Gunning Daily News

Don’t Get Sick Before You Travel—Here’s How

December 14, 2012 4:42 pm

(BPT) - You research what museums and restaurants you want to visit, plan everything you're going to pack, and count down the days until you leave. Anticipating a vacation is exciting - unless you suddenly get sick. Falling ill before or during your trip can derail the fun quickly, and that's why it's so important to add a few steps to your pre-vacation checklist that can help you stay healthy.

Whether you're traveling to a neighboring state or across the globe, feeling your best is an important part of having a great trip. The experts at On Call International, an emergency medical, security and travel assistance organization, offer these tips for maintaining health before and during your travel adventures:

1. Consider your vaccination options

Although typically associated with international travel, vaccines are important for staying healthy before and during any type of travel. When was the last time you asked your doctor if you were up to date on your vaccinations? Before your next trip, schedule a physical and ask about vaccines, such as options for the flu, and any other travel-related health concerns. If you're traveling to a more exotic or remote location, you may want to see a travel medicine specialist who can advise you on which vaccinations and precautions Americans should take when going to that specific destination.

2. Always wash your hands
While it may sound simple, one of the best ways to stay healthy and prevent the spread of germs is to wash your hands regularly with soap and water. Especially during the flu season, washing your hands thoroughly is important to staying healthy. If you're traveling and you don't have access to clean water and soap, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is the next best thing.

3. Carry sanitizing wipes
A handy travel tool to have in your bag is a pack of sanitizing wipes. While it's not necessary to sanitize every surface you encounter, using them for commonly touched areas can help keep you healthy by killing viruses and germs. For example, carry a travel-size pack of wipes to clean your airplane tray before eating, door knobs at your hotel, or the keyboard at the local Internet cafe. If you -don't have wipes, a dab of hand sanitizer on a tissue is a simple substitute.

4. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Staying healthy is an ongoing effort, which means well before you take your trip, make sure you are eating right, including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, drinking plenty of water, and getting adequate amounts of sleep each night. You'll also want to exercise regularly, and consider increasing your physical activity if you'll be particularly active on your trip to help prepare your body for long walks or hikes. These extra efforts will help keep your immune system strong so you don't get sick before you leave, and you'll be less vulnerable to fall ill or get injured while traveling.

5. Have a plan B

Of course anything can happen, even if you take the proper health steps, which is why a membership to a medical, security and travel assistance company like On Call International is a good backup plan. If you do get sick while on vacation, you'll get assistance locating a qualified physician, hospital or pharmacy. If you lose your prescription, there's replacement assistance too. In the event of a serious illness or injury, you'll receive emergency medical evacuation, which includes the planning and cost of transporting you home to your preferred doctor.


7 Tips for End-Of-Year Financial Planning

December 14, 2012 4:42 pm

As the end of the year approaches, it’s time to review your last-minute tax and spending strategies and plan ahead for next year. A panel of financial planners suggests seven end-of-year tasks that probably belong on your checklist:

Donate used goods or money – This is the time to clean out your closets and make donations for which you may claim a tax deduction. The same is true for cash donations to charity.
Use expiring medical coverage – If you have a flexible spending account, get your eyes or teeth checked now or see your other medical providers to use up any coverage that may expire at the end of the year.
Adjust your withholding - If you got a big refund last year, and have similar income and expenses this year, consider reducing your withholding. This will put more money in your pocket each month for savings or unexpected expenses.
Look at your debt – Are there credit card balances you can move or consolidate to reduce or eliminate finance charges for at least some period of time? Can you adjust spending to commit additional funds toward repayment of debt? Have your built up enough equity in your home to eliminate PMI?
Check your 401K or investment portfolio – Consult with your financial advisor to determine whether you should increase contributions, rebalance assets, or sell underperforming stocks.
Review your insurance – Check the person or people you’ve named for your retirement accounts and insurance policies. Did you have a death, birth, or divorce this year that could change the beneficiaries?
Curb your holiday spending – Before you head to the mall, determine to stick to a predetermined gift-giving budget. It’s as good a time as any to adjust your financial mindset to consider saving or paying off debt before laying out cash or adding to your credit card balances.

Word of the Day

December 14, 2012 4:42 pm

Conventional loan. Real estate loan that is not insured by the FHA or guaranteed by the VA.

Q: When Remodeling, Should I Tackle the Job Myself or Call in the Pros?

December 14, 2012 4:42 pm

A: A lot will depend on your time, level of expertise or willingness to handle the job, amount of help from friends or relatives, and how much you want, or need, to save by doing the job yourself. You could save up to 20 percent of the project cost through your own hard work.

There are several do-it-yourself books that offer guidance, and some home improvement stores, such as Home Depot or Lowe’s, offer classes that can be helpful getting you on the right track.

Be aware, however, that you may end up spending more time, and up to double your estimated budget, if problems arise. Also, you may have difficulty selling your home if the workmanship looks shoddy.
Unless you are very experienced, home improvement experts suggest that you stick to painting, minor landscaping, building interior shelving, and other minor improvements.

