How to Be a Tourist in Your Own City: 8 Fun, Affordable Ideas

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By ADRIENNE BREAUX


Low budgets and a lack of time can put a dent in the fun of summer traveling, without doubt. But just because you can’t go far doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time. Lovingly called a “staycation” by some, we call it being a tourist in your own city. Here are eight ways how to do it.

1. Head to any hotel or motel lobby or welcoming center
Find one of those brochure kiosks in a local hotel or motel lobby, and take home a few for local attractions or activities that grab your attention, especially the ones that seem like something you wouldn’t normally pay attention to. Ask someone behind a desk for what they recommend to tourists who have one day to spend in your city or town. And then be sure and call and ask if there’s a discount for locals or residents (you’d be surprised to learn how many places offer discounts like that!).

2. Get a friend to show you around like you’re a tourist
Call up a friend you know who usually loves showing visitors around town and ask them to take you to some of their favorites places that make the city you live in special! They may take you to a place you would have never thought about visiting.

3. Move through it differently than you usually do
Consider taking a tour on a bus (in Austin we have these things called duck tours, and I couldn’t recommend more) or some other form of transportation. You’ll see your city with fresh eyes when learning about interesting points and fun historical facts. Bonus points if you can find — and take — a Segway tour.

4. Take cheesy photos of yourself in front of tourist spots
That well-known statue in your town square. A view from the park downtown. The famous graffiti. Your city’s welcoming sign. Even if you’ve already seen a lot of your city’s tourist spots, embrace the cheesiness of visiting them again by taking photos of yourself in front of them.

5. Grab a meal at the most touristy restaurant in your town
Get the dish they swear they’re the best at making and that your city’s known for. Revel in its tasty (or greasy) glory. But also take a look around when you get there. I’ve found a lot of the touristy spots actually have cool history to them, with old photos decorating the walls and stories about your town waiting to be discovered.

6. Do something outdoors that only your city can offer
Is your neck of the woods known for fly fishing? Do it. Your city the home to the world’s largest urban bat colony? See it. Tons of farms open their “doors” during particularly lovely parts of the seasons? Take advantage! Is there a public fountain or water feature that you can take the kids to? Have fun! Chances are there’s something outdoorsy your city does well and promotes to tourists; discover it.

7. Cheer on a local sports team
You can go to a game, or even find a popular sports bar to watch a game on a TV, surrounded by passionate locals and tourists alike. It’ll give you a good feeling of the spirit of your city.

8. Embrace a bit of history
Depending on the size of your city, there might be a museum that illustrates an exciting part of your hometown’s history that might be worth checking out. Think about stopping and reading any roadside markers with interesting historical facts. And check to see if your city has any historical collections at local libraries — sometimes you can find a whole collection of cool photos showing what your city looked like years ago.

Looking for ideas for kiddos in tow? This post is about things to do in Los Angeles, but might give you some ideas of places to check out with your kids in your city. More inspiration for being a tourist can be found here, too.

The Gina Koerner Team   www.StLouisHomesByGina.com   636-229-8746   “Changing Lives… One Home at a Time”

Budget Decorator: 15 No-Cost Ways to Invigorate Your Space

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By Laura Gaskill
Got the itch to make some changes around the house? Before you head out shopping or hit the online stores, why not first see what can be done with what you have? Sometimes all it takes is a bit of inspiration to see your space with fresh eyes. Let these 15 ideas spark your imagination and motivate you to see your own space anew.

The Look for Less: Emma’s Bedroom on a Budget

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By SHIFRAH COMBITHS

Paint can be one of the most budget-friendly and impactful decorating decisions. The ceiling in Emma’s bedroom imbues the entire room with cool, confident color, keeps the mostly white palette from being too staid, and sets the tone for the rest of the room’s decor. To re-create this room on budget, check out the following finds.

