Gunning Daily News

The Busy Person's Guide for Entertaining on Short Notice

February 4, 2013 6:08 pm

(BPT) - Ideally, you'll have a few days notice to get everything in order when you're hosting guests. But everyone knows that's not always the case. Drop-ins happen and you can make a choice between panicking or embracing the spontaneity of a last-minute get-together with your friends and family. The key to being an unflappable host is having a simple process to get your home guest-ready in a hurry.

You don't have to be a neat freak or Michelin chef to make an impromptu gathering at your house a success. You simply need to prioritize what is most important to get done, and rely on some help from modern technology to speed up the process. Here's a guide for entertaining on a dime that will make unplanned visits more pleasant surprises rather than major inconveniences:

Enlist a full-time housekeeper. Maybe you don't have the means to put someone in charge of keeping your house clean, but you can put gadgets on the job full-time. Rather than spending time to clean floors yourself, let a robot do the work for you. iRobot Mint, which features both a sweep and mop mode, can effectively handle the job of cleaning your hard floor surfaces all by itself. Mint works with cleaning cloths made by brands like Swiffer, as well as its own specifically designed microfiber cloths that can be reused hundreds of times. It automatically cleans along walls, around furniture and into corners, while avoiding stairs and carpet, so there's no need to supervise while it does its job.

Get into party mode with the touch of the play button. Connect your home stereo system with Bluetooth-enabled technology that can allow you to cue up the tunes simply by giving the orders through your smart phone or another connected device. Curating party playlists can be a fun activity during your downtime so you can be all set to go when you get the call that guests are on the way.

Whip up delivery on speed dial. Store a list of your go-to numbers for food delivery service on your phone so you can make the call once you know you'll be having visitors. If you're not one who likes to order out, keep a stash your favorite snacks or appetizers in the freezer for quick reheating when guests arrive. Last-minute guests won't be expecting a three-course meal, so convenience is more important than elaborately prepared meals.

Ditch the dishes. Make things easier for you and festive for your guests by keeping decorative paper plates and napkins on hand. Storing a stash of these in a kitchen drawer is ideal for last-minute hosting since it means you don't have to worry about hurriedly washing the dishes or creating a mess that you'll need to clean up later.

Embrace quick fixes. You wouldn't normally throw everything that's been left out in a storage room, but it won't hurt if you're just hosting company for a few hours - you can put everything in its proper space once they're gone. Keep items like stain sticks on hand for quick coverage of stains and smudges you've been meaning to get to tackle. Start by clearing the entry way, move to the living room and forget about areas your guests probably won't see.

Last-minute hosting doesn't have to be stress-inducing, especially since your guests won't be looking for the royal treatment if they're coming over on short notice.

Source: www.irobot.com.

Renters: Make Sure Your Security Deposit Is Safe

February 4, 2013 6:08 pm

For those of us considering moving out of our rentals, securing your security deposit can be a make-it-or-break it moment for our finances, as you will most likely be needing a security deposit for wherever you’re headed. Unfortunately, many renters never see their security deposit again. Recently, Rent.com surveyed 1,000 U.S. renters, and the results were startling:

  • More than a quarter (26 percent) of all renters have lost their security deposit at some point
  • 37 percent of men and 44 percent of 18-24 year olds said they did not get their deposits back because they moved out early
  • More women (9 percent than men (3 percent) lost a deposit due to pet damage
  • 36 percent of renters who did not get their deposits back said the landlord gave no explanation
    • This is likely illegal although tenant/landlord laws vary by state but according to several state law sites (ag.ny.gov, ca.gov, oag.state.tx.us, illinoisattorneygeneral.gov, mass.gov) the landlord must return the deposit less any lawful deduction.

If you’re renting, review the following tips—provided by rent.com--for maintaining your apartment and your relationship with your landlord:

“It’s better to beg forgiveness than ask for permission” does not apply here
. When renting, it is always best to get written permission from your landlord before doing any renovations, changing paint color, etc.
Read your lease. Many renters miss the specific guidelines laid out by their landlord regarding the return of their deposit. A list should be made and agreed upon regarding the conditions of the apartment at the end of the lease BEFORE you sign it.
Snap a photo. It’s always a good idea to take some photos of the apartment when you first move in. Make sure they are time/date-stamped! Then repeat the process on move out day. This way pre-existing damage is documented and the blame cannot fall on you!
Be reasonable and your landlord might be too. There is no guarantee that a landlord will negotiate you breaking your lease but maybe there is a compromise that can be met. For instance, you could help find a replacement tenant, agree to pay rent for an additional number of months or until a new tenant is found, etc.

Source: www.rent.com.


What to Do If You Didn't Get Your W-2 Forms

February 4, 2013 6:08 pm

So you want to get your federal income tax return done early, but you still haven't received your W-2 in the mail.

