College Grads, Get Ready for Real World Finances

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The party’s over, you’ve graduated and it’s time to get ready for your financial future. Don’t wait. Start growing your financial future now. You’ll be glad you did. Here are some steps every graduate should take the first year out of college.

Establish credit.
A great credit score doesn’t just happen. You have to build it. Get in the habit of paying your bills on time every time and spending below your credit limit. When the time comes to finance a car or a house, your credit score can help you get a lower interest rate and save money.

Live with a little less luxury.
Your parents worked hard to finance their home, buy their cars and pay for some of life’s luxuries. You’re not there yet. Spend a little less on going out to dinner, fancy coffee, and expensive movies. Cut the cable cord and find other ways to save some cash. Luxury can come later.

Create a budget.
And stick to it. Determine how far your paycheck can go and find ways to put a little aside for emergencies. The more you earn, the more you can add to your savings. Every time you get a raise or earn a little extra cash, add some to your emergency fund.

Take advantage of employee benefits.
If your company has a retirement plan, take advantage of the tax-free savings option. At the very minimum put in the amount your employer will match. The employee match is part of your benefits and it’s a big one. If you can, contribute 10 percent each pay period. This money adds up quickly. And if your insurance program has a health savings account, add to that, too. This money builds up as savings but also is there for you if you have unforeseen medical expenses.

Set up a ROTH IRA or another savings plan.
If your company does not have a retirement plan, check into a ROTH IRA. You can contribute up to $5,500 a year, and it can serve as a great savings account, as well. Talk to a financial planner about your options.

Pay your student loans on time.
Student loans will come due six months after you graduate. Check out payment programs to see if there are any that can help you pay your loans off efficiently and effectively. Like other bills, do not miss a student loan payment.

Find a side gig.
Need more money, want to pay off bills faster, or want to save more faster? A job waiting on tables, bartending, working at a carwash on weekends, or walking dogs can help. Don’t let your new 9-5 job limit your financial aspirations.

Get a roommate or two.
Life’s expensive. Share living expenses with a roommate or two. Even if you can afford to pay the rent on your own, having a person to share costs with will help you to save for your future. Take the money you are saving in rent and put all or some of it into your savings account.

These are just a few ways to put yourself on the path to financial success after college. Have a goal in mind for what your future looks like. Do you want a house? A new car? To pay off your debts faster? To build your savings? Keep this in mind and you’ll be well on your way to reaching your success. Journey on, graduate!

What Can You Do with Leftover PLASTIC Eggs?

Happy easter! Closeup Colorful Easter eggs in nest on green grass field during sunset background.

Everyone’s got a favorite egg salad recipe to put all of the hardboiled eggs to use, but what can you do with the leftover PLASTIC eggs? There are always more plastic eggs than jelly beans and no one remembers where their plastic eggs are a year later. Here are some tips for fun educational activities and other uses for the leftover plastic eggs.

Hold Small Snacks: Put goldfish crackers, pretzel bites, Cheerios or whatever your kids may be snacking on in these fun-size snack holders. They make a nice change from the plastic bags and they add a little variety to your day. And to top it off, they are easier to find in your car, bag or whatever you use on the go.

Play Egg Word Scramble: This is a great activity for older children who are working on spelling. All you need is some alphabet letters and either matching objects or pictures. Place both the letters and the object in the same egg. Explain to your child that each egg contains an object (or picture) and the letters that spell that object. Then have them open the egg and see if they can spell the word.

An alternative for older kids is to put letters in the eggs and have kids make as many words out of the letters as they can.

Play Object Matching: Put pictures of small objects in the eggs. You need two of each object or picture. Have the kids one open all the eggs and then find the matching pairs.

An alternative for older children or to make it a little more challenging, place all the eggs in an empty egg carton and play little memory game by making them find two eggs that have matching objects or pictures.

Get Crafty for Halloween: Plastic eggs make great spider bodies. Paint the eggs back and glue four black pipe cleaners on one side. These are the legs. Use some white paint for the eyes and you have some scary spiders made out of your colorful eggs.

Keep Your Home Smelling Fresh: Stuff with potpourri and use the eggs as an air freshener by puncturing a small hole in the plastic or by using eggs that have holes in them already. Hide them under the couch, behind a chair, on a dresser….they keep your room smelling fresh all year long.

Donate Plastic Eggs: Give your leftover eggs to a church or organization that sponsors a community egg hunt. They’ll know where to find them the next time they need them!

