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Make Your Own Adventure Club and Get Outside!

outdoor-club-adventure

As a kid you were probably forced outdoors at some point during the day to play outside and get your energy out. You probably noticed as you got older that now, if you want to get outside time you have to provide it for yourself. And if you live in an apartment or the city you may not be able to get quality outdoors time just by going into your backyard. If you live in the city you might have to plan your outdoor time even more as you coordinate trips to local outdoor hot spots. Getting yourself out in nature might be easier if you form a like-minded group to get you going. With the steps and tips below you can make your own Adventure Club and explore nature with your friends!

Why Going Outside is Good for You

Get vitamin D. You can actually get vitamin D from sun exposure. Vitamin D is very important to our health and it doesn’t always come in abundance in the foods we eat. One of the best ways to get your daily dose of Vitamin D is through being outside in the sunshine. It can help you have strong bones and protect you from certain diseases and ailments. Improves your immune system.
Opportunity to exercise. Unless you’re sitting in a chair it’s hard not to exercise at least a little whenever you go outside. And every ounce of exercise contributes to your overall health! Even a short stroll outside can do wonders for your physical health.
Elevate your mood. A lot of things about being outside can give your mood a healthy boost. The light, the sun, the fresh air, or the flowers and trees can help you feel a little better about the world if you give them the chance. But there are also studies to support this idea. The National Institute of Health (NIH) found in a study of theirs that just walking outside for a bit each day boosts creativity by 81%. Who knows what creative potential you might unleash just by getting yourself outside a little each day!
Good for children. Studies show that being outdoors helps kids focus better. Spending at least an hour outside every day can increase their focus, overall wellbeing, and help them get better grades.
It can be easy to let kids go run around outside and get all the exercise and vitamin D they need, but as we get older it can become harder to find time to get outside. One way to make getting outside easier is to give your outdoor time some kind of purpose.

  • Exercise outside.
  • Go for a daily stroll at the same time.
  • Get outdoor furniture. Once you have some place to set up camp outside, it can be easier to take things you normally do indoors, outdoors while you soak up some sunshine.
  • Make your outside time a group activity by creating your own outdoors club!

outside-nature

What Kind of Outdoor Club Do You Want to Do?

There are many things to do outside and everyone has different interests. Some people really like swimming, or hiking, or kayaking. What outdoor activities most interest you? These are the things you’ll want to incorporate in the purpose of your outdoors club. Having a clear purpose for your club will help a lot once you start bringing other people into the group and involving them in planning.
You can focus on one thing. You can make it a club all about just one thing you know you like to do:

  • Skiing
  • Hiking
  • A sport
  • Swimming
  • Camping
  • Backpacking
  • Running
  • Kayaking
  • Biking

Or you can involve many outdoor activities. Instead of making a hiking group, you can decide to make an adventure club! That way you can plan activities around all things adventuresome.

Whatever the purpose of your outdoor club, you’ll also want to keep in mind who you want to invite to the group and the level of difficulty everyone will be ok with. For instance, hikes and trails are often ranked by difficulty. They can be considered easy, moderate, or hard. So while you are deciding your club’s purpose remember to also consider the level of experience and difficulty you want to involve, and remember to disclose these things to those you invite to the group.

Who Do You Want in the Group?

Outdoor groups can be for all groups of people! You can make no restrictions about who can join the club, or you can decide to make your group exclusive in some way. For example, if you’re a dad looking to bond with your kids through fishing, you might make a fishing club specifically for dads and their kids. You can also restrict the group to certain age groups, like if you’re interested in getting to know more people your age.

Logistics

The last thing you’ll want to figure out before publishing your new group is all the logistics. Below are a couple questions to consider and make decisions about before going live with your new club idea.

  • How are people going to get places?
  • How are you going to get equipment?
  • How will your group stay in contact?

