Building Value in Your Home – Funding and Family Involvement

kids-garden-my-personal-finance-journeyThe following is a guest post by Hank. Hank is Stay-at-Home-Dad and Home Industry blogger. He loves to write about the home, living with animals, and earning supplemental income. Check him out on his blog, Home By Hank.

Purchasing a home is a great investment, but the value of new property doesn’t grow just because you’ve moved in. Every time you paint a wall, renovate a room, or add an addition, you are potentially adding value to your home. Renovations to improve the home will make it easier to set a higher selling price when the time comes without having to make large alterations.

In addition to adding value to your home with repairs and upgrades, you can also add value to the family by getting your children involved. Children are not only great helpers during home projects, but you can also curate their ‘chores’ to teach responsibility, productivity, and self-worth.

Projects

There are a few ways you can use your existing home and property to make money and build home renovation projects. With these ideas you’ll be saving and creating ‘wealth’ for your home.

Craigslist Treasure Hunting

Craigslist is an online swap meet and classifieds section. People in your area post items they have for sale or things they’re looking for. Craigslist will work for you in two ways; it can help you find products for your renovation and it can be a great place to sell goods.

If you’re looking to save money on your materials, Craigslist can be a great place to look for cheaper options in your home renovation, like used kitchen cabinets or left over flooring. Remember that these are used products and don’t be afraid to ask questions or request more detailed photographs if you’re interested in the listing.

There are often listings for project leftovers like cinderblocks, pavers, paint, or other remnant type supplies. While it may not always provide exactly what you’re looking for, Craigslist is a great place to start because you’ll never know what may be listed in your area.

You can also use Craigslist to sell unwanted items that are taking up space instead of donating them. When it comes to listing on Craigslist be sure to take quality, well-lit photographs of each item. If your photo is dark, crowded, or doesn’t display the item well you won’t get as many interested buyers.

In addition, when posting, make sure you use a descriptive title that will grab a reader’s attention. Something like, “Fully functional electric suede tan recliner” is much better than, “Must get rid of my couch.” Here is a Craigslist step-by-step guide to learn more about posting on their site.

If you’re new to Craigslist, you can also read the ads for products similar to yours. This will give you an idea of what goes into a good ad, and what you can do to make yours stick out. Looking at existing ads will help with titles, pricing, and what the current market is for your item.

Kid Tip: When you’re looking around the house to find things to list, get the kids involved. They can shop their room to find toys and other goods they don’t want. This is a good way to teach them how to let go of things, pass on to others, and use their resources to make money.

Rent your House or Extra Room

A great way to have your existing home make money is to rent it out with sites like Airbnb or Home Away. These sites list your home as a vacation rental to people looking to visit your area. This can be tricky project so make sure you stay safe and vet your tenants.

Airbnb and other sites have insurance policies but be sure to visit other resources to check the background of your tenants. I like to use this resource as it has both criminal and previous eviction reports that the vacation rental sites leave out or do not know. There is not much worse than someone that won’t pay rent!

If listing your house sounds like something you’re interested in, be sure to think about whether you’ll be away for the listing times. For example, will you be going on vacation yourself or will you be sharing your home during your guest’s stay? Remember that homes are sometimes more expensive around holidays and during popular local events.

Furthermore, renting your home could be a great source of income if you’re already leaving town during a national holiday, and will allow you to raise the price due to a higher demand on the area. Homes don’t have to be available for weeks on end; even a weekend here and there can work in your favor.

When you’re listing your home make sure you ‘up-sell’ the available amenities. Listing things like your pool, large yard, nearby walking trails or the beach will help inspire potential renters and prove why your location is such an appealing draw.

Be sure to have a PDF of local amenities including things like grocery stores, restaurants, and entertainment sources. This will come in handy and will help round out any visit, making your rating higher for future clients.

Remember to prep your home, including a thorough cleaning and have everything from linens and paper goods available during the stay. The more you prep your home like a hotel room, the greater your reviews will be, thus boosting your home for the next client.

