Top Personal Finance Blogs
Friday November 17th 2017

203K Loans Make Renovations Affordable

With the housing market’s recent history, it’s not surprising that so many consumers have never heard of the FHA Section 203K loan. This is essentially a construction loan backed by the government, but it requires some red tape and paperwork. When money was easy to come by, there was no reason for anyone to apply for this kind of loan. Now that many abandoned homes sit on the market, many with damage from being left uncared for, 203K is becoming a viable option again.

Consider homes in colder climates. Owners have been evicted and the banks often fail to secure the property for the winter weather. As a result, pipes freeze, causing water damage and plumbing damage that must be repaired. A potential homebuyer can take advantage of a 203K to buy the home at a rock-bottom price and repair the damage. It lets those who otherwise would not qualify, borrow money to buy a house and renovate it. These loans are a kind of future value financing that protect lenders from high risk borrowers.

Many types of properties qualify for these loans, including existing homes, demolished homes, single dwellings to be converted to multi-dwellings and more. The loan can even be used on some “mixed use” properties where part of the building is a storefront or other business.

Those seeking Section 203K loans must undergo an on-site inspection, done by the borrower, the lender, a consultant, a contractor and an appraiser. The consultant determines the improvements needed as does the contractor to price the cost of improvements. The appraiser determines if the future value of the home will be enough to cover the cost of improvements.

If all goes well, the loan is partially funded to purchase the property. The remainder is placed in escrow and funds are withdrawn from the escrow account as needed. At each stage, the consultant signs off to approve the renovations.

Improvements for luxury items are not allowed, but additions, porches and other traditional add-ons are covered under the program. Certain health and safety regulations must be followed before completing the improvements and securing the final disbursement.

The 203K can also be used to complete a refinancing deal on a home that needs improvements, but primarily is used by low-income individuals buying their first homes. These borrowers benefit from interest rates that are lower than typical home equity lines of credit.

Given that the market is likely at bottom, the future value of almost any home should rise. This makes qualifying for the loans easier for many buyers. To understand more about 203K loans and get full details on qualifying properties and renovations, visit http://www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/203k/203kabou.cfm.


The Right Way to Sell Gold for Extra Cash

Those commercials on the television and on the radio sound too good to be true. They say all you have to do is send them your gold jewelry and they will send you a check in return. Selling your gold jewelry to one of these companies can be safe when done properly, but selling your gold locally is much smarter, if you are lucky enough to have one available.
(more…)


Six Tips for Saving Money at Restaurants

It is nearly impossible to live a lifestyle these days that does not include going out to breakfast, lunch or dinner at least a couple times a week. We all work and have busy schedules that often prevent us from cooking and eating dinner at home. As a result, dining out has become a necessity for many families. But dining out does not need to cost a fortune if you are careful about your choices. Here are six tips to help you enjoy a meal at a restaurant without worrying about breaking your budget.
(more…)


FHA Versus Conventional Loans

There are many differences between getting an FHA (Federal Housing Administration) loan and choosing to get a conventional loan, and yet at the same time, there are many similarities as well. In the total scheme of things, it is far easier for a potential homeowner to qualify for an FHA loan than it is for them to get rewarded with a conventional loan. An individual’s qualifying standards are put into play when deciding between the two loans. In a nutshell, a 3 to 5% down payment [of the homes asking price] is necessary for an FHA loan — versus — a 5 to 25% down payment when getting a conventional loan. Which one is going to be right for you, is what we would like to outline in assisting you in making the proper decision.

(more…)


Air Travel – Common Sense Ways To Save

Planning a vacation this summer? Is your vacation hotspot going to be just a little too far to drive? Money is tight and you want to spend your hard earned cash when you get there, rather than on how you get there. Does it seem like a lot of the airlines are charging outlandish fees? What are some of the better ways to go about finding the best deals on your airfare? How can I travel this summer without breaking my bank? Well then, we would like to show you some of the ways in which to do this on a cash saving budget.

