8 Tips For Keeping Home Energy Costs Down This Summer

Home Energy CostsIt’s that time of year again. The days are long and the summer weather is beautiful. But with all the bright and shiny fun comes the heat, which in turn, creates higher home energy costs to keep cool. The outdoor temperatures are one thing that we are helpless to reduce in the short-term, but there are some steps that everyone can take to lower the amount of energy being used during the summer. Some of the biggest savings around the house come from doing a number of small things.

Here are 8 ways to save big on home energy costs.

1. Windows

Take advantage of the cool New England air at night. Turn off your air conditioners and open the windows to cool off your home. When you wake up in the morning, close the windows and lock them for a tight seal to trap in the cool air. Close your blinds as well, as this will block unneeded sunlight which can significantly warm up a room.

2. Ceiling Fans

Ceiling fans won’t cool your home but they do circulate the air in your home making you feel cooler. This is only useful when you are home, so be sure to turn these fans off when you are not going to an area where they will affect you.

3. Vents & Filters

It is a little-known fact that if you shut your vents you actually are making your AC unit work harder to cool the rest of the house. By leaving your vents open you can save money and stress on your unit. The same goes for your filter, change it often and your system will last longer and not need to use unnecessary energy to keep your home cool.

4. Thermostat

Try to keep your thermostat in the range of 76-78 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a comfortable temperature and if used in conjunction with your ceiling fan will actually feel up to 4 degrees cooler than the set temperature.

5. Appliances

If you need to do a load of laundry, try to hold off until the evening. Also, consider not using hot water when you wash, as it is known that cold water requires less energy. If you have a dishwasher, refrain from using it during the daytime and try to hand-wash dishes when possible. All appliances consume energy when they are plugged in, even if they are not being used. Unplug any and all appliances when they are not in use.

6. Leaks

Take a lap around your home and make sure all of your weatherization is in good order. Much like leaving a window open while your air conditioner is on, cool air will escape from the tiniest leaks in window panes, doorways, etc. There’s no sense in paying more and stressing your AC to cool the outdoors.

7. Dress For the Weather

This tip doesn’t just apply to when you are in the household. Running errands or working in the yard with long sleeved shirts and thick pants will only entice you to go inside and stand in front of your AC until you’re cooled off. Wear short sleeved shirts, shorts and/or skirts whenever possible.

8. Hydrate!

Beat the heat from the inside out. Keeping those ice cube trays filled and consuming 8-10 glasses of cold water will not only keep you cool internally throughout the day but will also help you avoid potential health complications such as heat stroke. Lowering your body temperature this way will minimize the need for air conditioners or excessive fanning.

And don’t forget, staying mindful of your home energy costs isn’t the only way to save from month to month. Another great way to keep more money in your pocket year-round is through a homeowner’s insurance policy perfectly catered to your specific needs, so contact us today to find a plan that works for you!

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Motorcycle Safety Guide: 7 Tips For First-Time Bikers

Motorcycle SafetyMotorcyclists are ecstatic that springtime weather is finally flourishing throughout New England, and for good reason. Hitting the scenic open roads can be an uplifting experience; which is why this time of year tends to influence those who have been itching to purchase a motorcycle for the first time. While the temptation may be growing, there are many things to consider before investing in that two-wheeler, more specifically, motorcycle safety.

Abide by These 7 Motorcycle Safety Tips to Keep Your Riding Experience a Happy One:

Safety Gear

In Massachusetts, state law requires anyone operating a motorcycle or riding as a passenger to wear a helmet that meets the minimum requirements laid out by the Registrar of Motor Vehicles. This law also applies to sidecar passengers. Although helmet laws vary from state to state, it is an undeniable safety precaution that ALL motorcyclists should abide by to prevent significant injury in the event of an accident. And leather jackets aren’t just a ‘fashion statement’ of the motorcycling community. Many bikers wear these jackets because they are thick and dense, which can provide better bodily protection if a fall takes place. Eye protection and thick gloves are also recommended.

