Refinancing your mortgage can bring your interest rate down, lower your monthly payments and generally save you some money. With rates still low, you may be pondering whether nowâs the right time to try for a better deal on your home loan. But you donât want to pull the trigger too soon. If any of the following apply to you, you may want to think twice before jumping on the refinancing bandwagon.
Compare refinance mortgage rates.
1. Your Creditâs Not in Great Shape
Refinancing when youâve got a few blemishes on your credit report isnât impossible, but itâs not necessarily going to work in your favor either. Even though lenders have relaxed certain restrictions on borrowing over the last year, qualifying for the best rates on a loan can still be tough if your score is stuck somewhere in the middle range.
If you took out an FHA loan the first time around, you might be able to get around your less-than-spotless credit with a streamline refinance, but approval isnât guaranteed. Interest rates are expected to rise toward the end of the year, but that still gives you some time to work on improving your score.
Getting rid of debt, limiting the number of new accounts you apply for and paying your bills on time will go a long way toward improving your number so that when you do refinance, youâll be eligible for the lowest interest rates.
Related Article: refinance closing costs.
3. A No-Closing Cost Loan Is Your Only Option
If you donât have a few thousand dollars to spare to cover the closing costs, you can always look into a no-closing cost loan. With this type of refinance, the lender folds the costs into the loan itself so you donât have to pay anything extra out of pocket. While thatâs a plus if youâre short on cash, you may be really putting yourself at a disadvantage in the long run. Increasing your mortgage (even if itâs just by a few thousand dollars) means youâre going to pay more interest over the life of the loan.
For example, letâs say you refinance a $200,000 mortgage at 4 percent for 30 years. Altogether, youâd pay $143,000 in interest if you donât pay anything extra. Your closing costs come to 3 percent but you roll them into the loan so youâre refinancing about $206,000 instead. That extra $6,000 would cost you another $11,000 in interest so you have to ask yourself whether the monthly savings from refinancing justify the overall added expense.
4. Compare Your Refinance Loan Options
Once youâre ready to refinance, itâs important to take the time to compare whatâs available from different lenders carefully. Checking out the rates and fees each lender charges ensures that you wonât spend any more money on a refinance loan than you need to.
Everyone whoâs ever had an emergency will tell you money is key to making good decisions. We make bad financial decisions when we’re broke and desperate. Thatâs why having an emergency fund is vital to starting any personal finance journey.…
The post Tips to Help You Fund (and Keep) Your Emergency Fund appeared first on Modern Frugality.
Well, that was fast! I just got my check and it’s all going to bills! Sound familiar? If so, you’re might be living paycheck to paycheck. If you’re struggling to make ends meet with your income, you’re not alone.Â In fact, 74% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck according to a survey from the […]
The post 9 Simple Steps: How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck for Good appeared first on Incomist.
Are you struggling to pay your credit card debt?Â Perhaps you’re considering a balance transfer credit card to help you pay off your debt faster? If so, you’re not alone. In fact, the average American household owes $6,194 in credit card debt and many are seeking strategies to reduce that number. It may be […]
The post How to Transfer Your Credit Card Balance in 5 Simple Steps appeared first on Incomist.
As busy moms, we need to cut the time, trim the cost, and lessen the mental load, and here are the mom life must haves to help you do it!
Ugh! You just crossed off two items on your to-do list (yaaa!), and then you immediately added four more on to it! #momlife Seriously, you feel like you’re bailing out a sinking battleship with a sippy cup, and there’s no end in sight. Or so it seems…
Every good General knows you need the right tools & resources to win the war, so it’s time to fill your arsenal with the best mom life must haves! These are the things that will help you triumph over errands, chores, and mealtime! All while helping you feel calmer and happier, settling your racing mind, giving you the space to do what’s most important!
Yes, snuggling your kiddos, kissing on your honey, or maybe hiding in the bathtub for 2.5 hours reading a good book and eating chocolate. Hey, self-care is in, right? So sit tight, and get ready to rock your to-do list!
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my full disclosure for more info
How to be a better mom (by having the right support)
Whoa, that’s a loaded statement! I mean, “be a better mom” implies that you’re doing a bad job now, right? NO! We are all doing the best job we can in the life we have right now. No one wakes up and says, “I want to be mediocre today”! No, we want to do a great job every day. Yet, sometimes, at least for me, I fall short.
Some days I’m exhausted, have too much on my schedule, or run out of brown sugar, so no cookie baking today (true story, huge tears ensued from my 5-year-old). When these days happen more than I would like, I know that I need to sit down and recalibrate. Take stock of the common themes, look for overlapping reasons why the $hit keeps hitting the fan, and then figure out what I need to do to get back on track.
Usually, either I need a mini-vacation (sigh), or I need to check out my tools and see where I need more support and even some tools that I may have forgotten about. I call these my mom life must haves! I’ve rounded up my best tips, tools, and resources on the items that help me be a better mom!
When I say “better mom,” I mean…
less frazzled, more calm
less scatterbrained, more organized
less tired, more energized
less scroungy, more stylish
less last minute, more prepared
less mediocre, more badass!
Being a better mom can mean anything that you want it to mean! Don’t let my own definition put restrictions on your best version of you! You can use my ideas to be a jumping-off point, and then tailor them to your own personality and goals!
Take advantage of Amazon Prime Day for huge savings!
I know that spending money on ourselves is hard. I will convince myself that I don’t really need something, or that the money would be better spent on a new thingamajig for my little one. I don’t know why I feel guilty spending money on myself, I just do sometimes.
One thing that always helps me feel better about spending money on myself is if I get it at a good deal! I love saving money! (yes, I’d save a whole lot more if I didn’t buy “it” at all but sometimes we need something! Especially when that something makes our life better or easier! So that’s why I am super excited about Amazon Prime Day!
What is Amazon Prime Day?
It’s a two day event where Amazon offers up steep discounts on millions of products across all categories! People use this time to stock up for holiday gifting, or to splurge on normally expensive items. If you’re a Prime Member you get early access to some of their deals so if you have been thinking about getting a membership, then now is the time! Don’t forget to snag your free 30 day trial!
