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Monthly Archives: June 2018
The Lowdown on Down Payment Assistance
If you’re looking to buy a home, don’t let the fear of a big down payment hold you back. In today’s market, there are so many programs to aid you in the home buying process. So, even though a 20% down payment is typical, it isn’t always necessary. Keep in mind that you’ll pay more interest with a lower down payment, but make the choice that best suits you and your situation. Every home buying experience is different.
What are your options?
For starters, your credit union may offer special programs to help you purchase a home. Georgia’s Own has programs for first-time homebuyers and offers up to 100% financing on mortgage loans. There are also federal, state, and local first-time home buyer programs you may be eligible for, including:
- Dekalb First-Time Homebuyers Assistance Program
- Gwinnett Homestretch Down Payment Assistance
- Fulton County HOP (Home Ownership Program)
- Georgia Dream Homeownership Program
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
For more ways to save, try cutting out vacation time and expenses that you can afford to do without for a while. Set a strict budget and consider meeting with a financial advisor. It’s important not to empty out your savings completely to pay for a down payment, so explore all of your options before making a decision.
Are you really ready?
Regardless of how much you’ve saved for a down payment, buying a home is a big commitment – consider these factors before making a down payment so you’ll know that you’re ready.
- You won’t be clearing out your savings or emergency funds
- You’ll be staying at this home for at least five years
- You have a good credit score (720 or higher is best)
- You’ve paid off other loan debt (student loans, credit card bills, auto loans, etc.)
- Know all of the fees that come with buying a house rather than just the monthly mortgage payment
If you’ve got all your financial ducks in a row and now’s the time to buy, know that you don’t have to go it alone. Whether you’re still feeling a little overwhelmed or just want more personal help, contact a mortgage specialist to help find the best – and most affordable – way to get into your first home.
What is a financial advisor and do I really need one?
Some think that only wealthy people need financial advisors. Whether it’s a financial planner, wealth manager, money manager, retirement planner, or a slew of other similar titles, they generally all mean the same thing: financial guidance for people who want a strategy to achieve some future monetary goal.
Planning for life events
Eventually, we all experience some big life event, whether it’s paying for college, or buying a home, starting your own business, or caring for aging parents. Often times, your financial goals can overlap, collide, or simply seem unmanageable. A financial advisor will not only help you navigate the journey, but they’ll also work with you to prioritize your efforts. Sometimes you just need a more structured savings and investment strategy that can lead you to a more comfortable and less overwhelmed mindset.
Maximizing your current assets
Sometimes the help of a financial advisor is about managing the funds you already have. Many people use an advisor’s expertise to invest their savings and maximize the opportunity to put their money to work. They can help manage an investor’s tax liability, too. A financial advisor that specializes in tax-deferred investment vehicles can help you determine the most advantageous time to take a distribution from your retirement plan or identify beneficial tax-sheltered options.
Regardless of intellect, an investor may lack the appropriate knowledge when it comes to choosing investment options. Trying to balance the relationship between risk and return with your time horizon and your financial goals can be tricky. A smart investor seeks out and leverages the guidance of experts, even if they have investment experience. Don’t ever underestimate the value of professional advice.
Getting back on financial track
For some, their finances are one step away from crashing and burning. If you’re struggling with debt, a consolidation plan might be a wise first step. Financial advisors can develop a plan–not a get rich quick fix–where you’ll learn discipline, recognize your spending habits, and be held accountable so you can move toward improved financial health.
When you work through your goals with an advisor that has in-depth knowledge of your financial situation, you’re able to create realistic expectations and learn to plan accordingly. Recommending appropriate investment vehicles and a savings strategy can help guide you through the uncertainty.
While some advisors require a long-term arrangement, there are many who offer free consultations and no-obligation appointments to review your financial plan–or lack thereof. Check out the services offered by your local bank or credit union and set up a meeting. If they don’t give you a gold star and a pat on the back, they’ll be sure to recommend a realistic strategy. Either way, you win!
Six Summer grilling recipes you’ll love
It’s summertime, y’all, which means longer days, poolside entertainment and dinners on the deck. Get your grilling game in gear with these six sizzlin’ summer recipes that are sure to be a hit!
For starters, try these savory crisp crostini loaded with classic caprese flavor, compliments of Cafe Delites.
- 8 pieces sliced French or Italian baguette, sliced 1/2-inch thick
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 avocado, thinly sliced
- 9 ounces vine ripened cherry tomatoes, halved
- 3.5 ounces fresh bocconcini in water (or baby mozzarella balls)
- 1/2 cup basil leaves, divided
- 2 tbsp balsamic glaze
- Preheat oven to 375°F
- Arrange bread on a baking sheet, drizzle both sides with olive oil and bake for 15 – 20 minutes until golden. Flip toasts midway through to evenly crisp.
- Rub the crostini with the cut side of the garlic while still warm and season with a little salt and pepper.
