No Magic Formula for ‘Best Time to Book Airfare’

(TNS)—Search on the web for “best time to book airfare” and you’ll find many conflicting answers, all of them completely wrong—and not only are they wrong, but they do a disservice to consumers who fall for this “voodoo” airfare economics.

One site gives a “guide” of 47 days before travel, although it admits that there is “quite a variance” depending on route and destination. Keep in mind that the booking site in question doesn’t offer or track Delta or Southwest, which together control about 35 percent of the domestic market, so its predictions have to be taken in that context.

Another site’s founder has infamously insisted that the best time is Tuesday at 3 p.m., (that site also doesn’t track Southwest or Delta). Expedia and the Airlines Reporting Company claimed earlier this year that the best day is not Tuesday but—wait for it—Sunday.

But wait: Skyscanner says it’s exactly seven weeks in advance of travel.

So who can you believe? Answer: none of the above.

There is no magic formula.

The best idea: sign up for “airfare alerts” by email. Search the term on the web and you’ll find many options from reputable companies that send out email alerts. Before you sign up, however, make sure that they at least include Delta Air Lines (that excludes such popular apps and sites as Hipmunk and Hopper along, with several others). If they also include Southwest, all the better, but few do.

These alerts all work a bit differently. Some only allow you to track specific dates, which is cool, except what if leaving a day or two earlier would have saved you hundreds? Some allow you to specify “to” and “from” specific airports, because a fare from Baltimore Washington International (BWI) might not be as ideal as one from closer-in Washington National DCA. Most alert systems treat “nearby” airports as equal, but tell that to someone who doesn’t want to trek out to Baltimore or Dulles when National is just a Metro ride away.

Another big annoyance is that the lowest fares are often on airlines that people hate to fly (because they charge for carry-on bags and seat assignments), so look for a service that allows you to eliminate alerts from airlines you’d never fly even if they were free (Airfarewatchdog.com does allow specific airline choice).

Another reason for signing up for several alerts: all online travel agencies do not show the same prices. I recently saw a fare from New York to South Africa flown on Delta and KLM for $200 less round trip if bought on Priceline versus the exact same flights, dates and airlines if booked on Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity, or on KLM’s or Delta’s own websites. Some online travel agencies offer negotiated rates that are far less than the airlines themselves sell for. It’s worth searching more than one site.

Twitter is another great source for being alerted to short-lived airfare deals. Follow the #airfare hashtag, where over a half-dozen accounts tweet out unadvertised deals. The #flights hashtag is also useful. Follow the accounts you find there.

Once you’re signed up or following, you have to act. An airfare from L.A. to Singapore (this is a recent example) might go down, unadvertised, to $398 round-trip including tax on Singapore Airlines, whereas other airlines were charging $800 for the same travel dates but on less desirable connecting flights. But that fare, even if it’s good over several months of travel, might appear for just three or four hours and then it goes back up to $800. Now that airlines allow you to pay for a fare and cancel within 24 hours without paying a fee, the strategy is to book it, hold it, and then get your friends and family on board and sort out hotels.

George Hobica is founder of the low-airfare listing website Airfarewatchdog.com.
(c)2017 Airfarewatchdog.com

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So you’re up for making your home truly state-of-the-art? I’ve got a great list for you. Here are nine gadgets to be on the lookout for:

Moen’s U lets you customize the perfect shower before ever stepping in with just a few taps on your smartphone.

Smart and Blue’s Hydrao smart showerheads let you instantly control your water consumption and energy needed to heat it by lighting up the water spray with different colors depending on the amount of water used—and it’s powered by the shower’s natural water-flow.

Luke Roberts Smart Light – This LED pendant lamp, from Austrian startup Luke Roberts, lets you place light in any direction, illuminating only certain areas of a room through simple gestures on your phone.

Kuri – Created by Mayfield Robotics, this app uses a camera to check on pets, kids, or guests when you’re away. It sets reminders, uses Wi-Fi to connect to things like weather reports, and works with IFTTT to control some connected devices, according to CNET.com.

