Georgia's Own will be closed on Monday, January 21st in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
A Quick Guide to Becoming a Freelancer
Freelancing comes with endless freedom, but also endless responsibilities. Businesses have accountants, marketing teams, benefits administrators, and everything in between. However, if you want to be your own boss, then these responsibilities fall on—you guessed it—you! Before taking the plunge into freelancing full-time, consider sticking with your day job with a steady income until you get your footing.
Before you can begin your freelance career, you need to figure out what it is you want to do. What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? Why do you want to freelance? Can you afford it? How do you plan to present your “brand” to future clients? Who is your target audience? Asking yourself these questions will help set you up for success in your field. Most companies and start-ups want a specialist to complete the job – wouldn’t you? Decide what your biggest selling point is and go from there. If you love graphic design, think of one area that you’re best at. Maybe your niche is designing graphics for t-shirts, but consider who those t-shirts are for. Continue narrowing down your market so you can brand yourself as a specialist in whatever field you’re in. This will allow you to build a dependable reputation and control how clients perceive you.
Showcase your skills by creating a portfolio or a website that features your best work. When a potential client sees your website, they’ll want to see your past experiences, your personality, creativity, and, most importantly, how to contact you. Keep your website domain name and social media handles consistent so it’s easy for potential clients to find you. Your online presence is often the first impression a new client will have of you, so make sure it’s professional, consistent, and on-brand.
Now that you have some of the groundwork out of the way, it’s time to start selling yourself and landing gigs so you can start earning money. If you already have a few clients lined up, great! If not, there are job sites for freelancers to help you get started. Ask friends and family for referrals, and consider reaching out to companies directly to offer your services.
Managing money as a freelancer can be tricky, especially when you’re just starting out, since you won’t know how much income you’ll have and how steady that income will be. Now’s the time to put on your accountant hat and start to develop a monthly budget. Start by tracking your revenues (income) and expenses. Find your monthly income by adding everything you’ve made in a year and then dividing it by 12. This will give you a rough estimate of how much you can spend and save each month. Each time you get paid for a freelance project, write it down, and every time you purchase an item to complete a project (e.g., a Photoshop subscription), write that down, too. Keep track of all of your fixed expenses, like rent, insurance, car payments, etc. Create a spreadsheet or use an app like Mint to track and organize your income and expenses.
If your budget is doing its job, you should be earning more than you’re spending. It’s tempting to use that extra money for travel or fun activities, but it’s more important to start saving some money and funneling at least 30% of every paycheck into a separate account to cover self-employment taxes. Don’t forget about retirement (you do want to retire, right?) – consider contributing to Individual Retirement Account (IRA) each time you get paid for a project. Your future self is already thanking you!
Freelancing is an enticing choice for many reasons, but it’s still a huge career choice that requires a lot of work, especially in the beginning, in order to be successful. If you’re ready to make the leap, congrats! If you’re still on the fence, why not freelance part-time to see if it’s right for you? After all, freelancing is about flexibility and freedom.
Atlanta Love Bomb: Q&A with Xavier Perry
Much like his signature Love Bomb design, Xavier Perry (and his infectious smile) is making his mark on Atlanta and adding a touch of positivity wherever he goes. Xavier, who is a recent graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design with a degree in illustration, was selected to design a t-shirt as part of the Xfinity Art Series program. Ne[x]t Magazine spent a few minutes with Xavier to learn more about him and his work. See what Xavier had to say below.
How did you find out about the Xfinity Art Series? What did it mean to be chosen as one of the artists?
An Xfinity Art Series representative actually reached out to me about participating in the project. Xfinity selects a handful of local artists, who each gets to design a t-shirt for Atlanta’s MLB team. Each artist then gets to participate in a shirt signing at the Xfinity Rooftop at SunTrust Park during a game and another shirt signing at an Xfinity store. It was a great honor to be chosen for the series – collaborating with both corporations was a dream come true, because I’m originally from Atlanta.
What was the inspiration behind your t-shirt design?
I wanted to incorporate my signature design (Love Bomb), which symbolizes the rippling effect of spreading love and positivity throughout the community.
