The Ultimate Guide to Pristine, Streak-Free, Windows

16 08 2013

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Image via Flickr creative commons from Erich Ferdinand

Cleaning your windows isn’t a task you should have to do too often, unless you have young children or pets, both of whom just love to get their sticky fingers and paws all over your windows. If you don’t have a local window cleaner or don’t wish to pay for one, you may also need to clean the outside of the windows. This is a much bigger undertaking and requires proper equipment and you must pay attention to relevant health and safety protocols to ensure your own safety.

There are many tools available to help you with cleaning windows, from micro-fibre cloths, squeegees, an e-cloth or an electric karcher window vac. Most of these products can be found at your local supermarket or online at Makro. If you have no chemicals available to you, all you need to clean your inside windows is some vinegar diluted in water (1:4 ratio), a cloth and some crumpled up newspaper. Clean with the vinegar solution and a cloth then buff clean with the newspaper. When cleaning the outside windows you will need a lot more just the vinegar solution, at the very least you will need washing up liquid dissolved in water to tackle the dust and grease from the roads. When cleaning inside and outside window sills, you will need to shift all the mildew that has gathered from your houses moisture. Use a nylon scrubbing brush, washing up liquid and a lot of elbow grease. If your frames have any cobwebs in the corner, use a broom if you can’t reach them.

The best tool for cleaning a large area of outside glass is a simple squeegee. These can be picked up at most supermarkets. The key to success with a squeegee is to buy a good quality squeegee and keep it fitted with a sharp new rubber blade. A squeegee such as this is what the pro’s use, when purchasing one, be sure to pick up 2 or 3 spare blades as once it becomes nicked or damaged in any way it won’t work nearly as effectively. Here are 7 quick steps to ensuring you gain a streak free shine from your squeegee;

–        Dip your scrubber (a sort of long stiff sponge on a stick) into a solution of 2 gallons hot water and 1 teaspoon of dish-washing liquid.

–        Scrub the glass, cleaning every inch

–        Wipe down one vertical line with the squeegee, right next to the edge

–        Then clean the rest of the glass with horizontal wipes

–        clean the squeegee blade on the scrubber or a clean towel

–        Then repeat the vertical and horizontal wipes

–        Finally use a micro-fibre, to wipe up any excess water

If you need to reach a higher floor than just the ground floor, you will need a safe and reliable ladder, ordering these online may be more trouble than it’s worth, head down to your local Wickes or B&Q, check out their selection online first, you may have to reserve the one you want.

If you live in a high rise building, you windows may be removable, lift them up off the tracks and pull them into your apartment, give the windows a proper clean with a cleaner such as Mr Muscle. You windowsills are a bit more of a maintenance job than the rest. Again use a nylon scrubbing brush, elbow grease and some detergent, then buff dry with a cloth. While cleaning you should also be checking for rot. If you find any rot this will need removing and replacing the same goes for crumbling putty. Flaking paint can be touched up with a small brush. A quick guide for repairing cracking putty can be found in the article here.

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Taking care of your golfing equipment

7 08 2013

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Image via Flickr creative commons from TourProGolfClubs

If you’re a regular golfer, then you’ll no doubt be well aware just how important it is to look after your equipment properly. After all, forking out for new golf clubs can be expensive – so it’s up to you to make sure you keep them in good condition. What’s more, there’s also the risk that your golf clubs may be stolen – so it might be a good idea to sign up for golf insurance with GolfCare, so that you’ve got that extra peace of mind. However, there are some steps you should take in order to ensure that your golf clubs are properly looked after. Here are a few suggestions you may wish to bear in mind.

According to About.com, looking after your golf clubs is likely to save you a significant amount of money in the long run. Firstly, you need to think about where you store your clubs. You might be tempted to leave them in the boot of your car or in your garage – but this could potentially be a problem when temperatures warm up. Although the head of the club and its shaft will be unaffected, the glues and resins used to hold the grip in place are likely to weaken. What’s more, prolonged exposure to humid condition can also increase the risk of rusting.

It might also be a good idea to use headcovers to protect your woods and putter, although you shouldn’t need them for your irons. Also, keep a towel attached to your bag and then use it to wipe down the face of the club after every shot. It’s important to make sure that dirt doesn’t start to harden on to the face of the club, so make sure you clean your club at least once every few rounds. In particular, you should always make sure you clean your clubs after playing a round in the rain. For best results, use a soft-bristled toothbrush and warm, soapy water to clean the face of a club. Once you’re done cleaning, wipe the face down using a towel.

