Gunning Daily News

Word of the Day

February 3, 2014 1:15 pm

Tax credit. An allowed deduction that can be subtracted from your income tax. If you are entitled to a $1,500 credit, and your income tax would otherwise be $10,000, the credit would reduce the tax due to $8,500.


Q: Are there ways to save money when using a contractor?

February 3, 2014 1:15 pm

A: Chances are you will have to pay the going rate for contractors in your area. Architects or designers will typically cost 12 to 20 percent more.

But remember you will want a home improvement that is done right the first time. That said, there are still ways you can save if you do decide to work with a contractor:

  • Shop around for the most reasonable bid - not necessarily the cheapest.
  • Ask friends and family if the contractors they refer stuck to budget.
  • Root out hidden costs written into contracts.
  • Insist that trade discounts on materials be passed on to you, or buy materials yourself.
  • Compare payment alternatives – flat vs. hourly rates, for example – and negotiate the more reasonable of the two.
  • Do part of the project yourself, such as some disassembly or prep work.  

How to Get Hired Right Out of College

February 3, 2014 1:15 pm

With higher rates of un- or underemployment among college graduates in recent years, a national debate about the value of a college degree has gotten louder, especially as tuition continues to rise.

The slow economic recovery has hit young adults hard; in 2012, 44 percent of recent college graduates with a bachelor’s degree were underemployed or working jobs that do not require an advanced degree, according to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Other studies, including a recent one from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, have had similar findings.

“There’s no question that an advanced degree gives college graduates a tremendous leg up compared to those without one; those recent grads are working jobs non-college grads want – and graduates typically find good work soon enough. It’s just a matter of how much of an advantage students demand right out of college,” says Matt Stewart, an entrepreneur and spokesperson for College Works Painting, (www.collegeworks.com).

College Works Painting provides practical and life-changing business experience for college students who have shown potential for success. Interns operate their own house-painting business with hands-on guidance from mentors.

“Unemployment for our alumni is less than 4 percent; this kind of challenging yet fun student experience helps ensure a good career for college graduates right out of the gate,” says Stewart, who offers tips for what students should look for in earning professional experience while still in school.

• Know what you will actually be doing. Interns tend to be eager to learn, wide-eyed and optimistic about gaining an internship somewhere. While simply being in a company’s culture has some value, many businesses simply want students to do their lowest-level work. Grunt work, to some extent, is a fact of life in most professions, however, students probably aren’t looking to gain experience in coffee-making or cleaning. Consider an internship that gives you real responsibility and provides experiences that will definitely come in handy in your future career.

• Consider the industry recognition of a company. While college is certainly worth the investment, it is costly and you want to get all you can out of the experience. Don’t accept working for free with just any organization; think about how the name will resonate on a resume. If you can, get information on how other former interns fared at a company who would have you.

• For entrepreneurial students, real experience is crucial. If you’re an artist, athlete, musician, theater major, English student or a STEM fields student, it’s much easier to get real experience by simply doing what one loves. But for business majors and future entrepreneurs, getting experience often comes with a heavy price, including the loss of personal or family finances. Look for opportunities that provide guidance while allowing you to apply skills to real-life challenges such as budgeting, marketing, and managing employees.


What Kind Of Home Improvement Can You Get For $1,400?

February 3, 2014 1:15 pm

In a previous report, I reviewed the high points of a recent report featuring details on the cost of home improvement projects drawn from a statistical model developed by NAHB, using data from the HUD/Census Bureau American Housing Survey.

That model indicated the median level of spending on improvements nationally is $1,400 per owner-occupied home, ranging as high as $5,000 in particular cases based on regional socio-economic factors.

So what kind of home improvements can an average consumer get for around $1,400?

A 2014 Remodeling survey of top home improvement trends and ROI, (remodeling.hw.net) says a homeowner can spend about $1,524 and recoup almost 84 percent of that cost replacing their garage door.

The report uses the following project criteria to base its cost:

  • Remove and dispose of existing 16x7-foot garage door and tracks.

