Surviving The Holidays With NO Debt!

Last year, Americans found themselves in debt averaging around $1,073 after the holiday season! According to a study done by Magnify Money, 1 out of every 4 Americans will be in holiday debt in 2016. That, on top of other debt obligations, can cause a lot of financial stress for the average family. Many times, unassuming consumers don’t realize just how long it will take to pay off their holiday spending sprees. They make goals to have everything paid off by the end of January, but more often than not, shoppers find themselves paying off holiday debt for several months, and sometimes even years.

Imagine planning your holiday spending, while still worrying about paying off your debt from the previous year! This reality is true for many, but it doesn’t have to be for you.

There are many ways to survive the holidays without going into debt; it just takes a bit of planning, and a lot of self-control.

Prepare for January

When January finally arrives, there is a sense of relief felt by most. Finally, the holiday season is over and the stress can subside. New beginnings, right?

Wrong. That’s is, if you’re dealing with credit card debt.

Receiving that December credit card statement can hit you like a ton of bricks, and all of a sudden your new year’s goals of traveling and experiencing new things becomes completely overshadowed by last year’s debts and how you’re going to pay them back.

Go into your holiday shopping with January in mind. Don’t let the new year sneak up on you and catch you off guard. Budget and plan for a financially stress free 2017; your spending habits will follow suit.

Think about Side Gigging

One of the most practical ways to afford holiday spending is to make more money, and fortunately, this is completely doable. This time of year is full of seasonal work opportunities that can benefit your spending budget, and offer flexible hours to fit your schedule.

Now working an extra job may not be ideal, but on a temporary basis the extra work could be a less expensive option than taking out loans or using credit that accrues interest. Work hard now and enjoy the rest of your year later!

Don’t Become Another Statistic

Remember, as you’re starting your holiday shopping, knowledge is power. Holiday sales are expected to jump by 3% in 2016, and consumers are predicted to spend more than ever, with 14% of consumers forecasted to spend more than the previous year. With that being said, since average American incomes have yet to see a huge increase, we can expect that holiday debt will also be extremely high. Don’t allow the draw of sales and big ticket items to ruin your financial standing.  Although credit cards are the preferred method of paying for gifts, change things up; only pay in cash.

Debt is burdensome and no one wants it lingering over their heads. Go into 2017 with no additional debt due to holiday spending, and start your year off on a great foot!

Saving Money During The Holidays

The most wonderful time of year can also be the most stressful. Between making holiday travel plans, and finding the perfect gifts for your loved ones, saving money can feel impossible. However, putting aside money and taking care of holiday expenses is still doable with a bit of preparation and serious discipline. Check out our 10 tips on putting aside extra cash during the chaos of the holidays.

  1. Set a spending limit

This is the key to not overspend when doing your holiday shopping. Sales tags and great deals can fool you into thinking you’re actually saving money, but after adding up your holiday haul, you may be shocked at just how much money you’ve spent.

  1. Create a gift list

Between family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, etc. you may feel like your gift list is endless. Sit down and write out a list of everyone you want to give a gift to this season and then, with your budget in mind, start making cuts. This may sound harsh, but you might not be able to realistically buy gifts for everyone on your list, and that’s ok.

  1. Grab Some Cash

After creating your budget, take out the amount of cash you will need to purchase gifts. This prevents you from overspending. Once the money is gone, the holiday shopping is over!

  1. Put away the credit cards

Many individuals tend to get swipe happy around the holiday shopping season, and before they know it, they’ve racked up a bill that seriously sets them back. Stick to your budget and say no to the plastic.

  1. Avoid express shipping costs; buy gifts early

We’ve all been in the unfortunate situation where Christmas is around the corner, and you’re scrambling to purchase gifts that you’ve put off buying. Around the holidays, those express shipping costs are extremely high. Make your purchases now, and use regular business shipping.

  1. Consider baking

The way to just about anyone’s heart is through their stomachs. Skip out on buying expensive holiday presents this year, and give the gift of baked goods! Holiday specific goodies are not only festive, but they are a pretty frugal option when trying to save money.

