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Perkasie, PA 18944
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Tom's Blog

Question of the Day

September 14, 2012 5:58 pm

Q: What Are Allowances and What Should I Know about Them When Planning with a Remodeling Contractor?

A: Rather than price specific products or materials, many contractors prefer to use product allowances, an amount included in the contract to be used toward the purchase of these products and materials as they are selected by the consumer. Typical categories where allowances might be used include flooring, cabinets, and lighting fixtures. Allowances allow homeowners more time to finalize exact selections as the project progresses, and they can simplify the cost control process. The disadvantage, however, is that the cost of final selections can easily exceed the amount of money allowed, resulting in significant extra charges to the homeowner. Shop for each allowance category before you finalize the allowance amounts provided in the contract. This way, you can budget for additional funds or adjust allowances to better reflect the actual monies required.

Needs and Wants: It's Important to Know the Difference

September 14, 2012 5:58 pm

With the summer behind us and the official start of fall just around the corner, many are looking at their credit card bills and wondering what on earth they did with their money this summer. Wondering why you can't seem to manage your spending? One reason may be a tendency to confuse what you need with what you want, which can lead to unwise buying decisions.

While there's nothing wrong with buying things that aren't exactly life's necessities, doing this too often could get you into financial trouble.

Here are a few tips that can help you gain control of your spending.

Before you buy, pose the "want versus need" question
Each time you go shopping, ask yourself whether the item you're considering is something you really need or something you just want. You'll be surprised at how often you end up putting something back on the shelf because, let's face it, did you really need another black sweater or that new set of high-tech golf clubs?

Learn to delay gratification
All right, so you've decided that you need to take that one-week getaway to the Bahamas. Your job is extremely stressful and you're at the breaking point. But before you book your flight and hotel, sleep on it. You may still feel the same way in the morning, but it's good practice to take some time to think before you buy instead of constantly making impulse purchases.

Make a shopping list
Before you head out to the supermarket or shopping mall, make a list of the things you want to buy and the approximate cost of each item. Then add everything up. If the total exceeds what you can afford to spend, go through the list and put each item through the "want versus need" test. Highlight the "want" items and take them off the list one by one until you reach a more reasonable total.

Don't forget to reward yourself
While managing your spending is critical to a sound financial future, it's also important to enjoy your money. So if your budget allows it this month, go ahead and treat your family to dinner at that ritzy new restaurant. Or buy that mobile phone with all the bells and whistles you've been dying to play with. By keeping your indulgences within a reasonable limit, you'll enjoy them more knowing you've got your spending under control.

Source: BMO Harris Bank

Tips for Buying a Used Vehicle

September 14, 2012 5:58 pm

With budgets tight, many Americans are choosing to buy used vehicles instead of new ones, and approximately 3.3 used cars are sold for every one new car sold. This makes understanding the buying process an important skill.

Below are a few tips from and OnStar about what to know and do when shopping for a used car:

Consider purchasing a certified pre-owned vehicle: Certified pre-owned vehicles usually come with extended warranties and have been thoroughly inspected before being sold.
Make sure the potential vehicle is functional for everyone who will be traveling in it: If searching for a used family vehicle, bring the whole family on an extended test drive to make sure everyone is comfortable with the vehicle. If you have small children, use this time to make sure child safety seats fit and can easily be installed in the vehicle.
Purchase a vehicle history report and have the vehicle inspected by a qualified mechanic: Taking both of these actions can reduce the chance of unexpected issues later.
Ask about promotional programs: Many manufactures offer incentives to purchase their used vehicles.
Secure your financing in advance: Because used vehicle loans can vary when it comes to interest rates, visit your local bank or credit union before making a final decision so you can be sure you're receiving the best interest rate.
Don't negotiate price based on what you want your monthly payment to be: Monthly payments can always be lowered to fit your budget by extending the length of the loan. But extending the length of the loan makes the car more expensive. Negotiations should be made based on the price of the car, rather that the monthly payment.
Remember the sale process continues past the acceptance of an offer: After both parties agree upon an appropriate price, dealers usually will offer extra accessories and services you might not be interested in. Be sure to stand firm and make it clear that you are not interested in paying more than the previously agreed upon price.


