How to Meet Your Neighbors: Icebreakers Even Introverts Can Pull Off

 

Want to know the secret of how to meet your neighbors? It’s this: Stop waiting for people to swing by with an apple pie. These days you have to be proactive and get out there yourself!

So how do you do that?

Granted, whether you’ve just moved in or lived someplace for eons, many find this simple act of reaching out amazingly hard. If that sounds like you, it’s OK: It’s all about knowing a few icebreakers. Here are a few that even the shyest of shy can try.

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1. Hold A Garage Sale

This project doubles as decluttering—and works whether you’ve lived in a place for years or just moved in and didn’t get a chance to fully purge before you packed up for your new digs.

Not only will a garage sale provide you with a clean slate, it’s also a low-key way to meet your neighbors. Even if you don’t make a sale, you might be meeting your new best friend for the first time.

2. Ask To Borrow Something

Tools are one of the more popular items you may not have dug out of the box yet but find you’ll need right away. Don’t be too shy to ring the neighbors door and ask to borrow that hammer or screwdriver.

And remember, this is an equal opportunity endeavor: Sooner or later you’re bound to have something a neighbor might need, from a rake to cup of sugar. Go ahead and let your neighbors know to stop by “if you need anything”.

3. Do A Good Deed

Sometimes the best way to break the ice is to look for a way to pull someone out of it.

Three years ago, during an East Coast polar vortex, one of our client’s was leaving their home at 4 a.m. to attempt to get to work when he happened to see water gushing out of his neighbor’s garage. No one was home, so he called the fire department.

A sprinkler system had burst on the third floor and was destroying their home. Our client ultimately broke into the home but only to turn off the water and managed to save the home in the process.

Once his neighbors returned from their vacation they were very appreciative and are close friends to this day.

Not that you have to wait for disaster to strike. There are opportunities year-round; from plant-sitting during Spring Break and Summer Vacation to offering to clear leaves from gutters in the Fall or shovel snow in the winter. Who could refuse? And now you’ve got a friend whom, odds are, you can depend on in a pinch, too.

4. Find A Common Cause

Last summer a feral cat had a litter of kittens in the yard of one of our client’s homes. Concerned about their welfare—not to mention the number of cats already roaming her neighborhood—our client went door to door to bring the issue to her neighbors’ attention. Ten houses down, she found a neighbor eager to help the free-range cats. Today, cats in their community are well cared for—and these two neighbors are fast friends.

When you work together toward something that matters to you, you can’t help but bond.

Don’t have a passionate cause of your own? Then get involved in an HOA or local community group.

Volunteering is one of the best ways to get to know people because you move quickly past small talk.

5. Sometimes, Going Online Is A Good Idea

So maybe you want to be part of your community but work crazy hours. Or you’re always shuttling your kids from one after school activity to another and your schedule looks like that of an air traffic controller.

Maybe your nearest neighbor is a mile (or more) away. If meeting your neighbors “IRL” is a challenge, then maybe you do need to pick up that tablet or smartphone and join a local online group.

JOIN: The Bradley Beach Residents Group

JOIN: The Ocean Township Residents Group

JOIN: The Jersey Shore and Eastern Monmouth County Lifestyle Group

Have a goal though. Try and build relationships online that will lead to offline interactions.

You hear that? Your iPhone addiction actually can lead to meaningful connections outside your front door.

YOUR TURN

How did you break the ice with your neighbors? Do you have any tips to add to our list? Sound off on The Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page or our Twitter or Instagram feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.

8 Maintenance Tasks All Homeowners Should Do Once a Year

 

You have the basics of homeownership maintenance down. You change the ceiling blade direction every summer and winter, you scrub the inside and outside of your windows each spring, and you remove every drop of water from your sprinkler system before the first frost.

But are you sure you’re getting everything done?

These eight annual maintenance to-dos are easily forgotten—but checking them off once per year can save you some major headaches, heartaches—and money!

