A popular adage goes, "Don't judge a book by its cover." An even more popular adage goes, "Don't judge a candidate by their cover letter." Just kidding. That's not popular, that's not an adage, and it's not even correct. Your cover letter will be your first impression to your potential employer, and of course they will judge you for it. So make sure it's phenomenal. Here's how.

1. Nix, "To Whom it May Concern"

"To Whom it May Concern" might just be the 5 most uninspired words in the American-English lexicon. Your cover letter "may" not even concern anyone if it opens with this tired and lazy salutation. Instead, find out an actual living, breathing human being to which to address your cover letter. With a few seconds of research, you can likely come up with a name of someone in the department to which you're applying. Someone who may very well be concerned.

And according to Vicki Salemi at U.S. News, it's best to start at the top: "If you're pursuing a job in human resources and the company clearly lists the name of the chief HR executive in charge, go ahead and address the letter to that person. Will the executive be the first person to open the cover letter in the applicant tracking system? Not exactly. Will it look like you did your homework? You bet."

2. Show off that you know about the company.

Having a generic cover letter that you can send out to the masses is a good place to start, but you should never send out a generic cover letter before you spice it up with company-specific details. The HR department doesn't care that you are qualified for "a" job in your field, but that you are qualified for "the" job that they are seeking. Research about the company, and present to them why you want to work there. Also, make sure it's the right company. We can't tell you how many times we've seen cover letters that are addressed to people in a completely different company. That's embarrassing, and a surefire way to get it thrown in physical (or metaphorical) trash. Make sure that you cater your skills to appeal to those mentioned in the job description. Be relevant, and only include information that can benefit your eligibility for this job.

3. Don't rehash your résumé.

Get right to the point. No one cares to read what they can already find out from your résumé. Your cover letter is an opportunity to show your human voice, so show your diligent personality without going overboard. Focus on skills, communications, and relationships you've built in your professional life. Tell a story. Give your potential employers the relevant context that explains why you would be the ideal candidate at this point in time. Be brief, yet substantial.

4. Use power words.

Instead of using words such as "organized" and "hard-working," like any good employer would already expect you to be, according to career experts, words that stand out appeal to the emotions. Talk about your enthusiasm, passion, and listening skills. Talk about your admiration for such-and-such and how you inspired so-and-so. Use strong verbs such as "achieved" and "led," or "negotiated" and "generated." These are positive words that mean more than just you did stuff and were responsible.

Also, make sure you use the active voice ("I generated leads for the world famous Walrus Expo in Alaska") instead of passive voice ("Leads were generated by me and my team for the world famous Walrus Expo in Alaska."). It's a way to keep things concise.

5. Cut it out with the adverbs.

"I was enormously instrumental in my team's success." Eye roll. Cut out the extra words, and you'll be able to shine that much brighter. The words are getting in your way, and are often a cover-up for not knowing exactly what you want to say. Instead of more words, choose better words, and you won't find the need to make up for it.

6. Turn your experiences into skills.

When you're reading your cover letter back to yourself, see if all of your skills can translate into the domain in which you are applying. Think outside of the dodecahedron. Even your time spent vacationing in Bali can translate into skills. That vacation shows that you're able to appreciate different cultures and practices, for example. Every skill you have can be interpreted through a corporate lens.

7. Have impeccable grammar.

The only way for you to catch all of your mistakes is to print out your cover letter (yes, print it) and read it aloud to yourself or others. And while you're at it, send it around to a bunch of people to proofread it. Even a small typo is enough to get you on some employers' naughty lists. Take the extra precaution.

You're on your way to landing that job, if you keep these cover letter tips in mind. Go get 'em!

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Between buying a new home and transporting yourself and your belongings to it, moving can be an expensive process. One often underrecognized cost of moving occurs before one's original house has even been sold, and that's staging the house. Homeowners often spend hundreds of dollars making a home appealing to potential buyers. To ease the financial burden of moving, here are several tips for staging your home on a budget.

Downsize Instead of Storing

The goal of staging a home is to create a blank canvas that potential buyers can imagine their own lives painted upon. To accomplish this, homeowners should depersonalize the home as much as possible, removing items that are specific to their family and eliminating clutter. This is where homeowners often incur their first costs as they rush to put as many older things in storage as possible.

To cut costs, focus on downsizing rather than storing items. Look for items that you can sell, donate, or give away. For remaining items, look for alternative places to store them, such as a friend or relative's house. This will also reduce the cost of moving your belongings when it is time to go to the new house.

DIY What You Can

There are times when homeowners should bring in a professional to manage home renovations and decorating, such as when a task requires specialized skills. These types of jobs, when done incorrectly, will incur even greater costs if attempted on your own. However, many of the home improvement tasks that go into staging a home are simple enough that the homeowner can DIY them, such as painting, installing a backsplash, or refinishing the deck. Doing these tasks yourself will save you a significant amount of money.

