Spruce up your house
Home improvements can not only increase your home's value, but also save you some serious cash, said Geoff Williams at US News. Start from the bottom up: If you live in a humid climate, install a dehumidification system in your basement. It will protect your belongings from humidity damage and also make your house feel cooler, reducing the need for expensive air conditioning. Better insulation also translates to lower energy costs: Seal up any cracks in your attic and beneath windows and doors. And if you have a wood deck or porch, remember to weatherproof it with a new coat of stain every once in a while. When well maintained it can last decades, but if you never care for it, "you'll shorten the life of your wood deck by 50 percent or more."
Hire a financial adviser
Is it time to invest in a financial adviser? asked John Waggoner at USA Today. If you're looking for a money manager to help you make sense of the market, consider that "they can be wrong; they can be expensive; and they might not actually want to talk to you." Over time, paying a percentage of your assets — the most common payment scheme — "can be a considerable drag" on your returns. And keep in mind that a small account "may not get you a lot of attention from an adviser." Even so, "don't be ashamed or reluctant to ask for advice." If you do decide to hire a planner, use the government's site BrokerCheck.FINRA.org to vet candidates—and "just remember that if you want help, you're going to pay for it."
Tax holidays for students
If you're a parent preparing to stock up on a kid's school supplies, pay attention, said Angela Johnson at CNN.com. Seventeen states now "offer shoppers tax breaks on back-to-school items," which could amount to anywhere from 4 percent to 7 percent in savings. But "before heading to the store," do your research. Find out if your state offers such tax breaks and, if so, whether any restrictions apply. For Floridians, for instance, any article of clothing that costs more than $75 doesn't qualify. If you're looking to save on a new computer, "try Missouri or North Carolina; those two states are offering breaks on computers worth up to $3,500." Check the calendar, too. "In most states, the tax holiday lasts only for a couple of days, while in others it lasts a full week."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
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- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Stop making fun of philosophy and read some philosophy
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- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- For Democrats, the right lesson from 2014 is to be more liberal
- The real lesson of the looming Martha Coakley disaster
- How to live a long life, according to science
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
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