If you want to decorate the outside of your home for the holiday season but aren’t sure where to begin, here are some ways to get started.
Decorate your trees
Whether you have lush evergreens or bare deciduous trees in your yard, you can dress them up for the Christmas season with ornaments or outdoor string lights.
Put up a Christmas wreath
Make a wreath or buy one from a local artisan. Hang it on your front door or lean it against a nearby wall to create a welcoming entranceway.
Embellish your stairway
If you have sufficient space, place one or more ornate flowerpots, lanterns, nutcrackers, or other decorative elements at the top or bottom of your stairway. Wrap your railing in a garland for a festive flair.
Fill vacant spaces
You can set up decorative structures if you have a large front yard. Inflatable figures and lighted characters will help bring holiday cheer to your home.
For more inspiration and to find great decorations, visit your local retailers.
Delicious alternatives to traditional wedding cake
If fruitcake isn’t your idea of the perfect wedding cake, have you considered serving something more reflective of your tastes? From flourless confections to savory takes on the traditional, there are plenty of ways to create a wedding cake to remember.
Imagine cheese wheels set on pillars in the style of a traditional wedding cake garnished with grapes, figs, and nuts. Another savory option is a tiered meat pie.
Rather than one large cake, why not have a showpiece of bite-sized confections? Macarons make elegant and delicious treats. Pull out all the stops with decadent single-serving wedding cakes individually decorated with marzipan and fondant.
A Scandinavian favorite, the kransekake — Norwegian for “wreath cake” — is made with almonds, confectioners’ sugar, and egg whites. It’s baked in molds and then stacked to create a tower of many thin layers.
A designer biscuit shop can bake and decorate bespoke cookies with messages or images tailor-made for the bride and groom. Imagine edible surfboards commemorating your first date or little bride- and groom-shaped treats. Make it extra special with personalized place marker biscuits.
Your local bakeshops may offer sampling sessions. Contact them early to ensure they’re available for your big day.
Why tax refunds may come a bit later in 2023
Waiting for a tax refund for your 2022 tax returns? For many, tax returns this year may end up smaller, and beyond that, payments could get delayed as well. Folks looking to get their refunds quickly should sign up for IRS direct deposits, which the Agency states are the fastest way to get your money. The IRS also notes that those without checking accounts still have direct deposit options.
Still, even if you sign up for direct deposits, the funds may come a bit later than hoped. Among other struggles, the Internal Revenue Service has been swamped with backlogged returns in recent years. Social distancing measures struggle to fill open positions, and tax policy developments, among other factors, have constrained the IRS’s ability to deal with its current workload.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRS workforce shrunk. In recent months, a tight labor market has made it even harder for the Agency to fill vacant positions and expand its staff. Roles as a clerk or tax examiner start at only about $15 an hour, and many organizations competing for workers have been willing to pay more. In many places, retail and fast food jobs now offer wages competitive with what the IRS can pay.
In May 2022, it was reported that the IRS had sought to hire 5,500 processing staffers but fell 3,400 short. Yet even while shorthanded, the IRS has managed to work through a large chunk of its backlog. Still, the Agency relies on arguably outdated technologies, and the American tax code is already infamously complex. As a result, paperwork may continue to pile up.
Want to ensure your returns get processed ASAP? Make sure to double-check your math and eliminate any potential errors. Yet, with so many updates to the tax code this year, largely because pandemic-related stimulus measures expired, more folks may make mistakes. Unfortunately, even if your tax return is perfect, confusion elsewhere could slow down refunds.
How to remodel successfully despite supply chain issues
Are you considering renovations but reluctant to risk supply chain delays? If you take a proactive strategy, a successful remodel isn’t out of the question. Here are some tips to keep your reno budget — and patience — under control.
• Phased approach. Divide your project into a series of mini-projects. You’ll get a sense of satisfaction from small gains and keep the reno mess under control.
• Flexible timeline. Plan your project timeline before you start. First, identify stages that depend on the arrival of crucial materials and supplies. Then, build extra time into those stages to give yourself a buffer.
• Temporary storage. Clear away space on your property or rent a storage unit. This will give you a place to keep materials while you wait for the rest to arrive.
• Contingency budget. Build extra room in your budget for the unexpected. With transport costs in flux, you may suddenly find that materials prices have increased. You may also need to factor in added labor costs.
Talk to a local designer or contractor. They’ll have the inside track on building supply chains and can suggest creative substitutions and workarounds.
Grow your wealth: protect your finances from inflation
The cost of just about everything is on the rise. Here are a few ways to protect your finances from the effects of inflation.
• Examine your spending and make a budget. Shop strategically and cut costs in certain areas to counteract rising prices.
• Find ways to reduce your debt load. Pay off high-interest debt like credit cards, lines of credit, and personal loans.
• Diversify your investments. Stocks and mutual funds offer the best chance of beating inflation over the long term.
• Increase your active and passive income. Ask for a raise at work and find creative ways to bring in more money.
Finally, consider the big picture and don’t make drastic changes based on current inflation or changing market conditions.
Dare to DIY: Tackle small projects yourself
Does your home need a little sprucing up? Are you having trouble finding a professional to do the job with the ongoing labor shortage?
If you want to refresh your decor, repaint the walls or install a backsplash, do it yourself. With the right tools, high-quality materials, professional advice, and a little elbow grease, you’re sure to create something you’re proud of.
Visit local home improvement and hardware stores, tool rental centers, paint retailers, flooring stores, and more to find everything you need for your renovation project.
Why you should hire a professional wedding planner for your big day
Planning a wedding is a full-time job. Have you considered hiring a professional wedding planner? Here are a few ways a pro can make your wedding day perfect for you and enjoyable for your loved ones.
• Schedule and budget. Wedding planners have timetables and finances down to a science. They’ll relieve you of all uncertainty, from timing your invitations to ordering the cake.
• Insider knowledge. A pro knows which vendors best suit your preferences and needs. Moreover, since your planner brings them steady business, you may get better deals.
• Personality management. You need someone to advocate for you when interpersonal conflicts arise. Be it the guest list, the seating plan, or a problematic relative, and your wedding planner will handle uncomfortable conversations for you.
• Quality control. A pro ensures nothing gets overlooked. They may also have unique and fun ideas you may not have thought of.
Investing in a professional may save you money on your overall wedding costs. Talk to a wedding planner near you to relax and enjoy your special day.