Some great addition resources can be found here.

Kid Tip: Include your children in this process by having them help you make a list of things to do in the area, what your property and home has to offer, and why renting from you would be ideal. Children can also be included in the home preparation from cleaning to staging and even decorating to give a more personal feel.

Backyard Neighborhood Garden

If your property allows for it, you could start a community garden as an income source. Because of the psychological benefits, many people would love to try their hand at gardening but don’t want to dig up their yard or simply don’t have the space for it. By putting some money into creating raised beds on your property you could rent a plot to any aspiring gardener and pocket some extra cash.

Creating a garden space will not only increase your home’s value, but will also create a larger sense of community and allow neighbors to come together. If you’re interested in this project start at your community center with fliers and talk with your neighbors to see if anyone is interested in a community garden.

Once your beds are complete you can provide a space, soil, and water for a rental fee. It’s important to keep the rent low so you can build a reputation. If your project gains in popularity you can always start a website to streamline you process, provide information, and even post photos of your space.

Kid Tip: Make sure your garden space includes a ‘Kids’ section. This will help children gain independence and learn about gardening basics, the science of tending to plants, and responsibility.

Pet Sitting and Dog Walking

Lastly, for some pretty easy funding, consider dog walking or pet sitting. People are always looking for someone to look after their pet for vacation or business trips. There are listings for this service on sites like Sitter City, Craigslist, and even bulletin boards at your local pet supply store.

A good first step when it comes to pet sitting is to research the industry. Remember, this project is basically starting a part-time business, so the more professional you approach it, the better results you’ll get. There are great guides out there for those interested in the industry.

It is also important to know your neighborhood’s ‘pet friendly’ amenities, including vet offices, supply stores, and dog parks. Providing photos of your home will help clients feel comfortable leaving their pet in your space. Creating a resume will also help you put your best foot forward and show why you’d be a good candidate for this position.

Kid Tip: Pet sitting or dog walking can be a great way to teach your child responsibility through punctuality and maintaining quality service. It is also a good opportunity to teach about professionalism and what it takes to run a small business.

Now you should have all the details needed to put together an amazing plan to renovate you home, make some extra money, and get the kids involved.

How about you all? What kinds of projects have you done or are considering that will help you make some extra money and get the kids involved at the same time?

Share your experiences by commenting below!

***Photo courtesy http://www.public-domain-image.com/free-images/people/children-kids/two-caucasian-and-two-african-american-children-playing-together-725×483.jpg

Make $100 Tomorrow With These Quick Jobs

money-woman-my-personal-finance-journeyThe following is a post by MPFJ staff writer, Toi Williams, who is a professional personal finance blogger of Fine Tuned Finances. She has backgrounds in personal finance, sales, and real estate.

Having an extra $100 can be a lifesaver in a wide variety of situations. Having that money can prevent a utility from being turned off, put groceries into an empty refrigerator, or help you avoid late charges on a bill that is due. Fortunately, there are many ways available to earn an extra $100 quickly when necessary. Here are some quick jobs you can use to make $100 within a day.

Sell Your Services

Nearly anyone can make a quick $100 over the course of a day by selling their services to their friends and neighbors. There are a wide variety of tasks that you can do that others would be interested in paying you for. These jobs require no special skills, only a willingness to work and a determination to make some money. Here are some easy services that you can offer to your circles to make some quick cash.

Handyman Services – If you are handy with tools, you should consider offering handyman services around your neighborhood to earn some quick cash. Simple tasks like painting, unclogging drains, and putting together pre-fabricated furniture can result in the money you need with just a few hours of work. Maintenance tasks and automotive care can earn you even more. Agree to a price with the customer before the job begins to ensure there are no unpleasant surprises for either party at the end of the job.

Lawn Care Services – There are few people that would claim that they enjoy caring for their lawn on a regular basis and many are willing to pay someone to do these outdoor chores for them. You should initially target homes in your neighborhood with unkempt lawns and untrimmed bushes, as these people may be more willing to pay you to make their yards look presentable. Do a great job and there is a good chance that you will find yourself with repeat customers.

