Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How to Cover Your Tracks When Surfing the Internet



Your tracks can be easily traced on the internet—and you may not even know it! When surfing the Internet, you leave an easy map to follow as you travel around the web. Here are some steps to take to protect your privacy:

When using Internet Explorer:
• Under “Tools,” select “Internet Options” and then “General.”
• Under “Temporary Internet Files,” click “Delete Files.”
• Under “History, click Clear History.” Set the number box marked “Days to keep pages in history” to one, and it will delete your history list every 24 hours.
When using Netscape:
• Select “Edit,” then “Preferences.” Double click on “Navigator.”
• Click “History” and then “Clear History.”
• Set the number of days to keep history to 1.
• Double click “Advanced,” then click “Cache.” Click “Clear Memory Cache” and Clear Disk Cache.”

Now your privacy will be protected when you’re not there!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Time to Lose Weight the Right Way!!

The Top 10 Secrets For
Effective Weight Loss!

Are you overweight? You’re not alone. Obesity rates over the past 20 years have gone through the roof. The writing’s on the wall: we have become a nation of fatties! At least 25 percent of the population is dangerously obese, and there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight.

Being overweight is considerably more likely to lead to arthritis, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, experts say. In more than 70% of cases, obesity can be blamed on overeating fatty foods and high calorie treats. But don’t despair because there is hope. Here are 10 sure-fire secrets for losing weight and regaining the health and vitality you once thought was only a dream.

Here Are The Top 10 Tips For Losing Weight:
1. Cut Your Daily Intake Of Food By 25%. Smaller portions and less overall intake will bring about steady weight loss.
2. No More Crash Diets. Crash diets don’t keep weight off for long.
3. Control Access To Food. Have meals at specific times, and set aside no more than 20 minutes for meals.
4. Increase Activity. Here’s great news: A recent study reported that obesity dropped 10% for each hour of exercise a week.
5. Cut Back On Treats–Or Cut Them Out!
Eating treats can increase your odds of obesity by 50%. Eat only low-calorie carrots, popcorn, or apples.
6. Add Bulk. Eat high fiber foods that give a feeling of fullness, and reduce calorie intake.
7. Buy Low-Fat Foods. Only buy low-fat, low-calorie, lean, and light foods.
8. Adjust Serving Sizes To Fit Your Size. Serving sizes on packages are generally too high. It’s best to cut back 15-25 percent of the suggested serving.
9. Keep A Food Diary. Keep track of what foods are eaten daily and keep track of the amounts that are consumed.
10. Let Your Dog Help You Lose Weight. What?? Yes, that’s right. Join forces with your dog (who may also be overweight, studies show). A Veterinarian can figure caloric needs. Why not put Fido on the program...and you too can join in the weight loss program and have the support of man’s (and woman’s) best friend. It may be just the right weight loss program for both of you!

Monday, August 29, 2011

What Your Kids Are Doing

A Kaiser Family Foundation survey shows that 8-18 year-olds spend an average of 7 hours 38 minutes using entertainment media a day.
 They spend more time listening to music, playing games and watching TV on their cell phones than they spend talking on them!
 7th-12th graders spend an average of 1 hour 35 minutes a day texting, and that wasn’t counted as entertainment media in this study.
 Media use increases when they become tweens (11-14 years old).

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Now is a Great Time to Buy That Rental Property

Q. My wife and I are thinking of buying a house as a rental investment. What should we know before taking the plunge?

A. Buying right is the “secret.” Your first step is to make sure the property is in an area desirable to tenants and suited for appreciation. Next, you want to purchase the property at a price and financing that will allow you to make a profit (and positive cash flow) while renting it out. Don’t forget to include any fix-up expenditures for getting the home in rental shape. You’ll need to create a budget of your expected rental revenue and all costs associated with owning the home – and be sure to allow for contingencies such as vacancies, unexpected repairs and maintenance, and tax and insurance increases.

