Gunning Daily News

Live Well This Winter with These Tips

January 10, 2013 5:04 pm

(BPT) - Dreaming of spring despite the cold weather outside? You're not the only one. Many people start thinking of warmer temperatures as soon as the mercury drops. Instead of sitting inside this winter, use these tips to "think spring" so you'll be ready when the thermometer rises again.
Get moving

Exercise is essential to staying healthy, especially during winter, when it's tempting to hibernate. Experts at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommend that healthy adults get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity, plus muscle-strengthening activities twice a week. One way to get moving while having fun is to exercise with a friend. You could join a dance or fitness class together, go hiking, cycling or cross-country skiing in a nearby park, or try rock climbing.

Even if your hectic schedule doesn't leave much room for daily trips to the gym or local park, you can still incorporate exercise into your regular winter routine. Playing outside with your dog or kids, keeping dumbbells at your desk, walking down the hall to deliver messages in-person versus via email, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator are just a few examples of how you can get moving despite inclement weather. Even doing your daily chores - like getting outside to shovel snow - is a great way to build physical fitness and endurance.

Set a goal
Planning a vacation for springtime can give you something to look forward to through the cold winter months and is great motivation for remaining committed to a healthy lifestyle. Organize an exciting adventure with your family or friends - like hiking, mountain biking or kayaking - to take your mind off the dreary weather outside and keep you inspired to stay in shape. Plus, you can find some great travel deals during the off-season.

Remember to laugh

Don't let the overcast weather bring you down. Smiling and laughing are good for your health any time of year. Recent Stanford University research suggests that a good giggle fit can actually lower stress and act as a mini-workout. Try grabbing your friends for a game night or to watch a funny movie. Besides making you feel better, laughter is also contagious, so you just may make those around you feel better, too.
Although spring may seem light-years away, you can use these tips to help you "think spring" now and commit to a healthy winter lifestyle. That way, when the trees start to bloom and the air feels warm again, you'll be ready for whatever comes your way. Try this delicious smoothie recipe to get you started.

Try a smoothie
Nutrition has an incredible impact on wellness, and incorporating whole foods into your daily routine can help you stay fit through the winter months. A quick and easy way to begin incorporating more nutrient-packed foods into your diet is with fruit and vegetable smoothies. Try making a fruit salad smoothie in your blender to start your day. Toss whole fruits and vegetables into the machine, and its powerful motor will blend the mix into a smooth, on-the-go treat that tastes great and gives you natural energy.


10 Ways to Offset Payroll Tax Hikes Caused by Fiscal Cliff

January 10, 2013 5:04 pm

American workers enter 2013 having to cope with less in their paychecks as Congress passed legislation that avoided the "Fiscal Cliff" but increased Social Security taxes by two percent. That's the bad news.
The good news is that it's a new year, time for resolutions. Below are ten steps, offered by InCharge Debt Solutions, that you can take that will help you manage your money better and even offset the payroll tax increases you'll see beginning this month.

"For the average American family with a household income of $50,000, the payroll tax hikes could mean the loss of about a thousand dollars a year," says Etta Money , InCharge's President. "That kind of income loss requires some planning early in 2013 in order to cut expenses or increase earnings so the financial hit won't be so tough to absorb."

Here are ten tips to offsetting Social Security tax increass this year:

  1. Improve your credit score – Pay your bills on time, review your credit report and correct errors. Good credit scores can help you get better interest rates on car loans, mortgages, and credit cards.
  2. Look into cash back cards – If you have good credit, you can find cash back credit cards that pay up to 5 percent on purchases.
  3. Listen to the experts – Bloggers, tweeters, and financial experts with websites or Facebook pages write about and collect great ideas for cutting expenses and making money. Follow them or get on their emails lists.
  4. Avoid convenience stores – Studies show that the same items are an average of 45 percent cheaper at supermarkets, that totals hundreds of dollars per year on hurried and often last-minute purchases.
  5. Plan your meals and use coupons – Spend an extra hour a week planning menus and matching stores sales with coupons. An average family of four could save $25 per week or more, depending on how much they spend on groceries.
  6. Eat what you have – New reports show that 40 percent of all food in the United States goes uneaten, and American families throw out between 14 and 25 percent of the food and drinks they purchase. Plan your meals and eat leftovers, you could save between $1,365 and $2,275 per year.
  7. Break a bad habit – Whether it is cigarettes, alcohol, sodas, or candy, break the habit. A single pack of cigarettes each day costs $2,000 per year, $100,000 in a lifetime.
  8. Review your insurances – If you haven't had a recent car and homeowner insurance review, you may save by increasing deductibles and eliminating coverage overlaps. Good driver discounts may enable you to drop collision coverage on an aged vehicle.
  9. Refinance your mortgage – Online tools can tell you within a few minutes whether you can save money by getting a better rate on your mortgage.
  10. Check your withholdings – If you are getting money back from the IRS every year, you are withholding too much. has a simple payroll deductions calculator that can help you determine how much to take out so you don't owe money or get anything back in April.

