It’s easy to overspend during the holiday season. From presents to travel to decorations and all that food, here are 17 ideas for how to save money during the holidays.
1. Set a Budget
Figure out all the things you’ll need to purchase—gifts, food, decorations—and set a budget and stick to it. Be sure to think about little things that are easy to forget about such as charitable contributions, gas for travel and wine for a holiday party host. By setting a budget you will surely save money during the holidays.
2. Get Christmas Lists Early
The earlier you get your loved ones Christmas lists the earlier you can get shopping and hopefully find great deals. If you can brave the crowds, Black Friday is a great day to buy Christmas presents for a discounted price. And if you can’t handle the crowds, there’s always Cyber Monday to find gift deals online.
3. Use Cash Only
It can be hard to keep track of spending when using credit or cards, so make a point to use cash only for holiday-related purchases. When the money is gone, the shopping is over and saving money during the holidays is well underway.
4. Start Shopping Early
The earlier you start shopping for the holidays, the easier it will be to resist overspending. And starting early allows you time to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list, instead of having to shop at the last minute. And this makes it more likely you’ll blow the budget and won’t save money during the holidays.
5. Buy in Bulk
If you have a Costco or Sam’s Club membership, it’s smart and cost-effective to buy frequently used items like paper plates, napkins, paper towels and toilet paper in bulk during the holidays, especially if you are hosting holiday gatherings.
6. Cut Back on Extras (For a Month)
To ease the strain on your budget, try cutting back on extras for a month. If you give up that $5 latte you have each morning for 30 days, you can save $150 which could go toward Christmas gifts. And if you do splurge on yourself in the days leading up to Christmas, make sure it’s worth the price.
7. Go Potluck Style
Instead of serving a large holiday meal in which you’re responsible for all the food, ask guests to bring a dish to share. And not only will you save money during the holidays, everyone will enjoy tasting the variety of foods and sharing their recipes.
8. Try Secret Santa
If you have a large family, try using the Secret Santa method for gifts this year. By only buying one gift, it will relieve some of the financial burden and can also be a fun, new tradition. You can find several different ways to do Secret Santa gifts online.
9. Rethink Traditions
Holiday traditions should be memorable because they are fun, not because they’re expensive. Look for local Christmas festivals and performances, drive around to see Christmas lights. And go sledding or stay in and watch holiday movies or play board games together. All of these activities are free or relatively inexpensive and will save money during the holidays.
10. Think Outside the Decoration Box
If you normally purchase a tree, save money during the holidays by making your own alternative tree. Whether you use reclaimed wood, craft supplies or even wine corks, an alternative tree can save you money and space while still being festive.
11. Forget Traditional Christmas Cards
Instead of paying for Christmas cards and postage, try sending family and friends e-cards. Many websites offer free e-cards and some can be customized with your family’s photos and some even play music.
12. Comparison Shop
When shopping for big-ticket items such as electronics, be sure to comparison shop. And take some time to research the items online and how much they cost at different stores so when you’re ready to buy, you know you’re getting a bargain.
13. Think DIY Gifts
Never overlook the value of DIY gifts, they definitely save money during the holidays. If you have a gardener on your gift list, try making them a terrarium. And put together a photo collage, build a plant stand or create an indoor hopscotch mat for a child.
14. Intangible Gifts
Want to give a gift but have a very tight budget? Try making a meal or baking a pie for a neighbor, or offer a night of babysitting to new parents. And you can even donate your time to shovel their driveway for a couple weeks.
15. Lighten Up on Lights
LED Christmas lights can save you money on electric bills. But those old incandescent lights can cost you $13.65 per month, according to Xcel Energy Colorado. Instead of going all Clark Griswold on your holiday light display, keep it simple and tasteful. Using fewer Christmas lights will save money during the holidays.
16. Take a Trip
Travelers can often find great deals on hotels over the holidays. Depending on your family, you may be able to forgo gifts and instead get away for a few nights and relax by the pool, have a meal together at a nice restaurant and visit a free museum.
17. Visit Discount Stores
When it comes time to wrap the gifts and stuff stockings, make a trip to the discount store. Dollar stores are a great place to load up on holiday wrapping supplies and tape. And they’re also a good place for stocking stuffers such as candy, ornaments and little toys.
This Thanksgiving Day, fire departments all across the nation will be called to nearly 2,000 homes for a cooking fire. Cooking equipment is the leading cause of home fires and fire injuries, with Thanksgiving Day being the worst. Here are 5 ways to avoid having your holiday turn damaging, or deadly.
