Gunning Daily News

Keep It Clean: Savvy Scrubbing Shortcuts

February 5, 2013 5:16 pm

(Family Features)—The groundhog has made his announcement! Spring is on the way. And with spring comes a sense of fresh beginnings, and for many, that includes the annual ritual of spring cleaning. A survey conducted by the American Cleaning Institute found that 62 percent of people engage in spring cleaning each year, and their top three priorities are the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom.

This year, spring cleaning doesn't have to be a long, dreaded process. Follow these quick tips to not only get your house clean in no time, but keep it clean in the long run.

Dealing with Dust

Dust buildup not only looks bad, but it can also be bad for allergies.

  • Skip the feather duster -- it just spreads dust around. For fast dusting, use multi-surface cleaning wipes to pick up dust from furniture and electronics. When you dust, work from the top down.
  • Cut back on dust by making sure your vacuum cleaner bags and filters are clean and in good working order. That will keep dust and debris from being blown out into the air as you vacuum.
  • Change your furnace filter regularly and dust or vacuum vents to keep buildup to a minimum.

Kitchen
As one of the busiest rooms in the house, the kitchen gets cleaned frequently, but there are some areas that may need a little more TLC.

  • Use steam to clean the inside of the microwave. Bring two cups of water to a boil in the microwave, keep the door closed and let the water sit for a few minutes. The steam loosens dried-on food particles, making it easier to wipe them away. For a fresh scent, drop a slice or two of lemon in the water before boiling. Keep it clean by using food covers to prevent food splatters.
  • Keeping the sink, counters and appliances clean and sanitized is fast and easy with an antibacterial cleaning product. A quick pump onto a paper towel, rag or sponge and you can wipe away messes and kill 99.9 percent of common household bacteria in no time. The bottle is designed to stay out where you need it, and the cleaner works on a variety of hard, non-porous surfaces.
  • When you clean the sink, make sure to get behind the faucet and around the seals using an old toothbrush.
  • Don't forget to clean the outside of the refrigerator and freezer. Clear off the clutter of notes, coupons and photos, and then clean the doors, handles and seals.
  • Keep the inside of the refrigerator smelling fresh with an open box of baking soda.

Bathroom
From make-up spills and toothpaste smudges to mildew and everything in-between, the bathroom needs touching-up on a daily basis.

  • To keep the counter clean of little messes and smudges, use an antibacterial product. Windex also makes a Touch-Up Cleaner for the bathroom. Dab the cleaner onto a rag or tissue and wipe down the counter, faucet and any other hard, non-porous surfaces to clean and sanitize quickly.
  • To get rid of soap scum, clean the tub and shower with a foaming cleanser that does most of the work for you, and simply rinse it off. Wash shower curtains and liners according to label instructions.
  • To help prevent soap scum buildup in the future, try switching to a liquid shower gel. Bar soaps have binders that are a primary cause of soapy residue. You can also use a towel to quickly wipe down the tub and faucets after each shower.
  • Combination mold and mildew cleaners can make fast work of those deep messes. Spray where needed, and rinse off following label instructions. Be sure the bathroom is well ventilated before spraying them on.
  • To discourage mildew, use the bathroom fan during a shower and for about 30 minutes after. You can also use a dehumidifier or open the window.
Floors
You'll be amazed at how much cleaner a room will look when the floors are done right.

  • If you have the time and money to rent and use a carpet cleaner, now's the time to do it. If not, target stains with a carpet cleaner and give all your carpets a good vacuuming. Sprinkle baking soda on carpets and rugs to absorb odors.
  • Steam mops are a great way to quickly clean multiple flooring surfaces without a mop and bucket. You can do a whole room in just a few minutes.
  • A lot of the dirt and dust in a home is brought inside on the soles of your shoes. To keep carpets and flooring clean, place doormats inside and outside each entrance and always take your shoes off when entering.
  • Wiping floorboards of dust and dirt is often overlooked and makes a big difference in the appearance of your home.
Cleaning Must-Haves
Keep these items handy to make spring cleaning -- and everyday cleaning -- a breeze.

  • Adhesive lint roller -- Great for quickly sprucing up fabric and upholstery. You can also use it to remove dust from lamp shades.
  • Baking soda -- Helps neutralize odors in sinks, refrigerators, upholstery and carpets.
  • Windex Touch-Up Cleaner -- A convenient solution to tackle the frequent messes that happen in the bathroom and kitchen.
  • Multi-surface wipes -- Make it easy to freshen up any room in the house.
  • Sponges -- Good for removing scuff marks and smudges from walls and furniture.

Word of the Day

February 5, 2013 5:16 pm

Fixtures. Any personal property that has been permanently attached to real property and therefore included in the transfer of real estate. The kitchen sink

Q: What Are Some of the Guidelines for Purchasing HUD Foreclosures?

February 5, 2013 5:16 pm

A: If you have the cash or can qualify for a mortgage, you can buy a HUD home. Down payments vary depending on whether the property is eligible for FHA insurance. If so, the down payment can be lower than the 5 to 20 percent required on conventional loans.

HUD requires that all accepted offers be accompanied by an earnest money deposit equal to 5 percent of the bid price, not to exceed $2,000, but not less than $500.

Foreclosure properties are sold "as is," meaning limited repairs have been made but no structural or mechanical warranties are implied. If a HUD home needs to be fixed - and not all of them do - it can still be a bargain. HUD adjusts the asking price to reflect the fact that the buyer will have to invest money to make improvements. The agency also might offer special incentives such as an allowance to upgrade the property or a bonus for closing the sale early. And buyers can request that HUD pay all or a portion of the financing and closing costs. Contact your real estate agent for more details.

To learn more about HUD foreclosures, visit their web site at www.hud.gov.

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.