How to Insure Jewelry and Expensive Valentine's Day Gifts

Whether you’re giving your sweetheart a gorgeous diamond ring for Valentine’s Day or you’re the one who gets to wear the bling, don’t forget about protecting it with insurance. I know looping in your insurance agent may not seem romantic, but it can prevent a lot of heartaches if that expensive piece of jewelry gets damaged, lost, or stolen.

How to insure your valuables

Today, you’ll learn how to keep your Valentine’s Day gift or any valuables safe.

1. Get insured before you buy it

Anytime you’re thinking about making a big purchase, such as expensive jewelry, watches, or electronics, make sure you have a plan to insure it. Think about how devastated you’d be if you bought diamond earrings for your sweetie, and they got stolen or lost. I’m sweating just thinking about it!

Anytime you’re thinking about making a big purchase, make sure you have a plan to insure it.

Before you buy something valuable, communicate with your existing home or renters insurance representative or company. Find out if you need additional coverage—it’s likely that you do! In just a moment, I’ll give you some recommendations if you don’t already have a home or renters policy.

Let your insurer know what you’re planning to buy and how much it costs. If you’re still negotiating on price or you’re buying a second-hand item with an unknown value, start with your best estimate.

2. Get a certified appraisal

If the value of your Valentine’s Day jewelry is over a certain amount, your insurer will ask you to submit an appraisal. It must come from a gemologist who uses a variety of tools and their expertise to identify and value gems. It includes photos of your item and an estimated value.

Your insurer needs an appraisal to know precisely what they’re insuring. The document also protects you in case you need to make a claim.

The retailer who sells you a new piece of jewelry should provide you with an appraisal. However, an insurer may want an independent appraisal to verify the value. If you purchase heirloom or estate jewelry, it may not come with an appraisal.  

You can find an appraiser by getting recommendations or doing some research online. The cost varies depending on how intricate the item is and how long the work may take.

For instance, an antique ring with many stones and old-fashioned gem cuts will take longer to analyze than a brand-new diamond solitaire. For a relatively simple piece, the appraisal may cost in the range of $150 to $250. But I’ve had heirloom pieces that cost nearly $500 to appraise.

While your great-grandmother’s wedding ring or a necklace from your valentine might be priceless to you, insurers will only pay you its appraised or actual value.

It could take a gemologist several weeks to complete your appraisal, and they need to have the item in their possession the entire time. So, don’t wait until the last minute to find out what’s required to get a Valentine’s Day gift insured.

Also, note that you can’t insure the sentimental value of any item. While your great-grandmother’s wedding ring or a necklace from your valentine might be priceless to you, insurers will only pay you its appraised or actual value.

3. Don’t assume you already have coverage

If you assume you have coverage for a lavish Valentine’s Day gift simply because you have homeowners insurance, that could be a big mistake. The amount of insurance on your home is different than the amount of coverage for your personal belongings.

Most standard home and renters policies include coverage for personal items like jewelry. However, specific categories of belongings come with coverage limits or caps. Jewelry, watches, and furs typically have a low insurance cap, such as $1,000 or $2,000. If you’re a big spender, that could be a fraction of the cost of your gift.

For example, if you buy an engagement ring worth $4,000, and your homeowners or renters policy only covers $1,000, you’d come up $3,000 short of replacing it. Plus, the cap applies to an entire claim, not individual items. If you had multiple pieces of jewelry stolen, you’d only receive up to the policy limit.

Jewelry, watches, and furs typically have a low insurance cap, such as $1,000 or $2,000. If you’re a big spender, that could be a fraction of the cost of your gift.

Other types of personal belongings that have insurance caps include silverware, computers, firearms, musical instruments, collectibles, and antiques. Keep reading to learn how to make sure your expensive items are adequately insured.

4. Get an insurance rider

If your existing homeowners or renters insurance doesn’t have a jewelry limit high enough to cover your posh purchase, one solution is to “schedule it.” You’ll also hear this called a rider, floater, or an endorsement to your policy. Scheduling an item means that you add more detail about it to your existing insurance policy.

One benefit of scheduling an item, such as jewelry, is that you’re covered for all types of losses. For instance, if you accidentally lose a wedding ring swimming in the Caribbean ocean on your honeymoon, you’re covered up to your limit. When your valuables are covered by a standard home or renters policy, without being scheduled, you typically only have coverage for specific events, such as loss from a fire or theft.

