Preparing for the Winter to come

th9U72HM4EIts time to talk about the inevitable…snow. I know there are many people that simply shudder at the mention of the cold white stuff.   That is right a visible shudder. However, for many of us this is a very true reality. As the temperatures continue to drop, it is becoming more and more apparent. Yes, winter is fast approaching us, how well are we prepared for it?

There are a few things each homeowner can do to save on heating cost this winter, some simple others require the aid of a professional.

HVAC

It is hard to mention winter and not talk about preparing the furnace for the cold. To ensure that your furnace is operating at its optimum levels make sure they have it tuned up. For a reasonable fee Chesapeake Heating and Air Conditioning, http://www.chesapeakehvacs.com, will come out and serviced your heating unit. This will include replacing all filters, a thorough cleaning, and checking for carbon monoxide leaks. Their technician can also check and if need be replaced a worn out heat pump. Which is vital to the system.

Another thing that is easy for anyone to do that will save you money this winter and winters to come is to replace your old thermostat with a digital thermostat. Make sure the vents or dampers are adjusted to allow more heat to the downstairs level of the home and to cut off heat from going into any unused rooms. In addition, do not forget to cover the central air unit outside and removing any window a/c units. If for some reason you are unable to remove the window air conditioning unit then simply by some plastic or film and cover the window. This will prevent any drafts from coming in the home.

Seal all openings into the home

The best to prevent drafts is by checking for any air leaks around all extern doors and windows. If leaks are noticed then sealed them with caulk, foam, or weather stripping. Do not forget to replace any wood or trim around doors and windows that have begun to rot. Take care to replace screens on storm doors and windows with glass, if need be. As well, as replace or repair any broken glass.

Do not forget about the outside of the home

Before winter comes make sure to repair or replace any loos shingles on the roof. Another thing we all may not think about doing the winter months is taking care of the gutters. All the gutters should be repaired and all the leaves, junk and debris should be removed. That means time to clean those gutters. One last thing to do is make sure that the attic is properly insulated. One way to know if it is insulated is if last winter there icicles was hanging from you roof, then that means it’s not insulated or not insulated all over. The heat escaping from our house and melting the snow on our roof forms icicles.

Conclusion

Doing these little checks and repairs before winter comes will prevent that heart attack from occurring when you open up your first utility bill for the winter. If each one of these item are addressed and taken care of you should noticed a dramatic difference in your heating bill this year from last years. Don’t wait too long to start preparing from some of the harshest type of weather you home will have to endure. Give it a fighting chance by taking care of the little things.

Downward Spiral

It is crazy to imagine that stores across the nation are experiencing a slump in sales. Just ten or fifteen years ago, this was the time that retailers made a terrific profit and a bundle on sales. So many in this country celebrate holidays that fall during this time of year, so a lot of gift shopping is expected. However according to the reports many departments, established, high-end, department stores are reporting record low sales. Causing their overall value to drop making those that hold shares in these companies to feel a bit uneasy.thL10P99KI

People are just not spending a lot money on things such as clothing and shoes, but have no problem handing out the dollars for items such as electronics, travelling, and home goods. Shoppers are always looking for the best deals. These large department stores just are not able to give the discounts and savings that other online stores are able to provide.

Over the past four years consumer spending have greatly shifted from brick and mortar establishments to those that we are not able to walk into but able to click onto. Online shopping is the way to go. There is just no question of it. Stores such as Amazon and eBay are able to provide and secure deeper discounts from a variety of business selling goods and services. Even individual seller that may be trying to make a little extra money.

What does this mean to the consumer? Look out for greater savings this black Friday. In a last ditch, effort for the end of the year financial reports are publicized stores will try to get their sales up by the hoopla of black Friday. Offering better priced door busters, more available coupons, and greater discounts.   Which is great for those shopping like myself that wait to this year to buy those more expensive items that they want for their home, self, and family.

