How to Calculate Your Retirement Needs

Your budget should include setting aside some money for retirement.

But how much?

To figure out how much money you should set aside each month for retirement, you first need to calculate how large of a nest egg — in total — you ought to build.

In other words: How much money will you need to retire? You’ll need to answer that question before you can reverse-engineer the amount you should set aside in your budget.

Here’s a way that you can calculate how big of a nest egg you’re going to need:

Step 1:

Decide what portion of your current income you want to replace during retirement.

Most experts recommend replacing between 70% to 85% of your pre-retirement income.  Multiply your annual income by 70% to 85% to come up with your target retirement income in today’s dollars. If your current income is $100,000 and you decide that you want to replace 80% of it in retirement, your target retirement income (in today’s dollars) is $80,000 per year. (Don’t worry about adjusting for inflation during this step.)

If you and your spouse both earn money outside of the house, make sure that you complete this exercise with your combined joint income.

If you earn $50,000 annually and your spouse earns $75,000 annually, add your income together ($125,000 annually combined) and then multiply by 70 percent to 85 percent.​

Step 2:

Adjust the figure from Step 1 to account for 4% inflation. Here’s how:

If you are ten years away from retirement, multiply your target retirement income by an inflation factor of 1.48.  If you are 15 years away from retirement, use an inflation factor of 1.8.  If you are 20 years away from retirement, multiply by 2.19, and if you’re 25 years away from retirement, multiply by 2.67.

Let’s assume that you’re also 25 years away from retirement.

In this second step, you take that figure — $80,000 per year in today’s dollars — and you multiply it by 2.67.  Your answer ($80,000 x 2.67 = $213,600) represents your target retirement income in future dollars, after adjusting for inflation.

In other words: To maintain the lifestyle that an annual income of $80,000 provides today, you’ll need $213,600 per year in 25 years from now.​

Step 3:

Log on to the government’s Social Security website to find out what your projected Social Security benefit will be.

Step 4:

Contact your human resources department to find out how much of a pension, if any, you are eligible to receive.  Two-thirds of Americans are no longer eligible to collect pensions, but I’m including this step for the benefit of the one-third of Americans who are.

Step 5:

Using the same inflation factors that I outlined in Step 2, adjust those amounts for inflation.  For example, if you are eligible to receive $20,000 per year from Social Security in today’s dollars and you are 25 years away from retirement, multiply $20,000 by the inflation factor of 2.67.

The answer, $53,400, is the amount of money that you will collect from Social Security in future dollars, after adjusting for inflation.

Remember:

  • If you are 10 years from retirement, multiply by 1.48.
  • If you are 15 years from retirement, multiply by 1.8.
  • If you are 20 years from retirement, multiply by 2.19.
  • If you are 25 years from retirement, multiply by 2.67.

Step 6:

Subtract your inflation-adjusted projected future Social Security and pension benefits from your inflation-adjusted target retirement income. It shows how much money you will need to come up with from your investment portfolio.

For example:

  • Inflation-Adjusted Target Retirement Income: $213,600 per year
  • Inflation-Adjusted Social Security Benefit: $53,400
  • Pension: $0
  • Shortfall: $160,200 per year

In other words, you’ll need to create an investment portfolio that can produce $160,200 per year in income.​

Step 7:

Multiply this number by 25.  That is how large of an investment portfolio you will need to take care of your retirement needs.

For example: If you need to come up with $160,200 per year, you’ll need ($160,200 x 25 = $4,005,000 in your retirement portfolio. In other words, you’ll need a $4 million retirement portfolio.)

Why multiply by 25?  Because of a rule of thumb known as “the 4% withdrawal rule,” which states that you can withdraw 4% of your portfolio each year without running a significant risk of dwindling down your reserves.

Step 8:

Calculate how much money you’ll need to save per month to create a $4 million portfolio (or however large of a portfolio you calculate for yourself).

This article will give you a general overview of how much you’ll need to put away every month to build a $1 million nest egg. It assumes you’re starting with $0 saved.

Since you probably have some money in your retirement accounts already, you should only use that article for a big-picture overview. To calculate the precise amount that you personally need to save, use a compounding interest calculator.

A compound interest calculator will measure the returns that your returns generate. For example: In Year 1, you invest $10,000 and earn a 5 percent return. At the end of Year 1, you have a total of $10,500. In Year 2, you invest the full $10,500 — in other words, your gains ($500) are now making their own gains. Over time, this is a very powerful tool for growing your money. Learn more about compound interest here.

When you use the calculator, assume that the markets will return 7 to 8 percent as a long-term annualized average. (Enter 7 percent or 8 percent in the spot that asks for “rate.”)

This calculator will show you how much money you need to set aside every month to build your ideal retirement nest egg.

