November 23, 2011 3:34 pm
According to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) 2011 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, Americans will spend an average of $704.18 on holiday gifts and decorations, down slightly from last year’s average of $718.98. However, retail sales expectations for November and December show a 2.8% growth to $465.6 billion. Even in a shaky economy, consumers are willing to swipe for the right price.
Declining credit card usage over the past year has credit card companies boosting their reward incentives in hopes of luring customers back. This holiday season consumers are more likely to use cash for purchases, hinting they’re concerned about taking on high-interest debt in a weak economy. Creditors are offering free gift cards, triple bonus points and air miles, but consumers need to understand the broadening restrictions that apply to these rewards.
“People need to read the fine print and speak with the card issuer about details related to bonus points and incentives. If you have the money to pay-off the credit card purchases before payment is due it is OK to use your card to get additional rewards,” says Howard Dvorkin, author and founder of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services, Inc., a financial literacy provider that has helped more than 5 million Americans pay off their credit card debt. “Let’s say you sign up for a Target card which offers 5 percent off every purchase. If you don’t pay the balance within 30 days of the purchase, that 5 percent becomes nonexistent when the 25 percent interest rate is added onto your balance. It is important to know all aspects of your credit card contract and act wisely,” Dvorkin continues.
Tips for managing credit cards this holiday season include:
1. Read the fine print. Become educated about new rewards/bonus points/incentives creditors are offering for swiping a credit card. Shoppers can’t expect to follow rules and guidelines if they don’t know what they are.
2. Only swipe what can be paid off in 30 days. To establish a positive credit score people can use credit to pay for monthly bills such as electric, auto payments, etc. This is a good way to get rewards because the money to pay the bills should be in their monthly budget. Caution: this method can backfire if a person is not saving enough money to pay off the balances each month.
3. Know interest rates and credit balances before holiday shopping begins. In order for people to be successful managing their credit, they must be up-to-date about their credit card balances, interest rates, payment due dates, and how long specific interest rates last.
4. Seek out cards with the best rewards. Find a credit card that offers double or triple points. One resource to find the best credit card is creditcards.com.
5. Pay credit card bills on time every month. By paying credit card bills in full and on time each month, people can prove they are trustworthy.
Source: Consolidated Credit Counseling Services, Inc.
November 22, 2011 9:34 pm
For many, shopping on Black Friday has become as much of a Thanksgiving tradition as turkey, with friends and families whipping up a shopping strategy along with the dressing and gravy. Following are five steps consumers should take before hitting the stores on Black Friday, helping them enjoy their shopping excursion without harming their pocketbook.
• Beware of special credit card offers – Issuers are tempting consumers by offering incentives such as no interest balance transfers, extra perks by meeting certain spending levels, and increased cash back in specified categories. However, no deal is a good deal if you can’t afford it. Responsible shoppers will commit to spending no more than what they can repay in full when the bill arrives, regardless of how many bonuses are tacked on.
• Know what you currently owe – Review all existing debt obligations, tallying what you’ve already spent and committed to repay. This reality check may put a temporary damper on your holiday mood, but that’s better than digging the financial hole even deeper.
• Create a plan – Knowing who you’re shopping for, what items you hope to find, and most importantly, how much you intend to spend is critical to a successful shopping trip. Commit in advance to stick to your plan, and enlist an accountability partner if necessary, as it is very easy to be caught up in the excitement of the moment and get off course.
• Find the best deals at home – Shop from home before heading for the stores. Compare prices online, as well as local circulars for sales in your area. Be aware of time restrictions, as some prices may only apply during certain time periods throughout the day. Once the actual shopping begins, going directly to the store which has your item at a good price will save you time, gas, money and frustration.
• Remove all unnecessary cards from your wallet – Spreading purchases across multiple cards makes you feel as though you’re charging less and can trick you into overspending. Designate one card for holiday spending, and remove all others from your wallet. This will not only help you stay within your budget, but will also lessen the damage in case of loss or theft.
