Gunning Daily News

10 Things You Should Buy Used

September 17, 2012 5:34 pm

Many items – car tires and underwear come to mind – should always be bought new. But many of the items we use every day can and should be bought used, keeping money in your pocket while providing you with excellent service.

Yahoo! consumer affairs consultant Matt Brownell offers a list of 10 things you should consider buying used:

Video games – avid game players sometimes tire of video games quickly, making used games widely available for half or less of their list price. Weeks after a new game is issued, check Craigslist or GameStop for a cheap used version.
Cars – yes, buying a used car could mean you end up with a lemon. But new cars depreciate by thousands the minute they are driven off the lot. Have the car you want inspected by your own trusted mechanic before you buy.
Books – especially textbooks, but all books, really, become bargains when bought used. Visit used book sites online or browse in a used bookstore to find your favorites. Bonus: Used books can be cheaper than ebooks and recycling is good!
Baby furniture – Kids outgrow cribs, bassinets and changing tables long before they wear out, and you can find great bargains on like-new baby goods on Craigslist. Spring for a new mattress, but otherwise just a good cleaning and you are good to go.
Other furniture – Used bookshelves, coffee tables or any other furniture you can clean is almost always worth buying used.
Musical instruments – Save a bundle over buying new, and most musicians will say, ‘the older the better.’
Weights and other gym equipment – watch out for rust, but otherwise buy used and reap the resale value if you ever sell.
Cell phones – Refurbished cell phones and smartphones have been sent back to the factory, repaired and repackaged. They will even have warranty protection. You won’t have the latest model, but you will save big bucks.
Clothing – You may be surprised at what you can find in thrift stores – including outgrown and never-worn clothing at bargain basement prices – or less.
Kitchen goods – You can stock your kitchen with dishes, glasses, pots and pans and everything else you need at a thrift shop or by visiting Craigslist. Plug in electronics to be sure they work before buying.

Lessons in Leftovers: Make Sure They're Safe

September 17, 2012 5:34 pm

Saving leftovers to eat later is a great way to practice portion control and save money, but it's important to make sure leftovers are safe to eat according to Home Food Safety, a collaborative program of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and ConAgra Foods.

"Oftentimes our eyes are bigger than our stomachs. Instead of overeating at home or a restaurant, save part of your meal to eat later," says registered dietitian and Academy Spokesperson Melissa Joy Dobbins. "Just make sure you're storing and reheating leftovers properly to keep them from making you sick."

Keep these food safety tips in mind when reheating leftovers:

  1. Refrigerate leftovers to 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below within two hours of them being served to you. (In hotter weather over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, refrigerate after one hour.)
  2. Seal leftovers in an airtight, clean container, and label it with the expiration date
  3. Reheat leftovers to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, and use a food thermometer to make sure all types of food reach the safe minimum internal temperature throughout before you eat.
  4. Check on the shelf life of leftovers and discard when it's past the expiration date. When in doubt, throw it out!

"Unfortunately, you can't rely on sight and scent alone to tell if food is spoiled or contaminated with foodborne pathogens," Dobbins says. "That's why it's important to follow these simple steps, but a majority of Americans do not always do so, putting them at risk for food poisoning."

According to a 2011 survey conducted by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, only 23 percent of Americans always use a food thermometer to check the doneness of their foods, and only 28 percent regularly check the refrigerator thermometer.

"It's important to properly store and reheat leftovers, whether at home or the office," she says. "Encourage your work place to regularly clean the office refrigerator and ensure it remains under 40 degrees Fahrenheit."


5 Tips to Help Families Pay for College

September 17, 2012 5:34 pm

Most parents want to be able to provide a solid education for their kids. But with money tight in many households, tuition fees can be a major stressor, especially households with several college-aged kids.
Financially preparing for college in the face of rising high education costs can be a daunting task, but a sound savings strategy today can ease the strain of tomorrow's tuition costs.

"Exploring various options and planning early can make the cost for a college education much more tolerable," said Pete Schmidt, Vice President, Regional Sales Manager covering the Twin Cities for BMO Harris Financial Advisors, Inc., a part of BMO Financial Group. "Saving should be a priority as soon as possible because the decisions you make now will have a significant impact on how much money you have when your children are ready to head off to college."