How did being selected as an artist for the Xfinity Art Series impact your career as a freelance artist?
Sharing Xfinity’s platform allowed me to reach a more diverse audience, and it also helped fuel my confidence.
When did you first spark a passion for art and wanting a career in the art industry? What keeps you motivated?
Becoming an artist was unexpected – art chose me. Art allowed for self-expression and it provided an opportunity to speak for others. My support system and community inspire me to keep going.
Where do you see yourself in 5 (or 10) years?
Because my art is for the people, I’d rather focus on the now. My audience may need another message in 5 – 10 years.
In 2017, you helped create “The Largest Toilet Paper Roll Sculpture” and set a Guinness World Record. What was that like?
The opportunity was given to me while working with ABV Gallery. We built a rocket ship using only toilet paper rolls, hot glue, and duct tape, and, once completed, it measured 24 feet tall and 12 feet wide. The experience taught me anything is possible with time and consistency. (Curious? Check out the project here.)
What is one of your all-time favorite projects?
My first Love Bomb mural is my favorite because it was my first community piece.
Georgia’s Own and Ne[x]t Magazine are all about helping our members make smart financial decisions. Any tips or tricks you’d like to share with our readers?
Budget your money with personal growth and responsibilities in mind – but don’t forget to enjoy life!
Just for fun – what’s something many people might not know about you?
I enjoy running, and sometimes jog as much as 7.2 miles.
Learn more about Xavier’s work on his website, and check out his Xfinity Rooftop shirt signing below.
Get Moving! Check Out Five of Our Favorite State Parks
Fall is the perfect time to head outside. Cooler temps are rolling in and a day spent with nature (without the mosquitos) is a welcome change to the heat and humidity of the sweltering summer.
If you’re looking to spend some time in the great outdoors, Georgia is well known for its list of nearly 50 State Parks. We’ve narrowed it down to 5 of our favorites where you can climb to towering mountaintops and enjoy the breathtaking scenery. You can visit the spectacular whitewater rapids and tumbling creeks, explore the natural beauty of the wondrous gorges and canyons, and ponder the bold beauty of the changing autumn colors.
Any one of them is a worthwhile trip that will leave you relaxed, rejuvenated, and healthier, too. It’s a fact, you know. So grab your hiking boots and let’s go!
With rich history and rugged beauty, Tallulah Gorge’s vast 2,689 acre stretch of land is one of the most stunning state parks in all of Georgia. The gorge is two miles long, about 1,000 feet deep, and has tons of overlooks along the rim trails that make a perfect backdrop for your Insta pics. Scenic hiking, a paved bike trail, and an excellent interpretive center are open daily, and if you head out early enough, you could land one of the 100 free gorge floor permits.
The park features a 63-acre lake, two public tennis courts, and a free archery course. You’ll also find tent, trailer, and RV campsites, a suspension bridge that sways 80 feet in the air, and three backcountry Adirondack shelters. Time it right, and you and your weekend warriors could also ride the rapids on a day that Georgia Power Company releases the dam into the gorge.
Fort Yargo State Park is located halfway between Atlanta and Athens. You’ll find a 260-acre lake with two boat ramps, and a large swimming beach. Hike any of the over 20 miles of trails, or strike up a game of disc golf along the especially challenging course through the woods. If you need overnight accommodations, the park also boasts 38 tent, trailer, and RV sites, 13 cabins, and three cozy cottages.
If you’re more of a glamper than a camper though, reserve one of the six lakeside yurts. It’ll comes equipped with most of the luxuries of home…electricity, furniture, a picnic table, an outside grill, and a fire pit where you can relax, roast marshmallows, and tell ghost stories.
Skidaway Island State Park, just 15 miles from historic downtown Savannah and 25 miles from the beaches of Tybee Island, offers a much different feel than most other state parks. Its 588 acres of salt marsh and maritime forest borders Skidaway narrows, a part of Georgia’s Intracoastal Waterway and is a favorite spot among birdwatchers.
