Gunning Daily News

35% of Telecommuters Spend 8 Hours or More Working

September 16, 2011 4:09 pm

Is working from home an efficient alternative to the traditional office job or a productivity killer? The results of a new CareerBuilder survey on telecommuting may bolster the arguments for both sides. While nearly one-in-five (17 percent) Americans who telecommute at least part of the time spend one hour or less per day on work, 35 percent work eight or more hours—a major increase from a 2007 CareerBuilder study in which only 18 percent of telecommuters said they worked eight or more hours. Forty percent of telecommuters work between four and seven hours per day.

The national survey—conducted May 19 to June 8, 2011, with nearly 5,300 employees—reveals that Americans are able to work from home on a more regular basis post-recession. Ten percent telecommute at least once a week—up from eight percent in 2007.

"With mass adoption of smart phones and advanced network technologies, telecommuters are connected to their offices like never before. As a result, we're seeing more companies embrace the work-from-home option and more workers putting in full-time hours while at home," says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. "However, to avoid situations where telecommuters aren't putting in the necessary time, managers need to be clear about expectations and establish daily objectives. The autonomy of working from home can be very rewarding so long as it doesn't diminish productivity."

Telecommuters are largely split as to whether time spent at home or at the office is more conducive to high-quality work. Thirty-seven percent say they are more productive at the office, while 29 percent report they are more productive at home. Thirty-four percent do not see a difference, stating they are equally productive at home and the office.

While most offices have their fair share of productivity roadblocks, home is hardly a disturbance-free zone. Telecommuters say the following are the biggest distractions:

• Household chores – 31 percent
• TV – 26 percent
• Pets – 23 percent
• Errands – 19 percent
• Internet – 18 percent
• Children – 15 percent

Haefner recommends the following tips to help telecommuters work as efficiently as possible:

• Keep a normal morning routine. The survey found that 30 percent of telecommuters tend to work in pajamas—41 percent of females and 22 percent of males. The truth is you'll probably work better if you treat your mornings as if you were going to the office. If there's one good thing about a commute, it's that you get a mental transition between home and work life. Get out of bed, dress up, grab breakfast—do anything that will get your mind in the right place.
• Find the best spot to work. Even if you don't have a dedicated home office, it's important that you find the least distracting place in your home. Don't be tempted by the entertainment system or the recliner.
• Stay connected to colleagues. It's easier to slack off when you know your colleagues or managers aren't watching. If you're struggling to stay motivated at home, schedule an update meeting or call and talk shop with an office peer to get your mind back on work.
• Plan your breaks. You should never feel like a prisoner in your own home. Plan short breaks to take care of chores, play with pets, exercise, or run a brief errand. You'll be less likely to succumb to quitting work early if you structure the perks of being at home appropriately into your schedule.
• Take your work to a coffee shop. A lot of workers don't like telecommuting because they're accustomed to working around others. Working at home can be lonely. If your job allows it, try spending an afternoon in a coffee shop or library. At many spots, you'll likely find contract workers or other telecommuters toiling away, as well.

For more information, visit www.careerbuilder.com.

Little Things Mean a Lot - Before You Buy, Consider the Practical Fit

September 16, 2011 4:09 pm

Short of deciding who you will marry, few decisions are more exciting than choosing your first home. Enough bedrooms? Check. Room for a pool? Check. Presumably, you have answered the large questions before submitting your bid. But before you get caught up in the buying process, here are some small practicalities to consider: 

How will your furniture fit? Get the measurements of every room in the home and measure your larger pieces of furniture; the sofa, the bed, the computer desk or entertainment center. Sketch out the new room dimensions on graph paper so you can see at a glance how and where your furnishings will fit. 

What about wiring? As we depend more and more on broadband, fiber optics and high speed access, check out what connections are already in place-especially if you are looking at an older home. Is it ready for digital cable, satellite, etc? If such services are not already connected, are they available to neighborhood residents? 

What's the noise level after dark? The neighborhood may seem quiet during the day, but is it near a freeway or an airport? Is there a fire station or a railroad crossing nearby? If quiet is important to you, you may want to visit at night or during rush hour and check out the noise factor as those planes, trains, and automobiles-and busy fire trucks-whiz on by. 

How far to the nearest cup of sugar? If your dream home is in a new development, or in a rural section of town, how far will you need to go for a quart of milk at midnight? Is the local store open late? Are new shopping centers planned-and when will they be completed? 

