Here’s How to Turn Food Pantry Staples into Delicious Meals

Pandemic-related layoffs and income loss have driven many people to community food pantries for the first time in their lives. According to Feeding America, about four out of every 10 people who visited a food bank from March through June of last year were first-time visitors. As the winter holidays approached, more than 80% of […]

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

10 Things to Know About Living in Philadelphia

Wedged between New York and D.C., Philadelphia has long been one of America’s most overlooked and underrated cities. The Birthplace of America, Philly is the nation’s sixth-largest city and one of its top cultural, culinary, employment, sports, music and education destinations. It’s a fresh, cosmopolitan city, and living in Philadelphia means you have nearly anything you could imagine to do, eat, visit, see and cheer for.

Philadelphia is a unique and diverse city, much more than the Liberty Bell, cheesesteaks and Rocky. It’s an inviting, connected community compromised of nearly 100 distinct neighborhoods from the gleaming skyscrapers of Center City to the rowhouses of South Philly to the rolling estates of Chestnut Hill. Whether you’re packing up for your move to Philly or just considering a relocation to the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection, there are many wonderful things you need to know about living in Philadelphia.

1. Philly has a great climate if you like having four seasons

No matter which season you enjoy frolicking in, Philly is the perfect climate to experience all four seasons. Philadelphia is a temperate Mid-Atlantic city with the best of all worlds, just 50 miles from the Jersey shore and 70 from the Pocono Mountains.

Summers in Philly can be hot and muggy at the peak of the season, with average highs just under 90 during July. Winters are cold but not bitterly, with daily temps during the holiday season straddling the freezing line. Rain can be expected a quarter-to-third of the days each month, with about 20 inches of snow each winter.

septa train philadelphia

2. Commuting is relatively easy by car or public transit

Philly commuting is convenient compared to most of its Northeast Corridor counterparts. The average one-way work travel time is just more than half an hour, with more than 20 percent using public transportation.

For automotive commuters, Philly’s transportation network couldn’t be simpler. Interstate 95 lines the eastern edge of the city, the I-76 Schuylkill Expressway divides West Philly from the rest of Philly and I-676 (Vine Street Expressway) and US Route 1 (Roosevelt Boulevard/Expressway) run east/west through the city. Broad Street, America’s longest straight boulevard, forms Philly’s north/south backbone.

SEPTA operates a convenient public transit system, which includes a number of commuting modes. This includes the Broad Street Line subway and Market-Frankford elevated train, which travels north/south and east/west, respectively, 131 bus lines and eight light rail and trolley routes.

3. You have to learn how to talk Philly to live here

Every city in America has its own dialect quirks, but Philly has a language all its own every newcomer must eventually absorb. From your first “yo,” you’ll quickly learn every jawn (which can literally mean any person, place or thing).

“Jeet?” is what you’ll be asked if someone wants to know if you’ve eaten yet. They may want to share a hoagie (don’t ever say “sub”), grab pasta with gravy (tomato sauce) or a cheesesteak “whiz wit” (covered in melted cheese and fried onions). Wash it down with some wooder (what comes out of the sink) or a lager (ask for that and you’ll get a Yuengling beer).

Where are you going to go? Maybe “down the shore” to the Jersey beaches, out to Delco (Delaware County) or to Center City (never call it “downtown”) on the El (the elevated train). That’s where yiz (plural “you”) are headed.

And everyone loves talking about the “Iggles” (or “the Birds,”) the championship football team.

4. Philly is the City of Museums

More than any city in America, history lies down every street, many of which the Founding Fathers once walked. Independence National Historical Park, the most historic square mile in the nation, includes important sites like Independence Hall, Liberty Bell, City Tavern, Christ Church, Franklin Court and more.

Nearby in Old City are the National Constitution Center, Museum of the American Revolution, Betsy Ross House, the first U.S. Mint, Elfreth’s Alley and National Museum of American Jewish History.

But Philly offers so much more, including world-class museums dedicated to art, culture, science and education. In the Parkway Museum District, must-visit attractions include the Philadelphia Museum of Art (and the Rocky steps), Franklin Institute Science Museum, Barnes Foundation and Rodin Museum.

Elsewhere around the city are amazing spots, including the Mummers Museum, Academy of Natural Sciences, Magic Gardens urban mosaic, Mütter Museum of medical oddities, Eastern State Penitentiary and even the Museum of Pizza Culture.

Philly cheesesteak

Photo courtesy of Michael Hochman

5. Philly cuisine is much more than cheesesteaks

Sure, everyone loves cheesesteaks and every Philadelphian has their favorite steak joint. But Philly also claims a slew of other iconic dishes.

Hoagies are a party staple, but many swear by the roast pork sandwich, with provolone and sautéed broccoli rabe, as the city’s signature sandwich. Philadelphians eat 12 times as many pretzels as the average American and you’ll find soft pretzels in the Philly figure-eight style on every corner.

Breakfasts wouldn’t be Philly without scrapple or pork roll, two pan-fried pork-based dishes. And dinner can include tomato pie (cheeseless rectangle pizza on focaccia served at room temperature), Old Bay-flavored crinkle-cut crab fries or snapper soup, which is exactly what you think it is.

