Tag Archives: home

Wedding decorations on a budget

Decorations and centerpieces for a wedding can get really expensive, but they really make a difference. I think decorations spice up a room. Most venues are a little plain. Sometimes there are no windows and the carpeting is dark. Decorations and bright centerpieces will add some pizzaz, and you can do it without breaking the bank.

Our venue had windows overlooking tennis courts and open rafters. To make the room sparkle without paying for colored table cloths and chair coverings, we added color to the rafters and bright colored candles to the tables. Candles are a great idea because they add sparkle at night. Continue reading

Costco offers home mortgages

Costco in Moncton, New Brunswick

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Toilet paper, meat, clothing, tires, and now a mortgage? You can buy it all at Costco. The warehouse giant is now entering the home mortgage business. You can get a new loan or refinance your old one.

Costco advertises savings of $5,000 over the life of the loan. If you’re an Executive level member, your fees will be $600 or less. If you’re a GoldStar member, your fees will be $750 or less.  You may also pay 3rd party fees for an appraisal, title, and credit report.

The warehouse store is working with 11 lenders to offer the mortgage product. You enter your mortgage details, and select the lender and rate that interests you. Once you choose the loan product you want, you deal directly with that lender and not Costco. The bank is just a preferred lender through Costco.

It’s also mentioned in the fine print that your mortgage may be sold. That’s common in the industry, but if you choose the right bank you may not have this happen. I’ve had two mortgages and never had it sold.

This is not the first venture for the warehouse store into financial products. The company also offers auto, home, and health insurance.



Do you really understand your mortgage?

You may have avoided foreclosure or a delinquency, but do you really understand the terms of your mortgage? For those who didn’t avoid a foreclosure, some blame poor rules, bookkeeping, and recordkeeping for the foreclosure. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) wants to make the fine print and legalese more clear to consumers.

The CFPB is considering rules that would make it easier to manage your mortgage. Monthly statements would be more clear and break down the principal, interest, fees, escrow, and due dates. If your interest rate is about to adjust, you’d be warned of the effective date, future adjustment dates, and alternatives to consider. You’d also be able to avoid expensive insurance that’s charged when your existing insurance appears to have lapsed. If you are near foreclosure, you’d be informed earlier about your options.

Rules are also being considered that would improve your customer service experience with your servicer. That’s the company who handles the customer service, collections, etc. on behalf of the mortgage company. I’ve done stories where payments haven’t been credited to accounts in a timely matter. Under the rules being considered, a payment will be credited on the day it’s received. Homeowners also get frustrated that they can’t get answers when they call customer service. Under the proposed rules, your records would need to be available and up to date. If there’s an error, it would need to be updated quickly.

You’ll be able to weigh in on these proposed rules this summer. They’ll be finalized by early 2013.

Consumer factoids: how we spend our money

Time put together an interesting list of random consumer factoids about how we spend our money.  They took all the facts and trends that are reported each year by various sources and compiled them into one fascinating list.  Some I agree with, and others I don’t — especially a recent survey that found owning a home is the best long term investment.

According to the article, we spend $1.2 trillion dollars on things we don’t need like candy, jewelry, alcohol, and gambling.  Obviously, without some of these guilty pleasures life would be a little boring.  Just keep it in moderation. Don’t deprive yourself, but don’t overspend in one area.

The factoid I liked — more than 8 million people stopped using credit cards in 2010.  Time pulled this from a Bankrate article. People rely on their credit cards far too much to pay bills. I rely on my credit cards to earn rewards — often in the form of cash!

The article also points out the cost of owning a car each year, but the numbers used are a bit outdated even though they are from a 2011 AAA report. The report says our car expenses are $8,776 a year for gas, insurance, maintenance, and depreciation based on driving 15,000 miles. However, the costs are higher now because that was based on gas at $2.88 a gallon, and gas is more than a $1 more.  While it looks like the price won’t stay around $4, we’ll probably still pay more than $2.88 a gallon for most of the year. The price increase trended upward faster than the price decline.

The U.S. Department of Energy also has a neat tool that allows you to calculate your gas costs for the year. Based on the price of gas now, around $3.96, and the 32 miles per gallon that my car averages I’ll spend $1856 just in gas.

On to the next way we spend our money — cable television . Time cited a factoid that the average pay TV subscriber gets 118 channels but only watches 17.  In my household, we’re hoping to ditch cable very soon. We’re waiting for some of the new television options like Google TV, Android TV, or Apple TV to take off. Then, we’ll switch. We pay around $90 a month for basic cable (60 channels or so) and Internet. It’s outrageous, and it pains me to pay it each  month.

The article also points out that 81% of adults said they believe buying a home is the best long-term investment.  This factoid came from a March 2011 Pew Research Center Survey.  Pew found 82% of homeowners who say their home is worth less now than before the recession either strongly (37%) or somewhat agree (45%) that homeownership is the best long-term investment.  I’m surprised by these numbers, because one thing that’s come out of this recession is the reminder that home ownership is not always the best investment. It’s still better than throwing money to the wind as a renter, but you have to own wisely.

Owning a home is a long term investment, not short term.  Many financial advisers will tell you that too many life factors and market factors get in the way of owning a home. Unlike a traditional investment, you can’t move your money around if your home value starts falling as many have done in the last few years. You’re stuck with that investment whether it works for you or not. There’s no bailing unless you walk away from your mortgage as many people have done in high foreclosure zones.

I’m not saying that owning a home is not a good idea, but I wouldn’t consider it the best long-term investment vehicle. I like one that has more flexibility.

Click here, and read the Time article for more interesting facts.

Do you know what’s in your home?

The water rushed into homes throughout Northeast Ohio in an instant. By the time we all awoke, we found inches of water in our basement. Everyone I spoke to today either had water inside their home or knew someone who did.

We were lucky the ankle deep water finally drained and most of our belongings were in plastic tubs. However, it’s a good reminder to take a home inventory in case of deeper water, fire, tornado, or other natural disaster.

Would you know what’s in your house and the value if it were lost? Most people may think they could answer that question, but I’ll bet most people would leave a lot of things off the list. Plus, would you know the serial numbers? Those are key to tracking your goods especially if your items are stolen.

The Insurance Information Institute (III) has free software to help you keep track of what’s in your home.  It’s called, “Know Your Stuff.”  The software prompts you for the make, model, and place of purchase and allows you to include receipts, photos, and appraisals. You should also add the serial numbers.

The information is stored in the III secure database.  Then you can access the information when you need it.

This software is a good tool because it means your information is located in an independent location in case of fire or burglary. You dont’ have to worry about the information being stolen or burned.

As a backup, you may want to take a video of your home just in case.

Spending an hour putting this together can save you time and money when you have a disaster strike close to home.