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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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    April 27, 2015
    Wedding Gifts That Won’t Make You Bankrupt

    bridal showerIf you’re like me, all your friends are planning weddings, getting married, and having kids. Ah, the joys of being 20-something. While it’s an exciting time, it can quickly be a drain on your bank account. Buying a large crockpot or whatever for a different friend every month is not really something you include in budgets! That’s why I really like this post by Maureen Bennie at The Dollar Stretcher. Here are some of her ideas for homemade wedding gifts your friends will love:

    -Offer a service for the wedding- play music, create a scrapbook, make the wedding invitations or programs, or bake their cake. Use your talents.

    -Create a recipe book- collect recipes from the bride and groom’s friends and family and put them together!

    -Give photo albums or picture frames. They will need them.

    -DIY it! Hand embroider towels, create centerpieces for their new home, etc.

    Photo Credit: Georgia 

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    April 23, 2015
    What Not To Do When Closing On Your Loan

    So, you’re trying to buy a home and you got pre-qualified. That’s great! Now that you’ve found your house and had your offer accepted, you need to close on your mortgage and seal the deal. However, even if you have already been pre-qualified, it doesn’t mean that you are totally approved. There is still a chance that the deal could fall through. Avoid that happening by reading this post by Barbara Mooers at Active Rain:

    -Don’t make any large purchases

    -Don’t apply for new credit

    -Don’t make changes to your credit profile

    -Do not change bank accounts, or add large unexplained deposits.

    Photo Credit: Rental Realities

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    April 21, 2015
    What To Ask A Lender

    I write a lot about the importance of getting yourself pre-approved for a mortgage, and making yourself more attractive to lenders. However, it’s also important that you shop around and make sure that the lender is also perfect for you! Therefore, it’s not unusual at all to give lenders an “interview” before signing on with them. In fact, most finance experts recommend it. Check out this post by Elizabeth Porter at Adams Homes for questions to ask before you get your mortgage:

    -What are the most popular types of mortgages you offer?

    -What type of plan do you think is right for me?

    -Will I have to buy Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)? How much will it cost?

    -What are your rates? How long are they good for?

    -How long do funds need to be in my bank account before closing?

    -How long does the approval process take?

    Photo Credit: Dominic Alves 

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    April 16, 2015
    Saving this Summer

    If you’re like me, you’re already planning (and saving for) summer vacation. I have three (three!) trips planned- more than I usually do in the span of five years! I’m going to Las Vegas, Cedar Point, and then to Michigan to meet my boyfriend’s extended family. That’s going to be a lot of traveling, but I’ve been saving as much as possible. For tips on saving money for your family’s vacation, check out this post by Holly Johnson at the Get Rich Slowly blog. It has some great advice, especially if you’re going to be traveling with kids:

    -Credit card rewards make it easy to travel cheaply, but only if you do it right. Make sure you are organized enough to pull it off!

    -Plan ahead, book ahead.

    -Think of everything to pack and bring it with you. Don’t get caught spending $30 for sunscreen at a souvenir shop.

    -Avoid airfare at all costs, especially if you’re traveling as a group.

    -Always bring something for the kids to do

    Photo Credit: Theodore Scott 

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    April 14, 2015
    Tax Breaks You Might Not Know About

    Attention, all procrastinators (including myself)! The last day to file 2014 taxes is tomorrow, so get on it! Although some of you may be dreading it (including myself, again), it has to be done. But, there are ways to make tax season a little less painful. There are so many tax breaks floating around out there that you can snag- you just have to know where to look. Check out this post by Vera Gibbons at the Zillow blog for some unusual tax breaks that you may not have known about:

    -Refinancing points

    -Home energy credits

    -Premiums for PMI

    -Simplified home office deduction

    Photo Credit: Jackie 

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    April 13, 2015
    How Do Lenders Look At Your Credit?

    One of the first, and most important things you need to do before applying for a mortgage is getting your credit score in order. If you have bad credit, you most likely will not get approved. But, once you apply, what happens then? What exactly do they look at, and how do they decide whether you’re approved or not? It’s not as simple as having a score above a certain number. Check out this post by Diane Beaumont at Active Rain for more info:

    -Your scores will have a direct impact on the interest rate that you qualify for or if you qualify for a loan at all.

