Gunning Daily News

Warm Weather Heats Up Termite Activity

February 10, 2012 6:30 pm

According to Atlanta-based pest control leader Orkin, the above-average temperatures much of the U.S. has seen recently could mean earlier termite activity. Subterranean termite swarms have already been seen in south-central Florida and will move west into the Gulf states, north into the Carolinas and then spread throughout the country.

When the temperature rises above 60 degrees, termites often swarm inside homes before moving outdoors to search for food and water. Jim Warneke, Orkin's Southeast division technical services manager, noted homeowners should not assume termite swarms are flying ants, a common misperception based on appearance. Termites are found in every state except Alaska and thrive in warm and damp, humid climates.

"Termites get moisture from the ground or use moisture found in a home or building from leaks or condensation," says Warneke. "Moisture combined with increasing temperatures make springtime conditions in the South ideal for termite activity."

Even though termites are most visible in the spring, they can damage property year-round. According to the National Pest Management Association, termites cause about $5 billion in damage per year in the U.S. Warneke suggests homeowners contact a pest management professional if they suspect any termite activity, because the warning signs can be subtle and often go unnoticed until structural damage has already occurred.

"Signs of an infestation can include termite swarms, mud tubes and piles of discarded wings," says Warneke. "After the termites swarm—usually during warm spring days—they can shed their wings and leave piles of them behind."

Termites are attracted to light, so swarms are typically found around lighting fixtures and windowsills. Mud tubes act as a protective tunnel and provide moisture for the termites. The mud tubes are about the size of a pencil and usually run vertically on the inside or outside of a building's foundation.

Warneke recommends the following tips to help prevent termites from entering your home:
• Keep gutters clear, and direct water from downspouts away from your home.
• Do not pile mulch or allow soil to accumulate against your home's siding. This could provide access for termites to enter your home.
• Pay close attention to dirt-filled porches and crawlspaces. Termites could have easy access to wood through cracks in foundation walls or if wood is in contact with the soil.


Finance for Two: Money Tips for Smart Couples

February 10, 2012 6:30 pm

Love is in the air on Valentine's Day as tokens are exchanged between couples for the sake of St. Valentine. This year instead of the traditional cards, candy and flowers, opt for a present that could leave a lasting, positive effect on your relationship: money management. It's one topic frequently ignored and can cause turmoil in any relationship.

Fighting about finances is a problem in many relationships. According to a study conducted by Money Magazine, 13 percent of couples say they fight about money several times a month. "Worrying about individual finances is a strain by itself, and throwing another person's financial habits into the mix can sometimes be overwhelming," says Steve Johnson, Regional President, M&I, a part of BMO Financial Group. "I'm no Cupid, but agreeing on certain points financially can establish guidelines, direct actions and hopefully prevent future disagreements."

Johnson suggests four financial topics that every couple should discuss:
Budget: Establishing a budget for certain monthly items like dining out, entertainment purchases, and grocery spending can help make future arguments disappear. At least once a month, there should be a regular "budget night" where you and your partner get together to discuss your joint financial status. You can review spending and savings activities, and then make financial adjustments and decisions together.
Prior Debt: Coming into a relationship, you or your partner may have student loans, a car loan, credit cards, overdraft lines of credit, etc. Cash flow can be greatly affected by previously accumulated debt. Additionally, a big influence on your financial health as a couple is the way you each handle your debt obligations. Knowing your partner's credit history can offer a glimpse into the future. If either or both of you have had problems making payments in the past, that can have a negative impact on your ability to rent an apartment, get a joint loan, and will result in higher rates charged by utility and insurance companies. Developing a plan to improve upon past mistakes can remove a lot of strain from your relationship.
Savings Goals: Whether you want to save for a trip around the world or want to put money in your 401(k), financial goals need to be established up front. For most, the top three financial goals include buying a home, saving for retirement and building up an education savings account. Making your wishes known to your partner can help the two of you establish a financial plan that incorporates what is important to both of you.
Major Purchases: Be open and honest about major purchases. Simply discussing a purchase beforehand can save you from a potential fight.

Financials do not have to become a stress point within a relationship, so this Valentine's Day say "I love you" with a thoughtful conversation about finances. By discussing financial topics and handling resources as a team, managing money as a couple can be a little easier.

