Home Decor Projects for When You’re Snowed In

Sometimes it’s hard to see the upside of harsh winter weather, especially when snow storms leave you stuck inside. However, you can take advantage of a snow day by using the opportunity to improve your home decor. Here are some simple DIY projects for when you’re snowed in. Ask your children to help out (safely) for family fun time that may add a bit of luxury to your living space.

Decorative Lampshade
Add some pizzazz to a lampshade by gluing an inlaid paper cutout on its inner surface. Use a blade to cut a design from paper (either freehand or from a template), making sure to place a rubber mat down first to protect the surface underneath. With a mixture of 50% glue and 50% water, decoupage the paper cutout inside of the lampshade. Once it’s dry, turn the lamp on and admire the glowing design!

Fabric Wall Art
If you have some bold print fabric, use it to create art that pops. All you’ll need to buy are wooden frames of varying sizes and a hot glue gun. Cut the fabric wide enough so that there will be two inches leftover when stretched across a frame. Cover, glue, and voila! Create a gallery wall to display your new pieces.

Hanging Planters
If you have small planters in your indoor garden, consider hanging them for a fun look that will free up surface space. Simply drill two small holes close to the top edge of the planter. Make sure they’re exactly opposite from one another. Knot a thin but sturdy rope or twine inside each of the holes so you can hang them from a hook. Tip: Install the hook near a window so your plant can still get the sunlight it needs.

Memory Table
Memory tables are a great way to personalize your home. You’ll need a deep photo display and a similar sized coffee table. Using a strong wood glue, adhere the back of the photo display to the table. You can now place objects in the display to create a sentimental scene. Try using objects that are cohesive, such as trinkets and photos from a memorable family trip. You may want to glue the objects in place so they are not disturbed when the table is moved.

If you keep one (or more) of these projects in mind for your next snow day, getting snowed in might not seem so bad!

The post Home Decor Projects for When You’re Snowed In first appeared on Century 21®.

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5 Renovations That Don’t Increase Your Resale Value

Couple renovating their home

The first major home renovation my husband and I ever undertook was insulating the walls of a 1921 Craftsman bungalow we shared in Columbus, Ohio. This project made the house a great deal more comfortable in the winter and the summer, since the existing insulation was the least expensive option available in the 1920s — making it completely inadequate for maintaining heat in the winter or coolness in the summer.

Unfortunately, despite the undeniable improvement to our comfort, we found that our new insulation did nothing for our resale value. Even though we had put nearly $5,000 worth of work and materials into this renovation, we didn’t see that money and effort reflected in our sale price when we had to move several years later.

Not all renovations are going to increase your resale value. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should forgo working on your home if you won’t see the value when it’s time to sell. For instance, I would definitely insulate that house again, even knowing that the money is only going to improve my comfort. 

But there are some home renovation projects that you just can’t expect to recoup your investment on. Knowing that, you should consider how long you intend to live in your house and whether you’re renovating just to increase your home’s value before jumping into any of these home improvement projects.

1. Invisible improvements

Insulating our bungalow was the kind of invisible improvement that had to be done, but didn’t appear to change the house. Unlike "sexier" improvements like updating a kitchen or bath, or even putting on a new roof, invisible improvements don’t change the look of the house. These are things like re-grading the yard to keep water from getting into the basement, updating the HVAC system, tuck-pointing bricks and chimneys, and replacing gutters.

While these improvements often have to be done to protect your house, the downside is that you may not recoup the cost of these improvements when it comes time to sell. It can be helpful to think of these renovation expenses as a way of protecting your home’s current value, rather than as a way to increase your future resale value.

2. Swimming pool

While homeowners in Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, and Southern California may find that having a swimming pool is a big selling point for their homes, this isn’t going to be the case nationwide. According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost to install a pool is over $27,000. That doesn’t include the annual maintenance costs, ranging between $500 and $4,000. It’s these maintenance costs, plus the work that homeowners will have to either do themselves or contract out in order to keep their pool sparkling clean that will turn off many potential buyers. Add in the additional insurance requirements that homeowners with pools will need to purchase, and it should be clear why many prospective buyers would rather not invest in a home that comes with a pool.

This is why you should only commit to the cost of installing a pool if you truly want to use it yourself and expect to stay in your home for at least five years. Otherwise, it might make more sense to invest in a membership to your local pool. 

