‘Tis the season for gift cards

Gifts_xmas-300x211Gift cards are big business for retailers and restaurants around the holidays. How big? It’s estimated that nearly 82 percent of shoppers will purchase at least one gift card as a gift this holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation. And the average amount spent by consumers on gift cards is predicted to be around $150. Total spending on gift cards this year is expected to reach nearly $29 billion!

Many consumers like gift cards because they are a fast and easy gift. Many people like to get them, too. And during the holiday season, many restaurants and retailers offer special bonuses or freebies to entice consumers to purchase gift cards. Thinking about giving a gift card or two this holiday season? Here are some great tips from the Better Business Bureau to make sure you’re buying wisely!

Take time to review your homeowners insurance coverage

Take time to review your homeowners insurance coverage

homeowners insurance


Homeowners Insurance, most of us don’t give much thought after we purchase our homes.  It’s easy to see why: For those of us with a mortgage, the cost of homeowner’s insurance is rolled into our monthly mortgage payment. And we don’t even have to write out a check for our premiums, our mortgage company handles it for us.

But taking some time periodically to review your homeowner’s insurance coverage is a great idea. Doing so can help you avoid any number of insurance blunders that can leave you under-insured or uninsured for different types of disasters. Here are the areas you’ll want to check:

Do you have enough liability coverage? Many people don’t realize that the liability portion of your homeowner’s insurance coverage covers you both at home and while you’re away. It also covers both you and any family members who live with you. This coverage is crucial because It protects against many types of accidents and events that can leave you and your family with a heavy financial burden. Did your child throw a baseball that hit your neighbor’s home – or your neighbor? Did your dog bite the postal carrier and send him to the ER? Did your neighbor slip on your front steps and break a leg? Oftentimes, it costs much less than you may think to increase the amount of your liability coverage.

Do you have flood or earthquake coverage? These two risks are not covered by standard homeowner’s insurance policies, yet only a fraction of homeowners are covered. Many homeowners simply don’t realize they are at risk. The problem with floods is that one-quarter of all flood losses are in areas deemed “low risk.” Wildfires and other factors can make an area that has never been prone to floods suddenly susceptible to flooding and mudslides.

Are you covered for rebuilding? It’s never a good idea to insure a home for its market value, the home’s purchase price or what you owe on your mortgage. You’ll want to make sure you have enough homeowner’s insurance coverage so that you can afford to rebuild your home and replace your belongings. Since construction costs can increase over time, this is one area that’s especially important to review.

Are you bundled? Bundling your insurance policies – buying coverage such as homeowner’s and auto insurance from the same company – can save you a substantial amount of money.

A checkup list for your home

Just like the people who live inside it, your home is happiest when it’s healthy, which means it needs a good checkup now and again. Some parts of your home need to be examined throughout the year while others need seasonal maintenance. Consider some of these helpful hints when diagnosing your home’s health any time of year.

  • Roof: Starting at the top and working your way to the bottom is one way to ensure your home is problem-free. Always be sure your roof is free of leaks by giving vents, skylights and chimneys a once over. Don’t let issues go untreated. The longer you wait, the more costly repairs can be.
  • Gutters: Keep your gutters clog-free and remember to drain pipes away from the house. This chore is common on many checklists just as fall sets in, especially in colder climates.
  •  Refrigerator: Get your wallet or purse out before you check out your fridge. Take a dollar bill and shut it in your refrigerator door. If it slips out easily, it may be time to readjust the latch. You don’t want precious cool air to leak out, causing your food to spoil more rapidly and your wallet to grow increasingly slim as you replace pricey grocery items. When you are stocking up, remember a full fridge uses less energy than an empty one.
  • Safety Equipment: There is no excuse for allowing safety equipment like smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers to go unchecked. These devices might save your family and your home from a terrible tragedy. Be sure to test and replace batteries at least twice a year.

Check out these and other time-saving tips for keeping your home in tip-top shape.

A disaster plan … for your pets

No matter where we live, none of us are immune to disasters. We all need to have an emergency plan for when disaster strikes — and that plan should include our dogs and other pets.

Here is a checklist to help you prepare:

  • Put a rescue alert sticker in your window so emergency workers know there’s a pet inside during a fire or other disaster. If you evacuate with your pet, write “evacuated” over the sticker if you have time.
  • Pack a disaster kit for the whole family, including enough pet food and water for five days, a leash and waste disposal bags. Include a photo of your pet, too, in case you get separated.
  • If your pet spends time alone outdoors, bring him inside at the first sign of a storm or disaster. Left alone, a frightened or disoriented pet may run away during a crisis.
  • If you have to evacuate, take your pet with you. If it’s not safe for you, it’s not safe for him. Take a comfortable pet carrier, large enough for him to stand up, because he may have to stay in it for hours at a time. Plan ahead where you will board him if he’s not allowed in an emergency shelter. Your veterinarian and local animal shelters may have suggestions.
  • Make sure your dog has an identification tag, including your cell phone number. Ideally, he should also have a microchip, in case he slips his collar.
  •  If you’re waiting out an emergency at home, keep your pet and disaster kit with you in the safest room in your house. That may be a room away from windows during a tornado or a room upstairs or with high counters during a flood.

For more suggestions, check out these excellent resources from ASPCA , the Humane Society of the United States  and the Top Dog vitamin website.