Avoid These Unexpected Wedding Expenses

Avoid These Unexpected Wedding Expenses

It’s wedding season once again. If you’re planning to walk down the aisle in the near future, you’re probably already aware that the average cost of a wedding is over $25,000. Even frugal weddings cost thousands of dollars nowadays, so if you want to have all of the fun and romance without the inflated bill, be aware of these costs that you may not expect, and be prepared to deal with them accordingly.

The Venue

If you’re planning to rent out a location for your wedding, be prepared to pay for it, especially in peak season. If you’re looking to save some money, plan your wedding in an off-peak month, or on a weeknight when the venue won’t have as much demand. People planning smaller weddings can also consider getting married at home, or at a local park – just be prepared to pay for chair and table rentals.

The Flowers

Between the bride’s bouquet, bridesmaids’ bouquets, and boutonnieres, you’re probably racking up quite a floral tab. And if you want to add corsages and boutonnieres for the moms and dads? What about floral centerpieces at the reception? To save some money on flowers, cut down on how many you will need. Consider building the bouquets and boutonnieres yourself (it isn’t all that difficult) with flowers from a local florist.

The Photographs

Your wedding photographs are pictures that you will look back on for a lifetime, so you want to make sure that they’re good. If you have a friend or relative that has a nice camera, consider paying them to take your portraits. There are also services like WedPics that will allow guest to upload their pictures of the wedding.

The Bar

It’s an endless debate – do you offer an open bar at your wedding, or make your guest pay for their drinks? If you want to offer drinks without spending too much, consider only supplying beer and wine, or only offering an open bar for a few hours before switching to a cash bar.

The Catering

Catering is often second on the list of highest wedding costs. Avoid breaking the bank by cutting back on your catering costs – serve three courses instead of five, or offer only fish and chicken instead of paying for costlier beef dinners. You could also save by opting to have your wedding earlier in the day and serving lunch instead.

The Miscellaneous Costs

The truly unexpected costs are the ones that will end up derailing your wedding budget. Be prepared beforehand, though, and you won’t be surprised. Remember that it’s customary to tip venue staff and vendors 10% – 20%, account for dress alterations, and remember to ask if your ceremony or reception venue charges parking fees.

If you want to protect all of the money that you’re planning to spend on your wedding, call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655 and ask about a wedding or special event insurance policy. The insurance experts here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance want to help protect you from your engagement to your special day and beyond!

Five Things You Should Know About Your Home Insurance

Things You Should Know About Your Home Insurance

You know that you need home insurance, but how much do you know about your policy? Do you know what your policy does (and doesn’t) cover? Do you know why you should keep your home up to date on maintenance, or what you can do to lower your premium? Find the answers to these questions and more below, and make sure to call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency with your home insurance questions.

What your policy covers.

Every policy is different, but the basic coverage types in a Massachusetts home insurance policy are the same. Your policy will probably cover your property and your possessions in the event of theft, vandalism, fire, and certain storms. It will also probably afford you some liability protection and shelter costs in the event that you are forced to temporarily reside elsewhere.

What your policy doesn’t cover.

On the other hand, you should know what’s not covered under your home insurance policy. If you want coverage for events like earthquakes or floods, you will need supplemental insurance policies. Similarly, if you have valuable items like jewelry, art, or antiques, talk to a Massachusetts insurance expert about adding these items to your home insurance policy with a floater or valuable items policy.

Why good maintenance is important.

As a smart consumer, you’ve probably realized that your insurance provider would rather have issues prevented before they become claims. Catching small problems before they escalate will mean savings for both you and your insurance provider, so make sure to stick to your home’s maintenance calendar, and have all major systems inspected by a professional annually. These two actions will help you catch small issues.

Also make sure to keep an eye on your meters – if, for instance, your water bill starts to skyrocket for no apparent reason, you could have a leak on your hand, which you should have inspected right away.

What you can do to reduce your premium.

