How to Turn Your Back Yard into an Oasis

Image of two Charis surrounded by purple flowers in a back yard.

Most of us have spent lots of time at home this spring, and it looks like summer might not be much different. With many attractions still closed and some states seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases, safe travel will be challenging. For many Americans, this means choosing to staycation at home instead of hitting the road this summer.

A stay-at-home summer doesn’t need to be boring. You can turn your own backyard into a summer oasis without breaking the budget. Here is how to cost effectively maximize your outdoor space. From entertaining in style to keeping the kids busy, we’ve got you covered!

Upgrade your outdoor furniture

Chances are, you’ll be spending lots of time out in the yard this summer, and whether that means sunning on the patio or sipping lemonade under the shade of a tree, you’ll feel more of that vacay vibe with the right furniture. It doesn’t have to be pricey; a little ingenuity will really make those dollars stretch.

Make your outdoor space seem bigger by creating different seating areas for different purposes. Think a cozy coffee nook for mornings, a lazy hammock for getting lost inside the pages of a summer thriller, a pair of lounge chairs for catching the afternoon sun and a patio table for entertaining guests. You can even go all out and designate a small area for nighttime fireside fun.

If you’ve already got a nice patio set, freshen it up by replacing the cushions and adding some summery throw pillows for a whole new look.

Don’t forget to take a look at your outdoor lighting as you spruce up your patio and yard. Brighten up your outdoor space with some sconce lights along the walls or string up some old holiday lights for a truly festive feel.

Add a splash of fun

It may be too late in the season to think of installing an in-ground pool, but you can still have your floating fun with an above-ground pool this summer. Above-ground pools can cost as little as a few hundred dollars or as much as a few thousand for a larger, upgraded model. Most take a week or less to install. And then it’s an endless splashing summer!

Make it natural 

Yes, you’re already outdoors, but that doesn’t mean you’re surrounded by greenery. Even city slickers can add the natural touch to small apartment porches with some potted plants, a container garden or a trellis with climbing flowers. Stick that greenery wherever it can go for an added layer of relaxation.

If you want to go all-out to get that resort-like feel, consider building your own waterfall this summer. It may not be on your bucket list, but it’s a super-fun project with rewarding results.

Fun for the kids

Don’t forget to create a fun space for your kids in your backyard oasis. The sky’s the limit when it comes to outdoor play; just have fun and let your creativity flow freely. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Put up a rock-climbing wall. If your kids are climbing the walls from being home for too long, try a DIY rock-climbing kit for endless fun that also builds strength and coordination.

Build a swing set. Swing sets provide hours of entertainment, but they can get pricey. Save money without compromising on the fun factor by choosing to build a swing set yourself instead of purchasing it pre-made. You’ll have to buy materials and maybe the tools, but you’ll still come out way ahead. Plus, you can make the construction a family project that will keep everyone involved for days.

Install a backyard splashpad. Your favorite spraygrounds might be closed this summer, but you can have your water fun at home with a DIY splashpad kit. Splash pads promise hours of fun for kids of all ages.

Create a natural playspace. According to a natural playground study by the University of Tennessee, children who play on natural playgrounds, or playscapes, tend to stay more engaged than those playing on brightly colored equipment. Building a natural playspace is easy — think a small pile of sand, a set of logs arranged as stepping stones and some tall grass or plants to act as hiding spaces.

Financing your oasis

If you’re short on the cash you need to turn your backyard into an oasis this summer, Destinations Credit Union can help with a Signature Personal loan. Our terms are always favorable and our payback plans affordable. Also you may want to consider a HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit) Put your mortgage payments to work for you today with a home equity line of credit from Destinations Credit Union. With this open, anytime credit line, we’ll help you transition your home’s equity into financing for a wide range of other needs. Call, click or stop by to discuss your options with one of our Loan Officers today.

Your Turn: Have you upgraded your outdoor space? Tell us about it in the comments.

Sources:
globalnews.ca
blog.rismedia.com
statesman.com
installitdirect.com

Three Questions, Then Three Questions


As 2015 draws to a close, it’s time to figure out if you’re in your best possible financial shape.  While performing a self-audit can seem a daunting task, we’ve created a simple way to get started. Below, we ask three questions about where you are now compared to where you were a year ago. Your answers should help you understand if you made the right choices in 2015.  After that, we’ve got three more questions to help guide your 2016. 

2015:  Do you have less debt than a year ago?

2016:  Could you pay off your credit cards this year if you had to do so? 

December can be a rough month for our credit card statements, so you might already be dreading the daily arrival of the mail just as much as your kids eagerly anticipate it.  But debt is part of life, and the kids can’t unwrap a copy of the family credit score, so you grit your teeth and swipe.  Don’t let the fact that you have credit card debt be a source of guilt or shame, and definitely don’t assume that burden even if you are carrying some credit card debt into 2016. Instead, take a look at where you are now, then compare it to where you were a year ago.  Have you reduced your debt in 2015?  If not, why not?  Maybe you had an emergency you needed to cover.  Maybe this was the year you installed the home theater you’ve been wanting.  The important thing to ask yourself is whether you’ve reduced your credit card debt, and if not, is what you bought with that debt worth it to you now?