Step 9:

Create space in your budget to set aside this money for retirement. Use these worksheets to target the areas in your budget in which you can cut back your spending so that you can set aside extra for retirement.

Furthermore, don’t forget that you can also focus on earning extra income, as well. Take on a second job, and save this additional income for your retirement.

Source: thebalance.com ~ By:  ~ Image: pixabay.com

Top 4 Reasons Why Guys Need a Man Cave

There are several good reasons why guys really do need this man cave and why it can make them better husbands and fathers.

There are lots of terms for it out there: Manland. Mantuary. Man Space.  But whatever you call your man cave — that garage, spare bedroom, shed, workspace or other area that is exclusively yours and that you can go to in order to just be yourself — is actually more important than you or your partner might realize.   

De-stressing

Many men have high-stress jobs and can spend long hours at work to earn money and help support their wives and children.  Work- and life-related stress can build up and if there is no healthy outlet for it — such as a man cave to escape to for a while to unwind — then the stress can build up and lead to physical problems like high blood pressure or tension headaches.

It can also lead to emotional problems like irritability, a short temper or even chronic anger, which can put a real strain on the marriage.

If a man has a place he can go to in order to process these emotions away from others, it can help with the emotional health of family life.  The man cave provides a place to temporarily get away from life’s pressures and to decompress so that there is emotional energy left over for family life.

Regulating Emotions

Many men are not aware of this on a conscious level, but there is a relationship between one’s feelings and one’s environment — and in many households, women tend to have more of say in how this environment looks than do their husbands or partners. This is why, notes home design journalist Mitchell Parker, in his Houzz blog, it is so important for men to have a space that have decorated and laid out for themselves in a way that expresses their own individual tastes and personalities. Having this kind of environment to escape to helps them to regulate their emotions and to explore and interpret who they are in privacy and without the rules that being around others naturally brings.

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Getting “Me” Time

Obviously, both men and women need some “me” time, even in a strong and healthy marriage. This can be a sticking point with women, however, who can sometimes feel offended if their husbands need space or time to themselves without them

But for men, it can be even more important. John Gray, author of the famous Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus series, notes that, “There is a part of the brain that helps us to interpret time and space. That part of the brain is much larger in men than it is in women. This means that men have a much bigger awareness of the need for space and time to themselves, “me” time.  Also, it is worth noting that “me” time can be quite different for men and women: for women, this can often include talking or texting other women, whereas for men, the desire for actual solitude seems more paramount.  When this need is fulfilled, it is easier for men to emerge from the cave and be ready and able take up the responsibilities of being husbands, fathers and breadwinners.

Getting Physical

Most of the reasons for man caves mentioned above are emotional or psychological ones.  But there is a physical aspect to this as well: man caves can also be a great place for men to be able to work out and be active, whether it’s a session on your treadmill to the tune of your favorite CD or a weight-lifting sessions to build up those pecs. 

Why is this is important? Because according to the National Institute of Health (NIH), 3 out of 4 men are overweight or obese — and this is a major risk factor for heart disease, which remains the number one killer of American men.  So, if used properly, a man cave can not only help fulfil a man’s emotional needs but his physical health.

So while the man cave can be the subject of much joking and jesting in family life, there is a more serious side to its presence — and when men and women take this side into account, it is more likely that both will make it more of a priority.

Source: goodmenproject.com ~ By: Dr. Bryan W. Wu ~ Image: Pixabay.com

5 Ways to Protect Outdoor Wood Furniture

While wood furniture is gorgeous outside, you’ll need to protect it to lengthen its lifespan, or you could face rot and unsightly discoloration in no time.

Below are several tips to help your wood weather.

Paint
A coat of paint is the top way to protect your outdoor wood, and although you will lose that natural look, it may be worth it considering how much longer that wood will last.  Go for a latex paint over an oil-based paint, as latex will last longer so you won’t need to touch up as frequently.

Seal
Don’t want to mess with your wood look? Consider a water sealant instead, especially if your area gets rain. Water sealers work in two ways: they protect your furniture from moisture outside but also allow damp wood within the sealant to dry faster, so it won’t rot, split or warp.

Varnish
If you don’t want to paint or seal, consider a varnish, which will hold your furniture’s true natural look while still offering some protection from the exterior.

Manage Exposure
Consider moving your wood furniture to the garage in the winter to keep it safe from harsh seasons, during which it won’t be used anyway. Or, consider a fitted cover to protect it from the weather when not in use.

Location, Location, Location
Your local weather will instruct you how to care for your furniture. If you live in a rainy area, a water sealant will be necessary. Live in the desert? Paint your wood for sun protection. The same goes for the area you place your furniture in. Is it tucked under an eave and lightly protected, or sitting out in the middle of the elements? Act accordingly.

