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Monthly Archives: July 2017
Adding it up – how to determine what your total monthly payment will be
Ready to take the leap into home ownership? Hopefully, you’ve saved enough money for a down payment, met with an advisor at your local credit union to discuss your finances, and have already been pre-approved for a mortgage. If so, congratulations, you’re well on your way!
The process can be exciting, but let’s slow down for just a minute. Regardless of the amount for which you’ve been approved, you need to look at your monthly expenses and realistically think about what you can manage. A mortgage payment is a big responsibility.
One number new homebuyers focus on is what their monthly payment will be. Sometimes homebuyers are surprised when they close on a home and find out that their mortgage payment is higher than what they originally thought. Buying a home should be a happy time, so let’s take a look at what will make up your actual monthly payment.
What will my payment include?
There is more to your mortgage payment than simply the cost of your new home. Your payment can be divided into two components: principal and interest. The principal is the amount of money that you borrowed; the interest is the amount of money the lender charges for lending you the money. In the early years, the majority of your mortgage payment will be paying down interest, and only a small percentage will go to accumulating equity in your home. Over time, however, the principal portion of your mortgage payment will increase, and the interest portion will decrease.
Your total monthly payment might also include homeowner’s insurance and property taxes that may be held in an escrow account. You make the payments to the lender in your mortgage payment and when the bill comes due, the lender will make the payment from your escrow account.
An escrow account is an account that is set up by your lender on your behalf. A portion of each mortgage payment will be deposited into your escrow account to pay for certain property-related expenses that are only due once or twice per year. Because the lender is in charge of making the payment, they can make sure it’s made on time and the property is not at risk.
Was your down payment less than 20% of the purchase price of your home? If it was, your mortgage payment will likely also include mortgage insurance. Mortgage insurance lowers the risk to the lender, so you can be approved for a loan that you might not otherwise qualify. It protects the lender in case you fall behind on your payments. The cost of mortgage insurance varies, but your lender will be able to discuss it with you during the loan process.
No surprises here!
When you’re aware of all that’s included, you can better budget for your monthly expenses. No one wants to be surprised when it comes to their finances, especially when you’re locked into a 30-year loan. Visit your local credit union for more information, answers to your questions, or help calculating your estimated monthly mortgage cost.
Budgeting for College Students: Where to Start
College marks a significant transition period for many young adults — it’s a time of newfound freedom and the financial responsibilities that come with it.
Whether your funds come from family, student loans, scholarships or your own wallet, you’ll need to budget for expenses like textbooks, housing and, yes, a social life. Knowing who’s footing the bill, what costs to expect and which ones you can live without — ideally before school starts — can reduce stress and help you form healthy financial habits for the future.
Have the money talk
Before you build a budget, go over some important details with the people — parents, guardians or a partner — who will be involved in financing your education. Discussing your situation together will ensure everyone is in the loop and understands expectations.
“One of the biggest obstacles we have [with] teaching young people financial literacy and financial skills is not making money and expenses a taboo subject,” says Catie Hogan, founder of Hogan Financial Planning LLC. “Open lines of communication are far and away the most important tool, just so everyone’s on the same page as far as what things are going to cost and how everybody can keep some money in their pocket.”
Here are some topics to start with:
- Who is paying for college and how. Have a conversation before the start of each school year to decide if your family will pay for costs out-of-pocket or if you’ll need to get a job, rely on financial aid, use funds from a 529 plan or combine these options.
- What expenses to expect. In addition to tuition, you’ll have to budget for other college costs, like transportation and school supplies. Make a list of likely expenses, estimate the cost and agree who pays for what. (See more on expenses below.)
- FAFSA and taxes. Whether a parent or guardian claims you as a dependent or you file taxes on your own determines whose information is required to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, and who can claim tax credits and deductions. Discuss your financial status before each school year and address any changes, like a raise or job loss.
- Credit cards and bank accounts. If you’re considering opening a credit card account for the first time, are younger than 21 and don’t work full time, you’ll need a co-signer: a parent or other adult. You’ll want to talk about ground rules, like only using a credit card for emergencies and defining what constitutes an emergency. Approach new financial products with caution and be careful not to take on debt. If you plan to directly deposit funds from a job or allowance, look for a checking account that offers low (or no) fees.
Anticipate your expenses
To determine what you’ll spend each term, keep these college-related expenses on your radar:
- Textbooks and school supplies. Course materials could eat up a large chunk of your budget. The average estimated cost of books and supplies for in-state students living on campus at public four-year institutions in 2016-2017 was $1,250, according to the College Board. Also plan for purchases like notebooks, a laptop, a printer and a backpack, and read the do’s and don’ts of back-to-school shopping for money-saving tips.
- Room and board. When it comes to food and living arrangements, weigh your options. Compare the cost of living on campus and getting a meal plan versus renting an apartment and shopping for groceries.
- Transportation. Will you take a bus, bike or walk to and from campus or work? If you absolutely need a car, be prepared to cover gas, maintenance and insurance.
- Clothing. Budget for seasonal clothing and job-fair outfits.
- Discretionary spending. You deserve a break from studying. Leave room in your budget for fun stuff like entertainment, travel and social activities.
