Gunning Daily News

Five Shopping Tips for Navigating Labor Day Sales

August 31, 2012 1:38 pm

With Labor Day weekend upon us, retailers are luring consumers with promises of end-of-summer savings and inventory blowouts. The founders of Deal Décor have leveraged their retail expertise, derived from years of experience at Home Depot, Target, Gap and Williams-Sonoma, to arm shoppers with the best practices to get the merchandise they want, at the best possible price.

Read these tips before tackling Labor Day sales:

Carry a smartphone.
There's no better way to judge value than to price-compare an item on the spot while at the store. Retailers with both brick-and-mortar locations as well as an e-commerce site will often display a lower price on their online store. Share your research with the salesperson, and get a better price instantly.

Check for fine print on “Price Guarantees.”
Many retailers claim that they will price-match an item, but when pressed, they will often find a loophole to wiggle out of it. For example, a consumer may buy a sofa from a store, and later find it online at a lower price. When he or she goes back to the store, the retailer may argue that the competitor’s product is named differently and therefore classified as a different product. Consumers should clarify the limitations on price comparisons before buying under the terms of a price-match guarantee.

Closeouts are long-term commitments.
At the end of a season, as is the case with Labor Day, stores are trying to closeout certain items to make room for inventory appropriate for the next season. Consumers may believe they’ve discovered a great deal, but they don't realize that what they are buying isn't returnable. Before buying, inspect the product. Deal Décor recommends opening the box before walking out of the store.

Broadcast your voice through social media.

Use your social network and influence to demand accountability from retailers. Comment on the retailer’s Facebook page when you have a poor experience or feel that they have misrepresented something. Some retailers go out of their way to make amends for mistakes.

Almost everything is negotiable.
Most consumers don’t hesitate to negotiate for a car. This is also an option for furniture, mattresses and many other products. Do not hesitate to ask for a discount, even on sale or clearance items. You won’t get it if you don’t ask!


Word of the Day

August 31, 2012 1:38 pm

Right of first refusal. A person’s right to have the first opportunity to either lease or purchase real property.

Q: Can I Deduct Improvements Made to My Home?

August 31, 2012 1:38 pm

A: Yes, but only after you have sold it because improvements add to the basis of your home. Remember your gain is defined as your home’s selling price, minus deductible closing costs, minus your basis. The basis is the original purchase price of the home, plus improvements, less any depreciation.

The IRS defines improvements as those items that “add to the value of your home, prolong its useful life, or adapt it to new uses” – such as putting in new plumbing or wiring or adding another bathroom.

Word of the Day

August 31, 2012 1:38 pm

Right of survivorship. A feature of joint tenancy giving the surviving joint tenants the rights, title and interests of the deceased joint tenant. Right of survivorship is the basic difference between buying property as joint tenants and as tenants in common.

Why Fall is the Time to Tackle Invasive Plant Problems

August 31, 2012 1:38 pm

(ARA) - The crisp days of fall will soon be here, but a long dry summer has left many homeowners looking out on lawns and gardens overtaken with invasive weeds and vines. A yard full of these noxious plants is sure to make it difficult to enjoy the cooler outdoor temperatures.

In 2012, the nation faced one of the hottest summers on record in the last 60 years. With more than two thirds of the country experiencing severe to extreme drought, conditions were ideal for pesky weeds to flourish.

Weeds like dandelions, crabgrass and clover easily tolerate hot temperatures and dry soil, overtaking lawns and gardens and lingering throughout the cooler fall months. Ivy and other aggressive vines thrive in the summer heat, climbing and covering bushes and trees and ultimately killing the plants underneath with their shade.

Left untreated, invasive plants can quickly become health and safety hazards. Kudzu can grow up to a foot per day, causing tree limbs to break under its weight, damaging homes and outdoor living spaces. Common grass weeds like nettles and thistles sting and prick the skin, and contact with dangerous plants like poison oak, ivy and sumac cause moderate to severe allergic reactions in almost all people.

"Fall herbicide treatments are the most effective way to eliminate unattractive and potentially harmful plants from lawns and gardens so that those spaces can be enjoyed throughout the cool fall months," says Aaron Hobbs, president of RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment), a national organization representing the manufacturers, formulators and distributors of pesticide and fertilizer products.

"This is the best time of year to eliminate invasive plants," Hobbs adds. "Weeds move the products of photosynthesis like water, glucose and oxygen to their roots for winter food storage in the fall, enabling the roots to soak up herbicides as well." Two to three treatments are usually all that is needed to completely destroy these types of plants.

Effective herbicide options exist for every type of weed and vine. The Environmental Protection Agency rigorously tests herbicides for potential human health and environmental impact before they can be registered and sold for use. As with all pesticides, users should always read labels and use and store products accordingly.

With just one or two follow-up treatments after an initial fall herbicide application, invasive plants are eradicated at the root, and people can take back their lawns and gardens to enjoy the beauty of fall.

