Spring Cleaning: Declutter Your Finances

clean-up-financesAs spring prepares to be sprung, it”s time to rid our lives of the gnarly winter blues that have accumulated over the last year. Clear out the dust bunnies from under the bed, rotate your closet so the warm weather clothes are near the front, and give the pup a haircut.

All of those things will help you get back into the swing of things and refresh everything. But on top of all that, it”s always good to give your finances a once-over as well. After all, money issues are a source of stress for many people. Here are a few ways to declutter your finances and reduce some of the headaches that can come along with them.

Declutter Your Papers

Let”s face it; it was a terrible winter. No one blames you for choosing to shovel your sidewalk instead of organizing your mail and prioritizing hot cocoa over balancing your checkbook. Now that it”s all behind you, you can focus on organizing your sensitive documents. If all your pay stubs and bills are filling up your junk drawer, go through them and put them all in a centralized place.

It very well may take a few sittings, but once you”ve categorized everything, managing your monthly budget shouldn”t seem like such a chore. Knowing where all your resources are will make paying your monthly bills seamless.

Purge the Extras

When you clean out your refrigerator, you probably pull out anything that looks questionable, wipe the inside of it out, and start with a crisp, clean slate. Indeed, one of the most effective parts of any spring cleaning regimen is purging your home of everything you don”t need or don”t use. Sure, picking up a nasty, moldy orange isn”t exactly a pleasant idea, but doing so is much needed if you want to clean. The same can essentially be said about how you approach your finances.

So start purging. Do you actually use your gym membership? If not, drop it or switch to a cheaper one closer to home that you”ll be more likely to use. Do you watch TV all the time, or did your favorite shows end? If you can swing it, drop it until next season.

Mop up the Rest

Of course, as with any spring cleaning binge, you”ll need to mop up the mess. Look for ways you”ll be able to to cut corners when it comes to your expenses:

  • Entertainment?– Do you really need that super mega huge cable package, or can you make do with basic cable? Or better yet, do without and subscribe to Hulu or Netflix instead. You can find most shows online these days anyway, and you”ll probably online casino canada end up being more productive with less TV to watch.
  • Utility bills?- See if your utility companies have a budget billing program, and enroll in it. You”ll end up paying for what you use, but your bill will be the same each month.
  • Eating out and groceries?– Get to know your inner?couponer especially when it comes to groceries. You”ll probably be surprised how much money you can save by simply using coupons. There”s nothing “extreme” about it; just subscribe to your local newspaper and start clipping.

Now, more than ever, is a good time to reevaluate your mobile plan too.?T-Mobile?is really shaking things up?in the wireless world?by changing some of its most archaic policies. See if any of these changes can benefit you and your financial situation and consider switching if it works for you and your family. There”s no reason to pay more for something that you can get for less.

Polish Your Credit

Once you”ve pulled all the nastiness out of your budget, you can really make it shine. You should be able to spot some questionable issues that could be resolved. Are you nearing your credit limit on your credit card? Move some money around so you can make a payment to pull the balance away from the limit.

If that”s not an option, consider opening another card to spread the balance out a bit. Contrary to popular belief, it”s better to have two cards nowhere near their limit than it is to have one card that”s maxed out all the time. The idea is to keep your utilization ratio (the credit you”re using vs. how much is available to you) as low as you can. Find a card that offers a special rate on balance transfers to save on interest charges while you”re at it.

Spring cleaning doesn”t have to stop with the dirt on the kitchen floor. Take a look at every aspect of your life, and simplify wherever you can. What”s the most pressing thing on your spring cleaning to-do list?

Completing Seven Tricky Car Cleaning Tasks with Ease!

Car-washEveryone wants to keep a clean car. There’s something undeniably nice about driving around in an automobile that looks fresh off the lot, but the vicissitudes of daily driving life—commuting, dirty shoes, sliding floor mats, on-the-go eating—combine to make it hard to keep a good clean car.

You can vacuum after you drive through the Super Wash or the Tunnel of Clean, but that quick run-over with the suction hoses won’t really get in and clean your car thoroughly; whether commercial car wash vacuums are wimpy or not, nobody wants to stand outside in public cleaning their car for that long.

Does getting it dealership-clean seem overly taxing? It doesn’t have to be! Here are 7 tricks to make a detailed clean easier to achieve.

Vacuum Trick – Use the House Vacuum

You don’t need to use a special car vacuum or the (sometimes wimpy) vacuums outside commercial car washes. If the vacuum you use on the flooring and/or carpets has a “cleaning tools” feature with hose and attachments, and you’re satisfied with how it performs on indoor carpet, it’s the thing to use on your car.

Once you’ve plugged your indoor vacuum into the wall in the garage, turn it to the cleaning tools setting and set up the hose with the attachments ready to be switched (different areas of your car will need different attachments. Remove all the car floor mats—you’ll clean them separately—and physically pick up and throw away any debris too large for the vacuum.

Slide the front seats all the way up, then start vacuuming,  moving from the trunk of your car (can’t leave that dirty!) up to the front. After you get the whole backseat area done, slide those front seats fully backward and get as far in under and around the seats as you can.

Upholstery Trick – Clean it Like it’s Carpet

Similar to using the same vacuum you’d use on house carpet, clean the carpet and upholstery close to the same way you would clean carpet in your own home.

If you’re worried that carpet stain remover may be too harsh for the upholstery in your car (unlikely, but a valid concern nonetheless) laundry spot remover plus some scrubbing, blotting, and patience should do the trick on most common car stains.

