Published on January 2nd, 2008 | by Sarah Nagy


Downsize without relocating

Enclosed PorchMost of the country is paying for heat right now. Being on the Gulf Coast, I wasn’t until this week – but with temps dropping into the twenties Fahrenheit, I’m starting to rethink the location of my home office.

You see, my house is like the one shown (from a real estate ad). Mine was also originally built with a porch, which was later enclosed with walls and permanent windows. When I open the real front door, now ‘interior’, and a French door to the dining room, I get heat or air conditioning from the rest of the house. (Don’t worry, my HVAC system is sadly oversized, like most in the country – that’s another post.)

I have used that porch as my home office for several years now. But I’m starting to think about moving the office to another part of the house – and giving this room back to the elements.

Why? Well, first, the HVAC bill. An easy way for me to ‘downsize’ my heating and cooling requirements is to reduce my house size, and this drafty porch is telling me: “…I want to be a hammock room…” Fortunately, no structural changes required – when I’m ready to ‘move’ I just take out the cheapo 60’s windows, pull the ‘new’ front door off its hinges, and put up the solar screens.

The porch is even on the corner, so I’m sure to get a crossbreeze. Hammock and a mint julep from the garden during the heat of the day, allowing the house AC to be set a little warmer.

Come spring, I could start my garden seedlings here, and shorten my food miles. Maybe those cheap windows will have a new life as a cold frame.

Now, to find a place for my office – perhaps with one of those Murphy Beds I can take over the guest room.

(photo from City Island Real Estate)

Retailers increasingly rely on teens to keep their registers ringing.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution December 3, 2004 Byline: Renee DeGross Dec. 3–When three 15-year-olds from Decatur set out for Lenox Square mall, their intent was to make a dent in their holiday gift lists.

But instead, Casey Heermans, Ellen Neal and Olivia Sedlack wound up shopping for themselves at Urban Outfitters, Gap and Victoria’s Secret.

“All my spending habits are genetic. I get them from my mom,” said Heermans, who negotiated a $40 advance on her allowance for the spree.

Heermans and her friends have plenty to spend this holiday season. They saved their allowances — or wangled advances on them — and earned money from baby- and dog-sitting.

Many older teens have income from more established jobs, with 35 percent of 16-to-19-year-olds in the work force, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

That’s why retailers are targeting teens — in and out of the holiday season. They are among the most lucrative spenders, shelling out an estimated $175 billion last year, according to Mintel International Group, a Chicago- based market research firm. go to web site lenox square mall

And the current crop of teenagers is the largest population group to come along since the baby boomers.

Since teens generally don’t have mortgages to pay or similar heavy debt obligations, the money they earn is considered disposable income, said Irma Zandl, president of Zandl Group, a trend research firm.

“Teens today are much more indulged than teens in the past,” Zandl said. “More teens have cars, cellphones, even charge cards, than in the past.” Young holiday shoppers are a potential bright spot in what is shaping up as an otherwise dim season for retailers.

While they’re expected to spend the least on gifts — $316 on average — about 44 percent of teen shoppers plan to spend more than they did last year, topping all other age groups, according to a survey of 6,200 shoppers at 20 malls nationwide, including Arbor Place in Atlanta.

“Retailers know that teenage shoppers are a force to be reckoned with,” said Garry Butcher, vice president of marketing and consumer research at Macerich Co., a real estate investment trust that did the survey. “Their advertising clearly speaks to that consumer group.” The National Retail Federation expects holiday sales to be much more subdued this season with increases of just 4.5 percent, compared with 5.1 percent last year.

There’s no hot gift item everyone’s clamoring for, and many consumers have lingering worries about the job market, while also being strapped with higher gas and home heating oil costs.

While many teenagers rely on allowances and odd jobs, others find temporary employment during the holiday season. An example is 16-year-old Francisco Marshall, spotted whipping out his Visa debit card to pay for dinner at North DeKalb Mall in Decatur.

Marshall said he’ll spend more than last year on holiday gifts for himself and his mother because he just landed a job at McDonald’s.

“This is my first job,” he said. “I don’t have a holiday budget but I’d like to buy games like Final Fantasy.” Many teens will have money to spend after the holidays. Gift cards are among the top gift choices among teens.

Teens usually spend 50 percent more than the face value of a gift card when they use them, which is usually within three weeks, said Britt Beemer, chairman of America’s Research Group.

Victoria’s Secret is one retailer looking to woo younger shoppers. As the chain goes after 18-to-22-year-olds, its new “Pink” collection of undergarments, sleepwear and loungewear appeals to an even younger set.

Urban Outfitters at Lenox Square lures teens with edgy, hip T-shirts on mannequins in the window.

While teenagers are prolific shoppers, they keep retailers on edge during the holidays because they tend to wait to buy the bulk of their gifts at the last minute, marketing researcher Butcher said. “They’re the largest group to shop latest in the season,” he said. website lenox square mall

Heermans and her friends can attest to that.

“I usually end up the week before or on Christmas Eve trying to get together my last-minute stuff,” the 15-year-old said.

HOLIDAY SPENDING Teens may be smaller spenders, but nearly half said they would spend more than last year. That’s a higher percentage than other age groups.

Age Groups–Projected Spending–Percentage Increase from 2003 12-17–$315.69–44 percent 18-24–$499.80–43 percent 25-34–$678.99–30.1 percent 35-44–$796.40–25.6 percent 45-54–$790.32–25.3 percent 55-64–$763.09–27.6 percent 65-74–$696.57–17.9 percent 75+–$652.06–24.4 percent –Source: Macerich Co.

MONEY, MONEY, MONEY $658: Average balance of a teen’s savings account $15: Average weekly allowance 16: Average age of teen getting first credit card –Sources: Synergistics Research Corp., Mintel International Group Ltd. and staff research Staff writer Tammy Joyner contributed to this article.

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