Home Improvement & Remodeling Ideas that Increase Home Value (And What to Avoid) – Heather Levin

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With the real estate market still in a slump, more and more people have decided not to sell their home. Instead, they have chosen to stay put, until things get better. I count myself in this group; I had my own home on the market for two years. My house sold, and the sale fell through, on two separate occasions. As a result, I’ve resolved to stay put until the real estate market improves.However, now that I’ve decided to stay in this home instead of moving, I plan to make several home improvements to make my home more comfortable (e.g. building a sunroom to combat the dreary Michigan winters, and building a backyard deck)…..

Read more: https://www.moneycrashers.com/7-home-improvements-to-increase-its-value

 

 

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America’s Real Economy: It Isn’t Booming – Peter Georgescu

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Ostensibly, for the past ten years, US economy has been recovering from the 2008 collapse. During the past few years, our comeback seems to have gained momentum. All the official indicators say we’re back in boom times, with a bull market, low unemployment and steady job growth. But there is an alternative set of data that depicts a different America, where the overlooked majority struggles from month to month.

The Nation recently published a stunning overview of the working poor and underpaid. One of the most powerful data points in the piece described how empty the decline in unemployment actually is: having a job doesn’t exempt anyone from poverty anymore. About 12% of Americans (43 million) are considered poor, and yet they are employed. They earn an individual income below $12,140 per year, and slightly more than that for a family of two. If you include housing and medical expenses in the calculation, it raises the percentage of Americans living in poverty to 14%. That’s 45 million people.

At that level of income, there’s almost no way to pay for food and shelter in any sizeable American city. That means people now can both be employed and homeless. Rajon Menon writes, for The Nation:

In America’s big cities, chiefly because of a widening gap between rent and wages, thousands of working poor remain homeless, sleeping in shelters, on the streets, or in their vehicles, sometimes along with their families.

Fewer and fewer people have savings to weather time between jobs or an emergency expense. A third of the U.S. population has no savings and another third has saved less than $1,000. Two-thirds of American households, by this measure, are desperately scrambling to make ends meet from check to check. Nearly half the American population earns too little to live on comfortably:

One-third of all workers earn less than $12 an hour and 42% earn less than $15. That’s $24,960 and $31,200 a year. Imagine raising a family on such incomes, figuring in the cost of food, rent, childcare, car payments (since a car is often a necessity simply to get to a job in a country with inadequate public transportation), and medical costs.

Even in households that combine income from two wage-earners, it’s rarely enough to live on without anxieties about money. It takes an average of a little more than $100,000 per year now for a household to be able to live without anxieties about money.

Slow and steady inflation has eroded buying power over the past decade. According to The Nation, the minimum wage rose to $7.25 by 2009, but since then inflation has eroded 10% of its buying power. So this year, someone will have to work 41 additional days to make the equivalent of the 2009 minimum wage.

  • Healthcare costs are projected to go up 20% in the coming year.
  • Credit card debt has crested at a trillion dollars and is projected to increase at 4.7% by 2020.
  • Wages have been increasing by only 2.9% per year.
  • For the young, education debt has reached a record $1.52 trillion.

How long is this sustainable?

What’s genuinely astonishing to me is that the private sector doesn’t see the immense danger in all this—not simply the prospect of a collapse from enormous household debt loads, but the prospect of civil unrest after another huge correction like the one in 2008. Our current course is unsustainable. And for all the proposals for changes in public policy to ameliorate income inequality, only the private sector can get the nation on a better track by raising wages, increasing benefits and investing in new ventures and expanded markets.

There are numerous ways in which our wealthiest companies could help change the course of our economy. Here are some suggestions from Larry Thompson, former executive VP for PepsiCo, and his coauthors writing for Fortune magazine:

  • Get involved in early education for children of employees. Programs that start at birth can lift their earnings by up to 26%. At PNC Financial Services Group, their Grow Up Great program has served over 2 million children throughout the U.S., through grants to organizations that support early learning in math, science, and the arts.
  • Fund higher education for existing employees. In collaboration with Southern New Hampshire University, Anthem Insurance (ANTM, -0.06%) recently began making associate’s or bachelor’s degrees available at no cost for 50,000 eligible workers. Another company, FedEx, partners with nearly 20 higher education institutions including Western Governors University.
  • Businesses also should look to re-employ the long-term unemployed, Frontier Communications has hired more than 250 of the long-term unemployed in 2014 alone by eliminating most qualifications and simply observing how well applicants communicated.

