5 Mini-Makeovers to Spruce Up Your Home

Whether you live in a house or an apartment, changing your surroundings can make you feel like you just moved in. Here are five mini-makeovers you can complete in a weekend at little to no cost:

Paint a Wall

Are your walls the same neutral color as they were when you moved in? Are you too busy or too intimidated to paint a room a vibrant or bold color? Instead of painting an entire room, paint one wall to provide a colorful backdrop to your belongings. Instead of a wall, you can even paint an alcove or some other architectural structure to draw attention to it.

Color inspiration can come from nature, a work of art, a fabric swatch, or even your favorite color. If you still can’t decide on an accent color, consider Pantone’s 2020 Color of the Year: classic blue. The Pantone Color System is the universal standard for a wide range of industries, including design, fashion, and architecture to name a few. The color of the year is selected based on trends and color psychology.

You can paint a single wall with minimal experience and cost. A gallon of paint covers about 350 square feet and costs between $15 and $30. If you don’t like the color or move, painting the wall back to neutral is just as simple.

Paint Your Cabinets

How do you refresh a room that has tiled walls, like a kitchen or bathroom? Well, those rooms probably have cabinets. If you can’t afford a full kitchen or bathroom makeover, consider painting or staining the cabinetry.

Changing the color of your cabinets may require a bit more elbow grease than painting a wall. Not only do you have to remove the hardware and doors from hinges, but you may also need to prepare the surfaces by sanding or stripping the original paint or stain.

A fresh coat of paint or stain can modernize your kitchen or bathroom and make a small room look brighter and more open. For 200 square feet of cabinetry, you can expect to spend about 20 hours on prep and an additional 15 to 30 hours to complete the project.

Use Slipcovers

We all have a favorite comfortable chair or sofa. However, after years of breaking it in, it might be looking a bit threadbare. Give your chairs and sofas a quick update with slipcovers.

Slipcovers make your furniture look like new and are also easy to clean if you have pets or unexpected stains. Depending on the material and the size of the furniture you’re covering, you can buy a slipcover for as little as $20.

Buy a Rug

A rug can add color to a room and also masquerade wear and tear on your floor. Rugs come in all shapes, colors, and textures. You can find a simple throw rug for under $20. If you’re feeling opulent and can afford it, a wool or authentic Persian rug will cost a couple of hundred or even thousands of dollars. Regardless, buying a rug is a lot simpler and less expensive than installing new carpet, tile, or hardwood.

Rearrange Your Furniture

If your budget is nonexistent, simply rearranging your furniture can literally refresh your outlook. Before you start, come up with a plan. You can use good old-fashioned paper and pencil or use your computer to sketch out your layout to scale. Measuring the room and large furniture will give you a better idea of the new arrangement.

For a living space, decide on a focal point, such as the TV, a fireplace, a window, or a coffee table. Then, place the seating around the focal point. Arrange tables and ottomans near seating. Finally, accessorize with lamps, vases, and other décor.

To rearrange a bedroom, start with the bed first. If you have space, experiment with “floating” the bed in the center of the room or placing it at an angle instead of right against a wall. Then, arrange all other furniture from largest to smallest.

Updating your home doesn’t take a lot of time or money. All you need is a little elbow grease and imagination to freshen your living space.

3 Financial Tips for Starting a Business

In 1975, a young Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard to start developing software out of a garage and focus on building his Microsoft company. The following year, college dropouts Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak began building the Apple I, the first personal computer. The stories of these tech moguls are what every entrepreneur dreams of emulating. However, the reality is that more than half of small businesses fail within the first five years.

If you’re considering branching out on your own and starting a business, how can you become one of the success stories? Here are three financial tips to keep in mind:

Maintain a Source of Income

Most people who decide to become entrepreneurs do so because they become dissatisfied with their current job situation. They can become frustrated with the lack of work-life balance, they may work in a mentally or emotionally toxic environment, their salary may be too low, or they may have lost interest in their work in general.

