Tag Archives: safe

Making the Most of Memorial Day? Ready Your Car Before Your Road Trip with These Tips

Although Memorial Day was originally intended to honor fallen soldiers, it has become the unofficial kickoff to summer in the U.S. and tens of millions of Americans hit the road to get away.

If you’ll be one of those millions, make sure your car is ready for the road (and not for a wreck) with this quick checklist of seven tips:

One: Check the traffic report
Knowing millions of other Americans are hitting the road for the three-day weekend, plan accordingly. The Thursday before the weekend is typically congested because people leave work early to extend their time off to four days. And the Friday before brings a mix of travelers and those workers trying to get home to start their time off. If you’re traveling by car, just know you’re not alone and plan accordingly so you don’t spend precious hours stuck in traffic.

Two: Get an oil change
Get an oil change and tell them you’re going on a road trip and want them to check all of the fluids, etc., that should be checked prior to a trip. Although they might suggest maintenance you don’t think you really need yet, carefully consider suggestions they make in case something does require immediate attention before a long drive.

Three: Check your tires
Check all tire pressure, including your spare and the tires on your trailers or anything else you are hauling. Whether you’re pulling a camp trailer or boats or horses, you don’t want a flat tire with your vehicle or your trailer, especially on such a busy travel weekend.

Four: Check all the lights all over
Do a thorough light check, including brake lights, blinkers, reverse lights, and headlights along with the lights inside the vehicle and all your trailer lights. Replace any burnt out bulbs and buy spares to take with you. Also clean your headlights for the best brightness.

Five: Clean your windshield
Clean your windshield, replace old wipers and check the washer fluid. As winter ends, windshields need a good scrubbing and wiper blades need replacing, because you want excellent visibility when you’re driving somewhere new.

Six: Fill the tank and keep an eye on it
It’s easy to say you’ll get gas on the way, but you don’t always know where to find a gas station in unfamiliar territory. So fill up before you go, and try not to let the gas tank get more than half empty during the trip. Trust me on this one. I speak from experience.

Seven: Pack provisions
Lastly, pack an emergency safety kit. Try to include all of the items listed here, but at the bare minimum, make sure your car is stocked with extra food and water, a change of clothes, a stash of cash, phone numbers on paper, and a map.

Enjoy your time away if you’re getting away—but do take a few minutes to remember the men and women who are the reason for the weekend. Because they gave everything.

Photo by Jorge Saavedra on Unsplash

The Potential Pitfalls of Mobile Wallets–and How to Avoid Them

Every time I watch someone pay for their coffee with their watch, I stop for a moment to think “Wow, this is really the future!” Even though I use my phone to make payments all the time, like sending money from Paypal or using Uber, mobile wallets are still new to me. From Venmo to Zelle, Apple Pay to Google Wallet, mobile wallets and payment apps are on the rise. While convenient, is this new financial technology harming our money management skills?

A new study suggests that Millennials who use mobile payment transactions are more likely to be at risk for money mismanagement. They are “more likely to hold nearly all forms of debt, including auto loans (34 versus 29%), be charged credit card fees (58 versus 45%), overdraw their checking accounts (33 versus 19%) and turn to pawnshops or payday loans (50 versus 23%).” Fret not, for it is possible to embrace the convenience of mobile wallets without breaking the bank.

Conscientious of Your Cards
If you tend to carry around multiple credit, debit, or even gift cards in your physical wallet, it may be tempting to just add all of them into your mobile wallet. This can be great for getting reward offers for different purchases, but can also be confusing if you’re storing too many. While you may be able to keep track of two or three balances in your accounts, the more cards you add the easier it will be to forget. You also add the risk of using the wrong card for the wrong app. Maybe you link your business card to Uber, but that doesn’t mean you should link it to your personal Venmo as well. Only add necessary cards into your mobile wallet, and be sure to check an app’s settings for adding and removing payment options as needed.