 

home-maintenance

1. Salt your water softener

You’ll need to take a trip to your local home maintenance store for this project. If your water heater features a rad built-in water softener, skipping regular maintenance can cause irreversible damage.

Let’s say you’ve purchased a home with a 2-year-old hot water heater. Pretty new, right? Well, if the previous owner skipped salting the softener, letting mineral build up inside the unit, it will sound like a rock tumbler.

Should that happen, a few intense flushes should do the trick. But don’t wait.

At the end of the day, regular maintenance will prevent damage and will help you avoid a major expense down the road.

2. Test your well water

Having your own well can be a perk—sweet, fresh-from-the-earth water, with no bill! But in-ground water is subject to all sorts of contaminants, including high levels of nitrates, sulfates, or microorganisms. To keep your gut happy and prevent nastier health issues, make sure to test your well water every year. (Shallow wells can require more frequent testing.)

Many municipalities offer free water screening. If yours isn’t so kind, you can send samples to a nearby laboratory for analysis.

3. Update your disaster kit

You don’t have to be a prepper to be prepared. Even minor storms can knock out power for a days. Darkness is a lot less miserable with basic supplies. Every household needs a disaster kit—essential supplies that can keep you going in an emergency. Include necessities such as a first-aid kit, a three-day supply of nonperishable food, plenty of water, printed maps, and a whistle.

Dig through your kit once a year, and check the expiration dates of all of your food, look for broken seals, and make sure none of your necessities have been used or gone missing in the previous 365 days. Check your stock against Ready.gov’s extensive list of basic disaster supplies.

4. Know your humidity

Humidity—especially in the basement—is an early warning sign of future problems. High humidity can cause mildew and black mold. Left unchecked for a significant period of time, it can even cause structural damage. So pick up a hygrometer, and check your levels at least once a year.

If the reading is low, don’t assume you’re in the clear. Too little humidity might not be as dangerous as high levels, but it can still cause sore throats and itchiness—and damage the house. Wood might crack, paint can chip, and electronics could be permanently damaged. Shoot for humidity levels that fall between 30% and 50%.

5. Check for termites

Many homeowners tend to take an “out of sight, out of mind” approach to these wood-eating buggers—but once a year, make sure termites are on your mind.

Ultimately, an annual termite inspection is typically less than $100, and can save you thousands.

6. Take a photo

You’d never skip snapping a shot of your kid on her first day of school each year—so why wouldn’t you do the same for your house? On the anniversary of your purchase, step outside with a camera and shoot a picture of your home in its current state. Over the years, you’ll be astonished by how much your home has evolved.

7. Save 1% of the home’s value

The typical rule of thumb is that a home costs 1% of its value in maintenance fees each year. For example, if you’re purchasing a home worth $300,000, expect to pay $3,000 each year to keep it in shipshape condition.

While you should be regularly saving throughout the year, taking the time once annually to investigate your bank accounts can keep you out of hot water. And, of course, the 1% rule is only an estimate—when it comes to homeownership, anything can go wrong.

A new roof might cost $7,500 (or more—way more). Serious foundation issues could ring in at $40,000. And new siding might require a $10,000 payment. Adding more to your home savings account is never a bad idea. But at the very least, make sure you have the bare minimum.

8. Create a donation pile

After a few years in your home, you might be astounded to find out just how much unnecessary stuff has piled up. Once a year—perhaps around spring-cleaning—do a deep dive into your closets, drawers, bookshelves, and garage. Toss or donate anything you haven’t touched in the past year.

RELATED: Do I Have Too Much Stuff?

Here’s what not to do with all that newly empty space: Fill it up again. But if you fail, well, you’ll be sorting through it again next year when you do these steps all over again.

YOUR TURN

As a homeowner, what annual home rituals do you keep? What advice might you have to new homeowners when it comes to ongoing home maintenance? Sound off on The Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page or our Twitter or Instagram feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.

Living With Less: Do You Have Too Much Stuff?

