Ways to Save Your Family Money Before School Starts

As the summer winds down and school is on the horizon, you must be looking for ways to save money. Your children will need new clothes, school supplies, and other essentials. But that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank to give them what they want. Before the school year starts, keep the summer fun going on a budget so it is one your family will remember for years to come.

Don’t let your plans fall apart due to expenses. Instead, manage your summer budget and use some of these suggestions to have a great end of the season:

Snacks for a Road Trip
Rather than making expensive stops to fast food places on road trips, you should pack snacks instead. This will keep you on budget and help everyone feel less hungry on the road. In addition, the energy gained can perhaps making the trip more enjoyable.
Free is Always Good
No matter where you are, there are always free activities to participate in. Entertain your kids with a walk in the park, an outdoor concert, or even a visit to the city. This will keep them occupied and teach them some new lessons before school starts.

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Watch Gas Prices
Keeping an eye on the best gas prices in town can help you save money this summer. If you happen to be away on vacation, try using gas apps to guide you to a cheap gas station.
Shop for Next Season
Although the weather may still be hot, you could get a jump on your fall and winter clothing. Shopping for coats, turtlenecks, or jeans now can save you money since they will be in low demand.

At the Barker, Beck, Collins & Kronauge Agency, we hope these tips will help you stay on budget before the school year begins. As a parent, you want to provide for your children to the best of your abilities. By being more conscious of your spending habits, you can have a better grasp on your finances. This may benefit you in the future when you have to start paying bills for college!

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How to Pick a Restoration Specialist When Disaster Strikes

Catastrophes happen. Sometimes they can be as seemingly simple as seepage onto your carpet from a burst water heater or they can be as devastating as a house burned to rubble from a 2-alarm inferno. Whether the event is a minor inconvenience or a life altering event, it helps to have an expert on hand to guide you through the process of putting your home back in order.  James Griffin, owner of Active Restoration, is that and then some.  We recently had the opportunity to sit down with him as he shared some golden nuggets from his store of knowledge about the restoration process. In this first of a three-part series of articles, we’ll share his thoughts on how a person should go about selecting a restoration contractor.

First things First
While time is of the essence in a number of home emergencies, Mr. Griffin always recommends that you call your insurance agent first. Your insurance company will be in the best position to guide you about your specific coverage and deductible details. That information may direct what actions you take in the remediation and restoration process.

Get Recommendations
He suggests finding out if your insurance company has a restoration contractor list available. In addition to that, your friends and family may be a good source of referrals.

Do Your Own Research
While referrals are an excellent place to start, be open to doing your own research. Make sure you check out the companies on your short list through the Better Business Bureau and find out what others are saying about them on Google reviews.

Credentials
Look for a certified firm. The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) is an organization that sets standards for the industry and offers a rigorous certification process. An IICRC designation means that a certified technician will be on site for every job, including yours.

First Impressions Count
Keep in mind that just because you have had the contractor out to your house to look at your situation, that doesn’t mean you have to hire them.  Watch for clues that the company operates under a philosophy of a great attention to detail and superior customer service. (How did they answer the phone? How quickly were they able to come out? How good were they at listening to you and your needs? When in your house, did they wear footies over their shoes to protect the undamaged areas of your home?)

Comfort Level
Be sure to ask a lot of questions, so that you are well informed and understand the process.  Mr. Griffin says you can never ask enough questions. Communication is crucial, because your restoration specialist will be in and out of your home until the project is completed.

Following these guidelines will help you make an educated decision and will go a long way in making sure that you are comfortable with the restoration specialist you have chosen.

Look next Wednesday, for the second-part in our three-part series, where you will get guidance from James Griffin from Active Restoration on what you can do to prevent a home emergency from happening to you.

Tennis Anyone?

Saturday, August 11, starts the week long Western & Southern Open event of the ATP World Tour. The Tennis racket.jpgtournament’s rich history spans over a century and is the oldest tennis tournament in the United States that is still played in the city where it originated. What began quietly at the Avondale Athletic Club, has become an exciting event at the Lindner Family Tennis Center, just north of Cincinnati in Mason, OH, where thousands come to watch the top seeded players compete. A record crowd of 13,204 people attended last year’s qualifying matches and cheered on their favorite players.

This year promises another thrilling week of tight competition. Adding to the excitement is the fact that this tournament is right on the heels of an Olympic gold medal victory by Andy Murray over top seed Roger Federer.  Andy Murray, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Rafeal Nadal are the four top-ranked men to watch as the competition unfolds at this year’s Western & Southern Open Tournament. They will be joined by 52 other men:  40 other direct accepts, 7 qualifiers, 4 wild cards and 1 special exempt.  Just as each of the men will attempt to play their way to the winner’s circle, the tourney includes a challenging competition among the world’s top women tennis players, with Victoria Azarenka, Maria Sharapova, Agnieszka Radwanska and Serena Williams leading the pack.

Even the Barker, Beck, Collins and Kronauge Insurance Agency has its own ties to the Western & Southern Financial Group Tennis Tournament. Bob Kronauge was among the elite group of men who competed in the main draw singles in 1978. The love of tennis runs in the family as evidenced by Bob’s brother, Dan Kronauge, who was ranked as high as 175 in the world in doubles on the ATP TOUR.  He played in the main draw in 1996 and was recently inducted into The Cincinnati Tennis Hall of Fame.

