A Year Before Buying a Home

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We are in the beginning process of buying our first home in April and boy am I glad we started thinking about this early on. There are so many decisions that go into this process that it can seem overwhelming at first! A real yard. A garage. A Basement. Making the switch from renting to owning is SO exciting, but it is also a huge decision with so many options. If you’re thinking about purchasing your first home I have compiled a list of things you will want to do 9-12 months out before buying your first home that will make the process much easier.

Check your credit score. Get a copy of your credit report, we use creditkarma.com because it is free and secure. Often times your credit will have errors that could lead to higher rates on loans. Avoid last-minute bombshells by checking your score long before you’re ready to make an offer this gives you the opportunity to correct any mistakes in plenty of time.

Determine how much you can afford. Figure out How Much House Can You Afford?
Lenders are happy to lend you as much as your debt load allows. Many articles that I have read state that The cost of your home — including taxes, maintenance and other costs — should not exceed 28% of your monthly income.

Make a down payment plan. Most conventional mortgages require a 20% down payment. If you can swing it, do it. A couple years back we set up a capitalone360 savings account and started a dedicated savings account for a down payments. Being able to put 20% down will make your loan cost be much less, and you’ll get a better interest rate.

Prioritize what you most want in your new home. Proximity to work? A big backyard? An open floor plan? Being on a quiet street? This has been the hardest part for us is location.

Start a home maintenance account. Speaking of saving, start the good habit now of putting a little aside each month to fund maintenance, repairs, and home emergencies.

Happy House Hunting! XOXO

More saving posts you may have missed:

| 2 incomes 1 salary | Live Simply | Newlywed Finances |

Newlywed Finances

With so many of my friends getting married these past couple of years I have found it interesting to talk to them about how they’re combining their finances and what they’re doing with their money as newlyweds. All of the options after the wedding seem relatively grown-up. Some have bought a house? Some have started saving for future children down the line? Some have decided to use their money to travel? Some are combining everything and some are keeping separate accounts?

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After reading online and doing a little research I have found some advice that is most common across the board on the conversations that can help establish a secure and happy future. Here is what I have learned.

1) Figure out your benefits.

The first thing you need to do is to work out your insurance. Does it make more financial sense for one of you to enroll in the other’s health insurance program, or is it cheaper to remain on your own plans? Then, update your beneficiaries. Check your retirement plan, your insurance plans, and any other accounts, and make sure that your spouse is your beneficiary.

2) Get your estate in order

You need to complete a will, a power of attorney form, a healthcare power of attorney form, and a living will.

3) Combine finances

This is the part where after talking to my friends and reading online I have found conflicting information. If you decide to not combine all of your accounts at least set up a joint account. Pay into that joint account in proportion to how much money you make—so if you make twice as much as your husband, contribute twice as much to the joint account.

4) Talk about your money goals

Setting up specific savings accounts to move toward your goals. If you have kids, you could consider contributing to a college education. Or if you want to buy a house set up an account for a 20% down payment.

5) Credit cards: If you and your spouse have multiple credit cards, make a list of which cards have the best terms — cash back or travel points and no annual fees.

6) Build an Emergency Fund– If you don’t already have an emergency fund, consider making this a top priority. An emergency fund is money that is set aside in case something expensive happens unexpectedly, such as a lost job, family illness, natural disaster, or a major home repair. Aim to save about 6 months’ worth of your household expenses in case the emergency is that you have no income.

7) Make sure you’re clear on your tax situation

It will make financial sense for most couples to file jointly, but the “marriage penalty” sometimes kicks in if each spouse makes a vastly different amount of money.

 

Live Simply

 

live simplyCheers to the weekend, thanks for stopping in! Today’s topic is how to “live simply”. This is something I struggle with constantly because I over commit and have a hard time saying no. Obviously “to live simply” has different meanings for everyone but to me it means eliminating all but the essentials, getting rid of the clutter, spending your time doing what’s important to you & spending your time with people you love.