We’ve all been there. The cabinets are overflowing. There’s no more room in any closet. And the drawers are crammed so full they won’t close. Your stuff has outgrown your space. But instead of blaming your home for its lack of storage, maybe consider that you have too much stuff. That issue is easier to address quickly and doesn’t involve a whole home remodel.

So, how do you know if you have too much stuff? and What do you get rid of?

clutter-free-home

Here are three questions you can ask yourself to help with paring down to quality possessions:

1. Do you own multiple versions of the same thing?

Do you have three blenders because you got updated versions twice and have yet to get rid of your old ones? This is the kind of thing that creates clutter.

What to do about it: Start in one space, and go section by section. For example, in your kitchen open up all of your cabinets. Go from cabinet to cabinet, removing all of the items.

Try starting with small appliances. Lay them all out on the counter, and keep only the ones you use. Donate or sell the rest. Move on to the pantry, then the serving pieces, then the dishes and on and on around the room. The same rules apply for every section. Get rid of the things you don’t use.

Tip: Try and lose the guilt you feel from getting rid of any gifts you have been given (or inherited). It really is OK to pass along things you don’t use or love.

2. Do you feel stressed about having to find a place for all of your things?

Are your closets jam-packed? Do you find that you wear the same things over and over even though your closet is overflowing? If you answered “Yes,” you probably have too many clothes.

In an effort to try and live with less, you must eliminate the things that don’t serve you. This same concept applies to any space in your home that’s overflowing.

What to do about it: Take all of your clothing out of your closet, or take out certain categories at once (denim, sweaters, shoes). Ask yourself very honestly if you love each item and want to wear it. If yes, great, it stays. If no, put it in a designated spot for donation or resale. Ask yourself this question with each and every item you come across in your closet.

3. Is it hard to keep track of your belongings?

Are you constantly losing things in drawers, cupboards, bins or other nooks and crannies of your home? This is usually a sign of too many belongings.

What to do about it: Keep your things consistent. Use one wallet, one makeup case, one pencil case … at a time. Having one place where your items live reduces the amount of backup items you have.

The goal: These questions and the resulting work will take time. You won’t be able to just snap your fingers and magically have uncluttered closets, drawers and living spaces. Instead, set aside an hour or two every day or week to tackle one area — or a whole room if you’re feeling ambitious. Regardless of how long it takes, you’ll appreciate the time you put toward living with less.

YOUR TURN

What struggles or strategies do you have when it comes to purging your belongings? Sound off on our Facebook Page or on our Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm eNewsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.

Setting Up a Home Office That Works for You

Whether you’re paying a few bills or running a small business, a stylish, comfortable work space will help you stay focused and inspired.

In recent years, the line between working and living in our homes has become blurred. More people want a home office, whether it’s a simple space for taking care of household matters, a spot for the inevitable papers and projects that make their way home from work, or a dedicated area for a full-time business.

home office

For a few minutes a day or 40 hours a week, working at home is always more fun in an area with loads of function — and some personalization, too. Here’s how to create a snazzy home office space that will make you look forward to clocking in.

The Essentials

Some experts have said there are only two essentials for a functional home office: a comfortable chair and a door that closes. Most people, however, probably have a few more requirements.

Basic elements of designing a room include smart space planning, adequate lighting and sufficient storage. When setting up your home office, also consider functionality and comfort.

Get Horizontal

Start with your work surface. Stock desk units come in a variety of materials, but may be difficult to fit in with your room. Modular office furniture is more flexible and comes in many styles.

Or look to repurposed furniture. With some judicious changes, you can turn flea market finds and antiques into acceptable home office elements. Don’t hesitate to make a piece your own with a simple coat of paint in your favorite color.

Take a Seat

Chairs need to be functional, but an office chair isn’t your only choice.

If you’ll be spending a lot of time working in the office, consider including a lounge chair or chaise. It will make a comfortable spot for reading or coffee breaks.

For your desk, choose a chair with an adjustable seat and armrests to protect your spine and help reduce aches and injuries. To personalize it, add a throw pillow to coordinate with window coverings or other decorative elements in the room.

Essential Details

Make a list of everything you need, from pencils and paper clips to research materials and file folders. Pick a color scheme and purchase the necessities in your favorite palette.

Measure all the electronic equipment you’ll require to determine where it will fit best. And make sure you add some favorite framed photos or artwork to inspire you.

To create softness and texture underfoot, layer on an area rug to anchor your space.

Get Lit

Natural light is great, but you’ll need ambient and task lighting as well. Here is another opportunity to add a bit of personal style to your space via lamp shades, crystals and fixture finishes. Watch out for the possibility of glare, especially when finding a place for your computer screen.

If your office space doesn’t have a door, you can establish a sense of privacy by the way you orient your work surface or by using a screen or file cabinets to mark off the area.

YOUR TURN

Share your favorite ways to spruce your office space — we can’t wait to see what you come up with! Sound off on our Facebook Page or on our Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm eNewsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.

5 Questions to Decide Whether to Pay Down Debt or Save

It can be hard deciding whether to prioritize paying down debt or putting money into savings – especially if you have limited resources. Answering five key questions can help you allocate your funds.

1. Do you have high-interest debt?

Interest rates on credit cards are often high. That can cost you considerably over time, since credit card interest typically accumulates faster than what you can earn on savings.

RELATED: How Much Will Paying Off Credit Cards Improve My Credit Score?

Pay it down!

If you’re carrying debt with double-digit rates, it may make sense to prioritize paying it down so you can free up future funds to save or pay other debts.

2. Do you have an emergency fund?

emergency-fund

An emergency fund provides cash you can draw on in case of:

  • Unexpected car or home repairs
  • Medical emergencies
  • Essential costs like rent and groceries if you are laid off or out of work

Save it up!

If you don’t have three months’ worth of living expenses set aside for emergencies, consider that goal next, while paying at least the minimum on any loans and credit cards.

3. Are you planning for retirement?

Your retirement account earnings may produce earnings of their own, so the earlier you start to save, the more growth potential you have. Plus, some retirement contributions help you minimize taxes.

Save it up!

You can’t borrow for retirement, so consider this goal next. As you build your retirement accounts, you can continue to chip away at debt at the same time.

5. What are your other goals or needs?

If your high-rate debt is under control, you have savings in an emergency fund and are contributing to your retirement, it’s time to consider saving for other things.

Save it up!

Depending on your goals, you can save for: A new car, education or a down payment on a home. Once you have those up and running, you can look toward the fun stuff like vacation and other big purchases.

Pay it down!

If your rates and terms are reasonable, you may decide to stay the course with your monthly payments. Or you could bump up your payments to pay those debts faster – especially any with higher rates. That way you’ll save on total interest paid and have more money to allocate to your goals.

YOUR TURN

Based on your current financial goals; are you Saving Up or Paying Down? We want to hear from you! Sound off on our Facebook Page, our Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly eNewsletter. You may unsubscribe at any time.

 

The material provided on this website is for informational use only and is not intended for financial or investment advice. Patrick Parker Realty assumes no liability for any loss or damage resulting from one’s reliance on the material provided. Please also note that such material is not updated regularly and that some of the information may not therefore be current. Consult with your own financial professional when making decisions regarding your financial or investment options.

7 Handy Ways to Improve Your Home in 2018

If you let a lot of home improvement projects slip by without taking action in 2017, take heart. 2018 is here! You’ve now got an entire year to jump on those big household tasks. It’s time to seize the day, the month and the year.

Not sure what to put next on your to-do list, or do you even have a list at all? Take a look at this list for inspiration along with a selection of How To articles. Gathered here are everything from quick tweaks like setting your thermostat just right to big jobs like switching locks, doorbells and light switches.

We’ve even got downright messy but critical assignments such as cleaning dryer vents and gas cooktops. There’s bound to be a must-do task below for you, no matter how skilled or experienced you are.