Seek out the assistance of a competent real estate attorney to create a rock-solid lease document that protects you from problem tenants. You can use the document for future leases and tenants.

Determine whether you’re going to manage the property yourself, or pay a management company – and don’t forget to include management fees into your budget estimates. If you’re thinking of buying or selling a home and need competent and caring representation, please call me at 206-226-0565.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Expert Cooking Tips!

Eggs: The simplest way to tell if an egg is fresh it to observe its shell. If it’s rough and chalky, it’s fresh. If it’s smooth and shiny, it’s old. You can also place an egg in cold salted water. If it sinks, it’s fresh. If it floats, it’s old.
Cottage Cheese: Keep your cottage cheese fresh longer by storing the carton upside down in the refrigerator.
Measuring Corn Syrup, Molasses, and Honey: Dip your measuring cup or spoon either in hot water or brush it with oil before pouring in the syrup. This way, you’ll get all that’s in the cup to come out.
Milk: Rinse the pan with cold water before scalding milk to prevent sticking.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Important Skin Cancer Alert


Melanoma can be a deadly form of skin cancer, but it can be successfully treated if caught early. The key is to check the moles on your skin regularly. Make sure you have someone else regularly check your back and the backside of your legs. Here’s what you should look for:
• An asymmetric shape, where one half of the mole does not match the other.
• An irregular border where edges are ragged, notched, or blurred.
• The presence of a number of different colors, including shades of tan, brown and black, red and gray-blue.
• A large mole or one that increases in size is of special concern.
If you have a mole that has any of the above characteristics, see your doctor as soon as possible to have the mole evaluated. Don’t wait to make an appointment...it could save your life!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Get Organized 4 Success

Learn How To Organize
And Get Things Done

Do you feel like you’re always working to keep up, but don’t really get anything done, especially around holidays? In his best-selling book Getting Things Done, David Allen gives you an effective time management system to help you organize your stuff, your work activities and your personal life.

Allen’s key idea is to start with a “mind sweep” ─ get everything out of your head and down on paper (or other written form). Once your mind is cleared, your productivity goes up and you can focus on creative action. His five basic stages of mastering your personal or professional “workflow” are:

1) Collect. Capture anything and everything that is on your mind.
2) Process. Decide what each thing means. Is it something you should do? Do it now or later? Can you delegate it (and track on a “Waiting For” list)?
3) Organize. Place the items in categories, such as Projects, Calendar, Next Actions and Waiting For, and sub-categories of your choice. (To help you visualize this, he includes a diagram for navigating through the processing and organizing phases of your workflow.)
4) Review. Go over Calendar and Action lists daily and do a weekly customized review to get clean and current.
5) Do. Make choices about your actions based on what you can do, how much time and energy you have and your priorities.

Another one of his most popular methods is the “two minute rule.” If any task can be completed in less than two minutes (for example, a quick email response), do it immediately. Stop putting those little things off.

Allen says Getting Things Done is “just advanced common sense.” But once you learn how to get everything under control, real change begins.

Millions of people around the world have found that his methods work. To order the book, search for “Getting Things Done” at www.amazon.com.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

We All Want to be Liked, How to Improve Your Chances!

How To Boost Your Charisma
In Just 5 Easy Steps…

Can we develop charisma? Yes, you can, says, D.A. Benton, author of Executive Charisma. Here are five skills you can practice to improve your charisma quotient.
1. Be confident. When introducing yourself say your name and then tell something about yourself. This helps to draw a question from the other person, and can lead the person into a conversation with you.
2. Walk with purpose. Pause before entering a room and project confidence as you walk into the room.
3. Use the double hand shake. When you shake someone’s hand, use the two-handed grasp. While shaking with right hand, your left hand grasps the person’s arm at or below the elbow.
4. Focus on your goal. Charismatic people know what they want and are passionate about it. Focus on what you want and how to get there.
5. Be a good listener. Listen when other people talk. Value their opinions and make eye contact.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Stay Connected: Start A Family Blog


You don’t have time to send e-mails, much less cards, letters and photos to keep your family in the loop. You can use Facebook, but why not create your own blog? It’s easy, fun and you can do it as an individual or a group.