“It is important for consumers to shop with their head, not their heart,” says Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for The National Foundation for Credit Counseling. “Preparing in advance will help you stick to your budget, in spite of the decorations, carols and Santa himself beckoning you to spend.”
Source: The National Foundation for Credit Counseling, www.DebtAdvice.org
November 22, 2011 3:34 pm
Even during a recovering economy there are people relocating, downsizing, getting married, starting families and buying a second home. Life goes on. Something to keep in mind, however, is that moving is not the only way to change your environment.
Feng Shui is the flow and containment of energy (Qi). Good Feng Shui is the relationship between nature, landscape, buildings and the happy people inhabiting their environment. There are simple practices that can deeply improve the energy in your home or office.
Try the following and make a positive change in your life:
1. Get rid of your clutter. Clean, scrub and organize. Make room for new and wonderful things to come into your life!
2. Electromagnetic fields minimize your health and wellness. Move computer screens and televisions further away from you. Even a small difference in distance can make a big difference in your exposure. Pull plugs out of the outlets when you are not using them. Think of options to replace the use of some of the electric items you are using.
3. You may feel unsettled when you sit or sleep in a corner. The energy moves very quickly in that kind of path. Soften the edge of a corner with plants or a wind chime. To avoid restlessness, rearrange your furniture so you are not sitting or sleeping in the corner of the room.
November 22, 2011 3:34 pm
The start of a new season means that it's time to clean up the house, swap out clothes in your closets, and break out the seasonal tools in the garage. Check out the following tricks that will prepare any homeowner with the organizing skills necessary to keep everything tidy year-round.
Store it in the fall
1. Garden tools and pots: Hose off dirty gardening gear and stack pots in tiers. For pots with fragile surfaces, layer newspaper between vessels to protect from scratches and chips. Outdoor garden storage benches and cabinets are also great for storing tools and pots over the winter. To find gear easily come spring, group like items together.
2. Summer clothes: To free up precious closet real estate, measure the number of feet of hanging space your clothes take up and get a garment rack wide enough to accommodate it all. Stow in a dry basement or attic. And be sure to clean clothes before putting them away—even if they look spot-free. Stains that seem invisible can oxidize over time and be hard to get out if left untreated.
3. Beach towels, picnic blankets, outdoor linens, and tableware: Clear the linen closet of summer beach towels and outdoor tablecloths and place mats; stash in giant plastic tubs. Cradle outdoor dishes and cups on top. Park the bin in a basement or attic.
Store it in the winter
1. Garden rakes: Hang long-handled rakes and garden tools from a pegboard. Affix the board to any garage or shed wall, leaving about an inch of space between the wall and the board to accommodate hooks.
2. Seasonal decorations: Stow jack-o-lanterns and cornucopias in opaque bins—clear bins let in light, which can damage memorabilia. Seasonal bins, which can be found at discount stores, are a great way to store items for specific holidays so that you can quickly and easily tell what’s for Halloween or Thanksgiving.
3. Bikes: There are many types of bike racks; some mount into studs on the wall, others mount from a track system. Check out your options and choose one that works for your space. Hang it in an empty spot on a wall in the garage.
Store it in the spring
1. Boots: Stuff boots with boot forms to help them keep their shape. You can also use balled-up gym socks in a pinch. Lay each pair of boots flat in a plastic bin. Stack bins at the back of your closet or put under your bed.
2. Sleds and ice skates: Most sleds have holes for a steering rope; thread heavy rope through the holes, then hang sleds in the garage. Stash disc-type sleds in a large clear contractor bag. Tie a knot at the top and hang from a hook, flat against the wall of your garage.
3. Bulky coats and bedding: Wash or dry-clean throws, quilts, and duvets, then store in space bags in a linen closet. Short on closet space? Use a rolling garment rack with a zippered front closure to keep out moisture and moths. For bug protection, place cedar blocks at the bottom of the bag before putting it in the basement or attic.
