START THE YEAR OFF RIGHT BY REVIEWING YOUR BILLS
The start of the year is a great time to review your finances.
As 2019 starts—hopefully with a bang—it is an ideal time to take a look at all of your bills.
As the past year cruised by you may have added cell phone plans, changed cable and internet subscriptions, and signed up for trial offers (which automatically turned into pay subscriptions).
It is a good habit to look at your bills and inspect them for ways to save money.
Call your services and see if you can take advantage of new promotional offers or remove services that you are no longer using.
Common bills to find new savings on are cell phones, cable TV, internet service, home phone, streaming video services, and any other online subscriptions you may have.
How America Got Its First Christmas Tree
A Christmas tree now sparkles in millions of homes, but did you ever wonder how the tradition began? No doubt there are several stories regarding the start of this custom, and here’s one I’d like to pass along.
“It’s now been more than 150 years since Professor Charles Minnigerode decorated Williamsburg’s first Christmas tree,” says Robert C. Wilburn, president of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
“A German native, the College of William and Mary professor brought the festive tradition with him to the United States. When Nathaniel Beverley Tucker invited Professor Minnigerode to celebrate the holiday season at the St. George Tucker House, he trimmed a tree with candles and fancy paper decoration as a present for Tucker’s children.”
Beverley Randolph Tucker, a descendant, says that “regular sized candles were cut down and fastened on the tree, nuts were gilded, and other ornaments made. Presents were probably not distributed at this time, but there were songs, games, and refreshments.” (Tales of the Tuckers, 1942).
From that humble beginning (and likely similar celebrations with other German immigrants), evolved what is now an American tradition observed in millions of homes.
As to the St. George Tucker house, it was donated to Williamsburg in 1993 after more than 200 years of family ownership. Used now as a donor hospitality center, the home is one of the most unusual examples of original colonial architecture to be found.
St. George Tucker was born in Bermuda and came to the colonies to study law at William and Mary under George Wythe, whom he later succeeded. He was a member of the collegiate Flat Hat Society — a fraternity that evolved into what we today know as Phi Beta Kappa.
In 1788, Tucker bought three lots on the green in Williamsburg near the governor’s palace. This was once the site of the first theater in America (Levingstone’s) as well a small house. Tucker then built a home on the property which was expanded, wing after wing, until he decided to try something different: the house was pushed outward with the result that a visitor now finds parlors that have windows looking over the Williamsburg green as well as windows which look into the home’s central hallway.
Such expansion was a necessity because Tucker had nine children and five stepchildren from two wives. While not all lived to adulthood, a family dinner could include Tucker as well as three children who served in the Congress at the same time: John Randolph (a stepson), Beverley Tucker, and Henry St. George Tucker. His brother, Charles Tucker, a physician, was appointed Treasurer of the United States by Jefferson and served from 1801 to 1828.
When the Revolution began, the British seized the Williamsburg magazine to deprive the colonialists of ammunition and powder. Believing that fair is fair, Tucker sailed to Bermuda, “liberated” the British magazine, and brought tons of ammo back to the colonialists.
After the revolution, Tucker taught at William and Mary, became a judge, and 1803 published an Americanized edition of Blackstone’s Commentaries: With Notes of Reference to the Constitution and Laws, of the Federal Government of the United States, and of the Commonwealth of Virginia. This five-volume set is one of the foundations of our legal system and today is still in print.
Tucker held a number of opinions which are at the core of American law and custom.
On religion he wrote, “Liberty of conscience in matters of religion consists in the absolute and unrestrained exercise of our religious opinions, and duties, in that mode which our own reason and conviction dictate, without the control or intervention of any human power or authority whatsoever.”
Tucker was also a strong believer in the concept of a free press.
“Liberty of speech and of discussion in all speculative matters, consists in the absolute and uncontrollable right of speaking, writing, and publishing, our opinions concerning any subject, whether religious, philosophical, or political….”
Perhaps most remarkably, in a state and a society where the ownership of slaves was equated with wealth and status, Tucker wrote “A Dissertation on Slavery: With a Proposal for the Gradual Abolition of It in the State of Virginia.”
“Whilst America hath been the land of promise to Europeans,” he wrote in 1796, more than 60 years before the Civil War, “it hath been the vale of death to millions of the wretched sons of Africa. The genial light of liberty, which hath shone with unrivalled lustre on the former, hath yielded no comfort to the latter….”
Tucker died in 1828, and it was his son, Nathaniel Beverley Tucker, also a judge and professor of law at William and Mary, who hosted the famous tree in 1842.
No doubt if Mr. Tucker were with us today he would extend to one and all the very best wishes for this holiday season and the coming New Year.