Rider Awareness

Bikers must be even more alert of their surroundings than automobile drivers. They need to be mindful of any roadway hazards that could put them in a dangerous position. Always keep yourself visible to other drivers and keep an appropriate amount of distance from them. Communicate your directional intentions clearly by using proper signals and always keep your headlight on. It’s also recommended that for bikers of every experience level to use the least congested lanes. Noticing upcoming roadway activity, keeping balance and reacting to other drivers and/or animals on the road is crucial in safely operating a motorcycle, so avoid daydreaming and stay vigilant!

Know Your Bike

Before even considering making that first bike investment, familiarize yourself with how a motorcycle operates. Once you’ve learned the basics, research the specific mechanics and features of the bike you are looking into. NEVER buy one that hasn’t passed a thorough inspection or buy from an unknown and potentially unreliable source. After you’ve chosen the perfect ride for yourself, get into the habit of making a mental pre-ride checklist to ensure the bike is in ideal operating condition. Here is a checklist of items to double check before you hop on:

Fluids – Oil and all other fluids should be filled and checked for leaks underneath the bike

Tires – Should have proper air pressure and tread

Lights – Switch on all lights to make sure they are in working order; including turn signals

Throttle and Clutch – The throttle must be able to snap back when released and the throttle should feel smooth and tight.

Horn – Honk to test efficiency so other motorists can hear you

Brakes – Test the front and rear brakes separately to ensure they both hold firmly when applied

Mirrors – Keep them clean and adjusted according to your posture while on the bike

Check the Forecast

Driving in inclement weather can be problematic for any motorist, let alone bikers. The most experienced riders can get caught in a rainstorm, especially with the unpredictable New England Weather. No one wants to be on the first leg of their scenic bike ride only to roll into a wall of rain, so stay tuned to a reliable weather forecast in your area. In addition, roadways are the slickest immediately after rainfall begins because the water actually pulls oils from road surfaces.

Plan a Route

If you are buying a motorcycle with the intent to take in the sites, take the time to strategically plan out your trips. Take in into account road quality, attractions, and accommodations that are available on your preferred route. The Shelburne Falls Loop is a great example of a well-planned Massachusetts route for beginning and experienced riders. A big part of practicing motorcycle safety is knowing the areas in which you visit to avoid getting lost or stranded.

Know Your State’s Laws

Aside from the required licensing that is needed, bikers must familiarize themselves with the laws of any state that they plan on riding in. Simply knowing the laws of your home state could prove risky in the event you get stuck out of town, so research motorcycle laws and restrictions of your surrounding states as well.

Protect Yourself Financially

Last, but certainly not least, choose an adequate motorcycle insurance policy that is catered to your specific needs. Motorcycle safety isn’t only about protecting your physical well-being, but also for protecting your assets in the event of an accident. A quality insurance plan doesn’t have to break the bank either, and we’d like to prove it to you!

If you’re a first-time bike owner and wish to acquire a cost-effective insurance policy, call Northeast Insurance Agency at (800) 443-7007 or email us at info@neinsure.com.

How Filing Tax Returns Last-Minute Can Come Back to Bite You

Filing Tax ReturnsBenjamin Franklin was spot-on with his famous quote, “Nothing in life is so fundamentally certain as the inevitability of death and paying taxes.” This year’s tax deadline is Tuesday, April 18, and if you are one of the beautiful people who double-downed early to file your taxes ahead of time, bravo! But for the rest of you who might have some latent thrill-seeking issues, allow us to offer a bit of advice. Filing your income taxes at the last minute can produce a world of unsavory circumstances now and further down the road. With only a couple weeks remaining to complete your taxes, here are some of the best reasons why filing tax returns at the last minute is not in your best interest.

