Anthony Varriano

Anthony Varriano

 

I’m not advocating that anyone risk re-aggravating an injury to simply burn some calories, but there are exercises you can do stay healthy and avoid re-aggravating an injury. In fact, those same exercises you were doing prior to sustaining an injury will be more difficult and burn more calories than they did prior to the injury because they’ll be complicated by your injury.

 

I slipped while on a ladder and probably broke my left foot about a month ago. It’s forced me to abandon my cardio routine, which has severely affected the attainability of my goal of having six-pack abs by March 13. Much of my cardio workout consists of jumping. I jump rope, do X-jumps and tuck jumps, and I haven’t been able to support all of my weight using the toes of my left foot since the injury. It hasn’t stopped me from working out, though.

 

I’ve been doing the same abs workout for more than six months. It’s a slightly altered version of the 10-minute abs workout on the MyPlate app by Livestrong, available to paid subscribers. I started doing the abs workout followed by a seven-minute cardio sculpting workout, but have since switched to doing abs and cardio on separate days, because I now do each workout up to three or four times.

 

My ability to complete my abs workout wasn’t affected by my foot injury for more than a few days. I stayed off my feet for a couple days and ate Ibuprofen to decrease the swelling, but I knew my cardio workout would be an impossibility for at least a month after seeing the first day of bruising. I had to find a way to incorporate cardio into my abs workout.

You Hear Rest, I Hear Stretch

The MyPlate app calls for rest between sets of the 10-minute abs workout, but that’s not what I hear anymore. When you hear rest, I hear stretch. Instead of using the 15-second rest period between exercises to grab a drink of water or wipe sweat from my face, I use the time to stretch.

There’s still 10 seconds allowed to prepare for the next exercise, so that is now my rest period.

 

You can turn any workout into a cardio workout by eliminating rest between your exercises. Even something as simple as stretching burns between 175 and 240 calories per hour and keeps your heart rate elevated between sets and burn more calories. So during my three, 10-minute abs workouts, I stretch for a cumulative 8.5 minutes, burning an extra 30 calories. And stretching is one thing you can do despite sustaining a minor injury because you can avoid any muscle groups affected by the injury.

 

If you can perform push-ups during those 15-second, rest periods, you can keep your heart rate even higher and burn an additional 80 calories.

Engage Your Core Even More

I didn’t even realize how much harder my abs workout could be until I injured my foot. It was while performing bird dogs that I discovered how a minor injury can be good for your training regiment.

 

In the past I would use my foot to maintain stability while performing bird dogs. It provides a third point of balance to go along with my hand and knee, but doing so re-aggravated my injury. So I lifted my feet off the ground and used only my knee and hand to support and balance my weight, which doubled the intensity of the workout. You’ll find you will be forced to engage your core even more to accommodate for the lost point of balance, which burns more calories and builds more muscle.

Take Your Time

My abs workout also increased in difficulty because I slowed everything down to avoid re-aggravating my foot injury. If you take your time and really focus on performing the exercise properly, you’ll find your workout to be more effective despite performing fewer repetitions.

Focus on Muscle Groups Unaffected by the Injury

If you have a lower-body injury, focus on exercising your upper body. You can do seated weight lifting or upper-body resistance training. Focus on your arms, chest, abs, back and neck. If you have an upper-body injury, focus on exercising your lower body. Do squats, lunges and kicks.

 

So don’t waste away waiting to recover from injury. Keep your heart rate up and exercise the parts of your body that don’t hurt. Then, when you’re completely healed, you’ll be better prepared to jump back into your training regiment having hardly missed a beat.


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The Minnesota Timberwolves are a mess without Jimmy Butler, and the question isn’t whether Butler will be able to return for the playoffs, but if the Wolves can make the playoffs without him.

Karl-Anthony Towns did everything he could to carry his Wolves to a win in Portland to no avail on Thursday night. He scored 34 points on 11-of-19 shooting, went 11-for-12 from the free throw line and grabbed 17 rebounds, which was still only good enough for a -6 plus/minus. But a -6 plus/minus is better than not having Towns on the floor.

Towns followed Thursday’s performance with an ejection in the closing minutes of the first half the following night in Utah -- a game in which his plus/minus was +6 and replaced by the -2 of Gorgui Dieng, who scored six points and grabbed four rebounds in 19 minutes. Towns couldn’t have picked a worse time for the first ejection of his career.

Minnesota nearly pulled off a comeback without Towns, but things spiraled out of control in the fourth quarter -- as usual -- culminating in Jeff Teague lowering his shoulder into Marco Rubio, sending him into the seats with 5:20 to go and the Wolves down nine. It was the first time in franchise history the Timberwolves had two players ejected in the same game. Head coach Tom Thibodeau also earned two technical fouls. While the Wolves’ struggles on defense and scoring in the fourth quarter without Butler were evident on Thursday, their collective frustration and lack of leadership was ever present on Friday.

The Timberwolves might be leading the NBA’s Northwest Division despite the consecutive losses in consecutive nights, but they are not a lock to make the playoffs let alone win the division. The Denver Nuggets, the eighth seed in the Western Conference currently, are just two games behind the Wolves in the standings. Utah is just four games back after its win on Friday, and things only get tougher for Minnesota.

The Wolves play 10 of their remaining 16 games against teams with records above .500 and another against a young, running Laker squad that gave the Wolves trouble when Butler was on the floor. The Wolves probably don’t have to worry about the Los Angeles Clippers taking their spot in the playoffs. While the Clippers are just a game and a half behind Denver for the eighth seed in the West, they play 16 of their final 21 games against teams over .500.

The Jazz are most likely to replace the Wolves in the playoffs. They play nine of their 20 remaining games against teams above .500. So not only do the Jazz have four games in hand to gain ground on the Wolves, but they play an easier schedule, despite three back-to-backs to Minnesota’s two.

It wouldn’t be unrealistic to see Minnesota lose its next six games, which would make for an eight-game losing streak. The Wolves’ current three-game losing streak is the longest of the season, but they host Boston and Golden State, visit the Wizards and Spurs, and then host the Rockets and Clippers -- all teams above .500. A single win during that stretch would be a huge lift for a young team struggling to manage its emotions in the face of adversity.

During the same stretch, Utah has already beaten Sacramento and get to face Orlando, Indiana, Memphis, New Orleans, Detroit, Phoenix, Sacramento again, and the hapless Hawks. If the Jazz can win just four of those eight remaining games, and Minnesota goes winless, Utah would be just half a game behind Minnesota in the West, and Butler would still be out at least another five days.

