Gunning Daily News

Rethink the Way You Pay

August 1, 2013 1:50 pm

Today's consumers are finding new ways to get the goods and services they want for their lifestyles. Using savvy, money-saving tactics, these shoppers are getting more for less, eliminating services they don't need and using comparative shopping.

These new power consumers challenging the trend of "more is more" are confidently declaring "half is more" when it comes to paying for what they want. Here are some tips to help adopt better spending habits while searching for the perfect deal.

Cut Insurance Costs: No longer subjected to cookie-cutter insurance policies of old, more versatile options exist today, allowing you to name exactly what you need. The insurance industry is a prime example where you can carefully determine exact needs and price comparative shop for the best provider. Many online tools exist that will provide side-by-side pricing of insurers for your consideration.

Switch to a No-Contract Wireless Phone Plan: Today's consumers want lower cost wireless phone services, but don't want the long-term contract commitments that come with postpaid wireless service providers. Many are making the shift away from traditional postpaid contracts and instead are utilizing reliable no-contract wireless service providers, such as Cricket Wireless, a communications leader offering prepaid no-contract wireless plans for more than 14 years. Making such adjustments can save up to half on your wireless phone bill (compared to a similar plan with a postpaid wireless service provider) while maintaining unlimited and nationwide service.

Test Before You Buy: Have you ever bought a new product, such as cosmetics or skin care items, only to realize you don't like it? That's money wasted. Today, there are new online services that send you test size samples of products before you buy, ultimately saving you money by trying the products first.

Save on Gas: Take advantage of your local grocery store's gas rewards program. Many stores offer discounts on gas if you buy from their service station or participating gas stations in the area. It's as simple as signing up for the program and then earning points or money toward gas while you shop for other everyday needs.

Scale Back on Entertainment Spending: An evolution has occurred in the movie and music industry that can save you a considerable amount of money. Instead of purchasing individual DVDs, Blu-rays or CDs, consider taking advantage of digital services, such as Netflix or Hulu, that provide access to thousands of movies at a relatively low monthly rate. In addition, downloading music to your phone, instead of streaming, won't use up your data allotment. Cricket Wireless offers Muve Music, free with compatible smartphones, which lets you choose from millions of songs that you can download right to your phone.

Shop Discount Websites: Subscribing to discounted apparel and home decor websites' lists can keep you from overpaying at retail stores. From throw pillows to watches, sites like Gilt, Hautelook and provide some of the trendiest designer items for less. Some sites also have timed sales for specific items, and taking 15 minutes to browse can equate to hundreds in savings.  


How to Budget for Baby

August 1, 2013 1:50 pm

Is the buzz about the royal baby giving the nation some serious baby fever? According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average cost to raise a child until the age of 18 is $234,900 — a number large enough to make anyone feel as though they would have to be royalty in order to afford a baby.

Luckily, for those considering parenthood for the first time, there are steps you can take beforehand to help ensure you are financially prepared for that bundle of joy. The financial experts at Money Management International (MMI), a nonprofit credit counseling agency, offer the following five tips:

Take control of your debt — now. If you have credit card debt, now is the time to create a solid debt repayment plan. You'll be surprised at the amount of money you can save once those monthly payments are out of the picture. To explore debt repayment options that offer a reasonable payoff time and the potential for lower interest rates, call a nonprofit credit counselor and register for a free debt and budget counseling session.

Explore your health coverage options. Checkups alone for baby can cost more than $100 per visit. You may also want to explore adding long-term disability and life insurance coverage to your existing healthcare plan. Consider reviewing your maternity or paternity leave policies at your workplace.

Know your options. Daycare is one of the largest added expenses that a new baby brings. Considering your childcare options is an important first step. According to a recent study by ChildCare Aware of America, childcare cost for an infant can average more than $300 per week.

Practice living on a "baby budget." If you are planning to live on one salary, start now. This will give you an opportunity to make the necessary lifestyle changes and cutbacks before your bundle of joy arrives — which will also make for a much easier financial transition. 

Get tips from the experts — other moms! No one can give you better advice than people who have been through the experience themselves. So ask your friends and family to share their advice or find a local or online support group for parents.

