Deep Green Carpet Cleaning: A How-To Guide

Deep Green Carpet Cleaning: A How-To Guide

Spot cleaning can only do so much. If you spot clean too much, your carpet becomes covered in bright, white spots. If you don’t spot clean at all, you leave distracting stains all over your carpet. It may not be within your budget to get a professional steam carpet cleaning done each and every time your carpet begins to look spotty. So what do you do? Here’s an easy, ‘green’ way to deep clean your carpets without breaking the bank. This tutorial was created by the highly trained team at Clean Dry and I hope many of you will take this opportunity to learn from carpet cleaning professionals.

Before you start, you’ll want to clear the affected carpets of any furniture. Take them and move them outside (if the weather permits) or into another room. You won’t need them.

Begin the process with a regular spot cleaning before getting into the heavier work. First, vacuum the carpets. Go several times over the same spots, so the whole carpet is thoroughly vacuumed.

Next, mix together ¼ cup salt, ¼ borax and ¼ cup white vinegar. Apply this paste to the heaviest stains in your carpet. Leave the paste to sit for several hours until it dries before vacuuming over the carpet again.

Next, we use the steam cleaner. Don’t use carpet shampoo, which can contain harmful chemicals. Instead, use hot water, which can get grime out of your carpet on its own when used as very high temperatures. Soak the carpet in very hot water before going over it three or four times with the machine on the suction mode, sucking up as much water as you can. A tip for those messiest spots that are the hardest to get out – adding 1 cup of white vinegar to every 2.5 gallons of water will assist when steam cleaning an especially soiled carpet.

Once you finish steam cleaning the carpets, go ahead and steam clean them a second time. Whether you rented the machine, borrowed it or you happen to own one yourself, using it a second time around will only be good for you.

Let the carpets dry. Open windows to create a cross-breeze. Run the ceiling fan and any standing fans (standing on a non-carpeted part of the floor, of course) to circulate the air in the room. Once they’re nearly dry, you can move your furniture back into the rooms. Just a tip – place aluminum foil under furniture legs, to keep any color from bleeding into the wet carpet. Make sure the carpets dry completely before you walk on them again.

As a final step, properly dispose of the water in the steam clean machine. If you rented your machine from a rental service, call the business and inquire if they take the machine back full of if you’re required to drain it. We also recommend calling your local water treatment center for information on how to dispose of the waste water.

 

A Monthly Guide to Setting and Reaching Your Financial Goals

A Monthly Guide to Setting and Reaching Your Financial Goals

New Year’s resolutions are fundamentally flawed.

The idea of doing something for an entire year is both daunting, unpractical and, frankly, a little boring.

So let’s try something new this year. We’re going to take a single resolution – getting your finances in order – and break it up into 12 easy-to-accomplish, month-long goals.

By setting up a series of manageable tasks, you’ll be able to make real month-by-month progress while staying motivated and mindful of the big picture. Because, really, what good is starting something if you can’t finish it?

1. January: Create Long-Term & Short-Term Financial Objectives

The beginning of the year is the perfect time to take stock of your financial past, present and future. Start by looking back at the previous. Was last year a success from a financial goals standpoint? Next, talk to your partner about where you want to be financially both today and tomorrow. Make sure your short-term plans are nested directly within your long-term view and both are leading to the same endpoint.

You should consider creating SMART goals for your finances. Your goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-based (SMART). You could make a goal this year to finally get out of debt or build a fully-funded emergency fund. Or, you could save for a down payment on a house.

A short-term goal could be paying for all of your Christmas gifts next year with cash. If that’s actually one of your short-term goals, now is the time to start. Look at how much you spent last year on Christmas gifts. Set a budget now of what you’ll spend in December and start saving each month for that goal.

Short-Term Goal — Pay for Christmas 2017 With Cash!

  • Specific. Set a specific dollar amount to save. The average American spends about $460 on gifts for family members.
  • Measurable. Look at what you spent in 2016 and use that figure to budget this year.
  • Achievable. If your budget is $600, you need to save $50 each paycheck.
  • Realistic. Yes, you can get it done in a year if you start now.
  • Time-based. You have 12 months to save for next Christmas.

