How to Prepare Your Used Car for Summer Vacation

This post is in partnership with Dulles Chrysler Dodge Jeep

How to Prepare a Used Car for Vacation

It’s summer time again – the kids are out of school, the weather is nice, and for many families, it’s vacation time! The last thing you want on a family vacation is for the car to break down on you. Used cars are a great way to save money and get more value for your dollar, but since you aren’t the first owner, you’ll want to make sure things are up to your standards before a trip. Here are some important ways to prepare your used car for your family’s summer vacation:

Check the brakes before any long trip. If the brakes are visibly worn and thin, or if they squeal or pulsate when you press the brakes firmly, you probably need to get them replaced. If you are going on a cross country trip, you might want to have your brake lines checked for leaks or worn areas, too. Brakes are probably one of the single most important items on the car – even if the engine goes out, you need the brakes to get yourself stopped safely.

Check your fluids and tires to make sure everything’s full and in good condition. You may get the oil changed regularly, but have you checked the brake fluid and power steering fluid? How about the washer fluid? It’s easy to overlook until you need to wash something off the windshield and no fluid comes out. Make sure the fluids and tires are all filled according to your car’s manual, and you won’t have to worry about them while on vacation!

Inspect for worn belts, hoses, and leaks, especially for long trips. Replace a worn belt now to save money. Not only will you likely pay more for a replacement and labor or tools while out of town, a broken belt can damage other parts in the engine compartment. Check that all hoses are attached firmly and aren’t leaking. If you’re unsure about a potential leak, make note of it so you can monitor fluid levels each time you stop along your route.

Look over the electrical system. Many auto parts retailers will test your battery and alternator for free to make sure it’s not going to quit on you during the trip. Check all of your lights and turn signals. Then check your dash for any of those pesky warning lights that may need attention.

Get the junk out of the trunk. It’s an easy place to clutter, but you won’t want to wade through a winter’s worth of clutter to find what you need on your trip. While cleaning it out, make sure to check your spare tire (your spare may be under the vehicle or attached to the rear). Make sure it’s inflated, and holds air. Check your compartments to make sure you have a safe jack and a lug wrench, and a jack stand is a great idea to add in there.

5 Tips to Make Your Used Car Feel New

This post is in partnership with Dulles Kia.

Tips to Make Your Used Car Feel New

We’ve all heard the saying that a new car loses its value the instant it’s driven off the lot. That’s why you bought your used vehicle – to save money and get more bang for your buck on a reliable car! But we often fall prey to another tempting saying, “new car smell.” Here are five tips for making your used car feel like it’s new again.

1.  Get an inspection. Whether you are able to inspect it yourself, or prefer to take it to the shop for a once over, get your “new to you” car checked out. If there are any fluids leaking, that new car smell will fade when you open the door to the smell of hot burnt oil. New tires will grip the road more comfortably than worn ones, and feel better when turning and stopping. A lot of items are “wear and tear” parts, and can be replaced cheaply and quickly to make things go smoothly. These include the brakes, spark plugs and wires, fluids, and windshield wipers. Don’t forget the rear wiper if your vehicle has one!

2.  Wash the car, including the engine! Don’t just start spraying under the hood at the car wash, though. Disconnect the negative battery cable and cover sensitive components like the alternator and battery. Then use a degreaser mixed with water to cover the engine and scrub lightly with a nylon wire brush. Wash away the grease with the hose or a pitcher of water. A clean engine allows you to detect leaks and problems sooner, lets the engine cool more easily, and prevents the smell of burning fluids.

3.  Use a detailing or upholstery cleaner on the interior of the car. Be sure to test anything you put on fabric in an inconspicuous place first. Then use the cleaner and a nylon brush (many cleaners have a brush built into the cap) to gently clean the seats and floors, even the ceiling if you are feeling ambitious!

4.  Vacuum the interior to get that final clean! Many upholstery cleaners suggest vacuuming after application. I usually vacuum before cleaning to make sure I’m not scrubbing crumbs into the seats, then I vacuum again afterwards to get any dirt I worked out of the seats. Don’t forget those nooks and crannies between seats and doors or the center console!

