6 Ways To Save On Summer Vacation

couple in living room packing pool toys for vacation tripHere are some easy to follow tips that can help you save on your summer vacation.

  1. Time it right
    Experts say the sweet spot for cheapest flight booking is 54 days before your travel date.
  2. Clear your cache before every new flight search
    This way, airlines can’t access your browser history and inflate the prices they offer you.
  3. Sweet-talk your way to savings
    Ask for an upgrade at the check-in counter. About 78% of hotel guests who request an upgrade at the front desk actually get one.
  4. Never pay full price
    Check sites like coupondivas.com, entertainment.com and Groupon.com for deep discounts at local eateries and entertainment centers.
  5. Freebie fun
    Search local sites and blogs for write-ups about free things to do near your destination.
  6. Save your mega event for the last day
    Finish your vacation on a high note by saving your most exciting event for the last day of your trip.

Your Turn:
How do you save big while getting the most out of your summer vacation? Share your best hacks with us in the comments!

Book Review: You Need A Budget

You Need a Budget book coverYou Need A Budget: The Proven System For Breaking The Paycheck-to-Paycheck Cycle, Getting Out Of Debt, And Living The Life You Want

How do you budget? Do you follow the 50-30-20 rule? Are you careful to pay yourself first? Do you tweak your budget each month to suit current needs and then play catch-up when you inevitably fall behind?

Or maybe you’re one of the thousands of people across the globe who have embraced the You Need a Budget (YNAB) approach and changed your relationship with money forever.

The YNAB methodology was introduced years ago through specialized software and a series of lectures by its creator, Jesse Mecham. Now you can read all about this brilliant budgeting method in the Wall Street Journal’s bestseller, You Need a Budget. There’s no need to purchase software or attend classes to incorporate the YNAB platform; it works perfectly well with an old-fashioned spreadsheet or even paper and pencil.

YNAB stands apart from most budgeting advice because of its innate flexibility. While traditional budgeting wisdom advocates using specific percentages of your income for different spending categories, Mecham is careful not to tell you what to do with your money. Instead, he encourages readers to design their own plans using YNAB’s Four Rules:

  • Give Every Dollar A Job. Designate a specific task for all the money you earn.
  • Embrace Your True Expenses. Budget for expected, but irregular, expenses like car repairs, insurance premiums and holidays. By building these into your budget, the large, occasional bills won’t throw you for a loop.
  • Roll With The Punches. Life is inherently dynamic, and your budget must follow suit. A flexible budget is sustainable and realistic.
  • Age Your Money. When you incorporate the first three rules, you’ll start having more funds to spare. Learn to stretch the time between earning a dollar and spending it so you can shatter the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle for good.

In You Need a Budget, Mecham examines those rules in detail while exploring the priorities that might be shaping your budget. He talks about budgeting as a couple, sharing expenses and teaching your kids about money management and financial responsibility. The book is packed with actionable advice and tips, and is sprinkled with personal accounts of people who have embraced the YNAB approach to budgeting.

Some readers don’t like the fact that the last of the four rules has been changed from “Live on Last Month’s Income” to “Age Your Money.” They claim the old rule was more measurable and effective and that the new one is too vague and harder to implement.

Most readers, though, find the book to be fascinating and transformative. If you’re wondering why thousands of people are avid followers of the YNAB budgeting platform, and you’re longing to stop living hand-to-mouth, read this book.

Your Turn:
Do you follow the YNAB approach to budgeting? Share your experience with us in the comments.

SOURCES:

https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/articles/best-personal-finance-books-to-read

https://www.sixfiguresunder.com/you-need-a-budget-book-review/

https://www.amazon.com/You-Need-Budget-Paycheck-Paycheck-ebook/dp/B071Y2XSFN

4 Ways To Finance A Home Renovation

family renovating their houseHome Equity Line of Credit
A Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) is an open credit line that is secured by your home’s value. HELOCs offer flexible terms and lower upfront costs than most other loans.

Home Equity Loan
A Home Equity Loan (HE) allows you to borrow a fixed amount of cash, which you receive in one lump sum. However, upfront fees can be high.

Credit cards
Credit cards can work for minor touch-ups, but funding bigger projects this way can leave you with steep interest payments and end up costing much more than planned.

