How to Spend Less – Saving on Home Improvements

In the current economic crises, it’s obviously wise to keep spending to a minimum; especially when it relates to arbitrary outgoings like home improvement. However, we shouldn’t have to give up on this altogether, because there are several simple ways of doing it well, yet cheaply.

1. Need a new kitchen? Reuse your old cupboards, but change the doors and door handles. It’s wasteful throwing out good cupboards. Keep your sink. Replace the taps.

2. For home improvements, hire a semi or retired builder. He may work slower, but he’ll do a more careful job for a fraction of the cost. Wait until you can combine jobs and you won’t have to pay separate costs for separate jobs.

3. Wooden/laminate floors are easier to keep clean and cheaper than having carpets. Consider this when you’re choosing your new floor covering.

4. If you can make payments by instalments for material bought, without paying interest, grab this with both hands. You hang on to your money longer, thus earn a higher interest from your bank. Pay at the last possible moment (without costing yourself late fees), so your money stays longer in your account where it belongs.

5. You would be surprised at the amount of tools available for rent at your local tool shop. If you don’t have a visible one in your area ask your hardware or DIY shop, and they should point you in the right direction. If you’re capable of doing the work yourself it’s obviously cheaper than calling in the professionals. However, if you didn’t have to buy (thus maintain) large and medium tools needed to do the job, it would be cheaper still.

6. Source building material yourself so you get the discount for bulk buying and not your builders. Remember that even if they get half-price discounts on materials, the price they’re charging you will remain the same.

7. Buy white paint (cheaper than colour) and mix the colour you want yourself. DIY shops stock vials of paint colour with very detailed descriptions of how much you need for each shade of the colour you desire. All you need is a strong hand to mix it in.

8. Still on paint, matt colours may be cheaper, but they wear fast especially if you have kids or pets. Buy paint you can easily wipe down and clean with little effort. These last for years, thus save you time, energy and money over the years.

Anne Lyken-Garner is a freelance writer who has published extensively on the web and elsewhere. She specialises in lifestyle, relationship, parenting and frugal living. Her book, ‘How To Spend Less’ is now available.

She spent four years of active research uncovering well-kept secrets which will help the average family spend less on food shopping, household bills, entertainment, large purchases and arbitrary outgoings. She’s acid-proofed all the examples given in this book so you don’t have to do any of the hard work.

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Home Improvement – The Top 10 Home Improvement Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

Although a major home improvement can prove to be a rewarding project, it can also turn your life upside down if you are not prepared. I’ve heard of some worst case scenarios involving people who have lost their homes because they got in over their heads and others who ended up with incomplete project nightmares that cost them thousands of dollars to correct.

Following is a list of the top ten mistakes homeowners make when undertaking home improvement projects and tips on how to avoid them:

1. References. Do enough research and background checking to satisfy you. Walk away if the contractor is not willing to provide references from former clients. Do an online search of the contractor’s business and personal name. Check with local courts for judgments filed against them and with the Better Business Bureau for any consumer complaints. Look at previous work completed (in person). Check with material suppliers since a good contractor will have a long-standing relationship with suppliers. Contact other contractors who have worked with them before. Check their credit standing – contractors with bad credit are often disorganized and don’t manage their business well. Inquire about insurance, workers compensation and licensing.

2. Project management. You need one person to help you manage your project. Most issues occur when inexperienced homeowners try to manage their own project. A project manager is a single point of contact between the homeowner and other contractors and is responsible for scheduling and workflow.

3. Contracts. Make sure your contract is solid. As obvious as this may sound, failure to get a contract or signing an incomplete contract is one of the most common mistakes. Put all the details in writing – never take someone’s word for it. Following are items that should be included in the contract: (1) the full name of the company and the person you are doing business with and their contact information, (2) an addendum consisting of the complete set of plans, (3) an addendum consisting of the materials to be used, (4) the price of the goods or services, (5) the manner and terms of payment, (6) a description of the work to be performed, (7) a start date and an estimated completion date, (8) a default clause in the event either party defaults that specifies how damages will be calculated, (9) warranties and (10) signatures.

4. Warranties. Make sure you receive a warranty with detailed terms and conditions. Don’t accept a contract that simply states that all work is guaranteed. There is often confusion as to who is responsible for the warranty. Get the following in writing: (1) Who is backing the warranty? (2) What is covered and what is not covered? (3) How long is the warranty valid for? (4) What can void the warranty? (5) What is the process for placing a warranty claim?

5. Changes. During the project, you may change your mind on certain design aspects which may require more or less work from contractors. It is critical to document every change order and note the exact cost or savings. Changes should be signed and dated by all parties.

6. Plans. Get a clear description on what will be done, how it will be done and the materials to be used. For smaller projects, contractors can draw up plans. For larger and more complicated projects, find a qualified designer or architect. And, for example, if load-bearing walls will be altered, find an engineer to review the structural side of the plans.