1. Mistakes are more likely when you rush:

Filing tax returns may not be rocket science, but it does require a certain level of uninterrupted focus and concentration. Add to that the necessary documents to be collected in order to file your taxes, and you realize you must be as thorough as possible. Whether you do your own taxes or enlist the help of an accountant or tax filing service, haste makes waste. Beginning your return at 3 p.m. Tuesday, April 18 is a recipe for disaster. Filing early guarantees you have all the time you need gather the required paperwork together as well as work through your return thoughtfully and carefully. It also gives you a buffer for any human error that could occur.

2. Your tax refund is anxiously waiting for you:

If you expect to receive a tax refund, it seems almost unthinkable that you didn’t find yourself skipping to your home computer or accountant’s office with your W-2 or 1099 form in-hand in late January. The tax refund is a magical moment that only happens once a year. This is where all your hard work for the past 12 months pays off in a big way. The early bird not only gets the worm but also a healthy tax refund direct deposited into a bank account or a lovely paper check in the mail. The money is sitting there waiting for you! The sooner you file your taxes, the sooner Uncle Sam’s money is on its way.

3. Give yourself more time in case you owe money.

In the event that you discover you owe the federal government money this year, filing tax returns early gives you more time to scramble and successfully come up with your payment. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of deep dread in learning that you need to procure a sizable payment out of thin air the night before it’s due. Do yourself a favor and start the process now so that you have plenty time to not only file accurately but also to pay any unexpected tax debt easily.

4. Prevent penalties by filing tax returns early. 

Tax procrastinators sometimes join the dark side of the Force and go on to become tax non-filers. So, you didn’t get your taxes done. Sure, you may feel bad about it, but before you know it, weeks turn into months and months can even turn into years. Then you have both unfiled and unpaid taxes. Soon after,  the penalties follow, and they don’t stop accruing until your taxes are filed and paid. Filing your taxes early ensures that you don’t drift into a vortex of fear and panic over your yet unresolved tax responsibility.

Though it may seem difficult to find the time to file your taxes early, avoiding the sometimes inescapable pitfalls of failing to do so most certainly makes it worth the while. And the relief in knowing it’s over and done may be as rewarding as your tax refund itself!

Northeast Insurance prides itself on not only providing the best insurance products and services possible but also helping folks with useful tips and updates to assist in everyday life. If you haven’t subscribed to our newsletter yet, you’ve been missing out on additional articles like the one above, so sign up today!

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Saving Gas Money with 6 Automobile Tips

Saving Gas MoneyIt’s hard to believe it, but spring is already right around the corner. As winter starts to release its icy grip, it gets easier and more tempting to get in your car and head out on an adventure of some sort. Whether it be across town or across the state, the open road calls to us as the weather begins to warm up. As you know, though, with nicer weather comes higher gas prices as well. If your hopes are on saving gas money at the pump but you’d still like to take that road trip you’ve been looking forward to, don’t get discouraged just yet. We’ve compiled a list of ways you can stretch your gas dollars a bit further this year.

Here are 6 Ways You Can Start Saving Gas Money:

1. Maintain Your Vehicle

A poorly performing vehicle is a recipe for fuel efficiency nightmares. Clogged filters, low fluid levels, and older parts can make your engine work harder, which burns more gas. In addition, these problems can lead to serious engine trouble later on, which definitely doesn’t help the budget. The smaller investments towards repairs today will prevent the much larger expenditures down the road.

2. Inflate Your Tires

Did you know that poorly inflated tires will severely hamper your fuel economy? Lower tire pressure not only wears out your tires quicker but can increase friction with the road, which leads to loss of miles-per-gallon (MPG). One tire underinflated by 10 PSI can cost you as much as 5 MPG — and that only increases if other tires are also low. The transition from winter into spring still includes chilly days. Low temperatures can deflate tires more quickly, so routinely check the PSI of all four tires during colder months.