Do you know how HOA rules will affect you? If there is a homeowners association in place, will it approve your plans to put in a deck or spa? Read the binding homeowner documents and become familiar with rules and restrictions before you buy into the community.

Want to Save Money This Winter? Preparation now is the Key

September 16, 2011 4:09 pm

Last winter hit hard across much of the United States, blanketing the country with snow and sending temperatures plummeting. If early weather prognosticators are correct, this winter could see even colder temperatures thanks to resurging La Nina weather conditions. Colder than normal weather often means greater energy usage and higher utility bills.

MXenergy, a Constellation company, is encouraging homeowners to act now to help protect their homes and wallets when winter approaches.

"Just as in so many other areas in life, when it comes to energy savings preparation is the key," says Marjorie Kass, MXenergy managing director of marketing. "The time to make your home more efficient for winter and lower your energy costs is not when brutal temperatures are here but rather now in order to maximize savings."

Winter Efficiency Tips
Seal It Up:
Proper insulation is one of the most effective efficiency improvements homeowners can make. Check doors and windows for drafts and install weather-stripping where needed. Check to make sure your attic has adequate insulation and that the attic hatch is properly sealed. Don't forget to examine air ducts and electrical outlets for drafts and seal leaks.

Take Care of Your Furnace: A properly maintained furnace is a much more efficient one. Have your furnace serviced annually by a licensed professional. Change filters at least once a month and should your furnace need replacing make sure to look for a high efficiency Energy Star model.

Simple Steps: Cutting energy costs doesn't have to cost you money. Simple actions such as closing off empty rooms, closing your fireplace flue, and opening blinds in the morning to let in the sun and closing them at night can all help decrease costs. In order to prevent trapped ceiling heat, run ceiling fans during the day in a clockwise direction to properly disperse heat throughout the room. Consider landscaping on the northern and windward sides of your home for added protection.

Maximize Your Savings: Many parts of the country have restructured energy markets that enable consumers to shop for energy. If you have a choice in energy providers, now is a great time to research available rates and lock in savings for the coming winter.

"Locking in a low fixed rate now with a reputable energy provider ensures price stability and protects against potential price increases when cold temperatures do arrive," says Kass.

For more information, visit www.mxenergy.com.


Question of the Day

September 15, 2011 5:39 pm

Q: Should I buy a vacation home?

A: The second home market has more ebbs and flows than the primary home market. Sales are iffy in a bad economy except, perhaps, on the high-end. That said, there is a growing trend toward the purchase of vacation homes. They are being bought for investment purposes, enjoyment, as well as retirement. In the latter instance, some people are buying with the idea of turning a vacation home into a permanent retirement haven down the road, a move that puts them ahead of the game now.

Some of the tax benefits mirror those for a primary residence. Mortgage interest and property taxes are deductible, which helps to offset the cost of the home payment. And if you treat your second home as a rental property, you can fully depreciate it as well. But you are only allowed to occupy it for two weeks a year, or 10 percent of the total rented time, whichever is less.

Before taking the leap, ask yourself if you can afford to carry two mortgages, maintain two households, and pay the extra utilities and maintenance costs. Also, learn about financing requirements and options, which can differ slightly from those on a primary residence.

8 Ways to Plan for a Hard-to-Afford Retirement

September 15, 2011 5:09 pm

For Americans worried about how to finance their retirement, online consumer finance portal Bills.com suggests eight ways to help polish up planning for the golden years.

"Fears about how many Americans will save and pay for their retirement years are very real," said Bills.com president Ethan Ewing. "The U.S. Social Security fund may not be able to pay all promised benefits to future retirees. Even if it does, in August 2008, the average benefit paid was $994 per month.

Company pensions are all but history. At the same time, U.S. financial markets are on a roller coaster ride that has dashed the balances of many workers who hope to retire in the next few years. All told, things are no better than in 2005, when the Washington Post estimated that American retirees would have $45 billion less in retirement income in the year 2031 than will be needed."

