What to do with $1,000 now!

After 5 years of self-imposed austerity, now is the time to think about upgrading rather than cutting back. When it comes to home, travel, finances, or your career, the key is still to find the best value for your money.

Spruce up your home

1000 paint

As home prices rise -- they were up more than 10% this year -- small upgrades can have a big impact on both resale value and your own enjoyment. Try these:

Add a fresh coat of color. Nothing spruces up an interior like a paint job, says designer Mary Liebhold of Durham, N.C.

Research shows that certain colors in certain rooms can elevate your mood. Try a soft yellow in the living room, a cooling gray in the kitchen, and an airy cream in small spaces like the bathroom. Budget $1,000 for the main floor of a house, or about $200 a room.

Install hardwood floors. "They really up the chances of your house selling faster," says California realtor Maria Jeantet. Of course, it's pricey to deck your whole house with new flooring, but Debbie Gartner, a flooring specialist in Westchester County, N.Y., says that adding hardwood to key rooms can make a big difference.

A 250-square-foot living room near your front entrance, for example, is a good choice. You can find quality interlocking walnut flooring at a big-box store like Lowe's for $3.89 a square foot--or $900 for the living room.

Related: Was my home a good investment?

Go with granite. Granite countertops add value and almost never need replacing, says real estate consultant David Rounick. Think beyond kitchens: Countertops for bathroom vanities come precut and ready for easy installation; a nice single-sink piece can run about $250, while a dual-sink unit goes for about $700 to $950 before installation.

  @Money - Last updated October 01 2013 04:05 PM ET
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What to do with $10,000 now!

If there's an extra $10,000 in your budget, consider investing in low-cost index funds, buying a reliable used car or taking a European river cruise.

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