Just as it’s important to keep up with your home’s maintenance, you should take other preventative actions in your home. Some of these actions may even get you a discount on your home insurance premium! Depending on your insurance provider, these preventative discounts could apply to homes with:

  • Fire alarm and/or smoke detector
  • Burglar alarms and/or security systems
  • Deadbolt locks for all outer doors
  • A pool cover or child-safe pool fence

To find out if you are eligible for any of these home insurance discounts, contact your Massachusetts insurance agent today.

Why you should shop around.

You shop around when you’re looking for a new home, and you need to do the same with your home insurance policy. Shopping around helps ensure that you get the right coverage for your unique needs, and ensures that the price that you pay fits your budget.

If you need help shopping around for a Massachusetts home insurance quote, just call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655. We can get quotes from several insurance providers and will help you select the one that’s right for you and your loved ones.

Do These Things Before Leaving for a Vacation

Summer vacation is finally here – are you planning a family trip? Many families will be taking advantage of school breaks and beautiful weather to go somewhere and make memories.

Do These Things Before Leaving for a Vacation

Whether you’re staying close to home with a trip to Cape Cod or the Berkshires, or leaving for a cross country or international trip, make sure that you make a detailed checklist of the things that you need to do before you leave. Every family’s checklist will be different, but here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • Check to make sure that all bills are taken care of for the entire time that you will be gone. Send in payments early or schedule automatic payments so that you won’t come back facing late fees.
  • Contact your local post office to put a hold on your mail, and stop newspaper deliveries. Nothing tells a burglar that you’re away quite like an overflowing mailbox or pile of old papers.
  • Clean out your wallet or purse of all unnecessary items. This includes credit cards and rewards cards that you won’t need. While you’re at it, make sure to write down emergency contact information and keep it in a safe place. Also give a copy to a neighbor or family member.
  • Carry copies of important documents with you when you travel. This can mean passports for international trips, or credit cards for domestic and international travel.
  • Call your bank and credit card companies to let them know you will be travelling. They will often put a note on your account so that your card isn’t frozen for suspicious activity. Some institutions will even let you do this online.
  • Purchase travel snacks and entertainment. Nothing busts a vacation budget quite like needing to purchase food and entertainment while you travel. Instead, pack a travel bag full of healthy snacks and several entertainment options from home.
  • Before you leave your home, make sure that your electronics are fully charged, and that your chargers are packed in an easy-to-reach place. You may even want to invest in an extra battery or a portable charger for your devices.
  • Tidy your home. It doesn’t have to sparkle, but there’s something to be said for coming home to an organized place. Take out the trash and clean out the fridge before you leave, and pick up any noticeable clutter. Extra kudos if you’re able to clean the sheets and do some laundry!
  • Take a walk around your home and power off or unplug everything you can. Obviously things like your fridge need to keep running, but the more that you can unplug the less you will spend on phantom energy, and the lower your chances of a spontaneous electrical fire while you’re away.

Of course, as Massachusetts insurance experts, we always encourage our clients to make a quick call to our agency before leaving for a trip to ensure that your policies will protect you while you’re away. For a quick and free review of your home insurance, just call 617-298-0655. Also make sure that you get an auto insurance review if you’re taking a road trip or parking your car at the airport for an extended period of time.

What to Do with Specialized Waste in Boston

specialized waste

Boston is a beautiful city, and here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency, we do everything that we can to keep it beautiful. To keep the city looking its best, make sure that you properly dispose of all your waste. For specialized items, check out our handy guide below that will show you the best way to get rid of some trickier items.

Recyclables

Many items are recyclable here in Boston, including the traditional items like newspaper, cardboard, glass bottles, aluminum cans, and more. In addition, the city also added two new items to the recyclable list: cardboard spiral cans (like those used for potato chips, coffee, and nuts) and rigid plastics (laundry baskets, toys, etc.).

Items like Styrofoam, light bulbs, food waste, televisions and computer monitors, and plastic bags should not be recycled. Please visit the Recyclable Materials page on cityofboston.gov for a full list of recyclable (and non-recyclable) materials. We recommend printing out this list and putting it in a visible place so that you know what you can recycle.

