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The Best Home Insurance Companies

Why trust us in finding home insurance? Research methodology To make our recommendations for the best homeowners insurance companies in 2021, we used our proprietary SimpleScore system to rate insurers on accessibility, coverage options, customer service, discounts, and support. The research was supported by inputs from experts from renowned third-party market research companies such as […]

The post The Best Home Insurance Companies appeared first on The Simple Dollar.

Source: thesimpledollar.com

10 Home Updates That Are Worth the Money

Homeownership is one of the most time-tested ways to build wealth in the U.S. It can help you build wealth thanks to home appreciation — but this isn’t always guaranteed (just ask anyone who bought a home right before 2008). 

Another way to build wealth through homeownership is by upgrading your home, thereby increasing its value. The idea is that when you eventually sell your home (or pass it on to your heirs) it’ll be worth even more than simply keeping up with basic home maintenance alone. 

And since you spend around 90% of your time indoors, you might as well enjoy your home a bit more while growing its value.

10 Impactful Ways to Raise Your Home’s Value

The opportunities for upgrading your home are endless. But if you’re aiming to boost your home’s value, some upgrades are better than others. You’ll also need to consider whether you feel comfortable with certain DIY projects, or if you prefer to hire a professional. 

You could rig-up a picket fence made of the leg lamps from A Christmas Story if you really wanted to, after all, but chances are it’d decrease your property value (if it didn’t burn down your house in the process, that is). 

Instead, try one of these investment-friendly upgrades, according to the 2020 Cost vs. Value Report from Remodeling Magazine:

  1. Stone Veneer
  2. Garage Door Replacement
  3. Minor Kitchen Remodel
  4. Replace Siding
  5. Replace Windows
  6. Deck Addition
  7. Replace Entry Door
  8. Replace Roof
  9. Remodel Bathroom
  10. Major Kitchen Remodel

1. Stone Veneer

Estimated cost: $9,357

It’s no secret that finding ways to add curb appeal is one of the quickest remodeling wins to increase your home’s value. Right now, one of the hottest trends is adding manufactured stone veneers to the exterior of your home, generally around the base or as accent walls. 

You can DIY this, but it might be better to hire a professional because the materials are expensive. Plus, if you do it wrong, you could waste a lot of money and end up with a wonky result. 

2. Garage Door Replacement

Estimated cost: $3,695

If you’re not keen on spending tens of thousands of dollars, a relatively quick win you can go for is simply replacing your garage door with a better model that includes a lifetime warranty. Again, this is one that’s better left to the pros because it’s an especially dangerous job for newbie DIYers. Besides, installing it yourself is likely to void the warranty anyway.

3. Minor Kitchen Remodel

Estimated cost: $23,452

If you don’t mind sitting around in some construction dust for a little while, doing your own minor kitchen remodel is definitely within the scope of DIYers. It’s also a common home remodel on HGTV and other media. 

To reach the value-add touted by the survey, you’ll need to replace your oven or cooktop, refrigerator, cabinet doors, countertops, drawer fronts, flooring, and add new paint and trim. It requires a lot of changes, but if you have time to watch a few YouTube tutorials, you can do it yourself fairly easily. 

4. Replace Siding

Estimated cost: $14,359 to $17,008

Another big curb-appeal booster is simply replacing your home’s siding. But not all siding is created equal. Fiber-cement siding costs slightly more and recoups slightly more of the cost. The difference, however, isn’t huge and might vary for your individual case. 

Vinyl siding is easier to maintain and install, but isn’t as fire-resistant as fiber-cement — an increasingly important consideration if you live in the arid West. No matter which type you choose, you might need to rent specialized equipment, like scaffolding, unless you’re an NBA athlete working on a single-story house.

5. Replace Windows

Estimated cost: $17,641 to $21,495

Old, leaky, rackety windows aren’t great for curb appeal or energy-efficiency. That’s why replacing them can also be a good idea. If you’re nervous about smashing them (and we wouldn’t blame you), you can hire a professional. Otherwise, it’s a job that’s possible for most DIYers. 

If you have standard-sized windows, you can get ready-made windows from a home supply store. But you’ll likely need to custom-order them to fit your own home. 