Whatever your reason may be, don’t walk away without a financial plan. While you build up your business to be financially sustainable, you’ll need a source of income. If you can, remain at your current job until your business becomes profitable. If that’s not possible, try finding part-time or temporary work that will allow you to meet your living expenses but also provide time to dedicate to your burgeoning company. You might find yourself working longer hours in the beginning, but maintaining a steady, positive cash flow in the early phase of your venture sets the stage for a successful future.

Open a Business Bank Account

As soon as you start your business, open a business checking account to keep funds separate from your personal finances. If you’re eligible, apply for a business credit card as well. Once your company is in the black and after you’ve paid yourself a salary, you might also open a business savings account as an emergency fund.

If you need to “borrow” money from your personal account, pay yourself back. If you need to use a personal credit card for business expenses, save the receipts and note it. Separating your business and personal accounts will make bookkeeping easier for tax purposes.

Keep an Eye on Your Books

Becoming a small business owner also involves becoming an amateur bookkeeper. To gauge the success of your business, you’ll want to keep track of all your income and expenses. Although you can do this in an Excel or Google Sheets spreadsheet, inexpensive accounting software is available. Not only is this software easy to use, but several have features to track time, invoice customers, create estimates, and even manage payroll if you have employees. Some accounting software also allow you to calculate and pay quarterly estimated tax payments and are compatible with income tax software.

Whether you do your own accounting or hire a professional, consider consulting with a certified public accountant your first year in business to doublecheck your recordkeeping and for advice.

Getting Started

After you have a business plan and are ready to become a business owner, the best place to start is at your local bank. Your local business banker will be able to help you with funding, if necessary, and assist you with determining the best bank accounts to ensure your business succeeds.

4 Best Practices to Safeguard Against Identity Theft

Identity theft continues to be a growing problem, especially as we rely more on technology to conduct business that involves entering our personal information online. Despite understanding the threat of having our identity stolen, many of us are lackadaisical about protecting it.

In a 2017 survey conducted by credit reporting giant Experian, 81% of respondents rely on banks and credit card companies for identity protection, and more than half don’t believe they are at risk. Here are four tips to defend your identity from being stolen.

Limit What You Carry in Your Wallet

Regardless of mobile payment methods, like Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and Pay Pal, identity thieves still resort to old-fashioned methods of stealing bags and wallets to gain access to your financial information. Minimizing your wallet contents makes misusing your identity more difficult for thieves.

Only carry one or two essential credit cards at a time. Keep cards that you use only occasionally at home under lock and key. Also, never carry around your Social Security card. Getting hold of your Social Security number is like winning the jackpot to a thief.

Use and Mix Up Passwords

Passwords and personal identification numbers (PINs) are the keys that unlock your digital identity. The Experian study found that 50% of those surveyed don’t bother password-protecting their digital devices, and 30% find passwords an annoyance. You leave the door wide open for thieves by not using passwords and PINs.

Make your security codes simple enough for you to remember but too complex for fraudsters to figure out. Don’t use the same codes for multiple sites or devices, and avoid using identifiable information like anniversaries or names.

To keep track of your passwords and PINs, you can use a password management tool or simply write them down in a notebook that you keep locked away for safekeeping.

Review Bills and Monitor Your Credit Report

As we become more environmentally conscious and cost-efficient, online billing and paperless statements are becoming the norm. With the convenience of receiving bills digitally, you may be tempted to automatically pay them from your bank account without looking at them carefully. Instead, take a few minutes to download and review your statements for discrepancies or unusual charges.

To ensure your credit hasn’t been used to open a fraudulent account, you should also monitor your credit report annually. You’re allowed to request one free credit report a year from Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian. Check your report for inaccuracies and suspicious accounts that have been opened under your name.

Invest in a Shredder

In spite of our dependence on technology, we may find a need for hard copies of certain documents, especially legal or financial papers that contain identifiable information. Never place such documents, receipts, or other printed records directly in the trash or recycle bin. Buy a personal shredder to destroy paperwork.

If you have a large amount, several office supply stores and printing facilities offer secure shredding services. You might also check if your community or an organization in your city will be holding a free shredding event.

Final Words

Keeping your identity safe may take a few extra steps. However, taking these measures now is easier and takes less time than trying to clean up your credit after your identity has been stolen.