Of course, online stores will keep doing what they are doing; undercutting these brick and mortar with deals and discount, they cannot not even contemplate on offering their customers. Simply because they cannot afford to do so.

What is sad about this whole thing with these department stores is that many economist believe that this is not just a short-term hiccup but also a long-term trend. This is what these large high-end departments stores can expect from here on out. Slow sales, a reduction of customers, and a downward decline to its overall value.

With that being said those departments’ stores that are for the everyday person or offer items at a discount, for example JC Penny, having not been experience these same declines. In fact, their sales have been steadily increasing as they offer specific brands and maintaining everything at a reasonable price. Even Kohl’s have been successful at this.

Then again, all of this could just be something that is happening for the right now. Folks are still affected and are being affected by the economy at large. With the recession that followed the housing fell like a pile of bricks, people just have a completely new outlook on where they want to place their hard-earned dollars. We cannot forget the possible pending recession to come that is being felt in our friends in the east. It is still all too fresh for some to spend with reckless abandonment anymore. It makes more sense to put those bills into something that can be easily resold and money recuperated.

One never knows what the futures holds, only time will if this is this a short term trend or the new world of consumerism. Maybe in a few years people will be over the memories of the past. As I said before only time will tell.

Time to get lean

thDBBQ78TJIn the world of business its very important to save money wherever possible without cutting down on quality.  For a small business the is crucial, which is made even more important if that small business is a service.  One that depend direct on customers retainer and satisfaction to make its money.  Gone are the days where an employer can offer its employee a vast range of perks.  Such as free coffee, soda, snacks, or maybe a free admission to an amusement park for the employees and their families.  Its nice to think back on the days of employee picnics, brunch, and dinners where the whole family is involved.  Presently there is barley enough extra dollars to give just the employees a nice gift or something during the holidays and for birthdays.

Previously, it seems almost an must for the employer to supple its employee with a cell phone, some kind of tablet, and depending on the industry a BlackBerry, and laptop.  With the company footing the bill.  The cost of everything is increasing and amount of money people are spending is still way less than say around this time twenty years ago.  Even with the economy on the comeback folks are hesitant and distrustful of the economy.  Being previously that at anytime unbeknownst to them it could plummet.  Leaving a person facing foreclosure, job loss, without the money to buy the necessity like food, medicine, or household products.

If a business provides its employees with just a smartphone it cost on average nine hundred dollars per employee each year.  For a small business that is a lot of money.  For a small business owner to have to provide cell phones and service for, just for educational purposes, six employees.  Each year that business will have to spend around five thousand and four hundred dollars.  In ten years, assuming that there is a hiring freeze, that will cost said business owner fifty-four thousand dollars!  That’s crazy!  That’s not including all other expenses derived from running a business.  Now take that same number and put it against one of these large corporations.  That may have an employee count for three hundred, that number per year is roughly two hundred and seventy thousand dollars! Over two million dollars in ten years.  Those numbers really start to add up.

There is always an employee or two that may have something to say about no longer being able to enjoy the perks of a company issued cell phone but this also opens the employee and employer for that matter for flexibility in the work place.  With the increasing use of the virtual employee, an employee that spends most of its week away from the actual office.  The brick and mortar, and just connects online and completes her assignments off campus.  This is not a problem.  It doesn’t matter the size of the business, if its a large company with hundreds of employees or a small mom and pop  with less than a half of dozen employees.

Many people conduct personal business while at work and work while at home. Over the years these boundaries have been blurred.  Which is great for a smoother transition of no longer having company phones, expecting employees to supply their own.  That’s not to say that it will be smooth sailings through and through.  Just that some people will not mind and some will.  Best advice is to explain reasoning behind it, that it is in an effort to keep the business afloat and making money.

Although office morale is important, overspending is not an option for small business owners to stay afloat and compete against larger more lucrative companies. Try looking for creative ways to cut down money and expenses in the work place.  Hopefully employees will be more happy with retaining a job then a smartphone or tablet.