Simple Pleasures: A Relaxed Weekend at Home

“When you’ve had a busy week, sometimes you just want to relax around the house.  Use some of these following tips to help create the best possible spaces around your home.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

The AHS Top 10: Best Money-Saving Apps for Budgeting

Who doesn’t like to save money?  Check out these Apps and see which ones might work for you!

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

Budget apps

Whether you’re saving money for the upcoming holiday season or following up on that long-ago resolution to pay off all of your debts, these money-saving apps can help you stay on track.

1. PocketGuard (Android, iOS)

Want to know how to stay in the clear and out of the red zone on your accounts? PocketGuard can take care of that. The app securely accesses your accounts while simultaneously factoring in your spending habits to let you know how much you can afford to spend each day.

2. Wally (Android, iOS)

For added convenience and flexibility when it comes to expense tracking, Wally lets you manually enter your spending or take photos of your receipts. To save you a step, it can even identify your location. And all along the way, the app will adapt to your spending habits and help you achieve your savings goals.

3. Personal Capital (Android, iOS)

If you want to focus more on planning for the future and your investments, Personal Capital is the money-tracking app for you. In fact, thanks to its dedicated advisors, you’ll know if you’re paying too much in fees in addition to being able to get help with your asset allocations.

4. Spendee (Android, iOS)

Spendee not only lets you see a breakdown of your spending over time; it goes even further to show what specific items and categories you’re spending your money on. The best part? You can simply snap photos of your bills and receipts for easy organization.

5. Mint (Android, iOS)

Want to see your entire financial picture in one place? Mint can handle that. It not only tracks your expenses across all your different credit, checking, savings and investment accounts; you can even add in assets, such as cars or houses, to get a better sense of your net worth.

6. Mvelopes (Android, iOS)

Sure, you may have heard that the envelope system is the only way to truly ensure success when it comes to budgeting. But why bother with the physical paper when you can utilize the same system on your phone? The best part is that, when you charge something on a credit card, Mvelopes automatically moves that amount of money out of your “spending” envelope and puts it into an envelope set aside for paying your credit card bill. Genius, huh?

7. Digit (Android, iOS)

Using the Digit app is possibly the easiest, no-brainer way to save a few extra bucks without even trying. In fact, when it comes to putting money in your savings account, Digit handles it all. Every few days, the app uses its spending tracker and moves a small amount of money — whatever you can safely afford — over to a savings account. And, don’t worry, you’re never going to go into overdraft mode. The creators of the app guarantee it.

8. GoodBudget (Android, iOS)

GoodBudget is similar to Mvelopes; however, it’s designed to be synced across all of your devices and the web so you can share the progress with your family members. This app is great if money management is a team effort in your household.

9. Albert (iOS)

Want a personal financial advisor without paying for a personal financial advisor? Albert’s your man (or app, rather). Teaming up with various financial institutions to get accurate advice, Albert can help you make a plan and stick to it. What’s more, you can save and withdraw money straight from the app free of charge.

10. You Need a Budget (Android, iOS)

When it comes to apps that help you save money, You Need a Budget (YNAB) goes over and beyond. More than just an app that observes and analyzes your spending habits, YNAB actually tries to improve those habits — resulting in an entire lifestyle change.

Want to see more of our tech favorites? Check out our top ten security apps, our top ten home renovation apps and our top ten voice-controlled devices.

Originally Published by American Home Shield

6 Halloween Must-Do’s to Keep Little Trick-or-Treaters Safe

“Halloween is only a few weeks away so it’s time to start making sure your ready.  In addition decorating and getting enough candy, be sure to make sure your home is safe for all the little Trick-or-Treaters.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team


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Color and Pattern Make These Backsplashes Stand Out

“Ready to add a little something different to your Kitchen that won’t break the bank?  Try adding a colorful backsplash.  In most cases you can even do it yourself!”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

Do You Need to Adjust Your Thermostat When the Weather Changes?

“Now that the temperatures outside are finally starting to fall, it’s time to think about how to control the temperature inside, along with costs.  It’s not always as simple as you might think.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

Turn on the heater or turn off the A/C? As summer becomes fall, temperatures fluctuate from hot to cold. Use these tips to keep heating and cooling costs in check!

Temperature changes outside

Whether you choose to describe it as being “up and down” or as “running hot and cold,” as a homeowner, you know that autumn weather can be unpredictable. Autumn temperatures that veer between extremes can make keeping your home comfortable a real challenge. As the season’s warm days turn into cool nights, how do you avoid running back and forth to adjust your thermostat — or even switching back and forth between your air conditioning and heating systems? Here are some tips to help when switching from cooling to heating as the seasons change.