One benefit of scheduling an item, such as jewelry, is that you’re covered for all types of losses.

Also, don’t forget that you must pay a deductible when you make a claim. So, if you have a $500 deductible and a jewelry limit of $1,000, the most you’d receive from a claim is $500.

But a scheduled item doesn’t require a deductible. That means you wouldn’t have to pay any amount out-of-pocket to replace a Valentine’s Day gift that gets lost or disappears mysteriously.  

Having a rider increases your premium, but it’s usually worth it. The cost might be $5 to $15 per $1,000 of insured value. So, an engagement ring that’s worth $6,000 could mean paying an additional $30 to $90 per year on your homeowners or renters insurance premium.

5. Get a stand-alone policy

Another option for insuring a precious gift is to get a stand-alone policy. This policy is separate insurance just for the item, not an add-on to an existing home or renters policy. Most insurers offer a valuable articles policy for specific items like jewelry, watches, furs, collectibles, and antiques.

Whether you own or rent your home, you’ll pay less for an insurance rider than for valuable articles insurance. The only exception would be if you have many expensive items to insure—so, shop and compare both options if you have a collection of valuables.

Most homeowners have insurance, but many renters avoid getting a renters policy because they mistakenly overestimate the cost. It’s surprisingly inexpensive; the average price is $185 per year. So, if you rent, get renters insurance first and then schedule an expensive item.

All the coverages I’ve mentioned protect your valuables at home or when they’re away from your home. Off-premise coverage kicks in when an item is stolen from your car or damaged while you’re traveling.

Additionally, home and renters insurance gives you liability coverage worldwide. It also pays living expenses, such as a hotel and meals, if you can't live in your home while repairs are made after a covered event, such as a natural disaster.

The bottom line is that if you rent and don’t have insurance, you’re putting your finances at risk. Take a few minutes to shop and compare quotes at sites such as Bankrate.com or Policygenius.com. But no matter your situation, you can always opt to insure a Valentine’s Day gift with a stand-alone policy.

6. Gift recipients are responsible for insurance

Many people are confused about who needs to buy insurance for a gift, the giver or the recipient? Well, it depends on who has the item. If you buy a gift to give, you need to have it insured while it’s in your possession.

If you have a receipt and appraisal, pass them along so the new owner has what they need to get proper insurance.

Once you give a gift away, the lucky recipient owns it and must insure it. If you have a receipt and appraisal, pass them along so the new owner has what they need to get proper insurance.

If you’re married or live together and have the same home or renters insurance policy, you don’t have to take any extra steps. But if you and your valentine have different households, the person who wears and enjoys the gift must make sure that it’s insured.

7. Keep an up-to-date home inventory

If you have home or renters insurance, but don't have a list of your personal belongings, it could be challenging to claim a loss. Imagine that your home or apartment got destroyed in a fire. Would you remember every item?

If you don’t have a home inventory, create one and add your Valentine’s Day gift to the list. At the least, have pictures or video of your belongings that you store in the cloud. While losing precious items can be devastating, the more documentation you have, the easier it will be to provide proof that you owned them and make an insurance claim.

If you got a cherished gift for Valentine’s Day or got engaged, congrats! Now make it a priority to protect it.

Source: quickanddirtytips.com

Our Fixer-Upper Homebuying Journey with the Renovation Husbands

David and Stephen St. Russell of the Renovation Husbands on Instagram share their first and second-time homebuying experiences and how they got started transforming fixer-upper homes.

The post Our Fixer-Upper Homebuying Journey with the Renovation Husbands appeared first on Homes.com.

Source: homes.com

How to Buy a HUD Home at the Hudhomestore Website?

Using the Hudhomestore to buy a HUD home is easy.

If you’re looking to buy a HUD home, the Hudhomestore website is the best place to do it. It can be found here at hudhomestore.com. HUD homes are listed for sale at the site.

While anyone can buy a HUD home, you will need to get approved for a loan first.

Just like buying a house through the conventional route, all financing options are available for HUD homes. That includes conventional loans, FHA loans, VA loans, etc.

However, most people used an FHA loan to buy a HUD home due to its low down payment and credit score requirements.

If you have questions beyond buying a HUD home at the hudhomestore website, consult a financial advisor.

What is the Hudhomestore?