Bills.com suggests that retirees take a few steps to plan for the future:
1. Do an honest evaluation. Comb through financial records to gain a real understanding of resources. What are or will be your Medicare benefits? Do you have long-term care insurance? What is the equity in your home? Do you own your car, and what is its condition? Do you have credit card or other debt?
2. List goals. "If finances are a problem, traveling around the world might be out of reach," Ewing noted. "However, retirees still can find enjoyment." Will you be content sitting at home after retirement? Will you need or want to work part-time? Do you want to spend time with grandchildren? Are you planning to pursue a hobby in depth? Plot out your goals and estimate the associated costs.
3. Work longer. Nearly one-third of Americans work into their late 60s. "If this option is a necessity for you, take heart in the fact that you are not alone," said Ewing.
4. Eliminate debt. Debt is a tremendous crippling force. Strive to pay off debt before retirement or as soon as possible afterward.
5. Save, save, save. Even if it feels like it is too late, before you retire, save every penny you can. Baby boomers have, on average, less than $50,000 in retirement savings. Yet all Americans can contribute up to $15,500 annually to tax-deferred retirement plans. Individuals over age 50 can save $5,000 more in "catch-up" contributions. Get rid of any credit card debt and then pour any gift, inheritance, bonus, overtime or net from selling items into debt payment or retirement savings.
6. Minimize expenses. Look closely at the bottom line and work to reduce costs. For example, a clotheshorse should realize that premium style may not be the No. 1 priority in retirement. Yet you can enjoy fashion—and pinch pennies—by shopping at consignment and thrift stores, or having a clothing swap with stylish friends. If you do not watch hundreds of premium TV channels, downgrade to a basic cable package. Instead of dining out, cook at home, host potlucks with friends or trade meals. Ask about senior discounts when shopping or going out.
7. Consider alternatives. Brainstorm options. Be open-minded. Do you need a car? Can you share with others, use public transportation or move to a neighborhood where walking is feasible? Some seniors take roommates or purchase a new home with friends to cover costs as well as provide a social outlet. Others might sell a home and use the money to build an addition on a child's home, where the retiree can live safely and comfortably.
8. Fill the gap. Would selling your home or applying for a reverse mortgage provide monthly income to pay the bills? Would a part-time job provide grocery money or some extra money for some fun activities?

The earlier you can evaluate your situation, the better. The sooner you minimize living costs, the longer your money will stretch. Be honest with yourself and with your loved ones, and you can polish up those golden years by making the most of your resources.

For more information, visit www.bills.com.

Combat Growing Mobile Security Threats

September 15, 2011 5:09 pm

Security risks to mobile devices continue to rise as hackers discover new ways to infiltrate smartphones and tablets, especially by exploiting mobile applications.

"Today users face daily threats from Trojans and other computer viruses that can potentially expose sensitive personal data, including credit card numbers," says Andy Hayter, anti-malcode program manager for ICSA Labs, an independent division of Verizon. "In addition, undetected Trojans can lead to expensive charges on customer phone bills by sending text messages and making calls."

To combat mobile security risks aimed at smartphones, tablets and apps, ICSA Labs offers seven tips to help business and consumer users protect themselves:
1. Only buy apps from recognized app stores. Apps from unofficial third-party stores and applications downloaded from peer-to-peer sites are much more likely to contain malware than apps sanctioned by official vendor stores such as the Android App Market or Apple App Store.
2. Think twice about accepting "permissions." Most applications, legitimate as well as malicious ones, require users to accept several "permissions" before the apps are installed. Check carefully to be sure that the app comes from a legitimate source.
3. Monitor bills for irregular charges. If attackers gain access to personal information stored on your phone, they can quickly rack up charges by sending "silent" text messages to high-priced call services. For example, if the Android Trojan GGTracker is inadvertently installed on a device, it can sign up users, without their knowledge, for premium text messaging services.
4. Employ security policies to protect employer-issued devices. Employers should enforce password-based access and require voice mail codes so that only authorized users can access data on employer-issued devices.
5. Be mindful that more and more employees bring their personal devices to work. Companies therefore must have security systems and policies in place to safeguard their business environment and prevent access to company networks from employees' personal devices.
6. Remember that mobile devices are tiny handheld PCs. Many security threats that apply to traditional computers also apply to mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets, and consumers should take necessary measures to protect themselves. One way to do this is to install anti-malware software on mobile devices and enable VPN functionality.
7. Protect your mobile phone password and voice mail pin. If your mobile phone does not currently have a password, add one that is at least six digits. Try to choose a unique password that is not already used across other systems and accounts. Do not use repeating digits in passwords or voice mail pins. Remember that your provider will never request your voice mail pin, so do not be tempted to provide it to anyone who requests it.