Make sure you wipe your clubs’ grips down regularly using a damp cloth, and keep an eye out for any cracks, worn areas or shiny areas which might appear on your grips. When you see this sort of damage, it’s probably a reliable indicator that you need to invest in some new grips. Nicks, dents and splits can all start to appear in your clubs’ shafts over time, usually through being banged around. If you notice such flaws, you may want to think about buying replacement shafts.

A useful guide to golf club care from eBay also reminds us that keeping the heads of golf clubs free of dirt is a vital part of maintenance, and points out that different clubs will require different care. It may be worth opting for steel shafts as these are likely to be particularly durable – clubs can be susceptible to dents and nicks when being carried around in your bag, so it makes sense to pick clubs which offer a greater degree of resilience.





How Much Should You Pay For A New Laptop

6 08 2013

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Image via Flickr creative commons from Chris Meium

As with all forms of technology, there are a large number of factors that can affect price, from the features on offer through to special deals being run by the retailer. In most cases, it’s not a case of how much people should pay for a new laptop computer, but more how much are they willing to pay and what features are they prepared to shell out for. It’s usually the case that the higher the specs on offer, the more expensive the piece of kit will be, although consumers are getting a fair bit of bang for their buck with models such as Samsung’s Chromebook. With this in mind, below are three price points – bargain, average and high-end – as well as the kind of features that you can expect to find on laptops that fit into these three categories.

Bargain deals

Well everyone loves a bargain and in the world of laptops, prices have come down considerably in recent years. Are you looking for a device that will serve you well as a second computer, perhaps something you can take on a train with you to watch DVDs or throw into a weekend bag so you can connect to the web on the move? At the bottom end of the range you’re probably looking around the £250-300 mark. The good news is that for this kind of money you can get some pretty decent computing power and features. Have a look at laptops from BT Shop and you should be able to find a machine running Windows 8, probably with around 4GB of memory and between 300 and 500GB of storage space on the hard drive. Starter laptops with decent features tend to be carrying a fair bit of weight – something to remember if you’re looking for a portable option. Remember though, if you want ultra-cheap and ultra-portable then you might well have to sacrifice a lot when it comes to functionality and battery life.

Middle of the market

If you have a bit more cash to spend, say around the £500 mark then you’ll have more options when it comes to specs. For starters, you’re likely to get longer battery life which will make using the device on the move a whole lot easier. It’s often the case that by spending a little more on a laptop you’ll be able to get your hands on a larger screen and a decent quality audio system which will make watching and listening to audio a lot more pleasurable. You might well be able to shave a little weight off by splashing out a bit more cash – again, very useful if you’re going to be carrying a device around on your back. There are plenty of bargains out there, but as is often the case, you get what you pay for.

High end

If you have the cash in the bank then you shouldn’t find it too hard to pick up a laptop for £1,000 plus. For starters, by spending in the region of a grand you are going to get a laptop that looks the business – think about that bushed aluminium steel! A comfy keyboard and crystal clear screen will be standard, along with a powerful processor such as the Intel® Core™ i5-3317U processor or the Intel Dual-core 2.80 GHz Core i7 model that has gone into the Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch. A light weight, solid build should come as standard and if you have the cash to spend then you’re likely to end up with a big smile on your face!





5 Typical Small Business Call Handling Mistakes

6 08 2013

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Image via Flickr creative commons from starmanseries

When you’re the owner of a business, you have to consider the various ways in which you can improve the service you are offering to your customers. One of the routes many small businesses go down to improve the customer service experience is to employ a call handling service team. That way, should a customer wish to order or book something over the phone, ask for more information, or make a complaint, they will get through to a person rather than a machine. This simple notion proves to be a very effective means of ensuring that the customer is always happy and has been known to improve customer retention statistics. Things don’t always go to plan however. Here are five typical small business call handling mistakes that your company could be making.

1.      Sounding like a robot

While answering calls every day for a living may not be everyone’s idea of a hot shot career, the unfortunate truth is that someone has to do it. So many times when companies answer the customer helpline, the person on the other end is left baffled. Why? Because the employee goes through the company call opening spiel at such a rate of knots and in a monotone voice that you can’t always be sure that you’ve called the right place, never mind understanding what they’ve said. Gleaning a name by which to address them is nigh on impossible. Immediately the customer experience has taken a downturn and that’s before you’ve even begun. It may seem like a small thing but any professional telephone answering service like Moneypenny will work extremely hard on getting this part right.

