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Saving Smart

Saving Smart and Being Financially Fit through All of Life’s Stages

Saving smart doesn’t have to mean going without. Here you will find useful tips, articles, and links to stay informed on tactical ways of saving smart and making lifestyle decisions that will benefit the now and future. From fixing up your kitchen to the next family vacation, we provide the resources you need to anchor life’s sunny and rainy days.

Resourceful Links

Buying a Car Edmunds.com
Consumer Reports web.consumerreports.org
Shop Smart Magazine shopsmart.org
Home Remodeling www.houzz.com/
www.thisoldhouse.com/
www.houselogic.com/
Budgeting & Personal Finance Tips budgeting.about.com/
www.stockcharts.com
www.Mint.com
Family and Childcare www.babycenter.com/
www.childcareaware.org/
Coupons www.retailmenot.com/
www.coupons.com/
www.restaurant.com/
Daily Deals www.livingsocial.com/
www.groupon.com
Airfare and Lodging my.yapta.com/airline-refunds/
www.skyscanner.com/
www.kayak.com/
www.homeaway.com/
www.airbnb.com
Pets www.greatvets.com/
Health and Fitness www.freetrainers.com/
Fee-only Financial Advisors http://tabr.net/fee-only-advisors/

Good Life Tips

If you have a useful tip, send it to us. We always enjoy hearing from you!

Every so often, we come across interesting bits of useful information. We offer these tips to our clients and friends who are looking for ways to simplify their lives.

Tip # 36 – Going Green at the Office – Tips to Help Your Business Go Green

While in the past many people were not thinking about the environment, especially at work, increased awareness of the importance of conservation and saving the environment has even made business owners begin to take a second look at practices they can change to improve the environment. If you haven’t considered how your business is affecting the environment, it may be time to consider what you can do to operate a little greener. Today it is becoming more and more popular to go green at the office and it is relatively easy to use great policies at work that can help the environment and make your business more successful as well. Not sure where to begin? Well, here are a few tips to help you to reduce the carbon footprint of your office:

Turn the lights off – Only use the lights you need.  If you’re using your computer you may not need your office lights on, too. Shut off lights in unused rooms.  Another great option is to get your building to install occupancy sensors.

Enable your power management – So your computer and monitor shut down (do this at home, too).

Push the button – Push the power button on your computer monitor.  Even while on standby, it still uses energy, so what’s the point if you’re going to be gone all weekend?

Don’t print it – Do you really need those hard copies, or can you save it on your computer instead?

Double-side print – Save paper and the environment.

Can you carpool or transit or bike to work? This will greatly help to reduce your carbon footprint.

Open up – If you have windows you can open, use them to intelligently save energy.

Bring your lunch – Try walking or biking to the local eatery instead of driving.

Tip # 35         Tips for Reducing Stress in Your Life

With more to do, and less time to do it, here are some suggestions for saving time and hence helping you avoid more stress:

  • Wake up slowly – Don’t set your clock for the last minute you need for maximum sleep.  Give yourself 10 minutes to wake up to your favorite morning activity and get prepared for the day.
  • Get up earlier – if you are the type of person who is always running late.
  • Keep your counters clean – once that job is done, the rest of your cleaning is much easier.
  • Start a gift drawer/area – If you see a perfect gift for a friend, especially at a bargain, buy it, put their name on it and put it in your “gift area”.  This will cut back your “last minute shopping” time.
  • Set a date to get rid of things – (bills, magazines, clothing, toys, etc.)  Magazines can be dropped off at a nursing home, doctor’s office or library.  Clothes and toys can be picked up by or delivered to Non-profit thrift stores (it’s also a tax deduction).
  • Rest when you are tired – Soak in a hot bath, get a pedicure or do something else relaxing.  Everyone needs down time.
  • If there is a chore you dread – just jump right in and get it over with – you’ll feel much better afterwards.
  • Keep lists – groceries, doctor questions, ideas that hit you in the middle of the night.
  • Take a day off and do something special.
  • And always, keeping healthy and exercising, followed by relaxation or meditation is the key to reducing stress!

Tip # 34        Try an All Inclusive Vacation Resort

You’ve been to the local amusement parks, camping is fun but lots of work and you just want to go and relax, it’s fun to visit your favorite Aunt and Uncle on their ranch in the mid west but mucking out horse stalls is not exactly your idea of a fun vacation.

Why not try an all inclusive vacation resort? For one price for your travel, room accommodations food and beverages it may be the best deal going…..weather you choose Costa Rica, Hawaii, the Caribbean or Mexico just to mention a few, the perfect vacation is out there just waiting for you.

