The SmartyPig Blog

How Much You Should Spend on a Home

Buying a house or an apartment is the largest purchase most of the people would face during all their life. Sometimes it comes to the fact that this kind of purchase cannot be paid off all at once – it needs a lot of years and a lot of hard work. And the problem of spending money to cover the home payments drags you in a constant search of more money – leaving very little or even nothing for such important things like college for your kids, vacation expenses, retirement, and so on.

This is why some practical people state, that before starting a house search process – it is better to think things through and maybe rent an apartment or house – rather than buy the one. Sometimes it really makes even more sense.

If the choice was made in a favor of renting the living space – always keep in mind that:

-     The prices only go in one direction – UP!

-     Usually, the most experience people while renting their homes and apartments try to choose SUCH options that allow them to easily move out whenever they want this.

-     Renters do not have to care about the maintenance issues, home repairs or lawns.

But if you have sufficient budget and decided to BUY your own house or an apartment – this is a lifetime commitment to fix anything that breaks around (no matter how small the repair is – it happens the other day that the repair is ENORMOUS – and someone has to pay for it). In any way – owing a personal home is not only paying the bills and mortgage, no no. The larger the house you get – the more maintenance bills you are about to see (and yes, PAY them) in the future.

Let’s get back to the topic of renting. It makes a lot of sense and becomes reasonable more than ever – when you plan to live somewhere for a short period of time. This is an important part – because think about the following: when you BUY a property – the process always goes along with paying taxes, different fees here and there, closing costs, etc. Such kind of operations have more sense if you plan to stay in one place for a longer time.

And finally, if you decided to become a home owner – and you know for sure that is is your thing, it is time to decide – how much you can afford. Specialist within a market claim that the mortgage bill can eat up to 28-30% of your income. Also keep in mind the closing fees and taxes already mentioned before – 2-3%. Moving fees and other related services. Well – here it is better to call local companies and then writhe the price down.

Afterwards, you start to study the area itself, the schools nearby, crime statistics, the infrastructure itself (shops, malls, highways, communities, etc) – and so on. Anything that can affect the final price of your home. And like we always say – can’t do it yourself? Hire a professional!

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Is Social Media Costing You Big?

money-drain-300x300The average American belongs to 5 different social networks, spending nearly two hours each day on these sites. They are checking in around 17 times throughout the average 15 waking hours! Is that time costing you may? Well, the folks at MSN Money say it might be.

Are you checking in to Facebook at work? Your boss may catch on to that and then your job security may be at odds. Many employers are setting social media rules and regulations and it’s certainly not to your advantage to break those. Are you trying to keep up with the social media “Joneses”? Social media ads and pictures from your friends may having you spending more than you ought to. Lastly, you could accidentally post financial information, leaving you open for identity theft or fraudulent activity.

Be a smart social media user and keep your funds in check!

Sarah Foss, SmartyPig’s Media Mad Woman,

How Are You Using Your SmartyPig?

A friend referred me to SmartyPig on twitter recently, after my asking about their “Disneyland” goal. I decided SmartyPig would be the perfect place to save for my next family vacation. So, Florida it is! I’ve been saving for several months and am close to reaching my goal. Thanks SmartyPig! – Heather

My “Bonnaroo/Vacation Tickets” – @Ohbobva

My one goal was for a emergency fund which has been completed and i am now saving for a new cell phone. – @shortcakes

I’m saving  towards my “Replacement Kitchen Cabinets” savings goal – @joy

Summer Savings with SmartyPig

Extreme temperature – in either direction – puts a squeeze on the family budget when utilities are forced to work overtime. Air conditioners are running on high and everyone is home from school – the many demands of busy summer days make you wish each penny could count twice.

This year, don’t sacrifice the simple pleasures of warm weather in the name of cutting costs. Put away a little cash (maybe even make an extra dime or two!) and fit in some fun in the sun at the same time.

Use Alternative Transportation

Even with gas prices holding at relatively reasonable levels, driving too much can still be an expensive proposition. Whenever possible, consider slipping on some comfortable shoes and walking or biking to your destination instead. Walking and biking are great ways to stay in shape and enjoy the warm weather, and best of all, they’re completely free. If that isn’t an option, public transportation such as buses, trains and subways may also be able to save you money in the long run.

