How to Celebrate Memorial Day on a Budget

Celebrating Memorial Day can cost a pretty penny, but there’s no need to spend lavishly to have an epic holiday weekend. Here’s how to celebrate Memorial Day on a budget.

1. Hit the beach

Get out to the shore at the first opportunity! The beach can provide hours of relaxation and fun for the entire family at little or no cost, depending on your location. Stock up on some inexpensive patriotic-patterned towels to make the day feel a little more festive. 

2. Attend a local event

There’s no need to travel far for a fun Memorial Day outing. Check out local online forums and newspapers to see what’s happening in your town. You’ll likely find a carnival, parade, concert and/or street fair that’ll give you some Memorial Day fun at no cost. As a bonus, local activities that do charge an entrance fee will often donate all proceeds to charity, so you’ll be paying it forward all day long.

3. Host a potluck

If you’ll be hosting this Memorial Day, make it a potluck party. Ask each guest to bring one dish for a complete dinner that won’t cost anyone a lot of money. As a bonus, the menu is a lot more fun when it’s varied and prepared by lots of different cooks.

4. Go easy on the decor

No need to blow a ton of money on making your Memorial Day celebration look festive. Spruce up the place with some red, white and blue balloons from the dollar store, find some patriotic banners like these and deck the tables with inexpensive and on-theme tablecloths, too.

5. Make a signature drink

Instead of setting up a full bar, make one signature drink for the night. Festive and fitting for the celebration, this comes out a lot cheaper than springing for a full-blown bar. You can find some great ideas for your signature Memorial Day drink here.

6. Look for coupons

Don’t go anywhere without first checking if you must pay full price. You can pick up some great discounts on restaurant meals, entertainment venues and more at web sites like Groupon.com. If you are a member of AARP or AAA, check to see if you can enjoy some additional exclusive discounts as well.

7. Host a DIY sports event

For a fun and frugal alternative to the traditional Memorial Day BBQ, invite family and friends over to your place, or meet up at a park, for a day of sports and games. You can play flag football, soccer, have a tug-of-war competition or even drum up a full game of baseball. You can set up some light drinks and snacks, or ask your guests to bring their own for a truly cost-free day.

8. Visit historical sites

What better way to spend Memorial Day than checking out historical attractions? Lots of historical sites, like the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania, host free events in honor of the three-day holiday. This event, along with other similar events across the U.S., are a great way to honor the courageous men and women who have served and lost their lives for our country.

9. Rent a boat

Enjoy a day out on the water at little cost by renting a boat from a nearby boat rental service or a private owner. Small boats, like kayaks and canoes, can cost as little as $30 for a few hours of use. Speed boats and pontoons will be pricier, but can also hold more people to share the cost. Bring along some snacks and drinks and good music for a fantastic day of water fun.

10. Participate in a race

Joining a race can be an enjoyable and healthy way to spend your Memorial Day. Participating in a race can cost you as little as $50. As a bonus, lots of Memorial Day races donate all proceeds to organizations that help soldiers pay for expenses that are not covered under military benefits. You’ll be supporting our servicepeople while stretching those muscles!

Memorial Day is always great fun, but it doesn’t need to cost a great deal of money. Use these tips to enjoy a memorable holiday weekend on a budget.

Your Turn: What are your low-cost plans for Memorial Day? Share them with us in the comments.

Have it All: The Roadmap to Becoming a Self-Made Millionaire

Title: Have it All: The Roadmap to Becoming a Self-Made Millionaire

Author: Kris Krohn

Print length: 316 pages

Kindle file size: ‎ 4709 KB

Publisher: Uplife Press

Publishing date: Dec. 9, 2021

Who is this book for? 

  • Anyone looking to change the way they relate to money. 
  • Anyone looking for practical investment advice.

What’s inside this book?

  • Actionable tips for improving your financial reality.
  • A step-by-step guide for financial success. 

4 lessons you’ll learn from this book:  

  1. How to outsmart the old money rules and follow the new ones. 
  2. How to achieve true financial freedom. 
  3. How to create active, passive and positive asymmetric risk.
  4. How to find profitable Returns on Investment (ROIs).

