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How to Use a Gift Card Exchange

December 29, 2016 12:54 am

We've all received a gift card we know we'll never use. Instead of letting the card gather dust or purchasing something you don't truly want, consider using a gift card exchange network to trade that card for one you value more, or swap it for cash value.

According to Cardpool, gift card buyers and sellers interested in using exchange services can follow these tips when considering their gift card exchange options:

Look for trusted exchange providers with a gift card purchase guarantee. For example, Cardpool guarantees that gift cards purchased from its website will be valid at the merchant for the dollar amount specified on your order for up to 180 days from the date of your purchase and up to a maximum of $1,000 per customer.  Do your research before selecting your gift card exchange company. Search news coverage and online reviews including the exchange company's status with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Choose an exchange that verifies the gift card balance. Make sure you know exactly what you are getting with a site that is clear and visible.  

Understand how the buying and selling process works. Read the fine print. Check out reviews and see if former users are satisfied. Be an informed consumer and you will have a positive experience.  

Source: www.cardpool.com.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Walking: For Your Health and for Your Home’s Value

December 28, 2016 12:24 am

Requiring little athletic ability and virtually no cost, walking has become a popular fitness option for people of all ages. But for a growing number of Americans, walking is about much more than exercise—it’s a lifestyle choice.

Developers and agents across the country can attest to the popularity of this real estate trend and the increase in walkable neighborhoods. A rise in urban living space nationwide is in direct response to consumer demand for the ability to walk to public transportation, restaurants, stores and more.  

While according to the 2015 National Community and Transportation Preference Survey, conducted by the National Association of REALTORS® and the Transportation Research and Education Center at Portland State University, millennials prefer walking over driving by 12 percentage points, walkable neighborhoods are not just for the young—retiring baby boomers are also looking for a lifestyle that puts culture and entertainment within walking distance.

According to the report ‘Foot Traffic Ahead,’ conducted by the Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis at George Washington University School of Business in conjunction with LOCUS: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors, walkable urban places are growing in all of the 20 largest metro areas in the U.S., gaining marketshare against suburban competitors for the first time in decades and garnering higher rent premiums, reports Curbed.

What makes a neighborhood walkable? According to Walk Score®, which helps people evaluate an area’s walkability when deciding where to live, walkable neighborhoods feature the following characteristics:

- A center of town, such as a main street our public space
- Enough people to allow local businesses to thrive and public transit to run frequently
- Mixed-income and mixed-use housing, including affordable housing near businesses
- Plenty of parks and public space
- A pedestrian-friendly design, i.e, buildings are close to the street while parking lots are located further back
- Schools and workplaces that are close enough for most residents to walk to from their homes
- Streets designed for bicyclists, pedestrians and transportation

And here they are—2016’s 10 most walkable cities, according to Walk Score:

1. New York City
2. San Francisco
3. Boston
4. Philadelphia
5. Miami
6. Chicago
7. Washington, D.C.
8. Seattle
9. Oakland
10. Long Beach

Lace up your sneakers and take a stroll in your neighborhood to get a sense of its walkability. There might be more within reach than you realized—and at the very least, your health will thank you.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How-to Protect Your Mental Health

December 28, 2016 12:24 am

You protect your home, your passwords, and your finances—but how about your mental health? The Chicago School of Professional Psychology offers simple tips everyone can implement to take care of their mental health.

- "Put your own oxygen mask on" before helping others: it's impossible to pour from an empty cup. 

- Recognize the difference between a false alarm and a real emergency -- anxiety is usually a false alarm. 

- Take time to develop your inner peace through meditation, mindfulness, or journaling your thoughts and feelings.

- When having a negative thought, try pairing it with a positive thought and a neutral thought. 

- Allow yourself to feel however you feel; don't try to change it or deny it.

- Schedule regular physical activities to protect against stress, reduce inflammation, improve self-image, and release feel good endorphins.

- Get outdoors when possible to help reduce stress and boost overall well-being.

- Volunteer to help others. It will give you a quick boost and an invaluable perspective of your community.

- Embrace perspectives different than your own. This will help promote positive change in the world around you and in yourself.

- Evaluate who you want to see, be with, share with and just do that. You don't have to interact with everyone.

Source: The Chicago School of Professional Psychology

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Have You Heard? Vinyl Is Making A Comeback

December 28, 2016 12:24 am

For many, it's a great feeling to pull out the old vinyl records and settle down in the den to enjoy those vintage sounds. But vinyl is also enjoying a popular comeback in other rooms of the house as well.

The folks at Contractor Quotes (contractorquotes.us) are handling a lot more vinyl floor installations in recent years, and are helping homeowners with advice on how to protect it from everyday wear and tear.

A recent blog on the company website points out that vinyl flooring is a great choice of material for bathrooms and kitchens because it's waterproof and extremely easy to clean. Moreover, vinyl is inexpensive, yet very attractive - providing a cushioned core which tends to be more comfortable to work on.

In addition, the blog says that vinyl plank flooring is warmer as compared to wood or tiles - and with proper cleaning and maintenance, the flooring can look great longer and its original shine and luster could last for years.