When is Prime Day this year?
It’s October 13th & 14th this year, but if you’re a Prime Member you’ll get early access!
I am so happy to say that Amazon will be supporting small businesses this year too (sounds counterintuitive but hear me out). Small Businesses can be a partner shop on their platform, and if you purchase starting now through October 12th, if you purchase $10 worth of items from a participating small business you will get $10 credit to use on Prime Day! Check out all the small business partners here!
Amazon Prime Day Deals
Now the following items aren’t a part of my own person list of mom life must haves, yet so many people swear by these. Starting today, Prime members can shop early offers and deals everyday leading up to Prime Day on October 13 & 14.
Get two Echo Dot devices for $39.98
Fire TV Recast for $129.99 to store up to 75 hours of HD programming.
Save up to $100 on Toshiba 43-inch Smart HD Fire TV Edition TV for $179.99.
Insignia 43-inch Smart 4K UHD Fire TV Edition TV for $199.99;
Save $40 on Echo Show 5
Amazon Music: For just $0.99, Prime members who haven’t yet tried Amazon Music Unlimited can get four months of the premium streaming tier with unlimited access to more than 60 million songs ad-free, and now a wide selection of popular podcasts.
Audible: Prime members can save $50 on a year of Audible Premium Plus. Audible members will also get access to the Plus catalog, featuring more than 10K Audible Originals, audiobooks and podcasts, all at no additional cost.
Kindle Unlimited: New customers to Kindle Unlimited save 50% off a 6-month subscription.
The main question with Prime Day Deals, is did you want this item before you heard about it on Prime Day? Or did you simply see it and think “ohhhh, shiny!” Remember, it’s only a deal, if you were going to buy it anyway!
Mom life must haves for the home
1. Family charging station
Hercules Tuff Charging Station
charges up to 80% faster!
charge six devices at once
includes 4 Lightning Cables, 1 Type-C Cable, and 1 Micro-USB cable perfectly sized to keep your space organized
This is honestly one of my favorite things, and I’m not usually a gadget person. If my phone isn’t in my hand, I always know where it is, the family charging station is the natural place to put it down, so it’s an easy habit to start. There’s no worrying about your hubby or kiddo walking off with your charging cables! Plus, it makes mealtimes more family-friendly.
We can sit down to a meal without having our phones on the table or in our pockets, where it’s so easy to start scrolling or get sidetracked by notifications!
Time Saved by less distractions and mindless scrolling!
2.A great handheld vacuum
Black & Decker Max Pivot Handheld Vacuum
Lithium battery for strong suction that never fades
4 stars with over 12,000 ratings!
I’m not a Roomba vacuum kind of person, even though the concept sounds great. I don’t trust them I don’t think they’ll do a great job, and I’ve heard the horror stories of them eating cords & carpets. So that means a handheld vacuum, which sounds lame as they don’t usually have a lot of power. Until I found this one, the Black & Decker Pivot! He’s lightweight and super fast to pull out of the pantry for a quick clean up!
Honestly, this vacuum is amazing! I got mine for Christmas 2015. Yes, 5 years ago, and I can still say it’s amazing! It has so much power to it; it vacuums up everything! I’ve only had the battery run out one time; it was when we were moving, and I cleaned the whole house for the entire day. So I don’t blame it
I hate to admit this, but I didn’t know that there was a removable filter that you had to take and shake out for the first two years. Yes, I emptied the chamber, but I didn’t know about the filter. I didn’t notice it, and it still worked great! Shhh… don’t tell anyone how dumb I was!
Besides, you cant lift a Roomba up and vacuum huge spiders off the ceiling like you can with this handheld vacuum! (Just this past week, it was two mornings in a row that I had to climb on the bathroom counter and get ’em!)
Both time & money saved, as it’s very convient for a quick clean and money saved as this is a quality vacuum, and I expect it to last a long time!
3. An Amazon prime membership
This sounds so silly, as everyone must have it by now, right? Nope, they don’t, but it’s such a lifesaver! Every one should find a way to fit this into their budget. It’s $119 a year for an annual subscription or $12.99 a month. But the main question busy mom’s ask is, “Is it worth it?”
“The actual value of Amazon Prime is estimated to be around $784 annually after all of its individual perks and benefits are considered, according to a recent analysis by JPMorgan”, says Business Insider. So the resounding answer is yes! Click here for your 30 day free trial to Prime.
You get free shipping, two-day shipping, movies, free ebooks, music, file storage, and more! Prime members also get extra discounts to Whole Foods and member-only deals.
Plus, there’s Prime Reload, which gives you 2% by linking up your debit card and reloading your “available shopping balance” from there! Saving money without the lure of a credit card is a great option!
Their Subscribe & Save program also offers great perks! You pick out which items you order all the time, like bar soap or diaper pail liners, and you signup to get them regularly delivered to your door; with this you can save up to 15% on these purchases! Amazon Prime Family also offers 20% off diapers and special baby registry benefits!
Don’t forget to look for available Prime Membership discounts:
Prime Discounted Monthly offering is just $5.99/month for qualifying customers with an EBT or Medicaid card
Prime Student has a 6-month trial and then $6.49 a month
Amazon also has their Signature Visa, where you get 3% back at Whole Foods, 2% back at gas stations, restaurants, and drugstores. 1% back on utilities and all other purchases (see terms & conditions for current details).
Don’t forget you can get a 30-day free trial on all Amazon Prime!
Money saved! You will find great deals on Amazon, but you might need to spend some time digging through reviews and products.
4. Easy & fast dinners
Meal kits certainly aren’t new anymore, so the novelty has worn off. They’re not just for “fun” anymore, but they are a lifesaver! And there are so many different companies you can choose from, meal kits for any diet and lifestyle!
We like EveryPlate, as it’s one of the cheapest out there at $4.99 a serving! Meal kits save me so much time and brain angst (is that even a thing?). But you get me, I mean I would waste so much time trying to figure out what to make for dinners for the week. Then I have to go buy it all, and the prep it. Ugh! My brain hurts just thinking about it!