To get started, check out some of the free blogging hosts, such as www.wordpress.com, www.livejournal.com or www.blogger.com. Each one has templates, instructions and features like custom privacy settings and ability to post from your mobile phone. You can upgrade to a paid account later, if you need advanced features.

Here are some keys to success from experienced bloggers:
 Keep posts short and to the point (300 words or less).
 Include lots of photos (make sure to size them correctly).
 Don’t use it to vent (unless it’s entertaining).
 Set a date in your calendar so it’s updated monthly (or weekly).

Another plus: You can even publish your blog as a book once a year!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Time is Now to Save on Insurance!

Five Sure-Fire Ways To
Reduce Insurance Costs...

Would you like to learn how you can trim your insurance bills up to 20-30 percent? Here are five simple ways you can save on insurance:

1. Shop for the best price. This is the most obvious way to reduce rates. Contact various insurance providers in your area for bids.
2. Buy your home and auto coverage from the same company. Many insurance companies offer a discount when you sign up for both.
3. Increase your deductible. You can save up to 30% on your homeowner’s policy by raising your deductible from $250 to $1,000.
4. Install a security or fire alarm. You can save up to 20% when you have an alarm that notifies an outside company in case of theft or fire.
5. Take health and age discounts. If you’re a nonsmoker or if you’re over 55, you can receive discounts from many insurance carriers.

For more information, the National Association of Insurance Carriers (www.naic.org) has an outstanding website for consumers.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Know The Do’s & Don’ts Of Travel Complaints


Have a bad travel experience over the holidays? Follow these tips to make your complaint heard:

DON’T…
 Relate every little thing that went wrong. You’ll sound like a whiner and the travel company won’t know which point to address. Just hit the “high” points that are most important to you.

 Tell them a sob story. It’s unfortunate that you’re on a fixed income and you need the refund, but so are lots of other travelers.

 Copy everyone in the world, including the CEO, the Better Business Bureau and your grandmother.

 Threaten to sue or never to do business with the company again.
A) Your letter may end up in the Legal Department; B) you don’t want to be labeled as a “difficult” customer; and C) you may have to use them again (for example, your family wants to take that cruise line).

DO…
• Put your complaint in writing, whether by email or letter, but keep it short and professional, without rage. Take the high road and tell them you’re looking for reasons to do business with them again.

• Include any documentation. List exact times, places, names and dates. You’d be surprised how many people forget the most relevant details.

• Give the system time to work. You may have to write a second letter or email if you don’t get a response in a reasonable period of time. But if you were legitimately disserviced, the airline or travel company will take you seriously and want to make it right.

Friday, August 19, 2011

To Remodel or Move That is the Question

Q. We are considering remodeling to increase the value of our home before we put it on the market. What are the best options and the most attractive add-ons for home improvement before sale?

A. Use some basic math before you invest in a home that you are about to sell. The American Homeowner’s Foundation estimates the total cost of moving to be at least 10 percent of your home’s current value. If your projected remodeling costs go beyond that, it would make better sense to put your money in your new house and not your old one.

Even if you make a stunning transformation of your once tired-looking property, don’t expect to push your home’s value past 20 percent of its current selling price. If your neighborhood has varied property values, target your selling price just under the most expensive and best-looking home in your neighborhood. The adjacent “showcase” homes will quietly reinforce your potential asking price.

As a primary rule, be practical about your choice of upgrades. Don’t try to turn your 60’s or 70’s style home into Cape Cod mansion. Upgrade only the details that define the house’s original style. Make your home look like it has been well maintained. Be sure the lighting, plumbing fixtures, and hardwood floors are in top condition. Many buyers will see past any “quick fixes” and wonder what isn’t right with the rest of the house.