Source: rismedia.com ~ Image: pixabay.com

When Listing Your Home For Sale, Remember These Best Practices

Even in a seller’s market, homes aren’t guaranteed to sell. When preparing to sell your home, following a few best practices can keep the property from sitting on the market — or even worse, not selling at all.

Price it just right.

Overpricing a listing is a kiss of death on the market. Research homes in the area that have sold recently, and make sure they are actually comparable (i.e., don’t compare a fixer-upper to a newly remodeled house). Check how long local listings are typically on the market for, and adjust your expectations accordingly. Keep your eye on what else is on the market at the same time as your listing — if there is another home that is seen as a better deal, your listing will look less desirable.

Even though a seller will always want the highest price possible, it may prove strategic to list for a lower price and let buyers bid the price up in competition. Listing at a lower price is common practice in very competitive real estate markets like San Francisco and Los Angeles. This approach often ends up getting more exposure on the listing since it will show up on more home buyers’ online feeds. 

Take beautiful professional photographs.

Some buyers love a project, but most are hoping to have to do as little work as possible (and keep their budget as low as possible). Keeping the home clean and uncluttered and presenting clear photos will present the home at its best.

The majority of buyers are starting their home search online nowadays, and can form an attachment to a house before even seeing it in person. Bad photos, or no photos at all, can completely eliminate interest.

There are inexpensive ways to spruce up your house to make it look more appealing, and pointing out all the positive aspects of the home in the listing (such as the features, upgrades and location) is also vital.

Be open to negotiations.

I can’t stress enough that keeping an open mind is key when selling your home. A buyer may come in with a low price or not-so-great terms on an offer, but it’s best not to write them off completely. If the buyer wants the house, they are likely open to negotiating. If the offer is rejected in a rude way, the buyers may feel like they do not want to work with the seller/their agent in the future at all and may not revisit an offer even after the home has been sitting on the market. Emotions run high on both the buyer and seller side of buying a home, and while it’s important for buyers to not write ridiculously low offers, it’s also key for the sellers to keep from being offended, and try to see if there is some reasoning.

In competitive real estate markets, offers are most likely to come in within the first two weeks of the listing becoming active. Serious buyers are already searching and seeing new listings as they come up for sale. Be sure the home is available and presentable right away for showings. In addition to listing the home in the MLS, it’s essential that the listing be spread to as many potential buyers and local agents as possible. If you want to sell, spread the word.

Source: forbes.com ~ By: Beatrice de Jong ~ Image: 21online Asset Library

4 Things First-time Homebuyers Should Know About Credit Scores and Mortgage Payments

With the housing market improving, you might be tempted to finally start looking for a place to call home. Before you begin your home search and choose a real estate agent to work with, you should consider looking at your own situation and determine whether you are financially ready to apply for a mortgage and pay for a property.

Here are four things every first-time homebuyer should consider before buying a house:

1. Have a Good Credit Score
The first step you should take before looking for a home is to request your credit report from one of the three main credit reporting bureaus. You will then get a better idea of your financial standing as a potential homebuyer in the eyes of potential lenders. Lending standards have tightened since the housing market collapse and lenders will be evaluating applications for mortgages more carefully. As part of this process, lenders will look at your credit score to ensure you are able to handle a long-term obligation like mortgage payments, which not only includes the loan payments themselves, but also property taxes, insurance and private mortgage insurance if applicable. The minimum credit score lenders will consider is 620 and ideally, lenders will want to see a credit score that is in the mid-700s or above.

2. Hard Inquires Could Lower Your Score
When a lender has to pull your credit report, this event will be marked as a hard inquiry on your credit history. Similar to when banks will check your credit before deciding to approve you for a credit card, mortgage lenders will examine your history to determine whether your score is up to par after you apply for pre-approval for a home loan. Having a hard inquiry will potentially drop your credit score and when you are shopping around for the right lender or interest rate, the number of hard inquiries on your report could accumulate fast. Although hard inquires could decrease your credit score, there is good news as credit score provider FICO will consider all hard inquiries as one inquiry if they are made within a 45-day period. As long as you are able to get pre-approved for a loan within this time span, you can limit the hit hard inquiries will have on your score during your home search.

3. Higher Credit Score Means Lower Interest
Although you might be approved for a home loan, the interest associated with your loan may vary depending on your credit score. The lower the credit score, the more you are likely to spend on interest per month. Lenders tend to see consumers with higher credit scores as less of a risk. According to FICO, a score between 760 to 850 could result in the lowest interest rate. The chart provided by FICO shows an interest rate of 3.866 percent for consumers with this score. In contrast, if you have a score ranging between 620 and 639 – hovering just above the minimum score needed for approval – your interest rate could be 5.455 percent, which is more than 1.5 percent higher. Although an interest rate that is 1.5 percent more might not seem like a big difference, these payments add up significantly, especially with interest on a 30-year mortgage.

4. Be Prepared to Juggle Mortgage Payments with Other Bills
First-time homebuyers should plan out their house hunting budgets with their mortgages in mind. Mortgage payments can represent a huge chunk in their monthly spending and first-time homebuyers need to determine whether they can comfortably handle their mortgage payments in addition to their other bills. If buyers cannot juggle their mortgage payments with other credit obligations, they should seriously reconsider whether a home in a higher price range is right for them.

With these tips in mind, first-time homebuyers are more prepared to apply and be approved for a home of their dreams.

Source: lexingtonlaw.com ~ Image: 21Online Asset Library

6 Major Mistakes Buyers Make In A Seller’s Market

The real estate market often fluctuates, making it tough to predict whether the market will favor buyers or sellers when it’s your turn to buy. Buyers in a seller’s market can get what they want, but they need to bring their “A” game and be decisive. Here are six common mistakes and how to avoid them.

  • Not making your best offer

The motivation to buy what we want for as little money as possible is deeply engrained in us. So when most people see the listing price of a home, they naturally wonder what they can really get the house for. Offering lower than asking price is a reasonable strategy, especially if the house is overpriced compared with other similar homes in the area, or if it’s a buyer’s market with lots of available inventory. But trying to get a deal when you’re in a seller’s market might not be the best tactic. “In a seller’s market, many buyers do not step up with a strong enough offer,” says David Dubin, a New York broker. “There is usually a shortage of inventory, and the competition is usually fierce. I always encourage a buyer to come in with a strong opening offer.”

  • Over-Analyzing the Purchase Price

Just as impulse-buying a home is risky, over-analyzing a home purchase in a seller’s market is ill-advised as well. When you wait too long, “You are at high risk of losing [the home] you have fallen in love with,” says Dubin. Once you’ve determined the type of home you want, the location you desire, and your price range, and finally find a home that meets your qualifications, don’t wait to make an offer. To give yourself more leverage, be prepared to move quickly by having your finances in order — get a preapproval. “Know how much you can truly afford, repair any credit issues, have your down payment in hand, and delay [other] major purchases,” says John Lazenby, president of the Orlando Regional Realtor Association in Florida.

  • Working with an inexperienced agent

In a seller’s market, it benefits buyers to get all the help they can. If you have a seasoned agent on your side, you’ll probably have a better chance of getting the home you want. Plus, in most cases, buyers don’t pay real estate agents; sellers do. “When you are competing against other buyers in a fast-paced market, it is vital to be ‘offer-ready,’” says Michael Holt, a New York agent. “Working with a real estate professional saves tons of time and stress, as they know the ins and outs of the process and can provide tremendous insight regarding upcoming inventory.”

  • Not being prequalified (or better yet, preapproved) for a loan

You might know that you’ll be approved for a mortgage loan based on your steady income, your low debt-to-income ratio, and your high credit score — but the seller probably doesn’t know that. The only way to prove to the seller that you’re a qualified buyer is to be prequalified from a lender. “Prequalification is absolutely paramount,” says Teka Klopfenstein, a New York agent. “A buyer has zero advantage if they do not have the cash to purchase without a mortgage and haven’t taken the time to speak with a lender.” Not getting prequalified, she says, “sends a message to the seller that the buyer will lag on getting their ducks in order and aren’t taking their house hunting seriously.”

Prequalification means that you simply told your lender your financial story. Preapproval involves submitting a mortgage application, complete with providing verifying documents. “Preapproval from a reputable lender is key,” says New York agent Ryan Stenta. “Presenting this shows the seller that the buyer has already set the wheels in motion and is serious about making [the deal] a reality.”

  • Not being prepared for a bidding war

If there is ever a time when a bidding war could be imminent, it’s during a seller’s market. No buyer wants to be involved in such a battle for fear of possibly going over budget. But broker Michael Holt presents this solution for buyers: “Set your search below your max budget to leave room in case of an over-asking bidding war.”

  • Not learning from your mistakes

There’s no shame in learning that your offer has been declined, but it’s easy to get frustrated if your offers are declined repeatedly. Learn from your last transaction(s) so you can move in to your dream home. Stenta says that buying a house, particularly for first-time buyers, is a lot like dating. “You probably have to let a few keepers slip through your fingers, have a couple sleepless nights over it, and then come back with serious intent to lock up the next greatest opportunity in front of you.”

Source: trulia.com ~ By: By Laura Agadoni  ~ Image: 21online Asset Library

Why Your Job Matters When Buying a Home

Did you recently change jobs or receive a promotion? Despite what you might have heard, it is still possible to qualify for a mortgage to buy or refinance a home using your new income. The lending atmosphere is rife with misconceptions about job gaps, job changes and occupational changes within the course of an employment time frame. You can get a mortgage if you switched jobs or even changed industries, you just have to approach it the right way to seal the deal.

