Kitchen Updates Worth the Splurge Home → Consumer Resources → Kitchen Updates Worth the Splurge

A kitchen remodel can be expensive, and homeowners are justifiably careful about staying within budget. However, there are certain areas in every kitchen where a splurge may be worth the price in terms of efficiency, looks, and durability.

HGTV suggests six areas where a few lavish touches are worth the extra expense:

1. Commercial-Grade Range Hood

Investing in a commercial-style range hood means never having to deal with cooking odors—and keeping a busy kitchen cooler.

2. High-Quality Hardware

Look for quality cabinet knobs, hinges and pulls in brushed nickel, bronze or stainless steel. They add class to any kitchen and will last longer than those made of plastic or wood. For the ultimate in opulence, spring for hand-blown glass.

3. Soft-Close Doors and Drawers

You can’t slam these quiet drawers or doors, which makes for a more serene kitchen. They are also great for young families because they close slowly, so little hands and fingers won’t get caught or pinched in them.

4. Solid Surface Countertop

Laminate is cheap, but it doesn’t stand up and looks tired long before its time. Splurge on granite or sealed concrete, which will look beautiful and last for many years. (Bonus: It’s a great selling feature!)

5. Stainless Steel Appliances

These are worth the added expense because they are stylish, sophisticated and efficient. The newest models offer greater versatility than more traditional models.

6. Warming Drawer

Look for an oven that comes with a warming drawer, or have one custom-built into your kitchen. They are ideal for entertaining, keeping food at just the right temperature for late guests.

Lastly—and most importantly—invest in a professional. An experienced kitchen designer can help ensure you get the kitchen of your dreams without the guesswork or stress.

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2016. All rights reserved.


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5 Home-Buying Mistakes That Can Sabotage Your Retirement


Buying a home is a major step toward building a solid, secure financial future—so whether you’ve made the plunge into ownership or are aiming to soon, you should pat yourself on the back! (This, of course, is not as easy as it seems.) And yet, in the race to settle into a place of your own, it can be easy to overextend yourself and cut corners on yet another important financial goal: saving for retirement.

Even if retirement is decades away for you, this subject nonetheless repeatedly tops the list of Americans’ economic fears in Gallup’s annual Financial Worry metric. But just because you buy a home doesn’t mean you can’t save for retirement, too. It’s a high-stakes balancing act, one where the right home-buying decisions will keep your retirement on track, and the wrong ones may throw you seriously off-kilter.

Here are some common retirement saboteurs to avoid.

Saboteur 1: Buying a house outside your price range

When you purchase a home, your retirement savings are on the line—even if it may not seem that way at the time.

“Housing is the biggest expense most people have,” points out Mary Erl, a certified financial planner and owner of Nest Builder Financial Advisors in Gurnee, IL. Hence, if you purchase a property that’s way outside your budget—and you’re forced to forfeit saving for retirement in order to make your mortgage payments—you’ve put yourself in a bind. A pickle, even.

And don’t just consider your current income, but your future income, too.

“People almost never take future earnings into consideration,” laments Joe Pitzl, a certified financial planner and partner at Pitzl Financial in Arden Hills, MN. “Younger couples get married, buy their first home based on their combined household income. But then when they start a family, one of the spouses leaves the workforce to raise the children and all of a sudden they’re bringing in a lot less money each month. That reduces how much money you can save for retirement.”

Saboteur 2: Draining retirement accounts for a down payment

While it’s tempting to borrow from your IRA or 401(k) to amass a down payment on a home, many financial experts say home buyers should do so sparingly, only as a last resort. IRAs and 401(k) plans are called retirement accounts for a reason—you’re not meant to touch the money until you’ve entered your golden years. If you borrow from either plan before age 59½, you’ll get slapped with a 10% excise tax on the amount you withdraw, on top of the regular income tax you pay on withdrawals from traditional defined contribution plans. Ouch.

Making early withdrawals also obviously prevents the money from accruing interest in these accounts. Put simply: Raiding the piggy bank before the money has matured can put a serious dent in your retirement savings, and many underestimate the repercussions.

“Withdrawing $5,000 from your IRA or 401(k) to pay for home repairs may not seem like a big deal,” Pitzl says. “But if you do so at age 30, that money would have grown exponentially over time if you left it in the account.”

Saboteur 3: Paying off your mortgage too quickly

While it sure sounds impressive to pay off your mortgage in three years, it’s not necessarily the best for your retirement. The reason: There’s good debt and bad debt. You want to pay off your credit card bill (bad debt) in full each cycle or you’re going to pay interest. Mortgage payments, though, work differently.

From a psychological standpoint, you probably don’t like owing a hefty sum to your lender. (We don’t blame you.) However, if you’re a younger homeownerwith a new mortgage (good debt), it’s beneficial from a retirement savings perspective to make only the minimum monthly payments on the loan and invest the money where you can get a higher return.