Photography Services – If you have a decent camera, you can sell photography services for special events, like weddings, vacations, and graduations. Many people are willing to pay amateur photographers to avoid paying the high prices of professionals. Several companies have made it easy to get into the photography industry by providing filters and special effects that can be used to enhance the photos you take. Physical copies of the photos can be printed with a home printer on photo paper or at a local drugstore using the available photography kiosk.

Cleaning Services – Many people are looking for others that can help them clean their home or office properly. You can even make money cleaning and detailing cars. Because this is an easy job to do that requires little overhead, there is a lot of competition for these jobs. Browse listings on Craigslist or your local newspaper’s website to find clients, or consider posting your own listing offering your services. There is a good chance that you will be able to find a job and get paid for it the same day.

Babysitting – No matter how much a parent loves their child, they enjoy spending time away from them every once in a while. If you offer babysitting services to your friends and neighbors with children, you are sure to find some takers. Just make sure you have activities to do while you are babysitting, as houseful of bored kids can turn into a nightmare really quickly. You can also offer petsitting or housesitting services for a small fee.

Make Money Online

Since you are paying for your internet connection, why not use the service to make some extra cash. Numerous companies have popped up over the past decade allowing people to get paid to do tasks outside of the normal employment environment. Some of these tasks do not pay very much, but they can be completed quickly or in unison, allowing you to accept more tasks to make more money. Here are some great ways to make extra money online.

Sell Your Photographs – There are quite a few companies online that allow you to sell photographs that you have taken. For example, both Shutterstock and FOAP allow you to post and sell your photos online for a fee. Interested parties browse the site and you get paid for each of your photographs selected. You will make more money if your photographs are of interesting subjects or have widespread commercial appeal.

Perform Tasks for Others – TaskRabbit, Gigwalk, Zaarly and Postmates are platforms where customers list random tasks that they need performed and the amount that they are willing to pay for these services. You chose the tasks that you want to perform and get paid after the tasks are confirmed as completed. Amazon.com’s Mechanical Turk pays a few dollars per assignment for simple tasks like writing product reviews, entering information and editing documents.

Utilize Your Writing Skills – If you are good at writing without grammatical errors, you can earn good money writing things for companies and small businesses. You can join a writing team on a site like Textbroker or Demand Media or find your own clients through job board listings on sites like Freelancer.com or Indeed. The rates for these types of task vary by assignment, so focus on topics and tasks that you excel in to make the most money as fast as you can.

Sell Unwanted Stuff

Most of us have things lying around the house that we either do not use or has outlived its usefulness to us. Instead of trashing these items, sell them for some extra cash. There are a wide variety of ways available to sell unwanted stuff. Here are some of the most common.

Garage and Yard Sales – Garage and yard sales are a great way to sell a lot of your unwanted stuff over the course of a day. With a small investment in some price stickers and poster board to advertise your sale, you can make $100 or more from neighbors interested in what you have to sell. These methods allow you to choose the pricing of your offerings and allows you to negotiate with those who may be interested, but find your price too high for their tastes.

Websites – People have flocked to websites like Amazon, eBay, and Craigslist to sell items that they do not want anymore. On these websites, sellers can list their items individually or in lots and name their price. Listings on these websites include everything from household goods to sports equipment to clothing.

Resale Stores – In recent years, dozens of resale stores have emerged to buy people’s unwanted stuff and resell it to consumers that are willing to buy gently used items. Many of these stores specialize in a single product category. For example, Once Upon A Child specializes in children’s clothing, while Play It Again Sports focuses on sporting equipment and New Uses handles household goods. Be aware that these places pay set prices for particular items, so you will have little control over what your items are worth.

How about you all? Have you tried any of these methods of making money? Are there any other ways to make $100 fast that I might have missed?

Share your experiences by commenting below!