The hudhomestore is a website operated by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The website can be found here at hudhomestore.com.

Homes are listed there for sale after they have gone through foreclosures. Real estate agents and/or brokers can place bids on your behalf to buy a house.

What is a HUD home?

A HUD home (usually a 1 to 4 unit) is a property owned by HUD. Before a home became a HUD home, it was owned by a homebuyer who had purchased the home with an FHA loan.

Once the borrower stopped paying his or her FHA loan, the home went to foreclosures. Then the home goes to HUD and becomes a HUD home.

Why you should buy a HUD home at the Hudhomestore?

The benefits of buying a HUD home are huge. The main benefit is that most of these homes are priced below market value.

In addition, if you’re an EMS personnel, police officer, firefighter, or teachers, and live in revitalized areas and plan to live there for at least 36 months, HUD’s Good Neighbor Program offers HUD homes at a 50% discount.

This program is listed at the hudhomestore website.

In addition, HUD offers other perks such as low down payment and sales allowances you can use to pay for moving, repair and closing costs. The low down payment, that is on top of the FHA financing that you may be qualified for.

Another huge benefit of buying a HUD home is that HUD gives preferences to buyers who intend to live in the home for at least one year. So this puts you ahead of investors.

Are you qualified to finance a HUD Home?

All financing options, including conventional loans, VA, and FHA loans, are available when it comes to buying a HUD home.

But FHA loans are very popular among first time home buyers, due to its low requirements. But before you start searching for HUD homes through the Hudhomestore website, you should compare multiple loan offers so you can the best mortgage rates.

FHA loan requirements:

  • 580 Minimum score
  • 3.5% down payment

If your credit score is below 580, you can still be qualified but you’ll have to pay at least 10% down. Or, you can always take time to raise your credit score.

Don’t know what your credit score is, visit CreditSesame.

Our Review of Credit Sesame.

Steps to buy a HUD Home at the HUDhomestore website:

HUD homes can be hard to find if you don’t know where to look. In other words, they are not listed on conventional real estate websites such as Zillow or Redfin.

Instead, they are listed at the HUDhomestore webiste, which can be found at hudhomestore.com. They also have HUD Homestore Mobile Apps.

Knowing these steps is important to mastering one of the best strategies to buy a house at below market or wholesale prices.

Step 1: Shop and compare home loans

Before you start searching your house through the hudhomestore site, it’s a good idea to

The worst thing that can happen is to find a house that you like to then realize that you cannot secure a home loan.

To get the best mortgage rates, you need to compare multiple loan offers. Buying a home is major expense, and getting the best rates could save you a lot of money. I can spend a lot of time talking about why it is a bad idea to only speak with one mortgage lender.

But when it comes to having multiple loan offers, I highly suggest LendingTree.

LendingTree is an online platform that connects you to several mortgage lenders without visiting a dozen bank branches.

LendingTree will provide you up to 5 loan offers from multiple lenders for free, so you can compare and make sure you get the best deal.

So if you’re at this step right now, go and compare current mortgage rates for free at LendingTree, and come back to this article.

Our LendingTree Review.

Step 2: Finding a HUD Home at the HUDhomestore website.

To find a HUD home, simply go to the hudhomestore website. It can be found at hudhomestore.com.

There are three ways to find HUD homes on the hudhomestore website. The first way is through a map.

Once you on the website, you will see a map to the right with all of the states listed there. You simply look for your state and click on it to see all of the available HUD homes.

The hudhomestore site will show you a list of all of the HUD homes available for that particular state. It will include the photo of the HUD home, the address, the asking price, etc.

If you click on the photo of the house, you will be able to see more information of the property, including more photos, street views and information of the property.

Another way to find a house through the hudhomestore website is by clicking on the HUD Special program links.

The hudhomestore site specifically lists three HUD Special Programs: Good Neighbor Next Door; Nonprofits; $1 Homes-Government Sales. It specifically states on the hudhomestore website that if you click on any of these special programs, you will see available properties.

The third way to find a HUD home via the hudhomestore site is through the Search Properties. At the middle of the homepage, you will see a Search Properties where you can enter more detailed criteria.

Step 3: Buy your HUD home

Once you have found your desired HUD Home at the hudhomestore, it’s time to buy your HUD home.

But note that HUD homes are sold through an auction process. When you’re searching for the property through the hudhomestore site, it will tell you a deadline by which to submit your offer.

