Gunning Daily News

Simplify Holiday Gift Giving

December 4, 2012 5:56 pm

(BPT) - Overwhelmed by your holiday shopping list and short on time? Not to worry - here are a few tips to cut costs, stay organized and still buy presents that your friends and family will love.

1. Stick to a budget. Arrive at the dollar amount at which you feel comfortable spending and stick with it. Then, decide on cost ranges that you would pay for those on your list. Setting limits on how much you can spend per person will streamline the overall process of holiday shopping.

2. Be prepared with back-up gift cards. What if your cousin-in-law shows up to your shindig with a cute makeup set for you, but you have nothing for her? Don't let that happen by keeping a stock of extra gift cards. Stores like CVS, Walgreens, Walmart and Target offer a wide variety of them, so you don't have to drive from store to store.

3. Bake simple homemade treats. It's not the cost of the present that counts; it's the thought that matters. Show off your culinary skills with some heart-healthy oatmeal cookies or your delectable apple pie. If you need creative ideas, search Pinterest for mouth-watering inspiration.

4. Give to a worthwhile cause. Make a donation in the name of that friend or family member who has everything. Think about the recipient's philanthropic interests rather than just contributing to a cause that you support. Write a thoughtful card explaining what inspired you to choose this gift for an added touch.

Follow these easy tips and you'll be sure to experience stress-free holiday gifting.

Word of the Day

December 4, 2012 5:56 pm

Closing statement. Written account of all expenses, adjustments, and disbursements received by the buyer and seller when completing a real estate transaction.

Beyond Cash Back: Holiday Credit Card Perks Pay Off

December 3, 2012 6:16 pm

(BPT) - Hunting for deals and door buster sales this holiday? There are several little-known credit card perks to keep in mind before you reach into your wallet.

In addition to cash rewards and extra airline or travel credits, many credit card issuers also offer some valuable benefits which can help you stretch your dollars this holiday. You may also get extended product warranties, price protection and return guarantees on eligible purchases.

Seek out the online deals this holiday
When you shop online this holiday, make your credit card reward site your first stop. You may get exclusive offers such as free shipping and cash back on your purchases.

For instance, Discover regularly offers 5 to 20 percent cash back at hundreds of top retailers through the ShopDiscover online mall, and the offers are even better during the holidays. You log in to the card site and click through to the retailer website, and your purchases earn cash back. Be sure to read the terms - some items may not be included and things like gift-wrapping may not earn cash back either.

Gift cards - always a great gift
Many people save their rewards for the holidays and redeem them for gifts like merchandise or gift cards. It saves on your out-of-pocket expenses - and can often get you a better deal.

Price protection and return guarantee
Just by using your rewards credit card this holiday, you may be able to get the best deal and avoid buyer's remorse.- That's because some credit cards offer a benefit called price protection. If you find a lower price on your eligible purchased item within a specified time frame (typically 90 days) your credit card company will refund the difference.

Not happy with your purchase and the store won't accept your return? You may be in luck. Some credit card companies will refund the purchase price regardless of the store policy if you submit a claim within a designated time frame. Be sure to read the terms to see what may and may not be included in these offers.

Extended product warranty
Many credit cards will now extend the manufacturer's warranty up to an additional year at no additional cost. Check to see if your credit card offers extended product warranty coverage - another way to get a great value from your credit card.

Purchase protection
If a recently purchased item breaks or is stolen, you may still be in luck if you bought it using a credit card that offers purchase protection. Many credit cards offer free purchase protection on items if they are damaged or stolen when the entire purchase is made on your credit card. Not all features may be available to all card members, or they may only apply to certain cards, so it is important to read the fine print on your agreement.

Travel protection
Many rewards credit cards offer points, airline miles or cash back on your airline travel. Did you know they may also offer added travel protection as well? Look for credit card benefits like 24/7 travel assistance that can help with things like rebooking a flight or tracking lost luggage. And see if coverage is offered for things like car rental and flight insurance when you use your card. You may be surprised at the added value these benefits offer.

Know your coverage before you shop and you can enjoy worry-free benefits that will help you earn cash back, stay safe and keep saving this holiday season.

How-To: Prioritize Your Debt

December 3, 2012 6:16 pm

Is all debt created equal? Maybe not. In order to pay down debt faster while paying the least amount of interest, you'll need to prioritize some debt over others so that you can pay the least amount in the long run--being strategic about which ones you pay off first can save a significant amount of money, potentially hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Here's how you can prioritize paying down debt:

Credit Card Debt – Credit cards are a convenient form of payment, but chances are this is your most expensive debt, which is why it's so important that you pay it off as quickly as possible. If you carry a balance on more than one credit card, first pay off the one that charges the highest interest rate.