If you detect infection on an employer-issued device, immediately report your concern to the employee help desk or IT security staff personnel.

"Mobile malware will continue to rise with increased smartphone use," Hayter says, "but by following these tips users can help protect themselves and their personal data from unwanted intrusions."

For more information, visit http://www.icsalabs.com.

Lessons Learned from Major Hurricanes Can Help You Prepare for Future Disasters

September 15, 2011 5:09 pm

Hurricane Irene, with its high wind, torrential rain and flooding, was a wake-up call for the residents of many states up and down the East Coast of the United States, providing important lessons to millions of Americans on how to prepare for future storms, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

"Those who take the time to prepare for a disaster are in the best position to survive a catastrophe and recover as quickly as possible," pointed out Jeanne M. Salvatore, senior vice president and consumer spokesperson for the I.I.I.

Hurricane season, which ends on November 30, is far from over so it is still possible for another storm to make landfall in the U.S. In fact, six of the ten most expensive hurricanes in the U.S. occurred in September and one in late October. 

Damage caused by wind is one of the most consistent and major causes of property loss. Hurricanes and tropical storms accounted for 44 percent of all catastrophe losses over the 20-year period from 1991 to 2010. Tornadoes, which frequently accompany hurricanes, ranked second highest, representing 30 percent of catastrophe losses for the period.

Hurricane Irene provided a stark reminder that the entire East Coast is at risk for catastrophic storms. While Florida and the Gulf coast may have more frequent hurricanes, the Northeast also has a history of severe storms. The Great New England Hurricane of 1938 (also known as "The Long Island Express") hit New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, causing 600 deaths, 1,700 injuries and over $400 million in damages, according to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS). AIR Worldwide estimates that the storm would have caused $38 billion in insurance damages had it occurred today.

The I.I.I. has tips to help consumers prepare for the next hurricane or tropical storm.

1. Know Your Risk of Flooding
People often underestimate the risk of flooding. But as Hurricane Irene demonstrated, flooding occurs not only on the coast but inland, as well. In fact, 90 percent of all natural disasters in this country involve flooding, according to FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

It is important to determine the risk of flooding in your area so you know whether you need flood coverage. Standard homeowners and renters insurance policies do not cover flooding, but insurance is available from the NFIP and some private insurance companies.

Flood insurance covers direct physical losses by flooding and from flood-related erosion caused by heavy or prolonged rain, coastal storm surge, snow melt, blocked storm drainage systems, levee dam failure or other similar causes.

The NFIP policy covers homes for up to $250,000 on a replacement cost basis and the contents for up to $100,000 on an actual cash value basis. Replacement cost coverage pays to rebuild the structure as it was before the damage. Actual cash value is replacement cost minus depreciation. To be eligible for the replacement cost policy, the homeowner must insure the structure for 80 percent of the cost to rebuild the home or purchase the maximum amount of coverage provided by the NFIP. If you are a renter, you can also purchase flood insurance for the contents of your home.

If you need more coverage than is provided by the NFIP policy, excess flood insurance is available from some private insurers. Private insurance may also be available if your community does not participate in the NFIP. Coverage for the contents of basements is limited, so be careful about what you store in the basement and consider installing a sump pump.

While flooding is not covered under standard home insurance policies, some types of water damage are. This includes burst pipes, wind driven rain and damage resulting from ice dams on your roof. Some homeowner’s insurance policies cover sewer and drain backups, but others do not. However, you can purchase a sewer backup rider to a homeowner’s or renter’s policy in states that offer the coverage for about $50 each year, with the policy limits varying depending upon the insurer.

2. Understand Your Hurricane Deductible
A deductible is the amount of money you pay out-of-pocket before your insurance coverage kicks in. A standard home insurance policy deductible is a flat dollar amount, usually either $500 or $1,000. Hurricane deductibles, however, are tied to a percentage of your home's insured value. Your hurricane deductible is clearly stated on the front page (Declarations page) of your homeowner’s insurance policy.

Hurricane deductibles apply solely to damage from hurricanes, and typically vary from 1 percent to 5 percent of the insured value of a home. For example, if your home is insured for $200,000, and has a 2 percent hurricane deductible, you would be responsible for paying the first $4,000 needed to repair the home.
Hurricane deductibles are incorporated into homeowner’s insurance policies in 18 coastal states and the District of Columbia. Whether a hurricane deductible applies to a claim depends on the specific "trigger," which can vary by state and insurer and is usually linked to wind speeds. Due to these differences, homeowners should check their policy carefully.