So if the deadline has not passed, submit your bid. Once it has passed, HUD reviews all offers. Just like any auction, the highest bid wins. If all of the offers are too low, HUD will extend the offer period and/or lower the asking price.

Note that you will not be able to place the bid yourself. Only real estate agents need to register to place bids on the hudhomestore website. You will need to find a real estate agent or you can specifically search for HUD registered agents at hudhomestore.com.

For more information on buying a home through the hudhomestore website, visit www.hudhomestore.com.

More on Buying a Home:

  • How to Buy a House: A Complete Guide
  • How Long Does It Take To Buy A House?
  • Buying a Home for the First Time? Avoid These Mistakes.
  • 10 First Time Home Buyer Mistakes to Avoid.

Work with the Right Financial Advisor

If you have additional questions beyond buying a HUD home at the Hudhomestore, you can talk to a financial advisor who can review your finances and help you reach your goals (whether it is making more money, paying off debt, investing, buying a house, planning for retirement, saving, etc).

So, find one who meets your needs with SmartAsset’s free financial advisor matching service. You answer a few questions and they match you with up to three financial advisors in your area. So, if you want help developing a plan to reach your financial goals, get started now.

The post How to Buy a HUD Home at the Hudhomestore Website? appeared first on GrowthRapidly.

Source: growthrapidly.com

Why Refinance Rates Are Higher Than Purchase Loan Rates

Mortgage interest rates dropped dramatically over the summer, to the point where home loans have never been cheaper in most of our adult lifetimes. With rates at historic lows, you might’ve considered taking advantage of them, either by purchasing a new home or refinancing your current mortgage.

Recent figures from Freddie Mac show that mortgage refinances surged in the first quarter of 2020, with nearly $400 billion first home loans refinanced. However, as it turns out, refinancing your mortgage might actually be more expensive than purchasing a new home. 

This surprised us, too — why would there be a difference at all? 

We investigated how refinancing rates and new purchase home loan rates are set, and found several reasons for this rate disparity. On top of the rate difference, mortgage refinancing is even more difficult to qualify for, given the current economy.

Before rushing to refinance your home, read on to gather the information you need to make the right financial decision for your situation.

Pandemic Effects on Home Lending

Just as mortgage rates have stumbled, banks and lenders have tightened the screws on borrowers due to COVID-19, requiring higher credit scores and down payment amounts. Chase, for example, raised its minimum FICO score requirements for home purchases and refinances to 700 with a down payment requirement of at least 20%. 

Low rates have also driven a massive move to mortgage refinances. According to the same Freddie Mac report, 42% of homeowners who refinanced did so at a higher loan amount so they could “cash out.”

Unfortunately, homeowners who want to refinance might face the same stringent loan requirements as those who are taking out a purchase loan. Mortgage refinance rates are also generally higher than home purchase rates for a handful of reasons, all of which can make refinancing considerably less appealing. 

How Refinance Rates Are Priced

Although some lenders might not make it obvious that their refinance rates are higher, others make the higher prices for a home refinance clear. When you head to the mortgage section on the Wells Fargo website, for example, it lists rates for home purchases and refinances separately, with a .625 difference in rates for a thirty-year home loan. 

There are a few reasons why big banks might charge higher rates to refinance, including:

Added Refinance Fees

In August of 2020, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac announced it was tacking on a .5% fee on refinance mortgages starting on September 1. This fee will be assessed on cash-out refinances and no cash-out refinances. According to Freddie Mac, the new fee was introduced “as a result of risk management and loss forecasting precipitated by COVID-19 related economic and market uncertainty.”

By making refinancing more costly, lenders can taper the number of refinance loans they have to process, giving them more time to focus on purchase loans and other business.

Lenders Restraining New Application Volume

Demand for mortgage refinancing has been so high that some lenders are unable to handle all requests. Reluctant to add more employees to handle a surge that won’t last forever, many lenders are simply limiting the number of refinance applications they process, or setting additional terms that limit the number of loans that might qualify.

Also note that some lenders are prioritizing new purchase loans over mortgage refinance applications since new home buyers have deadlines to meet. With the housing market also on an upswing in many parts of the country, many major banks and lenders simply can’t keep up.

Rate Locks Cost Money

Generally speaking, it costs lenders more to lock the rate for refinance loans when compared to purchase loans. This is leaving lenders disinterested in allocating resources on the recent surge in mortgage refinance applications.

This is especially true since many refinancers might lock in a rate with one provider but switch lenders and lock in a rate again if interest rates go down. Lenders exist to turn a profit, after all, and it makes sense they would spend their time on loans that provide the greatest return.

Tighter Requirements Due to COVID-19

According to the Brookings Institute, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been asking lenders to make sure any disruption to a borrower’s employment or income due to COVID-19 won’t impact their ability to repay their loan. 

Many lenders are also increasing the minimum credit score borrowers must have while making other requirements harder to meet. As an example, U.S. Bank increased its minimum credit score requirement to 680 for mortgage customers, and it also implemented a maximum debt-to-income ratio of 50 percent.

This combination of factors can make it difficult to save as much money with a refinance, or to even find a lender that’s willing to process your application. With this in mind, run the math and to see if refinancing is right for your situation before contacting a mortgage lender.

How Mortgage Purchase Rates Are Priced

Mortgage purchase rates are priced using a similar method as refinance rates. When you apply for a home mortgage, the lender looks at factors like your credit score, your income, your down payment and your other debt to determine your eligibility.

The overall economy also plays a giant role in mortgage rates for home loans, including purchase loans and refinance loans. Mortgage rates tend to go up during periods of speedy economic growth, and they tend to drop during periods of slower economic growth. Meanwhile, inflation can also play a role. Low levels of inflation contribute to lower interest rates on mortgage loans and other financial products.

Mortgage lenders can also price their loans based on the amount of business they have coming in, and whether they have the capacity to process more loans. They might lower rates to drum up business or raise rates when they’re at or nearing capacity. This is part of the reason rates can vary among lenders, and why it always makes sense to shop around for a home loan.

Many people believe that the Federal Reserve sets mortgage rates, but this is not exactly true. The Federal Reserve sets the federal funds rate, which lenders use to ensure they meet mandated cash reserve requirements. When the Fed raises this rate, banks have to pay more to borrow from one another, and these costs are often passed on to consumers. Likewise, costs can go down when the Fed lowers the federal funds rate, which can mean lower costs and interest rates for borrowers.

The Bottom Line

Refinancing your existing mortgage can absolutely make sense in terms of interest savings, but don’t rule out buying a new home instead. Buying a new home could help you save money on interest and get the space and the features you really want. 

Remember, there are steps you can take to become a more attractive borrower whether you choose to refinance or invest in a new place. You can’t control the economy or the Federal Reserve, but you have control over your personal finances.

Improving your credit score right away, and paying down debt to lower your debt-to-income ratio are just a couple of strategies to start. And if you’re planning on buying a new home, make sure you save a hefty down payment amount. These steps help you improve your chances at getting the best rates and terms whether you choose to move or stick with the home you have. 

The post Why Refinance Rates Are Higher Than Purchase Loan Rates appeared first on Good Financial Cents®.

Source: goodfinancialcents.com

Health Insurance Myths Debunked

A health insurance policy is essential for anyone seeking to safeguard their future and avoid the catastrophic consequences of high medical bills. Whether you’re buying coverage for yourself or a health plan for your family, it’s important to get complete coverage. But despite this fact, millions of Americans remain uninsured, often because they believe one of the following health insurance myths.

Myth 1: I’m Young and Healthy; I Don’t Need Health Insurance

You’re never too young to start shopping for health insurance plans because you don’t know what’s around the corner. Medical expenses can be astronomical at any age and anyone can have an accident, fall ill or be diagnosed with a serious disease. 

It’s not pleasant to think about and many people prefer to bury their heads in the sand and live as if they are invincible, but they’re not. No one is.

Health care is very expensive in the United States, there’s no escaping that fact. This is one of the few developed nations in the world where being the victim of an accident or attack could lead to insurmountable medical expenses and essentially ruin your life. You can’t rely on luck and you can’t assume you’ll be safe just because you’re young, fit, and healthy.

In fact, buying at this young age has many benefits, including the fact that you’ll likely clear all exclusion periods by the time you actually need to start claiming.

Myth 2: The Benefits are Lost if I Don’t Renew by the Due Date

You should always try to pay your monthly premium on time, thus avoiding any issues and ensuring you are covered at all times. However, your health insurance coverage does not end the minute you miss a payment.