Hit the Farmer’s Markets

Fresh and in-season produce is one of the best parts of summer, but many stores offer their fruits and vegetables at marked-up prices. If you’re looking to save some money, it’s best to go straight to the source. Farmer’s markets feature some of the freshest produce you’ll find, and it’s often available in bulk and at a lower price. Even better, it’s a good way to directly support local farmers.

Improve your Digs

Home improvement projects are mostly done during the summer months but can get pretty pricey depending on your goals. However, there are many smaller and more affordable projects around the house that you can take up, and even include the whole family in. Giving your walls a fresh new coat of paint can be a refreshing change to your rooms, or you can take a few hours to clean out the gutters to make them work more efficiently. There are plenty of resources available for finding simple and cheap ideas to make your home feel like new without breaking the budget, so look around and be creative!

Use Ceiling Fans

Some days during summer are so hot that only air conditioning will suffice, but that isn’t always the case. When the heat isn’t overly oppressive, using ceiling fans to stay cool can keep more money in your pocket. The trick is to remember that ceiling fans only cool people – they generally don’t lower the ambient temperature of the room. You should only use a ceiling fan when someone is nearby to feel its effects, and remember to dial back the air conditioning while the fan is in use to maximize savings.

Take Advantage of Affordable or Free Entertainment

Everyone craves entertainment during the summer, whether it’s music concerts or festivals or other events that often come with a hefty price tag. However, savvy consumers should be on the lookout for more affordable alternatives. Search the web and browse local newspapers for wallet-friendly entertainment options such as free or low-cost concerts, festivals and community events. Many communities host free events in parks and other outdoor spaces.

Enjoy the Great Outdoors

SmartyPig recommends cutting the cord for your television to save money, but summer is a good time to take that one step further: encourage your family to turn the TV off altogether and go enjoy the outdoors! From hiking to camping to sports or simply playing with your children in the front yard, nature provides a virtually endless array of entertainment options that you and your family can enjoy for little or no cost. Best of all, it encourages your children to stay active and fit.

Find Ways to Make Money

Aside from saving money, you could also try the opposite approach, since there are plenty of ways to make extra cash this summer! Summer fests and entertainment can get a bit costly and you may not want to give up your air conditioning or brave the heat on your bike, so it may be smart to make extra money to cover those expenses. Do you like kids or animals? Babysitting could be for you. Have a hobby you’re passionate about? Start a blog or side business to pursue your passion, and search the web for more ideas to find side jobs you have an interest in. Who knows – it may even turn into a long term gig!

It’s an unfortunate fact that many Americans simply don’t have a good understanding of how to save money. With an economy still in flux and energy prices that are expected to continue rising, learning basic money-saving tips is more important now than ever before. While there are many other tricks for saving money throughout the year, these simple tips will give you a head start on keeping more of your paycheck in your pocket this summer.

Today’s guest post by featured blogger, Maria Ramos.

Back to School Shopping Gets Smart

As August creeps around the corner our favorite retailer’s shelves are starting to show notebooks, pencils, backpacks, and more. Experts estimate spending to go again this year, and the retailers are responding in our favor – with aisles of deals and discounts.

Retailers intend to offer coupons, penny deals, and even incentives on Mac products. The deals are everywhere it seems, but that doesn’t mean buyers will shop without strategy. “A National Retail Federation survey of more than 5,700 adults found that consumers will do comparative shopping research online at a record-high rate in the survey’s history,” Says CNBC’s Courtney Reagan. It’s time for an organized approach.

As you cash out your back to school goals this month, don’t forget to make the most of those hot deals by adding SmartyPig to your shopping strategy. We offer cash back incentives of up to 11% from back to school favorites like Sears, Best Buy, the Gap, and more. That kind of cash could have you rewarding yourself with a dinner out to celebrate or the first contribution towards a spring break vacation!

Wishing you successful saving.

Sarah Foss, SmartyPig’s Media Mad Woman


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