Published in Money magazine; these are my contributions to a larger group project
Shed financial stress Money worries often trigger an obsessive-thought loop, sending your brain and body into fight-or-flight mode. In this state you can't make good decisions.
So first break the physical response: Close your eyes and take a couple of slow, deep breaths. Next, break the mental response: Focus your attention on the sensations of breathing.
This process opens up the medial prefrontal cortex, the reflective, creative part of your brain that develops strategies to solve complex problems in a way that's simply not possible if your body and brain are still trying to fight or flee. When the worry loop restarts -- and it will -- you can always come back to your breathing. -- Stephen Cope, director of the Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living
Be healthier for free Take the closest thing we have to a wonder drug: a walk. It reduces the risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, depression, and many other ailments. Even if you never lose an ounce of weight, increasing activity is crucial to protecting your health. -- Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Win a bidding war Go as high as the maximum price you'd ever be willing to pay -- if someone outbids you, you'll feel confident you gave it your best shot.
Sometimes it's not just about the money. Give the seller some breathing room too. Buyers often signal their interest by offering to close quickly, but that move might backfire in this market: If the sellers haven't found a new place yet, they may be unable to accept your offer.
Instead, propose a seller's residential lease. You close on the house quickly, then rent it back for 60 or 90 days. That gives the sellers a chance to look for a home in a nonpanicked way -- and gets you the house you want. -- Mary Beth Harrison, founder and realtor, Keller Williams Elite, Dallas
Prosper as a landlord Think like your worst-case tenant -- the one who'll never pay you a dime and never leave. These folks will take advantage of strict laws on when and why a tenant can be evicted. You need to know those laws just as well as they do.
Write your tenant lease to safeguard your rights, like setting community standards for noise, trash and other areas of possible neighborly nuisance. To protect yourself financially, put away a little money from the rent to cover potential legal costs. -- Casey Edwards, long-time landlord and co-author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Being a Smart Landlord
Take the drama out of a renovation Don't walk blindly into a major renovation project. Know why you are remodeling, and define what you really need so you don't just pretty up a space that doesn't work for you.
And before you even contact a contractor or designer, take 25% of your renovation budget and sock it away. That way when your contractor finds water damage, you can fix the problem and move on without fighting about how much it's going to cost -- or what part of your plan you have to scrap to stay on budget. -- Susan Solakian, consultant and author of The Homeowner's Guide to Managing a Renovation