Business Digest - July, 2008

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4th of July Jokes & Riddles    Plugging Those Money Leaks    Traveling with Your Pets     Don't Cut Corners On Safety

Easy Ways to Save on Gas

Gas prices continue to head upward and that can put quite a pinch on your wallet. To help ease the pain, here are some easy ways to cut your gas costs:

Slow down to save on fuel. The number one way you waste gas is driving too aggressively. By taking it easy, you'll increase your fuel efficiency. Do not rev your engine and avoid quick accelerations. Don't exceed the speed limit. If possible, use your cruise control, as this helps keep your RPMs level.

Try to avoid unnecessary stop-and-go traffic. Rush hour is a notorious gas burner, as your vehicle must use up more fuel to deal with stops and accelerations over and over. If possible, try to run your errands outside of heavy traffic times. Driving to and from work earlier or later can also help save you fuel.

Keep your vehicle in good shape. Poorly inflated tires, a dirty air filter, or an ignored tune-up can all lead to the use of more gas. Follow the manufacturer's recommended schedule of maintenance and check on your tire pressure at least once a month to ensure your car is in tip-top condition.

Remove excess cargo from your trunk. If you are carrying around unnecessary items in your vehicle's trunk or passenger compartment, you are simply adding weight to your car. This weight requires more fuel to transport it. So give your vehicle a good cleaning to help add to its fuel efficiency.

Share your driving. Carpooling can save you a significant amount of money each month. Consider sharing rides for trips other than going to and from work as well. You can carpool to your children's after-school activities or can share rides to the grocery store with a neighbor.

Reduce your driving. Run all your errands in one trip, order delivery instead of heading out to a restaurant, and forego any joy-riding. You can also look for ways to stay at home instead of heading out for entertainment. Get movies delivered by mail or use pay-per-view instead of heading out to the theater or video store. Play games with your family or catch up on your spring cleaning chores.

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Fourth of July Jokes and Riddles

Q: What happened as a result of the Stamp Act?
A: The Americans licked the British!

Q: Did you hear the one about the Liberty Bell?
A: Yeah, it cracked me up!

Q: What did one flag say to the other?
A: Nothing. It just waved!

Q: What kind of tea were the American colonists craving?
A: Liberty!

Q: What do you get if you cross a patriot with a small curly-haired dog?
A: Yankee Poodle!

Q: How is a healthy person like the United States?
A: They both have good constitutions!

Q: What did King George think of the American colonist?
A: He thought they were revolting!

Q: Did you hear about the cartoonist in the Continental Army?
A: Sure, he was a Yankee doodler!

Q: Why did Paul Revere ride his horse from Boston to Lexington?
A: Because the horse was too heavy to carry!

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Plugging Those Money Leaks

While the price of fuel and food continues to climb, you are probably looking for ways to stretch your budget even further. One of the easiest ways to help your immediate financial situation is to look for, and plug up, any money leaks you may have in your daily life. Money leaks are those small purchases or expenditures that get overlooked, but tend to add up each month. Here are some ideas to help control these little leaks.

Watch your ATM withdrawals. You may think you are budgeting wisely when you only take a small amount of cash each time your visit the ATM by rationalizing that you will only spend that much this month and no more. However, if you find that you run out of cash before you thought you would, causing you to return to the ATM over and over, by the end of the month, you may have withdrawn much more than you ever planned. Taking $40 each visit can add up to hundreds of dollars if you do not keep track. Instead, plan on taking out a realistic amount and sticking to that much for the month. Do most of your spending on a debit card, and you will be in even more control of your money.

Eliminate any late payment fees. If you find yourself waiting to pay your bills with a paper check sent through the mail, you could eventually end up with some late fees. Whether you forget to pay by the due date or there is a delay in the mail, relying on this type of payment system can cause a money leak. Instead, use an online bill paying service. You can set up your payment right when you receive your bill, requesting a payment date closer to your due date. This way you know your bill will be paid, but you don't have to hold your payment until closer to the due date. Even better, set up automatic withdrawals for your bills, and you won't have to even think about them each month.

