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Top 10 Ways to Make the Holidays Greener

Buying. Wrapping. Shipping. Decorating. The holiday season is in full swing, and that means all of the waste that goes along with the festivities is beginning to pile up.


We're not trying to be a scrooge. We just want to share some tips for making the holidays a little less wasteful this year. Here are 10 of our favorite ones - though weíre in favor of anything that makes the season greener:

1. Decline bags.
 When you're shopping, decline bags as often as possible. Bring your own reusable bags or use the bag you received at the first store at the next several stores too.

2. Choose gifts with minimal packaging.
 Make a conscious choice to buy products that are minimally packaged or packaged in recyclable materials.

3. Buy recycled wrapping paper - and reuse it.
 Or re-purpose paper, such as newspapers and magazines, you already have around the house to wrap presents.

4. Make the gift wrap part of the gift.
 Use a dishtowel or T-shirt to wrap presents or place gifts inside a nice jar or vase.

5. Rethink holiday cards.
 Send postcards instead of cards to eliminate the envelope. Even better, send e-cards or make a video call to eliminate paper - and stamps - all together.

6. Give experiences.
 Consider gift cards or tickets to movies, restaurants, classes, concerts or sporting events so the recipient experiences something meaningful rather than getting something tangible.

7. Make the donation the gift.
 By making charitable donations in friends and family members' names, you can make them feel good while helping others.

8. Skip single-use dinnerware and cookware.
 Just say no to paper and plastic cups, plates and utensils. Use cloth napkins. And serve or transport food in reusable containers. If you're worried about leaving your favorite dish behind at a party, buy a new one and plan to leave it with the host as a gift.

9. Decorate naturally.
 Trim your tree with pinecones, dried flowers, popcorn garland or berries - things that, if they end up in a landfill, they won't be there forever.

10. Recycle your tree.
 Check with your city on curbside tree pickup days or find a drop-off center in your area. Or buy a potted tree you can plant in your yard later.

And, when the holidays are said and done? Donate clothing, toys and even appliances you no longer need so someone else can get some use out of them. Now that's smart recycling.

Contact Us!

At Oltman S&V Insurance, we can work with you to make sure you've got the coverage you need, while at the same time using all the possible credits and discounts to make that coverage affordable.

 Call us at 360-734-3960 or 360-354-5988 or email us at info@oltmaninsurance.com. We want to help you meet your goals, and make sure what's important to you is protected!

 Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance.

Five Sure-Fire Ways to Get Your Car Stolen

Five Sure-Fire Ways to Get Your Car Stolen

Most people would say their car is one of the most valuable assets they own - if not the most valuable. Despite that, however, some people make it downright easy for thieves to drive off in their pride and joy.

At Oltman S&V Insurance Services, we don't want you walking out your door to an empty driveway or leaving the local mall only to find some broken glass left behind in your parking space. So take care to avoid these five mistakes.

1. Leave your car running  -  and unattended. We know it can be chilly in the mornings, and who wants to wait in a cold car while it warms up? Well, a thief certainly won't mind the chill - as he's driving away in your car while you're finishing that cup of coffee in your kitchen. If your car is running, you should be in it. Period. Even if you're just running over to the ATM to get some cash or dropping off some mail.
2.Keep a spare set of keys inside the car. Law enforcement agencies say this is a great way to turn a car prowler into a car thief. They're already breaking into your car to get a phone, or a laptop, etc. What do you think they're going to do when they find a set of keys? They're not going to drop them off on your porch with a nice note, that's for sure.
3.Put valuables in plain sight. Seems simple, but we've all made this mistake. You'll just be in the store for a second, after all, so who cares if you leave your smartphone on the front seat? Or items from your other errands in the back seat? Be smart - if you have to leave items in your car, put them in the trunk, or at least hide them as best you can. And do it before you get to your next destination.
4.Leave your car unsecured. The best thieves can work wonders with a window that's left open even just a crack. And even the worst thieves can steal a car that's been left unlocked, with no alarm set.
5.Assume nobody would want to steal your car. Think your car is too old or too undesirable for a thief to bother? Scrap metal is worth money, so never assume that your car is safe - even if you think it's just a "junker".

Keeping thieves away helps to keep everyone's insurance costs down, so avoiding these mistakes not only will save you hassle, it will save you money as well. So stay safe, not only on the roads, but in the parking lots as well!