Source: MMI


No Backyard? No Problem - Yardless Gardening

August 1, 2013 1:50 pm

(BPT) - Backyard or back patio, it's time to get planting, no matter where you live. The number of American households engaging in do-it-yourself lawn and garden activities rose by more than 3 million in recent years, the National Gardening Association's National Garden 2012 Survey found. That can include you, even if you don't have an actual yard.

Yardless gardening is a popular alternative for people short on green space looking to flex (or find) their green thumbs.

Make a container garden
Small back patio? Window sill? That's all the space you need for a yardless garden. "You can enjoy a garden, no matter your space or place," says Certified Nursery Consultant Nick Blassman. "It's an easy project to take on in a weekend and can make a big difference in your home."

Step one: pick your plants
Edible plants like basil, oregano, parsley, thyme and rosemary are great choices because they're heavy producers and easy to grow in small spaces. The Home Depot's Bonnie Organic herbs are healthy options to have on hand when you're chopping, dicing and using fresh herbs in the kitchen. These herbs come in peat pots made of biodegradable material so if you plant outside, just drop the entire pot in the dirt - there's no plastic to throw away. Love tomatoes (or ketchup)? Heinz introduced Heinz tomato varieties this spring, which can be grown in a container or trained to grow up a wire cage or teepee of bamboo.

Step two: choose your vessel
A couple factors to consider when you're looking for pots and planters. First, make sure your plant is going to have enough room to grow and develop roots. A good rule of thumb is to use smaller pots for herbs and larger pots for fruits and vegetables. Next, flip the pot over - does it have a hole in the bottom? Planters should have drainage holes so your plant doesn't get waterlogged.

Step three: gear up 
Big tools in a small planter equal a potentially disastrous situation. Make sure you've got the right gardening tools for your job - a small spade, trimmers, gloves and a watering can or hose.

Step four: fill 'er up 
You want the fertilizer or potting mix that's going to nourish and help your herbs thrive. "Choose a potting mix with ingredients like sphagnum peat moss, vermiculite or perlite, and aged compost products to help retain moisture and control the release of water into the plant's roots," says Blassman.



Word of the Day

August 1, 2013 1:50 pm

Real estate investment trust (REIT). Entity that allows a very large number of investors to pool their money in the purchase of real estate, but as passive investors.  The investors do not buy directly.  Instead, they purchase shares in the REIT that owns the real estate investment.  

Q: What If I Am Turned Down for a Loan?

August 1, 2013 1:50 pm

A: Unless your credit is absolutely abysmal – with all kinds of judgments, liens, excessive delinquencies or non-payments, foreclosures and bankruptcies that show no attempt on your part to make progress – you can generally get a loan.

More and more borrowers are finding ways to become homeowners despite past credit problems, a lack of a credit history, or debt-to-income ratios that exceed traditional limits.  This is because a greater number of lenders are willing to take a chance with borrowers today that they once turned down for home loans.

If you are denied a mortgage, ask the lender for a full explanation. If you feel you are creditworthy, then appeal the decision in writing.


8 Ways to Slash Summer Energy Bills

July 30, 2013 11:52 pm

When the mercury climbs, summer energy bills climb with them – primarily because we are using more water and air conditioning. U.S. News and World Report suggests eight easy ways to keep your energy bills in check:

  • Check the hot water heater – Most likely, it is set for 140 degrees. Turning it down to 120 degrees, sufficient for most water use, can save you 6 to 10 percent on your bill. But check your dishwasher’s manual first. Newer models may require 140 degree temps for optimal performance.
  • Don’t turn on the oven – Cooking meals with a toaster oven, electric skillet, slow cooker or microwave uses far less energy.
  • Turn off the ceiling fan when leaving home – Ceiling fans don’t really cool. They only circulate air. But they do use energy, so turn them off when you leave home and on again when you return.
  • Use electric fans – they use far less energy than electric air conditioning, and they may be all you need to keep cool, especially in the mornings and evenings.
  • Dust the fridge coils – when the coils underneath or behind the refrigerator are covered with dust, the appliance is working harder and costing you more money.
  • Check fridge and freezer temps – The ideal refrigerator temperature is between 37 and 40 degrees, and the ideal freezer reading is 5 degrees. Any colder, and you're wasting money. Also note that full refrigerators and freezers do not have to work as hard to stay cool.
  • Replace air filters – Clogged filters can lead to air conditioners and appliance break-downs. In any case, they make appliances work harder, using more energy and dollars.
  • Plant trees – Planted strategically near the house, trees will create more shade as they grow and help cool off your home. According to the U.S. Forest Service Center for Urban Forest Research, shade from two 25-foot tall trees -- one on the west side and one on the east -- will save a typical house $57 a year in energy costs.

