If you're selling your home or plan to do so soon, a little strategic planning can mean more dollars in your pocket. You want the most you can get for the place, don't ya? These 4 "Ss" will have you seeing dollar signs once the "for sale" sign is taken down, thanks to their value-increasing benefits. While you may want to get the home on the market right away, it's worth the effort to make these changes and fairly quick fixes so your home can be as sought-after as possible. Sell with these "Ss" completed and watch the price tag numbers go up. Your first showing will prove the time spent did the trick.

Simplify

Decluttering is one of the best ways to make your space instantly more appealing. No potential buyer is interested in tripping over your kids' toys or being distracted by the silly knick-knacks you've collected over the years. The more you make your home as "generic" as can be, the more the potential buyer(s) can picture themselves living there… with their stuff.

According to Consumer Reports, "Vital to the process is de-cluttering and depersonalizing the space as much as possible. Buyers will have a hard time imagining themselves in your home if it's filled with family photos and other personal effects." Additionally, HGTV notes, "A clutter-free home appears cleaner and larger, which is more attractive to homebuyers and therefore more valuable."

If you're place is a real mess, you may want to consider hiring a pro to help clear things out, and Consumer Reports estimates the cost for such a service can run anywhere from $600 - $2,500. Seems steep, but on the bright side, they claim the potential return goes up 5%. Plus, since you're moving anyway, this clean-out will help you when it's time to pack up and go.

Spruce Up

A few fix-ups can make a world of difference in the appearance of your home. You don't have to go all out and make major repairs or renovations, but spiffing things up by applying a fresh coat of paint, filling chips and cracks, removing or steam cleaning a dirty carpet, re-grouting, etc. will make your home a whole lot more appealing.

This Old House recommends dealing with the basics rather than doing anything too pricey or extravagant. "Insulate the attic, repair plumbing leaks, replace rusty rain gutters, inspect the furnace and the septic system, replace or repair leaky windows, install storm doors, etc." As This Old House says, "A couple hundred dollars spent could increase the value of your house by a few thousand dollars."

Along with indoor touch-ups, consider the first impression. Bankrate suggests to "reframe your entry." "A nice, big piece of hardware on the front door signals to newcomers that this is a solid home." And Consumer Reports recommends a power washing followed by any needed paint touch-ups, especially on the front of the home.

As per This Old House, "Brokers and agents from across the country say the houses that get attention in this buyer's market are in tip-top shape. Because there is so much inventory, the houses that sell are in pristine condition and are priced to the market." Don't let a few neglected simple fixes trip up your chances of selling.

Smell Fresh

A potential buyer wants to walk into a home that smells good. If anything makes them turn up their nose, how could they ever imagine living there? As per U.S. News & World Report, "Realtors always say that your home needs to smell great before a showing."

One way to eliminate any stale odors in the home is by using baking soda, as U.S. News & World Report recommends. Use some on the carpets, in the fridge, and even inside the trash cans to absorb unpleasant odors that you may have grown used to.

Some recommended scents that appeal to most, as suggested by U.S. News & World Report include pine, vanilla, and citrus. Don't go overboard, but a light scent wafting through the home will make potential buyers feel welcomed and comfortable. Try a light air freshener, candles, or oils.

Along with providing a pleasant scent, wipe down all tabletops and shelves, clear out pet cages and litter boxes, and make sure the bathroom is mildew- and odor-free before any showings. Run a fan or two to clear the air to make for total freshness throughout the home. And one last trick… bake a batch of cookies! The familiar scent will make anyone looking at the place feel like they're home.

These quick fixes are nearly cost-free, but the change they'll make will give a potential return of at least 3% as per Consumer Reports.

Scenery

The surrounding yard space of your home is nearly as important as what's going on inside. An unkempt lawn, untrimmed hedges, and poorly manicured landscaping make for a poor first impression. Consumer reports suggests, "Start with basic maintenance: mowing the lawn, trimming overgrown shrubs, applying a fresh layer of mulch to garden beds."

According to This Old House, "Tangled trees and unkempt bushes can obscure views, darken interiors, promote mold, and block a good look at the house. Landscaping is one of the top three investments that bring the biggest return. According to a 2007 survey of 2,000 brokers conducted by HomeGain, an online real estate marketing site, an investment of around $400 or $500 dollars in landscaping, can bring a return of four times that."

But what if you're not the gardening type? Bankrate has the solution, "If you don't have a green thumb, consider hiring a landscaper to install some new sod, plant a few evergreen shrubs and give your front yard a good cleanup. These kinds of changes can instantly change people's perception of your home and, therefore, increase its value."

With these 4 "Ss" completed, your showings will be at their peak. Your realtor will thank you and the potential buyers will be delighted. And you will enjoy the extra bucks your home is sure to sell for!

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Over the past month, both Haiti and Afghanistan have been pummeled by tragic disasters that left devastation in their wake.

In Haiti, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake erupted, leading over to 2,189 deaths and counting. A few hours later, in Afghanistan, Kabul fell to the Taliban just after U.S. troops had pulled out after 20 years of war.

In many ways, these disasters are both chillingly connected to US interference. The United States invaded Haiti in 1915, ostensibly promising to restore order after a presidential assassination but really intending to preserve the route to the Panama Canal and to defend US creditors, among other reasons.