3. Maintain a Home Inventory
A home inventory is a detailed list of your personal possessions together with their estimated value. This is an important document that will help you:
• Buy the amount of insurance you need
• Get your insurance claim settled faster
• Verify losses for your income tax return
• Keep track of your belongings in order to substantiate losses when applying for financial aid after a catastrophe

There are many ways to organize a home inventory. You can do it room by room, category by category (furniture, electronics, etc.) or start with detailed descriptions of the most expensive items and put less expensive items into broad categories. If you own your home, do not forget to list items like heating systems, washers/dryers and air-conditioning units.

There are also many approaches to creating your inventory. You can simply write everything down in a notebook, or take pictures and write the information on the back of the photos or save it on your computer. If you own a video camera or smart phone, another option is to walk through your house filming and describing the contents.

4. Keep your Insurance Up-to-Date
The time to review your insurance is before you need to file a claim. After Hurricane Irene many homeowners and renters had little knowledge of how much insurance they had or what was covered by their policy. As a general rule, you should have enough insurance to rebuild your home and replace all of its contents. If you make a large purchase or major improvement to your home, always update your policy. And if you are a renter, get renters insurance so your possessions are covered.

You should also find out how much coverage is available for additional living expenses (ALE). These expenses could include the cost of a temporary rental home or hotel room, restaurant, meals and any other expenses incurred in the event your home is uninhabitable while it is being repaired or rebuilt due to an insured disaster. Some policies provide coverage for 20 percent of the amount of insurance you have on your house. Others may specify a time period. Additional coverage is generally available for an additional cost.

If you own a car, consider purchasing the optional comprehensive coverage when buying your auto insurance policy as it will reimburse you for weather-related disasters such as flooding, or a tree falling on your car.

5. Have an Evacuation Plan
For many people, Hurricane Irene was the first major disaster that required them to evacuate their home—a reminder of the importance of having an evacuation plan in place. If you have pets you will need even more advanced planning, as many public shelters do not accept animals. Here are a few key steps to planning an evacuation:

• Identify where you can go in the event of an evacuation. Try to have more than one option: the home of a friend or family member in another town, a hotel or a shelter. Keep the phone numbers and addresses of these locations handy.
• If your evacuation route relies on public transportation and/or bridge, tunnels or ferries, plan to leave early and have a back-up plan in case any of the transportation options is closed for safety reasons.
• Map out your primary route and a backup route in case roads are blocked or impassable. Make sure you have a map of the area available.
• Family members may be separated before or during the evacuation so identify a specific meeting place and ask an out-of-town friend or family member to act as a contact person.
• Plan what you will take such as medicines, first aid kits, bottled water, cash, clothing, flashlight, battery-powered radio, pet food, special items for infants, the elderly or disabled.
• Gather important papers (or copies) such as insurance policies, prescriptions, passports and social security information. Store them in water-tight, fire resistant containers.

6. Learn How to Protect Your Home Against Hurricane Damage
There are a number of steps you can take to make your home more disaster-resistant. Keeping wind and water out of your home is critical to its survival. According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, a house is most vulnerable to high winds when the building's "envelope" is not sealed by forms of protection such as storm shutters or reinforced garage doors. In addition, homeowners should secure loose roof shingles and seal openings, cracks and holes while also strengthening soffits such as beams, arches and staircases.

During a windstorm, loose items outside of the house can be picked up by the winds and become destructive projectiles. Be prepared to remove all outdoor furniture, lawn items, planters and other materials. Trim trees and shrubbery and remove weak branches on plants and trees.

And, if you are renovating or doing construction on your home, keep in mind that unsecured building materials or trash from partially completed homes could become airborne and pose a serious physical threat to individuals and nearby buildings.

7. Consider Specialty Insurance for Special Events or Expensive Vacations
In the wake of Hurricane Irene, there were cancelled weddings, postponed events, missed flights and stranded travelers. While there is no insurance against frustration, specialty insurance is available for the financial losses that may be incurred when expensive special events or travel are impacted. Travel insurance can also provide assistance for travelers impacted by hurricanes and other disasters listed in the policy.