Insurance companies have a grace period, during which time your policy will remain active. This period allows you to gather the funds needed and to pay your monthly premium, thus keeping your policy active. 

Typically, this grace period lasts for between 7 and 15 days, but it differs from provider to provider. Check your policy for more details but try to avoid playing fast and loose with your payments as they could be the only thing protecting you.

Myth 3: It’s All About the Deductible

The deductible is the amount of money you pay before the health insurance policy takes over and to many consumers, it is the single most important part of any health insurance policy. However, while it is important to consider the deductible, you should not choose your policies based solely on which one has the lowest deductible.

Look for the sort of cover that they provide and whether this will suit your needs or not, and then focus on the deductible. 

It’s also important to find the right balance between a deductible that is cheap enough for you to afford when the time comes, but is not so cheap that it sends the premiums through the roof. To do this, avoid focusing on how much your first monthly payment will cost and ask yourself what you would do if you had to pay for a medical expense today.

Would you have an issue paying the deductible? Would it require you to borrow money from friends or family? If so, it’s too high and it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Myth 4: I Have Insurance from My Employer so I Don’t Need any Additional Cover

If your employer offers any kind of group health insurance cover, take it, but don’t assume that it will cover you for everything you need. Read the small print, look for gaps, and seek to fill those gaps with your own cover.

With your own policy, you’ll also be protected if you lose your life. If anything happens in the time it takes you to find a new job, you could be left to foot the bill, making this an even scarier and more stressful time. But if you’re covered, you can take your time as you search for a suitable role.

Myth 5: It’s Not a Pre-Existing Condition if I Didn’t Know About it

If you have any pre-existing medical conditions you will be subject to an exclusion period, one that may last for up to 48 months. During this time, your insurance company will not pay out for any issues related to this condition and contrary to popular belief, not knowing about the condition is not enough to avoid this exclusion period.

If, somehow, it is proven that you had a medical condition that was simply not discovered at the time you applied, it will still be subject to an exclusion period. The good news, however, is that you can no longer be refused because of pre-existing medical conditions, which means that everyone can benefit from health insurance.

Myth 6: I Don’t Need Health Insurance If I Have a Life Insurance Plan

A life insurance policy can cover you for critical illness, which could be used to cover health care costs. You can also purchase accident and dismemberment insurance to cover you in the event you lose a limb. However, life insurance is designed to pay out a death benefit when you die. It goes to your loved ones, not you, and is therefore not a viable replacement for health insurance.

For complete cover, you should look into getting both life insurance and health insurance. You can find low-cost options for both.

Summary: Common Myths Debunked

If you don’t have any health insurance coverage, it’s time to change that and start looking for coverage today. Take a look at our guide to choosing a health plan to get started. We also have guides on everything from life insurance (term life insurance, whole life insurance, and other life insurance coverage) car insurance and pretty much all other insurance products.

By purchasing all of these together you could even save some money while getting essential coverage! Just remember to do your research, plan ahead, and never settle for less than you need as you may live to regret it in the future.

Health Insurance Myths Debunked is a post from Pocket Your Dollars.

Source: pocketyourdollars.com

How To Create A Budget Friendly Spread For Fourth Of July

Nothing says summertime like a BBQ, and getting friends and family together for some food and friends for the Fourth of July is the perfect way to celebrate. I’m usually the host for these get-togethers, and even though I absolutely love having people over, feeding everyone can take a toll on your budget, especially with a big family like mine.

Now that I’ve been using Mint to keep track of expenses, here are some tips on how to have a cost-conscious Fourth of July spread:

1) Declare the BBQ a Potluck.

There’s no secret here: potlucks save money AND time. When you invite your guests to bring dishes to the party, that basically means they’re not only helping out with the food budget, they’re also taking the time to shop for the ingredients and deliver it to your house ready to eat! I would suggest setting some guidelines for your guests so that there is a variety of food in your spread and not just 5 versions of chips and salsa….and that’s it. To divide up the dishes, you could try a few different methods:

  • Assign your guests by categories. If there’s an easy way to divide up your guests, like by their last name, or their birthday month, then you could assign one set of guests appetizers, and another set of guests foods for the grill, for example. For this option, I would suggest asking your guests to confirm their choice with you and even post it on a message board if you are using a website to plan your party, so that you know and your other guests what’s coming and to avoid too much of one type of food.
  • Ask guests to bring specific foods. If your best friend makes the most amazing potato salad, and you need potato salad, ask your best friend to bring potato salad. There’s no need to do all the work when you can tap into the strengths of your guests. For those who are known to shy away from cooking, ask them to bring something simple like a salad or lemonade.