    -Your debt balances will be reviewed to determine your debt-to-income ratio. Essentially, the lender will determine if you are able to make your payments on time as scheduled or if your debt balances appear to be burdensome. 

    -Your mortgage lender will also review the number of late payments on your credit report as well as the dates for those late payments.

    Photo Credit: Camera Eye Photography 

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    April 7, 2015
    Do You Believe These Credit Score Myths?

    Most people have heard the standard tips to improve your credit score: pay your bills on time, maintain a low credit balance, and reduce. But, do all of these really work? You don’t know what really affects your score, unless you check your credit report. Check out this post by Kristina at Cents and Order for some surprising facts that may change how you look at your credit score. Some of them even surprised me! Here are the biggest myths about credit that most people (including myself) believe:

    - “Paying household/utility bills on time gives you good credit.” False. But, if you pay them late, it WILL negatively affect your score.

    - “Your credit score is the same across the board.” False. Your score will most likely be different from each agency.

    - “Paying bills a few days late will hurt you.” False. Late payments will not show up on your score until they are 30+ days late.

    Wow! I totally believed the last one. That’s really a relief, even though I always pay my bills on time ;) it’s nice to know that there is a bit of wiggle room, though.

    Photo Credit: Brenda Clarke 

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    April 6, 2015
    Mortgage Rate News, April 2015

    When shopping for mortgages, paying attention to the interest rate is the number one thing that people look for. Even though other things matter (the reputation of the lender, and the length of the loan, among other things), most people want to get the absolute lowest rate possible. And for good reason! The lower the rate, the less extra money you have to pay for your home. Check out this post by Bob Elliot at Active Rain for what’s in store in the world of mortgages for this month:

    Fixed mortgage rates rose by one basis point for both 30 and -15-year mortgages. The average rate for a 30 year mortgage rate was 3.80 percent and the average rate for a 15-year mortgage was 2.98 percent.

    The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage was unchanged at 2.92 percent.

    Photo Credit: WoodleyWonderWorks 

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    April 2, 2015
    What To Give Up To Pay Off Your Mortgage Faster

    A few of my Catholic friends are currently participating in Lent. They give up something that they love (usually soda, chocolate, fast food) or try to break a bad habit (swearing, smoking) for a month to show personal sacrifice. Even if you aren’t religious, I think you can learn a lesson from giving things up for a greater purpose. It’s about putting off your short-term desires for a long term goal. In my case, it’s about saving money. In your case, you might be wanting to pay off your mortgage faster. Whatever your savings goals, giving up unnecessary expenses is the fastest way to accomplish them and attain financial freedom. Check out this post by Gretchen at the Retired By 40 for things that she has gone without to pay off debt:

    -A New Kitchen- If you can cook food in it, you don’t need to expand or remodel. Save the cash.

    -Vacations- The cost of the vacation + the hours at work you are missing could add to multiple extra mortgage payments.

    -A Data Plan- Calling and texting are all you need!

    -Free time- Time is money. By picking up extra side jobs on the side, like dogsitting or freelance writing, you make more.

    I honestly don’t know if I have the discipline to give up my precious data plan, let alone vacations and free time. However, by giving up those things, you could save thousands a year, and ultimately take off years of payment. 

    Photo Credit: Kalyan Chakravarthy 

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    March 30, 2015
    What Not To Buy At A Yard Sale

    I am so glad Spring is here! You know what that means- yard sale season. Yard sales are a great way to get stuff you need for cheap, and are also a fun activity to do on a nice Saturday. Unlike thrift stores, yard sales let you enjoy the weather, get to know your community, and let you haggle to get yourself a better deal. If you’re looking for baby stuff or furniture, there is no better place to go. However, just because something is for sale doesn’t mean you should buy it! Check out this post by JL Penner at Frugal Living Mom for things that you should never buy used, let alone at a garage sale. Most of them are common sense, but some were surprises:

    -Bicycle helmets, tires, car seats, cribs- It’s essential that you buy safety products like this new. When you buy used you don’t know if safety standards have changed or if products have been recalled.

    -Electronics- there is no guarantee that they work.

    -Baby bottles- who knows what kind of hidden bacteria they have. Always buy these new.

    -Makeup- NEVER buy used makeup!

    -Nonstick pots and pans- they simply do not last and get scratched up over the years.

    Photo Credit: Courtney Rhodes 

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