Leaves and Yard Waste

From the first week of April until the end of the first week of December, the city of Boston will collect yard waste and debris. Yard waste collection is on the same day as your recycling day during select weeks. Make sure that you place leaves and yard waste in large paper leaf bags or open barrels (do not use plastic bags). Tie large branches together with a string and place them alongside other debris. Make sure that all of this is curbside and ready for collection before 7am on your yard waste pickup day.

Paint and Motor Oil

If you have paint or used motor oil that you wish to dispose of, bring them to one of the many Paint Swaps held throughout the months of May, June, July, and August in the Greater Boston Area. Drop off paint that you no longer want, or pick up free paint that someone else can’t use. They will also take used motor oil for proper disposal.

Hazardous Waste

If you have hazardous waste, plan to visit one of the City of Boston’s Hazardous Waste Disposal and Paper Shredding events. They hold several each year in various parts of the city. Drop off your hazardous materials, and also any sensitive documents that you would like to have shredded. Hazardous materials include aerosol cans, flammable liquids, pool chemicals, pesticides, chlorine bleach, gasoline, and much more – visit the event page for a complete list.

If you have prescription medications that you want to dispose of safely, there are Drug Disposal Kiosks at several local district police stations. They are available for public use 24/7. These kiosks are both anonymous and environmentally friendly.

If there is an item not covered here that you want to get rid of, you can look up instructions on the City of Boston Household Waste Lookup Page. Just input the name of the item that you’re interested in, and you should get instructions on how to recycle or dispose of it. For more tips about how to dispose of specialized waste and keep Boston beautiful, stay tuned to the Vargas and Vargas Insurance Blog.

Do You Make These 4 Cleaning Mistakes?

4 cleaning mistakesKeeping your home clean and organized is a constant battle for most people. It may seem like each time you clean something, it’s dirty again in no time. It turns out that you may be making some cardinal cleaning mistakes! Almost everyone will admit to believing at least one (if not several) of these four cleaning myths. Read more about what you could be doing wrong, as well as the truth behind the lies, below:

Myth 1: Only expensive products can clean your oven properly.

It’s nearly impossible to keep an oven clean. No matter how diligent you are, something is bound to overflow and make a mess on the bottom of your oven. Fear not, though – it turns out that you can clean your oven with materials that you have in your home already. All you need is baking soda, vinegar, water, and some patience. With this method, you can clean the grime off of your oven without using harsh chemicals.

Myth 2: Don’t wash cast iron pans.

Cast iron pans are made out of iron (obviously), and iron and water are enemies, right? If you let your cast iron pans soak you will end up with rusty pans that you can’t use. But did you know that you can use water to clean your cast iron as long as you make sure to dry the pans thoroughly afterwards? The Kitchn recommends setting your clean and empty pan on the stove over low heat to ensure that it dries fully.

Myth 3: A clean pillowcase means a clean pillow.

Most people throw pillowcases in when washing their sheets and then consider their pillows clean. It turns out that some skin cells and facial oils will leak through your pillow case and into your pillow, so you need to clean the pillow itself at least twice a year. Down and fiberfill pillows can be run through the washing machine, and foam pillows can be vacuumed or run through a no heat dryer cycle.

Myth 4: You need to get rid of all the germs and have everything sparkle.

We’re brought up to think that germs are the enemy. They’re micro-invaders that come into our homes and make us sick. It turns out that letting a few germs slide could be a good thing, though. In fact, some studies say that being exposed to some germs builds up a person’s immune system. In a recent study by Northwestern University, it was found that children that were exposed to germs and got sick more as toddlers had less inflammation in adulthood. So clean your home, but don’t feel like you need to eliminate every last germ from your home.

And if you’re looking to keep your home protected against more than just dirt and germs, speak with a Vargas and Vargas Insurance agent about getting a Massachusetts home insurance policy. With one quick call to 617-298-0655, you can learn about how to get coverage and financial protection against a range of potential hazards, including theft, fire, and much more.

