November 2012

Monthly Archive

Is It Time to Remodel Your Bathroom

18 Nov 2012 | : Indoors

Does your bathroom stress you out? Do you feel like your bathroom is always dirty, no matter how much you clean and scrub it? Does your bathroom feel too cramped and outdated?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then it’s probably time to remodel your bathroom. Fortunately, nowadays you can affordably customize and remodel your bathroom to fit your taste and lifestyle. Fixtures, wallpapers, flooring, and other bathroom items can all be replaced, and they are offered in a variety of designs and colors so you can choose the style that best matches your taste.

Bathroom remodeling ideas

Here are some ideas to consider as you begin making plans to remodel your bathroom:

  • Add some light. Remodelers can add a window, or they can install extra lighting fixtures. Hanging more wall mirrors can also increase the amount of light in your room.
  • Update old fixtures. You’d be surprised by how much simply replacing an old bathtub or vanity can bring new life to your room.
  • Give yourself more space. If the bathroom is on an exterior wall of your home, it can probably be expanded to give you more room.
  • Change the flooring and paint. Upgrading to tile flooring or changing the room’s paint can help make your room much more stylish and inviting.

When it comes to remodeling your bathroom, the only limit is your own imagination. If you’re stuck for ideas, your remodeling contractors can help you choose what will work best and fit within your price range.

How it will work

Once you’ve decided to take the leap and improve your life by remodeling your bathroom, you will want to begin researching local bathroom remodeling contractors. Before making a final decision, we strongly recommend reading online reviews and checking the company’s record with the Better Business Bureau. The last thing you want is a remodeler who isn’t trustworthy or reliable.

Once you’ve selected a company, you’ll usually go through the following process:

  1. Before you meet with your contractors, you’ll want to make a preliminary list of what you’re looking for in your new bathroom. Are there certain fixtures you’re looking to replace? Do you want a larger bathroom? Are there certain colors and styles you’re aiming for? That should all go on the list.
  2. Next, you’ll have your first meeting with the contractors. You’ll share your wish list with them, and you’ll also tell them what kind of budget you’re working with. You’ll also want to provide some photos of the current layout of your bathroom.
  3. The contractors will take all the information you’ve given them and begin designing your new bathroom. They will use pricing charts and sophisticated computer imaging technologies to help give you an idea of how your bathroom will look and what kinds of materials will be used.
  4. You’ll meet with them again, go over the blueprints, and make your final selection of the material and layout.
  5. Contractors will begin construction. During construction, they will minimize disruption to your daily life.
  6. Construction is finished. The construction crew will be sure to clean up after themselves, and a final inspection will make sure that everything meets safety specifications.
  7. You can enjoy your newly remodeled bathroom.

If you’re worried about how long the construction will last, don’t be. Small bathroom remodeling projects can take as little as a day, while larger remodels that renovate the entire bathroom almost never last more than a week. In short, you can have the bathroom you’ve always wanted in less time and at a lower cost than you may have imagined.

Whether you want to redo your entire bathroom or simply update a few of your fixtures, your bathroom remodeling professionals can take care of it for you.

By Tim Crain. Tim writes professionally about a variety of home improvement topics, and he especially enjoys writing for Shreveport plumbers that do bathroom remodeling

Testing the Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS-Enabled Sports and Fitness Watch

18 Nov 2012 | : Technology

The Garmin Forerunner 305 is very similar to the Forerunner 205, in fact, it is identical in size, shape, performance and functionality with only a small couple of exceptions. The main difference is the 305 includes a heart rate monitor and can include a counter cadence device. These options make the Garmin Forerunner 305 a good choice for a lot of runners, even for the most serious athletes. Notable features of the Garmin Forerunner 305 include;

Features of the Garmin Forerunner 305

  • Unit Size (W x H x D) – 2.1 x 2.7 x .7 inches
  • Screen Size (L x H) – 1.3 x .8 inches
  • Weight – 2.7 oz
  • Type battery – rechargeable Battery Lithium-Ion – approx. 10 hours
  • Waterproof – Yes (IPX7)
  • Heart Rate Monitor Yes
  • Lap Memory – Yes
  • Waypoint Memory – Yes,
  • Warranty – One year

If you are interested in getting the most out of your training efforts, I believe that the heart rate monitor with the Forerunner 305 is a must. It works well and there is no other substitute for precision measurements of your heart rate which lets you adjust the intensity of the work to maintain the desired cardio objectives.

