Tuesday, October 21, 2014
Recycled glass can give the look of your bath being under water
Subway Tile: Subway tile is still very trendy. This classic tile works well with many vintage style homes
Bold Colors: Colors like this adds drama and can make a small space unique
Multi-Head Showers: Hard to believe that in our drought situation...these are still in demand. Luxuroius yes!
Radiant Heat: In floor heating is a wonderful addition. It can be more cost effective than most heating methods and certainly feels great on a cold Winter morning!
Framed Mirrors: A great look for little money and effort!
Steam Showers: Good for you and turns your bath in to a spa
Decorative Lighting: bringing glamorous, unexpected lighting in to your bathroom can change the entire feel of a bathroom
Remote Controled TV, Music, Windows: My favorite! Remote controlled music and TV add ease and make the bath just a little more fun!
Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Cutting down on energy use is a huge part of going green, but sometimes even our best efforts to be eco-friendly at home can come up short. So if you’ve updated your house but still can’t seem to bring down those sky-high utility bills, try looking out for these sneaky energy hogs that may be driving up your home energy needs.
Shutting down your TV or computer may seem like a guaranteed way to decrease your energy bill, but did you know that many appliances continue to use energy even after you’ve turned them off? Sometimes called “energy vampires,” these appliances, including printers, DVD players, and computers, will continue to suck up energy even when you’re not using them in order to power features like LED displays, cooling equipment, or wireless sensors. Battery packs and cell phone chargers are especially bad and will continue to pull power even when your devices are disconnected - this type of stand-by power accounts for 5% of all residential energy!
How to fix it:
The easiest way to make sure your appliances aren’t using up energy is simply to unplug them. If you want to go a little more high-tech, though, look for a power strip that will sense when your electronics are not in use and cut off any remaining power supply. If you’re not sure which appliances in your home are energy vampires, you can use a kilowatt hour meter to measure how much energy your appliances are using when turned off.
Old or poorly maintained appliances can be a huge power drain – for example, older refrigerators can use upwards of 1,400 kWh a year, while newer, Energy Star certified models will use only a third of that. And those wasted energy numbers can climb even higher when you have problems like poor insulation and dirty coils or if you’re using your appliances inefficiently. Running half-empty dishwashers, setting your thermostat too high or low, and doing laundry in hot water can make even the most modern appliances guzzle up electricity.
How to fix it:
Think about replacing old, worn out appliances with new, more efficient models (often the savings on your utility bill can often make up for the cost of a new air conditioner or washer), and do regular maintenance to make sure all your appliances are running as well as they should be. Also work on adjusting your own habits to maximize efficiency: small changes like being conservative with thermostat, water heater, and fridge temperature controls, washing your clothes in cold water, and keeping that freezer door closed will make a big difference.
Whether you want to teach kids about pet ownership or just love to watch the gentle back and forth of your favorite goldfish, fish can make great, low-maintenance pets. But what is that bubbling aquarium actually costing you to run? A lot of us focus on large appliances like air conditioners and washing machines when we want to tighten up our utility bills, but small appliances like aquariums can also be an energy drain. A typical 120 liter tank with lighting, heating, and aeration can cost up to $50 a year, and if you have several tanks or an inefficient system those costs can shoot up quickly – in fact, two 120 liter saltwater tanks can use as much energy as your refrigerator!
How to fix it:
The most important way to keep your aquarium energy use down is to make sure your system is running as efficiently as possible. Keep your tank in a warm area of the house, insulate the bottom and back of the tank to cut down on the need for heating, and select the smallest wattage heater and pump you need for the size of your tank. Also make sure you’re using a high-efficiency fluorescent bulb.
Cable boxes and DVRs
Cable boxes and DVRs
Although they don’t draw as much power as larger appliances, the energy cost of cable boxes and DVRs can add up quickly because they are usually on 24 hours a day. In a 2010 study, the National Resources Defense Council found that the combination of a cable box and DVR actually used as much energy as a high-efficiency refrigerator in many homes, and up to 2/3 of that energy is used when the TV isn’t even on!
How to fix it:
It can be a hassle to turn these devices on and off, but you can save energy by shutting off your DVR when you’re not recording or watching TV. Also ask your cable company about replacing your cable box with newer, more efficient models that include low-power sleep states and the option for smaller, multi-room units.