Mortgage Loan – If you own a home, this is likely the largest debt you carry; however, it's usually at a lower interest rate. Paying off your mortgage sooner rather than later can also save you thousands in interest. Paying extra each month, making an additional payment every few months, or splitting your monthly mortgage into bi-monthly payments are all ways you can pay down your loan faster.

Auto Loan –
Similar to a mortgage loan, auto loans typically charge lower interest rates. And, like mortgage loans, you can potentially save a significant amount in interest by paying off the loan faster.
Student Loans – Although it depends on what type of student loans you have, interest rates are generally low and there are several types of repayment options. It's important to pay these loans on time each month to help build your credit.

Sources: www.helpingmakemoneymakesense.com www.harrisbank.com

Tips to Avoid Holiday Headaches

December 3, 2012 6:16 pm

Holidays are a time for family, friends, and happy memories. But those joyful moments can be associated with stress – from marathon shopping, preparing for celebrations, and traveling. Stress and other stimuli may trigger or increase your headaches.

The National Headache Foundation recommends the following to avoid those holiday headaches:

Maintain your regular sleep schedule.
Those late night parties can play havoc with anyone's health, and especially impact those with chronic headaches and migraine. Try to go to sleep and awaken at the same time each day. Don't skip on your sleep – make sure you get your regular amount of sleep – 8 hours would be perfect.

Maintain your regular meal schedule.
Too often, we skip or miss meals as we travel from mall to mall, or are cooking/cleaning in preparation for a big celebration. If you can't stop for a regular meal, how about packing nutritious snacks?

Moderation is the key to avoid those "hangover" headaches. If you opt for that festive cocktail, sip your drink slowly. Mixed drinks containing fruit or vegetable choices (think Bloody Mary) may have less negative effects than straight alcohol. For migraine sufferers, red wine is a well-known culprit so a glass of white wine is preferable.

Watch that diet. Offerings at those holiday parties may look delicious but may contain foods that trigger headaches such as ripened cheese, chocolate, and processed meats. Some sensitive individuals should avoid food items containing MSG or low-cal beverages with aspartame. Monitor your caffeine intake and avoid or limit colas, coffee, and tea. The cold weather may encourage stopping for a hot cocoa but think twice before ordering.

Sniff easy. As you sprint through those crowded stores, be aware of odors that may produce a headache. Those perfume scents wafting through the air may trigger a headache, and some unfortunate individuals may be sensitive to the smell of pine boughs and balsam trees. With the introduction of no smoking ordinances, public places may be safer if you are sensitive to tobacco smoke. However, private parties may be a haven for smokers, particularly those enjoying a celebratory cigar. Your best bet is to find an area free of smoke and perfume.

Make “me” time. It would be easy to say avoid stress but that would be a gargantuan task at this time of the year. To help maneuver through the holidays, set aside personal time. If you feel you have had more than adequate "family togetherness," take a walk or just take a break from the festivities. Organize your schedule for shopping, cooking, cleaning, and "me" time.

Source: www.headaches.org

Word of the Day

December 3, 2012 6:16 pm

Closing costs. Expenses over and above the price of property that must be paid by buyers and sellers before title is transferred. Also known as settlement costs.

Green Holiday Decorating

November 30, 2012 2:08 pm

The holidays are practically upon us. I am ready to help convince you to deck the halls old school with a live tree this year. Choosing a live tree is a relatively eco-friendly choice, so long as you’re conscious about where it goes once the holidays are over.

According to the National Christmas Tree Association, nearly all cut holiday trees are grown on tree farms - so their stock is replenished yearly. And those spent trees can be ground into woodchips and used to mulch your garden or prevent erosion at a local watershed.

You can check with your city government or go to earth911.org and enter your ZIP code to find out where to have your tree recycled.

Interior designer Cheryl Terrace, founder of the eco-friendly firm Vital Design, recently blogged about the huge movement toward showing greater respect for the planet during the holidays.

For example, Terrace says before considering an artificial versus a real tree, consider the significant amount of energy and petroleum-based materials to manufacture. Artificial trees are often manufactured overseas and shipped thousands of miles before they reach our living rooms.

Another ultimately green alternative is to purchase a living tree. Terrace says they can be kept in a pot during the holidays and planted in the garden afterward.

Terrace also pointed out that a growing number of companies are filling a holiday niche by renting live Christmas trees that are returned and replanted after the holidays.

