How to Renovate Your Rental On the Cheap
One of the milestones of adulthood used to be owning a home and all the renovation plans that came along with it. But these days, with over 70 percent of millennials choosing to rent over owning home, the markers of adulting have changed. Now, it's all about giving your rental some grown-up upgrades that are landlord-friendly and won't put a major dent in your bank account. Call it investing in yourself, or making your house a home without all the headaches of high-end renovations. Behold: Your idea inspiration.
Paper Your Walls
There was a time when wallpaper cost a fortune and required some serious elbow grease (A.K.A. glue) to apply. And should you have a change of heart, forget that paint job underneath. But things have changed with the advent of peel-and-stick wallpaper. Now you can upgrade any room in your rental without making too much of a financial or emotional commitment. Wayfair, Home Depot and Etsy all sell removable wallpaper in a variety of colors and patterns for as little as $1.25 per square foot. Give your living room an accent wall, paper your staircase or upgrade your bureau in a matter of minutes. You can also find decals and murals that give your walls a hand-painted look. When it's time to move on, peel 'em off and nobody will be the wiser.
Divide Those Rooms
While we wouldn't recommend hiring an architect to redesign your rental without some serious cash and the approval of your landlord, there are some low-budget tricks for dividing up rooms for more privacy. Some simple strategies include recruiting a tall bookcase or employing thick curtains and a suspension rod. (Here's has a ready-made kit for under $100). If you're feeling a little groovier, why not hang some $40 beaded or macrame panels to separate your space while still letting in the sunlight? If you're dead-set on a door, you could splurge on a sliding door kit which will run you around $700 (plus installation if you're not the DIY type), or tackle this Ikea hack which transforms elements of the PAX storage system into a partition wall and sliding door for a completely separate room. In fact, IkeaHackers.com has an archive of room dividing ideas courtesy of the low-cost furniture hub and some creative handy-work.
Upgrade the Bathroom
You can spruce up a dated bathroom on a renter's budget with a few small tweaks. Architectural Digest's Amanda Sims suggests swapping out the toilet seat cover for a wooden one (about $16 on Amazon), and painting over weathered grout. If you really want to make a splash, paint or peel-and-stick your way to new walls. "Using paint or temporary wallpaper, cover the walls of your bathroom to work with the old-timey or really basic tile you've already got," explains Sims. "So if the tiles are butter yellow, make sure the walls are crisp white, or a wallpaper with a tinge of yellow that complements them…anything but sickly yellow matching walls." Another trick is to replace the bathroom cabinet with an ornate mirror for an antique look, and to swap out the standard overhead light with a more dramatic sconce, or even a pendant light. (West Elm has some reasonably priced options.)
Modernize That Kitchen
You may not be ready to replace your old cabinetry, but a simple paint job will spiff up any yellowing wood. Remodelista's Margot Guralnick suggests going with a semi-gloss, gloss or satin. "The harder the finish the better," she writes. "Matte paint on kitchen cabinets is impractical; I wouldn't even use eggshell finish. You want a surface that's durable and wipeable, so you won't be painting again for at least a few years." Next up, the backsplash. You can purchase faux, stick-on tiles (4 panels for $11.99 from Bed Bath and Beyond) or water-resistant backsplash decals (Quadrostyle has a range of temporary tiles and decals) that will add texture and character to a dated kitchen. If you're looking for an eat-in vibe in a tiny kitchen, install a drop-leaf, wall-mounted desk or table (here's one for around $30) which you can flip open when you're ready to chow down.
Maximize your closet space
You may think there is absolutely nothing to be done with your overstuffed closet, but you just haven't discovered the joys of closet organizers. Wayfair has easy-to-install systems starting as low as $50, while Ikea's ALGOT system is customizable to your size and storage needs. "All the parts can be easily combined and adapted to suit your needs, making this system especially attractive if you anticipate space changes happening," writes ApartmentTherapy's Nicole Lund in her roundup of the best closet systems. "It's also incredibly easy to use—the parts just click in and out of the wall brackets, so you can quickly replace or move parts around." If you're simply looking for more space in your narrow closet, look up. Install wall-mounted shelves (Amazon has a two-pack for around $50) above your hanging rod and create a storage area for suitcases and out-of-season clothes.