Spotlight: The Vargas Insurance Mobile App

Vargas =AppNowadays, there is an app for everything – this is truer than ever now that the Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency mobile application has launched! Here at Vargas and Vargas, we want to be there for you around the clock, and now we’re one step closer – get the Vargas and Vargas app, and you will have Vargas and Vargas Insurance at your fingertips any time of the day or night. The app has several great features, including:

Mobile Access to Your Insurance Information

When you download the Vargas and Vargas Insurance app, you will always have your insurance information available. When you’re on the go and need your proof of auto insurance or personal property coverage information, you can access that without even having to call. If you do need to call, we’ve still got you covered – the app will give you all of our contact information, and even links to our Social Media profiles. You can even find out when your next bill is due, all from your smartphone.

Auto Accident Help

Most people get a little frazzled when they get into a car accident. When you have the Vargas and Vargas Insurance app on your phone, though, you’ll be prepared. Our app will help you get in touch with your agent, and can even help you gather the information that you will need in order to file an auto insurance claim with your cell phone!

A Home Inventory Tool

Your home or renters insurance policy likely covers the replacement cost of your belongings, but if a total loss were to occur, could you make a complete list of your possessions from memory? With a home inventory, you can have all of your belongings (along with their values and other information) on file with your insurance agency. Get the app today and start your home inventory to ensure peace of mind. Your inventory will be stored in the cloud, keeping it safe so that it will be there if you ever need it.

And Much More!

But wait! There’s more – in addition to all of the great features listed above, the Vargas and Vargas Insurance mobile app will give you the ability to keep track of your IDs, call a tow truck, get you directions if you get lost, and can aid you in calling for help in an emergency. With all of these great features, it should be clear why you need to add our app to your smartphone. Read more on how to get the app below.

How to Get the App

Visit the App page on our website and fill out the box labeled “Request Our App!” on the right hand side of the page. You will receive an email with links to download the App from either the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store – it’s that simple! In just a few short minutes, you could have all of these features and more at your fingertips, so don’t delay. If you need assistance in getting the app, call our office at 617-298-0655 – one of our agents would be happy to walk you through the process step by step.

Medical Insurance Tip: Outdoor Summer Exercise

outdoor summer exercise

Running and walking are great ways to get some exercise this time of year, especially if you are feeling cooped up and want to enjoy the beautiful summer weather. For those of you who may be thinking of taking part in outdoor summer exercise, make sure that you follow these five tips from the Massachusetts medical insurance experts in order to stay healthy and happy:

Exercise during Non-Peak Hours

We may live in the Northeast, but it can still get very hot here in Massachusetts. If you want to do your exercise outside and enjoy the nice weather, plan to do so in either the morning or the evening. This will ensure that you’re not outside at the hottest parts of the day (typically between 10 am and 3 pm), when heat exhaustion and heat stroke are more prevalent.

Studies have found that exercising first thing in the morning takes advantage of the early spike in hormones, and also will leave you more focused and energized for the rest of the day, as well as an improved mood.

Hydration is Key

It is easy to become dehydrated when exercising in the heat. To ensure that your body has enough water to accommodate your workout, drink plenty of water before, during, and after your time outdoors. While exercising, you should be taking a drink at least every 15 minutes, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Also make sure that your system is getting electrolytes, which can be found in many popular sports drinks.

Choose the Right Gear

When dressing for your workout, make sure that you wear loose clothing to aid the evaporation of sweat and keep you cool. Choosing to wear light colors will also aid in the reflection of heat. You may also want to try clothing specifically designed for workouts, which are often designed to keep you cool and dry.

Protect Your Skin

As top notch Massachusetts medical insurance providers, we know the importance of skin protection here at Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency. Whenever you are outside, you should be looking to protect your skin. Wearing shirts with sleeves will protect your shoulders, and a hat will protect your face. Also make sure to always wear high SPF sunscreen when you are outside, and make an effort to do your workout in a shady area or trail to avoid direct sun exposure.

