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Each month, we publish a series of articles of interest to homeowners -- money-saving tips, household safety checklists, home improvement advice, real estate insider secrets, etc. Whether you currently are in the market for a new home, or not, we hope that this information is of value to you. Please feel free to pass these articles on to your family and friends.

ISSUE #1176
FEATURE REPORT

Is Your Home Healthy and Safe For Children?
Each year more children die from preventable injuries than from all childhood diseases combined.  Taking preventive measures to protect your children against unintentional injuries at home is essential.  With foresight and action, you can help prevent burns, cuts, falls, poisonings, drowning, choking, and other serious injuries.

Use these checklists to ensure that your home is healthy and safe for the children living in it.




Also This Month...
Don't Pay Another Cent in Rent To Your Landlord
It doesn't matter how long you've been renting, or how insurmountable your financial situation may seem. The truth is, there are some little known facts that can help you get over the hump, and transfer your status from renter to homeowner. With this information, you will begin to see how you really can.


 
 

Common Mistakes Made With Money and How to Avoid Them
Everybody makes mistakes with their money. The important thing is to keep them to a minimum. And one of the best ways to accomplish that is to learn from the mistakes of others. Here is our list of the top mistakes people make with their money, and what you can do to avoid these mistakes in the first place.




Quick Links
Is Your Home Healthy and Safe For Children?
Don't Pay Another Cent in Rent To Your Landlord
Common Mistakes Made With Money and How to Avoid Them
 

 

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Is Your Home Healthy and Safe For Children?

Taking preventive measures to protect your children against unintentional injuries at home is essential. Each year more children die from preventable injuries than from all childhood diseases combined. With foresight and action, you can help prevent burns, cuts, falls, poisonings, drowning, choking, and other serious injuries.

Use these four checklists to ensure that your home is healthy and safe for the children living in it:

In the Bedroom

  • Install smoke alarms outside bedrooms and on every level of the home.
  • Test smoke alarms at least once a month and change batteries at least once a year.
  • Practice fire escape routes and identify an outside meeting place.
  • Place a baby to sleep on his or her back in a crib with no pillows or soft bedding underneath.
  • Use a crib that meets national safety standards and has a snug-fitting mattress.
  • Never use an electric blanket in the bed or crib of a small child or infant.
  • Keep small toys, balloons, and small balls away from young children.
  • Check age labels for appropriate toys. Make sure toy storage chests have safety lid supports.
  • To prevent strangulation, use safety tassels for mini blinds and avoid strings on children's toys and pacifiers.
  • Install carbon monoxide (CO) alarms outside bedrooms to prevent CO poisoning.

In the Bathroom

  • To prevent poisonings, lock away all medicines and vitamins, even those with child-resistant packaging.
  • Have syrup of ipecac on hand, but use only at the recommendation of a poison control center or physician.
  • Never leave a young child alone in the bathroom, especially in a bath.
  • Before bathing a child, always test bath water with your wrist or elbow to make sure it's not too hot.
  • To prevent scalds, set the water heater thermostat to 120 F and install anti-scald devices.
  • Make sure bathtubs and showers have non-slip surfaces and grab bars.
  • Keep electrical appliances, like hair dryers and curling irons, out of the reach of children and away from water.

In the Kitchen

  • Keep knives, plastic bags, lighters, and matches locked away from children.
  • Avoid fires and burns by never leaving cooking food unattended, turning pot handles to the back of the stove, and keeping hot liquids and foods away from the edges of tables and counters.
  • Make sure you and your children know the STOP, DROP, and ROLL procedure in case their clothes catch on fire.
  • Keep appliance cords unplugged and tied up. Replace any frayed cords and wires.
  • Securely strap young children in high chairs, swings, and other juvenile products.
  • Do not give young children hard, round foods that can get stuck in their throats like hard candies, nuts, grapes, popcorn, carrots, and raisins.
  • Avoid scald burns by keeping children away from the hot water taps on drinking water coolers.

