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Ready to Decorate? Give Your Leftover Latex Paint New Life

February 1, 2016 3:55 am

Are you sitting on a stash of leftover latex paint? Did you realize you've got yourself a gold mine when it comes to home decorating?

With a little imagination and creative flair, you can use paint leftovers to give your home extra appeal, and have lots of fun in the process. To get you started, here's a few great ideas, courtesy of the Paint Quality Institute on how forgotten paint can infuse new life into your home interior:

Make kitchen items kitschy. Dab a little leftover paint on canisters, coasters, or the handles of wooden spoons and spatulas with bright, fun color that can make cooking more joyful.

Colorize some flowerpots—the more, the merrier. Paint them one solid color, or embellish them with pattern for more panache!

Have an old dresser that’s tired-looking? Use different colors on different parts for added visual interest.  Do the same with an old stool, table, or cabinet.

Add pizzazz to painted walls with a handcrafted patterned border. Fashion a “stamp” out of an old sponge in the pattern of your choice, then dip it in the leftover paint and dab new color onto the walls.  Voila!  Custom design.

Express your home’s individuality by adding accent color to a door, doorway, or an entire wall.  The unexpected color will make your interior something special.

Embellish built-in bookcases, cabinets, or a mantelpiece with leftover paint to create striking elements in your decor.

Using a homemade or commercial stencil, apply paint to just about anything—a piece of furniture, a wall, or even the floor.  It can render the ordinary, extraordinary.

Frame your artwork.  Repaint the frames on your prints, paintings, and drawings to give them a fresh appearance.  Or, paint a simulated “frame” right on the wall to draw attention to favorite objects or sculpture.

Most of these projects take just a small amount of paint, but they can make a big difference in your home decor.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Money-Wise Tips for Your Tax Refund

January 29, 2016 3:49 am

Tax refunds present an opportunity to better your financial health. Unfortunately, many refund recipients don’t take advantage of it.

“A tax refund often feels like ‘free’ money, and many people use the funds to splurge on expensive items they wouldn’t otherwise purchase,” says Mike Sullivan, chief education officer for Take Charge America, a national non-profit credit counseling agency. “However, a refund presents a unique opportunity to use the money to improve your family’s financial wellbeing now and in the long term.”

If you receive a refund this year, consider using it in one (or all!) of the following ways:

1. Pay Off Debt – When you receive your refund, resist the urge to spend it on a shopping spree, fancy dinner or pricey vacation. Instead, use your refund to pay down credit card balances, student loans, auto loans or other debt.

2. Pay Down Your Mortgage – Direct your refund toward your mortgage principal. Even one extra payment each year can shave noticeable interest off your mortgage.

3. Boost Your Savings – If you’re debt-free, put your money toward your emergency savings fund, retirement plan or college savings account.

4. Adjust Your Withholding – File a new W4 to increase your allowances and pay the appropriate amount of taxes throughout the year. Use the IRS withholding calculator and aim for the number of allowances that satisfies 100 to 110 percent of last year’s tax payment.

5. Use Direct Deposit – Set up an automatic deposit to direct the money you would have spent on excess taxes into an interest-bearing savings account. You won’t notice the difference in your paycheck— it’s money that would have been withheld for taxes—but your contributions will quickly add up.

“While it’s fun to receive a wind-fall of cash, it’s important for consumers to understand the IRS isn’t giving away money—they’re returning money they borrowed, interest-free, all year long,” adds Sullivan. “It’s a good idea to adjust your withholdings to break even and make your money work for you—not just the government—throughout the year.”

Source: Take Charge America

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Repainting a Room? The Lighter, the Better

January 29, 2016 3:49 am

A fresh coat of paint is an upgrade well worth the effort. Your best bet for color?

The lighter, the better, says Paint Quality Institute Paint and Color Expert Debbie Zimmer.

"Deep, saturated shades have been popular for years, but the palette that's in vogue right now is just the opposite," says Zimmer. "Interior designers and colorists are favoring lighter hues, including off-whites, that just tease the eye with traces of color."

Interestingly enough, there is a psychological benefit to a lighter indoor environment.  Brighter surroundings can lift our spirits, and soft tints derived from certain color families—green and blue, for example—can feel restorative after a stressful day.

Vaguely reminiscent of the "pastels" of yesteryear, the light colors that are gaining popularity today are more sophisticated ensembles, often marrying three or more different hues to create soft color that is often hard to put a name to.  Layering color in this way produces fascinating visual effects.

"Because the new tints are not pure whites, yellows or greens, many have a chameleon-like quality, shifting their appearance slightly when the light changes," says Zimmer. "During the daytime, a wall color might appear to be pale green, but at night, under artificial light, it may take on a yellow cast.  Likewise, a light bluish tint might gravitate toward pale gray in dimmer light."

Zimmer recommends applying sizable swatches of the paint color to several walls and live with them for a day or two before fully committing to the color.

Another way to incorporate lighter shades? Repaint ceilings and woodwork. This visual trick helps open up a space, making any room appear larger than it is.

