5 Simple Tips to Creating an Awesome Dorm

Ah, college: it’s a broad new horizon, a rite of passage — and possibly one of the most significant moments in a young person’s life. It’s also a time of having to live inside a tiny cement block with another human being. Okay, so dorm life may not be the most glamorous, but it’s easily one of the most fun. And when it comes to adding mad style to your dorm, a little bit of ingenuity goes a long way.

And since Esurance is all about innovative solutions, here are 5 simple tricks for an awesome dorm.

1. A bed idea

Your first move should be maximizing your floor space, which might require a little bit of shifting. With a few inexpensive throw pillows, boring dorm beds can easily become daybeds, creating a multi-use area that saves space. You can also utilize the area under your bed as an easy storage spot. Plus, bed risers can add a good 5 inches of height, allowing you to fit a surprising amount of stuff under there. And some risers even come with extra outlets!

2. This’ll floor you

When it comes to flooring, not all dorms are equal. Although you might get lucky with wall-to-wall carpeting, there’s a good chance you’ll end up with a linoleum or tile situation. So what can you do about cold hard floors? Enter the area rug. This is another item that boasts big-time variety, including size, color, and pattern. Larger rugs are great for mimicking the effect of carpet, while smaller ones are a smart choice for anyone trying to add a homey touch to their space. 

3. Show your clutter “the door”

Got a lot of knickknacks? Maybe a nail polish or action figure collection? If your drawers and storage containers are already packed, then there’s a myriad of possibilities with one often-overlooked space: the door. It can be easily outfitted with handy hanging organizers. Conventionally used for shoes, these organizers can store all kinds of stuff: socks and scarves, school supplies, and even handy, reachable snacks (hey, you never know). Or you could use it for shoes, if you’re into that sort of thing.

4. Off-the-wall ideas

When you start to explore your walls as potential real estate, a whole world opens up. Corkboards are great for keeping track of all those event flyers you’ll be collecting. They’re easy to install and come in some fun colors and patterns. You can also go with the magnetic whiteboard, if pins aren’t your thing — these also come in some pretty cool color and shape variations. For bigger items, wall-hung wire baskets can create a good home for folders and other lightweight items.

5. Walls, walls, walls

If your walls haven’t already been completely covered by your brilliantly innovative storage concepts, then this might be a good time to add a little panache. But how can you spruce up your space without spending a fortune? First off, you’d be amazed at what people are doing with simple decals these days. Some are rather sophisticated, offering rustic woodgrain backgrounds, writeable chalkboard-style surfaces, quirky polka dots, and just about any motif you could dream of. The best part? They’re cheap. And if you’re a DIY fanatic, you might have fun making your own wall art with some washi tape!

Dorm life: it’s like nothing else you’ll ever experience. Getting your space in gear is not only a great way to stay organized, but it’ll also help you feel at home during a big, exciting change so you can totally rock your first semester. Just don’t overdo it on that packaged ramen.

7 Ways to Give Your Home More Curb Appeal

Maybe you’re getting ready to sell your home and want to increase the selling price. Or maybe you just want your home to look more appealing from the outside. Either way, these tips will boost your home’s curb appeal without breaking the bank.*

7 ways to improve your home’s curb appeal

1. Freshen the façade

Repainting your home exterior is one of the best and most visible ways to increase your home’s resale value, but it can be fairly expensive — around $2,500 on average. Costs vary considerably depending on the size and style of your home and how detailed the work needs to be. This paint calculator can help you estimate a price.

If you don’t want to spend the time and money on a complete paint job, touching up the trim can give your home a facelift for a fraction of the cost.

2. Rejuvenate your roof

If your roof is in poor shape, replacing it may be a necessity if you want a good selling price. The average roof replacement costs around $19,500 (again, depending on the roof materials and the size and style of your home). You can expect to recoup around 71 percent of the cost when you sell.

But if your roof is in relatively good condition, you may only need to repair any leaks or damaged spots. The average roof repair will run you about $650. If repairs aren’t necessary but the years haven’t been kind, a good cleaning may do the trick. Removing moss, dirt, and algae can substantially improve your roof’s looks and appeal without a big price tag (but be sure to hire a professional).

3. Do some basic maintenance

Now’s the time to fix that drooping rain gutter or replace that broken windowpane you’ve been meaning to get to. Unfortunately, these things spell neglect to potential buyers and can shave off 10 percent of your home’s resale value. Simple chores such as repairing cracked pavement, remortaring loose bricks, or refastening the hinges on your shutters can make a big difference.

4. Look at your landscaping

If you live in an area affected by drought, buyers will forgive a brown lawn, but they won’t overlook a shabby or overgrown yard. Professional landscaping can raise your home’s value by as much as 20 percent. But, even if you don’t want to shell out for a complete redo, there are many ways to make improvements.

