Gunning Daily News

5 Ways to Earn Extra Money This Summer

June 28, 2011 4:53 pm

Teachers and college students who find themselves with an extra helping of time over the summer months can maximize the down time and pick up some extra cash without punching a time clock or giving up their own recreational pursuits.

From financial editor Reshma Vyas, here are five strategies you may not have thought about for making the most of your time and resources:

• Sell your veggies – Home gardeners with a maxi-crop of fruits and veggies can command top prices for their home-grown produce from local restaurants and caterers. Check online for likely buyers among those who specialize in fresh, organic menus and/or ethnic cookery.
• Sell your skills – Sell your handmade jewelry, crafts, jams and jellies, and baked goods at local flea markets and craft fairs. Sell your math and reading skills, accounting know-how or musical expertise as a part time tutor or consultant. An ad in the local paper or online, or a notice at the local library or rec. center can help you find interested clients.
• Teach classes – Check with local libraries, summer schools, and recreation departments for opportunities to teach a class or two for young people in areas that tap your expertise in the arts, basic science, or money matters for teens, including banking, budgeting, basic investing, owning credit cards, and paying taxes.
• Hold a garage sale – Check the garage, the linen closet and the kitchen cabinets for items you no longer use. You may be surprised at how much cash you can collect in a single weekend yard or garage sale.
• Swap for bargains – Organize a neighborhood swap of gently used children’s toys and clothing. It’s a great way to get the kids ready for school and swap the toys they’re tired of with new ones you won’t have to purchase.

Question of the Day

June 27, 2011 5:23 pm

Q: How do growing equity mortgages work?

A: Also called GEMs, these fixed-rate mortgages have monthly payments that increase in increments of 3 percent or more to reduce the principal loan amount. They are often written by the lender at a below market interest rate and have shorter terms.

A GEM lets you pay off the mortgage earlier, save tens of thousands of dollars in interest payments, and build equity quickly. A 30-year GEM, depending on the interest rate, can normally be paid off in 15 to 20 years.

Word of the Day

June 27, 2011 5:23 pm

Building codes. Minimum construction standards set by state or local laws for public safety and health. Includes the design, construction, repair, and quality of building materials, as well as the use and occupancy of structures.

Top 4 Architectural Lighting Brands for the Modern Home

June 27, 2011 5:23 pm

Architectural lighting has become the latest trend in home design. Modern décor calls for illumination that is energy efficient (LED, fluorescent, low voltage fixtures) and effective (Dark Sky and Energy Star® rated lights). But contemporary lighting also requires a sense of play, adventure, and comfort.

Leading brands represented at the Dallas lighting show will include CSL, Bruck, Tech Lighting, LBL, and Liton Lighting. All of these manufacturers are well educated when it comes to the latest technology in green homes and employ industrious artisans to develop the next brilliant masterpiece.

Bruck Lighting is known for their variety of track lighting style monorail lighting with unique color, glass, and finish options. Recognized internationally for their energy efficient mono and dual rail systems, this brand is dedicated to creating energy-saving halogen and LED fixtures. German engineering and creativity knows no bounds when it comes to Bruck’s pendants, spot fixtures, display track light fixtures, and self-contained monorail kits. They incorporate their unique art glass into every design and the colors are breathtaking. Bruck is often the first choice for artistic professionals, because they merge unusual (sometimes even bizarre) structures with easy-to-assemble systems in a fluid composition.

Tech Lighting is an industry leader when it comes to low voltage home lighting systems. This brand is the winner of the 2011 Lightfair Innovation Awards, specifically for their “Element Envision LED Head” whose lighting module, efficient power supply, and versatile optic options make it an excellent choice for home architectural lighting. Precision engineering and innovative designs are channeled into Tech’s collection. Known for monorail and cable light systems, Tech caters to both home and commercial decorators as their fixtures have a futuristic and industrial feel.

From their beginnings as a family business in 1971, Ronald Stone’s LBL Lighting has morphed into a recognized architectural manufacturer. Prolific in their creations, LBL has published 47 catalogs to date. LBL’s new Mini Rock Candy pendant series illustrates the brand’s creative use of glass and texture. The Mini Rock Candy low-voltage pendants are mouth-blown, transparent glass rolled in clear crystal frit and flash heated for an unusual pebbled texture. LBL has embraced a more playful and elementary quality compared to the more sterile and minimalist styles of CSL and Tech. A leading designer of LED lights, LBL is committed to innovation in commercial illumination, proving that businesses can develop a style unique to their brand without sacrificing a commitment to energy efficiency.

