Category: Family Finance

5 Tips for Picking the Perfect Paint Palette

Keeping track of paint colors

If you’ve tried saving your paint swatches in the past and can never find them when you need them, try this simple trick: Write the name and type of paint you used for each room under the light switch plate. That way, you’ll know where the info is when you need it.

RELATED: Domestic CEO's 9 Unique Wall Décor Ideas

Glass pieces

Your friend has some leftover paint, but you’re not sure what it will look like when it dries. To find out, try this simple trick: Paint a piece of glass (a microscope slide works well, if you have one), then look at the color from the non-painted side. It will reflect what the dried color will look like.

Don’t let your white paint yellow

When painting walls and ceilings white, it’s best to add several drops of black paint into each can of white. Why? The paint will cover with fewer coats, and be more reflective. Many experts say it will also cause the paint to yellow less quickly.

SEE MORE: Who Knew's What Should You Do With Leftover Paint?

Make your own swatch book

When painting your house, it’s always a good idea to keep track of paint colors—you may need them to match future paint jobs or to help you coordinate other items in the house. Create swatches by dipping a 3-by-5-inch index card into your paint can and writing down the details.

Opt for “Oops Paint”

To save money on painting costs, check out the “oops paint” section (yes, that’s really what it’s called) of your local hardware store. You’ll find great deals on brand new cans of custom paint returned by customers who didn’t like the color. It’s a great way to find a color for an accent wall or even a primer at a huge discount. You’ll pay anywhere from one to five dollars per can, rather than $20 and up.

RELATED: The Relationship Doctor's How to Make Tough Decisions as a Couple

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Source: quickanddirtytips.com

How to Clean Jewelry Using Common Household Items

Baking soda

Easy DIY jewelry cleaner

Baking soda mixed with hydrogen peroxide is a great cleaner for lots of household objects, and it’s also a safe and effective cleaner when it comes to cleaning gold, silver, and costume jewelry. For best results, make a by adding drops of hydrogen peroxide to the baking soda, then rub gently on your jewelry. Rinse off and wipe dry. It gets rid of dirt, grime, and body oils, and leaves your gold and silver sparkling.

Quick and easy way to clean silver jewelry

If your silver jewelry is starting to look a little dull or needs polishing, stick it in a bowl with a few tablespoons of baking soda and a square of aluminum foil.  Let it sit for about 30 minutes, then wipe clean. The aluminum acts as a catalyst for ion exchange, a process that will make the tarnish transfer from your silver to the baking soda. This is the magic of science, folks!

Dishwashing detergent

Gem-polishing potions

Wondering how to keep your beautiful jewelry looking like the first day you wore it? Gentle dishwashing detergent and water plus a soft cloth can clean rubies, amethysts, citrines, emeralds, sapphires, and garnets. Diamonds can be washed similarly: Fill a small pot with a cup of water, plus a teaspoon of dishwasher detergent. Add your diamonds, bring the water to a boil, then turn off the heat and let the pot sit until it cools. Once it’s cool (but not before), carefully remove your jewelry and rinse.

Just make sure to wash each piece separately to avoid chipping.

See also: 12 Surprising Personal Uses for Baking Soda

Classic jewelry cleaning recipe

Here’s the recipe that we received from reader Madelyn Jessup, which her mother always used to wash her gold jewelry: Mix 1 teaspoon dishwashing liquid with ½ teaspoon ammonia and 1 cup warm water. Dip the jewelry into the solution for 10 seconds, and use an old toothbrush to brush off any marks. Your gold will look sparkling new!

… And other household items

Another easy clean for gems

The easiest way to clean emeralds, diamonds, rubies, and sapphires may be with club soda. Place your jewelry in a glass of it overnight and they will shine like new in the morning.