5.  Add a personal accessory to complete the package. Set your used car apart from the others with an accessory you wish it had. Whether it’s a third party Bluetooth adapter, a phone mount, or even your favorite scent of air freshener, that little touch of you will make the car really yours.

4 Things to Update When Buying a Used Car

This is a partnered post with Kayser Chrysler Center

Used Car Tips

So you’ve just bought a used vehicle.  You got a good price, saved a ton off the sticker of a ‘new’ car, and got the perfect car that’s ‘new to you’!  But, as much as you might take care of your new vehicle, you don’t know how the previous owner did things.  A report can show whether it’s been in an accident, but not whether the owners kept up with scheduled maintenance or fixed parts on the brink of failure.  Follow these four things to always update when you get a used car to make sure you’re ready to go anywhere, anytime.

  • –  Replace the maintenance items first thing, if they’re looking worn or you can’t tell if they’ve been kept up.  Depending where you buy your used vehicle, you may not know if the brakes have ever been replaced, for example.  Check your car’s manual to see what items should have received maintenance up to the current mileage, then inspect or replace them promptly.  Some of them might surprise you, like lubricating and cleaning the seat belt retractor!  These items are in the manual for a reason, and keeping them up to date will help keep your family safe.
  • –  Check the commonly worn down items to make sure they’ve got some life left in them.  Fluids might need topped off or replaced.  Have the battery and alternator checked, especially before winter!  And make sure your tires are inflated properly and still have enough tread left on them.
  • –  Change any worn belts or hoses to prevent a breakage at the worst moment.  You know, like in the middle of a hot or freezing day, with kids in the car, on your way to work.  Having all your hoses in good condition will help prevent leaks and reduce the amount of upkeep you have to do, too!
  • –  Add in the ‘extra’ items.  These items are ones you typically don’t think of until you don’t have them.  Extra fuses of various sizes can be stored in the glove compartment or special slots near the fuse box.  Maybe you like to keep a tire inflator or jump starter in the car?  And always ensure the spare tire, jack, and lug wrench are present and in good condition.  You won’t enjoy that hot or freezing day on the side of the road taking a tire off, only to discover you have no working spare to put back on!

These are my top four things to update when buying a used car.  Did I leave anything off that you would include?

Laundry Routines to Protect Your Clothes

This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks/P&G. All opinions are my own.

I love clothes.  More than that, I love kid’s clothes!  I do.  I enjoy pairing together outfits for my son and outfits and matching accessories for my daughter.  It’s right up there on my list of favorite things to do…which seems kind of sad now that I say that out loud. lol  I care about our clothes because I’ve invested time in picking them out and spent money on them.  I want them to last as long as possible.  I want to share a few simply laundry routines that I use to protect my clothes.


Do you know that a regular washing machine can stretch garments?  It’s true.  The clothes rubbing together in the wash can also make clothes look ragged and worn before their time (especially detailed thread embellishments on little girl’s clothes).  What can we do to help this?  I chose to wash clothes only when they’re dirty.  Maybe I do this partly because I’m lazy but mostly to save on the life of our clothes!  Also, when I wash most clothes, especially my favorites, I’ll turn them inside out to wash.  I try to line dry my clothes whenever possible and if necessary I’ll dry my clothes on the lowest heat setting possible.  Last but not least, I recently learned that Downy Fabric Conditioner helps condition clothes but lubricating each fiber to help protect it from the agitation of the washing machine.  I now use Downy with every wash to help keep my family’s clothes as new-looking as possible!  Plus Downy helps colors stay bright and clothes hold their shape.  Win-win-win!

Downy Fabric Conditioner

We buy a lot of my daughter’s clothes second hand so it’s even more important for us to take care of them to make sure they live the longest life possible.

What are your clothing favorite items that you like to take special care of?  A cashmere sweater?  Your t-shirt from college?  I’d love to know.

6 Energy Cutting Tips for Your Home

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of IGS Energy for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

Being eco-friendly is not just about recycling and toting around reusable grocery bags though these are great, easy ways to be more green. Helping the environment can actually help your wallet as well. With these green actions and adjustments around the house, you can effectively lower your electricity and water bills as well as save on other general expenses.