When determining your ability to pay (and therefore determining how much house you can afford), a lender will calculate your average income based on your pay from the past 24 months. It’s pretty straightforward if you’ve had the same job and same income and pay structure, but if any of those things changed in the past two years — or will change soon, you may face challenges when trying to get a mortgage.

In the past, lenders were ready to strike down loan applications in which there was a job or an industry change. Even real estate professionals will tell you not to change jobs before applying for a home loan. While that very well may be the case for most situations, it is not necessarily so black-and-white.

If you have had a job change, no matter what, a lender is going to need the following things from you — and your employer — in order to close on a mortgage: an offer letter, a role change letter if you have a title change and commensurate compensation package change, and the most recent pay stub and verification of employment.

How Lenders View Hourly Employees

Hourly employees are under the tightest microscope when it comes to getting a mortgage. Why? An hourly employee may have a set full-time schedule, which is ideal for lending purposes. However, if you work slightly less than a full-time schedule, with hours that fluctuate from week to week, this can muddy the waters.

The income gets averaged as long as you’ve been an hourly employee — even if you’re making more money now on a per-hour basis. That’s right, if you were making $40 an hour, and now you earn $50 per hour, the averaged income during the past 24 months – including the lower wage — would apply. So what can you do to get the higher hourly rate factored in to your ability-to-pay calculation?

Here’s what you’ll need from your employer: An offer letter, a current pay sub and a detailed description of the compensation structure with a new employer. These items could get you an exception due to relocation or an alternative circumstance. In either capacity, a most recent verification of employment can bridge the gap between how many hours worked in the year to date, supporting the new federal ability-to-repay requirements.

How Lenders View Salaried Employees

Lenders love salaried employees the most because a set salary streamlines the income calculation in the qualifying process. If you’re changing from one salaried role to another salaried role, despite a job gap, this should be no problem for qualifying for a mortgage so long as you can explain any gaps in the most recent 24 months.

Each job you’ve held in the past 24 months — even if you’ve held multiple jobs — all have to be detailed and itemized with dates so there is no gap in employment. If there is a gap in employment, the lender will need a written explanation detailing the transition. If you have changed jobs from one salaried role to another salaried role, with a different title and a different position — even within a different industry — that still should be fine for your lender as long as you are paid the same way — a flat salaried income.

What If You’re Salaried With Overtime, Commissions or Bonuses?

Have a new job? Or a new salaried role with big commissions, overtime or bonuses? If you do not have a history of this additional add-on income, it cannot be counted for use when qualifying for a new loan.

Here’s an example of a transition that a lender will find acceptable when calculating average income: A police officer has earned overtime plus salary for the past 24 months, and decides to change jobs to become firefighter with overtime potential. In this case, the overtime will be included in the 24-month average. The overtime, bonuses or commissions must be consistent during that time period for that type of income to be included in the average. A borrower can’t have a history of overtime, then change jobs and now have add-on commission income and expect the lender to include the add-on income in the 24-month average when there is no prior history of it.

Changing From Salary to Hourly Pay

If you are moving from a salary role to an hourly role, the lender is going to have to use your hourly income supported with a pay stub and verification of employment. As long as the change is within the same field and your title and role are similar, you should be in the clear.

Future Promotion or Raise On Deck

Congratulations, you’ve been offered a promotion! But first: Has it actually occurred yet? If not, you will be hard-pressed to get the lender to use the projected income, even if it is guaranteed.

If you cannot provide a pay stub with year-to-date income (usually a 30-day pay stub depending on your specific lender requirement), along with a letter detailing the change, you won’t get approved for the loan. Let’s say, for example, you are searching for the house and you know in the next four months your income is going to increase to $6,000 per month because you’ll have a new role within your company. In order for that $6,000 per month income to be used in the calculation, you’d have to get the details of the raise, including the role change letter and at least one pay stub.

So if you are thinking about getting a mortgage, even if it is further down the road, consider opening a dialogue with a lender now so you can be guided through any income bumps the past or future may hold. It is especially critical for homebuyers to get pre-approved with a lender upfront prior to house-hunting. This process includes allowing a lender to review your credit, debt, income and assets to assess your ability to qualify.

This is also a good time to start looking over your credit reports and checking your credit scores so you can address any problems in advance of applying for a mortgage.

Source: blog.credit.com ~ By Scott Sheldon ~ Image: pixabay.com

Homebuyers Are Willing to Make Big Sacrifices for Top Schools

  • About 75 percent of homebuyers said that access to excellent schools was important in their search.
  • Nearly 80 percent of buyers gave up some home features to land in their preferred school district, with about one in five sacrificing a garage.
  • Palo Alto is home to the top-ranked school district and high school in California this year and also claims America’s best college.