Contact your favorite travel agent and find out the best time of year to travel to your desired location.  Most resorts offer daily activities for all ages, exercise or fun games in the pool, play areas for small children and toddlers, child care, and activities to keep the whole family occupied, even those restless teenagers! Or, just find our favorite spot by the pool grab a drink and that book you have been meaning to read for the last 6-months.

Everything you need is on site and you may never need to leave your “paradise” unless you want to.

Tip # 33        Give that special someone, that special something…

You’re looking for that special gift for that special person, weather it be a husband, a wife, a significant other, your best friend, Grandmother or Grandfather. They probably don’t need another knick-knack to dust, fishing pole to hang in the garage, bath robe or slippers.

Gift cards are not always the most personal gifts but as we get older they may be the most practical. From simple to extravagant here are a few gift suggestions that might just fit the bill:

  • A gift card to a favorite coffee shop, book store or video store
  • With the price of gas how about a pre-paid gas card (might work for that graduate)
  • Gift certificate and an evening out to a favorite restaurant and local movie house
  • Men and Women alike may enjoy a day of pampering at the local spa – massage, manicure, pedicure, etc….
  • A shopping spree (pre-paid of course)!

Some other suggestions….

  • You take the kids to the park, let Mom or Dad have a free afternoon to themselves
  • A beautiful bouquet of their favorite flowers (or plant their favorite flowers in a pretty pot and give to them) with a heart felt card letting them know how special they are to you!
  • And the best gifts of all, the gift of your time, make a commitment to spend some quality time with them.

Remember it isn’t what you give, but the intent with which it is given…..

Tip # 32        Energy Saving Ideas

Here are some energy Saving tips – to see the full list please visit:
http://www.hribar.com/energy-saving-tips-road.htm

In the Garden:

  • Plant shade trees in the yard, by roadways and in vacant lots to combat the rising CO2 production.
  • Plant native wildflowers in vacant lots, roadsides and other public areas so that the grass will not have to be mowed as often.
  • Collect rain water in a rain barrel or cistern for watering plants, garden and landscaping.
  • Looking for an easy way to save energy? Reduce your landscape watering schedule. Experts say that most yards are over-watered.

In the Home:

  • Cancel your printed newspapers and magazines and subscribe to the on-line versions. It takes a lot of energy to make the paper, print and deliver these publications to your door.
  • Activate the “sleep” feature of your home office equipment (PC, fax, printer, scanner, monitor) so they automatically power down when not in use.
  • A good energy saving tip is to turn off your home office equipment when not in use.
  • When buying a home, consider neighborhoods close to work or public transportation to reduce private vehicle use.

At Work:

  • Create incentives that will encourage employees to live close to work.
  • Come up with a plan to encourage employees to carpool to work.
  • Reward those employees who take public transportation to work.
  • If a majority of employees live in the same part of town, is it possible to relocate the business to that area?

On the Road:

  • Use the cruise control whenever possible. It saves fuel by keeping your vehicle at a steady speed.
  • One of the simplest ways to save energy is to keep your tires properly inflated. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that four million gallons of gasoline could be saved nationwide each day for every pound per square inch (psi) of under-inflated tires.
  • If your car doesn’t “ping,” it’s probably all right to use regular or medium unleaded gasoline. You’ll save money by not using premium unleaded gas.

Tip # 31      Protect your “other Family members” Microchip Implants

to ID Pets

A microchip implant for the purpose of pet identification is becoming more and more popular. AVID Microchip and Home Again Microchip are widely-used companies.

The microchip is inserted under your pets skin, it is small (about the size of a grain of rice) and has a unique number embedded on it, this number when registered, is then linked to the owner of the pet. This form of identification comes in handy if your pet gets lost and loses its tags and/or collar.

Read more.

Tip # 30       Talking about things we don’t want to talk about…

Advance Directive – Do Not Resuscitate Orders

It is not a pleasant subject and one we certainly don’t want to talk or even think about, but none the less it is a fact of life that we must all, at some point face; our mortality!  What would happen if you became unable to make medical decisions for yourself? Do you really want to impose that burden upon your loved ones?

What is an advance directive?

An advance directive tells your doctor what kind of care you would like to have if you become unable to make medical decisions (if you are in a coma, for example). If you are admitted to the hospital, the hospital staff will probably talk to you about advance directives.

A good advance directive describes the kind of treatment you would want depending on how sick you are. For example, the directives would describe what kind of care you want if you have an illness that you are unlikely to recover from, or if you are permanently unconscious. Advance directives usually tell your doctor that you don’t want certain kinds of treatment. However, they can also say that you want a certain treatment no matter how ill you are.