With EveryPlate, it takes me 12 minutes every month to go into their dashboard and pick my meals. That’s it. The recipes are easy to make, tasty, and I feel good about not serving up a frozen pizza or take out every night.
We have also started trying Dinnerly too. I’m not into blindly following brands, I like to be sure that I am getting the best deal for the best value out there! So of course I am going to try the competition! Dinnerly and Everyplate are similar in cost, program, and quality.
YET, Dinnerly just started offering extra protein portions (in case you want to make a little more). AND, they just started offering desserts too! This next week I signed up to get a caramel apple spice cake and the following week pumpkin pie cheesecake bars! (fall flavored treats are my weakness). Click the here to start making meal time easy (finally!) and treating your family!
Don’t get me wrong, meal kits have their drawbacks, sometimes the cucumber arrives soft, or it’s not enough for my hubs, but overall it’s a great option, and it totally works for us!
We also use our trusty old slow cooker! It’s still great for making a good amount of food that we can use as quick leftover meals throughout the week. Things like chicken fajitas, or three-bean chili, or mac & cheese are great options.
This slow cooker is great as it’s programable for temp & time. Then when it’s done cooking, it switches to warm mode, so you don’t overcook your dinner! It also comes with a temperature probe, so if you’re cooking meats you can be doubly sure it’s fully cooked!
On my wish list is this Instant Pot; I mean, it has 4 1/2 stars with over 100,000 reviews! That’s crazy, right! Besides, any gadget that says it’s perfect for beginners is for me!
Time & money saved! But more so, my sanity as I hated trying to decide what to make for dinner!
Mom life must haves for our kids
So we wouldn’t be busy moms if it wasn’t for our kiddos, right? These things are ones that I love, and have made this crazy journey a lot easier!
5.Honest Company products
So this sounds corny, but I honestly love Honest Products! Actress Jessica Alba started the brand. Honest’s bio page says, “When she couldn’t find one brand to trust for all her everyday needs, she had to create it. And she knew that there had to be others out there looking for safe products, simple solutions, and clear information about their choices, just like her.”
Did I ever tell you that I am a natural skeptic? When someone says their product is safe and uses only the best ingredients, I look to the experts to tell the truth. I use the Environmental Working Groups Skin Deep app on my phone all the time for this! I scan the barcode of an item, and it tells me if it’s considered safe by their 3rd party unbiased testing. EWG isa “non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment.” Their app doesn’t have every product in its database, but they have a lot (mostly in the beauty and cleaning area).
When I am standing in Target and looking for something for my kiddo, I scan all the brands to find the one that is the least toxic, and then I go to Amazon to check out the reviews on that item. If people love it, then I buy it!
I just used it this past month, we stayed at my mom’s house for a few days, and my daughter used their bubble bath; she loved all the bubbles. But a few days later, she broke out in a rash, sure enough, I found it was rated an 8 (on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the worst). Whoops!
So I went to target and scanned a few and settled on The Honest Company’s lavender bubble bath, and it was rated a 1! I bought it, and it worked great (as much as a bubble bath works), the bubbles lasted forever, smelled great, and she loved every second of it! (oh and no rash!)
The Honest Company Truly Calming Lavender Shampoo & Body Wash
The Honest Company Truly Calming Conditioner
The Honest Company Truly Calming Bubble Bath
I feel great about these products as I know they’re safe (peace of mind is priceless), work great, and don’t cost a fortune!
Mental space & time saved! As I don’t wonder anymore (or feel guilty) about knowing that the products I use on her are safe!
6.The best safety in the industry
Along the same vein of keeping our kiddos safe, I researched a lot of items when I was pregnant, and one of the most researched items is a car seat! I finally chose the Britax B-Safe 35 (funny story here), and then when she got older, the Britax Boulevard ClickTight convertible car seat.
I honestly spent way too much time agonizing over the car seat choices. I wanted the best for her without spending a fortune. Yes, Britax is a teeny tiny bit expensive, but a car seat is so important, as a bad car seat can have horrible repercussions!
Anyway, funny story, so I was agonizing over which to choose for weeks. One day, as I watched TV, a clip about Prince William & Kate came on, as they just had their first baby. The TV shot was of them standing at the top of some stairs, walking down and outside to their car. Prince William was holding the car seat, and I recognized the colors (black & red) of the car seat.
I paused it, screenshot it, and zoomed in; sure enough, it was a Britax B-Safe! Within two minutes, I was on Amazon and ordered it! If this was the brand & model that the Royal Family trusted, then this was the one for me! Problem solved, no more worries!
All of their models’ rates very high for safety, their quality is great, and they are easy to use!
Peace of mind! Knowing that I have done everything I can to protect my daughter, while in the car, is important to me!
7. Car Snacks
A busy mom’s best friend is without a doubt her car snacks! Car snacks for the kiddo and absolutely car snacks for us!
Car snacks keep everyone happy, and they keep you out of the drive-through! Oh, and did I mention that when your kiddos are eating the snacks they’re not asking you 459 questions!
I have two go-to’s for this.
Emerald nut mix, variety pack 100 calories packs. Right now, it’s $9.44 for the box of 18 small individual packs. That’s $.52 a pack.
Nature’s Bakery Whole Grain Fig Bar – these are the best, as they don’t harden into rocks when your car has been sitting out in the freezing cold. They don’t melt in the summer, and they don’t crumble and get a mess everywhere! Plus, they’re tasty and not total garbage nutritionally speaking!
Time & money saved, as you’re not stopping for fast food! More importantly, I can say that the magic of car snacks has saved my own personal sanity!
Mom life must haves for ourselves
8.An organized life
If I had to get married again (and not to my husband), I would marry Trello! Seriously, I feel that strongly about this app! If you’re not familiar with Trello, it’s basically a place where you can put your entire life & brain to help keep you organized!
Picture this; it’s like a giant whiteboard with lists and sticky notes, links, files, and images. It’s sharable so you can work with people on projects too! It gives you the big picture and zero’s in on the tiny details. It’s for desktop and mobile, and it’s free! Yup, FREE!