Personal loans
Personal loans are short-term loans that sometimes have high interest rates and upfront fees.

Do your research and talk with us at Advantage One to help find the best option for your needs.

Your Turn:
How did you fund your home renovation? Share your choice with us in the comments!

Gas Price And Station Apps

Don’t hit the brakes on your summer road trip plans just because of sticker shock at the pump. Use these gasoline pricing apps to help you find the cheapest nearby options, keeping your budget on full all summer long!

GasBuddy logo1.) GasBuddy
This highly rated app is a favorite among 70 million users for good reason. GasBuddy allows you to search for gas stations near any ZIP code or city and then finds you the station with the cheapest gasoline. You can filter the options the app brings up by brand, price or location. You can also search for gas stations that have additional features, like restrooms, eateries and car washes.

  • Best features
    GasBuddy takes its mission of saving you money very seriously. Sign up for the app’s loyalty program and you can save $0.15/gallon for your first pump and $0.05/gallon on every subsequent refuel. Enjoy additional perks by reporting price changes to help the app keep its information current. You can also sign up for daily alerts about price drops–and hikes–in your area.

    The cost-free app also allows you to search according to very specific criteria, including the type of gas you need, such as diesel or premium unleaded. This can save you a frustrating trip to a gas station that can’t actually help you fill ‘er up.

  • Glaring glitches
    GasBuddy depends on user input to maintain its accuracy, but correcting price listings on the app can be tedious. Of course, you can ignore all the app’s mistakes, but then you’ll only be contributing to its inaccuracy.

Gas Guru logo2.) GasGuru

GasGuru offers users a more streamlined interface than similar apps. Data is plucked off the Oil Price Information Service instead of being shared by users, so you don’t have to bother with updating gas prices after you pull into a station. The free app offers a super-comprehensive list of gas stations near your current location and places you often visit so you can determine whether it’s cheaper to fill up near your home or your workplace. Filter your search by fuel type and look up eateries, repair shops and more on the app.

  • Best Features
    Say you’re out of town on a business trip and you need to refuel. You find the best-priced gas station in the area that meets your needs, but you have no idea how to get there! GasGuru makes it simple with an automatic navigation option. Just hit the “Get Directions” icon near a listed gas station and the app instantly launches Google Maps to show the way. Also, GasGuru uses just 3MB while still offering a fantastic interface. Contrast this with other gas apps’ 20-30MB and you’ve got one small, but super-powerful app.
  • Glaring Glitches
    Despite its more professional approach toward obtaining gas prices, users complain that GasGuru’s listed prices are more often inaccurate than accurate. Another annoying aspect of the app is the fact that you can only view one category of locations at a time. Also, some users dislike the fact that GasGuru will not specify if the listed prices refer to cash or credit payments at the pump.

Waze logo3.) Waze
Yes, the app that has helped you get from point A to point B without getting lost more times than you can count is also a great resource for finding the cheapest gas. Just hit the Settings icon on the app, and then tap the Gas Stations option. You can now select a gas station brand or a type of gas you’d like to search for, and then sort your search by price, distance or brand. Of course, once you’ve found the station you want to use, Waze will show you how to get there as quickly as possible. Prices are updated constantly and are consistently accurate. Some stations even offer a “Waze-only” deal on their prices for users of the popular navigation app.

  • Best Features
    Waze makes it super-easy to find the gas station with the best price at the best location. As soon as you hit the search button, it’ll show you a list of nearby gas stations with the exact amount of minutes each choice is off your route. Pricing is also easy to see at a glance; Waze color-codes its list of stations so you can easily compare prices.
  • Glaring Glitches
    Waze keeps itself going with ads for eateries, coffee shops and all kinds of attractions you happen to be passing on your way to your destination. Some users find these ads to be incredibly intrusive.