4 questions this book will answer for you:  

  1. How can I unlearn all that society has taught me about money management? 
  2. What do I need to know to be a savvy investor?
  3. Can I really enjoy my life despite having limited financial opportunities?
  4. Can I improve my finances without a large windfall?

What people are saying about this book: 

  • “Kris goes into depth on different topics to cover everything from real estate to stocks and how to start building a financial portfolio and live a better life!”
  • “Insightful, motivational and really inspiring!”
  • “This book gave me the hope and encouragement I needed, that yes, I can have it all. I love how Mr. Kris Krohn tells us exactly how we need to break those limiting beliefs and allow ourselves to enjoy life to the fullest. This book is so relatable and inspiring.”
  • “If you’re trying to figure out how to become financially free and where to start, then this is the book for you. This is the book that will set you on the next level of your life and get you ready for financial freedom in three to five years!”

Your Turn: What did you think of Have it All? Share your opinion in the comments. 

What to Buy and What to Skip in May

The month of May kicks off summer and hosts one the biggest shopping holiday weekends of the year. Because of this, you can pick up fantastic deals this month, but some purchases are best pushed off a bit longer or for another season.  

Here’s what to buy and what to skip in May. 

Buy: Furniture 

Memorial Day sales feature great prices on major home-related purchases. Look for new furniture like dinette sets, sofas and more at your favorite stores and through online sites. Sales often start a full week before Memorial Day, so shop early for the best selection.

Skip: Swimwear and lingerie

Beach season may be starting soon, but you’re best off waiting another month to pick up your new swimwear and lingerie. The sale cycle for these is set by lingerie giant Victoria’s Secret. The company usually hosts a semi-annual sale each June, and competing retailers are quick to join. Hold out just a little longer before perfecting your beach look for the season to save yourself a bundle!

Buy: Athletic apparel and loungewear

It’s time for cooler workout clothing, and that means retailers will be slashing prices on their leftover workout gear from the winter to make room for the new lines. You’ll also see bargain-priced loungewear as people get outside and spend less time indoors. If you need new footwear, check out major shoe retailers and department stores for steep discounts on sneakers as old styles must move to make room for the new. 

Skip: Home electronics

May is not the time to pick up new electronics. Laptops, gaming consoles and more always see their lowest prices in November during Black Friday sales events. If you can’t wait that long, you can also find deals on electronics during the back-to-school shopping season in August. 

Buy: Spring apparel

The weather may have only turning turned reliably milder,now, but in the world of retail, May is well into the warm-weather season. Spring clothing will see steep discounts this month, so you can fill out your spring wardrobe without busting your budget. Check for sales on your favorite retailers’ social media pages, websites or by signing up for email and/or text alerts so you never miss a sale. 

Skip: Summer apparel

While spring clothing may be discounted in May, it’s still too early to start stocking up on summer wear. Leave the flip-flop and tank-top shopping for the July Fourth weekend, or even August, for truly bargain prices. 

Skip: Outdoor furniture and grills

There’s lots of grilling holidays coming up, including Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day, but hold off on purchasing a new grill for now. Grills will be steeply discounted at the end of the summer during Labor Day sale events. If you must buy a new grill for this season, though, you can find them at slightly lowered prices during Memorial Day sales. 

Buy: Major home appliances

Is your fridge on its last legs? Is your oven about to give out? Pick up major home appliances for less during Memorial Day sale events. You can also replace or buy new small home appliances like coffee makers, blenders and more during these sales. Be sure to check out competing retailers before making a purchase to ensure you’re getting the best price on your appliance. 

Skip: Outdoor furniture

With all the time spent outside in these warm-weather months, you’re likely itching to upgrade your patio furniture. However, it’s best to hold off on these purchases until Labor Day weekend sale events, when prices can be slashed by as much as 50%. 