  • Shallow Sea paint by Behr, approx. $25-27/gallon
  • OFELIA VASS white duvet cover and pillows Full/Queen, Ikea, $49.99.
  • Scour Ebay for a blue ghost chair. If you’re doing a children’s room and a smaller chair is an option, consider this Kids Ghost Chair, via Houzz, $110.
  • Union Jack Throw Pillow, Zazzle, $33.95.
  • Room Essentials 5-Head Floor Lamp in Pink, Target, $19.99.
  • Consider spray-painting a thrifted brass chandelier white with these instructions from HGTV.
  • MICKE white desk, Ikea, $89.99.
  • An Ikea RENS Sheepskin or two thrown over an armchair is a great budget-conscious option for the fur armchair.
  • Adele Waste Basket, Bed Bath & Beyond, $9.99.

The Gina Koerner Team   www.StLouisHomesByGina.com   636-229-8746   “Changing Lives… One Home at a Time”

20 Things the Rich Do Every Day

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By Tom Corley

1. 70% of wealthy eat less than 300 junk food calories per day. 97% of poor people eat more than 300 junk food calories per day. 23% of wealthy gamble. 52% of poor people gamble.

2. 80% of wealthy are focused on accomplishing some single goal. Only 12% of the poor do this.

3. 76% of wealthy exercise aerobically four days a week. 23% of poor do this.

4. 63% of wealthy listen to audio books during commute to work vs. 5% of poor people.

5. 81% of wealthy maintain a to-do list vs. 19% of poor.

6. 63% of wealthy parents make their children read two or more non-fiction books a month vs. 3% of poor.

7. 70% of wealthy parents make their children volunteer 10 hours or more a month vs. 3% of poor.

8. 80% of wealthy make Happy Birthday calls vs. 11% of poor.

9. 67% of wealthy write down their goals vs. 17% of poor.

10. 88% of wealthy read 30 minutes or more each day for education or career reasons vs. 2% of poor.

11. 6% of wealthy say what’s on their mind vs. 69% of poor.

12. 79% of wealthy network five hours or more each month vs. 16% of poor.

13. 67% of wealthy watch one hour or less of TV every day vs. 23% of poor.

14. 6% of wealthy watch reality TV vs. 78% of poor.

15. 44% of wealthy wake up three hours before work starts vs. 3% of poor.

16. 74% of wealthy teach good daily success habits to their children vs. 1% of poor.

17. 84% of wealthy believe good habits create opportunity luck vs. 4% of poor.

18. 76% of wealthy believe bad habits create detrimental luck vs. 9% of poor.

19. 86% of wealthy believe in lifelong educational self-improvement vs. 5% of poor.

20. 86% of wealthy love to read vs. 26% of poor.

The Gina Koerner Team   www.StLouisHomesByGina.com   636-229-8746   “Changing Lives… One Home at a Time”

THE BEST MEMORIAL DAYS SALES TO HIT THIS WEEK

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By Jaymi Naciri

Memorial Day weekend is just about here, and that means packed cars, family picnics, and all-day get-togethers, all wrapped up in the remembrance of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for this country.

It also means great sales – which will come in especially handy if you happen to be the one hosting the weekend festivities. So we’ve gathered together some of the best home items on sale this week in this Memorial Day Edition of Steals & Deals.

Here is the best of the week for home…

Yosemite Home Decor 18-Gauge Double-Basin Undermount Stainless Steel Kitchen Sink

You may not have time to redo your kitchen before this weekend, but if it’s in your future plans, check out the Yosemite Home Decor 18-Gauge Double-Basin Undermount Stainless Steel Kitchen Sink, part of Lowes’ Memorial Day Sale. Regularly $268.20, it’s 45 percent off this week, priced at $146.67.

We’ve been checking out this ThresholdTM Lowry 2-Piece Upholstered Patio Club Chair Set since it was priced at $403.20. Now offered on clearance at Target for 30 percent off at $282.24, we just can’t wait any longer.

Target also has select toys on sale this week at buy one, get one 50 percent off. Frankly, we think this sale is perfectly timed for kids who are going to be out of school on Monday.