1) Never leave cooking unattended. It’s a contributing factor in 33% of the fires 49% of the deaths, and 46% of the associated injuries related to cooking equipment. “I just went to watch the replay” is all it takes for a fire to start and get out of hand quickly.
2) Have a kid-free kitchen zone. Children under age 5 were more likely to be hurt by touching hot cooking equipment or scalded by hot liquids than by actual fire. Create a 3-foot kid-free perimeter around anywhere cooking is taking place or that hot food is being staged.
3) Keep flammable materials away from burner. In 10% of cooking fires, something flammable was too close to the equipment. What’s most frightening, is this is also the cause of nearly 1/4 of all the deaths. Hot mitts, wooden utensils, curtains, and food packaging are all dangerous if too close to heat sources.
4) Don’t use power strips or extension cords for appliances. Small, temporary appliances like crock pots, electric skillets, Instant Pots and the like are very helpful to feed large numbers of people, but appliances like these should always be plugged directly into a grounded wall outlet to prevent overheating and overloading the circuits.
5) Don’t fry your turkey. Frying dominates the cooking fire problem, and FEMA recommends not using deep fat fryers for turkeys altogether. Oil spillover ignition and operating a fryer on wooden decks or too close to trees or structures are big hazards that must be avoided. (And when alcohol is involved, it can get even more dangerous.) To learn how to more safely use a fryer, visit the US Department of Agriculture’s website.
We hope these tips help you have a safe and fun Thanksgiving!
Winter has officially arrived, which has been blatantly apparent in our recent freezing temperatures (brrrr)! Check out these tips for added protection.
• Have all furnaces serviced and chimneys inspected and cleaned.
• Check your home’s perimeter and seal any air leaks with caulk and weather-stripping. Add additional insulation in the attic—most homes need at least 12-15 inches. Make sure insulation does not come in contact with recessed lighting that is not approved for insulation contact.
• Insulate pipes that go through exterior walls or colder areas such as garage ceilings or unheated attics.
• Turn water off to exterior hose bibs, and detach garden hoses and empty the hose bibs.
• Locate the water main shutoff valve and keep the access path clear in case a frozen pipe leak or other water issue needs to be stopped.
• If you will be away from home, make sure heating is set no lower than 60 degrees so that even cold spots do not become too cold. Open sink cabinet doors to allow heat in, and let faucets drip slightly to prevent frozen pipes.
• Consider installing an automatic water shutoff valve to prevent extensive water damages.
• In high snowfall areas, make sure no exhaust vents become buried by snow.
• Install adequate attic insulation. This helps keep your roof cold, which prevents ice damming
as a result of snow continuously melting on the roof. When replacing a roof, consider an ice
shield membrane underlayment.
• Identify a local roofer that clears snow from roofs and removes ice dams to prevent roof
collapse or interior water damage. Not all roofers clear roof snow or ice dams.
• Service back-up generators and have adequate fuel supplies on hand. Do not store fuel
inside. Even if the generator is portable, it should never run indoors.
• Have emergency supplies on hand, such as flashlights, batteries and converters to use in the
car to charge devices.
• If a prolonged power outage means having to relocate, consider shutting off the water to the
house and draining the water lines, and follow the steps listed above for being away from
For more information, please contact us or visit www.aig.com/pcg.
The holiday shopping season will be here before you know it. But there’s an even more important shopping period to think about first: Open Enrollment.
Whether you’re buying your own health insurance for the first time or are considering switching plans, Open Enrollment may seem like a confusing, stress-inducing event. But it doesn’t have to be. Here’s everything you need to conquer this year’s health insurance signup process.
What is Open Enrollment?
Open Enrollment is the annual period of time when everyone gets a chance to sign up for health insurance for the coming year. This year, you may have heard the approaching enrollment period referred to as “Open Enrollment 2020”.
Employers that offer health benefits also have an annual enrollment period to allow employees to switch plans. While most companies kick off their signup process toward the end of the year (usually October or November), the start date and enrollment window vary from business to business.
Why is Open Enrollment a thing?
Before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed in 2010, signing up for individual health insurance was often a challenge. If you had a pre-existing health condition, or had a family history of certain types of diseases, insurers could deny you coverage or charge you much higher rates than healthy people.
These practices prevented people from gaming the system by only signing up for insurance after they developed a health issue. But they also kept many consumers from getting coverage, either because they were denied insurance or because they couldn’t afford it.
