Gunning Daily News

Word of the Day

September 18, 2012 5:10 pm

Tax rate. The rate at which real property is taxed in a tax district or county. For example, in a certain county, real property may be taxed at a rate of 55 mills (or 0.055) per dollar of assessed valuation.

Q: Do I have to be concerned with building codes and permits?

September 18, 2012 5:10 pm

A: Depending on how your contract is written with the home improvement professional, either you or the contractor will be responsible for securing government approval to perform most remodeling jobs. Building codes set minimum public-safety standards for such things as building design and construction. Codes vary from one state, county, city, and town to the next, but specialized codes generally exist for plumbing, electricity, and fire. Each usually involves separate inspections and inspectors. In addition, permits are generally required when any structural work is planned or the basic living space of a home is altered. They generally cover new construction, repairs, alterations, demolition, and additions to a structure. Some jurisdictions require permits to be posted in a visible spot on the premises while the work is being done. Besides structural changes, permits also may be needed to cover the installation of foundations for tanks and equipment, as well as the construction or demolition of ducts, sprinkler systems, or standpipe systems.

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."

Source: www.homefoodsafety.org.

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 www.ed.gov.
  • 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.

Source: www.bmoharris.com/financialadvisors.

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.”

Source: www.plygem.com

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.