Buy: Mattresses and bedding

If you’re itching to upgrade the quality of your sleep, you can pick up new mattresses at bargain prices during Memorial Day sales. Check out major retailers, like Macy’s and Sleepy’s, as well as online sources, like Overstock.com, for the best prices. You can deck out your new mattresses in stylish and comfy bedding for less this month as well. 

Your Turn: Have you picked up any great bargain buys in May? Tell us about them in the comments. 

Beware of Job Scams

It’s an amazing employment opportunity – or is it? Scammers often hijack the job market and ensnare hopeful job seekers into their schemes. If you’re job-hunting, it’s a good idea to review the way these scams play out and how you can avoid them. To help you out, we’ve put together a short primer on what you need to know to stay safe from job scams. 

How the scams play out

There are several variations of job scams. Here are the most common ones: 

  • Bogus job listing. There’s a Help Wanted ad for a dream job, and the job-seeker applies with great optimism. They’ll share their information and even pay a small fee to submit their resume, or to cover alleged job supplies. Sadly for them, the job doesn’t actually exist and they’ll never hear from the “employer” again.
  • Imposter hiring. An alleged rep from a well-known agency, government institution or hiring firm reaches out to a target asking them to send the funds to cover a screening fee to be considered for a job. While the job does exist, the representative is a scammer, and the money the victim has shared will go directly into the scammer’s pocket. 
  • Phishing emails. Like any phishing scam, a victim is targeted directly via email. The email will offer the victim a fantastic job, but first ask that they share confidential information. If the victim complies, they’ll be giving their personal information to a scammer.  
  • Inflated payment scam. In this ruse, a target will be hired for a remote position. When payday arrives, the victim will receive a check written for an amount that is for more than the “new employee” should have received. The employer will ask them to cash the check and mail back the extra funds. Unfortunately, a few days later, when the check doesn’t clear, the victim realizes they’ve been scammed. 

How to spot a job scam

Learning to identify the signs of a job scam can help you avoid them and find gainful employment. Here are some red flags to watch out for while job-hunting: 

  • Unprofessional emails. If the emails you receive from a would-be employer or HR rep are riddled with spelling mistakes and typos, or are formatted in an unprofessional manner, you may be dealing with a scammer. 
  • No physical company mailing address. Even a business that mostly hires remote employees needs a street address. If you can’t seem to find one on the company’s site, and your “employer” refuses to share this information with you, the company may be a cover for a scam ring. 
  • Upfront fee. Most legitimate employers will not ask a new hire or hopeful employee to pay a fee for supplies or to submit a resume. If you’re asked to do so, you may be looking at a scam. 
  • Inflated checks. If you receive a check from a new employer that is made out for more than your wages or salary, and you are asked to send back the surplus, you’re being scammed. Don’t cash the check and terminate all contact with the “employer”.
  • Premature request for information. While it’s perfectly okay for an employer to ask a new employee to share their Social Security number, date of birth and even their checking account information, these details should not be shared until an official contract is signed and the employee is sure the job and the employer are legit. In fact, it may be a good idea to hold off on signing up for direct deposit of your paycheck until you’ve been employed for a while and you know the job is a keeper. 
  • You’ll be underworked and overpaid. If a job is promising a high salary for very little and/or very easy and unskilled work, it’s likely a scam. 

Before applying to or accepting a job offer, do thorough research. Ask for references of past or current employees and check out the company website to see if it’s secure and has real information about the firm, including a street address. Check out the company’s social media pages, like LinkedIn, as well. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask the employer, or the person doing the hiring, any questions you may have about the company or the job.

Job-hunting can be stressful, but getting caught in a job scam can bring that stress to a whole new level. Stay alert and stay safe by following the tips outlined here. 

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a job scam? Tell us about it in the comments. 

6 Gifts for Mom that Don’t Break the Budget

It’s time to show Mom how much she means to you! If the idea of Mother’s Day brings thoughts of pricey chocolates, flowers and other gifts, along with a busted budget, you may be going about this the wrong way. No worries, though; we can help. Here’s a list of six ways you can show your mom how much you care without draining your wallet. 

