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The Unexpected Average Cost of Owning a Dog in the First Year

Posted by on Oct 7, 2015 in Blog, My Favorite Things

Most people underestimate the average cost of owning a dog, especially in the first year. The upfront costs can quickly pile up and overwhelm you if you’re not prepared.

Puppies have a mysterious power over us. One look into their wet, doughy eyes and all sense of rational thinking and reason are thrown to the wind. Checks quickly tear from their captive books, credit cards swipe furiously through machines, and we cuddle and laugh all the way home, happy as can be. It’s a great feeling–until reality sets in.

You go to the pet store, you go to the vet, you go to the groomer, and then you take a look at your checking account. Whoa. Didn’t expect that to happen, right?

The average cost of owning a dog is not something many people take into account when they lay their eyes on a puppy. It’s just too darn cute to put a price tag on, we think. Do yourself a favor and don’t let your emotions influence your decision to buy a dog, at least not the majority share of it. Owning a dog is a heavy investment, so you should prepare a budget plan and take into account every upfront cost.

We put together a simple guide to preparing yourself for the average cost of owning a dog, specifically in the first year. Too many times have we seen someone bring home a puppy only considering the cost of food and proper vaccines. The actual cost is much more complex, and we are here to show you why. Keep reading for our breakdown of the upfront costs and what to expect in the future.

Expect the unexpected: the average cost of owning a dog in the first year.

Before we begin, let’s take a moment to point out the many different variables that can influence the average cost of owning a dog. Where you live, the type and size of the dog, what brands of food you choose, what illnesses your dog is prone to developing–these all play a large role in the overall expense. According to the ASPCA, the average cost of owning a dog for the first year can go from $1,300 to above $1,800. That’s no figure to ignore.

Now here’s the good news: not all these costs will carry over into following years. In fact, if you keep your dog healthy and safe, the average first-year figure can be nearly cut in half. Below we’ve broken down the costs into two sections. Combining these two sections together will give you a full picture of the first-year expenses; the annual cost section will give you an idea for the years after.

First-year upfront costs:

  • Adoption/store purchase = $200 – $2,000
  • Spay/neuter procedure = $190 – $220
  • Deworming, blood tests, microchip = $70
  • Leash/collar = $25 – $35
  • Crate = $35 – $125
  • Training class = $110
  • Initial grooming (for long haired dogs) = $260 – $400
  • Food and water bowls = $10 – $40
  • Doggy bed = $25 – $100
  • Grooming tools = $20 – $120

Annual costs:

  • Food = $120 – $500
  • Recurring medical exams = $210 – $260
  • Toys/treats = $40 – $75
  • Licensing = $15
  • Health insurance = $225
  • Grooming = $50 – $400
  • Teeth cleaning = $60 – $200

As you can see, the average cost of owning a dog is not cheap. Not all of these variables will apply to your situation (maybe you have a small dog with short fur), but this list is something to consider.

Avoid a financial squeeze by preparing yourself with a responsible budget plan.

When you do end up adopting that adorable pup, don’t you want to provide everything you can for it? That’s why it’s important to understand the costs and plan accordingly. You should be able to make annual appointments with your veterinarian to keep your dog healthy, at the very least.

Being able to afford health insurance coverage for your dog is also important, for you and your pet. Analyze these figures above before you get sucked into the gooey-eyed, doughy-faced, crazy adorable puppy realm of irrational thinking.

Add Pet Insurance to your homeowners policy so you’ll never need to worry about an unexpected vet bill, or worse, a treatment that’s way out of budget for your best friend.

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A Kitchen Appliance Maintenance Checklist to Avoid Costly Repairs

Posted by on Oct 5, 2015 in Blog, My Favorite Things

Consistent kitchen appliance maintenance can save a lot of money for little time. Use this checklist to focus on your upkeep and to make your kitchen investments last as long as possible.

You wake up on a typical Monday morning, go through your usual routine, and start a pot of coffee. As you sit down with your steaming cup and check your emails for the day, the refrigerator starts to make a low, humming noise. You don’t know why it’s happening, but one thing strikes you right away: it sounds like money draining out of your bank account.

