Consumer Real Estate News

  • Money-Saving Strategies You Can Use Right Now

    6 April 2020

    While many Americans typically look for money-saving strategies, the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis leaves a growing number of people searching for new ways to stretch every dollar.

    From economists and consumer advisors, here are seven ways to cut costs without measurably impacting your lifestyle:

    • Save on Utilities – Wash small loads of dishes or laundry by hand and air or line dry them. Turn off lights and appliances when not in use. Put on a sweater and turn down the thermostat.
    • Save on Cleaning Supplies – Don’t replenish your stock of targeted detergents, polishes and cleaning products. For everyday cleaning chores, use a solution of equal parts vinegar and water. Disinfect hard, non-porous surfaces with a combination of 1/2 cup of regular chlorine bleach and a gallon of water. (For small batches, use 4 teaspoons of chlorine bleach and a quart of water.)
    • Save on Food – Cook more meals at home. Get the family involved in looking for recipes based on grocery store specials, and planning and preparing simple but nutritious meals. Using that plan, make a list of needed groceries and send one person to the store; keep in mind some items may be out of stock so be flexible with your recipes.
    • Cut Entertainment Costs – Look into saving by cutting the cost of cable and subscribing to one or two of your favorite streaming services. Use Zoom or a similar app to set up audio-visual visits with friends and family. Pop some popcorn, dust off the Yahtzee set and other board games and bring back the fun of family game nights.
    • Get Crafty – Got birthdays or other gift-giving occasions coming up? Make jam. Knit a toasty afghan. Search online for crafting ideas and make heartfelt, homemade gifts that are sure to please just about everyone.  
    • Use Credit Wisely – If you’re going to use a credit card, use one that gives you something back—preferably cash. If you don’t have one, apply for one. If that’s not an option, and/or if you are forced to carry a balance, call your card company. Getting a reduced interest rate is often only a matter of asking for it.
    • Cancel Subscriptions – Spotify. Magazines. Gym memberships. You may not realize how many subscriptions you have. Cancel automatic renewals. Consider membership sharing with family or friends on services like Netflix and Hulu. With an upgraded account, you can watch from two or more screens and everyone saves.

    Published with permission from RISMedia.

  • Staying Safe During a Health Crisis

    6 April 2020

    Whether or not your state has issued mandated guidelines for sheltering in place during the COVID-19 crisis, there is little question that social distancing and practicing basic health safety measures are effective weapons against getting sick.

    In fact, with the illness curve still rising across the country, more than 158 million people are now working from home these days in an effort to keep the disease from spreading.

    For those who are part of this at-home demographic, and especially for those who are not, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Red Cross recommend guidelines for staying healthy and preventing the spread of infection:

    Disinfect Home and Work Areas – This includes all frequently touched surfaces, such as doorknobs, desktops, phones, faucets and toilets.

    Wash Hands Frequently – Using soap and hot water, wash for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in a public space.

    Avoid Touching Your Eyes, Mouth or Nose – Especially if you have not washed your hands for a while.

    If You Must Go Out in Public – Avoid groups of 10 or more people and try to maintain a distance of six feet from others.

    Avoid Shaking Hands – Greet people with an elbow bump instead, or a slight bow, a nod of the head or a hand over your heart.

    Protect Others – Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue if you cough or sneeze, or sneeze into your elbow or sleeve.

    If You Feel Sick, Stay Home – If you have mild cold or flu symptoms, recovering at home may be enough. If you develop a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, call your healthcare provider. 

    Published with permission from RISMedia.

  • Tap into Employer Benefit Resources in Times of Uncertainty

    6 April 2020

    (Family Features) For many American workers, how they do their jobs dramatically changed with the spread of COVID-19. Some have shifted to working from home while others moved to part-time or reduced hours.

    With uncertainty abound, now’s a good time to take stock of your physical and mental health and familiarize yourself with the resources available from your employer.

    As part of a report on mental health, employee benefits company Unum found nearly three-quarters (74%) of working adults feel big life events can have a major impact on their mental health. Some top mental health triggers include a person’s health (69%), finances (67%), relationships (59%) and job satisfaction (52%).

    “With so many people experiencing major shifts in not only their work lives, but also potentially their health, finances and personal lives, now is a good time to know what resources are available,” said Laurie Mitchell, assistant vice president of global wellbeing and health at Unum.

    Often linked with a health care or disability plan’s coverage, employee assistance programs, telemedicine or tele-behavioral health and app-based programs are low-cost solutions that allow people to connect with a professional on their own time when they’re experiencing a problem.

    Employee Assistance Programs
    An employee assistance program (EAP) often offers free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals and follow-up services to people who have personal or work-related concerns. EAPs address a wide range of issues affecting mental and emotional wellbeing, such as alcohol and other substance abuse, stress, grief, family problems and psychological disorders. Many EAPs also provide services to help caregivers, assist with financial planning or offer child care resources.

