Thomas Skiffington, CRS, GRI, CRB, ABR, ePro, CLHMS, SRES, RECS, CDPE, ECOBROKER
701 W. Market Street
Perkasie, PA 18944
Office Phone: 215-453-7653
Toll Free: 800-440-remax
July 9, 2013 6:26 pm
(BPT)—Even as the country moves out of the great recession, many Americans are still in a money-saving mode - looking to conserve wherever possible. Good news. There are simple ways to save money especially if you go back to the time-honored concept of BYO - "bringing your own" container of coffee, lunch or water as part of your daily routine. This can do a world of good not only for your pocketbook, but also for the environment, and even your health. Here are some tips to get you started:
Bring your own coffee or tea
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Americans throw away 25 billion foam cups each year. And 500 years from now, those cups will still be sitting in a landfill. Despite the convenience of foam cups, small changes such as bringing coffee or tea in a reusable container can have both an environmental and economic impact.
Bring your own lunch
Many grownups still have fond memories of a school lunchbox featuring their favorite TV or movie character. Bringing your own lunch in an insulated lunch carrier is a good way to keep your favorite foods fresh and tasty, and a smart way to save money. According to a report in Time magazine, bringing your lunch to work can cut your weekly costs by 80 percent. To keep foods fresh while on the go, insulated reusable containers are an ideal option. They come in all shapes and sizes to keep snacks or lunch foods hot or cold for hours, saving you the cost of going out and making it easier to stay away from unhealthy temptations.
Keep yourself hydrated
As you get in the habit of bringing your own reusable portable container, don't neglect the one thing every human needs for basic good health - water - to help you hydrate throughout the day. According to the Mayo Clinic, water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight. Lack of appropriate water intake can lead to dehydration, draining your energy and making you feel tired. The Institute of Medicine determined that adequate water intake for men is roughly 104 ounces and is roughly 72 ounces for women. Instead of purchasing bottled water in containers that will also end up in landfills, bring plenty of your own water in a portable, reusable container. One easy option for quenching thirst while on the go is the 24 oz. Hydration Bottle with Meter that is made of BPA-free Eastman(TM) Tritan and has a rotating meter built into the lid to help keep track of your daily water consumption. Embracing the bring-your-own mentality can make a world of difference economically and environmentally.
July 9, 2013 6:26 pm
Summer is the time for swimming, be it at the beach, lake, or pool. However, you want your kids to stay safe while having fun making a splash. The following tips, provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics, can help you stay safe and accident-free.
- All caregivers should learn CPR.
- Never leave a toy in or around a pool.
- Never leave children alone in or near a bathtub, even for a minute. There are no "bath seats" that are proven be safe and not result in drownings.
- Never leave children alone in or near the pool; this includes inflatable and other children's pools. An adult should be within arm's length, providing "touch supervision."
- Swimming lessons are recommended for children ages 1-4 years. New studies suggest that these children may be less likely to drown if they have had swimming lessons. Teaching your child how to swim DOES NOT guarantee your child is safe in water.
- Make sure there is a telephone by the pool in case of an emergency.
- If you use an inflatable or plastic pool, make sure you dump the water out of the pool after each use and turn the pool upside down when finished.
- Install a fence at least four-feet high around all four sides of the pool. Four-sided fences can cut the drowning risk in half. Pool covers and pool alarms are not a substitute for fencing.
- Make sure pool gates self-close and self-latch at a height small children can't reach.
- Keep rescue equipment nearby, including a shepherd's hook (a long pole with a hook on the end) and a life preserver.
- Avoid inflatable swimming aids such as "floaties." They are not a substitute for approved life vests and can give children a false sense of security.
- Teach children to never run, push or jump on others around water.
- Teach children never to swim alone.
- Counsel teenagers about the increased risk of drowning when alcohol is involved.
July 9, 2013 6:26 pm
(Family Features)--So much of life happens in the kitchen – from hurried morning breakfasts to after-school snacks with the kids – it’s likely to be the most travelled room of the home.
Unfortunately, all this activity in one room can cause many messes and much required upkeep. By following a few simple steps, you can keep this important space tidy, clean and smelling great.
Here are some simple tips to keep your kitchen clean and inviting:
Add Some Citrus
Does your garbage disposal have an uninviting stench? Here’s one simple solution – use orange or lemon peels to freshen the drain or disposal. Simply run cool water from your faucet, turn on the disposal, throw in the peels and take in the fresh citrus scent. This is a perfect way to use old fruit that is no longer good enough to eat.
Make Dishes Sparkle
Dirty plates, pots, pans, glasses and utensils pile up quickly in busy kitchens. Get dishes sparkling clean with a dish liquid that leaves your hands feeling touchably soft. In a recent survey conducted by Kelton, 33 percent of those who wash dishes by hand said their skin is usually dry afterwards.
