Jeff Shauger, Associate Broker, ABR, CDPE, CRS, ePRO, GRI , SRES, SRS
 
Jeff Shauger, Associate Broker, ABR, CDPE, CRS, ePRO, GRI , SRES, SRS

Jeff's Blog

Being Frugal Doesn't Have to Stop the Fun

October 3, 2012 3:50 am

Saving money isn't always easy, but putting aside a few dollars here and there can add up. International Frugal Fun Day, October 6, is the perfect time to begin the habit of making small adjustments so you can have a frugal fun night and put the savings toward something even bigger later.

Being financially responsible doesn't have to mean boring. It does include setting priorities on how to spend and how to save. With a little creativity, it's possible to have fun with family and friends and still stick to your budget that should include saving toward specific goals.

Here are some suggestions on how to be frugal, but still have fun.

Rent a movie. Before spending a small fortune to see a recent release, rent a movie you forgot to see before it left theaters. Spend $15 on the rented movie and snacks from the grocery store and put the remaining money in your savings account. What would have been a $45 date night is now a frugal movie night.

Take a picnic to a public park. Instead of spending your play money to go out to eat all the time, pack up a picnic basket and head to a nearby park with your loved ones. Enjoy the outdoors by bringing a ball, kite or frisbee so you can play after lunch. Many state parks require a small fee, but most local public parks are completely free. A day in the sun is the perfect way to save for a rainy day, so deposit the money you would have spent eating out straight to your savings account.

Visit the museum and zoo on free days. Many entertaining destinations like these have a designated day each month for the public to enter at a free or reduced rate. Instead of paying around $30 for two adults to be admitted, with a little planning you can check out American Indian relics, paintings and animals for little or nothing.

Take a bike ride. Who decided exercise had to be boring? Take a new bike path or explore a neighborhood you've always wanted to see. You'll find out more about the area in which you live and make yourself more fit in the process.

Participate in a seasonal tradition - visit a pumpkin patch. Fall, food and fun—you can't go wrong. Take some friends to pick pumpkins, and later, spend the evening baking pumpkin pie. If you pull the money for pumpkins out of your grocery budget, you will have spent no money on entertainment at all.

By participating in a little frugal fun, you can work toward your savings goal without radically changing your lifestyle; if you do one of the ideas mentioned each weekend, you can save your way to something even more fun, like an island getaway.

Source: BMO Harris

Published with permission from RISMedia.

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Celebrate the Pasta-bilities, October is National Pasta Month

October 3, 2012 3:50 am

According to a 2011 survey conducted by the National Pasta Association (NPA), pasta lovers eat their favorite food seven times a month – nearly twice a week! Bringing American families exactly what they are looking for, pasta is a versatile dish that can easily fit into a healthy lifestyle. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that when asked what food they could not live without, 60 percent of those surveyed chose pasta … even instead of chocolate!

Celebrate this household staple over family dinner this October during National Pasta Month. Get creative with some quick, fun, fall recipes the entire family will enjoy like Acorn Squash and Pasta Soup or Pasta with Turkey-Black Bean Chili. It's a very versatile food that doesn't have to simply be covered in tomato sauce. If you are looking for a reason to celebrate pasta, here are some interesting facts that might persuade you:

• Americans eat approximately 20 pounds of pasta each year. This may sounds outrageous, but in Italy, the average person eats 51 pounds!
• Pasta is the ideal delivery system for nutritious foods! It boosts energy, satisfies hunger, tastes great and can be prepared in countless ways. It’s great to pair with fiber-filled vegetables and beans, heart-healthy fish and oils, antioxidant-rich tomato sauce and protein-packed poultry and lean meats.
• The first American pasta factory was opened in Brooklyn in 1848. If you think it was an Italian that started the U.S. industry, you are wrong; it was a Frenchman named Antoine Zerega.
• There are over 600 different shapes of pasta, which can be made into an infinite number of meals. With pasta varieties ranging from fusilli and ziti to farfalle and orecchiette, it’s hard to pick a favorite. In 2011, Americans named spaghetti as their favorite shape.
• 54 percent of Americans keep 1-4 packages of pasta in their pantry at all times. An easy meal to toss together, a pasta dish can create a delicious and nutritious last-minute meal when the pantry is otherwise bare.

There are so many ways a food lover can celebrate National Pasta Month, from learning how to cook the perfect pasta to trying out a new pasta shape, or even creating a pasta dish with a healthy twist. For recipes or more information, visit www.pastafits.org or www.ilovepasta.org.

