8 Easy Ways You Can Cut Back on Your Smartphone Addiction Today

How many times would you say you check your phone a day? A handful of times? Perhaps a couple dozens of times? Get this – according to Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’s annual Internet Trends report, the average smartphone user checks their phone a staggering 150 times every single day!

While the smartphone has made communication, travel, and staying informed on what’s happening around us a lot easier, it has become an addicting tool. In addition, smartphones can also become a hazard to our health, especially when we use it while walking or worse, when we’re behind the wheel. Every day in our nation, there are more than 8 fatalities and over 1,150 injuries in crashes that involve distracted drivers. This includes those who choose to call, text, or check social media or email on their smartphones.

If you find yourself having a hard time staying away from your smartphone, the good news is that you can break your addiction and free up your life. Try these 8 tips to curb your smartphone addiction and stay safe today!

Stop Using It as an Alarm Clock – How many of us use our smartphones as an alarm clock? If you do this, try breaking this habit now. It’s likely that you will visit your favorite websites or email as soon as you shut off your alarm. Do yourself a favor – use a real alarm clock to wake yourself up in time for work.

Don’t Check Emails Before Work – We know that the temptation is hard to resist, but trust us, your emails will be there waiting for you to look at them when you get to work. By leaving your phone alone in the morning, you are giving yourself more time to enjoy the morning and fully prepare yourself for the day ahead. We promise, the world won’t end if you don’t check your emails before work!

Get Rid of Time-Wasting Apps – Do you really need instant access to social media? Chances are that you don’t. Take the time to uninstall time-wasting apps from your phone. When you scale back your apps, you will find that the urge to pull out your smartphone every few minutes will decrease!

Create Defined Tech-Free Zones and Times – If you’re having trouble relaxing or falling asleep at night, you might need to check in on your phone habits. Be sure to cut off your screentime an hour or two before going to bed; the unnatural light can mess with your circadian rhythm, leading to sleeping problems. On top of that, keep your phone out of the bedroom. Your bedroom is a sanctuary – try to keep it that way!

Turn Off or Customize Your Notifications – Do you find yourself hearing “ping!” or “beep!” more than you like? It’s probably time to turn off or customize your notifications. You can customize notifications to appear for only important things like certain people contacting, or you can simply turn your phone on silent and check it later on as you enjoy a movie with your significant other or your child’s musical performance – uninterrupted.

Keep It Away From the Dinner Table – Playing with your smartphone isn’t just rude and an anti-social behavior – it’s also a germy habit! Besides, you can wind up dropping your phone in your food or beverage and causing yourself more stress. You really don’t need to put your meal on Instagram. Instead, put your phone away and enjoy your food with your present company.

Turn Off Email When You Don’t Need It – Once the weekend hits or whenever you take a vacation, it can be hard to say “no” to clicking that mail button, which sports a high number bedecked in red. If you find yourself giving into looking at your email during non-work times, turn your email off completely until you need to see it again. Just go to your settings, then to “mail,” and switch off the green toggle button to cease any notifications from popping up. Remember to turn it back on when you need to see your emails, though.

Hide It When You’re Driving – If you have a hard time resisting the urge to look at your phone behind the wheel, keep yourself safe by either turning your phone off, hiding it in your purse or bag, or even tossing it into the backseat. Your life and the lives of others are much more important than any text message, phone call, or friend request!

Remember, curbing your smartphone addiction is just one way you can stay safe behind the wheel or while you’re out and about on-foot. For everything in between, there’s Madison Mutual. Call your agent at 1-800-766-MMIC to update your insurance policies today!

10 Unexpected Expenses to Plan for When Buying a New Home

If you’re in the market for a new home, you probably have done your homework on all of the available houses in your target neighborhood. You’ve got your trusty real estate agent at your side, probably have already gotten approved for a loan, and have a few homes on your list that you’re interested in seeing or purchasing. Although you might have a strong budget put together, you might want to give it another look to see if you’re accounting for a few extra expenses along the way.

Here are 10 costs that could take several new homeowners by surprise:

New Locks – Although it’s unlikely that someone with the old set of keys would come into your new living quarters, changing the locks will ensure that only you and those whom you trust will have access to your home. Remember, contractors, agents, and relatives of the previous owners could still have means of getting into your home if you leave the locks unchanged. Take into account all entry doors, including the front, side or back doors, garage doors, and any other points of entry.

Appliances – This could go one of two ways. Either the previous owners will take their appliances with them, or they may leave the appliances in the home, leaving you to foot the bill should the appliance fail. Whether by age or by malfunction, appliances such as refrigerators, stoves, and washers and dryers do stop working, so be prepared to replace at least one of these appliances when you move.

Property Tax Increases – Smart homebuyers will take property taxes into account when calculating their monthly mortgage payments. These expenses are sometimes paid separately but usually are amortized over the year into smaller monthly payments. Keep in mind that taxes often do go up over time, so make sure to have some breathing room in your budget.