6. Deck Addition

Estimated cost: $14,360 to $19,856

Decks are one of the easiest home additions to DIY, as long as you have basic carpentry and tool safety skills. You can take your time with decks since they’re outside of your home and not directly in your everyday living space. Composite decks are slightly more expensive than wooden decks but have the advantage of longevity and less maintenance necessary over the years.

7. Replace Entry Door

Estimated cost: $1,881

Another easy and low-cost project, replacing the front door gives you an instant boost to your curb appeal. Just about anyone can do it with the help of YouTube video tutorials and a good, strong arm. 

8. Replace Roof

Estimated cost: $24,700 to $40,318

Your roof is literally the cap to your home. Replacing the roof is a big job, and although hammering in shingles seems easy (and it is), it’s generally best left to the professionals. A professionally-installed roof comes with a warranty, and takes a day or two to complete.

If you DIY this home improvement project, you’ll lose the warranty, and it could take you longer to complete the job. And the longer your roofing project lingers, the longer your home is vulnerable to damage. 

Another point to remember — metal roofs are far more expensive than asphalt shingle roofs, but they also tend to last longer and require less maintenance.

9. Remodel Bathroom

Estimated cost: $21,377 to $34,643

As long as you’re not making major changes to the plumbing and electrical systems underlying the fixtures, a bathroom remodel is possible on your own. This is an especially common remodel for many DIYers, because along with the kitchen and the bedroom, it’s a daily-use room. 

10. Major Kitchen Remodel

Estimated cost: $68,490 to $135,547

If you’re looking to bring a 1950s-style kitchen into the 21st century, it’ll take a bit more than some extra spit and glue. You’ll need to make big changes, like adding in a vented range hood for those blackened-fish tacos, new recessed and under-cabinet lighting, new cabinets, and even adding in an island for better cooking options. For that reason, it’s usually better to hire a professional team who can make sure everything’s wired up right. 

Your Mileage May Vary

Here’s something to consider: on average, you’ll only recoup a portion of your cost if you complete the upgrade and then sell your home in the same year. That might seem a bit disappointing — shouldn’t you be able to recoup all of the cost, and then some?

Remember, your specific case might be very different depending on a lot of factors, like what area of your home could use work. For example, if your exterior looks tired and the siding is falling off, upgrading that rather than adding a new deck might give you a better payoff. 

Another factor affecting your return on investment is how long you let your home’s value appreciate, before selling it. Adding a stone veneer can help you recoup 96% of your cost in the first year. However, in the second year, consider whether you can boost the value of your home by more than you paid for the upgrade. 

If you plan on selling your home in the future, asking a local realtor or real estate investor which upgrades are best for your particular home can be worthwhile. After all, market conditions vary dramatically cross the country and no two homes are exactly the same. 

The post 10 Home Updates That Are Worth the Money appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

How Much Your Monthly Food Budget Should Be + Grocery Calculator

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Your grocery bill can add up fast. From dinner entrées to snacks, the amount you spend directly affects your other financial goals. Luckily, there are some guidelines to ensure you’re not overspending. 

Use the grocery calculator below to estimate your monthly and weekly food budget based on guidelines from the USDA’s monthly food plan. Input your family size and details below to calculate how much a nutritious grocery budget should cost you. Of course, every family is different. Some love coupons and leftovers, while others prefer fresh fish and aged cheese. Once you’ve established your budget, use the slider to adjust your estimate to your spending habits. 

Getting your food budget on point takes practice. With this grocery calculator and the right spending habits, you’ll have enough for your living expenses and exciting financial goals like paying off loans or buying a house.

Grocery Budget Calculator

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A moderate grocery budget will run you:

Weekly Grocery Cost Food costs per individual are based on USDA research regarding Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and follow MyPyramid nutrition guidelines.

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Monthly Grocery Cost Food costs per individual are based on USDA research regarding Dietary Reference Intakes and Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and follow MyPyramid nutrition guidelines.

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What kind of spender are you?

Does your estimate look right? If your spending habits don’t add up, explore these other budget options and choose what’s best for your lifestyle.

Thrifty This is the USDA’s estimated food budget for families that receive food assistance like WIC or SNAP.

Cost-Conscious This is an ideal budget for nutritious meals if you’re looking to save a little extra cash with leftovers and coupons.

Moderate This is the standard for affordable, nutritious, and balanced portions for most families.

Generous This budget gives you some spending wiggle room for finer foods or extra portions.