Consistent kitchen appliance maintenance can save you the hassle of unexpected repair costs. It’s much easier to keep up with these appliances than you’d expect. The key is to treat these expensive items as investments–you want to maintain them for as long as possible, getting the most out of your purchase.

Believe it or not, kitchen appliance maintenance is a lot easier than you may think. The common denominator for maintaining your most expensive appliances is simply the act of cleaning them efficiently and consistently.

We’ve put together a checklist for maintaining your three most expensive kitchen appliances: refrigerator, dishwasher, and oven/stovetop. Everything needs to be replaced eventually, and some repairs are out of your control, but you can use this checklist to make sure your appliances don’t break down due to lack of attention.

The Pekin Insurance kitchen appliance maintenance checklist

Below we’ve listed the essential upkeep checklist for three of the most expensive kitchen appliance investments: refrigerator, dishwasher, and oven/stovetop.

Refrigerator

Monthly:

  • If your fridge has an ice maker, clean out the bin every month to protect from blocks of ice forming at the bottom.
  • Remove any debris from the freezer vents and keep them unobstructed.
  • Readjust temperature settings for fridge and freezer efficiency. Freezer should stay at 0 degrees; fridge should stay between 35 to 40 degrees.

Every three months:

  • Scrub clean the door gaskets (inside liners) to keep cool air in. If gaskets are sticky and pulled out of place, extra stress will be put on the motor to keep the inside cool.
  • Clean condenser coils at the bottom or behind the unit. These can quickly become dirty if you live with shedding pets or children.
  • Clean the condenser fan. This fan is essential to air circulation and can become clogged with dust and debris over time.

Dishwasher

Monthly:

  • Remove racks and soak them in hot water and vinegar. The vinegar will remove any lasting stains or molds.
  • Wipe down the inside of the unit with warm soapy water or light detergent. Make sure to focus on the corners and near the door where mildew buildups are common.
  • Wipe the inside of the door, especially along the gaskets. If the gaskets become grimy and deteriorate, the door will not shut properly.

Every three months:

  • Disassemble the floor of the dishwasher and clean around the filter. Soak the washing arm in hot water and vinegar.
  • Carefully remove debris from and around the filter. These can clog and block waste water from draining.

Oven/Stovetop

Monthly:

  • For an electric stovetop, remove knobs and carefully wipe around the holes. Allowing any water to drop in could short-circuit the wiring.
  • For a gas stovetop, remove surface burners and grates and soak them in warm soapy water. Scrub away debris after having soaked for several minutes and return after dry.

Every three months:

  • Clean the inside of the oven with soapy water or light detergent. Remove racks and soak them in soapy water, too. (Be sure to unplug your oven before wiping down with water!)
  • If using a self-cleaning feature, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions closely and to not leave the house until finished.

Consistent kitchen appliance maintenance can save a lot of money for a little time.

After going through the checklist above, you might be thinking: that’s nothing hard! Yes, we agree. However, most households do not think to maintain their kitchen appliances until something goes wrong like food jammed in your dishwasher filter, refrigerator gaskets slipped out of place because of grime, or old spills in the oven or under the stovetop catching fire. These are all issues stemming from lack of kitchen appliance maintenance. Do yourself a favor and keep up with the cleaning!

Even the most prepared homeowners face unforeseen costs when it comes to disasters, emergencies, and repairs. Upgrade your homeowners policy to include a variety of extras, including the cost to replace home equipment for just pennies a day.

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Four Tips to Help You Replace Your Belongings Quickly Should Disaster Strike

Posted by on Sep 28, 2015 in Blog, My Favorite Things

From tornados to fires, disasters can happen anytime.  There’s no calculator for when one might come your way.  And if you haven’t taken the proper precautions, the results can be devastating.  One important way to prepare for disaster is to know what posessions you have and assess the value of those belongings ahead of time.  By knowing this information and having it in an organized manner, your insurance provider can more easily deliver a payment to help cover the cost of replacement in the event of damage or loss.  Below, we’ve provided a few tips to help keep a better record of your belongings and be able to bounce back from a disaster a little more quickly.

