Posted by Betsy Graziano on 4/3/2017

If you're at a loss to explain why your money seems to disappear so quickly, every month, your utility bills may be partly to blame. The solution to lowering your energy-related expenses involves a combination of high-tech approaches and old-fashioned methods. On the high-tech side, it pays to program your thermostat so that you're automatically adjusting your energy usage when your family is sleeping, at work, or at school. There's no need to make the house perfectly comfortable when no one's at home! If the idea of programming electronic devices causes you to break out in a cold sweat, then maybe you can ask your HVAC technician to set it up for you the next time he stops by for a service call or furnace tuneup. (Hey, you never know unless you ask!) Another way to save money on your energy bill is to use your clothes dryer less. This strategy is simple, but effective. Buy an old-fashioned clothes line, hang it up securely in your back yard, and use it to air-dry some of your laundry. I'm not saying it should replace your clothes dryer -- especially in the cold winter months. However, it can be an effective, low-tech method to reduce the energy demands you place on your dryer. There's also the option of drying some of your clothes on a drying rack. Fixing Leaks, Lighting, and Insulation Two common plumbing problems that many homeowners endure are toilets that run 24/7 and faucets that leak. While it may not seem that these relatively minor issues are going to impact your water bill, those leaks can and do add up over an extended period of time. Not only that, but the continual sound of your toilet tank running and your faucet dripping can be quite annoying! If you have the phone number of a reasonably priced plumber who can fix those problems, it'll pay to have him stop over. From an electricity standpoint, you can save money by replacing your incandescent light bulbs with Energy Star certified bulbs. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, these energy-efficient bulbs use 70-90% less energy than standard bulbs, they last 10 to 25 times longer, and produce substantially less heat. The fact that they generate up to 90% less heat makes them safer and more energy efficient, too -- particularly during the summer. As a side note, you can also save energy during the holidays by using Energy Star certified decorative light strings! Yet another way to make sure your home is energy efficient and cost effective is to check the insulation in the attic and other areas. If you're considering purchasing a home that is inadequately insulated, you could consider asking the seller to correct that problem, as a condition of the sale. An alternative approach would be to use that deficiency (and/or others) as a negotiating chip to get the price lowered. Whether you're buying or selling a house, an experienced real estate agent can help you negotiate mutually agreeable terms and successfully guide you through the twists and turns of real estate transactions!





Posted by Betsy Graziano on 10/24/2016

If money is tight right now, or if you're just trying to live frugally, there are a number of ways to save money without having to drastically change your lifestyle. One of the best way to save money is by going through all of your recurring bills to see where you can eliminate or reduce spending. In our age of user-friendly, advanced technology, there are more services available to us than ever before. You can call an Uber with one tap on your phone or order more laundry detergent by clicking the Amazon Dash button in your cabinet. With services this readily available to us, it's hard not to sign up. Read on to learn how to save some money on your monthly services without having to sacrifice too many of life's comforts.

Utilities

There are countless ways to save on water, heat, and electricity. Yes, you can turn down the heat in the winter time and take shorter showers, but there are less commonly known ways to save as well. For example:
  • Keep multiple electric-powered items plugged into one power-strip and power off the strip overnight. This will stop those items from consuming electricity in standby mode
  • Insulate your windows in the winter time by using caulking, weather stripping, and shrink wrap your windows with heat shrink film to keep the heat in
  • Some Saturday afternoon make a checklist of all of your home's lightbulbs. Then go out and replace them with energy efficient CFLs and LED bulbs
  • Hang clothes on the line in fair weather and wash your clothes in cold water; much of the energy consumed by washing clothes goes to heating the water up first

Monthly services

Remember when there were only a few good shows on TV and paying for cable was the only way to watch them? Now any given household can have Netflix, Amazon Streaming, HBO Go, and countless other monthly services for watching TV. To save on watching your favorite movies and television, try these tips:
  • Ditch Netflix DVD services or expensive premium cable channels and rent from your local library system. Through inter-library loans you can get the newest movies and TV shows shipped to your library for free
  • Cancel your cable bill and try a cheap service like Hulu. If you're worried about missing the news, use websites or news apps on your smart TV to keep up to date on the issues
  • Negotiate rates with your provider. Sometimes all it takes is a phone call to learn about better options. Since many people are taking the internet-only approach, cable companies are desperate to maintain customers
Saving on telephone bills:
  • First, ditch the landline. You probably only get telemarketers calling there anyway; what do you have to lose?
  • Use a family plan and calculate your data usage. Make sure your family is on wifi whenever possible. You can save up to $30/month just by having a lower data plan
  • Negotiate with your provider. Reminding your provider that you have other options when it comes to cell phones can get you a better rate.
General tips and tricks:
  • If you have a student email address (.edu) this can be used to gain discounts from a number of monthly services
  • Ask your providers to apply promotions to your account. If you see that something you pay for is running a deal, call and ask if you can have the rate as well. You're a loyal customer after all
  • If you've built up good credit, look for lower interest rates online. There are apps and websites dedicated to finding you better deals