1. Turn off the lights when you leave the room. Electricity bills are typically one of the highest bills a household gets each month. Turning off the lights when you leave the room as well as turning off any appliances and electronics that are not in use are easy ways to help you conserve energy. Electricity generation is also a big source of pollution because many energy companies still rely on burning coal to provide energy for homes and businesses. By actively making sure that you are not wasting any electricity, you will simultaneously cut down on the amount of pollution created as well as cut down on your electricity bill.

2. Make the switch to CFL bulbs. It is true that CFL bulbs, also known as compact fluorescent lamp bulbs, are more expensive than regular incandescent light bulbs. However, when you factor in how much money you save in the long run with CFL bulbs, you will see that these more eco-friendly bulbs actually pay for themselves with the savings you will incur. CFL bulbs typically last up to 15 times longer than a traditional incandescent bulb, and they also have the capability of putting out the same amount of light as a traditional bulb but while using half the energy. In fact, one CFL bulb can save buyers more than $30 in energy costs in its lifetime. If you replace all of the lights in the house with CFL bulbs and make it a habit to turn off the lights when not in use, you could save hundreds of dollars in electricity costs annually.

3.  Only do laundry when there is a full load. You may be tempted to throw your favorite shirt into the wash by itself when you accidentally get some unsightly stains on it, but consider spot-cleaning it and waiting until you are ready to toss an entire load of laundry into the machine before washing it. A washing machine and dryer use up tremendous amounts of energy, so it is more eco-friendly to maximize the use of these machines by only turning them on when there is a full load to wash. When you do fewer loads of laundry, you will cut down on your water and electricity bills as well as your carbon footprint.

4. Make the switch to low-flow and aerating faucets. Just like the CFL bulbs, the initial purchase cost of a low-flow and aerating faucet would be offset by the savings you would incur with use. These faucet heads pump air into the water coming out of the faucet so that you would still experience plenty of water pressure, but with less water usage. When you consider that a single five-minute shower can use up approximately 40 gallons of water, it is easy to see why using less water for day-to-day activities is crucial. By using low-flow and aerating faucets and shower heads, you can help conserve water as well as reduce your water bill.

5. Replace paper napkins with cloth ones and disposable dishes and silverware with reusable ones. It can be tempting to use paper plates and plastic disposable forks and spoons if you hate doing the dishes, but all of that garbage getting tossed out at the end of each meal is bad for the environment. Paper napkins are ill-advised as well for the same reason. When you switch to cloth napkins and reusable dinnerware, you dramatically reduce the amount of garbage you will produce. Though initially purchasing a good dinner set and napkins would be more expensive than purchasing disposable items, you will also never need to buy these items again, unlike the constant need to refill and replace disposable ones. Coupled with fewer washing machine loads and a low-flow faucet, cleaning your reusable items will also still be environmentally friendly. IGS Building 6. Shop around for an independent energy supplier.   What is the difference between a utility and a supplier you may ask?  Well, in areas where this energy choice (sometimes referred to as energy competition) is allowed, the utility is responsible for maintaining and repairing the infrastructure of the poles, pipes, and wires that will still deliver electricity and natural gas to consumers.  While a supplier, on the other hand, is a company that sells the energy that the utility delivers. Suppliers compete in an open marketplace by offering a variety of services and incentives, and consumers chose those that most appeal to them and best meet their energy needs. Suppliers have more options to purchase the energy more efficiently and cost-effectively.  (Go here to learn more about energy choice and deregulation)

To put it in a different way, imagine you are going to buy the latest Smartphone from or and the U.S. Postal Service delivers it to your home, in a deregulated market, you can choose an independent supplier (like IGS Energy) to purchase your electricity and natural gas on the open market, deliver it to your utility, and your utility delivers it to your home (or business).