For more information, visit www.iii.org.

Best Brain Foods for Kids to Increase Memory and Fuel Busy School Days

September 15, 2011 5:09 pm

With the school year back in session, parents should feed their kids the best brain foods to help them sustain their energy and help them succeed at school, while also creating healthy habits that can last a lifetime.

According to Phil Lempert aka the SupermarketGuru and editor of The Lempert Report and SupermarketGuru.com, eating nutrient-dense meals, and snacks, and staying hydrated at regular intervals and avoiding processed, sugary foods can boost brain development, improve concentration, and provide a child's energy to make it through a school day. It is also important to always send your child to school with a balanced healthy snack, even if all other meals are provided.

"The new school year is a time to start fresh, encourage healthy eating habits and set a great example as a parent," says Lempert. "It is important for growing children to eat a variety of foods from each food group. A well-nourished and fit child is better able to learn and has more energy, stamina, and self-esteem."
According to Lempert, the best brain foods include:

• Whole Grains: Whole grains in general contain phytonutrients, folate and B vitamins that boost memory. Whole grains are great for kids—most notably oats and eating oats in a not too sweet granola is a great way to get kids to eat more whole grains. The addition of some dried fruit and nuts balances out the meal or snack. Pack sandwiches with whole wheat bread. If your kids are not used to it, make as sandwich with half white, half whole wheat bread;
• Lean and Clean Protein: Protein is great to pair with whole grains and can help kids feel full longer, avoiding a sharp drop in blood sugar. Choosing protein sources that are raised humanely and fed a proper diet, or pastured are your best bets. Ask your local butcher about how the meat was raised;
• Berries, Grapes, Apples, Pears and other Seasonal Fruits: Rich in antioxidants like vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and fiber. The fiber in fruit also helps keep kids regular, yes it's not just a grown-up problem;
• Healthy Fats: Healthy fats help "cushion" the brain; in fact 60 percent of a brain is made up of fat. Salmon is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for the brain and eyes (deficiency can lead to anxiety and depression). Avocados are another great fat, as well as flax and chia seeds (which are full of fiber as well); and
• Filtered Water: Dehydration can lead to fatigue, fogginess, and more, so drinking plenty of water is crucial to keeping concentration and energy levels high. Parents would be surprised how little water kids drink at school. After learning and running around all day most kids could use a couple glasses of water. Buy a reusable water bottle in the color or pattern that your kids like - or let them pick it out. If they choose it, they are more likely to use it!

For more information, visit www.SupermarketGuru.com.

Word of the Day

September 15, 2011 5:09 pm

Grantor. Person named in a deed who conveys ownership of real estate; the seller.


Living on a Budget - Home Remedies Better, Cheaper

September 14, 2011 5:09 pm

At a time when it seems that prices are soaring everywhere we look, it is no wonder that cost conscious homemakers are now saying, "Ouch!" at the cost of some popular household cleaning products.

But there are proven home remedies that will do many of the same cleaning jobs-and often for pennies on the dollar. Here are some of the top picks:

Keep chrome fixtures clean and shiny by wiping them down with new or used fabric softener sheets. For stubborn water spots, try rubbing alcohol on a paper towel.

To remove tough stains from the inside of a vase, fill the vase with warm water and drop in two Alka Seltzer tablets.

For a fog-free mirror after you shower, wipe it down a couple of times a week with a few drops of aftershave on a paper towel.

Fill in unsightly nail holes with plain white toothpaste; smooth with a damp sponge.

Make an effective all-purpose cleaner for countertops and appliances by filling a spray bottle with one third pine cleaner, one third ammonia and one third water.

Prolong the life of fresh flowers by filling the vase with a quart of warm water, two tablespoons vinegar and three tablespoons sugar. 

Sharpen scissors by cutting 10 times through three layers of foil or by cutting a piece of fine sandpaper into small pieces.

Try polishing the silver with toothpaste; just rub on and wipe off. 

Remove small scratches on polished wood furniture by rubbing them with a shelled walnut.

Smelly shoes? Put a few tea leaves into nylon stockings and stuff one stocking into each shoe. Leave it there for a couple of days until the smell vanishes.

To keep lint and dust off glass tabletops longer, clean them with a solution of one tablespoon of fabric softener and a quart of warm water. (Also works well for computer screens and TV screens.)