The best remodeling can be made to the kitchen because it usually suffers the most wear and tear. Sometimes a good-looking, highly functional kitchen will be your “deal maker.” Adding a bathroom can also add value to an older home. Design touches such as a skylight, glass block windows, and ceramic tile on the floor and walls make it even more attractive to buyers. Be sure to upgrade your existing bathroom with matching paint, tile, and fixtures. If you’d like a copy of my FREE consumer report, “Homeowners Guide To Moneymaking Fix-ups” just call me at 206-226-0565 and I’ll send one over.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Breakfast Proven to Help Regulate Blood Sugar

Want To Stay Healthy and Slim?
Eat Breakfast!

A new study from Harvard University indicates that people who eat breakfast daily may be less likely to succumb to obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Why? Eating breakfast regularly helps control your appetite throughout the day, which means you’re less likely to overeat later. A good breakfast also helps regulate your body’s blood sugar.

A study of 2,700 adults who reported eating breakfast every day had a 35 to 50 percent reduced chance of becoming obese, or developing insulin resistance syndrome. This syndrome is a precursor to diabetes in which the body experiences a loss of sensitivity to insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is key to regulating blood sugar.

What you eat is just as important as making sure you eat breakfast. Refined grain cereals and bacon and eggs had no effect on reducing the risk of obesity and diabetes. The best breakfast food is a whole grain cereal, especially oatmeal. A study reported in The Journal of Family Practice concluded that oat cereals work so well at lowering blood pressure, people who are taking hypertension medication can actually lower their dosage if they eat an oatmeal breakfast every day. Other studies have shown that oatmeal will lower cholesterol if it is eaten on a daily basis.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Check Your Insurance Deductibles Today!

A Simple Way to Save BIG
On Auto Insurance…

Sometimes the simplest things are the most effective. That’s certainly true with minimizing your cost of auto insurance. Here’s a quick way to almost instantly save 10 to 30 percent on your auto premiums.

Simply take a close look at your deductibles. By increasing discretionary deductibles, such as comprehensive or collision, you can save you a bundle on your insurance premium. This is especially true if you have a good driving record. So check your policy and call your agent – it’ll be time well spent!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Great Way to Get Grease Out of Your Clothes!

Put three tablespoons of Murphy’s Oil Soap in a 24 oz. spray bottle. Fill with water. Use on cotton, denim, and permanent fabrics. Allow to set overnight then wash as usual.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

How to Stay Healthy and Save Money with Your Dry Cleaner


Does it seem unusual to see an article about dry cleaners? Perhaps. But dry cleaners are one of the most complaint-ridden businesses in the United States, according to the Better Business Bureau. At the top of the complaint list are lost items and damaged garments.

Worse yet, some of the chemicals dry cleaners use can be downright dangerous! Clearly, there are reputable dry cleaners, but next time you drop off your items, here are a few tips for protecting yourself as a consumer.

 Always Ask For A Receipt. When you drop off an item to the cleaner, ask for a receipt indicating what you had cleaned. It’s helpful to include the size, color, and brand name if possible. When a dry cleaner acknowledges they lost a garment, they are supposed to pay the full price of a replacement. A detailed claim ticket will be your best argument.

 What To Do About Damaged Clothing? Damaged clothing is a different story. Dry cleaners refer to the Fair Claims Guide published by International Fabricare Institute to assess the depreciated value of damaged garments. One-year-old cotton suits, skirts, shirts in average condition get just 40 percent of their original price. A 5-year-old wool blazer will get you 15 percent of the actual cost. If they ruin an item classified as an heirloom (such as an antique Persian rug) demand fair market value for its replacement.

 PERC Is A Toxic Chemical. Most dry cleaners use PERC (prechloroethylene) a probable human carcinogen, to clean your clothes. The National Institute for Occupational Safety found that dry cleaning industry workers were 25 percent more likely to die from cancer than the general population. Remember, this chemical is on your garments. Take the plastic bags off, and air out your garments before wearing.

