10 Simple Ways to Increase the Value of Your Home

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10 Simple Ways to Increase the Value of Your Home

I don’t know how it is where you live, but here I am starting to see houses for sale like crazy.  I wonder if that means that people are starting to see relief from some of the economic craziness of the past few years?  Whatever the reason, if you are thinking about putting your house up for sale too, here are a few tips on increasing the value of your home, and hopefully putting more money in your pocket:

  1. Paint.  A fresh coat of NEUTRAL colored paint can make the house appear cleaner.  Staying neutral gives you a better chance to appeal to a wide variety of potential buyers.  Plus, paint is relatively cheap–so you get a lot of bang for your buck.
  2. Remove personal items and put them in storage.  Yes, the pictures of your kids are endearing, but when people see personal items, they focus on them, rather than picturing themselves in the home.  And, as much as you love your life-size paper mache zebra in the living room, it might not be someone else’s cup of tea {they may prefer giraffes}–it’s best to keep it a blank slate so people can imagine their own stuff in the house.
  3. Clean.  Seriously, clean like your mother-in-law is coming to visit.  The place should pass the white glove test.  Don’t forget the insides of drawers, etc.  Potential buyers will open and search through everything.
  4. Deodorize.  Everyone has a unique smell, unfortunately, that is not always a good thing.  If you have pets, you may not even notice the smell of your house, but potential buyers definitely will.  Light a candle or bake a cake before your house shows.  If you go with the candle, go with classic food smells {apple pie, etc.} over perfume-type smells.
  5. Create an inviting entrance.  If you don’t have curb appeal, it’s pretty hard to convince the average buyer that the house is worth their time.  Put a potted plant at the entrance {flowers in the summer/spring/fall and maybe a topiary in the winter}.  Set out a welcome mat.  Make sure the yard is tidy.
  6. If you have to replace floors before you can sell, opt for eco choices {like bamboo}.  They are a selling feature for the home.
  7. Up the wattage in your light bulbs for the showings.  The brighter the space, the more inviting it is to potential buyers.
  8. Kitchen cabinets.  If the kitchen cabinets have taken a beating over the years, painting them can give new life to the kitchen for minimal cost.  I don’t know about you, but nothing is more depressing than walking into an outdated and drab kitchen.
  9. Staging.  If the weather is nice, make sure to stage outdoor selling features too.  Make sure to set up the table on the patio.  Put the umbrella up.  Turn on the outdoor fountain if there is one.  You want to draw their eye to features they may miss otherwise.  Make ‘em believe that entertaining outdoors is just a quick escrow away.
  10. Window coverings.  Fresh curtains/blinds can add a lot to a room for pretty inexpensive.  Old faded drapes can make a space feel dated and dark.   Head over to Target and grab a couple of new panels–you’ll be shocked at what they do for the room.

Did you recently sell your house?  Did you do any of these?  Did they work for you?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.



How to Sell Your Stuff at a Garage Sale

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How to Sell Your Stuff at a Garage Sale

Every few years, I get enough accumulated stuff that it becomes totally worth it for me to have a garage sale.  Garage sales are my way of de-junkifying–but, not in the sense that it is “junk.”  I want the stuff out, because it just is no longer working for me, but it is still really good, usable stuff.  Plus, the money goes straight into our vacation fund, so I can usually convince The Girl and Monkey Boy to help out.

I’ve learned quite a bit over the years about having garage sales–or even better stated:  having successful garage sales.

garage sale sign

First things first, advertise.  Use signs and craigslist to get the word out.  For higher ticket items, take some pictures and include them on craigslist.  People love that crap.  Also, get change.  You can keep it in a lock box, a money belt or wear an apron with pockets.  The good thing about the apron is that if you are alone, you don’t have to worry about stepping away from the money.  Also, have plastic grocery bags handy to bag people’s purchases.

garage sale price stickers tags

Price all of your items the night before.  This is essential.  You WILL have early bird shoppers who will cramp your style if you are still out there pricing.  The busiest time of the garage sale will be from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.  After that, things will slow down significantly, so it’s just best to be prepared to deal with your customers straight out of the gate.  Be realistic with your pricing.  People expect screamin’ deals at garage sales.  That’s the downside.  The upside is that you would have probably just donated it otherwise and made nothing.

Easy Crock Pot Vegetarian Chili Recipe

Next, get up extra early and make a crock pot meal {Go HERE for some recipe ideas}.  Otherwise, by the end of the day, you will be too pooped to pop and will end up loading the family into the wagon to go out.  This one little move cuts into your garage sale profits significantly.  I have learned it the hard way, trust me.

blueberry-muffins-with-crumb-topping-recipe

Have the kids set up a muffin and coffee/tea stand.  Lots of people do the slow drive by and then move on.  Early morning coffee and muffins always entice them to stop and browse.

