Dana McMahan's Recent Articles
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3 Appliances You Should Upgrade to Increase Your Home's Resale Value
If it’s exciting for you as a homeowner, it could also be just the thing to spark the interest of a potential buyer in the future.
Aug 9, 2020
3 Builder-Grade Things That Aren’t Worth Paying to Update After Buying a House
How do you know what’s worth it to update? A couple of experts are here to help.
Jul 12, 2020
Why You Should Start Squirting a Little Bit of Dish Soap Down the Drain
Do it at least once a week!
Jun 22, 2020
Selling a House During a Pandemic Is Weird—But Here's What I've Learned
And what you should try if you're in the same boat.
May 1, 2020
I Used a HELOC for My Fixer-Upper and It Was Great—for a Little While
Here's home equity lines of credit work.
Mar 25, 2020
Here’s What You Need to Know About Grocery Shopping During Coronavirus
You can still buy produce and, no, we are NOT going to run out of food.
Mar 21, 2020
I Love Exposed Brick So Darn Much and I Want to Shout It from the Rooftops
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
Feb 13, 2020
Why This 1970s Newsletter Should Be on Every Homeowner's Bookshelf
It's been a go-to resource for me.
Feb 11, 2020
We Have a Costco Membership for Our Family of 2—Here’s Why It’s Worth It
I wondered what on earth we'd actually do with a gallon of mayo, but now we're the ones out preaching the gospel of Costco to our own friends and family!
Feb 5, 2020
The Almost-Free Gift I Made for Everyone When We Were Broke
I discovered a couple of years ago that having zero cash to spare can actually simplify things during the holidays.
Dec 3, 2019
I've Reached the Limit of Renovations Making Financial Sense—But I Can't Stop
I know perfectly well that there's a point when enough is enough and a home becomes functionally obsolete... but I just can't help myself.
Oct 24, 2019
I'll Never Buy a House Built After 1949—Here's the One Reason Why
It all comes down to the doors.
Oct 5, 2019
This Architect Has a Warning: Embrace the "Missing Middle" Or Get Priced Out
Why should you have to choose between a single-family or multi-family home?
Sep 27, 2019
A Sprawling 132-Year-Old Renovated Victorian Is Filled With All Our Favorite Details (And 8 Fireplaces)
This 132-year-old Victorian house is brimming with amazing details like eight fireplaces, 11-foot ceilings, inlaid floors, a six-foot clawfoot tub, a brass lion's head door knocker and more.
Sep 11, 2019
How to Know If You Have Hard Water (and What That Even Means)
As long as the tap turns on, you don’t really think about your water. But you may have a problem that shows up in other ways, and hard water is one you should definitely pay attention to.
Sep 4, 2019
This Financial Planner Swears by the “90/10 Rule” to Help You Improve Your Relationship With Money
"I've made the shift and helped others make that shift and when you do it's like you're on the autobahn.”
Sep 3, 2019
Why You Should Never Add Essential Oils to Latex Paint
File the tip under “just because you see it on Pinterest doesn't mean it's a good idea.”
Aug 16, 2019
5 Times When Painting Over Something Is a Terrible Idea
Sometimes painting something can be just as quick a route to “I love it!” as “I wish I hadn't done that.”
Aug 14, 2019
Clever Ways to Avoid All That Labor-Intensive Taping Before You Paint
While painter's tape promises clean lines, it can come with issues. And, of course, there’s the time requirement: It takes forever to apply.
Aug 9, 2019
The Coffee Maker I Became Obsessed with After Spending 25 Days in French Airbnbs
It's like a little taste of France in every sip.
Aug 8, 2019
Amazon Has a Hidden Feature That Will Add Up Every Cent You’ve Spent on There To Date
They don't make it exactly obvious or easy, but Amazon does let you review your spending totals. Just in case you're not into combing through credit card statements or digging through email receipts.
Jul 2, 2019
If You’re Going to Wear Your Shoes In People’s Homes, At Least Follow These 5 Rules
I don't ask guests to remove their shoes. But!—yes, here's the big but—there are some golden rules.
Jun 20, 2019
8 Quick and Easy Cleaning & Laundry Tips that Airbnb Hosts Swear By
Those of us who survive and thrive in this world of letting strangers tell the internet how tidy we are have learned some mad skills when it comes to cleaning and laundry.