For example, on a 30-year mortgage, at today’s interest rates, it makes more sense to put the money into an IRA or 401(k) than increase your mortgage payments, Pitzl says. “Don’t throw every penny you can at your mortgage debt,” he says. Granted, if you’re approaching retirement and are close to paying off your mortgage, it may make sense to up your payments if you want to retire debt-free.

Saboteur 4: Not saving for a rainy day

When asked about their emergency savings, an alarming 29% of Americans said they had none, according to a report last year by Nada. But without a sufficient emergency fund, you may be tempted to run up credit cards or tap your home’s equity or retirement accounts to pay for major repairs (new roofs don’t come cheap). And “if you get laid off, your mortgage payments don’t stop,” Erl says.

Therefore, make sure you have enough cash tucked away to cover six months of living expenses in the event you lose your job and budget 2% of your home’s value for annual maintenance (1% for newer homes), says Pitzl.

Saboteur 5: Waiting too long to downsize

Your $1 million McMansion may have made sense when your family of five was living under one roof, but if you’re heading into retirement, it’s probablytime to downsize.

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A common mistake, says Austin Chinn, a certified financial planner at Fountain Strategies in San Jose, CA: “People destroy their retirement savings by staying in their home so that they can have their kids move back in after they graduate college.”

Unless you’ve budgeted for a boomerang child, you need to do what makes sense for you financially.

“If you can move from a larger home to a smaller home and wipe out your mortgage, that’s a huge boost to your retirement,” says Erl.

Because crunching the numbers can be complicated, it can be helpful (and a huge relief) to meet with a financial planner to determine if a reverse mortgage makes sense for you (find one at


More from 3 of the Dumbest Home Loan Mistakes

Tacoma, WA: A Revitalized Community with Vibrant Culture


Of all the places I’ve visited in and around Seattle, Tacoma continues to surprise me the most. I’ve driven through it countless times on road trips down I-5, and you see so much of it from the road, it’s easy to assume you’ve experienced the city in its entirety. But if you head off the freeway and explore, you’ll see the best Tacoma has to offer. There are hidden gems everywhere in this town.

What instantly defines Tacoma are its busy port, stellar views of Mount Rainier and the Tacoma Dome entertainment arena. A quick detour off the freeway reveals its real treasures; a revitalized and walkable downtown core ( named it one of the 100 Best Walking Cities), museums for everyone to enjoy, a huge inner-city park, and an incredible waterfront.

Longtime resident and Gayle Orth Catering Owner, Gayle Orth, knows Tacoma and the people well, and says “there’s no place prettier when the sun shines.” I agree with her: whatever the season, when the waters are glittering and filled with boats, Tacoma is definitely a beautiful place.

Relaxed City Life
Tacoma’s population is roughly 200,000, but it has the charm and appeal of a smaller community. It’s got everything you need without the hustle and bustle. On the plus side, if you want to experience big city life, downtown Seattle is less than an hour away!


Gorgeous Waterfront
Ruston Way, Tacoma’s pristine waterfront area, is arguably the city’s most beautiful feature. Walk, run, bike or dine, right on the water. You can lounge and take in the view, or scuba dive on the beaches. Fleet Feet Sports Owner, Paul Morrison, who often runs on local trails, says it’s a “great place to go to see Mount Rainier and soak in the beauty of the area.”


Diverse Living Options
Looking for a historical home with some charm? Or maybe you prefer a modern new build? Whatever your taste in home style, Tacoma doesn’t disappoint. And many neighborhoods have unbeatable views of Puget Sound, such as the new Point Ruston, with its condos, apartments and single family homes all conveniently built around shops and entertainment.


A Lot to Do
Point Defiance Park, the 2nd largest urban park in the nation, provides access to many attractions, including Owen Beach, Fort Nisqually, and the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. Downtown, you’ll find the famed Museum of Glass, America’s Car Museum, and theTacoma Art Museum. Hit the links at Chambers Bay golf course, home of the 2015 U.S. Open!


Education Options
Tacoma’s school district contains 36 schools, and a number of private schools. There are also continuing education schools, technical colleges, and the Tacoma School of The Arts. The University of Washington satellite campus opened in 1990, as part of the revitalization throughout Tacoma’s downtown core.


Whatever lifestyle you prefer, Tacoma’s got you covered. The city has a way of bringing you back, and every time I’ve been to a museum or explored downtown, with its mix of modern amenities and art deco architecture, I want to see more. The next time you’re passing through, stop by and explore Tacoma. You won’t be disappointed!


The Homeowner’s Role in Remodeling


Home prices are up so it’s a good time to sell. But the market is tight because inventory is so low, so where will you buy once you sell? Faced with this very dilemma, plus other factors such as loving their neighborhood or not wanting to leave their children’s school district, many homeowners are opting to remodel their homes rather than sell. In fact, a team of Harvard researchers estimate that spending on home improvement projects will jump nearly 7% by the end of June.

Remodeling is an exciting undertaking and one that can completely change how you feel about your house and the way you live in it. Remodeling is also a complicated undertaking with a lot (read: big bucks) at stake. Because most homeowners are new to remodeling when they begin, they’re like babes in the woods, naïve about how it all works and what to expect, except in their role as financier, writing those big buck checks.