If you have a daily planner or 489 sticky notes, then you have to check out Trello!
If you absolutely love your pen & paper style organizing, then check out my Brain Dump printables! It’s for when you’ve got way too much swirling around in your brain. You lay it all out in formatted sections, and it helps you plan, prioritize & delegate your to-do list!
Time & sanity saved! I don’t forget things nearly as much (but I’m not perfect).
9.A delicious nutritional home run
Garden of Life Sport Certified Grass Fed Clean Whey Protein
vanilla or chocolate flavor
24 grams of protein
no added hormones, sugars, or rbst free, and gluten free
As busy mom’s we’re run ragged sometimes. So much to do, and it’s easy to forget about taking care of ourselves. Or we push it to the back burner, always meaning to get to it later, but never actually doing it.
We know we feel better when we take care of ourselves, yet it’s hard to prioritize yourself over your to-do list (at least I do). So make a promise to yourself to start taking better care of you! For me, that looks like having a healthy smoothie! For you, it could look totally different, and that’s fine!
My favorite protein powder is Garden of Life Whey Protein Powder, I don’t need anything crazy with 78 grams of protein, I just need something to feed my body, without a ton of crazy chemicals. (Yes, I do realize that protein powders are processed, but this is a very well respected brand, and it was recommended to me by super knowledgeable staff at a natural grocery store.)
“We start with what goes IN our products—true, whole food ingredients. But we don’t stop there. We also pay very close attention to what we keep OUT of them. And once again, we look at food—real nutrition food. When is the last time you picked up an apple, turned to read the ingredients, and saw a list of chemicals? If it’s not in your food, then we don’t want it in our supplements. We use third-party (never self-affirmed) certifications to prove we are clean!” (source).
My base recipe…
1 scoop of protein powder
1 frozen banana
1/2 can full-fat coconut milk
2 Tbs chia seeds
1/3 can pumpkin puree with 1 tsp of pumpkin pie seasoning
a handful of frozen mixed berries with 1 tsp of vanilla
These smoothies are a part of 21 Day Sugar Detox Daily Guide, which I did last year! I felt so good about focusing on my health and I plan to do the program again (as life happens, right).
For those of you a little wary of the can of coconut milk, I want you to try it at least once. It’s delicious, and it fills me up all day long! Yes, it has a lot of fat in it, but so many vitamins and nutrients. I’m not a food or weight loss blogger, so I won’t try and convince you of the scientific health benefits.
It’s delicious (truly, I’m not exaggerating), and it makes me feel great, and it’s healthy! That’s good enough for me. Besides, when I make it in my Vitamix, cleaning up is super easy! I just give it a quick rinse in the sink, pour some dish soap in it, fill it with hot water, put it back on the base, and turn it on for 40 seconds! No taking apart pieces and scrubbing it! (of course, if I use dairy, then I do put it through the dishwasher)
Time saved! Smoothies are quick and easy, plus I feel good knowing that I am taking care of myself so that I can have the energy to take care of my daughter and answer her 45,871 questions!
10.Chug Chug Glug
That’s code for drink more water! We all know this; it’s been drummed into our head with 1000 hammers. Yet, it’s still true; we all need to drink more water!
I love my Hydro Flask! It keeps my water cold for FO-EV-ER! It never sweats, I have dropped it a billion times, and it only has one dent (haha). I love the lid with the loop, as I can hang it from my mommy hook on my little one’s stroller. (Mommy hooks are great too, you can hang anything with it!)
My current one I’ve had for two years, and the only reason I needed a new one is I lost my older one, which was at least three years old (my Amazon order history only goes back so many years, I guess). So that ‘a good sign; they last forever! Well worth the price! Plus, they come in super cute colors!
Oh, and did I mention Hydro Flask makes a wine tumbler too! Ha! This might absolutely help me be a better mom!
Money saved, as this water bottle lasts forever! Probably money saved too, as I eat less snacks and less at meal time as I’m well hydrated.
11.A simple cute & comfy style
This is a hard one, as I’m a little bit ashamed of my path to this product. I got to a point where I was getting a bit scroungy; you know sloppy. My sweatpants were old, and the t-shirts were stained. Sexy huh!?!
It was time for a mini mommy wardrobe makeover! I have been reading a lot about minimalism and especially capsule wardrobes, and am in love with the nice, basic simplicity of it! It appeals to me on all levels! Find pieces that fit & flatter, that all go together and stick to it!
So I went through, purged my closet (I got rid of 75% of my clothes), and focused on an inexpensive capsule wardrobe! The base of the collection is these amazing IUGA high waist yoga pants! I got a pair in black, and I love them! With 4 1/2 stars with over 25,000 reviews, they have to be amazing, right? They are! An absolute staple for this mom life must have list!
And they don’t cost a fortune either! Just $25 for this pair! I did buy some nice yoga pants at Target before finding these, but they didn’t come in black). These IUGA pants…
come in 26 colors
inside waistband pocket for keys
hip pocket for phone
aren’t see through (whew!)
30 day money back love it guarantee
Time & sanity saved! As I don’t stare blankly at my closet for 12 minutes every am, wondering what to wear, of if it will look okay! It’s a quick scan the closet, grab the pants and it’s go time!
12.Survival in a can
If I didn’t mention my absolute favorite must have for moms, I would be doing you a disservice. I would also be hiding the real me. I don’t want to do that, as that’s lame. So my favorite mom life must have is canned wine.
Let me explain. I love canned wine. I really do. I like wine, but I don’t like opening a whole bottle of it. If I drank a whole bottle, that’s bad news. Yes, I could put a stopper in a bottle and save it. But my favorite one is The Bubbles, a sparkling white wine (kind of like a Pinot Gris). So if I used a stopper, the bubbles wouldn’t be as amazing a few days later.
A can size is perfect, usually consumed over two nights. And then I don’t have to worry about it going bad, or feeling like I need to drink more than I should, just because I don’t want to “waste” a bottle.
Besides, canned wine is coming up in quality and popularity! It’s not like those jugs you see at discount grocery stores for $4.99. Trust me; it’s delicious!
