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  • From 2001 to 2005, the average homeowner saw the value of his or her house jump by more than 50 percent.
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    June 23, 2015
    Pay Off Your Mortgage In Twice The Time

    The advantage of a thirty year mortgage over a fifteen year mortgage- you have lower payments each month. But fifteen year mortgages cost less in total. If you want to reduce the overall cost of your mortgage (by eliminating all the interest that comes with them), the best solution is to pay it off sooner. Plus, who doesn’t want to be completely debt free? Can you imagine not paying for housing each month? That’s a lot of extra cash. Check out this post by Bob Ashworth for tips on paying it off faster:

    -Every month when you review your mortgage loan statement from your lender, find the amount of the payment that is slated to go towards your principle

    -Now while your payment will remain the same for the life of the loan, the amount that goes towards principle and interest will change as your principle balance is reduced.

    -Add that amount to your payment. You’ve just made 2 months of payments. Do this same thing every month, and your 30 year or 360 month mortgage just became 15 years, or 180 months.

    Photo Credit: Mark Moz 

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    June 22, 2015
    Ways To Pay Off Debt That You Won’t Even Notice

    I love finding sneaky ways to save more money. Drink water at restaurants instead of soda. Sell old things you don’t need anymore. Or, like I wrote about last week, find ways to extend the shelf life of household items. This post by Sarah Titus has lots of awesome tips and tricks to save money, and to pay off your mortgage early. Check out some of her advice:

    -Round up payment amounts. If your payment is $788, round it up to $800.

    -Keep “paying” a bill. If you pay off your car, put that extra $250 a month towards your mortgage.

    -Refinance your home for a lower time period to pay off.

    -Take seasonal jobs and put the entire amount towards your mortgage.

    Photo Credit: Tax Credits 

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    June 18, 2015
    Tricks to Prolong Shelf Life of Common Items

    One of my favorite ways to save money (and help the environment) is by reusing old items and giving them new life. I use plastic grocery bags to bring my lunch to work, or to line the inside of waste baskets. I try to sell old books, movies, and cds to used book stores, and I’m always looking up tips on repurposing common household items and how to stretch your dollars even further. That’s why I love this post by Peggy Wang at Buzzfeed- it’s basically a master list of tips and tricks on how to make things last longer. Side note- you should never use expired makeup, medications, or food- it can pose serious health risks and is not worth the few bucks you save!

    -Place candles in the freezer before use to make them burn longer

    -Cut your sponges in half

    -Mix hand soap with water and put in a foam dispenser

    -Break bananas apart instead of keeping them in the bunch

    -Swipe vinegar on your nails before applying polish- it will make the manicure last weeks longer.

    -Air dry your laundry whenever possible.

    Photo Credit: keepon 

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    June 15, 2015
    First Mortgage No-Nos

    If you think you are ready to buy your first home, the first step is to get all of your finances in order. The next step after that is getting pre-approved for a mortgage (hence, the first step). In order to get a mortgage at all, you have to make yourself an appealing borrower. You have to make sure your lender knows that you can stay employed, pay your debts, and pay your bills on time. For a list of rookie mistakes that will cost you big when applying for a mortgage, check out this post at Bustle:

    -Not putting down enough of a down payment

    -You didn’t do the math- make sure you really know how much of a home you can afford!

    -You didn’t check your credit. Possibly worse: you have no credit at all.

    -You have way too much debt

    Photo Credit: Rennett Stowe 

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    June 11, 2015
    What Type Of Lender Is Right For You?

    Everyone knows it’s extremely important to get pre-approved for a mortgage before you begin looking at houses. But how do you start? Where do you begin to shop around? Well, there are basically two answers to that question: banks, and mortgage brokers. So, which is better? Which one is better at looking out for you, and which one will provide you with better rates? Check out this infographic by Scott Dawson for some surprising data:

    -92% of people say that brokers have equal, better or much better rates than banks. They are also much better at helping clients understand the mortgage options available to them.

    That being said, consider mortgage brokers are you are shopping around for your loan.

