Dear friends and neighbors,
The New Year is a blank slate, giving you the chance to set new goals for yourself and your home. This issue of Good to Be Home is here to help you reach your resolutions with a list of home improvements to complete this year, simple tips for paying off your debts, a guide to indoor gardening, and five durable and cost-effective alternatives to hardwood flooring.
Every year, people all over the world set New Year’s resolutions. From cooking more meals at home to exercising more frequently, there’s no limit to the goals you can make. But one area worth improving this year is your home. This issue offers a list of eighteen home improvements you should consider completing in 2023.
The start of the year is a great time to focus on your financial well-being. There are simple adjustments you can make to your financial habits to help you get out of debt sooner rather than later. Inside you’ll find tips to help you reduce your total debt this year.
Winter may not be the best time to start a garden in your backyard, but it is a great opportunity to grow plants and flowers inside your home. The enclosed guide offers tips for starting a successful indoor garden filled with winter-friendly herbs, plants, and flowers.
If you’re looking to update your home’s flooring, there are many options to consider. While hardwood might be at the top of your list, it’s not always the easiest to maintain. Be sure to check out the list of alternatives to hardwood flooring that can be low cost and low maintenance.
Here’s wishing you a happy and productive New Year! As always, it’s a pleasure to send you this magazine.
We often think of New Year’s resolutions in terms of the things we want to change about ourselves. However, changing up your space can have just as big an impact, and the changes can be easier to implement—not to mention longer lasting.
Here are eighteen resolutions to make, ranging from easy-to-do, ongoing shifts in behavior to major long-term changes that will take time, energy, and some serious effort. Take a look at the list, see which ones resonate with you, and then commit to those that feel like they’d improve your year.
These are easy-peasy things that you can do on an ongoing basis to keep your space together and make things more manageable.
Hire a cleaning service
You don’t have to hire a cleaning service every week, though you may choose to do so. You may decide to bring someone in once or twice a month for a deep-down scrub just to help you stay ahead of the mess.
Hire a lawn service
Similarly, if you feel like you’re always playing catch-up with the lawn and leaves, hiring a service to take care of your yard on an ongoing basis may simply make more sense, especially if this is not a chore you enjoy.
Have your HVAC system cleaned and inspected seasonally
Most heating and cooling companies have seasonal checkup services that you can sign up for. They’re affordable and offer you peace of mind so you know your system will be ready when you need it.
Clean out closets and storage spaces
If you’ve been letting your clutter build up and stuffing it into closets, the attic, and the garage, it’s time to tackle the mess. Clean out one space at a time, and make trips to local charities with your donations.
Declutter your surfaces, and add storage as needed
You can get rid of the clutter that’s not hidden by cleaning off tabletops, counters, and other surfaces. If you need some convenient storage, bring in cabinets, credenzas, and buffets to hide away those items you need close at hand but don’t want sitting out all the time.
Clean out your kitchen cabinets and drawers
Tackle the kitchen and get rid of accumulated items there, especially if a year or two has gone by without any particular pots, pans, dishes, or utensils being used.
Add something interesting to each room in your home
If your home is clean but the design is lacking, it’s time to start thinking about decorating. Instead of trying to make over the whole house, start by adding one interesting item to each room. Choose a piece of art, a vintage textile, or a fun piece of furniture.
Buy fresh flowers for your home (and yourself) once a week
Want to add more life and liveliness to your space? Start buying flowers weekly. It’s an affordable way to bring cheer, beauty, and joy into your home.
Look for eco-friendly, healthy versions of items you buy regularly for your home
Enhance your health and your home by replacing single-use plastic with wood or metal alternatives, swapping out toxic chemicals for more natural solutions, and adding more healthful alternatives overall to the things you already buy.
These are changes you can implement over time to make your home more livable and more of what you want it to be.
Catch up on deferred maintenance
If you’ve let some maintenance go by the wayside, hire a handyman or get out your toolbox and start working your way down the list, catching up on things you’ve been putting off. Deferred maintenance can take a severe toll on your home’s long-term condition and value.