***Photo courtesy https://www.flickr.com/photos/76657755@N04/7658159678

5 Little Habits That Are Ruining Your Budget

budget-my-personal-finance-journeyThe following is a guest post by Richard Adams. Richard is a UK personal finance blogger and obsessive money-saver. His blog can be found at http://www.FrugalityMagazine.com. Enjoy!

Budgeting. It’s a critical skill for those of us trying to build a strong financial future. But for all the talk about budgets, controlling your spending can be a lot harder than you might first think.

I speak from personal experience.

Over the years I’ve tried to create one budget after another. I’ll be honest; my initial attempts for a dismal failure. But over time I found my budget getting more and more effective. So while it’s taken some time to reach “budget nirvana”, my own experience suggests it is possible.

The key is identifying those areas that keep on causing problems. Once you know the potential pitfalls you’re all the better prepared to deal with them. As a result you can create a budget that really works, and helps you to control exactly where your money goes.

But if you’re just getting started with a budget, what are those habits that derailed my plans time and again? In other words, what should you look out for if you want your budget to work?

Lack of Visibility

They say that you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Creating a budget is all well and good, but it’s not an end in itself. Instead, in order to control your spending you need constant feedback; both on how you’re doing and on what corrections are necessary.

When I first started budgeting I would create a monthly budget and then run with it. Then just a few weeks later I’d discover that the money had run out (again). The reason was that I wasn’t consistently tracking my progress. As soon as I started to track my money on a daily basis I found it easier to spot any problems, and to modify my spending to achieve my goals.

There are a number of ways to track your budget. Some people subscribe to the “envelope system”, using all cash that has been carefully divided up into categories. Others simply decide on a cash budget for the week, pop it in their wallet and try to make it last. Possibly the greatest threat comes in the form of credit cards and debit cards, because you’re not being faced with actual cash every time you spend.

Under such circumstances try to use one of the many budgeting apps available to track your spending, or install your bank’s app on your phone so you can monitor your balance over time.

The exact system you use isn’t critical, and the best solution will depend on your individual personality. What is critical, especially in the early days of budgeting, is to track your spending on a daily basis.

Someone should be able to stop you randomly in the street, and you’d be able to tell them your bank balance within a couple of dollars. Only when you get to know your money this intimately can you be certain of managing your budget properly.

“Tiny” Spending

We tend to pay a lot of attention to large purchases. That new cell phone or flat screen TV probably gets a lot of research and thought before you finally hand over your cash.

But smaller purchases tend to be treated entirely differently. Whether it’s a takeout sandwich, a newspaper or a packet of cigarettes, these “tiny” purchases are often made without a second thought. After all, how much of a difference is a couple of dollars really going to make in the grand scheme of things?

The honest answer is: quite a lot. The reason is that because many of us are happy to spend small amounts of money without too much consideration, we tend to do it regularly. That daily newspaper and coffee can quickly start to add up.

The key message here is that all spending matters, irrespective of how insignificant the sum really is. Pay attention to where your money is going, and make conscious decisions about how you’re going to spend (or save!) every last dollar.

Lack of Control

It’s no secret that budgeting your money can take a fair amount of self-discipline, at least in the early days. All too often I speak to people who start off with the best will in the world, only to give in to temptation a short while later.

Fortunately there are all sorts of ways to do this. One of my favorite examples is to think of money not in terms of dollars, but in terms of hours worked. Figure out your hourly income (after tax) and look at prices in terms of “4 hours of work”. Applying this principle I’ve found that spending my money looks rather less appealing.

Unexpected Expenses

One of the most frustrating aspects of carefully planning your spending is when an unexpected bill drops through the door, or your car suddenly needs some emergency work. In the space of a few minutes your whole budget gets blown out of the water.

The funny thing is that unexpected expenses don’t necessarily need to be so much of an issue.

There are two solutions I have used which make such expenses almost a non-issue.

The first of these is the creation of an “emergency fund”. This is a pool of money separate to your budget which sits in an instantly-accessible account exactly for situations like this. If a financial emergency arises you can simply draw money from this fund without needing to touch your budget. Then next month you can simply modify your budget to start rebuilding that fund.