No Short Cuts to Healthy Aging

September 14, 2012 5:58 pm

In recognition of September as healthy aging month, the Minnesota Chiropractic Association (MCA) is encouraging seniors to embrace an active and wellness-based approach to life.

"There are simply no short cuts" states MCA President, Dr. Christian Kollar. "An active, engaged and wellness approach to everything we do is essential to a high quality, functional life as we get older," Kollar explains.

Dr. Kollar who has seen the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle first hand, practices with his active 73-year old father in New Brighton, Minnesota. He says, "The earlier you take care of your body, the longer it will continue to take care of you and it's never too late to start."

Daily Anti-Aging Tips:

  • Make sure to keep your body moving every day, even if it's just walking at the mall, up and down stairs at work or taking a stroll around the block. Exercise is key to living a long and healthy life.
  • Hydration is important for cellular functioning, so make sure you drink liquids regularly throughout the day.
  • The nutrients in plant-based foods are essential for health and wellness. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits every day.
  • Incorporate a diet that is rich in fiber which can help slow the aging process.
  • Don't under estimate the fun factor. Take time to have fun with your friend and loved ones. Social support and positive experiences have been seen in studies to be beneficial to health.
  • Rest is necessary for your body to run optimally.

Word of the Day

September 14, 2012 5:58 pm

Tax basis. The price paid for a property plus certain costs and expenses, such as closing costs, legal counsel, and a commission paid to help find the property.

Q: What Should I Know About Mechanics’ Liens?

September 14, 2012 5:58 pm

A: A mechanic’s lien is a “hold” against your property that provides contractors and suppliers legal recourse to assure payment for services. The liens vary from state to state and allow for a cloud on the title of your property and foreclosure action. Also, if you paid the contractor, but he failed to pay the subcontractors and laborers – who do not have a contract with you – then the workers may file a mechanic's lien on your home. This could result in a double payment by you for the same job. You can protect yourself from unwarranted liens by selecting your contractor carefully and managing your construction project responsibly. Also, most construction lenders will specify a payment distribution process that involves the securing of lien waivers. The remodeling contract should address this as well, assuring that the general contractor is responsible for all payments as well as any costs required to remedy lien disputes that may arise.

Talent Tips for Tweens and Teens with Big Dreams

September 12, 2012 5:54 pm

If you have a vision and a talent, don’t ignore it. At least that’s what Sydney Rose, 20, has learned.
The singer/songwriter whose debut pop single, “Breaking Rules,” hit No. 23 on the national radio Top 40 chart in Sep, says she tried to put her dream on hold – and couldn’t.

“I’ve been in love with music all my life,” says Rose. “I’ve learned it’s an important part of who I am and you can’t ignore that, no matter what your age.”

Rose grew up honing her singing skills, then learning guitar (“My first chord was D”) and dancing. She overcame any lingering shyness about performing before audiences by joining two other girls in a pop/dance group called Rosemadayne.

But when it came time to attend college, she decided it was best to put her dream on a back burner.
“I was afraid,” she says. “I wanted to experience college without the pressure of a music career, but I actually felt more pressure without my dream and I knew I had to nurture that passion that is so a part of me.”

That’s when she wrote her newest album, “Rise,” an up-tempo celebration of life. It’s getting airplay on radio stations across the country, a development that never ceases to amaze and delight the rising star.
Rose offers tips for other young people who are determined to follow their dreams:

• Get your support team together: Whether it’s parents, other family members, friends or teachers, you’ll need people who encourage and help guide you. Coaches, mentors or instructors can help you improve – because no matter what your talent and how much of it you’ve got, you can always expand your abilities with help. Depending on your age, that may require financial and transportation support. “I started voice lessons when I was a tween, and to this day I get intensive voice training,” Rose says. “But the more skills you have, the better, so I also started working on dance when I was 13 years old. No matter what type of creative talent you have – singing, acting, writing or painting – if you want to become a professional, you need training.” Anyone who is supportive in your life, including friends, other family members and teachers, are reminders of why dreams matter to you.