Maybe you’ll expect everyone to use their own cars and equipment to get places, or maybe you’ll want to talk to local rental places for any equipment your group might need. You can also keep in contact with your group in many ways. If you all know each other you can simply create a group text message. Or you can make a Facebook group, or use other messaging apps like Slack, or GroupMe. There are almost infinite options nowadays for where to keep your group’s base of operations.
flyer-outdoors-club

Now that you have your group all set up you can start reaching out for people to start joining. One great way to get members is to create a public Facebook group online. You can also try inviting some people you know and ask them to bring a member or two of their own.

You can also make flyers to hang up around town to meet new people! A flyer doesn’t have to be complicated, just make sure it has all the information they’ll need.

Fun Ideas

There are endless ways you can really have fun with getting more involved in your community and getting to know new people through starting a club like this.

  • Bring snacks.
  • Have a group potluck event.
  • Be educational. You can make a presentation about outdoor etiquette, safety, or hire a trial guide to teach your group about different plants you come across during your hike.
  • Do volunteer work every other month. You can volunteer to clean up a place you visit.
  • Make a website, a blog, or social media accounts for your group and post about the trips and activities you do!

Other Good Ideas

  • Have regular meetings.
  • Assign responsibilities to different people. You can nominate different group members to be the President, Vice President, Trip Coordinator, Treasurer, or Social Media Manager.
  • Fundraise for your trips. You can have a group yard sale or bake off to save up money for your bigger trips or activities. Sometimes your outdoor adventures are going to require fast funds while you’re in between paychecks. If your Adventure group finds itself short on cash, you can always get a payday loan or a personal loan from Check City and pay it back when you return from your trip.

Getting yourself outside is important. The great outdoors are meant to be appreciated and can shower you with mental and physical benefits. You don’t have to go through the trouble of making an outdoor club to get outside, but it can help motivate you to make going outside more of a habit, and who knows! You might just make some great new friends along the way.


READ MORE
Read all about vitamin D and it’s health benefits.
 
Check out another Check City Blog article, “Getting Outside This Spring” to learn some other great ways to get outdoors more often!
 
FEATURE IMAGE BY PETER CONLAN
OTHER IMAGES BY BLAKE LISK

Amazon Deals of the Day!

We love to shop, but more than shopping, we love event shopping. That’s why things like Black Friday Sales are so popular because it makes shopping into a tradition, an event where you come away with gifts you picked and some bonding time with your shopping buddies.

With Amazon’s Daily Deals you can have a shopping event any day of the week, and you don’t have to wait for a printed catalogue in the mail to enjoy it. Instead you can just take a look at their daily deals online at any time.
 
Below are some of our top picks from today’s Amazon deals. The prices shown below are the sale prices listed at the time of posting.

Cuisinart Pots and Pans

cuisinart pot

Current Sale Price: $69.99
Originially: $129.99
You Save: $60.00! (46% off)

These pots and pans are unique because they are oven safe up to 500°F! So not only can you use these pots and pans on your stovetop, but you can use them to bake inside your stove as well, making this product exactly what the efficient chef needs in their kitchen.

Back to School Supplies

notebook

Current Sale Price: $5.96 to $10.95
You Save: up to 40% off!

These planners have everything you could need to organize your year. It has a sturdy cover, monthly tabs, a bookmark that clips easily into the spiral binding, organization sticky notes and stickers, and even a storage pocket!

OtterBox Phone Cases

otterbox

Current Sale Price: $15.99 to $34.99
You Save: up to 60% off!

OtterBox has a series of different phone case types for anyone. There is the lighter Commuter Series for taking your phone easily on the go, and the Defender Series for phone users wanting extra protection.

Savage X Fenty Bras, Bralettes, and Undies

bralette

Current Sale Price: $17.50 to $39.20
You Save: up to 30% off!

Ring Alarm 8 Piece Kit with a FREE Echo Dot!

echo dot set

Current Sale Price: $169.00
Originially: $239.00
You Save: $70.00! (29% off)

This set comes with a Base Station that connects your alarm system to your mobile devices, 2 Keypads that you can use to arm and disarm your alarm system, 8 Contact Sensors that will alert your mobile devices when doors or windows are opened, 2 Motion Detectors that will alert you when they detect movement, and a Range Extender that allows your Base Station’s signal to reach all alarm components.
 
