Live Better, Spend Less: Enhance a Small Home on a Budget

Whether you rent a home year-round, or for the summer season, there are always practical adjustments to be made.

Many summer rentals come “as-is,” but it’s possible to make a few small enhancements without having to completely overhaul your home. Whether you’re renting a single studio bachelor pad or a larger piece of property, you can improve your living experience with just a few simple considerations. Here are some quick and inexpensive tips to help get the most out of any space.

1. Power in your hands. Have you ever wanted to control lights or other appliances without having to walk over and reach for a switch? And did you let go of the dream once the Clapper misheard your footsteps and left you tiptoeing through the dark? Well, the technology has been around, and it’s easier than trying to swing it on a cell phone. Install an AC current blocker between any appliance and its wall outlet in order to remotely control when power is turned on and off. A set of three blockers can be had for under $20, and not only will they make closing things down at the end of the night a breeze—you’ll be able to wake up and brew a pot of coffee in the morning without stepping out of bed. Search for a model that uses radio frequencies instead of infrared so walls won’t stand in your way.

2. Maximize your floor space. Some residences may include furniture which can’t be removed, but if given the option, go for things which won’t take up space on the ground. Hanging shelves are a cheap and simple solution to allot room to books and other valuables without forfeiting any floor space. One of the most useful pieces for a here-then-there traveler is a drop-leaf folding desk, which transitions from a workstation to an unimposing wall shelf with a simple swing of a latch. The Norberg and Bjursta models, sold by IKEA, are two simple, affordable options—note that they will require some holes to be drilled for installation onto a wall.

3. Comfort over everything. You may have a favorite chair that suits your needs, but if your company is piled onto couches or squatting over milk crates, they won’t be staying very long. Minimalism can be cold. Offset it by investing in some good pillows to fill the room. When visitors return to a sofa or airbed after a long day, they’ll appreciate having something plush beneath their heads. After all, this is the place where you’re meant to be at your most comfortable. It doesn’t take much more than a soft, welcoming touch to make any place feel like home.

4. Skip the “smart” TV. Manufacturers have loaded many new television models with applications such as Netflix and HBO Go, which may seem attractive but drive costs up dramatically. The truth is that there’s hardly anything those televisions are capable of that any other set with HDMI inputs can’t achieve. A $35 Chromecast from Google will grant to access all those applications and bring the rest of the internet to your home’s largest screen. Or purchase an MHL-to-HDMI adapter and stream content directly from your phone or tablet to your TV. If you’re content to catch your sports at a restaurant or friend’s place, you may find that you don’t actually need a subscription to cable at all.

5. Maximize your great outdoors. With the level of traffic circulating this time of year, sometimes the best call for an open night is to stay at home. That doesn’t have to mean sitting around playing cards, though. Backyard barbeques are what summer was meant for, and they can you save a bundle compared to dining out. Got some extra room and a few more stories to tell? Acquire a clean steel drum, bricks to line it and some logs and design your own outdoor firepit. If you have a green thumb and some foresight and the ground on your property is arable, grab a few wooden planks and some chicken wire to deter the deer and experiment with growing your own organic produce. It doesn’t get any more “local” than this!

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