No matter how green you make your home, if you keep up your bad habits you won’t see those utility bills go down. Even the most efficient appliances will continue to suck up energy if used incorrectly, which means changing your daily routine is a necessary part of cutting down your energy use.
How to fix it:
The little things you do at home every day can dramatically reduce your energy bill. Start by dialing back your thermostat, water heater, and refrigerator—turning down the furnace by just 1° can save you 1-3% on your heating bill. Simple changes like turning off the lights when you leave the room and keeping the fridge door closed will also help. Lastly, make sure you’re using your appliances as efficiently as possible; for example, try to only run washers when they’re full and skip the extra dry cycles.
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
You already know that you’re legally obligated to pay your taxes, but that doesn’t mean you should pay more than you owe.
Each year, American taxpayers leave money on the table by missing some key deductions. Run through these commonly overlooked write-offs to see if there are any you should be taking. It might just mean more money in your pocket this year.
When it comes to education, you may be able to deduct up to $4,000 for tuition-related expenses for you, your spouse or a dependent. You also may be able to deduct up to $2,500 in interest paid on a student loan in 2013.
In addition to these deductions (which lower your overall taxable income), there are also two relevant credits that could save you thousands: the American Opportunity Tax Credit and Lifetime Learning Credit. IRS Pub 970 covers all the details.
2. The Job Hunt
If you were looking for a job in 2013, you may be able to deduct your job-search expenses — and that’s true whether or not you actually found a new job. Expenses can include employment agency fees, costs for printing and mailing resumes, advertising, and travel expenses for interviews.
But the caveats include:
- Your job search must be for a position in the same line of work
- You can’t deduct expenses if it’s your first job
- These expenses are part of your “miscellaneous deductions,” which need to exceed 2% of your adjusted gross income to qualify
Refer to IRS Pub 529 for more details on all of this.
3. Home Ownership
If you bought or owned a home in 2013, you’re probably already aware that you can include your mortgage interest in your itemized deductions. But there are other tax deductions related to home ownership that can add up as well.
You can deduct what you pay in property taxes, interest paid on a home equity loan, any points you paid when you bought your home, premiums paid for Private Mortgage Insurance, and potentially any home improvements made for medical care.
4. Health Costs
Did you have a lot of medical and dental expenses last year? If your medical expenses exceeded 10% of your adjusted gross income for 2013, you can claim a deduction with your itemized deductions. Potential deductible expenses include preventative care, surgeries, doctor’s visits, fertility treatments, psychologist and psychiatrist visits, prescription medication, glasses, contact lenses and even the cost of travel for medical care.
Generally speaking, you cannot deduct non-prescription drugs, your health club dues or anything that was reimbursed by insurance. You also cannot include your health insurance premiums (although self-employed people can deduct their health insurance costs separately). IRS Publication 502 gives the details on itemizing medical expenses.
5. Charitable Donations
If you’re itemizing your deductions on Schedule A, any charitable donations can help lower your tax bill. This includes any cash donations you made throughout 2013 — don’t forget any text message donations (note: Your cell phone bill is a sufficient record as long as it shows who you sent money to, when and for how much).
If you cleaned out your closet and donated items (clothes, furniture, etc.) to Goodwill or another charity, you can deduct the value of these items. Get a receipt in case you’re audited. In addition, if you volunteer for a qualified organization, you can’t deduct the value of your time, but you can deduct travel expenses for getting there (14 cents per mile). Refer to IRS Pub 526 for more details on what can and can’t be deducted.
6. Moving for Your Job
If you landed a new job and moved in 2013, congratulations — your moving expenses may be deductible. And the good news is that you can take this write-off even if you don’t itemize your deductions. Check out IRS Pub 521 to see if you qualify.
In general, your new job location must be at least 50 miles away from your home (or 50 miles farther from your old home than your previous job was from your old home).
7. Energy Efficiency Upgrades
If you made your home more energy efficient last year, you may qualify for a tax credit. For example, you may be able to claim a credit of 10% of the cost for qualified energy efficient insulation, windows, doors and roof for your home, as well as 30% of the cost for installing alternative energy equipment in your home (such as solar hot water heaters or wind turbines).