Sometimes deals and sales are the way that we get things we really need. You may especially depend on sales when you’re in college, or just starting out on your own, or in a new place. So when you find something you really need on sale, and payday is just a couple days too late, that can be really frustrating. Luckily Check City can help you out with a quick and easy Payday Loan so that you can take advantage of important deals regardless of when your payday comes.
 
Share with us what deals you snagged today by using the hashtag #amazondailydeals

How Much Do Braces Cost?

braces



Generally people need braces because there is something wrong with their teeth alignment. But there are many reasons that problems with teeth alignment can occur. Some people just have genetics that influence their teeth, making them more prone to certain oral problems. Other problems arise from external factors that we allow to negatively affect our teeth.

Whatever your circumstances, whether you’re younger or older, it is never too late to seek the orthodontic care you need to be more comfortable and confident. Many people worry about paying for braces though, keeping themselves from getting the care they need. But with some research on your part and understanding your insurance plan, you can have a pretty good idea how much braces will cost you.

But before we go figuring out how much braces cost, let’s take a look at how to know when you or your child needs a checkup with your orthodontics . . .

Why a Kid Might Need Braces:

Losing Teeth Early

Generally the age range that kids lose their baby teeth is from 6 to 12 years old. But if they start losing their baby teeth sooner than 6 years old then you might want to take them to get checked out by your orthodontics. Losing baby teeth too early can be a sign of a bigger underlying issue and can affect their jaw and their permanent teeth as they grow older.

Crowded Teeth

When a child has crowded teeth, it means that their mouth doesn’t have enough space for their future adult teeth to come in. Leaving crowded teeth untreated leads to impacted teeth, which is an even bigger problem and involves much more invasive treatment to correct. If you are worried your child’s mouth isn’t going to be big enough for their adult teeth then consult your orthodontist.

Jaw Issues

Another major variable in teeth alignment and overall mouth health is your jaw structure. Orthodontists don’t just work on teeth, they also work on certain jaw issues. Signs that your child has a jaw related issue is if they have trouble biting, chewing, and breathing properly.

Thumb Sucking

Sucking on a thumb or pacifier is a common habit for young children. Usually as a child gets older they grow out of these habits, but some children have a more difficult time with this than others. It is advised that children who suck on thumbs and pacifiers should stop around 6 or 7 years old, if not sooner. If the habit continues past this point there is a chance that their teeth will protrude, creating a misaligned bite.

Why an Adult Might Need Braces:

Jaw pain, face pain, headaches, and earaches

Oftentimes a headache is just a headache, but sometimes this can be a sign that an issue with your jaw structure is causing you head pain.

Issues with chewing, speaking, or biting

Similar to children, these kinds of problems can be linked to jaw and teeth issues.

Jaw popping

If you find your jaw excessively popping you may want to mention it to your orthodontist.

Different Types of Braces:

If you need treatment at some point you are going to have to choose which kind of braces to get. When people think of braces they usually picture the metal kind, but now there are several other options to choose from.

Which kind of braces you get will affect how long you will have braces and what you will pay for them. Orthodontic treatments have come a long way over the years, and now there are a variety of treatment options, all of which vary in cost, effectiveness, treatment period lengths, and noticeability. Now, Invisalign isn’t the only type of invisible braces.

Metal Braces

Metal braces are the traditional kind of braces with metal brackets. They are usually the cheapest option and are the most visible.

Lingual Braces

Lingual braces are just like traditional metal braces, except they go on the back of your teeth instead of the front. This makes them less visible than traditional braces, but not all dentists will do lingual braces.

Ceramic Braces

Ceramic braces are like traditional metal braces except they are made of ceramic instead of metal. They still go on the front of your teeth but because their color is closer to the color of teeth they are less noticeable.

Clear Aligners

Clear aligners, like Invisalign, are the least noticeable form of braces. They are clear plastic trays that fit over your teeth and get changed out for a new tray every so often. Clear aligners usually cost the most.


different-kinds-braces

Other Orthodontic Services and Treatments:

Retainers

Retainers are generally used after you have finished your treatment period with braces. Retainers are used to make sure your teeth stay the way your braces have worked to align them as you transition into not wearing braces anymore. Retainers usually have a metal band that hug your teeth and a plastic mold that is custom fitted to the roof of your mouth.

