July 09, 2013

7 Tips to Furnish Your Place on a Shoestring

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Whether you’re moving into a new apartment or buying your first house, furnishing your home doesn’t have to break the bank. Great design is all around us, and with a little vision, luck and elbow grease you can give new life to old castoffs without sacrificing an ounce of style.

Here’s my tried-and-true list of seven ideas for furnishing a home on a shoestring budget:

1. Hit yard sales and thrift stores
Yard sales and secondhand stores can be treasure troves for industrious decorators on a budget. One of my favorite sites for inspiration is Mr. Goodwill Hunting. Rashon Carraway, the site’s creator and its creative powerhouse, is a diehard thrifter who works magic with old furniture and accent pieces. Carraway focuses less on how an item looks now and instead visualizes how it could be with a custom paint job, new cushions or a thorough polish. Gravitate toward items with classic lines, good bones, timeless design or unusual detail.

2. Get in on the action at auctions
Auctions and tag sales are two other venues where it’s easy to find quality furniture just waiting to be put in a new context or given some love. Explore each with an open mind; don’t be afraid to haggle at tag sales and fight to win your item at an auction. Often, the vintage furnishings you discover will be better constructed than most new pieces and they’ll become instant classics in your home.

3. Upcycle those hand-me-downs
They make us think of bell-bottom jeans and snow boots that don’t fit, but not every hand-me-down is a downer. Vintage furniture, mid-century lamps and wonderful old wedding china can be great additions to our homes.

Again, look for details that are rare by today’s standards — solid wood or rich veneers, tongue-and-groove construction, and simple designs that can be reinterpreted to fit with any style. Give rough pieces a little TLC with a light sanding and scratch cover or wood polish. Update old lamps with modern shades or reinvigorate an antique china set by mixing it with new linens or modern accent pieces.

4. Refurbish and refinish
People tend to get intimated at the idea of refurbishing and refinishing furniture themselves. But all it takes is a few supplies, a plan, some basic skills that you can learn online, and patience. In a single afternoon you can refinish an end table, repaint a nightstand, add new hardware to a vintage cabinet, or add new fabric to a desk chair. Try your hand at a few different projects and see what suits you best.

5. Frame it
Frame unusual fabric samples, vintage post cards or album covers for inexpensive custom art pieces. Create bold collages using family photographs, memorabilia, childhood drawings and old letters. Or, for free inspiration, look out the window. Press leaves, arrange them in an interesting composition, then frame.

Even the simplest subject takes on an artistic quality when combined with a classic frame and all-white matting.

6. Bolster with upholstery
Reupholstering furniture properly takes a lot of skill and time, so pace yourself and do a little experimenting first. Start with a simple project like a wooden chair with a single cushioned seat (preferably square).

Reupholstering a square is relatively simple — it’s a lot like wrapping a gift. Otherwise, explore the Web for tutorials on more complex projects like reupholstering a large plush chair or loveseat. Scout around for slipcovers in a classic pattern and customize the fit with ties, pins or hand sewing for a quick update.

7. Bring on the dents and dings
Most large furniture stores have an area devoted to floor models or dented and dinged items — often marked at a deep discount. True bargain hunters make a beeline to this section of the store first to see what deals they can score. Floor models are typically as good as new and, depending on where those dents and dings are, a little creative coverup can make most flaws undetectable.

What all these ideas and methods show us is that a piece of furniture doesn’t have to be newly minted in order to be beautiful. Likewise, a used item doesn’t have to be a high-end antique in order to have value. This topic brings to mind the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi. In it, we’re taught that there’s beauty in imperfection, and sometimes what makes an object truly stunning is its inherent flaw.

If you’re ready to furnish your new home or redecorate your current place, consider incorporating a bit of wabi-sabi aesthetic. There’s beauty (and value) all around you.

July 06, 2013

5 Ways to Save Money

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The heat is on!

It’s officially summer and the season of outdoor recreation is in full swing. Summer means barbecues, swimming until it’s dark and grilling outside with friends. It also means blasting the air conditioning, heading away on vacation and … well … spending a lot of money.

Well it could mean spending a lot of money. But instead of busting your entire budget on one season, why not follow these tips and still have some cash left over when the leaves start to change?

Pack the Snacks
Especially if you have kids, one of the fastest ways to spend a ton of money while you’re out and about is on food, snacks and drinks. Travel prepared this season by heading to your destination armed with granola bars, fruit snacks, pretzels, almonds, etc. This’ll keep the kids from getting agitated because they’re starving, and it’ll keep you from dropping $15 just for snacks for your family.

Save on Energy
We could suggest turning the air conditioner off, but let’s be realistic. Instead, look for other ways to save on your energy costs this summer. For example, try letting your clothes air dry outside instead of running the dryer, replace your standard light bulbs with compact fluorescent ones that are more energy-efficient, use the microwave or toaster oven to heat up leftovers since they use less energy than a conventional oven and grill outside as often as possible to avoid running the AC at its highest setting in order to combat the added heat from the stove.

Oh and about that air conditioner—make sure you replace your filters regularly to avoid increased costs due to restricted airflow.

