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| Should You File a Claim?
When you are flooded, read the fine print of your insurance plan.
By Pat Mertz Esswein, kiplinger.com
Water damage accounted for about one-fifth of all insurance claims in 2007, says the Insurance Information Institute, with an average amount of $5,531. But think twice before submitting a water-related claim, which insurers say may reflect poor home maintenance and better odds that you'll eventually file even bigger claims for mold-related expenses.
Depending on your insurer, filing two water-related claims within a five-year period could earn you a premium hike at renewal time or get you dropped altogether. It could also make it harder to find a new policy because all insurers consult a giant database called the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, or CLUE, which records all claims against a property over a seven-year period. It might be cheaper to write a check from your emergency fund or take a small loan.
Some water claims aren't covered, anyway. Homeowners and renters insurance policies typically cover damage from water that comes from the top down, such as rainfall, a burst pipe or an ice dam. But most policies don't cover rising water from any source, including a drain or sewer backup. A rider to cover a sewer backup will cost about $50 annually. If a water problem is covered, your insurer will probably pay for you to hire a restoration company.
If you're in an area at risk for flooding, you may need flood insurance. The average policy costs $540 a year, according to the federal government's National Flood Insurance Program.
Reprinted with permission. All Contents ©2011 The Kiplinger Washington Editors. www.kiplinger.com.
| What's (Left) In Your Wallet?
Tips for Restoring Your Budget This Year
Between the holidays and a tough economic year, your wallet may feel like it's taken a beating. Here are some tips for restoring your budget this year.
If you have the cash to pay off the debt you accrued late last year, pay it off. Don't let the interest credit card companies charge creep up on you, especially if you can afford not to.
Call it a day with credit cards and commit to cash. Use cash or debit for your everyday purchases until you are able to pay down the credit card debt.
Commit your realistic spending and saving goals to paper. You'll find it much easier to get back on track. And you can give yourself an incentive or something to look forward to once you've reached your desired goals.
Make a list and check it twice. Review the list of people you bought gifts for and see if the purchase was indeed necessary. While giving is a kind gesture, you may be able to spend less yet give more with things like homemade goodies or offers to babysit.
| Save (and Even Earn) Money in the New Year
Five Resolutions for Improving Your Home
The New Year is a popular time for resolutions, so why not add some ideas for improving your home to your list.
1. Rid Your Home of Clutter
If you're thinking about putting your home on the market, it's a known fact that homes with less clutter will sell faster. Go through your entire home, including the garage, and clear out anything that's no longer of use. You can even earn some money for your efforts by holding a garage sale or donating the items to charity.
2. Spring is for Cleaning
When was the last time you did a real Spring cleaning? One where you cleaned behind the oven and fridge, or pulled the books out of the bookcases before dusting? Keep in mind that a good spring cleaning doesn't have to take place in one day, and it can also start in winter, when you're inside due to the colder weather.
3. Deal with Roof "Issues"
Winter can wreak havoc on your home's roof, so early Spring is a good time to assess its condition. Loose or cracked shingles should be replaced, damaged or clogged gutters should be dealt with, and the chimney should be thoroughly inspected.
4. Go with the Flow
Plumbing is very important to both homeowners and homebuyers. Is the hot water hot enough? Do the showers have the perfect pressure? Does the toilet run longer than it should? Start paying attention to these "minor" issues and work to get them resolved.
5. Embrace the 21st Century
Look around your home and determine where it may be reflecting its age. For instance, if you've got "cottage cheese" ceilings, consider getting rid of them. It's a messy project, but it will improve the look and feel of your home and the value if you ever put your home on the market.
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