Save money each month on your car insurance. Most auto insurance carriers offer discounts if you pay your bill in advance for six months. The savings can be up to 20 percent of your bill. While you do have to cough up a larger payment all at once, you'll enjoy five more months payment free until your next renewal period. You will also be sure not to miss any payment due dates and can eliminate most service fees for your account.

Ditch those bank fees. Unless you have some special circumstances, you should be able to have both checking and savings accounts that do not require any fees. Many banks offer free checking accounts with just a small deposit. You can avoid any add-on charges by making sure that you maintain a small cushion in your bank account. Banks will often charge you for overdraft fees even when they cover the purchase amount. By leaving a small cushion, you can avoid those changes. You should also be aware of how long it takes for your bank to process deposits, so you aren't left with an empty account waiting for a deposit to clear. Some banks offer ATM fee refunds if you use a competitor bank's ATM, saving you those fees as well.

Reevaluate your subscriptions. While it is always nice to kick back and enjoy a magazine, those subscriptions can really add up. These money leaks become more significant if you find that you are not actually reading all the magazines that come in your mailbox. If you are several months behind on your reading, you would be better off cancelling your subscriptions and pocketing the cash. Most likely, you won't even notice the difference.

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Traveling with Your Pet

Traveling with your pet doesn't have to be stressful if you plan ahead. Be sure to keep these tips in mind when you are headed out on your next family vacation.

Make sure that whatever accommodations you've booked allow pets. Many hotels welcome small pets, but you often have to pay an extra deposit. It is not a good idea to try to sneak your pet into a hotel room that prohibits animals, as the penalties are often quite steep.

If you are traveling abroad, find out which vaccinations are required. You will have to get your pet a current rabies vaccination for all travel abroad and to return to the United States. Other types of vaccinations are required depending on where you are going. Ask your veterinarian or the airline for more information about your specific travel destination.

If traveling by car, be sure to provide adequate conditions for your pet. Do not leave your pet unattended in your vehicle when taking a break from driving, especially if it is a hot day. Even a short time in a hot car can be fatal. Your pet will need plenty of water and a chance to move around, so plan for frequent stops.

A pet who is loose in the passenger compartment of a vehicle is at risk from sudden stops or a car accident. You can also lose a pet if you open your car door before restraining the animal. Your best bet is to use a pet carrier that can fit in your vehicle. You can secure the carrier to the interior of your car by using a seatbelt or cargo straps. If your car cannot safely accommodate such a carrier, consider renting a vehicle like a van or SUV to allow you to place a larger pet carrier in the back of the vehicle.

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Don't Cut Corners on Safety

It's lawn mowing season, and even though this household chore can seem mundane, it can still be dangerous. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are over 25,000 injuries from power mowers each year in the United States. These tips will help keep you safe as you tend to your lawn.

Make sure your lawnmower is in good working condition. All parts should be tightened before use. If there are any broken components on your mower, it should be repaired by a professional. Your mower blades should be sharpened or replaced every season as well.

Before mowing, make sure your lawn is free of debris, trash, twigs, sticks, and rocks. Mowing over these can cause them to become projectiles, which could seriously injure you or those nearby.

A wet lawn should be left to dry before mowing. Not only is it more difficult to mow a wet lawn, you can also injure yourself by slipping on the wet grass.

Use the proper equipment for safe lawn mowing. Never mow in bare feet. Always wear sturdy shoes or boots. Sneakers and sandals do not offer enough protection. You should also wear safety glasses and ear protection every time you use your lawnmower.

Do not pull your mower backwards when mowing. Always push your mower. On slopes, you should mow across the slope, not up and down the hill. This will prevent the mower from rolling downhill away from you or on top of you. Start at the top of the hill and progress downwards.

Young children should remain indoors when you mow. Children should never be allowed to ride on a riding lawn mower.

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