Tips To Avoid Getting Burned by High-Tech Scams

August 31, 2012 1:38 pm

It's easier than ever to get burned these days—in fact fraud and identity-theft complaints tracked by the Federal Trade Commission topped 1.2 million last year, up 19 percent from 2010 and a whopping 800 percent since 2000. And the fraud artists are using new channels and technology that didn't exist 15 years ago including social media, pop-up ads on your computer, and text-message "smishing" scams.

According to Consumer Reports' investigation, two other factors compound this problem. The first is that according to experts, the need for law enforcement to pursue terrorists has shifted FBI resources from fraud cases. And making the problem even more difficult for consumers is the trend toward "last dollar" fraud, aimed at taking the last dollar from the unemployed or underemployed.

"Fraud operates like a business these days," says Jeff Blyskal, Senior Editor, Consumer Reports. "It's as if thieves have their own Research and Development departments looking into the latest technologies and figuring out new ways to trick you. And the Internet makes it easier to reach and market their schemes to people than ever before. Even if they only fool a small percentage of people, that's still a lot of victims."

Here are some of the latest high-tech scams and what you can do to prevent getting ripped off by them:

We'll remove the virus we found for $100.
Some scoundrels fly under the radar via telephone. A tech-support person, purportedly from a trusted company like Dell or Microsoft, calls to warn you that its security systems have remotely detected a virus on your computer and offers to remove it—for a fee of $100 or more. Of course, there is no virus, so you pay for unnecessary service. The crook may also take the opportunity to install mock antivirus software that later starts "finding" nonexistent malware. That can cost you a bundle for removal. Worse, the tech may also install software that scans your computer to steal your passwords and hijack your computer to generate ads and spread spam.

Protect yourself: Find legitimate antivirus and antimalware software that Consumer Reports has rated, install it on your PC, and keep it up to date. Hang up on anyone outside your home who claims to find trouble on your PC.

You could win an iPad.
Start bidding! Hot electronics are commonly used to entice victims into a shakedown. A pop-up ad on your computer invites you to bid on an iPad, laptop PC, or wide-screen TV, but you must include your cell-phone number to play. Submitting your bid sends a text message to your cell phone that, whether you respond or not, may authorize an unwanted $9.99 a month subscription to some useless service. The charge gets tacked onto your cell-phone bill, where you're unlikely to notice it.

Protect yourself: Guard your cell-phone number like a credit card; don't give it to strangers. Demand refunds from your cell provider if you've been crammed. Tell your wireless and landline carriers to block all third-party billing to your account, and check previous bills for cramming charges.

Buy a gourmet dog-food coupon worth $61—for just $16.
You receive an e-mail that alerts you to a website—not the manufacturer's—where you can purchase high-value coupons. They're not your typical 25 cents off but special coupons for $2 to $60 off or free high-priced products like shaving razors, pricey pet food, diapers, infant formula, coffee, and even restaurant meals. Such giveaways are rarely circulated, but manufacturers do use them to introduce new products or as a goodwill gesture to win back a wronged customer. The problem is there's no way anyone can accumulate enough of those rare coupons to make a business of it, so the ones hawked through websites are likely to be counterfeit or stolen.

Protect yourself: Avoid such coupons.

OMG. Now you really can see who views your Facebook profile!!! Social-media networks are fertile ground for fakery. You might have received news-feed messages from Facebook friends raving about an app that claims to let you see who's checking out your profile. Such messages can be spam in disguise, leading to "bait pages." Other bait involves bizarre or salacious videos. Consumers who take the bait never get the promised software or film.

Instead, the link drives the curious to a fake Facebook website. You're asked to "like" the app or other bait, which forwards the spam to all of your friends. Then you have to complete a survey, which collects personal information and opinions.

Protect yourself: Don't reveal personal information online to anyone who initiated contact with you unless your trust is certain. Look for the survey company's name and go to its website independently by reopening your browser, or call it. Ignore product promos from Facebook friends. Use caution in granting access to your profile. And think before you "like."

Source: Consumer Reports

Incorporate Your Old Garage Door into Your Home’s Interior Design

August 31, 2012 1:38 pm

(ARA) - Garage door replacement has become one of the most popular home improvement projects because of its high return on investment (ROI). In fact, Remodeling Magazine's recent annual Cost vs. Value Report ranks garage door replacement as the No. 2 project (out of a list of 35) to offer a good ROI.

But for every new garage door bought, there's an old door that's now obsolete. Before sending it off to the landfill, consider some interesting ways in which it could be used inside your house. There's a wide spectrum of unique applications that could give your home decor a "wow" factor while being practical and environmentally friendly at the same time. Now that's a win-win.

The easiest and most inexpensive way to incorporate a garage door inside is to simply attach it to the wall or ceiling. Consider covering the door with chalkboard paint and bolting it to a playroom wall to create interactive fun for children. This also would make an interesting and useful addition to the kitchen, offering a spot for jotting down grocery lists and notes for family members. If you have a room that's devoid of architectural detail, paint your door a color that works well with other furniture and attach it to the ceiling. You'll add instant interest without the expense of custom carpentry.