    Photo Credit: GotCredit 

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    June 8, 2015
    What To Stop Wasting Money On

    If you are trying to save money for something special, or are just struggling to meet a budget, figuring out ways to cut expenses can be a challenge. But, there are tons of little things we spend money on that we don’t realize are pointless cash sinks. Check out this post by JL Penner at Frugal Living Mom for things to stop buying today that will save you hundreds (even thousands) in the future:

    -Bottled water. Get a washable bottle and use tap water.

    -Brand names- spending money on a label is a waste.

    -Entertainment- be on the lookout for cheap date ideas, like hikes and picnics.

    -Credit card interest- use credit cards only for emergency and pay it off as quickly as possible.

    Photo Credit: FrankieLeon 

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    June 4, 2015
    Eating Healthy On A Dime

    It’s sad, but in America, fatty, sugary, processed, greasy food is so much cheaper and more readily available than healthy food. Why spend $50 buying organic produce, whole grains, and lean meat when you can swing through the drive thru and buy burgers for the whole family for less than $10? It’s one of the reasons why we have such a problem with obesity, diabetes, and heart disease: people just can’t afford to eat healthily. However, if you’re looking to make changes to your lifestyle, there are plenty of ways to save on natural, wholesome food. Check out this post by Amy Livingston at Money Crashers for tips on eating healthy on a budget:

    -If you are looking to shop organic, know and understand all the labels. Always look for a USDA organic seal.

    -Shop store brands instead of brand name foods. Aldi, Walmart, and Target all have their own organic product lines that are cheaper than alternatives.

    -Always be on the lookout for sales and coupons.

    -Try the bulk bins at stores like Whole Foods.

    Photo Credit: Suzette 

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    June 1, 2015
    Is Debt Consolidation Actually A Good Idea?

    I see them all the time on TV- the commercials aimed at people drowning in debt. Student loans, house payments, credit card debt. car loans, business loans, check advance loans, back taxes- these places seem to have everything covered- and with one easy call, they will magically lower your payments to mere pennies a day. These debt consolidation services sound almost too good to be true. And…. well, that’s usually because they are. Check out this article by Carmen Chai at Card Synergy if you’ve been tempted to consolidate:

    …Consolidation is just a temporary bandage for a bigger problem.”

    People often turn to debt consolidation because their spending gets out of hand and they can’t manage the repercussions, Bossler says. It’s typically a knee-jerk reaction as the debtor grasps at straws, but it doesn’t address how their lifestyle sunk them into debt. You also need to do your research on your consolidation options before you jump in headfirst.

    Photo Credit: Simon Cunningham 

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    May 28, 2015
    Finding Your Affordable Dream Home

    Knowing how much home you can afford is the first step in buying a house. An easy way to get a ballpark estimate is by getting pre-qualified for a loan (note- not the same thing as pre-approval, which is necessary if you want to make any serious offers). If you’re just starting out on your home buying journey, figuring out your budget is the first thing that needs to happen before you even start looking at houses. Check out these tips at Better Money Habits for finding a home that you love (and that you can afford). Be sure to look at the whole infographic, it has a really detailed breakdown of mortgage costs, how to budget, and finding out your debt to income ratio.

    Photo Credit: Striatic 

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    May 26, 2015
    Another Reason To Replace Your Windows

    It’s no secret that old, outdated windows can really cost you on energy bills. If they’re letting all your cool air escape in the summer, what’s the point of having them? Yes, sometimes replacing old windows and doors can get costly, but in the long run, it will most likely save you big time. There’s also another great reason to upgrade: tax breaks! Check out this post by Maggie Dokic at Active Rain for more info:

    -If you installed new windows or doors in 2014, you may be able to claim up to $500 in tax credits.

    -For doors, you can claim up to a $500 credit.

    For windows and skylights, you can claim only up to a $200 credit. (That’s total — not per window.)

    10% of expenditures, up to a lifetime $500, for all energy improvements combined.

    Save receipts and labels.

    File IRS Form 5695.

    Photo Credit: Allen McGregor 

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