In all Living Areas

  • To prevent asthma attacks, eliminate sources of mold, dust, and insects, such as cockroaches. If you have a pet, keep it and its bedding clean and keep the pet off the furniture.
  • If you must smoke, avoid smoking in the house, and especially around children.
  • Make sure furnaces, fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, space heaters, and gas appliances are vented properly and inspected annually.
  • Use safety gates to block stairways (and other danger areas), safety plugs to cover electrical outlets, and safety latches for drawers and cabinets.
  • Keep children and the furniture they can climb on away from windows.
  • Install window guards (on windows that are not fire emergency exits).
  • To prevent falls, keep hallways and stairways well-lit and use non-slip backing for area rugs.
  • Keep cleaning solutions, pesticides, and other potentially dangerous substances in their original, labelled containers, and out of the reach of children.
  • If you have guns or rifles in your home, store the firearms and ammunition in separate containers and lock them out of the reach of children.
  • Learn First Aid and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR).
  • Keep an updated list of emergency telephone numbers, including your local poison control center, physician and hospital emergency room, next to every phone in your home.
  • Make sure your family knows what to do during a natural disaster. In an earthquake, drop to the floor and get under something sturdy for cover; during a tornado, take shelter in a basement or an interior room without windows; and during a hurricane stay away from windows. Have handy supplies of food, flashlights, and water.

 

 

 

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Don't Pay Another Cent in Rent To Your Landlord


"If you're like most renters, you feel trapped within the walls of a house or apartment that doesn't feel like yours."


It's a dream we all have - to own our own home and stop paying rent. But if you're like most renters, you feel trapped within the walls of a house or apartment that doesn't feel like yours. How could it when you're not even permitted to bang in a nail or two without a hassle. You feel like you're stuck in the renter's rut with no way of rising up out of it and owning your own home.

Don't Feel Trapped Anymore

It doesn't matter how long you've been renting, or how insurmountable your financial situation may seem. The truth is, there are some little known facts that can help you get over the hump, and transfer your status from renter to homeowner. With this information, you will begin to see how you really can:

  • save for a down payment
  • stop lining your landlord's pockets, and
  • stop wasting thousands of dollars on rent.
6 Little Known Facts That Can Help You Buy Your First Home

The problem that most renters face isn't your ability to meet a monthly payment. Goodness knows that you must meet this monthly obligation every 30 days already. The problem is accumulating enough capital to make a down payment on something more permanent.

But saving for this lump sum doesn't have to be as difficult as you might think. Consider the following 6 important points:

1. You can buy a home with much less down than you think

There are some local or federal government programs (such as 1st time buyer programs) to help people get into the housing market. You can qualify as a first time buyer even if your spouse has owned a home before as long as your name was not registered. Ensure your real estate agent is informed and knowledgeable in this important area and can offer programs to help you with your options.

2. You may be able to get your lender to help you with your down payment and closing costs

Even if you do not have enough cash for a downpayment, if you are debt-free, and own an asset free and clear (such as a car for example), your lending institution may be able to lend you the downpayment for your home by securing it against this asset.

3. You may be able to find a seller to help you buy and finance your home

Some sellers may be willing to hold a second mortgage for you as a 'seller take-back'. In this case, the seller becomes your lending institution. Instead of paying this seller a lump-sum full amount for his or her home, you would pay monthly mortgage installments.

4. You may be able to create a cash down payment without actually going into debt

By borrowing money for certain investments to a specified level, you may be able to generate a significant tax refund for yourself that you can use as a downpayment. While the money borrowed for these investments is technically a loan, the monthly amount paid can be small, and the money invested in both home and investment will be yours in the end.

5. You can buy a home even if you have problems with your credit rating

If you can come up with more than the minimum down-payment, or can secure the loan with other equity, many lending institutions will consider you for a mortgage. Alternatively, a seller take-back mortgage could also help you in this situation.

6. You can, and should, get pre-approved for a home loan before you go looking for a home

Pre-approval is easy, and can give you complete peace-of-mind when shopping for your home. Mortgage experts can obtain written pre-approval for you at no cost and no obligation, and it can all be done quite easily over-the-phone. More than just a verbal approval from your lending institution, a written preapproval is as good as money in the bank. It entails a completed credit application, and a certificate which guarantees you a mortgage to the specified level when you find the home you're looking for. Consider dealing only with a professional who specializes in mortgages. Enlisting their services can make the difference between obtaining a mortgage, and being stuck in the renter's rut forever. Typically there is no cost or obligation to enquire.

