The 8 Steps to Buying an Investment Property

Purchasing your first investment property can be a daunting prospect, following these 8 steps will have you well on the road to success.Build a team of experts to support youExamples of the type of expert that you will need to have on your team are solicitors, accountants, finance brokers, property coaches/mentors, property managers, valuers, quantity surveyors and insurance brokers.Establish your borrowing positionContact your mortgage broker and ask them for an assessment of your borrowing position. Knowing your borrowing position and what you can do to improve it helps you to plan and work out the type, number and profile of the properties that you can afford to buy.Establish the right entity to buy your property inThe question you will next face is what entity you should purchase the investment property in. Should it be in your own name, your spouse’s, child’s or partner’s name? Or should it be in a trust (hybrid, discretionary or unit trust), a company or a combination of the above?Also, how many properties should you purchase in the one entity and why? How should you structure the purchase to provide maximum asset protection while at the same time providing you with maximum leverage, minimum tax and the best return on your investment?Establish the right buying strategyWhat kind of property should you buy? Should it be a capital growth (negatively geared), cash flow neutral, positively geared or a cash flow positive property? What kind of return do you need to get from the property in order to sustain it and/or your lifestyle?Establish your buying rulesBuying rules will help you focus your search on properties that fit your buying strategy… Typical questions that you should ask yourself when establishing your buying rules are:What kind of properties should you purchase – houses, units, townhouses or apartments?How many bedrooms should it have?What yield should the investment property provide?Should you buy new or established properties?Find the investment propertyThe first step is to select three areas of buying interest that relate to your strategy (I.e. cash flow or capital growth). Use the many internet property websites available as a means of finding properties in your search areas and then apply the buying rules that you have established to zero in on the right property.Contact three property managers in your search area and ask them what tenants are looking for when looking for a rental property.You could also contact three real estate agents in your search area, give them an overview of your buying rules and then ask them to contact you with any properties that match your property profile.Crunch the numbersBefore you “fall in love” with the property make sure the deal is viable, make sure you analyse the property financials to make sure the property fits your buying strategy.Negotiate the priceWhen you have found the investment property that you want to buy and the numbers work for you, put in an offer in writing, this should be done quickly. Add “subject to” clauses such as subject to finance, subject to satisfactory building inspection, give yourself plenty of time in the contract “subject to” clauses to compete your due diligence investigations.

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Protesting Commercial Property Taxes

