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Mary Mastroeni

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Just Say No to Credit Card Cash Advances

June 20, 2017 12:36 am

If you’re a little strapped for money, it can be tempting to take a cash advance from your credit card. Doing so, however, will end up costing you more in the long-run.

According to a CreditCards.com survey of 100 cards' cash advance terms, credit card cash advances are a costly way to borrow money. The average cash advance APR is 23.68 percent, much higher than the average purchase APR of 15.79 percent. More importantly, none of the cards studied offer a grace period for cash advance transactions like they do for traditional credit card purchases. So when you take cash out, you start accruing interest immediately.  

For example, if someone purchases a $1,000 item on a credit card with a 15.79 percent rate and pays it off in 30 days, they'll pay no interest thanks to the grace period. But, a $1,000 cash advance under the typical terms found in the survey will cost an extra $69.73. That includes the $50 upfront fee, plus $19.73 for 30 days' interest at 23.68 percent.

Cash advances are not just ATM and convenience check transactions, either. Consumers should note that wire transfers, money orders, legal gambling purchases and bail bonds are often treated as cash advances if paid via credit card. Additionally, if you hold a checking account with the same bank that issues your credit card, overdraft coverage that comes from your credit card may also be considered a cash advance.

Paying off a cash advance can prove to be problematic for those making just the minimum payment. Generally, card issuers will first apply the minimum payment to lower APR balances before payments made in excess of that go to balances with higher APRs.

Unlike typical credit card interest rates, most cash advances have a flat APR irrespective of the individual cardholder's creditworthiness. High APRs are not the only concern for cardholders who use credit to access cash. Only one card in the survey does not charge a fee for cash advances, which is typically $10 or 5 percent of each advance, whichever is greater.

The one thing cash advance borrowers can't rack up: credit card rewards. Cash advances also cannot be used to directly pay off any card balances or loans held by the same bank.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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The Possibilities of Paint: How to Revamp Your Home’s Exterior

June 20, 2017 12:36 am

If you’re hoping to up your curb appeal or just give your home a face lift, then you may already know that fresh paint is the easiest and most cost-effective route.

"Just add a pinch of a new paint color here and there.  It's a simple recipe to make even the plainest home more interesting," advises Debbie Zimmer, design expert with the Paint Quality Institute.

Below are a handful of tips for upping your home’s ante with a splash or two of color.

Front first. "The first place to consider adding new color is the entranceway," says Zimmer.  "It's usually visible from the street so everyone sees it, and it's also where visitors first come face to face with your home.".

Do the door. For a color pop, choose a color for your front door that contrasts with the rest of the home. Fengshui enthusiasts favor red, while black can be just as bold. Before you choose that soft off-white, remember that dark shades are always more practical for doors since they are better at concealing smudges and fingerprints.

Shutter time. When it comes to accent painting, turn to your shutters. You can paint these the same color as your door, or choose something complimentary of an interesting but balanced look.  

Attention to detail. If you’re home has interesting detailing such as “gingerbread” trim, consider painting it a contrasting or complimentary color as well.   

The furniture, too! Do you have a porch or deck? Tie in your exterior look by painting the furniture to match or accent.  

Source: Paint Quality Institute

 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Tips for Active Summer Families

June 20, 2017 12:36 am

(Family Features)--Summer is perfect for staying active and spending time outdoors with loved ones, but the frantic pace of the season and overload of activities can take a toll on the entire family.

With a little care and pampering, you can enjoy summer to the fullest while still keeping your family rejuvenated.

Eat Well. Food is fuel, and it's necessary to keep the entire family energized. During warmer weather, cravings often lean toward lighter foods, making it the perfect time to add extra servings of seasonal fruits or vegetables to the family table each night. Also remember to ensure family members are drinking plenty of water as extended time in the sun can lead to dehydration and dry skin if fluids aren't frequently replenished.

