Plan in style with Blue Sky Planners

As summer starts to fill up with all sorts of fun activities, what better way to keep track of it all than with a pretty planner! Luckily Blue Sky has you covered with tons of gorgeous choices in both style and design, that start in July 2015.

Blue Sky planner with flamingo pen

I love this calendar above because it has tabs, and nice big days to write events on! It’s the perfect size for my desk too, you could say it’s the “Goldilocks” size because I find it to be “just right”!

Blue Sky offers a lot of fun choices for styles and colors in their Suzy Jack collection. The collection of planners, calendars, clipfolios and binders come in a variety of contemporary and abstract prints. I especially love the simple, nature-inspired designs. After all, a planner should be pretty as well as functional, right?

Suzy Jack planner collection with Blue Sky

I have really loved the clipfolio as a planning tool I didn’t know I needed! It’s so convenient, especially for planning special events, holidays, and projects. Being able to have recipes or any other info you need right at your fingertips is really helpful.

Blue Sky clipfolio

You can find out more and see all the pretty designs on the Blue Sky website. They are also available in stores (I saw them in my local Target).

Do you love planners? Do you like it when they start on the academic year (July-June) or do you prefer to start in January?

Disclosure: I received product for use in my review. As always, my opinion is my own.

Easy DIY home projects to beat the heat and your energy bill

popsicles
Summer has arrived and while the temperature is rising, your energy costs don’t have to. The experts at ENERGY STAR want to help you keep the cool air in and control your utility bills, while helping to fight climate change. Energy efficiency doesn’t have to cost you a lot of time or money. Try out these easy DIY projects for energy savings at home.
DIY- Easy to Moderate Effort:

  • Install and properly use a programmable thermostat: A programmable thermostat is one of the best ways to save energy all year long. Use it to automatically lower your air conditioning and heating when you don’t need it. Raising the temperature seven degrees when no one’s home and four degrees at bedtime during the summer, along with proper programming in the winter, can save you more than $180 annually.
  • HVAC Maintenance: When was the last time you checked to make sure that your HVAC system was working properly? A few simple moves will make sure that your system is working efficiently.
    Check your air filter every month, changing it whenever it is dirty (at least every 3 months). Dirty filters block air flow, making your system work harder to keep your house cool.
  • Your car isn’t the only thing you own that needs scheduled maintenance. Have a contractor give your HVAC equipment an annual tune up. Your system will work better, keeping you cooler all summer long.
  • Install ENERGY STAR certified LEDs: If you still haven’t switched out your old light bulbs for energy efficient options, an ENERGY STAR LED bulb makeover is a great summer project! ENERGY STAR certified bulbs use 70-90 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs, giving off much less heat inside your home. They can save $30-$75 each in energy bills and last over 20 years, so this is a project that will make a difference for years to come. With prices falling dramatically all over the country, now is the time to make the switch to ENERGY STAR LED bulbs!
  • Shade your home: Outfit your home with shades, blinds, curtains and awnings, especially on the south and west sides of your home where the sun is hottest. This simple move will keep the hot rays of the sun out of your home, bringing down the temperature.

If you are looking for a bigger project, the ENERGY STAR Cooling page has instructions for duct sealing and insulation, sealing and insulating air leaks and more here.

Check out this informative infographic for more ideas on how to keep cool in the summer heat while saving money!

Cool Ways to Save with ENERGY STAR infographic

How to buy your dream home without it becoming a nightmare

The home buying process can be exciting, fun, and a bit overwhelming, especially the first time. However, there are some simple things you can do to help it go more smoothly.

The Capital One Home Loans Online Neighborhood is a free online resource where you can learn all about home buying. They’ve gathered easy-to-understand articles and helpful videos, as well as information about Capital One’s Home Loans offerings.

1. List your must haves.
When you think of your home, it’s important to know the top items on your list. For us, we knew we needed 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. We also wanted to make sure we had a 2 car garage, central air conditioning, and a fenced yard. It sounds like a lot, but it helped narrow the choices down so we didn’t waste time visiting houses that didn’t fit our needs.

builthouse

2. Get pre-qualified.
If you really want to save a lot of stress and make things easier, get pre-qualified. Knowing how much you can afford will help you look at realistic choices. It also makes you very appealing to sellers because they can close faster if they don’t need to wait for you to get a loan. Buying a home is an important process, and can be a bit complicated. Luckily, Capital One’s new online resource lays the groundwork with a glossary of terms you should know, an overview of the loans available and more.

3. Research your favorite areas.
Not all locations are created equal, and that will reflect in the price you might pay when you buy. Knowing what to expect before hand will not only save time, but it will help you budget your down payment and your loan. The traditional estimate for a down payment is 20 percent of the purchase price of the house, which can lower your monthly payments and avoid mortgage insurance.

4. Use a realtor.
As a buyer, a realtor can be a huge help! Plus, their services are free when buying. They will help you walk through all the paperwork (and there is a lot of paperwork). They can clue you into homes coming on the market in your favorite areas, and they can help you get your offer excepted. We used a realtor when we bought our home, and it was the only way we ended up coming out on top of the 3 other bids that were in on our house.

building

5. Will you build or buy an existing home?
This is important since loan options are different when building from scratch or buying an existing home. Each option has it’s own set of perks, but it’s best to research before you decide. To learn more about the loan process, be sure to visit Capital One’s resource page.

6. Be willing to see past the paint choices.
Having an open mind will help you a lot in this process. When we bought our home the kitchen was firmly stuck in the 1980s. We knew with a little paint and new counter tops we could easily make it a kitchen we would love. Ignore things like terrible paint choices, or bad furniture. Remember, paint is the cheapest and easiest thing to change.

house4

The more you can prepare, the easier the home buying process will be. Buying a home can be so exciting, and hopefully, a lot of fun!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

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