Use a Heart Rate Monitor on Your Forerunner

When training on varied terrain, the effect on heart rate is very pronounced and would probably surprise anyone who has not used a heart rate monitor before. When using the Garmin Forerunner 305 I found the data readings to be relatively stable enough I had confidence that they were accurate. If you don’t want heart rate monitor with your sports watch then check out the Garmin Forerunner 10 which is much cheaper than the 305 and 205 click here for a Garmin FR10 review.

Data Read Outs Help with Fitness Levels

My view is that the data read-outs on the Forerunner give a good indication on your fitness progress. The Garmin Forerunner 305 is a step up from the Forerunner 205, with the main differences being that the 305 includes heart rate monitor, a feature missing from the Forerunner 205. Another option available with the Forerunner 305 is meter cadence, but I have not tested this option fully. It is worth mentioning that the heart rate monitor and cycling sensors work indoors because they do not rely on the GPS signal to work.

Strong GPS Signals Work Even in Dense Foliage

In my tests I checked the readings with several other GPS units and also checked with a measured mile. Moderate forest cover does not adversely affect the performance of the Forerunner device which is important because it may be frequently encountered especially with trail runners. The overall accuracy is excellent, given the presence of a strong signal, and should be sufficient for most people’s needs.

Garmin Forerunner 305 is Easy to Use

One area in which considerable progress has been made is the ease of use. The unit itself is not bulky to wear while training, in fact, it’s just like wearing an ordinary watch, just a little bigger. Overall, the design and functionality of the Garmin Forerunner 305 is excellent. The buttons are intuitive rather so you should not find it too hard to get up to speed. The average life span of the battery is about 8 to 10 hours. I would choose the Garmin Forerunner 305 over the 205 because the cost difference is only about $100, and the functionality is much better. Garmin has made this generation of GPS tracking watches better than ever, you should not be disappointed if you need a GPS-enabled running watch this year.

Business Management Essentials: Critical Customer Relations Tips

09 Nov 2012 | : Business

A business will never be successful if it lacks top-notch customer service. In fact, customers will leave and never return if they don’t feel an issue was handled properly. How can you improve custom relations in your business? Whether it begins by anticipating customer needs or ends with following up on an issue, you can keep your customers happy. The following are a few critical customer relations tips.

Anticipate Customer Needs

You should always try to anticipate a customer’s needs. For example, if a customer has had a problem with a product and has emailed you, it pays to have several remedies in mind before calling. Her email may even state what she wants done. Try to do what you can to go above and beyond the call of duty so your customer will be more focused on how caring you were than the original mistake made.

Be Proactive

Don’t wait for a customer to make the call when you know there is something wrong. For example, let’s say you’re social media analyst comes to you about a customer complaining on Facebook about a product. Take the initiative and contact the customer. This will show that your company cares about her concerns.

Listen

Never try to fix a problem without listening to the customer. Not only will you irritate the customer by not letting him finish what he was saying, but you may not even know what the real problem is. For example, the customer may start his complaint about the product being cheaply made, but the real issue is the salesman who sold it to him. Always listen to what the customer has to say.

Make Notes

It helps to make notes, especially when you’re not dealing with the customer face-to-face. This allows you to not only have a record of what’s been done to try to fix the situation, but ensures you’ve got the right details and a firm understanding of the problem.

Repeat for Clarification

When the customer has finished making her complaint, repeat the problem to her just to clarify that you have all the details that are needed and that everything she wants taken care of is written down or engraved into your memory.

Don’t Make Unrealistic Promises

The worst thing you can do when trying to solve a customer service problem is to make unrealistic claims. For example, to tell the customer that the problem will be taken care of first thing tomorrow morning may not be feasible. Instead, telling the customer that you will get back with him within 24 to 48 hours not only gives you time to work on the problem, but also makes the customer happy when you’re able to get back with him sooner than promised.

Follow Up

Last, but not least, always follow up with the customer to make sure the problem was handled in a way that makes her happy. This shows that the company cares about the situation and cares about their customers.

Customer relations doesn’t have to be a difficult job. It doesn’t matter if you plan on starting a retail store or if you want to start ebay online business dealings. There will be customers that need to blow off steam, but once you allow them to do so, you can’t get down to fixing the problem.

How To Improve Your Credit Score Fast

09 Nov 2012 | : Finance

The benefits of having a high credit score are endless. The easiest way to see the enormous benefit is by looking at what happens when you have BAD credit. Here’s a classic scenario.