(more…)


Seven Places to Cut Business Expenses

Small Business

As we slowly climb out of the economic recession, it’s a good idea to continue the money-saving habits you developed during the crisis and apply the same principles to your business. A small business has fewer resources than a larger company and must find cost efficient ways to run things smoothly and keep them running in the future. Economic downturns run in cycles, so tightening you belt now will help you prepare for the next slump. In times like these, it’s not the best, most innovative or even the smartest business that succeeds. The one that succeeds is the one left standing when a bad economy starts putting others out of business. Think Bubba-Gump Shrimp.

Rent

Let’s begin with your overall expenses, or the overhead of your company. You could think about sub-letting your office space to help pay the rent. A virtual business can be run right out of your home, eliminating the cost of office space.

Employees

Speaking of employees, have you thought about saving on the cost of employee benefits by hiring freelance contractors instead?  Just be very careful if you head down this road. Unemployment Insurance laws in many states have a very broad definition of “employee.”

If you tell your workers what hours to work, where to do the work or prevent them from disclosing information about the assignment to others working under them, you could be putting your freelancers into the state’s definition of “employee.” Fines on such a misstep have put some companies out of business.

Labor and Benefits

If you are not comfortable taking on freelance help, then it may be time to consider ways to cut employee costs without damaging the lives of your employees too much. Maybe a four-day workweek would help. This could save you an entire day of energy expenses and a day of wages. It will require more productivity from your workers, so find affordable ways to compensate for the reduction. Consider a weekly hour-long outdoor excursion or perhaps a once a month day trip that employees can help plan. They will be more productive and less resentful of the pay cut.

Be sure to re-examine your employee benefits package every year and research potentially cheaper insurance policies. It is time to increase the employee contribution to the plan? Is there a cheaper plan with an employee deductible? There are many insurance options available to help you save. Explore them.

Energy

Most business owners are busy running the enterprise and fail to notice wasted energy. But when you begin looking at those mundane operations, you may notice potential improvements like sharing the printers between employees, installing movement sensors to make sure the lights are off when you are not using them, switching to recycled printer cartridges, or using laptop computers in the workplace. Just switching to laptops saves 90% of your computer energy consumption.

Technology

It takes months to get used to new technoologies, which is why many business owners are reluctant to make changes. But just think of the savings you could realize by switching to VoIP. Such services often include fax sending and other useful tools that can save your business a bundle on telecommunications. Many services now offer a server-based PBX systems that work just like the tradition phone services from a user’s perspective. Your front desk clerk may not even notice the difference!

And what about using Internet technology to replace in person meetings? Simply by holding meetings online via video conference or audio conference saves tens of thousands per year in travel costs for many small businesses.

Advertising

Saving money on business-related costs can be found most anywhere…even in your advertising budget. Spreading the word about your company and its products is a costly investment that can be easily reduced. In fact, you are reading this post on the medium that can do more for your business on a small budget than any other advertising medium: the Internet! You can also begin using low cost online printing services and distributing your advertising materials locally at small businesses. A little leg work goes a long way.

Other Resources

In order to make your business ends meet, you need to think outside the box. Sometimes, it might serve you best to consider all avenues where you can cut costs and stretch your budget. If you want to raise capital, it can’t hurt to ask employees for ideas through a company contest. Maybe they can offer money-saving ideas. Being closer to the action, your employees will be more creative at finding solutions. The solutions are there, you just need to find them.


Saving Money on Disability Insurance

Maybe you or someone you know is disabled and looking for a way to save money on disability insurance. If this is you, then there are many things to consider when looking at the different types of insurance. There are the plans that are right for you and your disability, as well as what your level and function is – (meaning which type of insurance is best suited for you – for example), and whether or not it’s going to be long or short term. Are you still going to be able to work in your career or not?

Because purchasing disability coverage/insurance is most often a more important element then getting life insurance is, you need to know the facts involved so that you can make the right decision. There are numerous insurance policies out there and knowing which ones to choose from can help clear up some of these questions for you. We’d now like to explain four of the more prevalent types of disability insurance to you.