7. Costs. Estimating costs tends to be a big problem because people do not make realistic comparisons. Homeowners may hire the contractor with the lowest price but that price may turn out to be much higher in the end. “Allowance items” tend to be the main culprit in estimating costs. For example, contractors may give you allowances for flooring, lighting or hardware that are artificially low. The bid looks enticing until you examine it closely. Request a line item for straight costs on materials and labor since some contractors mark up materials and labor so they can make a profit on it. Ask the contractor to pass along costs to you and to add a line item for their fee. This creates a more clear and honest assessment of the job.

8. Financing and payments. Before signing the contract, figure out how you are going to pay for your home improvement project. Make sure you maintain control of the money – don’t let your project manager or contractor control the money. This sounds obvious but many homeowners allow contractors to make draws on construction accounts only to realize that the draws were not used for the intended purpose. What does this mean? It means your contractor scored a new truck, you’re out of money and the project is incomplete. Tips: (1) don’t pay a lot of money up front, (2) pay when materials are delivered, (3) pay when work begins and (4) pay as work progresses. Pay only after work and materials are inspected and approved.

9. Inspections. Don’t wait until your home improvement project is almost complete to do the inspection. Plan phased inspections along the way so work doesn’t need to be re-done. Don’t rely on city and county building inspectors to protect you since the codes they enforce don’t guarantee quality (and they often miss things too!). Before paying for work, hire an independent inspector to do periodic phase inspections.

10. Materials. Stick with products that are tried and true. This rule especially holds true when it comes to windows, doors, framing materials, roofing products, concrete coverings, epoxy floors, plumbing, light fixtures and electronics. You don’t want to be the guinea pig that test runs the supposed latest and greatest new products or materials only to find out that these items don’t last or turn out to be fire hazards!

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Licensed Practical Nurse Job Description

LPN Job Description – What You Will Do As a Licensed Practical Nurse

The demand for licensed practical nurses (LPNs) is projected to increase by 21% in the following eight years and, in turn, remuneration and employment benefits are expected to improve as well. If you have decided to choose this career, you should definitely read this LPN job description first. It will help you learn more about the nature of the work and give you an idea of what you can expect from a job.

Around 28% of LPNs work in nursing care facilities while 25% work in hospitals. Another 12% work in the offices of physicians. The duties of licensed practical nurses on the different jobs do not vary dramatically, but some responsibilities may be excluded while additional ones may be added.

LPNs work under the supervision of and alongside with registered nurses (RNs) and physicians. Monitoring patients is one of their main tasks. On the job, you will be responsible for measuring and recording the vital signs of patients, such as temperature, pulse, blood pressure, height and weight. You may have to monitor and record food intake and/or fluid output. You will watch out for adverse reactions to medications and any other problems that can occur during and after treatment. You will have to report and record vital signs as well as any problems that occur.

Collecting testing samples and performing routine laboratory tests are also present in the LPN job description. These are common tasks for nurses in hospitals and nursing care facilities as well as for those working in doctor’s offices. You will also be responsible for performing some basic treatment procedures, such as preparing and giving injections, giving rubs and massages and dressing wounds. LPNs monitor and clean medical equipment as well.

Providing bedside care to patient is also part of the LPN job description. In fact, these are among the main duties of nurses working in hospitals and nursing care facilities. You will help patients get to exam and treatment rooms. You will aid them in dressing and walking. You may also have to assist patients maintain personal hygiene, bathe and groom. In some cases, LPNs feed patients who cannot eat by themselves. Your duties may involve giving advice to patients on how to take care of themselves at home. You may also teach relatives how to take care of patients at home.

Administrative duties are included in the LPN job description as well. You will be responsible for collecting health information from patients by asking them about their medical history and how they currently feel. You will then have to report this information to RNs and physicians and record it. You will have to use this information for completing insurance forms, referrals and other kinds of papers. LPNs working in doctor’s offices will be responsible for keeping patients records and making appointments as well. If you work in a nursing care home, you may be responsible for devising patient care plans and supervising nursing assistants.

From this LPN job description, you can see that the work of license practical nurses is demanding, but rewarding at the same time.

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Understanding the Occupational Therapy Assistant Job Description

Anyone considering a career in the medical or healthcare industry should look into the rewarding opportunities available today for occupational therapy assistants, an exciting and growing part of the medical industry.

With demand for therapists and assistants expected to increase at a much higher rate over the next ten years at a much higher rate than the general job landscape, there will be many employment openings for those who fit the occupational therapy assistant job description.

Although this job does require a college degree, certification and licensing, two years is a short time to spend preparing for what will likely end up being a career that will provide high levels of personal satisfaction and a competitive salary as well.

What Do Occupational Therapy Assistants Do?

One of the bigger, more confusing questions in relation to becoming an occupational therapy assistant is what do they actually do and how does it differ from a physical therapy assistant?

In a number of ways, the two jobs are similar in that an occupational therapy assistant assists a licensed occupational therapist in coming up with treatment plans for patients, then executes those plans with the patients themselves.

A COTA (certified occupational therapy assistant) is also responsible for documenting treatment progression and discussing it afterward with the therapist in charge.

The main difference within the field of occupational therapy however is that therapists and their assistants work with patients to make their lives easier by teaching them how to live with varying degrees of disability, whereas physical therapists and their assistants help patients heal after illness or injury.