How they stack up

AppSpecial DealsUser DependentConsistently AccurateBuilt-In Navigation
GasBuddyYesYesYesYes
Gas GuruNoNoNoNo
WazeYesNoYesYes

Your Turn:
What’s your favorite gasoline price finder app? Tell us about it in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.moneycrashers.com/best-iphone-apps-cheap-local-gas-prices/

https://electronics.howstuffworks.com/gadgets/automotive/5-iphone-car-apps2.htm

https://www.thebalance.com/best-apps-for-cheap-gas-4153833

https://www.slant.co/questions/1538

8 Side Hustles Anyone Can Do

Young lady drives young men to their destination in her minivanWho wouldn’t love some extra pocket money? These freelance jobs don’t require any experience and can be done by practically anyone. Plus, some of them might pay you for tasks you’re already doing! Read on for eight easy side hustles and to find those that may be right for you.

1.) Play with dogs
This job is for true animal-lovers. Why not earn some extra cash watching your furry friends? When you offer your services as a dog-walker or pet-sitter, you can charge as much as $25 an hour, depending on the going rate in your area. To get the word out, you can hang up flyers to advertise your services or sign up with Rover, an Uber-like service that matches up pet-owners and sitters for a small fee.

2.) Social media guru
Yes, your Facebooking talents and clever tweets really are marketable skills. You can offer your services to local and remote businesses as their social media brander. Depending on your skill set, you can write the company blog posts, manage their Facebook page, post new pics on Instagram and send out their tweets. You’ll need to get a feel for the core values and mission statement of the company you represent, but otherwise, it’s just doing what you love on your favorite social media platforms!

3.) Yard work
Do you wield real power with a weed-whacker? Are you an expert lawn mower? Get paid for tending to people’s yards. You can charge by the hour or per job. You may also want to do a survey of other local yard workers to get a good idea of fair asking prices.

4.) Take online surveys for pay
Make the time you spend online count by taking surveys on sites like Survey Junkie, Inbox Dollars and Swagbucks. Most of these sites are easy to use and will pay you as soon as you complete a survey. It’s a quick, easy way to pad your wallet with extra cash.

5.) Turn trashed items into treasure
If you’re crafty and love working with your hands, this one’s for you!

Late spring is the perfect time for finding discarded pieces of furniture in the trash. Take a spin around the neighborhood, scouring each block for curbside furniture in decent condition. Haul your finds home and get to work, refinishing, painting, changing drawer pulls and more to give the tossed piece of furniture new life. When you’ve finished glamming up your treasure, put it up for sale at a local flea market, sell it to a second-hand or consignment shop or market it online through eBay or Craigslist. If you really work at it, you may be able to turn a trashed piece of furniture into several hundred dollars.

6.) Work for Uber
The ride-sharing giant gives the term “flexible job” new meaning by allowing you to set your own schedule and decide just how many hours you want to devote to driving passengers.

If you don’t like the idea of strangers riding in your car, you can work for Uber Eats instead. With this sister service of Uber, you get paid to pick up fast-food meals and deliver them to customers. Uber Eats offers the same flexibility and great terms as the original Uber and, in some locations, you can even deliver the food on a bike or scooter. It’s a fantastic way to boost your income without committing to long hours or hard work.

7.) It’s fair time!
Summer is the season for local fairs of all kinds. Spend some time researching community fairs in your town and the surrounding areas. Is there one scheduled that features a special talent of yours? If you know you can bake a mean pie or you’ve been told your caramel fudge is to die for, try your hand at competing in a fair that features these competitions. You can earn hundreds of dollars in award prizes just for doing something you enjoy. Plus, there’s no limit to how many fairs you can enter each summer, so you can do this over and over again.

8.) Teach and tutor
Are you a geometry whiz or a genuine science buff? Offer your services as an individual tutor for school-aged children this summer and you’ll have a meaningful way to earn extra money. You can help a struggling student work through summer homework or pass makeup exams so they earn their promotion to the next grade. You’ll be using your brains to make a difference in a child’s life while making good money on the side.

If you’ve got a spectacular talent outside the classroom, you can use it to make money this summer by teaching it to students who want to learn how to do it, too. Specialized instructors like guitar teachers or art coaches can charge a pretty penny per session.

While it helps in some cases, you don’t need special training or credentials for earning extra pocket money. Use this list to find the side hustle that works for you and start boosting your income.

Your Turn:
Do you have a side job you love? Tell us all about it in the comments.