Contact Us!

At Oltman S&V Insurance, we can work with you to make sure you've got the coverage you need, while at the same time using all the possible credits and discounts to make that coverage affordable.

 Call us at 360-734-3960 or 360-354-5988 or email us at info@oltmaninsurance.com. We want to help you meet your goals, and make sure what's important to you is protected!

 Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance.



Be Charitable This Holiday Season but Sensible and Safe Too
It's a wonderful time of the year to be charitable. And that makes it a great time to go over some tips on how to donate to those less fortunate while keeping your identities and bank accounts safe.

Unfortunately, depending on how you donate, those in need may never see the effects of your goodwill. That's because criminal organizations pose as charities in order to steal credit card numbers and other personal information, especially during times when they know people are feeling generous, such as around the holidays.

There are things you can do to help ensure your donation goes where it will do the most good. Here are three:

1. Find out as much as you can about the charity.
 In its 2012 Holiday Giving Poll, the American Red Cross found that 46 percent of survey participants consider a friend's endorsement to be the most trustworthy source of information about charities. However, you really want to investigate a charity yourself if you're considering donating to it. Find out how much of your donation will go to those in need rather than to administrative costs and salaries. You can do some research through the Better Business Bureau or Charity Navigator. Also check the organization's own website, as well as any news reports you can find.

2. Be careful where you click when donating online.
 Only 11 percent of participants in the Holiday Giving Poll consider social media to be a trustworthy source of information about charities. It's smart to be wary of donation requests from a Facebook page or Twitter post. Clicking on a social media link or a link from an email could lead you into a scam and down the road to identity theft. To donate online, type in the charity's URL carefully. A typo in the URL could lead you to an imposter site run by criminals. Also ensure the URL on the donation page begins with "https," indicating a secure site, rather than "http."

3. If someone asks for a piece of your life, think twice before giving it.
 In an ideal world, we could give our credit card numbers out over the phone or to someone who comes to the door collecting donations. It feels good be generous, after all. However, you can't be sure these people really represent the organization they say they do. Plus, donating over the phone decreases the amount you give - that call center agent has to be paid. So instead of donating over the phone or at the door, ask the solicitor for information about the charity, such as its website, so you can research it and donate later, if you like. Don't be pressured into giving now in order to be entered into a drawing or other giveaway.

With a little research and caution, donating this holiday season will benefit those in need and help keep you safe at the same time. Enjoy the holidays!

Contact Us!

At Oltman S&V Insurance, we can work with you to make sure you've got the coverage you need, while at the same time using all the possible credits and discounts to make that coverage affordable.

 Call us at 360-734-3960 or 360-354-5988 or email us at info@oltmaninsurance.com. We want to help you meet your goals, and make sure what's important to you is protected!

 Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance.



Holiday Safety Tips for Your Four-Legged Friends

Holiday Safety Tips for Your Four-Legged Friends



As a nation, our pets are like family, so letís make sure they enjoy the holidays with us while staying safe. As a general rule of thumb, always keep pets on a regular routine, even during the holiday season. Donít let regular feeding, exercising and playing times fall by the wayside as you go about your merry way shopping, entertaining and enjoying the festivities.

That being said, the holidays bring about special circumstances, from houseguests to decorations, that can be unsafe for pets. With a little extra diligence, you can help keep pets safe from these seasonal dangers.
 Here are some holiday safety tips for pets to keep in mind:

Trees
  • Anchor your tree securely so it doesnít fall over on people or pets.
  • Ensure pets canít get to the water keeping your tree lush and green. It may contain fertilizers and bacteria that can make them sick.
  • While trimming your tree, forgo the tinsel. Itís too tempting for pets, and they may accidentally swallow it, causing internal damage that could require surgery. Also keep any ornaments, lights and electrical wires that may interest pets out of reach.

Decorations
  • Place lit candles on a non-flammable surface, away from the areas your pet frequents. And never leave burning candles unattended.
  • Skip the mistletoe. And the holly. And the lilies and poinsettias. While these plants are often synonymous with the season, they can also be dangerous Ė even deadly Ė if pets decide to nibble on them.
  • Be careful where you place edible decorations, such as popcorn garland and gingerbread houses. They shouldnít be within reach of your pets.