Work with a decorator to develop a personal style
If you feel like your home is somewhat generic, consult with a decorator to create a style that’s more reflective of your taste. You don’t have to have the decorator remake your home, though you may choose to. A consultation or two may be enough to help you begin to implement some changes that will enhance your space and make it more “you.”
Pay attention to rooms you’ve been ignoring
You may have spent a lot of time decorating your living room but less time on your bedrooms or put more thought into your kitchen but none into your guest room. Start working on those rooms that were afterthoughts so your whole home is delightful.
Do something with wasted space in your home
If you have a nook or a stair landing with nothing there, think about how you could turn it into a useful spot such as a small seating space or storage area.
These are the biggies—more expensive, more time consuming, but ultimately more rewarding.
Undertake a kitchen or bath renovation
There’s a reason that these are among the most popular and value-added renovations you can consider. They can instantly make your home feel totally refreshed and renewed and everyday tasks feel brand new. But they are also pricey, so they require a lot of thought and planning.
Take on a whole-house renovation
Whether your home is outdated aesthetically or is an older home requiring a lot of structural updates, a whole-house renovation is a good reason for you to consult with an architect and see if you want to make big-time changes to the floor plan and layout.
Do a landscape renovation
A landscape renovation can do just as much as an exterior renovation to change the way your home looks and feels. This is especially true if you spend a lot of time outdoors or are in an area with year-round great weather.
Consider selling your current home and buying a new one
If you’ve been thinking about making a move, it can be a lot of work. Talk to your trusted real estate agent about the process and about what you’ll need to do to get ready.
Tap into your home equity, and buy a second home or investment property
If you’ve considered using some of the value in your home to purchase a second home, either as an investment or vacation home, there are a variety of financing and tax implications as well as property management and other factors to consider. Your trusted real estate agent or broker has the answers you need.
*NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Void where prohibited. The ReminderMedia 2023 Reader Survey Sweepstakes begins at 12:00:01 AM ET on 01/01/2023 and ends at 11:59:59 PM ET on 07/30/2023. Only open to legal residents of the 50 United States and district of Columbia who are 18 years of age or older at the time of entry.
For official rules and how to enter, visit survimage.mrisimmons.com/CU564/Rules.htm. Sponsor: MRI, a division of GfK US, LLC.
Setting resolutions for the New Year is a great way to challenge yourself to improve in various areas of your life. While there’s no limit to the goals that you can make, it’s always a good idea to take control of your finances by reducing your total debt. Here are a few tips to help you make more progress toward paying off your debts this year.
There are two main strategies for paying off your debts sooner: the avalanche method and the snowball method. With the avalanche method, you first focus on your loan with the highest interest rate since it typically ends up costing you more. This option allows you to continue making payments on all your loans but also bump up the monthly payment for the loan with the highest rate until it’s eliminated. You can ultimately save money with the avalanche method because you’re paying less over the lifetime of the loan.
On the other hand, the snowball method targets your loans from smallest to largest, paying them off in ascending order. You make the minimum payment on all your debts but add more to the monthly payment of your smallest loan. Once you’ve paid that off, you then shift the funds to the next smallest. You continue this process, moving funds through your loans until you reach the biggest one. This snowball effect means that each payment for the specific loan you’re targeting becomes larger and larger until you’re left with the highest, to which you can then make a more significant payment each month.
While there are pros and cons to each method, you should assess your own financial situation and determine which one works best for you. In addition to trying one of these strategies, you can also actively work to improve your habits in other areas to help you get out of debt.
Budgeting is a great tool that can help you take control of your finances, but it can also help you to pay your debts even faster than you may realize. When you budget, you’re being strategic with where your money is going every month. You can use the 50/30/20 method, where 50 percent of your income goes toward necessary living expenses, 30 percent is used on things you want, such as eating out and entertainment, and 20 percent is put directly into savings. This allocation of your funds is a great way to see where you’re perhaps spending too much and need to make changes in your habits to better meet your financial goals. And if your goal is to get out of debt sooner rather than later, then budgeting is a necessary step in the process of going debt-free.