So here are some tips and tricks to simplifying your life:

  • Evaluate your commitments. Look at everything you’ve got going on in your life and pick the top five that are most important to you.
  • Simplify work tasks. For me my work day is made up of an endless list of tasks. It’s important to focus on the essentials to get the most important done first.
  • Simplify home tasks. So focus on the most important, and try to find ways to eliminate the other tasks.
  • Learn to say no. This is where I struggle the most, if you can’t say no, you will take on too much.
  • Purge your stuff. If you can devote a weekend to purging the stuff you don’t want, it feels terrific. I just recently filled 2 trash bags full of clothes I no longer wear and took them to Goodwill.
  • Simplify your wardrobe. Simplify your wardrobe by getting rid of anything you don’t actually wear and keeping just staple items that won’t go out of style.
  • Limit your buying habits- the less you shop the less you accumulate.
  • Do what you love. Once you’ve freed up some time, be sure to spend that extra time doing things you love.
  • Spend time with people you love.
  • Spend time alone.
  • Be present. Live in the moment and be aware of life around you.
  • Establish routines.
  • Learn to live frugally. Living frugally means buying less & wanting less.
  • Learn what “enough” is. Our materialistic society today is about getting more and more, with no end in sight.
  • Eat healthy.
  • Exercise. exercise helps burn off stress and makes you feel better. It’s great.

More Posts on Living Simply:

| 2 incomes 1 salary | $200 Monthly Meal Plan | What to do with your tax return |

| Having a 20% down payment |

Two Incomes One Salary

If you live in a two-income household I love the idea of living off one income and saving the other person’s entire salary! I have been reading up a lot on this topic and have found some really good tips and tricks in order to make this plan possible. By saving one entire salary this builds up your savings ridiculously fast and you find that you’re really not missing out on anything, either.

Begin by creating a budget and figuring out what your end goals are. You need to set a goal so you have something motivating you that you’re working towards: Are you saving to buy your first home or an early retirement? To pay for your kid’s college, pay cash for your next car or to take a nice vacation each year? Whatever it is have a goal in mind and stick to it!

Second make a list of all of your expenses for a year. This would include monthly bills and less occasional expenses like your 2 trips to the dentist a year. This will help you understand if it is possible to pay for all of your yearly expenses off of one salary. Below is an example of the expense tracking I made for myself to see how much money we would have left each month after paying for all of our bills/expenses:

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Start planning on how you can cut your expenses. Cooking from home, tracking your spending, buy less house than you can actually afford, getting rid of cable, challenge yourself to find free fun, go shopping less often, these

What can you do with the savings?  There are plenty of options:

  • Double up on your mortgage pay down.  It is possible for a couple to pay off their entire mortgage in just three to five years by living on one spouse’s income and using the the other income to pay off the mortgage.
  • Emergency Fund. Set aside 3 to 6 months (or even 9 months!) of living expenses. Like in my previous post you should also create special sub-savings accounts I have one for house down payment emergency fund and vacations. You could get creative and make one for just about anything you are saving for.
  • Make a car payment to yourself. You can put aside enough money to buy your next cars in cash create a sub account for this and it’ll add up so quickly!
  • Max out all of your retirement account!
  • Create a child’s college savings fund.
  • Take a risk. Put aside enough savings so that you are able to start your own business or take some kind of major career or entrepreneurial risk. Or retire as early as age 35 or 40!

Living on one person’s income and saving the entirety of the other is one of the most effective ways to ramp up your savings and live a more financially free life!

Frugal February

How to eat for 200 dollars a month

This month we are challenging ourselves to eat for under $200 a month. Step one is to establish a food budget suitable for you. On average most people don’t keep track of their food expenses and that can make it difficult to make changes or measure progress. Just doing this simple task may be where you need to start to improve your spending habits. Eating healthy and saving money on food starts by deciding to cook most of your meals at home. If you want to save money and calories, don’t eat out and get your butt in a grocery store!

Include meals that will “stretch” expensive food items such as casseroles, stir-frys, chili, soups and spaghetti. Typically, eating less meat or using meat as an accent will be less expensive and often healthier. Simple meals can still be nutritious! We have decided to make soup on Saturday that we will be able to take for lunches and eat as leftovers throughout the work week.

Consider shopping at discount stores or national chains we ended up buying all of our items from Aldi and our meat from Kroger. There chains tend to have lower prices and good selections of store brands. Sometimes you can also save by shopping at warehouse stores (Sams, Costco) where you get items in bulk that will last you awhile.

I started by making a monthly meal plan of what we would eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the entire month of February. I tried picking items that only require 2-3 ingredients and items that can be ate as leftovers.

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I chose eggs, cereal, overnight oats and breakfast casserole for our breakfast items. They are cheap, quick, and easy to make.

Breakfast recipes: Overnight Oats & Breakfast Casserole

For lunch we will be having soups, salads, jambalaya and a day for leftovers. We may have to go to the store throughout the month for lettuce since this is the one item that may not last an entire month.

Meal prepping lunch tutorial HERE!

