Saturday, February 27, 2010

Your castles capital

I apologize for the weeks delay in getting this done, we have had a rather trying week in the real estate market. As some of you may know we are in the process of selling two homes, one lake property and one is our main home. This is the time of year when prospective buyers pick up, people want to be in a new house come Spring so they can enjoy the Summer in their new house. There are a lot of things you can do to increase your homes potential to a buyer. If your house is not for sale then take a fresh look and ask yourself "If I were looking at this place to buy, what would I like to see done?" Now is the time to take charge and tackle a project so you can have a spruced up house by Summer.

A very easy and totally free way to spruce up your space is to change it up a bit, try rearranging your room, not only is it fun to see it from a new prospective but its good exercise. Don't just look at what is in one room, you have a whole house of furniture, try something from the living room in your bedroom, or take a table from the den and put it in the family room, really mix it up and have some fun. If you want to do this with less work Better Homes and Gardens has a very nice room planner that I have used often, you will just need the size of the room and the furniture dimensions. If you are doing this with an eye towards selling your property, remember that buyers like to see how much room there is so they can picture their things in the space. If at all possible, reduce the clutter to about 2 or 3 things per surface. This isn't always easy but it will help in the long run.

One of the easiest and least expensive projects is to paint. If you are selling keep the colors more neutral but try to avoid painting everything stark white, it tends to remind people of the little apartment they had in college. If you are not selling there is no reason not to go a little wild, if you have always wanted an accent wall in burnt orange then give it a shot, in my own house my office has bright green stripes with hot pink trim, it makes the bills a little less stressful. The worst that can happen is you need a little primer and a new color to paint it over. The thing to remember with paint is that its one of those things where you truly get what you paid for, look for a high quality paint that will go on easy and cover in one or two coats. We recently tried the least expensive brand we could find and in the long run used almost three times more than a more expensive paint. The total cost exceeded our budget because we had to use so much. Sherwin Williams has a $10 coupon, they have nice paints and I have found the store staff to be very knowledgeable. If you want to paint using a more green product Benjamin Moore has a new paint line out called Natura that has less fumes and will soon have a whole new line of eco-friendly paints and stains. Their sight also offers a color viewer that allows you to see the color before you paint your wall by uploading a photo of your room. Remember too that if you find a color you love but you don't like the paint manufacturer you can have the color custom made at any paint store for no extra charge.

Putting in new updated appliances can really turn a buyers head. Right now if you purchase an Energy Star appliance you may qualify for up to a $1,500 tax credit, this is good through the end of the year. Sears is offering 15% off off all their appliances right now and they will deliver for free right to your door. Best Buy has home appliance sales every week, this week the more you buy the more you save in addition to whats on salCheck Spellinge, and the nice thing with them is you can use your reward zone card to get store credit back for your purchases. If the item you want isn't on sale be sure to ask the sales associate if they know when it will be going on sale, they often know and are more than willing to share this information.

Look down, are the floors in your house worn and dingy? If they are not bad and just need a good wash to make them look new and fluffy then be sure to check your local papers and Valpak mailer for coupons to carpet cleaners in your area. There are a couple of chains offering discounts, Coit Cleaners in Minneapolis and St. Paul has a 40% off coupon, Stanley Steamer has a spot on their site to check for deals in your area, Sears is has a special of $99 per room and ServiceMaster if offering $20 off your cleaning bill.

There are also a lot of general home repairs that can be done yourself. Both Lowe's and Home Depot have DIY videos available on their web sites. Lowe's went one step further with a breakdown of how much you can save per year on each project you do yourself, its very impressive! There are also a lot of helpful books available to both show you project details and just plain inspire you. Barnes and Noble is offering 15% off if you use coupon code X4L9P7H at check out and Borders is offering 25% off until 3/1/10 with coupon code BSE7281G. Both Barnes and Noble and Borders also have reward cards that will give you an additional amour off your purchase. There is a great site called that has a wide array of house and home books far below the retail price and they have free shipping. I use this site a lot to find fun books at incredible prices.

As Spring gets closer outdoor curb appeal becomes very important, when the snow actually melts I will put together a blog with more information and ways to save with your lawn and garden in mind.

If you have done a fun project lately let me know about it, I love hearing about what others have done to make their house a home.

Have a great weekend all.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

You can't put a price on love...

Well depending on your situation, this weekend will either be Valentines day or Singles Awareness day. Either way its a chance to either pamper the one you love or give yourself a gift of self indigence. Even if you are in a relationship your best bet may be to take the self indulgent route, a statistical fact I found while writing this was that in the United States, 64% of men do not make plans in advance for a romantic Valentine's Day with their sweethearts. If you are looking for some ideas or are one of the 64% mentioned above then this is for you.