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1. Set your Nest right

Dive a little deeper into your Nest thermostat settings. You’ll be able to issue it voice commands though Alexa or the Google Assistant. Other tips are how to have it control humidity, work to save you money, and make it stop acting crazy when it’s on automatic.

Read: 5 tips for your new Nest Thermostat

2. Make multimeters your friend

If you have no clue what a multimeter is or you own one that’s gathering dust, this guide is for you. We take a quick look at how multimeters are versatile, flexible home DIY tools every homeowner should have.

3. Tend to your gas cooktop

Cooktops, stoves and ranges need regular attention and TLC. If they don’t get it, they won’t serve you well. Treat them right by keeping them spic and span, with all burners ready for action. Both you and your house guests will appreciate the sparkling new look of your tidy appliance, too.

Read: How to clean your gas cooktop with just a few supplies

4. Goodbye, blah light switches

Don’t hang onto old, boring light switches just because they happen to be three-way. Use this guide to help you overcome your fear. With a little care and caution, you’ll be swapping in fancy new dimmers in no time.

5. Ditch the keys for convenience

Physical keys are so medieval. Your front door should rock a sleek, electronic lock like it’s 2018. These gadgets are flexible, motorized, and look great. Take a gander for yourself and see just what we mean.

6. See who’s there from anywhere

Know who’s at your doorstep before they press the buzzer. Find out if anyone has their paws on your packages. A sweet video doorbell can help with all those things. Read on to learn how to hook one up yourself in a flash.

7. Don’t neglect that dryer vent

As the saying goes, it’s a dirty job but someone has to do it. I’m talking about your home’s dryer vent. If you don’t take time to clear it out every year, it can quickly become a dangerous fire risk. Bite the bullet with this deep dive into dryer vent hygiene.

Read: How to deep clean your dryer duct in 5 steps

YOUR TURN

How are you making home improvement a priority in 2018? Sound off on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page, on our Twitter or Instagram feeds or on LinkedIn. And don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly Patrick Parker Realty HOME ADVICEtm eNewsletter for articles, tips and guides like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.

5 ‘Must-Do’ Home Resolutions for January

Happy New Year! January is the month to take stock and plan ahead. That’s why these five “must-do” projects for January include everything from adopting some home-focused resolutions to storing holiday decorations and getting snow-ready.

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1. Make ‘energy savings’ a resolution to keep

This year, as you make your New Year’s resolution to spend less, go on a diet, join a gym, learn a new skill or perhaps find more time for yourself, consider adding another goal for 2013 — putting your house on an energy diet.

Just like taxes and death, you can be sure that energy and utility costs will continue to take a bite out of your home operating budget. How big of a bite is within your control. That’s why it pays to do everything you can to keep your home as trim and fit as possible. After all, sometimes even a seemingly modest change in your home (or change in your personal habits) can make a dramatic difference over time.

For example, there’s been plenty written about energy-efficient light bulbs, but have you put that information into practice? If not, make it a goal this year. If every American home replaced just one incandescent light bulb with an Energy Star-certified variety, we would conserve enough energy to light 3 million homes for a year, save about $600 million in annual energy costs and prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year (equivalent to the amount produced by about 800,000 cars), according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

RELATED: How To Hack Your Electric Bill

And if you’ve turned a deaf ear to that dripping faucet or runny toilet, you can be sure that your water company hasn’t. If you know that there’s a leak, fix it. It may require something as simple as tightening a valve or replacing a worn washer or ineffective flapper, all simple repairs you can take care of yourself. If the leak requires replacing the faucet or toilet altogether, call in a professional and choose a fixture bearing the WaterSense label. And the next time you flush, consider this: If everyone in the U.S. flushed the toilet just one time less per day, we could save the equivalent of a lake full of water about 1 square mile and 4 feet deep every day.

Looking for more ways to conserve and save this year? Seal those drafts, make sure your home is well-insulated, install low-flow shower heads and change furnace filters.