3. Drive Sensibly

Seriously… take your foot off the pedal once in a while! Most cars have a “sweet spot” where they are most efficient. This spot is usually somewhere between 55 and 66 MPH. Going faster than that can hurt your overall fuel efficiency, as the amount of energy required to maintain a constant speed begins to seriously increase the faster you go. And those of you that like to drive slow aren’t off the hook either, as driving too slow can also cause you to waste gas.

4. Coast More

When you see a red light or stopped vehicle in front of you, be smart. Rather than accelerating as long as you can and then stopping on a dime, just coast. You’ll still make it to the light while using less gas in the process. If traveling on a downhill road, remove your foot from the accelerator and let gravity do the work. Chances are that pressing the gas pedal while traveling downhill will cause you to exceed the posted speed limit anyway, so try to lay off of it.

5. Decrease Drag

Friction and drag are the enemies of efficiency. So, the trick is to make your car as frictionless as possible. Rolling up the windows and taking cargo off the roof is a good way to begin. (Side note: It is true that the A/C also uses gas, which makes it tempting to roll down the windows instead. The general rule is to roll down the windows in town, and use the A/C on the highway). Also, decrease drag by cleaning out your trunk. The heavier the car, the less efficient it is for saving gas money.

6. Avoid Highway Gas Stations:

More often than not, gas stations located on long highway stretches charge significantly more for fuel. Whenever possible, avoid these gas price hikes by topping off your tank prior to any extended trips and/or make plans to pull off the highway into a nearby town en route to your destination.

Bonus Tip!

New England may be approaching warmer conditions, but here is one thing to keep in mind for next year or during the random cold front in March. Obviously, the longer that a car runs, the more gas it uses. It may be tempting to warm up your car for an extended period of time until it’s nice and toasty inside, but limit the amount of time you leave your car running whenever plausible. If your vehicle requires more than five minutes to warm up, there’s a good chance that it needs a maintenance check.

And just like that, you’re on the road towards stretching your dollars and getting the most bang for your traveling buck! Ultimately, the absolute best thing you can do for saving gas money is consistently monitoring and maintaining all facets of your automobile.

Northeast Insurance loves saving folks money on not only insurance products, but also with helpful every day hacks like the list we’ve compiled above. For more insurance related information, up-to-date local and national news and more ways to keep your wallet full, check us out on Facebook!

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Lower Your Home Heating Bill with These 8 Simple Tips

Home Heating BillLiving in New England, we all know winter weather stays cold for pretty much the entire season. Rarely do we get days where going outside doesn’t require a heavy coat. Your house is the same way during the chilliest time of the year, as it needs to keep you warm and safe from the brutal weather conditions. If you’re one of many that dread that pesky home heating bill arriving in the mail, there are a number of things you can personally do to keep the cost of heating down. A few simple house hacks could end up saving you hundreds of dollars every winter. And the best part is that you don’t have to sacrifice comfort to stay warm and cozy.

Here Are 8 Easy Tricks to Shrink Your Home Heating Bill.

1. Look for Leaks:

Check for open drafts throughout your home. Look for culprits along windows, light fixtures, and doors. To do this, light a candle and observe the smoke trail next to these fixtures. If you see the smoke move horizontally, your home leaks warm air to the outside. Fix this problem by caulking or weather stripping these areas.

2. Replace Old Weather Stripping:

Replace old weather stripping along windows and doors. Over time, the elements may break these barriers down. New weather stripping keeps the warm air in and cold air out.

3. Use Natural Heat:

You have several sources of natural heat at your disposal. Open your curtains to let the sun in during the day, but then close them at night to keep in the heat. When taking a hot shower, keep the bathroom door open to allow the steam to exit and warm up surrounding rooms. Your body also generates heat, so bundle up with a cozy pair of sweats and a sweatshirt or sweater. Don’t forget a pair of socks or two, because when your feet feel cold, the rest of your body feels chilly.