If you need an outdoor dining set, Home Depot may have your solution. Certain patio items are offered for up to 40 percent off during their Memorial Day sale.

This Hampton Bay Cedarvale 7-Piece Patio Dining Set with Nutmeg Cushions was $899 and is now priced at $539.40 – 40 percent off – this week. It just may be the perfect set for your Sunday brunch, for this weekend or any this summer.

Maybe you’re planning an outdoor get-together of the more romantic variety. If you decide you need to add some easy ambiance to your outdoor space, these Solar LED Fairy Lights, just $28, down 72 percent from $99 on crowdsavings, can do the trick.

The Gina Koerner Team   www.StLouisHomesByGina.com   636-229-8746   “Changing Lives… One Home at a Time”

 

Save Money on Summer Entertainment & Activities

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By: Take Charge America

Many consumers spend more money during the summer because we’re surrounded by more temptations. Too hot? Head to the cool mall. Kids bored? Head to a theme park. Summer blockbuster? Have to get to the big screen. You get the gist…

To help you save more money, we’ve compiled some cost-conscious tips and affordable alternatives to popular summer activities:

  • Don’t Eat Out, Eat Outside – “Eating out” doesn’t have to mean eating in a restaurant. On a warm summer night, hit up the grocery store and purchase treats for a picnic or barbeque. You could supply a week’s worth of picnics for the cost of one date night at an upscale restaurant. Plus, picnics and outdoor dining can actually be more intimate and enjoyable.
  • Sign up for Group Deals – Group deal sites like Groupon and LivingSocial, which offer big discounts to local hotspots, are gaining huge followings. Sign up for daily emails and learn how you can save 50 percent or more on spa treatments, restaurants, community classes, leisure activities and more.
  • Skip the Big Screen – You don’t really need to see movies on the big screen if money is tight. For around $10 a month, you can watch all the movies you want with mail order subscription services, such as Netflix. Host a marathon movie night where you and a group of friends catch up on old movies or TV shows. Marathons last longer, and microwaved popcorn cost pennies in comparison.
  • Seek out “Staycations” – You don’t have to travel far for some R&R. Many resorts and spas offer “staycations” with big discounts for local residents. You get all the amenities without transportation costs and travel time. Search resort websites and discount travel sites like Expedia, Orbitz and Priceline. If you do plan on traveling, learn how you can save more money on your summer vacation.
  • Take a Trip to the Library – Remember those days before computers, cell phones, hand-held games and iPods? Many kids swarmed public libraries during the summer. You can spend hours browsing the children’s book section. Libraries also host author readings and other events popular with kids. Check with your local library for a community calendar.
  • Enjoy the Great Outdoors – There are a ton of activities you can take advantage of outside. Try fishing, Frisbee, camping, swimming, biking, star gazing or get creative with a scavenger hunt or homemade obstacle course.

6 Ways To Save More on Groceries!

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By: Karen Cordaway

These Methods aren’t extreme, but they’ll save you a lot.

If you have promised to do a better job slashing your grocery budget, you don’t have to do anything extreme to improve on your supermarket saving skills. Try implementing these simple tips to keep money in your wallet.
1. The early bird catches the sales. Maybe you looked through the store circular, planned your meals, wrote a grocery list and even cut a few coupons to plot out your future savings. There’s nothing worse than taking time to do that only to have other shoppers beat you to the store and buy up all the stock. To beat serious shoppers at their own game, get there early so you can get the deals. It’s also easier to shop when it’s less crowded and it permits you to get in and out faster.

2. Shop without distractions. Don’t text or talk while shopping unless the conversation has to do with grocery shopping, especially at the checkout. It’s easy for an item to ring up differently than you had expected. If you are chatting or texting away, you and the cashier may not catch the error. If you have kids that tend to derail your best-laid plans, shop when you can go alone.

3. Staring can save you money. If possible, try to put all of your groceries down on the conveyor belt before the cashier starts to ring items up.