• Set realistic goals: You may dream of being in the movies or on TV, but don’t expect to start there! “I happily performed at bar and bat mitzvahs (bonus! – I met my manager through those), book stores, Best Buy stores, and at my vocal school,” Sydney says. “These were great opportunities to get used to being in front of live audiences and learning how to interact with the audience.” The smaller goals are there for you to reach the bigger ones – Rome was not built overnight, she says. Those who are supportive will remind you of the big picture.

• Remember, it’s OK to be scared: Doing something for the first time can be really scary, and it’s perfectly normal to be nervous. But don’t let that stop you from getting out there and trying! “From experience, I know that almost anything that seems scary the first time gets much easier, and less scary, every time you do it,” Sydney says. “Don’t let fear keep you from ever taking the next step.”

• Have fun! “With ‘Rise,’ I wrote songs that are fun and upbeat. I thought, ‘If I’m going to do this for the rest of my life, I have to have an amazing time. Right?’ she says. Part of what has helped the album’s success is that she was genuinely happy and having a good time when she recorded it. No matter what you’re doing, your true emotions tend to color your work – they’re hard to hide, so work with them.

For more info on Rose visit

Keep Your Pets Safe from Lyme Disease

September 12, 2012 5:54 pm

While many think of the days of summer as the prime time for ticks, since you spend the most time outdoors, the fall is when adult ticks are most active. While you may be checking yourself diligently after every woodland adventure, you may not be so religious with Fido. And with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) evidence that liquid tick repellent products can be harmful to dogs and cats, many pet owners are looking for natural, non-toxic ways to protect their pets from Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.

Here are steps to take to make sure your pets live a healthy tick-free life:

Brush your pet before heading outside. Marcie Fallek, DVM, a Fairfield, CT holistic veterinarian, says that from March through October she shaves her two long-haired collie mixes. “It’s easier to find ticks that way,” she says. If you don’t want to shave your dog now that it’s September, brush your pet thoroughly before you go out to get rid of excess hair. You’ll find it’s easier to check for ticks when you return home.

Avoid “high-risk” zones. Dogs love to romp in high grass where the ever intrepid and terribly tiny ticks can be found. Scores of ticks that carry Lyme disease, bartonella and other infections can also live under layers of fallen leaves and in wood piles. Keep lawns mowed and edges trimmed, remove piles of leaves and the remains of summer plants or other debris from flower beds, and try to stack wood in racks in a dry location rather than next to or against your house. Also try to keep your dog away from bushes that are not pruned.

Watch what you use. A number of spot-on products for dogs contain permethrin, a common insecticide. However small breed dogs that weigh between 10 and 20 pounds and cats are susceptible to the products. A recent EPA study found that many of the chemicals found in the treatments can seep into household dust creating an unhealthy environment for your pets. “Exposure to even small quantities of permethrin can cause severe and fatal poisoning in cats,” says Tina Wismer, DVM, veterinary toxicologist at the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center.

Go herbal. There are a host of home remedies to repel ticks—from placing cedar chips around the perimeter of a lawn to applying tea tree oil around the yard. However the consensus on the most effective herbal tick repellent for use on dogs is one containing rose geranium essential oil, which can be applied on a dog’s collar every week. Do not apply the essential oil directly to a dog’s skin or get it near its eyes since it can cause irritation. And do not use this on cats. They can have a bad reaction to essential oils, notes

Read labels. If you use a spot-on product, read the label carefully. Use products on the animal specified by the product label---for example, dog products for dogs only and cat products for cats only--and the least amount possible. That may sound obvious, but many spot-on products for dogs are used unknowingly by cat owners. Also, never use products designed for humans on your pets, particularly if the product contains DEET---it’s highly toxic to pets.

Put a halt to “tick taxis.” Dogs are often called “tick taxis” because a tick can ride into your home on your pet’s body and move on to another pet or to you. “Inspect your dog carefully when you return home,” says Dr. Fallek. Pay particular attention to your pet’s ears, around its eyes and eyelids, muzzle, and paws (including in between toes) where ticks “like to hitch a ride,” she says. Run your fingers through the dog’s fur. Work your fingers down to the skin so you don’t miss any small bumps that might be a tick trying to hide. While the ticks stay attached, they are continuing to feed on your pet’s blood.

