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Posts tagged ‘Money’

Keep Your Closing Costs Low

Closing costs can surprise many homeowners if they aren’t prepared for them and can seriously deplete savings at a time when most people need money the most.  It seems that lenders are constantly finding new and creative ways to tack on a few dollars here, and a few dollars there to the tune of thousands.  However, by taking a few simple steps you can keep your closing costs low and know when to tell your lender that enough is enough!

First, you should always be a savvy consumer when it comes to title work.  You have the right to select any title company you want and not the one that the mortgage company wants to force upon you.  Of course, the mortgage company they want you to use always turns out to be one of the more expensive ones (because they are getting kickback fees).  Shop around for a title work company and you can often save 30% right off the bat, and if you are willing to really work at it, save upwards of 50%.  It’s not chump change either – a title company can easily charge $1,200 for basic title services.

Next, be on the lookout for junk fees.  Lenders love to pile on the document preparation fees, interest locking fees and anything else they can think of.  Often times they throw these fees onto mortgages that have no points attached to them.  Make sure that you ask your lender for a full disclosure of all the fees and then ask them about any that seem out of line.  If you aren’t happy with what they quote you, tell them you are looking around at other lenders.  The last thing a lender wants to do is lose 30 years worth of interest because of a $200 junk fee!

If you aren’t going to be in the house for more than a few years, ask the seller to pay the closing costs.  Sure, you’ll end up paying a higher interest rate, but if you plan on moving in a few years then the cost of the interest won’t match the closing costs you would have to pay up front.  Plus, you pay the extra interest off is small chunks each month rather than being out a lot of money up front. 

Watch out for lenders who try to sell you add-on products with your mortgage.  They love to try to get you to buy credit insurance (a total waste of money) and some lenders even try to sell you services such as “plumbing protection” or “whole house appliance protection”.  Just say no!

Remember, you have the power to say no thanks at any time before you sign on the dotted line.  If you don’t like the figures your lender is talking about for closing costs, shop around – in fact, you should around and get several mortgage offers before you even consider one.  Don’t be afraid to get up and walk away from the table.  After all, it’s your money – don’t let a greedy lender try to squeeze another $1000 out of you when you have enough stress taking place buying a home in the first place!

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Rent-to-Own at Three Times the Price

If you had the opportunity to buy a television or a sofa at a price that was three times the suggested retail price, would you do it?  That scenario may seem ridiculous, but thousands of people do just that every day when they sign an agreement at a rent-to-own store.  Rent-to-own, or RTO for short, is a system that allows consumers with little or no credit to acquire furniture, electronics or appliances by renting them by the week or by the month.  At the end of the rental agreement, the renter gets to keep the merchandise.  The renter may also agree simply to rent the merchandise for an agreed-upon period of time.

While furniture or appliance rental may be suitable for someone who needs them for only a month or so, it represents an expensive way to buy for someone who intends to keep them.  A television may seem inexpensive at only $10 per week, but if the agreement requires eighteen months of rental before the customer owns it, the total amount paid will be $780.   That would be fine if the television were valued at anywhere near that amount, but in most cases, that $780 will provide a television that sells for only $250 or so at electronics stores.  The additional $530 goes to the rental company in the form of profit.  Expressed as an annual interest rate, some rental fees can exceed 400% annually.

In addition to the rental charges, the customer will also likely have to pay sales tax, delivery charges and possibly return charges if he or she elects not to keep the merchandise.  Late payments may also incur a late fee, provided that the rental company doesn’t elect to terminate the agreement and take the merchandise back altogether.  In that case, the customer has nothing to show for the money invested.

Rental companies point out that for those who have no credit cards, the RTO concept provides an opportunity to “have it now.”  That is true, but consumers who have little money would be better off either saving that $10 per week and buying the television in six months’ time.  Alternatively, the consumer could put the television on layaway at a retailer and pay it off over time.  Either way, the consumer would save hundreds of dollars in rental fees.

A consumer who needs furniture or appliances for a short time, such as someone on a temporary assignment to another city, might find an RTO agreement useful in order to avoid living in an empty apartment.  But anyone who wants to buy furniture, electronics, or appliances might be better served by simply saving their money until they have enough to buy the merchandise outright.