Avoid Carrying a Balance
Cash can be a controversial form of payment. Some people find cash harder to spend than using a card since they have to physically hand it over and watch it leave their wallet. Others see cash as disposable, that it’s too easy to spend since it’s right there in front of you. The same could be said for keeping a balance in a mobile payment app. If you have $20 sitting in Paypal, maybe that Amazon impulse item is easier to buy since the money won’t leave your account. To avoid keeping balances, make sure to transfer your money into a bank account as soon as you receive it. This can also help you keep track of your spending if it’s confined to one place.

Don’t Forget Your Budget
Perhaps most importantly, stick to your budget. No matter how you pay for your transactions, keeping a budget will help you manage your money and actually save what you have extra. Taking a $10 Uber may sound a lot more appealing than taking the bus, but not if you only budget $20 for ride-sharing for the whole month. Consider linking your mobile wallet to a budgeting app, so you can easily learn your spending habits and keep them in line. Mobile payment transactions aren’t going anywhere, but that doesn’t mean we have to leave healthy financial habits in the dust behind them.

Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash

Spring Cleaning Isn’t Enough: 3 Tips for Making a Household Inventory (Just in Case)

With spring fast approaching, the urge to clean follows close behind. Sure, you throw out clutter and unwanted clothes, but what do you do with the stuff you’re planning on keeping? This is where a complete inventory of your home comes in handy. In the event of an emergency, an up-to-date household inventory may save you thousands of dollars in insurance claims.

For new homeowners, itemizing all your possessions may only take up a single afternoon. Yet for those of us that have been living at the same residence for many years, a home inventory can be intimidating and easy to keep putting off. Don’t get overwhelmed! We’re here to help: Check out these 3 tips to overcome your inventory insecurities.

One: Starting With The Basics
Narrowing your focus to one room of the house at a time is essential. Giving your attention to only one contained area, such as a bedroom closet or a bathroom, can break up what seems to be one large task into several smaller tasks. Once you’ve begun organizing items room by room, it’s important to make sure to include relevant information like estimated value or the make and model of the item. If you know where you purchased the item, be sure to include that as well. Start with closet or room, and don’t move on to the next one until that first one is done. Soon, you’ll have worked your way through your whole house!

Proving With Pictures
In the digital age, our phones can do a whole lot for a homeowner’s day-to-day peace of mind. Creating and saving a photo library of your items could help immensely with replacement in the event of a fire, theft or other disaster. Make sure to include these images with the notes you took while itemizing everything.

Habits for Your House
Now that we have a more complete and compiled list, there’s no reason to let it go to waste. Get into the habit of recording any new purchases and your household inventory will stay up-to-date. Storing receipts and recording serial numbers will also do you a world of good in keeping proof of value. If you happen to purchase a new item that is particularly valuable, it might be a good idea to have the item appraised so you have proof of the estimated value. Practicing these habits now may even help your family members to do the same later, and soon it could become second nature to update your inventory.

Although no one wants to think about a potential theft or disaster and the insurance claims that will follow, it’s best to be prepared. If you’re not sure where to start even after these tips, check out this list of different home inventory apps you can use right from your phone. Most importantly, don’t get discouraged. An entire home inventory may seem daunting, so don’t be afraid to piecemeal the list and leave it incomplete if you need to step away from the clutter. Let’s welcome spring more organized than ever before!

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Spring Break Is in Session! Ensure Safe Travels for Your College Student this Vacation

Believe it or not, spring break season has started. Yes, snow is falling in certain parts of the country, but colleges are already releasing their students for the week-long break. Some students may be headed to warmer weather and vacation destinations, while others are just coming home for a much-needed rest. Whatever the case, before your college-age child wraps up their studies and heads out on a trip, you may want to give them a few travel safety tips to study as well.

Be Prepared
When traveling as a family when I was a kid, I used to ask my mother to make a packing list for me so that I wouldn’t forget anything. Since then, if I do not make a packing list beforehand I will most likely forget one of the most basic items. (I have forgotten to pack socks. Socks.) Tell your child to write down or type up everything they need to remember to bring with them, and then have someone else look over the list for something they might have missed. This is especially important for common-sense items that you may not even think you have to write down, such as phone chargers or passports. Before they head out the door for the week, have your child go item by item through the list to make sure there won’t be any emergency pit-stops on the way home from the airport.