Source: BMO Harris Bank N.A.

Word of the Day

February 10, 2012 6:30 pm

Acceleration clause. Stipulation in a mortgage agreement that allows the lender to demand immediate payment of the entire loan balance if any scheduled payment is missed.

Question of the Day

February 10, 2012 6:30 pm

Q: Should I consider a “B,” “C,” or “D” paper loan if I have bad credit?

A: B, C, and D paper loans are types of sub-prime loans. There was a time when they were hard to find. Then when the housing market took off, so did the number of lenders offering them. Not so today. High default rates on sub-prime mortgages made to high-risk borrowers with bad credit or those who had filed for bankruptcy or had a property in foreclosure, now have many lenders either shunning these loans or tightening credit requirements on them.

As a rule, these loans have not met the borrower credit requirements of “A” or “A-” category conforming loans. Because mortgage lending is divided into various credit grades, several factors influence whether you receive, say, a “B” or “D” designation, including past credit history, documentation, and your debt-to-income ratio. The more serious a borrower’s problems, the lower the grade of the loan and the higher the rates and fees associated with the loan.

At one time, the outrageously high rates on these loans had dropped as more lenders began to offer them. Since the credit crunch spurred by the sub-prime mortgage crisis, rates on these paper loans have shot back up, reflecting in more stark terms their heightened risks.

Money-Saving Notes for New Homeowners

February 10, 2012 5:00 pm

Turning the key in a lock that no landlord has access to, playing football in your own backyard and painting your living room bright yellow— what could be more exciting than making the jump from renter to first-time homeowner? Getting swept up in all the excitement is a wonderful feeling but then comes the scare of “what should I do now?”

Right now is the perfect time to walk through a checklist of ways to make your home (and wallet!) comfortable right from the get go. Veteran contractor and home expert, Danny Lipford, has teamed up with Honeywell Home Environment to offer added comfort and money savings tips for new homeowners.

Here are few tips:

DIY Safety
Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are harmful gases that can be emitted by some paints, solvents, cleaners, adhesives, furniture, and shelving. When using products that contain high levels of VOCs, open windows or, better yet, turn on an air purifier that has a VOC pre-filter to help remove VOCs from the air that passes through the unit.

Things Are Heating Up!

Set back your thermostat about 10 degrees when you’re away from home for 8 hours or more. You could shave as much as 10 percent off of your energy bill without sacrificing comfort. When you are at home, try turning down the thermostat a few degrees and use a portable heater in the rooms you are in the most. You’ll save money and stay warm!

Quench Your Thirst

Don’t forget homes need water too—that’s where humidifiers help. Humidifiers offer solutions during the dry winter months to help protect valuable wood furniture from drying out and cracking and prevent wood floors from buckling and separating.

Dormant Dust?

Pollutants like dust and mold that settle in the home can be attributed to poor air circulation. A whole room fan should be used to ventilate the home properly.

Source: Honeywell Home Environment

Annual Top 10 Moving Destinations

February 10, 2012 5:00 pm

Wondering where new homeowners are headed this year? For the second straight year “Move Ahead” is presenting Penske Truck Rental’s list of top moving destinations. Just like in 2010, the 2011 edition has plenty of sunny locales. Here is the list:
1. Atlanta
2. Phoenix
3. Orlando, Fla.
4. Dallas/Fort Worth
5. Chicago
6. Houston
7. Denver
8. Seattle
9. Sarasota, Fla.
10. Charlotte, N.C.
In comparison to last year’s listing, the Atlanta market is again the destination of choice. There are no new market entries.

No region moved up or down more than two positions, with Dallas/Fort Worth dropping two places, from second to fourth. Half the list (Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Sarasota, Fla., and Charlotte, N.C.,) remained in identical positions.

“As this list indicates, U.S. residents continue migrating primarily toward warm weather areas,” noted Don Mikes, Penske’s vice president of rental. “The list is compiled through online consumer truck rental reservations and through our call centers.”

To read more, visit Penske Truck Rental’s blog.