Are you accustomed to seeing large numbers in the “property taxes due” column of tax statements? Property owners in Texas, a state with notoriously high property taxes, may be forced to budget a “big chunk” of their operating budgets each year for property taxes. You should always be looking for a way to increase the return on your investment, and reducing property tax expenses can have a significant impact on your bottom line.Market Value vs. Assessed ValueMany investors have asked why Texas property taxes keep increasing even though their revenue has declined and operating expenses have increased. Since appraisal districts value so many properties, they are often not aware of “softness” in a submarket. In addition, some appraisal districts have been slow to recognize the huge increases in insurance expenses. Since property taxes are such a material expense, investors have realized they need to review assessments annually. Most Texas real estate investors appeal their property tax assessment annually.Why Property Taxes are ImportantProperty taxes are one of the largest line item expenses incurred by property owners. When attempting to cut excess property taxes, even sophisticated property owners may not know all their rights. For instance, the current Texas Property Tax Code allows property owners to seek an equity adjustment based on comparable properties that are appropriately adjusted.Does Unequal Appraisal Apply at Informal Hearings?The legislature also introduced a provision in 1997 attempting to allow property owners to appeal on unequal appraisal during the administrative hearing process (informal and appraisal review board hearings). Unfortunately, the wording of the statute was not clear. Some appraisal districts have chosen not to consider appeals based on unequal appraisal at the administrative hearings. It’s a shame that many appraisal districts rebuff administrative appeals based on unequal assessment. Property owners become very angry when they feel they have been taxed unfairly. Fortunately, most cases of inequitable assessment can be resolved through a judicial appeal.Why Aren’t Properties Assessed Equally?You may be wondering why properties aren’t assessed equitably. Reasons include data errors, focusing on recent sales and inconsistencies in the informal and appraisal review board hearings due to the personal element. Since an appraisal district may track over a million real property accounts, it is unrealistic to expect all of the data to be accurate (the large number of properties also affects their ability to accurately estimate your property’s value). Overstating the quality of one property while understating the quality of another property could lead to an inequitable assessment. At times, some appraisal districts have focused on recent sales without reassessing all the properties in the surrounding area.Once the preliminary research is completed, the owner should determine the market value of the property and whether it is in line with the total assessed value. There are three approaches that are employed in concluding market value: cost, income and market. The property’s occupancy rate, rental rate, operating expenses, net operating income and other factors, as well as sales prices of comparable properties, are valuable sources of information in determining market value. If the property owner determines that the assessed value is higher than the market value of his property, he should file a protest with the local appraisal district. This can be done either by the property owner or his designated agent. Property tax protests must be filed by May 31 in Texas; deadlines vary by state.Preparing for Your HearingOnce a protest has been filed, a protest hearing will be scheduled. Four types of data should be compiled for the hearing: pictures of the subject property, an income analysis, comparable sales data and assessment comparables. Pictures of the subject property should indicate the quality and condition of the improvements on the property. If there is deferred maintenance, document it with pictures and bids. An income analysis should include a profit and loss statement for the previous year and a rent roll for a date near January 1 of the current tax year (most states use January 1 as the effective date for assessment.) The analysis should also detail market rent, market vacancy and market expenses (including reserve for replacement) to derive net operating income for the property (neither depreciation nor debt service should be deducted when calculating net operating income).If your property has above-market occupancy or rental rates or below-market operating expenses, you should make adjustments when calculating net operating income. If you operate your own property, your income analysis should include an allowance for labor and management fees (if they are not in the profit and loss statement). Revenue not directly related to real estate rental (box sales, truck rentals, etc.) should be excluded. Related expenses should also be excluded. The net operating income is then capitalized to derive an indication of value for the property.An appraisal may be appropriate to support the value conclusion. Comparable sales are given strong consideration at the hearing because they are an indication of market value. Data from sales of comparable properties for the past year or two should be collected and reviewed. Assessment comparables are given strong consideration at some appraisal districts but not considered at others. Pictures of competing properties that are assessed for less than your property can be an effective tool for cutting your property taxes. Prepare a table summarizing your property and the assessment comparables.Attending Your Hearing(s) (Informal and Appraisal Review Board)Once all the pertinent data has been collected and analyzed, the protest hearing process begins. The initial protest hearing is called an “informal” hearing. The informal hearing involves a meeting between the owner, or his designated representative, and an appraiser from the appraisal district. If the owner is not satisfied with the offer made by the appraiser, he may proceed to the next level of the protest process, an appraisal review board hearing (in some states this is referred to as the board of equalization). The appraisal review board hearing, also referred to as the “formal” hearing, involves a meeting with members of the appraisal review board, an appraiser from the county appraisal district (who may be different from the appraiser at the informal hearing) and the owner or his designated representative. The Appraisal Review Board panel may set a value which is equal to, lower than or higher than the level proposed by the staff appraiser at the informal hearing; therefore, the offer made at the informal hearing deserves careful consideration.The majority of protests are resolved during the informal and formal hearings. However, in a small portion of protests the property owner believes the assessed value can be cut further by filing a judicial appeal. Although few owners pursue the final opportunity to reduce their taxes, owners have the option to file a lawsuit to contest the assessed value. It is probably financially feasible to file suit if the judicial appeal will reduce the assessed value by at least $200,000 to $300,000. This rule of thumb is for Texas; it may be higher or lower in other areas. In Harris County (Texas), for example, about 500 to 800 property owners annually determine there is still enough discrepancy after completing the informal and formal hearings to further pursue an adjustment in the assessed value by filing suit. Litigation in Texas must be filed within 45 days of receiving written notification of the value set at the formal hearing. This process can result in additional reductions in the assessed value; however, it typically takes 12 to 24 months and requires services from both an attorney and an appraiser. Although relatively few owners under-stand how to pursue judicial appeals, they can be a very effective tool in lowering property taxes.With property taxes making up such a large percentage of operating expense, a commercial property owner I know was recently pleased when his consultant informed him that the company saved over $123,000 in property taxes. Some owners will realize less savings than those, but every little bit helps your bottom line.To view this article and similar articles, please visit property tax.

