Five Smart Things To Do With Your Tax Refund

Do you get your tax refund and just blow it immediately? There are some smart things you can do to make your refund work for you.

Pay off some debt. Especially credit card debt. Because you end up paying so much in interest charges, paying down a high interest credit card is your best bet.

Put it away. Whether you are saving for a home, retirement, or college for your kids, putting extra money away now pays off in the long run. The longer it is earning interest, the larger the fund will be in the future.

Use it for a necessity. You may have been waiting to get those new tires or to go to the dentist. Now is the time to do it.

Make a donation. If you’ve been wanting to support a charity near to your heart, but haven’t had the funds, do it now. It will help on next year’s taxes as well, if you itemize and take the deduction.

Treat yourself. If you find that you still have money left over, do something nice for yourself that you’ve been putting off. Take a trip, throw a party, or buy a loved one a gift. After practicing some fiscal responsibility, you’ll deserve it.

Getting Ready for Spring Exercise

Many people spend most of the winter indoors, getting relatively little exercise. When warmer weather hits, everyone is ready to get up and outside to enjoy physical activity. With this comes increases in injuries during the spring months, when those who were sedentary during the winter jump right into strenuous outdoor exercise.

The key to preventing these types of injuries is to increase flexibility before engaging in exercise that requires extended ranges of motion. Gradually reestablish your routine, adding a new activity or more time to your workout each day. Warm up properly by stretching all of your muscles, reducing your chance of injury. You should also inspect your workout gear for excess wear and tear, especially shoes. If your shoes are worn or lacking in good support, you’ll want to replace those before you begin a new exercise regimen.

Finally, don’t be surprised if, even with proper stretching and equipment, you are sore after resuming your exercise routine. Ease into your workout and stop if you begin to feel pain. Let sore and tired muscles rest before pushing them to their limits again.

What’s in Your Dust?

The old-fashioned image of a happy housewife with a feather duster seems oddly quaint. Today, dust control and removal is serious business.

It is estimated that Americans spend over $10 billion a year on products to remove and control household dust. Add to that the vacuum cleaners, air filtration devices and furnace filters, and it is easy to see that dust is big business.

But have you ever wondered what is in household dust? Is it just a nuisance or are there health concerns?

Household dust contains all sorts of things from the outside atmosphere such as dust from volcanic eruptions, ash from forest fires, disintegrating meteors, silica, mica, clay and other minerals from wind erosion.

Other constituents of dust come from inside the house; human and animal hairs, paper fiber, dead skin, deteriorating paint particles, ash and soot from fire places, candles, stoves and furnaces; sugars, starches, salt, crumbs and other food particles.

Some particles are of concern to humans, especially allergy sufferers; pollen, air pollution, pet dander, mold spores, dead insects, dust mites and their waste.

There is growing concern about residues from pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers used both inside and outside our homes. Even roadway dust from automobile tires, brake linings and exhaust becomes household dust, and may contain carcinogens.

There’s also dust from construction, demolition, burning and deterioration of buildings. The list goes on and on. In fact, you might just say that almost everything you look at is turning to dust.

Let’s face it, there is no way to make your home completely dust-free. But you should prevent the buildup of dust to make your home a healthier place to live. Dust control doesn’t have to be difficult. It’s really just a matter of changing the way you do a few things.

You should install a high efficiency filter on your HVAC system and replace it monthly. For added protection, there are electronic air purifiers designed to be attached to your air duct system. Generally, these units require professional installation by a licensed contractor.

While it is nice to let the fresh air in, keep windows and doors closed when pollen is high or it is windy outside. Brush pets outdoors away from the house and use a damp pet wipe to remove remaining dander before allowing them back into the house.

When cleaning around the house, do your dusting with an electrostatic cloth, duster or damp wipe. Work from high to low and work your way out of the room. Wait about an hour before vacuuming to allow particles to settle.

Vacuuming is a great way to remove dust from your home. However, it is important that you use a vacuum cleaner that has an efficient filtration system. A vacuum with HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance) filtration improves indoor air quality while you vacuum. And don’t forget to vacuum your furniture too.

Eventually, vacuuming alone is not enough. Dust and other soils are bonded to carpet and upholstery fibers by sticky or oily residues. That’s why you need periodic professional cleaning by Hansen Steam Way. Our cleaning system not only removes the visible soil and spots that make your carpet and furniture look bad. It also removes deeply embedded pollutants and allergens along with the dust and dirt that damages your carpet. Your carpet and upholstery will look fabulous, last longer and your family will breathe healthier, cleaner air.