Try not to stress. It’s not hard to remove a tick. However, according to it’s best to put on a pair of gloves so you’ll never have direct contact with bacteria the tick could harbor. To remove it, use a fine-tipped tweezer to grasp the tick as close to your pet’s skin as possible. Slowly and gently, with continuous pressure, pull the tick straight up and out. Be careful not to squeeze the tick. Do not twist or jerk the tick because you may leave its head (or part of its head) under your pet’s skin. After removing the tick, kill it by dropping it into a jar of rubbing alcohol. Cleanse the site of your pet’s bite with a first aid antiseptic, then wash your hands thoroughly.

Keep your home tick-free. In the house, vacuum frequently (especially the places near dog resting spots and folds in furniture). It’s also a good idea to wash pet bedding once a week, with hot water and a mild, ideally eco-friendly, detergent. Remember that 10 minutes in the dryer using the hot setting will kill all ticks on clothing or bedding, even when you don’t have time to do a full wash. Bathing your dog also helps to remove ticks if they aren’t already feeding on your pet.


Shop Easier: A Guide to Kitchen Faucets

September 12, 2012 5:54 pm

Replacing a kitchen faucet is hands down the fastest, easiest, and least expensive way to dramatically improve the appearance and functionality of the kitchen. Maybe more importantly, replacing an older or corroded faucet goes a long way towards cleaning up and even updating the look and feel of the kitchen.
With such a wide selection of kitchen faucets, it’s important to know what you’re looking for. Below are helpful hints so you can find a faucet to fit any budget.

Bare bones, pure functionality, no-frills kitchen faucets can cost less than hundred bucks, and if the existing faucet is in particularly bad shape, even a very plain-jane fixture can dramatically improve the appearance of the kitchen. For example, a simple, sleek Cascada kitchen faucet from Ruvati is a great choice, because it’s inexpensive (only $90!) and minimal, but also stylish. It’s no out of date, old fashioned faucet, it’s lovely and unobtrusive, perfectly suited for a modern kitchen.

High design. When kitchen faucets start getting expensive is when one either wants some more design to it, or more integrated functionality, though oddly enough it’s the former that will often cost you more. Herbeau kitchen faucets are famous for their authentic artisan designs, made from the same casts and using traditional methods and materials used for more than a hundred years in the Provence region of France. For a French country kitchen, one can’t get much more authentic than the Herbeau’s Valence faucet, but it’ll also put the project in a much bigger budget bracket.

Tech savvy. Where things start to get a little tricky is when looking for the most technologically up to date faucets out there. For example, the Touch2o faucets from Delta. They can be turned on and off with just a touch of any bit of bare skin, reducing the potential for cross contamination, no matter how dirty the hands happen to be. No other brand has anything like it yet, so if one wants the tech, there isn’t always a whole lot of room to shop around. Thankfully, though, at least the Touch2o faucets, are pretty reasonably priced, and also come with integrated pull-down spray nozzles for added functionality.

Extras. Most add-ons – like the aforementioned pull down sprayer, or a flexible Iron Chef style neck that can be easily grabbed or moved to rinse a sink or cool down a pressure cooker, are available from at least a few different manufacturers in a variety of styles (and for different prices). Vigo alone carries several variations on flexible-neck pull-down kitchen faucets like the Double Faucet version, ranging from the mid $100s to no more than about $300, all with a sleek chrome or stainless steel finish and a professional culinary style design.

High end. If looking for a faucet that’s unique, high end designer pieces like the industrial-inspired fully-articulated Karbon faucet from Kohler is something to look for. It doesn’t add any functionality that some of the simpler flexible neck or pull down faucets would, but it’ll certainly be a unique looking fixture.


Q: Does a Contractor Have to Provide a Warranty for the Work?

September 12, 2012 5:54 pm

A: It depends on whether one is required by state law. If your contractor offers a warranty, which ensures quality workmanship and required repairs if faulty products or workmanship is discovered, ask to see a copy of the written provisions to make sure you have sufficient protection from defective work. You may want to become familiar with your state law, if applicable.

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