After the ACA was passed, new consumer protections were put in place to ensure everyone can get health insurance, regardless of health history. It also provided subsidies to help lower-income people pay for coverage. But these new policies removed the check in place to prevent people from getting insurance only when they really needed it. And thus, Open Enrollment was born.
Under normal circumstances, Open Enrollment is your once-a-year chance to sign up for health insurance. If you miss this window, you have to wait until the next Open Enrollment period to get a new plan (with some exceptions – more on that later). By restricting signups to a limited time frame, insurers are protected from people dropping in and out of plans, paying for coverage only when they have an active health issue.
What’s changed for this year’s Open Enrollment?
For the most part, this year’s Open Enrollment will look a lot like last year. The signup dates are the same. The state and federal Marketplaces still exist, and are one of several ways you can purchase a health insurance plan for 2020. Subsidies will still be available for those that qualify for financial assistance.
Looking for new health insurance for 2020? Start a free quote here.
When is Open Enrollment?For health insurance plans beginning in 2020, Open Enrollment starts on November 1, 2019 and ends on December 15, 2019. But some states have extended the Open Enrollment period until January to give people more time to sign up.
What information do I need to collect for Open Enrollment?
In order to sign up for a plan during Open Enrollment, you’ll need a few key pieces of information, including:
Can I sign up for insurance outside of Open Enrollment?
If you don’t sign up for a health insurance plan during Open Enrollment, and your life circumstances remain the same, you’ll have to wait until next November for your next chance to enroll. However, if your life circumstances do change, you may be able to get insured during a Special Enrollment period.
Special Enrollment is a 60-day enrollment window that happens when you experience a qualifying life event – a fancy phrase for a significant change that impacts your status. Qualifying life events include things like:
Contact our Benefits Department today to learn more and get covered!
They’re trees. And as with so many things in life, proper maintenance is critical. Keeping your trees healthy will allow you to continue to enjoy them and their benefits — one of which is providing enough oxygen for four people every day!
Maintenance also will reduce the risk of a tree falling on your home or your car (or even worse, someone else’s home or car).
Here are some tips from the National Arbor Day Foundation to help keep trees healthy, identify warning signs and address problems. A healthy tree that you care for properly — and regularly — is far less likely to become a hazard. Remember, prevention is key!
Inspect your trees often This applies to all seasons! The sooner you spot a problem, the sooner you can take corrective action — and potentially save your tree. Check trees regularly each year, and have a qualified arborist inspect them annually.
Plant the right species Brittle trees can produce weak limbs that fall and injure people or property. Examples include Silver Maples, Lombardy Poplars, Box Elders, and Willows.
Prune the right way, at the right time Trees should first be pruned when they are young, and then at regular intervals as they age. Make the cut outside the branch collar, and never allow trees to be topped.
Plant in the right place Don’t plant trees that will grow to be large close to your home or under power lines.
Learn to spot problems According to the National Arbor Day Foundation, there are several key things to consider when evaluating your trees for potential issues.
If you have a dead or dying tree, it should be promptly removed unless it is in an area where structures or people won’t be threatened. And have an expert do the job — bringing down a large tree is extremely dangerous, and accidents can result in severe damage, injury, and even death.
The law typically holds the owner responsible for damage or injury caused by a defective tree. So don’t forget about them when you’re working in the yard or examining your landscaping. Keeping your trees healthy can limit the potential for disaster — in addition to keeping your space beautiful and vibrant.
Every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hundreds of people in the U.S. die from carbon-monoxide (CO) poisoning—and the invisible, odorless gas sickens thousands more.
The numbers seem even more tragic when you consider that most of these deaths and illnesses are preventable. Here are tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to help protect yourself and your loved ones at home and work.
In general, the same precautions for homes apply here, but there are a few additional considerations for the workplace, particularly one where gas-powered machinery is used:
Whether you’re at home or work, always be on the lookout for symptoms of CO exposure: They include dizziness, drowsiness, headaches and nausea. If you suspect an issue, leave the area as soon as possible and call 911—because when it comes to CO, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, so we've compiled some information that may be useful to you!
These days even the most old school of business involves technology in some way, whether it be email, cell phone usage, a credit card machine, or even an online customer database. Even the smallest business with only a small amount of online interaction may be vulnerable to cyber hacking or attacks. Every business can benefit from some level of Cyber Liability coverage.
Are You At Risk?
Does your business engage in one or more of the following activities?
If you said yes to any of the above then your business is at risk for data breaches, security issues and even lawsuits for things like copyright infringement, intellectual property theft and plagiarism. Cyber Liability insurance can help.
