Why You Might Want to Live Like a Minimalist

Decluttering is having a moment these days. Organizing guru Marie Kondo has her own show on Netflix, people everywhere are going through their things and asking, “Does this bring me joy?” and many are even exploring the minimalist lifestyle.

Wondering what the all the fuss is about? Let’s talk about some of the benefits of going minimalist (or just getting rid of some clutter, even if you don’t want to get rid of everything).

What does it mean to ‘go minimalist’?
Whatever you want it to mean, really; there’s no official designation or anything. Many people think it’s living with as few possessions as possible, but it’s all relative—someone with a full house could feel like a minimalist after simply reducing their clutter, while another person might cringe at the thought of even one extra item on their nightstand.

Here’s a good way to think about it: Living as a minimalist is about focusing mainly on what you need, limiting those extra, but unnecessary, things that can clog life up. Minimalists focus on experiences rather than things, on quality rather than quantity, on removing excess from their lives in order to create a more meaningful existence.

According to Joshua Becker of the Becoming Minimalist blog, “Decluttering focuses on removing surface-level possessions. Minimalism helps us discover how little we actually need.”

And there are benefits to this approach that go way beyond just having a clean house, too. Here are five from No Sidebar, which created an online course aimed at helping people “design a simple life.”

  1. A clearer mind.
    When you have a ton of stuff, it can tax you mentally—even if you don’t realize it. From not being able to find items when you want them to just feeling overwhelmed at the thought of organizing, having fewer things also can mean having less weighing on your mind.
  2. More freedom.
    Think of all the possessions you own, and the work you had to do to get them—literally, the job you go to every day to buy all of those things. Are those things worth it? What if you didn’t have to worry about earning the money to buy that stuff? How would your life change? Maybe you could switch to a job that you love, instead of the one that pays the most. Or take more time off. Or travel more. That’s the freedom minimalists pursue.
  3. Extra money.
    When you don’t buy a bunch of unnecessary things, you don’t spend as much money—and that means you’ll have more at the ready when something truly important comes along.
  4. Greater self-confidence.
    Yes, really. Living with less, not worrying about having that luxury car or an expensive watch, has an unexpected benefit, wrote No Sidebar’s Allison Fallon: “You start to feel good about yourself, not because of what you own, but just because of who you are.”
  5. Better relationships, too.
    This is another thing you might not expect. But think about the old phrase “keeping up with the Joneses.” That really means “competing with the Joneses,” doesn’t it? What else would you call constantly trying to acquire things that are as nice (or nicer) than those of your friends and neighbors? When you stop doing this, you can start building better connections with people—real connections.

Minimalism isn’t for everybody, but everybody can benefit from taking even a couple of steps in that direction. Fewer things, more meaning. What’s not to like about that?

How to Protect Your Classic Car

The collector car market evolves with each generation. While the Silent Generation started collecting cars, it was Baby Boomers who really got it rolling. They fell in love with the Chevrolet Bel Air, the Ford Mustang, the Corvette Stingray, and other iconic vehicles. Along with restoring them, they blended modern features with classic car bodies to create restomods, driving a whole new segment of collectibles.

Generation X car enthusiasts are heavily influenced by popular media. They go for the Bullitt Mustang, the Vanishing Point Challenger, Magnum, P.I.’s 308 Ferrari, and KITT, the 1982 Trans Am from Knight Rider. Millennials are becoming a significant force in the collector car market, too. The cars of their childhoods, like the Mazda Miata, the Toyota Supra, the BMW M3, as well as many trucks and SUVs, are the classic cars of the future. Today, there is a robust market for collector cars. And with the restomod marketplace active and growing younger and younger, new collector cars are being created all the time.

Coverage You Need for Less than a Dollar a Day

Though there are many types of classic cars, they all have something in common — they need protection. When choosing the right policy, there a few keys things to consider, including how much you drive it. If it’s fewer than 5,000 miles per year you’ll qualify for lower, limited use rates.

Agreed value is another essential feature. Unlike other vehicles, classics often appreciate over time. So if your car is declared a total loss after being stolen or damaged, you get the amount we mutually agreed upon when you took out your policy. All you pay is the deductible. No depreciation, no confusion, just the full value back.

Your classic, collectible, or vintage vehicle is more than just a car — it’s a labor of love, a hobby, and an investment all rolled into one. Whether you’re cruising the open road or showing it off at a weekend rally, get the peace of mind of knowing you’re covered should anything happen to your treasured ride.