Related: 6 Clever Hacks to Solve Jewelry Mishaps

Get sparkling pearls with vegetable oil

Because they’re so fragile, pearls shouldn’t get wet—and can’t be cleaned with normal jewelry cleaners. Instead, use vegetable oil. Dab some oil on a soft cloth, then gently rub on each pearl. Let the vegetable oil dry overnight, then buff with a soft cloth to remove dust and oils that can make pearls look dull over time. The best way to care for a pearl (or coral) necklace is to wear it regularly—oils from your skin add a gentle luster.

Quick clean for costume jewelry

Clean costume or inexpensive jewelry by dropping two Alka Seltzer tablets into a glass of water. Immerse jewelry for about five minutes and pat dry with a clean towel.

These stones should never get wet: Since turquoise, opals, amber, and marcasite are porous stones, never immerse them in water. Instead, polish them with a soft, dry chamois (clean claws with a soft bristle brush). Wipe with sweet almond oil to remove any grease marks, if desired.

Just for fun: How to Insure Jewelry and Expensive Gifts

For more cleaning tips from all around the internet, check out our Cleaning Tips board on Pinterest. And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Instagram!

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

22 Alternative Uses for Baking Soda

A gentle swap for scouring powder

The best thing about scouring powder is its abrasive action. The worst is the harsh chemical smell. To get all the benefits without the caustic chemicals, use baking soda instead. In most instances, baking soda will work just as well as scouring powder.

Simply clean tiles

For an easy, natural tile cleaner, mix together ¼ cup baking soda and 1 gallon warm water. Scrub with a sponge or mop, then rinse. For tough stains, wait 10 to 15 before rinsing.

Love your grout again

Is there anything more satisfying than nice, clean grout? A simple paste of 3 parts baking soda and 1 part water is all you need. Make a new batch each time you plan to attack the space between your tiles.

Remove scuffs

To get rid of scuff marks left on vinyl flooring by dark-soled shoes, rub some baking soda into the spot with a wet rag. The marks will disappear.

Show off crystal-clean crystal

To clean your cut crystal, mix a teaspoon of baking soda with warm water, then dab it onto the crystal with a soft rag. Rinse with water, and buff with a dry, soft cloth.

Supercharge your detergent

To boost the power of your dishwasher detergent, sprinkle a little baking soda in the dishwasher every time you run it. It will also help fight foul odors before they start.

SEE ALSO: Who Knew's 12 Dishwasher Tips and Tricks

Know this skillet saver

The teriyaki chicken you made for dinner was delicious, but the sweet sauce left terrible black burns on the bottom of your frying pan. To clean it, first sprinkle the pan with ¼ to ½ cup baking soda, and fill the pan halfway with water. Bring the water to a boil, and the burned pieces should start to release. When most of the pieces are removed, turn off the heat, dump the water, and wash as usual.

As the water boils, you may want to use a spatula to help the process along. 

Get better-tasting coffee

The secret many of us miss: Make sure you clean your coffee maker regularly. Just add several tablespoons of baking soda to your pot, fill it with water, and run it as usual. Then repeat using only water.

Tackle tough appliances

If you haven’t had time to clean up and now there’s dried-on food stuck in the blades of your blender or food processor, bring baking soda to the rescue. Add 1 tablespoon baking soda along with 1 cup warm water to the bowl, put the lid on, and let it blend for 10 to 15 seconds. Wash as usual.

Perk up your plastic

Have plastic storage containers with lingering odors? Wash them with hot water plus 2 tablespoons baking soda.

I can’t even count how many times our boys have left something to fester in a water bottle or thermos! Simply fill the container with hot water and ½ cup baking soda, then let it sit overnight. In the morning, rinse well and it should be as good as new.

The brightest white cabinets

White kitchen cabinets can be beautiful, but they can also show grease, dust, and dirt more than their darker counterparts. To keep them looking their best, add water to a small amount of baking soda until it’s a runny paste. Scrub the mixture on the cabinets, and then rinse with warm water.