The recipient of the 2010 Best Interior Product Award in Las Vegas, Liton Lighting is the company to consult when deciding to “go green.” Liton was given the award for their new LRLD6 Adjustable Gimbal 6” Trim Downlight, for its versatility as a retrofit and its exceptional color value. Focused on the needs of environmental architectural designers, Liton has produced a huge collection of recessed light fixtures. Specializing in high tech minimalist recessed lights, Liton is known for their miniature low voltage lights, under cabinet lights, and LED task lights.

Architectural lighting has finally found its niche in the interior design field. These brands' unique styles and ceaselessly creative artisans, combined with the ever-evolving world of energy efficient technology, are sure to keep inspiring new trends in home lighting industries.

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Moving Blankets are the Main Carrier of Bedbugs

June 27, 2011 5:23 pm

Summer is upon us, which means that it is officially "moving season.” As residents begin thinking about this major undertaking, they should be sure to take precautions against bedbugs. iMoveGREEN, an agent for Bekins Van Lines and a premier green moving company in the United States, has recently discovered the main carrier of bedbugs: moving blankets. While bedbugs continue to be a pandemic across the United States, most moving companies still do not take preventative measures to aid against bedbug infestation. Moving blankets especially, are often neglected and left un-cleaned between moves, leaving your belongings susceptible.

After a routine inspection one year ago, iMoveGREEN discovered that moving blankets are the main carriers of bedbugs. Jeffrey E. Sitt, President and CEO, was notified that, while his facility and fleet of trucks were clean, a few of the company's moving blankets contained bedbugs. This shocking discovery, which could easily have been over-looked, caused iMoveGREEN to spring into action.

"We immediately quarantined the blankets, sprayed them with anti-Bed Bug spray, and heated them in the trucks," says Mr. Sitt. Now, iMoveGREEN has a new protocol, whereby after every single move, the blankets that were used are taken in large sealed bags to the company's drying department, where the blankets are sprayed down and heated in commercial dryers on high heat for 1.5 hours.

"Learning that bedbugs are primarily carried through moving blankets brings me to the terrifying realization that other moving companies may be unknowingly transporting these disgusting bugs into homes! It makes me wonder if other moving companies are aware of whether or not there are bedbugs on their blankets," cautions Mr. Sitt.

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It’s Time for a Mid-Year Financial Check-Up

June 27, 2011 5:23 pm

Six Things to Look for and How to Fix Them

Most of us started the New Year with resolutions to get our financial house in order—like saving more and reducing debt. With half the year gone, says Wall Street financial consultant Sheryl Nance-Nash, it’s a good time to examine whether you are meeting your goals—and to redouble your efforts if you aren’t.

Nance-Nash provides practical ways to take your financial pulse:

• Deal with your debt – Pull out your credit card statements, see how much you owe, and take steps to reduce it—even if it’s just by paying $10 more per month on each account. Then put your credit cards in a safe place and try to do without them for as long as possible. Going even a month or two without charging can make a big financial difference.
• Get serious about saving – Savings can help you stay out of debt, and everyone needs an emergency fund. Set up an automatic transfer from checking to savings, even if it’s only $20 a month. If you have one in place, increase the transferred amount.
• Check your retirement fund – Can you sock away more into your IRA or 401k? If you need to pull in your belt to do so, do it anyway. You’ll appreciate it later!
• Tackle tax stuff early – Are you keeping receipts and records in order for your 2011 tax return? Save canceled checks, invoices and other proof of money spent on tax-deductible expenses. If planning a life-change—like a marriage, divorce or the birth of a child—check with your tax preparer now about how it may impact your tax position and what steps you should begin to take.
• Look for loopholes – Are you getting the most for your money on insurances? Flexible spending accounts? Cell phone and communication plans—even fees and commissions on investments? Take the time now to check with providers. You may be able to save a bundle while accumulating wealth.
Grapple with spending issues – Do you know where your money is going? Mid-year is a good time to figure out what you are spending and what you are spending it on—and make serious changes if that’s what’s keeping you from dealing with debt and saving more.