SOURCES:

https://www.thebalancecareers.com/part-time-jobs-to-boost-income-4126475

https://workfromhomehappiness.com/internet-jobs/

https://financebuzz.com/ways-to-make-extra-money/

What’s Up With WhatsApp?

WhatsApp Logo on green backgroundA cybersecurity breach in Facebook’s WhatsApp app last month left users vulnerable to spyware attacks via voice calls. An undetermined number of the 1.5 billion users of the popular messaging app may have had malicious spyware installed on their devices.

Let’s take a closer look at the security breach and the steps you can take to protect yourself, both now and in the future.

What happened?
Security breaches are old news in the app world, but a breach of extremely high magnitude and reach is something new and fairly frightening. The fact that the breach hit WhatsApp is especially alarming. WhatsApp utilizes strong encryption for both voice and text messaging and is used as a communication platform for government and security officials around the world.

Here’s how it went down:
A government-grade intelligence collection tool was employed to target WhatsApp users via voice calls. The spyware has been endowed with the ability to seize control of the affected smartphones and to access any private information stored on the device.

The spyware utilized in the attack was allegedly created by the NSO Group, an Israeli cyber surveillance company that has developed this advanced technology for the express purpose of allowing government agencies to infiltrate terrorist groups and to fight crime. Unfortunately, when the spyware fell into the wrong hands, it helped scammers pull off one of the greatest cybersecurity breaches of all time.

The Financial Times reported that the WhatsApp breach was made possible because of a loophole in the app’s code that allowed hackers to transmit spyware onto smartphones by calling targets through the app. The malicious code could be injected into the device whether the user picked up the call or ignored it.

According to WhatsApp, the cyber breach was first discovered in early May and had been used to target an undisclosed number of WhatsApp users. The Facebook-owned messaging company claimed it briefed human rights organizations about the breach and also asked U.S. law enforcement agencies to assist it in conducting an investigation. When WhatsApp had more definite information, it notified the public about the breach.

Who was affected?
It doesn’t matter what kind of phone you have; the security vulnerability affects both iPhone and Android devices. The good news is that not every version of WhatsApp was affected. To check whether the version you have on your phone was part of those impacted by the breach, check out Facebook’s official advisory confirming the vulnerability, which outlines which versions were affected.

The messaging giant has not confirmed a specific number of targeted victims. Rather, it has only shared that a “select number of users were targeted through this vulnerability by an advanced cyber actor.”

What do I need to do now?
Since the vulnerability that caused the breach lies in the makeup of the app and not in an unsafe or negligent practice in the hands of a user, there is no way you could have prevented your device from being affected. However, now that the facts are on the table, you can take the recommended steps to keep your device safe from this vulnerability.

Since the breach was discovered, WhatsApp engineers have been working hard to close the app’s security vulnerability. The company has started installing a fix to servers and to private customers. It has also created an updated, safer version of the app that it has urged all users to employ on their devices as soon as possible.

Here’s a quick guide for updating your WhatsApp.

  • For iPhone users: Open the App Store, choose updates, select WhatsApp and then click Update.
  • For Android users: Open the Play Store, click the three lines in the upper left-hand corner, choose My Apps & Games, select WhatsApp and then hit Update.

If you haven’t yet updated your device, do it now. It only takes a few seconds of your time to make sure your WhatsApp is operating at its safest level.

You never know when those scammers are going to hit next. Practice safe measures by always using the latest version of any application or operating system, keeping yourself in the know about recent security breaches and never sharing sensitive information online.

Stay safe!

Your Turn:
How do you keep yourself safe from security breaches? Share your tips with us in the comments.

SOURCES:

https://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/gauteng/consumerwatch-what-you-should-know-about-whatsapp-breach-23607175

https://www.people.com/human-interest/whatsapp-security-breach-update-app/amp/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/zakdoffman/2019/05/14/whatsapps-cybersecurity-breach-phones-hit-with-israeli-spyware-over-voice-calls/amp/

Don’t Get Caught In A Pyramid Scheme!

Man in suit looking worriedly at computer screenPyramid schemes are just one of the many ways scammers capitalize on human greed. These business-centered schemes have been around for years, but scammers are still growing rich off victims. Recently, the state of Washington sued LuLaRoe, a massive pyramid operation that had collected millions of dollars from small business owners who believed it to be a legitimate organization.