The Bubbles is my favorite, and you can get it from Whole Foods through Amazon Prime delivery! Plus, add a snack tray and a heavenly chocolate bar from WF, and you’re set! This is my perfect meal for a relaxing evening on my own!
I wish that I could say that this saved me time or money. But this is just something that makes me happy!
At the end of the day
As busy moms, we have our hands full, not to mention our brains! We need all the help we can get, and I am not too proud to accept help from great tools and resources! These mom life must haves help me be a better mom by taking away the unnecessary, automating what can be, and making me feel better in my skin, my mind, and in my heart!
Posts related to mom life must haves:
The Secret Formula for Getting the Best Gift for Mom
Want to be a Stay at Home Mom? Read This First!
Mamas Talk Money Goals!
What’s your mom life must have item? Let me know in the comments below!
The post Game Changing Mom Life Must Haves! appeared first on Money for the Mamas.
The time off work spent with a newborn is one of the most memorable times in a parentâs life. Like any other major life event, financial planning is crucial to make the experience as stress-free as possible. Saving for maternity leave takes strategic financial preparation, especially in the United States where there isnât a mandate on paid leave for new parents. Although women are still outnumbering men when it comes to taking parental leave, paternity leave is also on the rise.
Saving for maternity leave (or paternity leave) doesnât have to be a grueling process as long as you plan ahead. Rather than stressing about finding additional sources of income, itâs helpful to start by finding areas where you can save. With so many unpredictable factors affecting our daily lives, it helps to get as detailed as possible with your plan.
Below, weâve outlined some of the best ways to stay on track financially while saving for maternity leave.
10 Tips for Saving for Maternity Leave
Check In With HR
As soon as you plan to notify your workplace of your pregnancy, stop by your HR department to clarify parental leave policies. These policies include health insurance, using vacation and paid time off as part of your leave, collecting partial payment for maternity leave, and claiming short-term disability.
Your HR department might also help you maximize a flexible spending account (FSA), which will allow you to devote more pre-tax dollars to upcoming medical and child care expenses. Confirm what your insurance policy covers in regards to the duration of hospital stays, prescription drugs, medical materials, and how long the baby will be covered under your policy after birth. After clarifying the details with HR, youâll want to discuss your upcoming maternity or paternity leave with your supervisor and coworkers too.
Take Charge of Your Spending
If you donât actively stick to and monitor your budget, now is the time to start. For at least 30 days, track everything you and other family members spend to get a clear idea of where your money goes each month. Pick a time for a biweekly family financial meeting to maintain your progress.
Successful saving is about defining a realistic plan of action with all parties who spend and generate income in your household. Saving for maternity leave is all about determining what your income and expenses will look like when youâre out of work and caring for baby, at least to the extent that you can reasonably project them.
Crunch the Numbers to Maximize Your Budget
Too many families saving for maternity leave rely heavily on estimates rather than doing the math to figure out specifics. Be sure to project your monthly income during maternity leave.
Factor in payouts you will receive for any partially paid maternity leave by your employer, unused vacation days, and any other extra income you plan on generating by freelancing or working part-time. Then, subtract your maternity leave income from your expenses. If itâs negative, then that figure is the absolute minimum youâll need to save for each month you wonât be working when the baby arrives.
When you make the time to specifically predict your budget, you eliminate the confusion and stress that comes with unforeseen expenses. Don’t forget to also account for spending changes that happen after the baby arrives. Baby supplies and gear can get expensive quite fast. Plus, you might find yourself spending more on takeout and outsourcing cleaning or errands as youâll have less time on your hands with a demanding newborn.
Automate Your Savings
When it comes to automating your savings, the concept is simple: If you never see the money, you wonât be tempted to spend it. Establish an automatic savings plan through your bank that will automatically transfer money from checking into savings.
Another option is contacting your employer to have a portion of your paycheck directly deposited into your savings account each payday. Using a budgeting app that allows you to see how much youâre stashing away in real-time also helps.
Make Couponing a Family Activity
Savings can really add up by recognizing opportunities to capture low hanging fruit opportunities like couponing. There are a ton of free online couponing sites, but donât miss out on old fashioned couponing and start a binder or folder as well. Be sure you donât negate your hard work couponing by splurging.
Try to reduce all non-essential expenses in your budget and dedicate that money to your savings account instead. If you get a tax return or bonus, skip buying the fancy crib and put it right into savings. By connecting with family members, friends, and neighbors you can take advantage of gently used baby items to save cash. Also, it canât hurt to see if there is a second-hand store in your area specifically for baby clothes and supplies, like Once Upon a Child.
Get a Credit Card That Helps You Save
Although itâs important to be wise with your credit card usage, your credit card spending can help you with your budgeting goals. Depending on your stage of life, certain credit card choices might make more sense than others.
As a reminder, no matter which card you use, always use the same best practices to increase your credit score. For example, make an effort to keep your utilization low and always pay your bill on time. After all, making payments late can have the biggest negative impact on your credit score.
Choose a Bank that Helps Your Financial Goals
Stick to accounts that are free of balance requirements and fees, and compare rates at local banks and credit unions. Remember, smaller financial institutions sometimes offer more competitive rates than major banks, so donât be afraid to do some shopping around.
If youâre comfortable banking online only, some online banks offer very competitive rates. For example, a high yield savings account will help your money work for you as youâre saving for maternity leave.
Take Advantage of Family-Specific Discounts and Tax Credits
With a little research, youâll likely find a wide array of discount programs and free resources for expectant parents. Donât forget to take advantage of tax credits, too.
For example, you may be able to claim the Child Tax Credit for the year your baby was born (depending on the time of birth), deduct qualifying child care expenses, and contributions to a College 529 savings plan. All of these will reduce your taxable income, leaving more money in your pocket.
Plan to Keep Your Professional Skills Sharp
There are certain realities about taking extended time off from work for parental leave that are inevitable. The time away from your job could cause you to feel out of the loop or more stressed when you return.