For dessert, grab a “wooder ice” (kind of like Italian ice but not) or a Tastykake (more of a lifestyle than a snack food line).

And Philadelphia isn’t just for casual eats — some of America’s greatest restaurants live here. Israeli spot Zahav was named Best Restaurant in the country, and Pizzeria Beddia the Best Pizza in America. Other award-winning spots abound, including South Philly Barbacoa, vegetarian destination Vedge and 20 restaurants citywide from decorated chef Stephen Starr.

But all cross-sections of Philadelphians can agree on one thing — everyone loves Wawa, more of a culture than a convenience store, with more than 40 locations throughout the city.

6. Philly is the best music city on the East Coast

There would be no American music without Philadelphia. The city is home to one of the nation’s greatest music histories as the birthplace of Philadelphia soul, American Bandstand, Gamble & Huff and “Rock Around The Clock.” Artists hailing from Philly span the spectrum from Hall & Oates, Chubby Checker, Patty LaBelle, Boyz II Men and Will Smith to The Roots, Meek Mill, Diplo, Dr. Dog, War On Drugs, Kurt Vile, Dead Milkmen and Joan Jett.

Philly is also one of the best cities in America to see and hear live music, with a slew of iconic music venues of every size. Music pours nightly out of legendary clubs, such as Milkboy, Johnny Brenda’s, Boot & Saddle and Kung Fu Necktie, concert halls like The Fillmore, Union Transfer, Theater of Living Arts and Tower Theater and outdoor amphitheaters with stunning vistas BB&T Pavilion and Mann Center.

7. Philly is one of America’s great college towns

Philadelphia is one giant college town. There are more than 340,000 college students living in Philly spread across nearly two dozen four-year campuses. Thanks to college sports, Philly’s top five major universities (that make up the Big Five) are nationally known and include Temple, St. Joseph’s, La Salle, the University of Pennsylvania and Villanova (which actually sits outside the city).

University City in West Philly is home to Penn, as well as Drexel and the University of the Sciences. And scattered elsewhere around the city are historically-black Lincoln University, Chestnut Hill College, Thomas Jefferson University (on two campuses), Pierce College and Holy Family.

There are also a number of creative and performing arts schools in Philadelphia, including the University of the Arts, Art Institute of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and Curtis Institute of Music.

Phillies

Photo courtesy of Michael Hochman

8. Sports are life in Philly even if we like to boo

You may have heard. In Philadelphia, we love sports. Unlike cities like New York or L.A., Philly has just one team in each of the major sports, so every fan is on the same page. Except for college basketball where the city is divided among a half-dozen Division I programs.

Philadelphians bleed team colors and everyone from every walk of life pays attention. Often, the city’s collective mood is based on yesterday’s result. So, if you want to walk into nearly any conversation in Philly, be sure to know the Birds’ playoff chances or who your favorite Flyer is. But Philly fans don’t take lack of hustle or effort lightly, and a subpar performance will bring out the notorious boo-birds.

9. The cost of living in Philly is pretty good

As the sixth-largest city in the nation and keystone of the Northeast Corridor, you’d expect Philly to be expensive. Actually, it’s pretty average. The overall cost of living in Philadelphia (as of Q1 2020) is just 110 percent of the national composite. Compare that to its neighbors like New York (246 percent), D.C. (160 percent) and Boston (148 percent). In fact, Philadelphia’s cost of living is cheaper than many major cities like Denver, New Orleans, Miami, San Diego and Baltimore.

The same goes for housing, as well. Philadelphia is only 13 percent over the national index average for housing costs, much more affordable than other East Coast cities and metropolises around the country like Phoenix, Dallas and Portland. For renters, an average Philly one-bedroom leases for just $2,127 a month (compared to the national average of $1,621), just a pleasantly-surprising 17th most-expensive in the nation, cheaper than Sacramento, Boston, Seattle or Oakland.

10. Philadelphia is one of the great American cities

Philadelphia is a beautiful, friendly, progressive city for anyone moving here or just thinking about it. It’s a hub for technology and finance and home to a dozen Fortune 500 corporations.

It’s a retail center with high-end city malls, vintage and boutique shopping corridors and Jewelers’ Row, the oldest diamond district in the nation. It’s a haven for those seeking outdoor adventure, including massive Wissahickon Valley and Fairmount Parks. And a destination for family fun at spots like the Please Touch Museum and America’s oldest zoo. It’s even one of America’s most walkable cities.

Living in Philadelphia

Philly is a great place for lovers of music, beer, history, shopping, sports, theater, coffee, biking, art, dining and more. Whatever your passion, you’ll find it living in Philadelphia.

And with a head start on what’s listed here, you’ll be welcomed with open arms and find out quickly why we’re known as The City that Loves You Back.

Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and Rent.com’s multifamily rental property inventory of one-bedroom apartments. Data was pulled in October 2020 and goes back for one year. We use a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each individual unit type and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets.
Population and income numbers are from the U.S. Census Bureau. Cost of living data comes from the Council for Community and Economic Research.
The rent information included in this article is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.
Header image courtesy of Michael Hochman.

The post 10 Things to Know About Living in Philadelphia appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

Source: apartmentguide.com

10 Questions to Ask about Parking Before You Rent an Apartment

So, you think you’ve found the perfect apartment.