Below are a few options to help families pay for college:

  • Consider a 529 Plan: Designed to help families set aside funds for future college costs, a 529 Plan is an education savings plan operated by the state or an educational institution. 529 Plans can be used to help pay the costs of qualified higher education expenses at colleges nationwide. The federal tax law even provides special tax benefits to plan participants1. A common strategy is to set up an automatic transfer out of a checking account to a 529 Plan account. This helps spread out the cost over a longer period of time.
  • Set Up a Savings Account: Using cash for costs outside of tuition, such as books and a meal plan, will keep student loans and credit card debt down. Start a savings account specifically for these types of expenses. The student can also participate by depositing a percentage of money from summer or weekend jobs and from monetary gifts into the account to give them a sense of ownership. It's never too early or too late to begin saving for a college education.
  • Share your Plan with Others: If grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other family members know about your college savings plans, they can help out. They can deposit into a 529 Plan or savings account or buy Savings Bonds as birthday and holiday presents and help build up even more money to use toward college costs.
  • Apply for Federal Student Aid Programs: Through the use of grants, work-study programs, and federal loans, there are a variety of resources available to help fund a college education. Eligibility is different for each program. For further information, visit
  • Research Scholarship Opportunities: Scholarships are available to a variety of people through individual universities, county offices, privately held businesses, and nonprofit organizations. Your school's guidance counselor can be invaluable in providing information on local scholarship opportunities or scholarship information for specific colleges being considered, and a search of the Internet can provide additional resources for finding scholarship opportunities for a college education.


Boost Curb Appeal with Exterior Renovations

September 17, 2012 5:34 pm

(ARA) - If you were to take a look at a typical neighborhood today, you would see patterns of familiar home designs such as split-level, ranch or colonial. Most of these American styles were built between 1955 and 1985, when there was a need for mass-produced housing. Due to this suburban sprawl, many homes lost the originality and architectural appeal of classic styles built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

If you, like so many others, currently live in one of these houses, its lack of personality and curb appeal may have you thinking about making a change to the exterior. Yet the overwhelming amount of home design choices may have you wondering how to get started.

“Many times, homeowners are afraid to do more than replace existing windows or siding with new versions of the same product, simply because they can't visualize the possibilities for their home exterior,” says John Stephenson, senior vice president of marketing for Ply Gem, an exterior building products company.

To help picture what's possible in exterior home design and simplify product and color selection, homeowners now have the option to turn to digital home remodeling tools. Online visualizer tools, such as The Designed Exterior Studio by Ply Gem, allow consumers to find inspiration and experiment with renovation ideas, even before meeting with a contractor. Users can virtually update a home exterior with new colors and style options for siding, stone veneer, windows and more. Homeowners can save their designs, and easily share with a remodeling contractor.

“When meeting with a contractor about a remodel, doing research and having a visual of a preferred exterior style and color palette is a great way to get the conversation started,” says Stephenson. “The existing American housing stock has so much potential for beautiful design and architectural styling; new online visualization tools are designed to help both homeowners and their contractors realize the potential for these older homes.”

Before getting started on an exterior remodel, it's also important to understand the level of changes you want to make. Read through the following tips on making the most of an exterior renovation and provides some insight on how to prepare and get started.

  • If your home has great bones, but lacks curb appeal and originality, a simple refresh with new siding, windows and accents in different colors and textures can make a big difference.
  • New windows are also a noticeable architectural feature with the added benefit of increased energy efficiency in the home. Some key elements to consider for beautiful window design include style, grille pattern and color.
  • For an even more personalized home exterior upgrade, consider cosmetic, nonstructural architectural changes, in addition to the replacement of windows and siding.
“Adding elements to the roof such as window dormers or gables, or changing the entryway with a porch, can give your home personality and create a look that is reminiscent of classic architectural styles,” says Deryl Patterson, principal, BSB Design architecture firm. “These additions also provide visual interest to the exterior, giving it balance and elevation. In combination with appropriate material textures and colors, you can transform your home into an architecturally authentic style.”


Word of the Day

September 17, 2012 5:34 pm

Tax credit. An allowed deduction that can be subtracted from your income tax. If you are entitled to a $1,500 credit, and your income tax would otherwise be $10,000, the credit would reduce the tax due to $8,500.

Q: What Are Some of the Legal Considerations Relative to Remodeling?

September 17, 2012 5:34 pm

A: There are many, including those surrounding zoning, permits, variances, and building codes. All of these regulations are the government’s way of controlling the physical development of land and public-safety standards for such things as building design, construction, alteration, repair or demolition. The regulations vary from one state, county, city, and town to the next and can result in fines or serious consequences. There are also often engineering approvals and requirements related to grading, site drainage, utility connections, wells and septics, and sometimes fire regulations. Another area of legal considerations involves contractual issues tied to responsibilities for permits and approvals, code and regulations compliance, insurance, financing, and warranties. If construction financing is to be provided by a lender, there will often be requirements relative to progress inspections, construction draws, lien waivers, title insurance, holdbacks, etc. It may be worthwhile to hire an attorney to provide guidance on these issues and to assure the completeness and fairness of the remodeling contract.