This way you won’t have to load the items while the cashier is scanning. This frees you up to watch the price of each item flash on the register during checkout. Monitor each item as it is scanned. Limit small talk and pay attention to the screen. A prolonged gaze at the register can help you spot potential mistakes and keep you from throwing off your spending.

4. Give yourself a limit. You may have picked up a few items that aren’t a real priority for this grocery trip. Though you might have done some mental calculations and thought you had enough, you might quickly discover that you made an error and the bill is now higher than you thought. Put these items that I call the “maybes” toward the back of the conveyor belt. You can even rest them on the metal at the end of lane so they don’t move ring up accidentally. Based on the subtotal, decide at that time if they stay or go. In an effort to not go over budget, hand those items over to the cashier if you run over.

5. No zigzagging allowed. Have you ever aimlessly wandered up and down each aisle of the grocery store only to end up with a cart full of items you weren’t planning on getting? This can throw your budget into a tailspin. If you don’t need anything in a certain aisle, then skip it. Also, analyze the grocery store layout when shopping to discover the most budget-friendly areas. Marketers know how to get you to grab things that you otherwise weren’t planning to buy. If you want to place it safe, the perimeter of the store is usually safer and healthier.

6. Beware of multiple deals. Consumer expert Andrea Woroch explains, “When you see a sign promoting ’10 for $10′ or ‘five for $4.50,’ you are often tempted to load up on the bulk savings. However, these aren’t necessarily the best deals available and such offers can trick you into thinking you are getting a great deal. Get your calculator out to test the per unit cost and compare with other brands to find the cheapest price. You don’t need to buy all 10 or all five as promoted to get the savings. Supermarkets know that shoppers feel they are getting a better deal. The bigger the number, the better the value appears. But, one for $1 is still as good as 10 for $10, so limit it!”

Get Your Household Budget up and Running in 30 Minutes or Less

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By Joanna and Johnny with DailyFinance

Few activities are more hated than standing in line at the DMV — and one of those is budgeting. But how did budgeting get such a bad rap? Well, for one thing, many of us avoid it because it’s seen as a chore that will take up at least half our day, fighting tooth and nail with our inner spending demons (or our spouses). But that, friends, is a fallacy.

Or at least it should be.

It’s time to clear up some misconceptions and get to the heart of what budgeting really is — quickly. We’ll show you how to set up your first budget, or get back on the budgeting horse, in 30 minutes or less. Ladies and gentlemen, start your stopwatches:

Step 1: Understand What a Budget Is (1 minute)

Simply put, budgeting means putting a name to every dollar that goes in and out of your bank account. Usually, a household budget is broken down monthly, as spending needs fluctuate, and regular benchmarks can be tracked and compared. Get it? Got it? Good.

Step 2: Calculate Your Projected Monthly Income (5 minutes)

If you have just one consistent source of income each month, this step will take just a few seconds. If you have multiple sources of income, it might take a few minutes. And if your income varies from month to month, you’ll need to use the figures from previous years or months to estimate what your monthly income will be.

Step 3: Estimate Your Monthly Expenses (20 minutes)

You can be as detailed or general as you’d like to be in calculating your expenses: The important thing is to make sure every expense is accounted for. For instance, you could set down a rough estimate for your overall spending on utilities.

Or you might prefer to break it down by individual bills such as electricity, water, gas and phone.

You may have only a vague idea how much you spend each month on some categories, such as food. So start by taking a guess. Remember: Your first month on a budget is a trial run. If you end up spending more or less than that amount, adjust your target number for the next month. You’ll likely need to reallocate money among categories early on.

Right now you might be thinking, “But I don’t even know what I spend my money on!” That’s OK. If you need help breaking down your spending, take a look at the types of expenses from your most recent bank statements. Here are some common categories to get you started:

  • Mortgage/Rent
  • Utilities
  • Food
  • Transportation
  • Entertainment
  • Debt Payments
  • Medical
  • Insurance
  • Clothing
  • Savings
  • Pet(s)

Here are two other categories for couples:

  • Personal (We give each other $25 of “whatever” money each month to spend as we please.)
  • Miscellaneous (There’s always at least a couple of expenses that don’t quite fit in any category.)