If you’re not sure which appliances in your home are costing you the most in energy, check out this infographic from GE to find out how many watts your typical gadgets use up.

Conserve Your Water Use
Water bills can really add up in the summer months, especially if your family is busy filling up pools outside to splash around in and running sprinklers for the yard. Instead of cutting back on the outdoor fun, try to make up for it by making small changes to your water usage inside. Encourage your family to take shorter showers (which are much cheaper for your water bill than baths), and install a low-flow showerhead to conserve even more.

Make the Most of Your Windows
Installing high-performance windows, screens and films may seem like a costly endeavor at first, but they’ll more than make up for it by protecting your furniture upholstery, wood and art from damaging UV rays. If you’re in the market for new windows in general, look for a National Fenestration Rating Council label, which means the window’s performance has been certified, before making the purchase.

Save on Gas
Even if you won’t be heading on a cross-country road trip this summer, with the kids out of school you’ll probably be using the car more often than you do during the rest of the year. This means gas prices can really start to add up. Next time you need to fill up, try using Gas Price Watch or Gas Buddy to find the lowest prices available at thousands of stations across the country.

July 04, 2013

5 Frugal Things You Don't Have To Do.

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I’m pretty well known online for being very frugal about some things. A few people even like to toss jokes my way about my “extreme” frugality, as I’ve gone so far as to calculate the cost of a sheet of toilet paper.

It’s easy: I want to understand the value associated with what I’m getting for each penny that We spend. If I will do a 5 second calculation once also it shows me which i can save ten cents each time I buy Manufacturer Z toilet paper rather than Brand Y, I view it as a success because I will use that calculation over and over.

I don’t thoughts washing freezer totes. I’ll happily attempt homemade solutions for nearly every kind associated with cleaner. I love finding methods to reuse leftovers and purchase in bulk.

Still, there are several lines that I don’t prefer to cross, whether it’s because of personal beliefs or health issues or introversion. There are some frugal tactics We can’t bring myself to defend myself against.

Here are five of these.

I don’t conserve condiment packages through restaurants. One of my personal friends always requests extra condiment packets from restaurants and usually grabs a fistful anytime they’re available. Then takes them house and, when he’s doing something similar to watching television, he opens all of them and puts them to the respective bottles.

While this may save a couple of bucks during a good hour’s worth associated with television watching, I don’t do that out of sanitary issue. Food cross-contamination problems sincerely worry me so when you do this particular, you’re doing plenty of potential cross-contamination. It’s not worthwhile if you trigger your condiment to visit bad at a considerably faster rate. Yes, I know that the majority of the foods you’d be carrying this out with have a minimal rate of spoilage, but I additionally know I’ve observed some frightening ketchup previously.

I don’t make use of public restrooms unless I must. Quite a couple of people I know try to do their own bathroom business on an outing. One person I understand (his name begins with K as well as he’s a reader from the Simple Dollar) hasn’t used a shower in your own home in a 12 months because he just will it at the gym every day, as he figures it’s an additional perk of regular membership. An old colliege of mine use to visit the bathroom like clockwork right before leaving during the day, theoretically to conserve on toilet document, water, and soap in your own home.

Again, while this can easily save a little bit of money on drinking water, soap, and document products, I often avoid public bathrooms for sanitary factors. I don’t understand how they were cleaned out and I don’t know about the healthiness of the people who used them. While I actually do use them inside a pinch, I’d would rather spend the pennie and use my personal home bathroom.

We don’t constantly work out. I have a buddy who will work out any price anytime. She’ll negotiate from every yard purchase or farmers marketplace. She’ll also work out at any shop where there’s a product on special low cost. I’ve witnessed all types of haggling and cajoling out of this person.

While I’ve haggled a number of times, I’ll generally leave from things instead of become disruptive. Personally, it’s not worth buying a product if I must make a annoyance of myself in public places. I’ve witnessed hagglers endure lines of people and produce a noisy nuisance which frustrated me too many times and it’s not something I love to foist on other people.

I don’t purchase the low end edition of something I understand I’ll use. I am quite prepared to spend more with an item that I know will receive regular make use of around my house.

If I know something will probably be used a great deal, I’m more thinking about purchasing a reliable version of this product than I'm buying the absolute most affordable version. I will purchase the “cheap” one if I’m unsure how much I’ll use a product, but when I’m changing something and I understand I’ll use this, I will always look for top “bang for the actual buck” version from the item with a powerful eye toward dependability. That often indicates a pricier version than I would have otherwise bought.

I don’t recycle aluminum foil. If a bit of aluminum foil isn’t old and wrinkly or absolutely destroyed, I know a minumum of one person who may flatten it away and save this for use next time. I’ve seen bits of aluminum foil covering dishes find yourself on the barbeque grill and vice versa. I’ve actually seen pieces proceed from dish in order to dish.

As using the condiment packages, my primary reason behind not reusing aluminum foil is a result of food cross-contamination problems. I have utilized aluminum foil like a grill covering soon after taking it from whatever food item it had been covering, but that doesn’t produce a cross-contamination issue and also you are thoroughly cooking food the aluminum foil anyhow.

Frugality is the virtue, but it’s not the only real virtue.