- Divide 1/4 cup of the basil leaves on each slice of bread (about 2-3 basil leaves per bread),
- Top each with the avocado slices, tomato halves and mozzarella (bocconcini).
- Season with salt and/or pepper to taste.
- Grill for 3-5 minutes, or until cheese has started to melt.
- Finely chop remaining basil leaves and sprinkle over the crostini.
- Drizzle with balsamic glaze to serve.
Salad on the grill? Check out this heavenly combination of romaine, bacon, and blue cheese, compliments of The Garlic Diaries.
- 3 Romaine hearts
- 12 pieces thick cut bacon
- 5 ounces blue cheese crumbles
For the dressing:
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- ¼ cup light olive oil
- ¼ tsp dried thyme
- ¼ tsp dried parsley
- ½ tsp dried oregano
- Salt and pepper
- ¼ tsp Dijon mustard
- Fry bacon in a large skillet, reserving the bacon fat.
- Slice each Romaine heart in half and set aside.
- Heat your grill over high heat. (You want very hot grates so you get a quick char without cooking the lettuce too much or wilting it)
- Using a basting brush, lightly brush a little bacon fat onto the flat side of each Romaine half.
- When you are ready to grill, place the Romaine halves flat side down on the grill and keep them there until they have light char marks. (No more than 30 seconds)
- Remove the Romaine halves and place them on a plate.
- For the dressing, add all ingredients into a bowl and whisk together.
- To assemble the salad, top each Romaine half with bacon and blue cheese crumbles, and drizzle the balsamic dressing on top.
Take your fish tacos to the next level with this tropical flavor combination, compliments of Cooking Classy.
- 1 lb Tilapia, cod or mahi mahi fillets
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 1 1/2 tbsp fresh lime juice
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground paprika
- 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
- Salt and pepper
- 6 corn or flour tortillas
- 1 large avocado, sliced
- Sour cream, cotija cheese, hot sauce or salsa, for serving (optional)
- 1/2 small red cabbage, cored and sliced thin (8 oz)
- 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
- 3/4 cup thinly sliced red onion (run under cool water and drain to remove harsh bite)
- 1 1/2 tbsp lime juice
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- In a mixing bowl whisk together canola oil, lime juice, garlic, chili powder, cumin, paprika, cayenne and season with salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 tsp salt 1/4 tsp pepper).
- Place fish into a gallon size re-sealable bag and pour marinade over fish. Seal bag and allow to marinate in mixture 20 minutes (and no longer than 30 minutes).
- Preheat a grill to medium-high heat.
- Grill until cooked through, about 3 minutes per side (cooking time will vary based on thickness of fish).
- Brush grill grates with oil and place fish on grill.
- Transfer to a plate, break into pieces and serve in warmed taco shells with cabbage slaw, avocado slices and other optional toppings.
- Add cabbage, red onion and cilantro to a medium mixing bowl.
- Pour lime juice and canola oil over top and season lightly with salt and pepper, toss to evenly coat.
- Recipe source: inspired by Chow
These spicy chicken kebabs are just the right heat when paired with the cool cucumber salad, compliments of Marian Cooper Cairns.
- 1 1/2 lb. chicken tenders
- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 2 tsp curry powder
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 2 pieces naan
- 1 sliced English cucumber
- 2 sliced scallions
- 1/4 c chopped fresh mint
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
- 1 chopped garlic clove
- Plain Greek yogurt and lime wedges, for serving
- Heat grill to medium-high.
- Cut chicken tenders into thirds.
- Toss with canola oil, curry powder, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, and kosher salt and black pepper.
- Thread onto metal skewers.
- Grill, turning occasionally, until charred and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Grill 2 pieces naan until warm and toasted, 1 to 2 minutes.
- Toss together cucumber, scallions, mint, olive oil, fresh lime juice, and garlic.
- Season with kosher salt and black pepper.
- Serve with plain Greek yogurt and lime wedge alongside.
Pair this sweet twist on an old favorite with your main meal, compliments of Good Life Eats.
- 20 ounces sweet potatoes, washed and dried
- 2 tsp oil
- 1 tbsp Homemade Southwestern Pork Rub
- 2 tsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
- With the lid closed, heat the grill to medium heat.
- Leaving the skin on, cut the sweet potatoes into large wedges, similar in size to thick cut steak fries. Transfer the cut sweet potatoes to a large baking sheet and drizzle with oil, tossing to coat evenly.
- Sprinkle half of the Homemade Southwestern Pork Rub evenly over the oiled sweet potatoes. Flip and sprinkle the remaining rub on the oppopsite side.
- Remove the sweet potatoes from the baking sheet and transfer them directly onto the hot grill. Cook, with the lid closed, for 3 – 4 minutes. Flip, and cook for an additional 3 – 4 minutes on the other side.
- If the sweet potatoes are not tender enough after grilling both sides, transfer to a top rack in the grill, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until tender.
- Remove the sweet potatoes from the grill, transfer to the baking sheet previously used and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve.