Space Maintainers

If a child loses their baby teeth earlier than normal they might need to use space maintainers. This will keep the spaces between their teeth open so that there is room for the adult teeth to come in later and ensure that their adult teeth grow into the correct spots.

Mouth Guards

Mouth guards are often worn by athletes while they are playing a sport. An orthodontist can custom fit the mouth guard for maximum protection during games and competitions. You can also buy mouth guards over-the-counter, but they are not as comfortable as a custom fitted guard and are less effective at protecting an individual’s teeth.

Mouth guards can also be called night guards and can be used by people who grind or clench their teeth in their sleep. Night guards protect your teeth from damage and pain due to teeth grinding.

How Much Do Braces Cost?

Now that we have determined whether you need braces and talked about the different kinds of braces you can get, it’s time to figure out the cost. The cost of braces and treatment is going to depend on several different variables:

  1. The type of braces you get
  2. Whether you’re an adult or a child
  3. How long you’re going to need them
  4. What kind of dental issue needs correcting
  5. Your dental insurance
  6. Your orthodontist
  7. Your region

These types of factors will all weigh in on how much you end up spending on braces. Metal braces are usually the least expensive option while clear aligners, like Invisalign, are going to be the most expensive option. Orthodontic treatment for children generally costs a little less than it does for adults, but this will also depend on your orthodontist. The longer you need to have braces and the more severe the problem is the more expensive the overall treatment is going to be as well because these will require more work from the orthodontist and more appointments.

Lastly, factors like your insurance company, the orthodontist you use, and where you live can also factor into how much you spend on braces. Different insurance policies will provide different coverage for braces, different orthodontist offices will have their own prices in place, and sometimes more rural areas end up being cheaper than busier ones.

How much do braces cost for adults?

Regular metal braces for an adult can cost anywhere between $4,000 and $5,000.

How much do braces cost for kids?

Regular metal braces for kids can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $7,000, depending on how much treatment their teeth need.

How much do braces cost with or without insurance?

It is always going to be helpful to have insurance to cover the cost of braces. So make sure you contact your insurance and understand what they will and won’t cover so you can get your maximum benefits. With insurance your braces can cost closer to $3,407, while the average cost of braces without insurance is $4,937.

How much do braces cost a month?

The cost of your monthly payments will depend on whatever plan you have with your orthodontist, your insurance, and what the overall cost of your braces end up being.

How to Figure Out the Cost For YOU

Whatever braces you choose will depend on what needs fixed, your pocket, and your preference. After figuring out what needs fixed and what your preferences are you can easily figure out the possible demand on your pocket by following two simple steps.

But before you go calling your orthodontist office and your insurance make sure you know ahead of time whether you need braces, how severe your case is or how long you will probably need them for, and which kind of braces you would like to use. Then you will simply:

  1. Check with your insurance to see what they will and won’t cover.
  2. Contact your orthodontist (or various ones if you’re searching) to see what all their options, payment plans, and costs are. Some orthodontists will have a monthly payment plan you can take advantage of.

Taking care of all aspects of our health, including our teeth, is an important part of being a healthy human being. Orthodontic treatment can be expensive, but by knowing your options and asking the right questions you can be on top of your orthodontic plans.


READ MORE
Check out Angie’s List to see more about different treatment types and their costs.


Read more about the pros and cons of different braces types.


Read here the signs of needing braces for adults and children.


Visit the American Association of Orthodontics to see answers to frequently asked orthodontic questions.


Read the Check City article, “Tip of The Week: When You Get a Raise, Save More, Don’t Spend More” to learn about how raises can help you save for braces.


Check out our Personal Loans Page to see how Check City can help you with unexpected bills such as medical and dental bills.


FEATURE IMAGE BY LESLY JUAREZ

How Much House Can I Afford?





