Paint: The old stand-by. If you can do nothing else to your house this year, painting some areas will make you feel like you're getting somewhere. Throw caution to the wind and use a textured finish on one wall to make it stand out.

Accessories: Designers say little touches can make a room. Can't afford new hickory kitchen cabinets this spring? Try springing for some nice new door knobs and handle pulls to give your kitchen a spark.

If your dream has been to get pricey plantation shutters throughout the house, look instead at some creative window treatments. Many high-end fabric shops offer design services to help with this.

Wash it down: If your exterior paint job is right on the bubble, not faded but not looking new, a cheaper alternative and good spring job is to have it washed. Depending on the surface and the type of paint, soap, water and a high-pressure sprayer can remove the soot, dirt and grime that naturally accumulate and can give that paint job an extra year or two.

Keep 'em growing: You may hate your current landscaping, but can it be saved? Scale back the plans to re-grade and re-plant and look at a more measured solution. What if those annoying trees were just trimmed back? What if flowers were put in front of those ugly hedges? What if the lawn were improved to make it greener and more lush?

The infrastructure: Some items may not be able to be put off. If your water pipes need replacing because they're old, corroded steel, you may have no choice but to have an expensive copper replacement done. But before doing that, have the aerators in the faucets checked. If they're clogged, they could be contributing to low water pressure and they're cheap to replace.

Having heating/air conditioning issues? Have the system checked out and see if there are any leaking vents or clogged filters that could be causing your problems.

Labor deals: There's not a whole lot of construction going on right now, which means some very skilled trades people are probably available to do your work. See if you can negotiate their rate, but don't try to get them down too low. If you find a good carpenter, plumber, et al., it pays to keep them happy.

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