Did you remember to ask about the parking situation? If not, stop! Don’t sign that lease until you have at least considered how you and your guests can park hassle-free. Because no matter how fabulous the view or the living space, if you rely on a car and parking isn’t convenient, it’ll likely put a damper on your living experience.

If you’re planning to live downtown in a city with excellent public transportation and bike accommodations, including bike-sharing programs, you need to consider if you even need a car. Many people don’t want the hassle and are happy to rent a vehicle on the occasions when they want to get out of the city.

But if you plan to have a car or are considering having a car, we’ve compiled a list of 10 questions you need to ask about parking before you sign the lease.

1. What kind of parking does the building offer?

apartment parking

Depending on an apartment’s location, parking will vary. Perhaps there’s an indoor parking garage under the building (most likely in a downtown high-rise or mid-rise building).

If you’re looking at a garden-style apartment, parking may be right outside your front door. If it’s outdoors, and you live in a cold climate, you need to think about inclement weather. Come winter, will you be shoveling four inches of snow off your vehicle before you can head off to work?

And speaking of snow, do you need to observe special parking rules to accommodate the snowplow (such as moving your car from certain parking areas)? Know what’s expected of you.

2. Is parking on-site or is it all street parking?

For some of you, street parking will be a deal-breaker. Others will accept that as a necessary evil that goes with keeping a car in the city.

If there’s street parking, find out if you need a permit from the city or local government to park on the street. Keep in mind that it may be difficult to find a spot when you return if there’s only street parking.

3. How is parking managed?

Once you know that the building supports a parking plan, you need to inquire about the details. For example, are you able to self-park? In many city high-rises, you can’t self park and may have to rely on a parking valet.

Is the parking valet reliable? Are there designated spaces for compact and full-size vehicles? If you have special needs and would like to park closer to the elevator or front door, can you make this request?

4. Reserved or unreserved — that is the question!

reserved parking spot

If there’s plenty of parking, you may not need reserved space(s). But it can be nice to know that you have a dedicated spot to come home to, regardless of your schedule. Ask about this policy.

If there’s on-site parking, find out if the lot is usually full at peak times or if there are usually empty spaces. If spaces are reserved, can you get parking near your unit?

5. How many spaces are you allowed?

If you have a roommate or if you and your significant other have vehicles, will there be designated parking spots for both of you?

6. How much will parking cost?

This is an important question because if your space(s) is not part of your monthly payment, you have to factor parking costs into your budget. It becomes a line item just like internet service, cable and utilities.

If your building doesn’t have parking but has a formal arrangement with a parking garage nearby, ask about the cost. Perhaps your parking will be comped or discounted. Similarly, if parking is included in the rent, and you decide to forego having a car, do you receive a discount?

Be sure to inquire about cost differences for covered spots (also known as garage parking) vs. uncovered spaces (also known as surface parking).

7. Where do my guests park?

guest parking

If parking in and around your building is challenging and there are no spaces reserved for guests, it may put a damper on social activities. Not all rentals have the luxury of extra space for visitors, so you need to decide just how important that is or come up with creative alternatives, such as carpooling.

If your building can accommodate guest parking, do you need to reserve in advance? And how easy will it be for your visitors to come and go?

8. Is the parking lot well lit at night?

If the parking lot is indoors, is the garage only accessible via fob access or in a controlled manner. While there’s never a guarantee of safety, and much of it is based on the specific neighborhood, consider visiting the parking lot yourself to make your own determination.

9. How is designated parking enforced and disputes resolved?

It happens. Sometimes it’s a neighbor who decides to flout the rules and do as he or she wants. Most times, however, it’s a misunderstanding. In either case, situations do arise, and you need to know there is a system in place.

Remember, you also have to be a good neighbor and respect apartment parking etiquette.

10. Can you sublet your parking space?

tenant parking only sign

This question is more important than you might think as it could offer a source for a little extra income each month. If your lease includes a parking space, and you don’t have a car, but your neighbor has two vehicles and only one designated spot, you may be able to make a deal. But check your lease first to determine that you have the legal right to sublet.

Avoid parking problems

Go ahead and look for that perfect apartment with the view, amenities and conveniences you desire. But don’t overlook the parking accommodations or you could be driving into a headache that never goes away.

The post 10 Questions to Ask about Parking Before You Rent an Apartment appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

6 Sumptuous Ways To Make Your Home Feel Like a ‘Big Hug’

Albina Gavrilovic / Getty Images

During winter, when temperatures drop, we all want to keep our homes feeling (and looking) as cozy and comfortable as can be—and that’s easily done if you layer in the right fabrics like mohair, boucle, and chenille.

“Soft textiles like these are obviously cozy, but they also provide a luxurious look that makes spaces feel timeless,” says Barbara Karpf, founder of DecoratorsBest. Plus, “The pandemic has only furthered our need to create a comfortable, safe haven in our homes, and using materials like these is an ideal way to snuggle up after a long day.”

If you’re a fan of natural textiles, the winter-weight options below fit the bill.

“These fabrics offer strong fibers that are healthy for the home, plus they add texture, which infuses rooms with dimension,” says Liz Caan, an interior designer with the eponymous firm. “They’re like a big hug—and who doesn’t love a hug?”