Maybe you are a first-time home buyer and have no idea what you are doing, or maybe you’ve bought a home before, but this time you want to make sure you are being financially savvy in your decisions. Either way, there are so many things that go into buying a house that the overall process can be daunting. But by understanding how to budget for a home, and taking advantage of your local financial services, you can tackle the house-buying world and how it applies to you on an individual level.

The process for buying a house is not going to be the same for everyone. We all have different financial situations, incomes, salaries, bills, debts, expenses, and spending behaviors. We even all have different desires, wants, needs, and hobbies that go into how we spend our income and will therefore also affect our buying options when looking for a home. All of these variables should be carefully weighed and considered as you embark on your home-buying journey.

First let’s go over some key home-buying terms that you will want to be familiar with . . .

Definition of Key Terms

For an even bigger list of terms and definitions that you might need to know when buying a house, see the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) Home Buyer’s Dictionary Page.

The Principal

The price of a home can also be referred to as the principal, especially by mortgage lenders. It refers to the base cost of the home, and does not include interest, fees, or closing costs. Many people use mortgages to pay for their home, meaning you’ll want to figure out how much mortgage you can afford when shopping home prices.

Down Payment

The down payment on a home is whatever the buyer can pay of the total price upfront. The less money put down in the beginning, the higher the interest rate on the mortgage will be, and the more the buyer will have to borrow from a lender. But the more you can put down in the beginning, the less you will have to borrow, and your interest rate will be lower as well. It is always advisable to pay as much for the house upfront as you can.

Homeowner’s Association Fees (HOA)

Some communities will be part of a Homeowner’s Association (HOA). Communities with an HOA are part of a planned community that often comes with communal benefits and amenities, like a pool, or snow ploughing. HOA’s also often come with certain rules for those who live in that community—rules about lawn upkeep and such—so make sure you understand the requirements and benefits of the HOA before committing to a house in their neighborhood.

Property Taxes

Owning a home and property will require you to pay property taxes each year. The percentage you pay in property taxes will depend on the location and value of your home. When looking in different locations for your home be sure to also look into what the property taxes are like in that area.

Mortgage

A mortgage is the loan and payment plan you go on with a lender to eventually pay off your home. Unless you can afford to pay the entire price of the home upfront (100% down payment), you’ll need to take out a mortgage with a lender to help eventually pay off your home through monthly mortgage payments instead of all at once.

Mortgages come with different time periods to pay back the loan. There are 15-year mortgages, 30-year mortgages, and a 5/1 Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM).

  • For a 15-year mortgage your payments are going to go up more and more each year and your payments are going to be higher in general. But you’ll pay less interest overall and pay off your mortgage quicker.
  • A 30-year mortgage is going to allow for smaller payments, but in the long run you will pay more in interest, and it will take longer for you to pay off your mortgage.
  • A 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage is another kind of 30-year mortgage, but your interest rate stays the same for the first five years of the loan. After that initial five years, your interest becomes subject to whatever market changes there are for interest rates.
Homeowner’s Insurance

Homeowner’s insurance is insurance for your home. It can protect you when disasters, natural or otherwise, affect your house. It can even cover some of the costs for damages caused by natural disasters or crime. It can also protect your possessions in these same scenarios and help you to replace whatever was lost or stolen. It is not illegal to not have homeowner’s insurance, but many lenders will require it. There are two kinds of homeowner’s insurance:

  • Cash-value coverage will help cover the costs of damages when they occur, but won’t usually be enough to rebuild your home should you need to.
  • Replacement-cost coverage is insurance that will cover the total cost of your house if you should ever need to rebuild it due to disasters. Most advisers will recommend you get this kind of homeowner’s insurance since it covers more.
Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

PMI stands for Private Mortgage Insurance. It is a form of insurance that lenders use to reduce their risks when a borrower can’t afford a down payment of at least 20 percent. Your lender will require a PMI when they are lending you more than 80% of your home’s total value. PMI is also a very costly form of insurance, but there are ways to get rid of it later by refinancing.

Interest Rate

Interest rate is a percentage of money added to your loan as payment to the lenders for borrowing a home loan from them. The interest rate you get on your mortgage will be determined based on your credit history and score. Usually the interest rate will be included in your monthly mortgage payments.