2.      Reading from a script

Many call centre employees are accused of not listening to the person on the other end of the phone. That’s because a lot of call centre employers give their workers a script from which to work through during the phone call to ensure that they have covered every aspect necessary. With that however, comes the inevitability that the call handler will refuse to deviate from the script. So should the person on the other end of the phone ask a question that they were not expecting, they simply choose to ignore it or to repeat what they just said. Having a person to talk to on the other end of the phone is supposed to eliminate this from happening.

3.      Getting irritable with the customer

You’ll often find that the people who ring call centre helplines are the ones who would ordinarily struggle to book or order something online. As such, these people may already have had a disappointing experience with your company website, or may be unaware of how to order online. You have to bear in mind when you’re answering the phone, that these people will not be as well versed in company policy as yourself. So if you are required to explain things more than once, to repeat yourself often, or to talk them through the whole process, then you should try to maintain a calm and friendly approach. Getting annoyed with the customer will only make them angry in turn and less likely to use your services again.

4.      Being over friendly

Have you ever rung a helpline only to be put through to the chattiest, most smiley sounding colleague? While this may seem like a blessing at first, you may find that they start to deviate from the topic very quickly and instead try to find out about your day, what you’re up to later, the names of your grandchildren etc. It is true that some people who call these helplines are lonely and are in need of such chatter, but the majority only want their query to be dealt with and having someone they do not know ask probing questions about them may be off-putting.

5.      Transferring

Many a time I have rang a helpline number only to be told that the number I actually require is different. So you’re given the new number and told to ring that. Upon ringing the new number however, I’m told that I have reached the wrong department and that they will transfer me to someone else who can deal with the call; on and on this charade goes until I hang up frustrated. By supplying your customers with the correct number for each type of query, this is less likely to happen.





Getting the Most From Your Kitchen Food Storage

5 08 2013

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Image via Flickr creative commons from Phil Hawksworth    

The first step to perfect kitchen storage is to chuck out anything you don’t want or don’t use. Everyone has a jar or tin of something at the back of a fridge or cupboard. If it has been there longer than a year and not been touched – get rid of it.

There are some things, of course, that are only used once in a long while. Cumin, for instance, will store for a long time and the average amateur chef will only require it once in a blue moon. But space is not often at that much of a premium on your spice rack.

Of course, this is not a signal to root through everything and throw away all you don’t need. If your kitchen is not full to capacity, that 5-year-old tin of peaches may come in handy one day. If you are running out of space in your kitchen – now is the time to sort it out.

A lot of people nowadays have more advanced and larger methods of storing their food – such as AGA American Fridge Freezers. There are huge and even harder to fill up than a regular fridge but some people still manage it. Keep your most used items within easy reach – this counts for both food and utensils.

To keep food safe, make sure your fridge is at the correct temperature. Do not always rely on the in-built thermometer, put your own in to be safe. The ideal range is between 0 and 5C. Also, store food in the correct order – meat and poultry should be kept in clean, sealable containers and put at the bottom of the fridge. This will ensure the juices do not drip onto other foods and contaminate them. Cooked meat should also be kept as far as possible from raw meat.

Make sure food is fully cooled down before putting it in the fridge. The heat from the dish will raise the temperature of the rest of the fridge.

Outside of the fridge, there are a lot of other tricks you can use to store the likes of cutlery, utensils and pots and pans. If you have a gap between two cupboards, the type usually reserved for a wine rack or similar, why not make it a hand plate store? This can also work for any thin cupboard.

Insert some wooden slats vertically with a gap in between them big enough for plates to slide in and out of. If you are short on space, consider bringing in some plastic packaging. Cereal boxes are bulky and take up a lot of space, transferring their contents to a handy sealable tub can save on space.

Pull-out drawers in cupboards can also help you make the most of every little bit of space. Often you will find you have utensils and pans that sit at the back of a cupboard forever – never being used. A drawer will allow you to access all parts of the cupboard easily, keeping you aware of space that is being wasted.

If you’re not using it, throw it out.





5 things that new parents forget to budget for

5 08 2013

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Image via Flickr creative commons from Tax Credits

Becoming a parent isn’t cheap or easy. For the next 18 or more years of your life you are going to be paying through the nose for baby food, toys, childcare, trainers, driving lessons and education. The list is pretty much endless.

No matter how prepared you think you are to become a member of the fully-fledged adult group, there will always be something you have forgotten. It happens to everyone so you are not going to help anybody by worrying about it.