  1. A customized journal

A beautiful notebook for journaling and recording memories can make a wonderful gift for Mom. You can turn it into a more personalized gift by adding inspirational quotes your mom would enjoy, gluing dried and pressed flowers onto random pages and even adding some of your favorite snapshots of you and your mom. She’ll think of you every time she takes out the notebook to jot down some thoughts, and that makes a journal a gift that truly keeps on giving. 

  1. For the coffee-lover

If Mom can’t start her morning without her favorite cup of Joe, which is always iced when it’s warm outside, consider purchasing a Cold Bruer for $80. For a less expensive gift, which can also be perfect for the coffee-loving mom, consider an adorable pair of coasters from Etsy or a mug with a snappy message like this one from Amazon

  1. A day to remember

Why not gift Mom with the best gift of all: a day spent in the company of everyone she loves? Treat Mom to a family day, including all of her favorite things; from her favorite meals to her cherished parks and walking trails. You can create an official itinerary for the day and write it up nicely on a piece of cardstock or patterned paper. Seal the itinerary in a decorated envelope and deliver it to her via priority mail. 

  1. Peace and quiet

If you’ll be presenting a gift to your partner and you’ve got one or more little ones at home, consider giving their mom a day to herself. Take the kids out for the day and let her enjoy a rare afternoon alone in a calm, clean house. You won’t be paying for a gift for Mom at all, but it may just be the best present she’s ever received!

  1. A homemade creation

No one is as proud of the things you can create as much as your mother. She’ll still say you’ve done an awesome job, even if you show up at her door holding a painting you’ve drawn yourself that looks like it was crafted by a 5-year-old. Make something for Mom this Mother’s Day to show her just how much she means to you. It can be a homemade bath kit to help her relax, a full, nicely packaged meal of her favorite foods or even a scrapbook of your best shared moments. Homemade gifts are especially meaningful and sure to be appreciated by your mom. 

  1. A DIY craft kit

If your mom is the one who’s crafty, but she can’t seem to find the time to get down to Michael’s or Hobby Lobby to pick up the materials she needs for her next project, you can do it for her this Mother’s Day. Hit a crafts store or site, and choose an array of materials and tools for Mom to use in her creative pursuits. You can buy a prepackaged kit for a specific craft, or just purchase a variety of craft supplies to see what Mom makes out of them. She’s sure to love the chance to tap into her inner artist and let the creative juices flow, all without leaving the house. 

Mother’s Day can be a great opportunity to show your mom or your partner how much they mean to you, but it’s no excuse to break the budget. Use the ideas shared here to help the mom in your life celebrate the best Mother’s Day without spending much money at all. 

Your Turn: How will you show Mom how much you care this Mother’s Day? Share your best ideas or memories in the comments. 

Should I Offer Financial Support to my Adult Child?

Q: My adult child is going through some financial difficulties. I’d love to help them out of this tight spot, but I’m wondering if this is a wise choice. Should I offer financial support to my adult child?

A: In recent years, newly minted adults have become more dependent on their parents. According to a report by Merrill, more than three-quarters of parents in the U.S. provide financial support to their adult children. This includes allowing their kids to live at home, covering student loan bills, paying for their phone/data plans and more. This development is likely due to high amounts of student loan debt, low starting salaries and the increasing cost of housing. All of these factors, and more, make finances especially challenging for many young adults. Of course, parents will naturally want what’s best for their children, so they are often quick to offer financial assistance. 

However, as you mention, all this begs the question: Is offering financial assistance to adult children really in their best interest? 

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this loaded question. In fact, the answer will depend on several factors, as well as your relationship with your child. Before saying yes to a request for financial support from an adult child, ask yourself these questions: 

Is my own financial situation stable right now? 

Before offering substantial support to another person, even if that person is your child, you need to make sure your own needs are being met and that your future is secure. Are you finishing the month with money to spare, or barely making it to the next payday? Are you financially prepared for retirement? Do you have any outstanding debt? 