Pyramid schemes are especially dangerous because they can be difficult to spot. They make every effort to appear legitimate, and are often confused with authentic multi-level marketing (MLM) companies.

Let’s take a look at what constitutes a pyramid scheme and how to avoid falling into their trap.

What is a Pyramid Scheme?
A pyramid scheme is a system in which participating members earn money by recruiting an ever-expanding number of “investors.” The initial promoters of the business stand on top of the pyramid. They will recruit additional investors, who will each also recruit even more investors. At each level, the number of investors multiplies. Investors earn a profit for each new recruit, and pass on some of the profit to their recruiters. The further up on a pyramid an investor is, the more money they will earn.

Sometimes, pyramid schemes involve the sale of a product, but that is usually just an attempt to appear authentic. The product will typically be faulty, and will obviously not be the focus of the business. The main object of all pyramid schemes is to recruit new investors in a never-ending quest for expansion.

It may be difficult to spot the crime here—and pyramid schemes are actually legal in some states. However, there are definitely underhanded tactics you’ll want to be aware of with every pyramid scheme.

First, new investors need to pay a fee for the right to sell a product or service, and to recruit others for monetary reward. This fee can be quite steep. Essentially, the recruiter is paying the salary of their superiors.

Also, as mentioned, if a product is sold, it is likely faulty or damaged and will not sell well. Recruiters might be required to purchase the product themselves. To make it even worse, the company will refuse to take back products that are deemed unsalable.

Finally, every pyramid scheme is set to fail because they are dependent on the ability to recruit more investors. Because there is a limited number of people in any community, every pyramid scheme will eventually collapse, leaving only those at the top with a profit.

What is Multi-Level Marketing?
MLM companies are often confused with pyramid schemes, but there are some distinctions that set them apart.

First, MLM companies work by selling products directly to consumers without a retail store or website. Distributors or salespeople will market the products on their own and will also train and recruit additional distributors. Each distributor earns a commission on each sale, as well as commission on the sales of the distributors they’ve recruited.

You might have unknowingly encountered an MLM business or even purchased their products. Some MLM companies include Avon, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Amway, and Scentsy. These are all completely legitimate businesses, with no devious intent.

The primary difference between MLM companies and pyramid schemes is the reliable line of products or services that stand behind each MLM company. The bulk of the company’s profits come from sales, not from recruiting new investors.

Also, authentic MLM businesses will never leave their distributors with unsold products. They will gladly buy back unsold merchandise, though often at a discounted price.

How Can I Spot a Pyramid Scheme?
Watch out for these red flags which immediately mark a business as a pyramid scheme:

  • High-pressure tactics.
    Pyramid schemes work by ensnaring victims whose judgment is clouded by hopeful ambition and don’t bother to read the fine print.
  • Recruitment-based income.
    If your promised income is completely tied to recruiting more members for the business, you’re looking at a pyramid scheme.
  • Unsubstantiated income claims.
    If you’re promised a 6-digit salary within a year while working a low-skill job that requires no experience at all, opt out.
  • Outrageous products claims.
    Are you being asked to sell a cream that will make wrinkles disappear overnight? Or maybe a pill that makes people drop five pounds in a week? If the product is accompanied by outlandish claims that are hard to prove, you’re being targeted for a pyramid scheme.
  • You need to buy the product to sell it.
    A company that requires its salespeople to purchase its products is a company that is desperate for business. Run the other way and don’t look back.

If you think you’ve been targeted by a pyramid scheme, check your state laws and report the scheme to the authorities if a law has been broken. Also, warn your friends about the circulating scheme so they know to avoid falling into its trap.

Stay alert and stay safe!

Your Turn:
Have you been targeted by a pyramid scheme? Tell us about it in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://www.fraud.org/direct_sale_pyramids

https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-fraud-schemes/pyramid-schemes

https://ag.ny.gov/consumer-frauds/pyramid-schemes

When Should I Put My House On The Market?

Young family lists house with realtorIf you’re thinking of selling your home, think spring. That’s because the season of blossoming flowers and gentle breezes has traditionally held the designation as the best time of year to sell a home.