Advance directives can take many forms. Laws about advance directives are different in each state. You should be aware of the laws in your state.  To read more please Click Here.

This is just one of many sites available that will provide you with the information to help you make the best decision for you and your family.

Tip # 29         Get Rid of All Those “Treasures”

You’ve made the decision; this is the year you are going to get rid of all of that “stuff’ that is hanging out in the basement, the attic, the closet in the spare room or under your bed. But, what do you do with it once you have it all boxed up and ready to go.

In some towns GoodwillSalvation Army and HOPE will come right to your front porch and haul your “stuff” away. These are just a few of the many organizations that will take your “gently used items.”

Other ideas for getting rid of that unwanted clutter:

  • Organize a multi family garage sale get your whole neighborhood involved. Some cities require that you obtain a permit for a minimal fee to hold a garage sale so make sure to check your local city ordinances.
  • Organize a Bazaar at your favorite place of worship
  • Donate to a Homeless or Women’s Shelter in your area
  • Contact the PTA or parent’s club of your child’s school and organize a flea market. Then, donate all the proceeds to the school for a special project or item they may need.

You’ll feel better for finally getting rid of all the “stuff” and knowing that it went to a good cause. Remember the old saying “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure…..”

Tip # 28        Postmaster General Sends Advice to Prevent ID Theft

Letter Sent to Every Postal Service Customer in Nation

WASHINGTONDC— The U.S. Postal Service begins delivering an important message from Postmaster General John Potter this week to every household in America. The letter provides advice to protect against identity theft.

Identity theft is one of America’s fastest growing crimes, costing billions of dollars each year. Victims can spend months or years and thousands of dollars cleaning up their financial records and restoring their good names.

A recent Federal Trade Commission survey on identity theft determined that only 2 percent of all victims reported that the theft was connected to the mail. But even 2 percent is too much, Potter said.

“We will keep working to make the mail even more secure and strive to reduce that percentage to zero,” he said. “Your identity is valuable. If someone steals it to commit fraudulent acts, it can affect every aspect of your life — your credit standing, your ability to buy a car or house, even get a job or medical care.”

The Postal Service teamed up with the FTC to provide tips and tools to help Americans protect their identities and information on actions they can take if they become victims of identity theft. The FTC brochure, “Deter. Detect. Defend. Fighting Back Against Identity Theft,” is included in the mailing.

Americans depend on the security of the mail and they trust the U.S. Postal Service, above all other federal agencies, to protect their privacy. The Postal Service has ranked first among all federal agencies for the past three years, according to national surveys by the Ponemon Institute.

In addition to educating consumers about identity theft, the Postal Service, through its Postal Inspection Service, and the FTC are leading the fight against this crime. The FTC and the Postal Service offer the following tips to help protect against identity theft:

  • Check credit card statements, bank documents and financial reports every month for unauthorized activity.
  • Protect Social Security numbers. Don’t carry Social Security cards in wallets or write the number on a check.
  • Don’t provide personal information over the phone or the internet.
  • Never click on links sent in unsolicited email messages.
  • Keep personal information in a secure place at home.

More information on identity theft and information on reporting the crime can be found at these websites:

Tip # 27  Before You Go on Vacation

Vacation safety rules for home protection are basically the same as everyday precautions. Add the following and enjoy a worry-free trip:

  • Use automatic timers to turn lights (and radios and televisions) on and off.
  • Ask a trusted neighbor to pick up all mail, newspapers and deliveries daily and to park in your driveway while you are gone.
  • Leave a radio playing, preferably tuned to a talk show with volume low. This will create the impression of a conversation.
  • Have your neighbor come into your home daily to change the drapery positions (giving the house a “lived-in” look).
  • Keep your lawn maintained or your snow removed.
  • Don’t publicize your vacation.
  • Remove anything of extreme value from the house and put it in a safe place while you are gone.
  • Notify police that you’ll be out of town so that they can send extra patrols while you’re gone.

Tip # 26        Helping Others- What is a Therapy Dog or Therapy Pet?

“Visiting Pets” “Therapy Dogs” “Therapy Pets” are just some of the names given to describe programs in which animals help people just by visiting with them. As participation in such programs grows so does the vocabulary describing different aspects of pet visiting. For example, the preferred use for the term “Animal Assisted Therapy” is for formal treatment programs, usually involving one particular animal and handler assigned to one particular client. The handler and the health care provider consult on specific goals to be accomplished, and plan how to accomplish those goals. The preferred use for more informal programs is “Animal Assisted Activities.”