When Roadside Assistance Isn’t Enough

If you’ve ever been stuck on the side of the highway with an RV issue, you know what a life saver roadside assistance can be. Whether you need a battery charged, a tire changed, or a tow you’re often back on the road in no time — and maybe with an amusing story to chuckle about later.

But what if you’re adventuring far from home and you have a breakdown or an accident, or your RV is stolen? In that case, you’ll need more than roadside assistance on your policy. Getting the right coverage could make the difference between a bump in the road and an abrupt end to your vacation.

Why You Need Emergency Assistance Coverage

Emergency assistance coverage includes all roadside assistance features plus additional protection for personal property, temporary living expenses, and transportation costs if you can’t use your RV due to damage or theft. For example, if your RV breaks down and you and your family need to stay at a hotel while it’s being repaired, this coverage pays for your lodging costs as well as taxi fare.

You can also add loss of use coverage to your policy. This affordable option reimburses you for expenses incurred to rent a comparable RV to replace your disabled one. When choosing your loss of use limits, be sure to consider the amount you’ll need to rent a similar vehicle so you can continue your vacation as planned.

To learn more about popular coverage options for your RV, trailer, or motorhome give us a call today.

5 Carbon Monoxide Safety Tips

Every year, unintentional carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning (not linked to fires) sends 20,000 people to the emergency room and causes more than 4,000 hospitalizations. And, you might consider them the fortunate ones. CO also is responsible for more than 400 deaths in America each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The truly frightening thing? Most of those victims likely had no idea they were in danger.

CO often is called “the invisible killer” because it’s odorless and colorless, and, when it builds up in an enclosed space, it’s deadly. Everyone is at risk, too, because CO is produced by a number of things we use every day, such as cars and trucks, stoves, grills, gas ranges, furnaces and more.

So, how do you protect yourself? Especially in winter, when it’s cold outside and you’re using heat sources inside your home?

Here are some basic actions you can take to help limit your exposure:

  1. Install — and test — CO detectors
    Most states (37 in all) now have some sort of requirement regarding installation of carbon monoxide detectors in private homes. These should be placed outside of each sleeping area and on every level of the home. Because you won’t smell or otherwise notice CO building up, having detectors that will sound an alarm is crucial. Don’t forget to test them once a month.
  2. Don’t create additional risk in your home
    You should never use devices that generate large amounts of CO inside your home. Never operate a gas or charcoal grill inside (even in a garage), and make sure generators are used in a well-ventilated outside location away from windows, doors and vents. Make sure to have your furnace and chimney checked annually, too.
  3. Be careful in your car
    Carbon monoxide can build up quickly when a vehicle is running, so, if you need to warm up your car, move it out of the garage after you start it.
  4. Watch out for snow — at home and on your vehicle
    Snow and ice can block vents for your dryer, furnace, stove and fireplace. They also can obstruct the exhaust of your car. Either can be very dangerous. In fact, according to news reports, several people died in the recent East Coast snowstorm when CO backed up into their cars because the exhaust pipe was blocked.
  5. Know the symptoms of CO poisoning
    People can be harmed by a small amount of carbon monoxide over a long period, or a large amount over a short period. Because you might not be able to identify when you’re in a dangerous situation, it pays to know what symptoms to look for:
    • Low to moderate CO poisoning: headache, fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness.
    • High-level CO poisoning: mental confusion, vomiting, loss of coordination, loss of consciousness.
    If you suspect CO poisoning, move the person (and yourself) outside immediately and call 911.

Remember, the important thing to know about carbon monoxide is this: Without CO detectors (and other common-sense measures), you won’t know when you’re at risk. So, take steps to protect yourself and your family today.

What to Consider When Choosing Auto Insurance

Carrying a minimum amount of auto insurance is required by state laws, so you can’t legally drive without it. Yet while the minimum amount keeps your premiums lower, it can also put you at great risk if you have an accident. And after an accident is not the time to find out you’re underinsured.

When considering the amount and type of coverage you need, remember that numbers can be deceiving. For instance, carrying $100,000 of liability coverage may sound like a lot, and it is. But even that much likely won’t cover medical costs if you’re involved in an accident that causes serious injury, especially if multiple people are involved. When you consider medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, emotional distress, and residual pain and scarring, $100,000 doesn’t go very far. And without enough insurance, you would be required to pay the difference between your liability limits and actual costs of an accident.

The following are some important things to consider when shopping for auto insurance.

