7 Tips to Turn Your House Into a Smart Home on a Budget
The future is here! Smart homes are on the rise, but that doesn’t mean you need to break the bank to get yours up and running. Here are 7 budget-friendly tips to help turn your house into a smart home.
1. Make Sure You Have Compatible Devices
Before you go spend a dime, the first step is making sure you have compatible devices. Right now, there’s no standardized method for communication between smart devices and their central hub.
WiFi comes built-in on most devices. Because it’s so popular, it’s easiest to get started with WiFi. However, having so many devices connected to your router can eat up your bandwidth. If you’re paying for data, that can get expensive fast.
Then there’s Zigbee, which uses a 2.4 GHz frequency like WiFi but doesn’t need the internet to work. It runs locally and gives you a better range and security.
The third option is Z-Wave. It uses a 908.42 MHz frequency and that gives it excellent range. However, the downside is that it also means there’s less bandwidth compared to Zigbee and WiFi.
Last and the least popular is Bluetooth low energy, BLE for short. It works like Z-Wave and Zigbee, but doesn’t see as much use.
2. Select Your Automation Hub
The automation hub is the brain of the operation. It’s what will connect all of your smart appliances and devices.
With the right hub, you can use multiple smart home protocols as well. When you first start out, your phone can work just fine to control the lights, set the thermostat, or check your security cams. As more devices get connected, having a dedicated central control hub is usually the best option.
3. Use Smart Plugs
Some of the most cost-effective smart devices on the market are smart plugs. The beauty of these devices is that they make the lamps, microwave, toasters, washing machine, dryer, and whatever else uses an outlet “smart.”
4. Upgrade Your Old Lights to Smart Ones
Smart light bulbs used to be expensive, but now, they are on par with the LED bulbs you already have. So the next time you need to replace one, opt for the smart bulb!
Some smart bulbs can even come with customizable color settings, allowing you to set the look of any space. They can even help you to save money, as some smart bulbs can automatically turn off when they’re not in use.
5. Go for the Smart Thermostat
Want to reduce your utility bills? A smart thermostat is worth the investment. In addition to helping to control your energy use, a smart thermostat can be set with the touch of a button. Hate coming home to a cold house? Simply tap the app on your phone to start your heater running on your way home from work!
6. Install Faucet Timers
Faucet timers are another set of smart devices that have the “cost-saving” benefit. They use technology to monitor the weather and the amount of water needed for watering your yard and garden.
7. Use a Smart Doorbell
Smart doorbells are amazing devices that allow you to see and speak to whoever is knocking at your door – even when you’re not home. They might be a little expensive, but with a little research, you can find a cost-effective option without compromising quality.
5 Ways to Get Prepared for Tax Season
With tax season right around the corner, it’s important to start preparing your taxes now. After all, early planning and organization can eliminate most of the stress that comes with filing taxes.
With this in mind, here are five steps to simplify tax preparations and bring you peace of mind.
1. Choose Your Tax Prep Method
The first step is to decide whether you want to file your taxes by yourself or hire a tax professional.
Tax software offers a step-by-step walkthrough that can help you to figure out your income, expenses, deductions, and tax liability.
On the other hand, hiring a tax expert provides a hands-off solution. With a professional tax prep service, you don’t have to know about the recent tax law changes. Just make sure to do some research before you pick a provider!
2. Gather the Necessary Tax Forms
Before you get started, you’ll want to track down copies of any financial documents you might need. For personal returns, you might have W2 forms for each job. You may also have forms for Social Security benefits, interest on a mortgage, dividends for investments, income from contract work, and so forth.
Other important forms include:
- Form 1095A for health care coverage
- Form 1098s for mortgage interest, tuition payments, and student loan interest payments
- Form W-G for gambling winnings
If you run a small business, you may need forms such as:
- Schedule C or 1099-Misc for a sole proprietorship
- Form 1120 for a corporation
- Form 1120S for an S corporation
- Form 1065 for a partnership
It’s also important to note that you’ll likely need a copy of last year’s returns for both personal and business returns.
