Category: Home

10 Home Updates That Are Worth the Money

by Phillip Warren

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 Host a Money Stress Free Thanksgiving

by Phillip Warren
From the Mint team: Mint may be compensated by some of the links that appear in this article. Our partners do not endorse, review or approve the content. Any links to Mint Partners were added after the creation of the posting.  Mint Partners had no influence on the creation, direction or focus of this article unless otherwise specifically stated.

Thanksgiving is the start of the holiday season. It’s the countdown to Christmas, the first real family gathering since Easter or Fourth of July. For some people, it’s the only time they see their families. For many of us, it’s a wonderful time to celebrate gratitude and to be surrounded by the people you love most.

For others, it’s a stressful, labor-intensive, marathon that only ends when your last uncle leaves. In many instances, the end of Thanksgiving is the best part.

That’s not the only problem. Hosting Thanksgiving is a huge financial endeavor. Feeding a dozen people (or more) can be a huge strain, especially on top of other holiday expenses.

But this year can be different. This year, you’ll be composed, organized and dare I say it, even frugal. This year you’ll actually be glad for Thanksgiving. Want to learn how? Read on.

Ask for More Help

It’s not uncommon if you’re hosting Thanksgiving to take on all the work yourself. Especially if you’re a young adult, hosting your first Thanksgiving is a sign that you’re a real grown-up.

Paying for a Thanksgiving meal for a dozen people can add up quickly and sometimes there’s no reason why you should take on the burden by yourself. Ask everyone who’s coming to bring a side dish while you take on the responsibility of cooking the turkey. If you delegate sides appropriately, you can end up with a meal that not only costs less but is less time-intensive.

If you feel odd about asking people to pitch in, don’t. Almost everyone is happy to help, especially if it means they get to decide how they want to make the stuffing.

Choose Chicken

Buying a turkey on Thanksgiving is a quintessential tradition, but it can also be a costly one. A whole turkey can cost $1.50 per pound compared to the average whole chicken which can be less than $1 per pound.

If your friends and family aren’t die-hard traditionalists, you can probably get away with serving the latter bird. If you really plan ahead you can find a chicken on sale so you spend even less.

If you still want to do a turkey, buy one pound of turkey per guest instead of 1.5-2 pounds. You don’t need to have a ton of turkey leftovers, especially since it’s so expensive.

Aim for Fewer Leftovers

Sometimes there’s nothing better than a meal of Thanksgiving leftovers the next day. I love to pick out my favorites and make a smorgasbord sandwich out of them. But if you’re not careful you might end up with too many leftovers that you can’t use up before they go bad. If this has always been the case, then aim to cut back and have as little remaining as possible. When you do have leftovers, freeze a few so they don’t go bad.

You can freeze anything from cranberry sauce to stuffing to turkey. Dairy items sometimes lose consistency in the freezing process, but it’s still worth trying. When you do freezer meals remember to label them and put them in the freezer right away you won’t forget.

Watch Where You Buy Groceries

It’s always important to comparison shop your groceries, but it’s never more important than on a big holiday. Every store will have its own specials and deals and you might be surprised where you find the best option. My husband and I have recently been shopping a lot at Aldi, a chain more popular in the south in the Midwest. It’s a grocery store without a lot of extra frills so you can find deals way better than any of the other national brands.

We’ve also discovered the secret of ethnic grocery stores where produce prices are often 50% of what I see in my neighborhood grocery store. Before buying your Thanksgiving fixings, check out those stores to see if what you need is cheaper. Remember no one cares if you’re buying generic marshmallows for your sweet potato casserole. They just care that you follow Grandma’s recipe.

If you find yourself spending more on groceries, you may want a credit card that helps you maximize your rewards. The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express offers 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets on up to $6,000 per year in purchases.

Simplify your Meals

If you’re like me, you probably have a variety of picky eaters in your family. Some people are vegan, some are vegetarian and some are changing their diet every week.