WRITTEN BY PETER MILLER Originally posted by RealtyTimes
FINDING THE RIGHT MATTRESS
You’ve got more options than ever when mattress shopping these days with no shortage of brick-and-mortar and online-only retailers to choose from. Here are the factors you should consider when you’re shopping for a perfect night’s sleep.
- Mattress construction: The most popular types are inner spring, memory foam, and adjustable air. Each has pros and cons when it comes to durability and comfort customization.
- Firmness: Firmness plays a huge role in the quality of your sleep. Mattresses that are too firm or too soft can cause aches and pains, so it‘s recommended that you test a mattress for 10- to 15 minutes in store before making a purchase.
- Sleeping position: Match your sleeping style (side, back, face-down, etc.). You want one that keeps your spine in proper alignment. For example, some are better for side sleepers, while others are better for back sleepers.
- Size: It’s not quite as simple as choosing between a king and a queen mattress. You should also consider your height, as some are a better fit for shorter people while tall people will want a longer mattress so their limbs aren’t hanging over the edge of the bed.
- Stability: For couples, you should consider how the mattress reacts when one person moves, so the other person’s sleep isn’t disturbed in the middle of the night.
FIVE TIPS FOR IMPROVING YOUR CREDIT
Monitoring your credit report and credit rating is important, especially if you’re considering purchasing a home. Here are five tips for improving your credit. It’s not about quick fixes, but responsible financial activity over time.
- Get a credit card: OK, this may seem counterintuitive, but let me explain. When used correctly, a credit card can be an effective tool for building credit. Charge a few budget-conscious purchases each month, and pay the balance off before your due date.
- Keep your balance low: This is the other side of the coin with credit cards. Try to only charge for items you could pay for out-of-pocket, and try to stick to a balance of only 10 percent of your credit limit.
- Food: If your kitchen is being torn apart, preparing meals becomes a lot more difficult. You may be able to keep your food budget steady by switching to meals that don’t require counter space, the stove, or the oven, but don’t be surprised if you end up dining out more often.
- Leave paid debts on your report: Paid off debts like car loans show that you have a history of paying your debt on time.
- Ask! If you’re looking to pay off a debt quickly, it can’t hurt to ask the lender to lower your interest rate. You can’t get what you don’t ask for!
FIVE TIPS FOR A GREAT BACKYARD
Summer is here, so entertaining has made the move from the living room to the backyard. It’s the season for barbecues and campouts. Here are five ways to make sure your back yard is everyone’s favorite.
- Make sure there’s a place to cook! The way to your guests’ hearts is through their stomachs. You could have something as simple as a charcoal grill or as elaborate as a fully-featured kitchen, but it‘s essential that you can prepare some food outdoors.
- Lighting matters. At the very least you need enough lighting to keep the party going when the sun goes down. But for a back yard that really pops, add some decorative lighting to walkways, landscaping, or anything else worth highlighting.
- Gather around the fire. This one’s a no brainer. Everyone loves a good place to make hot dogs and s’mores—just make sure you’re not violating any neighborhood ordinances.
- Bring the beach to your backyard. A little water will make everything look better. It could be something as simple as fountain or as elaborate as a waterfall or fish pond.
5. Don’t forget the foliage. Trees, shrubs and flowers are all important for adding the finishing touches to your outdoor entertainment space. The trees and shrubs can provide some much-needed shade when the sun is out, and flowers add just the right amount of color.
STAY HEALTHY THIS SUMMER
A few simple tips for improving your personal health:
Summer is the time for family vacations and road trips, backyard barbecues, and days at the beach. But as the pace of life slows down after the hustle and bustle of winter and spring, it’s also a great time to make some small health-conscious changes that can make a big difference at the end of the day. Here are a few simple-but-effective tips for improving your personal health this summer.
Eat more berries
Eating a cup of mixed berries each day can have tremendous health benefits. Berries are rich with antioxidants, which help prevent tissue damage and lower the risk of age-related illnesses. It’s just a small change to your diet, but a little goes a long way!
Have some fun while exercising
This doesn’t have to mean hitting the gym. Make the most of the summer weather by doing activities that are both fun and keep you moving. Cycling, hiking, swimming, playing games with the kids—these are all great ways to get some exercise without making it feel like a chore that you have to squeeze into your schedule.
Wear your sunglasses
I know this seems like a no-brainer, but there’s a lot more to wearing sunglasses than just fashion. A good pair of sunglasses should block out at least 99 percent of harmful UV rays.
Play in the dirt
Planting and maintaining a garden can be a great stress reliever. Even something as simple as a few flower boxes or potted plants is a good start.
Thinking of Building? Know Your Options!