Purchasing a home in a good school district has always been a high priority for buyers who have or want children, and recent survey results show just how much a neighborhood’s educational pedigree matters.

Nearly three-quarters of successful homebuyers said that the quality of the school district was either important or very important in their purchasing decision, according to a realtor.com poll and an accompanying analysis by company Chief Economist Danielle Hale. About the same amount — 78 percent — sacrificed some features to score a home in their desired school district.

Although a separate survey conducted by realtor.com earlier this year found that a garage was the No. 1 home amenity, 19 percent of buyers gave up that essential to gain access to an excellent school district. Eighteen percent sacrificed a large backyard, 17 percent gave up an updated kitchen and additional bedrooms, and 16 percent were willing to forgo an outdoor living space.

So what criteria defines a good school in the eyes of homebuyers? For 59 percent, test scores are the most important thing to look for. Next on the list are accelerated curriculums (53 percent) and music programs (49 percent).

The analysis also examined the most popular schools in every state based on 2018 search data from realtor.com. In California, the most searched elementary school is Cordelia Hills Elementary Hills in the Solano County city of Fairfield. For high schools, buyers are performing the most searches for Clovis North High School, located on the outskirts of Fresno.

Excellent educational opportunities are one of the reasons that Silicon Valley remains such a sought-after — and expensive — destination for California homebuyers. Earlier this year, Niche.com ranked school districts in Palo Alto, Los Gatos, Saratoga, and Mountain View as the best in California. Palo Alto’s Henry M. Gunn High School ranks No. 1 in the Golden State, while Stanford University is at the head of the class on Niche.com’s 2018 list of America’s best colleges.

But buyers who are intent on providing their children with a top-tier Palo Alto education will need to dig deep to pull it off. According to MLS data, the median price for a single-family home in the Santa Clara County city in the second quarter was $3.29 million, a year-over-year gain of 15.5 percent.

Source: blog.pacificunion.com ~ Image: pixabay.com

25 AWESOME STAYCATION IDEAS

Ah vacation.  How many of us don’t sometimes wish we could escape the hustle, bustle, & day-to-day responsibilities of our normal lives for a week of fun and relaxation somewhere far, far away?

The truth is that for many of us a traditional vacation is not always in the cards.  Between restaurants, hotels, and transportation, travel costs can add up fast especially when those costs are multiplied for a family.  And even when the cost isn’t a factor, sometimes health concerns or work obligations prevent us from leaving town anytime the urge strikes.

But that doesn’t mean when Spring Break or summer vacation time rolls around and the kids are home from school that you can’t still have a great time! This year, why not plan a vacation in your own backyard?  A true Staycation is more than just a week at home, it is an intentional time of fun and relaxation for your whole family.  It does take a little effort to do it right, but can ultimately be just as satisfying as going somewhere far away.

SET SOME GROUND RULES

The point of a Staycation is to make it feel as much like a real family getaway as possible, without leaving the comfort of your own home.  Thus, to make sure the whole family is on the same page, it is good to start with some ground rules that everyone can agree on.  Start with deciding exactly when your vacation at home starts and ends, and then set a few guidelines for what your family may and may not do during this time.  These could include all or some of the following:

  • No smart phone
  • No email
  • No computer or video games
  • No television
  • No working from home
  • No worrying
  • No fighting
  • Family time only—no independent activities or outside plans
  • No cooking
  • No cleaning
  • No laundry

PLAN FOR FUN!

Just like a real vacation, the more you plan for fun, the more successful your Staycation is likely to be.  Start by setting a reasonable, realistic budget for your week of fun at home.  Set some money aside for activities, eating out, and perhaps even paying for a splurge or two such as paying for a house cleaner or treating yourself to a massage or pedicure at a local spa.

DIG DEEPER

Next, take the time to figure out just what you will do on your Staycation.  If your kids are old enough to have an opinion, hold a family meeting to discuss your ideas and to get a feel for what everyone wants to do. (The list below is a great start!)  If you like spontinaeity, consider putting everyone’s ideas into a jar, then picking one activity each day.  Or, if your family prefers more structure, use your ideas to develop an itinerary for the week.

Be sure to also spend some time prepping your home and kitchen to make things as easy—and neat—as possible for your relaxing week at home.  Gather menus to all the local restaurants that offer takeout and delivery or, if eating out every day is not an option, plan a freezer cooking session ahead of time to prepare a week’s worth of easy stress-free meals.  You might also want to consider using disposable dishes and serve ware to cut down on dishes.  Make sure to caught up on laundry before your week begins, and, if possible, do a family power-cleaning session the day before your Staycation starts.

