Happy Howl-oween! As you prepare to hand out candy or hit the streets in search of treats, make sure your dog is prepped for the busy evening.
Keep in mind how confusing Halloween can be for a dog — loud, excited little kids wearing masks, hats and all sorts of accessories, ringing doorbells and running down the sidewalk.
Make sure if you choose to include your dog, whether indoors or out, that he has been properly socialized so that he doesn’t spend the night in a state of terror. But if he’s able to handle All Hallows’ Eve, here are some tips from the American Kennel Club:
If you’re staying at home:
* Put down dog food before people start showing up. Eating the dog food beforehand can help to make your dog calmer.
* Also, take your dog outside before as well so this is not an issue.
* If you have pumpkins, be sure to use flameless candles in them to keep your dog from knocking them over.
* Some people find it helpful to start working with their dog a few days before by continually knocking on the door or ringing the bell so the dog is not too stressed when the day arrives.
* For dogs that are easily stressed out, create a calm space for them or even invest in a thundershirt (a snug vest that may help ease a dog’s anxiety).
* Make sure your dog is on a leash or otherwise secured so that he doesn’t dash out the door as people come and go.
If you’re going around the neighborhood:
* It’s a good idea to have someone go with you. This way there is one person watching the children and one watching the dogs. You want to make sure you are aware of your surroundings, which is hard in the dark, and two sets of eyes are better than one. Also, make sure you have doggie bags in the event that your pup has to potty while out.
* Finally, having a well-trained dog is imperative to creating a safe and fun environment on Halloween. Your dog should know basic commands, such as “leave it” in the event that they come across candy or other items they should not have.
— The American Kennel Club
Seven ways to save at MichaelsHere are seven ways to save at arts and crafts store Michaels:
* Coupons abound at Michaels: on Michaels.com, in its weekly ads or through email offers.
* Michaels will accept coupons from competitors, including Jo-Ann Fabrics and Hobby Lobby. One caveat: It will only honor competitor coupons for single items, not ones offering discounts on the entire purchase.
* Don’t pass by the dollar bins without taking a look. These bins include great deals on items such as stationery and seasonal decorations.
* Special discounts are given to seniors (10 percent off for 55 and older), military members and their families (10 percent off) and teachers (15 percent off).
* Check out the adult and children’s classes, many of which are free.
* Load the Michaels app and access the free Wi-Fi while in the store to find more discounts.
* Check the bottom of your receipt. Often there is an opportunity to complete a survey for a future discount or a coupon to use later.
— Tara McAlister, The Charlotte Observer
New resource helps donors choose charities wiselyWe all get mail, phone calls and other solicitations asking us to donate to a charity or cause. Many are worthy. Some are not. But how can you tell?
That’s where a new resource from Charity Navigator comes in.
The website www.charitynavigator.org recently unveiled a new system that flags charities in an attempt to protect donors from scams and alleged misconduct. The new CN Advisory System replaces its previous system of Donor Advisories and CN Watchlist.
Charity Navigator says it issues advisories based on information obtained from law enforcement investigations, media reports and other sources. It then rates them as being a low concern, moderate concern or high concern.
Charity Navigator does not attempt to verify the information independently and said it determines whether to flag the organization based on the credibility and timeliness of the information, the nature of the accusations and other factors.
Its goal is to determine whether a donor might find that information helpful when considering whether to contribute.
Charity Navigator said it attempts to contact charities to provide them with an opportunity to address the issues. Advisories rated as a low concern remain in place for at least six months and advisories of moderate and high concern remain in place for at least a year, though Charity Navigator said advisories may be removed sooner if the charity provides information that the issue has been resolved.
You can find the current advisories at www.charitynavigator.org under “CN Advisories” in the center of the home page. You can look up information about a charity through the website’s search menu.
— Paul Muschick, The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)
Critical Social Security tipsSocial Security is vastly important to most retirees, often providing more than half of their income, and in many cases more than 90 percent. Thus, it’s critical to make smart decisions about it. Here are some tips:
* Find out how much you can expect to receive by visiting the Social Security website at ssa.gov and setting up a “my Social Security” account. (To give you a rough idea, the average Social Security retirement benefit was recently $1,350 per month, or about $16,000 per year, while the maximum benefit for those retiring at their full retirement age was recently $2,639 per month — or about $32,000 for the whole year.) Knowing what you can expect can help in retirement planning.
* Know that you can control how much you receive, to some degree. Your “full” retirement age is between 65 and 67, depending on your birth year, but you can start collecting your benefits as early as age 62. Collecting early will make your checks smaller, but you’ll get more of them, so it can be close to a wash. For every year you delay collecting from your full retirement age to age 70, you can increase your benefits by 8 percent. Delay from age 67 to 70, and your checks will be about 24 percent bigger.
* Don’t think you’ll receive little or no benefits if you haven’t earned much taxable income in your life or if you’re widowed or divorced. Those who are married, divorced or widowed may be able to claim benefits based on their current, ex- or late spouse’s earnings record — generally collecting between 50 to 100 percent of the spouse’s benefit. (Divorced people need to have been married for at least 10 years and to not have remarried.)
* Benefits are calculated based on your earnings in the 35 years in which you earned the most money (adjusted for inflation). Aim to work at least that long, if you can.
* Finally, read up on spousal strategies, as coordinating when you and your spouse start collecting benefits can make a big difference.
— The Motley Fool
Beware of credit card skimmers at gas stationsMADISON — The number of credit card skimming devices that have been discovered at gas stations by law enforcement has been increasing in recent weeks, and Attorney General Brad Schimel, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and the FBI want consumers to take heed.
Credit card skimmers are small, nearly invisible devices that capture sensitive data and are inserted into credit card processing machines by criminals, going undetected by gas station and retail store proprietors. Once the credit or debit card information has been stored on the device, criminals can use the data to make fraudulent purchases.
Consumers can protect themselves against this type of fraud by:
* Paying inside, instead of at the pump.
* Looking for signs of tampering. Often times, gas pumps have security seals and locks installed by gas station owners for the customer’s protection.
* Using the pumps closest to the building where it is less likely a fraudster has installed a skimming device.
* Reviewing credit card statements for suspicious activity and reporting it to your bank or credit card issuer.
If you believe you have been a victim of credit card skimming, contact local law enforcement and your bank or credit card issuer.
A fact sheet on card skimmers is available at datcp.wi.gov.
— Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection