Tuesday, June 13, 2017

How To Create A Home Inventory Just In Case

Do you know every single item you own – and would you be able to remember it all if you had to recall from memory? Taking a detailed home inventory requires making a thorough list of everything you own including a description, serial number, and estimated value. Having this inventory can save lots of time and headaches after a home fire, robbery, flood, or other disaster, but it’s also a good exercise to make sure you have enough home insurance and for tax purposes, if necessary. Taking The Inventory: Walk through every room in your house. Write down, take pictures or video, and/or create an audio recording of every single item. A visual inventory provides a more detailed overview of your belongings. Expensive items like jewelry and collectibles should be photographed from several angles. Get Technical: A number of apps make it even easier to keep track of your personal items using photos, bar codes, and sorting options. These apps include American Family Insurance’s DreamVault (Android/iOS), Sortly (iOS), The Home Inventory (Android), and Know Your Stuff (Android/iOS). For Android, go to play.google.com/store/apps and for iOS, go to itunes.apple.com. Note Prices And Serial Numbers: Keeping purchase receipts makes it easier to record how much you paid for each item. Look up the prices of those items for which you are unsure, and don’t forget to make a note each time something new is added to your home. Store The List: Keep your list updated and stored in a safe or bank deposit box. Don’t forget to keep a digital back-up in an accessible location as well.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Saving Money Is Easier Than You Think It Is

Just about everyone could do with saving a few pennies for a rainy day, but sometimes cutting back on financial expenses can be tough. Here are several easy ways to save money that you may not have considered: 1. Carpool to work. Sharing a ride with neighbors or colleagues is not only good for the environment, but it’s easy on the wallet as well. Ride-sharing even one day a week has been shown to save carpoolers 10%–20% of commuting costs. Bonus tip: If carpooling doesn’t work with your schedule, look into taking public transportation instead of driving. You’ll save money on gas, car maintenance, and parking. 2. Make a meal plan. Dining out takes a huge bite out of many family budgets because most people don’t plan ahead. Every weekend, draw up a meal plan for the week ahead and shop for the needed ingredients. The excuse that “there’s nothing to eat” won’t be an option when dinner time rolls around. Bonus tip: Take a detailed list to the grocery store so you won’t be tempted to buy items on an impulse. 3. Maintain your vehicle. Schedule oil changes and appropriate tune-ups when recommended. These have a financial cost upfront, but simple, ongoing maintenance work is far less expensive than major repairs that might be required if these are overlooked. Bonus tip: Learn how to change the oil in your car and perform basic maintenance yourself to avoid paying shop fees. Or, find a friend or neighbor who has these skills and make an exchange. An oil change for a week’s worth of dog walking only requires time! 4. Read e-books. Instead of buying new hard-copy editions, purchase digital books, which can be significantly less expensive. Bonus tip: Can’t give up the good ol’ ink-and-paper book? You can still save money by shopping at used bookstores or purchasing used books online. Alternatively, hold a book-swapping party with friends and you’ll all walk away with new-to-you books at no cost.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

How To Make Your Neighborhood A Safer Place

Whether you’ve just moved in or you’ve been living in your home for years, you want your neighborhood to be safe from crime for you and your family. Take these actions to make it even safer.  Safety is a team effort, so get to know your neighbors. Who works during the day? Who has kids? Who is retired? Maintain a list of home/cell/work numbers so you can call each other if you see something suspicious. For example, some thieves pose as movers. If you see someone at your neighbor’s house putting flat screen TVs and computers in a truck, don’t assume it’s a legitimate activity. Call your neighbors to check, especially if they aren’t home.  Work with your police or sheriff’s office to launch a Neighborhood Watch Program. It unites law enforcement and citizens to reduce residential crime. To find an existing program or learn how to start one of your own, go to www.nnw.org.  Improve your neighborhood lighting. If you don’t have adequate street lighting, join with your neighbors in turning on your outside lights every night. An effective and inexpensive idea is to place sensor-activated lighting around the outside of your home, especially entry doors and garages ($20 – $80 at Home Depot or Amazon).  Talk to your neighbors about home security systems. Visit a site such as www.safewise.com for information on a variety of systems. You can get basic ADT monitoring, for example, for $37 a month plus $99 for installation. Some insurance providers offer a discount if you purchase a complete security system. The site also offers an excellent Home Security Checklist (click on Learn and Home Security Resources).