You will see a great variety of terms as groups struggle to find terms that are descriptive without being confusing. The most commonly used term for a dog visiting in residential care facilities is “therapy dog,” but I prefer “visiting dog” when the visit is general, with no specific plan for a specific individual. The term “visiting dog” avoids bothering those for whom “therapy” has a narrow and technical sense, and yet it is easily understood.

If you are interested in getting involved in visiting with your dog, you will need more information. You will need to consider your dog’s personality, temperament and behavior. Work with your dog in encountering unusual sights, sounds and smells. By joining a group you can take advantage of insurance, and get help evaluating your dog.

Visit: http://dogplay.com/Activities/Therapy/therapy.html

Tip # 25        Donate to a Good Cause

Many people are suffering from cancer, and have lost their hair because of chemotherapy. If you have long hair, you can help by donating your hair to make a wig.

Make sure your hair is not chemically damaged (dyed repeatedly), very dead (split ends), or dirty, and is at least 10 inches long.

Go to the salon where you plan on getting your hair cut, and be sure to tell them that your hair is going to be donated. They will first measure your hair to make sure it equals 10″, and will then put your hair in a loose ponytail or two braids. Your hair will be cut right above the ponytail rings, and the stylist cannot let the hair touch the floor. Your hair must be dry before tying it with a rubber band and placing it in an air-tight plastic bag.

Mail or give it, in person, to an organization that specializes in making wigs for cancer patients. Be happy that you have helped a cause and maybe re-grow it to another 10 inches to do it again.

For more information go to:

http://www.wikihow.com/Donate-Your-Hair-to-a-Good-Cause

Tip # 24            Price of Gas Got You Down?

  • save fuel
  • save on vehicle wear
  • meet new people
  • reduce stress from driving
  • reduce traffic
  • reduce pollution
  • reduce greenhouse gases
  • reduce dependency on foreign oil

eRideShare.com, the top carpool and cross-country rideshare site in the US and Canada, is a FREE service for connecting commuters, or travelers going the same way.

Tip # 23    Six Tips to Help You Simplify Your Life…

  1. Make a List of Five Things Most Important to You – We can’t achieve our goals if we don’t occasionally take stock of what they are. Do you wish you had more time for your family, your faith, or your hobby? The simple act of reflection can create unexpected insights and opportunities toward getting what matters most.
  2. Tune Out, Tune In – Just because you have a cell phone and a computer doesn’t mean you need to have them on all the time. Even short breaks from the demands of your gadgets can shift your perspective dramatically. Take a walk, meditate, read, or reflect on your day just before you fall asleep.
  3. Spend Time, Not Money –  Anyone can pick out an expensive present from a catalog. But a humble phone call, picnic, evening of board games, or other fun activity will create memories that last longer than a credit card purchase (and won’t come back to haunt you with compounded finance charges).
  4. Think Outside the Cubicle –  Does your 9-to-way-past-5 routine dominate your life? Regain some boundaries. For starters, resist the urge to take work home. Take your lunch breaks and make an effort to leave on time. Some employers may consider alternate arrangements, such as extra vacation time, flex time, or telecommuting arrangements, especially if they can’t afford to give raises. It can’t hurt to ask.
  5. Count Your Blessings – As consumers we may feel inadequate sometimes for not having the coolest, newest version of every product on the shelf. We forget that a billion people on our planet live on a dollar a day or less. Our lives are materially richer beyond the imagining of our ancestors—and even our grandparents. Notice your many blessings and remember to count and enjoy them.
  6. Join with Others – Most Americans are constantly bombarded with messages encouraging us to buy more than we need. Find some like-minded friends who share your values and intention to chart a new lifestyle. Start a study group, book group, or just a monthly potluck and take some steps together. Start a simplicity circle, a voluntary simplicity study group, or just a monthly “fun” night for sharing things like star-gazing, bread making, or story telling.

For these tips and more resources visit New American Dream.

Tip # 22    Child Proofing Your House, The Top 10 Dangers and Their Simple Solutions

About 2 ½ million children are injured or killed each year by hazards in the home. The good news is that many of these incidents can be prevented by knowing the proper child safety devices and by using common sense.

These Helpful Hints were created to be as thorough as possible, however, please remember that they are just for reference, and may not cover all of the child safety issues in your home, or with your child. For more information on how to make your home safe visit azchildproofers.com.

  1. Stairs – Put gates at the top and bottom of stair cases. We recommend not using pressure gates at the top of the stairs.
  2. Doors – Protect fingers from being caught in the spine or catch of doors. Replace door stops with solid rubber door stops. Install door locks on doors that lead to areas not intended for children.
  3. Cleaning Materials – Keep all hazardous items locked away, preferably in a high cabinet.
  4. Electrical sockets – Replace outlets with spring loaded safety covers.
  5. Furniture edges/ corners – Use cushioned corners/ edging to protect against dangerous bumps to eyes and head area.
  6. Overfilled playpens/ cribs – Keep toys to a minimum. Do not use pillows or thick blankets with young infants.
  7. Fire – Place smoke detectors in the halls and bedrooms on all floors. Ensure fire guards protect open fires and/or gas fires.
  8. Loose cables/ cords – Tie cords up out of reach or bundle together to remove all slack.
  9. Bathtime – Always check water temperature BEFORE you put your child in the bath and NEVER leave your child unattended.
  10. Glass – Keep children away from glass doors and objects including picture frames.

Tip # 21 Take Your Name Off the Mailing Lists Once and For All!

Tired of all the catalogs clogging your mailbox?  Want to help save the environment? This looks like an excellent service…and it’s FREE!

Here is a way you can stop unwanted mailings.  Catalog Choice, is a project of three environmental organizations:  National Wildlife Federation, The Natural Resources Defense Council and the EcologyCenter.  Catalog Choice provides a convenient way for people to remove their names from specific mailing lists.  Go to www.catalogchoice.org  to register for a free log-in, check off catalogs from a list of more than 1000 that you don’t want anymore and Catalog Choice will forward the information to the companies.  You get to keep the catalogs you want to continue to receive and merchants who really don’t want to send expensive catalogs to consumers who are unhappy receiving them will delist your name. This is a win-win for all concerned.

Tip # 20     Have a Little Fun with Your Mail

Have a new baby or want to share pictures of your puppy, how about that classic car or your new house. Go to PhotoStamps.com to create your personalized postage stamps. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s fun.

Tip # 19    Make it a Family Night

Sit Back, Relax take a deep breath and enjoy your family.

We all get caught up in “life” – working too many hours, rushing here and there, dinners on the run, up at dawn and too many late nights.  Make it a plan to have a family night at least once a week.  Below are some ideas for things you can do with your family:

  1. Cook dinner together – Then enjoy it by sitting down together and talking about your day.
  2. Movie night – Instead of renting a movie, make a batch of popcorn and dig up some of your old home movies.
  3. Play a game – Playing games can be a great family activity they can be fun as well as educational. Scrabble can help with spelling, Checkers or Chess can teach strategy and patience. Concentration can help with memory.
  4. Family Newsletter – Write a Your Family Newsletter then send it to your family to let them know what you have been up to.
  5. Volunteer as a Family – Working together as a family to help others will bring great satisfaction to everyone in your family.
  6. Backyard Campout – Breakout the camping gear, fire-up the camp stove and have an old fashioned cookout and camp overnight in your own backyard.
  7. Make a Family Cookbook – Gather all of your favorite family recipes, Grandma’s Apple Pie, Aunt Thelma’s famous homemade Potato Salad…..then give it as a gift to other family members.

Tip # 18      Learn to Dance

If you want to impress your family and friends at the next wedding or family reunion, or just want to get more exercise – take dance lessons. Dancing is a great way to get in shape, build confidence and increase self-esteem. Doctors have recommended dancing for years as a great way to stay in shape and keep a sharp mind.

  1. Calories – Dancing can burn as many calories as walking, swimming or riding a bicycle.  During a half hour of sustained dancing you can burn between 200 and 400 calories.
  2. Cardiovascular conditioning – Regular exercise can lead to a slower heart rate, lower blood pressure and an improved cholesterol profile.
  3. Strong bones – The side-to-side movements of many dances strengthen your weight bearing bones and can help prevent or slow loss of bone mass.
  4. Rehabilitation – If you’re recovering from heart or knee surgery, movement may be part of your rehabilitation.  Dancing is a positive alternative to aerobic dance or jogging.
  5. Sociability – Dancing contains a social component that solitary fitness endeavors don’t.

To learn more about how to get started visit LearnToDance.com.

Tip # 17      Donate a Car Online!

Avoid the Hassle of Trying to Sell a Used Car. No more placing expensive ads, taking phone calls, scheduling appointments and meeting with strangers in your home, or price haggling with a dealer.

  1. Car Donations are EASY – Donate a Car Online!   
  2. Free Pick Up Nationwide – When you donate your car to our charity, we come to your home or office – running or not in most cases.
  3. Tax Deductible – Our auto donation center provides you with all the documentation and receipt.
  4. No Paperwork Hassle – Avoid confusing Department of Motor Vehicles paperwork or Smog hassles – We do it all: DMV, smog, etc. Just submit your Donate a Car Online! and we will take care of everything else.
  5. Save Money on Car Bills – Avoid repair, insurance, and registration costs by donating your car.
  6. We accept Cars, Boats, Trucks, Vans, RVs, Trailers and more!

This is just one of many organizations that provide this type of service. Make sure you research to find the organization that best suits your needs in your area.

Tip # 16     New Computer – Now What?

Now that you have that new computer – how do you use it?  Your computer can be very powerful tool whether for personal or business use. But, it’s of no use to you if you don’t know how to use it. You can manage your check book; keep track of your favorite recipes, finally organize your Christmas list or run your Home Business.  You might want to think about taking a computer class at your local community college.  The costs for these classes are reasonable and are usually held once or twice a week.  A computer can be major investments so don’t let it sit idle on your desk.

If you have a SBDC (Small Business Development Center) in your area, they may offer workshops for a minimal fee.

Tip # 15    Comforting After the Loss of a Loved One

Unfortunately in our lives we will all know someone who will suffer the loss of a loved one. After the services are over, the friends and family have gone home and the flowers have long wilted – the reality of loss begins to settle in. Comfort Baskets® offers thoughtful sympathy gifts for men, women, and children.  Visit ComfortBaskets.com to see the full section. Baskets can be ordered on line or by calling:

Comfort Baskets, Inc.
65 Highlawn Rd
Brattleboro, Vt.05301
Ph: 802.257.1600
Toll Free: 866.530.2468

Tip # 14    Painting Your House – the Secrets of Pro Painters

Want to paint like a pro?  Here are 7 tips to help you with your home improvement project:

  • Load it right – Ideally, you want as much paint on the brush as you can control without making drips or blobs.
  • Cut in close – When cutting in on a wall, load the brush and spread out the excess paint, then work the brush up to the line between the wall and ceiling.
  • Work top down – After painting the ceiling, work from the top down: Start with the crown molding, then do the walls and then paint the casement molding around the windows and doors.
  • Double-check work – Between coats you’ll want to back-prep, or sand off any bumps, before applying the next coat.
  • Do doors right – If you have a paneled door, start with the panels and work from the outside edges in toward the center.
  • Skip daily cleaning – For two-day jobs, wrap the rollers and brushes in plastic grocery bags and stick them in the refrigerator.
  • Expect touch-ups – Accidents happen. Keep a cheap sponge brush on hand to blend a patch with the rest of the wall or woodwork.

To read more visit thisoldhouse.com


Tip #13  Tips for Traveling Abroad offered by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consumer Affairs

If you are traveling abroad here are the top 10 tips you need to make your trip easier:

  1. Make sure you have a signed, valid passport and visas, if required. Also, before you go, fill in the emergency information page of your passport!
  2. Read the Consular Information Sheets (and Public Announcements or Travel Warnings, if applicable) for the countries you plan to visit.
  3. Familiarize yourself with local laws and customs of the countries to which you are traveling. Remember, the U.S. Constitution does not follow you! While in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws.
  4. Make 2 copies of your passport identification page. This will facilitate replacement if your passport is lost or stolen. Leave one copy at home with friends or relatives. Carry the other with you in a separate place from your passport.
  5. Leave a copy of your itinerary with family or friends at home so that you can be contacted in case of an emergency.
  6. Do not leave your luggage unattended in public areas. Do not accept packages from strangers.
  7. Prior to your departure, you should register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website. Registration will make your presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an emergency. In accordance with the Privacy Act, information on your welfare and whereabouts may not be released without your express authorization. Remember to leave a detailed itinerary and the numbers or copies of your passport or other citizenship documents with a friend or relative in the United States.
  8. To avoid being a target of crime, try not to wear conspicuous clothing and expensive jewelry and do not carry excessive amounts of money or unnecessary credit cards.
  9. In order to avoid violating local laws, deal only with authorized agents when you exchange money or purchase art or antiques.
  10. If you get into trouble, contact the nearest U.S. embassy.

You can also visit U.S. Department of State for more information.

Tip #12    De-Clutter Your Home or Office

A place for everything, everything in its place, is this how you wish your home or your office was?

Here are 4 simple solutions to your clutter.

  • Everything has its place – Everything in your home or office should have its own home.  A place where it is kept when not in use. When you are done using something, return it to its home right away.  Putting it away immediately will save you the time and frustration of looking for it the next time you need it.
  • Give it away – If you have something that you never use get rid of it, give it so someone who can make good use of it or donate it to your favorite organization.
  • Sell it – Have a yard sale, take it to a consignment shop, or try an online auction company like Craig’s List or E-Bay.
  • Toss it – If you no longer have use for an item and you don’t know of anyone who can use it, throw it away!  Don’t hang onto it just because you “think” you may use it some day…….

Tip #11  What to Keep and How Long

Have you ever wondered how long you need to keep those boxes of “Important Papers” you are storing in your basement or attic?  Here’s a list of what to keep, where to keep it, and for how long.  To view the complete list, go to Housekeeping.about.com.

Papers to Keep Permanently

  • Advance Directive – (living will/durable power of attorney for health care) Store copies in your home file, safe deposit box, and copies with your agents. Update as needed.
  • Real Estate Records – Store in a safe deposit box or fireproof home storage. These include real property deeds, title papers, abstracts, mortgage and lien documents, tax assessment notices, purchase contracts, and records of capital improvements. Be sure to include any rental properties.
  • Inventory of Household Goods and Appraisals – Store in a safe deposit box with a copy in your home file. This should be updated at least once a year.
  • Social Security Card – In the past, we were told to carry our card with us, but the SSA now advises that the card not be carried with us, unless we are using it to show an employer or for other specific identification purposes. Store in fireproof home storage.
  • Citizenship and Naturalization Papers – Store in a safe deposit box or fireproof storage for the home.

Items to Keep Temporarily

  • Will – Store the original signed copy with the probate division of a circuit court or in a safe deposit box that is jointly rented. Keep a copy in your home file. Keep it only as long as it is in effect.
  • Cancelled Checks – Store in your home file if they are non-tax deductible spending. Keep for a minimum of three years.
  • Passports – Store in home storage or safe deposit box until they are replaced.
  • Savings Certificates – Store in a safe deposit box and listed in your valuable papers inventory in the home file. Keep for the duration of your ownership or longer if needed for tax purposes, frequently six years.

Tip #10      Your Pet’s Emergency Kit

Many of us already have an emergency kit and plan for our families, but what about the other members of our families, our beloved pets?

Do you have an emergency kit and plan for them?

Here’s what you need to do to prepare your pet for disasters.

Before a Disaster Strikes:

  • Keep your pet’s vaccinations current.
  • Take photos of each animal, include any distinguishing marks.  Store the photos along with medical records in re-sealable plastic bags along with other important papers.
  • Keep a properly fitted collar, current license, and rabies and identification tags on each pet, even cats that never go outside.  Birds should be leg-banded.
  • Determine the best place to leave your pet in case of a disaster.  Identify a place in your home to leave your pet as well as an off-site location in case of evacuation.
  • Have an emergency 72-hour kit for each pet.  Familiarize your pet with the kit’s carrier or cage before an emergency.

To see these tips, find out what to include in your pets 72-hour emergency kit, and what to do during and after a disaster please visit http://www.tips4me.com, under “Latest Updates” click on “ Your Pet’s Emergency Kit.”

Tip #9          Five Fast e-mail Productivity Tips

If you find yourself spending too much time reading and responding to e-mails here are 5 tips that may help free up your time for more important tasks:

  • Shut off auto-check – Either turn off automatic checking completely, or set it to something reasonable, like every 20 minutes or so. If you’re doing anything with new email more than every few minutes, you might want to rethink your approach.
  • Pick off easy ones – If you can retire an email with a 1-2 line response do it now. Get it off your plate, and get back to work.
  • Write less – Stop imagining that every e-mail needs to be a novel. Get better at just keeping the conversation moving by responding quickly and with short actions in the reply. Ask for more information, pose a question, or just say “I don’t know.”
  • Cheat – Use something like MailTemplate to help manage answers to frequent email subjects. Templates let you create and use boilerplate responses to the questions and requests to which you usually find yourself drafting identical replies over and over from scratch. At least use a template as a basis for your response, and then customize it for that person or situation.
  • Be honest – If you know in your heart that you’re never going to respond to an email, get it out of sight, archive it, or just delete it. Guilt will not make you more responsive two months from now, otherwise, you’d just do it now, right? Trust your instincts, listen to them, and stop trying to be perfect.

Tip #8        Turn Your Old Computer Into a Charitable Donation

If a new computer is on your wish list this holiday, you might think about donating your old model to charity. Making a computer donation allows you to reclaim some value from older electronic equipment and take a deduction on your income taxes. But like other noncash donations, giving up your computer isn’t as easy as hauling your hardware to the nearest Goodwill.