If you’re craving a warm and fuzzy shopping spree, check out these decor ideas below.

1. Mohair

Mohair is the crowning touch on this vintage slipper chair.

Etsy

Similar in feel to a very dense velvet, mohair is a type of wool that comes from the hair of the Angora goat.

“It’s incredibly insulating and dense, so it’s well-suited to upholstery use due to its natural sheen and durability,” says Caan.

Our pick: Add a midcentury vibe to your living room or den with this elegant perch that’s been recovered with jade mohair ($500, Etsy).

2. Boucle

Choose from square or lumber shapes in cream or taupe.

Target

Boucle, French for “curl,” is a heavy textile made with looped yarn.

“The look is irregular, and the tiny loops create shadows, both of which add interest and texture,” says Caan

And boucle has long been a source of inspiration in the fashion and furniture worlds.

Coco Chanel was enamored with this nubbly fabric, so she created the iconic boucle jacket that’s still worn today,” says Karpf. “And the womb chair made by Eero Saarinen for Florence Knoll was also covered in boucle.”

Our pick: Snuggle up to this cute throw pillow that sports an exposed metallic zipper with a tassel ($22, Target).

3. Chenille

Chenille is 100% cotton and machine-washable.

Walmart

This pretty woven fabric also has a French pedigree (chenille means “caterpillar”) and can be made from cotton, wool, silk, or rayon. The fuzzy twists of yarn create a raised, tufted texture that’s ideal for bedspreads, pillow shams, carpets, and blankets.

Note: While many of the fabrics here mix and match well, chenille isn’t necessarily one of them.

“It often feels more casual than sophisticated,” says Karpf.

Our pick: The swirling floral pattern on this bed cover is whimsical and feminine, making it a nice option for a master bedroom or guest suite ($75, Walmart).

4. Shearling

Prop your sore feet on this soft-as-a-cloud cube.

Etsy

Shearling is made from a lamb’s hide that’s been treated and tanned so that there’s a suedelike surface on one side. While it’s typically seen on jackets, hats, and house slippers, shearling is right at home as a pillow or throw rug.

Our pick: This adorable handmade pouf comes in pink, red, beige, and white, and could be a sweet accent piece in a baby nursery ($90, Etsy).

5. Twill

Blackout panels are chic and versatile.

Amazon

Twill is a woven material that results in diagonal lines or ridges on the fabric’s surface—and it’s a top choice when it comes to curtains. Twill hangs well, is easy to clean, and won’t show dirt and dust the way a plain weave can. This fabric is typically made from cotton, but velvet versions are also available.

Our pick: These smooth sateen twill curtain panels can block drafty windows and come in four sizes and two dozen shades. Sturdy grommets line the top for easy hanging on just about any kind of dowel ($35-plus for a pair, Amazon).

6. Velvet

Legs with an antique brass finish are a luxe touch.

Crate & Barrel

Plush velvet is a go-to for upholstery, pillows, and curtains, though keep fabric weight in mind as you select window treatments. (Some velvets are heavy, which affects the way it drapes on the rod.)

“The most expensive and least durable is silk velvet, but a linen-cotton blend is better and moderately priced,” says Karpf. Or consider performance velvet, especially the ones from Maiden Home, which is resistant to stains and spills. “This strong fabric is an easy-care alternative that looks and feels just like real velvet.”

Our pick: Consider this gorgeous sapphire velvet couch with a frame made from locally sourced hardwood that offers midcentury design and comfort in one stylish package ($1,469, Crate & Barrel).

The post 6 Sumptuous Ways To Make Your Home Feel Like a ‘Big Hug’ appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com

5 winter DIY home projects

If you’re the type that loves to take on a good DIY project, the winter season can leave your options … lacking. Don’t despair, there’s still plenty that needs to be done around your home even when it’s cold outside. Here’s a list of indoor DIY projects you can start tackling today.

  • Insulate your water heater. A source of heat during the winter, you can reduce your home’s energy usage by wrapping your water heater in insulation to keep your water hot, whether you’re using it or not.
  • Add a programmable thermostat. This one just makes sense when considering energy conservation. Programmable thermostats allow you to control the temperature of your home from anywhere and set preprogrammed temperature guidelines to lower your home’s temp when you’re away and raise it when you return.
  • A fresh coat of paint. Summer is the time for painting your home’s exterior, but the winter was made for inside painting projects. This is an easy way to add vibrancy to those dreary winter months. Just try to pick a day when it isn’t raining or snowing to make your ventilation easier.
  • Clear the clutter. Increase your living space by clearing junk. If you haven’t used it in a year, say goodbye.

 

The post 5 winter DIY home projects first appeared on Century 21®.

Source: century21.com

5 Renovations That Don’t Increase Your Resale Value

Couple renovating their home

The first major home renovation my husband and I ever undertook was insulating the walls of a 1921 Craftsman bungalow we shared in Columbus, Ohio. This project made the house a great deal more comfortable in the winter and the summer, since the existing insulation was the least expensive option available in the 1920s — making it completely inadequate for maintaining heat in the winter or coolness in the summer.