  • Install new 4-section garage door on new galvanized steel tracks; reuse existing motorized opener.

  • New door is uninsulated, single-layer, embossed steel with two coats of baked-on paint, galvanized steel hinges, and nylon rollers.

  • New door covered by 10-year limited warranty.

The only lower cost project a homeowner might consider with a whopping 96.6 percent return is a steel entry door replacement - price tagged in the survey at about $1,100.

Then consider using the balance to convert your entire home to energy efficient light bulbs.

A report by the National Association of Realtors indicates that when it comes to artificial light, most contractors recommend switching burned-out bulbs to LEDs, which last longer than incandescents, consume less energy, and have come down in price — now often just $10.

The quality of LEDs has improved, the report states, and they’re dimmable and available in colors. Since the average U.S. household has more than 40 sockets for light bulbs, according to energystar.gov, that should put you just over your $1,400 budget.


7 Hot Home Decor Trends for 2014

February 3, 2014 1:15 pm

Home decorators seem to agree that ‘bold, colorful and sensual’ best describe the home décor trends for 2014, with radiant colors, tactile interest, and individualized style statements all leading the way.


If you’re looking to rejuvenate the look of your home, consider these trending alternatives:

  • Warm colors – Ditch the neutrals and heat up your décor with yellow, orange, red, marine blue, even vibrant orchid. Start with the kitchen, paint the family room or guest bath, and brighten your rooms with art prints and accents that ‘pop.’

  • Mirrors – Get rid of boring, rectangular mirrors in favor of round or oval-framed designs that add focus and color to the living or dining room. Pay attention to size and proportion, and see your new mirrors add both interest and depth.

  • Heavy metal – Actually, all metals from gold and silver to weathered brass and rose gold are the go-to choices for home accessories in 2014, with copper as the stand-out favorite. Look for metal accents everywhere this year, from lighting and decorative pieces to indoor and outdoor sculptures and even bar stools.

  • Leggy lights – Whether standing, arching, or attached to the wall, thin, linear lights on extended arms will be lighting our rooms this year.

  • Velvets and other textures – They’re not your great-aunt’s red velvet settee, but sofas this year will sport more elegant velvets and plush, tactile textures in a wide variety of colors.

  • Vintage wonders – One-of-kind vases, art prints, kitchen tools, and more gleaned from the attic or thrift store are becoming increasingly popular. Look for the stand-out focal piece that will make people ask, “where did you find that?”

  • Mountain greenery – Casual is hip, so incorporating plants, plants, and more plants into the décor is another big trend this year. Fake is fine, but if your plants are real, make sure they stay watered and healthy.


Word of the Day

February 3, 2014 1:15 pm

Counteroffer. An offer made in response to an earlier, unacceptable one; it terminates the original offer. 


Q: Are there ways to save money when adding new space to my home?

February 3, 2014 1:15 pm

A: The direction in which you build can make all the difference. Experts say building up is normally less expensive than building out on the ground level. Adding an expensive wing or addition requires a new foundation. It is less costly to extend plumbing and other mechanical systems upward, as opposed to installing new ones. So using the “air rights” over your house may be your best bet.


How to Maximize Your ROI of Life

January 29, 2014 7:00 pm

Have you ever felt like you need an upgrade on your life? Most of us have – and there’s a way to get it, says veteran physician Sanjay Jain.

“First, I tell people, ‘Don’t be afraid of making your life clearer.’ Many argue that life is not simple and, therefore, there are no easy answers, but as we have paraphrased from Chinese philosopher Laozi, ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step,’ ” says Jain, whose specialties include integrative medicine. He’s also an international speaker and author of Optimal Living 360 – available February 2014 (www.sanjayjainmd.com).  

“Lives are built from many small components which, when viewed as an assembled whole, can appear overwhelmingly complex,” Jain says. “But when we break them down and consider the pieces as we make decisions in our lives, it’s much easier to see how small adjustments can result in a better return on all of the investments we make – not only in health, but in relationships, finances, and all the other essential aspects of our lives.”