3. Bathroom and kitchen upgrades

Remodeling your bathroom and/or kitchen is an excellent way to increase your home’s value, right? Yes and no. While replacing dingy tiling and updating old appliances will definitely help your home shine for potential buyers, there’s such a thing as going overboard with your bathroom or kitchen upgrades.

Specifically, if you add granite countertops, custom-made cabinets, stainless steel appliances, and ceramic tiles to your kitchen and bathroom, but the rest of the home is still an ordinary suburban home, potential buyers will see the house as a work-in-progress, rather than a home that feels move-in ready. Over-improving the bath and kitchen could make buyers think that it’s not worth the effort to try to get the rest of the house to match. (See also: 9 Home Improvements You Should Always Negotiate)

4. Built-in high-end electronics

We may all dream of living in a George Jetson house — where every possible electronic need you have is already built in — but committing to this kind of renovation may hurt your resale value. 

There are a couple of reasons for this. First, while your personal movie theater (with remote-controlled state-of-the-art projector) may be exactly what you want from your home, a potential buyer may just see a room that will need to be torn out and remodeled as soon as they move in. Plus, technology advances at a breakneck speed, so your cutting-edge electronics will soon look as dated as shag carpeting and harvest gold refrigerators.

If you need or want built-in high-end electronics in your home, make sure you’re installing them for your own pleasure and comfort, because it’s unlikely a buyer will appreciate them too.

5. Extravagant landscaping

Making improvements to your landscaping requires a gentle touch. On the one hand, landscaping is often touted as an important aspect of curb appeal, and making sure your yard and garden look attractive and welcoming is certainly a great way to draw in potential buyers. 

On the other hand, an elaborate landscaping remodel can turn off buyers. Those with black thumbs might look at your vast flowering garden with sculpted shrubs and pond and decide they are not up for the challenge of keeping it up, and those who do love to garden might not like your vision and want to start over.

If recreating the gardens of Versailles is how you make your house feel like a home, then there’s nothing wrong with investing in this kind of renovation. But make sure you’re doing this kind of work for yourself, and not because you hope to make back the money you spent once you’re ready to sell. (See also: 14 Ways to Make Your Yard Look Awesome for Under $100)

Renovate for the right reasons

While many experts focus on resale value as the deciding factor on whether to take on a home improvement project, the important thing to remember is that you live in your house now. Deciding which home renovations to work on based on what someone else might like is the way madness lies.

When you make improvements to your home, make sure you take your own comfort, your plans for living in the home, and the potential resale value into consideration. They all matter.


Source: feeds.killeraces.com

States With the Worst Drivers – 2016 Edition

States With the Worst Drivers

It is common occurrence on American highways for near-accidents to occur. It is also a common occurrence on American highways for people in near-accidents, to look at the license plate of the near-accident-causer and think to themselves, “Oh, well of course they’re from Massachusetts.” Or some other state. It seems like almost every state has a reputation for having terrible drivers. Thanks to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration we can confirm some of those myths and dispel others.

Looking to move? Check out mortgage rates in your new area here.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration around 32,000 people were killed in vehicle-related incidents in 2014. Of course some incidents are genuinely accidents, while some are clearly the fault of one driver, like in the event of drunk driving. But deaths and DUIs are not the only metrics to measure bad driving, people who receive speeding tickets or do not have automobile insurance can also be considered negligent drivers.

To find the states with the worst drivers SmartAsset looked at number of drivers, DUI arrests, people killed, google trends in speeding tickets and percentage of people who have auto insurance. To find out how we put all these numbers together to create our index please read the full methodology below.

Key Findings

No Massachusetts. Boston drivers usually have a reputation as bad drivers but the numbers we analyzed don’t bear that out. Massachusetts ranks 48 on our list. While we have no data on non-fatal accidents, the fact that they lead the nation in insured rate is a positive sign.

Be careful when driving in the southeast. Maybe it’s the heat causing road rage, but four out of the top ten states in our study are located in the southeast.

States with the Worst Drivers

1. Florida

Florida is often plagued with a reputation for bad drivers. The numbers seem to show that this might, in fact, be true. Floridians google “speeding tickets” and “traffic tickets” more than any other state. They also have the second lowest number of insured drivers in the nation.

2. Mississippi

Another southern state and another state in which one ought to be extra careful when driving through. Mississippi had the 5th highest deaths resulting from vehicular incidents. One area where Mississippi can improve is in DUIs. Mississippi had the 12th highest rate of DUI arrests per driver in the country. Like Florida relatively few people are insured. They rank 3rd worst in that category with only 77% insured.