The goal here is pretty simple: Spend less than you earn.In order to estimate your savings for the month, add all of your expenses together and subtract that number from your monthly (net) income. The number left is your projected monthly savings.

Step 4: Decide How You’re Going to Keep Track (4 minutes)
Now that you’ve given every dollar a name, figure out how you’re going to hold yourself accountable. Will you keep a spreadsheet? A notebook in your purse? Or will you use a smartphone app? Whatever you choose, it’s important to record every expense as it happens. (I hear you harrumphing in your cubicle. Yes, you with the bag of Funyuns. But recording your expenses is really quite painless if you do it as it happens. It takes a matter of seconds.) We use a phone app, which means we just enter the expense, and the app does all that math stuff for us. Can I afford those expensive chocolates for Valentine’s Day? This month, my budget and my waistline are both saying “No way, Jose.” But that’s not my name, so it’s still up in the air. Still, if I do get those chocolates, I’ll record them in our budget-tracker right afterward.

1, 2, 3, 4: Now, you’re a budgeting pro. And you can do all that and still have half your lunch break to waste as you please. Keeping a budget may take some getting used to, but you’re already on your way to smarter money management.

8 Reasons Parents Argue Over Money — and How to Stop Fighting

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By LearnVest

Are you and your spouse having arguments about money? Learn the most common reasons for money issues in a marriage and how to resolve them.

Getting engaged to my now-husband was one of the most exciting moments of my life, but, early on, that excitement quickly morphed into a knot of stress. When we started to talk about moving in together, we had a conversation about money. The next day I woke up with a queasy feeling.

I was a free spender, and my soon-to-be-husband had always been a saver. I would have to confess that I had credit card debt — and a lot of it. I’ll never forget the look on his face when I finally mustered up the courage to reveal how much I owed. He was flabbergasted, and then furious. I was sheepish and, of course, defensive.

The argument that ensued wasn’t exactly fun, but it was productive. After a lot of talking and negotiating, we came up with a money management plan to meet both our financial and emotional needs. Ten years later, both of us are still on the same page.

Money is the top reason couples fight, but it doesn’t have to be. Whether or not your resolutions have to do with strengthening your relationship, now is a great time to refresh the way you connect. I turned to experts Syble Solomon, financial expert and creator of the interactive tools Money Habitudes, and Taffy Wagner, D.Min., author of Bride and Groom Money Talk FAQ. They shared the top eight situations that couples fight about when it comes to money, and how the two of you can get on the same page — for keeps.

The Smooth Spender vs. the Savvy Saver

1. One of You Is a Spender and the Other Is a Saver

Why you fight: You have very different ideas and values when it comes to money. The spender feels constrained and the saver feels insecure. Couples often see only the negative side of their partners’ financial habits.

How to stop: Learn to recognize your partner’s financial strengths. Take buying a car as an example. While a saver may gravitate toward an inexpensive used car, the spender may want a new, more costly vehicle. To arrive at a compromise you can both live with, you want to combine the saver’s ability to sniff out a good deal with the spender’s ability to commit to a purchase.

The bottom line: Aim to make a better decision as a couple than you would as individuals. Before you make any big purchase, have a heart-to-heart about your needs and expectations, and set an absolute limit for how much money the two of you are willing to spend.

2. You Have a Single-Income Household

Why you fight: The person who earns the money expects to be in control of the spending; the non-earning partner in the relationship believes the decisions should be made jointly. This dynamic creates stress, conflict, and an imbalance of power.

How to stop: This issue really boils down to control, and marriage is a partnership. Using money to control your spouse — even subconsciously — can seriously damage your relationship. Start by broaching the subject at a calm time, not when you’re arguing about money, and explain your feelings. One technique that can help is setting a specific dollar amount for each partner’s discretionary spending, or agreeing that you’ll discuss any purchase over a certain limit before making it.

