The First Year of Home Ownership: Three Costs You’ll Need to Cover

For would-be homeowners, it’s easy to become hyper-focused on the mortgage payment. After all, it’s the one big expense you can always count on. But what many first-time buyers don’t realize is that the first year of home ownership comes with a few other surprises (and we don’t mean your new neighbors).

The good news is that, with a little planning, you’ll be able to cover these additional costs of purchasing a home:

Closing Costs

Before the purchase is final, you’ll need to deal with closing costs. These include miscellaneous fees for attorneys, titles, surveys, inspections and more. Typically, they range from 2 – 3% of the price of the home, and aren’t included in your down payment.

Home Owners’ Insurance

Homeowners’ insurance covers you in case anything should happen to your property. It’s important to note that natural disaster coverage typically isn’t included in insurance plans. But depending on where you live, you may want to add flood or earthquake coverage for peace of mind.

Furniture

Unless you plan on using sleeping bags or dining on the floor, you’ll need to budget for new furniture. You may plan on bringing your current collection of couches, tables and appliances, which will work… unless your new home is bigger (in which case, you’ll want to fill out the space). In the event that the seller is including their furniture in the sale, make sure it’s in good shape.

 

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Effective Money Tips for Parents-To-Be

 

 

You planned the baby shower and painted the nursery… but are your finances in order?

Whether it’s your first or fifth, having a baby requires a little financial planning. After all, you’re adding an extra member to your family. To make sure you’re ready to support your bundle of joy, check out these effective tips for organizing your finances:

Confirm Your Job’s Leave Policy

If you’re employed and plan to take time off for your newborn, check your company’s leave policy. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) grants all parents 12 weeks of leave, but not all employers offer compensation during this time. Find out if you can expect to receive a salary while you’re out, and plan accordingly.

Start Saving Now

The earlier you start saving, the better. In addition to a crib, stroller and diapers, you’ll also need money for food, toys, and, if you plan to go back to work, childcare.

Plus, you never know when an unexpected expense may surprise you, so you’ll want to avoid piling on credit card debt if possible.

Scope Out Discounts

When it comes to certain baby items, hand-me-downs may become your best friend. Start with the parents among your family and friends. Do they have any clothes or gear they no longer need?

Also, find out about parent groups in your community, and see if they have mom-to-mom sales. A gently used item might save you a bundle for your bundle.

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Phishing No Longer Coming Only Through Your Email

Phishing attacks are no longer limited to email messages. It is true that they most often still are sent either as part of a spam campaign or from spear-phishing, but they can also arrive via text/SMS, the phone (vishing), social media, or even merely from a visitor mistyping an address in the browser. It’s even been known to happen if a phone number is misdialed, from a rogue USB drive, or from apps that have been installed on mobile devices.

There are ways to avoid this and most of them are easy and only rely on some common sense.

– If the offer or statement sounds too good to be true, it probably is and therefore should be ignored. If a claim is made that all you have to do is provide your social security number to get a million dollars, it is probably phishing. You won’t likely get money, but you might get your identity stolen.

– If you received a post or private message on social media that a friend is in trouble and needs your help, verify it first. If you had no idea said friend was heading out on an exotic vacation, the post or message could be (or even most likely is) a scam. A quick phone call, text, or email message to your friend can quickly make sense of such a post. Don’t reply to the message or even post back to them in social media. Instead, let him or her know this happened, let the social media platform know, and ask your friend to warn others that it’s a scam.

– Pay attention to the senders, but don’t blindly believe that whomever sent you the text or message is who he or she says. It’s easy to spoof (impersonate) email addresses and even phone numbers these days. If you aren’t expecting to receive a link or attachment, don’t click it. Verify it first or ignore it altogether.

– Sometimes phishers use the phone. This is called vishing. Often, someone calls offering to help you with a computer problem in exchange for a fee. Although there is a good chance you could use help with your computer, there is no way that Microsoft, Apple, or any other company will know without you telling them first that you are having an issue. Don’t give in to this tech support scam or any others that solicit money or ask for sensitive information without you initiating it.

