Your Guide to February

Love and luck mark this month. 

 

 

Chinese New Year

 

It’s the Year of the Pig. People born under this sign are said to be seekers of status who enjoy life and have good luck.

 


 

Home Warranty Day

 

Take time today to learn more about this special insurance coverage for the appliances and systems inside your home.

 


 

Valentine’s Day

 

Whether you go for chocolates and flowers or dinner and diamonds, love is love, no matter how you show it!

 

 


 

 

Presidents’ Day

 

Add Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays together and you get Presidents’ Day, honoring our country’s leaders.

 


 

 

National Love Your Pet Day

 

It’s a great day to volunteer at your local shelter or to consider adopting a new fur baby into a forever home.

 


 

 

The Oscars®

 

The 91st Annual Academy Awards is a great excuse to dress in your red carpet best and throw an Oscar-themed party.

 


 

 

February is the only month that can have no full moon.

February 1911 saw the first use of fingerprints to convict a criminal.

St. Valentine was thought to be a Roman priest in the 3rd century who secretly married couples against the orders of the Emperor.

February is the birth month of Nathan Lane, George Romero, Thomas Edison, and Rosa Parks.

Warm for the Winter: How to Heat Your Home While Saving Energy and Money

Do you get chills just thinking about your utility bills during wintertime? If your answer to a drafty home is to simply crank up the furnace, you’ll not only pay for it, but you could also be wasting energy and depleting more natural resources in the process. Instead of making your heater work overtime, here are ways you can reduce your energy consumption and still keep your home warm and toasty this winter.

  

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), heating accounts for 45% of energy use in homes and pumps out 292 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions each year. The more CO2 we release into the atmosphere, the more we hinder the earth’s ability to maintain balance, which has a variety of negative implications. That’s why, the less energy you use to heat your home, the better it is for Mother Nature (and your wallet!).

 

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration.

 

Seal Drafty Areas

Air leaks are the primary culprit for excess energy consumption. If air is able to escape out or in, your furnace will just keep pumping out heat relentlessly. Get to the root of the problem by sealing these areas.

  • Caulk and weatherstrip doors and windows, including your attic, basement, and garage access doors.

  • Caulk openings around plumbing, ductwork, and electrical wiring.

  • Apply foam sealant on larger gaps around windows and baseboards, and place foam gaskets behind outlet covers.

  • Add baffles around recessed lights if yours are not airtight.

  • Install double-pane windows or cover single-pane windows with storm windows. For a cheaper option, purchase a plastic film insulation kit.

  • Seal gaps around the fireplace with sheet metal/sheetrock and a high-temperature silicone caulk. Also, ensure your flue is closed when  not in use.

The U.S. Department of Energy recommends getting a professional blower door test to detect the source of air leaks, but in the interest of saving money, they also provide tips on how to identify air leaks yourself.

  

 

Check Your Insulation

 

According to the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association (NAIMA), 90% of U.S. homes are under-insulated. This is especially true for older homes, but it can even apply to newer ones. The EPA estimates that homeowners can save an average of 15% on heating and cooling costs by sealing air leaks and adding insulation in attics, crawl spaces, and basement rim joists. VisitEnergyStar.gov to learn how to perform a DIY insulation check for your walls and attic and to find out which insulation levels are recommended for your region and climate. If you’re not comfortable with the DIY route, hire a professional to assess your insulation needs.

  

 

Let the Light In

 

Using the sun’s natural light is an easy, environmentally conscious (and completely free!) way to heat up your house. As the sun beams down on your windows, it produces a greenhouse effect that traps heat inside. This works in your favor during the winter months, so be sure to open your curtains each morning to let the sun work its magic. On the flip side, remember to close your curtains at night (consider thermal drapes) to keep the warmth in.

 

 

Turn Down the Thermostat

 

As you begin implementing the energy-saving tips provided above, your home should start to warm up and retain heat more efficiently. That means you shouldn’t need to keep your thermostat set super high. During the cooler months, the U.S. Department of Energy suggests setting your thermostat to 68°F while you’re at home and awake, and setting it lower when you’re asleep or away. By turning your thermostat back by 7°-10°F from its normal setting for eight hours a day, you can save around 10% per year on heating and cooling costs.

 

 

Program Your Thermostat

 

In addition to choosing the right temperature, a smart or programmable thermostat can make a big impact on your home’s energy efficiency. You can program your thermostat for time-of-day usage, so you don’t have to remember to turn the temperature down when you’re gone or up when you get home from work. More advanced heating systems may even be configured to only heat rooms that you use, or to kick on or off when you enter or leave a room.

 

 

 

Decreasing your energy consumption is an important first step in minimizing the impact that heating has on the environment, and in reducing your energy costs. But we shouldn’t stop there. Rather than relying on fossil fuels (like natural gas) to heat our homes, adopting renewable energy sources such as solar, geothermal, and biomass technologies can even further reduce your home’s environmental footprint. While they may not entirely replace your current heating methods, these technologies can easily integrate with your existing system and supplement its heat production.

 

 Learn more about renewable heating options and their costs at EPA.gov.

By taking steps to reduce the amount of energy you use this winter and adopting renewable heating alternatives, you’ll save money, improve the comfort of your home, and make a positive impact on the planet. Those benefits alone are enough to make you feel warm on the inside, as well as the outside!

6 Expenses to Include in Your Homebuying Budget

First-time homebuyers are sometimes caught off guard by overlooked expenses, which can create an uncomfortable financial pinch. Be sure you consider these one-time and ongoing expenses.
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1. Home Inspection
For a few hundred dollars, an inspection can uncover potential trouble such as structural problems or asbestos.

2. Home Maintenance
Experts recommend setting aside 1 to 3%* of the home’s purchase price for annual maintenance. For example, you may need to buy lawn care equipment or replace the roof, furnace, or water heater.

3. Taxes And Insurance
Property taxes and homeowners insurance aren’t always included in mortgage payment calculators.

4. Extra Cash At Closing
Your lender should give you a detailed estimate of closing costs. But beyond those, you may have to pay additional expenses, such as a prorated portion of property taxes or homeowners association fees that the seller has already paid.

5. The Move
Whether you hire professional movers for a few thousand dollars or rent a truck, buy boxes and recruit friends to help, moving costs money.

6. Settling In
You may have to pay utility connection fees when you move in, plus utility costs may be higher than you were used to as a renter. Other costs include lock replacements and decorating expenses.

Your Guide to October

 

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
— L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

   

 

 World Teachers’ Day

 

Celebrates teachers all over the world and recognizes the unique issues they face each day.

  

 

 

Columbus Day

 

Commemorates the voyage and landing of Italian explorer Christopher Columbus in the New World in 1492.

 

 

 

 

 Leif Erikson Day

 

Honors Norwegian explorer Leif Erikson, believed to be the first European to come to North America.

 

 

  

National Dessert Day

 

The sweetest day of the year!

 

 

 

 

World Food Day

 

Events in over 150 countries honor the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. #ZeroHunger

 

 

 

National Fossil Day

 

Held during Earth Science Week (Oct 14-20), this day underscores the importance of fossils in relation to our understanding of our world.

 

 

 

National Get Smart About Credit Day

 

Every October, volunteer bankers visit local classrooms to teach students about credit and finances.

 

 

Halloween

 

“Darkness falls across the land/ The midnight hour is close at hand/ Creatures crawl in search of blood/ To terrorize y’all’s neighborhood”

 

— Rob Temperton, “Thriller”

 

  

 

 

 

More U.S. presidents have been born in October than any other month.

Oktoberfest (officially held in Munich, Germany) isn’t just about beer and pretzels. It originated as a wedding reception for Bavarian royalty in 1810 and has since evolved into one of the largest annual festivals in the world.

Though it’s the 10th month of the year, the name October comes from the Latin word octo, which means “eight.” It was originally the eighth month on the Roman calendar. 

The World Series, which kicked off in 1903, is usually played in October.

Halloween has its roots in an ancient Celtic festival called Samhain, and many of today’s Halloween traditions, like dressing in costumes, can be traced back to the Celts.

 

 

Have a wonderful October!

Gutter Cleaning

What
Gutters need to be cleared of leaves and debris that may have accumulated in order to function properly.
Why
Clogged gutters can wreak havoc on your roof, siding, and foundation. These repairs can be extremely expensive.
How
Many homeowners opt into a service contract with a gutter cleaning company that schedules twice a year. We recommend these plans because they are typically affordable and there is potential danger involved with accessing the gutters on many homes. Generally these specialists will get up on a ladder and check & clear the gutters & downspouts of debris. Clearing them can often be challenging due to baked on foliage (spring) or frozen leaves (winter) attached to the insides of the channels, so if you are doing this yourself, make sure you have a good ladder and a spotter helping you out. Water is generally run through the system after the channels are cleared. Make sure that all of your downspouts are extended away from the foundation at the ground level. Often, it may be necessary to regrade your soil in some spots so that all water is directed away from your home.

