Gunning Daily News

Top Five Summer Home Maintenance Tips

May 29, 2013 4:32 pm

The warmer weather has us all heading outside to soak up the sun, but it’s also a good reminder to take care of some basic things around your house. Here are the top five home maintenance tips for the warmer months, from Pillar To Post.

Inspect air-conditioners: If you have central air, you’ll want to clean the exterior condenser unit and all of its components, removing debris and trimming back any plants that are growing near it. You should also rinse down the interior of the unit, straighten out bent fins and lubricate the motor. You’ll also want to clean or change the air filters, inspect the drain line for debris and make sure all hoses fit securely. You can do this all yourself with guidance from the unit’s owners’ manual or call in a professional. If you have window units, the job is a little bit easier. You simply have to install the units and clean the filters. This is also a good time to deep clean all the fans and ceiling fans in your home.

Mulch: adding a layer of mulch to gardens and other non-grassy areas helps prevent weeds. It also helps the soil to hold moisture and nutrients during the warmer months, giving your plants a better chance of growing.

Inspect for leaks: Checking exterior hoses and faucets for leaks can lead to big savings. Even a small leak can cost big bucks. Many small leaks can be fixed with a piece of electrical tape. You’ll want to call in an expert for larger leaks.

Clean siding: Avoid streaks by applying the cleaner starting at the bottom and working your way up and rinsing from the top down. Cleaning your home’s siding yearly can help prevent mold, mildew and staining. It also keeps it looking brand new, adding value to your home.

Inspect your crawlspace: check for signs of termites and moisture. Even floors that appear dry can be damp. Dampness can cause damage to the entire house. If you have a dirt floor, installing a vapor barrier is recommended. If you have concrete, sealing it is ideal. This annual check is also a great time to check sewer lines, particularly beneath toilets and sinks, for evidence of leaks.



Green Your Summertime Soiree

May 29, 2013 4:32 pm

Now is the time many people are planning summertime get togethers, so I wanted to pass on a few ideas about hosting an environmentally friendly backyard barbecue, graduation ceremony, wedding, or when enjoying the outdoors with family and friends.

While balloons are a popular celebrating tribute, do not release helium balloons into the air.  In Connecticut, for example, it is illegal for any person or any group to intentionally release 10 or more helium balloons per day.

A summer breeze can transport balloons released in inland areas all the way to Long Island Sound or any adjacent water body. Once in the water, deflated balloons – just like plastic bags and other floating plastic garbage – look like food.

When marine animals eat the floating plastic, their digestive systems become blocked. The “Balloons Blow... Don’t Let Them Go” website ( is a resource for environmentally friendly alternatives, and ways to spread the word about balloons.

Other green summer event tips include:

  • Using reusable plates, cups and cutlery if possible. If you use disposable plates or napkins, look for those made from recycled content, and avoid polystyrene foam products.
  • "Compostable" utensils and plates are only “greener” if you have made arrangements for composting them. For light snacks, try to serve "finger food" or food that can be served with minimal plates and utensils.
  • Use cloth or reusable tablecloths. These can be rented along with tables and other event supplies so that you don’t have to buy a lot of items unnecessarily.
  • Serve drinks from pitchers or bottles rather than individual drink bottles.
  • Serve locally grown foods whenever possible. It is possible to find many different fruits and vegetables, cheeses, breads, dips, beers and wines. Check with your state or county Dept. of Agriculture for Local Grown programs.
  • Provide separate containers for trash and recycling and have them clearly marked. Make sure trash containers are paired with recycling containers. For some regionalized information on event recycling, go to
  • For favors or centerpieces, choose edible or plantable items, which are less likely to end up in the trash. Buy local flowers or plants from farmers markets or farm stands, or, for real freshness, find a “pick your own” location.

5 Tips to Avoid Fees, Traps and Moving Scams

May 29, 2013 4:32 pm

A recent Consumer Reports story found that last year, Massachusetts officials sued one moving company and New Jersey officials sued two for providing low-ball estimates and then grossly inflating fees after loading the trucks. One of the companies had threatened to auction the possessions of customers who didn’t pay.

Hiring a moving company can be complicated, and even an honest mover can disappoint a consumer unless they know their rights. And those rights can vary depending on whether you’re moving between states or within one. Consumers need to protect themselves, and here’s how:

Get recommendations. Try not to rely on newspaper, phone-book, or online ads for the names of movers. Instead, get recommendations from friends, family, or reliable real-estate agents. Plan to obtain estimates from at least three companies. Avoid movers that can’t provide an address or licensing information. Ask if they have marked trucks, and use a mover that does. Never hire a company that relies solely on a phone or online estimate, or one that requires a large deposit.

Verify licensing. In August New Jersey officials announced a sting operation that resulted in fines against 25 unlicensed moving companies with listings on Craigslist, Angie’s List, and other websites.  Several movers had outstanding warrants; two were wanted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Interstate movers are licensed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which offers information on how to screen them, at The site also has a list of state regulators who oversee in-state movers. (Click on “State/Local Resources.”)