Store it in the summer
1. Backpacks and lunch boxes: Clean backpacks and wash lunch boxes, then air them out in the sun before putting them away in a storage tote labeled "Back to School." Store the tote in the back of an entryway closet or in the attic. If you don't have a large storage area, use your child's closet: Put the lunch box inside the backpack and hang it on a hook in the side or rear of the closet.
2. Artwork and school papers: "Condense and preserve" is your mantra for children's school papers and projects. Condense what you need to store by weeding out items your child is no longer attached to. Preserve especially important projects by asking your child to pick out five pieces he/she wants to save. Put the rest in a portfolio labeled with your child's name and school year. Store it at the back of his/her closet or in the attic.
3. Wool rugs: Roll up cleaned and vacuumed rugs to keep them free of deep creases or bends, then wrap them in large plastic bags. Store them up high on a garage shelf or in your attic.
For more information, visit www.ShopSmartmag.org.
November 22, 2011 3:34 pm
The Thanksgiving holiday weekend has become responsible for more cooking related fires and accidents than many other times of the year. In recent years, a new and popular nation-wide trend for Thanksgiving dinner is deep fried turkey. This method has been introduced and shown on cooking television shows and in popular recipes. The draw to a deep fried turkey is the recipe’s ability to create a cooked turkey that is not dried out, as can happen with the traditional method of oven cooking a turkey.
Even if you follow the deep fryer instructions, the practice of deep frying a turkey can be dangerous as it involves submerging the turkey in two to five gallons of oil or fat heated to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s important not to overheat the oil or the vapors could burst into flames. It is also important to maintain the proper level of oil—if the oil level is too high it may over flow and ignite, which can quickly create a large fire. There is also the possibility that the fryer could tip over, spill or splash causing a risk of ignition and burn injuries.
Here are a few safety tips for deep frying turkeys:
• Following the deep turkey frying mechanism manufacturer’s instructions is an important start.
• Keeping children away from the deep turkey fryer, open flames, propane tanks and similar hazards is always good practice.
• One should never use a deep turkey fryer indoors or in an enclosed area. Using the device outdoors and away from combustible or structural components, such as decks, can help avoid flare-ups.
• A deep turkey fryer or similar device should never be left unattended.
• Ensuring that the deep turkey fryer is secure and on a flat surface, can reduce the risk of the device tipping over.
• Great care when handling the lid, side handles, or the pot should be used. These will be extremely hot and may pose a burn or tipping hazard.
• If a deep turkey fryer does ignite, water should not be used to douse the flames. Calling the fire department and/or using an ABC dry chemical fire extinguisher should be the first step in such an emergency.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Thanksgiving Day records the most home cooking fires in the United States. With these safety tips, you can prevent a fire from happening in your home.
Source: All Hands Fire Equipment
November 21, 2011 9:32 pm
Children are magnets for colds. But when the “cold” won’t go away for weeks, the culprit may be allergies. Long-lasting sneezing with a stuffy or runny nose may signal the presence of allergic rhinitis—the collection of symptoms that affect the nose when you have an allergic reaction to something you breathe in that lands on the lining inside the nose.
Allergies may be seasonal or they can strike year-round (perennial). In most parts of the United States, plant pollens are often the cause of seasonal allergic rhinitis—more commonly called hay fever. Indoor substances, such as mold, dust mites, and pet dander, may cause the perennial kind.
Up to 40% of children suffer from allergic rhinitis, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). And children are more likely to develop allergies if one or both parents have allergies.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medicines that offer allergy relief as well as allergen extracts used to diagnose and treat allergies.
Immune System Reaction
An allergy is a reaction of the immune system to a specific substance, or allergen. The immune system responds to the invading allergen by releasing histamine and other chemicals that typically trigger symptoms in the nose, lungs, throat, sinuses, ears, eyes, skin, or stomach lining, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. In some children, allergies can also trigger symptoms of asthma—a disease that causes wheezing or difficulty breathing.