Hello Egg – From RnD64, this works with the Eggspert web and mobile application to fully automate planning weekly meals, supervising the pantry, organizing shopping lists, and even ordering grocery delivery. Hello Egg also projects voice-navigated video recipes and answers cooking-related questions with a connected 24/7 support team of cooking experts.

CUJO creates a guarded firewall gateway between your devices and their connection to the internet by analyzing for malicious intent, whether it’s coming in from the internet, going out to the internet, or making moves across your network.

AirTV is the only major streaming platform that integrates local over-the-air (OTA) programming with your streaming services. Just add an AirTV Adapter and an OTA antenna to get local channels in HD, without a monthly cable bill.

Sony A1E – Unlike most TV speakers, sound comes to you from the entire screen, immersing you in a new entertainment experience—if there can be such a thing!

LG W7 – Capturing Best of the Best recognition at CES 2017, the W7’s picture-on-wall design allows the television to lay virtually flat so it seems blend with the wall and disappear.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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(TNS)—Tempted by that offer for a new credit card with an interest-free grace period? Don’t succumb to the first attractive zero percent interest credit card offer that comes your way—unless it’s the right card for you.

First, come to understand your own motivations. A credit card with a no-interest introductory offer may be a good choice if you’re looking to consolidate debt through a balance transfer or if you’re contemplating a vacation or big purchase but don’t have the cash to immediately pay for it.

Then, compare the terms of the cards you’re considering. Doing so can help you avoid potential pitfalls and choose the best offer for your circumstances.

Before you take the zero percent plunge, consider these five tips to make sure your decision is the right one.

Look Beyond the Offer
Zero percent interest cards offer a free promotional period on purchases, balance transfers, or both for a set time, typically anywhere from 12 to 21 months. After that teaser period, the card’s standard annual percentage rate will kick in.

Examine that go-to rate closely.

If the standard APR is higher than the rate you’re charged on your current cards—and you even occasionally carry a balance—it probably doesn’t make sense to use the new card after the intro period expires.

Some zero percent interest cards double as a rewards credit card and charge an annual fee. Make sure you’ll be able to take advantage of the rewards you’ll get in return for paying that fee. Otherwise, move on to another card.

Although it’s possible to close the card after the promotional period is over, it’s not recommended. Like all credit card applications, before you’re approved, the issuer will do a “hard” credit check, which can adversely impact your score. And every time you close an account, you reduce your available credit, which can also ding your credit rating.

Have a Plan
The best way to take advantage of a zero percent credit card is to pay down a huge debt transferred from an existing credit card during the introductory period.

Use that interest-free time to pay off your debt entirely (or reduce it substantially) before the intro rate expires and you begin paying interest, possibly at a higher rate than your original card. Paying the maximum monthly amount you can afford, without accruing interest, can give you a leg up on wiping it out completely.

A balance transfer calculator can help you determine how much you’ll have to pay each month to retire the debt before the end of the introductory period.

“A balance transfer is just the first step in a two-step process,” says Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate’s chief financial analyst. “The second—and more important—step is to use that lower rate to accelerate debt repayment and get the balance paid off for good. Otherwise, you’re just moving money around.”

Even if you can’t pay the debt in full by the end of the intro period, always make sure to pay on time. A late payment could void the promotional period, possibly trigger a penalty APR and cost you a princely sum in late fees.

Mind the Fees
Don’t be fooled: When it comes to balance transfers, a zero percent offer doesn’t mean you’ll be able to pay off your debt for free.

Balance transfer offers typically come with a one-time fee that ranges from 3 to 5 percent of the amount being transferred, although there are cards that charge no fee. Most of the time the math will work in your favor, even if you’re moving a substantial sum to a new card, but it’s smart to ensure that what you’ll save on interest payments is greater than the upfront fee.

Let’s say you want to transfer $5,000 to a card that charges no interest for 12 months. If the card charges a 3 percent transfer fee, you’d pay $150 to move the balance to a new card. Use a calculator to determine what you’d pay in interest on your current card over the course of the intro period.

Even if you have a cheap zero percent APR on your current card, your interest payments during that year would be much higher than the transfer fee—even assuming you paid off your entire balance.

Alternately, you may find that the best balance transfer credit card for you is one with a shorter promotional period but doesn’t charge a balance transfer fee. In some cases, it may be a better option than a card with longer terms that has a hefty upfront charge.

Beware the Purchase APR Pitfall
It might be tempting to splurge a little with a new card—especially if you won’t get charged interest on new purchases for a year or longer. Spending beyond your means is how debt accrues in the first place, and even an interest-free purchase still has to be paid for.

So, if you get a zero percent credit card to help manage your debt, be cautious about spending.

“Don’t get too enamored with the zero percent on new purchases,” says John Ulzheimer, a nationally recognized credit expert formerly with FICO and Experian. “Make purchases you normally would have made anyway like dry cleaning, gas, groceries—and pay it off so you don’t get into more debt.”

If you carry no credit card debt and want the card to finance a big purchase that’s beyond your monthly budget, like an appliance or furniture, proceed with caution, as well. Do this only if you can pay off the purchase during the intro period.

Make Sure You Qualify
Like most of the best credit card offers available, the better your credit score, the more likely you are to qualify for a great offer on a balance transfer card.

“Because of the structure of the cards, they’re really reserved for people with great credit. Even though you may want one, you may not qualify,” says Ulzheimer.

Overall, issuers rejected 17.7 percent of credit card applications between October 2016 and February 2017, according to a survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Even if you are armed with a high enough credit score to qualify for the best offers, in some cases, there may be a cap on the balance transfer amount. Check the fine print to see if the balance transfer card will meet your needs before applying.

“Your balance may be (so) large that the new issuer won’t accept it,” says Linda Sherry, director of National Priorities at watchdog group Consumer Action.

©2017 Bankrate.com

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Editor’s Note: This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. See what else is cookin’ now at blog.rismedia.com:

Who knew that creamy, verdant avocados could make or break one’s future in real estate?

According to Australian developer Tim Gurner, (who is 35 and worth half a billion dollars, nbd) millennials are poor and unable to buy homes because of their infatuation with the single-seeded berry (yes, it’s technically a fruit—The More You Know!)

On a recent episode of Australia’s “60 Minutes,” he said: “When I was buying my first home, I wasn’t buying smashed avocado for 19 bucks and four coffees at $4 each.”

I would propose that maybe only millionaires would pay $19 for guac, but I digress.

Also noteworthy, Gurner was handed $34,000 from his grandfather at the age of 19, which led to his early success in real estate, and he wants to chastise me for my love of guacamole!? Get outta here. What does he think? That if I was given free money, I would’ve bought 22,667 avocados instead of investing it? (Actually, that sounds like a pretty OK investment, if you ask me.)

Snarks aside, Australian real estate company Ray White is latching on to the avocado craze and offering buyers a delicious deal: free avocado toast for 12 months is up for grabs for anyone willing to shell out for a new two- or three-bedroom townhouse in Queensland.

Now, millennials can save their pennies for a townhouse and guacamole in one fell swoop! If you’re an avocado aficionado, you’d better get that passport renewed ASAP: the deal expires June 30.

What a time to be alive.

Nick Caruso is RISMedia’s senior editor. Email him your real estate news ideas at nick@rismedia.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

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(TNS)—Workout trends come and go. These days, CrossFit and SoulCycle are all the rage, but, unfortunately for your wallet, with an average monthly membership of $125 for CrossFit and about $34 per class at SoulCycle, hopping on them can really cost you.

That doesn’t mean you have to dust off your Tae Bo video cassette to get your sweat on. Many of today’s workout trends are inexpensive or even free.

Quick Workouts
It’s often hard to find time to get to the gym for a workout, so busy people are turning to efficient workouts that take very little time. These workouts don’t require a gym membership and can be done at home or at the office.

There are many quick workout programs available online. One such program is JobuFIT, a subscription-based program modeled after daily workouts of busy professionals in Japan. The JobuFIT workouts focus on healthy alignment and offer a convenient way to get in a workout at your office, home or hotel room in fewer than 10 minutes.

Subscriptions are $65 per quarter and new workouts are posted regularly so you don’t get bored. You will also receive reminders so you don’t slack off.

If you like some ‘namaste’ each day, fitness expert Nadia Murdock of NadiaMurdockFit.com recommended YogaWorks, which offers online workouts as short as five minutes. Subscriptions cost $15 per month with a 14-day free trial.

Murdock also recommended BeachBody.com, which offers a 10-minute trainer program, among many other workout programs. Beach Body charges $9.99 per month for six months, including a 30-day money-back guarantee.

“These streaming workouts allow people to work out in a short amount of time anywhere at any time,” Murdock says. “Today, workouts are about being effective and time-efficient, which often means squeezing it in when you can. That’s why streaming workouts are ideal.”

A popular form of the quick workout is Tabata, a high-intensity interval training workout. Tabata was created by Japanese scientist Izumi Tabata, and the most basic form involves eight rounds of 20 seconds of intense work, followed by 10 seconds of rest, according to Active.com.

Each cycle lasts four minutes, and the exercises are typically squats, jumps, lunges, burpees, push-ups and the like. Some involve dumbbells, kettlebells and other equipment, while others just use your body weight.

You can create your own Tabata workouts with a stopwatch, but if you need motivation, or just want someone else to run the stopwatch, there are numerous free Tabata workouts on YouTube.

“The Body Project” channel on YouTube has an excellent free Tabata workout that requires no equipment. If you like to lift heavy things, try the free “BodyFit by Amy” channel on YouTube. Fitness trainer Amy has several Tabata workouts sprinkled into her dumbbell and kettlebell programs.

Trampolines
If you have young children, you have probably encountered a trampoline in a friend’s backyard or at birthday parties. But jumping on a trampoline isn’t just for kids—it’s also a great workout for adults. Fitness instructor Suzanne Bowen was given one as a gift, and she loved it so much that she created a workout around it.

“Bungee-style trampoline workouts decrease impact on joints while revving up your heart rate, recruit muscles you didn’t know you had and make you feel like a happy kid again,” Bowen says. “I took my method, BarreAmped, to the trampoline and could not believe how much more challenging and fun it was on the dynamic surface of the mat while holding onto the sturdy handle ‘barre.'”

If you’re interested in a trampoline-based workout, you’ll need to budget for the workout accessories. You’ll need a bungee-style trampoline with a handle, plus light hand weights and a DVD. At JumpSport.com, trampoline prices start at $199 and handle prices start at $79. A DVD like “BarreAmped Bounce” costs $19.99, or “JumpSport Fitness Trampoline and Cardio Strength Workout” costs $21.65 at Amazon.com.

Barre
Barre workouts have been around for a few years, but the enthusiasm doesn’t seem to be waning. Barre studios have popped up all over the country, and although you can probably find one near you, they tend to be expensive. At popular barre studio Pure Barre, a monthly unlimited pass is $195, which is a new client special, according to GymMembershipFees.com.

At-home workouts are the more budget-friendly way to experience barre. Rachel Speck of Speck Fitness, Inc. created the Tendu Toning workout, which is a combination of ballet and bodybuilding. This 60-minute program is $19.99 at SpeckFitness.com.

“Ballet-inspired workouts are huge right now,” says Speck. “They are great because they usually don’t require much equipment, so they can be done at home. Misty Copeland has brought a huge awareness to the ballet community and has shown that dancers aren’t just skinny—they are also insanely strong. Creating long, lean muscles is what all women desire, and what better way to do that than do a ballet-inspired workout?”

There are also free barre programs available on YouTube. The “Jessica Smith TV” YouTube channel has several free barre workouts of varying lengths.

