Gunning Daily News

A Holiday Open House in 8 Simple Steps

December 2, 2013 6:24 pm

The holiday season is a perfect time to welcome friends and neighbors for a casual get-together that is warm and casual and relatively stress-free.

Party planners at Countryliving.com suggest eight easy steps to a successful soiree for hosts and guests alike:

Plan early – Send out invitations 3-4 weeks in advance, making it clear whether children are invited. If you plan a buffet, with guests coming and going during designated hours, check your stock of baskets, trays, and other serving supplies. Decide whether you will use real china, glassware, etc. or holiday paper or plastic – and purchase what you need early.

Plan the menu – Keep it simple, with a selection of appetizers, sandwich fixings, salads, and desserts that can be prepared days ahead of time and frozen or refrigerated until party time. Using recipes you have tried before is a good way to please your guests and stay calm and confident.

Make desserts special – Everyone loves cookies, so bake up dozens far in advance of the party. Consider pudding or mousse in pre-filled, refrigerated glasses. Add fresh fruit, and a favorite pie or two, and you’re done.

Foster the flow – People tend to follow the food, so set up stations throughout the living area. Place beverages on one table, main dishes together, and desserts on their own table. Stack plates and napkins, put utensils in a basket, and have waste baskets readily available.

Select the drinks – Offer your choice of red and white wine, beer, soda, tea and coffee. For kids, consider juice boxes.

Remember the kids – If children will be there, set up a game and puzzle table in one area of the living room. Have a selection of board games and jigsaw available, and perhaps a few coloring books and crayons.

Decorate early – Except for fresh flowers, which may be bought the day before, you can cover the tables, set out centerpieces and serve ware, and deck the halls with your favorite holiday décor days before the party.

Do a last minute check – Moments before the guests are due, take a last look around. Check the food tables, set out last-minute cheeses or condiments, and turn on some holiday music. Light a scented candle or two to fill the house with the welcome aromas of sugar and spice or forest greenery.


Q: My Budget Won’t Allow for Expensive Add-Ons; Is There Another Way to Find And Make Space?

December 2, 2013 6:24 pm

A: That space may be as close as the next room, particularly if there is unused or under-utilized areas in your home.  A garage, attic, side porch, large closet, or basement can all be converted to fit the use you have in mind.  Or, maybe, a small area can be carved from a larger area like a kitchen or living room to create, say, a powder room.  This concept of “stealing” space from a neighboring room is called space reconfiguration and it is much cheaper than a major remodeling job.

 


Word of the Day

December 2, 2013 6:24 pm

Listing. Contract used for hiring a real estate agent to sell a piece of property.  Also a piece of property that is for sale.


Top 5 Cyber Monday Safety Tips

November 28, 2013 12:06 am

The Internet makes holiday shopping so easy—no fighting for parking spaces at jam-packed malls, no waiting in endless lines to get to the register.

But even if you consider yourself a pro, shopping online isn't without risks. These tips from USA.gov can help you protect yourself and your finances as you hunt for that perfect gift:

  • Use a credit card rather than a debit card. Credit card payments can be withheld if there's a dispute with a store, and if the card is stolen, you won't have to pay more than $50 of fraudulent charges. But with a debit card, you can't withhold payments—the store is paid directly from your bank account. And if your card is stolen, you could be liable for up to $500, depending on when you report it.
  • Find out if the public WiFi hotspot you're using at a coffee shop or bookstore is secure. If it's not, your payment information could be compromised over the network.
  • It's risky not to read the terms of service agreement before you buy online. You could inadvertently sign up for subscriptions or get hit with additional fees or restrictions. Terms of service are often in small print or presented right when you are anxious to purchase.
  • Be careful if you're buying event tickets online as gifts. Some venues may practice restricted ticketing, requiring the same credit card used in the online purchase to be shown to get into the event.
  • Use caution buying digital assets like books and music—they can't be given away as gifts if they've been downloaded to your account. You should either purchase a gift card for the book or music site, or check with the company. Some services have ways to "gift an item" but it varies depending on the provider.