Watch for Warning Signs

One of the best pieces of advice that you will receive in regards to exercising outdoors is this: listen to your body. If you ever feel nauseous, dizzy, or faint, stop your workout immediately and seek out shelter. If symptoms continue, see a medical professional for help.

If you’re serious about doing the best for your body, make sure that you have a top of the line medical insurance policy from Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency. One of our qualified and knowledgeable agents can provide a review of your current health insurance policy, or a quote for a new medical insurance policy with all the coverage you need. Just call 617-298-0655 to speak with a Vargas and Vargas Insurance representative.

Going on Vacation? Prepare Your Home!

prepare your home for vacationPlanning for a vacation can be stressful. After all, packing for yourself and your family is certainly no walk in the park, even if you will only be gone for a few days. When you’re getting ready to leave your home, make sure that it is also prepared for your absence.

Before you leave your home, run through and check off each of the following items:

Mow the Grass

If you don’t want to announce to the entire neighborhood that you’re away from home, you need to ensure that your house will maintain its normal appearance. One of the most prominent things that will tip others off about your absence is an overgrown lawn. Avoid this by mowing your lawn before you leave, or by arranging a neighbor to cut the grass while you’re away.

Make Arrangements for Newspaper and Mail Delivery

Another way that others will notice that you are gone is by a pile of old newspapers in the driveway or an overflowing mailbox. Prevent these buildups by either cancelling delivery while you are gone, or by arranging for a trusted neighbor to collect them while you’re gone. Newspapers handle holds differently, but the USPS allows Mail Hold requests to be made online for your convenience.

Invest in a Light Timer

A dark home will also begin to look suspicious after a few days. A quick trip to your local big box or hardware store can solve this with a simple light timer. Set the lights to turn on around twilight, and turn off about the time that you usually go to bed. Do this in all rooms that face the street, varying the times slightly for each room.

Unplug “Energy Vampires”

There is no point in wasting energy while you’re gone, so go through your home and unplug everything that you can before you leave. Obviously things like the refrigerator need to run, but the can opener, toaster, televisions, and computers can be unplugged. This will save you a bit on your energy bill, and reduce your chances of anything starting a spontaneous fire.

Also conserve energy in your absence by turning down the air while you’re away. There is no need to cool off an empty house, just ensure you maintain the necessary temperature for pets, houseplants, and furniture. In some cases, you can also set your water heater in vacation mode (typically indicated by a “VAC” setting – see your owner’s manual for more information).

Share Your Emergency Contact Information

It is always a good idea to share your emergency contact information with a trusted neighbor when you leave. Make sure that they know the dates that you will be gone, as well as the address of the place that you will be staying, and contact information for you and at least one family member that won’t be travelling with you.

Also make sure that your Boston home insurance policy is ready to protect your property while you’re away. Before you leave on your vacation, call Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency at 617-298-0655 for a quick and easy home insurance review. Then you can rest assured that your home is protected as you enjoy your vacation.

FAQ: Why Buy Insurance Through an Independent Agent?

buy insurance through an independent agent

Recently, you may have noticed (or even answered) a survey from Vargas and Vargas Insurance called “Help Me Help You” where we asked for your insurance questions. Well, we have collected all of the questions that were submitted and will start answering some of them here on the blog! The first question that we will tackle is a general insurance question from Terry:

Won’t I save a lot of money if I go directly to the insurance company? I see tons of ads on TV. Why shouldn’t I go directly to Geico, or Allstate, etc?

Selling Insurance – Then and Now

It used to be that insurance companies didn’t sell their policies directly to the public. At that time, an Independent Agent was the only way to get insurance. As insurance providers began to write their own policies and online purchases became popular, the independent insurance agencies never disappeared – they still offer many benefits that you can’t get otherwise.