4. Lower Your Thermostat at Night:

Pile on the blankets and comforters while you sleep and lower your thermostat at night. Experts suggest lowering your thermostat to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. In the morning, when you wake up, raise the temperature to 70. Your furnace quickly warms your house from your overnight setting.

5. Install a Programmable Thermostat:

A programmable thermostat regulates your home’s temperature with precision, but it also lets you easily maintain certain settings. Program your nighttime and daytime settings automatically so your home stays at a particular temperature depending on when you are home or asleep. This keeps your HVAC system running at optimum levels for energy consumption.

6. Check Your HVAC System:

Check your HVAC system for inefficiencies. Look for possible leaks coming from your air ducts and see if any portions of your ducts lack insulation. Remedy these problems with duct tape and wrap insulation, or hire an expert to examine your HVAC system.

7. Examine the Exterior:

Check the exterior of your home and plug any holes you see. Pay attention to places where your utilities run from the outside, such as pipes and electrical conduits. Seal any gaps between the walls and the pipes with expanding foam.

8. Cover Windows With Film:

Cover your windows and patio doors with clear, plastic film during the winter. Windows cause 25 percent of your home’s heat loss in the winter. Covering them with clear film could save you more than 10 percent on your home heating bill.

Fight back against the chill of New England winters and a discouraging home heating bill with these quick and easy tips. And as always, look into saving even more when insuring your home. Whether you’re a homeowner or a renter, let Northeast Insurance help you get the most bang for your buck!

Receive a quote on homeowner’s or renter’s insurance HERE!

Moving Out? Know What Could Impact Your Home Resale Value

Home Resale ValueThe New Year brings with it a clean slate, a clear calendar page, and 365 days filled with opportunity. While some people are starting a new personal improvement or health regimen, others are excited about the memories they’ll be making in a new home. If you’re one who is looking to sell your home in 2017, here are some important things to know that might decrease the value of your home. Some of these you can’t change, but others are easy fixes that can keep your home resale value – and your hopes – up.

Major Key Points For Your Home Resale Value

Curb Appeal:

The first step you should take when you plan to list is to clean up your yard. Remove any trash, non-operational vehicles, dead plants, and be sure to secure your foundation. Planting a few flowering bushes and a fresh coat of paint on porch rails, shutters, and light fixtures can make a huge difference.

Interior Appeal:

A move-in ready home is one in which the buyer won’t have to make many changes to remove your personal taste. An individual or family is more likely to purchase a home if they can easily visualize themselves living there. Consider updating your kitchen or bath, repairing any holes in the walls, and painting in a neutral color to appeal to masses. And although they can be difficult to remove, work on eliminating any lingering odors caused by pets or years of accumulated indoor smoking. These can be big deterrents for potential buyers.

Type of Neighborhood:

It’s only natural to avoid homes with loud or inconsiderate neighbors. The same goes for dogs that are uncontrolled or bark constantly, as well as disruptive areas located on busy roadways. Families with young children may even note if there are registered sex offenders in the area. There is very little a person can do to change any of these unfortunate living scenarios, but by personally knowing these factors you’ll be less blindsided if they affect your home resale value.

Surrounding Foreclosures:

In areas where the market is overflowing with excess stock and houses in foreclosure or short sale status, property value has a tendency to plummet. The main reason for this is that buyers understandably grow suspicious of neighborhoods with a high number of surrounding foreclosures. The best way to keep interest in your house alive is to point out how many repairs and renovations have been done to make your property move-in ready, saving them time, stress, and extra investments.

Serious Repairs:

Whether your driveway is cracked or your siding is damaged, investing the small bit of time or money now to get it fixed can yield a higher return when selling your home. Plumbing repairs can especially cause conflict, so schedule a thorough inspection to address any problematic piping or leaks. Prospective buyers will shy away from a purchase that requires extra attention.

