Avoid the Grinch, and Auto Insurance Info

Deck the Halls: Think Fire Safety and Watch the Christmas Tree

According to the National Fire Protection Association, 50 percent of house fires occur in December. The usual culprit? Tannenbaums. So before decorating this year’s tree, consider the following:

  • From 2006 to 2010, Christmas trees started an average 240 house fires a year, resulting in four deaths and 21 injuries, not to mention $17.3 million in property damage annually.
  • Forty-two percent of Christmas tree fires happen during the “12 Days of Christmas” – December 23 to January 3.
  • Disposal is crucial. One homeowner wrapped the tree in clear plastic and put it on the patio. The shiny plastic caught the sunlight, and the tree went up in flames.
  • Fake trees are responsible for only a third of all Christmas tree fires.

If a fire happens, contact your insurer immediately. Don’t delay or decide to cover damages yourself. Usually structural damage is worse than you think. Smoke damage alone in a room the size of a bathroom can cause thousands of dollars in damage.

Wiring damage can spread. If it does, your claim could be denied for failing to report previous damage. Condo and townhouse owners and renters would be liable for damage caused to neighbors’ homes.

Tree tips:

  • Ensure lights, extension cords, and power strips are in good condition
  • Unplug lights before leaving home or going to bed
  • Keep trees away from fireplaces and heat sources.
  • Water trees daily.

Holiday Parties: Even Santa Loves Cookie Swaps

The holidays are all about entertaining – but multiple parties can strain calendars and budgets. So why not consider hosting a cookie swap. These provide a great opportunity for you to catch up with your friends and their friends, and can even help you prepare for more entertaining.

Cookie swaps are simple. Each guest brings enough baked goods for everyone to enjoy at the party, plus extras to take home. Often guests will share their prized recipes as well.

It takes organization

The key to a good cookie swap is organization. The RSVP deadline matters; the number of people attending will determine how many cookies each guest needs to bring. The more mouths to feed, the fewer items each individual needs to contribute. Cookie swap pros also suggest that you ask what people are bringing and communicate that to the others: Otherwise you may be overloaded with sugar cookies or gingerbread Santas.

Balance sweet with savory

It’s not just about sweet treats. Cheese and crackers, and veggies and dip are a relief from all those sweets, and, of course, you’ll provide choices of liquid refreshment.

A cookie swap provides a good opportunity to pick up new recipes but also to dust off oldies but goldies – and spruce them up. Add festive decorations to your classic brownies, use seasonal cookie cutters and make squares with red and green cereal available only at holiday time. Candy canes crumbled into chocolate hazelnut spread makes a gooey – and easy – treat.

Good uses for extras

Even though your kids may not be invited to the party, they can participate in the baking beforehand – and they’ll be sure to enjoy eating the proceeds of your swap. While you’re at it, don’t forget to freeze extras to pull out when you’re asked to contribute to bake sale fundraisers, or to share with those who don’t, or can’t, bake.

Can You Shape up in Just Minutes a Day?

Are you looking for a quick way to shape up? Well, so are the experts.

High intensity interval training (HIIT) – intense periods of exercise followed by a short recovery time – is gaining favor with trainers and scientists. Proponents say a HIIT regimen – for example, 30 seconds of intense pedaling, followed by a 30-second rest repeated five times gives you greater benefits than traditional workouts. And faster.

The effects are still being studied, but early returns show HIIT increases metabolism and endurance and decreases heart attack risk.

Of course, these workouts are geared towards burning fat, not towards muscle building. But for the full-time working parent, who doesn’t have an hour to hit the gym, these brief but demanding workouts are easy to schedule, and seem to do the job.

Buy Added Auto Insurance for Xmas Road Trips

If you’re one of many driving somewhere for the upcoming holidays, ensure you have adequate auto insurance coverage. Even if you have insurance, look into extended protection, particularly in these scenarios:

For rental vehicles

Even though personal auto insurance covers many losses, it’s limited, so always consider rental car coverage. Personal policies may cover property damage in rental car accidents, but not some subsequent costs, such as the rental company’s loss of income or rental car’s diminished value.

Read the fine print about insurance in rental contracts. Talk to your insurer to clarify personal coverage, and get quotes with higher liability limits and lower deductibles, which will help cover losses with ease.

Out-of-state travel

When travelling out of state, explore additional protection. Auto insurance laws vary by state. Those from no-fault states such as Florida or Michigan often only carry state minimum liability limits, or worse, don’t cover bodily injury. This usually means you don’t have adequate coverage. And very little or no protection – even in not-at-fault accidents.

It’s especially important when traveling to these states to carry additional insurance for collision as well as for property damage. Be particularly aware of the limits of your bodily injury coverage. If you’re uninsured or under-insured, you should acquire additional bodily injury coverage. If someone is injured in an accident you caused, you could be sued for medical expenses, court costs, legal fees, and pain and suffering; you’re responsible for those expenses if they exceed your coverage limit for bodily injury.

Peace of mind

You may pay more, but if insufficient coverage results in you having to pay for repairs or for the major expenses resulting from an accident with injuries that exceed your liability limits, you probably won’t be able to take a vacation again for a long time. In that case, the cost of protecting yourself with appropriate coverage is certainly worth it.
How to Prevent Grinch Visits Over the Holidays

Here’s a warning as the holiday season approaches: Wrapped presents don’t just excite kids – they tantalize burglars. And this comes with a big price tag; the average amount of property stolen in a home burglary is $2,119.

Here are some tips on preventing burglaries that are specially designed to prevent Grinch visits and on making claims:

Be prepared:

  • Don’t advertise your winter holiday on Facebook.
  • Risk is high before, during and after the holidays. Most burglaries occur when daytime routines return to normal.
  • Use classic “burglar prevention” techniques: light timers, holding subscriptions and mail, etc.
  • Recipients may not see the gifts you sneak in, but burglars might. Bring gifts home disguised and after dark.
  • Don’t pile empty boxes on trash day. It’s too obvious.
  • After a burglary, the chances of being burglarized again increase. Burglars know you’ll replace stolen items.

Only 21 percent of stolen property is recovered. Insurance is the best way of compensating for a loss. When choosing coverage and making claims, remember:

  • Avoid actual cash value (ACV) coverage, which considers depreciation. ACV covers cost at time of loss, meaning you won’t receive the full value of the item. Replacement cost coverage doesn’t consider depreciation, so that if someone steals your TV set, with replacement cost coverage, you would receive a TV set of like value.
  • You usually need proof of ownership of stolen items. This could include receipts, videos, photos and model numbers.
  • Usually premiums increase after claims, especially thefts. If policyholders become categorized as high risk, insurers can cancel or not renew policies after theft or fire claims.

It’s far better to prevent thefts as best you can than pay the emotional and financial costs of being a theft victim.