– Remember that government agents do not initiate communications via email or phone. A letter in the U.S. Mail is the first step. IRS scams are common and tend to increase in volume around tax season. Even if the so-called agent gives a name and badge number, don’t provide any information back to them. Instead, go to the IRS or other agency’s website and contact it that way.

– If you find a USB drive lying around, don’t just pop it into your computer. Unfortunately, studies have shown that people are all too willing to do this and the results are not favorable. Often these include malicious files that open when they are inserted into the USB slots. Phishing often follows in some form. If the curiosity is too intense, take it to someone who can test it for malware first. However, it’s best to just toss it out and ignore it.

Following these guidelines will help you avoid being the next victim of a Spanish Prisoner or Nigerian Prince scam. Your information belongs to you and if a person claims to need it, take the extra time to determine if they really do. That could save you or your organization from becoming a victim of identity theft or fraud.

© Copyright 2017 Stickley on Security

Critical Flaw in WiFi Chip Leaves Millions of Mobile Devices Vulnerable; Update ASAP

Early last week, Apple released an update that addressed approximately four-dozen security flaws. One of them is a vulnerability in a WiFi chip that, should an attacker feel so compelled, could allow him or her to gain access to iPads, iPhones, and iPods and execute arbitrary code without any action what-so-ever from the user. According to the U.S. Computer Security Resource Center’s National Vulnerability Database, taking advantage of this flaw isn’t particularly complex and it also affects Android devices.

Google announced a fix for this Broadcom WiFi chip issue earlier in the month. However, the latest 10.3.3 version for Apple devices hasn’t shown up in some users’ update notifications yet. Therefore, anyone with iPhone 5 or later, 4th generation iPads and later, and 6th generation iPods may need to do a manual check to see if the update has been released by their carriers. In some cases, cellular service providers may hold off on releasing patches for a while. There is little you can do about that, but rather than wait for that little notification to show up, if you go to your general settings and check for an update manually, it may show up as available for some. Don’t forget that this also affects the Android operating system; so if your notification hasn’t shown up yet, check on it. If needed, due to the severity of this one, contact your providers and find out when they intend to release it for your device. The more people who contact them about this, the faster they are likely to push them out to customers.

In the meantime, try to avoid logging into public or unsecured WiFi locations until you can get your device updated. Also be sure not to do any transactions on these WiFi connections that require sensitive information to be sent, such as financial transactions.

As with any update, be sure to back up your devices before applying them. This is just to protect your data in case the fix doesn’t get applied as planned. You can make a backup to your computer or to the cloud and if needed, restore it from this backup.

As with any updates, as soon as they are available, take some time to apply them. And not just the operating system, keep all the software and applications on your computers and mobile devices updated with the latest patches and versions of those products.

© Copyright 2017 Stickley on Security

Fix Your Home-Repair Plan

Experts estimate that the average yearly home repairs cost $1,700. That’s a large chunk of money to not have a plan for. If you are a homeowner and you haven’t planned for this amount in your spending and savings plan, now is the time to get prepared before any nasty surprises derail you. Here are some thoughts to get you started on the process.

Why It’s A Good Idea

Even new homes are going to need repairs; things just have a way of popping up. Try not to fall into the trap of thinking you won’t need money for repairs or maintenance for a while because your home seems fine now. That can really come back to hurt you if you later need to take out costly loans or put repair bills on a credit card.

Also remember that performing routine maintenance now can actually save you a lot of money since it can help you to avoid the huge problems that neglected maintenance can lead to down the road.

Plus, making upgrades to your home can help increase the value of your home, which will be crucial when you want to sell the home or take equity out later.

How to Estimate Your Upcoming Needs

A common shorthand way of figuring home repair needs is to put at least 1% of your home’s value each year toward repairs and maintenance. For example, if your home is worth $150,000, you should try to put $1,500 year, or $125 per month, into savings for home upkeep.