If tennis is your game or you just love to watch the competition among the players, check out the Western & Southern Open starting this coming week. Buy Tickets.

Photo Credits

 

Keep Your Start Up Business Organized

Starting your first business is always tough. You may feel lost in the mix and unsure of yourself. However, one part of being confident in your passion is staying organized. This can be done in many ways, but you should find a method that works well with your unique skills. By researching and learning what needs to be done to succeed, you can establish your name in the local community.

Organization not only applies to physical office items, but also the internal operations of the team you have created. Whether you have a small or large space to work with, the following tips can apply to your unique situation:

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Storing Your Supplies Properly
You should have your office supplies stored in one central location, such as a cabinet, to all office stations. Easy access can promote productivity and keep the office clean when clients come in. Also, make sure things are not just thrown in the cabinet, or this will defeat the purpose of the storage space.
Safe Place for Important Data
Having an organized system to keep your important data easily accessible will benefit your entire company. This can be done simply with a computer database where you can track your contacts by placing the information into software for this purpose.
Establishing Efficient Procedures
Writing out procedures for your team will help them complete tasks more efficiently and in an organized fashion. Rather than wasting time with thousands of questions, compose a list of instructions for processes all employees should understand and know how to do. When writing out the instructions, be specific and clear, making each step as cohesive as possible.
Keeping a Calendar
As a business owner, you should maintain a calendar in order to stay on track during the day. Find the right calendar system for you. Whether this is with a paper and pen or digitally on the computer, stay committed to your system.

These tips are meant to help you establish organization within your office. At the Barker, Beck, Collins & Kronauge Agency, we understand that every company is different, so modifying these suggestions to fit your needs is okay. As long as you stay true to your goals and passion, you can succeed as a start up business!

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Be Prepared for an Energy Outage

 

       India’s widespread energy outages this week are a reminder of our Blackout photo two.jpgdependence on electricity and the importance of being prepared for an energy outage in our area. Those of you who were here in the Southwestern Ohio Region in September of 2008 may remember the freak wind-storm that we endured courtesy of the remnants of Hurricane Ike. Many were subjected to the weird feeling of “camping” in their own home. Not so cozy nights, cooking on the portable grill on the back porch and eating every evening meal by candlelight were the new norm until the power came back on.
        No matter what season it is or where you live, occasionally, you are likely to be affected by a power outage of some duration.  Lately, the storms that have whipped through our area have left many without power for days. The fortunate have not been affected or have had their power return to normal within hours. Whether your power comes back on quickly or not, you can help avoid that feeling of dread that happens when you are confronted with a darkened and silenced home.  Being prepared may help you weather the next energy outage.
       If energy outages lasting more than a day happen frequently in your area, you may want to consider purchasing a portable generator. The savings in spoiled food alone, could help the generator pay for itself. If a power outage is only an occasional inconvenience, then the rest of this article will give you ideas of how be prepared when the next outage darkens your doorstep.

Food, Water and the Necessities of Life

First, and foremost, make sure you have fresh water available. To be prepared, plan to have one gallon of water per person, per day and have enough supply to last for a number of days. It is best to store the water in empty 2-liter pop containers. Milk cartons are more likely to split and crack making them not the best long-term vessel to safe guard your drinking supply.

You will also need a good supply of non-perishable food items. Pre-packaged, non-refrigerated items (whether made by you or store-bought) and canned goods should be the staples of your emergency pantry. In your preparations, remember the special needs your pets and young children. Store away diapers, wipes, formula, and their special food.

To make sure your food items don’t go to waste, implement a first-in, first out system. Make sure you have plenty of canned goods or prepared items on hand, but as you purchase or make them write the date on each item. As you use the items in the course of your daily living, make it a habit to replenish the item as it is used. This will keep you prepared should an emergency arise, but will eliminate the possibility of having to toss a bunch of expired food items.

Here is a handy check-list of other items that you should store in a waterproof emergency locker. Prepare as if you won’t have water or power for two weeks.

  • Medicine Cabinet
     First Aid Kit (either pre-packaged or put together on your own)
     Band Aids and pads
     Antibiotic cream
     Aspirin
     Bug Bite Cream
     Sunscreen
  • Survival items
     Batteries
     Flashlight(s) or portable battery powered lanterns
     Candles
     Matches
     Battery operated clock
     Small portable grill with ample charcoal briquettes or propane
     General use fire-extinguisher
    Spray paint – you may need it to identify your house for emergency personnel or your insurance adjuster
  • Clean-up Supplies
    Should the event that causes the power outage be of such a magnitude that there is damage to your home and surroundings, you will find these items most helpful.
     Hammer, screw drivers, wrenches and a saw.
     Nails and screws
    Heavy-duty trash bags (both for cleaning up debris as well as protecting your belongings from water damage from rain or rising waters, as the case may be.)
    Heavy-duty plastic drop cloth
     Duct Tape (may become your new best buddy when in survival mode)
     Scissors
     Dish soap, and surface cleaners of your choice.
     Paper towels and dish cloths
  • Entertainment Items
     Playing cards
     Board games
     Books
     Magazines

Those of us here at Barker, Beck, Collins and Kronauge Agency hope that the preparations you make today will ensure that you can weather whatever energy outage may come your way

Photo Credit Neeta Lind