Heat, Storms and Power Outages: Were You Prepared?

by Stacy Tharp 2. July 2012

A fallen tree causes severe damage to an Arlington, VA home.

With local temperatures blazing into the three-digit range, this large-scale power outage couldn't have come at a worse time. Now, three days after the storms that caused the outages, many are still without power, and it could be several days before power is restored. The freak storm winds knocked trees not only into power lines, but also into cars, homes and other buildings. This isn't the first time we've seen a natural disaster cause such damage and distress, and unfortunately, it won't be the last time.

At this point, the best thing you can do is ask yourself, "Was I prepared for this?" If the answer is no, it's time to prepare yourself for next time. Take a look at your current auto and home insurance policies. Do you have all the coverage you feel you need? Would you be covered by damages caused by natural disasters? If you do have all the coverage you feel you need, it is still important to shop around and gather quotes from different companies every so often to be sure you are getting the most competative rates.

Are you one of the unlucky millions without power? Whether you are lucky enough to be reading this from your air conditioned home, or if you are sitting in your running car, reading this from your phone as it is charging, everyone should take a look at these gadgets that are helpful during power outages. One of our favorites from this list: a solar cell phone charger (so you don't have to keep your car running).

How is your food situation right now? If your power has been out for three days, do you have to throw out everything in your fridge? Here is a great guide to which foods are safe to keep and which should be discarded.

With this severe weather, your best solution to staying safe from the heat is to escape to a place that has air conditioning (shopping mall, movie theater, friend's house, etc.) When you are at home, stay in the lowest level of your home where it will be the coolest, and drink lots and lots of water, even if you aren't thirsty.

Here are some additional power outage and heat safety resources:

And once you know you are safe:

Tricks to Throwing a Budget-friendly Barbeque

by Renee' Anderson 29. June 2012

4th of July Fireworks I love entertaining at my house, but it can be expensive to feed my clan! That doesn't stop me from having a great summertime BBQ; I just find creative ways to keep the costs low.

With Independence Day just around the corner, here are some tips on throwing a backyard bash without breaking the bank:

1. If someone asks to bring something, LET THEM (sodas, side salad, dessert or their signature dish)!

2. Buy in bulk and buy at the right places. First get organized and make a list of exactly what you need (paper products, food. drinks, etc.), then plan your shopping trips accordingly. If you're unorganized, you're more likely to get frustrated and just start throwing stuff in your cart or rushing to grab things at the last minute without taking price into account. So, make a list, plan out your stops, cut coupons for each location if you can, and don't deviate from the plan unless absolutely necessary.

3. Buy small dinner plates. The bigger the plate, the more food people will take (and not necessarily eat it all)! Your guests can always go back for more if they are still hungry.

4. Plan a menu that will allow you to feed a lot of people with inexpensive foods. Here are some suggestions:

  • Hamburgers (make your own patties for cheaper AND better tasting burgers)
  • Hot dogs
  • BBQ (beef or pork from a wholesale club)
  • Cole slaw and potato salad are good, inexpensive sides if you make them youself.
  • Fruit can be expensive, so instead of making a fruit salad, just pick up one big melon to cut up.
  • Don't go crazy on desserts. A lot of people won't even eat dessert of a hot day, so a batch of brownies will do just fine. You can spice your brownies up by simply adding some cream cheese, sugar and chocolate chips.

Encourage people to bring their favorite backyard games, and make sure you get as much prep done before the party as possible so you can enjoy the party yourself!

For grilling recipes, 4th of July decorating ideas and more, view our 4th of July Pinterest board.

For a list of Maryland 4th of July events, click here.

If you are traveling for the holiday, be sure to read Traveling Tips: keep the costs low and the fun level high.

Online Banking for Businesses: Why some banks charge

by Heather Adams 27. June 2012

In today's society, online banking is a given – not only for personal use, but for businesses as well. Every business needs online banking to check balances, verify transactions and to pay their employees via direct deposit. Online banking is an extremely valuable product that can save businesses time and money if utilized properly.

So this begs the question - if it’s so necessary, why do so many banks charge for it?

While online banking makes life so much easier for the end business, there is a lot of work involved with maintaining the product and making sure all transactions run smoothly. In many cases, there are whole departments dedicated to overseeing online banking. Depending on which functionality a company utilizes, there could be risk involved, annual reviews, daily report monitoring and more. Also, if the website is outsourced, the vendor will charge the bank. 

Banks offer this service because the value greatly outweighs the time and effort it takes to run it. We, as bankers, understand that in order to make our business customers thrive, we need to give them the tools to do so. This starts with the basics: a checking account, a debit card…and online banking. 

There are so many functions that a business can use without ever leaving the comfort of the office, including checking balances, pulling cleared check images, transferring funds, paying employees and making deposits. But none of these functions happen in a vacuum. For each service offered, there are people behind the scenes making sure everything goes off without a hitch. It is for this reason that many banks charge for this valuable service. 

That being said, rather than taking issue with the monthly fee, first weigh the convenience factor, and then you'll see it's worth it. 



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