Example of Buying a $300,000 Home

Right now interest rates are extremely low. If you have ‘A’ credit, you can expect to get a 30-year fixed mortgage at 3.75 percent (As of 9-12-2012). That would mean that you can expect to make a monthly payment of $1389.35 and pay a total of $500,166 over the 30 year term.

On the other hand, if your credit score isn’t that great, you could end up paying 1.5 percent more interest over the same term and that would take you to 5.25 percent.

At 5.25 percent, you will end up with a payment of $1656.61 per month. Over the 30 year term of the loan, you would end up paying $596,379.60, an increase of $96,000.

Let’s make a long story short; having bad credit is a terrible idea.

Before you take out any loan, you should be doing everything in your power to improve your credit score as much as possible. If you do, you will save yourself a ton of interest over your lifetime.

The Fastest Ways To Improve Your Credit

1. Pay Down Your Revolving Credit

A full 30 percent of your credit score is calculated by comparing your revolving debt (basically credit card debt) to your available credit. So, if you have credit card limits of $1,000 and you owe $900 on them, it’s KILLING your credit.

You have to commit now to getting that turned around. Do whatever is necessary to pay off that debt. Sell things if you have to because it will be worth it. Is it worth selling a car or furniture to save yourself $96,000 in interest? Let me answer that for you – yes it is!

2. Increase Your Credit Limits Without Increasing Debt

Another sneaky tactic that can really help out is to get credit line increases. If you owe $900 when your available credit is $1000, it kills you. If you owe $900 and your available credit is $10,000 or even $5,000, it doesn’t hurt you that much. It’s the ratio that matters.

When your credit limit is only $1,000 in this example, you’re using 90 percent of it. If your credit limit is $5,000, you would be using less than 20 percent of it. Again, it’s the ratio that matters.

Increasing your credit lines is a somewhat involved process, but it doesn’t have to take that long. Most of the time, you can simply request an increase. Often, you can do this online – in your online card account. In some situations, they will prompt you to call to talk to a representative. Other times, you will get approved instantly. I would recommend trying to raise the limits on all of your cards. The higher they are, the better your credit score will be (if you have a balance).

If you would like to learn more, you can visit the 650 credit score blog. It will help you to learn to improve even further.

Pitfalls and Traps

The biggest problem you can run into when increasing your credit limits is that you will spend more. It’s easy to say that you won’t but let’s be honest. If you find yourself in a situation where you’ve spent $900 out of a possible $1000, you don’t have a good track record. It isn’t going to get any easier to not spend.

You have to commit to change! Stop spending money that you don’t have.

How Quickly Will My Credit Score Change?

When you change the amounts of debt or available credit you have, your score will update as soon as those changes are reported to the credit bureaus. This process will happen within 30 days!

Organic Pest Control Cheat Sheet: Different Pests and How to Handle Them

05 Nov 2012 | : Outdoors

This article is a guide to handling garden pests organically. It will cover different methods of pest control, and then cover which methods to use with particular pests.

The use of chemical pesticides leads to many issues for people and the environment. The use of them on farms has been shown to run off into lakes and ponds, changing the balance of these bodies of water (usually favoring weeds and algae and harming fish). There is also evidence that people exposed to these chemicals at a higher risk of cancer. Learning to deal with pests organically is not only good for the environment, it’s good for you and your family as well.

METHODS OF PEST CONTROL

Floating Row Covers

These are transparent fabrics placed over a garden. They let sunlight in, but keep the pests out. They may be too hot in the summer, but will offer important protection during the first part of the growing season.

Bacillus thuringiensis (BT)

This is a bacterium you can add to the soil, that will be ingested by and then kill certain insects. You need a BT targeted to the pest you want to get rid of, as there are different kinds for different pests.

Neem Oil

A vegetable oil that comes from India, and acts as a natural pesticide.

Insecticidal Soap

These soaps contain fatty acids that dissolve the skins of insects.

DIFFERENT PESTS AND HOW TO HANDLE THEM

Aphids

Spraying with insecticidal soap is effective. You can use diluted soapy water as a substitute, spraying with clean water a few hours later.

Make sure to prune affected areas, and encourage the presence of ladybugs and hoverflies, which love to feed on aphids.

Cabbageworm Moths

Row covers or BT work well.

Encourage paper wasps, which prey on them.

Corn Earthworms

BT works well, as does adding canola or olive oil to the tips of the corn ears when the silk start showing.