2. February: Increase That Emergency Fund

It’s important to have at least three to six months of living expenses saved for the unexpected. Maybe even more if you have a large family to provide for. An emergency fund helps keep you out of debt or prevents you from increasing debt in the event of something unforeseen like the loss of a job or an unexpected home or car repair.

It’s usually best for an emergency fund to be liquid, which means it’s easily accessible from your regular old savings account. An emergency fund shouldn’t be used for any investing.

3. March: Get Serious About Paying off your Debt

Facing off with debt (credit card or otherwise) can be daunting. But not dealing with it can be crippling when trying to achieve your financial goals

Debt affects your credit and that, in turn, affects other aspects of your financial life, such as life insurance premiums, car insurance rates, job prospects, and more. (You can see how your debts are affecting your credit, for instance, by viewing your free credit report snapshot, updated every 14 days, on Credit.com.)

Take March and start a debt snowball There are two philosophies when it comes to paying off debt. You can either start your debt snowball by tackling your smallest debt first. Or, many financial experts recommend starting with the debt that has the highest interest rate first.

Starting with the smallest debt and paying that one off first (while making all of your minimum payments on your other cards) instead of the one with the largest interest rate has a psychological effect. It’s a quick win that will build momentum. It’s amazing to see yourself pay off debts. It’ll keep you motivated and hungry to pay off more.

Paying off your debts with the highest annual percentage rate (APR) is more cost-effective, since it can save you on interest.

4. April: Time for a Last Will & Testament

It’s not a pleasant topic to think about, but you don’t want to die without a will. It can often lead to your final wishes not being followed and put additional stress on your loved ones when they’re already suffering.

Having a last will and testament ensures that your desires are known and carried out correctly. Who will take care of your children if you die while they are still minors? Who will take care of them if you and your spouse die at the same time?

Children are just one of the many reasons that you should have a will. Whether you’re single, married, or have children, you don’t want the probate courts deciding important manners about your belongings and wishes.

If you don’t want to spend money on an estate attorney just yet, there are numerous online wills or forms that you can use. These resources can provide a solid starting-off point, and then you can hire an estate lawyer on an hourly basis to ensure you’ve considered everything.

Whichever route you choose for creating a will, just make sure you have a witness present and that you sign in front of a notary.

5. May: Assess Your Life Insurance Needs

Life insurance helps ensure that your family will be financially protected if you die. (Full disclosure: Haven Life, the company I work for, sells life insurance.)

If you have loved ones who depend on you for financial support and you don’t have a policy outside of work, then you’re probably not adequately covered.

Most employer-sponsored life insurance coverage only provides one or two years salary for a death benefit. That may seem like a lot to some, but the recommended amount of coverage is usually five to 10 times your annual income. And it’s important to remember that employer-sponsored coverage usually doesn’t go where you go, which means coverage usually ends when you get a new job.

Life insurance should help cover:

  • Day-to-day living expenses
  • A mortgage and other debts
  • College costs for children
  • Childcare costs
  • Future healthcare costs
  • Funeral and final expenses
  • Charitable giving
  • Any legacy you want to leave

6. June: Consolidate Your 401K Accounts

Young workers move around and take a lot of jobs. According to the Harvard Business Review, more than 20% of Millennials have job hopped within the last year. But, with all of this moving, what happens to your retirement plans? Many workers simply leave their 401K retirement plans spread across their many former employers. If you’ve changed jobs recently, March is a good time to turn your attention to consolidating your 401K retirement plans. Roll over the old accounts into your new employer’s 401K or a Traditional IRA.

By keeping all of your retirement savings in single place, you’ll have better control and more investment options at your disposal. Consolidation will also help you maintain the right asset allocation based on your current risk tolerance.

7. July: Increase Your Retirement Contributions (But Not at Your Budget’s Expense)

You can boost your retirement savings without killing your budget if you increase your contribution with every pay raise earned.

If you get a pay raise of 2%, consider increasing your monthly contributions to your 401K or Roth IRA by 1%. It’s a sneaky way to trick yourself into saving more for your retirement without feeling the pain. Especially if you can time this increase in retirement savings before you even see the larger paycheck.

8. August: Open a 529 Account

A 529 College Savings Plan is a great tool to help you save for your children’s college education. As soon as your newborn receives his or her Social Security number, consider opening a 529.