  • Cost isn’t everything. Don’t approach auto coverage like a commodity in which cost is the only factor. The amount you carry should be based on your lifestyle, earnings, how much and where you drive, your overall risk exposure, and other factors.
  • Personalize your search. We strongly suggest talking with an independent insurance agent about your personal risk exposure. This helps ensure you get the most appropriate coverage for your life and your budget, and it gives you a chance to ask an agent specific questions.
  • Physical damage vs. liability. Physical damage coverage helps pay for repairs to your car following an accident or loss. Comprehensive physical damage coverage goes even further by covering damage to your vehicle that does not result from a car accident, such as if a tree falls on it. Liability coverage pays medical bills and property damage you may be held responsible for if you cause an accident that injures another person or damages their property.When deciding which option is best for you, consider your budget, financial assets, and risk exposure and select the highest limits you can afford. This helps reduce your risk of having to pay for any costs above your limits in case of accident or liability.
  • Uninsured and underinsured coverage. Some states require drivers to have uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage to pay damages you are entitled to if damages exceed the at-fault driver’s limits. Even if it is not required where you live, adding it to your policy can maximize your protection for a relatively low cost.

Coverage Options

Understanding different policy options can help you get the best combination of coverage, value, and cost. The following are a few common, and valuable, options to consider.

  • Loan/lease gap coverage. With this optional coverage, if the unpaid loan or lease amount exceeds the value of your car after an accident, your insurance policy will help cover the unpaid amount on the loan or lease minus what your car is actually worth today. If you were in an accident without this coverage, you would be responsible for the difference between the actual cash value and the unpaid loan balance.
  • New car replacement. If you have a new car, you may not have enough coverage to get an equivalent vehicle if your new car is totaled. New car replacement coverage will pay either the purchase price to replace the vehicle, the cost of a similar new vehicle, or the market value of the vehicle.
  • Roadside assistance and emergency expenses. Having roadside assistance and emergency expense coverages ensures you can get a tow truck, battery jump-start, tire changes, or even labor should your car break down. Emergency assistance can cover transportation, lodging, and personal property coverage. Much better than being stuck on the side of the road!
  • Pet coverage. We understand that pets are family, too. Pet coverage will help pay for the veterinary expenses if your dog or cat is injured or killed in a collision.

Ask About Discounts

When talking with an independent agent or comparing insurance companies, be sure to ask about discounts. Some ways to save on your premiums include:

  • Maintain a safe driving record. Installing a device or app that tracks your miles, driving behavior, and the time of day you drive can all demonstrate that you are a safe driver and could result in a noticeable discount.
  • Own a home. You’ll save on premiums if you own your house.
  • Package your policies. You can get a discount when you bundle your home, auto, boat, motorcycle, or other policies with a single insurance company. Having just one bill is more convenient too.
  • Paid in full billing. By paying your bill at the start or renewal of the policy rather than monthly, you can reduce your premiums.

To learn more about getting the right coverage for your needs, give us a call today!

Why You Need Service Line Coverage

Let’s spare a moment for something most of us use every day yet probably take for granted: our service lines. We rely on them for access to water, electricity, gas, Internet connection, and more, but only think about them when service is interrupted. And when that happens, you may be surprised by what your basic homeowners policy covers, and what it doesn’t.

Did you know that, as a homeowner, you are responsible for the maintenance, repair, and replacement of service lines connecting to your house? Energy companies and other service providers are only responsible for the infrastructure up to where it connects to your property. That means that if one of your pipes freezes or your sewer line backs up into your house, you have to pay to fix it.

Consider this common scenario. You have a mature tree on the parking strip in front of your house and its roots have penetrated into your main water line. What began as a small, unnoticed crack eventually expands and causes your pipe to rupture. To fix it, you’ll have to dig up your yard and replace the pipe. That could be a big mess — and an even bigger bill. This type of job can easily run to $5,000 or more.

However, if you have service line coverage, it would pay for the excavation, the new pipe, labor, and even the costs of any outdoor property damaged as a result of the leak. Doesn’t that sound better than paying the full cost out of pocket?

How Service Line Coverage Protects Your Home

Service line coverage protects you from damages that occur to your service lines running from the point of connection to the main service or utility line up to your home. The types of lines covered include:

  • Water
  • Waste disposal
  • Electrical power
  • Drainage
  • Compressed air
  • Communications
  • Heating

Covered losses include, but are not limited to, such issues as:

  • Wear and tear
  • Rust and corrosion
  • Mechanical breakdown
  • Freezing
  • Tree or other root invasion

Best of all, this coverage — and the peace of mind it brings — is available for just a few dollars per month. To learn more about service line coverage, or homeowners insurance in general, contact us today.