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An Unconventional Way to View the Property Market

I am going to discuss an interesting way to look at real estate investing that may be a bit unconventional to most property investors.A while ago, I watched a video by Charlie Munger, who is well-known as the business partner of Warren Buffet and his famous quote “Tell me where I’m gonna die and I’ll make sure I don’t go there.”In this video, Charlie who was 83 at the time, shared his life time of wisdom to make him a billionaire with a group of university graduates who are about to start their career.There is one particular statement that really interests me; he said “You are not entitled to an opinion unless you can state the arguments against your opinion better than your opponents can.”I find this statement quite profound but very difficult to apply in real life, I thought I would put it through some of the opinions widely circulated within real estate investment and see how it goes.Before I am entitled to an opinion of “how useful Charlie’s statement is”, the counter argument of “how useless it is” can be something like the following:
We are all entitled to our own opinion about anything, regardless of whether it is right or wrong, it doesn’t really matter what other people say.
Sometimes an opinion can be completely wrong, but still workable in life. “The earth is flat and still” is a good example of this, completely wrong, but workable! Wouldn’t it be more workable to think that you are walking on a still and flat surface than a rotating ball?So for the rest of the article, allow me to focus on how useful I think Charlie’s statement can help us as real estate investors.What I have done is, go back to look at some of the tenets of real estate investment that we have taken for granted without examining the opposite arguments, then see if we can learn something from it, and more importantly see if we can discover investment opportunities most people miss because they fail to see the other side of the story.I found the most common opinion about real estate investing is: Land goes up in value because of its limited supply so buy properties where land is of limited supply!If you look at the property performance in Australia since 1996, good quality established suburbs all share this land scarcity factor, they all perform very well according to this tenet. For example, while building cost is increasing 3-4% a year tracking CPI, the land value has increased as much as 12-14% a year, which averages out a 10% growth for a property over the last 15 years.It is very easy to not question the opposite side of this opinion when the facts are overwhelmingly supporting this argument.What if we follow Charlie’s suggestion, the counter argument can be something like: “Land goes down in value because of limited supply, don’t buy properties where land is of limited supply.”I must say when I first wrote this down, I thought to myself this must be considered crazy by anyone with any common sense in the investment industry, it is just utterly against anything we have been told about investing in property.The only reason I didn’t stop there was because of Charlie, he didn’t become a billionaire by being stupid, he must see tremendous value in this counter argument exercise to spot investment opportunities most people miss. So I ‘forced’ myself to see under what circumstances this counter argument could make sense.Interestingly enough, it didn’t take too long for me to see that this counter argument not only has its value, but it could also help us discover investment opportunities most experienced property investors miss in today’s market.Let me explain.It is obvious that land appreciation was the main driving force behind the property price growth in the last 15 years. But property prices are ultimately capped by how much income people have for qualifying for a mortgage, this is more so in today’s lending market where releasing equity without income support has become increasingly difficult.So you can almost say over the longer term, we should see something like:Income Growth = Property Price Growth (which can be broken down to Land & Building price growth)So if Income Growth is 3%, and Building Cost Growth is 3%, then Land Price Growth should also be 3% to make this formula work over the longer term. E.g.Income Growth (3%) = Property Price Growth (3%) [Land Price Growth (3%) & Building Cost Growth (3%)]However, in the last 15 years, our Income Growth is tracking along the Building Cost Growth, which is around CPI (3-4%), but the Land Price Growth has been 12-14% per year. So you have something like:Income Growth (3%) < Property Price Growth (10%) [Land Price Growth (12%) & Building Cost Growth (3%)]You can see the Land Price Growth has been much faster than Income Growth. When investors look at where to buy, they bought in areas where Land Price Growth has been 12%+ per annum, usually in established suburbs where land supply is very limited. And it has worked for them in the last 15 years (between 1996 till now).The question is “how long can the gap between Income Growth and Land Price Growth last without the Land Price Growth being forced to slow down?”Graphs of the Melbourne median house price between 1978 and 2009 show property prices have grown much faster than income for a long period of time till 1990 (reflected by the mortgage repayments of a median house taking up too larger a percentage of an average income), Property Price Growth then stopped for about 5 years to wait for the Income Growth to catch up.These graphs show a similar phenomenon is looming if you move your attention towards 2009.So I can see the counter argument “Land goes down in value because of limited supply, don’t buy properties where land is of limited supply” makes sense when the Land Scarcity factor has been over sold for too long to the point that land value was severely over priced. In other words, Land Scarcity can be the