Posted by Betsy Graziano on 5/9/2016

Who wouldn't like to pay off the mortgage early? Getting rid of mortgage debt will allow you the security and the psychological benefit of owning your home free and clear. There are lots of ways to accomplish these goals. Here are some suggestions on ways to get rid of your mortgage debt. Compare the options and do what works best for you. 1. Add more money to your monthly payment. This will help pay down the principal balance shortening the length of your loan. When you pay more on your principal is gets lower, and the lower your principal gets, the more every payment from then on is applied to principal, as less goes to cover interest expense. 2. Refinance. Refinance your mortgage to 10, 15 or 20 years. Your payments will be higher on a 15-year loan, but often the rate is lower and the loan is paid off much quicker. If you are afraid to take out a 15- year loan take out a 30-year loan, but make payments as if you had a 15-year loan. 3. Make biweekly payments. Most banks have a biweekly payment plan. Since there are 52 weeks in the year if you pay half your regular mortgage payment every other week, you'll have made 26 half-payments, or 13 payments. There are options when it comes to owning your home free and clear. Just decide which one works for you and be on your way to being mortgage free.





Posted by Betsy Graziano on 4/25/2016

It is great to have a room renovation every once in a while but painting and changing the look of a room can be costly and time consuming. Here are three quick and simple ways to change the look of your room without busting the budget.

  1. Window Treatments are one of the quickest, simplest and most affordable ways to change the whole look and feel of a room. If you prefer to take the focus away from the windows, choose neutral colors, and a simple style. If you would like to create a dramatic look and emphasize the view, choose more color or a bolder style in the window treatments. A layered look with sheers or a top treatment will also do the trick.
  2. Lighting can definitely add color. A simple solution would be to add colored bulbs to some of your light fixtures. Incandescent lighting can also add more warmth, and accent lighting can highlight an area of the room. Transform a room’s mood with dimmers, uplights, and sheer textile lampshades. Wall sconces, floor lamps and even candles can also change the look of a room.
  3. Artwork can change the look without busting the budget. Artwork can be from a local gallery, children’s drawings or just what you already have hanging around the house. Choose pieces that showcase intense colors but also work well with the existing pieces in your room. Try moving your current artwork around. Photos, vases, and other collectibles can give new life to a room. Group them in sets of three or five for an instant eye-catching display.
The possibilities are endless. You can infuse a lot of color into any room without once having to pry open a paint can or spend a fortune. Have fun!  





Posted by Betsy Graziano on 3/7/2016

Choosing between satelllite television or a local provider in today's world is a lot more complicated than it was a decade ago. Cable TV has made a concentrated effort in the last decade to offer the channel variety of a satellite television service, while satellite television has tried to offer the same kind of bundle deals to their customers that make cable subscriptions so appealing to people who like the idea of an all-inclusive bill for their at-home entertainment. While both services can be very rewarding in terms of quality of service and variety, your family's entertainment needs will have to be ultimately considered if you want to make the best decision possible. In this guide, I will attempt to highlight the best features of each service, how they stack up to each other in terms of quality, and illuminate the potential drawbacks for each. Cable TV Cable television offers you an easy opportunity to condense all of your digital services into one package (Phone, tv, and internet.) While some satellite television companies offer similar packages, they usually have to hire a third-party company in order to be able to do so. And with cable television moving into the digital realm a little more every year, they are now finally providing picture quality that you could only previously get with satellite television. Additionally, you never have to worry about bad weather affecting your reception like you would if you were to chose a dish network. Also, many cable companies now offer DVR as part of their digital packages, which allows you to pause, record, and rewind any program you'd like, a service only previously available to satellite customers. If your family's home entertainment needs center around fast, high-quality internet service, and your television requirements can be satisfied without needing hundreds of channels, a cable television package will definitely suit your needs. Satellite TV While it may sound like Cable TV is the more appealing option at this point, you must consider a few things; namely, Satellite TV absolutely trumps cable in terms of the sheer variety of programs and content. Dish TV boasts a roster of 250+ channels, and the number is always growing. That includes over 80 PPV channels, whereas cable can only manage about 40. In addition, satellite television offers you a slew of international programming that a cable service simply cannot compete with. Dish TV also consistently outperforms Cable in terms of customer service ratings. But while Dish TV currently has the edge in terms of variety, your access to local programming is pretty limited. And, as mentioned previously, reception can be an issue during inclement weather. Your property will also need to have an unobstructed view of the sky in order to receive optimal reception, which can be a problem for some homeowners. As far as pricing is concerned, your television needs may be the determining factor. If having television in every room is a must for you, then opting for a cable package may suit your needs better. Satellite companies tend to offer per room fees, which can be expensive in the event that you would like the service to extend beyond one or two televisions. There is also the equipment cost to consider. While opting for a satellite package may cost you more money up front, your monthy bill will more often than not be lower than a cable package, as maintainance costs tend to be lower. For additional information on cable television, please visit www.comcast.com or www.verizon.com/fios For additional information on satellite television, please visit www.directstartv.com or www.dish.com    




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