2. Pack up the holiday decorations

As fun as it is to unearth boxes of holiday decorations in November, there is nothing enjoyable about packing them all away again in January. Big-box stores will be happy to sell you bins and containers geared specifically toward holiday-related storage, but with a little planning and ingenuity, you can create your own DIY solutions that will work just as well. A piece of cardboard with slots at both ends is ideal for wrapping string lights, while those inexpensive, 6-ounce plastic party cups are the perfect individual holders for fragile ornaments. And if you have a real tree, consider bringing it to a treecycling location, where it will be chipped into mulch for beneficial use.

3. Get snow-ready

Take time now to make sure you are prepared for snow. Snow shovels, snow blowers, salt or sand should all be at the ready. If you haven’t fired up your snow blower since last winter, you might want to do so now.

RELATED: Tips For Showing Your Home In The Snow

Consider some routine maintenance like changing the oil; replacing frayed or cracked belts; tightening nuts, bolts, and screws; and lubricating drive and chassis. Also, watch for the formation of icicles along the eaves as snow begins to melt. They can create ice dams and serious damage to the roof if left unattended. A roof rake is a great way to pull the snow from the eaves to lessen the problem.

4. Employ some countertop TLC

Perhaps never before have there been so many enticing countertop options to fit every budget, decor and culinary need. But all countertops are not created equal. So what’s the best way to keep yours in peak condition? You can start with some pretty basic “do’s and don’ts,” such as cleaning often with a sponge or soft cloth and mild, non-abrasive detergent, or by practicing caution when using sharp knives and hot cookware. If you have granite or marble, be sure to use a good sealer, which will help prolong the life of the stone and provide a barrier of protection against staining. Wood countertops should be rubbed with tung, linseed or mineral oil anywhere from monthly to quarterly, depending on usage. The same mineral oil can be applied to soapstone to provide a protective coat and rich, dark color. For stained laminate, try a homemade paste of baking soda and water. For tips on caring for concrete, stainless steel, quartz, solid surfaces and ceramic tile, visit Countertop Care 101.

5. Make a better fire

While many of today’s homeowners opt for the convenience of a gas fireplace, the traditionalists among us may always prefer the smokey smell, crackling sound and tactile ritual of fire building. While there is an art to making a fire, it all begins with the right choice of wood. Every species has its own set of burning characteristics. Some species — oak, for example — offer a very slow burn and hot fire, while other species like fir provide medium heat with less ash. You’ll also want to make sure the wood you use is properly seasoned and stored in a well-ventilated outdoor area, protected from the elements.

YOUR TURN

What 2018 Home Resolutions have you made? We want to hear from you! Sound off on our Facebook Page or on our Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm eNewsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.

Twelve Days of Holiday Safety Tips

Tips from the Red Cross

Having a busy time getting ready for the holidays? While you are shopping, baking, gift wrapping, decorating and going to parties, the American Red Cross has holiday safety tips to help keep the season safe, happy and bright.

• Prepare your vehicle for traveling to grandmother’s house. Build an emergency kit and include items such as blankets or sleeping bags, jumper cables, fire extinguisher, compass and road maps, shovel, tire repair kit and pump, extra clothing, flares, and a tow rope.

RELATED: How To Winterize Your Car

• Drive your sleigh and reindeer safely. Avoid driving in a storm. If you must travel, let someone know where you are going, the route you’re taking to get there, and when you expect to arrive. If the car gets stuck along the way, help can be sent along their predetermined route.

• Help prevent the spread of the flu. Stay home if you’re sick. Wash hands with soap and water as often as possible, or use an alcohol-based hand rub. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing, and throw the tissue away after use. If a tissue isn’t available, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands. Learn more about preventing the spread of the flu.

• Follow Santa’s fashion lead – dress in layers. When it’s cold outside, layered lightweight clothing will keep you warmer than a single heavy coat. Gloves and a hat will prevent loss of body heat. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs.

• Use a Red Cross-trained babysitter when attending holiday festivities. Red Cross-certified babysitters learn to administer basic first aid; properly hold and feed a child; take emergency action when needed and monitor safe play. Some may be certified in Infant and Child CPR.