main reason why investors can make good money, but it can also become the main reason why investors may make less money or even lose money.Before we all rush to abandon the traditional high growth areas, we all know that there is a shortage of supply of properties in comparison to demand, so property prices are likely to continue to go up for a while. The traditional strong growth areas didn’t become high growth areas for no reason.After a period of flat performance (such as 1990-1996), they will always bounce back and accelerate the growth, so I personally think they will always be good areas to hold your properties for the longer term.The question is where you should be putting your money to work intelligently over the next 5-7 years to make the best return with the lowest risk?Right now, if you buy an old house in a traditional strong growth area within 20km of CBD in most major cities, you are expected to pay $700k+ with a gross rent of 2.5-4%. Some of these properties were worth only $200k-$300k less than 10 years ago.In contrast to these areas, you can still find property prices around $350k to $400k within 20km of CBD, whether they are houses in some transition areas (areas that are being re-zoned for residential housing) or lower price apartments in the more established areas, gross rent can still be around 4.5-6%, with the taxman helping the cash flow the first 5 years if the property is reasonably new.Let’s look at an example.Let’s say you have the capacity to buy up to $800k worth of investment properties, your wage is $100k pa, and you can borrow 100% plus stamp duty and costs at 7.5% interest rate, because you have equity from other properties.Let’s compare the following two possible options using Melbourne data as an example:Option 1:
If you buy 2 x $400k properties, two brand new houses, $200k building and $200k land, in a transition suburb 17km from Melbourne CBD.
Achievable gross rent currently is 4.6%, we may assume a potential growth for the next 5 year is at 9.4% per year (Melbourne’s average for the last few decades) due to its relatively lower price in comparison to Melbourne’s median house price of $550k and its distance from the CBD.
So 5 years later, each of these properties will be around $627k.Option 2:
If you buy 1 x $800k property, an old house of 25 years, $200k building and $600k land, in an established & traditionally high growth suburb, also 17km from Melbourne CBD.
Achievable gross rent currently is 3.5%, we may assume a slightly lower growth at 6.5% for the next 8 year due to its relatively inflated land value after a 15 year great run.
So 5 years later, this property will be around $1.1m. (Please note that a $1.1m home in the same neighborhood at 7.5% interest rate, will attract a $83k mortgage repayment per annum, which is coming out of a family’s after tax net income.)So let’s look at the following diagrams to compare the Cash Flow of the above two options.Option 1 (2 x $400k):$75/week or $4k/year out-of-pocket the first year. A total $19k out-of-pocket for the first 5 years. (see below table)Now – Property Value $400,000Year 1 – Property Value $437,600, Cost per week to hold $75Year 2 – Property Value $478,734, Cost per week to hold $97Year 3 – Property Value $523,735, Cost per week to hold $82Year 4 – Property Value $572,967, Cost per week to hold $65Year 5 – Property Value $626,825, Cost per week to hold $45Option 2 (1 x $800k):$489/week or $25k/year out-of-pocket the first year. A total $113k out-of-pocket for the first 5 years. (see below table)Now – Property Value $800,000Year 1 – Property Value $852,000, Cost per week to hold $489Year 2 – Property Value $907,380, Cost per week to hold $465Year 3 – Property Value $966,360, Cost per week to hold $436Year 4 – Property Value $1.029m, Cost per week to hold $405Year 5 – Property Value $1.096m, Cost per week to hold $375Let’s compare the total money made over a 5 year period by simply using: capital gain + cash flow.
Option 1 (2 x $400k):Capital Gain ($627k x 2 -$400k x 2) + Cash Flow (-$19k x 2) = $416k.
Option 2 (1 x $800k): Capital Gain ($1.1m – $800k) + Cash Flow (-$113k) = $187k.On top of that, the stamp duty difference was: $43k – $7k x 2 = $29k.So Option 1 is better off than Option 2 by: $416k + $29k – $187k = $258k. This doesn’t include the following two major factors in favor of Option 1:
Easier finance:it is much easier to get 95% finance for a $400k property, and almost impossible or too expensive to do the same for a $800k property. In other words, option 1 needs less money from you!
Lower risk:the risk for a $400k property to lose $100k in value is a lot less than an $800k property in the current heated market condition. In other words, option 1 is lower risk for your money.Before I rush to claim “Option 1 is better than Option 2″, I need to see under what circumstances Option 2 will be better than Option 1, if I were to follow Charlie’s teaching “You are not entitled an opinion unless you can state the arguments against your opinion better than your opponents can.”So the argument for buying a higher price old house in an established suburb for investment purpose in the current market condition is that good suburbs will always be in high demand, and rich people get richer quicker. One can never underestimate the long-term potential of those high growth suburbs even when they may experience some temporary slow down coming off a long period of strong growth. These suburbs may ‘lose the battle’ over the next 5-7 years against the up and coming transition suburbs, but they still have what it takes to ‘win the war’ over a much longer time frame.Can you see the power of applying Charlie’s teaching on just one of the tenets of property investing? The benefit can be enormous when we apply this to other areas of our lives, such as relationship, work, values, moral standards and spiritual beliefs, it can teach us to avoid extreme ideology and be more accepting to people who are different from us.