Source: National Pasta Association

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When Termites Take a Bite Out of Your Budget

October 2, 2012 3:50 am

Drywood termite swarming season is about to begin and homeowners everywhere are preparing to open their wallets to protect their houses from structural damage.

The cost of tenting an American home to get rid of termites ranges from $1,300 to over $3,000 depending on the size of the home and the pest control company you choose. If homeowners know what signs to look for they shouldn’t have to pay a penny to professionals. Here are four ways to protect your home from termites:

1. Stop the pheromones and you’ve stopped the termites. All termites line the tunnels they dig with pheromones, a scent that the bugs follow to get to and from your home. It’s a way of communicating to the other termites to follow the scent and find food. All you need to do is break that line of pheromones with store-bought orange oil or a home made mixture and the termites won’t know how to get to your house anymore. It will be as if they’ve lost the map and put up an electric fence.

2. The north side of your home is especially vulnerable. Because the north side of your home gets the least amount of sun, more moisture can accumulate in the wood (cellulose), softening it up for the termites to eat. Try to keep the north side as dry as possible by turning away sprinklers and trimming back trees and overgrown vegetation that are blocking the sun. Other than swarming these insects never leave the infected wood for water. They rely only on the trapped moisture in the cellulose for a complete life cycle.

3. Decorative finishes create easy access points for termites
. Termites can enter where the brick or decorative finish material touches the ground. They crawl up between the gaps to get to the wood. This happens at the mudsill line. Get familiar with and measure your home’s mudsill line.

4. Bait stations lead termites to your home. Many unscrupulous pest control companies recommend putting bait stations in your home. But bait stations don’t work. The smell from the bait attracts termites and encourages them to build underground roads and highways close to your home. While some may take the bait and die, most of the insects will never get as far as the queen. There are millions of termites in an infected home. Killing even thousands a day will not make a dent. The remaining termites will just wind up feasting on what’s close to the bait station—your home. Any pest control company that wants to put a bait station in your house is not as interested in solving your termite problem as they are in forcing you to be a return customer.

Source: Michael Allen

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Beware of Your Air

October 2, 2012 3:50 am

October is National Indoor Air Month, and sharing a few tips about health concerns that may be in lurking in your home could go a long way.

While the big weather story this year has been drought, not flooding, mold is still a real concern for many homeowners. It can grow unseen inside of walls, ceilings and floors, wherever there is enough warmth, moisture and food for the mold to consume – and mold isn't a picky eater. Homeowners can prevent mold by sealing leaks and cleaning up water spills as quickly as possible. If wallboard or carpeting does get soaked, they should be removed as quickly as possible, before mold growth begins. Use a humidistat-controlled dehumidifier to monitor interior relative humidity (RH); keeping it below 50 percent will discourage dust mites and insects that can trigger asthma.

In addition to mold, there are many other indoor air pollutants that can trigger many residents' allergy symptoms. These can pose a risk for the tens of thousands of adults and children in the state who have asthma, as many common indoor allergens can also trigger asthma episodes. According to the American Lung Association, asthma is the leading cause of emergency room visits and missed days of school for children. It can also be deadly – an average of 11 people die every day in the United States because of asthma.

To protect against these allergy triggers such as dust mites and pet dander, clean floors, furniture and bed linens frequently and use a HEPA vacuum cleaner. Secondhand smoke can also trigger asthma, so if you or others at your home smoke, please take it outside, especially if children are present.

Source: American Lung Association

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Tips To Prevent Harmful Pests and Home Damage

October 2, 2012 3:50 am

October 1-5 is National Inspect and Protect Week. Every homeowner should be armed with valuable tips to prepare their homes and yards for the coldest season of the year and to keep out pests looking for a winter home.

According to a REALTOR.com survey of real estate agents and brokers, nine out of 10 new homeowners in 2012 have been interested in purchasing distressed properties. These bargains often come with tall grass, overgrown shrubs, unmanaged pools and clogged gutters that may have turned into a haven for pests that can threaten the health and safety of families, homes and communities. Exposure to weeds and rodent and insect allergens can also trigger respiratory problems and illnesses like hay fever and asthma, especially among young children, toddlers and the elderly.