That can make it tempting to make a few different kinds of the same meal to please everyone, but making green bean casserole for your Whole30 aunt and a version for everyone else just isn’t cost-efficient. Take everyone’s diet into account and find a version that will suit everyone instead of making slightly different ones. You don’t need to be like Monica from Friends making three different kinds of mashed potatoes so Ross, Phoebe, and Joey will all be happy.

Use Easy Decorations

Everyone wants the Martha Stewart-Thanksgiving centerpiece, but few of us are that crafty. Instead, use squash in a decorative bowl as your centerpiece. It’ll look more natural and minimalist. Plus you won’t have to throw away the decor when the meal’s over.

If you have little cousins you can also enlist them to make pretty decorations before the meal gets started. If you do decide to buy decorations, make sure you store them properly so they can be used next year too.

Skip the Fancy Dinnerware

I’m one of those millennials who skipped the traditional bridal registry in favor of a honeymoon fund so I never got a ceramic gravy boat or silver platter when I got married. That means that when I host people I put chips in a mixing bowl and leave the dip in the package it came in. So far I’ve found that none of my guests care how I’m serving the food as long as it’s good.

Your Thanksgiving family and friends won’t mind either. Don’t feel like you have to rush out to get serveware that matches. If you truly don’t have a large enough platter head to Goodwill or a thrift store where you can find all those items for just a few dollars.

The post How to Host a Money Stress Free Thanksgiving appeared first on MintLife Blog.


Source: mint.intuit.com

What Is Budget Billing and Is It Right for You?

by Phillip Warren

Your utility bills likely make up a significant part of your monthly budget, so it’s important to keep a close eye on them. But while your rent or mortgage stays the same month to month, your utilities don’t.

Sweltering summer days and icy winter nights can lead to budget-blowing spikes in your utility bills, and no matter how hard you try to budget and plan, you can’t predict the total each month. Or can you?

Budget billing may offer the consistency you crave. Here, personal finance experts describe how budget billing works and explain who may benefit from it, empowering you to answer this question for yourself: Does budget billing save money?

What is budget billing? It's a service that averages your monthly utility charges to determine a set amount to pay each month.

What is budget billing and how does it work?

As you consider this option, your first question might be: What is budget billing? Budget billing is a service offered by some utility companies that provides a set monthly bill for services like gas or electricity.

How does budget billing work? To calculate your monthly budget billing amount, a utility company will look at your past usage, typically over the last year, and average it to determine your monthly charge, says Sara Rathner, financial author and credit cards expert at NerdWallet. This will give you a predictable bill to pay each month, rather than one that fluctuates.

Keep in mind that if you recently moved into your home, the charges used to calculate your budget billing amount may be based on the previous owners’ or renters’ usage, says Rathner. Your actual usage may end up being more or less than theirs.

Another point to remember on how budget billing works: While budget billing gives you a steady amount to pay each month, this amount can, and likely will, change over time. Some providers update bill amounts quarterly, some annually. There’s no universal timeline for these updates, so be sure to ask your utility provider about its specific process, says Lance Cothern, CPA and founder of personal finance blog Money Manifesto.

How does budget billing work? Utility companies determine the monthly charge by averaging your usage over the past year.

These changes are made to capture your actual usage, whether that usage has decreased (a mild summer allowed you to keep the AC off more often) or increased (a brutally cold winter forced you to blast the heat). Typically, you will be notified in advance of the change.

Now that you know how budget billing works, you may be wondering: Could it save me cash?

Does budget billing save money?

Not exactly.

“Budget billing won’t save you money; it just evens your bill out over time,” Cothern says.

How does budget billing work if you end up using less energy and overpay? You may be reimbursed for the amount you paid above your actual energy usage, or the amount overpaid will be applied to next year.

“Anyone who sticks to a strict, detailed monthly budget may prefer the predictability of budget billing.”

– Sara Rathner, credit cards expert at NerdWallet

How does budget billing work if you underpay? You’ll have to pay the extra amount to make up the difference. These payments or credits happen in addition to any adjustments your provider makes to your monthly bill if your usage changes over time, Cothern says.

What are the benefits of budget billing?