GET CREATIVE

Chances are there are dozens of fun things to do in your own hometown that you either never have time for, or don’t even think about because they are so close by.  Here are 25 fun and creative ideas to get you started:

  • Try Geocaching-According to the official Geocaching website, “Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location.”  Get more information here, or find local Geocaching groups here.
Go on an a family adventure by getting out the map and exploring your neck of the woods.
  • Try Paintballing or Laser Tag-Invite a few other families to join yours and battle it out for the title of Most Awesome Family.  There are paintball or laser tag facilities almost everywhere—use Google to find one nearby.
  • Visit a Nearby National Park-National parks truly are one of our country’s greatest treasures, and most NPs have a variety of awesome family friendly activities to choose from.  After finding a park in your area, first visit the Ranger Station to pick up a Junior Ranger kit, then complete the required number of activities to receive a badge.  You can also purchase a Passport to National Parks at any NP gift shop, then collect passport stamps at every park you visit.  Most park fees are nominal, but you can also check out this page to find free entrance days.
  • Enjoy Your Local Theater-Check the local newspaper or theater website to see what plays, musicals, concerts, or family-friendly comedy shows will be playing during your planned Staycation time, then book tickets and plan for an evening at the theater.
  • Visit a Nearby Amusement Park-While Disney World may not be in the cards this year, that doesn’t mean you can’t still have a blast at a nearby theme park.  Check out this list to find an amusement park in your own state or town.
  • Visit a Local Children’s Museum-If you’ve got younger kids it can sometimes be hard to find activities that the whole family can enjoy, but a great Children’s Museum can definitely fit the bill!  Most have a variety of fun and interactive activities that can keep you busy the whole day.  Check out the Association of Children’s Museums website to find one in your area, and consider purchasing a Family pass—you can usually get your money back in just two visits.
  • Visit the Zoo or Aquarium-Who doesn’t love seeing animals?  Check out the Association of Zoos & Aquariums to find an AZA accredited zoo or aquarium in your area, then be sure to also check what special programs your zoo has available.  Some offer Junior zookeeper programs or opportunities to feed the animals, while some others even allow you to spend the night in the zoo!  Be sure to pack a lunch to save on pricey zoo fare!
  • Check out the Local Library-Most libraries have family-friendly events and activities happening every weekend, and sometimes even daily during spring break and summer vacations.  Check your local library website for details.
  • Major or Minor League Sporting Event-While major league events are a lot of fun, they can get pricey quickly, especially for a family.  Luckily almost every city has a minor league team these days, which can give you (almost) the same experience for a fraction of the price!  Be sure to check out which days include special events, such as free caps or fireworks for added fun!
  • Go Bowling-If your kids are small, try bumper bowling; for older kids go at night during “glow bowling” times!  Many bowling alleys around the country even participate in a free bowling program that allows kids to bowl free and parents to join them for just a few dollars more.
Sometimes every family needs to pitch a tent and kick back together, cooling your bare feet in the breeze!
  • Camp in Your Own Backyard-Why not enjoy the great outdoors in your own backyard?  Set up a tent and sleeping bags, build a fire (or use the grill) to cook s’mores, and take turns telling ghost stories.  Then download the Night Sky app (make sure your device is GPS-enabled first!) to identify stars, planets, and even satellites in the sky.
  • Tour a Local Factory or Brewery-Is there a large manufacturing facility near your town or city?  Most offer tours and even samples of their goods.  Check the company website for details!
  • Visit a Nearby Tourist Spot-Is there an area nearby that always draws the crowds? Even if you normally avoid the tourist traps, every once in a while it is fun to become a tourist in your own town.  Make all the cheesy stops and take pictures along the way!
  • Theme Restaurant or Dinner Theater-Make dining an event!  Depending on where you live there may be theme restaurants, dinner theater, or even a murder-mystery dinner train or cruise
  • Go Paddleboarding or Canoeing-If there is a river, lake, or ocean nearby, chances are pretty good there is also a paddleboard or canoe rental facility nearby as well.   Both are a fun way to enjoy the water and test your skills!
  • Create Your Own Art-Spend an afternoon getting creative at a nearby paint-your-own pottery facility.  Not only is it fun, you’ll have your own gorgeous dishes to take home when you’re done.
  • Get Wet-Spend the day at a local pool or waterpark, or just head to the beach!  If that sounds like too much effort, simply set up a slip & slide in the backyard and have a family water day at home.
  • Tackle a family project-Have the kids been begging for a tree house or wanting to redecorate their rooms?  Consider spending your week together working on something to improve your home.  You’ll not only bond while painting and building together, but at the end of the week have something concrete to show for your time!
  • Host Your Own Film Festival-Pick a theme, allow each family member to pick a movie, then get comfortable for a day of movies.  Be sure to provide plenty of snacks, and take breaks to discuss and rate each film.
  • Give Yourselves a Makeover-Do hair and makeup at home, or take a day to go to the local spa or beauty parlor.  Complete the new look with a new outfit!
  • Find a Local Festival-Check your local newspaper or chamber of commerce website to find out what is happening in your town or towns nearby the week of your Staycation.  Depending where you live there are often events happening almost every weekend!
  • Go Golfing-If dad is into real golf, consider spending an afternoon doing a family golf lesson; otherwise, stick to mini golf at a local novelty course!
  • Play Outside-Go fly a kite, take a walk, go for a bike ride, or take a hike–most state and national parks have at least a few walking, hiking, or biking trails to choose from.  Do a little research to find one that fits your family’s athletic ability, then head out to enjoy the great outdoors.  Don’t forget to pack snacks and water for your trek!