3. Collect Receipts and Statements
Collect and organize your receipts from the year. We recommend separating the receipts into different colored folders.
For example, you may choose to put all of your income documents into a green folder and all of your business expenses in a yellow one.
If you plan to itemize deductions on your personal return, you’ll need to prepare additional documents and organize them. These include records of medical expenses that weren’t covered by insurance, bank and credit card statements, receipts for charitable donations, property tax records, and job or investment-related expenses.
4. Gather Your Personal Information
Along with your Social Security number (SSN), collect the numbers for the dependents you’ll claim on your return. Collect the addresses of rental or vacation properties you own.
If you sold or purchased property last year, you’ll need to provide the details of the transaction. Usually, these can be found on your settlement statement from your title company or real estate attorney.
5. Research Relevant Deadlines
Tax deadlines vary from state to state, so it’s essential to know when your specific tax deadline is.
If you need additional time to file your taxes, you can file for a six-month extension using Form 4868 for personal returns and Form 7004 for business returns.
By getting this information together early in the year, you can get a jump start on your taxes and reduce frustrations when April rolls around!
10 Most Romantic Travel Destinations Around the World
Are you looking for a lovely couple’s getaway to an intimate destination? It can be hard to choose from all of the amazing options for couples’ vacations.
From beaches to romantic historical landmarks, there are plenty of exciting places to explore. Looking for a stunning getaway? Here are 10 of the most romantic destinations around the world to consider:
This classic destination is famous for the Eiffel Tower, a common photoshoot location for couples from around the world. Paris, France has something for every couple, including cute coffee shops, romantic walkways, and incredible tours. Paris is known for its delicious pastries and relaxing romantic atmosphere.
Photos of Santorini are often used to represent the whole of Greece — and for good reason. Santorini, Greece is a beautiful location that boasts clear blue waters, stunning white and blue architecture, and romantic seclusion. Santorini is a popular honeymoon destination for many couples, leaving a lasting memory and a picture-perfect impression.
At the height of luxury, The Maldives is well-known for its over-water bungalows that are specially designed for couples retreats. The Maldives has some of the clearest, bluest water on the planet. Your Maldives trip comes complete with personal assistants, luxury spas, and delicious dining.
Maui is a beautiful island found in Hawaii. If you are looking for a natural landscape with beautiful beaches and a casual, laidback vibe, Maui is your destination. Whether you choose to visit a luxury resort or rent a cozy bungalow out over the water, there are lots of adventures just waiting for you and your partner.
The entire country of Bali is a popular romantic destination for couples seeking picturesque views and luxury accommodations. Lush local plant life and lots of jungle views, in Bali, you can choose from a number of waterside resorts to enjoy your getaway.
Aspen is a snowy town in Colorado. If you’ve been dreaming about skiing, mountain resorts, and steaming outdoor hot tubs, Aspen is the perfect romantic destination for you and your partner. Aspen has quaint boutiques, restaurants, and snow sports options that are perfect for lovebirds.
Similar to The Maldives, Bora Bora hosts several over-water bungalows with panoramic views of clear blue waters. Opt for accommodations with private pools and hanging hammocks to spruce up your experience in this beautiful location.
British Virgin Islands
The British Virgin Islands are perfect for couples who want sand, sun, and island fun. If you are looking for a beach vacation with plenty of fun water activities and great views, this location is for you.
La Paz, Mexico
This often-overlooked romantic destination sits just off the Sea of Cortez. This body of water provides plenty of snorkeling, diving, swimming, and other water adventures. As a less crowded locale, this lesser-known, private spot is perfectly secluded.
The Galápagos Islands
Located in the Pacific Ocean, this set of islands is perfect for touristy couples who love local wildlife. Discover beautiful birds and other creatures as you travel around these gorgeous islands. For a getaway full of adventure and sightseeing, The Galápagos islands are waiting for you.