Use Your Nooks
If you have a corner in your home marked by an indented wall or "nook," it's time to creative." The nook can be anything from a workspace to a library or a cozy reading area. But in order to give it that "built-in" look on a budget, it's all about using your measuring tape. The DIY option means customizing your own shelves to create a designated area, with the help of Home Depot or Lowes. The Container Store has a desk nook model that they'll install for you for under $200. Meanwhile, Ikea's BILLY bookcase has inspired a wealth of ideas from home libraries to cozy bench nooks.
Bonus: If you're hurting for extra closet space, DesignSponge has a really creative Ikea hack for your wall nook.
Create an Micro-room
How many closests do you really need? Is there one that might be better served as an office? All you need is a small desk, stool and some colorful wallpaper. Better yet, stick in a bar-height table and line it with your favorite booze for a MadMen-esque bar area.
According to the New York Times, transforming the closet into a micro-room has become a trend for city dwellers with small apartments. "I love working from home, but I didn't want to look at my work all the time, so I needed a closet where I could close it," jewelry designer Jane Herro, told the Times, of her closet-office. If you're looking to transform your own closet, Lowes offers a DIY guide. Meanwhile, ApartmentTherapy has a few ideas for converting a walk-in closet into an additional bedroom by adding curtains for a less-claustrophobic feel. Cover the wall with a tapestry, a soothing paint color, or a distinctive wallpaper that separates the sleeping area from the main room, and you've got yourself a new bedroom (or nursery) you'll never want to leave.
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Looking for a job? In addition to encountering those annoying never-ending job interviews you may find yourself face-to-face with an artificial intelligence bot.
Companies worldwide increasingly use artificial intelligence tools and analytics in employment decision-making – from parsing through resumes and screening candidates to automated assessments and digital interviews. But recent studies claim that AI does more harm than good.
While AI screening tools were developed to save companies time and money, they’ve been criticized for placing women and people of color at a disadvantage. The problem is that many companies lack appreciable diversity in their data set, making it impossible for an algorithm to know how people from underrepresented groups have performed in the past. As a result, the algorithm will be biased toward the data available and compare future candidates to that archetype.
The City’s Automated Employment Decision Tools (AEDT) law is designed to offset the potential misuse of AI and protect job candidates against discrimination. It was enforced on July 5th, 2023 in New York City - with other cities and states expected to gradually follow suit. Employers must now inform applicants when and how they encounter AI. Furthermore, companies have to commission a third-party audit of the AI software used, and publish a summary of the results to prove that their systems aren’t racist or sexist. Job applicants are able to request information regarding what data is collected and analyzed by the AI. Violations of the law can result in fines of up to $1,500.
Replacing Human Hiring Decisions
However, should a job applicant want to opt-out of such impersonal judgement by a bot, the new law's scope is quite limited.
While the law specifies that instructions for requesting an alternative selection process must be included in the AI screening disclosure, companies aren't actually required to use other screening methods. Not to mention that the law only applies to AI in hiring and not any other employment decisions. It also wouldn't apply if the AI, for example, flags candidates with relevant experience, but a human then reviews all applications, making the ultimate hiring decision.
Some civil rights advocates and public interest groups argue that the law isn’t extensive enough and that it’s even unenforceable. On the other hand, businesses say that it’s impractical, costly, and burdensome, and that independent audits aren’t feasible.
Responsible use of AI in hiring
Although this law may be a good first attempt to assign more regulatory guardrails around AI, it remains to be seen if it ensures the responsible use of AI in hiring processes. At the end of the day, perhaps recruiting talent should remain a human-made decision.
The good news is that AI can help companies without harming potential job candidates in many ways – such as connecting new employees with internal organizational information and company benefits during onboarding. Or helping employees to do their jobs more effectively rather than replacing them.