Make Sleep A Priority. Sleep is as important to your body as nutrition and exercise, and making it a priority can be beneficial, especially when your family's calendar is packed with events. Sufficient, high-quality sleep contributes to a healthy immune system and helps repair damage done throughout the day. It also positively impacts metabolism and overall function while contributing to emotional and mental well-being. Most doctors recommend 6-8 hours per night for adults, and kids of all ages typically require even more, so work on getting into a nightly routine to ensure all members of the family are getting the rest they need.

Pamper Yourself at Home. Once you've completed chores in the heat or spent time enjoying family activities in the sun, some simple pampering can be done at home to rejuvenate skin. Start with your hands, which are at the center of everything you do and often the first point of contact with an activity, whether it's cooking, gardening, crafting or aiding friends and family.  .

Take Time to Exercise. Even a little activity can have a huge impact. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity at least five days a week. Taking time out of your family's busy summer schedule to go for a walk, ride bikes around the park or neighborhood, or play a game outside together can contribute to maintaining a healthy weight and feeling more energized.

Slow Down. It's easy to spread yourself too thin, especially in the summer when there are often more activities requiring your attention and attendance. When you get caught up in trying to make the most out of every second of every day, it can take a toll on both your family's physical and emotional well-being. Slow down and take that well-deserved personal time - even just an hour a day - to do something you enjoy with the ones you love. Remember to take small breaks during activities to stretch or take a short walk to help relieve potential stress on your body.
 
Source: softsoap.com.

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How to Stay Cool and Save Money

June 17, 2017 12:36 am

Staying cool can be difficult during uncomfortable summer spikes and dreaded heatwaves.

According to the folks at Lasko, an average homeowner spends nearly $2,000 annually on energy bills, with 25 percent of that consumed by air conditioning. So by simply turning the A/C thermostat up, and adding fans to any space, consumers can still stay comfortably cool while saving money.

Lasko reminds consumers they can also keep cool by:

Creating a refreshing party space: Summer is the season for entertaining, so keep cool air moving by strategically placing a fan with a head that tilts fully back - like an 18" pedestal or 'tornado' model - to create ongoing airflow throughout multiple rooms.

Turning the thermostat up: Day and/or night, simply raise the thermostat a few degrees and add one or more fans for up to 10 percent home energy savings without sacrificing comfort. Consider a portable, light weight fan that can go from room to the room with ease.

Staying in summer shape: If you're working out at home versus spending money on gym fees, save even more with a small fan in your workout area to keep body temps in check from warmup to cooldown. Something like an oscillating high-velocity fan (with wireless remote) is a perfect workout partner.

Moving in and cooling out: Students gearing up for next semester or entering the working world need to stay on budget. So every dorm room, campus home, or first "after college" pad - with or without A/C - can benefit from fan cooling, saving more money for necessities and activities. 

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How to Prep Your Home for Vacation

June 17, 2017 12:36 am

If you’re heading out of town soon, you’re likely packing and preparing. But have you given thought to the home you’re leaving behind?

Webber offers the following tips to prepare the home before leaving for vacation:

Unplug appliances – Appliances continue to use energy even when the device is turned off. It is best to unplug all devices including phone chargers, computers, televisions and coffee pots. This will not only save energy, but it will prevent damage from lightning strikes and power surges.

Adjust air conditioning – The air conditioning system uses a significant amount of energy. Turn the temperature up 10 degrees higher than it is usually set, or have a professional install a programmable thermostat that can be adjusted to turn on and cool the home just before returning from vacation.

Clean garbage disposal – The waste disposal is notorious for developing unpleasant odors while the house is empty. It is wise to flush the garbage disposal out with ½ cup of white vinegar and hot water while the disposal is turned on.

Change the setting on the water heater – There is no need to heat water for an empty home. Adjust the water heater to vacation mode. If the water heater does not have a vacation mode, turn the temperature down. This will save a significant amount of money on the energy bill.

Put lights on a timer – According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), there are more than 2.15 million burglaries each year, with the majority occurring in the peak vacation months of July and August. If a home is dark, it is a sure sign that someone is not home. Put a couple of lamps on a timer inside the home. Set these to go on and off at different intervals. This will give the illusion that someone is home and make the home less vulnerable to burglaries.

Treat stagnant water in toilet – Water left inactive in the toilet can produce a foul odor and a difficult to remove ring that forms around the toilet bowl. To prevent this, place ½ cup of bleach in the toilet bowl just before leaving home.

Source: http://twebber.com/

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How to Save on That Summer Energy Bill

June 17, 2017 12:36 am

Often, summer’s spike in heat can bring a spike in your utility costs. Duke Energy offers 10 low-cost to no-cost energy-efficiency tips to save on your energy bill all summer long:

Set your AC to the highest comfortable setting. Every degree increase saves about 5 percent in cooling costs. Energy Star recommends a minimum set point of 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

Change or clean your air filters monthly. A dirty air filter can make a cooling system work harder, which uses more energy.

Inspect and service your HVAC. Have your HVAC system checked by a qualified heating and air conditioning contractor to make sure it is operating efficiently. This will also help extend the life of the system.

Don't cool an empty house. If you'll be out and about, adjust or program your thermostat to work around your schedule.

Close the blinds. Shutting blinds, drapes and shades during the hottest part of the day can keep the sun's rays from heating your house.

Grill outdoors. Cooking in the oven and on the stovetop creates a lot of indoor heat. Help save energy by firing up the grill outdoors or prepare meals that don't require cooking.

Use fans in occupied rooms. They circulate air to supplement air conditioning. Make sure the fans are set to operate in a counterclockwise direction.

Turn off unnecessary lights. Be sure to turn off lights when you leave a room. Lights emit heat and cause your air conditioning system to work harder.

Replace incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient lighting options. LEDs use up to 90 percent less energy than traditional bulbs and last at least 15 times longer.

Seal air leaks with caulking and weather stripping. And keep the door closed as much as you can to keep the cool air inside.

Source: Duke Energy

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How to Handle Your HVAC System This Summer

June 16, 2017 12:36 am

If you enjoy the cool, dry envelope of A/C in your home, the folks at at Poughkeepsie's T. Webber Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning offer a punch list to help homeowners hedge against warmer weather while saving money on cooling costs.

If your HVAC system is older than 15 years, it will not be as efficient as units being produced today, and it will cost more to run. Investing in a new energy efficient unit can save nearly 25 percent of monthly energy costs.

If you're not quite ready to invest in a new system, T. Webber offers the following consumer advice to keep any HVAC system working as efficiently as possible:

Replace Air Filters – Clogged air filters decrease performance and make AC systems work harder. Inspect and replace dirty air filters to optimize airflow and to keep an older unit in good running order throughout the summer.

Get an AC Tune Up – An annual maintenance check includes cleaning filters, coils and unit, and checking for foreseeable future problems. This can help the AC run more efficiently keeping utility costs down.

Seal and Insulate – Look for cracks and leaks in your walls, attic, crawl spaces, basement, garage and ceiling. Make sure insulation is intact to keep in cool air throughout the home.

Keep Blinds Closed – Eliminate the sun’s direct path by keeping blinds closed. This can make a difference of as much as 10 degrees.

Keep Outside Doors Closed – Try to minimize cool air loss through outside door openings, especially during the hottest time of the day.

Delay Heat Producing Activities – Run the dishwasher, washing machine and clothes dryer during early morning hours. This will keep the AC unit from having to work hard during the hottest hours of the day to cool the home.

Give the Oven the Summer Off – Give the oven and stove a break and grill at every opportunity. This keeps the kitchen heat outside and reduces the need to cool it.

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Pipe Problems? How to Avoid These Top 5 Plumbing Headaches

June 16, 2017 12:36 am

With just a little investigating inside and outside your home, you can stave off some serious plumbing problems, and save yourself unnecessary stress and expense. New York City-based Petri Plumbing & Heating, Inc., recommends taking the following steps:

Look for bathroom leaks. Check the toilet for leaks by placing a few drops of food coloring into the tank. If the water in the toilet bowl changes color after 30 minutes, it usually means there’s an issue with the components in the reservoir. Call a licensed plumber to diagnose the problem and repair it correctly.