While you might roll your eyes at the age-old advice to simply earn more money, increasing your monthly income is actually an excellent way to pay down your debts. When you make more, you can dedicate a greater percentage of your income toward your debt payments, which in turn can help you to pay them off more quickly. You can pick up a part-time job on the weekends, start a passive income stream, or ask for a raise. If raising your income is out of the question, you could also cut down on your extra monthly expenses by spending less on eating out, entertainment, or travel. These can all be temporary changes that ultimately help you meet your financial goals.
For anything that you’re paying off, be it credit cards, student loans, a car loan, or even your mortgage, it’s imperative that you make all payments on time. Late payments can increase the interest rate on a loan and hurt your credit score, which can have a long-term effect on your ability to be approved for loans in the future. Go ahead and do yourself a favor by setting up automatic payments to ensure that you’re not missing a payment and accruing late fees or a lower credit score.
If you feel overwhelmed by your debts or don’t know which path forward you want to take, it’s always a good idea to talk with a professional. Financial advisors and credit counselors can help you analyze your current financial situation and plan your next steps toward going debt-free, so don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it the most.
Paying off your debts can be a long process, but simply adjusting your spending and being strategic with every dollar can help you to meet your financial goals quicker.
If you love to plant flower or vegetable gardens, you know that winter months can be difficult in some parts of the country because there are fewer opportunities to dig in the dirt. But you can still flex your green thumb by growing greens, herbs, and flowers inside in the wintertime, and these tips can show you how.
If you want to grow your food indoors, herbs are a good choice; some of the best to grow inside are basil, chives, mint, oregano, parsley, and thyme. Simply plant your herb seeds in fresh potting soil in a pot with drainage holes so they don’t get overwatered. For best results, only provide water when the soil is dry, and use drip trays to collect excess water as it drains. (Note: you can also grow herbs from store-bought potted plants, such as the ones you buy in the produce aisle in the grocery store. Just make sure to transfer them into bigger pots once you get them home.) Herbs thrive best in a sunny southern window where they can get at least six hours of sun a day. If you don’t have a brightly lit window, you can provide the light they need with a full-spectrum grow light.
Leafy greens are an excellent crop to grow indoors since they are simple to start from seed and don’t require much space. They do need several hours of light daily, though, so place them near a southern-facing window or use a grow light. Varieties you could try include arugula, kale, romaine lettuce, and spinach. Use a light and fluffy seed-starting mix in small pots to make it easier for your seeds to germinate, and then transplant your seedlings to larger pots filled with potting soil. Greens love consistent moisture, so consider putting them in self-watering pots with a reservoir system to gradually disperse water to your plants’ roots.
You might think you need to wait until spring to have flowering bulbs, but you can enjoy them in February or early March if you start now with a technique called forcing. Amaryllis and paperwhite bulbs are often grown this way. To get started, place the bulbs on a base of natural or glass stones in a watertight container with their points facing up and some fresh water just covering the stones. Put the container in a location that’s about 65 degrees, being sure to replenish the water as needed. Once the bulbs develop roots, move the containers to a sunny window where the temperature is about 60 to 70 degrees.
You can stave off the winter blues by growing colorful plants like African violets, begonias, geraniums, and poinsettias that can flower indoors. Just be sure to follow the care instructions that come with your plants; some prefer more light, coolness, humidity, or warmth. For instance, begonias and Christmas cacti do well if their pots are set in a shallow tray of pebbles and water so they can get some humidity, whereas geraniums don’t fare as well in high humidity.
Succulents come in many varieties, are easy to grow indoors, and don’t need a lot of water, so they don’t require a lot of care. Your best bet is to choose a species that thrives inside, such as haworthias, gasterias, or hens and chicks. A fun way to enjoy succulents is to plant a mini garden in one container. Fill the bottom half of a bowl that has at least one drainage hole with gravel, and top it off with a succulent potting mix. Then arrange a few succulents in one bowl; just plant them so their tops are higher than the rim of your container. Place your arrangement in a southern window, and water. Once your plants are established, only water them when the soil is dry.
Every successful gardener has the necessary tools of their trade. Handy items that might help you nurture your indoor garden include drip trays, garden pots, grow lights, mini hand trowels, a plant mister, and a watering can.
