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Refinishing Your Kitchen Cabinets: Paint vs. Stains

November 21, 2016 2:36 am

So you've got new kitchen cabinets. Congratulations! But now what? For those wondering how to finish their brand spanking new cabinets, we run down the pros and cons of painting vs. staining—the two most popular finishing avenues.

Pros for paint
- It's flawless. Regardless of the color you choose, painting your cabinets covers up any quirks or blemishes in the natural wood, which can often be magnified by staining.

- Your color choices are endless. When it comes to picking a paint, the world is your multi-colored oyster. Get crazy and really customize the look and feel of your cabinets.

- Paint sticks to lower quality materials. If your cabinets are not made of wood (think particle board), paint is your BFF. It sticks to these materials just as well as higher grade wood options, and no one but you will know the difference.

Cons for paint
- It looks more uniform. Remember those natural quirks we mentioned? Well you may not want to cover these up. If you're looking for a more natural, country vibe that highlights those stunning features like grain and knots, opt for a stain over a paint.

- It's pricey. While not too expensive in the grand scheme, paint is more expensive than a stain, so if budget is a concern, take heed.

- Harder to touch up. Even if you can't find an exact match for your cabinet color, when you're working with stain, odds are you'll have better luck blending touch-ups in stain than with picky paint.

Source: Houzz

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Must-Read Financial Tips for First-Time Parents

November 21, 2016 2:36 am

So a babe is on the way? Congrats! Along with the chaos of, well, everything that is to come, your finances are soon to get an upheaval as well. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it will cost upwards of $245,000 to raise a child born in 2013 to the age of 18 – and this does not include college. Feeling that bank account burn already? Below are 5 tips for rocking your budget as a new mom or dad.

1. Tweak the budget. Your new little one is going to cost a pretty penny. From hospital costs to diapers and child care, budgetary stress is an added strain on you as a new mom or dad. Look for any un-necessaries you can slash to make room for more baby dollars. The more prepared you are, the better.

2. Track your spending. Don't just make that budget and set it aside. Set a monthly meeting with your spouse to look over your spending, make sure you're on track, and identify any problem areas or potential saving pockets.

3. Learn your tax credits. I bet you didn't see this one coming. Being a parent has some advantages at tax time, so talk to your tax professional about the child tax credit, the earned-income tax credit (EITC), and the child and dependent-care credit, all of which can save you mad money come tax tie.

4. Automate, automate, automate. Not only can automation help you avoid bouncing bills, but by having money withdrawn from your account, you can pad up your savings, too. Figure out how much you can part with every month and automatically squirrel it away into an emergency savings account, a college savings account, or both.

5. Set financial goals. While creating a budget and savings plan is great, setting goals for your family can help you stay on track. Looking to have a set amount in a college account by the time your kid hits 18? Do the math and decide how much you need to save monthly to hit it. Is an annual family vacation a must for connecting? Figure out how to stash some cash for that, and then make it happen. Don't forget to be realistic (a tour of Europe with a two-year-old wouldn't be that fun, anyway), and forgive yourself if it takes some time to get on track.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Keeping Kids Active in Cooler Temperatures

November 18, 2016 2:36 am

(Family Features)--As the weather gets colder, it can be harder to motivate kids to step away from their computers and devices and get off the couch. However, it’s essential for kids to participate in active play all year round. According to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regular physical activity helps build and maintain healthy bones and muscles, promotes psychological well-being and reduces feelings of depression and anxiety.

Sadly, physical activity is becoming less of a priority in kids’ daily routines. A recent survey conducted by Let’s Play, an initiative from Dr Pepper Snapple Group to make active play a daily priority, found that 64 percent of parents said busy schedules stand in the way of more active play for their children, up from 56 percent in 2015.

Each season brings its own opportunities for play, and fall is no exception. Families can beat the cold weather blues and stay active together by trying some of the following activities:

Plan a nature walk to find inspiration and materials for art. Even though it’s chilly outside, your family can still get out and enjoy the outdoors. Bundle up and take a nature hike with your kids around the neighborhood or at a local, national or state park. Encourage your kids to collect items like pinecones, acorns and leaves as you go and to be on the lookout for wildlife to observe. After the hike, take out art and craft supplies and help them create projects with the items they found.