Avoiding the Culprit
If your child has seasonal allergies, you may want to pay attention to pollen counts and try to keep your child inside when the levels are high.
• In the late summer and early fall, during ragweed pollen season, pollen levels are highest in the morning.
• In the spring and summer, during the grass pollen season, pollen levels are highest in the evening.
• Some molds, another allergy trigger, may also be seasonal. For example, leaf mold is more common in the fall.
• Sunny, windy days can be especially troublesome for pollen allergy sufferers.
It may also help to keep windows closed in your house and car, and run the air conditioner when pollen counts are high.
For most children, symptoms may be controlled by avoiding the allergen, if known, and using OTC medicines. However, if a child’s symptoms are persistent and not relieved by OTC medicines, it is wise to see a health care professional to assess your child’s symptoms and see if other treatments, including prescription medicines, may be appropriate.
While some allergy medicines are approved for use in children as young as six months, Dianne Murphy, M.D., director of FDA’s Office of Pediatric Therapeutics, cautions, “Always read the label to make sure the product is appropriate for your child’s age. Just because a product’s box says that it is intended for children does not mean it is intended for children of all ages."
Children who don't respond to either OTC or prescription medications, or who suffer from frequent complications of allergic rhinitis, may be candidates for allergen immunotherapy—commonly known as allergy shots. According to NIAID, about 80% of people with allergic rhinitis will see their symptoms and need for medicine drop significantly within a year of starting allergy shots.
After allergy testing, typically by skin testing to detect what allergens your child may react to, a health care professional injects the child with “extracts”—small amounts of the allergens that trigger a reaction. The doses are gradually increased so that the body builds up immunity to these allergens.
Allergen extracts are manufactured from natural substances, such as pollens, insect venoms, animal hair, and foods. More than 1,200 extracts are licensed by FDA.
For more information, visit www.fda.gov.
November 21, 2011 9:32 pm
For those cooking the bird this holiday or for those who regularly host events on other special days, we all know what it feels like when something goes wrong. Although some things are out of your control, being prepared is a surefire way to avoid any dire mistakes when you have a houseful of hungry guests and limited time to throw a meal together. Now that the holidays have officially arrived, here are a few dangerous mistakes to avoid:
When cooking a turkey or a pig, be sure to cook in a properly sized pan. When cooking large roasts, make sure you have the cookware necessary to pull it off. Oftentimes, excess fat can drip in the oven putting you in danger of starting a kitchen fire. Make sure no part of the meal is hanging over the pan and keep your eye on the clock to prevent from overcooking.
Avoid decorating desserts with fresh flowers. Although decorating foods with fresh flowers may seem like a good idea, beware! You never know what insects or bugs may be lingering among the fresh bouquet. Play it safe. Go artificial.
Keep your pets at bay. Even if your beloved pet is well-behaved, sometimes even the most mannered dogs or cats can be tempted from delicious smelling foods. Avoid a scene (and spoiled meal!) by keeping your pets secluded from the kitchen and dining area, at least until the end of the meal.
One oven, one turkey. For households having a large amount of guests for Thanksgiving, think about using a second oven or portable cooker if you are cooking more than one bird. With two birds in the same spot, the meat will not cook as well or as fast, as it should.
Take out the necessary ingredients ahead of time. Save yourself some time and stress by lining up your ingredients before you start cooking. Too many times have eager novices used salt in place of sugar, or cornstarch instead of powdered sugar. Be careful, slow yourself down and always read the label!
When entertaining guests, mishaps can and do happen. With a little bit of planning and the ability to laugh when things go slightly askew, you can ensure a smooth and enjoyable night for everyone.