Buying car insurance? Avoid these 6 mistakes.

3. Oklahoma

Continuing on the theme of states with low insured driver rates, Oklahoma has the least. Only 74% of drivers in Oklahoma are insured. It does not get much better for the state in the other categories we looked at. They have one of the 15 worst scores in DUIs per thousand drivers (7.74), number of people killed per thousand drivers in vehicular incidents (.21) and rate of googling parking and traffic tickets (52.13).

4. New Jersey

The Garden State has the infamy of being the state with the second most deaths per driver at 0.62. New Jersey drivers are more likely to be insured than some of the other states on our list. New Jersey drivers are insured at a rate of almost 90%, coming in 22nd on our list.

5. Delaware

New Jerseys neighbor and rival for worst drivers in the northeast, Delaware is unfortunately the only state with more deaths per driver than New Jersey. One curious statistic is that while Delaware has the lowest DUI rate per driver, 40% of deaths occurred when the driver was above the legal limit for drinking, which is the 4th highest rate in the country.

6. Alabama

Another southern state and a similar story to the others with pretty bad scores all around. One bright spot – Alabama has the 4th best score with only 1.42 DUI arrests per thousand drivers. Like Delaware, though, that statistic does not tell the whole story, 33% of deaths in Alabama resulted from a driver being over the legal alcohol limit.

7. Vermont

Vermont leads the nation in DUIs per driver with 50 per thousand drivers. However, they also have the lowest percentage of deaths resulting from drunk driving, at 20%.

8. Tennessee

Tennessee is one of the least insured states in the country, with 20% of people not having car insurance. Tennessee also has the 18th highest number of deaths per thousand drivers. One positive is that they are in the better half of the country for DUI per thousand drivers at 5.7.

9. Texas

Tragically for Texas it has the highest percentage of deaths coming from drunk drivers at 40% and yet it is in the better half of states for DUI arrests. Recent news that Uber and Lyft will both be leaving Austin may have an impact. According to MyStatesman, Austin only has permits for 756 legal taxis and is hoping to increase that to 1,161. But for a tech hot-spot with a population of 850,000 even this may not be enough.

10. Nevada

Nevada is the 3rd worst state for traffic and speeding tickets (when comparing googling trends) as well as being the 17th worst state for DUIs. The good news is that 88% of Nevada drivers are insured.

States with the Worst Drivers

Data and Methodology

In order to find out which state had the worst drivers SmartAsset collected data across 4 metrics.

Percentage insured. Data is taken from the Insurance Research Council.

DUI per thousand drivers. Number of drivers is taken from the Federal Highway Administration. Number of DUIs is taken from the State Justice Department.

Deaths per thousand drivers. Data is taken from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, which is part of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Google trends on driving tickets. This data is the average of the scores each state got in google trends for the 8 phrases: speeding ticket, “speeding ticket,” speeding tickets, “speeding tickets,” traffic ticket, “traffic ticket,” traffic tickets and “traffic tickets.”

We then indexed each factor for every state giving equal weighting and then finding the average score per state to create the final index.

Questions about our study? Contact us at blog@smartasset.com.

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/Ben Harding

The post States With the Worst Drivers – 2016 Edition appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

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All About Car Loan Amortization

All About Auto Loan Amortization

These days, it can take a long time to pay off a car loan. On average, car loans come with terms lasting for more than five years. Paying down a car loan isn’t that different from paying down a mortgage. In both cases, a large percentage of your initial payments go toward paying interest. If you don’t understand why, you might need a crash course on a concept called amortization.

Find out now: How much house can I afford?

Car Loan Amortization: The Basics

Amortization is just a fancy way of saying that you’re in the process of paying back the money you borrowed from your lender. In order to do that, you’re required to make a payment every month by a certain due date. With each payment, your money is split between paying off interest and paying off your principal balance (or the amount that your lender agreed to lend you).

What you’ll soon discover is that your car payments – at least in the beginning – cover quite a bit of interest. That’s how amortization works. Over time, your lender will use a greater share of your car payments to reduce your principal loan balance (and a smaller percentage to pay for interest) until you’ve completely paid off the vehicle you purchased.

Not all loans amortize. For example, applying for a credit card is akin to applying for a loan. While your credit card statement will include a minimum payment amount, there’s no date set in advance for when that credit card debt has to be paid off.