With this in mind, occupational therapy assistants will sometimes have the same types of patients as PTAs, but they can also have a wider variety of patients, too.

The occupational therapy assistant job description is a rehabilitation job that is very diverse, though it is possible to specialize in an area that they like best.

Patients span from pediatrics to geriatrics and everyone in between, with each specialty demanding different tasks and skills.

Pediatrics

Pediatrics – Working with children with learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, motor skills delays and other conditions to help them learn to participate in school, social settings and to help them improve their life skills as they learn to lead more normal lives;

Aging and Geriatrics – Assisting the aging and the elderly in learning how to continue to care for themselves, how to stay fit and also prevent illness and injury, which can be more of a risk as people age.

This can include anything from teaching people how to deal with the onset of Alzheimer’s to learning how to do everyday tasks after a stroke, and much more;

Workplace Related – Teaching people about ergonomics and how to prevent workplace injuries, assessing things like tendon and computer related injuries, helping people stay fit to do their jobs and helping people get back to work without pain;

Disability and Rehab – Helping others cope with their disabilities by teaching them newer, better ways to achieve daily tasks and goals. This frequently includes pain management, exercising and fitness and re-learning tasks after permanent injuries and conditions such as brain or spinal injuries, stroke, tendon injury, hip replacements and more;

Mental Health – Helping those with mood and mental health disorders in regard to personal, stress, time and home management, learning how to remain self-sufficient and keep up important life roles, teaching how to adapt at home and in other environments and more.

It should be easy to see that the occupational therapy assistant job description involves a lot more than treatments and tasks of a physical nature, which is the main importance in this role.

Therefore, it is especially important for anyone considering becoming a COTA understand this, as it is a job that requires great amounts of patience, diligence and compassion for all types of people with many different problems.

Becoming an Occupational Therapy Assistant

In order to become a certified occupational therapy assistant, prospective students will need to complete an educational program that is accredited by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) and the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE), which usually involves a 2-year commitment as most of these programs are Associate’s degree programs.

After completion of schooling, graduates may take their national certification examination; upon passing the certification exam they are awarded with the title of certified occupational therapy assistant.

At that point, you are eligible to seek employment, although currently 40 out of 50 states require state licensure before you can be employed within that state.

In those areas, a state-issued licensing exam must then be taken and passed in order for the COTA to obtain licensure to practice within that state; if moving to a different state, the test must be taken again so that licensure can be updated.

Although it may seem like a difficult career path, becoming an occupational therapy assistant requires the same effort and schooling commitment as a physical therapy assistant, which also requires state licensing.

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Mistakes to Avoid When Considering Home Improvement Projects

In the life of every homeowner comes the time when he asks himself this question: Does my house need some home improvement jobs? In most of the cases the answer is yes, especially when he plans on selling the property. Although such a home improvement project can prove to be more than a rewarding project, it can also cause a lot of problems that can be very difficult to resolve. For this particular reason, we will now offer you some tips regarding how a home improvement project should look like and what problems you must avoid:

o References – We strongly advise all homeowners to search for the right contractor because he is the heart of the entire project. We recommend that you immediately walk away when the contractor doesn’t want to provide references from former clients. Online searching is the perfect tool for such a task and we encourage all homeowners to use websites that offer such services.

o Project Management – You will need one person that will help you manage your home improvement project. Most of the problems occur when inexperienced homeowners are stubborn and want to manage their own project. A project manager is a single point of contact between the homeowner and the other contractors and is entirely responsible for workflow and scheduling.

o Changes – During the duration of the project, you may want to change your mind regarding some aspects of the project and want to make a few changes that will require more or less work from the hired contractors. We strongly advise homeowners to document every change order and note the exact savings or additional costs. The changes should be dated and signed by all the implicated parties.

o Plans – It is highly advisable to obtain a crystal clear description on what will be done, how it will be done and what materials will be used for the project. For small-sized projects, the contractors usually draw up plans while for the larger and more complicated projects, it is recommended to hire an architect or a qualified designer.

o Contracts – Do everything you can so that the contract is rock solid. We suggest that you put all the details in writing (never take somebody’s word for granted). Here are some of the most critical items that should be included in every contract: company’s full name and the person’s full name along with contact information; an addendum consisting of the complete set of plans; warranties; signatures; start/completion date; prices of services/goods; manner & terms of payment and others as well.

o Warranty – You must make sure that you will obtain a warranty with fully detailed terms and conditions. In order to avoid the confusion as to who is responsible for the warranty, we suggest that you get the following items in writing: Who is backing the warranty? How long is the warranty valid for? What is/isn’t covered by the warranty?

o Financing and payments – Before you make the deal think about how you will pay for the project. Make sure you have total control of your money (never let the contractor or project manager handle your money). Some tips regarding this issue: never pay a lot of money at the start; pay after the materials have arrived; pay when the work starts and as it progresses;

We hope that these tips will help you manage your home improvement project efficiently without any real issues in terms of costs, quality and time. A home improvement project is very important for any homeowner that is why we advise all homeowners to be very careful when choosing contractors, materials and when they set up the contract.

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