Make sure everything is displayed as orderly as possible.  If you have clothes, hang them up–they WILL sell much better that way.

Haggling is a sport for some people–like they legitimately get thrills at the idea of it.  Don’t be offended when people haggle for your stuff–meet them with counter-offers, {The garage sale game is very Donald Trump like.  Embrace it.}  Know your bottom line and have a little fun getting there.

Around noon to 1 p.m., it’s time to start slashing prices.  Your traffic will slow down considerably, and unless you are interested in a marathon type garage sale, it’s time to make sure the stuff goes for at least some money.

Thrift store donation

Arrange for a local charity to swing by and pick up the leftovers or haul them that afternoon to the thrift store yourself.  That way, you don’t have to haul them back into the garage, where they could potentially take up residence again.

How about YOU, what are your tips for having a successful garage sale?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Spring Lawn Care Tips

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spring lawn care tips

As I mentioned last fall, taking care of the grass is totally my husbands department–but if watching him work counts for something, then I am a pro!  Ha.  Here’s a quick guide on spring lawn care, which we take very seriously here in suburbia:

If you didn’t aerate last fall, spring is another good time to do it.  With all of the spring rain, those annoying dirt clods will be gone in no time, and your grass will be the thick, lush envy of all of the neighbors.

Before you start mowing again, give your lawn mower the once over.  Sharpen the blades if they need it, change the oil, and give ‘er a good once over.  You can start out the spring with shorter grass, make sure to raise the blade as the weather gets warmer, though.  If you don’t mind the mess, taking the mower bag off and letting the grass clippings stay on the lawn is a great way to provide free food for the grass.

If you live in a rainy climate {like I do} let the weather do the work as far as watering.  If not, make sure to water less often, but in larger quantities {remember the good old days of flood irrigation?  Think about replicating them.}

Wait until it’s a bit warmer to apply fertilizer {at least 50-55 degrees soil temperature}, that will ensure that the grass is awake enough to receive a feeding.

That’s pretty much it for us around here.  What do you do to wake up your grass?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Tips for Hosting a Pasta Feed in Your Home

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Tips for Hosting a Pasta Feed in Your Home

A few times a year we host a huge pasta feed for my kids’ sports team. Sometimes we’ll end up with 50 hungry teenage mouths to feed. Sounds daunting, but it always turns out awesome. The kids love it and I love having them there. Through the years I’ve picked up a few tips and tricks through trial and error. I’m sharing them with you so you don’t have a pasta party disaster, although it really is much simpler than it seems.

Pasta Feed Tips:

1. Set a practical menu. If you don’t mind spending some time in the kitchen, prepare some fun Italian dishes {see recipes below} to go with your pasta, but stick to simple spaghetti if you’re in a time crunch or if the thought of catering to a group that size makes you want to break out in hives.

2. Recruit other parents to help you in the kitchen. I usually have a mom or two who will show up to help me serve, cook, etc. Try not to be a one man show and ask for help if you need it.

3. Be realistic with your budget. While pasta is a pretty cheap way to feed the masses, food for a group that size can get expensive. If you’re looking for a way to cut down costs, host with another family {or two} and split the cost. Or ask other parents to send some desserts or sides. They’ll probably be more than happy to pick up a loaf of french bread or make a quick salad if they know they don’t have a herd of kids coming to their house!

4. Cook enough food. I usually make about 8 pounds of pasta, 20 pounds of sauce and 8 pounds of hamburger or meatballs {if your budget is really tight, eliminate the meat}. I also serve up 2 huge bowls of Caesar salad, 4 loafs of garlic bread and a simple dessert like brownies or cookies {at least 1 brownie per kid or 2 cookies per kid}. I’ll always have a pot of boiling water ready and some uncooked pasta on hand just in case they have larger than expected appetites.

5. Basic drinks are best. You can always go super inexpensive and have pitchers of water, but I usually do milk and juice too, and that’s typically what they always go for. I never serve soda or high fructose anything. While I don’t mind feeding kids junk food every now and then, I try to avoid having them drink it. That way I can bake up a pan of brownies and not feel the least bit bad about it.

6. Don’t forget the little stuff.
Make sure you have plenty of plates, cups, utensils and napkins. Borrow coolers if you’ll need more than you have to keep drinks cold. Also, LOTS of trash cans and plenty of trash bags. Set out a recycling bin if you recycle. The kids are always great about cleaning up after themselves and even taking the trash out if I ask them {make sure they help take down tables and chairs if you borrow or rent them}.

