Business Digest - November, 2012

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Theo's Corner  Food Donation Basics  Five Quick Ways to Change a Room's Look  Tricks Online Retailers Use  Green Living Tip 
Money Tip

Senior Safety Tips for Winter

As winter closes in, it is important for seniors and those who care for them to be aware of some simple precautions. Seniors are at risk during the winter months for several reasons. Winter weather and storms may isolate the elderly more than usual. Diseases such as the common cold and the flu are more prevalent and present a particular risk to those who are older or already in weakened health. There are also the dangers that the cold weather itself presents to those who are vulnerable. 

In response to these circumstances, the American Red Cross has issued its annual winter-preparedness tips for senior citizens. Be sure to arrange to have someone check on older persons regularly. It is also a good idea to have a plan to signal the need for help. For example, a daily phone call to check in might be appropriate. Post emergency numbers near the phone as well.

We never know when severe weather might hit. If specialized care, medical supplies, or equipment is needed, plan ahead for these items or health care services. Have several people available who have been familiarized with procedures or equipment. It is also a good idea to have enough food and supplies to last at least three days.    

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Food Donation Basics

This is the time of year that many people donate food to food drives. To ensure that your donation can be used, remember these donation tips.

Non-perishable items are always needed. Donate items that are factory sealed and try to avoid dented or rusted cans. Most agencies will not accept home-canned or home-packaged foods, but be sure to ask-you may be surprised. Open or partially used items can usually not be accepted.

If you are planning on shopping for items to donate, call the agency first to see what they are low on. Try to contribute basic foodstuffs, including rice, pasta, canned tuna, canned soups and stews, peanut butter, canned milk, canned beans and vegetables, and hot or cold cereals. Extras like coffee, tea, spices, and condiments are nice to include as well. 

If you have non-food items to donate, ask if the agency will accept those as well. Many people are in need of tooth care products, personal hygiene items, diapers, pet food, and basics such as cleaning supplies, trash bags, toilet paper, and laundry products.

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Five Quick Ways to Change a Room's Look

Looking for a change, but don't have a lot to spend on new furnishing and decorations? These five tips will help give your home a fresh look without breaking your budget.

  • 1.  Move things around. Swap out furniture from another room for a new look. Try using some pieces in unusual ways. For example, a dresser can look great in a living room or an entry hallway and is a great way to add storage. 

  • 2.  Add another layer. An extra layer of curtains can add interest and color to a room. You can tie back the layer on top to still allow the inside curtains to show. On top of a table or storage piece, place a small tablecloth or placemat to brighten the area. Add fringe or trim to pillows, curtains, or lamps for a new look.

  • 3.  Replace the little things. Change out the hardware on dressers or cabinets to give your pieces a new look. You can also add or change a throw rug and throw pillows. Get a new vase and add some seasonal flowers. Replace the pictures in your picture frames with new ones. 

  • 4.  Visually expand your space. Move furniture around to make better use of your space. Add a mirror or two to expand your room visually. If your rooms feel too small, store some items temporarily to remove clutter and open up your spaces.

  • 5.  Add something new. If your budget doesn't allow for a new sofa or table, find a cheaper alternative. Shop thrift stores or antique stores. Let friends know that you will take and renovate their discards. Get a slipcover instead of a new sofa or simply refinish or paint your existing furniture for a whole new look.

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Tricks Online Retailers Use

It can be convenient and often less expensive to shop online. But online retailers have become very savvy in separating you from your money. It is good to know what tricks these internet stores use to hook you and then to get you to spend as much as possible. Knowing these tricks can save you money.

Becoming your default.
Online retailers know that it is easy for you to purchase if they offer to store your credit card number, offer a simplified mobile app, or offer a membership for cheaper or faster shipping. This website then becomes the first, and most often only, place you look. While there is no problem with you starting your search at a familiar site, be sure to comparison shop too.

Emailing you with special deals.
If you sign up for updates from an online retailer, you can be sure that you will receive emails that tout sales and special deals only email recipients can access. But often these sales are either offered to everyone who visits the site or are actually not real sales at all. Cutting the price of an item by a few cents and then calling it a sale does not save you money. Again, comparison shopping before purchasing is the best approach. 

The power of peer pressure.
Most people would agree that product reviews offered by other purchasers of an item are helpful. Marketers know that the more people leave positive reviews, the more sales that product will have. Sites that feature reviews are useful only if you use the reviews to understand the product more, rather than feeling like you need to jump on the bandwagon. 

Creative use of technology. 
Online retailers use a variety of techniques to get you to spend more money. They can range from using certain colors on the website, to utilizing arrows, to special wording. There are also benefits for retailers to use online chat sessions with customer service representatives, product videos, and one-click buying. Pages that load quickly reduce the amount of time you have to consider your purchase, and mobile apps make it easy to buy on the go, when you are less likely to deliberate over your choices. 

Use a ticking clock. 
Many websites offer very short deal windows to compel you to make a purchase quickly. Daily deal sites like Groupon or Living Social typically feature their offers for only one day. Ticket and travel websites track available seats, showing you how many are left. If they are selling out quickly, this information can cause you to make a snap purchase. If you can, take a short time-out from your purchasing decision before snapping up anything that has a short deadline.

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Green Living Tip

Should you turn off your car's engine when stuck in traffic or at a train crossing? Experts suggest that if you know that you will be stuck for more than a couple of minutes, it is best to turn off your car. A vehicle idling for longer than this will use more gasoline than one that is being restarted. 

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Money Tip

While long-term-care insurance is a smart purchase, you may be able to hold off for a while before getting it. A 65-year old usually will pay only about $130 more per year than someone who buys a policy at age 55. That is ten years of paying for a product that you most likely will not use until your 80s if at all. The best time to buy long-term-care insurance is between 60 and 65. Of course, if you have any chronic health issues, you may need to lock in a reasonable rate sooner. But for anyone in good health, it can make financial sense to hold off a few years.  

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Theo's Corner

A Happy, Active Pet

Many dogs and cats spend much of their day with little to do. They sit at home, resting and waiting for their human companions to return home from work. These pets can become bored which often leads to naughty behavior. They also may not be getting the exercise they need each day. 

To help your solitary pet, be sure to engage in at least 30 minutes of exercise twice a day with your pet. You can take a walk, throw a ball, or play tug-of-war with a toy. Both dogs and cats love to chase after furry toys or small balls. When you are away, leave some fun chew toys for your dog and a scratching post for your cat. 

If possible, consider having a friend or neighbor let your dog out for part of the day. But be sure to keep on top of negative behavior like excessive barking. If this becomes a problem, you will need to modify your dog's environment and behavior with positive activities. If your cat is an indoor cat, set up an outdoor enclosure to give him some fresh air and varied exercise activities. 

Finally, be sure to spend as much fun time with your pet when you are at home as possible. Include him in family activities and encourage you children to spend daily play time with your animal. You'll find that everyone can benefit from these fun bonding experiences. 

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