Simple step to a shiny sink

For a spectacularly shiny finish on a stainless steel or aluminum sink, rub a liberal amount of baking soda in a circular motion all over its surface with a damp sponge.

RELATED: Domestic CEO's How to Clean Your Sink

Disposal smarts

Instead of throwing away baking soda when it’s finished its 30-day stint in your fridge, dump it down the garbage disposal with running water. It will keep your disposal fresh, too!

Freshen rugs and upholstery

Sprinkle rugs, couches, and upholstered chairs with baking soda and let it sit an hour before you vacuum. It will keep them cleaner and fresher over the long haul.

Sprinkle some baking soda into the bag of your vacuum cleaner to keep it smelling fresh.

Save money on delicate detergents

Use this homemade solution: Dissolve 1 cup baking soda in 1 cup warm water. Add the solution directly to your standard washing machine, or add it to the soap dispenser of a front loader. The baking soda will clean your clothes without harming their delicate fibers.

All-Natural Fabric Softener: Just add ¼ to ½ cup baking soda to the wash cycle.

Erase wall marks

What’s the easiest way to remove crayon, pencil, ink, and furniture scuffs from painted surfaces? Sprinkle baking soda on a damp sponge, rub clean, and rinse.

Vinyl siding super-cleaner

From bird poop to tree sap to standard weather damage, vinyl siding can get very dirty. And while brand-name cleaners will no doubt get the job done, they tend to be costly and loaded with toxic chemicals. Instead, combine baking soda with enough water to form a paste, then scrub into your siding with a damp rag until the stains lift. Rinse off with a hose and, if necessary, repeat on stubborn stains.

Lift oil stains

Cleaning oil spots off the driveway is difficult, and the cleaners can be quite expensive. Instead, sprinkle baking soda over the stains, then rub with a wet scrub brush soaked with hot water. The baking soda breaks apart oil particles, so with a little elbow grease, you can have your driveway looking new in no time.

Clean battery leaks

If battery acid leaks inside the compartments of your appliances, there’s no need to throw them away. Simply take a few spoonfuls of baking soda and add water until it’s the consistency of toothpaste. Spread it on your battery terminals, let it sit for 15 minutes, and wipe clean. The acid should come off easily.

Must-try for musty books

Place the books in a paper grocery bag with an open box of baking soda. Fold over the bag, staple it shut, and let it sit for a week or two. Your books should smell considerably better when you take them out.

Refresh suitcases

Is your suitcase a bit musty? The night before packing, pour a cup of baking soda in it, close it, and shake. In the morning, vacuum up the baking soda and the smell should be gone.

Get gloves on more easily

Sprinkle a little baking soda into each of your latex gloves, and they’ll stick less when you’re putting them on and taking them off.

If you have kids, you’ve had to clean up vomit. Baking soda can make the job a little less gross if you sprinkle some on top as soon as possible. It will soak up some of the mess and make the smell easier to deal with when you have to go at it with the paper towels.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

What You Need to Know About Budgeting for Maternity Leave

Prepping for a new baby’s arrival might kick your nesting instinct into high gear, as you make sure everything is just right before the big day. One thing to add to your new-baby to-do list is figuring out how to financially prepare for maternity leave if you’ll be taking time away from work.

Lauren Mochizuki, a nurse and budgeting expert at personal finance blog Casa Mochi, took time off from work for the births of both her children. Because she had only partial paid leave each time, she says a budget was critical in making sure money wasn’t a source of stress.

“The purpose of budgeting for maternity leave is to have enough money saved to replace your income for your desired leave time,” Mochizuki says.

But the question “How do I budget for maternity leave?” is a big one. One thing’s for sure—the answer will be different for everyone, since not everyone’s leave or financial situation is the same. What matters most is taking action early to get a grip on your finances while there’s still time to plan.

Before you get caught up in the new-baby glow, here’s what you need to do to financially prepare for maternity leave:

1. Estimate how long you’ll need your maternity budget to last

To financially prepare for maternity leave, you need to know how long you plan to be away from work without pay.