You may also choose to remain with the utility whose rate often fluctuates with market conditions – meaning their rates are variable and move up and down at various times of the year. The benefit of an independent supplier like IGS Energy is that you can lock in rates at today’s low rates for the longer team and have the peace of mind that if rates jump around, yours remains steady. Suppliers are also able to offer other options such as longer-term fixed rates, flat bills, or green energy products.  IGS works with your local utility as part of the utility’s customer choice program – they aren’t in direct competition. IGS Energy Salesman Serving over 1,000,000 customers, IGS Energy is one of the largest independent suppliers of natural gas and electricity in the country.  Not only that but they also offer a wide range of home protection products to help customers protect their budgets against costly repairs of the utility lines that keep their home running smoothly, that most people don’t know are their own responsibility.  It’s not too late to make a change, you can check your options here: natural gas and electric supply products.IGS Energy IGS Energy is also actively involved in their community.  Across all of their offices throughout six states, 630 IGS employees gave back to their communities, and company-wide they provided more than 3,000 combined hours of volunteer service. Over 45 organizations were supported during the All-Employee Day of Service including Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity, community food pantries, and animal shelters.  Check out more of ISG Energy community involvement here: IGS Companies community support. 

To see if you could benefit (and possibly save money!) visit to be connected with one of their trusted energy advisers.  

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How to Combat Seasonal Allergies

How to Combat Seasonal Allergies

The weather is finally warming up and when you step outdoors, the stronger rays of the sun feel great as they hit your skin. Spring weather makes most people long to spend more time outside. This is especially true for active individuals who can’t wait to ditch the treadmill for a run through the park or skip a class at the gym to engage in an outdoor activity.

Along with the improving weather conditions at this time of year, however, is the increasing number of allergens that keep many of us sniffling, sneezing, and rubbing our eyes. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, about 40 million people in the United States reportedly have some type of allergy, with seasonal allergens topping the list of the most common allergy triggers. While allergies are no fun, they shouldn’t confine you to a life spent indoors.

Dr. Josh Sandell of Orthology, a world-class solution for rapid recovery from physical injuries and chronic pain, has put together some tips on how to make your way through allergy season as effectively as possible so your seasonal sniffles don’t slow you down or keep you from enjoying the great outdoors.  Because my whole family is suffering right now I wanted to share these tips with you so that you might get some relief too!

Pollen Counts

Pollen counts vary from day to day and even throughout the day, so it’s best to head outdoors when counts are at their lowest, whenever possible. Some claim that pollen counts are highest during the morning hours, while others say they peak more around midday, but later in the afternoon or evening is probably the best time to head out for a run or other physical activity if you’re susceptible to pollen.

Check the Weather

Weather can also have an impact. Dry, warm and windy days bring with them higher pollen counts than cool, damp days. There are plenty of websites and apps that can provide you with information about pollen counts so you can monitor the best times to head outdoors or when to consider staying inside.

Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning is not only cathartic, but it can actually help relieve your suffering from allergies as windows, blinds, and items in old storage could be harboring dust and mold which can cause your allergies to act up. Doing a thorough spring cleaning by vacuuming carpet and washing down surfaces can get rid of potential irritants and give you a great workout in the process!  {Check out our 1 Month Spring Cleaning Guide and our Top 12 Dusting Tips and Tricks!}

Top 12 Dusting Tips and Tricks

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Endust for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

Dusting Tips It’s that time of year again.  Oh, you know the one.  Eyes are watering, flowers are blooming, and the kids are running around the yard.  Spring has sprung!  For many of us spring is also the beginning of our annual ritual of spring cleaning.

I want to share my top ten tips and tricks for one cleaning chore that will never end….laundry you guess?  Well, not today.  Today we’re going to tackle the topic of dusting.  Bunnies in your lawn are cute, dust bunnies hiding behind your couch are not so charming.

*Heads Up: We have a spring cleaning giveaway at the end of this post!*



  1.  Let’s talk tools.  You want something that will grab the dust as opposed to just pushing it around…and you don’t want one that will leave lint or feathers behind.  I’ve heard rave reviews about feather dusters made with ostrich feathers.  I bought one and while I feel like a fancy maid while using it, I don’t feel like it really grabs the dust.  That may be because I wait a week (or more!) in between dusting but who has time for more than that anyway?  If you dust frequently and don’t have grime left behind from kids that you also want to get off while you dust then an ostrich feather duster may be great for you.  For me and my chaotic life I prefer a microfiber cloth.  It’s great!
  2.  Another tool I like to reach for is Endust dusting spray.  It’s not a polish that will leave a yucky residue on your furniture but a dusting spray which is just what I need.  Endust is a silicone-free formula that’s designed to leave a natural shine without any build-up.  It helps grab the dust and erases the fingerprint smudges.  Plus, my daughter loves the lemon scent it leaves behind.  Where to buy?  You can pick up a can of Endust Lemon at, Walmart, or almost any grocery store.  Here’s a coupon for it!
  3.  Dust from top to bottom, THEN vacuum.  I read this tip in a magazine when I was a child and I remember it still.  I have a tendency to want to vacuum first but that will only stir up the dirt that will later end up on my furniture again.  Dusting from top to bottom keeps me from dusting something twice.  If I dust the bottom of the bookshelf first and work my way up, the bottom shelf will have a thin layer of freshly fallen dust on it.  Remember to go top to bottom.
  4. Dusting delicate items When I was a kid one of my chores was to dust the items on our family’s coffee table.  I can still envision the two deer and the doe that had the crossed legs.  I loved how shiny they were once they were clean!  To clean delicate items lightly spray your microfiber cloth with dusting spray.  Use a moist Q-tip or clean painting brush for those hard to reach places that dust can collect.
  5.  Walls, chair rail, door frames, crown molding, window sills, and baseboards.  Whew, I get exhausted just writing all of that out.  These areas can surprisingly hold a lot of dust.  My mom had me clean our wood paneled walls when I was younger and I have my kids clean our walls now.  This is a great chore to pass on to any youngins you have at home.  Microfiber cloths are again my go to rag of choice.  They’re also great to cover a broom with and use to reach the high places you can’t reach without a ladder.
  6. Electronics.  A quick swipe with a CLEAN microfiber cloth usually does the trick but if there is any build up from sticky little fingers use a wipe especially for electronics.  I would recommend testing a new wipe in an inconspicuous area if you haven’t used that brand before.  If you’re cleaning and crevices around vents or cords it’s best to turn off and unplug the device before dusting.
  7. Curtains and Blinds.  Vacuum both sides of your curtains regularly to avoid build up.  I’m sure it’s recommended to have them laundered on a regular basis too but I never do…maybe I should.  For dusting blinds you could use a feather duster, or a microfiber cloth and painstakingly go over each row.  What I do is fill a bathtub with warm soapy water and dunk the whole set of blinds in there swishing them around, wiping quickly and patting dry before rehanging.  That might not be the best way but it works for me and it quickly gets them sparking clean.
  8. Couches.  I love to deep clean my furniture by using the tools on my vacuum to “brush” my cushions and to get in the crevices and get out any left behind crumbs.  Why do I like to do clean a couch?  I’m weird I guess.
  9. Ceiling fans.  We have a special duster especially for fan blades.  It’s easy peasy and leaves the blades clean.  A chair and a cleaning rag work just as well though but I’m lazy.
  10. Light fixtures.  Yearly I’ll clean the ceiling lights.  I wish it was more often but I’m just going to be honest with you.  I’ll clean the floor and table lamps more often with a damp cloth but the ceiling lights get a once a year treatment.  If I’m up to the challenge I’ll clean each light by hand but most of the time I’ll set them in the dishwasher and let it do it’s thing.  No one has to know! 🙂
  11. Behind the refrigerator and stove.  The first time I cleaned behind mine was when I was pregnant and I wanted EVERYTHING clean.  It was disgusting and took much longer than it should have to clean it because the grime was so thick.  I now clean back there more often with a rag and hot soapy water.  Cleaning behind these may keep your appliances working longer but it also eliminates crumbs that unwanted pests may feast on.  Plus, you’ll feel like super woman for having cleaned something that no one would ever see just because you could.
  12. Furnace vents.  I use our vacuum’s attachments to regularly clean the dust that is in the vents in our home.  This is a job my daughter loves to do for me.  It’s recommended that furnace ducts should be professionally cleaned every few years.

There you have it folks, those are my dusting tips that will hopefully help you clean your home more efficiently and keep dust from accumulating and effecting your health. Out of curiosity, how often do you dust around your home?  Also, if you have any great dusting tips I would love to hear them.  Please share and tips or tricks you have in the comments below!


Spring Cleaning Giveaway!

