Consumer Real Estate News

    • 7 Ways to Refresh Your Small Business

      25 September 2018

      (Family Features)--Successful business models tend to hinge on delivering what consumers need, when they need it - a moving target that can be difficult to attain. As your consumers' wants and needs continue to evolve, consider these ways to refresh your business without overhauling core principles.

      Reset short-term goals. Get to the root of the reasons you're looking to refresh in the first place. Focus on what you'd like to change in the not-so-distant future and how you can accomplish it. Also make sure your short-term goals keep you on track for the long-term goals already established for your business.

      Refresh online materials. In today's digital world, consumers have high expectations. Maybe your website is outdated, can't keep up with traffic or, worse, is nonexistent. Freshen things up with a redesign or even just slight tweaks to make it easier for customers to navigate. For a simple solution, consider adding a blog section where new content can be posted weekly or monthly to give customers a reason to return and to help build your search engine ranking for specific keywords.

      Rethink storefronts. To help consumers make the most of their time, small business owners are partnering with other businesses to include their services under the same roof.

      "Our store-in-store model offers a smaller footprint store that still provides all of the services people need," says Chris Adkins, vice president of Franchise and Business Development with The UPS Store. "This is an opportunity for an existing business to set itself apart from the competition and offer added value to customers as a one-stop shop, where customers can conveniently take care of multiple tasks at once."

      Replace outdated strategies. If your business has been in operation for a while, there's a chance your previously successful marketing strategies may be a bit out of touch. Consider your target audience and the ways you're most likely to reach those consumers. For example, social media is a must to keep up with competition and there are ways you can amp up your strategy in the ever-evolving social space. Whether it's posting short factoids, long-form information, links to online content or simple images of your products, it can be a productive way to reach your audience.

      Reconnect with consumers. If overhauling marketing strategies or diving headfirst into social media seems like a stretch for your small business, start small. Simply reconnecting with loyal customers may be just what's needed to rejuvenate the buzz surrounding your company. Try holding a contest for the best customer-submitted content to use online, or create a giveaway for a randomly chosen commenter on your latest social posts. These types of online conversations can attract consumers who may have been previously unaware of your goods or services.

      Revive printed materials. Business cards, flyers, banners, posters, newsletters and any other type of printed materials may be the first impression potential customers have of your company. Use professional, well-designed printed items to let customers know what you do. Pay attention to layout, headlines, colors, white space and font choices.

      Rebrand your business. It may sound like a lot of work, and it certainly can be, but rebranding your business doesn't have to mean changing the company name or rethinking product lines. Simply updating logos to appear more modern or rethinking an overused slogan can give your business a fresh vibe. Remember that enhancing the look of something seemingly as small as your logo can make a big difference, especially considering that image is likely the first thing a consumer sees when visiting your social pages or website.

      Source: The UPS Store

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Color Trends for 2019 Are Singing the Blues

      25 September 2018

      If you’ve got a painting project on deck and want to be on point in the color trend department, consider Behr Paint’s 2019 Color of the Year: Blueprint S470-5. Created to reflect its namesake, the calming but rich, mid-tone blue is warmer than denim but softer than navy.

      "Much like the sketches builders rely on to bring an architectural design to life, Blueprint S470-5 lays a foundation for consumers to make their unique vision a reality," said Erika Woelfel, vice president of Color and Creative Services at Behr. "This universally appealing hue provides a steady stream of positivity and is poised to be an instant classic for years to come."

      While on its own, the color makes a subdued statement, it can take on a variety of roles when paired with other colors, from adding depth and variety or acting as a neutral to anchor bolder palettes. For example, Behr suggests using Blueprint as the starting point with the following four 2019 colorways:

      Color Binge
      Embrace a full range of blue, teal and gray by layering light and dark blues on walls, cabinets, furniture and décor for bold results.

      Inspired Curation
      Use Blueprint with earthy jewel hues such as mauve, dark green and warm gold to engage the senses.

      Down to Earth
      Gray continues on as a key neutral, while warmer tones in taupe and terracotta will rise. Use Blueprint as earthy blue and brown combinations become more popular.

      Soft Focus
      Blueprint serves as a great backdrop against new neutrals like powder blue, blush peach and tinted lilac. Matte finishes will emphasize softness, while metal accents add glamour.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Filing for Fafsa? These Tips Can Help!

      25 September 2018

      Financing college for yourself or your teenager can be a stressful endeavor; however,  billions in federal financial aid is available for students if you know where to look, and the Educational Credit Management Corporation (ECMC) is offering helpful tips to help them navigate the process.

      "Selecting a college is one of the largest financial commitments a person will make in their lifetime," says Paula Craw, vice president of Student Success and Outreach at ECMC.

      The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) opens Oct. 1 for the 2019-2020 school year. The FAFSA serves as the gateway to all federal financial aid including grants, loans and work-study.

      To help, ECMC developed the following timeline for students and families delving into the FAFSA filing process to ensure they have the best opportunity to secure federal financial aid.

      Before you file the FAFSA:

      Create an FSA ID. At least one parent and the student are required to create an FSA ID (if the student is dependent).