Prevent Cancer with a Better Lifestyle, Not Better Luck

A new study published in the journal, Nature, suggests that up to 90 percent of cancer cases are linked to lifestyle choices that are usually avoidable. This study refutes a previous assertion that many cases of cancer are simply due to “bad luck,” those circumstances that are out of our control.

What are those lifestyle choices that can result in a higher risk for developing cancer? They include a poor diet, lack of exercise, stress and pollution. You should also avoid smoking and excessive ultraviolet radiation to help lower your risk.

Researchers are interested in these findings to help doctors find more effective preventative treatments for their patients. If a patient believes that improving their lifestyle choices will have little effect on their health because it is mostly up to luck, they will have little incentive to work on those choices. But if doctors can show that cancer is due to many factors within their control, there is a better chance that improvements will be made.

Teaching Your Dog New Tricks

There are many theories about dog training, but most experts agree that dogs respond best to rewardbased training. New research shows that dogs can learn to “please their owners.” When starting to train your dog, think of it as increasing attachment between you and your pet. You see this type of attachment when your dog is very happy to see you after a long day away. This same emotion can be used to help your dog learn good behavior.

One way researchers have seen that dogs can increase this attachment is by simply letting them win when they play games with their owners. In the study, dogs played tug-of-war with a person, over and over. When the dogs were allowed to win the game, they were more interested in playing with that particular person. And best of all, the dogs who were allowed to win did not exhibit any unwelcome dominant behavior—they simply learned to attach more to their playmate.

This type of interaction leads to a sense of “working together,” which in turn can help your dog become more confident and obedient. Playing this type of game is also a good opportunity to teach your dog that at the end of the game, he or she should drop the rope at your command. If your dog knows that you will continue the game if he obeys, then you’ve rewarded the good behavior with an activity that your dog wishes to continue.

You know your dog best, so if you engage in this type of play and you notice that your dog becomes fearful or overexcited, it might be best to take a break. Occasionally, a dog will not enjoy these types of games, so pay attention to any negative behavior it might cause. But if you can set some firm rules for play and your dog enjoys the attention, it can lead to better behavior and a happier relationship.

That Sneezing Might not be a Cold

During the winter months, coughing and sneezing can hit at any time, but don’t assume you have a cold. It could be allergies. While colder temperatures can bring some relief by limiting mold and pollen in the atmosphere, more time indoors means more exposure to indoor allergens.

Dust mites, pet dander, cigarette smoke, gas fumes, and household sprays and chemicals can all trigger allergy and asthma symptoms. Mold can continue to grow during colder weather, as it really only needs moisture and oxygen to thrive.

There are some things you can do to help relieve allergy or asthma symptoms during the winter. These tips can help:

• Keep humidity levels in your home under 35 percent to restrict the growth of mold and dust mites.

• If you use a humidifier, keep it clean and change the water frequently. You can also use an anti-mold agent in the water or as a spray for the humidifier.

Use exhaust fans in your bathroom and kitchen as often as possible.

• Replace your furnace filter every two to three months. Be sure to use high-efficiency filters in order to remove as many allergens as possible.

• Vacuum floors and furniture frequently. Make sure your vacuum has a HEPA filter. If you have a problem with dust mites, consider removing any dust traps from your home, including stuffed animals, clutter on shelves, old books, and decorative pillows and blankets.

• Use allergy covers on your mattresses. You can also cover your box springs and pillows. Wash bed linens and nightclothes in water above 130 degrees.

How do Carpet and Fabric Protectors Work?

You see it on television and internet commercials all the time, a glass of wine or fruit punch being spilled on a beautiful, new carpet. The guests are mortified, but the smiling hostess blots up the spill with a towel, leaving the carpet clean and spot-free. Disaster averted, the party continues. But is this really the way it works? Well, yes and no.

Modern Fabric Protectors

Virtually all carpets manufactured today feature some type of protector application. These specialized fluoropolymers have names like Permashield®, R2X®, Repel®, and of course, DuPont Teflon® and 3M Scotchgard®. In addition, almost all nylon carpets are treated with special stain blockers called acid dye resistors to help prevent permanent staining by common food and beverage spills. When a carpet is new, the factoryapplied protectors perform extremely well. Liquid spills bead up on the surface of the carpet yarns. But as a carpet ages with traffic, vacuuming and even professional cleaning, the protection wears off and is reduced significantly, requiring reapplication from time to time.