Plan an indoor scavenger hunt. When a really cold day comes along, send your kids on a fun and active scavenger hunt around the house, searching for items that you can hide in advance. Work together as a family to locate the items or create some friendly family competition to see who can find all the items first. Having the family move around the house with a mission prevents the temptation of staying on the couch in front of the television all day.

Join a class or indoor sports team. Whether you are playing a favorite sport or learning a new one, it is always more fun with other people. Longer stretches of active play are often more likely to occur with friends or siblings. Sign your children up for an indoor sport or class they have never tried before, such as gymnastics, rock climbing, swimming or dance. This allows your children to learn something new, meet kids their age and be active for an extended period of time.

Volunteer. While giving back is always in season, this time of year is a perfect opportunity to teach kids about giving back to those in need and being grateful for what they have. Sign the whole family up to volunteer at a local soup kitchen, participate in a toy drive for a children’s hospital or help out at an animal rescue shelter. Your children will not only be active, but will also grow emotionally, socially and intellectually as a result.

Source: LetsPlay.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Shopping Online? Proceed with Caution

November 17, 2016 9:36 pm

Whether you’re starting your holiday shopping early, or waiting for the last minute, you’re most likely doing a lot (maybe all) of your gift buying online. Online shopping allows us to avoid the crowds, traffic and often less-than-spirited experience of the mall and, instead, shop from the comfort of our couch. What could be better?

Before you settle in and get your credit card ready, there are several precautions you should be aware of when shopping online, starting with avoiding cybercriminals. The holidays mean increased traffic online, making it prime time for scammers to take advantage of unsuspecting shoppers. Consider the following online shopping safety tips from staysafeonline.org:

Do your homework: Using a new site to shop from? Read some consumer reviews first to see what kind of ratings the site has gotten.

Think before opening links: A common way for cybercriminals to steal your information or infect your device is to send phony links in posts, texts and emails. If you don’t recognize the sender, don’t open the link.

Watch what you’re filling out: If it seems like a site is asking for way more information than necessary to make a purchase, you may want to move on to another site. Only fill out fields that are required.

Look for secure sites: Check to make sure the web address begins with https://, which means the site is security enabled to protect your information. Such addresses are usually proceeded by the small lock symbol.

Avoid WiFi hotspots: Public WiFi connections are just that…public. Try to avoid using them, especially for accessing email and banking information. Also, adjust the security settings on your phone to limit who can access it.

Shake up your passwords: While it may be convenient to use the same username and password across the board, it’s much safer to have a unique password for each unique account. Make sure your passwords for your most critical accounts are the toughest to hack.

By heeding these simple security tips, you can start attacking that holiday gift list with gusto…and peace of mind.

Source: StaySafeOnline.org – National Cyber Security Alliance

Contact our office today for more online shopping safety tips.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Is Your Home Leaking Money?

November 17, 2016 9:36 pm

You may be throwing money right out the window. Or out the front door. Even down the drain.
 
Why? Because these are some of the common places where your home might be leaking air, overtaxing your air conditioning and heating units and increasing your costs considerably. According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), finding and sealing air leaks will save you a bundle.
 
Once identified, leaks can be stopped in their tracks with simple caulking or weatherstripping, a move that provides a return on investment usually in less than one year, says the DOE. Caulk is used for cracks and openings around stationary items, like doors and window frames, and weatherstripping is best for sealing moveable components like doors and windows. In addition to drafts and cold spots, air leakage also contributes to moisture problems in the home.
 
Energy.gov offers the following tips for making your home air-tight and cost effective:
  • Caulk and weatherstrip doors and windows that leak air.
  • Caulk and seal air leaks where plumbing, duct work or electrical wiring comes through walls, floors, ceilings and soffits over cabinets.
  • Install foam gaskets behind outlet and switch plates on walls.
  • Inspect dirty spots in your insulation for air leaks and mold. Seal leaks with low-expansion spray foam made for this purpose, and install house flashing if needed.
  • Look for dirty spots on your ceiling paint and carpet, which may indicate air leaks at interior wall/ceiling joints and wall/floor joists, and caulk them.
  • Cover single-pane windows with storm windows or replace them with more efficient double-pane low-emissivity windows.
  • Use foam sealant on larger gaps around windows, baseboards, and other places where air may leak out.
  • Cover your kitchen exhaust fan to stop air leaks when not in use.
  • Check your dryer vent to be sure it isn’t blocked. This will save energy, and may prevent a fire.
  • Replace door bottoms and thresholds with ones that have pliable sealing gaskets.
  • Keep the fireplace flue damper tightly closed when not in use.
  • Seal air leaks around fireplace chimneys, furnaces and gas-fired water heater vents with fire-resistant materials such as sheet metal or sheetrock and furnace cement caulk. 
The DOE emphasizes that air sealing doesn’t eliminate the need for proper insulation, which reduces heat from escaping the building envelope.
 