Presents

  • Keep any food items youíre giving as gifts tucked away so pets canít tear into them. Under the tree is no place for these Ė especially if itís something toxic, such as chocolate.
  • If any of the goodies under the tree require batteries, donít leave extra ones sitting out where pets can get to them and chew on them.
  • Clean up thoroughly after the present opening extravaganza. Any ribbons or silica gel packs left out could look like a toy to your pet.
Parties
  • Ensure pets donít sample the holiday treats by keeping human food and adult beverages out of reach, as well as a tight lid on the trashcan.
  • Have guests, whether they are staying for a few hours or several days, keep their bags tightly zipped so pets canít get into medications and other hazards.
  • Prepare a quiet room or a kennel with fresh water where pets can relax away from the noise and crowds of any celebrations youíre hosting.
Take your pets' safety and well-being into account when youíre preparing for and celebrating the season so the entire family Ė furry or not Ė can enjoy the holidays together. If your pets do become ill despite your efforts, seek emergency help. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals operates a 24-hour Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4435.

Contact Us!

At Oltman S&V Insurance Services, we can work with you to make sure youíve got the coverage you need, while at the same time using all possible credits and discounts to make that coverage affordable.

Call us at 360-734-3960 or 360-354-5988 or send us a note at info@oltman.com. We want to help you meet your goals, and make sure whatís important to you is protected!

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance.



6 Common Holiday Travel Mistakes to Avoid

6 Common Holiday Travel Mistakes to Avoid



We all know how rough it can be to battle airport crowds on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, or fight through traffic on the drive to visit family across Washington. But have you ever wondered why holiday travel is so stressful? In part, it's due to the unintentional mistakes people make.

If you'd like your travels to be a little less bumpy this holiday season, here's what you should avoid doing:

1.Waiting too long to buy airfare
 Many people think if they wait, fares will drop just before the holidays. But a CheapAir.com analysis of more than 300 million airfares from 2013 showed that the "fire sale" you're hoping for isn't likely to happen. So look for your holiday airfares now. The analysis also found that prices start to rise significantly in early November.

2.Traveling on peak days
 It makes sense to travel on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and come home the Sunday after. But that's what everybody does. If you can adjust your schedule and find non-peak days to fly or drive, you'll save a lot of stress, and maybe even some money.

3.Flying with a ton of gifts
 It seems like everyone is loaded down over the holidays. Remember, the lighter you can travel, the easier it will be. Ship gifts ahead of time or wait until you arrive at your destination to buy them. If you must carry gifts on your flight, don't wrap them. Security agents might open them during a search.

4.Failing to reserve airport parking
 Airport parking lots fill up at busy times, and private lots do, too. People who just show up and hope to find a spot might be in for an unpleasant surprise - and a lot of circling around. Be smart and make a parking reservation ahead of time.

5.Forgetting insurance
 Travel insurance, which can protect you against flight cancellations and trip interruptions, isn't always necessary. Many people don't even consider it. However, if you've spent a lot on airfare and hotel rooms, that coverage could make a big difference.

6.Not Having a Plan B
 You've seen the people who aren't prepared when things go sideways. They're waiting in line at the airline counter or sitting on the side of the road because they didn't bring snow chains. It doesn't have to be that way. Always think ahead about what you need for bad weather, flight cancellations, road closures and more.
Everyone's human, and we all make mistakes. Avoid the ones here, and you'll be in much better shape than most of your fellow holiday travelers.

Enjoy the coming festivities and be safe!

Contact Us!

At Oltman S&V Insurance Services, we can work with you to make sure youíve got the coverage you need, while at the same time using all possible credits and discounts to make that coverage affordable.

Contact us at info@Oltmaninsurance.com. We want to help you meet your goals, and make sure whatís important to you is protected!

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance.



Protect Your Most Treasured Possessions

Protect Your Most Cherished Possessions


If you're like most people, there are certain items you own that you can't imagine ever losing - possessions you deeply cherish or those that would be impossible to replace due to the cost of re-purchasing them or simply because theyíre irreplaceable.

While your homeowners insurance is invaluable for covering the loss or destruction of many of your belongings (as well as damage to your home's structure), your policy might provide only partial coverage for your most cherished items.

The good news is that you can still protect the things that matter to you most, even if they're not fully covered under your homeowners insurance, with a scheduled personal property endorsement that is tailored to meet your specific needs.

Not an easy name, but it can help you sleep better at night.


