Monthly Archives: January 2013

Tips for a First Time Home Buyer

Purchasing your own home is a big life decision, and should never be taken lightly. This is an experience that can be nail-biting and stimulating all at the same time. With that being said, you should always look into a few things before actually deciding to make the plunge. Here are some tips for first time home buyers to create a learning curve and smooth the overall process of buying your first home:
buying a house
1. Examine Your Debt (And Pay It Off!) – Ask any homeowner and most of them will tell you that they spent time saving money to make a down payment on a home rather than paying off debts, which are now causing them to struggle to make their monthly mortgage payment. You don’t want this to be you. So, instead of saving money for the down payment, pay off your debts. At the very least, pay them down significantly, so they won’t be such a burden once you do purchase that new house of yours.

2. Determine What You Can Afford – You need to have a long, hard look at your finances before making any significant purchase, such as a home. You need to also see how much you can borrow from the bank for such a purchase. In addition, you need to determine how much you realistically save for a down payment. When figuring up your down payment, make sure that you’ll have enough left over to cover any closing costs that may be necessary on your part. Keep in mind that your home insurance, mortgage payment and home taxes should not exceed 30% of your home’s gross income.

3. Examine Your Credit Report – It is important that before you purchase a house that you fully examine your credit report to find any discrepancies and have them taken care of immediately. Discrepancies can hurt your credit a little or a lot and it is a chance you aren’t willing to take when you start searching for your dream home.

4. Bad Credit? – Not everyone has perfect credit, but that doesn’t mean you can’t buy a home. There are programs set into place to help those in such a predicament in their lives. These are government insured loans that are provided by the FHA, Federal Housing Administration. With an FHA loan, you may only have to put down around 3.5 percent, which is great for lower income families; however, more and more individuals are being required to put down 10 percent, especially with a credit score lower than 580.

5. Consider Foreclosures – As a general rule, there is nothing at all wrong with a foreclosure. It is simply a home that someone was unable to continue making payments on and the bank took it as their collateral. You can usually purchase these at a discounted rate, but you must act fast! Plus, you might want to make sure your real estate broker specializes in foreclosures, as it will make the process a lot easier.

6. Tax Credit – Be sure to claim that tax credit on next year’s tax return!

Now that you know a little bit about it, start planning and searching for your new home. Don’t expect to come across your dream home on the first day of home searching. It will likely take time, but after all, time is something you have, as you don’t want to rush into anything. Happy home searching!

How Much do I Need to Save for Retirement?

A 45 year old man working a typical 9-5 job might be thinking more intensely about saving for retirement than a 21 year old that just landed his first full time job with benefits. At the age of 21, he might start contributing 4% of his income to his 401k with a more aggressive market approach. His 45 year old neighbor is struggling tirelessly to contribute 10% of his pay with a much more conservative approach. They both share one common interest: saving for retirement.
retirment saving
How much should an individual really save for retirement, and what is the ideal contribution to a company match plan? Many people have relied on and researched retirement planning calculators on the internet for years. The majority of these will calculate a percentage of income that one should be saving and deliver a figure that will support his/her lifestyle in 40 years. The calculator doesn’t take into consideration what everyone’s standard of living will amount to then. The sum of money that an individual should save for retirement doesn’t rely on income; it relies on money spent. A man could make $60,000 a year, but his current lifestyle requires an annual spending figure of $80,000. Another might bring home $80,000 a year, and his current lifestyle requires only $40,000. Should they both contribute the same amount to their 401k? Not likely.

Calculating a substantial amount of savings for retirement relies on evaluating an individual’s current spending and determining the standard of living he/she wishes to uphold at retirement. The retirement calculators that are based on income are not completely worthless. They provide a valuable resource for determining a figure of funds that will be saved after a number of years. Before utilizing these calculators, the individual must determine the ideal amount to save. This number will be derived from deciding how much to spend at retirement. Will they live lavishly, or will they live comfortably? Once a decision has been made on how much they want to spend in 40 years, then they can decide what to save. If the current budget does not allow for that level of spending, then they must discover other ways to save.

Here are a few frugal tips on saving money now for the future:

Stay healthy. One of the leading money guzzlers in retirement are health expenses. Prescription medications, knee replacements, high cholesterol, and cancer all come with a hefty bill. Regular physical activity and proactive health precautions may reduce these expenses.