• Avoid danger while roasting chestnuts on an open fire. Stay in the kitchen when frying, grilling or broiling food. If you leave the kitchen even for a short period of time, turn off the stove.

• Be a lifesaver during the holidays. The Red Cross recommends at least one person in every household should take first aid and CPR/AED training.

• Designate a driver or skip the holiday cheer. Buckle up, slow down, don’t drive impaired. If you plan on drinking, designate a driver who won’t drink.

• When the weather outside is frightful, heat your home safely. Never use your stove or oven to heat your home. Never leave portable heaters or fireplaces unattended. Install smoke alarms.

• Cut down on your heating bills without being a Grinch. Get your furnace cleaned and change the filters. Make sure your furniture isn’t blocking the heat vents. Close off any rooms not in use and turn off the heat in those rooms. Turn down the thermostat and put on a sweater.

• Home for the holidays? Travel safely. Check the air pressure in your tires and make sure you have windshield fluid. Be well rested and alert. Give your full attention to the road – avoid distractions such as cell phones. If you have car trouble, pull off the road as far as possible.

• (Bonus!) Resolve to Be Red Cross Ready in the New Year. Get ready now in case you or a member of your household faces an emergency in 2015. Get a kit. Make a plan. Be informed.

YOUR TURN

Have holiday safety tips to add to our list? Sound off on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page or on our Twitter or Instagram Feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm eNewsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.

When is Black Friday 2017? It Depends.

Perhaps you’ll snag major deals on Black Friday, but don’t let that stop you from finding deals any time of year. Depending on what you’re looking for, Black Friday might not be the cheapest day to shop.

Websites BlackFriday.com and Rather Be Shopping looked at historical data and announced sales to determine the best dates to score deals from now until Christmas.

And if you’re looking to avoid crowds, cross that information, which follows below, with intelligence from Foursquare on the days of the week and times when stores are the least busy, broken down by product category. Generally speaking, Monday, Thursday and Friday are the best days to shop, based on foot-traffic data from the app’s users.

Mondays are good for buying cosmetics (around noon, to be precise), clothing, jewelry and candy. And Monday evenings are ideal for purchasing booze.

Thursdays are great for books, beer and building supplies.

Shopping for kids? Friday is the best day to hit up big box stores like Target, Walmart and Big Lots. It’s not just about good deals, but accessibility. Friday evenings are the slowest at stores, especially supermarkets where grocery aisles are the easiest to navigate.

Sundays are the best for buying gifts at department stores, craft stores and electronics merchants. Again, evenings have the fewest crowds.

Shopping by Product Category

What many retail shoppers and online shoppers don’t realize is there are optimal times during November and December to be buying certain products. Again, based on data, consider the following:

Dec. 4-25 – Jewelry and Wedding Bands

December is the most popular time of year to get engaged, according to wedding resource The Knot. Baubles also make great holiday gifts.

Jewelry promotions are in heavy rotation from Dec. 4 through Christmas Day, according to BlackFriday.com.

Dec. 9-11 – Name Brand HDTVs

Electronics are Black Friday favorites, but that doesn’t end after Cyber Monday.

Prices stabilize a bit following Cyber Week, but there is renewed promotional activity the second weekend in December.

Look for deals of 30-40% off on big brands including Samsung, Sony, Vizio and Panasonic, according to Rather Be Shopping.

Dec. 10 – Fitness Gear and Equipment

Dec. 12 – Stocking Stuffers and Small Gifts

Dec. 13 – Laptops

For the past three years, Dec. 13 has yielded online coupons from Dell.com and HP.com including $500 off a top of the line unit and budget models for less than $250, according to Rather Be Shopping.

Look for more of the same this year.

Dec. 14-17 – PlayStation and Xbox Consoles

Video games and consoles are big sellers in December and these are the best days to get a discount, according to BlackFriday.com

Dec. 14 – Tools and Hardware

Home improvement stores aren’t to be left out of the holiday sales rush and Home Depot, Lowe’s, Ace Hardware and Harbor Freight will have offers of up to 30% off.

Still, Father’s Day brings better deals, so for those self-gifting tools and supplies, it pays to wait until Spring.

Dec. 15 – Toys

Both BlackFriday.com and coupon site Rather Be Shopping agree that this is the absolute best day to buy toys this month at big retailers such as Toys R Us, Target, Amazon and Walmart.

This is when retailers reach crunch time for toy sales and the incentives are aplenty in order to cash in on those “semi” last minute shoppers.

Dec. 16 – Apparel, Shoes, Accessories, Winter Clothing and Kitchen Gear

The absolute best prices on these goods before Christmas is Cyber Monday, but the next best opportunity is the Friday otherwise known as ‘Free Shipping Day.’

This is traditionally the day when retailers offer guaranteed delivery by Christmas Eve, for free.
A large majority of online sites like Gap.com, Lands’ End.com, American Eagle, Macy’s and Old Navy will have fantastic coupon codes to go along with their free shipping offer.

It’s also a great day for kitchen and home goods.

Dec. 21-24 – Big Ticket Items

Retailers begin panic discounting on gift items the closer we get to Christmas, but they also begin clearing out the year’s models on appliances and furniture, but the deals get even better the day after Christmas.

Additional Ways To Save

Online shoppers would be silly not to take advantage of eBates.com. No tricks, no gimmicks, no forms to fill out.  Ebates makes earning cash back easy!

Ebates Coupons and Cash Back

Here’s how it works:

1. Shop  First, start your search for the retailer where you wish to shop at eBates.com. They are partnered with hundreds of thousands of retailers, it would be extremely rare that whatever you want is not there. Then, be sure to click on any Ebates link to the store you’ll shop with before you make your purchase.

2. Validate When you click an Ebates link, you’ll see a pop-up confirmation letting you know you’re ready to shop and earn Cash Back at that store.

3. Purchase Complete your purchase as you normally would. This will also complete your Shopping Trip.

That’s all you have to do.

That’s it.  And every quarter you get a check in the mail.

YOUR TURN

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Power Outages: Be Prepared

Your electric service is generally very reliable; however, extreme weather conditions and other factors can lead to a temporary loss of power. To keep your family safe and comfortable during an outage or other emergency, it’s important to be prepared.

power outage

Here are some tips:

• Create an emergency preparedness kit, including a flashlight, batteries, cash and first aid supplies.
• Maintain supplies of healthy and filling snacks that don’t require refrigeration, such as dried fruits, nuts and protein bars.
• Make sure you have alternative charging methods for your phone or any device that requires power.
• Purchase ice or freeze water-filled plastic containers to help keep food cold during a temporary power outage.
• Learn about the emergency plans established in your area by contacting your state or local emergency management agency.
• If you rely on anything that’s battery-operated or power dependent, such as a medical device, have a backup plan.
• Maintain backup generators according to manufacturers’ recommendations and store an adequate supply of fuel in a safe place.

During an outage, monitor local radio stations or online sources for reports about power restoration. Disconnect or switch off appliances and electronic equipment that were running when the power went out. Avoid opening refrigerators and freezers to save cold air and preserve food longer.

Staying safe

Follow these measures to ensure the safety of you and your family during and after an outage.

Generators. Operate backup generators safely by following manufacturer’s instructions. Don’t attempt to connect your generator to the electrical system; it can backfeed to outdoor utility lines and injure or kill utility service personnel. An automatic transfer switch—installed by a qualified electrician—will help to ensure safe operation.

Refrigerated foods. Discard any perishable items in your refrigerator or freezer that may not be safe to consume. A refrigerator keeps food at a safe temperature for up to four hours during a power outage if it remains closed. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends discarding foods such as meat, poultry and eggs if they’ve been above 40°F for more than two hours.

YOUR TURN

For more tips and resources, see Power Outages from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

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