Explore the seven miles of hiking and biking trails, grab your binoculars and head to the observation tower to watch for deer, egrets, fiddler crabs, and other wildlife, or visit the giant ground sloth exhibit at the Park’s Interpretive Nature Center.
Nestled among the live, Spanish moss-draped, oak trees are its scenic, tent, trailer, and RV-friendly campgrounds. Three camper cabins are also available, and each one comes complete with air conditioning and a screened-in porch so you can enjoy the best of both worlds.
Panola Mountain State Park is a short 15-minute drive from Atlanta. Although there isn’t a ton of camping activity in the 1,635-acre park, there are a few sites where you can set up a tent. Most of the recreation is hiking or running on the rugged, forested, fitness trails or walking, rollerblading, biking along the paved trails.
You can grab your fishing pole and head to the lake, rent a paddle-boat, head out on a geocaching adventure, or enjoy some relaxing bird watching. If you’re planning your trip in advance, check out the archery and tree-climbing programs for both kids and adults!
The most unique feature of the park is the 100-acre granite outcropping. It’s been designated a National Natural Landmark and is similar to Stone Mountain, but much smaller and more pristine.
Under the guide or a park ranger, you can explore the mountain, hear about its history, and see the rare plants and animal life that inhabits the area. When you finally make it to the mountaintop, you’ll be mesmerized by the scenic view and even be able to catch a glimpse of the Atlanta skyline in the distance.
One of the most scenic state parks is Cloudland Canyon State Park. Located on the edge of Lookout Mountain in Rising Fawn, Georgia, its 3,583 acres offers exceptional hiking and biking trails, cascading waterfalls, sandstone cliffs, deep canyons, and remarkable caves.
Visitors can hike the 64-miles of trails, some of which offer an incredible view of the canyon’s geology and provide a path to the canyon floor. You can also ride many of the trails on horseback.
If you’re a more experienced hiker, you might want to choose from four other more extensive trails. You can check out one of the wild cave tours, relax with a game of disc golf, fish on the pond, or join a ranger-led interpretive program.
Whether you’re camping or glamping, you’ll have the option of choosing among cottages yurts, tent, trailer & RV campsites, or walk-in tent sites. Whichever you prefer, it’s sure to be an adventure!
Get to know our 2018 What’s Ne[x]t Scholarship winners
What are your passions? What’s next after college? I major in Education at Georgia State University and am a proud color guard member in the Georgia State Marching Band. My goals are to become a high school teacher and also continue my passion for color guard as an instructor. Participating in the band was a major part of my high school experience and a deciding factor in pursuing my education degree.
How did you overcome the fear of performing? The most valuable advice I ever received was to simply breathe. Focusing on breathing allows you to relax your muscles, quiet your mind, and tune out anxiety. Breathing exercises and meditation routines are as important as body warm-ups before each performance. Having the support of other performers who have your back every moment of the
show gives you the confidence to focus on being your
best for the team.
What’s your favorite part of color guard? The people! I think what makes color guard great is the emotional connection and support of the performers and instructors in the activity. You are not only a part of your team, but you become a member of the bigger guard family. In fact, it is a guard tradition to wish other competitors good luck before the show. Everyone cheers for every team. It’s a community like no other.
Being a performer, what aspect do you find the most challenging when working with a team and learning new tricks? What is the most rewarding aspect? The most challenging part when learning a new skill is overcoming the mental blocks and fear. Tossing heavy and sharp objects while moving is incredibly dangerous and can result in serious lacerations and injuries if not done correctly. Knowing the risk makes it very scary to the point where you mentally can’t do it. However, once you push through it and master any new skill, it is the most gratifying feeling ever. You practice for days and fail, but there comes a time when you get it right and it feels incredible.
What does it mean to you to receive the $8,000 What’s Ne[x]t Scholarship? It means the absolute world to me and brings me a big step closer to achieving my educational goals. I was so appreciative to learn you chose me out of many students who worked hard to submit scholarship entries. I wish them all the best! This scholarship is a great help in paying for my school tuition and will limit the number of student loans I have to take out in order to graduate. Thank you so much for your generosity and support of Georgia’s Own students!