The first one is long-term disability coverage. This is the type of insurance set up to protect you against the loss of your salary, whether it is weekly or bimonthly. The long-term disability plan usually kicks in after you’ve missed work because of a short-term disability absence or about a six-month period. The coverage plan explained here is open to you, although it is at a reduced percentage of what your normal income is, and generally is in the 80 to 90% bracket.

Our second type of disability coverage is known as short-term disability insurance. This type of insurance will protect you against your loss of salary for the 3 to 6 months period of time. Your employer will carry this plan if they have that type of insurance and it will be classified in a group policy. The coverage that you get here is designed for a short-term stoppage of income flow that will otherwise be considered a severe financial hardship for you or your family. Checking with your employer’s insurance policy will be the key for determining the percentage of income, or lost wages, that you will be able to receive.

Coming up in our third position of disability insurance is the group long-term disability coverage. The money that you will be able to save here is geared at the group dynamic. One of the sticking points that you may encounter here is; if a member in your group ceases employment with the company, then termination of coverage will occur.

Rounding out our prevalent types of disability insurance is the granddaddy of them all — the Social Security disability payment plan. This type of insurance plan is set up for individuals experiencing a life changing disability and who are otherwise not able to continue working at all. Of course, this will not come out of your insurance plan with your employer, rather from the federal level of Social Security. To be eligible for this plan will mean that you’re unable to work for least a full year. In lieu of the fact that this type of insurance doesn’t consider your lost income as a factor, it will set you up for regularly scheduled disability payments.

In order to make one of the most important decisions about disability insurance coverage, you need to be aware of the many factors involved in purchasing the right plan. Because an insurance plan is comprised of both; the nature of the plan being purchased, and the actual cost of the insurance, you need to make sure and highlight your needs with the insurance advisor. Looking at the amount of income that you will be paying out, in collaboration with your current monthly expenses, is another surefire way to determine if this plan is economical enough for you.

A critical factor for you to evaluate is the schedule in which your premium payments are made. Should I make the payment in monthly, quarterly (every three months), or if my monetary schedule allows, even annually making large insurance plan payments? The choice of course up to you, yet it is a good idea consider all of your needs accordingly. For standard term insurance policyholders, the premium payments that you will make are already on a set schedule. Keeping this in mind, payments will increase as you get older and even if your disability is one that is progressively getting worse.

What is going to be the length of the disability? Variations in plans are available to you; whether or not you need coverage for the remainder of your life, or for just a few years until you get back up on your feet again. A majority of the time, insurance policy terms will be set up for your anticipated retirement age. If this is the case for you, it is a good idea for you to include in your thoughts: a plan for your kid’s college expenses, any vacation plans you might have in store for your retirement years, and/or paying off the mortgage entirely on your house.


Get Creative and Save on Entertainment

You’ve been working all week and now it’s time to reward yourself. So what should we do about this without breaking the bank? There are many things that a person can do for entertainment that are going to be inexpensive or in some cases even free.

We know that you’ve got plenty of other things to spend your money on like bills, and then even more bills; so what kind of things can we do out there to entertain ourselves without spending our hard earned cash? Well, we’ve done a little research for you, so now you can have fun without spending all of your money.

(more…)


Debt Boot Camp: 5 Things You Must Do Now!

Credit cards. Car payments. Home equity loans. No matter what kind of debt you have, working yourself out of it can seem overwhelming, especially as your balances grow.

It is possible to reduce and eliminate your debt. Don’t expect it to be a quick fix, though; paying off debt requires patience and perseverance. Below are five essential steps that will put you on the path to a debt-free lifestyle.

(more…)


Get Out of Credit Card Debt Now


It all begins so innocently. You whip out your credit card to pay for things like concert tickets, airline and hotels, ballgames, home improvements, etc. The next thing you know, it comes time to pay bills, and you’re paying a lot more than the original asking price of these items. We all do it, and most of us don’t feel good about it later on.

The convenience of paying for things with credit cards has become an American tradition. Worldwide, statistics are becoming overwhelming:

(more…)