There are many important issues you should be aware of that affect you as a renter. Why on earth would you continue to lose thousands by throwing it away on rent when with your agent you could take a few minutes to discuss your specific needs so that you can stop renting and start owning.

This conversation costs you nothing. And, of course, you shouldn't have to feel obligated to buy a home at the time you review this. But by taking the time to explore your options, and learn about the ways you can afford to buy a home, think how prepared and relaxed you'll be when you are ready to make this important step.

 

 

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Common Mistakes Made With Money and How to Avoid Them

Everybody makes mistakes with their money. The important thing is to keep them to a minimum. And one of the best ways to accomplish that is to learn from the mistakes of others. Here is our list of the top mistakes people make with their money, and what you can do to avoid these mistakes in the first place.

1.  Buying items you don't need...and paying extra for them in interest. Every time you have an urge to do a little "impulse buying" and you use your credit card but you don't pay in full by the due date, you could be paying interest on that purchase for months or years to come. Spending money for something you really don't need can be a big waste of your money. But you can make the matter worse, a lot worse, by putting the purchase on a credit card and paying monthly interest charges.

Research major purchases and comparison shop before you buy. Ask yourself if you really need the item. Even better, wait a day or two, or just a few hours, to think things over rather than making a quick and costly decision you may come to regret.

There are good reasons to pay for major purchases with a credit card, such as extra protections if you have problems with the items. But if you charge a purchase with a credit card instead of paying by cash, check or debit card (which automatically deducts the money from your bank account), be smart about how you repay. For example, take advantage of offers of "zero-percent interest" on credit card purchases for a certain number of months (but understand when and how interest charges could begin).

And, pay the entire balance on your credit card or as much as you can to avoid or minimize interest charges, which can add up significantly.

If you pay only the minimum amount due on your credit card, you may end up paying more in interest charges than what the item cost you to begin with. Example: If you pay only the minimum payment due on a $1,000 computer, let's say it's about $20 a month, your total cost at an Annual Percentage Rate of more than 18 percent can be close to $3,000, and it will take you nearly 19 years to pay it off.

2.  Getting too deeply in debt. Being able to borrow allows us to buy clothes or computers, take a vacation or purchase a home or a car. But taking on too much debt can be a problem, and each year millions of adults of all ages find themselves struggling to pay their loans, credit cards and other bills.

3.  Learn to be a good money manager. Also recognize the warning signs of a serious debt problem. These may include borrowing money to make payments on loans you already have, deliberately paying bills late, and putting off doctor visits or other important activities because you think you don't have enough money.

If you believe you're experiencing debt overload, take corrective measures. For example, try to pay off your highest interest rate loans (usually your credit cards) as soon as possible, even if you have higher balances on other loans. For new purchases, instead of using your credit card, try paying with cash, a check or a debit card.

There are also reliable credit counselors you can turn to for help at little or no cost. Unfortunately, you also need to be aware that there are scams masquerading as 'credit repair clinics' and other companies, such as 'debt consolidators', that may charge big fees for unfulfilled promises or services you can perform on your own.

4.  Paying bills late or otherwise tarnishing your reputation. Companies called credit bureaus prepare credit reports for use by lenders, employers, insurance companies, landlords and others who need to know someone's financial reliability, based largely on each person's track record paying bills and debts. Credit bureaus, lenders and other companies also produce "credit scores" that attempt to summarize and evaluate a person's credit record using a point system.

While one or two late payments on your loans or other regular commitments (such as rent or phone bills) over a long period may not seriously damage your credit record, making a habit of it will count against you. Over time you could be charged a higher interest rate on your credit card or a loan that you really want and need. You could be turned down for a job or an apartment. It could cost you extra when you apply for auto insurance. Your credit record will also be damaged by a bankruptcy filing or a court order to pay money as a result of a lawsuit.

So, pay your monthly bills on time. Also, periodically review your credit reports from to make sure their information accurately reflects the accounts you have.