Keep an Eye Out
While keeping track of your belongings while traveling may seem like an unnecessary reminder, college kids can be scatterbrained and may be distracted by something particularly engaging on their phone or in a book. Suggest they hook a backpack or purse strap around one of their legs while sitting and waiting to board a flight or bus. That way, if anyone grabs their bag, they will know, plus they won’t forget it. Keeping a purse strap on their arm, and not leaving their phone sitting on a table can also prevent losing anything they worked so hard to pack up. Another area to keep an eye on is public Wi-Fi. While many airports, bus terminals and train stations provide customers with Wi-Fi, that can make devices vulnerable to hackers. Suggest to your child that they use a VPN whenever possible if they need to connect to free Internet access.

Know and Share the Route
Be it the trip to the airport, the bus connections, or the driving route home, make sure your child knows their travel plans before they actually head out—and that they share those plans with you. Remind them that they can’t always rely on their phone’s GPS! Service gets lost and sometimes a phone gets a location wrong. In addition to your child knowing how they’re getting home, encourage them to tell a friend about their route too, so if anything were to go awry, someone closer to your student may be able to help sooner than you. If possible, ask your child to share their phone’s location with you and a friend so either of you can keep track of their progress during the journey.

Speaking of Phones…
Most importantly, make sure they keep their phone charger on them and keep in contact with you! I once forgot to bring my phone charger with me to the airport, and thankfully had my laptop with me to message with the family member picking me up. Imagine if I hadn’t had any other devices, or if my laptop had also died!? Payphones are not as prevalent as they used to be, and not everyone carries change with them. Your child should, at the very least, let you know when they arrive at a new destination, such as the bus station or a rest stop on their drive.

Here’s hoping their spring break actually looks like spring, and the weather warms up for a well-needed rest from classes and cold. As for you as the parent, brace yourself. It doesn’t matter where the final destination is, college kids are still kids and may need a little extra assistance from you with their travel plans. Once they arrive, be prepared for their ridiculous appetites and sleep schedules, and appreciate that they got wherever they were going safely.

Memorize Your Card Number so Your Favorite Retailer Can’t

I’m working as a receptionist at a salon for extra money, and guests have to use a credit or debit card to book their appointments. Some people don’t want to give that information over the phone and question why I need their card number at all. (The salon has a 24-hour cancellation and no-show fee for 50% of the service charge, that’s why.) When they realize they do have to give me that information, some must rummage around in their purse and wallet to find their card to read off the numbers. But others rattle off their card number without skipping a beat because they memorized all 16 digits. And those people are on to something…

The booking system at the salon deletes card numbers after a few weeks, so the information does not stay in our computers for long. However, many online retailers can store your credit and debit card numbers for years for your convenience—but at what risk and potential cost? Here are 3 reasons why you should choose security over convenience, and what you can do instead.

Credit Card Theft
Saving your card information on sites like Amazon and Target can save you time while checking out, but are those 2 extra minutes really worth risking your card’s security? If your account for any of these online retailers were to get hacked, someone would just need to select your card and they’re good to go. Some sites don’t even require the card’s security code! Taking the time to grab your wallet and pull out your card may even help prevent impulse buys, giving you an extra moment to reconsider that possibly unnecessary purchase.

Rather than saving your card information online, memorize the number, like some of the salon’s customers mentioned above. This still cuts down on time of trying to find your wallet or purse, but it also prevents the information from being stored anywhere other than your own head. If you happen to lose or forget your card and you’re in an emergency situation, you won’t be stuck penniless either. Some retailers will allow you to give the card numbers without the card in a pinch.

Data Breaches
There were over 1200 data breaches and 440 million records exposed in 2018 alone! With the number of data breaches rising year after year, keeping your personal information safe is more imperative than ever. While it may not be practical to create a new account every time you purchase something online, you should use a guest account on any site you don’t regularly use. This allows you to prevent your data from staying in the system, protecting you from breaches.