Unfortunately, despite the undeniable improvement to our comfort, we found that our new insulation did nothing for our resale value. Even though we had put nearly $5,000 worth of work and materials into this renovation, we didn’t see that money and effort reflected in our sale price when we had to move several years later.

Not all renovations are going to increase your resale value. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should forgo working on your home if you won’t see the value when it’s time to sell. For instance, I would definitely insulate that house again, even knowing that the money is only going to improve my comfort. 

But there are some home renovation projects that you just can’t expect to recoup your investment on. Knowing that, you should consider how long you intend to live in your house and whether you’re renovating just to increase your home’s value before jumping into any of these home improvement projects.

1. Invisible improvements

Insulating our bungalow was the kind of invisible improvement that had to be done, but didn’t appear to change the house. Unlike "sexier" improvements like updating a kitchen or bath, or even putting on a new roof, invisible improvements don’t change the look of the house. These are things like re-grading the yard to keep water from getting into the basement, updating the HVAC system, tuck-pointing bricks and chimneys, and replacing gutters.

While these improvements often have to be done to protect your house, the downside is that you may not recoup the cost of these improvements when it comes time to sell. It can be helpful to think of these renovation expenses as a way of protecting your home’s current value, rather than as a way to increase your future resale value.

2. Swimming pool

While homeowners in Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, and Southern California may find that having a swimming pool is a big selling point for their homes, this isn’t going to be the case nationwide. According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost to install a pool is over $27,000. That doesn’t include the annual maintenance costs, ranging between $500 and $4,000. It’s these maintenance costs, plus the work that homeowners will have to either do themselves or contract out in order to keep their pool sparkling clean that will turn off many potential buyers. Add in the additional insurance requirements that homeowners with pools will need to purchase, and it should be clear why many prospective buyers would rather not invest in a home that comes with a pool.

This is why you should only commit to the cost of installing a pool if you truly want to use it yourself and expect to stay in your home for at least five years. Otherwise, it might make more sense to invest in a membership to your local pool. 

3. Bathroom and kitchen upgrades

Remodeling your bathroom and/or kitchen is an excellent way to increase your home’s value, right? Yes and no. While replacing dingy tiling and updating old appliances will definitely help your home shine for potential buyers, there’s such a thing as going overboard with your bathroom or kitchen upgrades.

Specifically, if you add granite countertops, custom-made cabinets, stainless steel appliances, and ceramic tiles to your kitchen and bathroom, but the rest of the home is still an ordinary suburban home, potential buyers will see the house as a work-in-progress, rather than a home that feels move-in ready. Over-improving the bath and kitchen could make buyers think that it’s not worth the effort to try to get the rest of the house to match. (See also: 9 Home Improvements You Should Always Negotiate)

4. Built-in high-end electronics

We may all dream of living in a George Jetson house — where every possible electronic need you have is already built in — but committing to this kind of renovation may hurt your resale value. 

There are a couple of reasons for this. First, while your personal movie theater (with remote-controlled state-of-the-art projector) may be exactly what you want from your home, a potential buyer may just see a room that will need to be torn out and remodeled as soon as they move in. Plus, technology advances at a breakneck speed, so your cutting-edge electronics will soon look as dated as shag carpeting and harvest gold refrigerators.

If you need or want built-in high-end electronics in your home, make sure you’re installing them for your own pleasure and comfort, because it’s unlikely a buyer will appreciate them too.

5. Extravagant landscaping

Making improvements to your landscaping requires a gentle touch. On the one hand, landscaping is often touted as an important aspect of curb appeal, and making sure your yard and garden look attractive and welcoming is certainly a great way to draw in potential buyers. 

On the other hand, an elaborate landscaping remodel can turn off buyers. Those with black thumbs might look at your vast flowering garden with sculpted shrubs and pond and decide they are not up for the challenge of keeping it up, and those who do love to garden might not like your vision and want to start over.

If recreating the gardens of Versailles is how you make your house feel like a home, then there’s nothing wrong with investing in this kind of renovation. But make sure you’re doing this kind of work for yourself, and not because you hope to make back the money you spent once you’re ready to sell. (See also: 14 Ways to Make Your Yard Look Awesome for Under $100)

Renovate for the right reasons

While many experts focus on resale value as the deciding factor on whether to take on a home improvement project, the important thing to remember is that you live in your house now. Deciding which home renovations to work on based on what someone else might like is the way madness lies.

When you make improvements to your home, make sure you take your own comfort, your plans for living in the home, and the potential resale value into consideration. They all matter.


Source: feeds.killeraces.com

Best Tips for Shopping at the Grocery Store on a Budget

It’s no secret that you can be healthy on a budget, but the real secret lies in how you can stay healthy and on budget.  Just like adapting to a new diet, staying on budget is all about behavior change.  In my previous article, I shared tips on eating healthy on a budget, and this time around, I’m digging a little deeper into how to stay on budget on a shopping trip.  Since I get groceries at least once per week, both for work projects and for my personal family shopping, I consider myself an expert in saving money at the grocery store.  Here are my top 10 tips for shopping at the grocery store on a budget, and don’t be surprised- some of these tips start even BEFORE you hit the store!