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows eligible employees up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave from work per year for certain family and medical reasons, including for the birth of a child. Some employers may also offer a period of paid leave for new parents.

The amount of unpaid maternity leave you take will determine the budget you’ll need while you’re away.

When estimating how long you’ll need your maternity budget to last, Mochizuki says to consider how much unpaid leave you plan to take based on your personal needs and budget. For example, you could find you’re not able to take the full period offered by FMLA after reviewing your expenses (more on that below) and how much you have in savings.

Even if your employer does offer paid maternity leave, you may decide to extend your time at home by supplementing your paid leave with unpaid time off, Mochizuki says.

Keep in mind that despite all of your budgeting for maternity leave, your health and the health of your baby may also influence how much unpaid time off you take and how long your maternity leave budget needs to stretch.

As you’re financially preparing for maternity leave, make sure your spouse or partner is also considering what benefits may be available to them through their employer. Together you should know what benefits are available for maternity or paternity leave, either paid or unpaid, and how to apply for them as you jointly navigate the budgeting for maternity leave process. You can then decide how to coordinate the amount of time each of you should take and when that leave should begin.

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Contact your HR department to learn about your company’s maternity leave policy, how to apply for leave and whether there are any conditions you need to meet to qualify for leave. Ask if you’re able to leverage sick days, vacation days or short-term disability for paid maternity leave.

2. Babyproof your budget

When budgeting for maternity leave, make sure you review your current monthly budget to assess how budgeting for a new baby fits in.

In Mochizuki’s case, she and her husband added a category to save for maternity leave within their existing budget for household expenses (e.g., mortgage, utilities, groceries).

“We treated it as another emergency fund, meaning we had a goal of how much we wanted to save and we kept working and saving until we reached that goal,” Mochizuki says.

Figure out what new expenses might be added to your budget and which existing ones might reduce to financially prepare for maternity leave.

As you financially prepare for maternity leave, consider the following questions:

  • What new expenses need to be added to your budget? Diapers, for instance, can cost a family around $900 per year, according to the National Diaper Bank Network. You may also be spending money on formula, bottles, wipes, clothes and toys for your new one, all of which can increase your monthly budget. And don’t forget the cost of any new products or items that mom will need along the way. Running the numbers with a first-year baby costs calculator can help you accurately estimate your new expenses and help with financial planning for new parents.
  • Will any of your current spending be reduced while you’re on leave? As you think about the new expenses you’ll need to add when budgeting for maternity leave, don’t forget the ones you may be able to nix. For example, your budget may dip when it comes to commuting costs if you’re not driving or using public transit to get to work every day. If you have room in your budget for meals out or entertainment expenses, those may naturally be cut if you’re eating at home more often and taking it easy with the little one.

3. Tighten up the budget—then tighten some more

Once you’ve evaluated your budget, consider whether you can streamline it further as you financially prepare for maternity leave. This can help ease any loss of income associated with taking time off or counter the new expenses you’ve added to your maternity leave budget.

Becky Beach, founder of Mom Beach, a personal finance blog for moms, says that to make her maternity leave budget work—which included three months of unpaid leave—she and her husband got serious about reducing unnecessary expenses.

Find ways to reduce costs on bills like insurance and groceries to help save for maternity leave.

Cut existing costs

As you budget for maternity leave, go through your existing budget by each spending category.

“The best tip is to cut costs on things you don’t need, like subscriptions, movie streaming services, new clothes, eating out, date nights, etc.,” Beach says. “That money should be earmarked for your new baby’s food, clothes and diapers.”

Cutting out those discretionary “wants” is an obvious choice, but look more closely at other ways you could save. For example, could you negotiate a better deal on your car insurance or homeowner’s insurance? Can you better plan and prep for meals to save money on food costs? How about reducing your internet service package or refinancing your debt?