The second solution is that most other unexpected bills can be planned for, if you base your budget on a long-enough period of time. For example I pay my car insurance once a year, and it would be all too easy to be surprised the next time it comes around. Instead I have planned out all these payments in advance, and put aside a small amount of money in my budget to cover them. When that insurance finally becomes due I’ve already put aside all the money over the preceding months.

In other words to avoid unexpected expenses derailing your budget take time to start an emergency fund, and to consider what big purchases you make only occasionally and plan for them well in advance.

Unnecessary Waste

The last factor which can ruin your attempts at budgeting is simply “waste”. One of the most common examples is the amount of food that people throw out each week because it is past it’s best. As a result they’re literally throwing money in the bin, then having to replace that food with yet more. If you budget $100 for groceries then throw $25 worth in the bin you better believe your budget is going to struggle.

So take the time to learn how to control the waste that comes out of your kitchen. In doing so you can be sure to use as much as possible. For example, consider freezing items like bread and milk to keep them fresh, only defrosting them when you really need them. Additionally, consider buying frozen vegetables rather than their fresh equivalent. They’re just as nutritious but won’t go off while your back is turned.

As you can see there are all sorts of ways that your budget can fail – but in almost every situation there are solutions. If you’re going to invest the time to actually create a budget, then these simple principles can make it all the more effective. Produce a budget that truly works and you’re well on your way to better times.

How about you all? What habits do/did you have that did a number on your budget? How did you fix the problem?

Share your experiences by commenting below!

***Photo courtesy https://www.flickr.com/photos/68751915@N05/6869762317/

How to Get an Online Loan for Your Business

The following is a guest post. Enjoy! 

Many small business owners need to borrow money to help their business grow, but they find that getting a traditional bank loan is too difficult. Banks have extensive applications, credit score requirements and often are reluctant to lend to new businesses without several years of an established track record of earnings. Also, many banks have limited the number of loans they make in smaller amounts of $200,000 or less, which is often the amount of money that truly “small” or startup businesses want to borrow.

With these challenges in mind, many small business owners are looking to new options to get small business loans. Fortunately, there are several alternatives now available, known as platform lenders, which offer online loans for small businesses.

If you are considering getting an online loan for your business, here are a few key points to keep in mind:

Do Your Research

Before choosing a lender for your online loan, it’s important to do your homework. Compare a few different lenders and the types of loans they offer; read customer reviews and Google each company that offers online loans to see if they have any complaints or regulatory issues. You should make sure you’re dealing with a legitimate company that has a good track record of solid business ethics. Read news coverage about the various online lenders that you are considering to see how their lending platform works and whether their model of online loans is right for your needs. Different online lenders serve different types of customers and offer different sizes and terms of loans – not every lender is the same and not all of them might be the right fit for your business.

Provide All Necessary Information

Many small business owners get frustrated with the traditional bank loan application process – filling out pages of forms and waiting a long time to get a decision. Many small business owners feel like banks are only interested in their credit score and income history, and are not paying enough attention to the bigger picture of what their business is about and how their business can become more profitable. This is one area where online loans for your business can be a great solution because most platform lenders look at a wider variety of information when deciding whether to issue you a loan. Instead of just looking at your credit score or track record of earnings, platform lenders will often assess your PayPal transactions, your social media following, your current cash flow and other factors that are often more favorable for startups and online businesses. Especially if you run a relatively young business and you do a lot of sales online, online loans might be the right solution for your borrowing needs.

Understand How Your Loan Works

Before you commit to getting an online loan for your business, make sure you understand the fine print of how your loan works – including the terms, repayment deadlines and total fees. Many online loans work like a “line of credit,” also known as a revolving credit account, which gives you a credit limit (similar to a credit card) that you can borrow from as much or as little as you need, and then pay back over time in flexible installments (either all at once or in smaller amounts, as long as you meet your minimum payments). But some online loans might require fixed monthly payments, so be sure that you understand exactly what is expected and can pay off your loan in whatever manner works best for your business.

