Guides

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.

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.

Do Young Adults Need Disability Insurance?

Many things go through the minds of young adults, but seldom do they think of being grievously ill or being prepared for the worst. Usually it is later life when these things are considered and dealt with accordingly. The chances of becoming disabled are considered remote, and therefore not something of which to be concerned.
disability insurance

This leaves many young adults unprepared for such an instance. Unfortunately it is in these years when most people are actually at a higher risk of a disabling injury. Everyone of working age needs to plan ahead of time to see that their bills would be paid if they were to become disabled.

Accidents and illness could potentially cause long lasting or even permanent disability. In the event of temporary disability, a policy would provide a portion of income that would help get bills paid until the illness has passed. The loss of employment resulting in no income for just a few months can have devastating financial consequences for the young adult and their family.

A big benefit in getting disability insurance while young is the reduced cost over getting it later in life. It may also be possible to get a policy during this time that cannot be cancelled by the company. It makes sound financial sense as it stays in force as long as the premiums are met in a timely manner. A policy such as this provides lifelong protection.

It’s no secret that a change in health comes with age. Medical history will play a big role in whether or not a person will qualify for disability insurance. Any kind of medical history will make an increase in the amount paid in premiums. This is where a policy purchase while in the health of youth makes so much sense.

Employers are the first place anyone should begin for any type of insurance. It could be readily available as an option in the company group insurance. Employees are responsible for inquiring about potential benefits they may qualify for as a current company employee. A quick trip to the human resources department will reveal what type of plans are available that can be automatically be deducted from earnings.

Most people are seemingly at their best during the young adult years. It is easy to overlook certain things at this age, particularly when it comes to topics of injury or death. However, it is the precise time to get prepared for all of the things that can catch us off guard. Disability insurance is not just for the elderly or frail. It is for all adults, young or old. These are the individuals that are smart enough to know they need it to take care of themselves should an unfortunate event occur.