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These homes still watch programs but mostly on laptops, tablets and phones.

There are 5 million “zero-TV” households in the U.S., more than double from 2 million in 2007. It’s a small but growing trend that has the media establishment plenty worried.

These people, who make up fewer than 5% of U.S. households, haven’t stopped watching television shows. They just do it on their own terms over laptops, tablets and cellphones.

As Nielsen notes, about 75% of these homes still have TVs, but people use them mostly to play video games and watch DVDs.

This creates a huge problem for the industry, one that will likely be a key topic at this week’s National Association of Broadcasters’ annual trade show. Content creators and broadcast networks make money from these viewers through arrangements with streaming sites such as Netflix (NFLX) and Hulu and through advertising on their websites and apps, according to The Associated Press. Television stations, however, get shut out.

“Unless broadcasters can adapt to modern platforms, their revenue from zero-TV viewers will be zero,” the AP says.

The New York Times on Monday noted the trend of people sharing passwords for video-streaming sites such as HBO Go, which is owned by Time Warner (TWX +0.74%), making it even easier for cable users to cut the cord.

Though more than 130 TV stations in the U.S. broadcast live signals to mobile devices, most users don’t have the tools to receive them. The dongles that catch those signals are just starting to be sold, according to the AP.

A handful of video-streaming sites have become hot properties. Hulu, for example, has reportedly received a $500 million bid from former News Corp. (NWS +2.20%) president Peter Chernin. The site is jointly controlled by News Corp. and Walt Disney (DIS +1.86%).

Luckily for broadcasters, most people are still transfixed by the boob tube. According to Nielsen, Americans spend an average of nearly 41 hours a week, or about 5.5 hours a day, watching content across all screens. People spend more than 34 of those hours in front of a TV.

Even so, given the technological changes in the works, the television industry 10 years from now may not look much like it does today.

 

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Jonathan Berr

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Avoid foolish impulse buys by asking yourself these 4 pre-purchase questions.

 

If you’re feeling blue, hide your green. According to new research published in the journal Psychological Science, sadness can lead to impulsive (and irresponsible) financial choices.

Study participants watched either a sad or neutral video. Then researchers asked them to choose how they’d like to receive a cash reward. They could either receive one sum of money at the end of the session, or receive a bigger reward mailed to them in the future. Participants who watched the neutral video chose the delayed reward 13 to 34 percent more often than people who watched the sad video, according to Jennifer Lerner, Ph.D., director of the Harvard Laboratory for Decision Science and one of the study’s authors. These differences emerged even though real money was at stake.

“Sadness makes people devalue future gains relative to present gains,” Lerner says. In other words, when you’re sad, you’re more focused on the now, rather than the future. You just want to be happy. You don’t care about what happens down the line.”

“This process occurs unconsciously,” Lerner adds. “Decision makers themselves do not recognize that sadness has such effects.” Meaning: If you shop while sad, you could set yourself up for some potential wallet pain and not even know it. (Is the cold weather making you feel more sad than normal? Try these 6 Ways Beat the Winter Blues.)

Before you sprint to the mall, ask yourself these four questions to make sure you’re not being financially shortsighted.

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Vera Sizensky, Women’s Health

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In a one-day blitz of shopping, consumers are expected to empty their wallets of more than $1 billion on Cyber Monday, the online shopping spree on November 26, according to spending projections from research firm, ComScore.

The day follows closely on the heels of Black Friday on November 23, which kicks off the holiday shopping season at stores, and is often the busiest shopping day for retailers.

Come Monday, not every web-browsing window shopper will hit the “buy” button, and 65 percent of shopping carts are typically abandoned by online shoppers, says the Baynard Institute in Copenhagen. These consumers may be motivated by a belief, often correct, that there’s a better deal out there.

Cyber Monday 2012 may offer the best deals on technology products this year, says Brian Hoyt, senior writer for RetailMeNot.com, a coupon code site.

That’s because merchants have held back their best deals for the Black Friday-Cyber Monday shopping bonanza to whittle down their inventory, and they are likely to sell out without needing to discount further, he says.

Here are strategies that should help you navigate Cyber Monday and enjoy the best possible prices this year.

MAKE A LIST

Successful Cyber Monday shopping is not about aimlessly browsing or getting everything in one place, says Hoyt. It’s about honing your list down to specific items and searching for the lowest prices for each of them.

