Homeowners: 3 ways to save this summer
May Real Estate on the Cheap: See if one of these suggestions could help you stash some extra cash for that family vacation or future dream home.
Spring is in full swing, which means summer is just around the corner. Many of you may be looking forward to sunny beachside vacations or family theme-park adventures — but you may also be dreading the expenses that come with all those fun summer activities. (Bing: What's the first day of summer?)
As luck would have it, we've been thinking ahead on your behalf, and we have three suggestions for summer savings. See if one of these can help you squirrel away some cash.
1. Rent out your home
While you're off gallivanting through Europe, trekking the trails of Montana or waiting in line at Disneyland, why not let someone else live in your home – in exchange for some cold hard cash? This is something renters can do, too, if the landlord says it's OK.
Michelle Parkinson and her partner, Michelle Deveroux, have been renting out their Old Orchard Beach, Maine, home using HomeAway for the past five years, one week at a time for about six weeks each summer. They don't go far for their own vacation — they spend those weeks at a campground within walking distance of their home. They have the rental weeks set up so renters check in and out on Saturdays, with a four-hour gap between renters. Each Saturday, they go home to clean and do laundry, then turn over their home to the next set of renters.
Parkinson says the vacation-rental income offsets their mortgage for the summer. And they haven't had trouble finding customers; they're booked for all six weeks this summer.
"There are seven miles of white sandy beach," she says. "With Maine's rockbound coast, white sandy beach really attracts people in the summer."
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She says she screens people carefully and talks to them about their plans.
"Where it is my home, I feel comfortable really scrutinizing who's coming, and people appreciate that," she says. "We've never had an issue."
By now, they have the process down to a science. Parkinson says they can be ready to rent the place with just a couple of days notice.
"In the spring, we just clean out all the personal items that you wouldn't want in the house when someone was here," she says. "There's a place in our basement where we store them. Then we bring them back in the fall."
Jon Gray, vice president of HomeAway, North America, says owners rent their homes for an average of $1,475 per week, with higher rates during peak travel times.
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"For this reason, many people choose to give up their homes to take advantage of this potential income during the summer months or even throughout the year during large events in their area such as music festivals, sporting events or conventions," he says.
2. Grow some of your own food
May could be the perfect time to plant most vegetables you'd want in a home garden, horticulturist Maureen "Mo" Gilmer says.
"In a lot of climates, May 1 is the vegetable-garden planting time for things that need warm soil, like corn and squash and tomatoes," she says. "Right now, you can get it timed right to plant."
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Because different parts of the country have different climates, Gilmer recommends that homeowners check with the agricultural-extension service in their state and county. Find yours on the Department of Agriculture's website.
"(Extension services) have all the regionally specific data that (homeowners) need, as opposed to the more generalized, national information that may not apply to their climate," she says.
Gilmer recommends tomatoes, eggplants, bell peppers and potatoes, all from the nightshade family; cauliflower, broccoli, kale, collards and other greens from the brassica family; carrots and radishes; and strawberries and raspberries.
"It's important to remember that you don't plant everything all on one day," she says. "Spacing it out a bit helps you sequence the harvest."
She says any starter plant found in a local garden center in a 1-, 2- or 5-gallon pot will likely grow well in your area, depending on where you plant it. Those garden centers are another good place to get information on what will grow best in your climate.
Homeowners who are thinking more long term can plant trees, shrubs and vines that add beauty to the landscaping and also provide food.
"True fruit trees went out of style, and their fruitless counterparts became popular," Gilmer says. "But now they're going back. Fruit trees are a no-brainer." (Bing: Can you legally plant fruit trees in your yard?)
Grapes and kiwis grow on vines, while blueberries and currants are great shrub options.
"All those things can grow very effectively on arbors and fences," she says.
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Gilmer also suggests getting rid of a grass lawn in favor of creeping thyme or chamomile. These lawns used to be more common and once served a practical purpose.
"They would make these lawns around the castle areas of Britain, and they'd come outside and drag their clothing across the lawn," she says. "It would release the oils into your shoes and skirts and petticoats, and it would cover up the fact that you don't bathe."
An herb lawn doesn't require much maintenance, and you can use trimmings in the kitchen. If you have a homeowners association, check its rules about lawns and ground cover.
Check with your extension service to see what other herbs you can grow in your climate. Many people with limited space choose to grow a small herb garden indoors.
3. Team up with the neighbors
If you plan to hire a landscaper or lawn-care service this summer, find out whether your neighbors have similar plans, and ask about multiple-customer discounts.
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"If you have four or five people come together and contact the lawn service, you have group buying power," says David Lupberger, home-improvement expert for ServiceMagic (ServiceMagic is an MSN Real Estate partner).
That service professional could recognize the value in having several customers in one location, and it often will give you a better price, he says.
Use that same tactic if several neighbors are planning to pressure wash and reseal their decks, or get their sprinklers serviced. Most homeowners in your area will have similar yard-maintenance needs.
Think beyond summer, too. For instance, you can team up on gutter cleaning, tree trimming or general yard cleanup to prepare for winter.
You can also team up with neighbors to buy things such as mulch, dirt and flowers. It's possible you'll get a discount, or you may create a large enough order that your nursery will deliver and save everyone a trip — or even a truck rental.