Source: U.S. Department of Energy
 
To learn more about making your home air-tight and cost effective, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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5 Ways to Adjust to an Empty Nest

November 17, 2016 9:36 pm

For most parents, seeing their last child off to college brings with it a sense of great pride, accomplishment and a deep-seated happiness that your child is off to pursue his or her dream.

When you return to the empty nest, however, you may experience a whole range of emotions you had never expected. Many parents miss not only their child’s presence, but the hustle and bustle that went along with raising children. Here are some strategies to help you transition to the next phase of life:

1. Go easy on yourself. While knowing your children are happy is all any parent ever wants, it’s still okay to miss them and feel sad. When all the kids are out of the house, many parents experience a sense of loss akin to grief—and feel guilty for feeling that way. This is normal and will pass, so let yourself process the emotions without beating yourself up.

2. Pick some projects. Now is a great time to delve into those unattended tasks that nagged at you over the years, but were never priority. Great solace can be found in cleaning out the linen closet, organizing the kitchen cabinets and finally framing and hanging those photographs. Not only are such tasks therapeutic, they’ll make you feel productive as well.

3. Give in to guilty pleasures. What parent ever has time to lay around binge-watching Netflix series? Empty-nesters, that’s who! Indulge in some good old-fashioned couch potato activities— you deserve it!

4. Explore your own backyard. While you and your spouse suddenly have the free time to travel, if you’re juggling college tuitions, you may not have the funds to spend long weekends in the Caribbean. Instead, spend time in your own town—watch the sunset at the beach, hike the trails at the local park, take a day trip to the city or spend a weekend at a B&B. There are probably many places within driving distance that you never had time to discover. Now’s your chance!

5. Invest in your friendships. Whether solo or as a couple, it’s important to start spending more time with your friends. While raising kids, most of our social activities revolved around their social life and school activities. As empty nesters, however, we get to create our own social calendar, so call up some friends you haven’t seen in a while and host a pot luck, check out the new craft brewery in town, go bowling, or go see a local band. This is your time, so you make the rules!

While you’re creating your new empty nest life, remember that your kids are only a phone call away, so stay in touch and start redefining your relationship with them. In the blink of an eye, they’ll be home with loads of laundry in tow.

Contact our office today for more tips to help you successfully transition to an empty nest.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Consumer Alert: Beware IRS Scam Calls

November 17, 2016 9:36 pm

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has reported that one of the most persistent schemes on their current radar involves scammers calling unsuspecting consumers and claiming to be with the IRS in order to extort money through scare tactics and threats of imprisonment. The IRS imposter informs the person that they owe money in back taxes and that they’re in danger of being arrested unless they pay the amount via credit card or wire transfer. The IRS scam accounted for one in four reports through BBB's Scam Tracker.

A recent intervention in India appears to have reduced the number of scam calls drastically, reported the BBB. The intervention included the arrest of 70 suspects and the closing of a Mumbai, India call center. Since then, Scam Tracker reported that the number of complaints from victims dropped from an average of 200 reports weekly to 11 reports, a decline of nearly 95 percent. The BBB claims the scam bilked millions of dollars from American consumers.

Another version of the scam involves the caller informing the consumer that they’re being issued a tax refund. The imposter will then ask for personal information in order to transfer the funds, thereby paving the way for identity theft.

The BBB offers the following tips to spot the IRS scam:

-The calls often begin with an official-sounding robocall recording. The scammer will provide a fake badge number and name. Your caller ID will often indicate that the call is coming from Washington, D.C., or Ottawa.

