Marc LeBlanc's Blog
There are more cleaning supplies on the market than ever before. If you walk down the cleaning section of Target you'll find an array of brooms, scrubbers, and solutions that are all variations on the same simple ideas. Furthermore, these products have begun capitalizing on single-use components like a sweeper with throwaway pads or disposable dusters. All of these expenses add up and before you know it you're spending up to $70 each month just on cleaning supplies. Fortunately, many frugal consumers have noticed this trend and have come up with creative ways to save money on cleaning. In this article, we'll cover some frugal cleaning products and solutions that will save you a ton of money at the checkout line.
Sweeping, dusting, and moppingLet's face it, the Swiffer is a great invention. It mops, sweeps, and dusts without the mess of a bucket of water. Plus it's lightweight and versatile making it useful for many surfaces around the home. The down side? Having to buy all of those expensive replacement pads. If you're like me, you feel a twinge of guilt whenever you throw out at item that seems wasteful. For me, cleaning supplies are the epitome of wastefulness. So, instead of using the throwaway pads you could do a a few things. First, you could buy a reusable pad online. Some are designed to fit various sweepers. Alternatively, there are some cloths that you can buy at your local dollar store that will fit onto your sweeper just fine. Once one gets dirty, put the next one on and sink wash them all when you're done. The other option is to knit or crochet your own sweeper cover. There are lots of patterns online that will help you get started, plus a hand-made cloth adds more meaning to the mundane work of sweeping the house. For those spots you don't dust with your sweeper-duster (like a TV, or the tops of picture frames), you could always dust with your used dryer sheets that you'd otherwise just toss in the trash. Keep them in a bag in your cabinet so you remember to use them.
Go paperlessPaper towels and napkins are always expensive and seldom on sale. Plus, all that paper usage does a number on the environment. Instead of reaching for a paper towel at dinner, keep a stack of microfiber cloths, handkerchiefs, or hand towels. When this isn't possible, like in the case of a big cookout, use choose-a-size paper towels to get more usage out of a roll. And speaking of choosing a size, the next time you buy sponges or "magic erasers," cut them in half to double the length of time you can use them.
Cleaning solutionsMaking your own cleaning solutions has many benefits. First, you get to save money because the supplies tend to be cheap, household items. Second, you get to avoid all of the harsh chemicals that are often added to commercial cleaners, helping your health and the environment. Third, you can make them in bulk and not have to worry about them running out. Recipes for homemade cleaning solutions and air fresheners are abundant online. In general, however, they rely on a few simple ingredients: water, vinegar, baking soda, and some type of citrus like lemons, limes, or oranges.
If you're selling a home, having high quality photos is one of the most important things you can do to catch the eye of prospective buyers. Taking great photos, however, is something that requires a combination of frequent practice and knowledge of how your camera works. Sure, these days you can take a decent photo with an iPhone camera and be done with it. While that method is a good start, if you want to progress with your photography you'll eventually have to make the leap to a DSLR where you have more freedom to change exposure settings. I know what you're thinking. High quality photos means spending a ton of money on camera equipment, right? Fortunately, entry level DSLR cameras have become more affordable in recent years. To start taking great photos you'll only need four things: your DSLR camera, a tripod, a wide angle lens, and a place to practice your photography.
Step 1: Setting upYou'll want to set up the room with the right balance of furniture, decorations and natural light. Avoid decorations that are too personal (like family photos) or eccentric (no stuffed animals, preferably). Set up your tripod against one of the walls of the room. Ideally, you'll have the target of your photo illuminated by natural light coming through windows, so you'll likely be standing in front of or next to the windows. However, before you take any photos use your best judgment to determine the room's best angles. The amount of and the placement of furniture will play a large role in how spacious the room looks, but equally important is the camera angle from which you take your photos.
Step 2: Learn your camera settingsYou won't learn all of the settings in a DSLR overnight, but it is important to get an understanding of the basics. In spite of the many technical improvements that have been made, the basic concept of a camera hasn't changed much over the years. The two main components that determine what your picture looks like are aperture and shutter speed. Aperture (or "f-stop") is what is used to determine how much light enters the camera. Much like your pupils dilate in the dark to let in as much light as possible, having a wide aperture will allow you to take brighter photos. Shutter speed is the amount of time the shutter on your camera is open. A slower shutter speed allows more light into the camera, creating a brighter exposure. However, due to our inability to hold a camera entirely still having a slower shutter speed creates more opportunity for your photo to become blurred from camera shake. A third important setting is the ISO. This setting is unique to digital photography because it controls the sensitivity of the camera's image sensor. The higher the number, the more sensitive. Why not just crank it up all the way then to get the best quality? Because if you set it too high the photos become grainy or "noisy."
Step 3: PracticeNow that you know the basics, start taking photos in your home using various camera settings. Play around with taking photos with different light sources on, with your camera flash on and off, and at different times of day. You'll find that there are endless possibilities when it comes to taking photos of your home.
Estimating the market value of your home isn't a precise science. There are several factors that go into assessing the value of a home and the process is complicated by changes in the market that can sway home prices in either direction. Since homes are so expensive and are such a huge investment, the pragmatist and worrier in us all wants it to be a clear cut decision backed up by facts. Unfortunately, no two people will ever arrive at precisely the same number for the value of a home. The good news is that you can use this ambiguity to your advantage when bargaining with prospective buyers. To learn more about the six main factors that determine a home's value, read on.
ConditionHomebuyers don't want to walk into what could be their new house and discover months of expensive repairs and upgrades waiting for them. Especially for busy, young professionals there is great appeal in a home that is move-in ready. If your home needs some work, it will knock off some digits from your asking price.
LocationWe would all love to say that having a home near the ocean or the mountains is our top priority. But, let's face it--having a place that is close to your work and that is in a good school district will probably take precedence over our daydreams. Location factors that add value to your home could include close proximity to schools, shopping, highways, and other amenities. However, if your home is far away from them or is in a neighborhood that appears run-down or dangerous you will find the value of your home decreasing. An easy way to get a ballpark figure for your home value is to look up the value of other comparable homes in your neighborhood.
AgeAge is just a really expensive number. For some, buying an old home is a dream they've always had. Old homes have character and offer challenges when it comes to DIY repairs and renovations. For others, an old home means more headaches and more expensive utilities if it's drafty or outdated.
FeaturesCurb appeal is important, but once your prospective buyers are inside you'll have to keep them around with great, convenient household features. Lots of storage space, updated kitchens with new appliances, finished basements, or a beautiful backyard with a view can all add thousands to a home value.
SizeSquare-footage is important to many homebuyers. In spite of the current trends around minimalism and being eco-friendly, the numbers show that Americans are buying increasingly larger homes and vehicles.
MarketYou've probably heard the terms "buyer's market" and "seller's market" thrown around in conversations about real estate. They are essentially descriptions of the supply and demand of homes. Many buyers with few homes means you're in a seller's market, whereas a surplus of vacant homes and few prospective buyers means it's a buyer's market. This is closely tied to location, different cities and suburbs experience different rates of growth and decline depending on the local economy.
Many first time home buyers think of the age of a home like a time bomb. With age comes costly repairs and renovations that are often avoided (or at least prolonged) if you buy a newer home. While it is true that older homes are prone to needing more upgrades, they also have many advantages over newer homes. What you don't often hear is that if an old home is maintained properly, it can be as good if not better than living in a newly built one. Old homes often come with perks that are forgotten or ignored in the buying process. In this article, we'll go over some of the best reasons to own an old home, and some of the things to look for when house hunting.