With amortizing loans – like car loans and home loans – you’re expected to make payments on a regular basis according to something called an amortization schedule. Your lender determines in advance when your loan must be paid off, whether that’s in five years or 30 years.

The Interest on Your Car Loan

All About Auto Loan Amortization

Now let’s talk about interest. You’re not going to be able to borrow money to finance a car purchase without paying a fee (interest). But there’s a key difference between simple interest and compound interest.

When it comes to taking out a loan, simple interest is the amount of money that’s charged on top of your principal. Compound interest, however, accounts for the fee that accrues on top of your principal balance and on any unpaid interest.

Related Article: How to Make Your First Car Purchase Happen

As of April 2016, 60-month new car loans have rates that are just above 3%, on average. Rates for used cars with 36-month terms are closer to 4%.

The majority of car loans have simple interest rates. As a borrower, that’s good news. If your interest doesn’t compound, you won’t have to turn as much money over to your lender. And the sooner you pay off your car loan, the less interest you’ll pay overall. You can also speed up the process of eliminating your debt by making extra car payments (if that’s affordable) and refinancing to a shorter loan term.

Car Loan Amortization Schedules 

An amortization schedule is a table that specifies just how much of each loan payment will cover the interest owed and how much will cover the principal balance. If you agreed to pay back the money you borrowed to buy a car in five years, your auto loan amortization schedule will include all 60 payments that you’ll need to make. Beside each payment, you’ll likely see the total amount of paid interest and what’s left of your car loan’s principal balance.

While the ratio of what’s applied towards interest versus the principal will change as your final payment deadline draws nearer, your car payments will probably stay the same from month to month. To view your amortization schedule, you can use an online calculator that’ll do the math for you. But if you’re feeling ambitious, you can easily make an auto loan amortization schedule by creating an Excel spreadsheet.

To determine the percentage of your initial car payment that’ll pay for your interest, just multiply the principal balance by the periodic interest rate (your annual interest rate divided by 12). Then you’ll calculate what’s going toward the principal by subtracting the interest amount from the total payment amount.

For example, if you have a $25,000 five-year car loan with an annual interest rate of 3%, your first payment might be $449. Out of that payment, you’ll pay $62.50 in interest and reduce your principal balance by $386.50 ($449 – $62.50). Now you only have a remaining balance of $24,613.50 to pay off, and you can continue your calculations until you get to the point where you don’t owe your lender anything.

Related Article: The Best Cities for Electric Cars

Final Word

All About Auto Loan Amortization

Auto loan amortization isn’t nearly as complicated as it might sound. It requires car owners to make regular payments until their loans are paid off. Since lenders aren’t required to hand out auto amortization schedules, it might be a good idea to ask for one or use a calculator before taking out a loan. That way, you’ll know how your lender will break down your payments.

Update: Have more financial questions? SmartAsset can help. So many people reached out to us looking for tax and long-term financial planning help, we started our own matching service to help you find a financial advisor. The SmartAdvisor matching tool can help you find a person to work with to meet your needs. First you’ll answer a series of questions about your situation and goals. Then the program will narrow down your options from thousands of advisors to three fiduciaries who suit your needs. You can then read their profiles to learn more about them, interview them on the phone or in person and choose who to work with in the future. This allows you to find a good fit while the program does much of the hard work for you.

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/OSORIOartist, ©iStock.com/studio-pure, ©iStock.com/Wavebreakmedia

The post All About Car Loan Amortization appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

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How to Get Cheap Car Insurance

How to Get Cheap Car Insurance – SmartAsset

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For many people, car insurance is a major expense category in the household budget. And because it’s against the law to drive without car insurance, it’s not a budget item that can be eliminated unless you’re willing to go car-free. That doesn’t mean, though, that you’re stuck paying sky-high rates. Here’s how to get cheap car insurance. 

Learn about personal loan rates. 

How Insurance Companies Set Car Insurance Rates

Like health insurance, car insurance comes with both premiums and deductibles. The premiums are what you pay the insurance company every month to maintain your coverage. The deductible is what you’ll pay when you start making claims, up to a certain annual cap of, say, $1,000.

It’s worth noting that most people who say they want cheap car insurance mean that they want car insurance with low monthly premiums. But, as with health insurance, there’s a risk to having a policy with low premiums and a high deductible. In the event of a serious accident, you’ll have to meet that deductible. So, one way to get lower premiums is to opt for a higher deductible, but this is only a safe strategy if you have enough liquidity to cover your deductible in the event of an accident.