With so much on the line it behooves homeowners to have a better understanding of the remodeling process and their role in it. Want to know more?

Download an extract from our recent webinar, Remodeling & You: The Homeowner’s Role, and pick up essential tips to make your home improvement project a success.

  • Learn how to effectively communicate with your contractor
  • Find out why education is key for homeowners today
  • Understand how change orders impact time and money


Spring Spruce Up: Bring New Life Into Your Home

I don’t know about you, but after the gray winter we had, I am craving some color and light. Does spring have you inspired to spruce up your interior? You’re not alone! Here are some easy, and inexpensive ways to bring new life into your home.

Spring Cleaning

First and foremost it’s time for some real cleaning. Since your windows have been closed to keep the weather out, it’s time to throw them open and let the fresh air in.

When I opened my windows and the sunshine streamed in, I noticed how much grime and grit was on them from the rain and wind. First order of business was to get the windows and tracks cleaned. Having your windows cleaned professionally will transform your world. It’s an incredible difference and well worth the money (under $150 for my 1800 sf house).

It’s also prime time to lighten your load by clearing out clutter and giving your home some breathing room. If you haven’t taken my Clear Out the Clutter Challenge. Now is a great time! Over the holidays it’s easy to accumulate things without noticing. Take stock now, and get rid of those items that have been piling up. By the way … this is free!


Pops of Color

I’m not afraid of color – not even a little bit. And I’m also not afraid of painting, much to my husband’s dismay. You can freshen your home for spring with pops of color throughout by adding an accent wall, new artwork, or a few simple accessories.

Color changes the mood of a room and the people in it. And it doesn’t have to be overwhelming or permanent. If you want to change your space without a time or financial commitment, think accessories – pillows, vases, lighting, and other simple décor pieces. Etsy is great for finding quirky, handmade items. And I’m also a sucker for Home Goods and TJ Maxx for inexpensive pillows and small art pieces.

If you want to go a bit bolder, an accent wall can change the space dramatically. While paint can be an investment in time, financially it’s quite easy. There are a lot of great options that will immediately change your perspective. Don’t let the process of color selectionoverwhelm you. There are tons of great, free resources.

Bring the Outside In

I live just north of the tulip fields of the Skagit Valley, and this time of year our world is covered in a swath of vibrant colors. If you’ve never made the trip to the Tulip Festival, you should put it on your list.

If you don’t have time to make the drive, you can easily find these local gems at the store. While tulips and daffodils are in season, you can pick up a large bunch for around $5. A fun thing about tulips is that they continue to grow even after they’re cut. So you’ll start out with perky blooms, and they’ll transform into languid beauties.

For those who suffer from allergies, or just want something a little more lasting, there are incredibly realistic silk flowers available. I love adding pussywillows for some whimsy and structure. Don’t feel like you’re creative? A lot of the stores will help you put something fun together – just ask!

Spring is here and I’m welcoming it with my arms wide open.

Something I missed? I’d love to hear your ideas for freshening your home for spring. Let me know in the comments below!



Landscaping & Gardening

Your home may lack the grandeur of Downton Abbey, but it’s still your castle to do with as you like. And that includes the grounds. Nothing boosts a home’s appeal like landscaping done right. Get started with great ideas for your yard right here.

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4 Front Yards That Went From Sad to                Stunning:

 Before the front yard hardscaping makeover

1. This Storybook House Has A Happy Ending

Storybook After

The front yard of Meryl Phillips’ 1920s storybook home read “really bland” — a flat, tired lawn and a few uninviting step stones to a plain concrete patio.

So the shelter blogger spent about $1,000 and installed strategic hardscaping to boost the curb appeal of her Oakland, Calif., home. The goal was to upgrade the front yard with landscaping that required only 15 minutes of maintenance each week, and almost no watering.

3. Front Yard Patio Invites Neighbors to Sip a Spell

Front Patio Before

Front Patio After

image: The Bicycle Garden

The hardscape upgrade was cheap and easy; it cost about $600 and took about four days.

In a nutshell, Tomlinson:

  • Dug out the lawn.
  • Covered the soil with landscaping fabric.
  • Added a sand base.
  • Laid flagstone on top.
  • Filled in spaces with crushed limestone — it has sharp edges that lock together and form a permeable barrier which lets in water and keeps out weeds.

Tomlinson also replaced her Bermuda grass lawn with drought-tolerant buffalo and blue grama grass. She planted airy flowerbeds mulched with limestone aggregate to make them look more like the surrounding Texas prairie and less like a suburban yard.

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Got a blah front yard? Here’s how a new hardscape can boost your property’s self-image.

1. This Storybook House Has A Happy Ending

The front yard of Meryl Phillips’ 1920s storybook home read “really bland” — a flat, tired lawn and a few uninviting step stones to a plain concrete pa

Read more:
Follow us: @HouseLogic on Twitter | HouseLogic on Facebook