Is Your Budget Prepared for the Polar Vortex?

Winter set in fast and hard this year, with the last few weeks yielding particularly harsh conditions throughout most of the East Coast, Northwest, and even the balmy South. Many states are reaching record sub-zero temperatures and experiencing heavy snowfalls.

These conditions are blamed on a system of Arctic air from the north that’s known as the Polar Vortex. If you’re a Weather Channel junkie, all of this is extremely interesting and important to you — but for the average person, all you know is that it’s cold. Really cold. And it’s costing you.

Besides ensuring your pantry is well-stocked, make sure your budget isn’t suffering due to the extra cost of electricity, snow removal, and vehicle maintenance.

Here’s how to save on some common winter budget-busters:

How to Save on Heat and Fuel

Heating your home through a particularly cold winter means you’ll burn through propane, natural gas, wood, and other heating elements faster. Although you’ll

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The Time to Hesitate is Through – Superstorm Sandy Proofs of Loss are Due April 28, 2014

In the immortal words of Jim Morrison, “The time to hesitate is through. No time to wallow in the mire.”1 In case anyone else was wondering (because I was), a mire is defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as:

  1. wet spongy earth;
  2. heavy often deep mud or slush; and
  3. a troublesome or intractable situation.

Each definition is applicable to the situation that many of my local brethren find themselves in at this very moment. First and second, wet ground and mud are something these folks are very familiar with; their homes and businesses soaked through and filled with water, mud, sand, and muck. Their lawns, gardens, back yards, and pools destroyed, drenched, and overflowing with debris. The New Jersey coastline has been mired since Hurricane Sandy hit and many people are still suffering and wading through insurance issues.

The third definition I find equally relatable. Many of these people are in a very troublesome situation for various reasons including, but certainly not limited to: being improperly or under insured; not being compensated for their loss; not being able to return to their home; or having their home or business completely destroyed.

FEMA announced on October 1, 2013 that it was extending its deadline to file Sandy related proofs-of-loss to April 28, 2014. In

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Macy’s (M) to Cut 2,500 Jobs, Improves 2014 Forecast

Shares of Macy’s Inc. were trading up +3.65 or +7.04 percent to $55.49 per share in pre-market trading on Thursday, after the company announced it would reduce its workforce, close several stores and increase integration of in-store and online sales. Macy’s stock closed at $51.84 per share, down -0.34 or -0.65 percent in Wednesday’s regular trading session.

In addition to the steep cost reductions, Macy’s also posted positive same store profits during the holiday season and announced improved guidance for 2014. The company is implementing a strategy that includes filling online orders from its stores.

Cincinnati, Ohio based Macy’s Inc. is one the country’s largest retailers. The company, originally founded as R.H. Macy & Co in 1858, has its flagship store in Herald Square in Midtown Manhattan, NYC. Macy’s Inc, presently operates 793 stores in the United States, Washington DC, Guam and Puerto Rico under the names of Macy’s and Bloomingdales.

The restructuring will have the company lay off 2,500 employees in a plan to reduce the number of districts and eliminate district planners in the home furnishings area. According to th

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House prices show biggest monthly jump in over four years

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  • By David Milliken LONDON British house prices jumped by the biggest amount in more than four years last month, mortgage lender Nationwide said on Friday, in news that is likely to fuel concerns that government policies may be creating a…
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A block of residential flats is seen reflected in the window of a house in Notting Hill in central London October 8, 2013.

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Smith Manoeuvre/Dividend Portfolio Year End Update 2013

With this 2013 year end update, it has been about five months since the last update (July 2013) with a bit of activity in the leveraged portfolio.  I added to a few existing positions without creating any new positions.

I added to existing positions:

  • First Capital Realty (FCR),  Calian Technologies (CTY), and Emera (EMA).

Since this portfolio is focused on dividend growth stocks, the portfolio did not disappoint where numerous dividend paying positions increased their distributions since the last update.  The dividend increases came from:

  • Royal Bank (RY), Scotia Bank (BNS), Bank of Montreal (BMO), TD Bank (TD), Fortis Properties (FTS), Enbridge (ENB), Ensign Energy Services (ESI), Pason Systems (PSI), Corus Entertainment (CJR.B), Imperial Oil (IMO) and Emera (EMA).

It doesnt happen very often, but the portfolio held a position that significantly decreased their dividend.  Encana (ECA) decreased their dividend from $0.80 to $0.28. The natural gas business has been tough over the last number of years, but I will continue to hold for the time being.  In other news, Brookfield Office Properties (BPO) was recently acquired by Brookfield Properties Partners (BPY.UN).  I sold

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Tips For Keeping Yourself And Your Smartphone Safe

Smartphones have become a very valuable item for thieves. The devices are small, easily portable, and easily fenced for cash. The information found on smartphones is a gold mine for identity thieves who want to access the victim’s bank accounts or credit card information. Fortunately, there are a number of things that you can do to keep yourself and your smartphone safe. Here are some things that you should focus on.

Stay Alert

Predators tend to prey on the people that are unaware of their surroundings, which tends to happen frequently with smartphone users that are out in public. When away from home, remain aware of your surroundings and do not let anything on your phone distract you to the point where someone can get close to you without you knowing. Avoid leaving your phone out and unattended where it could be taken by anyone passing by. You should also refrain from texting while walking or waiting for public transportation because it gives thieves plenty of time to formulate how to steal your phone while you are occupied.

Set Passwords

You should always set passwords on your smartphone to protect your personal information in the event that your phone is lost or stolen. W

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