School District:

A major deal-breaker for parents or parents-to-be before deciding on a home purchase is the nearby school district. Schools with low rankings are detractors, so check out how your district rates on Great Schools before you list. A highly reviewed area can be a huge selling point to those with growing families.

Nearby Needs:

Individual buyers have very specific ideas of where they want to live. Your proximity or distance from shopping, dining, entertainment, and medical care can impact desirability. Some buyers may prefer the peace and quiet that comes with a secluded house, however, the majority of them seek convenience over isolation.

The Season in Which You Sell:

Most people sell and buy homes from late spring to early August, with May through September being the peak. Not only are families typically free from house-hunting during the school year, but they’re able to avoid trudging through inclement weather; as all New Englanders are very familiar with. To get the most, list your home in the spring.

Again, some of these circumstances can’t be completely avoided, but being aware of them will spare you any surprises about your home resale value. If you do decide to list your home in 2017, keep theses fixable instructions in mind for a greater return and better start for the next place you decide to call ‘home’.

Whenever you move to a new location, you want to always secure the homestead with the best possible insurance coverage. Receive your Massachusetts homeowner’s insurance quote from Northeast Insurance!

Spread the Word: December is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month

National Impaired Driving Prevention MonthThe holidays are upon us, and Americans are excitedly traveling to family homes, shopping hotspots and friendly parties. It is a wonderful time of the year for celebrating and being with loved ones. That is why it is so important to be aware of the dangers that impaired driving present during the holiday season.

While most Americans have a general awareness of these threats, there are still many who are uneducated about how this easily preventable problem could affect them and their loved ones on a personal level. That is why President Barack Obama designated December as National Impaired Driving Prevention Month.

What is National Impaired Driving Prevention Month?

This special proclamation by the president was enacted to warn and educate all Americans of the dangers that impaired driving can create for drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. Through this effort, Obama and the U.S. government hope to promote responsible choices and prevent this deadly behavior that robs people of beloved family members and friends.

Although impaired driving presents a constant threat all year long, there is a noticeable spike in road traffic during holiday travel. These numbers go up even higher in the month of December as families go on shopping trips and family outings ahead of the big travel days to spend time together. It is also a time when increased celebration also means increased alcohol consumption, and it is the hope that NIDPM can help Americans to realize the importance of not mixing travel and alcohol.

National Impaired Driving Prevention Month was first recognized in 2012 when impaired driving accidents were becoming an epidemic that especially affected young people. In 2013, over 10,000 people were killed in an accident involving a drunk driver; that is one person every 53 minutes. The number had decreased slightly by 2015, but still, 28 people die every day as a result of drunk driving crashes. By far, the highest percentage of these were young people. In 2011, the percentage of impaired driving accidents involved:

  • 32 percent between ages 21 to 24
  • 30 percent between ages 25 to 34
  • 24 percent between ages 35 to 44

Although these numbers do not account for drivers under the legal drinking age, many of them are involved in crashes involving other substances. A survey from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration showed that in 2010, 13.2 percent of drivers over age 16 operated a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. Meanwhile, 4.3 percent of those people ages 16 and older drove under the use of illicit drugs in that same year.

Due to increased traffic and celebration, these numbers significantly increase during the holiday season. It is important for all Americans to be aware of the dangers of impaired driving and educate family members, especially the youth of America. Through education and prevention efforts like NIDPM, we hope that everyone will have a happy and safe holiday season in 2016 and bring in a safer year in 2017!

One major task that is a must for your 2017 to-do list should be making sure that all of your insurance policies are updated. If you wish to review your current policy or want to inquire about purchasing new coverage, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at (800) 443-7007 or receive an online auto insurance estimate by clicking here.

Thanksgiving: Your Holiday Historical Overview

ThanksgivingWith Halloween now in the rear-view mirror, the holiday season is officially in full swing with Thanksgiving just a few short weeks away. Between family togetherness, time with friends and mouth-watering dishes prepared with pure love,  what’s not to love about Thanksgiving? Although, like most holidays, it has grown beyond its origins but has a rich history which we’d like to expand upon and explore further.