Taking some time during your parental leave to maintain key skills or read up on company/industry news could help you maintain job security (and therefore financial security) when you get back to work.
Avoid the Baby Registry Trap
Baby registries are big business and can be big budget busters. Only register for the items that truly need to be brand new and reach out to friends, family, and consignment stores for gently used items before you splurge on a registry.
From financial coverage for maternity leave to childcare costs, increased medical expenses, and college savings accounts, thereâs bound to be a lot on your mind. Fortunately, youâre not on this parenting journey alone. There are plenty of families making it work with lean budgets who are stressing less by following tips like the ones weâve compiled in this graphic below:
budget that works for you.
Make a game plan and take advantage of resources as youâre prepping for parental leave. Keeping your finances in check while spending time away from work undoubtedly provides a sense of reassurance. Take control of your budgeting goals and get creative with new ways to generate income and save money.
Sources: National Partnership | US Census | CBS
The post Saving for Maternity Leave: How to Financially Prepare Your Family appeared first on MintLife Blog.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit the U.S., it sent shock waves throughout the economy and peopleâs pocketbooks.
Millions have lost their jobs or taken pay cuts, causing families to make hard financial decisions. For those with emergency cash saved up, it has become an important lifeline. But itâs not always obvious how and when to spend your emergency fund. So if youâre wondering, âHow should I manage my emergency fund during a recession?ââyouâre not alone.
âSometimes [emergencies] can be foreseen, but most often they come out of the blue,â says Jim Wang, founder of personal finance blog Best Wallet Hacks. âItâs okay to use [your emergency fund]âthatâs what itâs there for.â
This economic crisis came out of the blue for many families. A May 2020 AP-NORC poll1 found that 49% of Americans say they or someone in their household has lost wages either through being laid-off, having a wage or salary reduction, working fewer hours or having unpaid time off.
In response, the U.S. government acted quickly to introduce financial relief, sending stimulus checks to taxpayers and providing qualifying businesses with loans to help them meet payroll. And in a sweeping change to a law called Regulation D, the Federal Reserve Board suspended enforcement of the monthly limit for certain types of withdrawals or transfers from savings deposits. Financial institutions may opt to suspend the six-transfer limit, but are not required to do so.
All of these factors are impacting considerations around emergency funds and may have you questioning how to use your emergency fund. To help steer you through whatever uncertainty you might be facing, Wang offers insight into when to use your emergency fund, how to manage your emergency fund when times are tough, how the Regulation D change may affect you and tips on how to build (or rebuild) your emergency fund.
To spend, or not: When to use your emergency fund
Commonly known as a last-resort reserve, an emergency fund is supposed to be there for you when youâre in a jam.
This can mean large, unexpected expenses, like when your fridge springs a leak, your stove is on the fritz or you need emergency dental work. But expenses come in all shapes, sizes and moments of your life. So how can you tell when to spend your emergency fundâespecially during a recession?
Simply put, if you think your short-term checking account isnât going to cover any essential bills or expenses, such as housing, utilities and food, then you should use your emergency fund. Products and services that arenât essential, such as TV streaming services or magazine subscriptions, fall into the âwantâ category. They should not be paid for with emergency funds.
âYou really want to make sure you keep your emergency fund for emergencies that must be addressed right now,â Wang says.
In fact, as you consider when to spend your emergency fund, you should be actively removing costly nice-to-haves from your life. Not sure what expenses to cut? Sort through your monthly statements and highlight anything that isnât absolutely required. âWhile it may be hard to cut some subscriptions, just tell yourself that itâs only temporary and you can sign back up at a later time,â Wang says.
As you decide how to use your emergency fund, Wang advises against dipping into the fund for minor or non-essential expenses with the expectation to rebuild after another paycheckâespecially during times of financial hardship or in the middle of a recession.
Make the Regulation D change work for you
In April 2020, the Federal Reserve Board suspended enforcement of the monthly six-transfer limit in Regulation D. While not a requirement, the interim rule gives financial institutions the option to waive the monthly limit. This could allow consumers more flexibility with the savings accounts containing their emergency funds. This was the first change to Regulation D transaction limits since 2009, during the financial crisis.
âYou really want to make sure you keep your emergency fund for emergencies that must be addressed right now.â
If youâve ever transferred or withdrawn money from savings or money market accounts and received a warning that youâve hit your transaction limit, youâre probably more familiar with Regulation D than you think.
âI ran into this myself a year ago,â Wang says. âIt happened to be my seventh transaction and I received a warning from my bank.â
Prior to the change, certain types of withdrawals and transfers from savings and money market accounts were limited to a total of six times per calendar month per account.
With the limit temporarily suspended, consumers may now be allowed an âunlimited number of convenient transfers and withdrawals from their savings deposits at a time when financial events associated with the coronavirus pandemic have made such access more urgent,â according to the Federal Reserve Board.
If youâre considering when to use your emergency fund, this is great news if you keep your fund in a savings or money market account. If the monthly limit has been suspended by your financial institution, you may have the flexibility to use your emergency fund to ease financial stress and cover unexpected, high-priority expenses without having to worry about the fees or account closures that can sometimes come with an excessive number of withdrawals.
To decide how best to use your emergency fund, be sure to check with your financial institution to confirm whether the monthly transaction limit on your savings or money market account has been suspended.
To provide easier access to funds during the crisis, Discover is not currently enforcing the monthly transaction limit on the number of certain types of withdrawals and transfers out of a Discover Online Savings Account or a Discover Money Market Account. You can rest assured knowing that your account wonât be at risk of closure due to excessive limited transfers out of your account.
Keep in mind that there is no set timeframe on if (or when) the transaction limit may be enforced again.
Keep saving during a recession if you can
When dealing with a financial emergency, itâs only natural to wonder if you should pull from investments, retirement funds or savings accounts not designated for emergencies.
But while it might be tempting to dip into investments and cash out, itâs important to focus on the long term as you decide when to use your emergency fund. After all, you alone canât keep the market from going up, down or sideways, but you can keep your investments on an upward trajectory. âThink about your investment as a time capsule,â Wang says. âYou can put stuff in, but you can’t take anything out.â
Opting to use your emergency fund instead of dipping into other high-priority, often long-term savings or investment vehicles will allow the accounts to grow over time without disruption.