  • Change your filters regularly. Your air conditioning system has gotten you through the worst of the summer, but September and early October can still be torrid. Don’t tax it any more than you have to. To keep your HVAC system running efficiently, change its filters regularly. Consider these general guidelines for filter changes.
    • If your home is occupied by multiple people and pets, change your filters every 30 to 45 days.
    • If your home is occupied by multiple people and only one pet, change your filters every 60 days.
    • If your home is occupied by multiple people but no pets, change your filters every 90 days.
  • Get an automatic or programmable thermostat. If you don’t already own a programmable thermostat, hire a professional to install one. Set the baseline temperature within your home to ensure your preferred level of comfort, then back off that temperature setting by a few degrees, especially for those hours of the day when you aren’t actually at home. According to the United States Department of Energy, you can save as much as 10 percent a year in energy usage (and on your utility bills) by making smart adjustments to your thermostat.
  • Pile on the cozy bedding.This may seem low-tech, but that’s just another way of saying it’s a tried-and-true solution. If your house feels a little too cool at night, snuggle up under an extra blanket or two until it’s time to turn on the heater full-time.
  • Have your heating system serviced.Before completely switching from cooling to heating, have a professional HVAC technician make sure your heating system is operating properly before the full blast of winter arrives. During this inspection, have the technician check for any signs of carbon monoxide leakage. Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that is potentially deadly. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), every year nearly 400 Americans die from carbon monoxide poisoning, and more than 4,000 Americans are hospitalized due to carbon monoxide exposure.
  • Make sure your home is sealed.Check around your windows and doors for drafts. If you feel air moving or a disparity in temperature in these areas, use caulk or weather stripping to block the exchange of air between the interior and exterior of your home. Improperly sealed homes can easily cause your energy bill to increase by as much as 10 to 15 percent.
  • Lower the temperature on your water heaterYou can save between 3 and 5 percent in energy costs for every 10 degrees you lower the high-temperature setting on your water heater. Keep your hot water simmering at about 120 degrees and insulate your water heater and its exposed pipes to reduce heat loss.
  • Change out your light bulbs.As the days grow shorter and nights longer, replace standard incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent (CFL) or LED bulbs that use less energy and have a longer lifespan. Non-incandescent bulbs also give off less heat, meaning cooler temperatures inside a well-lit home during those days when winter still seems a long way off.

Of course, you can help protect your budget from home repair and replacement costs with an American Home Shield® Home Warranty Plan. We have options for every budget, and you can even choose from several flexible plans.

Originally Published by American Home Shield

Smart Options: Basement Flooring

“There are so many different types of Basement designs today.  When it comes to the right flooring, you need to match what you choose, to how you are going to use it.  Take a few minutes to understand the advantages of each of the styles of flooring you can choose from today.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

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To-Dos: Your September Home Checklist

“Labor Day has come and gone and now Summer is officially over.  It’s time to start getting your home ready for the Fall.  Here are some great tips on what to do around your home, inside and out.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

5 Money-Saving Gadgets That Make Life Easier

“Who doesn’t love gadgets, especially those that can save you money!”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

5 Money-Saving Gadgets That Make Life Easier

Who doesn’t love products that can save us money and time? Here are five of our favorite money-saving gadgets:

Fruit freshness extender

1. Battery Charger

It seems like battery chargers were big when they first came out but, over time, it seems the energy died down and everyone stopped talking about them. Not us. We think they’re incredibly convenient, and they can potentially save you a lot of cash — especially if you find yourself constantly changing out the batteries in your kids’ favorite toys and devices. In fact, one user wrote about saving more than $75 each year with rechargeable batteries! Besides, who wants to make additional trips to the store for replacements when you can renew the batteries that you already have at home for free?

2. Self-Cleaning Electric Shaver

When it comes to money-saving health gadgets, you can’t go wrong with a self-cleaning electric shaver, especially if you’re a regular groomer. Although the initial investment may end up setting you back a couple hundred dollars, it should only take you about eight months to break even and start seeing the savings. Likewise, the thought of not having to buy disposable razors and shaving cream on a weekly basis anymore — and you still get a fresh shave — should make you a true believer.

3. Motion-Sensing Light Switch

Want to save money but consider yourself too lazy to even turn the lights off when you leave the room? No problem. Just install motion-sensing light switches. They’re some of the greatest energy-saving products because you literally don’t have to lift a finger to use them (after the initial installation, that is). They sense when you come in and go out of the room, turning the lights on and off for you, and typically reducing your energy consumption by 35–45 percent. Never worry about tripping over furniture in a dark room again!


4. Food Freshness Extender

We know how it feels. You’re so proud of yourself for going to the grocery store and picking out all those fresh fruits and vegetables. Then, you “accidentally” let them sit in the fridge a little longer than you intended and they’re suddenly wilted and rotten after only a few days. Cut down on the wasted food and money — up to $600 for a family of four! — by simply tossing a freshness extender ball in your crisper drawer. It works by absorbing the ethylene gases in your fridge, which tell the produce to continue ripening. And it lasts for up to three months, keeping your produce fresher longer.

5. Learning Thermostat

Perhaps one of the top energy-saving devices around, learning thermostats go beyond your typical temperature programming. They learn your habits after only a few days of adjusting the temperature yourself and then take the reins, adjusting the temperature accordingly for you. Don’t worry; you still have full control over the units. It’s just incredibly convenient not having to worry about adjusting the thermostat all the time — and saving between $131 and $145 a year, on average, while you’re at it. In fact, learning thermostats actually go beyond merely keeping your house comfortable. They can sense when no one is home (thus, refraining from heating or cooling the air for no reason) and determine how you can use your heating and air conditioning units more efficiently, as well.

Originally Published by American Home Sheild

Your Guide to Choosing Patio Stones

“It’s amazing all the choices you have today when picking out Patio Stones. A Patio can be a great addition for outdoor living, and may not cost as much as you might think. Especially, if you want to do it yourself. It also, enhances your homes appeal if you’re looking to sell in the future.”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team

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Bathroom Workbook: How Much Does a Bathroom Remodel Cost?

“Tired of your current bathroom, but not sure what you want to do, or how much it will cost?  Here’s an article that will explain what you should expect to pay, and just might inspire you!”

Denise Buck & Ed Johnson – DC Metro Realty Team