Before you start prepping your home for a photo shoot that shows it off in the best light, take a moment to consider your particular circumstances and needs. What makes spring so well-suited for house-hunting? Does the seller benefit from this arrangement, or is it only advantageous to the buyer?

Let’s take a deeper look at the sell-in-the-spring rule so you can make an informed decision about when to put your house on the market.

Why spring?

There are two primary factors making spring an excellent season for selling a home: The weather and the time of year.

The beautiful, mild weather of spring showcases the exterior of your home in all its glory. Your yard will be alive with healthy, green grass, your flowers and bushes will be in full bloom, and your property will be free of unsightly piles of leaves or mounds of melting snow. If you have an in-ground pool, there’s a world of difference between presenting it to a prospective buyer when it’s sparkling under a brilliant sun, or pointing to a dark, covered shadow at the edge of your yard surrounded by windswept branches and ice puddles.

The pleasant weather that typically heralds the arrival of spring also makes it easier for you to tend to repairs and upgrades on your property. The cold and the dark tend to lead to neglect. Plus, it’s a lot easier to paint the picket fence, stain the deck, and power-wash the siding when the weather is mild and sunny.

Aside from delightful weather, springtime also brings the end of the school year. House-hunting in the spring often makes the most sense for families that include school-age children. This way, they can be settled into their new homes and schools before the new school year. By listing your home for sale in early spring, you’re making it available for this entire group of house-hunters.

Finally, spring means longer daytime hours. This can be advantageous for shoppers who work full-time and can only spare time for home viewings in the evenings. You can schedule a viewing as late as 7 p.m. and still enjoy the benefits of a daylight showing.

Do homes listed in the spring really sell quicker and at higher prices?
It’s not just hype. There are actually studies proving that houses sold in late spring to early summer are on the market a shorter amount of time than houses listed the rest of the year. Also, they tend to close at higher price points.

Here is a sampling of studies proving this theory:
An ATTOM Data Solutions analysis of 14.7 million homes sold over a span of 6 years proved the best month to sell a home is May. Most homes sold during this month closed at 5.9% above their estimated market value when compared with other months.
A Zillow study showed that homes sold during the first two weeks of May tend to be on the market less time than homes sold any other time of year.
According to Realtor.com, homes listed during the spring are 1% less likely to sell with a price cut than homes listed during the rest of the year.

Does this rule hold true for everyone?
“Springtime to market” might be a good rule of thumb for most home-sellers to follow, but it does not apply in every case. Here are some factors to consider:

The local market.
If your neighborhood is full of for-sale signs and your home does not have any distinguishing features, you may put yourself at a severe disadvantage by listing your home in the spring. Consider waiting until the market cools off in mid-summer, or even in the early fall months.

On the flipside, if your home has one or more features that set it apart, you’ll want to list it when the neighborhood is full of house hunters, to give it optimal exposure.

Your preferred time to move.
When is the ideal time for your family to move to another town? Pick a date and work backward to decide when to list your home. There’s no way to determine exactly when you’ll close on a listed home, but Realtor.com estimates the average home sale takes 50 days to close after going under contract. Add a month for preparing your home for the market, choosing a selling agent, making any necessary repairs or upgrades, and finding a buyer.

Local climate.
Springtime might mean beautiful weather for much of the country, but in some areas, like Southern California, pleasant, mild weather is an all-year-round delight. Conversely, in many northern states, the warmer weather doesn’t set in until early summer, and you’ll want to wait a bit before putting your home up for sale.

Whether you choose to put your house on the market in spring, or you decide you’d be better off waiting until summer or fall, we wish you a smooth sale at the best possible price. Don’t forget to stop by Advantage One to ask about our fantastic home loan options when you’re ready to start searching for a new place to call home.

Your Turn:
Have you sold a home in the spring or summer? Tell us all about it in the comments.