Butler had surgery for a torn meniscus in his right knee on Sunday, Feb. 25. The expected recovery time is four to six weeks, which keeps him out until March 25 at the earliest. You can be sure the moment Butler is physically cleared to play, he will play. That’s just his nature, which is probably why he and Thibodeau are inseparable. They’re both old-school ballers.

Given the best case scenario, Butler could return in time to get his feet under him during the Wolves’ final eight regular season games. But the Wolves won’t likely be able to extend Butler the courtesy of easing back into the game. The Timberwolves need Jimmy Butler just to make the playoffs. By the earliest time Butler can play, Minnesota could be 39-35 and no longer in control of its postseason destiny. While Minnesota has the Knicks to recover from the grueling stretch of their schedule and end a potential eight-game losing streak, the Wolves play in Philadelphia the very next day.

Luckily, the Jazz enter the tough stretch of their remaining schedule during Butler’s potential return. After playing in San Antonio, the Jazz travel to Golden State and then play host to Boston and Memphis before an April 1 game in Minnesota that will be bigger than anyone could have imagined when the two teams met in Minnesota’s home opener of the renovated Target Center on Oct. 20. If the Jazz win the games they should and lose to Indiana, New Orleans, San Antonio, Golden State and Boston, they’ll enter that game in Minnesota 41-35.

If Butler can’t return in four weeks, the Wolves can take some comfort in their schedule while they wait. Memphis, Atlanta and Dallas fill the schedule prior to the April 1 meeting with the Jazz, giving Minnesota a chance to gain some ground on Utah. Wins in all three of those games would put Minnesota at 42-35 -- a half game up on Utah.

Regardless of where the Wolves sit in the standings come April 1, winning that game would give them the tiebreaker over the Jazz. A loss wouldn’t eliminate Minnesota, though. Utah has to deal with the running Lakers twice, the Clippers, the Warriors and the Trail Blazers to finish the regular season. The Wolves also visit the Lakers, but get Memphis at home and Denver twice to close the regular season.

If it takes Butler the six weeks to be physically cleared to play, the Wolves will have him for two games at home against Memphis and Denver. Whether he returns at all will depend on where the Wolves are in the standings at the time, but odds are they’ll be fighting for their playoff lives rather than resting their legs for the playoffs. Without Butler, the Wolves are the worst defensive team in the NBA, according to Chris Hine of the Star Tribune. With him, they have the 11th best defensive rating in the league. They have five days off to prepare for the visiting Celtics on Thursday in a nationally televised game.


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The Post is a fine film. Meryl Streep is fantastic, as usual, and Tom Hanks is a believable Ben Bradlee, publisher of The Washington Post when the biggest threat to First Amendment rights of the free press was waged—until now, of course.

The Post’s subject matter—the publishing of the infamous “Pentagon Papers,” a Department of Defense study of the makings and escalation of the Vietnam War leaked by Daniel Ellsburg—doesn’t allow for the same suspense Watergate did for All the President’s Men. The Post is not a thriller in any means, but the drama is plentiful thanks to the film revealing the business side of the newspaper business.

Sure, the means of news distribution has changed mightily since the advent of the Internet, but newspapers were a low-margin business then and still are thanks to television. Truth-telling didn’t result in riches then, and it still doesn’t. But there’s more to business than money, and Katharine Graham recognized this as CEO of The Washington Post.

Graham, portrayed by the always fantastic Meryl Streep, who plays the part of a woman struggling to make it in a man’s world to perfection, is a timely character given the mass of allegations brought against men in Hollywood and other positions of power. Strong, female leads are finally becoming more common in Hollywood, and more and more women are ascending to positions of power in business and politics.

Graham got her job when her husband committed suicide, and members of her very own board believed she had no business running The Washington Post. She proved them all wrong, taking the company public and selling 1.294 million shares at a price of $26 per share. The starting price was reported as $24.50 in the film, however. Regardless, by the end of her tenure in 1991, shares were worth $888 each. That’s growth of 3,315 percent. She did it all despite an injunction being filed against The New York Times, to whom the “Pentagon Papers” were originally leaked, that forced The Times to cease publishing stories regarding the papers. The Post was subject to the same fate, but Graham published anyways.

Why did she publish? No members of her board recommended it. Only publisher Ben Bradlee, portrayed by Tom Hanks, wanted to publish, and even he wasn’t the reason Graham decided to do so. If you visit The Washington Post website today, you’ll find the mission statement is the same as it was in 1935, when Eugene Meyer wrote “The Seven Principles for the Conduct of a Newspaper." They are:

  1. The first mission of a newspaper is to tell the truth as nearly as the truth may be ascertained.
  2. The newspaper shall tell ALL the truth so far as it can learn it, concerning the important affairs of America and the world.
  3. As a disseminator of the news, the paper shall observe the decencies that are obligatory upon a private gentleman.
  4. What it prints shall be fit reading for the young as well as for the old.
  5. The newspaper’s duty is to its readers and to the public at large, and not to the private interests of its owners.
  6. In the pursuit of truth, the newspaper shall be prepared to make sacrifices of its material fortunes, if such course be necessary for the public good.
  7. The newspaper shall not be the ally of any special interest, but shall be fair and free and wholesome in its outlook on public affairs and public men.

Graham decided to publish because of principles five, six and seven. The newspaper would not be fulfilling its duty to its readers if it knew the truth and chose to conceal it in the interests of business. And even if investors pulled out of the stock offering, which was their right if done so within seven days in the event of a “catastrophic event,” “the newspaper shall be prepared to make sacrifices of its material fortunes, if such course be necessary for the public good.” Graham was also willing to sacrifice a friendship. She was friends with Robert McNamara, former Secretary of Defense, but she nor the paper would be an ally or perceived as an ally to any special interest. This is why I subscribed to The Washington Post immediately after seeing The Post: because the newspaper still adheres to those same principles.

I’ve been exhausting my free online articles at The Washington Post long before I ever needed it to do my work. I used to be a journalist, and even when I was writing the news I was reading the news. Now I mostly write about the news, so I find myself exhausting my free online articles at The Post faster than ever. In the search for truth, I am most often led to The Washington Post—an American institution with the interests of Americans in mind, then and now.

The Post is a most timely film given the state of the union and threat to the First Amendment rights of the free press. Now we have White House representatives avoiding the press, with Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt surrounding himself with security, refusing to hold press conferences, and hand-picking interviewers who and news outlets that support his stance and the stance of the administration. Information coming out of the EPA comes in the form of press releases that best serve the goals of the White House—no questions allowed. The EPA is, in effect, writing the news as they see fit—a severe threat to the First Amendment rights of the free press to act as a check on the power of politicians. The EPA is acting like the public relations arm of the collective of corporations now running the EPA.

When politicians dictate news coverage, truth is unattainable and citizens are incapable of properly informing themselves. All the journalists in the world can’t uncover the truth if those in power refuse to answer questions or deflect the attention of the public to what they feel is newsworthy. But as long as there are brave whistleblowers and leaks of sensitive information, The Washington Post will sacrifice its business interests to serve the interests of America and Americans. It’s mission statement demands it.


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As we enter the stretch run of the National Hockey League season, more games are being broadcasted nationally and many of them are being played in playoff atmospheres due to their playoff implications. That’s especially the case for the NHL’s Western Conference, where the fourth-ranked Minnesota Wild and 11th-ranked Colorado Avalanche are separated by just eight points.

Just one point separates the fourth-ranked San Jose Sharks and fifth-ranked Dallas Stars. Just one point separates the Stars and sixth-ranked Los Angeles Kings. Just one point separates the Kings from the the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks have a one-point edge on the Calgary Flames for the final Wild Card spot in the West, and the Flames have a one-point advantage on the St. Louis Blues, who have one point on Colorado. Almost every game played in the West the rest of the season will have playoff implications, and you’ll probably want to tune into the last month or so of the regular season to see how it all shakes out.

Just last night NBC Sports Network aired a doubleheader that featured a wild divisional game between the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues that saw the Wild assert their dominance at home in an 8-3 win on the back of a hat trick by Eric Staal. Immediately after, the Los Angeles Kings won their second game in as many nights against the Western Conference leaders, the Vegas Golden Knights, in a preview of a possible first-round, playoff matchup. Today’s NBCSN Rivalry Night game between the Detroit Red Wings and St. Louis Blues is almost a must-win game for St. Louis as a result.

If you don’t have cable or satellite television service, watching these games and the Stanley Cup Playoffs might require you to leave the comforts of home for a nearby sports bar. While it’s not all bad to catch a game with fellow fans, visiting a sports bar two or three nights per week will take a toll on your pocketbook. Even if you drink club soda you still have to get yourself there.

The National Hockey League isn’t as popular as “the big three” sports, so basic cable networks -- the ones with the most money -- don’t tend to buy the rights to broadcast many hockey games. And even though the NBC network of channels owns the rights to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s evident that NBC wants you to pay to watch hockey. It was especially evident during the 2018 Winter Olympics. Unless you had cable, satellite or a live streaming service, you couldn’t watch Olympic hockey in the State of Hockey. Not one Olympic, hockey game -- men’s or women’s -- was broadcasted on my local NBC channel in Minneapolis.

The same mostly goes for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. You might catch a game here and there on NBC using your digital antenna, but just four of the six Stanley Cup Finals games were broadcasted on basic cable last season, and just 18 of the 87 Stanley Cup Playoff games were broadcasted on NBC last year. The rest of the games were on either NBC Sports Network, CNBC or USA -- all of which require either cable, satellite or a live streaming service to view. So here are the cheapest options for cable cutters to watch playoff hockey. Hint: purchasing cable or satellite television service is not one of them.

5) Xfinity Instant TV ($40 per month to start, $50 per month after first 30 days )

The first knock against Xfinity’s live streaming service is that it’s only available to Xfinity customers. The second is that their 30-day, free trial is only on its basic channel lineup of 10+ channels, so NBCSN, CNBC and USA are not even included. They do waive the $10 fee for the basic package during your first month, though.

Xfinity’s customer service is as bad or worse than any other Internet service or cable providers. I actually had a customer representative sign me up for the wrong package because she did not understand that NBCSN and CNBC were different channels than NBC. I specifically stated the only channels I cared about were NBC Sports Network and CNBC, and she still signed me up for the basic package that includes neither.

Now if you’re contract is expiring with your current Internet service provider or mobile data service provider, you might consider switching to Xfinity to take advantage of a low, introductory rate on Internet or their always affordable Xfinity Mobile data plan that’s just $12 per month for one gigabyte of data. I’ve used Xfinity Mobile for three months now and have never gone over the one-gigabyte allowance because my phone connects to all the public Xfinity Wifi signals automatically. Purchasing either would give you access to Xfinity Instant TV, but there are better deals out there.

4) Hulu ($39.99 per month after seven-day, free trial)

If all you want is NBC Sports Network, USA and CNBC to watch the Stanley Cup Playoffs starting April 11, Hulu is not the best answer. But it is better than paying for Xfinity’s streaming service or two years of cable or satellite service. While Hulu offers shows on demand, if the only show you intend to watch is live hockey, you can do much better than $39.99 per month. Even if you intend to watch other shows, there are cheaper options available to cable cutters.

3) YouTube TV ($35 per month after seven-day, free trial)

YouTube TV is the newest streaming service on the market making waves, and at $35 per month for more than 50 channels, it’s a reasonable deal. Maybe after Google has acquired a share of the live streaming market, it will buy fewer ads and be able to lower the price. Until then, cable cutting hockey fans have cheaper options available.

2) Sling TV ($25 per month after seven-day, free trial)

Sling TV isn’t comparable to Hulu when it comes to on demand options, and it’s DVR service is an extra $10. It too offers just a seven-day, free trial, but hockey fans can save almost $15 per month going with Sling to stream NBCSN, USA and CNBC during the playoffs. You’d need to purchase the Sling Blue package of channels, which is $5 more expensive than Sling’s basic package, but you can cancel as soon as your team is eliminated. This is the best option for cable cutters who don’t have friends with cable or satellite television service on whom they can piggyback.

1) Piggybacking on the cable and satellite subscriptions of family and friends

The cheapest option for cable cutters to watch playoff hockey is to piggyback on the cable and satellite subscriptions of family and friends. Ask for their login information and save it somewhere. As long as you’re logged in with their credentials and declare their service provider as your own, you should be able to live stream whatever channels they get that are made available to stream live by the provider.


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Renovate your old home on the cheap

Home renovations aren’t cheap and can be especially costly for old homes, but there are ways to give your old home a facelift without spending a fortune. Follow these tips to renovate your old home on the cheap.

1) Finish your walls to the floor

What I mean by “finish your walls to the floor” is to hang your drywall so that it comes as close to your floor as possible. Finish your walls to the floor also means applying wall texture as far down the wall as you can if you’re using wall texture. You don’t want to leave a few-inch gap because you know there will be baseboard trim there and then find after you’ve attached the trim that there are glaring spots lacking texture. You can’t re-apply wall texture without covering your trim or removing it, so do the work properly upfront and you won’t run into problems that waste your time or money later.

 

Leaving a considerable gap between your floor and your wall might force you to buy a wider baseboard to affix to the base of the wall in order to hide the gap. That’s exactly what the former owners of my 1925 home did, likely because of damaged edges of the drywall they thought the 3.25-inch baseboard would cover and didn’t. Hint: the baseboards you’ll commonly find at home improvement stores are 3.25 inches wide, and the next largest size is likely 4.5 inches, which increases your costs considerably. Special ordering 3.5-inch baseboard trim is a possibility, so if you have other renovations you can do while you wait for your baseboard, do that.

 

If your renovation can’t wait on a special order, you can affix another piece of trim, called a toe kick, to the bottom of the baseboard so you can cheat the baseboard up the wall and cover the unfinished portions of your walls. The toe kick can help hide the slope of your floors, too, as you can affix it to the baseboard while it’s flush with the floor. It’s a lot easier to do with an automatic nailer loaded with finishing nails than to risk damaging your floors using a hammer.  This is all more expensive than finishing your walls to the floor, though.

2) Use as little wall texture as possible

Wall texture makes painting your walls more expensive, and it’s expensive itself. You’ll undoubtedly use more paint to cover the bumps and holes wall texture brings with it, and you’ll spend more than $12 per can on wall texture to cover your mistakes. That can doesn’t go as far as it says on the can, either. On the medium setting, you can blow through a can of wall texture before you finish two walls in an average-sized room.

 

If you finish your walls properly, you shouldn’t need to use wall texture. Finish your walls with thin layers of drywall mud and then sand them to a flat finish. Vacuum the dust off the floor and the walls, and then wash the walls with a damp rag. You should be able to get away with one coat of paint in most cases.

3) Always paint, never wallpaper

Wallpaper is a pain in the ass to hang and remove. It’s also more expensive than paint. And eventually, you’ll tire of the puppy wallpaper you hung in your son’s bedroom when he was a toddler, but won’t be too excited about taking it down. So just paint instead.

 

In fact, you can save a bunch of money by planning your paint projects ahead of time. I shop the “Oops” paint at hardware stores to get a gallon of paint for less than $10. There is nothing wrong with “Oops” paint. The color just wasn’t acceptable to whomever ordered it. I was actually paid $1 for buying a gallon of “Oops” paint at Lowe’s after a mail-in rebate. That paint goes for $45 per gallon regularly. Even if one gallon isn’t enough to complete my project, I can have the color matched and get just enough to finish the job at regular price.

 

I stretch my paint as far as I can by using a paintbrush as much as possible. Rollers waste a lot of paint, so if you are going to use a roller, invest in the “high-dollar,” sheepskin rollers that advertise “one coat coverage” on the package. They’re usually only a few cents more expensive than economy rollers and are more efficient when painting walls with a lot of wall texture.  

4) Reuse what you can

I took out one of my two bedroom doors and put in recessed shelving in its place, which meant I needed baseboard trim for the wall I added that matched the trim already in the living room. The same trim is used throughout the house, but a lot of it has paint drippings dried to it because the last person who painted failed to tape over the trim. Since that trim needs to be removed, sanded and refinished, I cannibalized a piece of baseboard in my bedroom that was roughly the same shade and mostly clear of paint and affixed it to the new wall in the living room. Since I’m painting the baseboard trim in the bedroom, I’ll buy a new piece and paint it to replace the one I moved.

 

You’d be surprised what you’ll wish you had kept when you start renovating your old home. Since I intend to add both a bathroom and kitchen sink in my unfinished basement, I kept all the plumbing pieces from my kitchen sink upstairs that were no longer needed after I installed a dishwasher. I’ll keep the old faucet when I install a new one as well.

5) Find more square footage between the studs

Old homes tend to have a lot of potential in unutilized space. Homebuilders back in the day were less concerned with how to best utilize the square footage of the home than they were with building a home that was structurally sound.

 

Old homes tend to have load-bearing walls in all the wrong places, and small homes are even worse because there are so few walls. Neither allow homeowners to easily take out walls and create a more open floor plan that makes the home look bigger. So you have to find space where you can. The easiest place to find more square footage in every home is between the studs of every wall.

 

Don’t buy bookcases and make your home smaller. Build a bookcase into your walls and make it look bigger. Every two-inch by four-inch wall has roughly 3.5 inches of potential shelf space between the studs, which are usually 16 to 24 inches apart. While 3.5 inches doesn’t sound like a lot, it provides plenty of space to install supports for a shelf you can extend beyond the depth of the wall.

 

That shelving unit I installed in place of my second bedroom door will have 7.5-inch shelves I can use to store my vinyl record collection. Those records are 12.5 inches wide but don’t need a shelf equal in width to support them. I know this because they currently sit on shelves that are 7.75 inches wide. I’ve pulled them out more than an inch, and they still sit flat on the shelf.

 

So instead of storing my records on a bookshelf sitting on the floor and losing valuable square footage in my home, I’m actually making my tiny home look bigger than it is by keeping the shelves off the floor and recessed into the walls.

 

I’ve already found more square footage in my old home by building a custom shelving unit into my living room walls for my stereo equipment. Instead of having an entertainment center with my turntable, amplifier, receiver and power center sitting on the floor, it’s all neatly stacked in the corner of the living room above my subwoofer. What previously robbed my home of eight square feet now sits in an area less than 2.5 square feet in size.

 

Follow these tips to renovate your old home on the cheap and you’ll not only save some money for a potential addition or new appliances, but you’ll save yourself valuable time, space and headaches.

 

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Sure, a business card will remind a potential customer who you are, how to contact you and what your business does, but you can be sure most people will never look at that business card again unless they absolutely need your services. And even then, they’ll probably have a hard time remembering where they stashed it. I know I have multiple stacks of business cards on my desk and bookshelf in the office that were organized in a certain manner I can no longer remember.

 

Even the nicest business cards get lost in the literal shuffle. Your business needs more than just business cards to convert potential customers into paying customers. If you really want to make a good first impression, you need to leave potential customers with promotional items they love so much they won’t even consider them advertisements. They’re just cool things they want, or even need. So here are the best promotional items to advertise your business and turn potential customers into paying customers.

The Best Promotional Items

5) Clever T-shirts

While more expensive than your typical promotional item, a clever t-shirt worn by a loyal customer is the best walking billboard in which you can invest. Not only do you have ample space to let people know what makes your products or services unique, but you have an ambassador who can pay lip service to your company’s quality, too.

 

T-shirts are an especially effective investment for nonprofit organizations because their supporters are much more likely to represent the organization on their backs, or even pay for the t-shirt to represent their favorite nonprofits. Nonprofit supporters associate themselves with their nonprofits of choice like sports fans associate themselves with their favorite teams. They aren’t just consumers or spectators -- they have a real effect on the game. Some nonprofit fans even get in on the marketing efforts by designing t-shirts for their favorite nonprofits. That’s the case for the Marijuana Policy Project, which holds a t-shirt design competition annually.

 

You can save some money by printing your own t-shirts. Here’s a video on how to do just that. Personally, I can attest to how difficult it is to make great looking t-shirts, not because making the t-shirt is difficult. The problem is never applying the ink to the shirt, but properly exposing your silk screen. If you mess it up, you’re out at least $50 -- $25 for the screen you ruined and $25 for the new screen you’ll have to buy. The best screens we’ve worked with we built ourselves rather than buying at the arts and crafts store. They still work to this day despite bottles upon bottles of ink going through them.

 

Building and exposing your own screens might not be worth your time given the many options to design custom t-shirts online for around $3 to $6 per shirt, depending on quantity. But if you intend to print a ton of t-shirts over a long period of time, having a means to print them yourself whenever you need them would be a wise investment.

4) Mugs

Ranging from 60 cents to around $2 each, a customized, ceramic mug is something everyone can use and everyone around them can see. Giving your potential customers or even loyal customers a mug is commonplace in many industries. Most of my mugs advertise something: the title company who helped me close on my house, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, New York Air Brakes, Makoshika State Park, Hershey’s Chocolate. In fact, just one of my six mugs lacks advertising.

 

Mugs are always useful and tend to be used in the company of others. People at the office drink coffee or tea from their personal mugs at meetings, and people at parties drink beer from glass mugs. Both of which should be advertising your business.

3) Mobile Phone Wallets

As phones get larger, pocket space gets smaller. Enter the mobile phone wallet -- a silicone wallet to hold identification, credit cards and cash right on the back of your phone. The backs of people’s mobile phones are like billboards for your brand. People are on their phones constantly, so your brand is bound to reach people while giving your potential customer the convenience of carrying less stuff.

 

You can easily design your mobile phone wallet using online software and choose multiple colors so your potential customers are comfortable affixing your promotional item to their precious mobile phone. You can order mobile phone wallets in bulk at less than 70 cents each.  

2) Calendars

Classic car calendars are my personal weakness. Everytime I see a classic car calendar for free I take one. I could have two at home and still find another place to put a third. You can never have enough calendars or pictures of hot cars. It’s cheap wall art as well as a practical item that serves a purpose. But not all calendars provide the same promotional payoff.

 

First of all, don’t bother with the peel and stick calendars that simply have your company logo atop a small, plain calendar capable of nothing more than telling your potential customer the date. There’s no space to write on it, so it’s not likely to get much attention. It also can’t be easily seen nor does it attract the eyes of passersby. If you’re going to give a potential customer a calendar, make it a calendar that draws their eyes as well as the eyes of anyone in the vicinity.

 

The same could be said of desktop calendars. They’re just too small, and while more practical and useful than the peel and stick calendars, you’re not going to catch the eyes of anyone except the person behind the desk.

 

The traditional, spiral-bound, hanging calendar is still king of the calendars. The average price of a customized calendar is less than $1, and you can design one yourself using online software and your own images.

 

Magnetic calendars are starting to catch on because they combine two great marketing materials into one. Most people’s magnets on their refrigerator/freezer were probably free and probably advertise something. Of the eight magnets on my fridge, I paid for one, and that’s because I wanted a momento from The Mob Museum in Las Vegas, which is well worth your time and money if you’re in Sin City. While I have no use for a calendar on which I can’t write, a magnet always comes in handy, which brings us to the best promotional item to advertise your business.

1) Magnets

While most calendars have a promotional life of one year, magnets will promote your business for as long as they’re magnetized, so don’t pinch pennies, which is all you’ll be pinching. Most magnets can be had for less than 50 cents each unless you’re going big. While I really like the practicality and convenience of magnetized notepads, they too have a limited promotional life, so stick with a magnet that won’t exhaust its usefulness.

 

Invest in a thick magnet that will stand the test of time and secure a bunch of stuff to the fridge. There’s nothing more annoying than a cheap magnet that struggles to keep my cousin’s holiday, family photo attached to my freezer. But don’t pay the premium for the magnetized paper clips. They don’t allow you to convey any other information about your business besides your logo, which will be lost amongst the many papers the clip will hold.

 

The only real drawback of magnets is the competition. Refrigerators are consumed by children’s drawings, “A+” test papers, grocery lists, to-do lists and all manner of coupons or receipts -- each suspended there by a different magnet likely advertising a different company -- maybe even a competitor of yours. So it’s very important that your magnet stands out from the crowd.  

The Worst Promotional Items

3) Keychains

The only people who see keychains are the owners of said keychains, so you can’t expect your investment in this promotional item to payoff. But I’ve seen variations of this promotional item that keeps it out of last place.

 

After a football game one day, I was handed a keychain that doubled as a windshield scraper. I’ve seen others that serve as flashlights. The best keychain I’ve seen is a bottle opener with a beer brand advertised on it. So if you’re going to go this route, make sure your keychain serves a purpose besides hanging from people’s keys.

2) Hats

People who regularly wear hats tend to have hats they prefer to wear. A cheap, trucker hat with your company’s logo is not likely one of those preferred hats. The only time I wear promotional headgear is when I’m doing construction work outside and don’t want to ruin one of my preferred hats. That’s not going to get your brand noticed.

 

Hats are also expensive promotional materials, especially given the limited return on investment. You can expect to pay about the same amount for a hat as you would a t-shirt, which is just asinine.

1) Pens

Pens are too small to allow others to see what’s advertised on them. And while they’re an affordable investment (less than 40 cents each), the return on investment in terms of lead generation is next to nothing.

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On this date 13 years ago, renowned writer and creator of “Gonzo” journalism, Hunter S. Thompson shot himself in the head because football season was over, he couldn’t walk or swim, he was always “bitchy” and had lived 17 more years than he needed or wanted to. His succinct suicide note was in keeping with Hunter’s writing style. He made dents, not first impressions.

 

The one thing Hunter could do in his old age was fire guns, and boy did he love his guns. Apparently not enough to continue living, though. He would probably have a lot to say about our constant debate on gun control in this country. Or maybe he’d have little to say, like “You can control my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.”

 

I know the man a little better than that, though. In fact, I think the only fact he accepted while alive was “the best fiction is far more true than any kind of journalism.” While I never met him, I spent roughly four years of my life researching his life and works, which culminated in a Master’s professional paper entitled “How Hunter S. Thompson Built Fox News and What We Can Do About It.”

 

Hunter was my hero going into that research, but my opinion of him changed dramatically as I began to realize how much he influenced journalism of today and made it more acceptable for journalists to insert themselves as the heroes of their stories, but more importantly, editorialize the news. Journalists are telling us how to feel about the news instead of simply reporting it, and Hunter’s success is a big reason for that.

 

Hunter’s blending of fact and fiction to convey deep meaning through news is a triumphant failure with unintended, lasting effects. Hunter’s most read work, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, was what Hunter called “a failed experiment in Gonzo journalism” because his intent was to send his publisher his notes as his final copy -- without editing. That’s what he saw as Gonzo journalism.

 

“True Gonzo reporting needs the talents of a master journalist, the eye of an artist/photographer and the heavy balls of an actor. Because the writer must be a participant in the scene, while he’s writing it—or at least taping it, or even sketching it. Or all three. Probably the closest analogy to the ideal would be a film director/producer who writes his own scripts, does his own camera work and somehow manages to film himself in action, as the protagonist or at least a main character.”

 

Now we have journalists live on the scene reacting to the news as it occurs thanks to mobile phones and the Internet -- and a lot of those journalists are really just actors. Hunter didn’t need to act. He was simply a character. The man was even more interesting than his greatest creation. He reportedly nearly drowned Bill Murray in his pool when they first met prior to Murray portraying Hunter on screen in Where the Buffalo Roam. The story goes that Hunter tied Murray to a chair and told him, “If you can get out of this, I can trust you,” and kicked the chair and actor into the pool. They became fast friends.

 

Hunter also left the heart of an elk on his neighbor’s doorstep as a birthday gift. In the morning, Jack Nicholson awoke to an entryway covered in blood.

 

By the time I finished writing my paper, Hunter was more a villain than a hero to me, and I set out to become a journalist and attempt to do the boring, objective journalism of my new hero, Edward R. Murrow, better than anyone ever had, citing vast amounts of reputable sources and changing minds with facts instead of feelings. My attempts lasted six years, and I still wrote a weekly column in the vein of Gonzo journalism, connecting sports and politics like Hunter did for ESPN’s “Page 2” -- some of my favorite work of Hunter’s. I still can’t escape that theme it seems. It’s become an addiction of mine.

 

I lived my life for a long time based on how I thought Hunter would. “What would Hunter do,” I often asked myself. “Indulge,” was most often the answer. I found myself asking the same question with regard to the gun control debate, but the answer is more complicated.

 

I don’t own a gun. I never have. I grew up firing guns, though. My grandfather on my mother’s side taught me to shoot a BB gun growing up, and he taught me well. I was one of the best shots in my hunter education class, and the first deer I shot I hit through the neck as it was running away from me. I have a pretty poor sense of distance, but I’d say the shot was between 50 and 100 yards. I haven’t hunted since that season. It’s just not for me. I didn’t feel like I was playing fair. I still enjoy a little target practice, though, which is why when I wrote about what I thought reasonable, sensible gun control looks like I didn’t include a ban on assault rifles.

 

I watched a man, teary-eyed, saw an assault rifle in half on social media yesterday because he never wants to worry about his gun taking a life, even in the hands of another gun owner. He reminded me that all these mass murderers were simply legal gun owners prior to becoming mass murderers, but I still don’t think banning assault rifles is necessary. Hunter wouldn’t either. That would surely get his blood boiling.

 

I’m sure Hunter would agree that the mentally ill shouldn’t be allowed to own guns, and while he would likely hate it, he would have a mental health evaluation conducted in order to own a gun if it was required. I’m sure he’d agree that every aspiring gun owner should have to pass a criminal background check, too. And I’m sure he’d agree that taxpayers should never have to pay the emergency room bill of an uninsured gun owner who shoots him- or herself. I’m sure he’d have no problem waiting 10 days or so to buy a gun, but he might take issue with my recommendation of raising the minimum age to own a gun to 21. He probably thinks the drinking age should be 18 again. I can see him saying, “If you're old enough to die for your country, you’re old enough to drink.” If that’s the only issue that brilliant gun nut takes with my attempt at adopting reasonable, sensible gun control policies, I’d say they should be agreeable to most every gun nut.

 

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, Lock ‘n Load

Another 17 children are dead after a mass shooting at a South Florida high school -- another avoidable tragedy allegedly perpetrated by a teenager with an assault weapon who left the following YouTube comment a year ago: "I'm going to be a professional school shooter."

Nikolas Cruz, 19, who was expelled from the school and not allowed on campus with a backpack after being found with bullets on campus, is in custody and charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder. But we saw it coming and still couldn’t stop it. Why? Because it’s way too damn easy to get a gun in this country.

There are more guns than Americans in the United States. There are 112.6 guns per 100 residents. Next on the list is Serbia at 75.6 guns per 100 residents. But addressing the number of guns available is problematic given the gun lobbyists and Conservatives clutching their firearms until death do they part.

The typical Conservative will tell you there isn’t much difference between the number of mass shootings in America compared to, say, Europe, citing statistics from the Right-leaning, often erroneous and mostly fraudulent Crime Prevention Research Center. They are, of course, wrong. On average, there is more than one mass shooting for each day in America, and there are 29.7 homicides by firearm per one million Americans, according to 2012 numbers. The next most is 7.7 homicides per one million Switzerland residents.

But how do we keep these tragedies from happening? How do we keep guns out of the hands of people like Cruz? Addressing the ease of access to guns is easy. Here’s what I think reasonable, sensible gun control looks like.

1) Raise the required age to own a gun to 21

The only teenagers owning firearms should be members of the military. If 18 is too young to drink or use cannabis recreationally, then it’s too young to own a gun. Both drinking and using cannabis are less dangerous than firearms. Firearm-related deaths are the third leading cause of injury-related deaths in the United States, and young people are more likely to injure themselves with a gun accidentally. Over 1,300 victims of unintentional shootings from 2005 to 2010 were under 25 years of age, and “such injuries were approximately nine times more common among male than female patients and highest among males ages 20-24.”

I have no problem with children learning how to properly handle, respect and fire a gun or hunt with their fathers and grandfathers. Hell, shooting was one of my favorite pastimes growing up, too, but I was always in the presence of a drinking-aged adult -- even with a BB gun. That should remain the case for those 18 to 20 years of age.

2) Require all gun owners to have health insurance

A recent study released by three researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in October 2017, found the yearly charges associated with treating gunshot patients in American hospitals is nearly $3 billion.

American taxpayers should not have to flip the bill for any uninsured American who shoots him- or herself or someone else unintentionally. As of the 2010 census, there were 234,564,071 Americans over the age of 18. As of 2015, a third of Americans said they owned a gun. That gives us roughly 77,406,143 gun owners in America, and if the current rate of uninsured Americans is 11.3 percent, then roughly 8,746,894 American gun owners are uninsured. Everyday, 46 people are shot unintentionally in America. If 11.3 percent of the responsible parties are uninsured, at $900 per uninsured hospital visit, it results in over $1.7 million taxpayers have to cover annually.

3) Require all gun owners to undergo a mental health evaluation

Since health insurance is now a prerequisite for gun ownership, it shouldn’t be a problem for aspiring gun owners to undergo a mental health evaluation to prove they are not mentally ill or a substance abuser. This would make it more difficult for the mentally ill to obtain firearms and likely lower suicide rates, as “suicide rates are much higher in states with higher rates of gun ownership, even after controlling for differences among states for poverty, urbanization, unemployment, mental illness, and alcohol or drug abuse,” according to the Center for Injury Research and Prevention.

Since the passage of the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act in 2008, also known as the Mental Health Parity Law, health insurers are mandated to treat mental health and substance abuse coverage comparably to physical health coverage, so the cost to the aspiring gun owner would be modest.

4) Require all gun owners to pass criminal background checks

Just 12 states and Washington, D.C. mandate background checks for the sale of all firearms, including private sales that occur at gun shows and transfers between family members or friends. Another six only require background checks for the private purchase of handguns. The other 32 do not require a background check to purchase a gun at a gun show or from a private dealer.

Mandating that all states require criminal background checks to be conducted prior to the private sale of firearms would make it more difficult for those with a history of violent crime to obtain firearms.

5) The wait period to purchase a gun should be longer than the wait period to adopt a pet

I wrote about this back in October, but in summation, the process of adopting a pet is more thoroughly vetted by adoption agencies than the gun ownership process. Some adoption agencies will request the medical history of every pet you’ve ever had to make sure you’re not an abuser. They’ll ask if you’re gainfully employed, and some will even conduct in-home investigations to determine if your home is a safe place for the pet. Gun retailers aren’t coming to your home to make sure you have a gun safe or even asking if you own a gun lock. They’re not concerned about whether you have a job or a criminal history or the state of your mental health. They just want to sell you a gun.

Obtaining a gun just after the Second Amendment was ratified in 1791 wasn’t easy -- even for the federal government. There were reportedly just two American armories back then. “In an attempt to equip the militias sufficiently to protect the newly independent country, Congress ordered the purchase of 7,000 muskets in 1793. A year later, it had managed to buy only 400,” according to a story in The Economist based on the works of Michael Bellesiles. So back in the day it took almost an entire day just to produce a gun, and that’s combining the production of every gun manufacturer in the country. By 1808, one factory would produce 50,000 barrels, locks, rammers, and bayonets per year in Britain.

When the Second Amendment was ratified, the American forefathers certainly didn’t think assault weapons and rocket launchers would be possible, but they were also working with a knowledge that guns take a long time to produce. They certainly didn’t think there would come a day where there were more guns than Americans.

Since aspiring gun owners would be required to have a mental health evaluation and criminal background check conducted, a 10-day wait period would give them and the seller an opportunity to fulfill those prerequisites. It would also result in fewer crimes of passion, as those without guns looking to acquire guns in a fit of rage would have 10 days to think about the consequences of their intended actions.

6) Charge gun owners who don’t fulfill all the above prerequisites with unlawful possession of a firearm

Reasonable, sensible gun control starts with enforcing the current laws on the books. This will be easy once the infrastructure is created to allow law enforcement to view whether the gun owner has fulfilled all the prerequisites for gun ownership.


If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows:The Costa Report, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, Lock ‘n Load

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7 home improvements that will payoff most

The Home Building and Remodeling Expo visited Minneapolis over the weekend, providing ample opportunities to win things, ranging from complete kitchen and bathroom remodels to an ATV. There was also ample opportunity to schedule free estimates for home improvements and remodels.

The Dody Kettler Team of Keller Williams Realty put together a flyer with the four “home improvements worth doing,” including estimates and expected cost recuperation according to the 2018 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report. That information was mostly incomplete and is based on who is buying homes now and not who will be buying homes.

Millennials are looking for different things than their mothers and fathers did when buying their first homes. Some staples like curb appeal and off-street parking are still important, but you’d be surprised what Millennials want in a home. So here are the seven home improvements that will payoff the most given the new market of Millennial buyers.

7) Exterior lighting

More than half of all buyers desire well-lit exteriors, but Millennials showed a stronger preference compared to other generations. A well-lit exterior conveys safety and security, and if you think homebuyers won’t drive by your home at night, you’re wrong. Thoroughly informed homebuyers know to visit the neighborhoods where they’re shopping to see what the neighborhood looks and sounds like at night. If you’ll forgive the cliché, the difference can be night and day.

Installing exterior lighting around garden beds and lights operating on motion sensors is a modest expense that will really improve your curb appeal and keep the offers coming. Path lights run $10 a piece, and motion-sensor lights can be had for less than $20.

6) Energy efficient appliances

It should be no surprise that energy efficiency is important to Millennial homebuyers entering the market. They are environmentally conscious and frugal to boot. That’s why you shouldn’t ignore updating your appliances before selling your home.

Installing a Solar Array

If you own a small home and require very little electricity, installing a solar array could pay itself off before you even complete the rest of your home renovations. I averaged 312 kilowatt-hours in January at a rate of roughly 15 cents per kilowatt-hour through Xcel Energy. Wholesale Solar has a calculator that can recommend a solar array perfect for your home and estimates how long it will take to payoff. I could install a solar array for just over $1,000. It will pay for itself in just two years, so don’t let anyone tell you installing a solar array is too expensive.

Replacing Your Hot Water Heater

Besides your heating and cooling systems, your hot water heater is the most energy intensive appliance in your home. My furnace and hot water heater were recently replaced and played a big role in influencing my purchase. Any home with a hot water heater or furnace more than three years old were basically knocked off my list immediately.

Your hot water heater is also the cheapest of the “big three” appliances to replace. Units that can heat 30 gallons run less than $400, and 40-gallon units are less than $600.

Replacing Your Washer/Dryer

Replacing that old clothes washer/dryer combination is an absolute must. Your washer and dryer are responsible for 13 percent of your home energy consumption. That’s way more than your refrigerator, which accounts for four percent of your home energy consumption.

Keep in mind that, more than anything, Millennials want a laundry room, and Millennials prefer their laundry to be on the same floor as their bedroom, so if you have a room on your main floor for a stackable washer/dryer and can run some plumbing to it easily, it would behoove you to do so.

Replacing Your Refrigerator/Freezer

The refrigerator/freezer is the cornerstone of the kitchen. As the biggest item in your kitchen, it dictates the look and feel of your cooking environment and tends to turn heads, in either a good or bad way.

Before you decide to replace your refrigerator/freezer, though, use Energy Star’s calculator to determine whether it’s worth it. A new refrigerator isn’t going to sell your house, but if you have other renovations that will take years to complete, or intend to stay in your home for awhile, having an energy efficient refrigerator/freezer could payoff. Replacing a refrigerator/freezer made in the early 1990s with an Energy Star refrigerator/freezer can save you over $150 per year.

Oven/Range

New appliances can make your kitchen bigger and give it an updated look that will be appreciated by anyone who cooks. I moved out an old, 40-inch-wide gas range in my kitchen and replaced it with a newer, more efficient 36-inch range that gave me enough room to add an 18-inch dishwasher to a kitchen measuring roughly 100 square feet. So not only am I saving energy, but I made my kitchen bigger, which goes a lot further than new appliances in selling your home. I even scored a newer microwave that matches the oven/range! If new appliances aren’t in your budget, shop Craigslist for local deals.

5) Wood deck additions

Curb appeal is still most important when it comes to enticing offers on your home, and nothing improves your curb appeal like a wood deck addition. Composite decking might hold up better against the elements, but wood still looks and feels better, as is indicated by the fact that three of every four new decks built are still constructed with pressure-treated lumber. Much of that has to do with cost.

A two-by-six-inch piece of pressure-treated lumber runs a little more than $1 per linear foot. Composite decking is more than twice that, and plastic decking is three times the price. So if you’re going to build a deck, build it of wood. You won’t mind washing it annually and putting a stain on it every few years because it will look and feel so much better than your neighbors’ cold, composite deck.

The 2018 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report says you can expect to recuperate almost 83 percent of your costs on a wood deck addition. That cost is estimated at $10,950 on average. A composite deck addition only recuperates 63.6% of an average cost of $17,668.

4) Manufactured stone veneer

Again, improving the curb appeal of your home continues to top the list of home renovations that payoff the most. Adding a manufactured stone veneer around the base of your home will have homebuyers salivating before they cross the threshold...or even park the car.

You don’t have to be a millionaire to give your home good masonry anymore. Rock work has exploded in popularity, so there are more people doing it and materials that allow it to be done at a reasonable rate. You can get enough manufactured stone to cover 150 square feet for just over $1,100.  

You’d probably be surprised to discover that adding a manufactured stone veneer is estimated to cost just over $8,000 on average. The return on investment is even more shocking -- 97.1 percent and climbing considerably.

3) Steel entry door replacement

As this list indicates, curb appeal is still king when it comes to selling your home, and nothing improves that appeal more than a designer front door constructed of steel. Replacing your front door not only provides the best return on investment but is the cheapest renovation you can make to your home before putting it on the market.

Even if you’re not selling your home, purchasing a new front door is a smart investment. You can dramatically lower your heating and cooling costs by adding a new front door, and why not change the door if you have to change the locks anyways?

The 2018 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report estimates the cost of replacing your front door at $1,471, which is a bargain considering how much it’ll payoff. You can expect to get 91.3 percent of that cost back in resale value.

2) Landscaping

This would be number one on the list if the return on investment was just a little bit higher. The beauty of improving the landscaping surrounding your home is that it’s something you can do yourself and, hopefully, enjoy doing.

Planting some trees and bushes and putting in a garden with some nice, stone pavers is cheap, and a 2016 survey conducted by The National Association of Realtors and the National Association of Landscape Professionals found the return on investment to be 105 percent. Again -- curb appeal.

1) Insulation

Insulation isn’t typically seen or noticed by homebuyers unless your realtor makes it a point to sell the energy efficiency of your home, but the payoff of proper insulation is better than any other home renovation you can make. It’s also cheap.

Most insulation installations can be done for less than $1,500 -- on par with the replacement of your front door -- but the return on investment was 108 percent in 2017, according to Remodeling Magazine. The best part is, added insulation is a good investment whether you intend to sell your home or not.

So there are the seven home renovations that will payoff the most given the Millennials looking for their first homes. Invest wisely.


If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: USA Prepares, Building America, Free Talk Live, American Survival Radio, Jim Brown’s Common Sense, Drop Your Energy Bill, The Tech Night Owl, What’s Cookin Today, The Easy Organic Gardener, Home Talk

The stock market is not the economy. It is not indicative of the economy’s health. The stock market is a human collective reacting emotionally to news and numbers. It is merely a means to measure the perceived value of publicly-owned companies based on human emotion and expectations. Those perceived values can be overvalued, undervalued or properly valued, and with the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropping nearly 1,000 points the last three days, it seems stocks were overvalued.

Why did stocks fall?

Stocks were overvalued due to a myriad of factors. According to the “Shiller PE Ratio,” stocks were more expensive than they were on “Black Tuesday” in 1929, but less expensive than they were at the height of the dot.com bubble. So historically speaking, stocks were dangerously expensive.

Stocks are overvalued when things are going right. A lack of volatility over the past few years has culminated in a perfect storm that’s seen the VIX -- the stock market’s most popular measure of stock volatility -- rise more than 300 percent in a month.

“One big change affecting the market is interest rates, which have climbed sharply in 2018 to multiyear highs in the U.S. and around the world as economies have picked up steam,” Ed Carson writes for Investor’s Business Daily. Higher interest rates mean higher borrowing costs, which result in people consuming less. Much of the stock market’s recent losses are tied to an expectation that consumers will be spending less in 2018.

What to expect from the stock market in 2018

Don’t expect the stock market to continue providing 2017 rates of return, and with interest rates likely to increase, bonds aren’t necessarily the best place to put your money, but not the worst either.

There is good news for this newly volatile stock market. Midterm elections are more often good for the stock market than bad. “[T]he seasonality associated with midterms has brought positive returns for the stock market a lot more than it has brought losses,” according to Dominic Chu of CNBC. “On average, the S&P 500's return between Oct. 31 of the midterm year and Oct. 31 of the following year has been an eye-popping 17.5 percent.” So it’s not time to pull your money out of the stock market; it’s time to invest in the stock market.

What’s the best approach for investing in 2018?

The best approach for investing in 2018 is the same approach for investing in 2017 and any other year: invest and forget. You’re not going to get rich buying Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), but you will realize a better return than you would from putting your money in a savings account or buying a Certificate of Deposit (CD).

Attempting to time the market is also a mistake, as is reacting to the market like stock traders did this week. Pulling your money out of the stock market at the first sign of adversity is the same emotional response that drove the stock market down in the first place. Traders selling shares in fear worsened the market’s decline because they had come some accustomed to the market’s lack of volatility. In fact, regular contributions to the stock market help limit volatility. So expect volatility and accept it. Just keep feeding the beast and try to forget that it’s there.


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