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Getting Ahead
2nd Quarter 2017

In this issue:

Landscaping on a Budget

How To Summerize Your Car

Beware the 'One Ring' Wireless Phone Scam

Landscaping on a Budget

Landscaping on a tiny budget can be difficult, but not impossible. First, determine how much money you have to spend. Next, decide where and how to spend it.

Ask questions. Are you improving an existing landscape design or starting from scratch with a whole new look? Are you landscaping a front or back yard or your entire property? How much maintenance will be required once you install your landscaping (and have you budgeted for that)? Or are you choosing one small area or project such as installing a few beds with edging or building a vegetable garden in a raised bed? Answering these questions will help you determine which materials and plants you’ll need and should also help you prioritize your spending (i.e. do you really need to sod your yard with zoysia when seeding it with fescue will do?).

Landscaping Make simple improvements to your existing landscaping. This is probably the most effective way to get a new look without overspending. Take a photo of your front yard, back yard or other space you’d like to landscape. Which part of the yard looks the best – and why? Which part looks the worst? Examine the worst parts and make a list of priorities. Is the grass dead or full of weeds? Are the flowerbeds neatly edged or messy? Are trees and shrubs trimmed appropriately? Perhaps your money would be better spent making small adjustments to your landscaping rather than installing additional plants. Consult a pro for an estimate to determine just how far your money will go.

Choose plants that give you more bang for your buck. A boxwood hedge may seem a tad boring, but this evergreen could provide the clean lines your yard needs. Knockout roses brim with brightly colored blooms but are virtually maintenance free and work almost anywhere in a yard. Annuals can be costly and require replacement seasonally, whereas many beautiful perennials can be planted or started from bulbs or clippings. Ask friends with hostas and irises to give you pieces of their plants to get your flower garden started for free.

A few more tips: Time your purchases so that you don’t have to install everything at once, especially with big-ticket items such as trees. Considering buying young plants in small pots instead of mature plants in larger pots – they can cost up to three times as much! And don’t forget that maintenance can add up, too. Before you purchase plants that require constant care, decided whether or not you have the time or money to care for them.

Article courtesy of

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How To Summerize Your Car

Summertime calls most of us out on the roads. You might be planning a summer vacation, traveling on the weekend to a summer cabin, or just spending your evenings out enjoying the hot summer nights.

Before you find yourself out and about enjoying the season, think about your vehicle and some seasonal maintenance. There are a number of things you can do to prepare your car for a safe and steadfast summer of driving.

Summer carBeat the Heat
Your car's cooling system is critical to your summer driving, with the primary job of keeping your engine cool. Your cooling system strives for a constant 200 degrees Fahrenheit to protect your engine against corrosion, provide more efficient fuel combustion, and maintain proper oil viscosity.

However, in hot weather, your coolant could reach as high as 250 degrees, and your car could overheat. This is why your cooling system needs extra attention in the summer. But before you get under the hood, make sure your engine is cool - never remove a radiator cap when the engine is hot, or even warm.

To prepare your cooling system for summer, you'll want to check the radiator and hoses for leaks or cracks. Be sure all the connections are snug. The reservoir level should be half full and if it is low, add coolant or antifreeze.

Despite all your efforts to inspect the cooling system and keep your coolant levels up, your engine could still overheat. Keep an eye on the temperature gauge on your dashboard. If you see the engine getting too hot, you can take immediate action by turning on the heat - this pulls hot air off the engine block. Allow your engine time to cool down, because overheating can cause permanent damage to the engine.

Air Conditioning
Before your air conditioning quits cooling, you can inspect the system for worn or damaged belts. The belt on your air conditioner drives the compressor; without that, you won't get any air conditioning inside your car.

The air conditioner has a condenser that looks similar to a radiator. You can inspect the fins to be sure they are clear of debris. When air moves freely around the condenser, the refrigerant is able to do its cooling job better.

Summer Tread
You will get more speed, better handling, and better fuel efficiency if you mount summer tires on your car. In contrast to winter tires, summer tires have a shorter sidewall and a less-aggressive tread.