What should you do?

The IRS requires employers to file a Form W-2 for each employee. These forms must be sent out to employees by February 1. If employers fail to do so, they could face some costly consequences.

For each W-2 form an employer fails to send out on time, the IRS may slap the employer with a $50 penalty. That's in addition to an employer's potential penalties for improperly filing a W-2, such as providing incorrect information on the form and not reporting the proper Taxpayer Identification Number.

That being said, one option if you haven't received your W-2 forms by February 1 is to report your employer to the IRS. You can contact the IRS toll-free at (800) 829-1040.

But before you do that, you may want to contact your employer to see if they've actually sent out your W-2, Examiner.com suggests. Perhaps they had the wrong address on file, or perhaps it got lost in the mail and it wasn't your employer's fault. See if you can get to the bottom of what happened.

In any event, even if you do contact the IRS, they won't force your employer to give you a W-2. All they might do is make note of it. It won't absolve you from filing your tax return on time.

If you want more time to file your tax return, you can always file for an extension. This is generally only a good idea if you are certain you won't be owing any taxes. Because if you owe taxes, you still have to pay the taxes on time, even if you're allowed an extension to file your return.

If you plan to file on time without your W-2, you can complete a Form 4852, entitled "Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement." You may need to dig up your old pay stubs and do some calculating, but if you want to get your taxes done on time, this might be the least taxing way to do it.

For more information, visit www.findlaw.com.

Word of the Day

February 4, 2013 6:08 pm

Fiduciary. Person acting in a position of trust, responsibility and confidence for another, such a broker for his client.

Q: How Do I Respond to a Low-ball Offer?

February 4, 2013 6:08 pm

A: Let your agent know it is too low to warrant a counteroffer and that you are willing to negotiate but only once a more reasonable offer is made. Ask the agent if the buyer was shown comparable market values of similar homes that have recently sold in your area; and ask if the buyer was ever properly qualified. You do not have to settle for less if you are realistic about your chances of getting more.

Better Business Tips: Avoid Compliance Penalties When Paying Taxes

February 1, 2013 6:04 pm

For many businesses it is a necessity to hire contractors to ensure some jobs get done, but tracking payments to service providers properly can quickly turn into a tax compliance nightmare.
The American Accounts Payable Association offers the following 1099-MISC preparation tips to ensure your tax reporting for 2012 is correct.

1. Form 1099-MISC required for noncorporate service providers.

If you paid any service provider (sole proprietors and partnerships) at least $600 for services during 2012, you must provide Form 1099-MISC to them no later than Jan. 31, 2013. If the provider is a corporation you do not have to provide Form 1099-MISC.*

*You must provide Form 1099-MISC to attorneys or medical service providers who do business as corporations. To find out if a service provider is a corporation, have them complete IRS Form W-9, Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification.

2. Be on time. If you're sending your Forms 1099-MISC to the IRS by mail, you must mail them no later than Feb. 28. If you're sending an electronic file, you must file it by Apr. 1 with the IRS.

3. TIN truncation extended. The IRS has issued regulations to extend and expand on the Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) truncation pilot program for 1099s. The regulations would create a truncated taxpayer identification number (TTIN) for use on electronic and paper payee statements. Under the truncation procedure, the first five digits are replaced with either asterisks or Xs: ***-**-1234 or XXX-XX-1234.

4. No 1099 needed for electronic payments.
If you paid for services with a credit card, debit card, gift card or another electronic payment medium (e.g., PayPal), you're no longer required to send service providers a Form 1099-MISC. The bank or credit card company that made the actual payment will send the contractor Form 1099-K.

5. When in doubt, send a 1099. If you are unsure whether a Form 1099-MISC is required, go-ahead and send one. You set yourself up for penalties if you do not send all qualified service providers their Form 1099-MISC.

Source: www.americanap.org.

Word of the Day

February 1, 2013 6:04 pm

Fee simple. Ownership of real property that is to be used and/or sold at the owner’s discretion.

Q: Do I Have to Consider Contingencies Made by the Buyer?

February 1, 2013 6:04 pm

A: You can reject, accept, or counter any offer that is presented to you. Most offers include contingencies, which protect the buyer in case something goes wrong.

The two most common contingencies deal with financing, which makes the sale dependent on the buyer’s ability to obtain a loan commitment from a lender within a stated time period, and an inspection, which allows the buyer to have a professional inspect the property to their satisfaction.

There really is no reason not to consider these contingencies because they are quite reasonable and standard.

However, think twice about a contingency that is predicated on you making expensive home repairs, such as a kitchen renovation. Now, if the roof is caving in, that is an entirely different story. You may need to spend money to replace it or lower the asking price of the home.