A scheduled personal property endorsement is not something that everyone talks about, but at Oltman S&V Insurance Services, we can help you determine if it would be a good fit for you. The first step begins with you. Look around your home and make a list of your cherished possessions. Be sure to consider the following:

  • Jewelry
  • Antiques
  • Art
  • Collections
  • Musical instruments
  • Silverware/China
  • Autographed items
  • Rare or one-of-a-kind items
Once you have taken an inventory, make the time to talk with us at 360- 734-3960 or 360-354-5988. Or, start the conversation by emailing us at info@oltmaninsurance.com. We are here to help you determine whether your prized possessions need more coverage than your current policy provides.

Keep in mind that it is wise to complete an inventory every year or so, because it's easy to acquire new items over time that should be added to a scheduled personal property endorsement. It could be tragic to find yourself in a situation rendering you unable to replace what matters most to you.

Contact Us!

Keeping thieves away helps to keep everyone's insurance costs down, so avoiding these mistakes not only will save you hassle, it will save you money as well. '

At Oltman S&V Insurance, we can work with you to make sure you've got the coverage you need, while at the same time using all the possible credits and discounts to make that coverage affordable.

 Call us at 360-734-3960 or 360-354-5988 or email us at info@oltmaninsurance.com. We want to help you meet your goals, and make sure what's important to you is protected!

 Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance.


5 Wildfire Prevention Tips for Fall

6 Willdfire Prevention Tips for Fall



The end of summer doesnít necessarily mean the end of wildfire season. Depending on the weather, fires can still happen in the fall. So you still need to take care when youíre spending time outdoors, living in a dry area or passing through someplace with lots of natural fuel.

Many, if not most, wildfires are caused by humans, according to the National Park Service, so the good news is that many fires can be prevented. Usually it just takes a little common sense to prevent a lot of damage.

Here are five tips from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources and other agencies that anyone can follow to minimize the risk of starting a wildfire:

1. Be smart with campfires and barbecues. Check if summertime campfire bans have been lifted, and only start a fire in an approved area as determined by the local authorities. Keep a shovel or rake and a bucket of water nearby in case you need to put out your fire, and never leave a smoldering fire unattended. This goes for discarding charcoal briquettes and using backyard fire pits too.

2. Take care with your vehicles. Donít park any vehicle in a dry, grassy area. Heat from exhaust systems can ignite the grass. And make sure recreational vehicles have operating spark arresters.

3. Dispose of cigarettes properly. Improperly discarded cigarettes can quickly start a blaze. So make sure itís out, and, better yet, donít litter. (Even better? Stop smoking!) In many areas, throwing burning material from your vehicle can result in a hefty fine.

4. Follow the rules for outdoor waste burning. Donít burn anything unless you are well aware of the regulations in your city or county. And make sure the surrounding area is safe. Clear flammable materials within 30 feet of your house, remove dead vegetation and keep your lawn and trees well maintained.

5. Keep a close eye on your surroundings. Just because youíre being smart about wildfire prevention doesnít mean everyone else is. If you see an unattended campfire, take steps to put it out. And if you see an out-of-control fire, call 911 or the local fire department.

Fall is still a great time to go camping and spend time outdoors, and taking a few precautions with fires and flammables can help keep you safe. Not to mention being cautious can prevent thousands or even millions of dollars in damage.

Contact Us!

At Oltman S&V Insurance Services, we can work with you to make sure youíve got the coverage you need, while at the same time using all possible credits and discounts to make that coverage affordable.

Contact us att info@oltmaninsurance.com. We want to help you meet your goals, and make sure whatís important to you is protected!

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance.
   



Essential Tips for Nighttime Boating

Essential Safety Tips for Nighttime Boating



If you own a boat (or better yet, as the joke goes, you know someone who does), you've probably thought about spending some evenings on the water - especially in the summertime.

It's a great thought, of course. But, when you're boating after dark in Washington, Idaho, California, Oregon or North Dakota, you 'need to think about staying safe, even as you enjoy the stillness of the water and the starry sky.

Here are seven things to keep in mind, both before you hit the water and once you're out cruising around:

1. Have a plan - and tools to help if it goes wrong.
 Don't go boating at night in an unfamiliar place. You can't see as well, obviously, so stick to where you know the ropes, so to speak. And because things look different in the dark, make sure you have the correct navigational tools in case you get lost.