Lupberger says that when he lived in suburban Maryland, he teamed up with neighbors to buy or rent equipment, and neighbors who had trucks would volunteer to haul things for truckless neighbors. The benefits go beyond saving money.
"It actually transcends that because it in fact builds community," Lupberger says. "The houses are nicer, lawns taken care of, decks maintained. People working together getting to know each other makes a stronger community."
There's also an added safety element that comes from getting to know the neighbors.
"If any truck pulled up that we didn't recognize, we would have known it," Lupberger says. "Usually, we knew when people were gone on vacation. There is an informal neighborhood watch that really happens just out of familiarity."
Rent out your house while on a trip to Europe? If I was taking these trips, why would I need an extra few bucks? Grow your own food...ok...but if I am strapped for cash, I am not paying a lawn service...sheesh.
Instead of growing a garden......a couple of years ago I turned my yard into a pet cemetary.........the checks have been rolling in ever since.
Last year I started an orchard for fresh fruit and this year I put up a greenhouse for vegetables and flowers. The initial cost is high, but after the first year, expenses are relatively low. Even if you break even, you have the peace of mind of knowing where your fruits and vegetables came from. I don't have to worry about someone deciding to tamper with my food, or unclean places that pass along salmonella or ecoli. We are friends with a dairy farmer so we work out a barter system with him in exchange for beef every year. They also grow corn which we have dried for stove corn. This past winter it cost me $300 to heat a 3000 square foot house. We are in the process of trying to work out the logistics of raising a pig. I am trying to talk my husband into getting chickens for fresh eggs. Although it is alot of hard work, I find it relaxing to go outside and work in my garden or greenhouse. It reminds me of when I was younger and things were simpler and less stressful. My husband works seven days a week, 16 hour days and I work a full time job and pick up the slack for him not being here to take care of household chores and have two children. It is so much less stressful to go out in my garden than it is to go to the store and grumble everytime I have to pay the bill and end up with tasteless produce and tough meat. I am tired of putting money in everyone elses' pockets. If I have to work hard, its going to be for myself and my family.
If you watch once upon a time...you will see that Maine and Fairytale land are pretty much the same place, just Maine is "someplace horrible"
Note to Bradley's purplefox:
Yes, society is in a isolated state this day and time. "It's a shame" (as my mother said back in the day)... that communities and neighborhoods are not together in spirit and deed. The meaning of "us every day folks" speaks to me as those of US that are community spirited. It's my intention almost every day of the week to "extend a hand" and be neighborly. I actually go out of my way to offer help and assistance to my neighbors across the street from me. My wife and I live in a town within one of the smallest counties in NC but close enough to mid-sized metro areas. The leaders of our town and the community promote small business as well as volunteerism. Where ever you live, in a large metro-area, a mid-sized city or a small town, I believe you may be surprised at the response you get from others near you if you make the decision and committment to "extend a hand" as well as say Hello to others.
This is the worst POS article I have ever read.
Team up with your neighbors for lawn-care, gutter cleaning, and yard cleanup services? DO IT YOURSELF AND SAVE EVEN MORE MONEY!
rent out my home ?..the STUPIDEST IDEA I've ever read here ?...I'll come back and find half my stuff missing or broken ?...and who can afford to go on vacations for a month or more ?...does this writer live in fairy tale land ?
And do your own landscaping, buy a mower and get out there every weekend, it's good exercise and you dont have to hire a Mexican to do it !
team up with neighbors to save money on lawn service ???? Do it YOURSELF !
If you are taking vacations, you dont need the income from the risky proposition of renting your home. If you cant pay cash for the vacation YOU CANT AFFORD IT !
try this- save rainwater for your lawn and garden, my system cost me about $300 to install and I can store 600 gallons of rainwater, the system will last about forever
-save kitchen vegetable waste for compost in the garden
-plant trees to shade the sun from your house
-raise the thermostat temp and use ceiling fans
-turn down the water heater temp in summer, when its time, replace it with a better one
- use solar lights and attic fan (the fan lowers the attic temp and pays off in about a year on AC bill
The part on renting out your home, in a perfect fairy tell world, only could this work! We currently live in a cohousing community and the idea of neighbors getting together to grow food,help each other out once again a fairy tell, We are moving out of here...our name for cohousing now is-disfunction junction.Pretty much folks are spoiled little brats looking out for number one. Once in a while a mother Teresa comes along willing to help others with no conditions-not so with us every day folks...spoiled brats who are all victims! just my 2 pennies!
I have a relative who is one of the "trailer park" people you describe. Yes, she collects disability and "sits around" all day "perpetually smoking cigarettes." She is addicted to tobacco.
She does not, however, "talk on the phone all day." She does watch TV all day. When you live on disability, you cannot afford other entertainment.
And yes, she would never pick up a shovel and plant a garden. That's because she lives in constant pain due to the debilitating back surgery she had awhile back to try to fix deteriorated and crumbling discs in her back. She now has steel rods in her back. She is barely able to bend over and scrub her own bathtub. When she grocery shops, she can only carry a few groceries at a time into her house. Every few days, she experiences what her doctor calls "breakthrough pain," such that her regular prescription painkiller does not work and she must take morphine.
She is only in her 50's, but she will never be able to work again. She has only a future of disability and poverty to look forward to.
If you're not one of those "trailer park people collecting disability," then I suggest you count your blessings.