Your Guide to September

Looking for things to do this September? Mark your calendars, because this month’s theme is all about giving back, and there’s no shortage of opportunities to get involved.

September 7 — National Food Bank Day

Did you know 41 million people in the U.S. struggle with hunger? Chances are, you know someone — a neighbor, a coworker, a classmate — who faces hunger every day. Food banks across the country play a pivotal role in providing meals to families in need, and they rely on people like you and me to help. On National Food Bank Day, do your part to help close the food gap in your community by donating food, time, or money to your local food bank. Visit FeedingAmerica.org to find a food bank near you.

 

 

 

September 11 — Patriot Day 

 

One of the best ways we can honor the victims, survivors, and responders of the 9/11 attacks is by sharing kindness and spreading hope to those around us. On this National Day of Service and Remembrance, join with your fellow Americans to pay it forward by taking part in a volunteer activity. Head to NationalService.gov to discover how you can get involved.

 

 

 

September 16 — National Working Parents Day

 

Along with meetings, deadlines, and navigating career growth, working parents are also tasked with being home chef, chauffeur, housekeeper, boo-boo fixer, and much more. Every day, these unsung heroes go above and beyond to provide for their families, and it goes without saying that they deserve a little recognition. Think of ways you can lighten the load for the working parents in your life, and if you’re one of them, give yourself a pat on the back for all the hard work you do!

 

 

 

September 17 — Constitution Day and Citizenship Day 

 

Constitution Day and Citizenship Day commemorates the signing of the Constitution on September 17, 1787, and recognizes all people who were born as or have become American citizens. Think you could pass the test to become a naturalized citizen today? Take the civics practice test to check your knowledge of U.S. government and history.

 

 

 

September 22 — National Public Lands Day/First Day of Fall

 

Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast or not, we all benefit when our natural resources and public lands remain safe, resilient, and cared for. National Public Lands Day is the perfect opportunity to connect with your community through environmental stewardship, and it just so happens to fall on the first day of autumn! With activities such as trail refurbishing, tree planting, and trash removal, you can help keep our recreational areas, wildlife refuges, and national parks thriving for years to come. Find a volunteer opportunity  at neefusa.org.

Your Guide to August

 

It’s hard to believe summer is drawing to a close! Soon the kids will be back to school (whew!) and your vacation will be just a memory (aww). But while we’ve still got a bit of summer left, be sure to enjoy it to the fullest with these great upcoming events!

 

August 9 — National Book Lovers Day

Are you always looking for an excuse to drop everything and curl up in a comfy chair with a good book? Then this day is for you! Bookworms across the country, get ready to stock up on reading material, turn off your cell phone, and settle down for a full day of page-turning indulgence!

 Want to support child literacy in America? The Reading Is Fundamental charitable organization has been around since 1966. Learn more and contribute at rif.org.

 

 

August 18 — National Honey Bee Day 


Bees are more than just chubby striped bugs that might sting you. In fact, the health of the entire planet may be affected by the recent drop in the bee population. One-third of the world’s food production depends on bee pollination, and the population of bees in a given area is a strong indicator of that area’s overall environmental health. Here are a few ways you can help save the honey bees:

 

  • Plant flora that bees like. Clover, flowering trees, and blue, purple, and yellow flowers are favorites.

  • Stop using pesticides. A survey of 800 independent scientific studies concluded that the recent alarming bee die-offs were caused, in part, by the use of chemical pesticides.

  • Donate to the Pollinator Partnership. This nonprofit is dedicated to protecting and supporting pollinators around the world.

 

 

 

August 19 — World Humanitarian Day

Every day, humanitarian aid workers help ease the suffering of millions of people around the world. The United Nations created this day to honor the humanitarian workers striving to make the world a better place and to remember those who have lost their lives in conflict.

 

 

 

August 26 — Women’s Equality Day

Sufferin’ suffragettes! Did you know there was a time when women could not own property, sign contracts, or even cast a vote to help shape the country they lived in? Thanks to the suffragettes of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, prohibiting voter discrimination on the basis of sex and giving women the right to vote.

 

 

 

August 27-September 9 — 50th U.S. Open

Tennis, anyone? With a new logo and a new stadium, the U.S. Open is celebrating its 50th birthday in a big way! We’re all set to watch the game we love, and it’s not our fault we couldn’t get tickets. Check out this year’s schedule so you don’t miss any of the action.