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Marketing via YouTube

YouTube views are very important and can do wonders to your business. YouTube is an enormous platform for those people who plan on showing their skills and business plans. It is one of the most favorite sites of most people which the reason why getting more views will make sure your business gets adequate popularity and attention.
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YouTube is one of the greatest platforms to display your talents and business proposals. Millions of people visit this website on a daily basis.
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Premium Car Wash Services Make it Easy to Keep Vehicles Clean

People spend hours cleaning their cars using everything from a common garden hose at home, to manual wands at the car wash. Some car washes offer more sophisticated cleaning tools and services to wash off road dirt and grime and keep cars looking great. There are some Denver and Aurora, CO area car washes that offer these types of services for a reasonable price. Wherever one lives, it can pay to find a car wash that offers premium services.

Most people have at least driven by car wash facilities even if they haven’t used one before. Some are self-serve; others have attendants who can assist with the washing or who can answer questions. These days many people are hard pressed for time. They might like to clean their cars at home, but that takes too long. Others wish they could do a better job with the tools they have at home, but the car never really comes out as well as they hoped. Still others think car washes are too expensive so they don’t bother washing their cars very often, which can lead to an increased chance of damage to the paint job and rust penetration. Thankfully there are some car washes that offer advanced services to help with all of these issues.

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Budget Chardham yatra: How a travel agent can help?

Chardham yatra is a sacred journey which every pilgrim must make at least once in his life. It is a difficult trip to make since all the four dhams are located at very high altitudes and in very difficult hilly terrains. It is highly recommended that you take the help of professional experts to enrich your experience and to travel conveniently.