Little Ones
With smartphones and tablets a part of our daily lives, many children have grown up with easy access to this new technology—and put it to use. In 2017, Amazon had to refund $70 million worth of in-app purchases made by children without their parent’s consent. Apple has also had to refund money to angry parents. Parents do have ways to stop in-app purchases, but why not keep your card information off the child’s device in the first place? If they need to make a purchase, they can come ask a parent to input the card information for them.

I, for one, am not a perfect person. I have subscriptions that charge my card every month (say “Hi” to Ipsy and Netflix), but I have become more aware of just how many online retailers have my information stored without my making a purchase in months. No one is suggesting that you go completely off the grid and delete your information from everywhere, only to prioritize your time and safety. To save yourself the extra stress of a fraudulent charge on your card, just input the information yourself. When making a purchase, spending 2 minutes now may save you from someone else spending your $200 later.

There’s no Lifting Like Snow Lifting! 3 Tips for Safer Lifting no Matter the Weather

After a nightly snowfall, I awake to the sound of ice getting scraped off of someone’s windshield. Like clockwork, it hits 7:20 a.m. and whoever owns that car is out scraping. Most mornings I would much rather wake up to the sound of my alarm at the time I actually set it to, but I have to respect the dedication to be outside in the freezing cold to clear off their car. Thankfully I don’t have to worry about shoveling snow from a driveway or carrying a big heavy bag of de-icer. My only gripe with snow is that scrape scrape scrape sound directly beneath my window.

Many Americans are not so lucky and do have to get up and out the door early in the morning to clear the sidewalk or walkway. Shoveling snow may not sound that strenuous, but across the country, thousands are injured every year with this winter task. There’s also plenty of other heavy lifting to do in the winter: a tree branch that falls into the yard and must be moved, snow tires, even tired children wearing 5 extra pounds of layers (not including snow boots).

Whether you live in a region of the U.S. where snow removal is a daily occurrence or a warmer area where it hasn’t snowed in years, proper lifting techniques can help you stay safe while completing household tasks, yard work or snow damage control. To help you remember safety first when lifting, especially in winter weather, keep these tips in mind…

Let It Snow Shovel
If your biggest concern for throwing out your back is that blanket of snow outside your front door, have no fear. Try to start while the snow is still fresh, because snow is lighter and easier to maneuver when it has recently fallen. Before stepping outside, be sure to warm the muscles just like you would before exercising. Once you start, work with small batches, using a small shovel or only filling half of a large shovel. Once you fill up your shovel with an appropriate amount of snow, walk it over to your snow pile; do not throw it! Throwing snow can put unnecessary pressure on your back.

Dress For Success
If the weather outside is frightful, layer up before lifting anything outdoors. The goal is to be able to remove layers when your temperature rises from the physical movement, but keep enough clothing on that you won’t freeze standing in your driveway. A windbreaker or light jacket over a sweatshirt and a long sleeve shirt may give you the flexibility to move freely without compromising warmth. Even if the weather is perfectly comfortable outside, be sure to wear non-slip shoes before lifting anything heavy.

Proper Positioning
So maybe you’re one of us lucky ones who gets to avoid snow shoveling, but what about all the other heavy lifting that could come up? Your best strategy is to make sure your body is moving in the correct way. Use your legs, never your back, and bend at the knees with a wide stance. Try to get a firm grip by lifting with your palms, not your fingertips (which will slip more easily). When moving, avoid twisting your spine, and attempt to turn your whole body by using your feet instead. This will keep your back in a safer, more neutral position to prevent injury.

If something looks like it might be too big, or you start to lift it and it feels too heavy, STOP! Wait until someone can assist you in lifting. It’s better to wait 5 minutes to move that branch than to have 5 days of a sore back. Taking your time is the key to safe lifting no matter the weather.

As for me, I’m glad I don’t have to shovel snow, but I sure hope the sky stays clear and the streets dry on the next day I plan to sleep in–and I won’t be woken up by the urban rooster crow of an ice scraper.