RELAX AND ENJOY!

For most people—and moms especially—the hardest part of trying to “relax” at home is letting go of the all the everyday obligations and distractions that bombard us in our own homes.  But the key to having the best Staycation ever ultimately has nothing to do with the activities you choose, but with your own attitude and commitment to making your week a time of fun and relaxation.   Let the chores be for a week and instead give yourself permission to kick back and enjoy the moment.  Laugh and talk with your kids and spouse and create memories that you will cherish for a lifetime.  This is your time…..make the most of it!

Source: livingwellspendingless.com ~ Image: Pixabay

The Ultimate Summer Home Maintenance Checklist

Everything you need to do to keep your home and yard in tip-top shape this summer.

With the change of each season comes a new set of maintenance tasks for your home. Now that summer’s here, you’ll want to prepare your home and yard for the onslaught of summer heat. From air-conditioner upkeep to hanging a clothesline, these simple chores will help keep your home happy and healthy.

Check detectors. Check your home’s smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to make sure they’re working properly.

Inspect air-conditioners. If you haven’t already, prep air conditioners and fans for their busiest season:

  • With the help of your spouse, install window air-conditioning units. Remove and clean the filters before firing up the AC. If you have central air-conditioning, consider a professional servicing.
  • Clean all ceiling fans and other fans with a damp rag. If you have high ceilings, a ceiling-fan duster can help you de-grime hard-to-reach blades.

Enjoy a dry spell. Install an outdoor clothesline to dry your laundry in the summer sun; you’ll save money and energy by skipping the dryer. Plus, who doesn’t love the smell of air-dried sheets?

Clean your outdoor cooker. Give your grill a deep cleaning with these simple steps:

  • For gas grills, turn the heat up to high and let the grill cook with the lid closed for about half an hour. Allow the grill to cool and then brush it off with a grill brush. Wipe down the exterior with a damp sponge and a gentle cleanser. Clean the grill’s drip pans.
  • For charcoal grills, completely empty the grill and wipe out any ashy residue. Then clean it inside and out with hot water, a scrubby sponge and some liquid dishwashing soap. Let the grill dry completely before using it again.

Polish your porch. Thoroughly sweep painted porch floors; then mop them with an all-purpose cleaner. If there’s a lot of built-up dirt on the floorboards, you may need to scrub them with a brush.

Analyze your deck. Look over your deck for signs of rotting and hammer in any nails that are poking up. Then, determine if your deck needs sealing. Sprinkle water on the deck’s boards. If the water beads up, you’re in good shape; but if it soaks right in, it’s time to reseal that sucker.

Wash your windows. If you didn’t tackle exterior window washing in the spring, now’s the time to get your glass clean.

Make much ado about mulch. Add a layer of mulch to keep weeds down and help the ground retain its moisture in the heat. It’ll give your plants a chance to grow.

Be a leak detective. Check your hoses and exterior faucets for leaks — even a tiny drip can add up to a big waste of water. Pinhole leaks in hoses can be covered up by winding regular electrical tape around the (dry) hose in overlapping layers.

Primp your plants. Deadhead both perennials and annuals to keep them productive. If you have visible dead foliage from spring bulbs, pull it out to maintain a tidy look, but if the daffodil or tulip leaves are still green, leave them alone; they’re busy nourishing the bulb to bloom again next year.

Plan your watering schedule. Train your garden to endure dry days by watering deeply a couple times a week, instead of watering lightly daily. This style of watering will promote the growth of deep, strong roots.

Stop dirt at the door. Keep summer’s mud and muck outside with not one, but two doormats at your main entry door. Place a coarse mat at the exterior and a softer, cloth one on the interior to catch the most dirt. Better still, instruct family members to remove their shoes upon entering. If you live near a beach, a tub of water for sandy feet placed by the door works wonders for keeping sand outside where it belongs.

Source: thenest.com ~ By Laura Fenton ~ Image: Pixabay