    Telemedicine and App-Based Mental Health Solutions
    Telemedicine services can make accessing medical and mental health resources easier. There are even apps that can target specific mental health needs, and people can access them on their own time when they need the services. These types of tools can be effective complements to traditional care and help with everything from increasing positivity and efficiency to reducing stress and anxiety.

    “Employees should ask their human resources department what resources are available and be supportive of colleagues who may be struggling as well,” Mitchell said. “Especially during this time of uncertainty, offering support to others and knowing where to direct them can improve lives and help create a more inclusive work environment.”

    In addition, the report found 93% of human resources professionals say their companies offer an EAP, yet only 38% of employees said they’re aware of the resource. More than half of human resources professionals also said they offer financial counseling, legal services and telemedicine services, but only a fraction of employees reported being aware these services exist.

    As businesses chart new ways of working, these types of tools can help employees establish new ways of interacting with support services when in-person options may not be available. Even if you’re not struggling now, as you navigate this uncertain time, consider asking your employer what resources you have access to that can help support your physical and mental wellbeing.

    To download the mental health report and learn about other employee benefit resources, visit Unum.com/workwell.

    Published with permission from RISMedia.

  • Smart Home Technology You Can Easily Integrate Into Your Home

    3 April 2020

    Smart home technology is advancing beyond telling your phone or internet-enabled device to play music and look up sports scores.

    Smart thermostats, lightbulbs, plugs, locks and doorbells are available to homeowners, and the list of things technology can connect to within a home is growing every year.

    Here are some smart devices you may want to consider integrating into your home:

    Thermostat
    With a variety of options to choose from, one of the most popular smart thermostats among today's homeowners is the Nest Learning Thermostat, which is owned by Google.

    The Nest thermostat uses an algorithm to adapt to your preferences, as well as when you leave and arrive home. When you're away at work, it uses your phone's location to determine that you've left and enters eco mode to save money and energy, reducing bills by up to 15 percent, according to the company.

    Floodlight
    The Sengled Smart LED Floodlight is an inexpensive way to monitor your home as a motion sensor, while providing light without having to turn the light switch on and off.

    Unlike some motion detector lights that require installing new fixtures and possibly wiring, the Sengled Smart LED bulb connects to existing fixtures. Built-in motion and daylight sensors turn the light on automatically for 90 seconds when motion is detected within 30 feet. The light can also be controlled through voice control on Alexa or Google Assistant.

    With the Sengled app, you can even receive mobile notifications when motion is sensed.

    Smart Lock
    The August Smart Lock Pro + Connect attaches to the existing deadbolt and features keyless access. With your phone in your pocket, you can open the door without fumbling for your keys. It automatically locks the door behind you after you leave.

    The lock can also be voice activated through Siri, Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.

    Smart Doorbell
    Want to see who's ringing the doorbell? With continuous streaming and video recording, the Nest Hello gives you a 160-degree view and visitor detection alerts. It also has a speaker and microphone so that you can communicate with visitors knocking on your front door whether you're inside the house—or away from home.

    Published with permission from RISMedia.

  • Seven Top Ways to Keep Your Family Healthy

    3 April 2020

    No one can predict when a health crisis will arise, but there are steps every family can take in any environment to ensure they remain healthy enough to ward off illness.

    From the Center for Disease Control (CDC), health experts, and university researchers, here are seven proven tips for raising healthy families:

    Make nutrition a family affair. A well-balanced diet combined with regular exercise is the basis for good health. Even young children can be encouraged to ‘eat the rainbow’ of fruits and veggies along with whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats and fat-free sources of calcium. Involve everyone in learning about nutrition, planning and preparing healthy meals – and commit to drinking lots of water and steering clear of sugary drinks.

    Get enough exercise. Kids who spend a little time outdoors each day typically get enough exercise, but adults should make time for at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily. Whether it’s walking, bicycling, dancing, swimming, or participating in sports – even gardening counts! – a little daily exercise can pay big health dividends.

    Help avoid injury. Wear seatbelts and bike helmets, use smoke and carbon monoxide detectors at home, use a broad-spectrum sunscreen daily, and be street smart when walking alone. 

    Create no-phone zones and times. Designate times during the day – like at the dinner table or during homework time - when no technology is allowed. A 10-minute break from devices just before bedtime can help ease the way toward sleep.

    Get enough sleep. Adequate sleep is one of the best promoters of physical and mental health. It reduces inflammation and helps reduce the risk of infectious diseases. Aim for a minimum of eight to nine hours for children, and seven to eight hours for adults.

    Plan some family time. Family vacations can be fun, but just spending a few hours of regular time together is a great way to increase communication. Whether it’s over a game board, at the zoo, or volunteering together at the local food bank, meaningful family time can contribute to overall health.

    Avoid smoking and keep alcohol consumption to a minimum. Smoking harms every major organ in the body, and second-hand smoke can severely impact children. If you drink, keep your intake to within accepted guidelines – up to one glass per day for women and two per day for women, according to the CDC.

    Published with permission from RISMedia.