The Harvest

Thanksgiving is, above all, the celebration of the harvest. In a broad sense, the harvest is a time when something has grown to fruition and is ready to be enjoyed. This can refer, as it most often does, to food and produce, but also to one’s youth or personal relationships. By celebrating the harvest, you celebrate a time of plenty and abundance, and you express it through love to your friends and family.

The tradition of Thanksgiving stems from after the English Reformation under Henry VIII. At that time, there was an over-abundance of Catholic holidays, and while many were eliminated entirely with the break from Catholicism, many others were replaced. Some zealous Puritans hoped to eliminate or replace all holidays, and as such, many were replaced with days of fasting, or with days of Thanksgiving so as to maintain the importance of the day, but change the reason from holiday to religious observance.

Thanksgiving in the U.S.

In the United States, as many people know, the English carried on the tradition of days of Thanksgiving, and in particular, the tradition is traced to the Pilgrims in Plymouth placed around 1621. This story is steeped in myth and legend, but what two accounts both verify is, that somewhere during the harvest season, natives and pilgrims came together for a feast that included fowl, venison, and corn treats.

As time went on, most Thanksgiving celebrations were run and set up by church leaders until George Washington declared the first national Thanksgiving in 1789. With the advent of tradition, besides proclaiming the holiday, the President of the United States now pardons a Turkey annually, allowing it to be spared from the Thanksgiving festivities. In 1863 Abraham Lincoln, at the onset of the Civil War, and likely as a political move declared Thanksgiving a national holiday on the last Thursday of November. President Theodore Roosevelt would later change it to be the 4th Thursday of November to avoid clashing with Christmas.

Over the course of a couple hundred years, what was once a Puritan’s pious replacement for a Catholic holiday has developed into the day of stretchy pants and pumpkin pie we all know and love. So from all of us here at Northeast Insurance, have an extra serving of yams and a leg of turkey, but most importantly, have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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Appraisals: What Are Your Valuables REALLY Worth?

AppraisalsThe winter holidays are approaching fast, which means many people will soon be brainstorming about all of the expensive purchases to make for friends and family. That brand-new, state-of-the-art flat screen television would go great in your son’s bedroom or the game room. You dream of that $500, high-powered mixer that looks fantastic on your kitchen counter. Don’t forget the new table saw in the shop out back!

Although you usually think of expensive gifts during the fall and early winter, you should consider protecting your valuables all year long, including your one-of-a-kind antiques and the gifts you just purchased. Take a look at the following five tips on the best ways to appraise your valuables, whether they are new purchases or family heirlooms.

Understand What You Have:

Understand what the value of certain pieces might be in terms of sentimental value passed down from one generation to the next. Antiques might be in the form of jewelry, toys, furniture, rugs, artwork, and even wine. You’d be surprised about the hidden value of certain items. Once you figure out what you’ve got, it’s time to find an appraiser.

Find the Right Experts:

If you have antiques that you think might be worth some money, find the right experts who may know a few things about what you have on hand. Ask around with your lawyer, insurance agent, real estate broker or financial adviser to see if any of these people know any good appraisers in town. Search the Appraisers Association of America website to find an appropriate expert. Some appraisers may examine an item using pictures you send them remotely as opposed to showing up to your home in person.

Vet Your Experts:

Once you find an expert for your item, ask them questions about their services. How much of a fee does an appraiser charge? What are the person’s qualifications? Does the appraiser have any referrals? Find out the answers to these questions before hiring someone to determine how much your valuables are worth and the additional costs of their appraisal services.

Update Your Appraisals Regularly:

Just like the value of your home or car changes over time, so does the price of your antiques and high-priced electronics. Experts recommend updating appraisals every five years. That way, you can adjust any insurance coverage you want to purchase. Every so often, peruse online auction sites such as eBay to see if any items similar to yours are selling. This can give you a rough estimate to see if the value of your item is going up or down.