How will this scholarship help you achieve What’s Ne[x]t for you? This scholarship is helping me achieve What’s Ne[x]t by allowing me to do what I love by helping with much-needed funds for my education. I applied for the scholarship because I feel a part of the Georgia’s Own community, both as a member and as a Georgia State student. I am happy to say that now my tuition is covered for this year. I look forward to the next year at Georgia State in the Honors College and the upcoming Panther band season at the new Georgia State Stadium in Atlanta.
What makes you one of Georgia’s Own? I have been a member of Georgia’s Own Credit Union since I was a kid. I learned about money here. It was fun to empty my piggy bank into the noisy cash machine there and watch my savings grow. Now, I am a pro at managing my checking and savings accounts. Being a member and a GSU student gives me extra access to amazing events being held on campus, which are always so much fun.
How do you manage the cost of college during school and after you graduate? I have always loved to save money. Every time I earn a paycheck or extra money, I deposit 30-50% into my savings account. I keep a budget for each month and monitor my spending. I earn money teaching guard and also apply for scholarships to help with college expenses and reduce my debt after graduation. Maintaining good grades allows for more scholarship opportunities.
My advice to other students is learn how to spend money in moderation and plan activities with money in mind. I know that Starbucks before class every day seems like a great idea, but it makes my wallet cry. However, visiting Starbucks occasionally with friends makes it a special treat. Frequently checking your account balance will also help you stay on track with your budget.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself. When I was in preschool, I changed my name to Lucy. After watching I Love Lucy, I decided I just HAD to be Lucy. I wouldn’t respond to Anna and signed my artwork with my new name. I’m back to Anna these days, but my family still calls me Lucy when I’m being stubborn, which makes me laugh!
What are your passions? What’s next after college? What’s next is completing my undergraduate degree in Finance, then pursuing graduate studies in Policymaking and Management. For as long as I can remember, business and finance have been my passions. I love entrepreneurship, banking, finance, accounting, and every other aspect of business. Now, I’m also interested in exploring how business and policymaking intersect. After graduating with my B.B.A. (Bachelor of Business Administration) next spring, I’ll be excited to gain exposure to policymaking and learn how those two worlds collide!
Being from Michigan, what made you choose Georgia State University? I love the GSU campus. It’s surrounded by big corporate headquarters, rich historical sites, and tons of employers for a finance student such as myself. I also admire the diversity at GSU. There are so many students who have different interests—art, tech, filmmaking, history, apologetics, gaming—I’ve seen it all! I am proud to be a
What inspired you to write the book 100 Reasons 4 College? I was inspired to write 100 Reasons 4 College after mentoring my cousins and introducing them to campus life. They are 14- and 15-year-old girls and moved to Atlanta for high school. They hadn’t had much exposure to campus life, so I wanted to impress them with how fun college can be. They were impressed, so I packaged all that I’d shared with them into a book and called it 100 Reasons 4 College: Why College is the Next Step for You! Since publishing my book in February, I’ve left that impression with over 1,000 students in metro Atlanta.
What was your favorite part of being the FBLA president? What was the most challenging? I loved the idea that I was becoming a Future Business Leader of America (FBLA). Being President of FBLA gave me the confidence that I would need to become an American business leader. Before I knew anything about ROI or a CAP rate, FBLA instilled in me the business principles that would become essential to my career. The most challenging part of being the FBLA President was rehearsing for competitions. It took months and months for our members and me to prepare for our business pitches. In the end, it made us sharper competitors.
At 13, you began discussing your father’s career. Do you plan on following in his footsteps and becoming a banker? Banking certainly interests me. To this day, I still ask my dad about the deals that his bank is closing and about any big news in the industry. I believe that banking is the crux of our economy and creates opportunities for so many people. If you want to start a business, go to college, or buy a house, typically, you go to your credit union or bank to get a loan.