Start by trimming overgrown hedges and trees, pulling weeds, raking up leaves, and mowing your lawn. Consider planting trees and flowers for instant charm (but first, ensure they’re suitable to your climate). Trees also add monetary value by saving energy — they provide cooling shade in the summer and act as a windbreak in the winter.

No time for yardwork? Potted plants, window boxes, and hanging plants are an easy, inexpensive way to add color and visual interest to your front steps or porch.

5. Wash the windows (and then some)

A good scrubbing of the exterior can do wonders to freshen the look of your home — and it can add as much as $15,000 to the selling price. Rent a pressure washer for about $80 per day and gently spray away grime and mildew. Don’t forget your driveway and flagstone walkway (more dirt collects there than you might realize).

6. Fancy up your front door

As the place where you welcome your guests, the front door of your home should feel inviting. And sprucing it up is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to boost curb appeal. In less than a day, you can refinish your existing door or paint it a bold color to make it a focal point. While you’re at it, why not add a doorknocker, upgrade the door handle, or hang a decorative wreath?

7. Upgrade fixtures and hardware

Now that your front door is looking stylish, don’t forget about other small, inexpensive details that can make your home feel well cared for. Add personality with a custom mailbox (or, at the very least, repair your existing mailbox if it’s askew). Or choose some striking metal house numbers for a modern touch.

You might also consider adding or upgrading exterior lights. Attractive lighting will not only make your home more inviting, but it’ll also increase safety and highlight architectural features. For a quick infusion of charm that doesn’t involve wiring, install solar-powered lights along your walkway.

Review your homeowners insurance

Any improvements to your home may change the amount of coverage you require, so make sure your homeowners policy is up to date. We’re happy to answer questions about your home insurance policy or give you a free, fast quote.

* This post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide actual estimates regarding any particular home as actual costs and impact on home value may vary.  For specific information regarding your home, please consult with local professionals.

First Apartment 101: 8 Things You Didn’t Know You Needed

So you’ve survived the dorms (or your parents’ house) and you’re about to rent your first apartment. Exciting stuff! But moving is a lot of work, and thinking of everything you might need at your new pad might not be the most intuitive thing in the world. Luckily, we’ve simplified the list for you. Sure, you could go quite Spartan. But if you’re going to get a few extra things in each room of your new apartment, the following items are (really, really) nice to have.

Related link: 7 Apartment Hunting Tips to Help You Avoid a Meltdown

Kitchen

Essentials:

  • Dishes
  • Utensils
  • Cookware

You know you need dishes to eat from and utensils to eat with. And you may even already have a pan. But if you really want to enjoy your own kitchen to the best of your abilities, consider adding the following to your shopping list.

The (really, really) nice to haves:

  • All-in-one glass measuring cup

After checking out your budget, you’ve decided that you really can live off of mac-n-cheese and instant ramen for an inordinately long time. There’s just one problem: you have nothing to measure the milk or water with. Having a glass measuring cup is only one extra thing to purchase and will come in handy for tons of quick and easy feasts (like this mash-up of both first-apartment staples — yes, ram n’ cheese exists).

  • Foil

No one wants to cook all the time. Maybe you order pizza once or twice (a week). Or you might get Thai with a few friends. Often, these scenarios mean leftovers. And leftovers are the best. Know what’s not the best? A slice of pizza that tastes like the fridge. But let’s say you wrap that baby in a sheet of foil … boom, tomorrow’s breakfast just got a whole lot more delicious.

Living room

Essential:

  • Seating

You could get away with simply having a couch or a few comfy chairs. But, as the name of this room suggests, it’s an area where you’re probably going to be doing a lot of your living. So why not make it a bit more welcoming (and utilitarian)?

The (really, really) nice to haves:

  • Rug(s)

There are 2 reasons to add rugs to your shopping list. First, if you have wood floors, rugs can help protect them from damage, potentially helping you hold on to some of that security deposit. Second, even if you have carpet, rugs look nice. And who doesn’t love a cozy living room?

  • Bookshelf

Bookshelves are versatile. They can house books, of course. But they can also store records, speakers, DVDs, lamps, and even that decorative vase (if you’re fancy). In other words, if you have things you don’t want sitting on the floor, you’ll probably enjoy having a bookshelf.

Related link: 8 Things You Don’t Want to Miss While Apartment Hunting

Bathroom

Essentials:

  • Bath towels
  • Toilet paper
  • Toiletries
  • Cleaning supplies

You’ve got everything to keep you and your bathroom clean. Nevertheless, if you want to really impress your guests (and yourself), add these 2 items to the room.

The (really, really) nice to haves:

  • Over-the-door towel hooks

If this is your first apartment, there’s a good chance you have a housemate or 2. And even if there are built-in towel racks (and even if your housemates are your best friends), towel-drying space is one of those things that’s better left unshared. These racks are also perfect for apartments because they don’t require you to make holes in the walls. You simply hang them over the top of the door and your towels can dry in peace.