To change over to summer tires, you need to have a spare set of rims or bring the tires into a shop to be changed. All-season tires are a good alternative if you don't want to bother with specialized summer and winter tires.

Brake Check
If your summer weather pattern includes thunderstorms and rain, you will want to inspect your brakes because wet brakes can be less responsive. What you see when you look behind the tire and wheel depends on whether your car has disc or drum brakes. You might need some brake education; good resources are the owner's manual or your mechanic. Talk to the mechanic about how much braking you have left.

Also ask about the state of your brake pads. Hot weather can increase the temperature of your brake system, causing your pads to wear more quickly. You'll want to keep tabs on how worn yours are.

Towing a boat, camper, or trailer is common in the summertime. Before you hook on and drive off for a vacation destination, though, make sure you have inspected your car and trailer.

There are legal and commonsense rules to follow when it comes to towing weight. Your vehicle is listed for a certain gross vehicle weight (GVW), which is the maximum weight for your car, trailer, and load.

Common sense will guide you on load distribution. You need to balance the weight between your axles and the tongue (hitch).

Whenever you are towing, it is a good idea to develop a pre-trip inspection habit. Look over the brakes on your car and trailer. Are all the lights working properly? Carefully go over the hitch to be sure it is secure and has safety chains attached. After driving for a few hundred feet, you can pull over and check for any load shifting.

Summer is a fun and liberating season. By inspecting your vehicle's cooling system, tires, brakes, and air conditioning, you can expect a more pleasant, safe, and reliable warm weather driving experience.

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Beware the 'One Ring' Wireless Phone Scam

ScamIf your phone rings once and then stops, think twice before returning the call. It may be a scam.

Some wireless consumers receive calls from phone numbers with three-digit area codes that appear to be domestic, but are actually associated with international pay-per-call phone numbers. These calls often disconnect after one ring. If you receive a call like this and do not recognize the number of the incoming call, do not return the call.

If you return the phone call, you may be connected to an international hotline than can charge a fee just for connecting, along with significant per-minute fees if they can keep you on the phone. You may be charged for pay-per-call services as well, with charges that show up on your bill as premium services.

How the scam works
Your wireless phone rings once or twice before the call is disconnected. The number that appears in your wireless phone log as a missed call appears to be a U.S area code, but is actually a three-digit international area code. If you return the call you will be connected to a phone number outside the United States, often in Canada or the Caribbean, and charged expensive international call rates. (For example, “649” goes to the Turks and Caicos, “809” goes to the Dominican Republic, “284” goes to the British Virgin Islands, and “876” goes to Jamaica.)

This scam appears to be a variation of fraud involving phony messages on answering machines urging you to call a number with an unfamiliar other area code to collect a prize or find out about a sick relative.

How best to avoid the scam

  • Check any unfamiliar area codes before returning calls.
  • Be aware that many 3- digit area codes (mostly in the Caribbean) connect callers to international telephone numbers.
  • If you do not otherwise make international calls, ask your local or wireless phone company to block outgoing international calls on your line.
Remember, you should always be cautious even if a number appears authentic. Criminals may also engage in caller ID "spoofing" – deliberately falsifying the information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise their identity. (See the FCC's consumer guide on Caller ID and Spoofing.) Bottom line: Avoid answering or returning any calls from unfamiliar area codes or calls you suspect may be spoofed.

What to do if you are a victim of this scam
If you are billed for a call you made as a result of this scam, first try to resolve the matter with your telephone company. If you are unable to resolve it directly, you can file a complaint with the FCC. There is no charge for filing a complaint.

Filing a complaint
You have multiple options for filing a complaint with the FCC:
  • File a complaint online
  • By phone: 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322); TTY: 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322); ASL: 1-844-432-2275
  • By mail (please include your name, address, contact information and as much detail about your complaint as possible):

    Federal Communications Commission
    Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
    Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
    445 12th Street, S.W.
    Washington, DC 20554
Filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
If you feel that you are a victim of an international phone scam, you can file a complaint with the FTC.

Article courtesy of

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