Start Your Home Improvement Now!

Saying that our homes are extensions of ourselves is actually saying less. When you think of it, our homes are actually who we are. That maxim “tell me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are” does not even come close. I mean, we do and we have most of our secrets inside our homes. It is the most private, personal place we can ever think of. And here we are, carefully dressing ourselves to be as pleasant to others as possible but leaving our homes slowly rotting away. Okay, That might be a real exaggeration. But, seriously, can’t you perform even a slight home improvement project?

Yes, your house may not be rotting away (at least not for now). But, how can you bear looking at yourself all dressed and dolled up when your house is as plain and boring as a shop assistant dressed in baggy clothes? Remember that people will always talk. No matter how we tell ourselves that what other people think is not important, appearances do matter. If that one prominent fact is not enough to drive you to perform home improvement now, I do not know what else.

How hard can it be to change the dull white tiles in your kitchen and bathroom to the bright or funky or dark personality that you are? After all, your home is who you are, right? You give such careful attention to your clothes and makeup. Why not try that faithful sense of duty to a home improvement project? Your home improvement project. Think about it. You will have nothing to lose here. Come on, who does not want a beautiful home? You will be a hypocrite if you say you do not. Either that, or you are just completely dull and dense.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to insult anyone. I’m just stating realities. The sooner we face things, the sooner we can go on with things and start our home improvement projects. Taking good care of your home is also one way of packaging yourself. An additional deck or a front porch won’t be that bad either. You have always wanted fresh air, haven’t you? And I bet that additional back porch will be perfect for your kid’s playhouse. A few paintings in your living room is also great. Or if you are not into painting, you can always choose from tapestry to figurines to vases. It is all up to you, really.

What I am trying to say is that we can’t just leave our homes feel neglected and lonely. They are like our best friends-when we talk about houses and buildings not people. Why not give them the love and care they deserve. Come on. Splurge a little for your home. It is yours anyways, not just anybody else’s. Home improvement does not come easy, of course. But the fulfillment and satisfaction you will feel in the end will be incomparable. Trust that all this will be worth that happiness.

Home Improvement Tips to Save Energy

Whether you’re looking for ways to improve the way your home looks or to make it more energy efficient, it’s always best to find out how to do it right and get the most out of your time and money. These home improvement tips can show you how to start saving energy right away.

1. Use energy saving lamps instead of incandescent bulbs. Energy Star qualified light bulbs such as CFLs use 75% less energy than traditional bulbs.

2. Check your heating and cooling system, including the furnace, air conditioner, and heat pump). Be sure to seal your ducts. Leaky ducts make your heating and cooling systems less efficient and you’ll end up with higher utility bills. You can save up to 20% on energy with this home improvement tip.

3. Purchase and install a programmable thermostat. This will let you automatically adjust the temperature at your home when you are away.

4. Check the weather stripping around your windows, doors, garage, etc. Make sure your home is sealed and insulated to reduce heating and cooling costs.

5. If you’re in the market for replacement windows, install Energy Star labeled windows. Energy saving windows can dramatically lower your utility bills.

6. Is your refrigerator more than 10 years old? It’s time to get a new one. Refrigerators (and freezers) account for a substantial share of your electricity bill. An Energy Star qualified refrigerator
uses 50% less electricity than an old, conventional model.

7. When it’s time to replace your washing machine, replace it with an Energy Star compliant model. You will be able to use 50% less water and up to 70% less energy. Whenever possible, wash your clothes with cold water.

8. Here’s another home improvement tip that doesn’t cost much. Use curtains, blinds and drapes to help you save energy and money. In winter, open the blinds, drapes and curtains in the morning to let the sunlight in. Close them at night to help keep the warm air in.

9. Landscaping can improve your home’s looks while saving energy. Shrubs and trees in strategic locations can protect your home from frigid winter winds and block out the hot summer sun.

10. You won’t have to invest a lot of money for this home improvement tip but you’ll get a lot of savings in return. Purchase a hot water insulation kit from your local home improvement center and wrap it around your water heater. You’ll save on water heating costs.

11. Consider installing your own renewable energy system. A solar or wind energy system can help you reduce your utility bills.

On the Formation of a Business

This is not a how-to guide, more a study in the beginnings of a business.

How does a business start? How does it grow? What drives some to succeed and some to fail?

What is a business?

We all understand what a business is, but how is it defined?