With other forms of debt, the questions can be more complicated. While you’d like to have a smaller outstanding balance on your mortgage or car note, reducing the amount you owe might not be the best idea.  After all, mortgage rates are incredibly low right now, so turning your credit card debt into a home equity loan is a smart move (provided you don’t rack up new credit card debt!). You might have a new debt balance that you didn’t have at this time last year if you bought a new car, upgraded the kitchen, or went back to school. 

If it’s time to clear up your debt, try one of our home equity or personal loans. Or, if you have higher rate credit cards, transfer the balances to a lower rate Destinations Credit Union MasterCard Credit Card.  If you reduce your rate and make the same payments, your debt will dwindle more quickly. 

2015:  Do you have more money saved than you did a year ago?

2016:  What would happen if you didn’t get paid next month? 

Again, the best way to determine your financial position today is to compare it to where you were a year ago, and savings is important.  If you have more saved this year than you did last year, it means your budget is working and you’re headed in the right direction.  If you have less saved than you did a year ago, try to determine why that is.  Did you have to dip into savings to pay the down payment on a long-term purchase?  Did you have to cover a gap in employment?  Just like with debt, figure out how much less you saved, compare it to what you bought, and determine whether or not the purchase was worth it.

Just like with debt, however, simply looking at the bottom line probably isn’t enough to tell you if you’re making the right moves.  Having an emergency fund that represents six months of your income is incredibly important for easing your family’s mind and protecting them if something unfortunate happens. But having an emergency fund much larger than that isn’t necessarily better.  You don’t want to be a dragon, sleeping on a hoard of gold simply because it’s pretty. Instead, put that savings to work for you in the form of a retirement fund, college savings or even the down payment on a second home to use as a rental property.

If you’re looking to add to your savings, check out our savings plans (hint: if you want to earn a really high rate, attach a Kasasa Saver to a Kasasa Rewards Checking and earn more every month you qualify!). To save for a child’s education, take a look at our Coverdell IRA Plan. 

2015:  Is your credit score higher than it was a year ago?

2016:  What will you do this year to improve your life? 

These questions might not look like they go together, but they do.  This is the section where you take a big-picture look at your financial world. If your credit score is improving, then you’re probably making the right choices overall.  If not, it would be good to find out why that is the case.  Make sure all of the charges on your credit report are accurate, work to tackle your debt, and try to bring in more income.  If you work to improve your credit score, you’ll almost certainly have to improve your overall financial standing. Destinations Credit Union Members can get unlimited free financial counseling to help you with this through our partnership with Accel.

But your credit score isn’t your life.  What are you going to do this year?  Are you going to take a trip to Europe?  Get started in a new career?  Buy a vacation home on the lake?  Learn a new language? What is it you’d like to actually do?

Once you know what you want to do this year, figure out what it’ll take to make it happen.  Can you save for it?  Will you need a loan?  Is your credit score too low for a second mortgage?  Whatever is in your way, make that your next financial goal.  Get your savings and debt into good positions, and then try to live your life.  After all, that’s what the money is for.  

Investing In Your Career


When you think of your investment portfolio, you probably think of stocks, savings and maybe a few other financial products you own or things you’re planning to use for buying a house, fund retirement, or to keep yourself protected.  What you might overlook is the investment you’ve made in your career. You’ve invested time in your career, and if you’re still paying off student loans, you definitely know you’ve spent money on it as well.  Just like any other investment, your career has risk and return.  If you want to get the best return on your investment in your career, then here are a few tips that can help: 

Get a degree.  If you haven’t finished college, you might have found yourself bumping up against a glass ceiling.  You can finish your degree online, often in a short amount of time and without spending a ton of money.  If you’d rather go back to school in person, talk to us about student loan options.  

Get an advanced degree.  It’s no surprise that the average income goes up with each advanced degree that individuals earn.  If you’re looking to advance your career, consider using one of our loansto finance an MBA, which is useful in virtually every field. 
Build your brand.  More and more, career changes and advancement can be built through the Internet and social media.  You can work on building your personal online brand or get training and a certification in all sorts of software and design to help others build their brand, making money in the process.
Learn another language or another culture.  There are very few job skills as portable as language and communication.  If you find yourself out of a job, knowing another language can help you get that next one lined up. Understanding different cultures makes it easy to move if the next job is across the country or even elsewhere in the world.
There are a lot of ways to invest in your future, but the one we tend to overlook is spending money to develop our jobs.  Unless you got in on the ground floor of investing in Google, you’re probably never going to find an investment that pays you more over the course of your life than the one you’ve made in your career. Don’t neglect it.