Source: InCharge Debt Solutions

Word of the Day

January 10, 2013 5:04 pm

Delinquent loan. One where the borrower is behind, or late, in payments.

Q: What Is the Most Common Type of Contract for Listing Properties?

January 10, 2013 5:04 pm

A: The exclusive right to sell. It gives the real estate broker the exclusive right to sell your home during the term of the listing. If a sale occurs – even if you sell the home yourself – the broker gets a commission. The broker may share the listing with other brokers on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) to get the widest possible exposure for your home. If you request that the property not be listed on a multiple basis, only the broker named in the contract and his or her sales agents can market and show it.

7 Ways to Ward off Flu

January 9, 2013 5:54 pm

You’ve heard it before, but the number one thing you can do to protect against colds or flu is to wash your hands thoroughly and often.

“Lather up with running water and scrub at least 5 times a day,” said Dr. Andrew Pekosz of Johns Hopkins University. “Antibacterial soaps are no better than regular soap, and in a pinch, use a hand sanitizer that is at least 60 percent alcohol for a minimum of 20 seconds.”

The doctor suggests six more documented ways to help keep colds and flu at bay:

Try a humidifier – Flu viruses last longer in dry air than in moist air. A humidifier that keeps the humidity level in your home between 40 and 60 percent could be a good investment.
Skip the second drink – Alcohol can impair the ability of your white blood cells to combat viruses for up to 24 hours after you indulge. Keep your imbibing to one drink a day during flu season.
Get more sleep – Studies show that people who sleep seven hours a night or less are more apt to succumb to colds or flu than those who sleep eight hours or more.
Eat the rainbow – The immune-boosting antioxidants in brightly colored fruits and veggies battle the free radicals that can dampen your natural defenses. The brighter the color (think eggplant, red beans and blueberries) the higher the antioxidant count. Green tea is another good ally.
Season with garlic – The cloves contain a sulfuric compound that produces potent antioxidants as it decomposes. If the flavor is too strong for you, try aged-garlic extract capsules, which have no garlicky taste or odor.
Don’t rely on C – Though it’s been touted as a cold fighter, vitamin C has never been proven to fend off a cold or flu – and multiple studies show it does zilch to speed up recovery if you are sick.

How to Help Your Student Establish a Budget

January 9, 2013 5:54 pm

(Family Features)—Money management is one skill that can be difficult for young adults to master as they head off on their own. But no matter what stage of life – whether they’re entering college or the work force – every young adult should learn how to handle their money.

Establish a Budget

Sit down together with your student and map out all monthly expenses. Include room and board or rent, books, supplies, food, personal care and medications, transportation, gas, entertainment (including dining out, movies and walking around money, etc.), and payment for phone, mobile devices, cable and Internet access. Then, figure out income. This can include money from a job, financial aid, student loans and any support from you.

Income and expenses need to balance. There are plenty of online tools you can use to figure out a budget. Some, such as or some bank websites, can help students manage their budgets, making it easy for them to take care of it themselves. There are also budgeting tips and worksheets at websites such as

How to Stick to the Budget

Prioritize needs vs. wants. It may seem like a latte every morning is a necessity to jump-start the day, but those kinds of little expenses can add up quickly. A recent study by Westwood College found that 40 percent of the average student’s budget is being spent on “discretionary” spending; included in that is entertainment (6.5 percent), apparel and services (6.7 percent), travel and vacation (4.7 percent). Have your student do the math on how much some of their “necessities” will cost them, and then talk about how to weigh purchase decisions.