2) Set a food budget….and stick to it!

This tip comes directly from my previous post on Healthy Food on a Budget because it’s also important to serve your guests healthy food and stick to your budget. Just because it’s a party doesn’t mean you should let your health and your money slip up! It’s easy to set up budgets in Mint, like saving for a vacation, but you can also set up smaller budgets like for a summer BBQ celebration. Ideally, since you’re having everyone over for a potluck, this get-together won’t take a huge toll on your wallet, but it’s still important to set limits for what you can spend. I like to make it a fun challenge to see how much money I can save and get the most bang for my buck, while not cutting corners on the quality of food served for my guests.

3) Check out the weekly sales ads.

Don’t throw away those ads because right before Fourth of July, the mail will be filled with sales on foods for entertaining. Gather those ads up to look through what’s on sale for the week and map out your menu from those hot buys. If you have apps for your favorite stores, check those out too because I’ve seen in-app coupons that weren’t in the print ads that have saved me some money. Once you cross-reference the sales and build your shopping list, also plan out where you will shop from. If you have to travel from 2 different stores to save $15 dollars, I think it’s worth it to take the time to shop smart. Sure, it may take an extra 15 minutes, but I can bet that you’ll feel a lot better to have that extra money in your wallet.

4) Pick a dish that saves you money and time.

As the host of the party, you’ll be pretty busy with all the details of the day so your time on the day of the party will be limited. From cleaning up the house to setting up the grill, there’s plenty to do before guests show up. The last thing you want to do is prep a labor-intensive dish when there is so much more on that to-do list. To save money and time, I like to serve up a dessert dish that brings a wow-factor to the party, my Banana Boat S’mores. These delicious treats light up the eyes of all my guests, and if they knew how cost-effective they are, they’d light up even more!

To save money, I like to use fruit for dessert, especially in the summer season, because they’re more affordable, easier to prepare, and most importantly, they’re healthier! Bananas are only 19 cents each, so just make sure to have at least one banana per guest. I also know that marshmallows and Graham crackers are always on sale for $1 around this time of year, so already, this is a dish that costs less than 50 cents per serving.

To save time, I like this dish because you can have your guest prep their own Banana Boat. All you have to do is set up a station of the ingredients and let them make their creation as they please. When you get your guests involved in the food preparation, you’re saving some valuable time on your end, but also your guests are having fun! They’ll leave your party with another recipe under their belt as well, so it’s a win-win for everyone.

5) Buy your food in bulk bins.

Don’t pass up those bulk bins on your shopping trip, because buying from these can be 30-40% cheaper than packaged branded items. For the chocolate, I paid per ounce from the bin instead of buying packages. Since I’m setting up a station for my guests at my own home, I don’t need the packaging or extra chocolate so why should I pay extra for it? Half a pound only costs $2, whereas if I were to buy a bag or a bar it would cost me close to $5.

With these tips on how to have a cost-conscious Fourth of July spread, I hope you can spread out your budget and use some of that money you save on other fun activities this summer!

The post How To Create A Budget Friendly Spread For Fourth Of July appeared first on MintLife Blog.

Source: mint.intuit.com

How to Find a Home in ID

Idaho has some of the best potatoes in the world, but it has more to offer than just that. It’s also dubbed the Gem State, with over 70 precious and semi-precious stones found within its bedrock and streams. The real gems of Idaho are its national parks, friendly people, and a range of real estate deals for buyers looking to maximize value without breaking the bank.

Finding an amazing home in Idaho is easy if you know what to look for and have the top tools and professionals on your side.

What to Look for in an Idaho Home

In Idaho, you can have your pick of beautiful homes and properties with stunning natural backdrops. To narrow down your list, you may want to keep a few things in mind.

Proximity to Employment

The capital of Idaho, Boise, is a major draw for many homebuyers due to its impressive list of corporate and boutique employment opportunities. If you’ve already landed a job at a powerhouse like Boise’s Micron, Hewlett-Packard, Clearwater, IDACORP, or St. Luke’s you will want to look for a home in or around the Boise area. If you haven’t scored a job yet, being close to the city can only help your search and prospects.