SOURCES:

https://www.pennymacusa.com/blog/what-is-best-time-to-sell-house

https://www.housingwire.com/articles/48685-want-to-sell-your-house-list-in-the-1st-week-of-april

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/reneemorad/2018/04/30/the-best-month-and-day-to-sell-a-home/amp/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.fool.com/amp/retirement/2018/05/31/whats-the-best-time-to-sell-a-house.aspx

6 Ways To Save Money On Gardening Equipment And Supplies

Family planting a garden in their backyardAs spring deepens and vibrantly colored flowers blossom everywhere, you might be dreaming about a garden of your own. You’ll till the soil, pat the fertilizer into place and plant your young shoots with tender care. You’ll make sure they get just the right amount of sunlight and water, and you’ll be careful to keep out unwanted pests with strong fences and natural pesticides. And you’ll be rewarded with beautiful flowers and fresh vegetables, straight from your very own garden.

But when you hit the stores to start shopping for your garden, the sticker shock can be alarming. There’s so much to buy—and it’s all so expensive! There’s specialized equipment, must-have tools, frequent runs for seeds and fertilizer and a steady supply of weed killers and animal repellents. You might be wondering: Can I really afford to have the garden of my dreams?

Yes, you can! Save on gardening costs this year with these six creative hacks:

1.) Share equipment
You won’t be able to care for your yard and garden without the proper tools, but that doesn’t mean you need to break the bank to get all that equipment. Instead, speak to your neighbors about sharing some of your gardening gear. Let your neighbor use some tools you own, like your weed-whacker, trimmer and spreader, in exchange for free use of your neighbor’s gardening tools. If you dare, consider sharing your larger, more expensive tools like a lawn mower and rototiller as well.

To make it easier, consider tending to your gardens and yards on different days of the week so you know you’ll have your equipment available when you need it.

If you and your neighbor both need to purchase a new tool or machine, talk about splitting the cost and then sharing the tool.

You can also work out a bartering system with your neighbors, exchanging extra gardening supplies, like leftover seeds and fertilizer.

2.) Purchase used gear
You can save big on gardening equipment by looking for second-hand tools and machines. Check out sites like Craigslist, Freecycle and eBay for quality equipment at bargain prices. Be sure to give the pre-owned tool a test run before finalizing a sale.

3.) Rent equipment
Instead of shelling out big bucks on expensive tools you’ll only use once or twice a season, consider renting them as you need them. Home Depot rents out a wide variety of gardening tools at excellent rates, and lots of smaller hardware stores have a similar garden tool rental service during the spring and summer months, too. You’ll have access to quality equipment when you need it at a price you can afford. Plus, you won’t have to worry about storing bulky gardening tools all year long.

4.) Shop the dollar store
Before hitting the big chain stores, like Lowe’s and Home Depot, for gardening supplies, check out your local dollar store. You’ll find loads of gardening supplies, like seeds, markers, buckets and planters, at rock-bottom prices in stores like Family Dollar and Dollar Tree.

5.) Shop the sales
Like every retail product, gardening equipment and supplies have their season for markdowns and sales, and the wise consumer knows how to time their purchase in order to save big.

Larger gardening equipment, like mowers and tillers, usually sees steep discounts at Memorial Day sale events, making the start of summer an excellent time to stock up on pricey garden tools.

Flowerpots, garden décor, lawn furniture and select plants will retail at blowout prices during the clearance sales at the end of July. If you’re hankering after a new set of Adirondack chairs for your garden, or you want to spruce up your yard with some garden gnomes, this is the time to buy them.

You’ll also see some wilting flowers on sale now; don’t let those drooping leaves scare you. If you find a marked-down perennial past its blooming window, check for strong roots and stems. A firmly rooted perennial planted late in the season might not bring you colorful blossoms this year, but if it’s well cared-for, it will likely recover by next spring and reward you with beautiful, healthy flowers.

Whenever you decide to buy your tools and supplies, be sure to check coupon sites like RetailMeNot and CouponCabin before making a purchase.

6.) Buy seeds
Purchasing young transplants is a lot easier and a lot quicker than starting from scratch, but the difference in price can be enormous. You can pick up a packet of flower or vegetable seeds for less than a dollar in many nurseries and through gardening catalogues. You’ll also have a much broader choice of plant when you buy seeds instead of being limited by the store’s pick of transplants. Finally, raising a plant from seedling to vegetable or flower is a uniquely rewarding experience.

Tending a garden and watching it grow is one of life’s last remaining pleasures that remains unaffected by the encroachment of technology. Use these tips to bring your dream garden to life without draining your wallet.