Parents (and grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other family members) can contribute after-tax dollars to the plan, which typically offers a number of different investment options. Your contributions can grow over time, and earnings are tax-free as long as you use them for qualified higher education expenses when withdrawn. You can also receive a deduction on your state income taxes in many states for 529 contributions.

9. September: September Is for Shredding

Financial statements are like weeds. If left unattended, they can grow, multiply and before you know it, take over your desk completely.

Knowing which financial documents to keep and which to shred is key.

You can shred receipts for items you aren’t going to return as soon as the purchase has posted to your account. You can destroy credit card monthly statements after you’ve received them and reconciled your purchases.

Better yet: Consider switching to digital statements. Start going through your bank, credit card and investment accounts and opt for digital statements instead of paper copies. This way, you’ll help save the environment and keep desk clutter to a minimum.

Remember, it’s important to keep monthly investment statements until you receive your year-end statement. You should keep year-end statements for at least seven years in case you get audited. The same is also true for all tax documents. You should keep supporting tax documentation for at least seven years.

Shredding your financial documents or having a digital safe haven is one of your best defenses against identity theft.

And, hey, shredding a stack of papers never stops being gratifying.

10. October: Build Your Financial Team

We all need some help in our corner and trusted advisers we can turn to.

A financial team can be a sounding board for ideas and can help you stay on track with your financial goals. You may want to consider working with a financial planner, a tax professional, insurance agent, mortgage broker and/or real estate agent. If your financial life is an enterprise, this is your personal board of directors to assist you.

Get your team in place now and then turn to them throughout the year when you need help with things like filing your taxes, adjusting your investments or even insight on if it’s a good time to put your house on the market.

11. November: Stop Giving the Government an Interest-Free Loan

Your goal should be having little-to-no income tax refund each year. Having a small refund means that you’re getting the right amount of taxes withheld from your paycheck each month.

A large income tax refund is equivalent to an interest-free loan to the government. According to IRS records, the average income tax refund in America is $3,120. That equals $260 each month that you could add back to your monthly paycheck.

Too many Americans look at an income tax refund as a year-end bonus, but it’s an overpayment of your taxes every month. What could you do with an extra $260 each month?

Take some time in November to check in with your HR department about changing your withholding and updating your W2.

12. December: Rebalance Your Investment Portfolios

Many investors do not get a higher rate of return on their investment portfolio because their allocations get out of whack. December is the perfect time to rebalance your investments.

Investors should rebalance once a year to optimize their desired investing mix based on their investing timeframe, objectives and tolerance for risk. Rebalancing helps you stick to your investment plan and avoid potential anxieties as the market fluctuates. Many financial experts recommend rebalancing once a year either during the new year or in the investor’s birthday month.

Mix, Match & Reorder to Suit Your Needs

So, there you have it. Not all to-do lists need to be a mile long. The point is, where possible, divide your financial goals so that you feel like you’re making progress during the entire year versus a mad dash to accomplish everything this month.

Feel free to mix, match and reorder these tips to best suit your family’s needs. If you’re like me, while working on this, I decided to increase my retirement contribution by 1% now versus waiting longer into the year.

Ultimately, what matters most is that you’re working toward tackling your financial goals and setting yourself up for long-term success. A month-to-month to-do list could be the best way to keep yourself on track.

(Note: While we hope this information is useful, it’s only intended to provide general education. It’s not legal, tax, or investment advice, and may not apply or be useful to your specific financial situation.)

Hank Coleman contributed to the reporting of this article.

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5 Ever-So-Simple Strategies for Paying Off Debt in 2017

5 Ever-So-Simple Strategies for Paying Off Debt in 2017

Want to pay off your debt and save more money in 2017? You’re not alone! According to one survey of Google search data, searches for “Spend Less/Save More” were up 17.47% from 2016. Want to achieve your get-out-of-debt goal? If so, we recommend trying one of the five strategies here.

1. The Debt Snowball

This debt-payoff method, made famous by financial guru Dave Ramsey, has you pay off your smallest debts first. The idea behind the debt snowball is that you get a quick psychological boost from paying off some small debts from the get-go. This gives you the mental momentum to keep going when paying off debt.