Source: Cooking Light
November 21, 2011 9:32 pm
For homeowners with kids, mornings can be a brutal challenge. As you attempt to get children up and ready for school, there's teeth to be brushed and bellies to fill before rushing off to beat the morning school bell. With an organized plan in place, you can make your morning less stressful and maybe even enjoyable! Be sure to do the following:
Create a plan the night before. Make all of the decisions before bedtime. Help your child decide what he or she wants to wear the next day and lay everything out the night before. Have backpacks packed and ready to go by the door. For girls, choose all accessories the night before as well. Doing so will save precious minutes the following morning.
Pack lunches the night before as well. Stick them in the fridge for an easy grab-and-go tomorrow.
Wake up 15 minutes earlier. Try to enforce an earlier bedtime without your child knowing. Wake him or her up earlier as well. While being careful not to skimp on your child's much needed sleep, waking up a bit earlier can really do wonders and get your family moving faster than ever.
Play up-beat music in the morning. Playing your children's favorite music can really jump-start their brains. This positive energy will trickle down to their feet and really get them moving.
Never skip out on a healthy breakfast. Eggs, bananas and healthy cereals are most recommended to benefit your child's physical and mental health as well as his or her school performance. Plastic baggies are great to use in a worst-case scenario, just in case you have to eat on the run.
With a little extra planning and attention, you can save valuable time in the morning, which will benefit and de-stress your entire family.
November 18, 2011 9:32 pm
According to the U.S. Dept. of Labor, the average consumer spends about $630 each year on household supplies. In fact, a recent study reveals that many Americans are letting their money go down the drain—literally—by spending too much on items like laundry detergent. In these tough economic times, families are looking for smart, new ways to save money without sacrificing quality, and the laundry room is a great place to start.
Finding the right detergent is the first step toward clean, bright laundry. Look for a brand that provides the clean you need, at a fraction of the cost. Find what works best for your needs, from liquid or powder, to scented or free of perfume.
Here are more ways to keep clothes, floors and household surfaces in tip-top shape, without breaking the bank.
Keep it Cool
Save on energy costs by using cold water whenever possible. Most detergents are powerful enough to get a deep-down clean regardless of the water temperature. Whether running the dish washer or loading the laundry machine, turn the dial to cold for savings.
Use, Wash, Repeat
Laundry rooms are often dubbed mud rooms. When cleaning these floors and surfaces, use reusable products like cloth towels whenever possible. In addition to being a green option, you'll save money by not going through rolls and rolls of pricey paper towels.
Turn to Homemade Solutions
Forego costly cleaners and reduce cupboard clutter by making your own products with common household ingredients. A simple mix of baking soda and water creates a useful all-purpose cleaner; lemon juice cuts through grease; and an old toothbrush is perfect for scrubbing hard-to-reach places.
Stock Up on Essentials
Everyone should have one go-to product that addresses a multitude of messy situations at home. One can find countless cleaning and deodorizing products, some even costing less than one dollar a box. Baking soda, for example, freshens carpets, cleans tiles and walls, polishes silver, deodorizes diaper pails, boosts laundry, and much more.
For more information about getting the clean you need on a budget, visit www.armandhammer.com.
November 18, 2011 9:32 pm
Every year, Americans stock up on lemon tea, vitamin C, and herbal remedies to brace for another long flu season. But what really works? Protecting yourself (and your friends, family and community) from influenza is as easy as taking these three simple steps:
1. Get a flu shot. Two-thirds of Americans plan to get the flu vaccine this year, but following through on this pledge can be difficult. Be sure to make an appointment and get your shot so you’re ready to take on the season.
2. Stop the spread of germs. Common-sense germ precautions are one of the most powerful steps you can take to stop the flu in its tracks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this means washing your hands frequently or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer; covering your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze; avoiding close contact with sick people; and limiting contact with healthy people if you fall ill.
3. Seek help if you are under the weather. If you do become sick, it's important to see your doctor right away. Although many people think of the flu as just a nuisance illness, it can be very serious -- especially for the very young, the elderly, and anyone with a weak immune system. Every year, the flu is responsible for hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and countless hours of lost work.
For more information, visit www.ZocDoc.com.