Dinner Recipes: Greek Yogurt Chicken, White Chicken Chili,  tacos, Zuppa, tuna melts, Grilled cheese, paninis,  Homemade pizza (every Friday) , Stir Fry, Taco Soup, Jalepeno Popper Chicken, boneless wings, wedges, and a pantry purge day where we get creative and come up with a meal from what we have already in our pantry.

How to save more in the New Year

The new year often inspires us to aim for a fresh set of goals, including saving more money. If growing your bank account is one of your ambitions for 2015, these tips and tricks will help get you on the right path.

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  1.  Have clear goals. Know what you’re saving for.  How can you reach a goal if you don’t know what the target is?  Having clearly defined goals will help you stay motivated with your savings plan.  Want to save for a home down payment?  Great. Then figure out how much you need, by when, and how much you need to save every month in order to reach that goal. 
  2. If you receive a Christmas bonus or extra cash this year use the rule of thirds to determine how to use it: One third for the past. Use one third to pay down debt you owe & one third for the future.
  3. Calculate the cost of your time.One of the best things I ever did was calculate the cost of my hourly rate.  That way, when I am out shopping and I see a pair of shoes I want, I ask myself how many hours will I need to work to pay for them.  If your hourly rate is $15, and you see a pair of shoes for $120, that pair of shoes will cost you eight hours of work. 
  4. You will want to create a separate savings account dedicated to your emergency savings account with 6 months of expenses available in case of job loss, medical emergency, car repairs, etc. This account should not be touched unless it’s an EXTREME emergency. So if you spend let’s say $3000/month, your emergency fund should have $18,000.
  5. Make goals and stick to a budget. Mint.com is a great place to start to help you stay on track!
  6. Cook on a budget . Prep and plan your meals for the week. Cooking at home more frequently can really make a difference. It’s not only a healthier option but it is also cheaper and a great way to cut back on spending.
  7. Become a smarter shopper and only buy what you need, not what you want.
  8. Automate your savings account & set up sub savings accounts for your various short term saving needs. Some needs that come to mind are: wedding, house down payment, vacation.
  9. Be smart with your tax return
  10. Save on your electricity. Small changes will help you decrease your electricity bill. Make sure to turn off the lights when they aren’t in use, don’t leave the TV on all night, and switch or unplug devices when they aren’t being used.

  11. Stay on track: Finally, when you have everything in order you might be tempted to expand your spending just a little but you always need to be mindful not to allow yourself to slip into your old spending habits. 

  12. Did you know that buying coffee daily compared to brewing coffee at home could save you over $350 a year?

Check out ways to help you save for a 20% down payment

Christmas Shop on a Budget

I don’t know about you, but my favorite thing about the Christmas season is surprising my family and friends with great gifts. Everyone wants to buy the perfect Christmas gifts for their family and friends but unfortunately, most of us do not have an unlimited budget. This year I have come up with a list of tips I follow each year in order to cut costs during the Holidays while still making sure everyone gets a great gift.

Shopping Tips

1. Plan Ahead. The first thing I always do is start early! Start saving, shopping and budgeting early to eliminate stress. The main way to prevent stress is by shopping all year round instead of waiting until the last minute. You can shop on sale racks, stock up on clothes, toys and household gifts all year round.

2. Holiday Essentials. Buy your holiday items such as wrapping paper, bows, ribbon and ornaments in January when they all go on sale.

3. Shop online. You can try comparison shopping website, they can help you find the best price for new items and you won’t even have to get off of couch.

4. Tap into your creative side. This tip is my favorite making your own gifts is not only fun but it’s affordable. You can make personalized tote bags with fabric paint, knit hats and mittens, create gifts out of jars, make your own coasters, decorate picture frames etc. The ideas are endless. And the results will be personal, thoughtful one-of-a-kind gifts.

5. Show off your inner photographer with great photo Christmas gifts if you really are on a budget. Photo calendars, mug covered with photos, a scrapbook, a collage or a framed photo. All you need to do is to be creative and start making personalized photo Christmas gifts.

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{ Tutorial on how to make your own coasters to give as a gift }

Christmas Budgeting Tips

1. Create a gift notebook or spreadsheet. You need to list gift ideas for everyone on your list and keep track of what you have already purchased and how much you have spent on each individual. 

2. I always ask my family to come up with a Christmas list so that I am buying them items that they will actually use. 

3. I always love stocking up on “go to gifts”. Candles & lotions are a good option. The reason behind this is that you will never have to get a gift at the last minute.

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Other tips on how to save:

| How to thrift shop | | Get Rich | | Save for a down payment | | Budget your Vacation |