Data Privacy Day Is January 28: Time to Prepare and Protect!

Did you know that January 28th is a day dedicated to safety and security? It’s National Bubble Wrap Appreciation Day! Yes, there really is a holiday for just about everything. However, January 28th is also Data Privacy Day, and that might be more important to observe than popping bubble wrap.

The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) promotes international Data Privacy Day to raise awareness of the importance of privacy and protecting personal information. In today’s always-connected world that’s threatened by data breaches and data mining, it’s more necessary than ever to be aware of how your personal data is captured, stored and used.

In celebration of Data Privacy Day, here are three areas you can protect yourself and your personal information when it comes to data security…

In Your Home
Your “private” information may be more public than you realize. Now is the time to check privacy settings on your social media sites, apps and smart devices like phones or tablets. Also talk to your family members about what they share online, and how their information can be bought and sold without their knowledge. Yes, your personal data has a monetary value, so be sure to protect it.

In the Workplace
Data security is just as important at work. Make sure all systems or devices are up-to-date to help protect your company’s privacy. This includes any virus or malware protection you may (and should) have. Also check that your personal devices aren’t syncing to work devices, such as onto the same cloud. This helps to protect you, but it also protects the network at work, should your personal device get compromised.

In Your Community
Help members of your community by spreading the word and providing resources about Data Privacy Day. This could mean asking your elderly neighbor if they need assistance protecting their technology, or sending information to the parents of your children’s friends. Anyone lacking experience with cyber security is sure to benefit from your helping hand, especially if you educate them on the risks.

Knowledge is power, and in this case power means protection. Try to set some time aside on January 28th to secure your personal data, even if it means finally accepting those updates that have been popping up on your computer for weeks. Speaking of popping, maybe pop some bubble wrap too, because we could all use a little stress relief now and then.

The Top 10 Safety and Security Posts of 2018—to Guide You into a Safer New Year

Another year has come and gone. And we are doing our usual looking backwards to review 2018 and decide what to bring forward into the new year…as well as what to leave behind. Which brings us to safety and security, of course!

During the past year, we served up over 50 blog posts on home security and safety topics. To wrap up 2018 with a flourish, we’ve sorted through those 50 posts to make this list of the top 10. The criteria? The topics we consider of the highest priority based on what poses the greatest risks to us, our loved ones and our homes. Without further ado, here are our top topics for the past year, those we consider still high priorities as we move into 2019:

As mentioned above, we delivered over 50 posts over the past year, covering everything from online shopping to college campus safety tips. You can find every safety and security topic at our blog, so take a look and discover all the other ways you can keep yourself, your family and your home safe and secure in 2019.

Review These Shopping Safety Tips Before You Whip Out Your Wallet This Weekend…

Thanksgiving is early this year. No, it really is. It falls on November 22nd, which is the earliest date it can fall on. So, it’s not your imagination. Thanksgiving did sneak up on you! And on us too, we admit, and because of that, we are all of a sudden realizing it’s time to talk about safe holiday shopping before the buying frenzy begins.

It’s going to be a big year for holiday shopping
And a frenzy it will be! Last year 174 million Americans parted with their money during the Thanksgiving weekend shopping, which includes Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. You can expect that number to be higher this year because the economy is booming and consumer confidence is high. As a result, eMarketer predicts 2018 holiday season will bring strong retail sales: offline sales are expected to increase 4.1%, while online spending will increase 16.2% to $123.39 billion.

Will you be one of the confident consumers coughing up cash this weekend? Before you whip out your wallet this Thursday, Friday or Monday, review these safety tips first, so your holiday won’t be more expensive than you’d planned.

While shopping online
More money will be spent online than in person this Thanksgiving weekend, so be ready to be safe for any shopping that involves your laptop or mobile phone:

  • When at a website, check the URL and look for https:// rather than just http://. You can also look for a lock or similar symbol, showing that the site is confirmed secure.
  • Change up your passwords on a regular basis.
  • Pay with a credit cardinstead of a debit card.
  • Have a plan for any packages that will get delivered to your house, so they’re not sitting on your front porch and easily stolen.