With the Homie app, you can narrow down your search using the city or town of your current or future job. Whether you are looking in Boise’s Bench or North End, Garden City, Meridian, Nampa, Caldwell, Kuna or some other area, you can find what you are looking for. You can then collaborate with a Homie agent to decide which homes you may want to make an offer on in Boise.

The Lot the Home Sits On

Even though much of Idaho’s real estate sits on predictable, easy-to-manage land, in some cases, a property could have hidden issues. Keep an eye out for the following when evaluating where your home sits:

  • Setback regulations that may limit where and if you can put on an addition
  • Easements put in place that may limit what you can do
  • How fences, hedges, trees, and other things at the edges of the property sit in relation to the actual, registered boundaries of the lot

Check the Available Utilities

Particularly in the more rural areas of Idaho, you will want to double-check the utilities at your disposal. In the more urban sections of the state, you may have multiple options for handling sewage, as well as heating your home. However, other parts of the state have far fewer choices. It’s best to decide ahead of time how you will deal with:

  • A septic system instead of a town sewer
  • Limited heating fuel options—and the extra expense that may involve
  • Getting a back-up energy source in case there’s a blackout due to a storm and crews are delayed in fixing it

In most cases, any inconveniences can be overcome with a little planning. The more rural sections of Idaho more than make up for it with their natural beauty.

Energy Efficiency

Idaho’s temps can dip below zero degrees Fahrenheit in the winter and push the mercury above 100 degrees in the summer months. To keep comfy, whether you want to be cozy or cool, it’s important to try to find a home that’s energy-efficient. Focus on both the insulation and the mechanical system.

If there’s no information available for the insulation used in the home, you can often gauge its efficiency based on the thickness of the walls. Two-by-six construction tends to be better at maintaining inside temps than two-by-four walls. Likewise, single-pane windows allow more heat loss or gain than a modern dual pane window filled with argon. A quick trip to the attic can reveal the kind of insulation between the roof and living spaces below.

The Importance of Using an Agent

Enlisting the assistance of a Homie agent can make the buying process easier and save you thousands of dollars, not to mention peace of mind. Here are some of the top advantages of using a Homie agent instead of trying to DIY your home purchase.

Getting the Best Deal

Making the right offer is a fine art and skill. Often, a homebuyer may have a number they think reflects the value of the home, but even a thoughtful figure may be skewed by a number of subjective factors. With an agent from Homie, you’ll get a dedicated professional that knows the local area, how its prices have fluctuated over the years, and how well homes tend to hold value.

A local agent from Homie also knows how long properties tend to stay on the market in a given area, as well as the infrastructure and municipal projects in the works that may influence the value—present or future—or a home. With this store of data and insights, a Homie agent can help you nail the best offer and earn you a great deal.

Work With Experienced Professionals

When you work with Homie, you not only get to work with some of the top agents, but Homie also helps you find the best providers for all your needs through Homie Marketplace. The Marketplace is a list of partners that we know do amazing work in things like home inspections, warranties, and moving services.

Finding trusted professionals for each part of the home buying process is essential. A good home inspector will tell you what types of repairs your potential home needs. This important information to have so your agent can help you negotiate a fair price.

You’ll also want a good home warranty to protect against any unexpected issues that might come up after you move in. Instead of hunting all over the place to find each of the providers you need, our Homie team will help connect you with the right people.

Familiarity With Legal and Paperwork Requirements

There’s a lot more to buying a home than writing a check and grabbing the keys. The legal landscape can get tricky, particularly when it comes to the paperwork. Even well-meaning sellers can include clauses in the contract that could put you at a disadvantage.

Work With a Homie

If you’re digging for an Idaho real estate gem, a Homie professional can help you as you prospect for your prize. Whether you’re looking for the perfect starter home, an upgrade as your family grows, or a lovely investment property, your Homie agent will help you score a great deal and have a smooth process. Click here to start working with Homie to find your Boise home today!

For more tips on home buying, check out the articles below!

4 Ways to Outsmart the Competition When Buying a Home
5 Tips to Help You Afford Your First Home
Common Home Buying Fears and How To Overcome Them

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The post How to Find a Home in ID appeared first on Homie Blog.

Source: homie.com