We're taught a lot of useful things in school (how to tell time, multiplication tables, how to find—or at least attempt to find—Oklahoma on a map) and some not so useful (geometry). But do you ever wish you'd been taught some real life skills instead? Skills you may have had to learn the hard way, e.g. paying off interest fees on a credit card or paying full sticker price for a car. As an adult you may try to teach your kids these lessons, but wouldn't it be great if they actually taught them in school? Here are some life lessons we should probably learn early, in order to avoid future mistakes.
And not just our friendships, family, and romantic relationships. Ask multiple people how they landed the job at which they're currently working and you're bound to find at least a few who admit that they "knew someone." As anyone who has ever been on the market knows, securing a job is one of life's greatest stressors. It's like dating, but without the booze and possibility of sex. While the thought of networking may elicit a curled lip or exaggerated groan from most people, it's exceptionally important if you want to establish and grow your career.
You hate traffic too? Let's connect over coffee.
For those of you who'd prefer dentistry without Novocain to entering a room full of people you don't know and attempting to strike up a conversation, there are ways to make it more palatable and effective. The single most important tip for networking is not to exchange business cards or speak with as many people as possible, but rather to find people with whom you can form a long-term relationship. The woman who enthusiastically talked your ear off about her mushroom fertilizer business may have held court for 40 minutes, but it's the man with whom you bonded over a mutual love of ugly dog sweaters for two minutes who may actually be someone you'd want to see again, and could become friendly with.
Make a point to follow up on contacts you meet at networking events: grab coffee or a drink, send them a link to an article that they may find helpful, or simply drop a note to say "hi". Then comes the hard part – building the relationship. Do whatever you need to do to stay in touch with them, whether it's a reminder on your phone or a to-do list taped to your bathroom mirror. People will remember you and will be more open to helping you achieve your career goals because you they know you, not because they met you once at a mixer where you talked awkwardly while guzzling cheap white wine.
Never pay sticker price
Flea markets and craft fairs aside, we tend to think that the prices of most common products and services aren't negotiable. Not so. Even medical services are negotiable (yep, sometimes just letting a provider know you don't have insurance results in an automatic reduction). While rolling into Mark Jacobs and politely requesting a discount on the latest bag probably won't get you very far, one place where you should never pay full price is at the car dealership.
I do my best negotiating online
One strategy for getting the best possible deal on a car involves a little research, but it's well worth the effort. Start by identifying the exact car (or cars), including manufacturing year, you want to buy. Narrow it down to one if possible, but no more than two or three. Check the average value by using Kelly Blue Book so you have an idea of what prices to expect. Then identify several dealerships near you that have the car(s) and request a price from the sales team. Choose the lowest price and send that to yet another dealership that has your desired car. Tell them you were offered the car for that price at another dealership, but if they can beat it by X amount (go ahead, reach for the moon here – the worst they can say is no) then you'll buy it from them. Voila! You just scored yourself a great deal on a car. You can also try this strategy with medical expenses, home repairs, and other negotiable goods and services.
Use a credit card to build up your credit, not as a bottomless bank account
Think long and hard about that purchase before you pull out the plastic
You're probably no stranger to debt, which means you understand the concept of interest. Yes, that nefarious little percentage that ultimately results in paying way more than the original borrowed amount. If you think college loan and mortgage interest is high, a credit card's eye-popping percentage is often three to four times that rate.
To illustrate how much money you'll end up spending if you let your credit card debt accumulate, pretend you have a $3,000 balance on your card and you pay the minimum (say $25 every month). You'll end up paying a whopping $2800 in interest alone before you pay it off. The lesson here? Only buy what you can afford on a credit card, and pay it off monthly. If you hate carrying cash but can't help but splurge when you go shopping, use a debit card. It won't build up your credit but at least you won't be going into massive debt.
Learn how to budget
Speaking of using a credit card wisely, it's also smart to have a budget so you know how much you can afford to spend at a night out with the girls or for rent and groceries. Generally speaking, you shouldn't be spending more than 30% of your gross (before taxes) income on housing. Lifehacker's simple budgeting plan recommends the 20% rule for paying off debt: 20% of your monthly income goes towards debt, 10% to savings, and 70% for the rest.
You can sleep when you're dead
Helloooo wedding photographer
If you find that you're squeezed for cash once all your necessities are paid for, you may want to look into a side hustle. You don't have to be a master at a particular craft; there are plenty of side gigs that require very little skill. If you have an extra room you can rent it on Airbnb; if you enjoy driving you could try your hand at being a Lyft or Uber driver. Dog walking and sitting has also become a serious business, thanks to sites like Rover.com. If you love fur children you can make some decent scratch, especially if you walk or sit multiple dogs at once.
School curriculum has its shining moments, no doubt. Perhaps knowing the capitals of all fifty states will finally come in handy during trivia night at your local watering hole or maybe understanding the true meaning behind Wuthering Heights will help you imbue that blog post you wrote for your boss with true depth. But really, would it be too much to ask to replace calculus with a crash course on how to pay down debt?
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As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.
Extensive Plants and Greenery
A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.
As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.
There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.
Usable Outdoor Furniture
Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.
A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.
Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.
Acting Quickly Out of Emotion
Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.
Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.
Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation
Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.
If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.
Donating Unusable Materials
Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.
Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.
Strictly Giving at Year's End
As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.
With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.
Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.
The Age of Your House
Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.
The One-Percent Rule
An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.
The Square-Foot Rule
Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.
The Mix and Match Method
Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.
Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.