What does it mean to you to receive the $5,000 What’s Ne[x]t Scholarship? When I found out that I’d received the $5,000 What’s Ne[x]t Scholarship, I was ecstatic! It means a lot to belong to a credit union that invests in the futures of its members. It says a lot about the character of the organization and makes me proud to be a Georgia’s Own member. Earning this scholarship means that I am one step closer to achieving my financial goal of graduating from college debt-free!
How will this scholarship help you achieve What’s Ne[x]t for you? Like many students, I work part-time, work during the summer, and apply for scholarships/loans to pay for college. I am big on budgeting and personal finance and made a plan to pay off my student loans by the time I graduate from college. It has required some extra hours working and applying for scholarships, but a decision that I am committed to achieving. Earning this scholarship will help me reach that goal and allow me to focus more on serving students and sharing my book!
What makes you one of Georgia’s Own? There is no place like Georgia or Georgia’s Own Credit Union! I bank at the downtown location close to Georgia State’s campus. I can always count on stopping by to get the services that I need. I’m always greeted by familiar faces who are happy to serve the Atlanta community.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself. I play acoustic guitar at my church, Atlanta Revival Center. Sunday is the day of the week that I most look forward to because I can jam out with our worship band and make sweet, aromatic music. Playing the guitar is very therapeutic for me.
What are your passions? What’s next after college? For the past year, I worked hard preparing to apply to a competitive program at Gwinnett Technical College. I am excited to say that I’ve been accepted and will be studying Radiologic Technology. I love helping and serving others and am excited to start on a career path that will allow me to do that. After completing my program, I plan on continuing my education and specializing in MRI Technology.
What made you choose Gwinnett Technical College? After I graduated high school, I attended a college that was two hours away. I quickly realized that I preferred to be close to my family. I came back to Lilburn and started looking at colleges. Gwinnett Tech was more affordable than other colleges nearby, which was very appealing because I didn’t want to be in debt when I graduated. Also, since it’s a two-year program, I could start working and building my career
a lot sooner.
How did you become interested in the medical field, and what lead you to focus on Radiologic Technology? The medical field was not my “Plan A” – I was originally on track to become an accountant. I worked a couple of desk jobs, and through those I was able to identify the part I liked the most about all of my jobs: helping others. I decided that I wanted a hands-on job working directly with people. After I knew what I was looking for, it was clear that I needed to be in the medical field. I zoned in on Radiologic Technology because of how many doors it can open. There are several different specialties you can go into, such as MRI Technology, Mammography, Radiation Therapy, and Nuclear Medicine Technology.
How does it feel to make the Dean’s List after dedicating all of your time to earning a degree? Making the Dean’s List was an amazing accomplishment for me and an important indicator that I was on the right track! I was so invested in my classes that I devoted a large portion of my time to school, and my grades reflected that. I had been working hard to get the highest grades possible, and this award validated all my hard work; it felt great to be recognized by my school for all my achievements.
What does it mean to you to receive the $2,000 What’s Ne[x]t Scholarship? I am beyond honored that Georgia’s Own has chosen me as a recipient. You don’t make a big career change like the one I made without having some doubts. The fact that an institution like Georgia’s Own recognizes my hard work as something worthy of investing in reiterates that I’ve made the best choice for my future, and I am extremely grateful for that.
How will this scholarship help you achieve What’s Ne[x]t for you? The $2,000 will go directly to buying necessary supplies like my scrubs, books, and equipment. By having this extra financial help, I can worry less about working during the school year and focus on spending my time studying and becoming the best radiologic technologist I
What makes you one of Georgia’s Own? Ever since I first stepped into Georgia’s Own, I was greeted with kindness and compassion. That’s how I try to live my life every day – making sure I’m always open to helping and serving others. I feel a strong sense of community at my credit union, and I know that Georgia’s Own will always be a great resource whenever I need guidance surrounding my financial health.
Tell us a fun fact about yourself. I love to paddleboard. Nearly every day during the summer, I go to Stone Mountain Park and spend at least three hours on the lake. I am also an avid hiker. Any given weekend, you can find me climbing mountains or chasing waterfalls.