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i. By making an advance booking: Most of Hindu pilgrim yatras like the Amarnath yatra and the chardham yatra require prior registration and advance bookings. In some cases, a prior registration is mandatory. And even if it is not, it is highly advisable to make advance bookings about the itinerary and accommodation. Since, the yatra is open only during the summer season, so there is a huge rush amongst pilgrims from different corners of the country. Your failure to book in advance may cost you the best accommodation facilities.

ii. By helping you make a budget holiday: These travel agents can ideally help you plan a budget chardham yatra. Going to all these 4 dhams can turn pretty expensive if you do not take the help of these travel planners. They are fully equipped with complete knowledge about all kinds of traveling & accommodation services. Therefore, after checking your budget, they can advise you the best possible services available at the best possible rates.

iii. By giving you traveling tips: These travel agents give you all the necessary traveling tips which would help you ease out your hassles and enjoy a convenient tour. Chardham journey can be pretty strenuous and there are some hurdles which you must negotiate. There may be kids and elderly people in your group. These professionals give you complete first-hand information about what to wear, what to pack and what not to pack! They also tell you about the geographical conditions, about the kind of attire you must carry and about the weather which you should expect during the yatra season.

iv. By including sightseeing: Most families also like to explore the hills and check all the major local attractions while on the yatra. The travel agents make sure to include the sightseeing attractions in your package as per your schedule and requests. They also make their own personal recommendations and advices about which place to visit and which one to avoid.

v. By offering complete safety: Travel agents not just help you reduce your expenses by offering budget chardham yatra packages, but they also offer full safety and security. Quite often, they run buses and other services so that several families can travel together. This facility not just ensures safety but also makes the experience all the more thrilling and fulfilling.

There are several other ways you benefit with the help of these professionals. They ultimately help you have a very satisfying trip from all accounts.

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Commercial Loans UK- Invest And Expand Your Business

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Personal Finance Budgeting

Planning a budget for your personal finance is very important to feeling secure and being financially stable especially in the current economic climate. It stands to reason that you should have some kind of monetary stash put away for a rainy day. A lot of people don’t look at their personal finance until they get in trouble with credit and debt. At that time, it may be far-reaching and more difficult to get back on track. However, if you aspire to reach financial health, part of the process is to gather all the knowledge you would need to start planning your finances wisely.Your first step to take is to find out what your exact expenses are for each month. These expenses will include your electric bill, phone bill, car payment, car insurance, credit card bills, mortgage or rent, cable bill, cell phone bill, college loan (if any), and other incidentals. Your incidental bills could include gas for your car, shopping, going out to dinner, nightly entertainment, groceries, and anything else that you consistently spend money on each month. Put all of these bills on a spreadsheet or create a specific journal to make your entries.The next thing is to match your income against all these expenses and see what you can cut out or limit each month. You have to do this if you want to have some money each month to put aside in a savings account. I am sure you have heard about the concept “pay yourself first.” What this means is that you should have a certain amount each week or each month to put aside in a specific account and you should not stray away from this habit. You are not breaking the bank, but steadily gaining momentum with your savings when you put money in each week or month. It will also give you a sense of security and balance. No one knows when disaster will strike, but one thing we know is that it will, so you have to be prepared for the worst.Take control of your debt. Stop over spending. If you can’t pay for something using cash, then this means that you are unable to afford it in the first place. Don’t let your credit card put you in bondage. You will forever be a slave to the credit card companies that want to hold you hostage for years to come. Cut up some of the credit cards that you have and only keep one. When you have one, you have fewer options.Track your spending. Take a little notebook with you to store or keep your receipts and make note of all your spending. You would be surprised that some of your spending is futile and unnecessary when you see it on paper. Before you go to the grocery store each week, write a list and take it with you and don’t go to the store when you are hungry. If you follow these two steps, you will not do any kind of impulse shopping. You will spend wisely and only buy the things you really need.You are in control of your financial destiny so be the dictator and do not let a financial institution tell you how to spend your money. The financial ball is now in your court.