Colorado Potato Beetles

Hand picking and neem oil work.

Pet chickens or ducks will feed on them as well.

Cut Worms

Use bottomless plastic cups or toilet paper rolls to create a wall around your seedlings.

Cucumber Beetles

Hand picking, neem oil and row covers are effective.

Flea Beetles

Insecticidal soap, row covers and a garlic-pepper mix spray (make sure to dilute it!) are all effective at eliminating these guys.

Grasshoppers

Tough to handle once they take hold. Chickens and Guinea pigs will feed on them, if this is an option to you.

Harlequin Bugs

Hand picking and neem oil work well.

Japanese Beetles

Hand picking and a diluted garlic-pepper spray work well.

So will growing fruit plants and encouraging birds in the area.

Mexican Bean Beetles

Hand picking and neem oil work.

Slugs

Hand picking and beer traps are very effective (beer traps are simply low lying containers filled with beer. Slugs are drawn in and drink themselves to death.)

Placing crushed egg shells around your plants has been known to make a slug’s life painful, causing them to avoid the plants all together.

Squash Bugs

Hand picking and shaking them of in the early mornings will solve most of your problems. Row covers and spraying neem on egg clusters works well, too.

Stink Bugs

Hand picking and neem oil work well.

Tomato Hornworms

Handpicking works, as they are large and easy to spot.

You can also encourage Branconid wasps, if you’re particularly sadistic. They lay their eggs on them, which grow and later feed on the worms.

Whiteflies

Insecticidal soap or spraying with diluted dish soap will work.

 

With these guidelines, you have a head start in knowing how to handle various garden pests in a safe, organic way.

Good luck and stay prepared!

Read more from RamboMoe about survival and gardening at www.preparedforthat.com

 

What Are The Best Options If You Have A Bad Mortgage?

05 Nov 2012 | : Finance

There are a lot of reasons to want to do a loan modification in today’s environment. For one, a lot of people have loan payments that are completely out of control. That said, you shouldn’t agree with those who say that you don’t have anything to lose when trying for a loan mod – there is a cost involved and because of that, there is a huge scam industry currently operating around loan modifications. There are of course many legit people operating in this space, but they are overshadowed by the scammers.

The US Government in the last four years has released a $700 billion bailout scheme, designed to reduce homeowner debt to creditors by virtue of loan modification and refinances. This has helped in a lot of situations but honestly, it helps you the most if you’ve never made a late payment on your loan (more on this later in the article). There are programs specifically for you and honestly, those are the best options. If you can’t qualify for them, you should look at loan modification.

Do You Need Good Credit For Loan Modification?

Loan modification is not partial to your credit score in any way. In fact if you have bad credit and are suffering due to high monthly payments into a mortgage facility when you house value has been reduced, then you are welcomed to apply for loan modification. It doesn’t mean you’ll get approved, but you’re welcome to apply.

In all honesty, however, loan modifications aren’t going through at the rate they once were. People are having a difficult time getting approved.

Refinancing Is A Better Option

I know that it’s impossible for many people to refinance, but honestly it’s the best option. If you can’t qualify right now for a refinance, I’d highly recommend taking a look at improving your current situation.

Increase your credit score, fight hard to save as much money as possible to cover the equity gap on your loan. I’m not going to go into improving your score in detail here, but here are the basics:

  1. Stop making late payments
  2. Start making on-time payments
  3. Pay down your debts (especially your revolving debts)
  4. Make sure you have two open credit lines
  5. Keep old credit lines open
  6. Increase credit lines without using the new available credit

You’d be surprised how much of a difference you can make in a short period of time by focusing on improvement.

The HARP Program

Last year, the federal government came out with a program called HARP that is helping a LOT of people to refinance their homes. HARP stands for home affordable refinance program. It basically states that if you have never made a late payment on your mortgage but are struggling to make ends meet, you can qualify for a refinance. They ask very few questions if you are in this situation. Fortunately, you can be approved even if your mortgage is way underwater. It’s honestly a really great deal.

The HARP program doesn’t reduce the total amount that you owe on your home, but it does allow you to get a much better interest rate, since rates are very low right now. On top of that, the program allows you get rid of bad loans. Many people are using them to get rid of ARM loans and bubble loans that in all likelihood, would eventually cause them to lose their homes. It’s a beautiful program if you find yourself in that situation.

Talk to your mortgage broker if you are wondering if you can qualify for the program. Again, if you haven’t made a late payment on your mortgage, chances are high that you will qualify.