 Watch Out For “Meet Or Beat” Gimmicks. The BBB warns that dry cleaners are notorious for “bait and switch” advertising, where the dry cleaner claims he will match or beat a competitor’s price. The catch is you will have to walk in with the competing dry cleaner’s price list to qualify for the discount.

 Watch Out For The “Special Handling” Charge. Women are often charged more than men for dry cleaning similar items. Women’s shirts are a common item of contention that dry cleaners claim need “special handling” for a variety of reasons. Ask up-front if any women’s clothing needs “hand-cleaning” and how much you will be charged for the work.

 Ask Your BBB For Help If You Have A Problem. You may also go to Small Claims Court if you have a grievance against a dry cleaner. There is no guarantee small claims will get you a settlement, but sometimes the threat of action is enough to settle a dispute.

Taking a few small actions and asking the right questions of your dry cleaner can save you considerable money and headaches in the long run.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Use Your IRA to Buy a House

Q. A friend told me I can buy a retirement home using my IRAs to purchase property. Is this legal? And, if so, how do I go about doing it?

A. Yes, you can buy your retirement home using your IRAs, 401K, or pension. But there is a catch. You can’t live in the house until you can take the entire value as a distribution from your IRAs and that’s after age 59.5. Until then, you’ll have to rent it to someone else!

You can use IRAs and Roth IRAs to purchase property (homes...and even apartment buildings). You’ll have to do your homework, though. Most banks and brokerage firms don’t offer this service—it’s just too costly for them implement.

How do you set up this program? First, you can transfer your existing IRA, or roll over money from an existing plan (401K, pension) to a “self-directed IRA.” You’ll then need to have bank custodian oversee the account. They will receive an annual fee for this, typically .5 percent to 1.5 % percent of the asset. You’ll also need a property manager to maintain and rent the property. You are not permitted to manage the property, according to IRS regulations.

If you’re truly interested in pursuing this option, choose your investment wisely. Make sure you base your decision on the size of your IRA, the time between now and age 59.5, and your level of comfort with risk. For more information on investing with IRAs go to www.IraResources.com . If you are in the market for a home and need competent and caring representation, please call me at 206-226-0565.

Friday, August 12, 2011

How Live On The Bright Side

Teaching Kids Can Help You Too!

Encourage, limit, help, show, and give. That’s a simple way to say it, but it’s true. Today there can be so many distractions, too many expectations, and unrealistic and realistic fears kids must face each day. Here are five simple strategies to help your kids learn how to live on the brighter side of life:

1. Encourage Your Child’s Special Talents. Research has shown that children who are encouraged to follow their talents by supportive parents are much more successful than parents who have high expectations and are critical.
2. Limit Your Child’s Exposure To News. The news can create an unrealistic perception of danger in your child’s day-to-day life.
3. Help Them To Find The Bright Spot In Their Day. Make this a daily ritual for your family, and have your kids write them down in a book.
4. Show Them Tools To Shake Off A Bad Mood. If your child is a little blue, spend time with him/her reading, talking, playing a game or musical instrument, or go for a walk together.
5. Give Them Hope. Plant a tree...or a garden. Rent a funny comedy. Go see a play. Turn on some upbeat music and get up and dance.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Protect Your Medical Privacy


Do you have a medical condition that you don’t want anyone to know about? Whether it’s heart disease, high blood pressure, a STD, treatment for alcoholism, mental illness, depression, or HIV, your medical records can end up in the wrong hands, which can cause you embarrassment, financial troubles, and serious problems by forcing you out of a job, or being passed over for a promotion.