Happy gardening from all of us here at Advantage One!

Your Turn:
How do you save on gardening supplies? Share your best tips and tricks with us in the comments.

SOURCES:

https://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/slideshows/10-ways-to-save-while-gardening

https://www.hgtv.com/outdoors/gardens/planting-and-maintenance/5-surprising-ways-to-save-money-on-gardening-supplies

https://www.thegraciouswife.com/tips-to-save-money-on-gardening-supplies/

https://www.littlehouseliving.com/5-ways-to-save-money-gardening.html

8 Ways To Spot A Home Improvement Scam

feet sticking down through sheetrock ceiling, electrical light box hangingIt’s home improvement season! Contractors of all kinds, from painters to builders, electricians, roofers and more, are hard at work sprucing up homes across the country.

If you’re hiring anyone to make improvements on your home, be alert! Home improvement scams are more common than you may think. And they can be difficult to spot. According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), home improvement scams in 2017 cost Americans more than $600,000 in losses. A contractor can con a homeowner in a number of ways, from doing sloppy work that requires more repair down the line to leaving a job unfinished, or even making off with their pay and doing no work at all.

Don’t let this happen to you! Read on for 8 ways to spot a home improvement scam:

  1. The contractor insists on being paid up front
    While most contractors will ask for a deposit toward their final fee when you hire them, be wary of any contractor who demands you pay more than a third of the total fee up front. This is likely a scammer who is trying to cover their bases in case of shoddy work or even a no-show.
  2. The contractor refuses to supply references
    Never hire a contractor without speaking to someone who’s used their services in the past. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advises homeowners to ask past customers detailed questions about a contractor’s work, including the projected and actual project timeline, as well as final cost. If a contractor is in the middle of another job, ask if you can check out their work yourself. If a contractor refuses to furnish names and contact information of previous clients, it may be best to seek a new option.
  3. There’s negative information about the contractor on the BBB site
    Before hiring any small business you’ve never used, it’s a good idea to check them out on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website. Once there, you can read reviews and ratings and see if any complaints have been filed against the company.
  4. The contractor demands payment in cash
    The FTC recommends paying contractors with a check or credit card so you can contest the charges if something goes wrong. Cash leaves no trail and makes it easy for a scammer to walk away from a job without doing much (or any) work at all.
  5. The contractor will do the work for an insanely cheap price
    Don’t get conned by a contractor who severely underbids all competitors. You might get lucky and find someone who is just starting out and can still do great work, or you might be dealing with someone who will cut every corner and end up costing you more than you thought you were saving. If you’re offered a bid that is a lot lower than the going price for the work, ask a lot of questions. If you only get evasive answers, look elsewhere.
  6. They show up at your door … uninvited
    The smiling contractor at your door claiming to have recently done work in your neighborhood just happened to notice your home can use some repairs, too. They suggest you hire them to do it for you–all for a great price, of course. Don’t fall for every house call. There’s a small chance you’re looking at a rookie contractor just starting to build a referral base, but it is far more likely that your uninvited visitor is a scammer who will do sloppy work, leave the job half-finished or disappear with your money. If the contractor does seem legit, look them up on the BBB site and ask for references before hiring.
  7. The contractor refuses to put anything in writing
    Never hire anyone to do work on your home without a written contract. The BBB advises homeowners to include as many details as possible in the contract, such as payment terms, a definitive date for the start and completion of the project, warranty information and a clear description of the job.
  8. They try to avoid permits
    A contractor who tries to convince you there’s no need to pull permits is one who wants to avoid the authorities at all costs. You’re likely dealing with an unlicensed worker or who will cut corners wherever possible. The lack of proper permits can also cause you problems down the line when you try to sell your home.

Don’t get ripped off by a scammer! Do your homework well before hiring any contractors this (or any) season. It’s one surefire way to ensure your home improvement project goes smoothly and without unpleasant surprises.

Your Turn:
Have you been targeted by a home improvement scam? Share your experience with us in the comments.

SOURCES:

https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2019/home-improvement.html

https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/the-ultimate-list-of-the-years-worst-scams/

https://www.thespruce.com/common-home-improvement-scams-4163354