Make sure tree roots haven’t infiltrated your lines. Rain can cause tree roots to block underground sewer lines. When the weather starts to warm up, tree roots begin to reach out in search of water. Have the sewer lines serviced and inspected before roots grow into the pipes.

Inspect all the faucets. Leaky faucets lead to higher utility bills, so check for moisture around the outside of the faucet. Since faucet leaks may also be hidden from view, be sure to also check under and around the sink for wet spots or warped cabinetry.

Test the sump pump. A simple way to check your sump pump is to pour a bucket of water into the sump pit. The pump should turn on, begin removing the water and turn off automatically when complete. If this process doesn’t happen smoothly, call a licensed plumber to repair or replace it.

Check your hoses. The outdoor hose faucet is susceptible to many problems during the winter, such as freezing and cracking. Look at the outside of the faucet and down the wall of the home to see if there is evidence of a leak. This can not only cause damage to the outside of the home, but also to the foundation if the link is bad enough.

Source: Petri Plumbing and Heating, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Tips for Traveling During the Busy Summer Season

June 16, 2017 12:36 am

For many, summer is the season for travel. But with so many folks hitting the road (or air) during the same period of time, traveling during the peak season can get overwhelming, and expensive.

To combat this, Virtuoso advisors revealed their best secrets for traveling successfully during the busy summer season:

Plan ahead to secure the best airfares and avoid squeezing in a last-minute trip during August before school starts, as this is the busiest time. In fact, it is not too early to start thinking about summer 2018 travel.

Stay in the least expensive room in the best hotel, and enjoy the enhanced service, amenities and overall experience at a better price point.

Allow a minimum of two hours between connecting flights. The extra layover time may help you make your plane if summer storms wreak havoc on airline schedules.  

Seek off-the-beaten-path destinations for better value and fewer crowds.

Arrive at the airport a minimum of an hour before boarding, not an hour before departure. This is a newer rule and should be heeded during the busy summer season.

Splurge on a hotel that is closer to the sights and activities you have planned. It will save you precious time and travel costs.

Book economy seats, but use miles to upgrade to business class.

Arrive at your hotel at check-in time (3:00 pm). You will have more options available then to change your room than later in the day after more guests have arrived.

Source: http://www.virtuoso.com

 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Three Ways to Make Painting Easier

June 15, 2017 12:36 am

If you’ve been procrastinating about a painting project, here are three tips to make the task less daunting and a lot more enjoyable.

1. Pair and sample colors
According to Sara McLean, blogger and Dunn-Edwards color expert and stylist, take the time to pair and sample colors in advance. "Lay your color chips on the floor to see how they pair. Warm hues look great with many hardwoods. Traditional, warm neutrals are an easy starting point to refresh your home's color palette."

Several days before painting day, purchase samples of the colors you're considering and paint large swatches on the wall and live with them for a couple days. "You want to see how the colors look throughout the day, in both natural daylight and your home's lighting. Invite friends over and let them help you decide."

According to McLean, earth tones and nature-based colors are on-trend, like warm browns and milky tans. Light greens and blues are classy, and even some reds and oranges. Many pinks are trending and look great with deep teal greens, turquoises and brilliant blues. Warm grays are starting to trend over cooler shades, and while neutrals are a popular choice, an occasional bold accent wall in a darker or complementary shade can help provide a designer touch.

2. Measure right
Once you’ve chosen your color, it’s important to know how much to buy. Too much or too little are both avoidable predicaments. Know the measurements of the room you’re painting and talk with the paint expert at the store.

If you need more than one gallon, McLean recommends mixing the cans together to ensure the color is consistent. "There can be a slight difference from one can to another, so blend them together for a flawless look."

3. Learn from the pros
Did you know that you should moisten your brush or roller before applying the paint? It will help them pick up and release the most amount of paint. Go online and watch a few YouTube videos for other painting tips from the pros. A little bit of research will go a long way in making your painting project stress free and successful.  

Source: www.dunnedwards.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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