Word of the Day

September 14, 2012 6:36 pm

Subletting. The leasing of premises by a lessee to a third party for part of the lessee’s remaining term.

Question of the Day

September 14, 2012 6:36 pm

Q: What Are Allowances and What Should I Know about Them When Planning with a Remodeling Contractor?

A: Rather than price specific products or materials, many contractors prefer to use product allowances, an amount included in the contract to be used toward the purchase of these products and materials as they are selected by the consumer. Typical categories where allowances might be used include flooring, cabinets, and lighting fixtures. Allowances allow homeowners more time to finalize exact selections as the project progresses, and they can simplify the cost control process. The disadvantage, however, is that the cost of final selections can easily exceed the amount of money allowed, resulting in significant extra charges to the homeowner. Shop for each allowance category before you finalize the allowance amounts provided in the contract. This way, you can budget for additional funds or adjust allowances to better reflect the actual monies required.

Needs and Wants: It's Important to Know the Difference

September 14, 2012 6:36 pm

With the summer behind us and the official start of fall just around the corner, many are looking at their credit card bills and wondering what on earth they did with their money this summer. Wondering why you can't seem to manage your spending? One reason may be a tendency to confuse what you need with what you want, which can lead to unwise buying decisions.

While there's nothing wrong with buying things that aren't exactly life's necessities, doing this too often could get you into financial trouble.

Here are a few tips that can help you gain control of your spending.

Before you buy, pose the "want versus need" question
Each time you go shopping, ask yourself whether the item you're considering is something you really need or something you just want. You'll be surprised at how often you end up putting something back on the shelf because, let's face it, did you really need another black sweater or that new set of high-tech golf clubs?

Learn to delay gratification
All right, so you've decided that you need to take that one-week getaway to the Bahamas. Your job is extremely stressful and you're at the breaking point. But before you book your flight and hotel, sleep on it. You may still feel the same way in the morning, but it's good practice to take some time to think before you buy instead of constantly making impulse purchases.

Make a shopping list
Before you head out to the supermarket or shopping mall, make a list of the things you want to buy and the approximate cost of each item. Then add everything up. If the total exceeds what you can afford to spend, go through the list and put each item through the "want versus need" test. Highlight the "want" items and take them off the list one by one until you reach a more reasonable total.

Don't forget to reward yourself
While managing your spending is critical to a sound financial future, it's also important to enjoy your money. So if your budget allows it this month, go ahead and treat your family to dinner at that ritzy new restaurant. Or buy that mobile phone with all the bells and whistles you've been dying to play with. By keeping your indulgences within a reasonable limit, you'll enjoy them more knowing you've got your spending under control.

Source: BMO Harris Bank

Tips for Buying a Used Vehicle

September 14, 2012 6:36 pm

With budgets tight, many Americans are choosing to buy used vehicles instead of new ones, and approximately 3.3 used cars are sold for every one new car sold. This makes understanding the buying process an important skill.

Below are a few tips from and OnStar about what to know and do when shopping for a used car:

Consider purchasing a certified pre-owned vehicle: Certified pre-owned vehicles usually come with extended warranties and have been thoroughly inspected before being sold.
Make sure the potential vehicle is functional for everyone who will be traveling in it: If searching for a used family vehicle, bring the whole family on an extended test drive to make sure everyone is comfortable with the vehicle. If you have small children, use this time to make sure child safety seats fit and can easily be installed in the vehicle.
Purchase a vehicle history report and have the vehicle inspected by a qualified mechanic: Taking both of these actions can reduce the chance of unexpected issues later.
Ask about promotional programs: Many manufactures offer incentives to purchase their used vehicles.
Secure your financing in advance: Because used vehicle loans can vary when it comes to interest rates, visit your local bank or credit union before making a final decision so you can be sure you're receiving the best interest rate.
Don't negotiate price based on what you want your monthly payment to be: Monthly payments can always be lowered to fit your budget by extending the length of the loan. But extending the length of the loan makes the car more expensive. Negotiations should be made based on the price of the car, rather that the monthly payment.
Remember the sale process continues past the acceptance of an offer: After both parties agree upon an appropriate price, dealers usually will offer extra accessories and services you might not be interested in. Be sure to stand firm and make it clear that you are not interested in paying more than the previously agreed upon price.