Source: Paint Quality Institute

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Fed Inaction Keeps Mortgage Rates Low…For Now

January 29, 2016 3:49 am

Mortgage rates have fallen once again this week, with the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaging 3.79 percent with an average 0.6 point, according to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®).

The 15-year FRM is averaging 3.07 percent with an average 0.5 point. The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) is averaging 2.90 percent, also with an average 0.5 point.

“The yield on the 10-year Treasury stabilized around 2 percent this week, and the 30-year mortgage rate dipped 2 basis points to 3.79 percent,” says Sean Becketti, chief economist of Freddie Mac. “The recent market turmoil has given the Fed pause; as was universally expected, the Fed stood pat this week but kept its options open for a rate increase in March.”

Source: Freddie Mac

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Tips to Avoid Tax-Related Fraud

January 28, 2016 3:49 am

Recent widespread data breaches have made taxpayers leery of identity theft and fraud this tax filing season—and they’re wise to exercise caution, says Michael Bruemmer, vice president of Consumer Protection at Experian.

“Tax season is a busy time of year for identity thieves. Those filing taxes, especially electronically, should educate themselves on what precautions need to be taken, and what assistance is available to them if they become a victim of identity theft,” Bruemmer says.

Preventative measures taxpayers can take include:

• Thoroughly researching any paid preparer or tax preparation software

• Ensuring that the computer used when filing electronically is on a secured network, and is protected with the most up-to-date anti-virus and anti-malware software

• Asking potential tax preparers to explain how they file and what steps they take to protect their customers’ information.

• Enrolling in credit monitoring and taking action by filing a fraud claim if an alert indicates potentially fraudulent activity

• Not responding to any emails or text messages from anyone who says they’re with the IRS, as the organization contacts individuals via mail and phone only.

According to results from a recent survey by Experian, 28 percent of survey respondents have been a victim or know someone who has been a victim of tax fraud. Forty-two (42) percent of survey respondents are concerned that someone can access their personal data through their tax return.

Despite that concern, just 12 percent of survey respondents are planning to check their credit reports to monitor suspicious activity, and a mere 6 percent of respondents plan to file their taxes on a computer with up-to-date antivirus software.

Additionally, 45 percent of survey respondents are unaware of the IRS-issued Identity Protection PIN. The IP Pin is a unique number assigned to eligible taxpayers that helps prevent misuse of their Social Security number, and protects against thieves attempting to file fraudulent federal income tax returns.

Source: Experian

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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3 Pro Tips for Water Heater Maintenance

January 28, 2016 3:49 am

Of all the household appliances requiring maintenance, your water heater is one you don’t want to neglect. Forgoing maintenance can not only be hazardous, but also costly, says Michael Petri, a Brooklyn-based plumbing and heating professional.

"We see hundreds of poorly maintained water heaters that need to be fixed or replaced around this time of year," says Petri. "Water heaters account for nearly 17 percent of a household's energy use, so it can get very costly if they aren't maintained properly or get too old."

To ensure the longevity of your water heater, Petri suggests the following tips:

1. Replace an Outdated Unit – Water heaters generally last between 8 and 10 years—after that, they may begin leaking, requiring frequent maintenance or repair work. If your model is outdated, consider replacing it with a new, energy-efficient alternative. Keep in mind that water heaters built after April 15, 2015 meet different energy standards than older models, and, as a result, are larger in size, so storage modifications may be needed.

2. Install Insulation – To ensure accurate water temperature and avoid damage from temperature fluctuations, insulate your water heater with a fiberglass wrap. These wraps, installed by a professional plumber, are safe and generally less expensive than other insulation options.

3. Inspect and Flush the Unit – Regularly inspect the water heater’s pilot light to ensure the system is heating properly. The light should always be blue—red or orange indicate a malfunction. In addition, have your water heater flushed at least once a year to remove built-up rust or sediment, which can inhibit the unit’s performance.

Source: Petri Plumbing and Heating, Inc.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Snowstorm Damage? What Is—and Isn't—Covered by Homeowners Insurance

January 28, 2016 3:49 am

Homeowners insurance covers a multitude of property damages, including those caused by blizzards and other severe winter storms. According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), standard policies generally cover:

• Damage brought on by burst pipes or ice dams, typically with the requirement that the homeowner has taken reasonable steps to prevent these losses by keeping the house warm and properly maintaining drains and pipes

• Damage caused by tree limbs that fall on the house or other insured structure on the property, including both the damage the tree inflicts on the house and the cost of removing the tree, generally up to $500

• Damage from ice and other objects that fall on the house

• Structural collapse of the house caused by weight of snow or ice

• Wind-related damage to the house, its roof, its contents and other insured structures on the property, as well as damage caused by wind-driven snow or freezing rain

• Additional living expenses (ALE) to cover other living arrangements in the event the home is severely damaged by an insured disaster

Bear in mind damage caused by flooding is not covered by either standard homeowners or renters insurance policies. Melting snow that seeps into a home from the ground up would be covered by flood insurance, which is provided by FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program and a few private insurers. Flood insurance is available to both homeowners and renters.