  • Before you donate, assess the value of your computer. You can find the value by checking Internet auction Web sites or even computer manufacturer Web sites. You can also pay $4 for an appraisal by Orion Blue Book, an industry authority on market values, at www.OrionBlueBook.com.
  • Deductions are valid only for gifts to a recognized charity, meaning it has IRS approval to register as a tax-exempt organization. Before you donate, check out the charity at www.CharityNavigator.com.
  • You might also check out The Used Computer Mall at  www.UsedComputer.com. The Web site lists charities that accept new or used computer equipment. It also provides recycling guidelines in case your computer is a real dinosaur — too old to go anywhere but the recycling bin.
  • Remember to erase all the files from your computer’s hard drive before you donate. At best, others will laugh at the poetry and E-mails you saved. At worst, you could be a victim of identity theft. Look for so-called disk-cleaning software, which will clear your computer’s hard drive.

Be sure to get a receipt for your donation from the charity. You’ll need it to take the deduction come tax time.

Tip #7        Become a Gourmet Cook

Getting ready for the holidays and wondering how to refresh your standard menus? Planning a dinner party and want to make something that will wow your guests? Not sure what to do with that bushel of apples you bought at the farm stand?

Check out epicurious.com for exotic new recipes – or variations on your “tried and true” favorites. You can see photos of most of the recipes, find out which wine works best with your selection, and even read reviews – often with suggestions for how to make the dish even better.

Tip #6        Reduce the Junk in Your Mailbox

If you want to cut down on the amount of direct mail you get, send a postcard or letter to:

Mail Preference Service
Direct Marketing Association (DMA)
PO Box 643, Carmel, NY10512

Be sure to include your name, home address, and signature. For a $5 fee, you can get on the DMA’s “off mailing” list online at:

dmaconsumers.org/cgi/offmailinglist.

Putting yourself on the list should dramatically reduce the commercial mail you receive. Except for local third-class mail addressed to “homeowner,” you will get no more catalogs or correspondence from businesses looking for new clients — including mail you might be interested in.

You can be more selective about the direct mail you get simply by not responding to offers you don’t want. Keep in mind that direct mail is expensive. And direct-marketing businesses don’t want to spend money on sending mail to people who won’t respond to it. If you don’t respond to their offers, they’ll remove you from their mailing lists themselves.

Tip# 5    Get Hip to the Weather and More

Interested in knowing the weather trends for the year? Want some guidance on how and when to plant your garden? Looking for recipes for some of the old family favorites? The Farmers’ Almanac offers advice on these topics – and more. And now you can visit them on-line at www.farmersalmanac.com.

Tip #4        Buy Your Postage Online

Tired of waiting in long lines at the post office, especially during the holiday season? Can you imagine being able to get the postage you need by printing it out from your personal computer. This convenience is now a reality! Check out www.usps.com for information on how to get set up for this.

Tip #3        Send An Extraordinary Gift

Why send ordinary flowers, gift baskets, or chocolate gifts when you could send an extraordinary gift?

If you ever struggle with decisions about the right gift to send or where to go for the best selections, www.netique.com is for you.

It offers effortless gift-giving, with a wonderful selection of gifts for everyone on your list. Just place your order and they do the rest, including gift-wrap, preparing the enclosure card and shipping.

Tip #2         Remember Special Events

Do you often find yourself in the “belated birthday” section of your local card shop? Never miss another birthday again with the help of birthdayalarm.com. They take the hassle out of trying to remember the dates of friends’ and relatives’ special days.

Log on to www.birthdayalarm.com and follow the simple instructions to register. You have the option of recording the dates yourself, or e-mailing friends and having them record their information directly.

You will be alerted twice prior to each date listed, once at 7 days and again at 3 days. By going to the site, you can send a free e-card or you can opt to send flowers, though there is a charge for this. Birthdayalarm.com also offers a subscription service that will send reminders directly to your cell phone.

No more excuses! Remember the people you care about.

Tip #1        Take Care of Your Car

Do you have trouble remembering when your automobile maintenance and repairs are due?

Log on to www.carcarecity.com for a quick and easy solution. Their proprietary software allows you to track the times and mileage of your maintenance needs for your vehicles. And, their service is free of charge!  You are busy enough as it is; they’ll remind you via e-mail when it is time to do common maintenance items on your car such as:

  • Change your oil
  • Rotate your tires
  • Change your tires
  • Have a tune-up
  • Renew your insurance
  • Renew your driver’s license
  • Renew your license plates/tags

Proper maintenance can increase the life and value of your vehicle. Your own e-mail assistant will remind you when it is time for your maintenance items on your automobile and they will maintain a complete automobile maintenance log that you can print out when it comes time to sell your vehicle.