If you are comfortable enough to offer support without feeling pinched, dipping into savings or scrimping on the money you’d dedicate toward your own future security, you can afford to offer this assistance. However, if you stand to lose your own financial wellness by covering your child’s bills or student loan payments, you won’t be doing anyone a favor by offering to support your child.

Is my child’s situation by default temporary? 

Life is dynamic, which means your child’s need for assistance today can change tomorrow by way of a fantastic job offer or another great opportunity. 

Or can it?

At times, your adult kid might find themselves in a tight spot that is inherently temporary. For example, they may be completing a necessary, but unpaid, internship. Or, they may have gone back to school for additional training so they can increase their earning potential. Perhaps they’re currently undergoing medical treatment and have high medical bills to pay. Under these circumstances, you may want to consider offering a bit of support until the temporary tight spot is over. 

If, however, your child is asking for financial support because they are living a lifestyle that is beyond their means, you may want to think twice before acquiescing to their request. 

Will offering financial support hinder my child’s financial independence?

One of the biggest drawbacks of offering monetary assistance to a grown child is the possibility that your child will come to depend on that money. If your child has not yet learned to manage their finances responsibly and continues to make poor money choices, offering financial assistance is likely not in their best interest. You won’t be around forever, and it’s best to let your child learn how to spend within their budget, save for the future and in general, to live responsibly. 

How will my financial support affect my relationship with this child?

Giving breeds positive feelings, and many people believe that offering monetary support to their child will improve their relationship with him or her. However, it’s important to note that this is not always the case. First, the child may come to equate the relationship with the exchange of funds. Also, when you decide to stop offering support, this can create a point of tension between you and your child. Finally, if you can afford to give, but you know this giving will be accompanied by resentment on your part, it’s not fair to yourself, or to your child, to provide financial support. 

How will I structure my financial support?

If you decide to go ahead and offer financial support to your child, it’s important to set clear guidelines for how you will be providing this assistance. Will you offer a set monthly amount, or adopt a give-as-needed approach? Will you expect your child to pay you back, even partially, when their financial situation improves? Finally, is there a date you plan to stop offering assistance or to reevaluate whether your child still needs this support? 

Setting clear parameters before offering support can help you avoid hurt feelings and uncomfortable situations down the line. 

Offering financial support to an adult child can be a lifeline–or it can be a way to enable detrimental habits. Be sure to ask yourself the questions listed above and to make an informed decision before offering monetary assistance to a grown child. 

Your Turn: Do you, or would you, offer financial support to your adult child(ren)? Tell us about it in the comments. 

Don’t Get Caught in a QR Code Scam

Scammers never take a break from dreaming up new ways to con people out of their money. Recently, they’ve even been hijacking QR codes to pull scams on innocent victims. Here’s all you need to know about QR code scams and how to avoid them. 

What’s a QR code? 

Before we can explore the details of these scams, let’s understand what a QR code is and how one works. A QR code, which is an acronym for “Quick Response code,” is a square barcode that can be scanned using a smartphone. It leads directly to a website or app. Businesses use QR codes for any number of reasons, from posting online menus, to scanning coupons, to processing payments and more. In the no-touch era following the coronavirus lockdowns, QR codes are more ubiquitous than ever.  

Ironically, QR codes should help prevent fraud, since they take the user directly to the desired site, leaving no room for misspellings or for scammers to lure victims to a bogus website that has a URL that is similar to the legitimate website. Unfortunately, though, scammers have found a way to weaponize QR codes, too. The technology necessary to create a QR code is not accessible for anyone, making QR code scams easy to pull off and difficult to identify. 

How the scam plays out

In a QR code scam, a scammer will replace a legitimate QR code with their own code. A target will then scan the code and make a payment for a transaction. Unfortunately, the target has sent their money directly to the scammer and has not made a payment for the transaction as they believe they have.

In a recent QR code scam, fraudsters replaced dozens of QR codes on public parking meters in San Antonio, Texas with their own codes. Drivers seeking to pay the meter costs scanned these codes and sent their payments to scammers. To make matters worse, many victims also unknowingly shared access to their phones with the scammers, setting themselves up for future scams as the criminals use the information on the phone to pull off additional schemes. 