Unlike buying a new car, new homes don’t loose their value as soon as you buy them. In fact, they can be a better investment than a used home if you choose the right builder and have your home built in the right location. New homes have come along way over the years and if you want the latest and greatest in your next home, new construction is the only way to go. Finding the right location, however, can be a bit hard if you don’t know what you’re looking for.
New Construction Homes have all of the latest energy efficient and smart home functionality. Getting a new home warranty is another benefit when buying a new construction home. While you can buy a home warranty with a used home, it normally only covers the appliances and minor coverage on the systems of the home like electric, plumbing and HVAC. The State of Mississippi mandates that all new home builders must warrant their home’s build quality and systems for 1 year and structural for 6 years. Check out the Mississippi Home Warranty Act for more information.
There are many pitfalls in building a new home, so we decided to go over a few of them here. All agents at NextHome E-Realty have worked for multiple builders and have vast knowledge in new home building along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. While many builders try to take care of their customers, many do the minimum to get to the end. There are really two types of builders you will be dealing with in single family residential homes. The first is a Production Home Builder which builds you a home with hardly any changes that you can make. The second type is a Custom Home Builder which is just the opposite. They do mainly what their name suggests… build you a custom home that fits you exactly down to the door knobs and plumbing fixtures. Let’s take a closer look at both types.
“Production” Home Builders
Essentially, production home builders build the same homes over and over and they’ve gotten very good at it. The more efficient they get at it, the more they can bring down their cost of the home and pass that saving along to you. Production builders also build on their own lots in their own subdivisions that they sometimes have developed. The main three production builders on the Mississippi Gulf Coast are Adams Homes, DR Horton and DSLD Homes. All offer to pay closing costs as long as you use one of their preferred lenders. While value seems to be the biggest focus for production builders, they don’t give you the ability to make changes to their plans. This means that you will most likely have to compromise on your home’s design.
“Custom” Home Builders
If production home builders offer the best value, custom home builders offer you the best design… at a price. So if you need some specifics in your next home, custom home builders offer you the best peace of mind because ultimately, you’ll be the one having to live in the home. There’s nothing more annoying than to be reminded daily you should have chosen to build your home differently after you move in. Having a home builder that asks the right questions eliminates this way up front. You need to discuss how you live in the home, not just how many bedrooms and bathrooms you need. The most well known custom home builders along the Mississippi Gulf Coast are Elliott Homes, Fritz Homes, Shepard Homes and Sapphire Homes.
Have a New Construction Home Builder in Mind?
Remember to contact me first before contacting any new home builder. They have their own sales staff representing the builder’s interest and I will be representing your interest. The great part about having me on your side is that it costs you absolutely nothing. I get paid by the builder, but as the state mandates… I represent you! If you have already visited the home builder’s model home, it’s okay! I can still represent you as long as you have not signed their construction agreement yet. So, contact me now to get started!
MAKE YOUR BATHROOM EASIER TO CLEAN
Bathrooms can be the most difficult places in our homes to keep clean. However, with a few clever changes and upgrades, it can be much easier to clean and maintain your bathroom.
No-Touch Faucets: They’re not just for public restrooms, you know. A sensor on your bathroom faucet will eliminate one of the main touchable surfaces.
Install or upgrade the exhaust fan: The fan isn’t just for reducing odors or keeping the mirrors from fogging. The better your ventilation system in the bathroom, the easier it will be to prevent mildew and mold. It’ll also prevent paint from bubbling and peeling.
Easy-Clean Toilets: Whoever designed older toilets certainly didn’t design them with cleaning in mind! Newer toilets are often designed with smoother services that make cleaning a much simpler task—no more standing on your head to reach every toilet surface.
Remove grout: Germs and grime love to build up in the spaces between tile. Instead of tile, you can cover larger surfaces with glass or stone veneer, or simply use larger tiles. That’ll reduce the overall amount of grout in your bathroom.
IS HANDS-FREE ACTUALLY SAFER?
A recent poll by the National Safety Council showed that 80 percent of Americans incorrectly believe that using a hands-free device while driving is safer than using a handheld device.
The truth—according to more than 30 studies—is that hands-free devices are no safer, because the brain remains distracted when you’re having a phone conversation.
“While many drivers honestly believe they are making the safe choice by using a hands-free device, it’s just not true,” said David Teater, senior director of Transportation Initiatives at the National Safety Council. “The problem is the brain does not truly multi-task.”
Talking on a handheld device while driving has been banned in 12 states, but there are no bans on hands-free devices, so it’s easy to understand why drivers may be confused about the risks.
For your own safety, try to avoid talking on the phone while driving, regardless of whether it’s handheld or hands-free.