  • Shower curtain

Obviously, this only goes for showers that don’t have glass doors. For cleanliness reasons, it’s nice to have your own brand-new curtain right when you move in. Plus, it’s another way to personalize the room without altering the bathroom itself.

Related link: 7 Surprising Ways You Might Be Violating Your Apartment’s Lease

Bedroom

Essentials:

  • Mattress
  • Blankets
  • Dresser

The (really, really) nice to haves:

  • Window dressings

If your apartment doesn’t come with blinds or shutters, you’re probably going to want some privacy. And even if you do have blinds, they might still let in a lot of light. Some nice, dark curtains can make sleeping in (after those late-night study sessions) a whole lot easier.

  • White noise

You live in an apartment. That means shared walls any way you look at it. To make sure you can get the sleep you need, an alarm clock that has white noise options, an app, or even just a fan can make all the difference when you and your neighbors are on different sleep schedules.

Don’t forget to protect your stuff

Now that you know what to put in your apartment, make sure it’s protected with renters insurance. Renters insurance helps keep your belongings safe whether they’re on your desk, under your couch, or, in some cases, even in your car’s glove box.

Who’s #AwardWorthy? Vote for Your Favorites and a Chance to Score 2016 MLB® Season Tickets

The 2015 MLB season has been packed with incredible plays, outstanding performances, and unforgettable moments.

That’s why, together with our partners at Major League Baseball®, we’re excited to bring you the 2015 Esurance MLB Awards. Beginning today, you can vote for your favorite #AwardWorthy players and moments for a chance to win 2016 MLB season tickets (and a trip to the 2015 Baseball Winter Meetings).

The Esurance MLB Awards

With the Esurance MLB Awards, you can relive the remarkable catches, pitching duels, and grand slam sensations of the 2015 MLB season and then vote for your favorites at MLB.com/awards.

Categories launching today include Best Starting Pitcher, Best Everyday Player, and Best Rookie and will highlight some of this season’s greatest #AwardWorthy players.

But it’s not just about the players. The awards will also feature fans, social media, and front office #AwardWorthy moments like Best Fan Catch, Best Social Media Post, and Best Executive.

Voting is unlimited and additional categories and nominees will be unveiled periodically throughout the program.

Plus, since we’re fans of making things simple through technology, 2015 Esurance MLB Awards voting is all digital and super easy to do from your computer, smartphone, or tablet. So make your voice heard before the polls close on Friday, November 13.

Award winners will be announced during the 2015 Esurance MLB Awards Show, airing exclusively on MLB Network and MLB.com on Friday, November 20 at 7 p.m. ET.

Enter for a chance to win 2016 MLB season tickets with the Esurance #AwardWorthy Sweeps

When you cast your Esurance MLB Awards vote, you’ll automatically be entered for a chance to win:

  • A pair of 2016 MLB season tickets (for the team of your choice!)
  • A trip for 2 to Nashville, TN for the 2015 Baseball Winter Meetings in December
  • Plus exclusive access to the 2015 Esurance Awards Reception and a meet-and-greet with an MLB personality at Baseball Winter Meetings

In addition to the grand prize, we’ll also be giving away 12 MLB.TV Premium subscriptions to watch live baseball on your favorite devices and 12 $50 gift codes to the MLB.com Shop.

You can enter the sweeps up to 30 times before Friday, November 13 at 11:59 p.m. ET,  so vote often to increase your odds. Good luck!

Stuff our legal team makes us say

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. Sweepstakes starts 9/15/15 at 8 a.m. ET; ends 11/13/15 at 11:59 p.m. ET. Open to U.S. legal residents (includes DC) who are at least 18 & age of majority. One Grand Prize and 24 Secondary Prizes will be awarded. Total ARV of all prizes: $22,059.88. Ticket prize selection subject to availability. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. Enter online at mlb.com/awards. Limit 30 entries per person. Void where prohibited. Subject to Official Rules and Privacy Policy. Sponsor: Esurance Insurance Services, Inc., 650 Davis Street, San Francisco, CA 94111.

Major League Baseball trademarks, service marks and copyrights are proprietary to the MLB Entities. All rights reserved.

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Learn more about our partnership with Major League Baseball

Quiz: How well do you know your American League baseball mascots?

Quiz: How well do you know your National League baseball mascots?

Quiz: How Well Do You Know Your American League Baseball Mascots?

From Stomper the Elephant to Slider the Whatever-He-Is, major league mascots have become a familiar and beloved part of the ballpark experience. Whether they’re dancing atop the dugout or shooting T-shirts into the stands, their antics and enthusiasm keep the home crowd fired up and the kids smiling.

If you’re a baseball fan, you probably know a fair amount about your own team’s fuzzy good luck charm. But how familiar are you with others around the league? Take our quiz to find out!