Heirloom Tomato Sauce Recipe

Heirloom Tomato Sauce

Pasta Feed Recipes:

By far the easiest thing to serve at a pasta feed is noodles and a simple red or meat sauce. But sometimes I like get a little creative and add a dish or two. It’s also helpful if you have non-meat eaters attending.  if I don’t have time to slave away in the kitchen, I can always fall back the freezer meals I have already made!

Freezer Meals - Lasagna with Meat Sauce 4Freezer Meal Lasagna with Meat Sauce:

If I don’t have time to slave away in the kitchen, I can always fall back on the freezer meals I have already made!

Simple Caprese Lasagna Roll-UpsCaprese Lasagna Roll-Ups:

Very helpful if you have non-meat eaters attending.

And there you have a few simple tips and recipes to help you host a successful and stress-free pasta feed. Have you done this before? Have any great ideas to add?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

DIY – How to Make Your Own Potting Soil

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DIY - How to Make Your Own Potting Soil

I whipped up a batch of homemade potting soil earlier today and decided to post my favorite recipe in case you didn’t see it the first time around I published it last year.

 Happy Gardening everyone!!

If you plan on growing anything in pots this year, potting soil is absolutely essential.  Garden soil is just too heavy when growing in pots.  The thing is, pre-made bagged potting soil is crazy expensive, and since this year, I plan on growing quite a few things in containers, I decided to make my own.

how to make potting soil recipe

Here are the ingredients you’ll Need:

  • Peat Moss
  • Vermiculite
  • Compost
  • Fertilizer {if you use it}
  • A Mask for your face {this is optional, but I don’t want to breath any of the mix in, especially since I will be using chicken poo as my fertilizer}
  • A wheelbarrow or large pot to mix your potting soil

watering can potting soil DIY

The basic recipe is easy peasy.  Mix one part each of the peat moss, vermiculite, and compost.  I’m not a big fan of store bought fertilizer, as far as I’m concerned, that’s the chickens’ job, so I’ll be collecting my compost from the floor of the chicken run.  This will eliminate the need to use fertilizer.

It’s easiest if you just grab a bucket and throw one bucket of each ingredient into your mixing container.  Add a little water and stir it around with gloved hands or a shovel.

Then, just grab your containers and filled them with potting soil.  If you are using a commercial fertilizer, fill your pots half way, add a scoop of fertilizer and mix it in.  Fill your container the rest of the way, repeat the fertilizer step, and voila, you’re done.

DIY Potting soil recipe

That’s it!  Now all I have to do is plant the veggies and wait for some homegrown goodness.

Let’s get this party started!

~Mavis

The New Self-Sufficient Gardener

Looking for a great gardening book? Check out The New Self-Sufficient Gardener By John Seymour. It’s loaded with all sorts of goodness.

 

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

DIY Homemade Febreze Recipe

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DIY Homemade Febreze Recipe

With two teenagers in sports, sometimes I feel like I should take out stock in Febreze, or at the very least, at the rate we go through it around here, a loan.  Luckily, making your own is super easy and costs literally pennies.

DIY Homemade Febreze Recipe

You’ll Need:

Spray bottle {a cheap-o dollar store one will do}
2 Tbsp. fabric softener {any scent that makes your sniffer happy or make your own}
Warm water
2 Tbsp. baking soda
A funnel

DIY Homemade Febreze Recipe

Directions:

Place the funnel in the spray bottle.  Add baking soda and fabric softener.  Fill up the remaining space in the spray bottle with warm water.  Screw back on the sprayer and shake, shake, shake.

Now get out there and freshen the crap out of everything you own {that statement might be an oxymoron, but whatever, you get the drift}. ;)

~Mavis

DIY Homemade Febreze Recipe

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

How to Get a Price Adjustment from Amazon

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How to Get a Price Adjustment from AmazonYou know how it’s great to know an accountant during tax time, a personal trainer when you’re trying to lose weight or a stockbroker when you’re looking to invest? Having an expert at your fingers tips to give you insider tips is awesome. And I’m here for you. Not as a gardening expert today, but rather an Amazon expert.

I feel that the sheer number of purchases I make on Amazon each year totally qualifies me as an expert. So I’m here today to share one of my very favorite Amazon expert tips: Amazon price adjustments.

cast iron tea potHave you ever bought something on Amazon only to see the very same item drop in price the next day? It’s so frustrating knowing if you would have held out to buy it, you could have saved some cold hard cash. Well Amazon is so awesome, they’ll refund you the price difference if you ask. No, seriously.

Now before I let you in on this rarely known secret, there are a few things you should know.

1. This is not a formal Amazon policy, so your experience might be different than mine.

2. I’ve personally done this multiple times and it’s worked.

3. I’ve only ever tried it with items shipped from Amazon, so it might not work when you make purchases from an outside seller.

4. I’ve only ever received a price adjustment in the 1st week after buying, so I’m not sure how long they will honor it.

5. It doesn’t hurt to ask.

bob's red millHere’s how it works:

1. Scroll to the bottom of the Amazon homepage and click on the “help” button, which will take you to the Amazon help page.

2. Click on the yellow “Contact Us” button on the right hand side of the page.

3. Sign into your Amazon account.

4. Click on the “An order I placed” tab and find the purchase you’re requesting the refund on.

5. Under the “Tell us more about your issue” section, select “Payment issue” from the 1st drop down menu and “Price change on website” from the 2nd.

6. Select how you would like to contact them: email, phone or live chat. I always use live chat because it’s easy and fast.

7. Then simply explain the item you bought dropped in price, and you’d like a refund for the difference.

8. Amazon refunds your money. Wallah!

Like I said, it might not work every time, but it’s certainly worth a shot. Let me know if you ever try it and if it works for you.

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

How to Sell Your Stuff on Craigslist

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How to Sell Your Stuff on Craigslist

Okay, so right out of the gate, I really need to say, I am probably the only person on the planet who is not a fan of craigslist.  Something about meeting a total stranger in a Walmart parking lot to do a transaction feels sketchy.  The HH loves craigslist, though.  To date, he has bought a weight lifting set, a punching bag, and some sort of weird storage rack for the garage. {All of which I ended up donating to the Goodwill because they were absolutely dumb purchases.  He felt bad not buying them during the meet-up, though, so he bought them anyway.}

SELLING your crap on craigslist is awesome, though, because you don’t have to pay shipping costs like you would on ebay, and you just never know, your crap can literally be the exact crap someone has been dreaming about.

How to Sell Your Stuff on Craigslist

Here are what I think are craigslist basics:

  1. Take pictures.  No one wants to contact you just to get pictures you promised them “if they are interested.”  Provide good quality pictures.  Plain and simple.
  2. On the same picture topic, clean up the area around where you will snapping the photo.  Yes, you may store the item in the garage, but if people see it amongst dust-laden items and on an oil-stained floor, they will automatically think it is dirty and used {which it might be, but there is absolutely no reason to advertise that.}
  3. Clean your item.  You are getting rid of it for a reason, but make it look appealing.  Dust it, vacuum it, spit shine it…whatever, just make it sparkle.
  4. Price it to sell.  This is where it gets tricky in my opinion.  Price it too high and you won’t get a single bite, price it too low and people will think something is wrong with it.  Search for like items in your area and set your price accordingly. How to Sell Your Stuff on Craigslist
  5. Write a good description of the item.  Give details–not the bad ones, feel free to leave out:  ”the cat peed on it last week.”  But provide details about how old the item is, if appropriate, why you are getting rid of it.  Be real about the condition of the item too {i.e. “Not in perfect condition, but perfect for a college student”}.
  6. If possible, meet somewhere other than  your home {in a neutral location–like a Walmart parking lot.}  It keeps you safe.
  7. Provide a phone number.  If you are serious about selling an item, don’t make it frustrating for the buyer, provide a phone number so that they don’t have to email, wait for your response, and potentially send follow-up questions.  When you list your phone number, spell out some of the numbers, like call at 5-five-five-5-five-five,5–that way you don’t get put on some random computer generated spam calling list.
  8. You will get offensively low offers.  It’s just what people do.  Know your bottom line and don’t be afraid to let a sale pass you by.  Say no, and wait for the right buyer to come along.
  9. #8 leads me to this little gem:  never be in a hurry to sell something on craigslist.  If you are, you will cave at the wrong price.  Patience is key.
  10. Forget listing it, take it to the Goodwill and then pay yourself for your time you would’ve spent selling it.  Ha!  Kidding, but wouldn’t it be soooo much easier?

Happy sales,

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

How to Save Money at the Dollar Store

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how to save money at the dollar storeDo you shop at the dollar store?  I kind of have mixed feelings about it myself.  Sometimes, you can get things for a steal, other times, I think they kind of bamboozle {do you remember that word from the show Friends?} you into thinking that it’s a good deal because it’s only a dollar.  I typically do not buy food there at all.  Party favors, art supplies, seasonal stuff, yes.