The insurance industry wants your information. Any future employers would like to know what’s in your medical records. And any legal action filed by you, or against you can lead to an invasion of your medical privacy. How can you protect yourself? Here are a few tips you can take to protect yourself:

1. Limit the amount of information you give out.
2. Do not sign the customary blanket waiver at your doctor’s office.
3. Be careful when filling out questionnaires at any doctors’ offices.
4. Don’t use public health screenings unless you know the results are kept confidential.
5. Make sure you get a copy of your file before it is sent to any third party.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

On Line Dating Has Gone Mainstream!

Are You Looking For Love?

Surfing for love is now more popular than ever. With over 50 million people surfing for love on-line, Internet dating has gone mainstream. Whether you 20, 30, 40, 50, or older, all you need is a computer and email. The most popular dating sites are: Americansingles.com, Date.com, Match.com, Persons.yahoo.com, SeniorFriendFinder.com, ThirdAgeConnections.com. Each have a monthly fee ranging anywhere from $24.95 to about $29.00.

You can visit these sites to see which one might appeal to you. There are also specialty sites geared to your age group, religion, or ethnic group.
After you’ve found a site you like you can post your profile on one of the sites. You’ll want to make your profile interesting and appealing, but don’t oversell (or undersell) yourself. Secondly, be specific about what you want. Tell a little bit about yourself (hobbies, interests, special skills). You can even post a picture of yourself.

When dating, don’t expect too much. Most people e-mail several times before meeting. Your first date should be short and always in a public place. Lastly, you may want to check out your on-line dater. Do they really work at the company they said they did? It’s best to be safe.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Weight Loss Surgery Last Resort for 103,000 Patients Last Year

Is Weight Loss Surgery
Really For You?

Five bites of chicken. A tablespoon of mashed potatoes. A bit of broccoli. And a nibble or two of salad. That’s your typical meal after weight loss surgery.

People who undergo weight loss surgery, also known as bariatric surgery, underestimate the dietary changes they will have to make. Last year over 103,000 bariatric procedures were performed. And many surgeons are booked a year in advance. A typical surgery averages about $25,000 and in some cases is covered by insurance.

In the most popular procedure, Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, the surgeon staples the stomach leaving a pouch the size of a golf ball. The first section of the small intestine is removed. The surgeon then attaches the middle portion of the intestine to the upper pouch. The body’s ability to absorb calories is limited by bypassing the lower part of the stomach and small intestine. Most patients lose about 75 pounds in the first year.

But what are the dangers of weigh loss surgery? Here’s vital information you should know, and important tips to consider before contemplating weight loss surgery:
1. A patient must eat slowly. The average meal weighs about two ounces, yet it takes 30 minutes to eat. Eating too fast can cause cramping and nausea.
2. Eating refined sugar can cause too much glucose into the blood, triggering nausea, diarrhea, hypoglycemia and a sudden plunge in blood sugar.
3. Fatal leakage can occur at the area where the small intestine has been joined to the stomach.
4. Less than 1 percent of patients have died from pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lungs). Smokers and the heaviest patients are at the greatest risk.
5. Some patients required daily B-12 supplements.

So before you, or someone you love, decide to have weight loss surgery, consider all options and do your homework.

Monday, August 8, 2011

GET Your Family Fit In 2011

Your Challenge:

Do you start every new year by resolving to exercise more? You need a program like the President’s Challenge, which will help you and your family commit to daily physical activity, set realistic goals and track your progress during the year – plus it’s free! Here’s what you can do to make your resolution a reality.

Study the program. Go to www.presidentschallenge.org. Talk to your doctor to see if it’s right for you and your family. Sign up as an individual, start a group (a school class) or join one (it’s a worldwide program).

Know the goals. Adults (over 18) need to be active 30 minutes/day at least five days a week for six out of eight weeks. Or, achieve 8,500 steps/day on a pedometer. Kids need to be active 60 minutes/day in the same time frame.

Choose your challenge. Take the Adult Fitness Test (on the website) to estimate your level of aerobic fitness, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility and body composition. Kids and teens take the Physical Fitness Test, which includes curl-ups, shuttle run and endurance run/walk. You’ll take these tests over again to see how your fitness changes during the program.