Make friends with the neighbors. Retirees benefit from friends and family. Several people are willing to lend a helping hand to a senior citizen; a solid relationship will open this door.

Weatherproof the home. Energy costs are rising every year, and they might only increase in 20-40 years. Visit a local home improvement shop to find sealant for windows to prevent cold winter drafts. Ask about clearance items during the contrary weather season.

Being frugal will allow the individual to contribute much more to their company match plan for retirement.

I Love It Not…

Valentine’s Day, for some, is fondly referred to as Single’s Awareness Day. So what do all singles people do on Valentine’s Day? Well, they can wallow in self-pity or bitterness, or they can do something that shows how much they care about themselves.  What is even better is that it can be inexpensive too.

1. Polish Party.

Get a few of your single girlfriends together, bring all the nail polish you have, and take turns giving each other mani’s and pedi’s while bad mouthing all the boys who have done you wrong and what celebrity got arrested the night before.  You will not only get some polish powered confidence, but some much needed girl time therapy.  What will this cost you? Nothing, unless you need to pick up some new polish!

2. Bubble Bath… That’s Right.

Stop by your local bath and body shop and pick up some bubble bath in your favorite scent.  Nothing says relaxation more than a bubble bath.  Now light some candles, grab a book, or just turn on some soothing music and take some time for yourself.  The max this one will cost you?  $15. Try it out, you will not regret it.

3. Need a Good Cry?

Pop in Dirty Dancing or Marley and Me and enjoy some of what I so fondly refer to as movie medication.  Get your favorite drink and snack ready. Put on those pajama pants that fit just right and those fuzzy socks that you love so much and over medicate yourself to your single heart’s content.  Using Red Box?  This one will cost you a max of $5 for the movie and $20 for your drink and snacks.  Indulge a bit.

4. Go Home!

If you are a college student like me and going home is a rare luxury, plan ahead and make the trek back home.  Be around people who truly love you, aka, your parents!  If your parents are like mine, they will smother you in hugs, candy, and free food (something every college student loves.)

 

Valentine’s Day does not have to be Single’s Awareness Day.  Make Valentine’s Day about you, and tell Single’s Awareness Day where to shove it.

Turning Hobbies into Cash

College is full of shuffling between classes, writing papers, working, spending time with friends, and trying to find time to breath amongst the hustle and bustle. Trying to get in a decent amount of hours at work during the week while still trying to get in enough time to study can drive even the sanest person to the brink of insanity. And usually, the job really is not even something you like very much. If you are not stuck behind a greasy grill all day, you could be stuck stocking shelves at some big block store. Have you ever thought, “I wish there was a way I could do something I actually like?” Or maybe, “I wish I could do something that would make me more money, but take less time?” Well, I have good news for you! Every college kid has at least one hobby that can be made into a money maker with a little work. Here are just a few ideas to get you started:

1) Write

Writing can be a huge money maker for students, especially students who are studying journalism or English. Newspaper, magazines, online blogs, and more all offer freelance writing jobs. Freelance means you are not on contract with the group, company, or organization and can write about whatever you want. You can also, however, take on a writing position in a company where you will be given assignments to write. Begin a successful blog! Once you have a loyal fan base, you can begin putting advertisements up. Every time a reader clicks the blog, you make money. Often times student newspapers on college campuses also pay for writers. Making money writing is all about how much you put into it. Plus, writing experience looks great on a resume. Writers can make anywhere from $5 to $15 dollars an article.

2) Babysitting

Do you like kids? Maybe want to own a daycare someday? Then babysitting is a great fit for you. Not only will you be gaining experience to build your resume, you will be making money. Babysitting allows you to set your own hours and your own hourly wage. Also, babysitting allows a lot of downtime, which means extra time to study or just relax. If you want to look like a real professional, take a babysitting course at your local Red Cross. This course will certify you in CPR, the use of an AED, or automatic external defibrillator, rescue breathing, and other lifesaving maneuvers that will make you look that much more appealing to any parent.

3) Crafts

Do you feel content with a needle and thread in your hand? Do you spend your free time picking out the best colors and designs for necklaces? If your passion is handmade crafts, then your passion has money value. Etsy.com is the perfect place to begin posting your crafting skills to sell to the public. EBay would also be an excellent source as well. If you are confident in your abilities as a crafter, put them to the test on Etsy or ebay. You can set your own prices and work up from there!