No matter what you choose, you never need to let another plastic egg to waste.

9 Tips to Get Your Home Ready for Spring

senior man stands on ladder and cleans a roof gutter

Spring’s popping up all over. Longer days, early blooms – these are signs that it’s time to make some simple home repairs after the long winter. Here are 9 simple jobs to take care of in order to make sure you’re ready for the change of seasons.

Inspect your roof. Check for loose or missing shingles, and ensure that seals around skylights are in tact and that chimney flashing is still in good shape. You don’t want any leaks during spring showers.

Check your gutters. While you’re inspecting your roof, inspect your gutters, too. They may have been overworked in the winter, with ice dams and falling branches. Clear the debris, check your downspouts and drains, and make sure the gutters are still secured to the house.

Check your pipes. Pipes that freeze and then thaw can cause some problems. Look for sign of damage under your sinks. And while you’re checking pipes, now is a good time to check your washing machine and dishwasher hoses and do a quick check in the attic, basement and crawl spaces for leaks.

Inspect your siding. Do a quick walk-around of your house and make sure no siding has been damaged or come loose.

Caulk your windows and doors to make sure these are sealed and still able to protect your windows and doors from water getting in.

Check your screens for tears. As long as you’re caulking your windows, check your screens, too. If any have tears or holes, now is a good time to repair those so you can open your windows and let in the fresh air.

Patch driveway and sidewalk cracks. Shoveling and salt can do a job on your cement in the winter, leading to cracks. Repair these now to keep them from growing and causing bigger problems.

Get your heating and air system checked. Call a qualified and recommended HVAC technician to come out and do a check on your system. Your heater worked hard in the winter and now your air conditioning is going to work hard in the summer. Make sure it’s in top condition. And, while you’re at it, change your filters.

Check trees and bushes for broken limbs and snapped branches. Heavy snow can harm trees and bushes. A good trimming can prevent additional damage. Grab your clippers and spend some time outside.

Getting your home ready now means more fun this summer! 

Keeping Kids Entertained at Open Houses

Family Opening Door And Walking In Empty Lounge Of New Home

If you’ve ever had children tag along with open house visitors, you know it can sometimes be difficult to keep them entertained while touring a house. Here are a few ways to conquer kid-size boredom, keep the parents’ attention, and extend time to engage with the family.

Give kids something to do. Scope out a low-traffic station for snacks, coloring or play dough. Hold a contest for the best drawing of the home and offer a prize that winners can pick up at your office. This gets kids involved in the spirit of house hunting and creates additional contacts with prospects.

Give kids something to take home. Inexpensive coloring books and a pack of crayons, a pick-a-prize toy box, or a small goody bag handed off at the end of the visit can add a little extra patience to kids’ reserves. Your level of understanding in the situation will also translate well with parents.

Create a digital playground with a few iPads or a dedicated “kids only” laptop loaded with simple and fun-to-play games, like “My PlayHome” or “Make a House.” Gearing media toward real estate reinforces interest in the parents’ activity and helps them explain the process to little ones.

Ask kids’ opinions. While older kids may not be as finicky, they can distract parents and push to speed things up. Be ready with clipboards and opinion checklists that ask to list their top three likes and dislikes about the home. Send a branded house hunting checklist home with parents.

Kids can be an opportunity to develop a relationship with real-estate-minded parents. Don’t miss out!

Source: Inman

Show Mom You Love Her On Valentine’s Day

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Have plans for Valentine’s Day? Of course flowers and candy may make Mom happy. But if you and the kids really want to show her how special she is this Valentine’s Day, try one of these ideas.

Write her a letter or make her a glittery card. Mom’s going to keep a handwritten letter from her kids for a long time. Grab a pen and paper or some glue and sequins and have your kids write a letter or make a card that shows how special she is. She’s going to savor that treat forever.

Extend Valentine’s Day to a weekend day. You knowMom…would a few hours alone be her favorite activity one weekend day? Let the Valentine’s Day love spread to the weekend and take the kids out for a while.

Clean the house. Vacuum, dust, scrub the bathrooms – you know Mom doesn’t like to do these chores. Help the kids clean so Mom can spend some time in a lemon-scented, freshly vacuumed home.

Wash her car. Better than cleaning the house – wash, vacuum and maybe even wax her car. There’s no mom that’s not going to appreciate a shiny, clean, cup-free car!

Take the kids grocery shopping. Go to the grocery store for Mom. It’s Dad’s turn to push the cart, pay the bill, lug the groceries in the house, and most importantly, say no to sugary cereal and cookies.

