Homeowners insurance blog

Skipping Town This Spring? Keep These Safety Tips In Mind

The mercury is rising, and after a long winter, many people are beginning to feel stir crazy. The snow kept us indoors for months, and now we’re craving changes of scenery.

If you and your family plan to trade the winter blues for sand between your toes and waves crashing over your beach chair, be sure to follow these tips for a safe, stress-free spring vacation.

Keep your home safe.

Departing for an adventure after many months of cold and dreary weather is undoubtedly exciting. So exciting, in fact, that you may be tempted to post about your travel plans on social media. Don’t. Especially if your profile is public, posting about being away from home can let burglars know that it’s a good time to ransack your home and take any valuables you’ve left behind.

Tell a trusted neighbor you’ll be on vacation so they can keep an eye on your place. Let the police know as well so they can drive by periodically. They can alert you if anything looks suspicious or out of place and nip any problems in the bud.

Make sure all doors and windows are locked before you take off. Also, stop your mail for the length of time you’ll be away and consider investing in a light timer. Homes with piles of mail and newspapers, combined with lights constantly off or on, can signal that your home is an ideal target for burglaries.

Protect your identity.

According to statistics gathered by Experian’s ProtectMYID identity theft awareness program, 39% of Americans experienced some form of identity theft while traveling in 2015, a nine percent increase from the year before. Although it’s a real threat, there are precautions you can take to decrease your risk of being a victim.

Be wary of using a shared Internet connection when traveling, especially when accessing private information, such as checking your bank account. Public WiFi offered at many airports can be decrypted, giving hackers easy access to your personal information. If you absolutely need to log on to an unprotected hotspot, limit activity to casual communication.

Watch your wallet.

Many thieves engage in electronic pickpocketing to steal your credit card information without ever laying hands on your wallet. Through Radio Frequency Information technology (RFID), pickpocketers can simply wave an electronic scanner near your purse or pocket, activate the RFID chip embedded in your credit card and download your information within seconds. Since carrying your credit cards is a necessary part of travel, consider purchasing a RFID-blocking money belt or wallet. Made with a special material that can block electronic scanners, these wallets can stop thieves in their tracks and keep your information safe.

Renting a car?

If renting a car during your trip is necessary, check with your insurance provider to make sure that your auto policy will cover you in case of any mishaps.

If you’re traveling abroad, bear in mind that some countries may require you to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP). An IDP translates the license issued in your country of residence into another language, allowing you to rent a vehicle and drive on foreign soil. If you’re not sure if an IDP is necessary, check with the consulate of the country you’re visiting. Finally, study the rules of the road in your destination country in order to maintain safe driving habits while abroad.

Bon voyage!

No matter where your destination is, enjoy your time away worry-free by following these simple safety tips.

A Bad Combo: Black Friday and Identity Theft

Black Friday is a great time to find deals during the holiday season. Sure, it might be a little chaotic, but that’s just part of the experience, right? Whether you embrace it or despise it, Black Friday is coming and amidst the holiday rush, you should be extra cautious about protecting your identity. (more…)

Build or Buy? What’s Best in These Top Cities

You probably have a good mental picture of your dream house, but do you know whether you should build it or buy it? It’s a tough decision: We took the top 18 metros in the country with at least 45 plots of land for sale and calculated the price of buying versus building an average home. (more…)

Gatsby: Great, Yes; But a Terrible Home Insurance Risk

In a few days, Jay Gatsby gets another chance to charm his way into our hearts. It wasn’t enough that he was the title character of the fantastic F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, The Great Gatsby. Gatsby also has been in the movies, played most notably by Robert Redford in 1974 and by Leonardo DiCaprio in the version that’s coming out.


It’s Tax Season – Don’t Ignore Your House

One of the great benefits of owning a home comes when you file your income taxes. And if you haven’t done it yet, remember that April 15 is just around the corner.

You’ll have to itemize your deductions, of course. But if your mortgage is for less than $1 million, you can deduct the interest you pay each year – which makes up the largest part of your monthly mortgage payment. You also can deduct the cost of private mortgage insurance and any real estate taxes you pay on the home.

So what about home insurance? Sorry, for most homeowners, the cost of their premiums is not deductible. The exception is for those homeowners who operate home-based businesses. In that case, you can deduct part of your premium – essentially the amount that would pay to cover the portion of your home used exclusively for business. If this sounds complicated, it is – you probably should consult with a tax professional to make sure you’ve got this deduction right.

The other thing you must keep in mind if you have a home-based business is that it affects your home insurance. The liability coverage typically included in a standard home insurance policy might not be in affect should a customer be injured during a visit to your house. Be sure to let your home insurance agent know about any business ventures you operate – you could need business liability or other commercial coverage.

The bottom line is that homeownership likely means you’ll get a tax refund. Many people, of course, will consider the refund “found” money and blow it on a big screen television or a beach trip or something else in the luxury category.

Instead, why not invest your refund in something for your house? Maybe you need a new refrigerator, for example. Use the “found” money to purchase an Energy Saver™ model and you’ll save on electricity costs the rest of the year. Or you could start a roof replacement fund or install new countertops or blinds. One warning: If you do something that will increase the value of your home, be sure to let your home insurance agent know about it. Otherwise, you might not be fully covered by your policy.

One other suggestion: Use your refund to pay off your home insurance premium this year in a lump sum. You’ll likely get a discount for paying in full.

How to live frugal like your Grandfather did

In this economic climate it is difficult for many homeowners to adjust to lower incomes and higher costs of  living. It makes me think of how frugal my grandfather was, and yet his life also seemed so full.  If your grandfather was anything like MY grandfather, you know what I’m talking about. Back then in the good old days people  lived on less, because they saved what they had and didn’t waste a penny.

My grandfather’s garage was a prime example of this. His tools were kept clean and well maintained. Why? Because they were expected to last a life time back then. He had small reused baby food jars that organized and stored every spare screw, wing nut and other piece of hardware. Why? So he wouldn’t have to buy one when he needed it.

Nowadays, our possessions have become more disposable. We get a new cell phone every two years, a new car every five. Question is- how much money are we wasting by living this way? My guess is- a lot.

5 Tips for Living Frugal like your Grandfather Did:

1- Maintain your Stuff: When your car is due for a tune-up, take it in. When your furnace is due for a cleaning, get it done. So often the money we spend on repairing and replacing our “stuff” is due to the fact that it wasn’t properly maintained in the first place.

2- Buy only what you need: If you regularly toss out food that was purchased at the grocery store and never eaten, you may need to listen to this one. Think about what you can live on, make a list, and stick to it. Watch out for deals at the grocery store that urge you to buy two (instead of one) because you’ll save $.50. Unless you need that second item, you’ve just spent money you didn’t need to.

3- Don’t get caught up in technology: Don’t get me wrong on this one. New gadgets like smart phones and PDAs can come in very handy. However, do you need to upgrade to the latest version every time one is released? Definitely not. Do your research before you buy something like this so you get a product that suits your needs and will last for awhile.

4- Do it yourself: This one is for all your homeowners out there.  Learn how to fix the washing machine, wallpaper the bathroom and change the oil in your car. Being a jack-of-all-trades will let you avoid paying hired help and give you a sense of accomplishment.

5- Don’t spoil your kids: Love them? Yes. Shower them with love and affection? Of course. However, spoiling your children with too much not only affects the way they value their things, but makes you spend money you could be saving for your retirement, or whatever else you’re saving for. Opt for family “experiences” over buying material objects and let your kids grow up more the way that we did.