Twenty-Somethings Less Financially Independent

July 30, 2013 11:52 pm

Financial independence is even more elusive than it was two years ago for 20-somethings coming of age amid global economic uncertainty. Millennials with at least some college education who claim to be "totally independent" decreased 26 percent in 2013 (17 percent) compared to 2011 (23 percent), according to the second nationwide survey by The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.

"Many of my peers suffer from a failure-to-launch syndrome directly related to the surge in unemployment during the Great Recession and slow pace of recovery," says Mekael Teshome, economist at The PNC Financial Services Group. "It is not a lack of ambition we are seeing in these data. It is more about a lack of opportunity that has hindered many young adults' progress against their professional and financial objectives."

More than half (58 percent) of 20-29 year-olds with some college rate themselves behind where they expected to be in terms of financial success, a 26 percent increase since 2011. However, for many of these children of baby-boomers, optimism remains high; 60 percent of those who do not identify as "totally independent" are determined to be independent soon.

The second PNC Financial Independence Survey sought insights into the financial mindset of 20-29 year-olds who are establishing their careers in a highly competitive job market in the shadows of the global recession. The unique study compares responses both within the age group and among those with and without higher education.

Path to Financial Independence

The top three factors identified by 20-somethings as essential to achieving financial independence are:

  • Paying the bills (78 percent): While paying one's own living expenses is considered essential to achieving financial independence, only six in 10 (60 percent) of those aged 25-29 have achieved that milestone.
  • Obtaining full-time job in preferred profession (59 percent): Only one third (35 percent) of 25-29 year-olds surveyed described their current job as an established position in their chosen field while 71 percent had expected to hit this milestone already. Hard work (64 percent), experience (58 percent) and education (57 percent) are the factors that 20-somethings believe did or will help get that elusive, preferred job.
  • Moving out of parents' home (55 percent): Forty percent of all 20-somethings and more than one-fourth (28 percent) of 25-29 year olds still live with parents or other relatives. There are also more mama's boys (44 percent) than daddy's little girls (37 percent) when it comes to still living with parents.

"Twenty-somethings tend to have fewer skills than their older counterparts and generally earn less as well, which makes it especially difficult for them to cope with a competitive job market and steer their lives in the direction they hoped," Teshome said.

Findings: Achievement, Realism, Stress, Education

Better Off: Only 53 percent say they are better off financially than their parents were at this age. Hispanics are more likely than others to say that they are better off than the previous generation. Those with some college education are more likely to say they are better off.

Optimism Turns to Realism: While most 20-somethings tend to be optimistic about their future, a new element of realism sets in for many around 25 years of age as they display less optimism about issues like paying off debt, finding a career they love and their general financial future.

Great Expectations: Though more likely to be financially independent, those in their mid-to-late twenties are more likely to describe themselves as behind expectations than are 20-24 year olds. Females (64 percent) are far more likely than males (43 percent) to describe themselves as behind expectations.

Stress Factors: Twenty-somethings find financial issues most stressful, particularly a perceived lack of financial security (23 percent), followed by uncertainty of finding a job (17 percent).

The College Advantage: Higher education matters when it comes to identifying oneself as having a high level of financial independence. Only 36 percent with a high-school education rate themselves as financially independent compared to 50 percent of those with a college degree. Those with more education are more optimistic on every measure than are those with only high school, regardless of age.



Know Your Rights when You Fly

July 30, 2013 11:52 pm

When volatile summer weather grounds a plane, it creates a domino effect of cancelled flights across the country. Add in that nearly 209 million people fly June through August, and you could easily find that part of your summer adventure may be spent trying to get a seat on another plane.