Furry Finances: 5 ways to care for your pets without overspending
We know that most people treat their pets like part of their family. Those little fur babies give unconditional love and acceptance and can bring incredible joy and companionship into your life. Heck, they don’t care what’s for dinner, if the house is clean, or if you’re still in your pajamas at noon. They think you’re the best person in the world, no matter what.
Spending time with your pet and taking care of them is how we reward them for their friendship. You have to admit it, though. It can get expensive. Those antler chews aren’t cheap, and that gourmet dog food isn’t gonna pay for itself.
Here are a few money-saving tips for keeping your pet happy, healthy, and fit!
1. Adopt from a shelter
If you’re interested in adding a four-legged friend to your family, check out the local shelters. Plan your visit so you can spend time getting to know any of the pups you might consider for adoption. All dogs in the shelter will be spayed or neutered and be up to date on all their vaccinations before they leave the facility, which can be a significant savings. Adult dogs are likely to be potty trained and maybe even micro-chipped.
The staff is especially helpful, too, with details about a potential pet’s personality and preferences. And, because the shelters deal with veterinarians in the area, many will also gift you with a coupon for a discounted or free first visit to the vet.
If you’re looking for a particular breed of dog, some rescue organizations are breed-specific. Petfinder is also a good option since you can search for a certain breed and even set up an alert when one becomes available.
In the end, you can adopt a pet for significantly less than purchasing one from a breeder. Whether they’re full bred or a mix, they’ll love you forever.
2. Keep your pet happy and healthy
Many dogs (and cats) are overweight, which can increase their chances for developing health issues and diseases like cancer, arthritis, and diabetes. Make sure Fido gets enough exercise, eats right, and goes easy on the treats!
It’s also important to stay current on any vaccines or medications, like flea and tick and heartworm prevention. Be proactive with vet visits, and you’re more likely to avoid costly health issues and big medical bills down the road.
If your pup does get sick, some minor illnesses can be treated with over-the-counter medications that you already have in your medicine cabinet, like Imodium, Benadryl, and antibiotic ointments. Always check with your vet first, but here‘s a list of common OTC medications that are safe for pets.
3. Be picky with your food purchase
Feeding your pet can take a big bite out of your budget! You don’t need to be eating PB&J when your dog is licking his lips after chowing down on a juicy T-bone steak. Be a smart shopper and hunt down some bargains.
High cost does not necessarily mean high quality. Sometimes you’re paying extra just because the word premium is printed on the bag. Check the list of ingredients and choose a brand of food that includes the least amount of filler, which provides little or no nutritional value for your pet. Compare prices among big box pet stores, grocery stores, and online companies. Combine a coupon with free shipping and consider subscribing for additional savings. Many online pet supply stores offer digital coupons and a 5% discount when you auto ship throughout the year. The best part? They deliver it to your front door, so you don’t have to lug that big bag home from the grocery store!
4. Groom at home
When Rover needs grooming every month, it can really break the bank! If you’re not too keen on tackling a wet dog at home, try a DIY self-service wash. Many grooming facilities provide large, elevated tubs and all the dog wash supplies. It’s less expensive than the full-service option, and there’s no mess at home!
If your pooch needs a haircut, opt for the shortest style so you can stretch the time between visits to the salon. If you’re up for the challenge, you can even learn to groom your own dog. You’ll need to buy the necessary tools, but you’ll save more than their cost with your dog’s first new do.
5. Get routine services at a discounted price
All dogs need to visit the vet for an annual exam, but be sure to call around and compare prices. Some offer a free initial exam, a discount on your first visit, or monthly specials on different services.
For vaccines and medication at a more reasonable price, opt for a mobile vet clinic that travels to different locations – like your favorite groomer’s salon — on a standard schedule. Without the overhead of a traditional vet, they’re able to charge less for the same services. Take proof of your vaccines to your primary vet so they always have an updated record.
You can love your pets to the moon and back, but that’s no reason to spend more money on their care than necessary. When you’re able to trim a few dollars off your monthly expenses, it can make a big difference in your budget. It might even free up a few extra bucks for a special treat!