5 Attention-Grabbing Ways to Get Hired

February 1, 2013 6:04 pm

In today’s economy, according to business consultant Jim Kukral, you need to be more than experienced, qualified, and personable to get the job you want. You need to stand out from the crowd, approaching your job search in ways that grab –and hold – attention.

“No employer today is going to remember someone who falls in the middle of the pack,” says Kukral, whose book, “Attention! This Book Will Make You Money,” instructs individuals and businesses in the art of using creativity and the Web to find success.

Kukral offers five ways job-seekers can stand out from the crowd:

Ramp up your resume – To most hiring managers, resumes look pretty much the same. Make yours stand out by delivering it in a catchy, unusual way – maybe attached to a box of donuts delivered to the CEO’s office, or on a bulletin board covered with post-it notes describing your most distinctive qualities.
Try a Facebook ad – Facebook offers an inexpensive advertising service that allows you to create your own target ad. Create an ad pointing out your skills, experience and goals – and send it to the companies you want to work for, or specifically to executives of those companies.
Make it personal – Before you go on a job interview, use Facebook, Linked In or other social media sites to learn as much as you can about the interviewer. Is he a golfer, like you? Do her children attend the same school as yours? Do you support or volunteer for the same charity? Anything you can do to create a more personal connection will get your interview off to a memorable start.
Use YouTube – Create a personal video thank you note to send to the interviewer after your meeting. Or put something together that tells a potential employer about your unusual skills and/or creativity.
Promote yourself in unexpected places – It may cost you a little money to put yourself up on a billboard or take an ad in a targeted business magazine. But the investment may be well worth it if it catches the eye of a company executive who appreciates your out-of-the-box thinking.

The Right Home Tools for a Healthier Lifestyle

February 1, 2013 6:04 pm

(BPT)—Even with the best intentions, many of us who resolve to live a healthier lifestyle in 2013 will fall back into old, familiar habits much sooner than we would like. To maintain motivation and create a routine that is both sustainable and effective, it's important to invest in the right tools for every room in your house.

Kitchen
Diet is key to overall wellness, and proper nutrition will help you remain energized and motivated to make other healthy strides. Unfortunately, some think making healthy meals is too time consuming and often make less nutritious decisions in the name of convenience. But with the right tools, creating a wide variety of tasty, wholesome options is quick and simple. With a high-performance blender like the Vitamix 7500, you can make nutrient-packed green smoothies, steaming hot soups and healthy frozen treats in minutes. Simply toss whole fruits or vegetables into the Vitamix, choose the settings, and in a matter of seconds the machine's unmatched power and versatility will create dishes that taste great and are good for you. The new 7500 model also features easy controls and a compact design that will fit into most kitchen spaces - as well as your new healthy lifestyle.

Bathroom

That old bathroom scale won't do you any good if it isn't accurate. To monitor the benefits of your healthy habits and find motivation to continue to make health-conscious choices, invest in a new digital scale. Although many scales come with additional features, such as body-index calculators and memory storage of your latest weigh-ins, consistent readings are the most important way to follow your progress. There's no need to spend a fortune on a new tracking tool as long as your new scale is easy to read and operate, and gets high marks for accuracy. If your bathroom storage space is limited, seemingly endless styles and sizes ensure that you can find a scale that fits any decor.

Bedroom
Sleep is crucial to living well, and making sure your body is well rested will help every other aspect of your healthy efforts. Having a supportive but comfortable mattress and pillow will do more than you may think to help your body get the renewing rest it needs. If you wake up with aches and pains, can feel coils, see depressions in the surface or have had your current mattress for more than 10 years, you likely need to purchase a new one. There are many types of mattresses to choose from, including innerspring, foam, no-flip and pillowtop selections. After researching your options, go to a store to test mattresses before purchasing to ensure you are getting exactly what you want. Carefully read the instructions to care for your new mattress properly and make sure your bed pillows are supportive of the neck and head for a superior night's sleep.

Closet
Exercise is important to a healthy lifestyle, and the right shoes are essential to any fitness routine. Whether you take an aerobics class, run, bicycle or play a competitive sport, proper athletic shoes will provide the support and protection you need. The wrong type or improperly fitting shoes can cause serious discomfort and even injury, making this a vital component of your fitness plan. Not all athletic shoes offer the same benefits, so don't purchase walking shoes to also act as running shoes, basketball shoes or for any other physical activity use. And despite common belief, adult feet do grow and change, so don't assume you are the same size you were last year. Even if you plan to purchase online, go into a sports shoe store with knowledgeable staff to ensure you find the right features and fit.

Armed with the right tools, you can reach your health goals and reap the benefits of a healthier lifestyle throughout the year, and beyond.