How to Get Top Dollar When You Sell Your House

home-for-sale-my-personal-finance-journeyThe following post is by MPFJ staff writer, Laurie Blank.  Laurie is a wife, mother to 4 and homesteader who blogs about personal finance, self-sufficiency and life in general over at The Frugal Farmer. Part witty, part introspective and part silly, her goal in blogging is to help others find their way to financial freedom and to a simpler, more peaceful life.

Spring has arrived, which means the real estate market is hot right now. This CNBC video shows that existing home sales in the U.S. for March of 2016 surged much higher than expected.

Where we live, houses are popping up for sale like crazy. My family and I often talk about this surge in home sales in our area (in the Midwest) and why so many people are selling right now.

Are they feeling secure in America’s economic situation and upgrading?

Are they sensing economic doom and downsizing in order to pay off debt?

I can’t answer that question, but as someone who has a history of working in real estate and has sold two homes in the past, I can tell you that there are certain things a homeowner can do in order to get top dollar when they sell their home.

Read on for this list of suggestions on how to make sure that you get as much profit as you can when selling your home.

Do Your Research

Research is vital to a profitable home sale. What are similar houses selling for in your area? Are people eager to move into your area? If so, why? What does your neighborhood have to offer?

Use the Internet and the wisdom of a trusted realtor in order to get a clear picture of how much houses are selling for in your area. A good realtor will find comparable sales for homes like yours that have sold within the last six months so that you can get an idea of what “top dollar” means.

Check out the listings for houses in your neighborhood or area that are currently on the market. Look for houses with similar square footage and a similar number of bedrooms and bathrooms.

Look at the interior and exterior photos for the current listings. How do the houses compare to yours? Are they better? Worse? More upgrades? Less upgrades?

Doing your own research on how much houses are selling for in your area will help you to prepare your house to sell quickly and to get top dollar when it sells.

Neatness Counts

When we sell our houses, we always try to make them look like model homes. Not so much in features and decor, but more from a neatness standpoint. When potential buyers walk into a neat and clean home, they’re much more open to considering buying. Here are my tips for making your home feel warm, welcoming and attractive:

  • Clean out and/or organize closets, drawers, appliances and cupboards in every room
  • Remove personal effects such as family pictures and personalized items
  • Declutter each and every room, packing away or putting in drawers items that don’t add to the feel of the house
  • Deep clean each room. Vacuum well, wash baseboards and give the kitchen and baths a good scrubbing
  • Be sure that beds are made and that counters, desks and tabletops are clear of non-décor items
  • Add small touches such as matching bath towels, small artificial flower arrangements and other items that bring extra shine to your home.

Make Your Home Move-In Ready

Make sure needed repairs are done. Wash your windows. Have carpets cleaned and give your walls a fresh coat of neutral-colored paint if needed.

Be sure the yard is clean, mowed and trimmed and has great curb appeal. Set out a small welcome mat and maybe a pot or two of flowers at the door.

Be sure that your home is in such great shape that the new owners will have to do little or nothing when they move in. Many prospective buyers will walk away from a home if there’s a lot of work to do to before they can move in.

Put Special Focus on Your Home’s Best Features

What is it that you love best about your home and yard? Chances are that interested buyers will love those same things.

Do you have a great family room? If so, focus on giving that room special attention when you sell. Do you love the fire pit in your yard? Add some ready-to-be-burned logs to the fire pit and put a few chairs around it.

By putting a special focus on your home’s best features, you help potential buyers to adore the same things about your home that you love.

Following the tips above will help ensure that you can sell your house for every penny that it’s worth. Don’t miss out on valuable profit by not making your house shine before you put it on the market.

How about you all? Have you sold or bought a home in the past? What is it that attracts you to a home when you walk in the door?

Share your experiences by commenting below!

***Photo courtesy https://www.flickr.com/photos/39136843@N05/3709571684