LIFESTYLE: So, You've Paid Off Your Home, Now What?

 Buying a home is one thing, and making the decision to do just that will influence how you live your life for years, even decades into the future. It’s a major financial tie that can dominate a lot of your life. If you’ve gotten through all those years and have your home fully paid off, or if you have been lucky enough to pay it off early, you might be asking yourself: what now? You might be content to live in it, as is, but there are options available that might be worth considering.

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Celebrate and take a load off

You’ve taken the time or made the right moves so that you can enjoy living in a home without having to pay off a home loan. You’re going to find yourself with extra cash in the near future, so why not consider taking a celebratory vacation? Or you can just relax and enjoy living life with a little more budget to spend for a while. You don’t have to rush into any decisions.

Pay off all your other debts

However, once you discover that you do, indeed, have that extra in your budget, it’s not uncommon that you might start thinking about what might be the best way to make use of it. For your long-term betterment, identifying the other debts that you can start to pay off is a sensible option. Your mortgage is likely to be the biggest and costliest debt that you had, so from there, you can continue following the avalanche method. Clear your other bigger or higher interest debts first, so that you can start feeling the benefit from the savings a lot sooner. With the extra money in your budget, you should be able to clear any other debts a lot more easily, allowing you to take a step closer to living with financial freedom, while greatly improving your credit.

Focus on your retirement

If you have paid off your home loan early, then you might not be looking at retirement for a few decades yet. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not a good time to start contributing to it. Basically, the sooner that you want to be able to retire, the sooner that you should be contributing towards your retirement. There are all kinds of retirement preparation plans that you can make but the gist of it is all about finding the right savings to put your money into so that, when you reach your preferred retirement age, you can live in relative peace. There are also retirement calculators that can help you get a better idea of how much you will want to put aside each month.

Make some improvements

Now that you have paid off the home, it is yours to do whatever you want with it. However, over the years of living there, you might have noticed real upgrades you can make to increase the quality of life of the family. You’ve freed up a significant portion of your credit load, so it might also free up the space to look at some home improvement loans, allowing you to access the cash to make the improvements that you have been thinking of. It will be a lot easier to manage the loan without a mortgage alongside it, and any investment into the practical needs of the home also tends to improve its value as an asset, too.

Consider moving up the property ladder

Now that you have your home paid off, you might think that it’s time to keep moving on up the property ladder. There are a few ways to do this, too. You can, for instance, sell off your current home and, alongside the money you get from that, seek out another mortgage to help you buy a bigger and more valuable home, with the aim to pay that off in the future, as well. Or, you could consider becoming a landlord or property investor, continuing to live in your home, but taking out a loan so that you can purchase another place that you rent out to tenants. When you don’t have to pay for the home that you’re living in, it’s easier to assume the costs of buying a rental.

The options that can suddenly open up to you when you finish buying off your home are not to be underestimated. However, you don’t have to rush into a decision. Think about your current position and where you want to be in the future, basing your next moves on your long-term plans, not just what sounds good now.

LIFESTYLE: A Home-Lover's Guide To Finding And Revamping Those Hidden Corners With Style

 A house becomes a home with a bit of personality and care. That empty corner or dull wall might seem like a minor issue, but give it some TLC, and boom! It’s like having a brand-new space. Trust me, a few tweaks here and there can truly elevate the way you feel at home. So, grab a cup of tea, and let’s explore together how to spruce things up.

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Finding The Forgotten Corners

Scouting Room by Room

Picture yourself walking through your home, peeking into every nook and cranny like you’re seeing it for the first time. Think about what catches your eye - maybe a spot that could use a colourful painting or a cosy chair. You might even discover a place for that reading nook you’ve always wanted. It’s all about looking with fresh eyes and imagining the possibilities.

Calling In The Experts

Ever considered inviting a friend over for a home makeover adventure? Sometimes, a fresh set of eyes sees things you might have missed. Plus, it’s way more fun to brainstorm ideas over some snacks and laughter. You’ll be amazed at the creative ideas that can flow when you collaborate!

Using Technology

Have you ever played around with those virtual staging tools available online? They are like video games for home décor enthusiasts! You can rearrange your furniture, try out new colours, and even visualise different lighting. It’s not just helpful; it’s incredibly fun to see your ideas come to life before making any actual changes.

Integrating Functionality And Style

Ever looked around and felt something was off, even though everything looks nice? Maybe it’s the functionality that needs a touch-up. Sometimes, adding a stylish yet functional piece, like a chic shelf or a handy coffee table, can marry form and function. Think about how you use the space, and let that guide you. Trust me, functional can absolutely be fabulous!