If the carpet and upholstery in your car needs an all-over deep clean, then simply rent a small or handheld carpet cleaning machine (assuming you don’t own one to use). As with vacuuming, slide the seats and move from back to front as you work around them.

Leather and Vinyl Trick – Clean and Condition

It’s worth it to buy both cleaner and conditioner if your car has leather and vinyl upholstery on the seats or dashboard.

Spray the cleaner on a clean towel and rub vigorously to get out the ground in grime. Flip the towel over to a clean surface frequently as you clean the entirety of the car—otherwise you’re just rubbing the dirt and grime back into the seats.

Once the seats are clean and completely dry, rub some leather conditioner all over the seats and/or dashboard, and rub it in thoroughly. Car dealers in Utah are likely to recommend something different than car dealers in Seattle, because of the effect various humidity levels, so call your local dealership and see what brands or types of cleaner and conditioner they recommend.

Window Trick – Get Rid of Old Decals

Yes, you needed that parking pass five years ago, but now it and five other college and apartment parking permits are doing no more than clutter up your windshield. You don’t have to keep them forever!

An old credit card or plastic putty knife (fairly cheap at most hardware stores) will get most of the decal off, especially if you can get at least one corner up yourself. Any remaining sticky residue can be removed with an application of something like Goo Gone brand and a little more scraping.

Another Window Trick – Clean it like glass (because it is)

We all think to clean the front and back windshields and to keep mirrors useful by keeping the view through them clear. But the inside of windshield and windows are so often neglected (and, as someone who likes a clean car can tell you, so often dirty).

So just grab some window cleaner and newspaper (which leaves fewer streaks than paper towels, if any), and clean ALL over the windows and mirrors (including rolling down the windows a bit and cleaning the tops).

Details Trick – Getting the Grime out of Nooks and Crannies

It’s surprising and awful how much can build up on surfaces in your car—the vents, the dash, the doors. But the gunk, dust, dead skin, and other nasty stuff can come out as you clean the rest of the dash.

For surfaces like the air conditioning and heating vents, remove dust and dirt with a small, soft-bristled paintbrush dipped in the appropriate cleaner or some furniture polish.

Hard-to-reach dash and door details can be easily reached with a rag-wrapped screwdriver. Then clean the rest of the dashboard and door normally.

Maintenance Trick – Shallow Clean once a week

Asking you to do all of this once a week would be ridiculous, but asking you to do a quick vacuum, dash dust, and window/mirror clean once a week certainly isn’t.

A weekly Shallow Clean will keep small dirt from building up into major grime later—so you can save the deep cleaning for every 2-3 months.

Follow these tricks to keep your car dealership-clean for years!

Nina Hiatt researches and writes articles to help people find balance and beauty in their personal space through landscape and interior design. In her free time, Nina blogs about many of her interests, which include gardening, technology news, and baking (and secretly dreads vacuuming her car).

Image Credit: car-heavens.blogspot.com

Add Value to your Home without Wrecking your Bank Account

add-value-to-your-homeWhen making home improvement decisions, it is always smart to start small. Even if your home is relatively new, chances are that there will be a few cracked walls, paint that already looks a bit glum, etc. Small projects like this do not necessarily add value to your home, but they do a great job at retaining the value of your home.

Simple Cleaning
If you plan on selling your home, the cleanliness and upkeep of the house will determine how long it will be on the market. It can even get buyers’ offers closer to what you are asking for. Smaller projects usually require a simple can of paint, some paint brushes, some spackle, and a bit of elbow grease. Painting the exterior is a way to add some curb appeal without the enormous expense of hiring a contractor. It’s relatively easy with the highest cost being time rather than money.

Small Reno
Once your house is spruced up and looking fresh. It is then time to get focus on the making tasteful renovations to the most important rooms in the house. Most home buyers base their decision on the quality of the bathrooms and kitchens, therefore renovations to these rooms add the most value. You don’t need to get carried away with updating these spaces as such renovations are among the most costly in the home improvement industry. Here are some inexpensive touch-ups your family can do to improve your kitchens and baths.

Revive the Kitchen
Let’s focus on the kitchen since it is often the heart and soul of a home. Kitchen renovations need to play to the advantages of the design of your kitchen. Kitchens need to feel as good as they look. It is easy to start with paint. The paint sets the mood of the space. Lighter colors make rooms feel larger and warm colors create set a social tone.  You do not necessarily have to go with what is in fashion to add more value.

Neutral colors create a timeless look and appeal the most buyers, buyers want to picture themselves living bright colors can disrupt their fantasies. Materials chosen can affect cost. When choosing counter tops, it does not always have to be expensive granite to get the price you want. Soapstone is a wonderful material.  It is durable, beautiful, and will wow any buyer. White subway tiled back-splashes are fashionable, timeless, and won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

DIY or Contract?
If you have the confidence and the know how to do the job yourself, then do so. But bear in mind that buyers, real estate agents, and appraisers have a sixth sense for detecting amateur work. Thus the savings from not hiring a contractor are at risk of being lost in the long-run. So if you do it yourself, be sure to do it well.  If you are not handy with a hammer, then there are countless online resources that can help you find a contractor who is both reputable and affordable.

These are only some of the ways that you ways that will give you a leg up on making a return on your investment. And the other benefit of renovation is that you and your family get to enjoy the fruits of your labor while the house is still in your possession.

Matthew is an American ex-pat real estate agent and knows a thing or two about home pricing. He has closed many deals and knows real estate markets around the world. When not helping clients find with their property search in Monaco, he enjoys taking his Bulldog, Buster, on walks and enjoys Southern French Cuisine.

Image Credit: www.fugoolive.com