These initiatives only scratch the surface, but they are exactly what all companies need to be thinking of doing. If every employer in America came up with even just one modest step—higher wages, regular profit sharing, tuition reimbursement—to help workers spend and save more, the nation would begin to right itself economically. It needs to happen now. We’re running out of time.

 

 

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Controlling Costs: Should You Buy New or Used Equipment? – Pj Germain

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Making a profit is the primary reason that most businesses are started. Nobody goes into business with the goal of losing money. Once you have committed to starting a business a large portion of your mental energy will be spent on trying to find ways to increase its profitability. Depending on the type of business in question, there may be various marketing methods that work better to spread the word and make potential customers aware of your offering.

While growing your business is the most obvious way to generate greater profits, there are other means to give your business a better chance of being successful. In the restaurant business, there are a number of ways that you can control costs through your purchasing decisions. Searching for better deals on locally grown produce and constantly comparing distributors for the best prices can help minimize costs and increase your profit margin. Finding a used food trailer or food truck for sale can save you a lot of cash when you are looking to expand your business outreach.

Restaurants use a lot of different kinds of equipment to serve their customers. Some of this equipment is visible to the clientele and some is out of sight in the kitchen or a back room. This means that in some instances the appearance of the piece of equipment can be as important as its functionality. In other cases, the primary concern is that the item operates properly and looks are not a consideration when making the purchase.

When you are attempting to control costs in your operation you have the option of buying new or used equipment for your restaurant business. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits and disadvantages of buying new or used restaurant equipment to help you decide which way to go when planning your purchasing strategy.

Buying New Equipment

New equipment usually comes with a higher price tag than used equipment. According to katom.com, there are a number of factors that may sway you toward buying new equipment despite the savings inherent in buying used items. Here are some of the major reasons you may want to purchase new rather than used restaurant equipment.

  • Reduced maintenance – New equipment is less likely to need maintenance than a used component. Service calls are expensive and can quickly eat up the savings that you thought you had achieved by buying second-hand equipment. Parts may also be hard to obtain in the event that a replacement is required.
  • Longer warranties – New equipment will have a manufacturer’s warranty that may extend for the life of the item. Contrast this with the short-term warranty you might get with a used piece of equipment.

Controlling Business Costs

  • Better performance – Technological advances will often mean that a newer piece of equipment will perform at a higher level and also be constructed to minimize water and power consumption. This leads to steady savings over the life of the equipment.
  • Get exactly what you need – If you are ordering a new piece of equipment you can insist on getting all of the features that you need and desire. You may have to make concessions when buying used and have to settle for a less than optimal component for your restaurant.
  • Conform to health standards – As technology advances and materials such as stainless steel are used more often to assist with cleaning, health standards also evolve. That used piece of equipment that you are considering buying may end up causing you some issues with the health inspectors and have to be replaced sooner than you had planned.

Buying Used Equipment

Used equipment can afford you substantial financial savings over purchasing brand new machinery. While at first glance, this may be all of the incentives you need to buy used stuff, slow down for a minute. As with any strategy that saves you money, there are some aspects of buying used restaurant equipment that you need to consider before making your decision. According to restaurant.org, here are some of the key factors to keep in mind when thinking about purchasing used equipment.

  • Know your requirements – If the equipment is an essential part of your business, such as a pizzeria’s oven, you should be cautious of used components. Make sure that the equipment that you are buying is actually what you need, and not a compromise determined solely by price.
  • Cost of the used item – Paying more than 50% of what a new piece of equipment would cost is probably not worth the savings.
  • Consider the total cost of ownership – You may save some money on the initial purchase, but over time a used item may end up costing you more in operating expenses. Saving on energy and water bills can help boost your bottom-line, and older models that are not as efficient can offset any saving made in the purchase price.
  • Reconditioned equipment – If the seller has reconditioned the item and perhaps replaced parts, it may be more serviceable than one that is bought “as is”, but will generally have a higher price tag.

Used Equipment for Sale

  • Warranties – Some dealers offer 30 to 90-day warranties on used equipment. This will not be the case for items bought at auction or through a private individual where no warranty is the norm.
  • Service and part availability – Can your equipment be serviced and can you obtain replacement parts? If not, it is a very risky undertaking if it is an important part of your operation.
  • Check the operability of the equipment – Ask the dealer to hook it up and see how it works. A reputable dealer will do that, though when buying used parts online this not practical.
  • Does the equipment stand up over time – Ovens, ranges, and stainless steel tables will last for a long time with no performance degradation. Other items like dishwashers and ice machines may not have as long a life if not maintained properly by the former owners.

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