One way to do this is to browse at stores over the holiday weekend, to scan bar codes of desired products into a price-checking application like Red Laser, and to check reviews or browse ads at home.

“If I were a consumer trying to be as thrifty as possible, I would invest my time at the aggregated websites that are compiling the Cyber Monday deals,” says Andrew Baker, assistant professor of marketing in the College of Business Administration at San Diego State University. (Some such sites are http://dealnews.com, http://cybermonday.com and http://slickdeals.net)

And, when stores are shut, check for deals online.

“That’s what retailers want you to do,” says Dan Olds, who runs Gabriel Consulting Group, a retail trend watching firm.

MAXIMISE SAVINGS

Once you’ve narrowed down your wish list, it should take minutes to find the lowest price, says RetailMeNot’s Hoyt. Simply plug the item into a search engine like Nextag, Google Shopping or Pricegrabber, and evaluate.

Then, enter details on the stores with the best prices into a coupon code site (such as http://RetailMeNot.com or http://couponcabin.com, http://dealcatcher.com) to see if there are codes that come up.

When you do the math, you may find that the merchant in the No. 2 spot may be offering a 10 percent discount deal or free shipping, offering better overall value than the store in the top spot.

Indeed, try to avoid shipping costs altogether.

To broaden your chances of finding deals, “Like” and follow your favorite stores on Twitter and Facebook; some retailers will post deals just for their online fans.

If you are an active online shopper, you may receive personalized deal offers as the holiday season progresses. For example, if you like to buy Coach handbags at Nordstrom, you might see offers to get 20-percent off of Coach accessories.

“The conversion rate of a typical coupon deal is less than one percent, which is very low, but the conversion rate for tuned and personalized offers is much higher – in the 5 to 10 percent range,” says Kevin Sterneckert, vice president of retail research at Gartner Group.

Lands End, LL Bean and CVS are among retailers who are tapping their databases to entice shoppers with customized offers.

Should you jump at these deals? Only if the items are on your shopping list and you’ve done your research on prices.

BEST PAYMENT METHODS

You can reap additional rewards by picking your mode of payment wisely.

For online shoppers, Brian Kelly of ThePointsGuy.com recommends checking your credit card’s rewards website and visiting retail links from there. Some cards will offer a 5 percent bonus for such transactions. You can check your card benefits for details.

This year, PayPal is offering price-match guarantees and free return shipping for purchases made using PayPal. Citi, Visa and MasterCard also frequently offer price matching. Other shoppers rely on various reward and cash-back cards to maximize their benefits.

If you’ve taken all these steps and still don’t like the deal you’re getting, you could take your chances and wait – December 17 is “Free Shipping Day” (http://www.freeshippingday.com) for procrastinators who want a day of their own.

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

(Additional reporting by Chelsea Emery and Lauren Young; Editing by Linda Stern and Bernadette Baum)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2012.

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Moving day is a giant logistical hassle, but a missed detail can make it much worse.

 

Moving day is a giant logistical hassle before you get to the minutiae. A missed detail just makes it that much worse.

Renting a truck, hiring movers and getting stuff packed up and out of the house are the relatively easy portions of the move. Only when you get second notices forwarded to your new address or the lights cut off as you’re packing up the old place do you realize how much the little things add up.

In the interest of saving readers some hassle while they plan to ship out, we contacted the American Moving and Storage Association and asked about common oversights that people made while planning long or involved moves. The following 10 items are usually the easiest to overlook and the toughest to just shove into a garbage bag with the contents of the junk drawer at the last minute.

1. Your local government
If you don’t have a driveway for a moving truck to pull into or a storage container to be dropped in, chances are you need to put it on the street. If that’s the case, in some places you’re going to need a permit. To get that permit, you’re going to need some sort of proof that the company you’re working with is insured or bonded with the local government. That’s the case in Massachusetts, Florida and elsewhere. It can really put a crimp in your moving plans if you don’t check first and your belongings end up in the impound lot.

2. Your hidden belongings
It seems pretty obvious, but taking another few sweeps around the house can help you avoid leaving grandma’s china to the new tenants or going without holiday decorations for a season or so. AMSA spokesman John Bisey says the easiest items to forget are those tucked away in crawl spaces, attics and built-in cabinets. If there’s a spot in your house or apartment that’s out of sight, chances are that’s where your last box full of stuff is coming from.