1. Check mail for coupons and ads

Cutting coupons may seem like a blast from the past, but if cutting out little pieces of paper can save $5 for my future, then I’ll be clipping away!  Each week, your mail includes ads from local grocery stores and coupons from major brands, so tossing that mail out is like throwing away money. Instead, look through that mail to find deals on your frequently used items, and anything special coming up.  Shopping ads especially help me to plan food for holidays, like for this budget-friendly spread for Fourth of July.

2. Make a grocery list.

I suggest planning out weekly meals and making a grocery list for it. This not only saves a lot of money, but will also save time in the grocery store and help reduce food waste (which is basically wasted money).  Going into the store with a list makes me feel more prepared and in control of what I spend. It’s pretty easy to say no to those extra treats in the cart if they’re not on my list.

3. Shop where you bag your own groceries.

If you have a grocery store in town where you bag your own groceries, chances are that store has the best prices since the savings on staff can be reflected on your receipt.  Plus, I like to bag my own groceries, as it gives me a final run-through of my purchase to make sure I didn’t forget anything, and I get to bag them exactly how I want.

4. Eat before to avoid impulse and unhealthy buys.

The biggest mistake in overspending at the grocery store is going shopping when your stomach’s growling.  That extra bag of chips gets half-way eaten before check-out at the register, and guess what?!?! It wasn’t on your grocery list, in your budget, OR on your meal plan.  Prevent that mistake by eating before a trip to the grocery store and it will be easier to stick to your plan.

5. Buy seasonal fruit and vegetables.

There are so many reasons why eating seasonally is better- less impact on the environment, more nutrients, and better taste- but buying produce in season is actually a great way to save money and eat healthy.  You don’t have to spend extra on foods that are imported from different regions when it’s growing in season in your area.  When produce is in season, it’s in abundance so farmers are able to give a better deal.

6. Buy frozen veggies.

While I stress that fresh is best, there are some times when it just makes sense to buy frozen veggies.  One reason would be because of cost. If there is a good sale on organic frozen peas, I’ll go ahead and purchase some ahead of time since I can store it in my freezer.  Another reason to buy frozen is because of seasonality. There is plenty of fresh and juicy corn available in the summer, but when it comes to winter months, I like to pull corn straight from my freezer.

7. Buy deli meat and cheese at the deli.

There is so much emphasis on how pre-packaged foods are more convenient, but these foods are not convenient on my wallet or my diet. When you buy foods that are already packaged, you’re paying for that extra packaging and all the costs that go along with that (from advertising, to transportation, to even stocking it on the shelves).  On top of that, buying food already packaged up can mean you end up wasting some of that food if you don’t use it.

That being said, I am all for soliciting the various departments of the grocery store and getting exactly how much I need, which means I pay for only that.  I get my sandwich meat and cheese from the deli and what I love is that I can tell them how much to slice, how many slices, and even how thick to make my slices.  Gone are the days of moldy cheese because I ran out of bread- now I know to shop for exactly what I need.

8. Buy bread and baked goods in the bakery. 

Speaking of bread, I also buy baked goods at the bakery.  Not only are these items usually made fresh in stores, they also skip all the fancy packaging and trickle all those savings to you.  If you’re seriously on a budget, some bakeries even sell day-old goods for a fraction of the cost.

9. Buy meat in bulk, cut and freeze.

While you’re visiting the different departments of the grocery store, don’t forget to make a stop to the butcher.  I like to buy meat in bulk and cut it to freeze for later. It’s so much cheaper to buy meat like this, and I love the convenience of having options to use in my freezer.  My biggest tip is if you’re going to make chicken, get the whole chicken because that’s considerably cheaper than one that’s cut. Aside from using just the meat, you can also make a delicious chicken broth with the carcass, which is a great way to use the whole animal and also save money even more!

10. Buy Bulk Bin items.

You know those bulk bins at the grocery store?  That section is like gold to me since every time I visit it, I’m saving money!  Since I’m usually developing recipes, it’s just easier to purchase the exact quantity of something, that way I know exactly how much something costs.  What’s even better is that I only have the amount needed for the recipe, and that leaves me with less food to waste each month. I absolutely dread throwing away food, because it’s like throwing away money, so by buying some ingredients in bulk, I know I’m using up what I need.

Using ingredients from bulk bins, I’m going to make aebleskiver, or Danish Pancakes.  Ever since I got a special pan, I’ve been obsessed with making these fun-size pancakes.  I usually don’t purchase separate pans for specialty foods, but I really got my money’s worth for this pan since I use it a few times each month.  Yes, I could buy these ingredients packaged up ahead of time, but it’s happened where I think I have enough flour for a recipe (usually after I already mixed up the other ingredients), but I don’t have enough so I have to waste my time with an emergency trip to the store.  But ever since I started using bulk bins, I know I have enough for my recipes every time, and when it comes to eating healthy on a budget, everything adds up!

 

The post Best Tips for Shopping at the Grocery Store on a Budget appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

10 Things to Know About Living in Las Vegas

When we think of Las Vegas, it often has a connotation of big parties, gambling and expensive fun. Most people who go to the Entertainment Capital of the World are there for a good time and want to experience the food, shows and casinos. But what’s it like for the locals who are working and living in Las Vegas?

It’s a fairly big city, and residents have access to all of the fun and excitement as other out-of-town visitors. But every day isn’t a party when you’re living there — people have homes, families and careers to think about.