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How To Live A Healthy Lifestyle – Easy and Fun

How to live a healthy lifestyle is a topic we have been bombarded with over the past decade. A truly healthy lifestyle results from a balanced lifestyle. The key points of a balanced lifestyle include having adequate time for work, family and relationships, relaxation and fun. In order to maintain a healthy balance there has to be a combination of exercise; a sensible diet; reduction of caffeine and sugar; avoidance of alcohol, tobacco and drugs; stress reduction and getting enough sleep.Physical activity and exercise is great for stress prevention and reduction. A combination of stretching, muscle toning and aerobic exercise tends to be the best. You should get 30 minutes of exercise at least three times a week. The best news is that you don’t need to do all 30 minutes at once. It has been proven that breaking it down into small 10 to 15 minute intervals is just as beneficial.Walking is a great exercise and can easily be incorporated into your day. Try parking in the farthest space rather than closest space possible. Take a few trips around the grocery store with your cart prior to beginning your shopping. This is especially helpful during winter months in colder climates. Carrying your purchases to your car rather than pushing them out in a cart helps improve muscle tone as well as giving you an aerobic workout.A healthy lifestyle requires a sensible diet. Eating three moderate or five small meals comprised of a balanced diet dispersed regularly throughout your day helps maintain even blood sugars and fuel for your mind and body. Caffeine and sugar should be limited, as the body treats them both as drugs. They can influence hormone and blood sugar fluctuations and lead to an increase in stress production.Your diet should include protein, fruits and vegetables, dairy products, carbohydrates, and fats. Lean proteins (like beef, pork, chicken, fish, legumes, eggs and dairy products with reduced fats) are preferable to non-lean proteins (like fatty cuts of meats, organ meats, bacon and sausage) and processed meats (like luncheon meats). These fatter cuts should be kept at a minimum and generally limited to a few servings a week. Dairy products such as milk, cheeses and yogurt provide calcium and protein. A few servings of these should be included in your daily diet plan.Fruits and vegetables should make up the majority of your diet. A wide range of fruits and vegetables provides variety and provides a better balance of vitamins and minerals.Carbohydrates are important for maintaining energy and help with mental clarity. They should be kept to a few servings a day. Whole grains are more beneficial because they provide more vitamins and nutrients and are metabolized at a slower rate, reducing spikes in blood sugar.Fats are essential to the human diet. They provide essential fatty acids and allow for better uptake of nutrients. Best choices are olive oils, canola oils, nuts and nut oils.Exercise and diet alone are not the answer for a healthy lifestyle. Cigarette, drug and alcohol use should be avoided. However, there is evidence that alcohol used in modest amounts may be useful. These studies have concluded that a glass of red wine with dinner can be beneficial for protection of the brain, heart and lungs. It is thought to prevent prostate and breast cancers, reduce inflammation and boost longevity.Stress tends to be different from person to person. Stressors can come from personal, family, financial, peer and professional issues, but are not limited to any specifics. The most crucial step to stress management is identification of the stressors in your life. After you have identified what has stressed you out, you can begin to work on the issues.Maintaining a stress journal can be helpful in the identification of stressors. You should keep track of: what caused your stress, how you felt physically and emotionally, your response actions and what you did to make yourself feel better.Once stressors are identified you should change the situation by avoidance or alteration. Then work on changing your reactions by adapting and accepting. Don’t forget to make time for relaxation and fun.Don’t underestimate the value of sleep in a healthy lifestyle. Sleep allows your mind and body to refuel, regenerate and energize. Getting enough sleep increases your ability to think clearly, react appropriately, maintain motivation and gives you the stamina to enjoy the various aspects of your life.While it is impossible to include all of these aspects daily, the more habitual you are to include them the better your chances of maintaining a healthy lifestyle become. Take a few minutes and reflect on what you did today. What can you do to improve? How can you live a healthy lifestyle?

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