How to avoid a QR code scam

QR code scams can be challenging to recognize. For this reason, the FBI has advised against downloading an app from a QR code and/or downloading a QR code scanner app. However, there are ways to keep yourself safe from these scams. 

When scanning a QR code, it’s a good idea to treat the link like any other email or text message. Proceed with caution and practice online safety measures as you would with any other online transaction. Check the source of the QR code and the URL that the code directs you to for common signs of a secure site, including a lock icon, an “s” after the “http,” and whether the URL matches with the URL of the intended site destination. 

If the webpage or app the code sends you to seems suspicious in any way, leave it. You can access the payment portal you need by visiting the app or website on your own. 

When using a QR code, look for these red flags that can indicate a possible scam:

  • The URL is different from the home site.The QR code is posted on a public sign or notice that seems to be tampered with.The site or app the code directs you to is full of typos. 

Knowing how to recognize a QR code scam can help prevent you from falling victim to this emerging and quickly growing scheme. 

If you were scammed

If you’ve used a QR code to pay for a transaction and subsequently received an email from the company claiming you’ve never completed the payment, or that the payment failed, you may be the victim of a QR code scam. Let the company know that its QR code has been tampered with and alert the FTC as well. 

Stay alert when using a QR code and stay safe!

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a QR code scam? Share your experience in the comments. 

12 Steps to Financial Wellness-Step 4: Have the Money Talk with Your Partner

[You’ve tracked your spending, created a budget, worked on ridding yourself of debt, and are well on your way to a financially secure life. Now you’re ready for step four, in which you’ll have the money talk with your partner.]

Talking finances with your partner may not be your idea of a shared romantic moment, but communicating openly about how you manage your money is a crucial part of having an honest and trusting relationship. It’s fairly common knowledge that arguing about money is the leading cause of divorce in the U.S., and no one wants to be the next statistic. Unfortunately, though, people often grow defensive when discussing the ways they choose to spend their money. How, then, can two partners have a calm, productive discussion about money?

Here are six tips we’ve compiled to help guide you in this super-important conversation.

  1. Plan the discussion in advance

It’s never a good idea to bring up a potentially explosive topic without warning. Instead, broach the topic to your partner a few days before you want to have the “Big Money Talk” and ask if you can have an open discussion about money sometime soon. This way, you’ll each have time to prepare the details you’d like to talk about, and you’ll both be ready to focus on the conversation without distractions.  

  1. Start with a vision

Instead of starting the conversation by bringing up a time your partner overspent or wondering aloud why your better half doesn’t seem to be saving enough for the future, start with a vision you can both share. For example, you can talk about how wonderful it would be to take a luxury vacation to the Cayman Islands, or how you’d love to start saving for a home. This way, you are communicating a shared dream and putting a positive spin on your money talk, which will set the tone for the rest of the conversation. 

  1. Listen carefully to your partner

You may be the more responsible, or the more detail-oriented partner, but it’s still important to listen carefully to what your partner has to say. Your partner will have their own ideas about money management, and you may be surprised at the insights they have to share into your own spending habits or expensive vices. 

  1. Talk openly about sharing expenses and savings

At a certain point in your relationship, you may decide to share expenses, split them evenly and have each partner cover different expenses, and/or to pool your savings. Whether you’ve already reached that level with your partner or you plan to bring up the topic now, be sure to talk openly about the way you feel so you have a better chance of avoiding future resentment. For example, if you earn more than your partner, should you be splitting expenses evenly? Can one partner take additional financial responsibilities, such as paying the bills, in lieu of contributing an equal amount of income to the pot? If one partner goes over budget, will they be responsible for patching up the difference by contributing more money? All of these questions, and more, are important to discuss up front to help prevent future blowups and/or hurt feelings. 

At this time, consider linking one of your accounts or opening a shared account at Advantage One Credit Union. We’ve got convenient checking and saving accounts to suit every preference. Just stop by and ask how we can help.