The bottom line: This can be a long-term issue. If one of you breaks the new rules you set, talk about why you did so, and make adjustments. If you still find yourselves at a stalemate, consider enlisting the help of a marriage counselor. An impartial third party can help each of you understand the other’s point of view.

The Perils of Different Priorities

3. You Disagree on Spending Priorities for the Kids

Why you fight: You’re not really arguing over private education versus saving for college, or designer duds versus second-hand shoes. What you’re really fighting about are values.

How to stop: If you don’t talk about the real issues, you’ll keep having the same fight over and over again. A lot of these conflicts arise from the way each spouse was raised. For example, maybe you went to private school and think that will set your kids up for a successful future, while your partner went to public school and thinks that will make your kids more self-sufficient. Either way, just explaining the emotions underlying each of your beliefs will help you find common ground.

The bottom line: Try to reach a compromise. Always start by asking if you’ll have to sacrifice anything to spend the money in question. If the conflict isn’t about the expense, hash out exactly what is behind it and meet halfway. Maybe you send your kids to private school but have them buy their own clothing with allowance money, or send them to public school but pay for extracurricular activities to provide extra enrichment.

4. You Have Debt

Why you fight: Dragging around debt always causes stress, especially if you can’t afford to pay it off — or if you disagree with your partner on whether to save your cash for a rainy day or pay off your outstanding balances.

How to stop: One of the easiest ways to alleviate the situation is to tackle that debt. For which debts to pay down first and how to balance that with savings, see Resources, below. To get aggressive and take care of your debt once and for all, take our free Get Out of Debt Boot Camp (see Resources, below). Either way, schedule a time to sit down, crunch the numbers (how much debt you have, what kind it is, how much savings you have, how much each of you earns), and decide what’s realistic.

The bottom line: You have to talk about your priorities; you might define security as being debt-free, whereas your partner feels safer with a hefty savings account. Once you understand each other, it will be easier to agree on an approach.

The Shame of Secret Spending

5. You Keep Your Bank Accounts Separate — But Maybe Not Equal

Why you fight: Maybe one person takes on more of the fixed expenses, like the mortgage, car payments, and insurance, while the other pays for the variable expenses, such as clothing, food, transportation and household items. Variable expenses can’t be predicted, so one partner can often wind up in the hole.

How to stop: Having separate accounts doesn’t have to be a source of conflict. A good rule of thumb is to divvy up the monthly expenses based on the percentage of income each person contributes to the household. For example, if one partner has an annual salary of $50,000 and the other makes $25,000, the partner who earns $50,000 can contribute twice what his or her spouse does.

The bottom line: It’s a good idea to sit down once a month and talk about what’s being spent and on what, so each person is aware of the entire financial picture.

6. One of You Is a “Secret Spender”

Why you fight: This is sometimes known as financial infidelity? It may be that one of you isn’t used to being accountable for your spending habits, or that you fear the reaction of your partner. But when your secret shopping sprees or piles of debt are discovered, your partner will feel betrayed, and you will be on the hot seat.

How to stop: If you’re already deep into your relationship when this pattern of behavior is revealed, there are several ways to handle it. Create a separate bank account for the spender and give him or her a fixed amount of spending money each month, or, if the situation is dire, enlist the help of a counselor to find out why the shopper feels the need to keep secrets.

The bottom line: The easiest way to avoid this fight is to have an open discussion about your spending habits before you ever merge your finances. If you’re already in the relationship, focus the conversation on the importance of trust.

The Trouble With Paying Bills on Time

7. The Designated Money Manager Doesn’t Pay Bills on Time

Why you fight: Obviously, the person who is failing to meet the financial obligations of the household is putting the family in financial danger (poor credit ratings, expensive late fees, or even foreclosure on a home). On the other hand, that person may feel overwhelmed and resentful at having to bear the financial responsibility.