4) Tutor

Are you proficient in business calculus? Is sitting through Spanish class a walk in the park? Do you offer your helpful services to friends all the time? Then you may be just the help that someone needs. Better yet, you are help they are willing to pay for. Start advertising your skills and tutoring services and watch the academically in need flock to you. Schools often times will pay you to tutor for them as well. With tutoring, you are able to set your own prices either per hour, per session, or per day. Schools will usually pay minimum wage or slightly more. If you are good at what you do, your students will advertise for you by boasting about the A’s you helped them get!

5) Cooking or Catering

If you are a culinary or bakery student, or just someone who has proficient knowledge in the kitchen, cooking and catering would not only be a fun way to make some extra cash, but build your resume as well. Hold a taste testing party, offer free samples to local businesses, and send letters with your business card, price sheets, and menus. If they like what you do, you can expect calls as soon as a week later. Who knows? This could even become a future business venture. The opportunities are endless!

Hobbies can become opportunities with just a little time and effort. Opportunities that can make you money and can even make you a future career. Build your resume, build your bank account, and build onto your future goals. The opportunities are there, now go get them!

Five Ways to Cut Your Grocery Bills

Gas prices keep rising and lowering (but definitely more rising). Our utility bills continue to increase, as does the overalls cost of living especially while food prices steadily continue to increase.

cut grocery bills

With that being said, we are looking for ways to save money and one of the easiest ways to save some quick cash is probably a way that you have never thought of before. Cutting your grocery bills will save a tremendous amount of money and it’s easy!

Here are five ways to cut your grocery bill, which means more money in your pocket for your mortgage payment, your utilities, or even a luxurious day at the spa (or golf course for you men out there!):

1. Clip Coupons – While it may not seem like 50 cents here and 75 cents there will save you money, it will if you know what to do and when. You want to save coupons and use them at the store when the store is having a sale on that particular item. In some stores, you can double or triple your coupons saving you that much more! Here’s how it works: let’s say you pay $2.50 for Prego spaghetti sauce and your favorite grocery store has it on sale for $2. Let’s say you have a coupon to receive 75 cents off that can of spaghetti sauce and let’s go on to say that the coupon doubles at the store for a total of $1.50 off the $2 sale price. That means you are paying only 50 cents for an otherwise $2.50 can of Prego spaghetti sauce. It pays to learn how to clip coupons and use them efficiently. Note: you can get easily coupons in your Sunday paper or online with the click of a mouse! And don’t forget to always be on the lookout for “Buy One, Get One Free” specials at the store and coupons. Match them together and that’s some savings to brag about (maybe even completely free!).

2. Stockpile During Sales – When items go on sale, stock up on them. Use your coupons, too. This means you will need to have plenty of room in your pantry – or somewhere! – so that you can store the additional items, but when the price goes up, you won’t need it saving you money on your grocery bill.

3. Purchase Store Brands – We don’t always have to have name brand stuff, do we? Sure, it’s nice sometimes, but store brand food is generally just as good and you can save a ton of money. This doesn’t only pertain to canned goods, this also relates to fresh fruits and veggies, frozen foods, baked goods and much more! In some cases, the store brand foods taste better than their name brand counterparts!

4. Avoid Convenience – Don’t purchase already cut-up carrots that are pre-packaged when you can purchase carrots individually and cut them up yourself for a lot cheaper. Avoid pre-made foods because in the long-run, you will save more cooking it from scratch at home rather than purchasing it in the frozen section especially in the long-term. Same goes for pre-cooked foods. It’s just better to buy the ingredients separately and make it at home. Next time you want the same meal, you’ll already have some of the ingredients on hand thus saving money!

5. Make a List – We all know that we spend more money at the grocery store when we go in without knowing what we need. By making a list of the things that we need (and sticking to it!), we are saving a ton of money on items that the household doesn’t really need such as extra junk food, an apple pie that looked too good to pass up, etc. So, check your fridge, pantry and cabinets before heading to the grocery store and make that list of the things you need to avoid excessive, unnecessary costs.

Utilizing the above-mentioned five ways to cut grocery bills, you will save a huge amount on your grocery bills each week. In fact, you will probably save more than you could have ever imagined you could save. When you go to the grocery store, make sure you are equipped with these five shop smart ways you can save money.