If you plan to install vinyl flooring contractorquotes.com has a few tips to consider:

- Make use of doormats. Dirt, dust and debris on shoes can cause damage to vinyl flooring. Even tiny pits of chemicals, gravel and asphalt are abrasive to vinyl and eventually will make the flooring yellow and scratched.

- Sweep the floor. Sweeping every day is one of the most effective ways to protect vinyl plank flooring.

- Clean spills immediately. Regardless of the liquid, clean it up immediately and dry the floor. Sugary drinks become more difficult to clean up as they dry, and even plain water could cause damage when left to sit for too long.

- Use vinegar for daily washing. A mild solution of apple cider vinegar is a harmless cleaning agent that can help keep vinyl flooring looking brand new. Avoid more harsh vinegars that might be tough on the floor.

- Get to know jojoba. Remove scuffs off vinyl flooring using jojoba oil and a soft cloth. As long as they are shallow surface scuffs, the jojoba oil should rub them off easily.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Why Dogs Make Us Better People

December 28, 2016 12:24 am

There’s much more to owning a dog than gaining a cuddly companion. According to one study, dogs enhance our overall well-being, providing a range of emotional, behavioral and physical benefits for their humans.

But can dogs really make us better people? Yes, say 93 percent of dog owners who responded to a survey from BarkBox. Survey findings reveal that:

- Seven in ten (71 percent) dog owners report that their pup has made them happier, with nearly four in five claiming that their dog’s greeting actually makes it easier to get out of bed!
- About half of dog owners say their pooch has made them more patient (54 percent), responsible (52 percent) or affectionate (47 percent).
- More than four in five (83 percent) say their dog has made them more active, with 72 percent reporting that their dog plays a role in their exercise decisions.
- Eighty-five percent of dog owners say that their dog has helped them through a difficult time in their life.

Given the remarkable impact dogs have on their humans, it’s no surprise that the bond between people and their pups is iron clad. According to the survey, close to nine in ten (87 percent) dog parents say they love their dog “more than they ever thought possible” and more than half (56 percent) wish their dog could understand how much they meant to them. For many, the bond even rivals the selfless love between two humans.

So give your dog an extra treat and big hug tonight – you may owe them more than you think.
Follow me for more insights into family, lifestyle and real estate trends.

Source: Bark & Company

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Top Tips for Whiter, Brighter Teeth

December 28, 2016 12:24 am

When the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry asked people what they would like to improve most regarding their smile, the response was overwhelmingly similar: white teeth. Similarly, the American Association of Orthodontists found that nearly 90 percent of its patients request tooth whitening.

Dr. John Luther, Chief Dental Officer with Western Dental, offers helpful teeth whitening information and tips below:

Why do teeth change colors? Coffee, tea and red wine are three primary staining culprits. So are tobacco (tar and nicotine), aging, and certain medications (some antihistamines, antipsychotics and high blood pressure).

How does teeth whitening work? Whitening products contain either hydrogen peroxide or carbamide peroxide, two tooth bleaches. They break stains into smaller pieces, making the color less concentrated and the teeth brighter and whiter.

Does whitening work on all teeth? No. Bleach works well on yellow teeth, but not as much on brown teeth. And gray tones may not bleach at all. Whitening doesn't work on caps, veneers, crowns and fillings.

Below are the top three ways to put a shine back in your smile:

Whitening Toothpastes: Western Dental recommends Opalesence as a safe toothpaste that has polishing agents to provide additional stain removal effectiveness.

In-Office Bleaching: Chairside appointments usually require only one office visit at Western Dental. A dentist will apply either a protective gel to the gums or a rubber shield to protect the gums. Bleach is then applied to the teeth. A special light or laser might be used to enhance the action of the whitening agent.

At-Home Whitening Kits: Western Dental suggests using kits that include 10 upper and lower whitening trays with a 10-percent hydrogen peroxide gel solution that are applied to each arch for an hour a day, whitening teeth up to six shades lighter. Over-the-counter whitening strips are available, but the results are not as dramatic.

Source: www.westerndental.com.
 

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Millennials More Fiscally Responsible Than You Think

December 28, 2016 12:24 am

While millennials often get a bad rap when it comes to responsibility, a new report shows that this generation of 18 – 34 year olds is more on board with financial values than you may have thought.

According to the Credit Karma Millennial Report, millennials are not the irresponsible job hoppers they are often perceived as, but rather loyal employees when treated and paid fairly.  The survey of more than 1,000 millennials also revealed the following surprising facts:
Millennials are financially driven when it comes to career. Almost two-thirds of Millennials said a wage increase or promotion motivated them to change jobs, as opposed to a desire to simply try something new.

Millennials are loyal employees. Seventy percent of older, currently employed Millennials (ages 29-34) said that on average, they had stayed four years or longer at each job they've held. Among younger Millennials (ages 18 – 28), 63 percent said they anticipated working for their current employer for four or more years.

The majority of Millennials are opening credit cards and building positive credit histories early. Millennials are taking the step of opening credit cards just as generations before. Sixty-two percent of those surveyed said they had at least one open credit card. Among the minority who do not have a credit card, 48 percent cited an aversion to debt as their number one reason.

The majority of young people are saving for retirement and have an emergency fund already. Of the 52 percent of Millennials saving for retirement, 89 percent started at age 28 or younger. Sadly, the survey found the majority (62 percent) aren't confident Social Security will be waiting for them and they are still reeling from the impact of the 2008 recession. In fact, 75 percent of Millennials cite the 2008 financial crisis as moderately, very or extremely influential in shaping their beliefs about personal finance management.

Student loans aren't holding them back. While it's true that this generation is drowning in student loan debt, it isn't holding them back. Less than 20 percent of Millennials surveyed who do not have any open credit cards cited their student debt load as impacting their decision to take out credit. Just 4 percent said that student loans were holding them back from owning a home, making them prime candidates to soon enter the real estate market.

Source: Credit Karma

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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What Americans Hope to Do With Their Money in 2017

December 28, 2016 12:24 am

Money is often on the mind of many of us, from daily uses (to latte, or not to latte?) to big ticket spending items and the management of debt. To find out what people hope to do to improve their finances come 2017, GOBankingRates.com asked 3,000 adults to name their top financial resolution for the upcoming year. Below were the options:

- Create a budget and stick to it
- Build an emergency fund
- Improve my credit score
- Save more, spend less
- Increase my income
- Pay down debt
- Save more for retirement
- Have more spending freedom
- Make a large purchase (home, car, etc.)

The most popular choice, hands down, was “save more, spend less.” While what people are saving up for may vary, the fact that they wish they were saving more does not waver. Here's to hoping for big savings in the new year!

Source: GoBankingRates.com

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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Procrastination: It’s a Good Thing

December 28, 2016 12:24 am

Were you the kid in school who waited until the last minute to cram for a test or bang out an essay? Are you still pushing off the inevitable as an adult, whether it’s a work deadline, your taxes or a necessary home repair? If so, you’ve probably been shamed with the label of procrastinator. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

According to Psychology Today magazine, highly productive people tend to procrastinate in ways that actually increase their productivity. For example, one thing procrastinators tend to do is take care of small tasks in order to avoid attacking the larger task at hand. While this may seem counterproductive on the surface, you’re actually getting things done and thereby clearing the mental space needed to tackle your big job.

Another classic procrastination tactic is diverting your attention by chatting with a friend or colleague, or surfing the net. But this may be exactly the type of activity your brain needs to get jump-started or inspired to move on to your project. A good laugh, an interesting blog or video, or a few words of inspiration will help you relax and potentially spark a creative idea that sets you in motion.

Procrastination may also be the smartest choice when we’re confronted with making a big decision. According to “Wait: The Art and Science of Delay,” author Frank Partnoy advocates that we wait as long as possible when faced with making a decision—up until the last possible minute, in fact.  In an article in Smithsonian Magazine, Partnoy says, “People are more successful and happier when they manage delay. Procrastination is just a universal state of being for humans. We will always have more things to do than we can possibly do, so we will always be imposing some sort of unwarranted delay on some tasks. The question is not whether we are procrastinating, it is whether we are procrastinating well.”

How does one “procrastinate well?” Here are some tips for effectively pushing things off:

Get outside. Take a quick walk, have lunch at the beach or read a magazine in the park. Fresh air will reset and relax the mind.
Phone a friend. You probably owe your best friend or your mother a call. Take a few minutes to invest in a relationship.
Get inspired. Scroll through some favorite quotes or watch a YouTube video of someone you admire.
Keep busy. A body in motion stays in motion, so do small tasks while you’re procrastinating. Vegging out on the sofa can be a dead-end street.
Take a nap. Sometimes, however, we’re just plain tired. So take a 20-minute power nap and wake up with a fresh set of eyes.

Stay tuned for more tips on productivity, life at home and real estate trends.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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How to Keep Those Healthy New Year's Resolutions

December 28, 2016 12:24 am

Whether it's going to the gym, eating more veggies or quitting smoking, many of us make health resolutions at the beginning of the year. But as the year rolls forward, those well-intended resolutions can fall by the wayside. Below are a few tips from USA Medical for keeping up with your health goals, in the new year and beyond. 

Define clear goals. Author and behavioral psychologist, Dr. Paul Marciano specializes in behavior modification and motivation.  In an interview for Forbes, he suggests setting "SMART" goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.  If you're trying to lose weight, for instance, specify the number of pounds you would like to lose, and by when.

Be realistic. How many changes can you actually make?  On WebMD, psychologist at the University of Guelph in Canada, Dr. Ian Newby-Clark explains that multiple resolutions often fail because we have limited amounts of willpower.  Most resolutions require more than one simple behavior change.

Use calendars and reminders. Set alarms to remind yourself to work towards your goals.  Keep progress reports and set check points to see if you're on pace.  Think in increments.  Instead of trying to cut all sugar intake immediately, consider drinking one less can of soda a week.  Smaller tasks seem more manageable.  

SOURCE: USA Medical

Published with permission from RISMedia.


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