These credits are both claimed on IRS Form 5695. In addition, for 2013, the purchase of plug-in hybrid-electric and electric vehicles may qualify for a tax credit.
8. Self-Employment Expenses
If you’re self-employed (whether it’s your full-time job or a part-time gig), you’ve got a grab bag of deductions to pull from. You can deduct expenses from your home office (including pro-rated rent/mortgage, energy bill and insurance for that part of the house).
Don’t forget whichever conferences you attended in 2013, or the books, subscriptions, technology and office supplies you purchased to keep your business going. In addition, you can deduct your health insurance, as well as 50% of your self-employment tax. Visit the IRS’ self-employed tax center to learn more.
If you welcomed a new baby in 2013, you are eligible for new tax deductions -– including another exemption (which represents a $3,900 deduction for 2013). Parents that meet certain income requirements can qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit as well as the Child Tax Credit. You may also be able to claim the Child Care Tax Credit for qualified child care costs for any care provided so you could work or look for work.
10. Parents as Dependents
Most people know to claim children as dependents, but fewer are aware that if they cared for an elderly parent, that parent may qualify as a dependent. The same applies to other relatives such as uncles, aunts, grandparents, nieces, nephews, etc. (note that certain relatives do not have to live with you to be considered a dependent).
To claim a dependent on your tax return, you have to meet certain criteria, including that the dependent’s income can’t exceed $3,900 for 2013 and you need to have provided at least half the support for that person. Check out IRS Pub 501 for more details.
Keep in mind that this is all general information to put these valuable deductions on your radar. You’ll still need to research the relevant IRS documents or check with your tax advisor to make sure you qualify for a particular credit or deduction.
Nellie Akalp is the CEO of CorpNet.com, an online legal document filing service
Monday, February 3, 2014
Design Bloggers Predict What Trends Will Be Hot in 2014
Top design bloggers share their picks for the New Year.
By Sarah BrayInterchangeable Accents
"I think we'll see a trend towards chameleon decor. Instead of settling on one fixed look, people will opt for a versatile neutral base and use big-impact accents to easily change their decor." — Arianna Vargas, ariannabelle.com
"Move over white walls, in 2014 we'll be seeing rooms with a lot more drama and glamour. Dark, moody walls in black will be the perfect backdrop to the metallic accessories that we're all loving right now." — Jeanine Hays, aphrochic.com
"Thanks to social media, the lifespan of a trend has been cut in half. We're all a little overexposed. I think vintage and one-of-a-kind pieces will be highly sought after. It's the curiosities that make a house a home and keep your guests asking: "Where did you get that?" — Lindsay Souza, thepursuitofstyle.com
Say Bye to Beige
"Of course I hopefully predict that color will be the trend story every year in hopes of banishing the boring beige box, but this year it really could happen!" — Christian May, maison21.com
"Florals and Chintz: These tried-and-true fabrics are popping up everywhere in fashion and decor. Mix them with other graphic patterns for a modern look." — Stacey Bewkes, quintessenceblog.com
"Mixing and matching metallics, such as silver and gold." — Devon Dyer, devonrachel.com
"Navy blue will be a big trend for 2014. I'm seeing a lot of the shade on the runways, on the streets, in editorials, in chic interiors... I actually think everyone will get it in 2014." — Mark D. Sikes, markdsikes.com
"A return to tradition. After the long-standing trend of modern and eclectic decor, more people will want to feel comfortable and at ease by returning to traditional styles." — Erin Gates, elementsofstyleblog.com
"Lots and lots of layering: both materials and textures. We love the look of mixing different metals, woods, and fabrics!" — Jennifer Beek and Georgie Hambright, jandgdesign.com
"From rich, saturated colors like navy and indigo to bright, vibrant shades like peacock blue and cobalt, blue will continue to reign supreme in the coming year." — Paloma Contreras, ladolcevitablog.com
A Softer Black and White
"Black and white is a classic home decor palette, but for 2014 I see it softening and feeling more cozy. In the cooler months think Scandinavian chic, while in the summer months think French striped shirts." — Joanna Hawley, jojotastic.com
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
MARY BOONE for Zillow Blog