Overall, there’s a fairly straightforward answer to what budget billing is, and the benefits are clear, too. While it doesn’t save you money per se, it may allow you to more easily manage your monthly budget.

For example, if you know your monthly electricity bill will be $100, you can account for this expense in your budget and more precisely allocate funds into other expenses or savings.

“Anyone who sticks to a strict, detailed monthly budget may prefer the predictability of budget billing,” Rathner says. “You know exactly how much your utility bill will be each month and can plan your other spending around it.”

Combine budget billing with autopay and you can set and forget your utility bills, ensuring they’re paid on time and in full, making money management a lot simpler. This could also help you deal with financial stress.

What are the downsides of budget billing?

While budget billing has its pros, it also comes with cons. Does budget billing save you money? To help answer that question, consider the following:

  • You may face extra fees. Some utility companies charge a fee for budget billing. In Cothern’s view, this negates the benefit since there’s no reason to pay tacked-on fees for this service. It’s important to find out whether there are fees before signing up when you’re researching how budget billing works.
  • You may ignore your utility usage. Budget billing puts your monthly utility charges, as well as your actual usage, out of sight and out of mind. Without the threat of a higher bill or the reward of a lower one based on your energy habits, some people get complacent, Rathner says. They leave lights on or turn up the heat instead of grabbing a blanket. If this sounds like you, budget billing may actually cost you money in the long run.

“Always keep an eye on your monthly bill even though you pay a level amount for months at a time,” Cothern says. Most utility companies provide your usage information right on your bill.

If you're wondering "Does budget billing save money?" remember that you may be charged extra fees for the service.

If you can financially handle the seasonal swings of each bill, budget billing may not be much of a benefit for you, Cothern says. Paying the full amount also means you’re paying attention to the full amount, he says, which may motivate you to reduce your energy consumption. And that’s where the real opportunity to save money lies.

By considering potential fees and the impact on your energy usage, you’ll have a good sense of whether budget billing saves you money in the long run.

Make the most of how budget billing works with this hack

After scrutinizing how budget billing works, the potential downsides have led some financial pros, Cothern among them, to develop a new hack for paying utility bills.

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Instead of signing up for budget billing, open a savings account online specifically for utilities, Cothern suggests. You’ll also want to sign up for a rewards credit card, if you don’t have one already.

Next, grab your last 12 months of utility bills, total them up and divide by 12 to get your monthly average. You’ll then want to set up an automatic transfer of that amount from your checking account into the utility savings account each month.

When the utility bill comes, pay it with your rewards credit card and then pay that bill with the money in your savings. You reap the benefits of maintaining a consistent amount coming out of your budget, as well as credit card rewards and any interest earned on that money from your savings account.

Do your homework before signing up for budget billing

After weighing your options and considering your personal budgeting style, you may decide that budget billing is right for you.

Still asking, "How does budget billing work?" Read your utility company's program rules in detail to help answer any questions.

If that’s the case, it’s important to read your utility’s program rules in detail. Yes, that means digging into the fine print to understand how budget billing works at the specific company, Cothern says, because budget billing is a general term for a wide variety of utility company programs. Budget billing may be called something else, like flat billing or balanced billing, and it may carry different nuances and terms.

Before signing up for budget billing, Rathner suggests calling your provider and asking the following questions:

  • Are there startup or maintenance fees?
  • How is the monthly amount calculated? How often is it updated?
  • What happens if you overpay or underpay?
  • What happens when you move or end service?

With the answers to these questions, you’ll have a better idea of how budget billing works for your provider. Armed with that info, you can determine whether budget billing saves you money and make the call on whether enrolling is right for you.

Whether you opt for budget billing or not, small adjustments to your home can result in major savings on your energy bills. For starters, check out these four ways to save energy by going green.

Articles may contain information from third-parties. The inclusion of such information does not imply an affiliation with the bank or bank sponsorship, endorsement, or verification regarding the third-party or information.

The post What Is Budget Billing and Is It Right for You? appeared first on Discover Bank - Banking Topics Blog.


Source: discover.com