Seasonal Refresh

Why should spring have all the cleaning fun? Consider a seasonal refresh that aligns with the changing weather and your changing mood. A cosy winter reading corner or a bright summer breakfast nook can add seasonal charm to your space. Play around with colours, fabrics, and layouts that resonate with the time of year. It’s like having a new room every season, and who wouldn’t love that?

Areas That Often Need Attention

Investing In New Furniture

Sometimes, it’s all about the furniture. Whether it’s that old couch that’s sagging or the dining table that’s seen better days, a fresh piece can really make a difference. So, why not browse through some furniture options online? There’s a whole world of sleek, comfy, and durable choices waiting for you. And the best part? You can match them to your existing décor or even create a whole new theme.

Paint And Wallpaper

Remember when that shade of blue was all the rage? Times change, and so do colour trends. Maybe it’s time to swap out that dated wallpaper or paint over a colour that doesn’t spark joy anymore. Choosing a fresh colour or pattern can be a delightful adventure in itself. Imagine waking up in a room that feels just like you - perfect!

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Lighting And Fixtures

How about changing up the lighting? A soft, warm glow might be all that’s needed to turn a room from ‘meh’ to ‘wow.’ And if you’re feeling a bit crafty, there are tons of DIY projects out there to create unique lampshades. Imagine hosting a dinner under a chandelier you made. Pretty cool, right?

Floors And Carpets

Your floors put up with a lot. Those scuffs and stains tell a story, but maybe it’s time for a fresh chapter. Whether it’s a good clean, a new carpet, or a complete refinishing, your floors can shine again. And you don’t always have to break the bank; sometimes, a chic rug is all it takes to hide imperfections and add character.

Windows And Curtains

Let’s talk windows. Are yours letting in all the beautiful natural light they could be? Maybe some new curtains or blinds can change the whole vibe of a room. Or how about a deep cleaning to make them sparkle? Trust us, a bright room is a happy room, and your plants will be thankful too!

The How-To Guide

Freshening Up Walls

So, you’ve chosen that perfect shade of green for the walls. Now comes the fun part! Grab some rollers, put on some tunes, and make a day of it. Don’t forget to prep with tapes and covers - unless you want a Pollock-style floor. And hey, why not invite a friend over to join the painting party? The more, the merrier!

Revamping The Lighting

If you’re ready to dive into the world of lighting, you’re in for a treat. From energy-efficient LEDs to vintage Edison bulbs, there’s a whole spectrum of options. 

Maybe even mix and match different styles for an eclectic look. And if you’re feeling adventurous, why not craft your own lampshade? It’s easier than you think, and the results can be stunning!

Rejuvenating Floors And Carpets

Whether it’s those hardwood floors that need a little shine or carpets that could use a deep clean, there’s a solution out there for you. You can rent cleaning machines or hire professionals. Sometimes, even a good old-fashioned scrub can work wonders. And hey, don’t forget to explore trendy rugs that can add style and hide any less-than-perfect spots.

Refreshing Windows And Curtains

Alright, time to let the sunshine in! A good window cleaning can be a game-changer. Try new blinds or curtains to match your updated décor, or even just a seasonal refresh. From light and airy sheers to bold and dramatic drapes, the choices are endless. It’s like putting the perfect frame on your beautiful outside view!

Creating A Cozy Outdoor Space

Got a patio, balcony, or garden that could use some love? Creating a cosy outdoor space is like adding a whole new room to your home. Start with some comfy seating - whether it’s a hammock, a bench, or a full outdoor sofa set. Add in some potted plants or flowers to bring in that touch of nature. Lighting is key too, so consider string lights, lanterns, or even a fire pit for those chillier evenings. And don’t forget those soft touches like outdoor cushions or blankets. Imagine sipping your morning coffee or hosting friends for a BBQ in your very own outdoor haven. Sounds heavenly, doesn’t it?

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Little Touches That Make A Difference

Adding Plants

Do you have a green thumb or just love the look of green around you? Plants are like natural art pieces that add life and charm to any room. And don’t worry if you’re not a gardening expert; there are low-maintenance options that can thrive with minimal care. You’ll love the fresh feel they bring. 

Incorporating Personal Touches

Personal touches are like signatures that make your home uniquely yours. Have you ever considered displaying your artwork, family heirlooms, or even favourite quotes? You don’t have to be a professional artist; even simple doodles or crafts can be framed as art. Dig into those memory boxes, and you might find treasures that have been waiting for their spotlight. It’s those little things that make your house a home, right?

Rearranging Shelves

Ready to play around with your shelves? Try rearranging your books, adding a decorative piece, or even a new photo frame. Sometimes, these small changes create a big impact, making your room feel new and exciting. It’s all about experimenting and letting your personality shine through.

Updating Soft Furnishings

Cushions, throws, and fabrics - oh my! These soft touches can be the cherry on top of your home’s look. Swap them out with the seasons, or whenever you fancy a change. It’s a simple and cost-effective way to keep things fresh and trendy. Your sofa will thank you!

Playing With Scents

A scent can invoke memories and feelings, so why not play around with it in your home? From scented candles to essential oil diffusers, the options are plentiful. Imagine walking into your living room filled with the calming aroma of lavender or the invigorating smell of citrus in the kitchen. You can even choose scents according to the season - cinnamon for fall or fresh linen for spring. It’s an often-overlooked touch, but oh-so-rewarding! And the best part? You can change it whenever you feel like it, creating different moods and experiences in your own living space.

Conclusion: Rebuilding Your Space

From scouting rooms to buying new furniture, you’ve got all the tools you need to create your perfect oasis. Remember, your home is your canvas, so paint it with love and creativity! Did you know that home makeover projects can be bonding experiences? Invite friends and family to join you in the transformation. Share ideas, have fun, and create memories along the way. It’s not just about a beautiful home; it’s about beautiful moments too.

So, sit back and take it all in. Your home is a reflection of you - unique, stylish, and full of life. Enjoy the transformation and the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve created a space that’s truly yours.

lifestyle: Simple Ways To Create Privacy On Your Property This Year

 In this modern day that we live in, it’s only right that we want a bit of privacy when it comes to our homes. We have very little privacy when it comes to day-to-day life whether it be CCTV tracking our every movement wherever we go, to companies online trying to track everything we do in the digital realm.

With that being said, there are some simple ways to improve the privacy of your home this year. Whether you’ve already got some of these in place already or not, hopefully, these tips will provide a bit more privacy to your property in 2023.

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Add fencing to your garden

Fencing is a great way to add some privacy to your garden, especially if you’ve got nosy neighbours who have a clear view of the exterior. If any windows face out to the garden, you might have a few unwanted stares from neighbours who are close by too.

With that being said, a close board panel is an effective way of adding a barrier between you and your neighbours’ properties, as well as adding that much-needed privacy.

There are a variety of styles and heights available, so it’s worth shopping around to find the best option for your own property.

Use frosted window film

If you have certain windows that aren’t always covered with blinds or curtains, then frosted window film is a good alternative. Perhaps you don’t have any blinds or curtains on specific windows but they are currently exposed to the outside world.

Frosted window film is a cheap and effective way of keeping your interiors private, without needing to go to the extent of buying blinds or curtains. You can choose to frost over your entire window with this film, or partly cover it.

Install CCTV to detract people from snooping

CCTV has been and will always be a useful deterrent for those who are looking to detract people from snooping or stepping onto the property.

While it doesn’t make your property impenetrable, it does make it a deterrent that most will likely avoid when scoping out properties to rob from. A lot of properties nowadays make use of the Nest cameras, which are great for privacy on your front doorstep, however, you might want to install some at a higher position. 

Be strategic with plants and shrubs

To help maximise your privacy, be strategic when it comes to plants and shrubs. Opt for higher shrubs and even trees to help block any viewpoint to your property. Of course, it’s important to be aware of what you might block for your neighbours, so always be mindful of this.

Invest in a partially enclosed pergola

Finally, a great feature to add to your garden space and an ideal alternative for privacy is a partially enclosed pergola. It makes for a great outdoor dining or lounging space and can help block certain windows from view.

If you’re looking to provide more privacy for your home, make use of these simple tips for your property.

LIFESTYLE: Space-Saving Tips for Your Next Apartment Renovation

 Do you need more living space? An apartment renovation might be the ticket to maximizing your apartment's square footage and adding some stylistic flair. Implementing clever design strategies can drastically improve your space's functionality without moving or expanding. Here are some practical tips on how to make the most of your apartment during your next renovation.

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Make Your Space Functional with Multipurpose Furniture

Multipurpose furniture is an absolute lifesaver for small apartments. Convertible sofa beds, expandable dining tables, or ottomans with hidden storage provide multiple uses without taking up much space. They're sleek, efficient, and can adapt to your daily needs. Nesting tables are a particularly innovative solution, offering the flexibility of multiple surface areas while conveniently tucking away when not in use.

Utilize Vertical Space

One of the most underutilized assets in apartment living is the vertical space. Use the height of your walls to your advantage by installing floor-to-ceiling shelving units. It provides ample storage space for books, décor, and small items. A magnetic knife rack or hanging pots and pans in the kitchen can free up valuable counter space.

