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Mary Mastroeni

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5 Ways to Save Money on Your Next Move

December 9, 2016 12:54 am

Are you planning for a move? Read on for five tips to save money and stress as you relocate.

1. Declutter first.  Start your moving process by getting rid of as much as possible. This does two things: you will score some extra dollars by selling old items, and save money by transporting less. You will also save yourself the hassle of moving boxes from one musty garage to another.

2. Find a professional. While it may seem cheaper to enlist the help of your friends and family to pack up and move you, it can cost you more money and stress.A pro mover is fast, efficient, experience, and has all the tools you need. And when you hire a professional, you don't have to worry about cousin Jimmy not showing up on move day.  

3. Research. Before you choose a professional, do your research. Read reviews, get on the phone and ask questions. These days, you can find a company that will not only move you, but also help you set up your cable and utilities. Bonus!

4. Shut down your services: In order to avoid paying for an overlap of service, consider cutting some of your services in advance if your your billing cycle doesn't line up with your move date. While you can't live without electricity, you could do without those cable channels for a week or two.

5. Plan smarter: The height of moving season takes place between May and September. Consider moving in the off season so you have room to find a moving bargain, and book early.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Pay Less at the Gas Pump

December 9, 2016 12:54 am

While gas prices dropped to a 12-year low this past July and are expected to remain favorable, it’s always a smart idea to be prudent when it comes to fuel usage – both for your wallet and the environment. Here’s some great advice from the U.S. Department of Energy, on saving money at the pump.

Turn your engine off when you’re parked for more than 10 seconds. Idling can use a quarter to a half gallon of fuel per hour, depending on engine size, adding up to $.03 cents* of wasted fuel a minute.

Calm down behind wheel. Aggressive driving – i.e., speeding, hard braking, rapid acceleration -  can lower your highway gas mileage by up to 33 percent and your city mileage by 5 percent.

Watch your speed. Every five miles per hour above 50 miles per hour, equates to an additional $.19 cents per gallon of gasoline. 

Stow items inside the car as opposed to the roof rack. This reduces “drag,” which can decrease your fuel economy by up to 8 percent in city driving and up to 25 percent at Interstate speeds. 

That said, avoid keeping heavy items in your car; an extra 100 pounds in your vehicle could increase your gas costs by up to $.03 cents per gallon.

Run all your errands at once since stopping and starting cold can use twice as much fuel as one trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm.

Drive less. Of course telecommuting, carpooling, and public transportation are the ultimate ways to save on fuel costs. Try walking or biking and you can tick off the exercise box, too.

*All cost estimates assume an average price of $2.69 per gallon.

Source: fueleconomy.gov

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5 Tips for Easy Holiday Shipping

December 9, 2016 12:54 am

(Family Features)--It's the most wonderful time of the year, and holiday gift-giving and receiving is at the top of everyone's to-do list. There are several simple steps you can take to make those deliveries a little easier.

1. Pack like a pro (or rely on one). Be sure your packages arrive intact by using the proper materials. Use sturdy, corrugated boxes as well as foam packaging peanuts and bubble cushioning to protect your gifts. Allow at least 2 inches on all sides of the items being packed, including the top and bottom.  

2. Secure delivery locations. If you're expecting deliveries of online purchases or gifts, you may hesitate to leave the house and enjoy holiday outings and family activities. Some companies allow you to redirect packages to a neighbor or a nearby business so you can rest assured your packages are in good hands.

3. Ask for a guarantee. After spending precious time selecting each gift, you need assurance and peace of mind that your efforts won't be for naught. For example, The UPS Store offers the Pack and Ship Guarantee, a service that covers lost or damaged items. Some providers even offer coverage for the cost of packing materials, service and shipping.

4. Use tracking tools. The holiday season is no time to wonder when or if your package will arrive. Using a trackable delivery service helps ensure you can monitor your package's progress and receive an alert when it is successfully delivered.

5. Ensure gifts arrive before Santa. Timing is key when it comes to holiday shipping. Mark the calendar with these shipping deadlines so all gifts arrive just in time.

Source:  theupsstore.com 

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How to Prepare Your Car for Winter

December 9, 2016 12:54 am

As winter weather blows in, many of us are thinking about the holidays. But with temperature drops and inclement conditions involving snow and ice, it's important to pay attention to your car to ensure your safety all season long. Routine maintenance, changing tires and fluids, and traveling with an emergency kit can help drivers avoid weather-related issues.

Below are six tips to prepare for the winter season, courtesy of YourMechanic.

Store an emergency kit in your car that includes a first-aid kit, flashlight, batteries, jumper cables, food, water, flares, warm clothing, blankets, tools, and any other items that may help if your vehicle breaks down or you are at risk of being stranded.

Check your engine coolant to ensure it is able to withstand the coldest sustained temperature in your region. Consider scheduling a cooling system flush to keep the vehicle in top condition.

Inspect the windshield washer system. Make sure wiper blades are working and regular washer fluid has been replaced with winter washer fluid, which has antifreeze properties. Replace old wiper blades before winter and keep an ice scraper in your vehicle.