Jun 16, 2019
Here’s the Truth About Fixed Shower Panels
Sometimes you see something you just need in your space, no matter what. You know there will be a downside, but it’s just too perfect. For me, it was the window-style fixed shower panels. I started seeing this look last summer when we were renovating the bizarre and so-ugly bathroom in our Victorian home. Honestly, anything was an upgrade from the teeny, low-ceilinged, stained-beyond-all-hope stall shower that came with the house that I might have just gone with the first shower I saw.
May 25, 2019
The Surprisingly Luxe Sofa I Got at Walmart for Less Than $500
You know how you can just easily pick out a great looking and affordable sofa with no hassle whatsoever? Yeah, right. When I started furnishing my newest Airbnb project, a studio style apartment we renovated over the former stable behind our Victorian (aka Little Carriage House on the Alley), I knew it needed a gorgeous sofa. With the bedroom and living room all in one, the sofa had to be pretty enough that you wouldn’t mind looking at it when you’re in bed.
May 22, 2019
A Financial Planner Shares 3 Steps to Creating a Realistic Budget that Helps You Reach Your Goals
You know you need a budget. But there's knowing you need one, and then there's actually doing it.
May 20, 2019
Try This Old-School Method to Get That White, Weathered Brick Look
What’s cooler than an exposed brick wall? An exposed, weathered, white brick wall!If you’ve been pining for that distressed, vintage look, read on—and don’t fret. It’s totally DIY-able and costs next to nothing… as long as you’ve got plenty of time. When my husband and I uncovered the original brick in the apartment over the former stable behind our Victorian, I knew I wanted to go with a random, weathered white look for our newest Airbnb.
May 16, 2019
This $4 Hack Keeps Your Kitchen Cabinet Doors From Slamming
If I admire one home design advancement, it just might be the advent of soft-close. You never realize how annoying slamming toilet lids and cabinet doors are until you experience the calm relief of closing those things quietly. This invention is so ubiquitous now that you can even get refrigerators with soft-close drawers—which, frankly, is a little gimmicky… but I still like mine.What if you have cabinets that date back to the time before this common upgrade?
May 16, 2019
What They Don’t Tell You About Exposing Hidden Brick
It’s hard to resist the siren call of exposing hidden brick. When you know it’s tucked away under drywall or plaster, just begging to make a big statement, you’ve just got to do it… right?It sounds so easy when you tell friends your plans: “Yeah, we’ll just tear out the plaster and expose the brick. It’ll be amazing.” And if it were a TV show and you could fast forward to the finished product, it would totally be amazing.
May 14, 2019
Amazon Might Be Wrecking Your Finances, According to One Financial Planner
Did you know you can find out how much you've spent on Amazon… ever?
May 2, 2019
4 Reasons Why You Should Still Go to Open Houses, Even If You’re Not Looking to Move
These are super useful, real estate agent-approved reasons all happy homeowners should spend time at open houses in their neighborhoods.
Apr 24, 2019
How Do You Keep from Going Too Far with Your Fixer Upper?
While stuck in the middle may not sound too appealing, it's exactly where you want to be when it comes to real estate.
Apr 23, 2019
Shh! Here’s the Insider’s Secret to Finding Remodeling Materials for Cheap
Thrift stores aren’t just for scoring super-cheap clothing and decor. What if I told you there is a place to stock up on renovation supplies (and great furniture) without paying home improvement store prices? And shopping there contributes to a great cause? Some smart shoppers may know just what I’m talking about: Habitat for Humanity ReStore. With nearly 900 shops around the country, these stores are the ultimate win-win.
Apr 12, 2019
What Nobody Tells You About Smart Locks
Ever find a skeleton key? How quaint they look—what a throwback to another time! But if you’ve looked in the locks aisle at a big-box hardware store lately, that may be the way modern keys are headed, too.Smart locks are crowding out traditional locks, and they just keep getting smarter.
Apr 11, 2019
Are You Plunging Your Toilet Wrong? Here’s How to Tell
File under Who Knew?!: That plunger you probably have sitting by your toilet isn’t the only kind of plunger out there. It’s probably not even meant for what you think it’s meant for. The plunger and brush combo kit hanging out in everyone’s bathroom is a move-in staple bought on auto-pilot. Plungers are one of the most common tools for dealing with life’s little emergencies, but they are not a one-size-fits-all-toilets tool.
Apr 9, 2019
7 Ways to Fix a Royally Screwed Up Paint Job
Oops. That’s the last word you want to hear coming out of your mouth when you’re painting. But things happen. Painting may seem straightforward, but a surprising number of things can go wrong. Blame it on bad luck, poor planning, or Mercury in retrograde—whatever. Sometimes things just get royally screwed up and you need to fix them, now. Almost anything paint-related is fixable, if you know what to do and act in the appropriate timeframe.