Hazard Insurance – Although many people will purchase homeowners insurance, not everyone will take natural disasters such as floods or earthquakes into account. Be sure to talk with your agent to see if these items are covered in your policy.

Moving Expenses – Even if you’re moving across town, moving in itself can be costly! From hiring a moving van or professional movers to purchasing boxes, bubble wrap, and other packing materials, you will need to factor in these hidden yet necessary costs into your budget.

Storage Unit Fees – Do you need to de-clutter your space to give homebuyers a better idea of just how much space you have in your current home? Are you downsizing to a smaller home and just don’t want to part ways with your items yet? You’ll probably need a storage unit of some sort for that. Be prepared to pay a monthly fee for your storage unit if you don’t plan on selling your extra items before moving.

Pest Control – Not every seller is willing to divulge information about any recent bug or pest problem they’ve experienced. Additionally, not all home inspections will monitor for signs of infestations. Don’t be surprised if a few extra bugs or critters find your way into your home. Factor in enough money to call in an exterminator should you receive any unwanted guests.

Utility and Service Connection/Transfer Fees – If you’re relocating, some cable and utility companies might charge fees for new installations or relocation requests. Be sure that you know how much money having the lights on will cost you and save back for utilities. Homeowners, be sure that you include waste and water into your budget as well!

Your Last Mortgage or Lease Payment – If you want to avoid owing your current mortgage or rent payment in addition to your new mortgage payment, try to time the expiration of your current agreements so that they won’t overlap with your new agreements. Renting? Try to leave when your lease is up. If this isn’t possible, talk to your landlord. He or she may accept a premature lease termination if they are able to locate a new tenant shortly.

Closing Costs – You might have already thought about closing costs, but the amount of the costs can vary. Your lender can offer good-faith estimates for appraisals and other fees; however, if the costs wind up being more than their estimate, they have no legal obligation to pay the difference. Keep in mind, too, that closing costs can increase by up to 10% by the time the deal is finalized.

Even though owning a new home can come with a few financial surprises, it’s always smart to have a backup in case of emergencies. Talk to your agent at Madison Mutual today to review your homeowners insurance policy by calling 1-800-766-MMIC!

Share the Road! May Is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

As the weather continues to get warmer and warmer, we will see more motorcycles gracing the roads. While riding with your hair whipping in the wind is definitely an exhilarating feeling, there are many risks when it comes to riding a motorcycle. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), motorcycle fatalities accounted for 15% of total fatalities in 2013. Additionally, when looking at the accident rates per vehicle miles traveled, the NHTSA estimates that motorcyclists are 30 times more likely than car motorists to be involved in a fatal accident and are also 5 times more likely to be injured.

Now more than ever in this time of smart phones and distractions, it is important to remain vigilant on the road and be aware of the drivers around us, cars and motorcycles alike. Here are some tips for both car motorists and motorcycle riders to follow in order to help minimize accidents on the road:

For car motorists:

*Never drive while distracted! Doing so can result in tragedy for you and for others, including motorcyclists. Put away your smartphone and focus on the road.

*Share the road. Allow motorcycles the full width of the lane at all times.

*Check all mirrors and blind spots for motorcycles before changing lanes or merging, especially at intersections. Motorcycles are smaller, making it easy to misjudge their speed and distance.

*Always signal when changing lanes or merging with traffic so others know your intentions.

For motorcyclists:

*Always wear a helmet and protective gear. A DOT-compliant helmet is your safest option.

*Carry your license with you at all times and obey all traffic laws.

*Refrain from riding the lines of a lane. Stay in the middle of the lane so others can see you more clearly.

*Exercise increased caution when on the road. Try to anticipate the moves of other vehicles around you.

*Avoid riding when the weather is inclement.

*Never ride when you’re impaired or distracted.

Following these simple tips can really save lives on the road. For additional protection, be sure to contact your Madison Mutual agent to see if your insurance policy is up-to-date. Call us at 1-800-766-MMIC or visit us online at www.madisonmutual.com today!

Hey, Indiana! We’re Officially Coming to You This Summer!

We have some exciting news! Madison Mutual is growing and is coming to the state of Indiana this summer! We are currently in the process of appointing agents to attend to the needs of policyholders and to partner with agencies throughout Indiana. We will be ready to conduct business statewide on Wednesday, June 1, and we couldn’t be more excited!

This expansion is providing all of us here at Madison Mutual with the opportunity to continue growing and diversifying our business even more. We are so excited to be entering the market in Indiana and look forward to better serving our current and future policyholders and agency partners through this expansion!

We will continue to provide the same great services and product offerings in Indiana as we do in Illinois, Missouri, and Wisconsin. This includes offering auto, home, umbrella, and dwelling insurance to our policyholders. Our Indiana offices will also have the same hours as our offices in Illinois, Missouri, and Wisconsin have.

If you aren’t familiar with Madison Mutual, just visit us on our website at www.madisonmutual.com or call us at 1-800-766-MMIC to learn all about who we are and how we can protect what matters to you!