Source: publications.usa.gov/USAPubs.php?PubID=5131


Seven Ways to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

November 28, 2013 12:06 am

Identity theft is a serious crime that can wreak havoc with your credit. Preventing it starts with managing your personal information carefully and sensibly. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends a few simple precautions:

  • Carry only essential documents – On any given day, go not carry extra credit cards, your Social Security card, a birth certificate or passport with you outside the house unless they will be needed.
  • Keep new checks out of the mail – When ordering new checks, pick them up at the bank, if possible, instead of having them sent to your home. This makes it harder for your checks to be stolen, altered and cashed by identity thieves.
  • Be careful on the phone – Identity thieves may call, posing as banks or government agencies and asking for personal information. Do not give out credit card numbers of other personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call.
  • Your trash can be a thief’s treasure - Shred all receipts, credit card offers, bank statements, returned checks and any other sensitive information before throwing it away.
  • Stay on top of your credit – Check credit card statements, be alert if a statement is missing, and make sure your credit reports are accurate. If possible, sign up for a credit monitoring service, which will alert you to any changes in your credit report.
  • Keep a list of account numbers – In a safe place, such as a locked box, keep a list of your account numbers, expiration dates and phone numbers. If your wallet is stolen, or a card is missing, you can quickly alert your creditors.
  • Create complex passwords or PIN numbers – Using a random mix of letters or numbers makes it harder for identity thieves to discover the codes.

Word of the Day

November 28, 2013 12:06 am

Origination fee. A charge by the lender for granting and processing a new mortgage loan.


Q: What’s the Best Way to Choose a Home Loan?

November 28, 2013 12:06 am

A: A lot will depend on the length of time you plan to live in the home, other financial obligations, and potential savings gained from comparing the monthly costs of a home against the up-front costs and closing costs involved with a particular loan.  

Also, you will need to be comfortable with whatever choice you decide to make.  Trust your instincts and do not be pressured into signing for a loan that will not really work for you.

 


Word of the Day

November 26, 2013 4:54 pm

CC&Rs. Stands for covenants, conditions and restrictions.  They are the rules by which a property owner in a condominium agrees to abide.


Q: What’s the Best Way to Choose a Home Loan?

November 26, 2013 4:54 pm

A: A lot will depend on the length of time you plan to live in the home, other financial obligations, and potential savings gained from comparing the monthly costs of a home against the up-front costs and closing costs involved with a particular loan.  

Also, you will need to be comfortable with whatever choice you decide to make.  Trust your instincts and do not be pressured into signing for a loan that will not really work for you.


Big Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses

November 26, 2013 4:54 pm

(Family Features)--Are personal relationships why most consumers frequent small businesses? From the mom and pop coffee shop to the small bookstore just down the street, people enjoy the personal interactions and convenience small businesses offer.

In a recent survey about interactions between consumers and small businesses from Web.com, more than eight out of 10 consumers said it’s important that a small business is customer-focused and provides personal, face-to-face interaction with its customers. Respondents also wanted a small business to be local, convenient and reliable.  

Grow online: To account for consumers’ desire for personal relationships, small businesses should have a big presence on the Internet, but only 41 percent of small businesses surveyed even had a website. Those without a website said they didn’t see the need for one, or the cost of designing and maintaining a site was a barrier. On the other hand, 83 percent of consumers who responded said having a website and use of social media is important to their consideration and choice of a small business.  

“Small businesses have historically relied on face-to-face relationships to grow and differentiate themselves, but today’s consumers are demanding that these relationships extend into ‘e-Main Street’,” says David Brown, president, chairman and CEO of Web.com. “Our survey found a significant disconnect between how small businesses decision-makers think they are delivering on customers’ expectations versus the reality of consumers’ perceptions. The good news is small businesses are starting to realize the Web’s untapped potential to reach consumers who are eager for online engagement.”

Stay in touch: Everyone knows how important it is to stay in touch with friends. If you’re a small business owner, don’t forget to stay in touch with your customers so they don’t forget about you. Use social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, along with email to notify your customers about special promotions or to just remind them about the great benefits you offer.

While it’s easy to blast an email to every customer or post an endless stream of cute pictures on Facebook, it’s important to not overwhelm or annoy your friends and followers with too much of a good thing. Keep your messages consistent, concise and professional.  

If you’re not sure how to get started, the Internet offers a lot of resources about how to successfully set up your online presence and use Google, Facebook and Twitter to market and grow your business online.

Provide personal service: Set your business apart by giving every customer the personal interaction and convenience they crave. Simply asking customers about their purchases or how you can serve them better gives you a consistent stream of information you can use to refine your goods or services and increase sales. Make sure every employee understands the value in talking to customers and tracking feedback.

The bottom line for every small business is that consumers are demanding online interaction and involvement with businesses, both big and small. Consistently reaching out to your customers through a website, social media and face-to-face interactions will help your business thrive.

Source: www.Web.com.