See where the rest of your budget is going Sign up for Mint

Monthly Grocery Budget

Ever wonder how much you should spend on groceries? The average cost of food per month for one person ranges from $150 to $300, depending on age. However, these national averages vary based on where you live and the quality of your food purchases.

Here’s a monthly grocery budget for the average family. This is based on the national average and likely varies by location and shop. For instance, New York City grocers are going to be far more expensive than Kansas City shops. Additionally, organic grocery stores like Whole Foods are pricier than places like Walmart or Aldi.

You’ll also want to consider dietary choices, like gluten-free or vegan diets. These can significantly affect your budget, so consider planning your grocery list online to compare prices and find your preferred alternatives.

FAMILY SIZE SUGGESTED
MONTHLY BUDGET
1 person $251
2 people $553
3 people $722
4 people $892
5 people $1,060
6 people $1,230

Finding a reasonable monthly grocery budget ensures you and your family have what you need, while not overspending. Look back at previous months using a budgeting app or credit card statements to see what you’ve spent at the grocery store. Decide if you want to maintain your current budget or cut back.

Purchasing Groceries vs. Dining Out

Mockup of grocery list and food inventory printables with fresh produce

 

Download grocery list and inventory printables button.

Don’t forget what you spend at restaurants when you consider your food budget. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans spend 11 percent of their take-home income on food. It doesn’t all go towards groceries, though. Approximately six percent is spent on groceries, while five percent is spent dining out — including dates, lunches with coworkers, and Sunday brunch.

With this framework in mind, you can calculate your total food budget based on your take-home income. For example, Rita makes $3,500 per month after taxes. She would budget six percent for groceries ($210) and five percent for restaurants ($175). So she’ll need a total of $385 for food each month. With a little practice, she’ll better learn her habits and be able to accurately adjust her budget.

Tips for Reducing Your Budget

Illustration of grocery coupons and meal planner.

There are several ways to cut back on what you spend without sacrificing the quality and taste of your food. Trimming your food budget can help you stow away more for your financial goals, such as building an emergency fund or saving for a dream vacation.

Cut Coupons

Coupons are easy to find in the mail, in store, in your inbox, and even in a Google search. Many popular grocery stores are rolling out apps that track your coupons and savings. Be sure to download and register your email for new updates and sales. These usually work in person or online, so you can shop when and how you like. 

While a single coupon might not give you a large discount, you can save a lot with multiple coupons. It’s also important you make sure you actually need the item you’re purchasing instead of buying it for the sale. This can quickly get out of hand and push you over budget. 

Freeze Your Food

Freezing your fresh food before it goes bad helps your wallet and the environment. You can plan ahead and freeze prepared produce to save time on weekday cooking, or chop and freeze last week’s produce before shopping for more. Frozen vegetables are great in soups and stews, and you can use frozen fruits for healthy breakfast smoothies. 

Plan a Weekly Menu Ahead of Time

Plan your meals ahead of time to determine the food items and quantities you need before you head to the grocery store. This way you’re more likely to buy the exact items you need and can plan for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Try to plan for recipes that use the same ingredients so there’s less to purchase. You can also make larger meals and plan leftovers for lunch so you have less to plan and purchase.

Download meal planning printable button.

Bring Lunches to Work 

A $13 lunch out might not seem like much, but it can blow your food budget fast if it becomes a habit. Push your monthly food budget further with delicious lunches from home. Salads, sandwiches, and leftovers are all easy, inexpensive, and nutritious. 

Buy Store Brands 

Many packaged products have a huge price disparity between brand name and generic items, and store brand items tend to be cheaper without sacrificing much quality. You can easily save 10 cents to a dollar per item, which adds up quickly over many trips. 

Shop at a More Affordable Store

Your local farmers market, chain grocery, and organic store will all offer different specialties and sales. Check out the different shops in your area to find the best combination of quality and price. Some stores might even offer bulk items — great for your favorite products and those with a long shelf-life. Choosing cheaper staple items like milk and yogurt can also make a huge difference over time. 

An accurate food budget that works for you helps you feel more confident and in control of your finances. Build a budget, learn your spending habits, and keep a grocery list to keep you on track and responsible so you can reach bigger goals, like a new vehicle or a down payment on a house. 

Sources: USA Today | EurekAlert | Persistent Economic Burden of the Gluten-Free Diet

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