Growing Your Own Herbs

If you’re not the type of person that wants to spend their time managing an elaborate fruit or vegetable garden, you might consider planting and maintaining a herb garden. While the product might not seem as significant, you’ll still enjoy the constant availability of fresh, delicious herbs to flavor your meals with.

First you’ll want to choose the herbs that you’ll plant. You might have a hard time doing this because of the huge scope of herbs available. But the best way to choose is to do what I did; just look at what you have in your kitchen. By planting your own collection of these herbs, you can save money on buying them from the grocery store while having the added benefit of freshness. Some of the herbs you might start with include rosemary, sage, basil, dill, mint, chives, and parsley among others.

When choosing an area to put your herb garden, you should remember that the soil should have extremely good drainage. If the dirt gets watered and stays completely saturated, you have no chance of ever-growing a healthy plant. One of the best ways to fix the drainage problem is to dig a foot deep in the soil, and put a layer of crushed rocks down before replacing all the soil. This will allow all that water to escape, thus saving your plants.

When you are ready to begin planting herbs, you might be tempted to buy the more expensive plants from the store. However, with herbs it is much easier to grow them from seed than it is with other plants. Therefore you can save a bundle of money by sticking with seed packets. Some herbs grow at a dangerously fast rate. For example, if you plant a mint plant in an open space then it will take over your entire garden in a matter of days. The best way to prevent this problem is to plant the more aggressive plants in pots (with holes in the bottom to allow drainage, of course).

When it comes time to harvest the herbs you have labored so hard over, it can be fatal to your plant to take off too much. If your plant isn’t well established, it isn’t healthy to take any leaves at all, even if it looks like it’s not using them. You should wait until your plant has been well established for at least several months before taking off any leaves. This wait will definitely be worth it, because by growing unabated your plant will produce healthily for years to come.

Once you’ve harvested your delicious home-grown herbs, you’ll want to use them in cooking. Why else would you have grown them? Well first the process begins with drying them out. This is easily achieved by placing them on a cookie sheet and baking them 170 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 to 4 hours. After they’re sufficiently dried to be used in cooking, you can consult the nearest cookbook for instructions on using them to effectively flavor a dish.

If you want to store your herbs for later usage, you should keep them in a plastic or glass container. Paper or cardboard will not work, because it will absorb the taste of the herbs. During the first few days of storage, you should regularly check the container and see if any moisture has accumulated. If it has, you must remove all the herbs and re-dry them. If moisture is left from the first drying process, it will encourage mildew while you store your herbs. Nobody likes mildew.

So if you enjoy herbs or gardening, or both, then you should probably consider setting up a herb garden. It might require a little bit of work at first to set it up for optimal drainage, and pick what herbs you want to grow. But after the initial hassle, it’s just a matter of harvesting and drying all your favorite herbs.

Looking to Remodel Your Kitchen, While Saving Money at the Same Time

Are you a homeowner?  If so, there is a good chance that you may be a little tight on cash.  As nice as it is to own a home, it is expensive to. Despite being low on financial resources, you may still want to remodel your home, particularly your kitchen. Although you might not think that it is possible, there are a number of different ways that you can go about changing your kitchen around without having to spend more money than you need to. 

Perhaps, the most obvious way to save money, when it comes to remodeling your kitchen, is deciding whether or not your kitchen really needs to be remodeled. As a homeowner, you have every right to remodel your kitchen, if you wish to do so; however, if money is tight it may be a good idea to rethink your decision, at least until your financial outlook improves. Although it may be a good idea to hold off on the kitchen remodeling, you may not necessarily want to. As previously mentioned, there a number of relatively low-cost ways that you could go about remodeling your kitchen.

One of the best ways to go about remodeling your kitchen without going broke is by taking it one step at a time. Although your goal may be to remodel your whole kitchen, inside and out, it can be costly do it all at the same time. By doing your remodeling in steps, it may make it easier for you to afford the overall cost of a kitchen remodeling project. For instance, if you would like to replace your kitchen cabinets, it may be a good idea to start there first.  After your kitchen cabinets have been replaced and you have additional money for remodeling, you may want to move onto the next remodeling project, say changing the light fixtures in your kitchen.  Taking one step at a time may not only make it easier for you to afford the cost of remodeling, but it may also help to make sure that you are choosing the right materials, supplies, and designs.