Improve your fitness. You’ll add exercises according to the FITT principle: F (Frequency); I (Intensity); T (Time) and T (Type).

Choose from 100 activities, from biking or swimming to walking, dancing, yoga or skating. You can even choose the interactive video game, Wii Sports.

Move on to the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award Challenge or the President’s Champions Challenge. These activities will help make physical fitness an integral part of your everyday life.

Enjoy the benefits. You’ll know you’re helping your heart, building stronger bones, maintaining a healthy weight and having fun with your family.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Home Improvement Ideas Without Breaking the Bank

Q. I’d like to do a makeover on my house and make it the look more luxurious, but I don’t have a lot of money to spend. What do you suggest?

A. 1) You can make your home look more luxurious with a fresh coat of paint and a little bit of creativity. Try the new faux treatments and other new painting techniques. Your local home improvement store-brand paint usually runs about $30 per 5 gallons. Give your kitchen cabinets a clean, quick makeover by applying a coat of flat primer. After it dries apply a top coat of semi-gloss latex enamel.
Another trick: add crown molding where the wall meets the ceiling for a elegant style. Kits are available at home improvement stores.

2) Ceramic tile flooring can add luxury to your entryways, kitchens and bathrooms for $2-3 per sq. ft. If you’re handy, you can do the work yourself; otherwise installation is usually $2.50-3.50 per sq. ft.

3) New overhead lighting fixtures can change the look of a room and create a luxurious ambiance. Shop for off brands or contractor packs at home improvement stores that’ll save you money. If you are buying or selling a home and need competent and caring representation, please call me at 206-226-0565.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Try and Avoid Extra Fees on Your Next Vacation!!

Fed Up With Fees? How To Avoid Vacation Cost Surprises

Going on vacation this summer? Make sure you don’t get taken for a ride by having to pay “hidden” costs or extra fees. Plan carefully, read the fine print and follow these tips to avoid unnecessary spending.

• Budget for the fees you know about. You can get a cheap fare, but on most airlines you’ll have to pay extra if you want to check a bag (let alone two), eat a meal, or have extra legroom. Pack economically, take your own snacks and don’t be tempted by legroom upgrades at the gate ─ or make sure to factor in those costs when you do your planning.

• Call the hotel directly (not the 800 number) and ask about “resort fees.” You already know they may charge for internet use, long distance and local calls and reservation cancellation, but did you know they may charge $10 to $25 a day for “amenities,” such as the pool or hotel gym? Comparison shop for a hotel that doesn’t charge for them. Also, join the club ─ literally. By joining the hotel loyalty program, you may save on some of these charges.

• Don’t be fooled by advertised rental-car rates, which don’t include taxes and surcharges. Check your insurance coverage before you go so you can deny insurance supplements, which can run up to $50 a day. When you reserve the car, ask about the airport concession fee; they don’t usually tell you that it’s cheaper to rent off-site. And don’t just add on an additional driver ─ it may cost you another $5-$10 per day.

• Use online travel sites but be aware the name-your-own-price option probably doesn’t include taxes or service fees charged by the site. Also, look for the sneaky word “nonrefundable.” You may be getting a good price but you’re also making a commitment.

• Pay with a credit card. It gives you the opportunity to dispute charges you don’t agree with. Don’t, however, give anyone your credit card number over the phone.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Use These Strategies To Shop Smarter For Groceries

You can read plenty of articles on the internet about how to save money on groceries, but do you really have a grocery shopping strategy? Here are some supermarket tips and secrets that will make you a savvy shopper.

 Approach grocery shopping like a job. You need to have a plan (take a list) and a budget to make the best use of your time and money.

 Stick to a time schedule. Shop for what you need and get out. It is said that if you’re in the store more than 30 minutes, you’ll spend an extra 50 cents to $1 per minute as you walk the aisles.