While shopping in person
Despite the allure of online shopping, many of us still like to go spend our money in person. If you’re going to be hitting the Black Friday sales, pay attention to these safety tips:

  • Don’t flash any cash and only pull out your wallet when you’re ready to pay.
  • Keep your purse close to your body or carry your wallet in a front pocket.
  • Only purchase what you can carry at one time.
  • Keep your phone charged.
  • Set up meeting times and places if you’re shopping with others.
  • Park under a light if you’ll be shopping until after dark.
  • If you put packages in your car and do more shopping, keep those packages out of sight by hiding them in the trunk.
  • Once you’re back home, don’t advertise expensive purchases. Don’t leave boxes on the front porch and break down large boxes as soon as possible to keep your buys to yourself.

Don’t spend what you don’t have
Although the buying and giving is fun, and these tips should help keep you and your property safer, we offer one caveat to all this: Avoid the debt. Consumer debt is set to reach $4 trillion by the end of 2018. You might think that’s unrelated to home security and safety, but when debt affects our physical health, marriages, and financial futures, it’s totally related. No matter how good the Black Friday or Cyber Monday deal might be, if you have to borrow to buy it, you’re going to end up paying more for it anyway.

And on that note, have fun, buy smart, and stay safe this Thanksgiving weekend!

Aggressive Driving: Not Worth the Risk!

What’s it like to be hauling three horses in a trailer on winding, hilly roads, while drivers aggressively pass you and honk in anger as they fly by? Kind of scary, to be honest! And that’s what I experienced this past week while driving to and from a beach trip with friends and horses.

I was shocked at just how rude and aggressive the other drivers were, especially given that I was driving the speed limit and only slowing down on curves, and because I was obviously towing a horse trailer full of live animals, not a boat or other inanimate object. So I got curious: Are drivers getting more aggressive, or is it my imagination?

It’s not my imagination. Nor is it unique to my state or even the country I live in. It turns out that aggressive driving is on the increase all over the world, and people are dying as a result.

What is aggressive driving?
Aggressive driving is not the same as road rage. Aggressive driving is defined as intentional driving behavior that puts the driver (and others on the road) at risk. While road rage is usually the result of some kind of altercation, aggressive driving is done intentionally. This is a key difference because people who are aggressive drivers are doing so on purpose.

Aggressive driving includes:

  • Speeding, whether that means driving faster than the posted speed limit or too fast for the weather or road conditions
  • Frequently changing lanes or weaving in and out of traffic
  • Running red lights or stop signs
  • Tailgating
  • Failing to yield the right of way
  • Not letting other drivers merge
  • Cutting off other drivers
  • Passing on the right
  • Passing on the shoulder of the road
  • Not using turn signals when changing lanes
  • Honking your horn
  • Flashing headlights
  • Yelling and gesturing at other drivers to make it clear just how pissed off you are

Aggressive driving is dangerous!
If you don’t think driving aggressively is a big deal, take a look at these numbers that prove otherwise:

How to put a stop to aggressive driving
Once you see those numbers, I hope you’ll agree that driving aggressively is simply not worth the risk. So what can we do about it?

If you’re the one driving aggressively, start by recognizing and admitting to your behavior. You’re not going to get anywhere any faster by driving that way, and you are putting yourself and any passengers at risk. Try to relax and take a deep breath. Listen to soothing music or an audiobook that will take your mind off your frustrations. Recognize when you’re getting in the car angry, such as after a bad day at work. You want to make it home safely, right? And you want everyone else to make it home safely too, I’m sure. So dial it back.

What if you’re driving safely but you’re on the receiving end of the dangers of an aggressive driver? Do not start driving like them or trying to get back at them. Instead, give them the benefit of the doubt and stay clear of them.

Just because a behavior has become the new normal does not mean we have to behave that way. We can put safety and security first. As for me, I’m ordering “Caution Horses” stickers for the back of my trailer…and taking a lot of deep breaths on my next road trip with those live animals in tow.

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