Tip #1: Make an inventory of your items

Once they’re gone, it can be difficult to remember every item that was lost.  Be proactive and develop a catalogue of each item that would need to be replaced in the event of a disaster, along with its value.  Include receipts for major items and appliances as proof of purchase, as well as a list of manufacturers, models, and serial numbers.

Tip #2: Don’t forget the small stuff

Remembering the TV and the refrigerator is easy, but what about those items that aren’t as visible?  Hair care products and socks might not be the most important items on the inventory, but when you’re replacing an entire home full of possessions, the small stuff can add up fast.  And don’t forget about your one-of-a-kind pieces!  Whether you found it at a flea market or inherited it from your great uncle’s hairdresser, these specialty items can be some of the most valuable in the home.

Tip #3: Get a second opinion

Don’t know the exact value of your grandma’s 18th-century decoupage cat sculpture? A quick online search can give a fairly close estimate of an item’s value.  However, if you’d like a more accurate opinion, try visiting an appraiser.  There’s usually a small fee for these types of services, but who knows, that cat could be worth a fortune.

Tip #4: Keep an extra copy

When disaster comes, it’s rarely judicious about which items it destroys.  Keep a copy of your inventory and other important documents in a safe place that can be accessed as needed.  A cloud-based storage platform or a safety deposit box at your local bank are great options.

Sources:
http://www.realsimple.com/work-life/money/money-planning/how-estimate-value-belongings
http://www.thepersonal.com/p-on/en/info-centre/articles/property/pages/home-reconstructing.aspx

 

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Counting the Cost of Security

Posted by on Sep 1, 2015 in Blog, My Favorite Things

How to Decide if Renters Insurance Is Right for You.

One of the primary characteristics of renting property is sharing building space with other tenants. Now, that can be a great thing if your neighbors are friendly, responsible adults like you are. But what if that’s not the case? As a renter, you’re often subject to every bad decision your neighbors make. They throw a house party at 3:00 a.m. on a weekday—you get to share in the fun. They leave their oven on for the weekend—you hope they didn’t leave the gas on, too.

Renters Insurance is a relatively inexpensive way to protect your personal property from the dangers of renting. But how do you know if Renters Insurance is right for you? Fortunately, there’s a simple test you can do to see if you’re a good candidate for Renters Insurance. The test is this: if you’re asking whether or not you need Renters Insurance, then you probably need Renters Insurance.

Why pay for Renters Insurance?

Most renters have a mistakenly low view of Renters Insurance. In fact, only about 30% of renters claim to have purchased a Renters Insurance policy. Like most other types of insurance, you could pay into Renters Insurance year after year and never need it. But ask yourself this simple question: if all your personal property was destroyed right now, could you afford to buy it back on your own?

With Renters Insurance, you can protect your personal property from damage or theft for less than $200 a year! That’s a pretty marginal fee compared to most regular rental costs. And when you start to calculate the cost to replace everything currently in your possession, that number gets a whole lot smaller. Got a neighbor who likes starting campfires in his living room? With Renters Insurance, you’ve got nothing to fear—well, except the actual fire.

But let’s flip the situation around now. What if it’s not your neighbor who causes the damage, but you? Maybe your bathtub overflowed and damaged the apartment below. Now you’re facing a liability lawsuit. If you lose, you could find yourself responsible for some pretty hefty charges. Fortunately, your Renters Insurance can cover those damages, too, up to the liability limit in your policy.

Won’t I be covered by my landlord’s policy?

While many renters may think they’re covered by their landlord’s insurance policy, that’s rarely the case. Most landlords take out what’s known as rental insurance, as opposed to regular homeowners insurance. In the event of damage, this insurance will cover the rental structure itself but not the tenants’ property. So if a tree falls through the roof destroying your rental home, the house is covered. But the big screen TV and your favorite parka? Those are on you.
So you’re saying I should get Renters Insurance?

That’s exactly what I’m saying. For anyone renting a home or apartment, Renters Insurance is a no brainer. Renters Insurance policies can vary, so contact your Pekin Insurance agent to find out which policy is right for you. Get the protection you need now. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

Subscribe to our blog for more great tips and insights.