  1. Teach kids financial boundaries

Your kids have probably been inundated by commercials selling them all the latest toys and gadgets. Instead of buying them every toy on their wish list, explain to them that gifts cost money and money doesn’t grow on trees. Even Santa has a Christmas budget to adhere to.

  1. Pay attention to sales

Discounts are everywhere during this time of the year. Hit them up and save a small chunk of change. Nothing wrong with purchasing last year’s hot ticket item at a discount!

  1. Hit up holiday freebies

There are plenty of things to do around the holidays. Get creative and meet up with friends for ice skating, or take your family on a drive to see Christmas lights. Not everything worth doing costs money.

  1. Remember the spirit of the holidays

At the end of the day, the holiday season is a special time of year and a great opportunity to spend much needed time with those you care about. Don’t get too caught up in spending and gift giving, and forget just how great the holiday season can be!

Winterize Your Life

As the weather becomes brisker, and the leaves begin to change colors and fall, you should take some time to prepare your home for winter. Doing these things ahead of time can save you money in the long-run, and prevent you from being out in the cold.

Heating System Tune-up

You should change your filter monthly. Have an HVAC technician give your system a good once over. Fixing something before it is irreparable could save you time, money and stress; one faulty part could cause a trickle-down effect. You’ll also save yourself from paying an “emergency rate” for after hours or weekend work when something breaks unexpectedly.

If you have a gas heater, pick up a carbon monoxide detector at the hardware store. Don’t forget to reverse your ceiling fans to push heated air down from the ceiling.

Finally, do a quick check of the weather-stripping around your doors and windows. Replace where you feel cool air coming in to keep your heat from escaping.

Clean and Inspect Your Roof and Gutters

Clear any debris from your roof that may cause snow to accumulate and add unnecessary weight. Also, clean any fall leaves from your gutters as clogged gutters will cause water to spill over and freeze on walkways next to your foundation.

Disconnect hoses and use an indoor valve if possible to shutoff water leading to outside faucets. If you have a back-up generator, test it out and make sure you have plenty of fuel on hand.

Stow your lawn equipment

Before winter weather arrives, run your mower until the tank is dry. Leaving fuel in the tank over the winter will cause difficulty when you try to start it in the spring.

Prune Trees

Prune any limbs that are close to your home or hanging over power lines leading to your home, but do not get overzealous! Horticulturists advise waiting until late winter to prune most plants when they’ve been dormant for months and sprint growth is just about to begin. Only prune the limbs that may cause winter problems.

Inspect Your Chimney

If you’re planning on setting the mood with your fireplace, this one is a MUST. Call a certified chimney sweep to inspect the chimney and vents. This can prevent chimney fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. Store a good supply of dry, seasoned wood for your fireplace.

Prepare Winter Emergency Kit

  • Buy a fire extinguisher, or check the charge on the one you already have
  • Keep some non-perishable and semi-perishable foods on hand
  • Forego the candles for LED flashlights, hundreds of fires are started every year during power outages by candles
  • Know where your tools are in case you have to do any mini repairs in the midst of a storm
  • Make sure your cell phone is charged and buy a car charger in case you need to top it off while your power is out
  • Keep plenty of adequate clothing and heavy blankets on hand to keep warm
  • Find some fun board games or a good book to entertain you through a night or two with no television

Improving Your Home’s Efficiency

For many individuals, home related expenses add up to be their largest monthly cost. From utilities, repairs, mortgage payments and more, being a homeowner can feel a bit like a money guzzler, and unless you’re a billionaire, you’re probably always looking for ways to cut costs.

Improving your home’s efficiency can save you a good chunk of change when it comes time to pay bills. Check out our list for tips on how to make your house as energy efficient as possible.

  1. Insulation

Remember as a kid getting scolded by your mom or grandmother for running in and out of the house because you were “letting out the bought air.” Well, they were definitely on to something. Homes that aren’t well insulated allow heat to seep out in the winter, or in, in the summer, which means your home’s heating and air units must expel twice as much energy to heat and cool down the home.

  1. Window and door upgrades

Like with bad insulation, old faulty windows drive up your energy usage. Replacing them with energy efficient models, or adding weather-stripping or storm windows for a lower cost option, can save energy and costs.

  1. Plant Trees

Landscaping with your home’s efficiency in mind can help you save money and energy usage. Planting trees on your home’s west facing side allows foliage to protect your house from infrared radiation that warms up your home in the summer. During the winter, once the branches are bare, the same radiation can come through and help heat your home.

Related: Landscaping ideas that can make your home more secure

  1. Trade out your light bulbs

Compact florescent lamps, or CFLs, use 75% less electricity than incandescent bulbs. Yes, CFLs may cost a few dollars more than a standard incandescent bulb, but the electricity it takes to light the bulb costs way more than the actual light bulb. A CFL lasts 10,000 hours and uses 27 watts to generate light; for the same amount of light it would take an incandescent bulb 100 watts, and only lasts 1,000 hours. You may be saving pocket change in upfront costs, but switching to CFLs will cost you less than a third of the costs annually of incandescent lights.

  1. Purchase a programmable thermostat

Installing a programmable thermostat can save you an average of 10% on your cooling and heating bills. That 10% adds up quickly and after a few months, the new unit will have paid for itself.

  1. Upgrade air and heating units

Energy efficient heating and cooling units go hand in hand with well insulated and sealed interiors. If you have one without the other, you’re still overworking your houses energy use. An outdated furnace or HVAC system can waste a large percentage of fuel, so installing a newer model could save you up to 27% on heating bills.

  1. Water heaters

You can increase your water heater’s efficiency by turning the temperature down to 120 degrees so that it’s set at its warm setting. Also, insulating your water lines can keep them from cooling off at a faster rate between uses. If you recently installed a new water heater, many of these things are standard and maintain their own temperature and cooling for better efficiency.

Put these tips into practice, and increase the efficiency in your home in no time! For information on maintaining energy efficiency in your home, check out our blog post on solar panels.

FHA Increases Conforming Loan Limit

For the first time in 10 years, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has raised conforming loan limits for mortgages acquired by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Separate loan limit announcements are expected shortly from FHA and the Veterans Administration.

The current loan limit, $417,000, has been in place since 2006. When the housing crisis hit, the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA) set the baseline loan limit at that existing level for one to four family houses in most of the U.S. and required it be adjusted each year to reflect any changes in the national average home price. When prices continued to decline HERA also made clear that the baseline could not be adjusted upward until the average U.S. home price returned to its pre-decline level.

AmeriSave Employees Donate Food For Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, AmeriSave’s Atlanta employees contributed over 600 items in our annual food drive for local families in need. Way to go team!

Thanks Agape Youth & Family Center for your continual outreach and service in the community, and for hosting this Thanksgiving Give-Away!

Savings Tips For Black Friday Shopping

The holidays are some of the most festive and financially stressful times of the year. Between travelling, purchasing gifts, and feeding a ton of hungry family members, you may find yourself strapped for cash.

Have no fear, Black Friday is here. OK, you may be wondering why would I mention savings and the biggest holiday shopping day of the year in the same blog post?

Well as hectic, and expensive, as the holiday season is, there is one place we know you can save some serious cash: your holiday shopping list!

Getting the most out of your Black Friday Shopping day takes strategic planning. Unfortunately, many store offers and “deals” aren’t deals at all. A study done by Nerd Wallet found that many major department stores have been running the same ads for the past 3 years. However, if you’re in the market for videogames and technology, black Friday, as well as Cyber Monday, are truly the best times of year to score big!

For years shoppers have been flocking to major retailers in search of the latest technologies for the best prices. TVs, cameras, video games and systems, laptops, phones and tablets have consistently topped the list when it comes to the best sales, and this year is no exception.

If you want to have holiday shopping success this Black Friday, then follow our list of shopping strategies to make the most of your time and money.