As for those presents under whatever tree you choose, Terrace says wrap them in recycled paper or other eco-friendly gift wrap alternatives.

And string smarter light strings by opting for energy-efficient lights. When they’re made using light-emitting diode bulbs, or LEDs, they also last longer - up to 10,000 hours compared with 5,000 hours for standard incandescent bulbs.

Terrace says you can also choose eco-friendly and socially responsible holiday decorations like tree ornaments handmade from natural materials. Many handmade decorations also come with little or no packaging, reducing that aforementioned holiday trash total.

We'll hang a few more green holidays on you in our next segment.

Beat Debt in a Bad Economy

November 30, 2012 2:08 pm

Debt problems still plague too many Americans as credit card debt continues to remain sharply higher than it was last year, up 5.9 percent over July 2011 levels according to the Federal Reserve. The Fed says that the average household is saddled with $15,587 in credit card debt and faced with unprecedented financial challenges during this extended period of bad economic news.

Effective debt management requires a willingness to change the way money is spent, and an openness to utilize the educational and professional resources that are available. Here are the six tips to building a solid financial plan, whether you have excessive credit card debt or are finding it hard to change your spending habits:

1 – Look under the rocks. This is an essential step, particularly for those struggling with credit card debt. Being open to making tough spending cuts, giving up some luxuries, and changing bad financial decision-making processes are essential.
2 – Change your habits. Learning how to get out of debt means being willing to do things differently. Remember the saying, "If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you always got." Don't spend and overspend the way you have in the past, change.
3 – Use financial tools. Websites like InCharge.org are stuffed with educational materials and interactive tools like home budgeting calculators and even financial video games where you can learn while you have fun.
4 – Pay on time. It certainly is advice you hear over and over, but it is true. It is certainly in the top five on the list of ways to build a better financial future. Paying late fees and over-limit charges is unnecessary, and unwise. Pay on time.
5 – Do it today. Our counselors hear from consumers every day who say they got into debt by spending too much today and planning (but never following through) on paying in the future. Create a spending plan and follow it.

Source: www.incharge.org.

Four Easy Ways to Avoid Holiday Decorating Overwhelm

November 30, 2012 2:08 pm

The holidays should be about enjoying the beauty of the season while spending time with family and friends. But, with busy schedules and an abundance of decorating choices, it's easy to be overwhelmed during what is supposed to be "the most wonderful time of the year." By taking to heart these four simple tips, you just may find yourself decorating with what you already have AND enjoying the holidays.

1. Inventory all your decorations, laying them out by color and design when getting started. This gives you a visual overview of what you have available to bring the holiday spirit into each area of your home while making it so much easier to pick out and find what you need.

Look at your own inventory of holiday decorations. You may even come across some items you bought on clearance last year. Also, take a good look around your home and yard keeping an eye out for things that could find a place on a holiday mantle, wreath or tree. Re-purposing these items can make your home merry and bright, without making your wallet light!

2. Change is good!
So, outdo yourself each year by re-using your existing decorations in different ways and perhaps in different rooms from year to year.

Plan ahead. Perhaps your mantle had a little extra flair this time last year. Using those same decorations, mix them up to create a centerpiece or wreath focal point instead. This will satisfy your desire for something new and give lift to show-worthy pieces. For example, planters from your front porch that held summer palms now can be brought indoors and decorated with faux flocked holiday trees to flank a fireplace or doorway.

3. Go room to room leaving the least important spaces in your house for last. Such areas are perfect for your decorating leftovers.

Use your best, most cherished holiday pieces in the highest traffic areas of your home. The remaining pieces can still be used to enhance the rooms of your home where you do the least entertaining. Decorative touches in these spaces, even using leftover pieces, adds a festive touch without the stress of a creating a major showpiece for guests.

4. Each year get rid of tired decorations and refresh some of your existing pieces or add new ones.
Refreshing tired decorations can be as easy as rinsing, dusting and untangling! But, it's worth the time and effort. If necessary, you can glue inexpensive new ornaments into a wreath to replace broken pieces or add a color. Add new ribbon to garland to freshen its look. Set yourself a budget for new Christmas accessories each year, and stay within those budget restraints.

Taking a little extra time early in the season to plan, reuse and refresh your holiday decorations will help you create different and distinctive looks. By using things you already have, and making a few quick enhancements, you can save yourself the "overwhelm" of additional time, energy and money leaving you more reason to celebrate the season.

Source: www.chrisholsen.com

Word of the Day

November 30, 2012 2:08 pm

CC&Rs. This stands for covenants, conditions and restrictions. They are the rules by which a property owner in a condominium agrees to abide.