There’s all this talk about solo travel. And for good reason — no wasting precious time waiting for others to get their act together, take the plans out of the group chat and actually buy the tickets. Going solo, you can be spontaneous. You can plan your trips according to your precise tastes. You can hop on any flight and fly awayyyyyy.
But what if each time you flew you’d get a free ticket? That’s what you get with the Southwest Companion Pass.
Award status, upgrades, lounge access — there are many perks in the frequent flier game. But one of the coveted holy grails is the Southwest Companion Pass.
What is the Southwest Companion Pass?
The Companion Pass is part of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program. You get to choose one person to be your “companion,” and they fly with you for free (plus some taxes and fees) on every flight. That’s right. Two for the price of one. That’s half off each ticket if you split it! Whether you’re flying with a partner, family member, friend, or anyone else, they can tag along for free.
And it gets better: once you earn the pass, you can reap the rewards for that full calendar year … AND the next. That’s why people go mad trying to earn a companion pass during the early months of the year. The sooner you qualify, the longer you can use it.
There are also no blackout dates. There are no limits. And if you didn’t purchase the ticket (think: work travel, your companion, or a generous benefactor), there are no restrictions! As long as you’re the one on the plane, your companion can also … be on the plane.
You can also switch out your designated companion 3x a year. So, no need to stay in a relationship simply to get the most out of your companion pass! Ghost and fly away — with a whole new companion!
If this sounds too good to be true — it’s not. But there is one small catch. It’s kinda tough to earn this mega reward.
How to qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass?
You can qualify for the pass in one of two ways:
- Fly 100 qualifying one-way flights
- Earn 135,000 qualifying points in a calendar year.
Clearly, this is no small feat — especially if you’re trying to qualify ASAP.
So how do you actually earn the Southwest Companion Pass?
Don’t worry, there’s a path to earning this amazing reward without climbing on 100 flights or spending an exorbitant amount of money.
Earning 135K reward points may seem completely impossible, but it’s easier than it sounds. Simply sign up for a Southwest Credit Card and turn those spending habits into a rapid rewards account. Through the Rewards Priority Credit Card, earn points when using local transit and commuting, plus score major points and miles whenever you spend.
Stay with me here. This is not some scheme to get you into credit card debt. Many airline cards come with potential savings, giantic rewards, awarding you points, and cashback with every purchase you make that can be redeemed for travel. And often they can come with passive sign-up bonuses. If you spend a specific amount of money within a certain timeframe of opening the card, you can be in for a windfall of points.
Now that’s where the companion pass comes in:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
- Southwest Priority Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card
- Southwest Performance Business Credit Card
Southwest has three personal cards and a business card. Each of these cards offers rewards between 30K-80K points. In the past, people could open two cards and get a bonus that granted enough points to almost meet the minimum. However, with new restrictions on personal cards, you can only get one bonus every 24 months. Boo!
However, this doesn’t apply to business cards. If you’re eligible, have good credit, and not likely to spiral into insane credit card debt, you can open a business card and a personal card, and accrue 100K+ points. The Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card will get you points after you spend money in no time.
Now to earn the rest of them.
The secret to gaining these credit card points is to plan your card sign-ups around big purchases. Just before a recent move, I opened a card . . . and the rewards came rolling in — a small balm to ease the pain of how exorbitant moving can be.
Put everyday spend — especially big purchases or bulk items — on your Southwest credit card and watch your award points quickly add up. Typically, you earn 1 point per $1 spent on your Southwest card and 2 points per $1 on actual Southwest purchases.
But there are other ways to earn points, including:
- Flying Southwest: Booking travel on Southwest earns more points. The cost of this travel will be worth it with your companion pass
- Shopping from Rapid Rewards Partners: Purchases with Southwest’s “Home & Lifestyle” and “Shop and Dine” Partners also earn Companion Pass qualifying points. While you shouldn’t make gratuitous purchases, browse Southwest’s partners to see if you could earn extra points for items you'd be purchasing anyway. All this, simply from enrolling in their Dining Program and shopping with their partners.
So there you have it! And since it’s almost Spring, get to earning and soon you’ll be flying two for the price of one!