Find ways to spend less. A little planning can help young adults spend less and get more value for their dollar.

Cellphone – Avoid overage charges with an unlimited plan. For example, with Cricket Wireless, you can pay an affordable monthly fee for all-inclusive talk, text, data and music rate plans for some of the most popular smartphones available. Cricket also includes a service called Muve Music that gives students unlimited song downloads as part of their plan. Learn more at
Food – Coupons and digital deals can cut the costs of dining out. Look into the college meal plan – and use it. Save on snacks by stocking up at the grocery store instead of buying from a vending machine or convenience store.
Clothing – Thrift stores, consignment shops and yard sales are affordable ways to find something fun to wear.
Entertainment – Encourage them to take advantage of free activities on campus with their student ID. When going out with friends, advise your student to decide how much he or she can spend, then only take that much money with them.

Be smart about credit cards.
Many students sign up for a credit card right away, and before they know it, they are thousands of dollars in debt. Make sure they understand the impact of interest rates. Also, discuss setting limitations on using a credit card to avoid non-academic debt, such as using it only for emergencies, travel or school expenses, or only charging what they can pay back on time the next month (including interest).

Equipping your student with some basic financial skills will help them make wise money choices now and for the rest of their lives.

Q: What Questions Should I Ask an Agent Interested in Selling My Home?

January 9, 2013 5:54 pm

A: Interview at least three local agents who sell homes in your community. Grill them about the following:

  • The worth of your home. The agents should inspect the home and prepare a written comparative market analysis.
  • Marketing plans. These are a must. Make sure they include regular newspaper ads, the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) – which gives your home maximum exposure to all local agents – and Internet marketing through the agent’s Web site.
  • Length of the listing agreement. A 90-day listing is reasonable for marketing your home. Experts advise against signing a listing for more than 90 days unless it contains an unconditional cancellation clause. If you like, you can always extend the contract later.
  • Number of listings. Find out how many listings the agent now has and how many she normally sells. Too many listings – more than a dozen – with a low sales rate, may not be a good sign.
  • Get references. Ask for the names and phone numbers of recent home sellers. Call them and ask if they were satisfied with the level of service delivered by the agent.

Wintertime Can Be an Excellent Time for Mulching, Planting

January 8, 2013 6:02 pm

I am curious as to what you’re all doing now that the yard has 'closed for the season.' If you answered “not much,” or “not mulch…ing,” well maybe you should be!

Andrea Peck, a Master Gardener from San Luis Obispo, Calif., recently blogged about the importance of winter mulching for property owners in her temperate region of the country. Peck writes, as winter weather lowers temperatures, replenish mulch where needed and adjust watering systems to cut down on unnecessary water use.

She also offers these pointers:

  • Move sensitive container plants to a protected location or indoors when frost threatens. And drape a sheet or burlap over a frame to protect in-ground plants.
  • Prepare vegetable beds for spring by layering on a thick sheet of mulch and fertilizer.
  • Clear out annuals past their prime and tidy thoroughly before weeds latch on and pests find a home in the fallows.
  • Prune deciduous fruit and non-fruit trees now leaving strong, healthy branches ,and trim off weak, diseased or dead branches. Branches that cross or appear crowded obstruct growth, and weak limbs exposed to high winds should be lopped.

According to Peck, if you want to do some planting, selections of bare root roses are available, along with ageratum, calendula, larkspur, lavatera, phlox. This is also the time to plant artichokes, rhubarb and other bare root vegetables.

Spring flowering bulbs, such as tulips, hyacinth and crocus can be sown now, too. Just make sure bulbs have been chilled in the refrigerator for at least 6 weeks. And ample mulching, 8”-12”, discourages weeds and frost damage.

For more region-specific winter planting and garden prep or care tips, call or web-search the Master Gardeners chapter in your region, county or state. And if you're already an expert, stay tuned for a visit with your sisters- and brothers-in-mulch in Germany.

Protect Your Home from Ice Dams this Winter

January 8, 2013 6:02 pm

As low temperatures and snow and ice storms begin to sweep across the country, ice dams increasingly are becoming a hazard for home and business owners alike.