Endust has created the #DustOff challenge to promote spring-cleaning and their Multi-Surface Dusting Spray.  You can enter by tweeting OR posting a before and after photo on Facebook of a surface you have dusted using the #DustOff hashtag.  No purchase is necessary and you don’t have to use Endust Products to enter.  There will be 5 winners, each receiving a spring-cleaning package filled with Endust products along with a $100 gift card.  Winners will be chosen and announced on Endust’s social channels on May 4, 2016.  Good luck!!

How to Find 15 Minutes a Day to Declutter

How to Find 15 Minutes a Day to Declutter

It can be overwhelming to try to declutter your home when you take a large chunk on at once. Rather than attack it full-force, you are probably more prone to put it off. Day after day, the task seems less than inviting. Daunting even.  You’re not sure but you think you heard your pile of papers and dust bunnies mocking you.

What if you set aside 15 minutes to declutter? Would you be able to approach it then?  Try these tips to get yourself closer to a clutter-free home.

1. Set a reasonable goal
If you want to take on a closet, for example, you will not be able to get it all done in 15 minutes. Start with a shelf, time yourself for 15 minutes and do a really job purging what you don’t need and re-organizing that particular space. The next day, continue with that shelf if needed or move on to another one.

2. Use the KRRT rule
Decide if you want to keep it, re-use it, recycle it or trash it. If you have not used it within the past year, then it is not an item you need to keep. Can it be donated? Is there someone you know who needs it more than you do?  Sometimes, by asking these questions, our perspective on the item changes.

3. Decide on a home
Everything you are re-organizing needs a home. If you just toss it back on the shelf, it will become chaotic quickly. By having a specific home for each item, you are bound to stick to a more organized space. Use bins, jars, labels and whatever else works to keep your space the way you want it. This will add visual appeal and motivate you to stick to your newly organized space.

4. Wake up 15 minutes earlier
I like sleep as much as the next guy. Probably more! However if you’re having trouble squeezing 15 minutes a day to declutter wake up a little earlier. Don’t declutter with your eyes still glued shut but once you’re awake and moving attack a problem area and I bet you’ll have a spring in your step the rest of the day.

5. Talk and declutter at the same time
Can’t chew gum and walk at the same time? Well, this probably isn’t for you. 🙂 The idea is simple, to distract you while you declitter. Hopefully this will help you from overanalyzing everything and make you more efficient. Plus, if you’re talking to a girlfriend she can help give you the nudge you need to let go of some things.

15 minutes a day is all it takes to get yourself started with de-cluttering your living space. That could amount to almost the same time as a Netflix show or a few songs from your favorite playlist.

Declutter Challenge – Area 2 Kid’s Rooms

Declutter Kid's Room Tips

Area #2 – Kid’s Bedroom/ Guest Room

These are the sections to complete for week two.  Week 2 begins Feb. 28, 2016.  What if you don’t have a second bedroom?  Work on another area of your home that isn’t one of the 12 Areas we will get to eventually.  You can even go back and finish decluttering your kitchen if you’d like.  Don’t forget to continually post your pictures in our Live With Less Facebook group to be eligible for our $250 Declutter Challenge Prize! (<— click this link for more details on the challenge!  You’re not too late, we’re officially starting on February 21, 2016!)

*Remember you only have to do 4 of the 5 sections for the contest but if you have time, why not? 🙂

The 5 Sections are as follows:

  • – Closet
  • – Shelves, books, toys, & electronics
  • – Tops of dressers
  • – Drawers
  • – Floors (including under the bed)

Here’s an example of what your week may look like.

Sunday – Rest, work ahead, surf my Pinterest pins, whatever you want to do! 🙂

Monday – Closet

Tuesday – Shelves, books, toys, & electronics

Wednesday – Tops of dressers

Thursday – Drawers

Friday – Floors (including under the bed)

Saturday – Rest, catch up, work ahead, whatever you want but make sure you add the photos of the work you’ve accomplished this week to our Live With Less Facebook group.

What do you do if you don’t have one of the above sections?  Work on the closet for another day or another section of your home (that isn’t one of the 12 Areas we haven’t came to yet).  Have fun!!

Previous Declutter Challenge Posts:

Ideas on Kid’s Rooms:

12 Week Declutter Challenge Recommended Reading

Declutter Articles

These are the required reading for the 12 Week Declutter Challenge.  I hope you’ll find it helpful!