A search among different sources will give you a range of different definitions. Chambers dictionary list it as defined below:

business noun 1 the buying and selling of goods and services.

This highlights the common theme among all the definitions, buying and selling. It doesn’t matter what the end product of the company is or what service it is that they supply what matters is that someone wants to buy it.

The aim of any business, no matter how lofty a mission statement they may purport to follow, is to make money. They need to provide something that other businesses or customers will part with money to have access to. It’s important to remember that not all businesses will have the aim of a profit. A charity can be run as a business, they may give away all the money they receive or spend it on helping others, but they still need to be able to have that income stream to be able to operate.

How Does it Start?

I’m not going to get into depth about the formation of a business in a legislative sense, whether a limited company, partnership or group, that information is for another time. I want to focus on the concept of a business itself.

A business always starts in the same place. With an idea.

This idea must have a market value. Without a market value the idea is just that, an idea. The market value is the amount that people would be willing to pay for your idea, whether a physical product or an intangible service, it must have value.

These ideas can come from anything. Many come from people already working in an industry seeing a specific gap in the market that they could fill. Some come from the archetypal inventor, creating in his garden shed something that the world has never seen before. Many of them will leave you with the same reaction, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

From Idea to Business?

The hardest part of the business is this part. How to get your wonder product or idea from your thoughts to existence and profit?

This is the key part that can make all the difference between a successful business and a failure. Research. The successful businesses know that they will make a profit before they even start, it may be several years down the line but they know it will work.

Finding out the target market, the competition, the price points, the costs incurred to provide the service or product, advertising, overheads and working out margins to produce a profit without pricing yourself out of the market. All of these things need to be done and done well before even beginning the process of setting up a functional business.

This is why creditors or investors would require a full business plan before helping a business start up, no matter how good the idea itself is. Getting that idea to a functional point requires an enormous amount of effort and dedication.

Business Formation

The plan is in place. The profits are mapped and there’s even a lovely graph to show exactly when they will occur and how much they are expected to be.

The next step is where your investors come in, it requires an outlay to get a business up and running.

Whether it’s a small outlay, the renting of an office and copyrighting your company name, or whether it’s enormous, building a factory to produce your product while employing and training all the staff to operate it, the crux is the same, you will need some investment.

Many small businesses start with just their founders savings to set up, and this is often enough, while others will turn to banks for business loans.

This is going to be the most expensive period your business will ever see, there is always a period of investment before any return can be made. Once the returns begin coming in then further growth is possible but before any profit comes the initial investment.

Business Operation

The first aim for any new company is stability. Getting the business to a point where it is not losing any money. Obviously every company will be aiming for a profit as quickly as possible, but stability is more important.

A bumper period in a new business can lead to extra growth and outlay that the business cannot support and a quieter period following this can lead directly into financial difficulties.

Reaching a stable point means that there is the time to consider future growth and new strategies, without the pressure of knowing that every moment wasted means money lost. Only from this secure position can the appropriate decisions be made for the future.

From Business to Success

There is a certain mystique around the growth of those enormous corporations, the stories of Apple or Google starting in a garage and Facebook from a student bedroom. It is definite that a certain amount of luck is required but it is just as certain that no business can grow to that scale on luck alone.

There is one defining feature of all successful companies and that is that the right decisions were made. Time and again, those in charge of the company have made the right choice in regard to growth, the right choice in regard to competition and the right choice in regard to investment. Not everything they’ve done has always been a success but due to their structure and planning they are in a place to be able to cope with this.

Two Ways to Fight the Rising Cost of Health Care

The next time you visit a health care provider make sure you are paying the contracted rate and you are in network. This will help you save money and ensure that you are getting the benefit from your health insurance.

#1 The Contracted Rate

The contracted rate is a critical component of the insurance industry. In my opinion it is the single most important aspect for why everyone should have coverage. The usual and customary charge by any physician, hospital, pharmacy, or lab facility is a fraction of what the charge is with health insurance versus not having coverage.

The contracted rate is the negotiated rate agreed upon between your health care provider and the insurance company. Your portion is only a fraction of what the total bill may be. This is what will save you thousands of dollars the next time you need an expensive procedure. The balance of the claim for that expensive procedure is written off.

Example #1 the cost of a covered service at the hospital is over $30,000. Mr. Smith receives a final bill totaling $1,500 and the rest of the balance is written off due to the contracted rate.

Note: A list of covered services is found in your evidence of coverage when you were approved for health insurance. Call your health insurance company for a copy if you do not have a copy at home.