3. Your items on loan
Wondering where your reciprocating saw or popcorn maker got off to? Check in with the neighbors. The AMSA says items lent to neighbors, family or friends tend to cause customers the greatest headaches once they realize they’re gone. Take a quick inventory and make some rounds at the going-away party.

4. Your sleeping arrangements
So you’ve packed up the truck or container and are ready to take off in the morning. That’s great, but where are you going to sleep tonight? The first night at the new destination isn’t that big of a problem, as you’ll get to your bed eventually, but the last night after the big load-up can be tough if you don’t pack the bed last or plan to stay with someone else.

5. Your records
It’s a lot easier to do things electronically these days, but that’s not always the case with medical, dental or school records. Sometimes it’s just easier to keep these things on hand, so try to get copies from everyone as soon as you’re ready to pack them up. Once you have them, keep them all in the same place so they’re easy to refer to once you’re setting up your new home.

6. Your heat and lights
If you don’t turn the electricity, gas or oil heat on, nobody’s going to do it for you. The AMSA advises turning off all utilities two to three days after you load out and turning them on at the new place two to three days before you move in. It’s not great to get a bill for lights that someone else is using forwarded to the address you’re already being charged for. Speaking of forwarding …

7. Your mail
Oh yeah, you’re going to want to check in with the Postal Service and make sure it knows you’re leaving. It will forward mail to your new address only if you check with it in advance, and even then it’s not permanent. Forwarding basically gives you a couple of months to change your mailing address with various institutions. At some point, that yellow forwarding label will stop appearing.

8. Your insurance
“Be careful when referring to ‘insurance,'” Bisey says. “Very few movers offer true insurance, which is regulated by the states and is offered by an insurance agent.”

The best you can get from the movers themselves is valuation protection, which covers only a percentage of what your goods are worth. In May, a federal regulation took effect requiring interstate movers to include the cost of full-value protection in their initial written estimate. This should give consumers some second thoughts about choosing the minimal valuation option, which is only 60 cents per pound.

9. Your paid labor
If you tip someone for carrying a tray of food to you, you may want to consider tipping the people who just lugged a dresser to your fourth-floor walk-up. There’s no hard-and-fast rule about this, but if you’re not at least offering some water afterward, you have no sense of empathy whatsoever.

10. Your mess
Whether there are a few nail holes left in the walls where your family photos once hung or a huge paint spot in the closet from when you knocked over a gallon of Periwinkle Blue, it’s usually in your best interest to take care of it immediately. Your security deposit or even a sale could hang in the balance.

“I think the last-minute repairs and/or fix-ups are legit,” Bisey says, “especially when, for example, a large piece of furniture is moved away, revealing a problem with the floor or wall it was hiding.”

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: Jason Notte of TheStreet

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There were likely cries of joy from students (and maybe a few parents) at Gaithersburg Elementary School in Maryland when Principal Stephanie Brant announced a radical new experiment: no more traditional homework.

Instead, students are asked to read about 30 minutes a night from a book of their choosing.

Over the past few years, Brant and her staff evaluated what teachers were sending students home with and found they were asking students to complete a lot of worksheets.

“The worksheets didn’t match what we were doing instructionally in the classroom,” Brant said in a news story on MyFoxDC.com. “We were giving students something because we felt we have to give them something.”

Parents appear to support the change, and Brant hopes it will prove motivational for her students.

Unlike most elementary schools, students at Gaithersburg are allowed to go to the library every day instead of just once a week as a class. The school believes this will strengthen reading habits and result in the students consuming more books at their own pace.

According to MyFoxDC.com, the new policy seems to be paying off. Fifth graders at Gaithersburg Elementary School scored around 72 percent proficiency in math and about 81 percent proficiency in reading in the last round of standardized test scores.

Compliments of: Martha Small | Austin Portfolio Real Estate | 512.587.0308

Original Article by: MSN Living Editor – Rebekah Schilperoort

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Back to school means early mornings and quick breakfasts. Use some of these tips to boost your kid’s brain power and to make the most of his or her school day!

 

Check out the video here.

http://www.delish.com/recipes/cooking-recipes/kitchen-savings?v=1f5bdd40-b914-49b7-91ce-9d49b722e75f&from=en-us_msnhp

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Holy smokes it is hot out there!  Take a peek at this great list of Central Texas swimming holes.  You have no excuse…don’t sweat it out! Jump in the WATER!

 

**Thanks Independence Title and Mary Tran for the great scoop!**

 

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