When car insurance companies set insurance premium rates they take several factors into account. These include applicants’ age, gender and driving history, as well as the type of car the applicant drives and the driver’s state of residence. While you can’t change your age, there are other steps you can take to get favorable rates from car insurance companies.

Types of Coverage

Insurance companies charge more for comprehensive car insurance than they do for basic coverage. In most states you’re required to have liability insurance to cover any damage you do to another car or driver. The extent of that coverage requirement varies by state. In most states, you’re not required to have insurance to cover damage to your own car, or injuries you might suffer in an accident.

If you choose to add insurance coverage for yourself, you can opt for comprehensive coverage or collision coverage. Collision coverage, as the name indicates, covers damage from an accident with another car or an object, and in the event that your car flips. Comprehensive coverage covers things like theft, vandalism and natural disasters, too.

So, while you’ll almost definitely need to buy liability coverage to cover other drivers’ damages, you might not need to buy physical damage coverage for your own vehicle. It will depend on the terms of your lease if you’re leasing a car, and on your own assessment of the risks you face.

If you’re buying a valuable new car, you’ll probably want comprehensive coverage. If you’re paying cash for an older, used vehicle, you can probably get away with a more basic level of coverage. Whatever insurance option you choose for yourself, be sure to comply with state laws relating to liability insurance for any damage you might do to another driver. Once you have a car insurance policy, carry proof of insurance with you in your vehicle at all times. 

How to Get Cheap Car Insurance Rates

In the long term, one of the best ways to get cheap car insurance is to be a safe, responsible driver. The worst drivers have high rates because the insurance company needs financial compensation for the high likelihood that it will have to pay out in the event these drivers get in an accident. If you have a spotless driving record, keep it up. If you have some accidents or tickets in your past, they shouldn’t drive your rates up forever. If it’s been a few years since your last incident, you can try calling your insurance company and asking for a lower rate, using your recent, safe driving record as a bargaining chip.

Another way to get cheap car insurance is to use the same insurance company for more than one type of insurance and get a discount for your loyalty. For example, you can contact the insurance company that provides your homeowners insurance, life insurance or motorcycle insurance and ask if the company can give you a good deal on car insurance. If you have more than one car, you can bundle the insurance coverage on both vehicles.

Your credit score will also affect your car insurance rates, just like it affects the rates you’re offered when shopping for a mortgage. If your credit has improved since you last bought car insurance, you may be able to negotiate your way to cheaper car insurance. And if you pay your car insurance premiums and bills on time and in full, you’ll build up goodwill with your insurer and might qualify for promotional rates.

If you don’t drive very much during the year, you might get cheaper car insurance from a usage-based plan than you would from regular car insurance. Track your mileage before you start shopping for car insurance and see if your low mileage makes you eligible for a better deal.

If you’re under 25, you’ll pay higher premiums, all things being equal. That’s because insurance companies judge young drivers to be riskier drivers. You can get lower rates by joining your parents’ plan, or by using your good grades to get a discount on rates, if your insurance company offers that option. Once you reach your mid-20s there’s no reason to keep paying the high rates that insurance companies levy on young drivers. You can ask your insurance company to lower your rate, or shop around for insurance from another provider.

Finally, the type of car you drive can affect your car insurance rates. Big, powerful and flashy cars are more likely to trigger high car insurance rates because the insurance company assumes you’ll be more likely to speed in that kind of vehicle, and that the vehicle will be a target for theft. Vehicles with high repair costs (such as foreign-made cars) may be more expensive to cover, too. In some states, having a used car will mean lower rates because rates are affected by your car’s replacement value. But in other states, rates are based on vehicles’ safety features, so having an older car won’t necessarily help you get cheap car insurance. If your car has special safety and/or anti-theft features, you may qualify for cheaper car insurance on that basis.

Bottom Line

If you don’t have a vehicle or you’re thinking about getting a new (or used) car, it may be worth doing some research to find out which kinds of cars will get you the lowest car insurance rates. And if you’re paying a lot for car insurance now, you may be able to get cheaper coverage by negotiating your premiums or switching providers.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/andresr, ©iStock.com/ipopba, ©iStock.com/kate_sept2004

Amelia Josephson Amelia Josephson is a writer passionate about covering financial literacy topics. Her areas of expertise include retirement and home buying. Amelia’s work has appeared across the web, including on AOL, CBS News and The Simple Dollar. She holds degrees from Columbia and Oxford. Originally from Alaska, Amelia now calls Brooklyn home.
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