“Consumers who need to file an insurance claim should contact their insurance professional as soon as possible,” says Jeanne M. Salvatore, senior vice president and chief communications officer of the I.I.I. “Let your agent know the extent of the damage and start to document your loss with lists, receipts or photographs. If you have a home inventory, now would also be a good time to access it.”

Source: I.I.I.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Why the Weekend Getaway Trumps Extended Trips

January 27, 2016 3:46 am

Recent research shows vacations don’t have to be long to be beneficial—in fact, just one weekend getaway is all it takes to feel reenergized, according to a recent survey by Enterprise.

“We all know the benefits of taking vacations—everything from reduced stress, improved health and increased productivity when we return to our routines,” says Steve Short, vice president of Enterprise. “What's interesting to us is that many individuals don't need an extended period of time to unplug.”

Seven out of 10 respondents to the survey reported finding it easy to unplug right away on a weekend getaway, and three out of four agreed they feel mentally refreshed after just one weekend away.

The reason? Nearly 80 percent of survey respondents said weekend getaways present an opportunity to explore a new place closer to home, cutting out potentially stressful long-haul travel. Seventy percent of respondents said weekend getaways are less expensive than extended stays, which make them—and their budgets—feel less burdened. A nearly identical amount of respondents also said weekend getaways offer the flexibility of returning home quickly if needed, compared to the alternative, which can cause strife if an emergency arises.

Source: Enterprise Rent-A-Car

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Ask the Arborist: How Can Snow Affect My Property?

January 27, 2016 3:46 am

Snow-capped trees and ice-tipped shrubs may be pretty to look at it, but both can cause some not-so-pretty damage to plantings on your property.

“Snow will cause the branches to separate,” explains Tchukki Andersen, staff arborist of the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA). Such action can lead to bent, split or broken branches, or, worse, fallen or uprooted trees.

Andersen advises homeowners to avoid planting arborvitae species if they live in an area that receives heavy, wet snow often. Arborvitae species tend to grow tall, with multi-stemmed branches that are low to the ground.

“Small, rounded, woody-stemmed plants would be a better choice, but make certain to give them enough root space away from the structure,” Andersen cautions. She recommends planting them near homes where snow can fall off the roof all at once in large piles.

A tree's form can be a factor in how well it will withstand heavy snow and ice storms. Coniferous evergreens can bear more snow weight than broadleaf evergreens, for instance. Pine (low altitude), spruce and fir with spread branches are more likely to be damaged by heavy snowfall than trees with steeper angled branches. In ice storms, a tree with good, right-angle branches will have less trouble than one with narrow, more vertical branch crotches.

The timing of snowfall can also be a factor in determining potential for damage. With a wet snow in March, when there are no leaves on the branches, the tree may be able to withstand damage pretty well—but that same snow in late spring or early fall, when the tree is filled with leaves, could add unbearable weight.

Still, not all damage is cause for concern.

“A little breakage isn’t always bad,” Andersen adds. “Nature prunes, trees, too. A wet snow may break off small twigs and dead branches. It can do a good job of pruning that way. Just follow up with some cleaning cuts."

In some instances, snow and ice cover can actually be beneficial.

“Snow is both friend and foe to trees and shrubs," says Andersen. “Snow causes its share of damage, as we all know, but in many cases it also protects plants and their roots against extreme fluctuations in temperature that could damage or even kill them.”

Source: TCIA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Transitional Style Reigns Supreme in Kitchens, Baths

January 27, 2016 3:46 am

The “transitional” style will once again be the most popular design trend in homes this year. According to the National Kitchen and Bath Association’s (NKBA) annual survey, recently released for 2016, the transitional style, dominated by a neutral color scheme, is a trend that will continue in both kitchen and bathroom design for the foreseeable future.

In kitchens, this includes:

• Built-In Coffee Stations, Wet Bars
• Docking and Charging Stations
• Granite, Quartz Countertops
• Gray, Off-White, White Cabinetry
• Outdoor Kitchens
• Pocket Doors
• Pull-Out, Tilt-In, Tilt-Out Storage
• Special Pet Spaces
• Wood Flooring

In bathrooms, this includes:

• Built-In Storage
• Electric Radiant Floor Heating, Towel Warmer
• Floating Vanities, Open Shelving, Wall-Hung Toilets
• Freestanding Tubs
• Hand Shower, Shower Lighting, Steam Showers
• Humidity-Sensing Fans
• Polished Chrome
• Undermount Sinks
• WaterSense® Faucets, Toilets

Roughly half of survey respondents (members of the NKBA) expect to complete more renovations involving outdoor kitchens this year, and nearly three-quarters of respondents expect to incorporate prep, maintenance and cleanup features, such as under-sink garbage disposals and under-counter wine refrigerators, in kitchen designs in 2016. Special pet spaces within kitchens will also grow in popularity this year, with amenities like designated feeding stations, under-counter crate areas and storage for pet food and toys. Survey respondents also anticipate, in addition to the features listed above, requests for roll-out storage, frameless glass shower enclosures and aging-in-place elements.

Source: NKBA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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