Areas To Give Special Attention To

The 1% Rule is a handy guideline, but if your home has a problem with its roof, water drainage, heating/cooling or foundation, you should be putting 3-4 times more money into savings to deal with it.

What You Can Do Right Now

If you’ve already done a spending and savings plan, it’s not necessary to complete an entirely new one for these types of expenses. Just examine your current spending plan and see where some money can be moved around to give you some added security. If you can’t meet the monthly goal right away, don’t fret. Putting even a small amount each month toward eventual fixes is far superior to saving nothing.

It’s a good idea to create a separate savings account for home repairs. You may want to include this money in your general emergency savings account, but keep in mind that you may have multiple problems come up within a short amount of time. Best to have yourself covered for all eventualities.

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Revised January 2016

Cut These Costs TODAY

Have you ever unexpectedly found out you’re quickly going to have less income? It’s enough to throw you into a panic. But the best way to get through hard times is to take a few deep breaths and put a plan together. Check out these common targets for quick and effective expense cuts.

Food

You might find it obvious that evenings dining out at fancy restaurants probably aren’t the best idea when experiencing a budget crunch. But think about your groceries too. Consider avoiding the higher-priced stores and stocking up on the basics at the more reasonably priced spots. You might find that cooking at home and taking your lunch to work saves you lots of money and ends up being healthier too.

Cable/Movies/Rentals

If you’re like most people, your visual entertainment comes from multiple sources. You may watch movies on cable, in the theater, via rental or online. In crisis situations, it’s best to focus on watching movies at home and using one particular way to do it. In other words, if you have both Netflix and premium movie channels, it’s probably time to go with one or the other.

Phone Plans

It’s nice to use a smart phone to be able to look up information on the go, but you could probably do it without the data plan if you had to. Did you know that you could also be on a prepaid smart phone plan? Call your service provider to ask them to perform an analysis on which plan is best for you. You might be paying for more than you actually need. Also consider eliminating your house phone if you have one.

Gym

It’s important to get some stress-relieving exercise during this trying time, but there’s no reason why you should have to spend money to do it. Brainstorm ways to be active without having to fork over a big chunk of your paycheck. The main thing is to just get moving!

Shopping as Entertainment

One activity that could put you in the trouble zone is shopping for fun or to ease tension. “I won’t buy anything, I’ll just browse” too often can lead you down the path of unnecessary spending. Eliminate leisure shopping or other activities that put you in temptation.

Gas

Is it an option to work from home more? Can you carpool or combine your errands into fewer trips? If your family has multiple vehicles, can you sell one and share the remaining?

Insurance

With the ease of using the Internet to compare rates, the insurance business is much more competitive than it used to be. Shop around for the best deals on any type of insurance you have—auto, home, life, etc. Check into bundling these with one company to save even more. How is your credit score? This might affect the cost of certain insurances. Also be sure to ask about discounts you might apply for, and the option of raising your deductible in exchange for a lower monthly payment.

Utilities

Think of ways to stay warm or cool more efficiently. Put on more layers in the colder months and spend more time outside during the warmer times. Be conscious of turning everything off and even unplugging electrical items when you leave a room.

Habitual Items

When you have a comfortable financial situation, it’s easy to buy coffee, cigarettes, alcohol and convenience store snacks without thinking too much about it. But in these tighter times, think about what you are really getting out of these purchases and if there are expenses that are more important.

Taxes

If you have more money taken out of each of your paychecks than is necessary in order to get a large income tax refund check in the spring, you are over-paying the government each month. Cut this expense by using the IRS withholding calculator to determine the appropriate amount to have withheld from each paycheck.

None of these cost-cutting measures alone is guaranteed to immediately solve all cash flow issues, but in concert they can potentially save you hundreds of dollars per month.

 

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Revised January 2016