  1. Do your Research – If you’re not following your favorite stores on social media, now’s the time. Retailers will begin posting their deals on their Facebook and Twitter, to create buzz and hype around their products. Also, pick up a local newspaper the day before and scope the sales ads. Websites such as blackfriday.comare also great sources of information for insider tips on special promotions.
  2.  Have a Plan in Mind – Black Friday isn’t really the time to wander the aisles aimlessly hoping to stumble upon something interesting. It happens, but for the most part, everyone shopping on the busiest shopping day of the year has a purpose, and really great deals can be sold out within a blink of an eye!
  3. Scope Out the Playing Field – The night before sales, take a trip to the store. Many businesses begin setting up and taping off aisles where in demand products will be staged. A quick walk through of the store will help you know exactly where the inventory you’re after will be located, so that you can make a bee-line directly to those items.
  4. Be on Time – As a seasoned Black Friday shopper, I can attest to the craziness and frenzy surrounding a highly anticipated sale. Shoppers will begin lining up outside of stores hours, and even days, before the sale even begins. Prioritize which items and stores you will hit up first and stay on your timeline.
  5. Stay at Home – Ok, I know I’m calling an audible here, but give me a chance to explain. Stores have created an unsavory trend of starting sales on Thanksgiving day, and as great as some Black Friday deals are, spending time with family is even more important, so stay at home during family time. Plus, its 2016 and we’re in the age of technology. Skip the lines and do your shopping on Cyber Monday!

Whether you decide to participate in Black Friday shopping

Why Getting A Home Mortgage May Be The Right Move Even If You Can Pay In Cash

Since we were old enough to care, we’ve probably had it instilled in our minds that debt is a bad thing and to avoid it at all costs. Many would say this was sage advice, and few would argue with that notion; I wouldn’t argue with that notion.

I will, however, contend that mortgage loans may actually be favorable over paying for a home in cash. Now, before you disregard everything I’m about to say, hear me out.

Related: How to Apply For a Mortgage

Not everyone has disposable income they can throw at a house to pay for it in full, but if you do, you’re probably a money savvy individual who makes smart financial choices. With that, obtaining a mortgage allows you to invest the money you would use to purchase a home into stocks, bonds and other types of investments.

Why is this good?  Well think about it like this, say you take $300,000 (price of your potential home) and sock it away in a mattress for future use, such as retirement. That may seem like a sizable nest egg, but with the average cost of living sitting at $40,938 per year (without taking into account possible social security or pension payments) you’re going to run through that $300k in less than 10 years.

Now, say you take that $300,000 and invest it in a diversified, balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds. Over time your assets may grow, and once you’re ready to use that money (let’s say for retirement), you could have grown your investment considerably by letting your money work for you. Investments allow the money you have saved to generate more income through interest.

Of course, you can counter this logic by pointing out that a mortgage includes paying a sizable amount of interest over the course of the loan. While it is true that you’ll be paying interest that you otherwise would not have paid by buying your home with cash, with current interest rates as low as they are, there is the possibility that the gains you make in the market more than offset the interest you’ll pay on the loan. A good compromise may be to make a sizable down payment and invest the rest, that way you are diversified among real estate and the stock market.

Growing your liquid money through investments isn’t the only high point in getting a mortgage. Thanks to the IRS, you can deduct interest payments from your taxes and put that money towards your savings, and who doesn’t love tax deductions!

Remember, even if you purchase a home in cash, there are still regular payments that need to be made on property taxes, home insurance, and HOA fees.

At the end of the day, the decision to get a mortgage loan or pay in cash is up to you and depends on what’s best for your needs. If getting the most bang for your buck is a priority, then a mortgage may be a very good option. Growing your liquid funds and having money stored up for an emergency is a great reason to opt out of paying cash for a home, even if you can afford it.

Interested in applying for a mortgage? Head over to AmeriSave.com and check out our rates today!