Keep Up With Countertops
The kitchen countertop is the easiest place to collect a mess so it’s important to keep it tidy. Because so many countertops are made with fine woods, stones and other specialty materials, it is important to know what cleaning products you can use on them so they keep their beautiful appearance. In general, avoid abrasive cleaners and never use steel wool or other harsh brushes which can scratch the surface. Invest in protectors such as trivets for hot cookware, or trays for oil bottles and other cooking items that keep permanent residence on countertop space.
Love Your Oven
Ovens are often the most neglected appliance in the kitchen. Open them up to find baked-on spills, burnt-on food, as well as splatters covering the exterior. Be sure you’re giving your oven the maintenance it needs by cleaning it at least once each season. Whether you’re using a homemade cleaning concoction or a heavy-duty store-bought brand, it is important to scour every nook and cranny. Also, give attention to the range top and ensure all extra food debris has been removed and cleaned.
July 9, 2013 6:26 pm
A: The interest rates on these loans are often higher than on secured loans and you generally will not be able to get a tax deduction for the interest paid. However, the costs to obtain an unsecured loan are usually lower. And the relative ease of getting this type of loan makes it popular for small projects costing $10,000 or less. The lender evaluates applications based on credit history and income.
July 8, 2013 2:58 pm
These days, many of us are looking to pinch every penny we can.
So I read with interest a recent post by Dan Green, a loan officer who blogs on themortgagereports.com, writing about the FHA Streamline Refinance program.
Green says the FHA Streamline Refinance is a special mortgage product, reserved for homeowners with existing FHA mortgages. He believes FHA Streamline Refinances are the fastest, simplest way for FHA-insured homeowners to refinance their respective mortgages.
The FHA Streamline Refinance program's defining characteristic is that it does not require a home appraisal. Instead, the FHA will allow homeowners to use their original purchase price as the home's current value, regardless of what it is actually worth today.
Green says for the FHA Streamline Refinance program, the agency does not care if you are underwater on your mortgage. Rather, the program encourages underwater mortgages.
Even if you owe twice what your home is now worth, the FHA will refinance your home without added cost or penalty. This "appraisal waiver" has been a huge hit with U.S. homeowners, allowing unlimited loan-to-value (LTV) home loans.
Beyond this "no appraisal" feature, however, the FHA Streamline Refinance behaves very much like any other loan product. It's available as a fixed rate or adjustable mortgage; it comes as a 15- or 30-year term; and there's no FHA prepayment penalty to worry about.
Another big plus, Green says, is that FHA mortgage rates are the same in the FHA Streamline Refinance as with a "regular" FHA loans. There's no penalty for being underwater, or for having very little equity, and homeowners find they qualify very easily for the program.
Earlier this decade, in an effort to help U.S. homeowners, the FHA abolished most of the typical verifications required to get a mortgage. So, Green says, there's no need for a home appraisal, you can be out-of-work, without income, carry a declining credit rating and have no home equity.
Yet, he says, you can still be approved for an FHA Streamline Refinance. Learn more at http://www.fha.com/fha_streamline_refinance.
July 8, 2013 2:58 pm
(BPT) - Your home's front door is more than a portal for family and friends - it makes a statement about your own personal style. Home designers often list the entry door as one of the most cost effective ways to dress up the front of your home for "wow" curb appeal.
This Old House magazine notes that since the front door is the first and last thing we touch when entering and leaving our homes, "it's easy to understand why many of us still like our doors to be made of wood - nothing else matches the material's warmth and satisfying heft."
"People choose wood entry doors first and foremost for their beauty; it's a fine piece of furniture on the front of your home," says Brad Loveless of Simpson Door Company.
For homeowners who enjoy the beauty of wood entry doors, options are now available to stand up to the harshest climates - from the wind-driven rains of Nantucket Island to the desert Southwest. Following are three ways to have the wood door you want and to ensure it will look great for years, no matter what the climate throws at it.
Bring your dreams to life
With doors available in hundreds of wood species, and numerous designs and glass options, it can be hard to envision how a particular door will look on your home. Short of hiring an architect to make a sketch, most people have had to rely on their imaginations. Recently, easy-to-use, free online tools have become available to simplify the door selection process. For example, Simpson's "Test Drive a Door" enables people to upload a photo of their home and view different door options on it. This allows a homeowner to be sure before they buy.
Go for performance
People are used to looking for high performance when shopping for new cars or computers, but might not realize the same approach can apply to doors. Manufacturers have developed high-performance wood doors with superior weather resistance that last in the most demanding exposures, including coastal homes with no porch or roof overhang to protect the door.
One high-performance option to consider is choosing wood species that perform best in moist conditions, as this varies among wood types. Species that have been shown in laboratory testing to have natural moisture resistance include Douglas Fir, Black Locust, Nootka Cypress and Sapele Mahogany, among others.