How Protectors Keep Your Carpets Looking Good

You may wonder how these miracle polymers work. Well, they work partially through surface energy, which is similar to surface tension. You may have heard of surface tension. In fact, you have likely seen a demonstration of this phenomenon in action when a glass is filled with water so that the water rises slightly above the rim of the glass without spilling over. If you are careful, you can actually float a metal paper clip on the surface of the water, too. This is due to surface tension. Surface tension is used to describe what happens at the surface of liquids. But solid materials like carpet fibers have a property called surface energy. Surface energy is not easily explained or demonstrated, so let’s just say that surface energy determines how well liquid can penetrate a solid. If a liquid is spilled onto a fiber that has high surface energy, it will penetrate easily.

If a liquid is spilled on a fiber with low surface energy it will tend not to penetrate. Fluoropolymers work by reducing the surface energy of a material. Protectors not only shield your carpet from water-based spills, but also from oils, grease and dry particles. This means that you have more time to blot-up spills or tracked-in soils. Vacuuming becomes more efficient because dry soils are repelled. Oily and sticky soils are also repelled so they don’t attract dry soils. That is important because it is the dry, gritty particles that do the most damage to your carpets by scratching and dulling the fibers just like sandpaper. All of this means that carpets which are regularly cleaned and protected last longer and look cleaner, brighter and newer.

Re-Protecting Your Carpet

Like any topical coating, carpet protectors wear away with age and use. Laboratory testing reveals that protection is reduced by 30% or more each year. Even professional cleaning, important as it is, removes a little bit of the remaining protector.

The fact is that your carpets are only new once. When the fibers have been scratched and dulled, they will never look as colorful and pretty as they did when new. Protectors help to prevent this damage and keep carpets looking newer longer. That’s why major carpet manufacturers recommend annual cleaning and protector application on most residential carpets. Keep that in mind the next time you invite Hansen Steam Way to clean your carpets.

Six Simple Ways to Save Money on Your Heating Bill

1. Keep the heat inside by closing draperies at night. During the day, open them up to let the sun shine through and warm your home. You can also cut heat loss by caulking and weatherstripping doors and windows.

2. Avoid overheating by setting the temperature as low as you can and still be comfortable. For every degree you lower the setting for an eight-hour period, you’ll save one percent on your energy bill. Using a programmable thermostat can save you even more money. Set it to lower the temperature at night and when no one is home.

3. Check the filters in your furnace at least once a month. This will improve the efficiency of your existing furnace.

4. Close the damper on your fireplace when not in use to prevent heat from escaping out the chimney.

5. Use ventilating fans only as needed. Venting fans in bathrooms or above stoves can blow away a house full of warmed air in just one hour. Turn them off as soon as the room is cleared.

6. Up to 20 percent of your heating energy can be lost through a ceiling that is not well insulated. Ensure that your home has proper insulation to keep your home warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

Celebrate DRY January

The term “Dry January” has been growing in popularity in recent years.
Going “dry” is a trend that encourages it’s participants to abstain from
alcohol for the month of January. Well known in the UK, there are two main benefits for participating.

The first benefit is to save a little extra money after the holidays. Every time you find yourself going to buy a bottle of wine or enjoying a cocktail, save the money instead. If your wallet didn’t feel the holiday pinch, you could donate all of the savings to your favorite charity. If you don’t regularly
partake in alcohol, you could substitute for your favorite coffee.

The second benefit is to detox your system after some holiday over- indulgence. Many people already feel inspired to hit the gym and eat
healthier this time of year. Abstaining from alcohol for the month can
also provide positive returns on your health such as more energy and
better sleep.

Be Your Own Boss

Recent data from the Institute of Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) revealed that about 29% of all business owners in America are women. This figure is up from 26% as recently as 1997.

In the last decade, there has been a growth of 68% in women-owned firms compared to only 47% growth for all businesses on record.

One aspect of women-owned businesses that stands out is the 265% increase in the number of minority women who have stepped up to be their own boss.

According to Fortune Magazine, women interested in starting their own small business should pursue certifications in their field to increase credibility.

Women entrepreneurs should seek out other women to partner with and learn from. They should strive to build their customer base by actively marketing and emphasizing their unique talents and abilities.

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