According to the latest estimates, the price of raising a child will smash through the £200,000 mark. So to help you on your way, here are some of the things people forget most often.

Don’t buy too much

Parents to be can get swept up in the excitement of an imminent new arrival and shell out loads of cash on baby clothes and accessories. You will always have more than you need. However much you may fear the baby will get bored – don’t. It’s a baby. Once it has managed to get up on its own two feet and totter about the place, it will find everything interesting. You will sit, exasperated, as little Johnny or Jenny finds the cushions on the sofa more interesting than the £150 stroller you splashed out on.

Childcare is expensive. Very expensive

Even is childcare costs is something you can plan to pay for well in advance, it can be a shock how expensive it is once you come to pay for it. In some cases it can cost upwards of £1,000 a month. Luckily, if you are in full time employment you can find help with this through voucher schemes. Have a chat with your employer about things such as Co-op Childcare Vouchers from Midcounties Co-operative Flexible Benefits.

There are Government-backed schemes in which you can get back up to £1,200 of the cost of childcare a year.

There is a lot you won’t be able to budget for

You may think that you have enough nappies. You do not have enough nappies. Your new addition to the family will like to go to the toilet a lot. It may be a good idea to look at getting your hands on some re-usable nappies. They are cheaper in the long run and are also much better for the environment.

There will also be many things that crop up along that way and keep you off guard such as an out of the blue school trip. It may be helpful, if you can afford it, to keep a little slush fund to the side ot cope with these emergencies.

Bigger bills

You may not think it, but your heating and electricity bills will go up. For one, you will be in the house a lot more than you used to be. What was once okay – for you to sit in an extra jumper – will no longer be okay. Your child will have to be warm

Cost to your free time

Raising a child is a full time job. On top of your own full time job. If you previously used your free time to earn a little extra money on the side, you can kiss it goodbye. But, it will be worth it. Honest.





Why You Should Provide Your Employees With Business Cards

2 08 2013

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Image via Flickr creative commons from matthew solle 

If you’re the proud owner of your own business then it’s likely you’ll constantly be looking for new ways to expand your customer base and advertise the services offered by your company. One such way to do this quickly and effectively is to ensure that all of your employees have business cards. Now you may be a little sceptical about the notion of providing your employees with a set of business cards each what with the ever-increasing usage of digital technology and the rise of online businesses. To help convince you further, I’ve compiled a list of the reasons why you should provide your employees with business cards. Read on to find out more.

Business cards are essential because…

–          They help your employees to network

One of the top priorities for all business owners of new start-ups is to make the company widely known. After all, knowledge makes profit. If only a handful of people know about the services you offer then you’re unlikely to meet your expected annual profit budgets, unless of course those customers are insanely loyal.

Despite this, it can be hard to do all of the networking by yourself. By providing business cards for all of your employees, you will cast a much wider networking web, drawing in customers from all sorts of places. Think of it as a social media profile. You have your ‘friends’ who can see your profile but then the site suggests others that you may know, based on the friend list of your network, and so on. So by issuing a set of business cards to each employee, that network of friends suddenly multiples in size.

–          They don’t require the use of technology

How many times have you encountered a problem with your smartphone or your tablet or your pc? I’m willing to bet it’s quite a lot. The reason for this is that technology can malfunction, particularly when it’s brand new. Now imagine your entire workforce losing all-important electronic data – it’s a set-back for the company.

Business cards however do not require the use of a smartphone or any other electronic device. You can keep a business card in your wallet or on your desk at work and it will always be there as a referral tool. This little function gives the business card staying power because it’s accessible to just about everyone. You don’t have to be technology-savvy to create them either as there are many pre-made templates on the internet. Visit 123 Print for online business cards that are created quickly and affordably.

–          They are eye-catching

Put your photo on your business card, along with that all-important information detailing the services your company offers, and contact information and you’ll be left with an eye-catching, easy-to-remember business card.

When your employees are sent out to drum up new business, it’s likely that the clients they talk to will receive many a business card from competing companies. But the people they will remember will be the ones who hand them a business card complete with photo and catch tag line.

–          They provide emotional appeal

Forget your need to expand your business for a moment and consider the welfare of your employees. It’s widely known that a happy workforce will be more productive and thus contribute to the success of your business. By issuing business cards to each of your employees, you can appeal to their emotional sides. That’s right, business cards count as an employee benefit, making employees feel worthy. Your staff will take more pride in their work if it is given more of a professional business edge.