Source: Penske Truck Rental

Newly Wed in 2011? Tax Tips for Married Couples

February 10, 2012 5:00 pm

Like many life events, beginning a married life brings many exciting changes. Perhaps not as exciting, but equally important, is your new tax filing status. For couples who tied the knot in 2011, Jackson Hewitt Tax Service® offers newlyweds several important tips on how to get the most out of their new tax filing status.

"Newlyweds and married taxpayers can choose to file jointly or separately based on their individual situation, but keep in mind that this filing status can change each year," says Mark Steber, chief tax officer, Jackson Hewitt Tax Service Inc. "Generally, using the 'married filing jointly' status provides the lowest tax liability and the highest standard deduction. However, if one of the filers has large deductions or expenses, the 'married filing separately' status may be more beneficial."

Steber reminds newlywed couples filing for the first time to keep the following in mind:
• The Internal Revenue Service recognizes a couple's marital status on the last day of the year. Even couples who wed right before midnight on December 31 are considered legally married for the full 2011 tax year;
• Couples should note that certain credits, including the Child and Dependent Care Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit and certain education credits, are not available under the "married filing separately" status; and,
• Tying the knot often results in a new last name. Names listed in your tax return should match all forms of identification, including social security card, passport, driver's license and documents from employers, loan holders and investment accounts.


Do's and Don'ts on Air Travel and Pregnancy

February 10, 2012 5:00 pm

Congratulations! You've just received the news that you're expecting. Did you already have travel plans booked? Or are you planning to take a babymoon prior to the little one's arrival but not sure about the safety of flying while pregnant?

Air travel is generally safe for pregnant women. However, traveling pregnant does come with some warnings. To help ease some of the anxiety, read on for a sample of the travel tips from the team at Cheapflights as well as some of the very practical advice we've collected from experts on flying while pregnant.

1. Quick tips for healthy air travel while pregnant
• Travel with at least one companion who also has your emergency contact info in addition to your doctor's number programmed into their phone.
• Carry documentation with your expected date of delivery, doctor's contact info, and your blood type.
• Stay hydrated. Dehydration on airplanes can be worse when you're pregnant, so drink plenty of caffeine-free, non-alcoholic fluids before, during, and after the flight.

2. When is the best time to fly? According to the American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, air travel is safest for pregnant women during the second trimester—weeks 18 to 24. If you are considering a flight during your pregnancy, check with both your doctor and the airline before you book.
According to one of our experts, Colleen Lanin of, "In the first trimester you may be too nauseated to enjoy your time away. In the third trimester you may be too uncomfortable and not feel up for doing much of anything."

3. Each airline has its own rules for flying while pregnant - If you're booking your flights with an agent, let them know that you're pregnant when you book your flight and check that you are permitted to fly. If booking your flights online, be sure to check the airline's website. It is worth calling ahead to alert the airline about your pregnancy—this should also ensure that you get special service to keep you comfortable. It's also recommended that you avoid smaller planes that fly below 7,000 feet, and choose larger planes with pressurized cabins.

4. Make yourself comfortable - Especially during pregnancy, reserving the right seat on the airplane can make a difference. You will need to be able to get up and move around the plane. Try and reserve a spacious seat when you make your booking. Many airlines' websites have information about the varying legroom on each of their seats. If you plan to travel pregnant, it's worth spending a few extra bucks to get a bit more room. Be aware, though, that traditional "extra legroom" seats, such as those on the exit aisles, are often not permitted to those who are pregnant.

Another of our experts, Jodi Grundig of, adds this tip, "While I generally love direct flights, if you are flying long distance, two shorter flights may be better. That way, you can get out, stretch, eat a nice meal and recharge."

5. Tips for your vacation - Once the flight's over, it's time to enjoy the vacation. Here are just a few more things to consider:
• Skin is more sensitive during pregnancy, so wear stronger sunscreen than usual.
• Keep a list of names and numbers to be contacted in case of emergency.
• Keep a list of local hospitals from the embassy or tourist board.


Create Fun Family Traditions with Technology

February 9, 2012 5:48 pm

When you hear the word "geek," visions of someone overly intellectual and socially awkward may come to mind. Add the title "dad" to that geek and the picture becomes a middle-aged man wearing black socks with sandals and a pocket protector. But a survey titled "Confessions of a Geek Dad," conducted by Answers Research on behalf of Cisco Home Networking Business, shows today's geeks are cooler, connected and more engaged fathers than you'd think.