Media Walls: A Perfect Combination of Style and Comfort

We often overlook the potential of our walls, especially when it comes to oversized items like televisions, speakers, or artwork. Media walls are a perfect solution. These custom installations allow for a clean, organized presentation of your entertainment system and can even incorporate additional fireplace options. Furthermore, this arrangement eliminates the need for bulky entertainment centers, freeing up floor space. 

Use Light and Mirrors to Create an Illusion of Space

Light and mirrors are fantastic tools for creating an illusion of more space. Brightly lit rooms feel more open and welcoming. Aim to allow as much natural light into your apartment as possible. If natural light is limited, choose light fixtures that can illuminate your space effectively without overwhelming it.

Opt for Built-in Storage Solutions

Built-in storage solutions offer an excellent way to maximize space. Consider custom-built furniture like bed frames with under-the-bed drawers or bench seating with hidden compartments. You could also install built-in wardrobes or cupboards that seamlessly blend with your walls.

When renovating your kitchen or bathroom, consider recessed wall cabinets. These cabinets offer additional storage while maintaining the overall flow of your apartment.

Choose a Minimalist Design Aesthetic

When space is at a premium, less is often more. A minimalist design aesthetic emphasizes simplicity and functionality, making it ideal for small apartments. Minimalism focuses on decluttering and only keeping the essentials. It encourages careful selection of furniture and décor to create a sense of spaciousness and serenity.

This doesn't mean your apartment should lack personality. Instead, choose a few statement pieces that reflect your style and let them shine in a minimalist setting.

You can transform your small apartment into a functional, stylish, and spacious living area with thoughtful planning and creative design. Remember, the goal is to maximize space and create a home that aligns with your lifestyle and personal taste. Consider the tips above for your next apartment renovation, and embrace the beauty of small-space living. Media walls, multipurpose furniture, and ingenious storage solutions are just a few strategies to get you started on your renovation journey.

LIFESTYLE: How To Avoid A Bad Deal On Your Next Car

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Finding a car perfect for your needs seems difficult, and buying is often regarded as easy.

The truth is that it’s not about finding the best car you can possibly get by penny-pinching or waiting until the perfect time to find one (you may need a vehicle sooner rather than later, after all), but in knowing which car compliments your lifestyle and moving on from there.

However, it may be a little time since you’ve purchased a vehicle. You may no longer have your parent's direct oversight now you’re a little older and more independent, or you might be purchasing from a garage instead of a personal seller and have little experience with that process. Sometimes, buying is more complex than you thought.

No matter what, it’s important to avoid a bad deal on your next car. While many retailers are trustworthy, there will always be those who hope to sell you the least value for the most amount of money. Of course, that isn’t necessarily unethical but rather sharp business sense, after all, we’re conversely looking to get the most for our money.

So, in this post, we hope to help you avoid a bad deal on your next car - no matter if you’re looking for a simple hatchback or premium Mercedes convertibles. Without further ado, please consider:

Check All Vehicle Documents

With the vehicle history report which should detail any work done and servicing, you can better understand issues that may have taken place like collisions pre-empting the need for recuperative work. This V5C Registration, MOT Certificate, service history records, your vehicle handbook, and if available, previous owner details are all essential to look at. You can also get an HPI check (the aforementioned report) on any car but you may need to apply for it. On top of this, the insurance documents and tax details can be made available to you, but you may have to arrange that separately.

Identify High-Pressure Sales Strategies

Ultimately, the person hoping to sell a vehicle will intend to sell it to you. That’s the best outcome for them. They gain nothing by spending an hour with you and then walking away with nothing. As such, some may try to adopt high-pressure sales tactics such as constantly pushing you to a decision, trying to cut short your test drive, offering seemingly predatory discounts or bundles that will expire if you leave the lot, and perhaps negating questions asked or giving short answers. This is where alarm bells should ring, as if you feel like you’re being pushed into a deal, you probably are. If the car was such a great opportunity, these tactics would be unnecessary.

Avoid Proprietary Additions & Bundles

Unnecessary warranty extensions, pain protections, undercoatings, window tinting, dent repair coverages, or even insurance plans are all examples of bundles and bonuses that you may be convinced to get and charged extra for, but that you don’t need to have. Moreover, most of these considerations can be applied after your purchase if you feel like that’s something you need. With a little care and attention, you can avoid those predatory pricing issues and instead move away with your budgeted expenditure, knowing you haven’t fallen for upselling.

With this advice, you’re sure to avoid a bad deal on your next car.