 Shop alone. Real Simple Magazine says parents will spend 10-40 percent more if they take their kids along. It might be worth it to hire a babysitter!

 Only buy “food” at a grocery store. Generally, you’re better off buying toiletries, cleaning supplies and pet food at a big-box discount store.

 Know the floor plan. Shop the perimeter first for fresh fruits and vegetables, protein and milk. You’ll find some good buys in the center aisles, but you’ll also be tempted by items like frozen convenience foods.

 Don’t assume everything on sale is a bargain. Stores often display “sale” items at the end of the aisles. Manufacturers pay to have their products put there so they aren’t necessarily a good deal.

 Check “price per unit.” Sometimes it’s cheaper per unit to buy two smaller items than it is to buy one supersize package.

 Look high and low. Stores often place higher-priced items at eye level (brands pay for the space). Check prices on the top and bottom shelves.

 Pay attention at checkout. Shoppers lose up to $3 billion a year on scanner mistakes (current sale prices not reflected).

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Credit Rules Have Changed

Protect Yourself: How Credit Card Changes Affect YOU

The new rules for credit card companies that mean more consumer protection went into effect on Feb. 22, 2010. Here’s what they mean for you:

Your credit card company has to tell you:

• When they’re increasing your rate or other fees, giving you 45 days notice. Also, they can’t raise the interest rate on an existing balance unless you’re more than 60 days late with a payment. And they can’t increase your rate for the first 12 months after you open an account (with some exceptions).

• How long it will take to pay off your balance. It will say on your bill how long it will take if you only make minimum payments, and how much you’d need to pay each month to pay off your balance in three years.

Monitor your cards closely and follow these tips to protect yourself:

 Pay on time. Companies are required to mail or deliver your bill at least 21 days (instead of 14) before your payment is due. Plan accordingly.

 Stay below your credit limit. You will, however, be given the choice to “opt-in” to over-the-limit transactions. If you opt-in and go over your limit, your credit card company can impose only one fee per billing cycle.

 Try to make more than the minimum payment. You’ll pay less interest in the long run.

 Shop for the best deal. Don’t forget to check out local banks or credit unions when you’re looking for a card with the best rate.

 Read your mail. They may give you 45 days notice on a rate change, but you won’t know if you don’t open the envelope if it looks like junk mail.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Fed Up With Fees? How To Avoid Vacation Cost Surprises

Going on vacation this summer? Make sure you don’t get taken for a ride by having to pay “hidden” costs or extra fees. Plan carefully, read the fine print and follow these tips to avoid unnecessary spending.

• Budget for the fees you know about. You can get a cheap fare, but on most airlines you’ll have to pay extra if you want to check a bag (let alone two), eat a meal, or have extra legroom. Pack economically, take your own snacks and don’t be tempted by legroom upgrades at the gate ─ or make sure to factor in those costs when you do your planning.

• Call the hotel directly (not the 800 number) and ask about “resort fees.” You already know they may charge for internet use, long distance and local calls and reservation cancellation, but did you know they may charge $10 to $25 a day for “amenities,” such as the pool or hotel gym? Comparison shop for a hotel that doesn’t charge for them. Also, join the club ─ literally. By joining the hotel loyalty program, you may save on some of these charges.

• Don’t be fooled by advertised rental-car rates, which don’t include taxes and surcharges. Check your insurance coverage before you go so you can deny insurance supplements, which can run up to $50 a day. When you reserve the car, ask about the airport concession fee; they don’t usually tell you that it’s cheaper to rent off-site. And don’t just add on an additional driver ─ it may cost you another $5-$10 per day.

• Use online travel sites but be aware the name-your-own-price option probably doesn’t include taxes or service fees charged by the site. Also, look for the sneaky word “nonrefundable.” You may be getting a good price but you’re also making a commitment.

• Pay with a credit card. It gives you the opportunity to dispute charges you don’t agree with. Don’t, however, give anyone your credit card number over the phone.