There are lots of surprising aspects of living in Sin City, and it just might be the kind of scene you’re looking for.

1. Get ready for discounts

In the Entertainment Capital of the World, many hotels, casinos and even restaurants give discounts to those who live locally. That means you’ll get discounts on Las Vegas attractions, spas and even shows, such as Cirque du Soleil, so you can enjoy the perks of the city without draining your bank account.

2. There are lots of pools — and you’ll be grateful for them

pool

Since it can get pretty hot and be fairly warm for eight or nine months out of the year, many residents in Las Vegas have pools. Most apartment complexes have pools, but if yours doesn’t have one, you’ll inevitably have friends with access to a pool. Or, you can head to one of the hotels with a luxury pool for a little weekend staycation.

Whatever pools you can access, you’ll be glad you have them. There are plenty of days when it’s too hot to do much else outdoors and slipping into the cool water might be the only thing that keeps you sane.

3. The heat is extreme

Most people haven’t experienced Vegas-style heat — we’re talking 120 degrees Fahrenheit or more on some days during the summer. That might sound bearable when you can hang out in the pool all day, but at temperatures climb that high, even a pool will feel like a hot tub.

When it gets unbearably hot, you can plan on hanging out inside with the air conditioner cranked up and eating popsicles all day long to stay cool.

4. Grocery stores are extra convenient

Being known as one of the cities that never sleeps, most Las Vegas grocery and convenience stores are open 24/7, so you can head out and get what you need without checking the time and worrying that stores will be closed. Plus, wine, beer and spirits are sold in the majority of grocery stores.

5. It’s surprisingly affordable

Most larger, well-known cities are quite expensive when you take housing, transportation and food into account. But living in Las Vegas is surprisingly affordable — it’s actually one of the most inexpensive places to live in Nevada. The cost of living in most categories is quite close to the national average, which is surprising for a larger city.

It has a thriving housing market, where there are plenty of homes available for fairly reasonable prices, and rent isn’t sky-high. The average rent in 2020 for a one-bedroom apartment is a little more than $1,200 a month — well below the national average of $1,600. And because there are plenty of quiet suburbs outside of the Strip and downtown areas, there are lots of supermarkets, restaurants and shopping malls readily available.

Most of the expensive places, whether they’re high-end stores or five-star restaurants, are located on the Strip or in downtown Vegas. Outside of that, most stores and restaurants in the valley are affordable and easily accessible to the locals.

You’ll rarely have to pay for parking, which is uncommon in a big city. Since hotels often have stores and attractions within them and casinos want people to come inside and play, they often will have free parking garages to attract potential customers.

6. There’s unique outdoor recreation

valley of fire

Las Vegas isn’t usually known for its camping and hiking scene, but there are some fun and different places to explore in the area. Some of the best spots are Valley of Fire and Red Rock Canyon. You can even go skiing during the winter months at Mt. Charleston, which is a reasonably short drive from the city.

And if that’s not enough for you, you’ll only be a few hours away from the state and national parks of Utah and California.

7. It’s best to have a car

In many bigger cities, there’s great public transportation, and it’s often preferred by the locals because of high parking costs and traffic congestion. But most Las Vegas residents don’t rely on public transportation to get around, and many people own cars.

Although there’s some public transportation, it’s mostly buses — the city is quite sprawling, making public transportation an extremely time-consuming option, especially if you’re going from one end to the other.

As far as driving goes, the most traffic-heavy places in the city are downtown and the Strip, and most other places aren’t too bad. Just beware of the Spaghetti Bowl, which is where multiple freeways merge together near downtown — traffic can get pretty congested there during rush hour.

8. No more state income tax

Unless you’re moving to Las Vegas from one of the other few states that doesn’t have an income tax, this will be a happy surprise. Nevada doesn’t have a personal income tax or corporate income tax.

9. Major league sports are coming in hot

In just the last few years, Sin City has become home to two major-league sports teams. The Raiders football team relocated there from Oakland earlier this year, giving residents something to be happy about, despite the other events of 2020.

But perhaps the most exciting thing was the creation of the Golden Knights, an NHL team that now plays in Vegas. When the team was first created, many people had low expectations — but the team ended up getting within only a few games of winning the Stanley Cup in its very first season. So, even if you’re not a hockey fan now, you’ll definitely become one when you move to Vegas.

10. Watch out for desert critters

scorpion

Most of us have had spiders or ants get in the house — that’s going to happen no matter where you live in the U.S. But have you dealt with cockroaches, lizards and scorpions?

While scorpions aren’t an everyday thing, you should still be aware of them and know that they could show up in your yard. And although most of the lizards are harmless, it can still be unsettling to see them basking in the sun all over the rocks around your home. But the cockroaches are something else. You’ll want to invest in good pest control because they’ll find a way to sneak into your bathroom and kitchen, even if you live on the fifth floor of a building.

If you have a pet, keep in mind that their food will attract more roaches, so keep their bowl in a high-traffic area of your house to ward off the pesky little critters. And make sure you seal the excess food in a container or bag so you don’t reach in and scoop up a handful of cockroaches when your pet is hungry.