Garage doors also can be used as interior walls, providing the option of opening up two rooms if needed for large gatherings. This creates a fluid interior that's as much interesting and unexpected as it is functional.

A more expansive way to incorporate a garage door inside is to use it in place of windows or exterior walls, creating a room that literally opens up to the outdoors. Imagine hosting a party in a kitchen or family room that could be completely open to a beautiful back yard or patio - this would take entertaining to a whole new level. And if you have the panels of the door replaced with glass, consider the amount of natural light that would be added to your interior, in a beautiful and unconventional way.

Using a garage door to replace an existing wall or in lieu of a wall in new construction will require the assistance of a trained professional. If your existing garage door is not insulated, you might consider purchasing a new one to protect against extreme temperatures and noise.

So if your renovation list is like that of many homeowners and includes the purchase of a new garage door, consider incorporating your old door into your interior decorating to add an element of design that's both useful and unique.


Q: What about repairs made to get the home ready for sale?

August 31, 2012 1:38 pm

A: If you realize a taxable gain after you sell your home, even with an exclusion, you can reduce your gain with selling costs. These selling costs may include items that are otherwise considered to be repairs – such as painting, wallpapering, even planting flowers – if you complete them within 90 days of your home sale and provided they were completed to make the home more saleable.

Late Summer, Early Fall Planting and Harvesting

August 30, 2012 5:24 pm

I don’t exactly consider August a time when homeowners are thinking about gardening. Isn’t August supposed to be the beginning of harvest season?

A recent interview by April Lehmbeck at, however, points to August as a potential month to begin certain planting or other complementary landscaping projects. Lehmbeck chatted with Joe Allemon, president of Allemon’s Landscape Center in Detroit, who says the end of August is a fabulous time to do any type of tree and shrub planting, as well as reconditioning their lawns. He says most folks will want to start with a good stiff rake, and focus on areas that look like they’re not in the best shape.

Then, they can add a layer of topsoil, which Allemon says really makes for a nice seedbed. Next, they can add grass seed, fertilizer and Canadian peat moss to aid the growing process.

For those who are looking for a new or different style of grass, early September is a good time to lay sod, Allemon added. And if homeowners don’t feel like adding plants to the landscape, what about taking on other projects, such as putting in a patio or a water feature?

Over in Pittsburgh, Charley Goetz and his crew at Brandon Landscape Maintenance ( are telling their clients that late summer is a good time to prune most shade trees and spring flowering shrubs such as Forsythia and Lilac.

Just be sure to prune deciduous and evergreen hedges at this time of year as well. And spray a follow-up insecticide on all ornamental trees and shrubs.

The folks at Brandon know that red spider mites will do damage to evergreens, in particular close-needled dwarf varieties. So they advise spraying a miticide such as Malathion if noticed.

This chemical is only effective for 10 -15 days, so this should be done in before late summer. Check our next segment for some advice on planting a fall vegetable garden that will yield a tasty bounty into the early winter season.

Prep Yourself Financially for a Natural Disaster

August 30, 2012 5:24 pm

Prep Yourself Financially for a Natural Disaster
September is National Preparedness Month and the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) is offering tips to help individuals put their financial documents in order before a disaster strikes.

"While the first priority is the physical safety and well-being of you and your family, knowing that your banking and financial papers are safe gives you one less thing to worry about during times of duress," says Jeff Gerhart, chairman of ICBA and Bank of Newman Grove, Neb. “Hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires and other natural disasters remind us how important it is to be organized and have a plan. Having a financial preparedness plan will protect you and your family from the long-term effects of damaged or destroyed financial documents."

ICBA offers the following tips to help consumers prepare before an emergency occurs.

• Keep marriage and family records, including adoption papers, property deeds, birth certificates, wills, insurance policies, passports, Social Security cards, immunization records, credit card account numbers, car titles or lease contracts, bank and investment account numbers and three years of tax returns in a bank safe-deposit box. Put each of these documents in a sealed plastic bag to keep out moisture.
• Make and safeguard additional official copies of critical documents such as birth certificates, adoption papers, marriage certificates and the deed to your home for safekeeping and notify a trustee, close relative or attorney where your important financial information is located.
• Keep names and contact numbers for executors, trustees and guardians in a safe place, either in your safe deposit box or with a close relative.
• Take an inventory and keep a list of household valuables. Taking photographs of these items can help as well.
• Start and regularly contribute to an emergency fund that can cover at least three to four months of expenses. This fund should be separate from your savings or investment account.
• Include extra cash (ideally small denominations) in your home emergency kit, which should include a three-day supply of water, food, a first aid kit, can opener, flashlights, radio and extra batteries.
• Identify the records that you keep only on computer. They may not be available if electrical power fails, so make a printout and safeguard them or back them up to an external device or web storage facility.
• The web can serve as a supplement or back up to paper copies. Scanned or other electronic documents can be attached to e-mails and stored in your e-mail account or with secure online back-up services.
• If you feel flood insurance may be necessary to protect your home, start shopping around. Contact your insurance agent or visit FEMA’s website at for more information.