Pissing Off the Landlord

When you rent, you’re usually prohibited from making major changes to the place, but you can still customize just about every room without upsetting your landlord. Add more storage organization in the kitchen, for example, or replace ceiling light covers and light switch covers. Bathroom fixtures, such as towel bars and mirrors, can also be easily replaced (and taken with you when you move), quickly changing the look of your bathroom.

6. Know Your Rights as a Tenant

As one landlord advised us, your state likely has a tenants’ rights handbook available online. This will tell you what your rights are and services that might be available to you if your renting situation gets bad. This is especially important if you’re a first-time renter and don’t know the ins and outs of renting yet and how to hold your landlord accountableif something goes wrong.

5. Pretend That You’re Buying a Home When Hunting for an Apartment

If you plan on renting for even a few years, the condition of the building will matter to you, so you might want to think as if you’re buying the place to make sure you really want to live there. For example, you could ask questions like if there’s lead paint on the walls and how old the appliances are. Thinking like a homeowner can also help you save more money: If your mortgage payment would be greater than your rent, take the difference and invest it.

4. Know How to Deal with Noisy Neighbors and Difficult Roommates

Unfortunately, you can’t choose your neighbors. If yours make too much noise, send them a subtle message or contact management if need be. If you’re sharing a pad with roommates, you’ll want to make sure early on that you’re compatible and set some ground rules to make living together easier. (If worse comes to worst, you can evict them, so to speak.) Let’s assume that your roommates (or future roommates) aren’t terrible, though, and you do want to live with them. Split the rent and divvy up the rooms fairly with this calculator.

3. Save Space (Even in a Tiny Apartment)

Many apartments, especially in big cities, don’t offer a ton of living or storage space. Simple storage hacks, like raising your bed to get more storage space or using over-the-door shoe hangers to store just about everything, can go a long way in even a small place. Also, command hookscan do wonders in a home.

2. Save Money on Rent by Moving at the Right Time

Spring and summer offer more rental space options, but there’s also more competition for renters. Winter, while offering less choice, is a slower season for apartment hunting, so landlords might be more open to negotiating the monthly rent. There might not be one absolute “best” time to shop for an apartment, but if you know the neighborhood and how scarce apartments for rent are, you can plan when to look for a new place accordingly.

1. Avoid a Rent Increase and Negotiate Your Rent

One last thing you can’t control as a renter: The rent. Or can you? Rent prices are all over the map and rising across the country, but landlords still want to retain good renters like yourself. Exchange something you don’t care a lot about for a decrease in rent or to prevent a rent increase, things like: a longer lease or prepaying the rent months in advance. You might also convince a landlord not to raise your rent by reminding him or her how good of a tenant you are, both in terms of paying on time and being low maintenance.