Find ways to earn

Something else to consider as you budget for maternity leave is how you could add income back into your budget if all or part of your leave is unpaid and you want to try and close some of the income gap. For example, before your maternity leave starts, you could turn selling unwanted household items into a side hustle you can do while working full time to bring in some extra cash and declutter before baby arrives.

Reduce new costs

As you save for maternity leave, also think about how you could reduce expenses associated with welcoming a new baby. Rather than buying brand-new furniture or clothing, for example, you could buy those things gently used from consignment shops, friends or relatives and online marketplaces. If someone is planning to throw a baby shower on your behalf, you could create a specific wish list of items you’d prefer to receive as gifts in order to offset costs.

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4. Set a savings goal and give every dollar a purpose

When Beach and her husband saved for maternity leave, they set out to save $20,000 prior to their baby’s birth. They cut their spending, used coupons and lived frugally to make it happen.

In Beach’s case, they chose $20,000 since that’s what she would have earned over her three-month maternity leave, had she been working. You might use a similar guideline to choose a savings goal. If you’re receiving paid leave, you may strive to save enough to cover your new expenses.

Setting a savings goal and tracking expenses before the new baby arrives is an easy way to save for maternity leave.

As you make your plan to save for maternity leave, make sure to account for your loss of income and the new expenses in your maternity leave budget. Don’t forget to factor in any savings you already have set aside and plan to use to help you financially prepare for maternity leave.

Once you’ve come up with your savings target, consider dividing your maternity savings into different buckets, or categories, to help ensure the funds last as long as you need them to. This could also make it harder to overspend in any one category.

For instance, when saving for maternity leave, you may leverage buckets like:

  • Planned baby expenses
  • Unexpected baby costs or emergencies
  • Mother and baby healthcare

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“The purpose of budgeting for maternity leave is to have enough money saved to replace your income for your desired leave time.”

– Lauren Mochizuki, budgeting expert at Casa Mochi

Budgeting for maternity leave—and beyond

Once maternity leave ends, your budget will evolve again as your income changes and new baby-related expenses are introduced. As you prepare to go back to work, review your budget again and factor in any new costs. For example, in-home childcare or daycare may be something you have to account for, along with ongoing healthcare costs for new-baby checkups.

Then, schedule a regular date going forward to review your budget and expenses as your baby grows. You can do this once at the beginning or end of the month or every payday. Take a look at your income and expenses to see what has increased or decreased and what adjustments, if any, you need to make to keep your budget running smoothly.

Budgeting for maternity leave takes a little time and planning, but it’s well worth the effort. Knowing that your finances are in order lets you relax and enjoy making memories—instead of stressing over money.

The post What You Need to Know About Budgeting for Maternity Leave appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.

Source: discover.com

17 Tips to Transform Your Outdoor Space

Whether it's improving your garden or making your patio BBQ-friendly, these clever tips will have you taking your space to the next level, all for practically nothing.

Beautiful Natural Spaces

1. Bring in the Birds
Don’t throw out those net bags that onions and citrus fruits come in! In early spring, fill them with anything that might appeal to nest-building birds: pet hair, human hair, lint, plant clippings. Then tie off the bag and hang so birds can help themselves and nest nearby. You can use the same bags to serve suet to your feathered friends in the winter.

2. DIY Birdbath
Want to try a birdbath but don’t want the expense and commitment of those heavy commercial types? Simply use a sturdy tomato cage as your base, topped with a round drainage tray for potted plants. It’s easy to move and very affordable! Place some colorful marbles or pebbles in the tray before adding water—the brighter the color, the better to attract birds.

3. Get Reddy for Hummingbirds
These fast fliers are attracted to red. But if your garden color scheme is less fire engine and more pastel, you can fake it. Just wire some red silk flowers around the garden until they discover nectar-filled flowers you’ve offered in other colors.