Living in Las Vegas is full of surprises

In spite of its nickname being “Sin City,” living in Las Vegas can be a great experience. It’s a diverse place and contains all of the perks of a big city without the cost and without feeling like such a busy, overcrowded place all the time. The longer you live in Vegas, the more the city will surprise you.

The post 10 Things to Know About Living in Las Vegas appeared first on Apartment Living Tips – Apartment Tips from ApartmentGuide.com.

Source: apartmentguide.com

8 Dangerous Mistakes To Avoid When Firing Up Your Generator This Winter

generator mistakesLifestyleVisuals/Getty Images

With so many people spending more time at home due to COVID-19, having reliable and consistent power is more critical than ever. But with winter about to be in full swing—and serious storms already wreaking havoc on parts of the country—many of us are thrust into crisis mode to get the juice back on.

If you haven’t done so already, now’s the time to invest in a generator to restore power to your home quickly. But here’s the deal: This is not a device to learn as you go. You need to know how to run it safely—before you push “start,” and long before the lights go out. Because when you’re in crisis mode, it’s much easier to make dangerous mistakes that damage the generator or, worse, potentially put your family at risk.

Whether you’ve run a generator before or just bought one, here are eight things you should avoid.

1. You neglect regular maintenance

Hopefully, you won’t need to fire up your generator that often. But between the times that you do, you shouldn’t just put it in the corner and forget about it.

“Lack of proper maintenance on generators is the largest problem we see,” says Rusty Wise, owner of Mister Sparky in Cherryville, NC.

To ensure your generator is ready to go, Wise says to check the batteries regularly, and examine and clean the oil and air filter. You should also start it up on a regular basis during the colder months.

“Cranking the generator and putting it under a load is recommended at least once a month to help prevent moisture from accumulating in the windings and other electrical components,” says Wise.

2. You don’t use heavy-duty extension cords

It seems like power failures go hand in hand with severe weather—and pairing sleet, rain, and snow with the wrong extension cords is a recipe for disaster.

Extension cords range from smaller wire 18-gauge to larger wire 10-gauge, says Wise. Wise recommends at least a 14-gauge outdoor grounded extension cord with GFCI protection for generators.

That’s a general reference, as the extension cord length and the amperage of the load affect how much the extension cord can handle, Wise says. Always consult your manual for specific extension cord requirements.

3. You run the generator from the garage

When a storm knocks out power and you have a generator ready to go, it’s tempting to start it up ASAP to restore power.

But beware: It’s not a good idea to start it up while it’s in the garage, even with the door open.

Generators should be operated outside, in a dry area at least 25 feet away from any open windows or doors with at least 5 feet of clearance on all sides, says Austin Heller, product manager of portable generators at Generac Power Systems.

“Generator exhaust contains carbon monoxide, a deadly poisonous gas invisible to the naked eye,” says Heller. “Only use generators far away from any openings to your home, and install a carbon monoxide detector indoors to make sure you’re alerted when CO is detected.”

4. You don’t follow the correct sequence when starting and stopping

Read the owners manual, but generally speaking, Heller says to turn the generator on before plugging in extension cords, then plug any loads into the extension cord.

When powering off, unplug loads from the extension cord. Then unplug the extension cord from the generator before turning the generator off.

“Following these steps will help to protect yourself from electrical shock, but it will also help minimize unnecessary strain or damage to the generator,” says Heller.

5. You have bad gas

We’re not talking about your digestion issues here. If you only started up the generator once and stored it with the remaining gasoline in the tank, it might go bad from sitting, Wise says.

“If you are going to store your generator, make sure to drain all of the gasoline or run it periodically to keep the gas fresh,” Wise says. “There are also gasoline additives that can help to keep the fuel fresh.”

6. You add gasoline while the generator is running

Speaking of gas, the generator sucks down gasoline as the hours go by in a power outage, yet you can’t add more gas at the last minute like you do when your car reaches the empty mark.

“Refueling a generator while it’s running or while the engine is hot could be a quick recipe for disaster,” Heller says. “Spilled gasoline could ignite, and create an explosion. Make sure to turn off your engine and let it cool completely before refueling.”

7. You run your generator unprotected from the elements

In the rush to get power restored to the house, you might haul out the generator in the pouring rain without setting up an area that will protect the generator from the elements.

Generators can be fired up and run during a snowstorm or rainfall, but they should be operated in a dry area to avoid electrocution or inverter damage, Heller says. Run it on a dry surface under an open, canopylike structure. Or buy a cover made specifically for generators.

8. You connect your generator directly to the service panel

Also known as “back feeding,” this connection is extremely hazardous.

“Connecting a portable generator directly to household wiring (electrical service panel) can be deadly to the homeowner, neighbors, or utility workers,” says Heller. “This is an illegal process, and it poses a major risk of electrical fire to the homeowner and any neighbors serviced by the same transformer.”

To get more power to the home safely, hire a licensed electrician to add a manual transfer switch.

“It can be installed to the home’s electrical panel with a manual switch to power everything a homeowner needs backup for,” says Heller. “A certified dealer can assess the home and suggest the correct size generator, while a licensed electrician can safely install the manual transfer switch to code.”

The post 8 Dangerous Mistakes To Avoid When Firing Up Your Generator This Winter appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Source: realtor.com