2. Share your plan.

 Always give a friend or family member your "float plan". Include where you're going, your boat's description and registration information, who's with you and when you'll be back.

3. Check - and dress for - the weather.
 On top of the other difficulties of boating at night, you don't want to get caught in a storm if you can help it. And you want to be comfortable, so be sure to bring clothing appropriate for the forecast. A sweatshirt, blanket and extra towels may come in handy, even in the summer.

4. Do a pre-trip inspection.
 This is good advice for daytime boating as well, but at night it's crucial that your navigation lights work, for starters. You also need a horn, plenty of fuel, a radio, a flashlight, flares, fire extinguishers and life jackets for all passengers.

5. Slow down.
 Speed is a factor in many boating accidents, and the limited visibility at night makes the water even more dangerous. Remember, you aren't going to be the only one on the water at night, so know the right-of-way rules.

6. Pay attention.
 Know how to monitor the navigation lights of other vessels to recognize which direction they are going. Be particularly cautious about small vessels, such as canoes and kayaks, as well as anchored or drifting boats. Their lights can be easily confused with lights onshore.

7. Don't get distracted - or drunk.
 It's never okay to drink and operate a boat, so be sure you have a designated driver. And, though you're out there to have fun, make sure you can still hear the sounds from approaching vessels. Keep the stereo low and your ears open.

While these tips are important, there's nothing like experience to help ensure a safe voyage. If you're a new boater or just in an unfamiliar vessel, you may want to put in more hours during the day before tackling an area at night. Even then, start with short evening outings and work your way up to a moonlight ride. And don't forget to turn on the lights at the dock before you go!

Contact Us!

At Oltman S&V Insurance, we can work with you to make sure you've got the coverage you need, while at the same time using all the possible credits and discounts to make that coverage affordable.

Call us at 360-734-3960 or 360-354-5988 or email us at info@oltmaninsurance.com. We want to help you meet your goals, and make sure what's important to you is protected!

Reposted with permission from the original author, Safeco Insurance.



Celebrate National Night Out With Your Neighbors

In 1984, National Night Out - "America's Night Out Against Crime" began as a way to promote crime prevention through neighborhood camaraderie.

Since then, according to the National Association of Town Watch (NATW), the annual even has taken root in tens of thousands of communities across the country, with more than 37 million people taking part in block parties, barbecues, parades, marches and more. It's all about sending a message to criminals: Our neighborhood is organized, and crime is not welcome here.

On the first Tuesday of August (or possibly October), you can join the millions who are committed to making their communities safer by taking part in an existing event or planning your own. Even if you only attend a gathering, you're still playing a part.

Planning a National Night Out Event

If your area has a neighborhood watch program, check to see if there's an event already planned. If so, the organizers will be happy to have your support.If there's nothing in the works and you want to host your own, decide what's appropriate for your neighborhood (and manageable for you). Maybe it's a small ice-cream social or a big barbecue. The possibilities are endless. And be sure to visit your city's website or Facebook page; many municipalities offer assistance in setting up an event. Some will even arrange to have law-enforcement representatives stop by.

NATW, the organization that started National Night Out, has great resources as well. When you register your event at natw.org, you'll receive an official organizational kit with guidelines and suggestions.

Of course, you can have an event without registering or checking in with your city. Getting people together and focusing on making your community safer is what's important.

Quick tips for all National Night Out parties
  • Give your guests as much notice as possible.
  • Have nametags for neighbors to fill out and wear; 67 percent of homeowners in a study by Nextdoor and Harris Interactive said knowing their neighbors helps them feel safer.
  • Briefly explain the purpose of National Night Out and promote neighborhood watch basics, such as reporting suspicious activity to the police, etc.
  • Gather addresses, phone numbers and email addresses of neighbors, and, with their consent, provide a list to everyone later.
  • Finally, remember to have fun! Yes, the safety aspect of National Night Out is important, but it's just as vital to get to know your neighbors better and enjoy their company. After all, that's what building a stronger community is all about.
Contact Us!

At Oltman  S&V Insurance Services, we can work with you to make sure you've got the coverage you need, while at the same time using all possible credits and discounts to make that coverage affordable.

Call us at 360-734-3960 in Bellingham or 360-354-5988 in Lynden. You can send us a note at info@Oltmaninsurance.com. We want to help you meet your goals, and make sure what's important to you is protected!

This article provided courtesy of Safeco Insurance.




  
      
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