Credit History

Your credit history comes from your credit report and shows your history of paying debts and bills. It is meant to show how often you are on time or late in payments and your overall level of responsibility with your finances. Your credit history and score are what lenders will look at when deciding the interest rate they will put on your mortgage.

Credit Score

Your credit score differs from your credit history in that it is an overall score calculated from your credit history to show how much of a credit risk you are for the lenders. Instead of looking at an entire credit report or history, lenders can simply look at this score to get a quick, overall idea of your credit’s well-being.

Gross Income

Gross income refers to your total income before taxes.

Net Income

Net income refers to your total income after taxes. It is also referred to as “take-home pay.”

Understanding Mortgages

When applying for a mortgage, there are four main factors listed below that lenders will consider and that will influence the kind of mortgage and interest rate you can get:

  • Your income
  • Demands on your income, like debts, monthly bills, loans, and other expenses
  • Your credit history
  • Your credit score
Types of Mortgage Lenders

There are also five general categories of lenders that you can get your mortgage from, and each one comes with its own pros and cons.

  • Federal government agency lenders
    • Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
    • US Department of Agriculture (USDA): These mortgages can be for homes in more rural areas. The USDA can also be used to rebuild and rehabilitate old properties that qualify.
    • Department of Veterans Affairs (VA): These mortgages are for veterans. You can even use them to make your home more accessible.
  • State government lenders
  • Nonprofit lenders
  • Local lenders, banks, and credit unions
  • Larger banks and lenders

The 5 Steps of Buying a Home

Step 1: Look at Your Credit Score

When starting the house hunt many people like to begin with the fun part by getting on Zillow and browsing for the perfect home. But you can’t figure out how much house you can afford on Zillow. If you are serious about buying a home, then you should look at your credit score before you start looking for a home. While looking at your credit score you will want to keep your eye out for the following:

  • See where your credit score is at—how good or bad it is.
  • Check your credit report for any errors and have them corrected.
    • Get on this now because if you need to correct your credit report, the changes will take some time, even months, to correct.
  • Look for ways you can better your credit score.
    • Figure out the reasons your credit score is lower than you want and develop plans to fix those issues or habits.
    • Paying down your general debt will also help your credit score.
Step 2: Do Calculations and Budgeting

The big question most people want to know when looking for a home is how much can I afford? There are many methods for figuring out your own budget for buying a home. Which method you choose will depend on what feels most comfortable for you. But in general, financial advisers will tell you to spend 2.5 to 5 times your annual salary on a home. Again, it is ultimately up to you where you decide to land in this range.
Method One: Based on Your Savings
People are generally advised to pay at least a 20% down payment. In order to figure out the amount of house you can afford based on what you have saved for a down payment, use the following equation:

Method Two: Based on Your Annual Income
If you want a quick estimate of the amount you can afford for a house, below is an easy calculation you can do based on your annual income.

Method Three: the 28/36 Rule
The 28/36 rule is a recommendation that your budget has no more than a 28% front-end ratio and a 36% back-end ratio. Lenders will look at both these ratios to decide your mortgage loan, so it is important to understand where you stand according to this ratio because this is how most lenders will decide what you can afford to borrow from them. When budgeting for a home, you can use this ratio to see if you meet these requirements and to see how financially ready you are to buy a home.

  • Front-end refers to your total housing payments (PITI) to income ratio.
  • Your total housing payments is not just referring to the Principal, but also the Interest, Taxes, and Insurance (hence, PITI). This front-end ratio means that you should not spend more than 28% of your monthly gross income on your total monthly mortgage payments.

  • Back-end refers to your total debt to income ratio (DTI).
  • This back-end ratio means that you should not spend more than 36% of your monthly gross income on debts. Debts include credit card payments, child support, auto loans, student loans, and any other debts you may have.

Dave Ramsey’s Advice

Dave Ramsey has influenced and guided a lot of people in their financial affairs with his knowledge. Below is some of his basic advice for buying a home:

  • Pay a 100% down payment in cash when you can.
  • Choose a 15-year mortgage over a 30-year mortgage.
  • Keep your mortgage payments (plus insurance and taxes) no more than 25% of your take-home pay (net income).
    So unlike the 28/36 rule, Dave Ramsey advises that your front-end ratio be no more than 25%, instead of 28 percent. He also advises that you use this percentage on your net income, or take-home pay, rather than your gross income, because this will better reflect the money actually going to your account after taxes.
What to Remember When Budgeting:

The Mortgage:
Just because a lender qualifies you for a certain amount that does not mean you should use it all. How much mortgage you can qualify for is very different from how much mortgage you should use. The maximum loan amount that your lender is willing to let you borrow, does not reflect your personal budget and what you actually want to be paying each month. This is why being able to do your own budgeting and calculations is important because then you can see and decide for yourself how much you are willing to borrow.
The Down Payment:
When preparing to buy a home, what you really want to be doing is preparing for the down payment. The higher a down payment you can afford the better.

Your down payment should be at least 20% of the total price of the house. But, you can find loans that accommodate lower down payments if that’s what you require:

  • Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Administration, the USDA, and the Department of Veterans Affairs are just a few options for low down payment mortgages.

Other Costs and Fees Associated with Buying a Home:

  • Closing costs and fees. Some examples of what may be included in the closing costs are appraisal fees, loan fees, attorney fees, and house inspection fees. Closing costs and fees will vary and depend on local tax laws and the cost of your home. If you want to estimate how much your closing costs might be, they generally range between 2 and 5% of the cost of your home.
  • Taxes, insurance, and HOA fees for certain neighborhoods.
  • Home maintenance, upgrades, and repairs: Homes need regular maintenance, remodeling, normal upkeep over the years, and repairs when emergencies and damages suddenly occur.
  • You’ll need to potentially buy appliances, furniture, and decorations.
  • You’ll be responsible for paying all your utilities, which can include, heat, electricity, water, sewage, trash removal, cable television, and telephone services.

Your Other Financial Goals:
Buying a home is a big financial goal and dream in life, but you probably have other financial hopes and dreams as well. Don’t forget to factor these in as you budget and look for a home. Some of these other goals may include general savings, saving for retirement, buying a new car, raising children, paying for their college, starting a business, vacations, trips, and any other hobbies, interests, or personal endeavors that may also require a place in your budget.
Know Yourself:
It is important to understand the kind of spender you are. This is another reason doing your own budget for your future house is a good idea, because then you can thoroughly be aware of your spending habits and therefore be more realistic when it comes to budgeting in a mortgage as well.

But you also need to be mindful of how you handle debt. For some people, being in a certain amount of debt can be stressful, while others don’t mind it so much. Be aware of whether having a larger mortgage on your hands is going to bother you or negatively impact your internal well-being. This will also factor into what you decide to do financially about budgeting for a mortgage.

You can also hire a personal financer to look over all these factors for you and take a more personal, detailed look into all of the many costs involved for you individually. Hiring a professional may be wise if you do not have the time or patience to look into these variables yourself. It is less wise to rely solely on a lender’s analysis because they will only look at income and credit history, and not consider your personal, bigger picture.

Step 3: Find Your Agent

Buyer’s Agent
A buyer’s agent is the kind of agent you want to be working with directly because they are meant to work with the buyer (you) and will thus work to get you the best price you can get.
Seller’s Agent
This is not who you want to be working with directly because they will be trying to get the best price for the seller. Though usually the buyer and seller agents will mediate offers and agreements and work alongside each other in that way.

Now it’s time for the fun part—the home search! After you’ve done all your budgeting and have all your ducks in a neat, planned-out row, you can begin to search for the home that fits your wants, needs, and budget!

Remember all the budgeting calculations you did above when you are filtering in your price range. It’s recommended to select a price range 10% above and below your calculations as a cushion when you are searching.

What to look for in location:

  • A healthy economy: low unemployment rates and good incomes
  • A good real estate market: look at whether the homes in the neighborhood are selling well, meaning they sell close to or above their asking price.
  • A healthy community: look for a range of ages in the residents and families nearby.
  • A good school district: even if you don’t have children, being in a good school district will help your home retain its value and make selling your home easier should you need to sell later down the road.
Step 5: Enter Your Contract and Close the Deal!