Check for complaints. Along with licensing information, the federal website and some state sites list complaints against movers. Also check the BBB (, and search with the company’s name to find reviews and complaints on online forums and complaint websites.

Know your rights. The federal government and some states require movers to provide booklets explaining your rights. Although the federal “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move” doesn’t apply to in-state movers, it’s a must-read for all. Find the title under “Are You Moving?” at Also check the consumer information on the American Moving & Storage Association’s website (

Making Complaints. If there’s a problem after the move—you notice items are damaged or missing—contact the mover immediately. The mover should have given you a copy of its procedures for handling complaints and inquiries. If you think you’ve been defrauded or that the mover violated the law, contact your state attorney general or consumer protection agency. If you think the mover is illegally holding your possessions and trying to rip you off, contact the police. If ultimately you need to sue in small-claims court, send your mover a demand letter with your complaint and what you’re seeking.

Source: Consumer Reports

Q: What Are Some Costs Associated with Buying a New Home?

May 29, 2013 4:32 pm

A: You can expect moving expenses, loan costs, the down payment, a home inspection, title work and policy, and paying for a new hazard insurance policy. Your lender can give you a disclosure of estimated costs when you apply to be pre-approved for a home loan.

Word of the Day

May 29, 2013 4:32 pm

Lien. A debt on a property which encumbers it until the obligation is paid; a mortgage, back taxes, or other claim.

Aging Americans Are Fighting to Stay Wired (to the Phone)

May 28, 2013 5:20 pm

As a wireless kind of guy, I was recently connected to a survey that showed those age 50 and older are fighting to stay wired to their residential phone service while continuing to utilize their wireless or cell phones.

The Connecticut AARP survey, which was published nationally, indicated that while cell phone usage is very high among the senior population (89 percent), 84 percent of respondents indicated they were not likely to drop their landline. Respondents most often say they intend to keep their landlines because they want the security it offers in case of an emergency or because cell phone service is not dependable where they live.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents also supported AARP working with federal and state policymakers to ensure that telecommunications services are affordable, reliable, and accessible to all residents.

AARP Connecticut Director Nora Duncan said her agency and other consumer advocates are opposing legislation that could put landlines at risk for thousands of customers whose service includes additional features such as caller ID, call-waiting or long distance.

According to the survey, nine out of ten residents over age 50 say they currently have landline telephone service at home. More than three-quarters of these residents (76 percent) pay a set monthly price for a ‘package’ of services that could include, in addition to their basic phone service, call waiting, caller ID, or long distance.

Pending Connecticut legislation would allow AT&T to drop competitive landline telephone service in Connecticut by simply notifying the state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority. Advocates also oppose legislation that would prohibit future state regulation of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).

Down in Kentucky, AARP is also supporting the use of advanced technologies; but not at the risk of leaving rural, low-income and fixed-income Kentuckians without access to basic phone service, including 911-emergency service.

On behalf of our 460,000 Kentucky members, AARP has vowed to stay in the fight on telephone deregulation. AARP and its grassroots citizen advocates are in the fight to win for AARP members and all Kentuckians who want a choice in keeping their landline telephone service.

Colorado and New Jersey are among a growing number of other states working to protect access to landline and telecom services for its seniors and residents. Learn more about where your state stands on telecom regulation at

7 Top Ways to Gift a Graduating Teen

May 28, 2013 5:20 pm

If there’s a high school graduate on your gift list this spring, it’s good to remember that cash is king to most teenagers, who undoubtedly have big plans to start a job or college soon and/or to enjoy a last fun-only summer.

But if giving cash to your favorite teen does not seem personal enough, there are plenty of fun and unusual ways to make the gift memorable. From Omaha mom Jane Crawford, an aunt to eight Nebraska teens, here are seven ideas she has used with great success over the years:

  • Put it in a wallet – Choose a good leather wallet that will last for years. Put the cash in the wallet and wrap the wallet as a gift.
  • Clip it – For a boy, clip the money in a quality money clip that has been engraved with his initials.
  • Box it – for a girl, choose a small jewelry or keepsake box and insert the cash before you wrap the box.
  • Book it – Put the money in a card and place the envelope, like a bookmark, in the book of your choice – perhaps a book on investing.
  • Bank it – Choose a fat pink piggy bank or any bank that appeals to you. Before you wrap it, stuff it with dollar bills. Include some change to make it jingle.
  • Turn it into gift cards – Disperse the cash into gift cards to the teen’s favorite stores. Include a note encouraging happy shopping – with or without your company.
  • Turn it into college cash – If you know what school your teen will be attending in the fall, get online and turn your gift into a spending account he or she can use for meals, books and more on campus.

Summer of Savings: Tips for a Financially Sane Summer

May 28, 2013 5:20 pm

Parents, the green season is upon us. Summer. And the “green” doesn’t just stand for the leafy trees kids climb and the lawns through which they chase fireflies. It stands for cold hard cash. Kids cost money all year long, of course, but summer brings with it a slew of extra expenses: summer childcare programs…summer camps…extravagant family vacations.