Track your spending and cut back where you can
The basic principles of budgeting, like living below your means, still apply regardless of the source of your funds. Whether you’re working or receiving help from your parents or financial aid — or all of the above — figure out how much money flows in and out.
You don’t have to go through a grueling process, like filling out a spreadsheet every day; you’ll have enough homework. Just set aside some time at least once a month to review your money situation. Budgeting apps and online banking can help make the process more manageable.
“Just knowing that you can log into your online banking and take inventory of what you have and the income coming in, I think that’s more than enough,” Hogan says.
Start with the common culprits: food and fun. “Looking at what is the least expensive meal plan you can get without going hungry is a big money-saving tip,” Hogan says. “And a lot of campus activities and groups and all that [are] really great, but they can weigh really heavy on your budget, so don’t overcommit.”
Keep your future self in mind
If you’ve managed to stay afloat as a student, you’re in good shape. Continue on a financially healthy path by thinking about life after graduation. If you’re working and able to build a cushion, set financial goals, like creating an emergency fund or saving for a trip — and don’t forget about any student loans you might have to pay off after graduation.
“You obviously don’t want to burden yourself so much that you have anxiety about it while you’re in college, but I think having a healthy grasp of reality … is helpful in terms of knowing what kind of lifestyle you can really afford to live in college,” says Kyle Moore, a certified financial planner in St. Paul, Minnesota.
The article Budgeting for College Students: Where to Start originally appeared on NerdWallet.
10 fun things to do this summer that won’t break the bank!
Ahhh, the lazy days of summer, it’s your kids’ favorite time of the year—no school and no homework! But the novelty only lasts so long. It’s only a matter of time before you hear the all too familiar question, ”What can we do? We’re bored!”
With two whole months of summer vacation left, you’ll have to find some activities for the family that will keep them entertained but won’t break the bank. We’ve rounded up some frugal fun that will earn you big points without spending big bucks.
1. Dollar Movie Days
Many of the larger movie theater chains offer a summer program of weekly $1 family-friendly movies. Regal Cinemas Summer Movie Express 2017 includes Kung Fu Panda 3, The Boxtrolls, The Secret Life of Pets, and Sing, to name a few. Stop at the Dollar Store or the grocery store for some movie-themed snacks, and you’ve got a fun and inexpensive morning out!
2. Let Target Pay
Target sponsors FREE admission to events and museums across the nation. Check out their site to see what’s happening near you. Maybe next time you won’t feel so bad when you can’t leave the store without spending $100.
3. Apple Camp
Have a child that’s interested in technology? Apple retail stores offer Apple Camp, where kids 8 to 12 can learn to make a movie or interactive book. It’s FREE so register here.
4. Kid Swap
Have a friend that’s a good baker, painter, or movie-taker? Make plans to swap days and kids. The kids will love it because they’ll have fun with their friends and maybe learn or experience something new. You’ll enjoy it because you’ll have some free time to run errands, get some work done, or get a manicure!
5. Go for a Hike
Not all hiking trails are designed for experienced adventurers. Download the All Trails app, and wherever you are, you’ll be able to find the perfect hike, bike ride, or trail run by length, rating, and difficulty level. Filter by dog or kid-friendly trails, or find trails with great views. Bring a bird watching book, pack a picnic, and make an afternoon of it.
6. Visit a Fire Station
Most local stations will be happy to arrange tours for kids. This is an exciting field trip for both preschooler and school-age children. They’ll love learning about the different fire trucks and meeting real live heroes.
7. Crafting Classes and Workshops
Check out some of your local big chain stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot for their FREE kids’ weekly wood project workshops. Michaels craft stores also sponsor inexpensive classes for kids that encourage imagination and allow their creativity to shine!
8. Camp out
It’s always fun to sleep where you normally don’t, so whether it’s in a national park, in the backyard or under your dining room table draped with sheets, you can still call it camping!
9. Family Bowling
Bowling is always a fun time for families. Register your kids at Kids Bowl Free, to participate in a nationwide program where kids get to bowl two games for free every day during the summer at their local bowling alley.
10. Host a Scavenger Hunt
This may sound like a lot of work, but you can make it as simple or as elaborate as you like and Wikihow is just one of the many sites with instructions and great ideas.
Whatever your summer plans are, go out and enjoy yourself. Just know that all fun doesn’t have to break the bank. There are tons of things you can do that will create lasting memories and still allow you to stay within budget. Be creative and resourceful, and you’ll have the best summer yet!
Georgia’s Own and Gas South
Some things just go well together
Georgia’s Own and Gas South are serving up savings.
Georgia’s Own members are now eligible for exclusive savings on their Gas South service. Members who are existing Gas South customers will receive a discount on Gas South’s already great everyday low rates. Members who switch their natural gas service to Gas South as part of this program will receive the same discount and $50 in bill credits on their Gas South statements.
Georgia’s Own Member & Existing Gas South Customer
+ 2 Cent Discount on Already Great Low Rates
Georgia’s Own Member & Signs Up With Gas South Via This Offer
+ 2 Cent Discount on Already Great Low Rates
+ $50 in Bill Credits on Gas South Statements
+ No deposit (up to $150 in savings)