Where you buy your supplies and materials from may also have an impact on how much a kitchen remodeling project costs. Whether you decide to do all of your remodeling at once or do it a little bit at a time, you will want to keep an eye on where you are buying your materials from. If you are looking to save the most money, you may want to think about shopping at one of your local home improvement stores.  Most home improvement stores, especially those that operate on a national level, carry everything that you need to undergo a kitchen remodeling project.  In addition to the tools needed, you may also be able to find the supplies or materials that you need, such as kitchen sinks, kitchen sink pipes, kitchen floor tiles, as well as kitchen light fixtures.

You can also save money, when remodeling your kitchen, by doing all of the work yourself. It may be easier to use a professional contactor, but it is also more expensive.  Even if you are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of kitchen remodeling, you may be able to learn. There are a number of resources guides that can be found online, in your local book stores, or in your local library. Depending on where you live, you may also be able to attend a kitchen remodeling class, course, or seminar.  These resources, not matter what they are, may make it easier for you to remodel your kitchen yourself.  In fact, most of the time, all you need is a plan and a set of directions to follow and you should be good to go.

Despite all of the above mentioned tips, you may still find it difficult to remodel your kitchen, money wise.  If this is the case, you may want to place more of a focus on redecorating. Simply by changing your kitchen curtains, replacing some of your kitchen appliances, or even by changing your kitchen towel theme, you could get the new kitchen feel that you were looking for. While it might not be exactly what you had hoped for, it is an alterative that may just give you what you need.

Going Broke Playing Games You Don’t Have To And Here’s How

If you haven’t looked at the cost of new computer or video games and gaming systems as a whole recently, you might be in for a shock. Today’s games and gaming systems can run from a meager $30 all the way to a whopping four hundred dollars or more. To a loving mother of a game obsessed teenager, the costs can be astronomical and nothing short of frightening. Fortunately the cost of buying quality computer or video games (including the systems that they run on) can be significantly reduced once you know what to do and where to look.

One alternative to funding a gaming pursuit with a second mortgage is to “go old.” By “going old,” we mean buying last month’s or year’s games and game systems. If you could admit the one truth that we all know, but never readily face, you could literally save hundreds of dollars in an instant. This truth is that unless you’re a millionaire, none of us can afford to buy the latest toy on the market. The ugly fact behind that truth is that within a relatively short amount of time (say, 60-90 days?), that latest toy will be replaced with a new and improved system, which consequently, grants access to what was wanted in the first place – at half the price! So go old and have a little patience. Within about three to four months, you will have made a tremendous saving.

When it comes to computer gaming, you could also come out better by upgrading games rather than an entire computer. It can take anywhere from a year or more for a gaming company to release a new version and chances are, the upgrade doesn’t require new hardware – it just requires a new payment. Remember, the gaming industry can’t really keep up with the computer industry either (no one can), so there’s no reason to panic or worry. Concentrate on keeping your game current rather than your system. Only in rare instances, such as if your computer is archaic to begin with, will you need to upgrade your hardware. Shop wisely and you can catch a new soundcard, joystick, or graphics card on sale. But if you have a high gigahertz processor and Direct X 9 installed, you’ll do fine for quite a while.

Here’s a whopper of an idea and one that probably won’t take as much of an effort to convince younglings to do as you might think. But to curb the costs of gaming, perhaps a group of families could pitch in and share the finances together. Depending on the number in a group, the cost of a new gaming system – and 5 or 6 of the most popular games – could diminish to 20% or more of their original costs.

And since gaming consoles are getting smaller and smaller, there’s no reason why a group of families couldn’t band together and trade gaming space within their homes every week or two. This way the kids in the neighborhood can enjoy one or two of the new systems on the market that they could never otherwise afford, and they can enjoy them without their parents having to shoulder the burden of funding them alone.

Seeing that kids generally play games together anyway, a group effort of this sort satisfies game cravings at a significantly reduced cost and it keeps everyone happy.