Jain offers four points to keep in mind as you start the journey.

• Life is short, so live it to its fullest potential. Live it optimally. This is your life, so don’t waste its most precious resource – time. No matter one’s spiritual leanings, economic and education status, health, intelligence level, etc. – one thing is true for all: Our time on Earth is finite. There will be a time for most of us when, perhaps after a frightening diagnosis from a doctor, we reflect deeply upon our time and consider the most important moments, and all the time that may have been squandered.

• Balance is key. Too much or too little of something, no matter how good, is actually not good. Balance is one of the easiest tenets to understand, but arguably the most difficult to maintain. Obviously, too much alcohol is bad; then again, there are some health benefits to moderately imbibing red wine. What about too much of a good thing; can a mother love her children too much? Yes, if she is an overprotective “helicopter parent.” The best antidote to overkill of anything is awareness; try to be aware of all measures in your life.

• Learn to tap your strengths and improve upon your weaknesses. Engaging your strengths at work and in your personal life is important. When we do what we’re good at and what comes easily, we feel self-confident and satisfied. Some people, however, are not in jobs that utilize their strengths, or they don’t put their talents to work at home because they’re mired in the prosaic work of living. It’s important to identify your strengths and find ways to engage them. It’s equally important to recognize our weaknesses and work on improving them (because we can!) This is essential for achieving balance.

• Life is about making the right choices. Integrative decision-making makes this easier. There are many different types of decision-making, including systematic, hierarchal, impulsive, decisive and flexible. Integrative decision-making can be used for problems large and small, and includes the following process: 1. Define the problem. 2. Frame the problem. 3. Develop all your options. 4. Analyze your options. 5. Make the decision. 6. Execute your decision. 7. Debrief yourself. While experts may be the best consultants for compartmentalized areas of your life, only you know the other aspects that affect your well-being and can determine how a decision in one area will affect another area.


Have a Headache? Six Foods to Make You Feel Better

January 29, 2014 7:00 pm

Any number of over-the-counter and prescription drugs are aimed at banishing headaches. But, according to researchers at the Wall St. Cheat Sheet, at least half a dozen common food choices may be as good or better at preventing and/or mitigating headache pain.

Six worth a try are:

Watermelon – One of the main causes of some headaches is dehydration. Drinking lots of water is always a good idea, but watermelon – a sweet and water-rich fruit – contains lots of magnesium, shown to be effective in preventing headaches.

Almonds – Because they are also rich in magnesium, almonds can help to relax constricted blood vessels so headaches don’t occur as often. To a lesser extent, the magnesium in bananas, avocados and brown rice may help as well.

Coffee – The caffeine in coffee helps alleviate headaches by reducing the size of blood vessels that are aggravated and expanded when you have a headache. But coffee is a diuretic, which can dehydrate you, so one cup when you first feel a headache coming on, should be enough.

Baked potatoes – Scientists say potassium is one of the most important minerals in the body, and evidence shows that a diet lacking in potassium could contribute to chronic headache pain. While bananas are the first thing many people think of when looking for high-potassium sources, baked potatoes contain significantly more potassium: almost 725 mg per potato (with its skin) than a banana’s 465 mg.

Salsa – Sinus pressure is one of the main causes of headache. Spicy foods like salsa can help relieve congestion and open the airways, ultimately alleviating pressure. The spicier the better, so get out the chips and enjoy.

Spinach – Spinach is full of the vitamins and minerals that help work on headaches. Among them are 24 mg of magnesium and 167 mg of potassium per cup. If you’re not fond of cooked spinach, blend it into a juice or smoothie or eat it raw in a salad.


Word of the Day

January 29, 2014 7:00 pm

Commingle funds. Mixing of a clients’ funds, or escrow, with an agent’s personal funds in an account; considered to be grounds for the suspension or revocation of the broker’s real estate license.