Why You Need It
In just one week, virus removal software companies identified 30 new computer viruses to add to the long list of thousands (possibly millions) of known viruses from around the world. Each of those can be transmitted in a number of ways, including email, instant messaging, malware and malvertising.
Data breaches may also occur via accidental means such as an employee losing a laptop. Less accidental ways may include employees revealing passwords or customer information on social media. In fact, your employees may be more of a threat to your cyber security than hackers.
The losses due to global cyber crimes are estimated at $400 billion per year. In just one year, companies like Target and eBay were hacked, as was the federal government (click here for a list of recent breaches). Big companies like these make the news, but small businesses may be even easier to breach, and the cyber crime may go unnoticed for even longer.
Cyber Liability Coverage Can Help
Data breaches can be costly. When you think about all of the ways a data breach can affect your business, the financial losses add up quickly:
Take Preventative Measures
A data breach or hack doesn’t have to mean the end of your business. Contact Theodore & Associates to get a quote on a Cyber Liability insurance policy.
From building materials to furnishings, many of the things in your home likely aren’t as flame-resistant as those from yesteryear.
A fire in a modern home is a “perfect storm,” according to safety consulting and certification company UL (Underwriters Laboratories).
Larger homes, more open layouts, new construction materials and other factors mean fires burn more quickly, leaving less time for occupants to escape — and for firefighters to stop the flames. How much less time? About 30 years ago, you had about 17 minutes to get out of the house once it caught fire. Today? Just three or four minutes.
A lot goes into creating that “perfect storm,” experts say. Here are some key factors:
What can you do? Well, unless you’re having a house built or doing an extensive remodel, you can’t really change the materials used to construct your home. However, there are a few things you should do immediately to help keep you and your family safe, no matter where you live:
To learn more about fire safety, check out these tips from the American Red Cross. Because the best fire protection of all is preventing one from starting in the first place!
You probably don’t think your dog would ever bite someone, let alone cause a serious injury. But dog bites are more common than you might realize—4.5 million occur every year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And most victims are young children.
Those injuries also have a bigger impact on homeowners insurance than you might realize: The Insurance Information Institute says dog-related claims accounted for more than $600 million in insurance payments in 2016.
(Keep in mind that it’s not just bites that cause injuries. Dogs can knock down pedestrians or cyclists, too, which often leads to severe medical issues as well.)
With those numbers in mind, it’s understandable that insurance companies want to know if you’ve got a dog in your household. Some even will refuse to insure you if you have a specific breed with a reputation for aggressive behavior, regardless of whether your dog has ever bitten someone.
Despite that, you should never hide the fact that you have a dog from your insurance company. If you do, and your dog then causes an injury, your coverage could be invalidated—leaving you on the hook for potentially tens of thousands of dollars or more.
When a bite happens
OK, so your insurance company knows about your dog. But do you have to tell them if the dog bites or injures somebody?
That depends. If it’s a minor incident, you might consider paying out of pocket for any medical expenses in an attempt to avoid the claims process and a potential increase in your premiums. (In some instances, insurance companies will not renew your policy or will exclude your dog from coverage after paying for a dog-related claim.)
However, this might violate your policy, which probably requires you to report changes in your circumstances. If you don’t report a bite, and the dog then bites someone else later, the insurance company might deny you liability coverage for the second incident. Ask us to outline your options.
Another risk is the threat of future claims from the victim. Injuries aren’t always immediately apparent, and complications can arise later. The victim might decide down the road to sue you. And if you’ve waited too long to report the incident to your insurance company, it might be too late to make a claim and receive all the protection your policy was meant to provide—which can include help with attorney fees, medical bills and more.
A $33,000 mistake?
Ask yourself this: How would your budget look if you had an unexpected $33,000 expense? The average claim payment for a dog injury in 2016 was about that amount. And that’s with an insurance company working on behalf of the insured. If you’re on your own, you could wind up paying even more—a lot more.
Our advice? Start with your agent and discuss your specific situation. Even if you decide not to file a claim—which is always an option—you’ll get guidance from a professional on our team who can help you assess the risk.
Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance®.
Football season in the south brings with it a whole host of seasonal activities for football fans, from game-day tailgates and sports bar outings, to friendly bets and bowl parties. At Theodore & Associates, we want your football season to be both exciting and safe, so as you cheer your team to victory, consider the following tips.
Game day insurance tips
Here are a few pointers for making sure your insurance provides an additional safety net on game day: