how to store Christmas decorations

7 Smart, Easy Ways to Store Your Holiday Decorations

Christmas is over now, and while you still might be enjoying your time now with your friends and family throughout New Year’s and the remainder of the Christmas season, it will soon be time to take down your Christmas decorations and store them away for next year. We know that putting all those decorations can be quite a chore, but if you do it properly, you’ll have an easier time assembling things next year!

Check out our 7 tips and tricks below for properly packing and storing your holiday decorations!

Be Smart About Tree Storage – Artificial trees can last for years and years to come if they are taken care of properly. Before you store the tree, think about its weight. Many are too heavy to wrangle into a trap-door attic or lug down a flight or two of stairs. To save yourself a headache (and a backache!), consider storing your Christmas tree on the same floor that it is used such as in a storage room, a closet, or even an attached garage.

Store Christmas Lights Tangle-Free – Storing lights after the holidays can be such a pain. It’s even more of a hassle when you revisit them in the following year and try to untangle the cords without breaking off or damaging the lights or wires. Avoid the tangled mess by using a piece of masking tape and permanent marker to label each strand. You can indicate how long it is or where you usually use the lights. Afterward, wrap the strands securely.

Protect Your Ornaments – Ornaments come in many different shapes and sizes and can be very fragile. Instead of tossing them in a box, try storing them in a container that is designed with layers and fill the empty space around each ornament with tissue paper to keep them secure. When looking for your container, try to choose something that is lightweight, has fabric-lined trays, and has plenty of padding.

Wrap Up the Gift Paper – If you’re not able to store your giftwrap, paper, tags, bows, ribbons, and tape in one small permanent area, you can put it all into an under-the-bed storage system. If there is no room under your bed for all of your supplies, your gift wrapping supplies can be stored in an organizer in a guest room closet.

Make Setting Up Villages Easy – Do you have Christmas villages? If so, you might know how much work it takes to set up the villages and all of the snow, landscaping, lighting, and accessories each year. Make set up easier next year by storing your villages inside of their packages and placing them inside a storage bin FIRST. Then place any snow, ground, and other accessories you might have on top of the village boxes. By doing this, you can set up the things that naturally go out first without having to dig through all of the village pieces.

Keep Your Wreath Safe – While relatively sturdy pieces, wreaths can be quite fragile, especially if they feature dried berries and twigs. Keep your wreaths safe, decorated, and fluffy for next year by storing it in a crush-proof container! Even though it might take up more space, the container will do a great job protecting what’s inside and can be stacked.

Keep Linens and Cloths Fresh – Want to keep your tree skirts, seasonal tablecloths, and other festive items fresh, fluffy, and protected from moisture, moths, and mold? Consider storing them in a hanging vacuum-storage bag. You can even store your plush winter throws in these storage bags, too. Next year, you can unseal these seasonal items, and they will be as fresh as they were when you stored them!

Your home is so much more than just a place to store decorations. Make sure that it is properly protected with the right home insurance policy. Call the experts at Madison Mutual Insurance Company by dialing 1-800-766-MMIC or by visiting us online at www.madisonmutual.com!

emergency fund

15 Strategies to Help You Create and Maintain an Emergency Fund

Financially speaking, building up an emergency fund is one of the most vital things you can do. While everyone knows it’s a smart idea to have extra money set aside for emergencies and accidents, it isn’t always the easiest task to undertake.

That’s why we’ve come up with 15 sound strategies to help you begin and maintain your emergency fund right away!

*Start small! Even saving as little as $25 per paycheck will help your emergency fund grow, and you will be motivated to save even more.

*Set up an online savings account and have it deduct an amount automatically each payday so you don’t have to even think about it!

*Ask your employer if you can have the amount deducted directly from your paycheck before it goes into your checking account.

*Treat your emergency fund as a bill each payday, and pay it at the same time as your other bills.

*Take a look at what you spend your money on and cut back on luxuries such as cable TV, unnecessary online purchases, gourmet coffee, and superfluous clothing. Whatever you decide to cut back on, take that same monetary amount and put it directly into your savings account.

*If you finish paying off your car, house, or other debt or loan, take the amount you were paying to that debt and put it directly in your savings each month. You won’t fell a difference in your budget, and you’ll save quite a bit of money!

*Do your best to give up an unhealthy habit such as drinking or smoking. While this is no easy feat to accomplish, you’ll find that you can bolster your emergency fund quite a bit when you give up the habit for good.

*Limit the access you have to this account. You can put your emergency fund in a money market account or fund, somewhere where you can’t easily access the account if you were tempted to tap into it.

*If you happened to get a Christmas bonus or will get a tax refund, be sure to save it instead of spending it.

*Don’t forget your coins! When you get home at the end of the day, place your coins into a jar and deposit them in your account once a month. It will add up much more quickly than you think!

*Try refinancing your mortgage or auto loan to help you save money. Take the amount that you would save and put it toward your emergency fund.

*If you have two cars and can live without one of them, sell one of them and save the money you receive or buy a cheaper, used model and save the difference in your payments.

*Instead of seeking fun by going out to eat or going to the movies, make your own meals and do fun things that are free to help save the difference.

*Showcase your talents and market them as a freelancer or get a second job on the side. Take the extra income and put it in the bank.

*Hold a garage sale and put the money that you receive in your emergency fund.

If you need additional money-saving tips or need to save money on your insurance, don’t hesitate to call the experts at Madison Mutual Insurance Company at 1-800-766-MMIC! You can look us up online as well at www.madisonmutual.com to see all the great policies we offer.

Buffalo, NY snowstorm 2014

11 Tips and Tricks to Help You Weather a Massive Snowstorm

Last month was an unexpectedly cold and snowy one for many states, especially for Buffalo, New York, who experienced more than 6 feet of snow within the matter of a few days. Many houses in that region were damaged, vehicles were buried, and travel was absolutely halted for days on end.

Knowing how to stay safe and warm in a huge snowstorm is crucial, especially if you live in an area that is prone to experiencing harsh winter weather. Read the following tips below to see how you can stay safe! After all, this advice could save your life.

Tips for Outside

Seek Shelter Immediately – In the winter, blowing winds can make the wind chill plummet, which can in turn reduce your core body temperature to dangerous levels. With every minute that you spend outside exposed to the cold weather, the risk of frostbite and hypothermia increases, so seek shelter as soon as possible.

Keep Dry – Don’t keep wet clothing on! Light a small fire to help provide you warmth and dry your clothes out. In the meantime, change into dry clothing while you wait for the wet ones to dry.

Stay Hydrated – Dehydration is very common in the cold weather, so be sure to keep your water intake up. About a cup of water an hour will work. If you have no water available, gather some clean snow and put it in a dry, clean container like a canteen, wait for it to melt, and drink.

Tips for the Car

Stay in the Car – If you happen to be stranded in your vehicle, don’t leave it. Your car won’t just provide you a form of protection, but it will also make it easier for others to see that you need help.

Use Some Heat – Go ahead and run the car for short bursts to give you some heat. About 10 minutes per hour is sufficient enough; after all, you don’t want to run out of gas! Remember to crack the windows a little to bring in fresh air now and a gain. Do check that your tailpipe isn’t blocked, though, as dangerous exhaust fumes can build up and back up into your car.

Move Around – While cars don’t offer you much in the ways of exercising, it’s important to keep your blood pumping. Do something while you’re in the car – stomp your feet, clap your hands, dance to your favorite song – just about anything will do.

Make Them See You – Others on the road can have a tough time seeing vehicles on the side of the road, so make sure your car is visible for a rescue. Hang bits of brightly-colored cloths or plastic from the windows. Whenever the snow stops falling, open the hood of the car – this signals that you are in distress.

Tips for Home

Use Alternate Forms of Heat – If the electricity happens to go out during the storm, seek out an alternative form of heat such as a fireplace or kerosene heater. Be careful, though. These forms of heat can be dangerous without proper ventilation, so try to check that first.

Stay in Place – Now is not the time to keep all the doors open and go from room to room. This is a good way to lose heat in your home and waste electricity. Instead, stick to one room for heat and close off unnecessary rooms in your home. Make sure that there are no air leaks in the room. Additionally, let sunlight in through the window, but block all windows as soon as it gets dark.