Here are a couple of quick and easy tips to save yourself a dollar {pun intended} next time you are at the dollar store:

  1. If you are going to buy food, check the labels.  A lot of times, those off brands will skimp on ingredients to drive down the price.  Decide if it is worth it to you to consume potentially cheaper ingredients {read:  partially hydrogenated oils} to save what might amount to pennies.  Make sure to check expiration dates while  you are at it.
  2. Shop with a list.  It’s so easy to throw something you otherwise would not have purchased because “it’s only a dollar.”  If you went in to get wrapping paper, put your blinders on, get the wrapping paper, and get out.
  3. Greeting cards.  While the selection might not be stellar, greeting cards in the mainstream stores are pricey.  For kid’s birthday parties, etc. the dollar store is where it’s at.  Stock up on a few so that you don’t have to go in very often.
  4. Seasonal items.  The dollar store has pretty unique holiday decor and seasonal items.  It can be a great place to put together fillers for holiday presents, etc.  It’s also a great way to decorate for school functions, etc. on a budget.
  5. Stack dollar store savings with coupons.  Quite a few dollar stores are now accepting coupons, ask the manager.  If you get lucky and find name brand items {think:  toothpaste and soap} it could add up to pretty substantial savings.
  6. Cleaning supplies.  If you don’t make your own, the dollar store can equal pretty good savings.  Sure, you’ll get off brands, but the ingredients usually are the same.
  7. Common cooking spices.  If bulk is not an option for you, stocking up on basic cooking spices at the dollar store offers pretty good savings.
  8. Socks.  Weird, I know, but actually, they have a pretty good selection and they hold up just as well as department store socks, in my opinion.
  9. Open stock glasses.  If you are having people over or just want to add a little variety to your glassware–the dollar store is a great place to do it.  They usually have some pretty fun glassware and for a buck, you won’t be sad if they get broken.
  10. Flower pots.  Every year, my dollar store typically has smaller clay flower pots.  They make AWESOME herb gardens {think:  teacher’s gifts} and won’t set you back.

How about you, how do YOU save money at the dollar stores?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

How to Find the Perfect Babysitter

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How to Find the Perfect Babysitter

I talk about a lot of things I love on this site: my chickens, gardening, yummy recipes, bartering, Lucy the Puggle Dog. But at the end of the day, nothing even comes close to the love I have for my kids. Being a mother is hands down my thing on the planet. Sure when they were little they made me want to rip out my hair from time to time, but they are really my greatest joys. I suspect you feel the same way, so leaving them in the care of others takes a bit of a leap of faith. Here are some tips to help you find the perfect sitter for your family (cause let’s be honest, sometimes that time away from them keeps you sane!):

1. Get referrals: Ask people you trust to refer people they trust. It’s a great place to start. Gather a list of names and numbers of qualified referrals your friends, neighbors and  family members have used in the past.

2. Check references: If you are unable to get referrals from people you know, make sure you gather and touch base with references from your potential babysitter. Don’t be afraid to ask pointed questions because this will be your only opportunity to get a glimpse of their previous babysitting habits.

3. Interview them: Conduct a phone interview with them to get to know them a little better. Do they have previous experience? Have they ever cared for infants? What is their hourly rate? Before you leave them alone with your kids, have them over for a short interview so you can meet them in person. It’s not only important to gain information from them (ie. are they CPR and 1st Aid certified? Have they taken any babysitting courses?), but to see how they interact with your children.

4. Trust your gut: If something feels off, pass. Even if everything about the potential sitter looks good on paper, if your “parent sense” is off, listen to it.

5. Agree on pay: Before you ever hire them, make sure you’re on the same when it comes to money. Ask what they charge. If they suggest that whatever you pay is fine, try to get them to tell you what they’ve been paid in the past, so you know what their potential expectations are. If you are clueless as to what to pay, pose the question to your friends on Facebook or to your neighbors and get feedback that way.

6. Check in on them: Once you’ve hired them, make sure you call to check in. Ask to speak to your children (if they are old enough) and see how things are going from their perspective. You can also ask a neighbor to peek in if you’re still nervous and they’re able. If you have one available, a nanny cam might come in handy as well.

7. Follow up: Make sure you ask the sitter how they felt the experience went. Did your children behave for them? Did they enjoy it? Then ask your kids how they liked the sitter. Only then will you know if it’s truly a good fit.

Any other tips or advice when looking for a new babysitter? What do you think a fair rate is for a sitter in your area is? Have you ever had a terrible experience with a new sitter?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

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