How to make your home a smart home (and save money in the process)
When you think of being smart, you probably picture your high school valedictorian or Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory. But, it’s much more versatile a word than that. You can dress smart, be street smart, invest smart money, eat smart food, or even act like a smart aleck. You know what else can be smart? Your home. And it won’t take the cost of a college education to get it there. In fact, it might even save you some cash in the long run.
A smart home is a living space that is equipped with any number of appliances, heating, air conditioning, lighting, electronics, cameras, computers, and security systems that are connected via wi-fi or Bluetooth, can communicate with one another, and can be controlled remotely.
Right now, smart technology is all the rage in the digital world. It improves safety, accessibility, control, and a level of efficiency that can ultimately lead to increased savings and lower upkeep costs. It’s the future of home automation, so let’s get to work on the ABCs of smart technology. Relax. We’ll bring your home up to date in no time!
Smart assistant platforms
Amazon Echo and Google Home are today’s leading voice-control platforms. They each have their own advantages so you can decide which is best for you. Functionality wise, they’ll let you search the internet, set alarms, make to-do or shopping lists, stream music and podcasts, tell you the weather, give you traffic updates, make phone calls, and more! Your voice assistant will also let you control any of your connected smart devices by voice command.
Whether you’re fumbling for your keys, leaving one under the mat, or even racing home to double check the iron, a smart lock will make your life easier and your home safer. Smart locks, like the Nest x Yale lock or the August Smart Lock, allow you to remotely control entry into your home and eliminate the need for physical keys. You can create unique codes that track who, when, and which entrance is used. You’ll also be able to pair it with a smart doorbell, a video surveillance camera, and your security system.
Day or night, wouldn’t you like to know who’s wandering around the outside of your home? Maybe it’s a burglar, or maybe it’s you’re neighbor’s dog. A surveillance camera that detects motion, zooms closer to the activity, provides video, and captures snapshots is your first line of defense. An indoor model will let you chat with your pet during the day, and watch the kids arrive home after school–all from the convenience of your smartphone. Check out the popular Nest or the Arlo Pro 2 family of security cameras.
Interactive doorbells, like the Nest Hello, offer the same type of security at your doorstep. Whether it’s a person or a package, whether you’re home or away, you’ll be able to see who or what’s at your front door. As a bonus, you’ll be able to say goodbye to army crawling across the floor when the doorbell rings. One app on your phone will let you see, talk to, and record front porch visitors and improve your home’s security.
With the smallest of gadgets, you can even raise the IQ of your electrical outlets. Use a smart plug in an outlet, and it’ll bring automation to any appliance or device it powers. Plug your Keurig into a smart plug, and you’ll be able to turn it on before you get out of bed. With either voice control or your mobile device, you can turn on your crockpot, set an on/off schedule for your lights, or turn off the iron after you’ve left the house. Whether near or far, any electrical device can be under your control. Check out both the standard and the mini Belkin Wemo and TP-Link’s Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Plugs.
Your heating and cooling bills make a significant contribution to your monthly household expenses. Install a smart thermostat and not only will it help you live more comfortably, but it’ll also automatically save you money. The Nest Learning Thermostat, for example, will learn your temperature habits and preferences and adjust as needed. It’ll also sense whether people are in the house and, if not, switch to Eco mode to conserve energy. Ecobee4 is another intelligent thermostat that can detect the number of homebodies and regulate the temperature for maximum efficiency.
Energy efficient bulbs have graduated to smart bulbs. They’ll still conserve energy and save money, but you’ll also be able to control them from your smart device. Turn them on, off, and dim them through voice command or remotely from your smartphone. Light up a room or create different moods with the variety of available hues. Set up motion sensors and Philips Hue bulbs will automatically light your way when you get up for a midnight snack. Gone are the days of stepping on that random Lego piece. LIFX bulbs will be a less expensive option since they only require a wi-fi connection and don’t require a starter kit, which can be costly.
A smart home isn’t necessarily born overnight, or over the weekend for that matter. It’s easy to start small and gradually add more features. Consider what’s most important or what conveniences you value most and begin there. Once you realize the benefits, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them!