Top your dinner off with this sweet treat, compliments of Wine and Glue.
- 1/2 c honey
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 pineapple
- Grill pineapple slices over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes.
- While the pineapple is grilling, mix together the honey (softened in the microwave for about 30 seconds) and the cinnamon.
- Drizzle the grilled pineapple with the honey and serve.
Tips for how to maintain your car without breaking the bank
When you purchase a car, new or pre-owned, you don’t necessarily factor in the cost of maintenance or repairs. Ensuring your car is in good, working condition helps keep you safe and extends the life of your ride. Routine maintenance is what keeps it running every time you step on the gas. Why then, do most people stall when it comes to caring for their vehicle?
Car maintenance does not come cheap, and most times, especially in our hectic lives, it’s somewhat inconvenient. Think about it, though. If your car breaks down on the side of the road, it’ll likely be a whole lot more expensive and ill-timed that the alternative.
It’s a smart idea to add a line item to your monthly expenses and start planning your car’s recommended maintenance schedule. Now, all maintenance doesn’t need to be done at the dealership—mostly because it’s cost prohibitive for most people—but you should make friends with your local mechanic. And don’t underestimate your own skills, either.
Here are some auto maintenance basics that could use your attention:
Change your oil
Changing your oil is one of the easiest care requirements to follow. Check your owner’s manual to see the manufacturer’s recommendation, but the majority suggests an oil and oil filter change between 3,000 and 7,000 miles.
Check out area high schools or technical schools to see if they offer free or reduced price oil changes performed by students. You could try and tackle it yourself, but it does require some upfront costs, like an oil drain pan ($10), a jack ($40), a jack stand ($30), a funnel, and some towels. Going forward it would save you some cash, but there are some concerns and environmental issues to think about, and it does make a mess. If you’re not too keen on DIY projects, don’t go to a drive-through oil change shop without a coupon—or a Groupon.
If you’re a Marietta or Cobb County school employee, check out this staff appreciation deal at Ed Voyles: Free Oil Change
Replace your air filter
Your air filter keeps dirt and debris out of your engine and should be changed every 15,000 miles. A technician will almost always ask you if you want it done while you’re having your oil changed, but it’s much less expensive if you do it yourself. Check out YouTube for one of the many quick tutorials and an easy 15-minute DIY project that’ll save you some cash.
Change your brake pads
Now, this sounds a lot harder than it actually is. It requires an initial investment to buy the tools you need, plus about $30 for the replacement pads. It might take a few extra hours to figure out exactly how it’s done, but after the first time, you’ll be an expert. In the future, one afternoon is all it will take, and you’ll save hundreds of dollars over the life of your car.
Replace your own windshield wipers
Worn out windshield wipers are not only frustrating, they’re dangerous. But having them professionally replaced is just downright silly. It’ll cost between $20 and $53 including parts and labor and depends on the type and length of the blade. You can easily replace them yourself, or head down to Pep Boys or Advanced Auto Parts and they’ll have a technician install them for free. No kidding.
Flush the radiator
Flushing the coolant in your car’s radiator keeps metal engine components at their best, prevents rust and your car from overheating. It ultimately helps the engine perform at its optimum level. A flush removes the old coolant that is no longer effective and replaces it with a fresh dose. The DIY version will cost significantly less than a mechanic. The only things you need to purchase are new coolant, a flushing agent, and distilled water. Money wisely spent…and saved.
Repair your own flat tire
If you’ve got a spare and some elbow grease, you’re all set for the moment, but don’t run out to buy a replacement tire, or even pay for a tire repair. If you have some tools and a patch kit you can save yourself twenty bucks at a minimum and maybe the cost of a new tire. Better yet, if your tire is underinflated and is leaking air, or is even completely flat, take it to Goodyear, Kauffman Tire, Tires Plus, Discount Tire, Pep Boys, and many others who fill fix your flat for free.
While we’re on the subject of tires, make sure they’re always properly inflated to the appropriate pressure and rotate them as recommended by the manufacturer. You’ll get greater fuel efficiency, and the tires will wear more evenly and extend their useful life. Check the shop from where you purchased them since many offer free tire rotations. If you have a jack, it’s an easy DIY, too.
Diagnose your car for free
Is your check engine light on? When it is, it’s important to find out why, but paying $75 -$100 for a technician to hook it up to a computer and spit out a report just adds to your frustration. Head to AutoZone or Advanced Auto Parts and they’ll happily diagnose it for free. If it’s a fix that you can handle, you’re already at the store, so pick up the parts you need and get to work. It’s an answer and a solution all in a matter of minutes.
At the end of the day, it’s important to keep up with scheduled maintenance and make the necessary repairs to your car as soon as they’re in need. An inexpensive repair can grow into hundreds or thousands of dollars when they’re not addressed. With tons of information and DIY tutorials, there are many things you can do to save money, but don’t sacrifice the safety or the quality of your ride.