Pages Navigation Menu


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.

Read More

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.



  • 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.



  • 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.



  • 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.

Read More

How to Teach Safety Measures to Your Employees and Make Them Listen

Posted by on Oct 2, 2015 in Blog, Small Business Safety

Education is important.  We all know that.  But in the workplace, proper education can mean the difference between safety and serious injury.  As we’ve said before, the workplace can house a lot of hidden dangers for employees.  A link to our previous blog on this subject can be found here.  A proper education plan is essential to eliminating unnecessary risks and protecting employees’ well-being.  To make it a little easier, we’ve put together a short list of tips to help employers better educate their employees.

Find mentors for new employees – Employees should never be asked to perform a task they haven’t witnessed firsthand.  Consider mentors for new employees, or host safety trainings where employees can be shown how to properly perform hazardous tasks.  Books and work sheets have their place, but paperwork can never replace hands-on learning.

Teach them why – Teaching employees how to perform a task is great, but teaching them why is almost equally important.  Employees might know how they should perform an activity, but if they don’t understand the repercussions of not doing it, they may be tempted to cut corners or stray from prescribed safety protocols.

Create “what if” scenarios – Accidents don’t always happen when and how we would expect.  When an employee is caught off guard, even the best training can fall flat.   Prepare employees to practice safety in unusual circumstances by creating “what if” scenarios.

Provide constructive feedback – Even the best employees need feedback from time to time, even if it’s just to let them know what they’re doing right.  Make sure to provide specific examples so employees have a concrete understanding of what they’re doing well and what should be avoided.

Incorporate online tools – Technology provides employees an opportunity to learn in a safe, interactive environment.  Computer programs can also make better use of visual activities by utilizing animations and other “in the moment” features.  Tests and quizzes can be incorporated at the end of modules to assess the employee’s retention of information.

Engage employees – We all remember sitting in certain classes.  The boring lectures, the mindless busywork.  Before a workplace safety education program can be successful, employees have to pay attention.  Don’t be afraid to include a little humor or ask a senior employee with public speaking experience to lead training sessions.  It might even be helpful to provide incentives for successful performance or higher test scores.

Refresh training periodically – When it comes to safety training, once is never enough.  It’s important to refresh employee knowledge periodically to ensure maximum retention.  The more an employee is reintroduced to information, the more he or she will be able to recall it when needed.  This doesn’t have to be formal training, but should be introduced whenever it seems appropriate.

And that’s it! Keep checking back regularly for more great tips to keep employees safe!


Read More

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.



Read More

The Dangers of Loading Docks

Posted by on Sep 8, 2015 in Blog, Small Business Safety

Loading docks can be dangerous places for forklifts and pedestrians. Falls from a loading dock in a forklift can be fatal. Every year, injuries and fatalities in the U.S. occur as a result of not taking safety precautions around loading/unloading docks. By adhering to the following safety tips, the risk of an injury or fatality can be reduced significantly. Periodic (at minimum annually) training should be completed and documented for any employer who has loading dock exposure.


Gaining a thorough understanding of key terms related to loading dock safety is very important in order to maintain a safe work environment and properly train employees on potential hazards.

Dock Lock – A safety device that hooks to a trailer’s bumper when the truck is backed into a loading dock. The device is controlled from inside the loading dock area and prevents the trailer from being able to pull away from the dock.

Dock Plate – A movable metal plate that is placed between the warehouse dock and a trailer.

Live Loading – Live loading is occurring any time the driver of the truck is sitting in
the driver seat while a trailer is being loaded or unloaded, regardless of whether the keys are in the ignition or not.

Loading Dock – A platform where trucks are loaded and unloaded in addition to the area immediately inside the platform and the surrounding area outside the platform.

Mandatory Personnel – Personnel who are required to be in the warehouse and loading dock area to complete their job function, or any person who has supervisory responsibility for mandatory personnel.

Wheel Chocks – Wedges of sturdy material placed behind a vehicle’s wheels to prevent accidental movement.

Key Loading Dock Hazards and Safety Tips

Slips and Trips

  • Clean up any spills or rain/snow tracked into the area immediately.
  • Ensure that loading dock areas stay cleaned up and dry, and also ensure the application of ice melt outdoors when necessary.
  • Place containers, trash, packing, tools, and other materials safely out of walking and driving areas.
  • Maintain floors to keep them free from cracks and uneven surfaces.
  • Require employees to clean out dock areas periodically to remove accumulated debris, and ensure that the dock areas are covered under the facility housekeeping plan.

Falls from Hazards

  • Paint the edges of the loading dock (for example, yellow) to improve visibility.
  • Periodically audit and verify that the dock ladders/stairs are secure and kept clear of debris.
  • Ensure that there is adequate illumination for exit doors, docks, handrails, and steps, as well as inside the trucks.
  • Prohibit employees and truck drivers from jumping from the dock level to the ground.
  • Ensure that dock plates are used and that they are designed for the loads they will support (do not overload dock plates).

Un-chocked Trailer Wheels

  • Utilize wheel chocks on trucks to prevent movement during loading and unloading.
  • Designate an employee to verify chocks are being used at all times.
  • Ensure dock lock systems (if applicable) are being used to lock semi-truck trailers in place BEFORE loading/unloading begins. Verify the dock lock system is functioning properly before each use.

Carbon Monoxide

  • Truck drivers must turn off their engines during loading and unloading activities to prevent the accumulation of carbon monoxide.
  • Carbon monoxide exposure can lead to fainting, asphyxiation, and even death.

Back Injuries

  • Manual lifting hazards may exist while loading/unloading trucks.
  • Prior to permitting employees to lift, conduct an ergonomic assessment to determine the risk of injury.
  • Provide mechanical lifting devices and forklifts and require team lifts to mitigate the risk of back or related lifting injuries.
  • Pedestrian Traffic

    • Limit pedestrian traffic in the loading dock area to mandatory personnel only.
    • Require high-visibility clothing for mandatory personnel (and visitors) in the loading dock areas at all times.
    • Use temporary barricades to keep pedestrians from walking in the path of a forklift while loading or unloading trailers.
    • Always check the exterior of the trailer before exiting and keep line-of-sight with any pedestrians in the area.

    General Loading Dock Safety Tips

    • Identify and mark overhead hazards, pipes, doors, electrical wires, etc.
    • If dock locks are used, verify that the dock lock has fully disengaged before the driver pulls away from the dock. This verification will reduce the risk of property damage and/or injury.
    • If manual dock levelers are used, never place your hands or feet under the dock leveling plate.
    • Equip motorized lift trucks with spotlights to increase visibility during loading/unloading.
    • Never stand between a trailer and the loading dock.
    • Wear appropriate personal protective equipment while loading/unloading trucks. Minimum requirements may include steel-toed shoes, safety glasses, high-visibility clothing, and leather work gloves.
    • Ensure that adequate signage exists at the entrance points to the loading dock areas to keep unauthorized employees from entering.
    • Prohibit live loading. Live loading can lead to poor communication and may lead to the driver pulling away before employees are completed with loading/unloading.

    In summary, many hazards may lead to employees getting injured or killed on the job as a result of an unsafe work environment. It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure a safe working environment, and employees should follow safe work practices at all times. Periodic training on loading dock hazards, maintaining good housekeeping, and being aware of your surroundings could prevent an injury and even save your life!


    Senior Loss Control Representative

    Read More

    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.


    Read More

    Call Toll-Free 1-800-322-0160