According to financial counselor and bestselling author Eric Tyson, if parents aren’t careful, they can easily find themselves living a summer lifestyle they really can’t afford.

“Many people assume, ‘Oh, it’s summertime—of course we have to take a fabulous family vacation,” says Tyson, author of Personal Finance For Dummies®.

Tyson says overspending on summer activities and “stuff” doesn’t do kids any favors. In fact, your conspicuous consumption may be teaching them poor money management habits, which sets them up for problems in their own financial lives down the road.

“Make this the summer that you rein in your spending and start teaching kids by example how to make smart financial decisions,” urges Tyson. “You may be surprised to find that, far from feeling that you’re sacrificing, this is the most fun, fulfilling summer you’ve ever had.”

No matter where your wanderlust leads you and your family, you can cut costs. Here are a few tips:

Plan, plan, plan. Do plenty of research before you ever leave home so you’ll know the best and most budget-friendly activities and destinations in advance. “It’s when we fail to plan ahead that we fall prey to overpriced tourist traps,” notes Tyson.

Don’t go overboard on the hotel. There’s really no reason to spend big bucks on a room you’ll do little more than sleep in.

BYOF: Bring your own food. If you’re taking the family to a theme park, bring along a backpack of snacks. (If you don’t, be prepared for some serious sticker shock!) And choose a hotel room with a kitchen (or vacation home) so you can prepare a few meals in.

Don’t buy a bunch of T-shirts and trinkets. It’s usually better to spend the money on photos than “keepsakes” (i.e., clutter you don’t need).

If your child brings along a friend, make sure he pays his own way. “Don’t assume that because Billy is inviting his friend Josh, you have to pay for Josh’s meals, amusement park tickets, and so forth,” says Tyson. “If you aren’t comfortable having a frank discussion with Josh’s parents ahead of time about who pays for what, don’t invite him.”

Strapped for cash? Dream up creative vacation alternatives. For instance, you can “vacation at home” by spending a week exploring fun, kid-friendly destinations—zoos, museums, gemstone mines—within easy driving distance of your home. Or spend a few nights camping in a local wilderness spot. (Assuming you already have the tents, sleeping bags, and other gear, that is; otherwise you’ll spend a fortune on your “roughing it” adventure!) Or visit relatives you rarely see who have an unfamiliar lifestyle—if you’re a “city mouse” family, spend a few days on the farm with Great Aunt Bertha.

“The point is, you can find endless fun and educational activities that don’t require a major outlay of money,” says Tyson. “Use your imagination.”

Skip the expensive summer camp. It’s easy to see why summer camps are popular: kids get to spend weeks on end swimming and playing sports. Unfortunately, these adventures can cost thousands of dollars, and especially if you have more than one child, can be costly. If summer camp is a “must” for your kids, seek out the more affordable ones run by non-profit organizations or churches, says Tyson. But don’t assume your kids have to go to summer camp at all.

“If you think about it, this is the time of year families should be together,” he says. “The kids are out of school; they don’t have homework to take up their time; the weather is nice—wouldn’t it be better to spend that time doing fun things as a family?”

Don’t rule out “summer jobs” for your kids. If you’re worried that, in the absence of summer camp, your kids will spend their summer lounging in front of the TV and computer and playing video games, put them to work. No, seriously, says Tyson. In addition to their regular chores, give your kids summer projects to complete, such as painting their rooms (under your supervision, of course) or designing, planting, and maintaining a flower garden in the yard. Or volunteer them to walk an elderly neighbor’s dog or (if they’re old enough) cut her lawn.

“Working is good for kids,” notes Tyson. “You can pay them a modest allowance for their labor, which helps them learn financial responsibility.”

Encourage your kids to give this summer, not receive. Spending lots of money on kids, whether in the form of vacations, summer camps, or brand new bikes, can breed materialism and a sense of entitlement. You can counteract these forces by insisting that your children spend some time giving back this summer. This will also help foster compassion for others in your children.

“There are many nonprofit organizations for which kids and entire families can volunteer,” says Tyson. “Of course, it doesn’t have to be that structured. You can make a decision to, say, visit nursing home residents once a week. Adopting a ‘cause’ as a family helps kids gain a healthier perspective to see that others are less fortunate, and frankly, it serves as a good reminder for parents as well.”



Q: How Does a Lease Option Work?

May 28, 2013 5:20 pm

A: A landlord agrees to give a renter an exclusive option to purchase the property.  The option price is usually determined at the outset, but not always, and the agreement states when the purchase should take place – whether, say, six months, or a year or two down the road.    

A portion of the rent is used to make the future down payment.  Most lenders will accept the down payment if the rental payments exceed the market rent and a valid lease-purchase agreement is in effect.

Before you opt to do a lease option, find out as much as possible about how they work.  Talk to real estate agents, read published materials, and, in the end, have an attorney review any paperwork before you and the tenant sign on the dotted line.


Word of the Day

May 28, 2013 5:20 pm

License.  A privilege or right granted to a person by a state to operate as a real estate broker or salesperson.