Mobile app stores are full of potential time wasters and productivity killers. But developers also offer many options that can change wasted time into productivity boosters and hours of learning. That ninety-nine cents you're thinking about spending on a game could be put towards your Elevate subscription, instead. Here are some of the best apps available to use the powers of your phone for good and not evil.
How trustworthy is a game that claims to improve your focus, writing, reading, speaking and memory? It turns out, Elevate's greatest feature is tricking you into thinking you're playing games while it quietly sharpens your mind. An intro quiz tells Elevate a bit about your proficiency in its five skill types and assigns you a starting Elevate Proficiency Quotient (EPQ), the app's scoring system. Then it starts a lesson—er, game—and suddenly you're exercising your brain.
The app allows three games per day for free, or unlimited access for a subscription fee. Its animations are shiny and crisp and its games are just challenging enough. Learn to write concisely, read more quickly and retain more of what you hear simply by playing its games for a few minutes each day. How much easier can learning be?
Download Elevate on iOS and Google Play.
Duolingo is the king of language-learning apps on mobile. It has come a long way since its introduction in 2011, adding languages, features, conversation bots and, recently, ads. Despite its in-app purchases, the app remains fully functional for free, with in-app purchases unlocking offline lessons, refilling "health" and removing ads.
Learn Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Vietnamese—even Esperanto. There are twenty-three languages available for English speakers and the app also offers language learning to natives speakers of twenty-two other languages. Through brief, colorful and fun lessons, Duolingo teaches a language in small steps and rewards completion with streaks, points and challenges. Download its iOS companion app, Tinycards, for an equally simple and colorful flashcards app. Or, for a more powerful flashcards app and study assistant, try StudyBlue.
Download Duolingo on iOS, Google Play and Windows Phone.
Coursera collects online college classes from real universities and allows you to take them on your mobile device. Instead of browsing Facebook on your phone in a classroom, you're taking a class on your phone. Try a finance class from Columbia University or history class from Universitat de Barcelona. Many of the courses offer a certificate of completion. These are often about $50/month but some allow you to audit or take the course without receiving a certificate.
Another massive resource for iOS devices is Apple's own iTunes U. Free collections from Stanford, Ohio State, Oxford, Harvard, Yale and others make this a nearly unrivaled learning resource. Coursera wins for its classroom-like experience, but iTunes U exceeds it in content.
Download Coursera on iOS and Google Play.
Py (or Swift Playgrounds)
That free introduction might be just enough to remove the fear of a beginner and send them on their way to more advanced coding lessons.
Amazon's audiobook library is another learning resource that hides in plain sight. Its top sellers might be dominated by Stephen King and George R. R. Martin, but Audible is full of important nonfiction (and don't underestimate how much you can learn from fiction). Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, Benjamin Hoff's The Tao of Pooh and Marcus Aurelius's Meditations all find spots on Audible's nonfiction bestsellers list. Hear from the Dalai Lama and follow him with Ta-Nehisi Coates on your way back from the grocery store.
Audible means reading on the commute isn't only for rides of public transport. And twenty minutes on the treadmill can also be twenty minutes with David Grann's new book. Audible also features "Channels" geared toward specific topics and subjects. From The Great Courses lectures to the latest TED Talks, Audible makes learning as easy as wearing headphones.
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.
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.
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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.