Pruning Matters

June 27, 2011 5:23 pm

Your RIS Consumer Confidant has written a lot about landscaping, shrubbery and lawns, so now it is time to focus on a loftier target—trees. According to the U. S. Forest Service, trees are worth much more than their value of wood—25 times more than their country cousins in the forest—because trees enhance the value of real estate.

In some cases, the USFA says trees can raise the value of a lot compared to the same lot without trees by as much as 20 percent. On average, trees add between 5 and 7 percent to the value of a residential lot. Nationwide, that added value results in an extra $5,000 per lot.

Any property with trees invariably sells faster, too. So how do you enhance or best take care of the trees on your property? In this segment we’ll talk about pruning—an oft needed maintenance treatment that promotes good tree health and keeps trees and your yard safe—as well as looking good.

Just remember, pruning without a good reason is not good tree care practice. Pruning just because your neighbor is doing it may not be beneficial for the tree, and could result in too much live tree tissue being removed. This can cause the tree to become stressed, and perhaps decline.

In fact, industry tree pruning standards (ANSI A300) say no more than 25 percent of a tree’s foliage should be removed in a single season, and if the tree cannot tolerate a lot of pruning, even less should be removed.

A good arborist will work with a property owner to set an objective for the pruning job (i.e., what you want accomplished when the work is done). Pruning objectives usually include one or more of the following:

• reduce risk of damage to people or property
• manage tree health
• provide clearance for vehicles or roadways
• improve structure
• increase or improve aesthetics
• restore shape

Once tree pruning objectives are established, the arborist can provide specific details on how to prune your trees, without harming them, to get the desired result. In our next segment we’ll take a look at a common tree pruning practice that can actually take away from your real estate’s value.

Question of the Day

June 24, 2011 3:51 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.

Word of the Day

June 24, 2011 3:51 pm

Brokerage. Business of a broker. Also, the amount charged for a broker’s service.

Growth in Mobile Banking to Come from Consumers Who Plan to Buy a Smartphone or Tablet in the Next Six Months

June 24, 2011 3:51 pm

A recent study of over 1,400 U.S. consumers conducted by Chadwick Martin Bailey and iModerate Research Technologies found that 45 percent of US consumers own a smartphone or tablet. Of that group, 52 percent currently conduct some form of mobile banking. However, the real growth in the mobile banking market will come from those who don’t yet own smartphone or tablet.

The study shows 39 percent of those who plan to buy a smartphone or tablet in the next six months are highly likely to use their smartphone or tablet for mobile banking. By contrast, only 6 percent who already own a smartphone or tablet, but don’t mobile bank say they are highly likely to start in the next six months.

“I think what we’re seeing is that mobile banking among current smartphone owners has plateaued,” says Jim Garrity, vice president of Chadwick Martin Bailey’s Financial Services practice. “For all intents and purposes, those folks have already made a decision about whether or not they want to participate in mobile banking. The real opportunity is in the 14 percent of consumers who are planning to buy a smartphone or tablet in the next six months, because among that group many say they are highly likely to participate in mobile banking.”

For many it’s simply the convenience of being able to have access to account information and transfer funds from anywhere. For others, security concerns outweigh any convenience mobile banking has to offer. Qualitatively, a few consumers said:

“I always have my phone with me and prefer to take care of things when I think about them…I can check on things more frequently and move money around,” says a female surveyed, age 18-24.
“When away from my desktop it allows me to check my credit card balances. That’s mainly what I use it for…it helps me stay on track for budgeting,” says a male surveyed, age 25-29.

“If my phone gets lost or stolen I don't want that information to be easily accessible if my log-in information is saved…it seems easy to access and find out my financial information,” says a female surveyed, age 25-29.

The study also indicates that consumers are becoming more comfortable with using smartphones to make purchases. The research shows 45 percent of smartphone owners have made a purchase using their smartphone over the last year. And when it comes to paying for those purchases only 49 percent use their credit card, while over 40 percent used either a debit card or PayPal. There were also some gender differences. Men are more likely to use PayPal, while women are more likely to use a debit card.

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For more information on Civility in America—2011, please visit Weber Shandwick at