4. Make Your Own Nectar
Don’t spend money on hummingbird nectar when it’s so simple to make! Just dissolve 1 part sugar in 3 parts water, then add a few drops of orange extract or orange juice. Use it immediately, or keep it in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

5. The Butterfly Water Cooler
Butterflies like puddles to gather around and drink. Make a butterfly water station out of an old cookie sheet or big saucer lined with gravel. You can also “plant” an old mug up to its rim in the soil, and fill it with water when rainwater doesn’t keep it supplied.

6. Baby Your Garden
Got some old baby gear in the basement or attic? Make your family wonder by getting it out! Then take it outside. Baby gates, spindle cribs, and even the metal springs from cribs make easy trellises you can train flowers or vegetable vines to climb.

7. Stones From a Tree
Having a tree taken down? Put it to good use! Cut some “slices” (about 2 inches thick) to use as stepping-stones.

8. Mulch with Souvenirs
Every beach vacation, we bring home more shells and stones than we can use for decoration around the house. So we now bring many into our outdoor spaces. They make perfect mulch and accents around plants, just like purchased pebbles from home centers (without the steep price)!

Outdoor Problems Solved!

9. A Sweet Concrete Cleaner
Powdered lemonade mix can come to the rescue to help scrub away stains on your concrete! Simply add a few drops of water to the drink mix, just enough to form a paste. Apply the paste to a concrete stain and use a stiff scrub brush to scrub the area clean.

Entertaining Ideas

10. Lanterns for Much Less
Trendy outdoor décor stores sell lanterns for a pretty penny. But you can make your own with all kinds and sizes of jars—from baby food and minced garlic to pasta sauce and even large pickle jars. Once they’re clean with the labels removed, simply place a votive candle in the jar. You can add pebbles or sand to the jar to raise the height of the candle or steady a taller candle. Want a hanging lantern? Fine-gauge wire can be bent to form a handle, with the rest wrapped around the mouth of the jar to secure.

11. Create Your Own Luminarias
Have empty tin cans you can repurpose? Fill them with water and freeze overnight. Once frozen solid, you can use a large nail and hammer to punch holes in a decorative design on the cans. Need a guide? Draw the design you want with a dry-erase marker that you can wipe off later. After the design is complete, simply let the water thaw, empty, and dry the can. Light a tea light inside for your own custom luminaria!

12. Color Swatch Your Lights
White string lights can go from simple to sensational with a trip to the paint counter—or maybe even your junk drawer! Collect some paint swatch strips in fabulous, bright colors. Curl them into cylinders (with the color sides facing out) and secure with clear tape. Slip one sleeve over each bulb on your light string, and attach it to the wire with tape or a small binder clip. Magical mini lampshades for free!

13. Ladder Up
Need more serving space while entertaining? Place plywood planks across the rungs of a stepladder. Runners can cover the plywood for a fancier look. Now you have a tiered serving station for food or drinks that tucks away again until the next time you need it!

14. Protect Those Drinks
Keep bugs out of drinks by supplying cupcake liners. They easily slip over the tops of cans and glasses. And you can pop a straw through them if desired. Put a stack in a mason jar for a pretty display that you can label with the intended use.

15. Forget the Ice
Replace the ice for your drink cooler, tub, or kiddie pool with frozen water balloons. To make them, fill the balloons two-thirds full and stick in the freezer. When the drinks are gone and the ice has melted at the end of the day, have fun!

16. Condiment Cleanup
Repurpose inexpensive, clear soap dispenser pumps as condiment servers. You’ll upgrade your picnic table from plastic bottles, and make topping that burger or hotdog easier, with less mess.

17. S’more Solutions
Is it feeling crowded around the fire, or are flames rising too high for kids to toast s’mores? Line terra-cotta pots with aluminum foil. Then add charcoal and light. These handy little cookers allow each person to have their own fire to toast marshmallows with ease. Sticking with one big fire but need to toast a lot of marshmallows for the hungry masses? Use a clean metal rake to fit them all over the fire at once.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com