Sources:

http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2013/09/12/4-common-myths-about-renters-insurance

http://www.washingtonpost.com/realestate/do-you-need-renters-insurance/2012/09/19/b44839b6-0273-11e2-9b24-ff730c7f6312_story.html

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10 Ways to Cut Utility Costs During the Summer

Posted by on Aug 17, 2015 in Blog, My Favorite Things

When we think of summer, we think of vacations, sun, and outdoors. However, with all those good thoughts, we also get the skyrocketing energy bills. You are not totally helpless. There are several things that you can do to minimize your summer utility costs. Here are some things you can do to help cut the costs of high summer utility bills:

  1. Cook outside – The air conditioner will work overtime trying to counteract the heat from your stove and oven. Fire up the grill as much as possible.
  2. Close the blinds and drapes – Don’t underestimate the power of the sun. Sunlight hitting objects in your house produces radiant heat. Again, this makes more work for the air conditioner.
  3. Wear less – Try open-toed shoes, shorts, linen, and clothing that offers little insulation. This will allow you to keep the thermostat at a higher setting.
  4. Go outside – That’s right, you are a heat source. Exercising outside will keep the heat outside and the cool inside.
  5. Fix leaky ductwork – If you have an HVAC tech check your air conditioner each summer, have him check the ductwork, too. Don’t let the cool air escape.
  6. Turn the central fan on – At night, you can give the air conditioner a rest and just use the central fan. It will circulate the cool air, and you won’t miss the air conditioner.
  7. Turn off the ceiling fan – When you are not home, that is. Ceiling fans do not cool the home but make you feel cooler as air passes across your skin.
  8. Dust the refrigerator and freezer – Refrigeration units have coils usually found on the back of the unit. Dust build up on these coils makes the unit work harder.
  9. Use lower wattage bulbs – Putting a 30-watt bulb in place of a 60-watt bulb saves you half the electricity.
  10. Plant trees – This is a longer-term savings plan. In the summer, the shade from a tree will help block direct sunlight and keep your place cooler. Then in the winter, the missing leaves on the tree will let the sunlight through to help heat the dwelling.
    1. Doing only a couple of these tips will help you save money. Not only that, but you will be more environmentally conscious with the electricity savings. Now summer can be about vacations, sun, and outdoors again without the increased utility costs!

      David
      Senior Adjuster

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Think Twice Before Making That Rant on Social Media

Posted by on Aug 1, 2015 in Blog, My Favorite Things

When it comes to your homeowners policy, did you know the liability section covers only “bodily injury” and “property damage?” Thus, any type of non-bodily injury, such as personal injury, is excluded without the attachment of a personal injury endorsement.

Examples of personal injury claims include wrongful eviction, wrongful entry, and oral or written publication that injures a party’s reputation. This latter event is becoming particularly problematic with the rapid growth in social media.

So here are some tips to carefully manage your personal injury loss exposure.

  • Exercise caution when posting on social media sites. Anything negative you share on the Internet is permanent. Avoid highly controversial subjects, sensitive political issues, or inflammatory remarks. Taking the high road is the best approach.
  • If you are blogging or communicating on social media, be careful that you have your facts straight. If it is a close call or a gray area, why say it at all?
  • Exercise caution in the case of product disparagement. There are lawyers and business owners who are willing to threaten lawsuits when it comes to negative comments about their products.
  • Provide strict ground rules for your children on social media and closely monitor their activities. Keep the computer in a public part of the home in order to closely watch their activities. Screen who your children “friend” on Facebook. Place strict limits on the amount of time your children spend online. Provide age-appropriate and concrete explanations of libel, slander, sexting, and their ramifications.
  • If you are on a not-for-profit board, such as a homeowners association, exercise due care in dealing with others on sensitive matters. Be especially careful regarding newsletters that go out to the community.
  • Procure a personal injury endorsement with sufficient limits to provide protection for a personal injury claim. But remember that this endorsement does not provide protection for business-related activities.
  • Purchase a personal umbrella policy that provides higher liability limits for a variety of personal liability claims, including personal injury.

Jim, CPCU, AU
Director of Personal Lines Underwriting

Copyright 2015, International Risk Management Institute, Inc.

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