5.  Having too many credit cards. Two to four cards (including any from department stores, oil companies and other retailers) is the right number for most adults. Why not more cards?

The more credit cards you carry, the more inclined you may be to use them for costly impulse buying. In addition, each card you own even the ones you don't use represents money that you could borrow up to the card's spending limit. If you apply for new credit you will be seen as someone who, in theory, could get much deeper in debt and you may only qualify for a smaller or costlier loan.

Also be aware that card companies aggressively market their products on college campuses, at concerts, ball games or other events often attended by young adults. Their offers may seem tempting and even harmless perhaps a free T-shirt or Frisbee, or 10 percent off your first purchase if you just fill out an application for a new card but you've got to consider the possible consequences we've just described. Don't sign up for a credit card just to get a great-looking T-shirt. You may be better off buying that shirt at the store for $14.95 and saving yourself the potential costs and troubles from that extra card.

6.  Not watching your expenses. It's very easy to overspend in some areas and take away from other priorities, including your long-term savings. Our suggestion is to try any system ranging from a computer-based budget program to hand-written notes that will help you keep track of your spending each month and enable you to set and stick to limits you consider appropriate. A budget doesn't have to be complicated, intimidating or painful just something that works for you in getting a handle on your spending.

7.  Not saving for your future. We know it can be tough to scrape together enough money to pay for a place to live, a car and other expenses each month. But experts say it's also important for young people to save money for their long-term goals, too, including perhaps buying a home, owning a business or saving for your retirement (even though it may be 40 or 50 years away).

Start by "paying yourself first". That means even before you pay your bills each month you should put money into savings for your future. Often the simplest way is to arrange with your bank or employer to automatically transfer a certain amount each month to a savings account or to purchase a Savings Bond or an investment, such as a mutual fund that buys stocks and bonds.

Even if you start with just $25 or $50 a month you'll be significantly closer to your goal. The important thing is to start saving as early as you can even saving for your retirement when that seems light-years away so you can benefit from the effect of compound interest. Compound interest refers to when an investment earns interest, and later that combined amount earns more interest, and on and on until a much larger sum of money is the result after many years.

Banking institutions pay interest on savings accounts that they offer. However, bank deposits aren't the only way to make your money grow. Investments, which include stocks, bonds and mutual funds, can be attractive alternatives to bank deposits because they often provide a higher rate of return over long periods, but remember that there is the potential for a temporary or permanent loss in value.

8.  Paying too much in fees. Whenever possible, use your own financial institution's automated teller machines or the ATMs owned by financial institutions that don't charge fees to non-customers. You can pay $1 to $4 in fees if you get cash from an ATM that isn't owned by your financial institution or isn't part of an ATM "network" that your bank belongs to.

Try not to "bounce" checks that is, writing checks for more money than you have in your account, which can trigger fees from your financial institution (about $15 to $30 for each check) and from merchants. The best precaution is to keep your checkbook up to date and closely monitor your balance, which is easier to do with online and telephone banking. Remember to record your debit card transactions from ATMs and merchants so that you will be sure to have enough money in your account when those withdrawals are processed by you bank.

Financial institutions also offer "overdraft protection" services that can help you avoid the embarrassment and inconvenience of having a check returned to a merchant. But be careful before signing up because these programs come with their own costs. Whenever possible, use your own financial institution's automated teller machines or the ATMs owned by institutions that don't charge fees to non-customers.

Pay off your credit card balance each month, if possible, so you can avoid or minimize interest charges. Also send in your payment on time to avoid additional fees. If you don't expect to pay your credit card bill in full most months, consider using a card with a low interest rate and a generous "grace period" (the number of days before the card company starts charging you interest on new purchases).

9.  Not taking responsibility for your finances. Do a little comparison shopping to find accounts that match your needs at the right cost. Be sure to review your bills and bank statements as soon as possible after they arrive or monitor your accounts periodically online or by telephone. You want to make sure there are no errors, unauthorized charges or indications that a thief is using your identity to commit fraud.

Keep copies of any contracts or other documents that describe your bank accounts, so you can refer to them in a dispute. Also remember that the quickest way to fix a problem usually is to work directly with your bank or other service provider.

 

 

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