"Cold winter months alone can cause damage to your home or your business. But, emerging challenges, such as ice dams that form and go unattended can lead to leaks, mold and even safety hazards caused by falling ice," says Michael Billings , vice president, The Hanover's safety management team. "While pre-season prevention works best, there are steps you can take now to avoid the potential of further damage."

Following are a few simple steps that can help home and business owners reduce damage from ice dams:

  • Take preventive actions to remove ice and snow from the roof to allow proper drainage. In doing so, take precautions, such as staying on the ground and using a snow rake and consider calling a professional if it is necessary to go on the roof. Additionally, it is imperative to avoid contact with electrical lines, and to watch for falling objects.
  • If there is an existing ice dam, melt a channel through the ice to the roof surface to create a drain path to relieve water build up.
    • An easy way to do this is to fill the leg of nylons with calcium chloride ice melter and place that on the roof. The long tube can melt a patch through the ice to allow drainage. You can refill or replace the ice melter to keep the channels open. Make sure the channels extend to the roof edge or gutter.
    • You can engage the services of an insured roofing contractor to remove ice buildup and ensure they don't cause additional damage to the roof.
  • If you observe water damage, hire a restoration service to dry out the walls, ceiling and structure. Minor damage can cause rot, decay and more extensive problems if it is not properly addressed.
  • Contact your roofer and an insulation company to correct the ventilation and heat transfer issues in your attic. This can prevent future problems.
  • When replacing a roof, add an ice and water shield membrane at the edge of the roof and extend it at least five feet up the roof to protect this area against water intrusion.
  • In the future, try to prevent ice dams by ventilating and insulating your attic.
  • If you have suffered damage to your property, contact your local independent insurance agent immediately.

Setting up a Home Office that Fuels Productivity

January 8, 2013 6:02 pm

(BPT) - One of the biggest mistakes businesspeople make is assuming that working from home will automatically result in a higher level of productivity. Unless you carefully construct your home office environment, you may find that working from home is less productive than you anticipated.

Staples, the world's largest office products company and a trusted source for office solutions, offers the following tips for setting up your home office to help maximize your productivity.

The ideal working environment

Home office setup is an exercise in knowing yourself. Before you make any decisions, make a list of the things you need to spur productivity. Some people can work at a desk in a common area of the house with the television running in the background. Others want a closed-door environment where distractions are minimized. For some people, a home office is a place to finish up work from a regular day job. For others, a home office is a primary workspace where they spend eight or more hours of the day. Before you start rearranging the furniture, decide what you need as an absolute minimum to encourage you to use the space as intended.

The right office furniture, equipment and supplies

Once you have decided whether you're going to segregate an area of the living room, convert a spare bedroom or set yourself up in the basement or garage, you should start thinking about-home office furniture.-The type of office furniture you pick and the way you organize your space will significantly impact your productivity.

Whatever your preferences are, investing money up front in the style of office furniture that makes you comfortable will naturally lead to greater productivity. At the very least, this ensures that you won't be tempted to relocate to the bedroom instead of working at your desk. Likewise, an upfront investment in office supplies and equipment will help you get your work done faster and avoid distractions.

The cost of outfitting a home office

A basic home office setup can cost you under $500 if you already have a computer that you can relocate to your new space. There are a number functional-office furniture options-that look expensive but are actually quite affordable, especially if you are willing to put the furniture together yourself. A printer and a phone with voicemail can round out a basic home office setup.

A more advanced home office setup would include a fax machine and a photocopier. Fortunately, there are 3-in-1 office machines that combine a-printer, fax and copier all in one-piece of equipment for under $300, saving you money and space. Keep in mind, however, that a machine that does many things often offers fewer features for each specific function. For example, if your work at home requires more than the occasional photocopy, it can be more efficient to buy a dedicated copy machine that has special functionality to handle a heavier workload.

Don't forget to set aside money in your home office budget for office supplies. From paper to paper clips, you will have to buy all of the little things that you took for granted when you worked for an employer.-A home office is sometimes considered the holy grail for people who work. Who wouldn't want a comfortable home oasis where commuting is a foreign concept and the work just gets done? To achieve home office nirvana, make a plan that is specifically designed to meet your individual needs and choose the right home office furniture, equipment and supplies to make your plan a reality.