How to stop: Set a date each month to sit down and sort through all the bills together. Take this time to discuss the overall state of your finances and solve issues as they come up. This way, one person won’t feel like he or she is shouldering all of the burden.

The bottom line: Look for practical ways to lessen the burden on the money manager, like signing up for automatic online bill payments. Or shift the responsibility to the other partner for a few months to see if that works better. The key is not to place blame, but to try to find a solution together.

8. One of You Borrows Money From Family — Without the Other Knowing

Why you fight: Borrowing money from a family member is always fraught with complications, and when in-laws are involved, the stakes are doubled. Those proverbial apron strings become reinforced with steel once you accept a loan. And, sooner or later, your partner is going to notice that you’re making a monthly payment to Mom.

How to stop: This argument comes down to trust. You want to discuss not just the fact that money was lent, but that the decision was made in isolation. Your partner should always be your first stop when it comes to solving financial problems.

The bottom line: If you’re strapped and your parents can or want to lend you some cash, talk to your partner before taking that check to the bank. If he or she objects, talk about what alternative options might be feasible.

http//:www.StLouisHomesByGina.com   636-229-8746   The Gina Koerner Team

Shoestring Decorating

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By Move, Inc

Sense of adventure, planning are keys to a great look

Good taste is expensive, right? Whether you’re a first-time apartment-renter fresh out of college, newly single, a single parent on a budget or you’re simply not Rockefeller, trying to make your home resemble the pages of House Beautiful can be a sobering experience. Window-shopping often is discouraging, as you realize that walking into a showroom and saying “I’ll take that” is an impossible dream. Being on a budget doesn’t mean that you have to resort to orange crates, cinder blocks and plastic dorm-room cubes, however. Indeed, there are bargains to be found, and here’s where the fun begins. All it takes is a sense of adventure – and a little advance planning.
First, take a look at your living space, whether it’s a cookie-cutter apartment, condominium or a single-family home. What is your favorite part of your home? (Saying that you don’t have a favorite part is not an answer.) Is it a large window that lets in the morning light? A window seat? A garden window? Some built-in shelves? You’ll want to capitalize on this and make it the focal point of that room.
If it’s the shelves, for example, you’ll want to be on the look-out for some interesting objects d’art. And they don’t have to cost you an arm and a leg, either. By the same token, if you’ve been hanging on to something that you don’t like simply because you felt you didn’t have any other options due to budgetary constraints, get rid of it if you can. If you can’t, can you hide it? Enhance it? How about selling it and using the money toward what you really want?
Create a dream book

Next, head to your library or book store. If your library has a used magazine sale (many libraries take magazine donations and then sell them for $.10 or $.25, for example), buy yourself a stack of decorating publications. Peruse them, and clip pictures of rooms and design elements that you like. Do you see some paint in a magazine photograph that you like? Clip that, too. Compile everything in one place, whether it’s a photo album or photo box, and write the name of each room on the appropriate clippings. When you’re on the hunt for items for a particular room in your home, bring the clippings with you.
Before you begin purchasing anything, think about your intended purpose for each room in your home. Do you want your home to be a soothing contrast to your stressful job? Muted colors and neutrals will be your best bet. Or do you want to feel energized by your surroundings? Then you might want to consider brighter and bolder colors. Do your tastes lean toward the casual side or the more formal side? That might depend on the surroundings in which you work (for example, if you work in a rigid, ultra-corporate environment, you might wish to keep your home surroundings deliberately more casual), your personality, whether or not you have children and whether or not you entertain frequently.
Slipcovers make an affordable change