Remember, too, that you may need to deal with local agencies to get permits, inspections, variances, and certificates of occupancy.

Is College Necessary?

December 14, 2012 3:42 pm

SWParents—Your high school senior might be doing some soul-searching right now, wondering if going to college in the fall is what he or she really wants to do. You might be getting some pressure to permit (or even bankroll) some sort of break. Let’s think about this, with the understanding that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this dilemma. If your child is wants to delay college – for a year or permanently – here are some questions to consider.

  1. Does your child have a plan? Maybe your child wants to travel across country or volunteer or start a business. Does your child have a plan for how this will happen (where she will go and how she will get there, which organization she wants to help, what market her business will reach)? The more well-thought the plan the more reasonable it is to endorse it. If your child’s ideas of what to do instead of college are vague and poorly-formed, then the structure a year of college provides might still be a good idea.
  2. Is your child running away from something? Escape for escape’s sake is not a positive foundation for the future. So if your child rejects college because he just doesn’t want to do what his friends are doing or because his girlfriend ditched him or because he can’t make up his mind about a major, then not-going is a way of avoiding things instead of a way of embracing something. Ask him to come up with a plan that’s so exciting he wants to run towards it, not just a plan for running away.
  3. Does your child know what happens next once the plan is in place? If “what happens next” is “I win American Idol and land a six-figure recording contract and go on a twenty-city tour” then a dose of reality (and not a dose of reality TV) is in order. Continue the conversation with “yes, and… if that doesn’t work out what next?” Having a back-up plan and a realistic appraisal of Plan A’s chances keeps both of you from chasing after moonbeams again in another six months.
  4. Where does your child see herself in five years? If she goes to college, in five years she will have her degree and probably be situated in a job that pays the rent. If she doesn’t go to college, but instead gets a job right out of high school, will that job pay enough to support an apartment and a car and a cat? If she doesn’t go to college but instead gets married right out of high school, will she (and her husband) someday feel trapped by her lack of work experience and lack of college degree? Most young people envision themselves living large in five years or less. Will the path your child has chosen lead to that?
  5. Is your child running away from you? If you have made going to college such a personal expectation – maybe even choosing the college your child will attend or dictating his major – then rejecting college altogether may be the only way your child can assert his independence. If you think this might be happening, now is the time to back off. Make it clear that you don’t care what college your child might attend and that you’ll support whatever major he selects. See if his attitude towards college improves.

College is not perfect for everyone and not every successful person went to college. But many eighteen-year-olds need a few more years of structure before they’re ready to stand on their own. Talk with your child and help him to honestly evaluate his options. Make clear how much or how little you can support him financially if he goes to college or if launches a different trajectory.

Support your child emotionally no matter what.

© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.

Three Easy Ways to Combat Rising Home Heating Costs

December 14, 2012 3:42 pm

With natural gas and oil prices on the rise, U.S. homeowners are expected to more to heat their homes this winter. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, homes that use natural gas will see a 15 percent increase in heating bills this winter -- adding an estimated $89 more to gas bills each month. Homes that rely on heating oil will see an 11 percent increase -- adding an estimated $407 more to the monthly bill. To help counteract rising heating costs, suggests the following three things every homeowner can do to slash heating bills this winter.

"We can't control factors like fuel costs or the weather, but we can be smart about how we prepare our homes for winter," says's DIY Specialist, Sean Murphy. "A few basic repairs and one or two simple changes can add up to big savings in your December and January heating bills."

To reduce winter heating bills, homeowners can consider the following money-saving suggestions:
1. Winter-proof the windows: Windows can be a home's most attractive feature. They provide views, lighting, ventilation -- and most importantly, a natural source of heat during the frigid winter months.
Unfortunately, they can also account for 10 to 25 percent of a home's total heating bill by allowing heat to escape. This winter, make sure all windows are properly sealed. Replace weather stripping, and re-caulk windows to ensure even the smallest leaks are plugged. When the project is done, be sure to seal the caulking tube properly so it can be reused for future projects.

Think of window coverings as a home's blanket. Close curtains, shades and blinds to keep the warm air in. When the sun does decide to come out, keep coverings open to allow it to naturally heat the room. In addition to cutting energy costs, some window coverings qualify for energy-efficiency tax credits. Though tax credits vary by state, the average homeowner can save up to $1,000 with qualifying rebates.

2. Keep tabs on the thermostat: Dialing back the thermostat by 7 to 10 degrees will save 10 percent a year on heating and cooling costs. As a general rule of thumb, a home should be kept at, or below, 68 degrees for maximum cost efficiency.

Homes with programmable thermostats should set the heater to turn on 30 minutes before someone arrives, and turn off 30 minutes before everyone heads to bed. Programmable thermostats are a great winter investment, saving the average homeowner about $180 in energy costs every year when using pre-programmed settings, and can be easily installed by the homeowner.

3. Give the water heater a boost: A hot shower is an even hotter commodity during the dreary winter months, so make sure the hot water heater is bundled up this winter. Water heater blankets help insulate the tank and allow the water to stay warmer longer. This cuts down on energy costs and makes the water tank system more efficient, saving homeowners $30 a year on their bill.