Retain Your Documentation:

It’s very important that you keep your documentation as to what your items are worth, including a written statement by the appraiser. For your winter holiday gifts, retain your purchase receipt and any warranty information. It is also recommended to make a list of all items that you have had appraised and catalogue each one by estimated value, last date of appraisal, the name of the appraiser and next expected appraisal date. Keep these important papers locked away in a fireproof safe or in a safe deposit box in a bank. Otherwise, your insurance policy may not be able to help you.

Insurance for Valuables:

Your homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover the contents of your house, just the structure itself. Taking out an insurance policy on your valuables protects your assets in case of fire, a natural disaster or even theft. If you don’t take out the right kind of insurance policy, an insurance claim for your valuables might be denied. Talk to the experts at Northeast Insurance to find out what insurance policy is right for you.

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Texting Teens: Addressing the Distraction Behind the Wheel

Texting TeensThe new school year is officially underway, and thousands of teenagers are enjoying the freedom of driving themselves to and from school, sports, and other activities. Many of them are also glued to their mobile devices, waiting for that text from a crush or a friend to arrive. However, for teenage drivers, in particular, it’s crucial to remember how dangerous texting while driving can be. Every year, texting and driving (also known as “distracted driving”) causes numerous accidents that could otherwise have been avoided. Many of these automobile incidents have even resulted in one, or in some cases, multiple fatalities.

Numbers Never Lie:

Car accidents are the third leading cause of death in the U.S., and in general, being on the road carries a heavy potential for danger if traffic laws are not properly followed. Over 2.5 million people in the U.S. are involved in road accidents each year. However, of these, 64 percent (1.6 million) have a cell phone involved in them. It’s clear that driving while using a cell phone strongly increases the chance of getting in an accident. In fact, about 421,000 people are injured in crashes involving a distracted driver each year, with over 330,000 of these classified as serious injuries.

When it comes to texting and driving specifically, statistics show that the activity is much more dangerous and more prevalent than most people think. One out of every four car accidents in the U.S. is caused by texting while driving. This is because distracted driving is 6 times more likely to cause an accident than drunk driving. Texting while driving increases the chances of getting into a crash for any reason by 23 times.

Teenage Texting While Driving:

Unfortunately, teenagers often become the victims of distracted driving for several reasons. They are part of a generation that is more active on mobile phones in general. Furthermore, teenagers’ brains and reflexes have still not fully developed, and they don’t have enough experience on the road to operate a motor vehicle safely while dealing with multiple distractions, such as texting.

As a result, 11 teenagers die every day because of texting while driving. This number constitutes 21% of fatal accidents involving teenagers every year, and it’s so high because teenagers are four times more likely to crash while texting and driving than adults are. Even more frustratingly, 94 percent of teenagers say that they understand the consequences of texting and driving, but 35 of them still do it.

How Can I Address This Issue?

So what can parents do to be proactive in preventing their teen from texting while driving? First, have a conversation with them and be direct about the immense responsibilities that come along with possessing a drivers’ license, as well as the serious consequences that texting and driving could carry. Then, come up with a system: for example, they leave their phone in the backseat when they drive so they are not tempted to check their text messages. For those who may still be tempted to reach for their phone when they hear a message alert, turning the phone off completely while driving would be a preferred method. Depending on the maturity level of the teen, a parent may even want to consider requiring them to store their phone in the car’s truck or another lockable compartment to minimize the temptation of even glancing at their phone.

Taking your eyes off of the road for mere seconds while driving could mean the difference between a safe journey and a preventable tragedy. Always remember, NO text is worth a life!

We hope that all parents of licensed drivers explain the severity of texting while driving to their teen, as well as heeding the same advice themselves. If you found the above article helpful, we encourage you to check out more just like it on the Northeast Insurance Facebook Page!