April 18 will be here before you know it, and if you haven’t made a decision on how you’ll prepare your taxes this year, here are a few tips that may push you toward a DIY approach.
Shop around for software
TurboTax (www.turbotax.com) is generally the most popular and trusted tax software option, but you’ll typically have to pay around $60.00 per year. It may me worth your time to shop around for some free options. Many tax prep software applications are free up to a certain income threshold, and your costs will also vary depending on the sources of your income. A person with a single W-2 form will usually pay less than a person with multiple W-2s, 1099s, investment income, and other income sources.
Take advantage of homeownership
If you’re reading this newsletter, there’s a good chance you’re a homeowner. Tax time is one of those events that show the benefits of homeownership, because you can get some major tax deductions. Mortgage interest, property taxes, and some home buying costs are among the deductions you may be eligible for. Your tax preparation software should guide you through these deductions.
DIY is great, but so is a tax professional
DIY tax preparation isn’t for everyone. Though tax software companies offer audit assistance for an extra fee, some people enjoy the peace of mind that comes with meeting a tax professional and being able to ask questions about your taxes in person.
A tax professional is particularly helpful if your taxes recently became more complicated, like if you started a business or completed several real estate transactions.
An accent wall can totally transform a room, taking it from boring and drab to bold and exciting. Accent walls create a new focal point for your space, add liveliness and contrast, and are typically a very inexpensive DIY project.
The starter accent wall
You can easily add an accent wall to your room in one afternoon by applying a new paint color. Deep blues and bright oranges are common choices for accent walls, but choose a color that will complement your existing decor and overall design aesthetic.
Bright, contrasting paint is a good starting point, but there are other options for accent walls that are even more eye-catching and distinct. Floor-to-ceiling wood planks can make your home seem both rustic and modern all at once and provide a natural, outdoors-inspired feel. It’s more work than simply painting a wall, but it’s still relatively inexpensive. You can source the wood from pallets on Craigslist and stain it yourself before attaching it to your wall. It takes a little extra elbow grease, but it’s worth the effort.
Patterns, murals, and more
Paint and wood are bold enough on their own to transform a room, but they’re still pretty subtle compared to other accent wall options. A chalk paint accent wall is a creative idea for any room and makes for some fun moments when you’re entertaining. There are also endless options for wallpaper and stenciling if you want some patterns or you can get really bold with a mural or oversized art print.
When you’re house hunting, focus on the things that will improve your quality of life.
There are so many factors that go into a home buying decision that it can make your head spin—especially if you’re in a competitive market where time is of the essence. The desire to purchase a property makes it easy to look past issues that could detract from your enjoyment of the home and cause some regrets down the road. That’s why when you’re weighing your options, quality of life should always be the top priority.
Location is part of lifestyle
Buyers often focus on “must haves” that can be added via renovation, but will downplay factors that are impossible to change. For example, if you work and spend much of your free time in the heart of a busy city, a house in the suburbs may mean more space for the same price, but it could also mean long commutes and a major hit to your nightlife. A centrally-located condo might be a better option.
On the other hand, if you’re a weekend warrior who looks forward to skiing, hiking, and mountain biking trips, living outside the city may be perfect—you’re that much closer to the trails when you wake up on Saturday morning. It’s a cliche, but it’s true: Location, location, location.
Big homes aren’t for everyone
If you love entertaining friends and family, a big house makes perfect sense. You’ll have all the space you need to prepare meals and throw big parties, and your guests won’t have any trouble finding parking.
But a big home also means more cleaning and maintenance—more lawn to mow, more bathrooms to scrub, more things that will break and need fixing. Before you dive into an alluring big home, consider your tolerance and enthusiasm for the upkeep. For some, a smaller home or a professionally-maintained condo are better options.
Moving into a new home is an exciting time, and you’re probably daydreaming about decor and paint schemes and new furniture. But before you get into the fun stuff, there are some basics you should cover first.
Change the locks
Even if you’re promised that new locks have been installed in your home, you can never be too careful. It’s worth the money to have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that no one else has the keys to your home. Changing the locks can be a DIY project, or you can call in a locksmith for a little extra money.
Steam clean the carpets
It’s good to get a fresh start with your floors before you start decorating. The previous owners may have had pets, young children, or just some plain old clumsiness. Take the time to steam clean the carpets so that your floors are free of stains and allergens. It’s pretty easy and affordable to rent a steam cleaner—your local grocery store may have them available.
Call an exterminator
Prior to move-in, you probably haven’t spent enough time in the house to get a view of any pests that may be lurking. Call an exterminator to take care of any mice, insects, and other critters that may be hiding in your home.
Clean out the kitchen
If the previous occupants wanted to skip on some of their cleaning duties when they moved out, the kitchen is where they probably cut corners. Wipe down the inside of cabinets, clean out the refrigerator, clean the oven, and clean in the nooks and crannies underneath the appliances.
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