Keep Your Pets Safe in a Disaster

A safe home, a regular routine, a soft bed – the things that bring you comfort bring your pet comfort, too. It’s so important to give some advance thought to how you’d handle your pet responsibilities during and after a disastrous storm or other event.

Your family emergency plan should include considerations for Fluffy or Fido. Not just so they’re comfortable, but so they’re safe, too. Here are some emergency planning tips for families with pets:

Prepare Now so You and Your Pet Are Ready Later

  • Make sure your pet has ID. Always have your home address and/or phone number on a tag attached to your pet’s collar – or printed on the collar itself. You might also consider having a microchip implanted in case those tags fall off.
  • Keep a current photo of your pet handy. This is important for identification purposes in the event there’s no microchip or tags. If you really want to be prepared, create a “Lost Pet” flyer and keep a few printouts in your emergency kit.
  • Identify shelters or hotels that accept pets. Keep a list of their phone numbers and addresses, and include your local boarding facility’s number in case you need to drop off your pet. You could also create list of friends or family outside the area who can host you and your pets.
  • Think security. It’s a good idea to have a secure carrier or harness so pets can’t escape if they panic.
  • Create a separate pet emergency kit. You should have emergency supplies for you and your family – don’t forget your animal friends! Canned or moist food is best for them, as it can reduce their need for water. Other things to include: blankets, bottled water, pet first-aid supplies, vet records, extra collar and leash, food dishes and other supplies specific to pet type (such as cat litter, etc.).
  • Consider a buddy system. Talk with friends and neighbors and create a plan where you can help each other care for pets during emergencies. If one of you isn’t home when disaster strikes, the other agrees to see to the animals’ needs for care or evacuation. Be sure to discuss where to meet after an evacuation.

See to Your Pet’s Needs During a Disaster

  • Don’t leave pets outside or tied up. They may become frightened and escape. And, remaining outside can put them at greater risk of harm.
  • Separate dogs, cats and other animals. Even if they normally get along, stressful situations can lead to irrational behavior.
  • Have more unique pets, such as birds? Talk to your veterinarian about their specific needs in emergencies.
  • Keep a supply of newspapers. If your pets cannot go outside, you’ll need to create space indoors for them to … well, you know. Protect those areas with newspapers, towels or other items.
  • If at all possible, do not leave your pets behind if you need to evacuate. If you must, however, confine them to a safe area inside your home with access to plenty of food and water. Even leave the toilet seat up in case their other water runs out. And, it’s a good idea to leave an easily seen sign detailing how many pets are in the house, and how you can be reached.

Continue to Be Cautious Once It’s Over

  • Watch your pets closely. They may still be frightened, even days after a disaster. And, even familiar areas may have changed, so keep them on leash and stay close. Remember, there may be downed power lines or other hazards still present.
  • Re-evaluate how things went. Could your emergency plan have been better? Are there things you wish you had included in your pet’s disaster kit? Do you need to research more shelters and other facilities that will accept pets? Now’s the time to do it – before the next emergency.

If you’re like most people, you consider your pets part of the family. Including them in your plans, and taking steps before a disaster strikes, will make it easier to keep the whole family together.

I Just Bought a New Car. What Insurance Coverage Do I Need?

Congratulations! After weeks of research, comparing makes and models, and taking test drives you finally bought that brand-new car you wanted. But before you take that well-deserved road trip, check one more item off your list: the right car insurance.

While some auto coverage options are essential whatever the age of your car, new vehicles may carry some additional risks you should know about. So before leaving the lot, give us a quick call to discuss the possible coverage options:

New vehicle replacement. Here’s how this coverage works: If you’re the original owner of a new car that is totaled or stolen within one year of purchase, you’ll be paid the full value of the car you lost or a comparable model. Without this policy, you may have to settle for something less than new.

Loan and lease coverage. Consider what could happen if you financed your new car and then it was totaled or stolen soon after buying it. Not only would you lose your new ride, you’d still be on the hook for your entire loan balance — which would be more than the car was worth. With loan and lease coverage, you’d get a check to cover the gap between what’s left on your loan and the depreciated value of your car.