Benefits of Having an Independent Agent

In most transactions, a “middle man” is something that you want to avoid at all costs, and buying directly from the manufacturer will save you money and hassle. In the insurance industry, though, this isn’t true! Here are a few facts regarding the benefits of purchasing your insurance coverage from a third party:

  • Independent agents are able to get quotes from dozens of insurance providers. Instead of you calling around to check coverage and prices, a Vargas and Vargas Insurance agent can do all the legwork for you, and then help you choose the policy that’s best for you.
  • Stay organized by having an independent agent handle all of your insurance policies – home, auto, life, business… Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency is a one stop shop for all of your insurance needs.
  • Insurance is complicated. A licensed independent agent can help you wade through all of the confusing jargon and will alert you to any potential issues that they identify. An independent agent doesn’t work for an insurance provider – they work for you! It is their job to ensure that you get the right policy, not the one with the largest commission.
  • Insurance providers are often nationwide. That means that they work with people from all 50 states. When each state has its own insurance laws and requirements, doesn’t it make sense that you should work with a Massachusetts insurance expert? Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency only writes insurance in Massachusetts, so we know what our local clients need when they’re looking for a policy!

If you’re looking for an Independent Agent in Massachusetts, give Vargas and Vargas Insurance Agency a call at 617-298-0655. Our agency has been serving residents of the Greater Boston area since 1986, and we are committed to providing our clients with the policies that they need, as well as insurance education, and much more.

For answers to more insurance questions from our “Help Me Help You” survey, including questions about home insurance, auto insurance, flood insurance, business insurance, and much more, stay tuned to our blog!

What are Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke?

heat exhaustion and heat stroke

Many people like to exercise outside once the weather begins to warm up. If you’re going to start taking your workout outdoors for the summer, or even going outdoors to play with your kids, make sure that you familiarize yourself with two common perils of exercising outdoors: heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Once you know the signs, keep reading to learn the steps that you can take to ‘beat the heat’ and help ensure that you are safe when participating in outdoor activities.

How to Identify Heat Exhaustion and Stroke

According to the American Heart Association, these are the common symptoms of each of these common summertime issues, along with treatment recommendations.

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion:

  • Headaches
  • Heavy sweating
  • Cold, moist skin, chills
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Weak or rapid pulse
  • Muscle cramps
  • Fast, shallow breathing
  • Nausea, vomiting or both

If you or someone else is suffering from either of these conditions, get out of the heat and into an air conditioned room or into the shade. Have the affected person drink fluids, and apply cooling techniques like fans or ice. If untreated, heat exhaustion can progress to heat stroke.

Symptoms of Heat Stroke:

  • Warm, dry or moist skin
  • Strong and rapid pulse
  • Confusion and/or unconsciousness
  • High body temperature (above 103°F)
  • Throbbing headaches
  • Nausea, vomiting or both

If someone has suffered a heat stroke, call for medical attention immediately. While waiting for help to arrive, employ cooling strategies like applying ice packs to the neck, back, armpits, and groin, or immersing the affected person in cool water or an ice bath.

How to Beat the Heat

Here are some steps that you can take if you want to work out outdoors without letting the heat get to you. Following some or all of these tips will help to ensure that you will have a good time outdoors, without any medical emergencies.

Stay hydrated – Make sure that you drink plenty of hydrating fluids (preferably water) before, during, and after your time outside. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.

Avoid peak hours – If you’re going outside, be strategic with the time that you choose. Instead of going at the hottest part of the day (typically between 4 and 6 pm) go just after sunrise or just before sunset – when there is plenty of light, but the temperatures are milder.

Ease into the outdoors – Let your body adapt to being outdoors instead of rushing in. Your body will do better if it is allowed to gradually acclimate to the heat over several days instead of all at once.

Dress properly – When you prepare to head out the door, make sure that you’re dressed in clothing that will help facilitate the evaporation of sweat. This means lightweight, light colored clothing in breathable fabrics like cotton.

When you spend time outdoors, also make sure that you take someone with you. Travelling with a buddy is much safer, and can make your exercise more fun too! Also make sure that a loved one knows where you are going, and how to contact you for safety reasons. Make sure to share this blog post (and other Vargas and Vargas Insurance Blog posts) with your loved ones and exercise buddy, too! Knowing the symptoms of heat stroke and heat exhaustion are vitally important to anyone that will be spending time outdoors this summer.