Example #2 Mrs. Jones goes in for knee surgery. The claim is for $8,800. Mrs. Jones only pays $1,100 and the balance is written off due to the contracted rate.

While many will argue that the cost of health insurance is expensive, the cost of receiving the health care you need without health insurance is astronomical by comparison.

Make sure that you pay the usual and customary rate or contracted rate on all of your health procedures and health claims every time.

One way to ensure that you are paying the contracted rate is to work with a licensed insurance agent in your state. This agent will also help you with your claims as well.

And remember, always stay In Network.

#2 In and Out of Network

When you are In Network, the health care provider accepts your health insurance.

Hospitals, your doctor’s office, labs, specialists, your pharmacy, and any health care provider you visit must accept your insurance for you to receive the contracted rate.

Staying In Network ensures that you pay the contracted rate.

The very best way to ensure that your health care provider accepts your insurance is to simply ask them and confirm. Remember, you will not get the contracted rate unless you are In Network.

A second way to ensure that you are In Network is to verify with your health insurance company or your licensed insurance agent.

Your insurance company can help you by mailing another copy of your coverage benefits summary along with a directory of health care providers that will keep you In Network. Your licensed insurance agent will also have access to the information in case you cannot find your doctor in the directory that your insurance company provides you.

Now, if you go “Out of Network”, it means that the health care provider you visit may not accept your health insurance coverage that you are paying for. In this case the visit will be very costly to you.

In most instances, going Out of Network will cost you more than twice the amount had you stayed In Network.

This day and age health insurance companies do such a great job in growing their network that you can travel outside the U.S. and still visit a health care provider that is In Network.

A company like Blue Shield automatically enrolls you into a plan that will allow you to carry an insurance card outside of your state or outside of the U.S. so that you are In Network in case of an emergency.

To find out if you can stay In Network the next time you are travelling outside of your state or outside of the U.S. simply contact your health insurance company and ask.

Final Thought

Now, more than ever, it is important that you educate yourself on the topic of Health Insurance in this country.

DO NOT GET LOST IN THE POLITICS AND THE MILLION AND ONE OPINIONS HEARD DAILY ON THE NEWS!

These people are not in your living room helping you understand how best to plan for your healthcare needs this year. Make sure that you always stay In Network and that you are paying the Contracted Rate.

Top 6 Best Travel Gifts

It is never easy to choose a perfect and dashing travel gift for your friends and family. At times, you simply get blank as to what type of gift you must choose for your brother, sister, cousin, father, mother, classmate, girlfriend or boyfriend. When it comes to travel gifts, one does not have much choices. Especially when you do not know anything about traveling. So what type of travel gift is right for your friend? Here is a list of top 6 travel gifts to make things easy for you.

1- Card Cover
A traveler card cover is especially made for travelers. Most of the travelers do not keep their wallet with them when they travel. And even if they do, they put their cards elsewhere for various reasons. Travel style card cover is made from PVC. Your friend can put all his/her cards in it. It is very easy to use card cover and these come in different colors. Choose one for your loved one today.

2- Earphones
Earphone is something that every traveler needs. They used to listen to their favorite music when they travel from one place to another. So why not you give them a perfect earphone for their next tour? Earphone is a cheap but very attractive gift.

3- Earphone Pouch
Earphone pouch is also a must when we talk about travel earphones. I mean, it is not easy to take care of a small earphone especially when you are on the move. So every traveler needs an earphone pouch to keep his/her earphone safe. You can either give away earphone pouch or you can give both the earphones as well as its pouch to your loved ones.

4- Travel Bag
A travel bag is the most important thing that every traveler needs. It is one of the basic necessities of traveling. Whether it be a small folding bag or a giant size travel bag, every traveler needs one. And this could be a great gift for your traveler mate. Buy a folding bag for him and surprise him with your smart choice.

5- Scratch Map
Not all the travelers use scratch maps but all of them do use a map. A scratch map is a modified form of traditional maps. However, most of the travelers now use Google maps, GPS and other more effective tools while traveling, but most of them still use traditional maps. You can send a scratch map to your buddy and I am sure he will love it. You can choose to buy a world map or a map of a specific country for your family and friends.

6- Passport Cover
Made from pure PVC, these passport covers come in different bright colors. Since travelers have to move with their passports and identity cards, so why not give a passport cover to your friend so that he can keep his passport safe all the times. Passport cover will keep it safe for years.