Monday, March 14, 2016

What To Do If Someone Is Following You

The feeling that someone might be following you is terrifying. Though it’s not likely, what would you do if the feeling became reality? Being aware of your surroundings is the best way to tell if someone is actually following you. Whether you’re on foot or in a vehicle, here’s how to know if someone’s tailing you and then how to handle the situation: How to Tell • Try not to act as if you’re looking for the person following you. Keep walking or driving at the same speed, and try not to look over your shoulder. • Notice small details. Is the car behind you taking all of the same turns? Does the suspicious person take a turn away from you but re-appear minutes later? • Walk or drive more slowly. If you’re in a car, move to the right lane and drive a few miles under the speed limit. If you’re walking, stop for a moment and notice if people around you stop as well. What to Do 1. Stay calm. Don’t speed or panic because you’ll be more likely to cause an accident. 2. Be confusing. Change your route, stop, retrace your steps, take a quick exit or enter a store unexpectedly. 3. Call the police. It’s better to let the professionals handle the situation. Let them know exactly where you are and describe the suspect person or vehicle in detail. 4. If you’re being followed, don’t drive home in case it’s a criminal with bad intentions. You don’t want them to know where you live. Instead, drive to the nearest police station or busy public area.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Ways To Save By Being Green

By Being Green These tips have dual benefits – helping the Earth and your pocketbook at the same time. Here are some things you can do right now and how much they can save you: Carpooling: The average commute to work in the U.S. is 25 minutes, and up to 20 miles each way. Combined with the savings on the costs of maintaining your vehicle when you’re driving to work every day, you can cut your current gas costs in half if you share the ride. Check sites like www.CarPoolWorld.com or Craigslist.org to help you plan a carpool (see the Rideshare forum under Community.) Energy Audit: Most households spend around $1,300 annually on energy bills. You can save up to 30% on these costs by making your home more efficient, and many of those upgrades are inexpensive and easy to do – replacing your thermostat with a programmable one, sealing cracks with caulk, and sealing around windows can make a big difference. Conduct a home energy audit yourself or hire a contractor to do it for you (search energy.gov for “Home Energy Audit.”) You may even be eligible for a tax credit (check energy.gov/savings). Water Heaters: The Department of Energy says the average annual water heating bill is $400 to $600. Turning down the water heater and washing clothes in cold water can save you 6%. A tankless water heater can save up to 30% annually. Re-use (everything): Check Freecycle.org before you buy supplies for that one-time project. It’s free to join, and people give away everything from tools and building supplies to appliances they no longer need. You might also want to rent power tools if you won’t use them regularly (search HomeDepot.com or Lowes.com for “Tool Rental.”)

Monday, February 15, 2016

Thinking Positively Can Make You Healthier

How you approach life can affect your health, according to several studies by medical professionals. Positive people tend to have fewer health problems and live longer lives than pessimists. The good news is if you’re not typically the bubbly type, you can learn an optimist’s skills to help improve your health and how you feel. How to do it: 1. First, determine the things that make you feel the happiest. It might be spending time with positive friends or favorite family members, walking the dog, or watching a funny TV show. Helping others tends to help you feel better too. 2. Next, schedule one of those things in every day’s agenda. Make it a necessary part of your day. 3. Focus on positive thoughts. When a negative thought arises, pause and find a way to spin it to the positive. Even if you don’t believe it at first, just thinking it or saying it aloud can affect your outlook. For example, change “No one wants to talk to me” to “I’ll find a way to talk to others at least once today.” 4. Make being healthier a priority. Exercise boosts your mood and has been proven to reduce stress, which can increase negativity in your life. A healthy diet makes your body and mind feel better, making it easier to be positive. 5. Avoid negative people. Nothing sidetracks a positive day like someone who always has something negative to say. It won’t happen overnight, but after practicing positivity for a few weeks you’re sure to have a better outlook.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Roadside Assistance Plans

Being stranded on the side of the road with a flat tire or some other mechanical problem can happen to anyone at any time. A roadside assistance plan is the kind of purchase you hope you’ll never have to use, but having the right one when you need it most can save hundreds of dollars and a massive headache. Here’s what you need to know to choose the one right for you: • Many new cars (and some certified used cars) come bundled with assistance from auto manufacturers. Though they are often valid for the length of the warranty, check with the dealer when you purchase. • Popular roadside assistance carriers include AAA (aaa.com), Better World Club (betterworldclub.com), AARP Roadside Assistance (aarproadside.com), and Good Sam (goodsamroadside.com). However, add-on plans are also available from cell service carriers, credit card companies, and insurance providers, though the services they cover vary. Some may have restrictions on towing distance, the number of roadside assistance calls allowed each year, and out-of-pocket costs you may incur by using these services. • Because some coverage plans are for specific vehicles (such as those affiliated with a warranty), you may need additional plans for other family vehicles. However, other plans, such as cell phone-related assistance, cover certain people. In choosing coverage, make sure all relevant parties and vehicles in your family are appropriately protected.