To start a debt snowball, list your debts in order from smallest to largest. Use any extra money to pay off the smallest balance while you make minimum payments on your other debts. When your smallest debt is paid off, snowball that debt’s minimum payment, plus your extra cash towards paying off the next debt. By the time you get to the largest debt, you’ll be throwing a lot of money at it each month. (You can see how your debt is affecting your credit by viewing two of your credit scores, with updates every 14 days, on Credit.com.)

2. The Debt Avalanche

This is similar to the debt snowball in that you pay off one debt at a time. But it’s actually the more economical method of paying off debt. Instead of paying off smaller balances first, the debt avalanche has you start by paying off the debts with the largest interest rate.

The debt avalanche is a smart method if you already have the determination to make it through a long debt payoff process without the boost of paying off a few smaller debts early on. It can get you out of debt faster since you’ll stop accumulating interest on high-interest debts much more quickly.

3. The Debt Snowflake

This is a method that can be combined with one of the above options or used to pay off debt in any order you choose. The idea here is that you find small ways to save a few bucks, and then transfer that money saved toward debt payments.

With the debt snowflake method, you’ll need to be exceptionally aware of your spending patterns. For instance, if you normally spend $10 on a lunch out at work, but pack your lunch one day, you could save $5. That $5 is a snowflake that can then go toward paying off debt.

The key to debt snowflakes is to make sure they don’t “melt.” Get into the habit of transferring “snowflake” money to debt accounts immediately, or at least on a weekly basis. Otherwise, you run the risk of that hard-saved cash being used for other purposes.

4. The Credit Card Transfer

If much of your debt is in the form of high-interest credit card balances, consider using balance transfer offers to pay off that debt more quickly. Since credit cards often have interest exceeding 15%, it’s not unusual for most of your minimum payment to go toward interest, even on a relatively small balance. If you can transfer that balance to a card with a 0% introductory annual percentage rate, you can put more money toward the principal balance each month, paying off your debts more quickly.

Be careful, though, to read all the terms of a credit card balance transfer. Most cards charge a fee for the balance transfer. If you’ll pay off the card’s balance quickly, the transfer may actually cost more than it saves. You can find more info on some of the better balance transfer credit cards here.

5. The Half Payment Method

What if you’re on such a tight budget that you can’t even squeak out some extra dollars to start on a debt snowball or avalanche? One option is to start making half of your minimum payment every two weeks. Bi-weekly payments, which may fall when you get a paycheck, can save you money over time on debts that are compounded daily or monthly based on the average balance.

The reasoning behind biweekly payments is somewhat complex. But, essentially, paying more often allows less interest to accrue between payments, which means more of your payment goes toward the principal. Plus, if you make a half payment every two weeks, you’ll actually have made a whole extra minimum payment by the end of the year!

Half payments can help even out your bank account balance and can help bring down your debt balances more quickly. Combining the bi-weekly payment method with another method for applying any extra cash you scrape together toward one debt at a time could be a powerful option for meeting your financial resolution this year.

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5 Helpful Apps for Families on a Tight Budget

5 Helpful Apps for Families on a Tight Budget

It’s hard enough to keep a budget for one, let alone get your entire family on track with their finances. Fortunately, there are plenty of apps out there that can help keep you, your spouse, son, daughter and 11-year-old pug (OK, maybe not that last one) from spending beyond your family’s means.

Here are some choice apps that can help with your household budgeting.

1. Goodbudget

Platforms: iOS and Android

Essentially a digital version of the envelope system — you know, where you put money allotted for a particular spending category in one and then don’t use any dollars beyond that — this app syncs up across household devices. That way, everyone in the family can know exactly what’s left to spend on groceries, entertainment and other categories each month. The free version lets you set up 10 regular envelopes and 10 annual envelopes across two devices. A subscription service with unlimited envelopes and device syncs costs $5 a month or $45 a year.

2. You Need a Budget

Platforms: iOS and Android

You Need a Budget (YNAB) is another app that lets folks sharing finances sync their devices and work together. This app pairs with web software of the same name to help users implement the YNAB four big rules: give every dollar a job, embrace your true expenses, roll with the punches and age your money. You can try the latest version, launched in late 2015 and dubbed “The New YNAB,” for free for 34 days. After that, a subscription costs $5 a month or $50 a year.