Another performance option some manufacturers offer in their wood doors is water-resistant composite blocks within the bottom of the door, where water can infiltrate. Doors also are available with full exterior cladding to protect them from rain and sun, while retaining the beauty of wood inside the home.
A strong finish
With any door, whether made of wood, steel or fiberglass, it is crucial to finish it for long-lasting protection from the elements. Doors are sold either factory finished or unfinished. If unfinished, the door must be finished by the door dealer, a contractor or the homeowner. Manufacturers provide step-by-step instructions for best results from finishing, and those steps typically must be followed to ensure warranty requirements. Chief among these are to finish all six sides - front, back and all edges. As no wood surface should be left unfinished, finish should also be applied to the cut-outs for the handle and lock set, as well as any other openings, such as for mail slots or pet doors.
If the door is exposed to sun, it is generally better to use lighter color paints or stains as those absorb less heat from damaging UV rays.
July 8, 2013 2:58 pm
One of the most challenging aspects of homeownership is the unexpected added costs. When calculating monthly expenses to maintain a home, it's important to include not only everyday costs such as mortgage payments, utilities and property taxes, but also to factor in possible home repair expenses. Some of the most common home repairs are done on plumbing fixtures, patios, fences and driveways, heating and air conditioning systems, and painting the interior or exterior of your home.
Keeping your home in good working order can add value to a home; however, it's crucial that homeowners plan ahead for costs associated with unexpected repairs. Contributing small amounts regularly to an emergency fund for maintenance and repairs can go a long way in preparing for unforeseen expenses.
By adding in the cost of a reserve fund to the monthly household budget, homeowners can prevent a financial blow from unplanned additional costs.
BMO Harris Bank offers the following financial tips to homeowners looking to make home repairs:
- Understand how a renovation will impact the value of your home by researching which renovations create increased value and are popular selling features.
- Think long term when making financial decisions -- whether you are using savings or borrowing to renovate, take the time to meet with a financial expert to ensure your renovation meets your long term financial objectives.
- Expect the unexpected -- be financially prepared for the unexpected such as a leaky roof, broken pipe or other course corrections that may occur during the project.
- Get renovation quotes in writing and understand what guarantees they provide – for example, if the cost of the plumbing in your renovation is more work than expected, will the quote go up?
Although no one has a crystal ball to foresee what repairs you may encounter during the time you own your home, financially preparing for the unexpected is a smart move.
July 8, 2013 2:58 pm
Property tax deductions. The Internal Revenue Service allows homeowners to claim as itemized personal deductions money paid for state and local realty taxes, as well as interest on debt secured by their homes. It also allows for the deduction of loan prepayment penalties, and the deduction of points on new loans.
July 8, 2013 2:58 pm
A: Cooperative apartments – known as co-ops – are not really owned by people as real property. Instead, people own shares of stock in the company that owns the building in which they live. But for all practical purposes, the experts say owning a co-op is almost like owning real property. Personal loans to “buy” a co-op apartment are written almost like mortgages. And the IRS treats co-op owners much like real property owners. They can deduct interest paid on their apartment loans and on their portion of the municipal taxes and mortgage interest paid by the corporation.
July 3, 2013 2:32 pm
Taking time off after having a having a baby can be stressful as well as expensive. Although the Family and Medical Leave Act requires companies with 50 or more employees to provide 12 weeks of unpaid leave, many parents take less than that, either to avoid giving up their salaries for an extended period or because they are afraid the job may not wait for them.
Financial strategist Kimberly Palmer suggests seven tips for planning ahead to ensure that your maternity leave is financially and emotionally on track:
- Research your options – Early on, ask other parents at work about available maternity leave options, and take note of whether people are able to work from home or work flexible hours. Once you are ready to tell people you are pregnant, usually around three-months, speak with the human resources department about leave benefits. The same advice goes for fathers. Some companies offer at least a couple of weeks of paid paternity leave.
- Delegate your responsibilities – Some people fear that turning their responsibilities over to others will make them appear replaceable. But most employers will value your efforts to be certain the company will not be left in the lurch while you are away. Before you leave, inform your employer about any arrangements you have made.
- Plan a short but complete work blackout – While it might be tempting to check emails or phone messages in the first couple of weeks after giving birth, give yourself that time to free your mind of work-related issues, bond with your baby, and get as much sleep as possible.
- Then stay in touch – By your third or fourth week at home, begin checking in with the office once every week or two. Getting updates lets people know you are interested and will be coming back.
- Find good child care – If you have not made child care arrangements beforehand, use your time off to secure affordable and reassuring arrangements.
- Once back at work, be the same person – Feel free to show baby photos to those who ask, but do your best to show the office staff you are the same responsible person you were before you left.
- Help others – Supporting pregnant co-workers through the process with tips that worked for you makes for a more family-friendly work environment.