-You’re pressured to act immediately, before you’ve had time to think things through and verify the information. In reality, the IRS would always provide you with a chance to appeal what you owe. And their first contact would always be via mail.

-Scammers will ask for payment to be made by wire transfer, prepaid debit card or other non-traditional forms of payment, because these methods are untraceable. The IRS would never deal in these forms of payment.

For more information, please visit www.bbb.org.

To learn more about how to stop an IRS scam call in its tracks, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Less Stress, More Gratitude This Thanksgiving

November 17, 2016 9:36 pm

Everyone has their favorite holiday. Some love the summer sparkle of July 4th, some the magical spirit of the Christmas and Hanukkah season, and some the spooky antics of Halloween. While those holidays are all indeed wonderful in their own right, Thanksgiving is quite possibly the very best holiday of all.

Why? Because Thanksgiving boils down to the simplest yet most meaningful of pleasures: food, family and gratitude. No lavish decorations, no presents, no raucous parties or overblown expectations. We simply come together with those we’re closest to, prepare a great meal together, join around a table and reflect on all we have to be thankful for.

With that as a premise, it doesn’t take much to turn your home into an optimal environment for celebrating Thanksgiving. Here are some great ways to enhance your day while avoiding some of the stress that comes with hosting:

Plan for seating. Instead of scrambling to pull together disparate chairs to outfit your table, consider renting chairs, and, if needed, an extra table. Rentals are usually reasonably priced and can be quickly dressed up with table linens. This ensures everyone will have enough room, providing a comfortable setting that will entice them to linger longer after dinner.

Set up stations. Sides, wine, cider, gravy boats, and, of course, the main attraction, the turkey, can overwhelm your dining room table. Instead, suggests lovetoknow.com, set up a buffet area for dinner items, a station for drinks, and another side table for desserts. Not only will this beautifully display the meal, it makes for a spacious table, reducing spilling hazards.

Emphasize the thankful part. A common Thanksgiving practice is to have each guest proclaim what they’re most thankful for. This year, consider a new twist on that idea. Better Homes and Gardens offers some creative ideas, such as asking guests to select a cut-out leaf and write down what they’re thankful for, or as the host, creating place cards with each of your guest’s names and a brief note of why you’re thankful for that person.

Invite interaction beyond the table. Avoid the after-dinner turkey coma in front of the TV by leaving out a deck of cards or board game, or by heading up a game of charades. Even better, weather permitting, get everyone into the yard for a classic round of touch football, or take a leisurely walk around the neighborhood.

Switch off for cleanup. If you took the lead on cooking the meal, make sure someone else takes the lead on cleanup. This way you’ll all be able to spend some time relaxing with guests as opposed to being relegated to the kitchen for the entire day. To build even more togetherness into the day, a team effort pre and post dinner is the ultimate way to go.

Contact our office today for more tips to help take the stress out of Thanksgiving.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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In this Edition: Focus On Gratitude—and Forget the Stress—This Thanksgiving

November 17, 2016 9:36 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters examines simple tips for enhancing your Thanksgiving, while leaving the stress behind. Other topics covered this month include 5 ways to adjust to an empty nest and how to stay safe while shopping online this holiday season. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Pull Your Holiday Table Together with a Tablescape

November 17, 2016 2:36 am

With the holidays looming, many are busy planning their holiday home décor. One decoration often overlooked is the tablescape – the decoration of your holiday table.

These top tips can help you pull together a festive tablescape this holiday season.

Think about the centerpiece: The centerpiece can tie the full look together. Fill a lantern with pumpkins, go for fall florals, or add a table runner to add various sizes of pumpkins lining the table.  

Create the look based on atmosphere: Think through all the details including where you will eat, who will attend, and how big of a crowd you'll host. You can still have a dinner al fresco with Edison bulbs or have a formal dinner for a larger group with stylish, party dinnerware that looks like the real deal. 

Expand décor beyond the table: Spreading leaves on a side table, adding candles and other thematic décor throughout the house can make decorations cohesive.

Themes don't need to be traditional: If you're going for different look this holiday season, At Home offers its Grateful Shores line – complete with driftwood and pumpkin decor that have a nautical twist.

Source: http://www.athome.com/.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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