Perform routine maintenance including regular oil and filter changes. Extreme cold weather, below -25°F, may require a different blend of motor oil for your vehicle.

Consider winter tires if your vehicle will be driven in a region with three or more months of snow annually. The tread on winter tires provides enhanced traction. All-season or summer tires lose effectiveness below 45°F.

Test your battery. A weak battery may have difficulty starting because reserve energy levels drop when temperatures plummet.  At 0°F, a car battery can lose about 60 percent of its strength, and at 32°F the battery can lose 35 percent of its strength.

Source: http://www.yourmechanic.com

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Med-free Ways to Conquer Insomnia

December 7, 2016 12:54 am

Whether it’s due to stress, health issues or simply age-related, insomnia is sheer misery. Poor sleep can wreak havoc on our productivity and relationships, both at work and at home. Chronic fatigue is also dangerous, contributing to a host of illnesses and making it unsafe to drive or perform certain tasks.

But are over-the-counter or prescribed sleeping medications the only answer? For some, there may be no choice, but for many, there are several great, drug-free ways to induce better sleep. Give the following a try before turning to pharmaceuticals.

Read. Find a book that really grabs your interest, and make reading your nightly before-bed ritual. Reading relaxes the mind, whereas screens of any kind – TV, phone, tablet – stimulate your brain and make falling asleep even more difficult. If you wake in the middle of the night and can’t fall back to sleep, instead of endlessly turning and tossing, start reading again. A good story will divert your mind from anxious, middle-of-the-night thoughts, and before you know it, you’ll be slipping back into sound slumber.

Meditate. For anxiety-induced insomnia, meditation can be life-saving. The goal of meditation is to relieve your mind of all thoughts and simply focus on the power of deep breathing. Don’t be discouraged if you find this almost impossible to do—meditation is an acquired skill and the mere act of just trying, starts relieving your mind of stress. Try a popular meditation app, such as Deepak Chopra’s Ananda, which allows you to choose you meditation, music and the duration. A simple 10-minutes worth can provide tremendous benefits.

Do Some Yoga. While certain yoga poses get the blood flowing and leave you invigorated, other poses are geared toward relaxation and will help you wind down, such as Locust pose and Legs up the Wall. According to mindbodygreen.com, these restorative poses activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to counteract stress and promote relaxation. Such poses are for beginners and pros alike and can even be done right in bed!

Try Some Tea. Often underrated, natural night-time teas can work wonders. You can also brew a cup if you wake up in the middle of the night, since they are always caffeine-free. There are many on the market, but look for ingredients such as chamomile, valerian, lavender and lemon balm. You can also grow your own lemon balm and add a little to your dinner.

If all else fails, please do see your doctor. A good night’s sleep should be priority-one for all.

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Make Safety a Priority This Holiday Season

December 7, 2016 12:54 am

Your ideal holiday likely does not involve a trip to the emergency. Unfortunately, approximately 15,000 people are seriously injured and visit the emergency room during the holiday season. Between stringing lights on tall trees, enjoying fires inside and shoveling snowy drives, there are numerous ways to forget your own safety.

Below are a few holiday safety tips, courtesy of the National Safety Council.

- Never use lighted candles near trees or boughs

- Use a ladder or step stool to decorate high places

- Keep poisonous plants such as poinsettias out of reach of animals and children

- Check holiday lights for fraying, bare spots, gaps in insulation or excessive kinking in the wire

- Turn off all tree lights and decorations when not in use

- When cooking, wash hands, sink, utensils and anything else that touches raw meat

- Immediately refrigerate leftovers, and reheat food to at least 165 degrees

- If you are hosting a party and serving alcohol, make sure everyone has a safe ride home. Impairment begins with the first drink.

- Avoid giving children gifts with small parts or button batteries, which are easily swallowed and can be fatal.

Source: nsc.org

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Parents: Five Tips to Avoid Toy-Related Eye Injuries

December 7, 2016 12:54 am

While it can be tempting to give your kid that gift they've been begging for, be sure to do your due diligence to make sure that product is safe. A number of recent studies have shown that some popular toy types are commonly associated with childhood eye injuries. These include air guns and other toys that shoot projectiles, high-powered lasers, and sports equipment.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology offers the following toy safety tips.

- Beware of airsoft, BB guns, and other projectile toys. Every year ophthalmologists treat thousands of patients with devastating eye injuries caused by seemingly safe toys. Avoid items with sharp, protruding or projectile parts such as airsoft guns, BB guns and other nonpowder gun–related toys. Foreign objects can easily propel into the sensitive tissue of the eye.

- Never allow children to play with high-powered laser pointers.  A number of recent reports in the United States and internationally show that children have sustained serious eye injuries by playing with high-powered lasers (between 1500 and 6000 milliwatts). Over the years, these lasers have become increasingly more powerful, with enough potential to cause severe retinal damage, with just seconds of laser exposure to the eye. The FDA advises the public to never aim or shine a laser pointer at anyone and to not buy laser pointers for children.