For an even bigger savings, consider upgrading to a tankless water heater. They offer convenience without the high cost of keeping water hot -- saving the average homeowner more than $100 a year.
For optimal savings, set the water heater to 120 degrees. It's estimated that setting a water heater too high -- 140 degrees or above -- wastes anywhere from $36 - $61 annually in standby heat losses.
"Heating and cooling account for more than half of the average utility bill. These three changes may seem small, but together they'll make a huge dent in your winter bills," states Murphy.


How to ‘Own’ Your Dream

December 14, 2012 3:42 pm

SWParents--It is a peculiar truth of life that we often do not appropriately value the things we don’t directly pay for. One of the problems with credit is that it enables us to have something that we “want” now even though we might not really need it. And had we been forced to earn the money for it first then we might have decided later that it’s not worth the money because it’s not worth the work we had to put in to get it.

Unfortunately many of us approach our dreams with the same buying-on-credit philosophy that we use to buy our stuff. We want to find a way to get them without having to pay for them upfront. In other words we want the accolades, the raises, the notoriety, the freedom and the status but we would rather not have to put the work in for it up front in order to get it. But even though we think that is what we want, it ultimately doesn’t satisfy.

A dream that is handed to you wouldn’t be worth as much as one you had to pay to own. It wouldn’t have the same significance, the same meaning, and it wouldn’t represent the same success. Even though we may not realize it, the satisfaction of reaching the dream comes from having paid the price in order to get it.

So if you have a dream – any dream – you don’t want it on “credit”. That is, you don’t want it “given” to you and you don’t need it to “come easy”. You want to work for it, you want to earn it, you want to pay the price for it. You want to own it! My friend and author, Randy Gage, often says “you should be the number one investor into your own dream.”

There are 3 currencies you can use to invest in owning your dream: time, money, and energy. If you have a dream that you want then you can own it by investing any one of those 3 things into it at any moment.
And as the “Buy-In Principle” of the Take the Stairs methodology reminds us, “the more we have invested into something the less likely we are to let it fail.” So don’t wait for your dream to be given to you. Don’t expect an easier way for it to show up. Don’t think it’d be better if it just happened. Instead, start investing! Start paying the price and you’ll be amazed at the power you have once you truly “own” your own dream.
See you in the “stairwell.”

Rory Vaden, MBA is Cofounder of Southwestern Consulting, Self-Discipline Strategist and Speaker, and New York Times bestselling author of "Take the Stairs.”


Word of the Day

December 14, 2012 3:42 pm

Contract. A legally enforceable agreement between two or more parties. To be valid, a real estate contract must be dated, in writing, include a consideration, have a description of the property, the place and date of delivery of the deed, and spell out all terms and conditions that were mutually agreed upon. It also must be executed (signed) by the buyer and seller.

Q: What Are the Main Reasons Why Homeowners Remodel?

December 14, 2012 3:42 pm

A: There are many reasons. Home remodeling can improve the appearance of your home, enhance its value, add to your quality of life, and appeal to future home buyers. According to a recent survey by the National Association of Home Builders, the top four reasons homeowners remodel is to obtain more space, avoid buying a new home, enjoy more amenities, and adjust to lifestyle changes.

Five Quick Tips for Easy Holiday Entertaining

December 13, 2012 5:02 pm

The very thought of trying to squeeze a party or two into your already hectic holiday schedule may make you contemplate giving up the holidays altogether. But there are many ways to meet your hosting commitments without a lot of added stress.

Laguna Beach caterer Cindi Fredericks suggests party tips for entertaining a dozen or more guests with panache and minimum effort:

One setting, two parties – Once the living room or patio is decorated, plan two parties in the same week instead of one. Buy double sets of party paper or plastic goods and invite co-workers one evening and neighbors the next, using the same fresh centerpieces, the same buffet set-up and seating space, even the same menu if you wish.
Make it an open house – Opening your home for three or four hours will allow guests to come and go as their schedules permit – and give you time to replenish platters and do a little discreet clean-up in between.
Make it self-serve – Buffets are fun and easy, and even the bar or beverage table should allow guests to help themselves. Finger foods eliminate the need for cutlery. Set out red and white wine, a bottle or two of club soda, a punchbowl or sodas, and coffee.
Make it cheesey – One trip to the deli can get you ready for one or several parties at once, and refrigerated foods will keep well for several days. Choose several chunks of cheese to set out with crackers or party rye and a chub or two of salami that guests can slice for themselves. Fill out the fare with bowls of olives, gherkins, raw veggies, nuts, fresh grapes, and a platter of cookies.
Make it sweet – A dessert party is a fun and easy way to do your holiday hosting. Prepare and freeze in advance five or six kinds of cookies, brownies, fudge balls or other finger-food desserts. You may even ask guests to bring a dozen of their own favorite cookie treats. On the day of your party, thaw the goodies on festive platters and provide coffee and hot water for tea or cocoa.