The information in this article is provided for education and informational purposes only, without any express or implied warranty of any kind, including warranties of accuracy, completeness, or fitness for any particular purpose. The Information contained in or provided from or through this forum is not intended to be and does not constitute financial advice, investment advice, trading advice or any other advice. The information is general in nature and is not specific to you the reader or anyone else. YOU SHOULD NOT MAKE ANY DECISION, FINANCIAL, INVESTMENTS, TRADING OR OTHERWISE, BASED ON ANY OF THE INFORMATION PRESENTED ON THIS FORUM WITHOUT UNDERTAKING INDEPENDENT DUE DILIGENCE AND CONSULTATION WITH A PROFESSIONAL BROKER OR COMPETENT FINANCIAL ADVISOR. You understand that you are using any and all information available on or through this forum AT YOUR OWN RISK.

RISK STATEMENT – The trading of stocks, futures, commodities, index futures or any other securities has potential rewards, and it also has potential risks involved. Anyone wishing to invest should seek his or her own independent financial or professional advice.

Being A Good Landlord

For many individuals who have ventured into investment real estate, the potential rewards can be great. However, there are considerable risks and a lot of responsibility that comes with being responsible for real estate property and tenants.

Everything that’s worth having is worth working for, so don’t let additional responsibility take you out of the running if this type of investment is feasible for you.

Follow these 5 tips, and be the best landlord your tenants ever had!

1) Remain Business Professional

If you own rental properties, then you have a business. Treating your property as such is a must in order to maintain order and professionalism. Like with any business, if the boss isn’t taking his/her job seriously, then the business will be hard pressed to be successful and profitable.

2) Screen Your Potential Tenants

This needs to be done in a professional, legal manner in order to avoid discrimination. The typical requirements you should look for when screening are stable income, felonies on criminal records, recent evictions and positive references.

3) Respect is a Must

Finding a good tenant is important, but being a good landlord to a tenant is equally important; since this is your business, a tenant is your customer. Make sure to treat everyone with the proper respect and dignity they deserve.

4) Don’t Be Taken Advantage of

Respect is key on your end as well as your tenants. They must respect the rules and regulations you put in place when they signed their lease. There’s nothing wrong with being understanding and compassionate, but once you allow your tenants to break rules, it will become an expectation.

5) Stay On Top of Maintenance

Unless previously specified, if there is a repair needed, it is your responsibility as the landlord to make sure arrangements are made to fix the issue in a timely manner. This is especially if it puts your tenants at risk.

At the end of the day, having a successful business and happy tenants depends on you being a great landlord. Make sure to follow these steps and always be open to learning new things and listening to feedback!

Halloween Tips For A Safe Evening

No matter your age, Halloween is a festive time of year. Decorating your home with spooky jack-o-lanterns and haunted displays add to the fun.

October 31st gives individuals many great excuses to dress up as their favorite characters, and eat as many sweet treats as they’d like, so you wouldn’t want your evening tainted by a Halloween mishap.

This is why it’s important for homeowners to take precautions on All Hallows’ Eve to ensure that their home, and all of their little trick-or-treaters, have a safe evening.

1) Before heading out of the house on your trick-or-treating adventures, make sure to go over a safety game plan with your kids. Inform them to stay in well-lit driveways and pay attention to street traffic.

2) Candles are notorious Halloween staples as homeowners often use them to create a spooky glow on their homes by lining them along their walkways.  This same effect can be achieved with LED lights. Candles pose a risk as lots of little feet will be walking around your home, and they can be knocked over and cause harm to your property or to an individual.

3) If you have a loose porch step or railing you’ve been meaning to fix, now is the perfect time. Your front door will be inhabited by tiny ballerinas and ghouls for the evening, so making sure all dangerous or hazardous conditions are repaired will be important to ensure safety.

4) Don’t forget your pets. Unfortunately, a fun spooky Halloween for you can be an actual terror for many pets. Create a safe environment for your pets as the constant doorbell ringing and stream of visitors can spook them right out of the front door. A confined space like a crate or small room they feel they can guard and protect may be more comfortable for your pet.

5) Halloween is also an optimal time to look over your home’s insurance coverage. As visitors come to and from your home, you are opening yourself up to potential lawsuits, so making sure you are sufficiently covered is important.

Now that you’ve taken the proper measures to safeguard your home from any catastrophes, you’re ready to enjoy a fun family filled evening!