And finally – Take Mom out to dinner. It may sound like a fun idea to cook for Mom on Valentine’s Day, but you’re going to stick her with the greasy pots and pans and a sink full of dishes that need to be loaded (and then unloaded) from the dishwasher. Treat her to a night out. Doesn’t have to be fancy. She’ll be glad to not be on KP Duty.

These are a few ways to say “We Love Mom.” But remember, you don’t have to save these for a special day. Make every day Valentine’s Day!

Teach Your Kids to Love Their Home and DIY Projects

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Do you want your kids to grow up and already love a good DIY home maintenance project or at least understand the value of a clean and tidy home? Start working with them while they are young. Kids actually think cleaning the house or helping with home repairs is fun, so the sooner you engage them in this, the better.

Start while they’re young. While involving kids in housework and home maintenance may take more time, getting kids started while they are young will teach them the importance of caring for a home and taking on some hard work. Kids can hold flashlights, hand you tools or carry a light toolbox. Older kids can help with the screwdriver, replace light bulbs or take part in chores like vacuuming or cleaning

Get kids their own toolbox or yard tools like a kids’ rake or lawn mower. Let them imitate you nearby. This makes participation a game.

Talk about what you’re doing. As you work on home projects such as gardening, painting, repairing, cleaning, talk to your kids about what you are doing. You can teach them more and keep them chatting.

Let them decorate their own rooms. Kids spend a lot of time in their rooms so the more they do to make them their own, the more they will like them. They will also feel ownership and want to be in charge of keeping their rooms clean. Comfortable is important.

Teach your kids about important jobs for home owners that some adults don’t think about, including:

Help them locate the breaker box and flip the correct switch when you lose power. They can also help you label the breaker box, a task that a lot of homeowners plan to take on but never do. Kids love to run around the house and let you know what lights are off or on when you flip a switch.

Show them where to turn off the water for the house or in a bathroom. Kids are known for putting weird things down toilets. No matter how often you say not to, they still do it. Even if you don’t show them where the house water turns off, show them how to turn off an overflowing or running toilet.

Change batteries in smoke alarms. Let kids help you change the batteries in smoke alarms. You should do this twice a year and it’s a great time to teach kids about home maintenance and home safety. This could even be a good time to talk to your kids about a fire evacuation plan.

And make a quick cleaning fun!

Have a Musical Cleaning Event! For a fun cleaning game, turn on your favorite fast song and have a race to see who can clean up the most toys while the song plays. Whenever you turn the song on, the kids clean. ! Kids think this is a blast and race to beat each other. You end up with tired kids and a clean room!

What Can I Expect from My Home Inspection?

Home inspector examines architectural, asphalt shingled roof.

Home inspections are a standard practice when buying a home. No one wants to make the biggest purchase of their lives, only to discover a weak foundation, shoddy electricity and plumbing that will cost $10,000 to repair. A good home inspection can protect buyers from major expenses when buying their homes.

What does a typical home inspection include?
Generally, a home inspector will look at:

The Foundation: Is there evidence of settlement and/or seepage in the basement or lowest level of the home? Is the settlement uneven or are there cracks? What is the structural integrity of the home? What is supporting the home?

Heating and Air Conditioning: What is the insulation like in the home? Is there enough heating and air for the home? How do the systems operate and are they operating properly? What can the inspector see in the way of potential problems in these systems?

Electrical: What does your electric system look like? Is it safe? Are there potential hazards? Is everything properly grounded and bonded? Are all the outlets working?

Roof: What’s happening on top of the house? Are there any general maintenance issues you should know about? What type of roof is it? Are there skylights that need repair? Are there places that are leaking?

Your home inspector should also check out your:

  • Lot and landscaping
  • Plumbing
  • Hot water supply
  • Chimney and fireplace(s)
  • Termite damage/wood damage
  • Attic
  • Exterior
  • Garage

There is a lot of ground for your home inspector to cover, so you want to hire one who will take his time and do a thorough job on your behalf. How do you pick a home inspector? Here are some tips:

1. Don’t trust an inspector simply because the inspector has a state license.

2. Look for an inspector who is associated with a professional inspection organization such as the National Institute of Building Inspectors, the National Association of Home Inspectors or the American Association of Home Inspectors.

3. Don’t only take your agent’s recommendation; ask for three recommendations and then really grill the inspectors.

A home inspection is one of the most important things you can do to make your home purchase a good one. Don’t skip this step!