Don't Redo, Update

Homeowners are often eager to make their houses look as appealing to buyers as possible. However, recall that the point of staging is depersonalization, making a home presentable so buyers can mentally impose their own style onto it. When staging a home on a budget, focus less on completely transforming the space and more on making what is there look presentable. For instance, if you wanted to give your bedroom a facelift, trying to replace the furniture and flooring would be pointless unless it was damaged or unkempt. Simply organizing the space and replacing the bed's comforter would be sufficient.

Maximize Space

Another way to update the space without entirely redoing it is to rearrange it to maximize the space that is already there. For instance, pulling the furniture away from the walls will make a room appear bigger and allows more space for those touring the house. Using window trimmings that maximize natural light and incorporating wall mirrors can also make a room seem more spacious.

Raising a larger family than most means that your lifestyle is going to change. Costs will continue to multiply as your family grows larger. However, just because your family is large doesn't mean your quality of life needs to suffer. It just means you need to make a few adjustments to help things work smoother and more efficiently. We've compiled a couple of money-saving tips for larger families to help you get the most out of your dollars.

Always Buy in Bulk

The benefit of having a larger family is that things you buy in bulk rarely ever go to waste. Smaller families can benefit from buying in bulk, of course, but your large family will see the most use out of shopping in large quantities. You'll want to avoid going to smaller stores for necessities such as groceries and clothes, as these places generally have higher markups on their items.

Buy Wholesale Items Online

If you want to take buying in bulk to the next level, one of the best money-saving tips for large families is to buy online from wholesalers. Buying online comes with a number of benefits that you won't get when you go to a physical store:

  • You don't have to drag your kids to the store with you
  • You have a lower probability of making impulse purchases
  • You can search for exactly what you need
  • Wholesalers sell in very large quantities for a lower price per item

Never Throw Away Something Useful

When you have to buy things for multiple children, your costs to replace items will be much higher. That's why it's so important to keep everything you can. Clothing is a big part of this. Hand-me-downs can prevent you from needing to replace entire closets every year. Try to repair or upcycle any clothes that may have damage, as this is usually much cheaper than buying brand-new items.

Stick to a Budget

When you support a large family, expenses can sometimes get away from you. Proper budgeting helps to keep the extra purchases that add up to a minimum. Budgeting correctly can save you a lot of heartache in the long run. It's up to you how much control you want to take; you can make your budget weekly or monthly, depending on how tight a ship you need to run. What's important to remember is that making the budget is only the first step—sticking to it is where you'll really need to enact some willpower.

Spring may be the most popular time to list, but people need to buy homes in every season. Follow some simple steps to get your home sold in the winter.

Sometimes there is no choice—a home needs to be sold in the winter.

Spring may be the most popular time to put your house on the market, but homes do sell in the colder months. With fewer houses available, your home may be someone's only choice when house hunting in your neighborhood. As your neighbors hold out until spring, you'll already be done and ready to shop for your next house!

Here are a few tips for selling a home in the winter to get you on the right track.

Keep Paths Safe and Landscaping Fresh

Landscaping is the last thing on a homeowner's mind in the winter. Everything was cut back in the fall and may now be covered in snow. Still, take a walk around the house and yard to check everything out. Branches may have fallen from heavy snow, leaving a mess in the yard. Keep everything neat and tidy.

The last thing you need is a potential buyer slipping on the ice-covered walk in front of your house. Buyers often consider those moments bad omens, and this can affect their decisions. Shovel, snow blow, spread salt—do whatever you have to do to keep the driveway and walking paths clear, and don't forget the porch and deck.

Make the Inside Warm and Cozy

In cold weather, buyers won't spend a lot of time examining a home's exterior. Instead, impress them with the inside by creating an atmosphere which causes them to want to move in.

When there's time, leave wintery types of snacks and drinks, such as hot cocoa and cookies, available on a table during showings. This gives your home a welcoming feel to buyers.

Light the fireplace (if you have one) for a lovely ambience and set your thermostat to a comfortable setting. A warm home in the winter is much more appealing than a chilly one.

Make Your Home Less Personal

Understandably, this can be a tough thought for homeowners. After all, you've spent years creating memories in your home. To buyers, though, they need to picture it as their own. Too much personality makes that difficult.

It's always important to stage your home in a way that makes it look clean, comfortable, and move-in ready. Don't feel offended by the idea of taking family pictures down and replacing them with generic décor. This will help your home sell faster by helping buyers envision their own things there.

Cleanliness and Maintenance

Clean, clean, and clean some more. Make appliances, counters, and floors shine. No matter how old your home is, it needs to feel like new to potential buyers. If you aren't into dusting, now is the time to try. Don't forget window coverings that might need washing.

Be prepared ahead of time for home inspections by taking care of maintenance now. HVAC systems, plumbing, and electrical should all be up to code and running smoothly.

Use these tips for selling a home in the winter, exercise patience during the slower months, and your home will sell before you know it.