Since fall is the best time to prepare for winter and spring, here are a few tips to help homeowners keep their homes, yards and communities healthy and safe during National Inspect and Protect Week:

Indoors:
-Proactive and preventive treatments are key to keeping pests under control from the very start of your homeownership.
-Start off right. Eliminate pests' pathways into your house by sealing spaces around pipes and electrical wires entering the house.
-Eliminate food sources, water and shelter that may attract pests.
-Remove stacks of cardboard (including those moving boxes) from your home as they provide attractive shelter and food for pests.
-Check for water leaks under the sink, refrigerator and other related areas.
-Store food items in air-tight and pest-proof containers or in the refrigerator or freezer.

Outdoors:
-Remove all standing water in areas such as pots, buckets, toys, pet bowls, bird baths, etc.
-Clean out ornamental and flower beds and be sure to place mulch in the right places — at least 12 inches from your foundation. Pick up fallen leaves and branches to help eliminate places where ticks like to hide.
-Prune back tree branches that are touching the house or roof. Branches leading to your home form a bridge for insects and rodents.
-For pier and beam foundations, keep the area under the house free of clutter and sealed so no wildlife make it their home.

Maintaining your property is key to effectively avoiding a winter pest infestation. Taking action to inspect and protect your home this fall will safeguard your family's health as well as property, helping everyone to safely enjoy the colder months ahead.

Source: RISE

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Autumn To-do List for Homeowners

October 1, 2012 3:50 am

With autumn in full swing, Americans are shifting their focus from sunny barbecues and beachside bonfires to raking leaves and picking apples. The dog days are gone, and the upcoming season promises new opportunities to spend time with friends and family. Unfortunately, it also promises a new set of issues for homeowners and car owners.

There's no need for a total makeover, but careful homeowners should make a point to fall-proof their home:

Clean your gutters. After a summer of scattered showers, it's a good idea to take a look around the roof for any leaks or cracks in the gutters. As autumn moves along, inspect them a few more times to make sure there isn't any foliage creating clogs. Stagnant water and falling leaves make for a mucky mix that could lead to foundation damage if left untouched. Be sure to check for any loose, broken or missing shingles, too.

Dust off the fireplace. Nothing beats the warm glow and homey scent of a well-stocked fireplace. Embrace those relaxing fireside evenings by clearing out any debris that might be left over from autumns past. Have the chimney cleaned at least once a year, and check for any nicks or cracks in it. Lastly, be sure to put up a screen to shield family members from any wayward sparks.

Shop for an insurance policy. The colder weather poses certain risks for homeowners both at home and on the road. With so many assets to protect, there's no need to settle for less than satisfactory home or auto coverage. Take a fresh look at your policies and premiums and make sure you've got the coverage you need without overpaying for it. Remember, you could receive a home-auto discount if you get both policies from the same carrier, so be sure to ask about that and other discounts.

Source: www.homeinsurance.com

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Five Ways to Prevent Holiday Travel Mayhem

October 1, 2012 3:50 am

With the holidays around the corner, travelers should be well-prepared in order to make sure their travels are smooth sailing. Here are five ways to create peace of mind during the hectic holiday travel season.

Make it easy. For those who like simplicity, search the web for a company that can do the planning for you! There are a plethora of travel sites available that will comparison shop for you and even add in amenities like hotel, car and more. You don't have to spend a lot of time in order to get a master itinerary for your trip.

Go mobile. No more fumbling at the check-in counter. Easily access confirmation numbers from any smartphone. Apple's new iPhone 5 has the great Passbook app, but any smartphone can keep all of your travel documents handy so you can check in and move more efficiently.

Know where to go. Put Siri to work! Or use other websites and apps like Yelp, TripAdvisor or TripIt to get maps, directions, nearby restaurants and merchants. You literally have all the information you need right in your mobile device.

Avoid airport confusion. Share itineraries with family members so flight numbers and arrival times are handy, minimizing last-minute scrambles.

For those planning on traveling throughout the holidays, spending a little time now to get yourself organized will save you heaps of time throughout your journey.

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Common Cooking Blunders

October 1, 2012 3:50 am

We all have a role to play in ensuring our homes are food-safe. Research findings reveal that despite the fact that a majority of adults feel confident they understand and follow safe food handling procedures, a sizeable number do not consistently follow certain safe food handling practices.

Here are some common cooking blunders:

• The quick wash up (or lack of wash up). Only 50 percent of consumers reported washing their hands for 20 seconds, before and after handling food. You've heard it before, but we all need the reminder - wash your hands before cooking, and during cooking, especially when switching between handling different foods. Wash with soap and water for 20 seconds - that's 2 choruses of “Happy Birthday” (hummed under your breath).