  1. Consider having a slush fund

Sharing expenses and a budget can be liberating in a partnership, but it can also feel constricting. Sometimes, you just want to splurge without having to explain the purchase to your partner. You may also want to spend money on a surprise gift for your partner without them knowing you’ve just dropped a large sum of money on an expensive purchase. Having a slush fund, or money set aside for your personal “just for fun” spending, can help you maintain a sense of independence and keep some of your purchases private. You can keep this fund in a separate checking account under your name at Advantage One Credit Union.

  1. Set up a weekly or bi-weekly time to talk money

No, you don’t need to have the Big Money Talk every week, but it is a good idea to touch base about finances once a week, or once every two weeks. You can talk about recent purchases, big expenses that are coming up soon, surprise bills and more. Setting aside time to talk about money will keep the stressful money arguments out of your everyday conversations. 

You did it! You had the money talk with your partner, and you are closer than ever. Be sure to stick to your commitments and to bring up any money issues that may arise during your regular money talks for continued harmonious collaboration about all financial matters. 

Your Turn: How did you bring up the big money issue with your partner? Share your tips with us in the comments.

How to Prepare Your Home for Spring

Winter is on its way out, and spring is on its way in. That means it’s time to stop hibernating and get outside! Before you do, though, you’ll need to help your home recover from the damage incurred during winter and take steps to prepare it for spring. Don’t stress about what you need to do; just follow our lead with these six steps for preparing your home for spring. 

Step 1: Clean your yard

It’s been a while since you’ve spent an extended amount of time in your yard, and it’s likely got leaves and other debris scattered about. Take time in early spring to rake up all the leaves, loose twigs and anything else your yard has collected over the winter. If you own a mulching mower, you can shred the leaves and allow them to compost on your lawn to provide it with important nutrients. 

Step 2: Prep your grass and other plants and trees

At winter’s end, you’ll want to ensure your grass, shrubs, flowers and trees are all set to bloom in the spring. Prune all dead and diseased branches from trees with a handsaw and use a strong bypass lopper for pruning smaller bushes and shrubs. Be sure to cut all branches away from you so they don’t fall toward you. 

At this time, you’ll also want to prep your lawn for optimal grass growth. Pull up all weeds and crabgrass, making sure to pull up the entire root. Use a shovel or a weed-whacker to make the job easier. If your lawn has heavy weed growth, you may want to use a strong herbicide to stop the weed before it takes over your entire lawn. Finally, fertilize and seed your lawn to promote new, healthy roots and strong grass growth in the coming seasons. 

Step 3: Clear your gutters

Clogged gutters can cause severe damage to your home. After a long winter, your gutters may be full of leaves, twigs and other debris. Use a gloved hand to clear your gutters of all objects and then flush the gutters with a running hose. This will help you find any leaks that need to be repaired. Also, if using a ladder, be extra cautious to avoid falls and injury.

Step 4: Clean the exterior of your home

It’s time to get the outside of your home looking beautiful again! If you own a pressure washer and already have the specialized cleaning solution to use with it, you’re ready to go. Otherwise, you can rent a pressure washer from a home improvement store, like Lowe’s or Home Depot, and purchase the cleaning solution in these stores as well. Load the washer with the solution and clean the outside of your home with slow movements. Let the solution rest for a few minutes, and then rinse with water from the washer or a garden hose. 

Step 5: Prepare your patio

To prepare your patio or deck for spring, check for any damage it may have incurred over the winter. Make any necessary repairs and clean the entire area with a broom, garden hose and/or pressure washer. If there is any mildew growth, use a scrub brush and specialized deck cleaner to remove it. You may also want to reseal your deck if it’s showing significant signs of aging. 

Next, take your patio furniture out of storage and check it over for damage. You may need to wipe each piece down with a damp cloth or wipe. Set up your outdoor rugs, planters, lighting and wind chimes as well. 

Finally, prepare your grill. It’s best to remove your grates and scrub them with a wire brush to remove any caked-on debris. For tougher stains, use a spray-on grill cleaner. Be sure to clean the inside and outside of the grill thoroughly with hot, soapy water and then rinse with water, then allow it to dry before using. 