Audio-visual and custom equipment coverage. If you’re an avid music fan who enjoys a custom sound system or DVD player, this coverage protects you for the full value of any A/V equipment not installed at the factory or dealership. It also covers such modifications as roll bars, certain custom engine parts, lift kits, special wheels, artwork, decals, and other personal touches.

OEM parts replacement. OEM (original equipment manufacturer) parts are often preferable to other aftermarket parts because they are made specifically for your make and model of vehicle. So if you want your Honda repaired with Honda parts, or your Mercedes to only have official Mercedes parts, this coverage is for you. When you buy this optional coverage, it’s added to your existing Comprehensive and Collision coverage so that all repairs or replacements made to your damaged car will include new OEM parts where available.

You invested in a new car. So be sure your investment extends to the right auto policy as well. To learn more protecting your new vehicle, give us a call today!

How to Update your Home — Without Spending Thousands

It doesn’t take a massive remodel, or a big budget, to make your house feel a little more like home to you. Inside or out, small improvements can make a significant difference — and whether you’re handy or not, you can handle most of them yourself.

Don’t believe it? Just check out our list of ideas below, from various home-improvement sites and authorities such as “This Old House.” And some of them won’t even cost you a thing, aside from time and effort.

Inside Improvements

  • Paint something, anything: Whether you want a new color, or just a fresh coat, new paint can work wonders inside your home — and don’t think you have to limit yourself to the walls! You can paint your kitchen’s backsplash for a new look, or even old vinyl flooring to make it look like stone tile.
  • Dress up your old furniture: That couch has seen better days, but instead of taking it to the dump, give it new life with a slipcover — or have the whole thing reupholstered. You’ll be surprised at the difference it makes.
  • Change up your rugs: Area rugs are a great way to add color throughout your home. Replace old ones with new colors and patterns, or put a few down in new places. You could even buy extras in different styles and swap them out regularly for a fresh look.
  • Light things up: Installing LED lighting strips under your cabinets isn’t expensive, and they provide more than light — they can give your kitchen a polished, upscale feel. Another option: Replace lamps (or even just lamp shades) or overhead lighting to change the look of a room dramatically.
  • Switch out those switch covers: Have basic or cheap-looking covers surrounding light switches and power outlets? This is one of the easiest updates you can make — new covers will give you a real bang for your buck in terms of visual impact.
  • Don’t spend a thing: For a truly different feel, rearrange the furniture in a room; it’s free and effective. And if you’ve got clutter around the house (and who doesn’t?), simply putting things away can make a big difference.

Outside Improvements

  • More paint, please: No, you don’t have to paint your entire exterior to have an impact. You can touch up trim, paint or stain fences and decks, and for maximum impact, repaint your doors! A bright new look for your front door can really make things pop.
  • Add plants: No room for a garden? Don’t want to dig up the yard? No problem! Adding container plants on your porch or deck is a great way to enhance your home’s appearance. They don’t cost much and can be swapped out easily, too.
  • Go by the numbers: When’s the last time you looked at your house numbers? If they’re worn or dated, this is an easy and inexpensive fix.
  • Knock knock: A fancy (or even not-so-fancy) door-knocker can really dress up your front door. An updated doorbell can be a nice touch, too.

Tackling just one or two of these easy updates likely will leave you wondering why you waited so long! And most of them can be done for well under $100 — but we won’t tell your guests if you don’t.

What is water backup coverage and why is it important?

Water damage can be disastrous to your home. Imagine discovering that your entire basement is filled with brown water and sewage from a backed-up water main or other pipe. It’s not only disgusting and potentially dangerous, it’s also expensive. On average, most water backup claims cost $5,000-$10,000 to repair.

Water backup coverage is optional coverage that can be added to your existing homeowners policy for this type of situation. But since many homeowners policies either don’t cover water backups, or only offer limited protection, it’s worth learning more about this valuable and affordable option. Because you don’t want to find out you’re underinsured after you experience a water backup issue.

The amount of coverage you’ll need depends on several factors including:

  • Whether you have a finished or unfinished basement.
  • The size of your basement.
  • The type of flooring in your basement (carpet, vinyl, hardwood, etc.).
  • The type of wall material in your basement (drywall, paneling, etc.).
  • Whether your basement has a bathroom.
  • Whether you have a washer, dryer, or heating and cooling system in your basement.

Once we have this information, we can offer a quote for either adding the option or increasing your amount of water backup coverage. And the good news is this coverage is inexpensive. You can get quality coverage for less than $25 per month. To discuss your current homeowners policy with an expert, contact us today.