- Read labels for age recommendations before you buy. To select appropriate gifts suited for a child's age, look for and follow the age recommendations and instructions about proper assembly, use, and supervision.

- Don't just give presents. Make sure to be present. Always make sure an adult is supervising when children are playing with potentially hazardous toys or games that could cause an eye injury.

- Know what to do (and what not to). If someone you know experiences an eye injury, seek immediate medical attention from an ophthalmologist. As you wait for medical help, make sure to never to touch, rub, apply pressure, or try to remove any object stuck in the eye. If an eye injury occurs follow these important care and treatment guidelines.

Source: www.aao.org.

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How to Practice Safe Email

December 6, 2016 12:54 am

While you may not have Julian Assange hot on your trail, you can still get in trouble with email. From a simple “joke” shared with a colleague to a real breach of privacy, making a mistake by email can haunt you for years to come. You don’t have to go as far as Bill Clinton and Donald Trump who don’t use email at all, just take a few simple precautions to avoid making an embarrassing or potentially career-ending gaffe.

Double check recipients before pressing send. You probably use the send field to autopopulate an email address you want to add to your body copy. Just make sure you don’t leave that person in the send field. Autopopulate can also wreak havoc by popping in a recipient’s address that’s awfully close to the person you’re trying to reach… yet not them.

Draft it then delete it. Want to vent to a colleague? Send an off-color joke to a friend? Go ahead and type it out, but read it over before pressing send. Then imagine what might happen if the wrong person read that email. If that’s a terrifying thought, delete the email ASAP.

Be wary of ‘Reply All.’ Sometimes, we think we’re sending a private remark to the sender of the email, neglecting to realize there’s 10 people cc’d and we’ve just hit ‘Reply All.’ Take the time to make sure you indeed want to respond to everyone on the email. This gets tricky when it’s a long chain that has been circulating for a while. Best advice? Start a fresh email chain if you only want to address just one person(s) on the chain.

Use your private email for private stuff. While you might not work for the State Department, it’s still never a good practice to use your work email for private correspondence and your private email to send work-related information. If there’s any lesson we’ve learned this year, it’s that separation of church and state is essential.

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Give the Gift of Financial Well-Being

December 6, 2016 12:54 am

While gifting loved ones with holiday cash or gift cards has been a long-standing option, retailers are offering new ways this season give your favorite people some financial well-being instead of the latest toys, fads or fashions.

Among them, according to Sarah Skidmore Sell at the Associated Press, is Stockpile, a company whose gift cards can be redeemed for stock, which is rolling out its products to more than 14,000 stores this holiday season.

Sold at popular retail chains like Target, Kroger, and Safeway, the gift cards may be purchased for a dollar amount of stock rather than the price for a share – and purchases can be in any amount.

Gift of College, which gives people another way to contribute to college savings plans or pay down student loans, began selling its gift cards at Toys R Us and Babies R Us nationally this month.

All 529 college savings plans grow tax-free, and withdrawals for educational expenses are also untaxed. The giver may get also a tax break, as 34 states and the District of Columbia offer either a state income tax deduction or tax credits for such contributions.

Since the average debt at graduation with a bachelor’s degree was more than $35,000 last year, Gift of College gift cards are becoming so popular that some employers are offering them as holiday bonus gifts for their workers, Sell said.

Financial gifts, whether in the form of cash or gift cards, may have tax implications, so it may be advisable to check with a financial advisor if your gift will be substantial. But in most cases, gifts of cash or any of these new gift card options offer a unique opportunity to send love and best wishes in a way that may help recipients develop an interest in thrift and/or in future investing.

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Peace-Of-Mind For Traveling Homeowners

December 6, 2016 12:54 am

Traveling to a new place is exciting. Worrying about your home while on the road? Not so much. Read on for several tips, offered by LiftMaster, on ramping up home security to gain peace-of-mind prior to traveling.

Provide Secure Garage Access: As the main point of entry for 70 percent of homeowners, the garage is an area that should not be overlooked when preparing for a trip or vacation. If you need to give garage access to someone you trust while you're away – such as a neighbor or relative – consider giving them a garage door opener remote control before leaving town. When using any garage door opener remote, consider taking the remote with you when you leave your car or secure it in a locked compartment where it is not visible. A visible remote control can be a temptation to steal and allow intruders to easily enter your home while you're away. 

Keep an Eye on the Home: With the proper smart-home technology, you know what's going on at home, no matter where you are. For enhanced security from anywhere in the world, make sure you choose a Wi-Fi garage door opener like the LiftMaster 8550W and download the free MyQ® app, which works with compatible garage door openers and sends notifications when your garage door opens or closes.  

Keep the Lights on: A dark home could signal to unwanted visitors that homeowners are away. To combat this, consider connecting lights to a timer or remote device. Simply plug in any lamp inside your house to the device and control it with your smartphone. You can easily and conveniently schedule lights to go on and off whenever you choose. This technology also ensures that you don't come home to a dark house when you return from your trip.

Source: LiftMaster.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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