Hardwood flooring is a classic and stylish material, renowned for its warm character as well as its proven boost to home values. However, hardwood is one of the more high-maintenance materials you could select. Homeowners should take care to seal natural wood regularly and clean it often to prevent scratches, dents, stains, and water damage.
Thankfully, hardwood isn’t the only elegant material out there. If you have an active lifestyle or a large family with children and pets, you may want to consider these five alternatives to hardwood. Each is more affordable, lower maintenance, and still just as beautiful.
No longer the plain and cheap-looking material associated with office buildings and schools, modern laminate is as attractive as it is pragmatic. This composite flooring material actually contains some wood, but it consists of three different layers, each with its own benefits:
These ingredients combine for a perfect marriage of flooring benefits. While the real-wood composite is soft to walk on and natural, the decorative layer looks just like genuine hardwood—without the huge investment. Meanwhile, the plastic coating forms a resistant seal against moisture, scratches, pet stains, food stains, and more.
Vinyl, like laminate, is also made with plastic. However, vinyl is completely synthetic, being composed of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a very common type of plastic. Most people recognize PVC as the material used to make those thick, white plumbing pipes.
Vinyl flooring is visually appealing without sacrificing durability. Like many types of plastic, it is highly damage resistant, water resistant, and easy to clean. Wipe away spills or dirt, and this flooring will look good as new. Genuine hardwood, on the other hand, offers none of those perks. Best of all, vinyl is typically sold in plank form for quick, easy, snap-into-place installation.
But vinyl isn’t just hardy and family friendly. It’s also particularly good for imitating other materials like real wood, making it an excellent alternative to hardwood flooring. Particularly attractive is luxury vinyl tile, which, despite its name, isn’t all that costly. Note that contractors in your area may refer to it as “luxury vinyl plank” or “wood-plastic composite.”
If you’ve ever seen checkered, plasticky tiles in old kitchens, schools, or grocery stores, then you’ve seen linoleum at work. This classic material takes its spot at the rock bottom of the price list and has long been one of the best options for shoppers on a budget.
Like the options above, though, linoleum has received a much-needed style update and is now potentially just as stylish as it is affordable. Plus, linoleum is incredibly durable and easy to clean. It shrugs off moisture and acidic foods like tomato sauce and wine.
Unlike vinyl and laminate flooring, linoleum is a completely green and biodegradable material. It contains no plastic, despite having a plastic texture prior to installation. Rather, it consists of organic materials like flax, oil, jute, cork, and limestone. Despite this hefty ingredient list, though, you may be surprised how closely modern linoleum flooring resembles real wood.
Bamboo is a fairly nontraditional and exotic material that may resemble hardwood flooring, which is typically made from woods like pine and walnut. Bamboo is actually a grass—not technically a tree—that has been harvested for millennia due to its charming color, impressive strength, and eco-friendly benefits. It grows extremely quickly and regenerates soon after harvesting. It’s not historically common in American homes, but that’s due to change.
Install bamboo in your home, and you’ll own an affordable yet strong material and still have bragging rights to genuine, natural flooring. Enjoy the best of natural wood’s warm character and refined elegance, alongside a host of perks you’ll appreciate every day, such as easy cleanup.
Bamboo is available in several natural shades, including warm red-brown and bright yellow-tan, depending on how the grass is treated. However, painting over bamboo flooring isn’t recommended because it will lose its distinctive look.
Stone may not look like wood in the least, but this durable and practically maintenance-free material has one major thing in common with hardwood: classic style. Like hardwood, stone tile has been used to build floors for millennia. And like hardwood, stone tile is unlikely to go out of style anytime soon. Its natural, earthy look and old-fashioned character lend a formal look to your home without the drawbacks that make hardwood so difficult to maintain.
While stone and wood are both naturally porous, meaning they can absorb liquids, stone isn’t organic, so it won’t rot or warp when it gets wet. And talk about longevity: intact stone tile in ancient structures is a case for the material’s resistance to foot traffic and active lifestyles. Your most affordable stone options are granite, marble, and sandstone.
Hardwood flooring has undeniable benefits. Its softness resists weight, and hardwood finished with a sealant like polyurethane includes a layer of scratch and moisture protection. However, if you want the peace of mind of living with a highly durable material every day of your busy life, these five options are up to the task.