âI have a rollover IRA that I won’t access until I’m in my 60sâthat’s over 20 years away,â Wang says. âIf I look back 20 years, we’ve had the dot-com bubble bursting, the financial crisis and the Great Recession, and we’re currently going through the coronavirus pandemic, but [my] IRA is still up because of the massive bull market between the Great Recession and this year. It’s best to leave it be because trying to time everything is going to be a lot of stress you don’t need at a time when you’re already dealing with other stresses.â
Recession-proof your budget
As you determine when to spend your emergency fund and how, youâll also want to rework your budget to reflect your new normalâespecially if youâve experienced a change in your income. To extend the life of your emergency fund and determine how to use your emergency fund more effectively, seek money-saving alternatives or work to earn short-term, supplementary income.
In addition to cutting back on expenses, try to find ways to save money in your daily life. Maybe you can cook at home instead of ordering delivery, or you can finally tame your online impulse buying. If your financial situation gets more severe, you can also seek out community resources, like a local food pantry, to offset essential expenses that may be difficult to cover at the moment.
If youâre employed and have some extra time to spare, a side hustle can turn things you already do, whether at home or at work, into extra money. This option is a great way to supplement your current income and keep up with minor expenses without having to spend your emergency fund or dip into your savings accounts.
âAfter youâve cut your expenses, you can look for ways to earn a little extra income, which may take the form of odd jobs, like walking dogs or delivering food,â Wang says. âYou can also try to find jobs that are strictly online, like transcription or becoming a virtual assistant. If youâre willing to do a little extra digging, there are plenty of opportunities.â
Rebuild your emergency fund
After youâve determined when to spend your emergency fund, youâll likely be motivated to get it back to the state it was in before the emergency. The approach to replenishing lost funds is no different than building your funds, Wang says, and it starts by establishing a financial plan that helps you reach your goal in a sustainable time period.
âExperts say you should aim to get six to 12 months of expenses into an emergency fund, but you canât be expected to get that [amount] within a month,â says Wang.
âThink about your investment as a time capsule. You can put stuff in, but you can’t take anything out.â
If your budget has $100 of surplus each month after youâve cut back on expenses, found money-saving alternatives or explored a side hustle, you can save your first $1,000 in 10 months. During that same time frame, if you can, try to find ways to cut expenses further so that you can reach that amount sooner or put your money-saving alternatives or extra income to use.
Start an emergency fund from zero
Forty-one percent of U.S. adults report that they would tap into their savings to cover an unexpected $1,000 expenseâand the higher the household income is, the more likely they are to use savings to pay for unanticipated costs, according to a January 2020 Bankrate survey.
While the task may seem daunting, especially during rough times, you should consider building your emergency fund now.
Start with a goal that makes sense for your financial situation and donât force yourself into saving up your entire emergency fund amount immediately, Wang advises. âIt comes down to treating it like a savings goal and building a surplus into your budget so you can put it in an emergency fund.â
If you donât have a surplus, make one. Do you have a winter coat you havenât worn in years or an old computer, coffee machine or television that still works but you donât use? Sell them and reap the rewards of extra cash and a roomier closet.
Your emergency fund: There when you need it
Ultimately, an emergency fund offers an important financial cushion. Not only does it help cover unexpected expenses, it can also keep you afloat during rocky times. No matter the situation, if youâve found yourself in a financial position where you need to act now, then now may be the right time to spend your emergency fund.
Now that you know how to use your emergency fund during a recession, you may want to master some more recession-proof strategies. Keep reading to find out how parents can learn how to protect their retirement savings from a recession.
1 The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. May 2020. Economic Attitudes as the Country Starts to Reopen. https://apnorc.org/projects/economic-attitudes-as-the-country-starts-to-reopen/
The post Deciding When to Use Your Emergency Fund: Is Now the Right Time? appeared first on Discover Bank – Banking Topics Blog.
After falling to the lowest rate in Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey’s near 50-year-history last week, the average U.S. mortgage rate for a 30-year fixed loan remained at a survey-low 2.67% this week.
Last weekâs announcement of a 2.67% rate broke the previous record set on Dec. 3, and was the first time the survey reported rates below 2.7%.
The average fixed rate for a 15-year mortgage also fell this week to 2.17% from 2.19%. One year ago, 15-year average fixed rates were reported at 3.16%.
âAll eyes have been on mortgage rates this year, especially the 30-year fixed-rate, which has dropped more than one percentage point over the last twelve months, driving housing market activity in 2020,â said Sam Khater, Freddie Macâs chief economist. âHeading into 2021 we expect rates to remain flat, potentially rising modestly off their record low, but solid purchase demand and tight inventory will continue to put pressure on housing markets as well as house price growth.â
Freddie Mac has reported survey-low rates 16 times in 2020, proving beneficial to borrowers looking to buy or refinance a home amid economic turmoil outside of the industry.
Mortgage spreads continue to compress, per Freddie Mac officials, with the 10-yearÂ TreasuryÂ yield remaining at or above 90 basis points through the beginning of December.
This week’s 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage averaged 2.71%, down from last week when it averaged 2.79%. That’s another sharp drop-off from this time last year, when the 5-year ARM averaged 3.46%.
The Federal Open Market Committee revealed earlier this month that the Federal Reserve plans to keep interest rates low until labor market conditions and inflation meet the committeeâs standards. Overall, Fed purchases have helped to drive mortgage rates and other loan interest rates to the lowest level on record by boosting competition for bonds.
Higher rates may be around the corner, as the calendar flips to 2021 and the promise of a second COVID-19 stimulus check along with a vaccine reaches consumers. The Mortgage Bankers Association has forecasted rates for 30-year fixed-rate loans rising to an average of 3.2% by the end of 2021.
But if the virus is not controlled in the new year, investors may remain cautious and consumer confidence could wane – keeping rates low, according to the MBA.
The post Mortgage rates remain at record-low levels appeared first on HousingWire.