Alexa Workouts
If you have an Alexa-enabled device at home, you’ve probably discovered its many free “skills.” Maybe you use it each morning for the weather forecast or to play a genre of music that suits your mood. Now, Amazon has added several fitness-related skills.

There are yoga workouts through the “Yoga Schedule” skill, a “Seven-Minute Workout” skill and a “CrossFit Workout of the Day” skill, for starters. If you have questions about fitness, you can ask My Fitness Trainer. Some skills are automatically enabled, but others you have to verbally enable. Alexa, of course, will tell you how.

Group Personal Training
There’s nothing like having a personal trainer to watch your form, motivate you and teach you new exercises. Unfortunately, they’re also expensive.

If you’ve already exhausted the free training sessions that came with your gym membership and are hungry for more, ask your trainer if he or she would consider offering group training sessions. If you can split the fee with one, two or more friends, you’ll receive personalized attention at a fraction of the cost.

“Personal training is an excellent way to get customized workouts, especially if you suffer from an injury; however, small group training is the perfect alternative and at a reduced cost,” Murdock says. “If you keep the group small, you are still able to get a personal touch and reap the benefits of working out in a group for a bit of extra motivation.”

Consider meeting up for the group training in a friend’s basement or even in a local park.

©2017 GOBankingRates.com, a ConsumerTrack web property

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Home safety is an important, even life-saving topic that you should teach your children about at an early age. If you educate your children on basic home safety principles when they’re young, the lessons will stick with them for a lifetime.

  1. Learn to lock a deadbolt. Teach children how to lock and unlock a deadbolt. Let them know that the door should always be locked to keep them safe—even when they’re home; however, it’s important they also know how to unlock it in case of an emergency.
  2. Arm and disarm the home security system. With more than 5,400 burglaries happening each day, it’s wise to invest in a home security system. Teach your children how to arm and disarm the system and what to do should it go off when they are home or sleeping.
  3. Memorize the escape plan. Just like how elementary schools conduct fire drills, it’s important to have an emergency escape plan at home, as well. Designate a central meeting location and walk each child through the home to show them the safest exit routes in case of an emergency.
  4. Know important emergency contacts. Post important contact information on the fridge or in an easy-to-access location. Teach young children how to use the phone, dial a number, and ask for help. This list could include contacts such as 911, Poison Control, parents’ cell phones, a family doctor, or a trusted friend or neighbor.
  5. Be aware of food allergies. If your child has food allergies, explain in simple terms the difference between “safe” and “unsafe” foods. Help them understand that certain foods can make them very sick and they should only accept food from a parent, nanny, grandparent or teacher.
  6. Never answer the front door. Children should never answer the front door, especially if they are home alone. Tell children to alert an adult when the doorbell rings.
  7. Practice safe bathtub habits. Children younger than six should always be attended in the bathtub. Teach young children to avoid burns by feeling the water with their hands before they submerge their whole body.
  8. Put toys away. Show children where to store toys so they don’t trip and fall on scattered toys, or step on sharp objects left on the floor.
  9. Don’t climb on furniture. Heavy furniture like TVs, bookshelves and entertainment centers can tip if children climb on them. You can secure these pieces to the wall studs and add nylon straps to increase security. It’s also important to teach children that climbing on furniture is always dangerous—even if safety measures are in place.
  10. Don’t play with window coverings. On average, one child dies every month due to strangulation from window coverings. Examine all window coverings and always use cordless ones when possible. Never place cribs or playpens by windows, as children will reach the cords easily.
  11. Use medicine safely. Store medicine in locked cabinets that are inaccessible to children; however, should children come across any medicine, they need to know never to consume anything unless it’s given to them by a parent or trusted adult.

Young children often imitate the actions and behaviors of their parents and siblings. Practice the safe habits you want them to emulate and they’ll likely mimic your moves.

Sage Singleton is a home and community expert for SafeWise.

This was originally published on RISMedia’s blog, Housecall. Visit the blog daily for housing and real estate tips and trends. Like Housecall on Facebook and follow @HousecallBlog on Twitter.

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