Apr 9, 2019
Try This Financial Planner’s 1-2-3 Budget Rating System
We all know we’re supposed to save more money. And that sounds great ’til you try to do it. Money sometimes has this quality of magically expanding and contracting in invisible ways—so even if and when there’s extra cash coming in, for a lot of us there never seems to be any left to save for big financial goals.
Mar 28, 2019
Easy Dryer Repairs That Will Save You the Cost of a Service Call
For some, the image of fresh, clean clothes whipping in the breeze conjures up the happy feels, but to me it just means lugging around a heavy basket of wet clothes, fiddling with clothespins, and dealing with unwieldy drying racks. No thanks. I love having a dryer and when it breaks, laundry is an unwelcome and tedious chore. Here are a few simple things I do to keep my dryer working properly, and how to troubleshoot when yours isn’t.
Mar 24, 2019
Fixer Upper House Problems TV Doesn’t Tell You About
When my husband and I bought our first fixer upper home, it was a rude awakening. My parents rented during my whole childhood, so I had no experience with homeownership. My dad also worked in new home construction, so neither did I soak up valuable old house wisdom at his knee. Still, I am drawn to houses in need of serious TLC, and have learned a lot over the years about what it takes to own one—stuff that I didn’t learn on TV.
Mar 23, 2019
Why My Husband Turned Down a Great Coastal Job to Stay in Our ‘Flyover’ City
A few years ago my husband was abruptly laid off. As a freelance writer, I can live anywhere, so when he wasn’t having any initial luck, he expanded his job search from our hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, to the whole country. And some interesting opportunities came up, including one in the Pacific Northwest. We talked about it pretty seriously–how cool would it be to fly off to Bangkok in 16 hours, instead of the literal days it takes to get there from Kentucky?
Mar 17, 2019
This $10 Amazon Buy Is a Cheap Way to Safely Change Your Locks
Rest easy in your new home.
Mar 17, 2019
A Magnet Damaged My $2,000 Fridge
A cautionary tale.
Mar 9, 2019
The 6 Food Choices That Saved Us When My Husband Lost His Job
When my husband came home from work and told me that the next day would be his last at his job, we went into immediate emergency cost-cutting mode. And we quickly learned that the easiest place to slash the budget, in principle, was one of the most painful in practice: our food expenses. We love food—eating it, cooking it, talking about it, sharing it. And an embarrassingly large percentage of our budget went to food—good ingredients, kitchen equipment, eating out.
Mar 5, 2019
4 Things a Financial Planner Thinks You Should Know
Think of the term “financial planner” and what comes to mind? Somebody in a suit talking about complicated money matters with somebody rolling in dough. Think again, according to Certified Financial Planner Professional Shannah Compton Game, host of the Millennial Money podcast. I got to chat with Game about all things financial, and ask her my embarrassing money questions—which actually didn’t feel at all embarrassing with her.
Mar 2, 2019
Painting Your Kitchen Cabinets Is Not All Sunshine and Rainbows
Consider these drawbacks.
Mar 1, 2019
Here’s How to Ruin The Trendy Brass Fixtures You Just Spent a Fortune On
Filed under things I didn’t know I had to worry about: the fact that the pretty finish on my new kitchen fixtures might not last. When you’re dreaming about a new kitchen, it’s often the jewelry—those gleaming brass fixtures—that imprint on your mind. They certainly did mine. Pinning my little heart out, I began to see patterns in what I liked, and that included modern brass fixtures.
Feb 24, 2019
Don’t Make These 6 Common Cordless Drill Mistakes
If you only own one household tool, it’s probably a cordless drill. They’re pretty essential for even the most basic home improvement projects. But it’s not just a matter of grabbing one and getting to work. Drills may seem straightforward, but there are actually a lot of ways to mess up. Here are some common mistakes to watch out for.
Feb 23, 2019
5 Things You Should Never Do with Interior Paint
Painting is one of the easiest home improvements out there, and most people—whether renters or homeowners—have picked up a brush at some point in their lives. It’s also an easy project to jump into without asking questions first or thinking about the right ways to do things. Instead of wasting your time and money, here are five things you should positively, never, ever do with your interior paint. But what does one DO with all that paint? We’ll save that for another day.
Feb 9, 2019