But the US forces soon realized that they were not able to control the country alone, and so formed an army of Haitian enlistees, powered by US air power and intended to quell Haitian insurrection against US controls. Then, in 1934, the US pulled out on its own, disappointed with how slow progress was going. Haiti's institutions were never really able to rebuild themselves, leaving them immensely vulnerable to natural disasters.

Something similar happened in Afghanistan, where the US sent troops and supported an insurgent Afghan army – only to pull out, abandoning the country they left in ruins, with many Afghans supporting the Taliban.

In both cases, defense contractors benefited by far the most from the conflict, making billions in profits while civilians faced fallout and devastation. While the conflicts and circumstances are extremely different and while the US is obviously not solely to blame for either crisis, it's hard not to see the US-based roots of these disasters.

Today, in Haiti and Afghanistan, civilians are facing unimaginable tragedy.

Here are charities offering support in Afghanistan:

1. The International Rescue Committee is looking to raise $10 million to deliver aid directly to Afghanistan

2. CARE is matching donations for an Afghanistan relief fund. They are providing food, shelter, and water to families in need; a donation of $89.50 covers 1 family's emergency needs for a month.

3. Women for Women International is matching donations up to 500,000 for Afghan women, who will be facing unimaginable horrors under Taliban control.


4. AfghanAid offers support for people living in remote regions of Afghanistan.

5. VitalVoices supports female leaders and changemakers and survivors of gender-based violence around the world.

Here are charities offering support in Haiti:

1. Partners in Health has been working with Haiti for a long time, and they work with the Department of Health rather than around them, which is extremely important in a charity.

2. Health Equity International helps run Saint Boniface Hospital, a hospital in Haiti close to the earthquake's epicenter.

3. SOIL is an organization based Haiti, "a local organization with a track record of supporting after natural disasters." They are distributing hygiene kits and provisions on the ground to hospitals and to victims of the earthquake.

4. Hope for Haiti has been working in emergency response in Haiti for three decades, and their team is comprised of people who live and work in Haiti. They focus on supporting children and people in need across Haiti.

via Tiffany & Co.

When the new Tiffany's campaign was unveiled, reactions were mixed.

Tiffany's, the iconic jewelry brand which does not (despite what some might be misled to believe) in fact serve breakfast, featured Jay Z, Beyoncé, and a rare Basquiat painting in their recent campaign.

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Road trips can be a lot of fun — but they can also drain your wallet quickly if you aren't careful.

From high gas costs and park admission fares to lodging and the price of eating out every night, the expenses can add up quickly. But at the same time, it's very possible to do road trips cheaply and efficiently. Without the headache of worrying about how much money you're leaking, you can enjoy the open road a whole lot more. Here's how to save money on a road trip.

1. Prepare Your Budget, Route, and Packing List in Advance

If you want to save money on a road trip, be sure you're ready to go. Try to count up all your expenses before you hit the road and create a budget. It's also a good idea to plan your route in advance so you don't end up taking unnecessary, gas-guzzling detours. And finally, be sure to pack in advance so you don't find yourself having to buy tons of things you forgot along the way.

2. Book Cheap Accommodations — Or Try Camping

All those motel rooms can add up surprisingly quick, but camping is often cheap or free, and it's a great way to get intimate with the place you're visiting. You can check the Bureau of Land Management's website for free campsites. Freecampsite.com also provides great information on If you don't have a tent or don't want to camp every night, try booking cheap Airbnbs or booking hotels in advance, making sure to compare prices.

Camping camping road tripConde Nast Traveler

If you're planning on sleeping in your car, a few tips: WalMart allows all-night parking, as do many 24-hour gyms. (Buying a membership to Planet Fitness or something like it also gives you a great place to stop, shower, and recharge while on the road).

3. Bring Food From Home

Don't go on a road trip expecting to subsist on fast food alone. You'll wind up feeling like shit, and it'll drain your pocketbook stunningly quickly. Instead, be sure to bring food from home. Consider buying a gas stove and a coffee pot for easy on-the-go meals, and make sure you bring substantial snacks to satiate midday or late night cravings so you can avoid getting those late night Mickey D's expeditions.

Try bringing your own cooler, filling it with easy stuff for breakfast and lunch — some bread and peanut butter and jelly will go a long way. Bring your own utensils, plates, and napkins, and avoid buying bottled water by packing some big water jugs and a reusable water bottle. Alternatively, try staying at hotels or Airbnbs with kitchens so you can cook there.

4. Avoid Tolls

Apps like Google Maps and Waze point out toll locations, so be sure to avoid those to save those pennies. (If it takes you too far off route, you might have to bite the bullet and drive across that expensive bridge).

You can also save on parking fees by using sites like Parkopedia.

Road Trip Road TripThe Orange Backpack


5. Save on Gas

Gas can get pricy incredibly fast, so be sure that you're stopping at cheap gas stations. Free apps like GasBuddy help you find the most affordable gas prices in the area. Also, try going the speed limit on the highways — anything faster will burn through your tank. Be sure that you don't wait till you arrive at touristy locations or big cities to fill up.

6. Get a National Park Pass

All those parks can get really expensive really fast. If you're planning on visiting three or more parks, it's a great idea to get an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass. For $80 you can get into every National Park for one year.