If you’re not thrilled with your sofa, and a new one isn’t in your budget, slipcovers are the way to go. Watch out for sales during the summertime and in early January (“New Year’s” sales), when furniture stores are clearing out their inventories to make room for the new styles. That’s precisely the time when you can pick up a slipcover for a discount of 30 percent, 40 percent or more, and completely change the look of your living room. Add a few new pillows, and you’ll be amazed at the difference.
You don’t have to buy a card table and folding chairs for your kitchen.
Instead, put on your walking shoes, and get ready to do some comparison-shopping. Many stores offer inexpensive sets – a table and four kitchen chairs in butcher-block-style, for example, for one price. For an inexpensive route to new furniture, try your local unfinished furniture store. Many such places mass-produce comparatively inexpensive oak and/or pine pieces that can be painted if you wish, and dressed up with your own accessories. Stores such as Target, Wal-Mart, even your local supercenter or warehouse (such as Sam’s Club) carry respectable imitations of the coffee tables, end tables, bar stools, floor lamps, shelves, picture frames and other home-decor items you’ll spot in more expensive retail stores. These are excellent destinations for any shopper on a budget.
New curtains and paint create inexpensive drama

Think about adding some new curtains. Granted, those can be pricey, but they can also be inexpensive. Many balloon-style curtains and simple drapes may be purchased (particularly during periodic sales) for between $10 and $20. The addition of color adds warmth to any room. If you own your home and can paint, there’s a bit of psychology to keep in mind when it comes to color: blue creates serenity, and is intended to refresh and renew. Red increases intensity, gets the heart pumping and the blood pressure rising. Green, a popular choice right now, brings the outdoors indoors. It creates a sense of balance and harmony and can be a calming influence. Yellow and related shades are warm, cheery and inviting. And of course, a nice touch-up of white paint can renew your house dramatically.
Make your own art

For art, the best pieces are the original ones you create yourself. Buy a shadowbox, and insert dried flowers, black-and-white photos, magazine clippings, postcards, anything that holds personal significance. Head to the gift shop of your nearest museum or art gallery for poster-sized reprints and postcards for framing. While framing a piece of art can be extremely expensive, your local craft store holds reasonable facsimiles for a fraction of the cost. Select something simple; after all, the picture is what should be the center of your attention. Mirrors – even inexpensive ones – also are an excellent choice, and they create the illusion of depth.
Accessorize, accessorize, accessorize

Head to your nearest discount accessory store, and pick up accessories that attract attention without blowing your budget. Such pieces include unique photo frames, colored glass (an extremely inexpensive decoration), plate racks, linens, vases and pitchers with silk or other artificial flowers, and candles – including votives, candlesticks and larger varieties placed within glass bowls along with some potpourri. Remember that groupings of accessories are more visually striking than single items. If you have an empty corner, purchase a small table (craft stores sell them cheap, and you can place a fabric cover or skirt on top) or pedestal there, and top it with a plant. Remember that while more traditional styles favor more accessories and in some cases, even clutter, if it’s contemporary you’re aiming for, a more simple, streamlined appearance is best (which may be more realistic if your budget is tight).
No space is too small for dinner guests
If you do plan to entertain, keep in mind that many professional chefs say that there’s no space too small for a dinner party. You can always improvise. The company is indeed more important than the decor. Just make sure you have adequate seating to accommodate your guests, and that they are able to sit within a close distance to one another and talk. It doesn’t matter if your chairs are a hodge-podge of styles. It’s very possible to use what you have and create a warm atmosphere by arranging it in a way that encourages close conversation. A little re-arranging can completely change the feel of a room, lift your spirits and change your tune about those pieces you thought you didn’t like anymore.
Don’t rush any of your purchases. Take your time, and save your money for the items you know you want and can afford. If you have your heart set on a particular piece that’s a bit more than you can afford at the moment, by all means, start a savings account, and wait until the time is right. Scan the newspapers regularly for sales, and head to flea markets in your area. Even when you decide to purchase facsimiles of more expensive looks, you don’t have to sacrifice quality; there’s plenty of competition out there. Be selective, and avoid impulsive buys on cheap knock-offs. Landing the bargain of the century is half the fun. Happy hunting.
http//:www.StLouisHomesByGina.com   636-229-8746   The Gina Koerner Team
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