Step 6: Prepare your A/C units

Make sure your home is ready to handle the heat by inspecting your A/C units early in the season. Check your outdoor unit panels, removing all leaves, twigs and other debris that may have accumulated over the winter. Also, check the interior of the unit to be sure it’s clear of any debris that may have blown inside. Finally, it’s a good idea to change your HVAC system’s air filter before you turn it on for the season. 

Your home is ready for the new season! Have a wonderful spring. 

Your Turn: How do you prepare your home for spring? Share your tips with us in the comments. 

What to Buy and What to Skip in April

The days are getting longer and warmer, and that means summer is just around the corner! Though April is a mid-season month without any major shopping holidays, you can still score some great deals. There are also many items you’ll want to put on your waitlist until prices drop in another month or so. We’ve got all the info for you so you can shop smart! Here’s what to buy and what to skip in April. 

Buy: Cruise tickets

If you’re looking to get away from it all, April is a great time to book that springtime or summer cruise. You can find deals on cruise tickets to Bermuda, Europe and other exotic locations this month. Take action and score the vacation of a lifetime at a discounted price.

Skip: Mattresses

Unless your mattress is giving you unbearable back pain, you’re best off waiting until Memorial Day when deep discounts make purchasing a new mattress easier on your wallet.

Buy: Car parts and accessories

If you need new wipers, tires, brakes or another car part or accessory, this is the month to pick them up! April is National Car Care Month, so auto parts stores and service centers will be running promotions. If your car needs servicing, or even just a tune-up, you can get this done for less this month, too. 

Skip: Grills and patio furniture

Spring is just getting underway, and all things outdoors are still retailing at full price. If you can wait until Memorial Day sale events happen, you can upgrade your grill and deck out your patio in the finest gear for a lot less money. If you wait even longer, until July or August, you’ll potentially find even steeper discounts. 

Buy: Secondhand treasures

Spring-cleaning season means crowds of people are clearing out the clutter in their closets and around their homes. Many of these treasures may end up in secondhand stores or get sold at garage sales around the neighborhood. If you’re looking for already-loved clothing to spruce up your wardrobe, or gently-used furniture to replace your outdated pieces, April can be a great time to pick up priceless pre-owned treasures. Hit the secondhand stores early in the week for the best pickings, as they tend to get the most donations over the weekend when people do their cleaning.

Skip: Vacuums 

April might be time for deep-cleaning, but that doesn’t mean cleaning gear is discounted this month. Unless you’re desperate for a new machine, you’re better off waiting until vacuums go on sale during Black Friday sale events. 

Buy: Tax day giveaways

Filing taxes can be a headache at best, and downright painful at worst. Retailers want to make April 15th a little easier on the wallet for consumers, so many of them will run special promotions and events on this day. Look for giveaways, freebies, deep discounts on goods and more when tax day rolls around.

Skip: Refrigerators

If your fridge seems to be on its way out and you’re in the market for a new one, it’s best to hold off a bit on this purchase if you can. Retailers will soon be rolling out new models, and if you can wait until Memorial Day, you can find a new fridge in last year’s model at a fantastic price. 

Buy: Mother’s Day gifts

It’s never too early to think about making mom happy! And if you buy your Mother’s Day gifts in April, including jewelry and chocolate, you can save a bundle, too. 

Skip: Baby gear

Like all products that are upgraded annually, baby gear sees its biggest discounts when new models are rolled out, in January and February. This includes cribs, strollers, car seats, highchairs and more. 

Buy: Cookware

April is the unofficial kickoff of wedding season, when cookware becomes a popular gift. In a bid to attract customers, retailers offer steep discounts on pots and other cookware this month. Round out your own collection of cookware, or start stocking up on wedding gifts for less.

Tax day notwithstanding, April can be a time of fantastic finds and springtime memory making. Have a wonderful, bargain-filled month!  

Your Turn: Have you picked up any great deals this month? Tell us about it in the comments.