Making A Safe Room

The safe room, which is also known as a panic room, is a secure location within a home or building that is designed to provide safety for families during terrorist attacks, nature, burglaries, or other types of threats.  A safe room is an ideal investment for any home owner, although the more fortified rooms with heavy security are normally found in the homes of rich people.  Those that have a lot of money really have no budget – therefore they can easily spend thousands on making their safe room the best place to go in the event of an emergency.

For most of us, a safe room is a location that family members can run to and hide, or call for help in an emergency situation.  You don’t really need to go all out and put steel walls and a steel door in the room, although you do need a fortified door that opens outward with fortified walls.  You can have a door constructed of wood or other material, although the key should be a material that is very hard to break through.  No matter what type of door you choose, the door jamb should be steel, to prevent the door from being kicked in.

It’s almost important that your safe room doesn’t contain any windows.  Windows can provide entry for burglars, which is something you obviously don’t want.  You should also make sure that you keep a phone in the room, along with water, first aid kits, food, and any type of defensive weapons that you can get.  It’s also a good idea to keep medical supplies in the safe room as well, just in case you need them.

No matter how hard you may try, it’s impossible to predict how long you will be locked in your safe room when an emergency happens.  Therefore, you should always think about ventilation, lighting, and even hygiene.  Being locked in a room for several days or possibly even weeks can affect your hygiene, which is why you should keep proper hygiene supplies in your room at all times.

The reason why most people invest in a safe room is burglars, as they present a real threat.  No matter where you live, or how nice the neighborhood may be, a burglary can happen at any given time.  When a burglary happens, the last thing you want to try to do is to reason with the burglars, or attempt to cooperate with them.

When you have a safe room, you can take your family there.  You should always make sure that everyone in your family knows where the safe room is located and how to use it.  If you have children, you should teach them about the room and how important it is.  The room should never be used for recreation purposes or for children to play in.  Instead, it should only be used in case of an emergency or a place for you and your family to hide.

If you have a safe room or just interested in one, you should always make sure that you keep the proper supplies on hand, just in case.  When you finally do use the safe room, you should always make sure that you keep the keys to open the room inside, so no one else can get in.  While you are in the room you can call the local authorities, then wait inside your safe room until they get to your house and the problem is solved.  Never, under any circumstances should you come out of your safe room before the police arrive.  If a burglary is taking place, you will only make the situation worse.

Save Money on Text Books

One of the most expensive areas of attending college seems to be the cost of the text books these days. Since most colleges only use a particular book for a year or two it is very hard to purchase them in advance. Yet there are some good ways you can catch a break when it comes to paying for the text books you need. Almost all colleges have bulletin boards so you can place an ad for the various books you need. Hopefully individuals who have just finished the course will gladly part with the book for much less than they paid for it.

If you have text books from courses you have finished you may be able to trade what you need for what someone else needs. If you are in a particular type of program such as business or education you will likely find other students who need to take the same classes as you. Setting up a text-book swap is a great way to maximize the amount of money that you do spend on text books.

It can be very frustrating to get the newest edition of a particular text-book and then find out it hasn’t changed very much at all from the previous edition. Take to your instructor as they will likely have gone through the new edition and make comparisons to the old one. Most instructors are fine with you using an older edition of the same book. You can save a substantial amount of money if you are able to do so.

Another frustration can be to find out after your purchase such a text-book that you won’t need it very much as the instructor mainly teaches from notes. If this is the case consider purchasing a book with a classmate and splitting the cost. This won’t work well if you will have a great deal of text book reading or assignments to complete though.

Check to see if the college library offers copies of text books rather than purchasing them. Most libraries that offer this option don’t allow the text books to be checked out but you can use them in the library as you need to. If you choose this option make sure you start on assignments as quickly as possible so that you don’t have to stress about someone else already using the book.

Some book stores offer to place used text books on consignment for students. These are often placed in the bookstore with the new books on the shelves. While they may have some wear and tear as well as highlighting they will serve the purpose of a one semester course. These consigned books generally sell fast so make sure you go to the bookstore at the very end of the semester. As students complete their finals they will take their books into the bookstore.

On the back of each textbook is an ISBN number. It is generally found above or underneath the bar code on the book. You can use this number to search for the text-book on the internet. There are several places where you can purchase new and used textbooks at a price that is much less than what you will pay for it at the college campus bookstore.