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.

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.

Can’t Take a Vacation? Staycation!

You know what they say about all work and no play. You don’t have to plan an extravagant or expensive trip out of town to catch a little bit of R&R. You can decompress from a long, stressful week with a staycation. The next time you need to get away without going anywhere, try one of these fun ideas:

Act Like a Tourist

Whether you’ve lived in the same city for years or you just moved to town, being a tourist in your hometown allows you to find new and exciting things about the place you live. Venture to areas of your town where you’ve never been. Visit places you’ve always read about in local publications or seen on television. Even if you’ve lived in the area for a long time, there are bound to be some changes or new developments that you’ve never explored.

Visit a Museum or a Historical Site

Chances are your city or a nearby town has some type of museum, historical site, or both. MuseumsUSA has a list of museums categorized by state and city. You can discover historic sites and landmarks in each state on the National Park Service website. These are perfect for experiencing the culture and history of your hometown.

Enjoy the Great Outdoors

If you’re the adventurous type, visit a state park or take a hike. You can find a list of parks to explore at the U.S. National Park Service. The website TrailLinks has a list of trails categorized by state. You can even find hiking itineraries and city guides on the site to plan your day.

Attend a Festival

If your city is famous for something, it probably has a festival to celebrate it. Your local convention and visitors bureau or center should have a calendar listing festivals and events in the area. Established, annual events are guaranteed to provide everything from people watching to food to entertainment.

Take Your Inner Child to an Amusement Park or Theme Park

You spend all week meeting responsibilities and living up to other’s expectations. Embrace your inner child and experience the freedom of having fun. Find an amusement or theme park in your area. Leave behind all the fears that came with adulthood and brave the rides just for the thrill of it.

Crawl Around Town

When you go on vacation, you tend to indulge in food and drink. Forget about your diet for one day by going on a crawl. Some cities have organized crawls of pubs, breweries, and other establishments. If your town doesn’t have one, plan one of your one. For example, your crawl might be as general as visiting all the bakeries in your area or as specific as sampling pies at various establishments.

Pamper Yourself with a Spa Day

Vacations are all about rest and relaxation. For a staycation, escape your everyday stress with a spa day. Spend the day getting pampered, from your head to your toes — literally. Don’t just get a massage. Get a body brushing or a scrub. Treat yourself to a facial, manicure, and pedicure. Not only will your body feel refreshed but so will your mind.

Paint the Town Red

Eating at unfamiliar restaurants is always an adventure when you go on vacation. For a staycation, make a reservation at a fancy restaurant that you’ve never tried. Pay a little extra for menu items that you normally wouldn’t order. After dinner, continue your evening exploring the nightlife of your area. Go to the theater or a night club and stay out past your bedtime. In the wee hours of the morning, go home or continue your staycation with the next tip.

Spend a Night Away from Home

The best part about going on vacation is waking up someplace different. If you can afford it, spend the night in a nearby five-star luxury hotel or resort. While the price may be more than you would normally spend on accommodations, remember that your overall budget is less because you don’t have traveling expenses. If you’re on a tight budget, try to find a bed and breakfast or even a short-term rental in a different area of town for a change of scenery.

Stay at Home and Disconnect

The simplest and least expensive staycation is never leaving your house. The trick is to not do anything that doesn’t bring you joy or a sense of peace. To help, turn off and put away all your electronic devices. If disconnecting from yourself from the outside world is too difficult, at least try not to answer any calls or texts that aren’t urgent.

Focus on offline activities like reading, cooking, woodworking, or other hobbies. If you can’t give up on electronics completely, binge watch that series you have heard about but have never seen, or watch all your favorite old movies. All your responsibilities will still be there tomorrow, so you can enjoy yourself for at least one day or a weekend.