3. Home Budget

Platforms: iOS and Android

This digital expense tracker from Anishu includes a feature called Family Sync, which — you guessed it — enables household devices to exchange income and spending information within a single, shared budget. There’s a free version (Home Budget with Sync Lite) which limits your expense and income entries, and a paid version (just plain ol’ Home Budget with Sync) that costs $5.99.

4. Wallet by BudgetBakers

Platforms: iOS and Android

This budgeting app lets your share selected accounts with family members so everyone knows what’s going on with the household budget. You can also choose to connect your bank accounts to the app to get automatic updates about their standing. Wallet has a free version with limited features and several paid subscription versions that vary in cost. Its top tier, called Master plan, allows up to 10 users, unlimited bank connections and customized financial analysis. It costs $5.49 a month or $44.30 a year.

5. EveryDollar

Platforms: iOS and Android

This budgeting app helps people apply the money management principles of budgeting guru Dave Ramsey. It syncs across devices so you can budget from your smartphone or your household desktop. There’s a free version and a Plus subscription, which lets you connect your bank accounts to the app and call for support. It costs $9.99 a month.

Balancing the Family Budget

Remember, you’ll want to read the terms and conditions of any app you’re looking to use so you know what it costs, how your data is protected and whether any information will be shared with third-parties. You can find more information for vetting mobile apps on the Federal Trade Commission’s website.

And, when it comes to maintaining a household budget, it’s also important to keep track of your credit because a bad or even fair credit score can really cost you on everything from mortgage interest to your family’s cell phone plan.

If your credit isn’t in great shape, you can improve your scores by disputing errors on your credit reports, paying down high credit card balances and getting delinquent accounts back in good standing. And, as always, you can maintain good credit by paying all your bills on time, keeping debt levels low and adding a mix of new credit accounts over time. 

 https://youtu.be/_jh_PWEVEDU

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Single Mom Home DIY Project: Bathroom Grout Makeover

Single Mom Home DIY Project: Bathroom Grout Makeover

How to Get Your Grout to Look Brand New

Grout can be troublesome. While ceramic tiles are designed to resist stains, deflect grime and last for years, grout tends to absorb dirt and become strained all too easily. You might have tried many different cleaning solutions and homemade remedies on your grout, but nothing seems to get that dark brown stain out from between those shiny ceramic tiles. What can you do?

Remember, when tackling dirty grout, always start out with a mild cleaning solution, and if that doesn’t clean it fully, gradually move on to more aggressive cleaners. Of all the commercial cleaning solutions out there, we’ve found OxyClean to be the simplest and most effective at tackling messy grout lines and dirty tiles. Not only is OxyClean tough on grout, its main component is hydrogen peroxide, a “green” cleaning product that is neither a carcinogen nor a neurotoxin. Simply combine the OxyClean with water, rub onto the grout, and let sit for the recommended time before rinsing it off and brushing away any residue.

You might be tempted to use a rough brush to push the solution into the grout lines. Don’t do that! Using an abrasive brush such as steel wool or Brillo pad will wear down the grout and do more harm than good. In some cases, it could break through the grout, forcing you to get it replaced. Of all the brushes, an old electric toothbrush is the most effective at brushing dirt out of grout. Much like it does to your teeth, the electric toothbrush rotates and scrubs the gunk out of the grout, while simultaneously reaching those hard-to-get or unseen spots.

If you’re having no luck with the various cleaning solutions, consider investing in a steam mop. A steam mop uses high pressure, hot water and steam to blast your flooring and clean your grout. The high pressure created by the machine lifts dirt from inside the porous grout lines, flushing it out and leaving a shiny, new-looking surface in its wake.  Using a steam mop is great on the environment since it uses hot water instead of harsh cleaning chemical solutions.

 

Cleaning with the steam mop is very easy. To use your steam mop, all you need to do is hold the nozzle and direct the steam through it and onto the grout line. Direct the nozzle up and down the grout lines to directly take on the dirt. You want to rent or buy a steam mop that has a strong pressure gauge and can reach ~350ºF, as this is the optimal temperature for cleaning grout. Cleaning mops are very effective when used alone, even more so when used following a more traditional cleaning attempt using a homemade or commercial cleaning solution which are used by the professionals such as Sir Clean Pro. Once you’re finished using the steam mop, use an attached brush, old toothbrush or nylon brush with soft bristles to wipe away any leftover dirt residue. Once you’re done, your tile floor or wall should look shiny and new.