Mortgage applications jumped 16.7% after a 4.2% drop last week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
The jump underlines the seasonality behind last week’s decrease in mortgage rates, as well as the expectation of additional fiscal stimulus from the incoming administration, per MBA Associate Vice President of Economic and Industry Forecasting Joel Kan.
âBooming refinance activity in the first full week of 2021 caused mortgage applications to surge to their highest level since March 2020, despite most mortgage rates in the survey rising last week,” Kan said.
The 30-year fixed mortgage rate climbed two basis points to 2.88%, but the 15-year fixed rate fell to 2.39% â a survey low. The refinance index increased 20% from the previous week and was 93% higher than the same week one year ago.
âEven with the rise in mortgage rates, refinancing did not slow to begin the year, with the index hitting its highest level since last March,” said Kan. “Both conventional and government refinance applications increased, with applications for government loans having their strongest week since June 2012.â
The seasonally adjusted purchase index increased 8% after a 0.8% decrease from last week.
The FHA share of total applications decreased to 9.6% from 10.1% the week prior. The VA share of total applications increased to 15.8% from 13.6% the week prior.
“This is a positive sign of more lower-income and first-time buyers returning to the market,” Kan said.
Here is a more detailed breakdown of this weekâs mortgage application data:
The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($510,400 or less) increased to 2.88% from 2.86%
The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with jumbo loan balances (greater than $510,400) increased to 3.17% from 3.08%
The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages increased to 2.93% from 2.90%
The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to a survey-low 2.39% from 2.40%
The average contract interest rate for 5/1 ARMs increased to 2.66% from 2.63%
The post New-year optimism reflected in mortgage applications jump appeared first on HousingWire.
You don’t have a separate rating called aÂ mortgageÂ credit score, but lenders do look at your score, credit history and several other factors when deciding whether to approve you for a homeÂ loan. Contrary to what some people think, though, you don’t necessarily need an excellent orÂ good credit score to get a homeÂ loan. How high your score is depends on your current financial situation, downÂ payment and other factors.
What Does MyÂ Credit Score Need to Be for a Mortgage?
The short answer is that it depends.Â Mortgage lenders will do a hard inquiryÂ on your credit to see the score and the details behind it. YourÂ credit score is typically a good first impression on how risky of an investment you are.Â Mortgage lenders don’t want to be left holding the keys to your home if you don’t or can’t make regularÂ monthly payments, or if you makeÂ late payments, on your homeÂ loan.
Factors that can impact whether yourÂ credit score is high enough to be approved for a mortgage include:
What type of homeÂ loan you’re seeking
How much otherÂ debt you have
The details of your credit history, such as positive and negative items reported toÂ theÂ credit bureaus
The size of your downÂ payment
FHA mortgage loans may be among the easiest loans to get in terms ofÂ credit score requirements. Individuals whoÂ qualify as first-time home buyers under FHA (Federal Housing Administration) backed lending programsÂ may be ableÂ toÂ qualify for mortgage approval with aÂ credit score as low as 580 and a low downÂ payment of only 3.5%. In cases where buyers can put forward 10% or more for a downÂ payment, some lenders may approve individuals with FICO scoresÂ as low as 500.
For moreÂ conventional loansâthose that meet theÂ underwriting standards put forth by Freddie Mac or Fannie Macâapproval usually requires aÂ good credit score. At minimum, these types of loans usually require a FICO score of around 620, but that assumes other factors are in your favor. A lower downÂ payment orÂ higher credit utilization, among other things, could mean you need aÂ higher credit score to secure mortgage approval.
What Is a DecentÂ Credit Score for a Mortgage?
The answer is probably 620 or higher. You do want to minimize any surprises during the mortgage application and home buying process. Take the following steps to avoid this risk.
Get a look at yourÂ credit score andÂ report. If you haveÂ bad credit, consider taking steps toÂ improve your credit score.
Dispute or work with a credit repairÂ company to fix any inaccuracies on theÂ report before you apply for a mortgage.
Evaluate whether your credit history and score positions you to achieve your homeownership goals now or if you should take time toÂ improve your scoreÂ organically first.
Research the mortgage processÂ so you understand how it works.
Consider working with a mortgage broker if you’re uncomfortable with the entire process. These pros can often help you understand which type of mortgage is right for you and howÂ toÂ qualify for it.
Can YouÂ Buy a House with aÂ Credit Score of 590?
You may be ableÂ toÂ qualify for an FHA or nontraditional homeÂ loan with a lowÂ credit score. Your chances of doing so are higher if you can tie your low score to a single issue and you otherwise have a strong credit history. You can also increase your chances by lowering your credit utilization rate, having a lowÂ debt-to-income ratio and saving up to put a large percent down when you buy the home.
Should You Get a Mortgage with Your CurrentÂ Credit Score?
Ask yourself this important question: Are you so preoccupied with whether you can get approved for a mortgage with your currentÂ credit score that you forgot to ask yourself whether you should?
YourÂ credit score impacts more than whether or not aÂ lender approves you for a homeÂ loan. It also impacts yourÂ loan and term options, which can impact the overall cost of the home. One of the most important parts of the mortgage that may be tied directly to yourÂ credit score is the interest rate.
A good orÂ bad credit score can mean a shift up or down for your mortgage interest rate. And even a fraction of a percent in either direction can drastically change how much youÂ pay for your home. Consider the examples below, which are applied to a $200,000 homeÂ loan for a term of 30 years.
An interest rate of 3.92% equals payments of $946 per month and a total home cost of $340,427 over 30 years.
An interest rate of 4.42% equals payments of $1,004 per month and a total home cost of $361,399 over 30 years.
An interest rate of 4.92% equals payments of $1,064 per month and a total home cost of $382,999 over 30 years.
Just a difference of 1% can result in savings (or losses) of more than $40,000 over the life of your mortgage. Use Credit.comÂ toÂ check credit score andÂ creditÂ report card to make sure yourÂ credit score is as high as possible before you start the mortgage application process.
The post What Should My Mortgage Credit Score Be? appeared first on Credit.com.