• Skipping the fruit and veggie wash up. Be sure to wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly in cool drinkable water, including those you peel or cut like melons, oranges, and cucumbers.

• Bringing meats up to room temperature before grilling. This is a common “cooking show” recommendation that really has no benefits and is loaded with the risk of promoting the growth of harmful bacteria. Keep foods chilled in the fridge at 4â—¦C until ready to cook - and that includes marinating too.

• Cooking by color. You can't rely on the “color test” to know when meats are done. Cook meat and poultry to proper temperatures to know for sure, using a digital food thermometer to test for doneness. It's a pretty simple step and saves a lot of “doneness debates/arguments” that happen at the grill. Only 15 percent of people consistently use a food thermometer.

• Using the same cooking equipment for raw as for cooked. Be sure to wash up barbecue tongs after flipping steaks, burgers, chicken, kabobs, etc. during cooking, and before you use them to take food off the grill to serve. Or better yet, have two pairs of tongs - one for raw and one for cooked. The same goes for cutting boards of course!

For more information and tips on how to keep your home food-safe, visit www.befoodsafe.ca.

Source: Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education

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Important Moving Tips for First-Time Homeowners

September 28, 2012 3:50 am

All of the paperwork is signed and completed, and you've jumped over every hurdle imaginable. Congratulations! The home is yours. Once everything is locked in and you're ready to move, it's easy to overlook a few key last-minute tasks that will definitely affect your first night in your new home. Though these may seem obvious, heed these common moving tips in order to ensure that your move and first few nights are as smooth as possible.

Don't forget to pack the essentials in an easy-to-find place. Sure, you were diligent with your packing, but make sure you know where common necessities are. If you arrive at your new home and don't want to fully unpack just yet, at least have important items close to you at all times. Toothbrushes, toothpaste, towels, soap, toilet paper and more should be in clearly marked boxes and close at hand. If movers are delivering your belongings the following morning, make sure you don't head to the new house without these items on your person. Pack a small bag as if you were going on vacation and be sure to bring everything you might need for the night.

Make sure everything in your house is in working order. The house is gorgeous, but appearances can be deceiving. Confirm that the plumbing, water and heating work before you pack the car with the kids and drive over. Confirm that everything is turned on and working as it should a few days before your planned departure date. Once you arrive to your properly functioning home, you'll be glad you did.

Remember to sign over the utilities into your name before you move in. Again, you don't want any bad surprises on your first night. Make sure the water and the electric bills are in your name so that you don't show up to your new home and have to sit in the dark playing board games. Excitement will be high, so don't let a simple slip of the mind ruin the thrill of your first night at home.

Don't forget these important tips so that you can start enjoying your home as soon as possible.

Source: blog.movers.com

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Foods with Digestive Health Support Keep Pets Happy Healthy

September 28, 2012 3:50 am

Pets, like humans, need a well-rounded diet, full of vegetables, premium proteins and vitamins. Buying your pets high-quality food should ensure they receive all the nutrients they need. But if pets aren’t digesting that food correctly, they may as well be eating low-quality food with the inexpensive fillers you’ve been trying to avoid.

Research shows 70 percent of a pet’s immune system lies in the digestive tract. Proper digestion and a healthy digestive tract are essential to maintaining whole body health. If a pet’s digestive tract isn’t in peak condition it can prevent the nutrients in food from digesting properly and lead to a number of different illnesses.

To ensure your pet’s digestive tract is working properly, look for a high-quality, natural food with a digestive health support system that includes probiotics, prebiotics, natural fibers and easily digestive enzymes.

Probiotics are the good bacteria that help keep the immune system healthy. Humans often get probiotics from things like yogurt. Check with your pet food company to ensure your pet’s food includes probiotics and prebiotics. Prebiotics stimulate the growth and maintenance of good bacteria, like probiotics, in your pet’s digestive tract.

Just as fiber plays an important role in human digestive health, it also plays an integral role in your pet’s digestive health. Fiber-rich foods such as oatmeal and flaxseed promote digestive regularity. Digestive enzymes help organs break down food to ensure your pet is absorbing the most nutrients from their food. Digestive enzymes also help reduce stress on organs, which is very important for aging pets.
Some pets may also need a grain-free food to help them digest their food properly. Be sure to look for a grain-free food that contains high-quality, natural protein and no fillers, as well as a complete digestive health support system.

To avoid digestive upset, be sure to switch your pet to a new food slowly. Generally, a transition over seven to ten days will help your pet's stomach adjust to the new formula.

Source: Holistic Select

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