Just ask Marcy Baustian, a high school teacher who recently spent three weeks leading her French Club students through France, only to have the final leg of the journey back to Des Moines grounded in Detroit for 48 hours. "Getting rebooked was difficult because it's very tough to find 18 seats on a flight – especially to Des Moines since bigger planes aren't scheduled through there," says Baustian.

After spending the night in the Detroit airport, she spent the next day working with the airline to get rebooked on a flight to Kansas City, where parents were willing to drive and pick up their children. That flight was also cancelled due to weather. The group eventually rented a charter bus – after their travel agency called 30 bus companies and offered to cover the expense temporarily. (A claim to cover the cost of the bus is pending with the airline.)

While Baustian and her students' ordeal was extreme, airline travel often comes with some sort of challenge. "It can be difficult to know when a situation that started as inconvenient has crossed the line into a violation of rights," says Ann Cosimano, General Counsel for ARAG®, a global provider of legal solutions. "Knowing when to be patient – or when to speak up – can take some of the stress out of travel." Here are a few reminders of the rights you have when you fly.

When Your Flight Is Delayed or Cancelled

If your flight is delayed or cancelled for problems beyond anyone's control, like weather or safety issues, most airlines will rebook you on the next available flight at no charge. They may even book you with another airline without charging you extra. Airlines are not required to provide any amenities, such as meal vouchers or hotel rooms, in this situation.

Similarly, if your flight is delayed or cancelled for something the airline could control, such as a maintenance issue, the airline will likely rebook you on the next available flight, either theirs or another airline's, at no charge. The airline is still not required to provide amenities, however, many will provide meal vouchers and even hotel rooms and grooming kits if your delay causes an unexpected overnight stay.

When You're Bumped from Your Flight

If you are "bumped" for a domestic flight that is oversold, you are likely legally entitled to compensation for a new flight. Generally, when the flight is oversold, the airlines will ask for willing passengers to volunteer to give up their seats in exchange for a later flight and compensation. They may also negotiate with free tickets or travel vouchers. If you accept one of these offers, be sure to ask some deal-breaking questions such as when the ticket expires or if it's only available certain days of the week or during certain seasons.

If no one volunteers and you're bumped involuntarily, you should receive a written statement from the airline that describes your rights and how the carrier decided which passengers were bumped. If you're not rebooked and scheduled to arrive at your destination within one hour of your originally scheduled arrival time, then you are entitled to compensation in the form of a check or cash. The amount depends on the ticket price and length of delay. To be eligible for compensation, you must have a confirmed reservation and have checked-in with the airline within their deadlines.

If the airline must substitute a smaller plane for the one it originally planned to use, the carrier isn't required to pay people who are bumped as a result. In addition, on domestic flights using aircraft with 30 through 60 passenger seats, compensation is not required if you were bumped due to safety-related aircraft weight or balance constraints.

If you are delayed on the tarmac of a domestic flight before taking off or after landing, you may have rights if the delay is more than three hours. DOT rules prohibit most U.S. airlines to remain on the tarmac for more than three hours unless air traffic control or the pilot decides there are reasons related to safety, security or airport operations.

If you are delayed on the tarmac of a domestic flight, you are entitled to food and water no later than two hours after the delay begins. Lavatories must remain operable and medical attention must be available if needed.



Q: Should I Hire a Professional or Do the Job Myself?

July 30, 2013 11:52 pm

A: It depends on the complexity of the project and your ability to do the job well yourself.  Really consider whether you have the time, skills, tools, help, and legal knowledge of local regulations to get the job done.  While you could save up to an estimated 20 percent of the project cost doing the work yourself – there are plenty of how-to books and workshops offered by home improvement stores to guide you – be aware that you could also end up spending more money and time if you botch the job or unforeseen problems arise.  Think, too, about resale value.  If the quality of your work is less than professional, your home’s value could drop.  So, unless you’re highly skilled or experienced, shy away from major home improvements that involve structural changes.  Stick to building shelves, painting, and other minor improvements instead.


Word of the Day

July 30, 2013 11:52 pm

Real estate broker.  Individual who has passed a state broker’s test and represents others in realty transactions.  Anyone having his or her own office must be a broker.