Protect Your Pets – When the weather takes a turn for the worse, don’t leave your pets outside to face it alone. Bring them in away from the cold. They’ll be safe and happier to be by your side as well.

Be Prepared – For the car or for your home, it’s always to have a winter weather emergency kit available in case things get worse. Be sure that your kit includes an AM/FM radio, a blanket, rations of food, bottled water, flashlight, first aid kit, and more. If you have young children, make sure to teach them about the contents of the kit and how and when to use it all in case of emergency.

Whether you need to insure your vehicle or make sure that your house is properly protected from the impending winter weather, you can feel safe knowing that the experts at Madison Mutual have you covered. Call us at 1-800-766-MMIC or find us online at www.madisonmutual.com to get started today!

winter driving

8 Tips to Help You Drive in the Snow Like a Pro

We all love the white crystals that fall from the sky. They provide endless entertainment in the forms of sledding, skiing, and building snowmen. However, while snow is soft and melts in our hands, the pure white fluff provides dangers, too, especially on the road.

When it comes to snowy weather, we want to make sure you’re prepared for its unpredictability. Below are handy snow-driving tips to keep you and your family safe this season.

So stay alert, slow down, stay in control, and don’t let the snow drive you off the road!

Get a Maintenance Check-up – Before the snow and below-zero weather strikes, schedule a maintenance check-up! It’s important to make sure your car’s tires and tire pressure, battery, belts and hoses, radiator, oil, lights, brakes, exhaust system, heater/defroster, wipers, and ignition system are working properly. If your tire pressure is too low, it can cause steering problems on the road, and you want to make sure your brakes pick up enough friction so you don’t slide off.

Fill Gas Tank – It’s easy to fall victim to waiting until our gaslight comes on to fill up our gas tank. However, during the colder months, it’s necessary to keep the gas tank half full at all times. If your tank reaches low levels, gas line freeze-ups may occur. So keep that gas pumping!

Gently Pump Brakes When Stopping – When it comes to slowing down, avoid a quick stop in snowy weather. Pump your breaks and slowly come to a halt. It creates more friction and will help keep you from losing control. Also, avoid using your parking brakes in snowy, cold, or rainy weather, and if the tires lock, take your foot off the brake pedal. It’s the little things that make driving in the snow safe.

Keep Windows and Lights Clear – Before you start driving, clear your windows and lights of any ice or snow with an ice scraper or brush. That means your windshield, side windows, headlights and rear brake lights. Then when you get into the car, turn your front and rear defrost on to make sure your windows don’t fog up inside and obstruct your view. Without a clear view, messes can happen easily.

Accelerate and Decelerate Slowly – Remember, there is no need to rush. It takes longer to slow down on icy roads, so you should always be accelerating and decelerating slowly to regain traction and avoid skids. When it comes to snowy and icy weather, slow and steady wins the race!

Maintain Plenty of Space Between Cars – It’s a good rule to keep a following distance of eight to ten seconds or two to three car lengths when you’re driving in wintery conditions. Don’t try to pass other vehicles and stay away from cruise control.

Skid Properly – Skidding is scary, but it’s critical to remain calm and remember what to do when or if it happens. If the rear end or front end of the car begins to skid, remove your foot from the accelerator and steer out of the skid by turning your wheel in the direction you want the car to turn. Turn it in the opposite direction if the car over-recovers from the skid. Don’t ever brake while in the skid because it can lock up your wheels and cause you to slide further!

Make a Safety Kit – Prepare, prepare, and prepare some more! It’s always good to plan ahead in the event an incident arises. Creating a safety kit that you can store in your car is the first step. Put a sleeping bag, some flashlights, trash bags, a lighter, cash, car charger, and some hand warmers in the kit. You can add other items that you think you might need in case your car gets stuck in the snow, too. That way, you won’t freeze up when your car does.

We know the snow is all fun and games until we start driving in it. So if you have a brain freeze on the road and need help, check out our website http://madisonmutual.com/ or give us a call 1-800-766-MMIC! We don’t want the snow to make you feel ice-solated!