Another fact is that 110 million roses, mostly red, will be sold and delivered within a three-day time period. If you want to stand out from the crowd and spend a little less on a bouquet of flowers then check out the meaning of flowers and put together your own grouping. Don't forget to send along the meaning, kind of like a romantic road map. I would encourage using a local florist so you can see what your getting, but if you must use an on-line florist you can find coupons to multiple places at Coupon Craze. While you are at the florist be sure to ask if they have any roses that have wilted and can't be sold, they will usually give these to you for free or next to nothing. No, I have not lost my mind, these usual toss aways at the flower shops can turn into a romantic evening of rose petals for the bath tub, dinner table or bedroom. Big effect for just a little work.

If you have the time and the know how you can plan a romantic meal at home with candle light and music, but if you are considering going out to dinner be sure to check for restaurants in your area at to see if they have any great places in your area, you can get a $25 dining certificate for $10.00, that's a great deal!

So your all ready to run out to the local grocery store or Target and pick up a box of chocolates? Why not re-think that and spend about the same amount for something that's going to mean a lot more? Be creative and make a box of cup cakes for your sweetie.

Traditionally jewelry is also given on Valentines day, and whether its a gift for your sweetheart or a gift for you there is no sense in paying full price. Gorden Jewelers has a bunch of coupons currently available.

The tried and true poem is a romantic stand-by that has been around for hundreds of years. Try your hand at a verse expressing your love, if your having a hard time you can find a little help and inspiration (and quite a few giggles) with a poem generator.

Most importantly, remember to have fun and make it memorable, a dear friend of mine and her sweetie spent Valentines last year with table linens and china they brought from home at a McDonald's, it is something they will always be able to look back on, remember and smile. That's what its all about, creating memories that will stand out, not spending a lot of cash.

Have a fantastic weekend everyone.


Saturday, February 6, 2010

Free eBooks and a valuable lesson

Recently I had two things happen, one good and one not so much, both of these events prompted today's blog topic. At the beginning of the month I was finally able to purchase my iPod Touch, this got me thinking about one of my friends daughters who was over during the summer and was reading a book on hers. I did a little research and found that you can download a very nice free eReader at the iTunes store called Stanza, its put out by Lexcycle. I preferred this one because you have to pay extra for the dictionary in a couple of the other ones. When you want to download a book it is very easy and very quick, just tap on the get books button and you have your choice of either traditional book stores or free books. In the free books category you can choose from quite a few different places to find books, one of the best is Project Gutenberg. My choices for my first books were Walden, Great Expectations (a childhood favorite) and a book called Wit'ch Fire by James Clemens.
I also have an original first generation Amazon Kindle, not as fancy and tricked out as my friend Bernie's new one, and I have a few friends now that have Barns and Noble's Nooks (which have color) and Sony readers. If you are thinking about getting one of these devises they are wonderful but it can be confusing to know what will work for you, Wikipedia has a great page comparing all the different models out there so you can make the best choice for you're needs. All of these ereaders will download free books, its just a matter of knowing where to find them. The Project Gutenberg library supports many different formats and will work with almost any ereader. If you have a Kindle then you can check Amazon directly for free books that work with their ereader. The Baen Free Library has a wide selection of Science Fiction available for many ereaders. Another great site for downloads is Manybooks, they have a wide variety of books to choose from and there is a little something for everyone and download to most ereaders. If any of you are trying to learn another language (I am trying to learn French) then one of the best ways to stay immersed is to read a classic in another language, I just downloaded "Le avventure d'Alice nel paese delle meraviglie", we know it as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and although it is a children's classic, because I know the story, it will help me with the French words and sentence structure. If you like romance books Harlequin offers a small selection free ebooks downloadable in PDF format on the computer or directly to Stanza on your Blackberry, iPhone or iPod. One of the other wonderful sites I found was Bartleby, you can search for almost anything in any number of different ways. This site has a lot of neat stuff so be sure to take your time here.

On to the second occurrence that was not so good but did teach me a very good lesson. I enjoy the books (both series) by Laurell K. Hamilton and she recently just released her most recent in the Anita Blake series. It was set to be in stores last Tuesday but when I went to Barns and Noble it had not been on their trucks delivery. They took my name and assured me it would be in on Wednesday. Sure enough; Wednesday morning I had my confirmation email, the book was in come and get it, so like one of Pavlov's salivating dogs off I went. Because I had a gift certificate I decided to browse a little in the music section and picked up a copy of the Mamma Mia soundtrack I had been wanting, usually I would check the prices before I buy something but what the heck, I had a gift certificate. Because things tend to stick in my brain I later thought I would compare the price of my new CD to the prices at Amazon and Deep Discount just to make sure I got a good deal, or at least an average one, so I pulled up the Barns and Noble web site and looked up the CD and was VERY surprised to see that the price on line was LOWER (by almost $5.00) than the price in the store, OK, now a little irritated I decided to see about the book, and sure enough, that was less on line as well ($3.00). I called to check with the store and they KNOW about this problem, she offered to take the items back and re-order them using, but I had already put the CD in my iPod. Just the simple act of checking the on line price of a store against the in store price can save you a chunk of cash, so remember to call the store to get a price before you head out, you may be better off staying home and shopping in your nightgown.

Have a great weekend everyone!