      If you are a dependent student, you will need at least one parent's financial information (tax records, W2 forms, bank statements) to file the FAFSA.

      Include a list of your top school choices and their federal school codes. This will allow the FAFSA to send your results directly to your preferred institutions.

      Make sure you file your FAFSA in time to meet each of your desired schools' financial aid deadlines and their priority filing dates.

      Pay attention to your state's deadlines. Many states with limited amounts of funds are awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, so the earlier you file your FAFSA, the better.

      Filling out the FAFSA:

      Set aside about 30 minutes to complete the form. File online or via the new mobile app.

      Remember to print a copy of your completed FAFSA for your records.

      Early filers may have access to more aid so don't wait.

      After you file:

      Expect to receive a Student Aid Report (SAR) about a week after you file your FAFSA. The SAR summarizes the information you provided on the FAFSA and provides your estimated eligibility for the Federal Pell Grant.

      Also, expect to receive an award letter from the schools where you have been accepted.

      Compare the financial aid packages and the overall fit and choose a school.

      Source: www.ecmc.org/students.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • 7 Ways to Spend Less and Like It

      24 September 2018

      If it sometimes seems as though money disappears, it’s time to figure out where it went – and to take some baby steps to spend your money mindfully.

      Consumer finance gurus at The Motley Fool offer seven good ways to do that – and use the savings realized from your new thoughtfulness to beef up your savings account.

      Track your spending. When you go on a diet, you keep track of every calorie. In the same way, start your financial diet by tracking where every dollar goes. For at least 30 days, carry a notebook and pen and keep track every time you open your wallet. Reviewing your notes at the end of a month should give you good idea where your money is going and where and how much you can cut.

      Set a budget. Use your newfound understanding to make a plan for spending more reasonably; how much for needs, how much for wants, and how much for savings. The hard part is sticking to a budget, but having one in place is a good beginning.

      Consider going cash only. There are two advantages; first, people tend to spend less freely when they have the visceral experience of handing over cash instead of a card. Second, once you run out of cash, there is nothing left to spend.

      Use an envelope system. Divide your cash for the month into envelopes marked for groceries, bills, household expenses (such as cleaning or other services), savings and optional spending (from lattes to clothes and other wants.)

      Freeze your credit cards. Literally! Avoiding the use of credit cards for a while is a good way to get control of your spending. If this is hard for you, freeze the cards in a block of ice for a while so you can’t use them until the ice thaws out.

      Make a 24-hour rule. For purchases over $100, make it a rule to think it over for a day before making the buy. It will give you time not just to debate it, but to look for a better price.

      Make saving a game. Putting your change in a piggy bank every night or putting aside the savings from using coupons or discounts can be a gamechanger. Seeing the pile grow higher becomes so rewarding, you’ll feel triumphant every time you bank it.

      Published with permission from RISMedia.

    • Preparing an Emergency Plan for Your Unique Needs

      24 September 2018

      (Family Features)--Disasters such as hurricanes, floods, fires and other emergency situations are all too common these days. In fact, about four out of five Americans live in counties hit by weather events since 2007, according to disaster declaration data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). That illustrates how these events can impact nearly everyone and the importance of having a plan.

      This is particularly true for older people and people with disabilities. Health issues, mobility concerns and use of assistive devices can create additional challenges during emergencies. However, there are simple steps everyone can take to prepare now for what may come later.

      Discuss your plan. Talk about preparedness with friends, neighbors and family members. Contact your city or county emergency management office as well as service providers, such as for meals programs. Discussing the topic can help you create a support network, find local resources for preparation and identify contents for a custom emergency kit.

      Create a contact list. Make a list of people and places you can turn to for support in an emergency, including people you may need to help or notify of your safety. Include phone numbers, email addresses and physical addresses. Also include insurance providers, health care professionals and medical supply companies. Keep one copy on hand and put another copy in a watertight container in your emergency kit.

      Prep for power outages. Ask your health care providers about how to prepare for power outages, especially if you depend on medical devices that use electricity, such as oxygen, dialysis or a power wheelchair. Write down your plan, along with information about your devices, and keep a copy in your emergency kit.

      Make a list of all medications and medical supplies. Keep a list of your medicines, including dosages and allergies, along with other essential supplies like extra eyeglasses, hearing-aid batteries and at least a week's supply of all prescription medicines in your emergency kit.

      Plan for transportation. Have a plan in place in case you need to evacuate or get to health care services during an emergency. Know what equipment you need and how you will transport it. Perhaps a neighbor or family member can include you in their evacuation plans. Set this up beforehand and plan how to coordinate in the event of a disaster.

      Plan for pets and service animals. Include food, medications and other supplies your pets may need in your emergency kit, too.

      Pack the essentials. In addition to your medical information and needs, don't forget essentials such as non-perishable food, water, a weather radio, a flashlight, extra batteries, blankets, cash, extra clothing and personal hygiene items. Keep your emergency kit in an easy-to-access location.

      Learn more about preparedness at acl.gov/programs/emergency-preparedness.

      Source: Administration for Community Living

      Published with permission from RISMedia.