According to the survey, 71 percent of geek dads say they spend more time doing activities with their kids than their fathers did with them. Also, 72 percent say they're more excited about teaching kids how to use tech tools than the traditional workbench tools their dads taught them. And it looks like this "tech tool school" is always in session in the home, with 93 percent of geek dads saying they assist their kids with their tech toys.

"These statistics help describe a new generation of dads who've grown up with an ongoing evolution of new technologies and now use tech to connect with their family," said Cat Schwartz, tech expert and blogger. "These dads aren't just tech-savvy; they know how to translate that knowledge and excitement into fun and memorable traditions with their kids."
Schwartz says creating new family traditions with tech in the home is easy and fun—regardless of whether you're a geek dad or not. She offers these tips to get started:

Begin with Opening the Box -
When a new device comes into the household, involve the entire family in the set-up process (or at least watch it). This helps everyone understand how to use the product, so they can hopefully fix it if it stops working. It also allows you to discuss guidelines when using the device, and talk about the features and controls that impact your kids.

Don't Suffer the Buffer
- It's frustrating when you're streaming video or music and it stops and starts due to buffering issues. You can't achieve maximum performance from tech devices without a strong wireless router.

Establish Tech Rites of Passage for Kids - In my home, we reward our kids with a phone at age 12 for their safety. We put rules into place as to how minutes will be earned and when they can carry and use it. Also, we sync all of our phones to our wireless network to connect from while at home, so we save minutes on our data plan.

Special Creative Keepsakes - Harness technology to introduce fun traditions. At least once a year, we take a family photo that we send to loved ones. With today's digital cameras and imagery editing tools, we can digitally add images of family members unable to be with us. It's a fun way of bringing everyone together when we're miles apart.

"One of the best things about technology is that there is a continual stream of new and exciting innovations," says Schwartz. "This gives parents so many options to create fun tech traditions that are unique to their family every year."


The Couples Conundrum: Equal Financial Responsibility

February 9, 2012 5:48 pm

Most couples share comfort, joy and faith, but how many share financial responsibility? One spouse usually takes the lead on financial matters and ignorance is not bliss for the financially inactive spouse. Life changing events, such as death, disability or divorce, can wreck havoc when the financially aware partner is gone.

"Having observed many couples through the years, it's inevitable that one spouse is more 'financially attuned' than the other," says Jim Waters, founder and president of PartnersInWealth in Houston. "But too often the one 'who does the finances' leaves the other in the dark."

Every February 14, candy, flowers and gifts are exchanged between loved ones, all in the name of St. Valentine. Waters suggests that you take care of the ones you love by following these seven steps for financial fitness.

1) Honesty – Be honest as to why one is the more involved, more interested or more knowledgeable when it comes to financial matters. A division of labor based on knowledge, time or passion is reasonable.
2) Respect – Acknowledge questions you have. Ask if there's anything on the Statement of Net Worth that you don't understand.
3) Patience – Set aside time to discuss finances. Make sure the less involved spouse could handle the finances for six months or longer. Make it easy for that individual to get involved by opening the mail and paying the bills together. Set aside time to answer any questions.
4) Communication – Share any fears or concerns about this process. Discuss and reinforce your common vision and values. Acknowledge the more involved spouse for their efforts and encourage the less involved spouse to take a more active role in finances. Active participation is the first step to a deeper understanding.
5) Follow through – Mark your calendars and discuss finances regularly. Tie the discussion to something fun.
6) Discretion – Know each other's tipping points and thresholds. Get to know each other's financial comfort zones when it comes to investments, income and estate tax reduction, insurance, estate and philanthropic planning, and asset protection.
7) Flexibility – Be open to change and be willing to learn. Throw judgment out the door and help find solutions that make sense to both of you. "You go to dinner together. You go on vacations together. Why don't you manage your personal finances together?" Waters says. "This will build money compatibility for you and your spouse. You can have a better relationship and understanding with each other."

Finances are the main cause of disagreements between couples. It pays to learn to spend wisely, establish security and align money with values.