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!

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