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Paying Debt And Curbing Spending Give Fresh Start; Homes Trends; Decorating in 2006; Packing Up Holiday Decorations; Paperless Cuts Clutter

Aired January 7, 2006 - 09:30   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And now in the news, security concerns prompted Britain to close its embassy in Amman, Jordan until further notice. The embassy notice says terrorists are believed to be in the final stages of planning an attack on western interests. It urges British nationals to exercise extreme caution if traveling to the region.
And in London, today marks exactly six months since the deadly suicide bombings aboard the city's transit system. The coordinated attacks killed 52 commuters. British officials quickly identified the four bombers, but so far, there have been no arrests of anyone else who might have been involved in the plot. London's police chief warns that other terrorist attacks are possible.

In Jerusalem, we're expecting an update on Ariel Sharon's condition in about 90 minutes. The Israeli prime minister underwent a follow-up brain scan earlier this morning. He's had several emergency surgeries to stop bleeding since suffering a serious stroke several days ago.

The Pentagon is reportedly reviewing the gaps left by body armor worn by U.S. troops and may order changes. The Associated Press has obtained an unreleased military study. It reportedly found that one- third of fatalities among Marines in Iraq were caused by bullets or shrapnel striking the torso, right next to the ceramic-armor plate. One military official tells the AP that body armor is under constant evaluation and development.

Straight ahead on "OPEN HOUSE," it's about that time to take down the holiday decorations, and Gerri Willis has some tips for how to keep the decor for next year's celebrations. Plus, what type of financial resolutions for the new year should you make? And that, and how to go paperless in the new year, next on "OPEN HOUSE."

GERRI WILLIS, CNN ANCHOR: Happy New Year. Two thousand and six is just a week old, and we're off to a fresh start. I'm Gerri Willis.

In this program, we're going to show you what's hot and what's not, or, in our own OPEN HOUSE-speak, what's really fun and what's simply overdone.

Also, it's about time to undecorate your home after the holidays. We'll take you through the best ways to store everything from tree lights to the tree.

But first, New Year's resolutions, with our own special twist.


WILLIS (voice-over): One thing is clear, to many, paying down debt and curbing spending means a fresh start for the new year.

GARY SCHATSKY, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER: Credit card debt is probably the single biggest problem that Americans have.

Get rid of the high-interest ones first. Many people can contact their credit card company and get them to lower the interest rate, or move it to another company that has a lower interest rate.

WILLIS: As for spending...

SCHATSKY: Many people spend money, and they don't realize what they're spending it on. Take a look at where your money's going. So focusing on expenditures, and first getting rid of those that don't matter, is probably the least-painful way, and then go from there.

WILLIS (on camera): Right.

(voice-over): Your best bet for reaching your goals, get organized.

SCHATSKY: Everyone's talking about organizing. Quicken is one of -- probably the leading product in personal finance to get a sense of where they're spending their money. And it's really inexpensive.

WILLIS: And don't forget a paper shredder for documents you don't want falling into the wrong hands, and a fireproof security box for the ones you do want to keep safe.

(on camera): OK, well, I think we have everything we need.

SCHATSKY: We're there?


WILLIS: And here he is, Gary Schatsky.

Gary, welcome, good to see you.

SCHATSKY: Good to be here.

WILLIS: You know, we talked to a lot of people out in the mall, and the number-one thing on their minds, from what I could tell, is credit card debt. It seemed like almost everybody had some level of credit card debt.

Now, it's a great idea, obviously, to trade in for a lower-rate card, which is what you suggested. But at the end of day, you've got to pay it down, right?

SCHATSKY: Yes, you absolutely have to pay it down. First of all, the fact that it's on people's minds is a great thing. For years, people thought it was OK, and they're getting the message that credit card debt is poison. People have to work at getting their credit card debt down, because they're using credit cards for today's purchases, and trying to stretch paying it out for years.

WILLIS: Years and years, obviously.

But Gary, here's the thing. You have those credit cards, you use them, you try to pay them down. I know plenty of people who never get around to their other financial goals, like the 401(K), like the saving for retirement, the saving for the house, because they never get the credit card payments down. What do you suggest to those people?

SCHATSKY: You've got to trade them off. If you have a 401(K) that's giving you matching contributions, your employer will chip in, that's incredibly valuable. And to delay making those contributions really gives up a lot of free money that the employer would give you.

So you've got to take advantage of that. And you've got to focus on credit card debt that's high interest. And if you have very low credit card interest rates, then you're going to take a look at the 401(K) or contributing to a Roth.

WILLIS: So there's a lot to do out there.

Another interesting question we got, and this comes from young people, Look, I've got the college debt, I'm not being paid that much money. What's the priority for them?

SCHATSKY: Well, the priority is to find, A, the best investment choice. In some cases, it's putting money for retirement, because you might get a matching. In some cases, it's paying down high-interest debt. Ad in other cases, it's just building up a cash position.

Everyone has different circumstances, so you've got to understand what kind of debt, what's the interest rate, what are my saving opportunities? And ask yourself, what are your priorities? If you want to buy a big-ticket item real early, you're going to have to start piling away cash to do that.

WILLIS: What a novel idea.

Another question we had that I liked, real estate. Obviously, people were interested out there in investing in a range of choices. You can invest in your 401(K) with stocks. You also have some bonds. It's important, too, to have real estate as part of your portfolio, right?

SCHATSKY: Well, you know, real estate, I view it as a home, it's a home first and an investment second, particularly now, when real estate prices have skyrocketed. People should be focusing on real estate purchase for their home, if they plan on being in there for four, five, or more years. If they think that perhaps it'll just be a stopgap, they really should look elsewhere for their investing.

WILLIS: What about people who are saving for that house? I know it's a big problem, because prices have been so high. It's hard to put that money together in the first place. You have some great suggestions for short-term investments when you know you're going to turn that money around pretty quickly.

SCHATSKY: Yes, clearly you're going to want to make sure you're getting the highest possible rate of return with really no risk. A top-quality money market fund, or some banks are offering up to 4 percent.

You don't want to tie it up, put it in the stock market, because if you need it in a year or two, over the long term, the stock market's probably a good investment, but over the short term, nobody really knows.

WILLIS: Those money markets, though, they don't pay a great deal. Is there another thing to look at?

SCHATSKY: Well, some of the money markets are now paying over 4 percent, which is probably four times what many banks are paying.

WILLIS: Where do I find those?

SCHATSKY: You can find them at Bankrate Monitor. You can get them in the local newspaper. You can check online. Companies like Vanguard, top-quality company, almost always the highest rates in the country.

WILLIS: All right, well, that's a great idea.

Gary Schatsky, thanks for being with us today.

SCHATSKY: A real pleasure.

WILLIS: Stick around. We're going to show you some really smart ways to undecorate your home, to store the goods for next year. A very timely weekend project is coming up.

But first, the most fabulous new trends. And get this, crystal chandeliers.

So much more is coming. What's really fun, what's overdone. What do you think? More fresh starts, on OPEN HOUSE next.


WILLIS: It's that time of year again, and everyone has their what's hot and what's not list for 2006. But we do things just a little bit differently here at OPEN HOUSE.

So here now, a list of what's really fun and what's overdone for your home.

Stainless steel appliances are on their way out. Wallpaper is definitely not making a comeback. And gas grills are going the way of the shag rug. On the in list for 2006, smaller homes with better finishes. Bamboo flooring and eco-friendly building materials definitely are in vogue. And finally, it appears blank wall space is all the rage. Get that. After all, people want a place to put their plasma TVs.

The man behind this list is Mark Nash, author of "1001 Tips for Buying and Selling a Home."

Mark, good morning.

MARK NASH, AUTHOR, "1001 TIPS FOR BUYING AND SELLING A HOME": Good morning, Gerri, how are you?

WILLIS: I'm good. I hope you're well too.

I -- but, you know, stainless steel is over? Are you kidding me?

NASH: Well, it's not for everyone, Gerri. You know, a lot of people have bought it, and if you have children or pets, it's very difficult sometimes to keep it looking right.

WILLIS: That's true. It is tough to keep clean. It can look messy really quickly. So what replaces it?

NASH: I think people are going back to colored appliances. I hate to say it, white, ivory, and black.

WILLIS: Well, that's sort of boring. I've seen orange and red and green. Is that not going to happen?

NASH: I think it's going to happen, but those are really for contemporary settings.

WILLIS: All right. Well, let's talk a little bit about gas grills, because I see that you're not a fan of gas grills. Why are those on their way out? I thought everybody loved them.

NASH: I think everyone does love them. I'm a big fan of them. But what's happening is, is that people don't want to cart the tanks back and forth to stores, so they're getting a direct gas line connected to the grill.

WILLIS: Is that expensive?

NASH: Not really. I'd probably say it's $500.

WILLIS: Well, that's pretty good. That's pretty decent.

Let's talk for a second about the blank wall and the plasma TV screen. When you're selling that house, should you have one up on the wall? Does it make you look hip and trendy and also remind people that they can actually mount their own plasma TV?

NASH: I think so. I think people really love to see that technology, especially men.

WILLIS: Yes, especially men, and they're an important part of the buying equation, obviously.

You talk about smaller homes being important. You know, we've had this trend for a long time of houses getting bigger and bigger and bigger. And you say we're going in the opposition direction. Why?

NASH: People really, you know, people have had the McMansions, and I think they're really looking now for space that is well finished and well detailed. I mean, how many bedrooms and how many family rooms can you use?

WILLIS: How -- what's the square footage that you're thinking of? I mean, are you talking 1,200, 2,000, 5,000?

NASH: Oh, no, no. I think we're looking at 2,800 to 3,200, and that's come down from the 4,200 to 4,400 square foot house.

WILLIS: So still pretty decently sized.

Now, tell us, when you're putting that house on the market, and I know a lot of people out there will in the coming year, what is the number-one thing you have to have to really attract people?

NASH: It has to be clean, clean, clean. If you don't -- can't do anything else, it has to be clean. I show houses every day, and you can watch someone's body language as they come into the house. And if it's dirty, they just kind of clam up, and the showing goes short, and they move on to the next house.

Neutral colors. A lot of people really don't want commitment colors or bold, trendy colors. They want something that's neutral, so they can overlay how they live in your home.

WILLIS: Right, absolutely.

And one other trend that you talked about is eco-friendly. That's critical this year. People are really getting into this, right?

NASH: Oh, yes. They love the bamboo flooring, and it's not bamboo matting or grasses. It's actually a milled bamboo product, and it's very green or eco-friendly, as you said, Gerri.

WILLIS: I love that.

OK. Well, the book is called "1001 Tips for Buying and Selling a Home." Our guest was Mark Nash.

Thank you so much for joining us.

NASH: Thank you, Gerri.

WILLIS: We continue with our New Year's guide to trends inside your home.

J.J. Ramberg now with more on how you can get a fresh start with just a few simple and, well, not-so-simple ideas. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

J.J. RAMBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Monika, start off by telling me, is there any overreaching theme for 2006 that people should be thinking about when decorating their houses?

MONIKA BIEGLER, "DOMINO" MAGAZINE: Yes. Well, 2005 was a lot of about sort of Hollywood Regency high contrast, lots of colors, strong contrasts with lacquer, you know, browns and yellows. Two thousand six is really about softer, organic, really natural vibe, grays, lavenders, tans.

RAMBERG: When it comes to tables or seating, this is really popular for 2006?

BIEGLER: These are petrified-wood stools. They are huge right now. Everybody's in love with them. They can be used as side tables, as extra seating. They're just really amazing and organic and unique.

RAMBERG: What is out, then, for 2006?

BIEGLER: Well, you wouldn't really do so much the sort of traditional pedestaled-styled tables anymore. Anything that feels really out there that's are -- that's been around for a long time.

RAMBERG: Moving into the kitchen, this idea of a natural theme we'll follow into every room, right?

BIEGLER: Yes, exactly. Instead of doing traditional antique- style china, these are a great line from a company called Mud Australia. They're really organic. They're handmade. They're glazed on the inside, but they leave the outsides with raw edges to just really give it that unique quality.

RAMBERG: So moving away from something more formal too then, right?

BIEGLER: Exactly. It's all -- it's very bohemian and relaxed, but still with restraint. It's not over the top.

RAMBERG: Yes, it's bohemian, but beautiful...

BIEGLER: Right, exactly.

RAMBERG: ... designs.

BIEGLER: This lamp ...

RAMBERG: Seems bohemian, right?

BIEGLER: This is a new take on the chandelier. Instead of doing traditional crystal chandeliers, try something with color. A black glass looks amazing.

RAMBERG: Oh wow.

BIEGLER: Or this deep purple is really new and modern feeling ...

RAMBERG: Gorgeous.

BIEGLER: ... but it still gives you that vibe of a chandelier, it's just with a punch of color.

Something like lighting is an area we can get in that little pop. If we have a completely gray room and your furniture is sort of white and brown, this is a great way to add a bit of color to the room.

RAMBERG: A lot of what I'm noticing in the things that you're showing me is that nothing's perfect. Everything has its own natural shape.

BIEGLER: Yes, everything seems like it's a one-of-a-kind piece, unique. And that just really makes it feel like you have something special that's just yours. And people love that. It's a great quality to have in your home.

RAMBERG: For someone who doesn't have the budget to completely get out all their 2005 stuff and bring in 2006, what do you think they can do just to sort of modernize the rooms?

BIEGLER: Well, rugs are a great way to do that. They really bring a lot of style and personality into a room. We've been saying that rugs are the new wallpaper. We're taking the pattern off the walls and putting them on the floor.

These right here are great. If you sort of take away some of that over-the-top feeling of the accessories that you were using in 2005, and just soften it and tone it down a little bit, you can move things into different rooms in the house, sort of spread everything out, and then it'll feel fresh.


WILLIS: How about that purple chandelier?

Coming up, taking all the tangles out of taking down your lights. We'll show you how the best way to take down the holidays and store them for next year.

And it's time to take out the tree. We'll have great tips on how you can reuse and recycle your tree.

First, your mortgage snapshot.


WILLIS: OK, it's time to take down the tree and put away the lights. But before you throw just everything in a box, we have a few tips that will make decorating next year a whole lot easier.

We did it ourselves right here in the OPEN HOUSE studio, with a little help from Elizabeth Mayhew of "Real Simple" magazine.

Every year I lose ornaments. You know, I try to find things. It seems like they disappear into the ozone. Any suggestions?

ELIZABETH MAYHEW, "REAL SIMPLE": Well, anything about finding things, everything needs a place. So the point is, is, to find it when you need it.

Labeling a great way to deal with this. If you have plastic containers or anything that you steer your -- that you store your ornaments in, just take them off, make sure you label them. Try to group them together, like here, you could do all your red and white ornaments together, all glass ornaments.

Now, for glass ornaments, one thing that we suggest is put them really in resealable plastic containers. That way, if one of these breaks, you don't have a big mess next year.

WILLIS: Oh, that's a great idea.

MAYHEW: Another cool thing that you can do is...

WILLIS: You're blowing it up, oh, my goodness. I've never done that before.

MAYHEW: You can blow it up, and it makes it like a little bit -- gives it some cushion.

WILLIS: Right, so you can't -- it's harder to break.

MAYHEW: It can't break, right.

WILLIS: Look at this beautiful, tiny, little ornament. I love these!

MAYHEW: Well, a great way to store small ornaments, actually, is in an egg carton.

WILLIS: Oh, that's a great idea.

MAYHEW: So here we just put that -- you can put that one just right there. And they fit in easily. These you can just save throughout the year. It's a great way to save them, and again, you could just label, "snowman ornament." That way you know.

WILLIS: Exactly where everything is.

MAYHEW: You might be alternating ornaments, that things you put up one year that you don't want to put up another year. That's another thing that you can do.

WILLIS: Wow, that's complicated.

Here's my other question. This year, for the first time ever, we made gingerbread men. Can I save those? Do I have to toss them?

MAYHEW: Any dough or food-based ornament, it's best to keep those in a tin. So here we put dough-based ornaments ...

WILLIS: Oh, great.

MAYHEW: ... also in plastic bags. You want to keep rodents or any pests away from these. And those just fit in here in plastic bags. And then put them in a cookie tin.

WILLIS: Awesome.

MAYHEW: Because that'll keep it double-protection.

WILLIS: Now, obviously, gingerbread men, you might keep. But there are some things that you won't keep, right? I mean, if you wrap popcorn on a string around your tree, that's got to go.

MAYHEW: You wouldn't keep popcorn, don't keep candy canes. I know people try to do it, but inevitably the heat is going to melt them, and it's just going to be a sticky mess. So anything that's really food based like that, that's meant to be eaten, just toss it.

WILLIS: Now, when you're talking about the tree itself, you know, we actually have an artificial tree here. But if you have a live tree, is there a certain point at which, you know, that tree's done, you've got to stash it, you got to throw it away?

MAYHEW: There is a certain point. And obviously, you should always be watering your tree, even till the end. But the best thing to do is, first take the lights off. And we have a great simple tip for that, which is, using a coffee can. All we did was make a little hole in the top, and we stuck the socket and everything inside.

Then you put the lid on. And always test -- you know, you should always test these things before and after you put them away. We ...

WILLIS: Mine never work year after year. It's like an international conspiracy by the light-makers. It seems like I have to buy new lights every year. And is it just because I'm not...

MAYHEW: Well, it might be the way ...

WILLIS: ... storing them well?

MAYHEW: ... you're storing them, and also, if one little light bulb gets loose, that'll cancel the whole thing out. It's a great thing also to store this extra light bulbs that come in the packet inside of here, so you won't lose them. That way, when you go to put them on next year, you'll be ready.

And then you just coil them around, and they won't get messed up, and you'll be ready for next year.

WILLIS: This is a great idea.

Now, the other issue, of course, is, all the extra wrapping paper is everywhere.

MAYHEW: Well, if you -- a great thing to do is, rather than throw it away and feel like you're wasting it, is put this through a paper shredder.

WILLIS: Well, let's do that. Let's get that going.

MAYHEW: OK, you just put that through a paper shredder, and then you can use this to pack all your ornaments so that they are nice and cushioned. So it's a great new use for things.

WILLIS: Oh, that's fabulous.

MAYHEW: Also, if you're sending packages somewhere, you can use this also to shred it. You just put that through. And then you would just take this out -- I think we already have some in here -- and use that in anything.

WILLIS: Like a cushion, that's a great idea.

MAYHEW: Like, we would put this underneath, right.

WILLIS: I love that.

MAYHEW: And that would cushion it.

WILLIS: Right. Try it again.

MAYHEW: And that way, you feel like you're not wasting it also. And it just gives it cushion, and you don't have to go out and buy bubble paper or those...

WILLIS: Great idea.

MAYHEW: ... horrible peanuts, or anything like that.

WILLIS: Sounds great.

Thank you so much, Elizabeth, for joining us today.

MAYHEW: You're welcome.

WILLIS: Now, our tree was artificial, but if you bought a live tree this year, it is probably time to take it down. Most trees should not be kept for more than three weeks, because they dry out, and they become a fire hazard.

Now, getting rid of your tree varies by community, so you should first check with your local environmental or sanitation agency to find out options available to you.

One way to reuse that tree is to clip the branches and put them out around your plants to provide extra protection in the winter. They sure need it. The tree trunk can be dried out for a few weeks and then chopped up for firewood.

In just a few minutes, the grand finale to our fresh-start program, my own tips on how to best go paperless in the new year.

Plus, who owns this house, and why do we care? That's next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIS: One way to reduce clutter, go paperless.

By doing your banking and bill paying online, you can get rid of the mess before it starts.

Going paperless can also help your credit score. Schedule automatic payments to your credit card issuer, for example, and you can guarantee that your payments will be made on time. No expensive late fees, no hit to your credit score.

Banking online can yield even better benefits, like getting a better return on your savings. Branchless banks often offer higher yields on savings. Ad even if you stick with your real-world banker, you can still enjoy the convenience of managing your accounts from the sofa. And who doesn't like that?

Before we let you go, just wanted to share one more thing. One of America's best-known bachelors is selling his bachelor pad. Burt Reynolds' waterfront mansion is on the market, and you can have it for a cool $15 million for the Florida house.

There's a little more than three acres of land, and that's plenty of space, when you consider Burt's pad is more than 12,000 square feet of space, including a private theater, undoubtedly well used for screening copies of "Smokey and the Bandit."

We want to hear from you. Send us your comments, your questions to You'll find more on today's guests and topics on our Web site,

Thanks for watching OPEN HOUSE. We'll see you here next week.

The day's top stories are next on CNN Saturday.

Have a great weekend.


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