Once you’ve made your choice you can work with your agent to make an offer to the sellers. If all goes through, your agent will draw up the papers and officialize a closing date, which is usually 45 to 60 days after the offer was accepted by the sellers.

When entering into a housing contract you will first want to make sure you have the following common contingencies in your agreement. This means that your contract relies on these personal requirements being met first:

  • obtaining a mortgage
  • getting a home inspection

Buying a home is a big deal and naturally you want to be as knowledgeable and savvy about the basics as possible. By applying these basic rules you will know how to buy a home in the smartest way possible.


READ MORE
Visit the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for seminars and counseling about buying a home.


Visit the HUD’s common questions page for even more answers to your home-buying questions.


Use an online “How Much House Can I Afford” calculator to plug in your numbers and quickly see how much house you can afford.


Listen to NPR episodes about home-buying to learn more about the home-buying world.


FEATURE IMAGE BY BRENO ASSIS

How to Make Chores Fun for Kids!

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Too often chores for kids turn into a power struggle between parent and child. The parent has to constantly nag about chores while the child rebels against doing them, creating tension in the home.

This cycle of nagging and frustration surrounding chores isn’t healthy for anyone—parent or child. If everyone is left with a bad attitude, what have you really accomplished, even if the chore is done?

But not having your kids do chores isn’t a good option either. Chores help kids learn basic life skills and work ethic necessary to be functioning adults. Succeeding and failing at household chores is one of the first ways kids can grow their skills and confidence in their own abilities. So figuring out the key to making chores effective is actually bigger than simply keeping your house clean.

Chores Benefit Kids

For some parents having your kids do chores seems like a no brainer. But other parents may need some convincing. Kids can sometimes give such a hard time doing chores that it might not seem worth arguing. Kids also might not do the job very well and this can also lead parents to just want to do things themselves.

Parents aren’t just better at daily cleaning they’re usually faster and more efficient too. Other parents might not want to demand too much of their child and want their kid to just have fun and be a kid rather than having the responsibility of chores.

But for all these reasons there is a counter reason for why having your kids do chores is not only beneficial to you, but to your child as well. If you don’t have the patience or you don’t allow them to do chores than you are letting your kids miss out on a lot of benefits for themselves and their futures.

For children, everything is a learning experience and that includes chores. There are many things parents do to aid in the development of their children, like talking to them even when they can’t talk back, let alone understand you. Parent’s hold their child’s hands to help them walk even though the parent is really doing all the work. Parents must remember that doing chores is also teaching your children to do regular human tasks, just like you need to teach them to walk and to talk.

Chores are all about helping children eventually become self-sufficient. They need to walk on their own someday so we help them walk while they’re young and unable to do it well. They need to communicate by themselves someday so we talk to them and teach them words even when they still can’t understand us.

They also need to know how to take care of themselves and their living space otherwise this will be an area of struggle in their independent lives as adults. In fact, Professor Marty Rossmann, from the University of Minnesota, did a study where she found that if kids started doing household chores at around 3 to 4 years old, they were more likely to be successful adults when they reached their mid-20s.
Exterior Benefits
Exterior benefits are going to be the most obvious ones. The house will be cleaner which will be more enjoyable for everyone, and the workload won’t be all on the parents. By having your kids help out in any way, you reduce your own workload and your house will be cleaner with less effort on your part!
Interior Benefits
Having your kids do chores actually benefits them more than it benefits you. Below is a list of the many reasons why household chores are beneficial for the inner growth and development of your child.

Builds Life Skills

Doing chores and the family perspective behind doing them have a greater impact on a child’s success in life than parenting style, IQ, gender, or the type of task. The skills they gain from chores go far beyond the household, or their time living at home. These skills transfer to many more aspects of their life and will be the skills they use to have success in all aspect of adulthood.

Builds Confidence

A child begins to create their own mental image of themselves at home. Chores build a child’s confidence and positive self-image in many ways: By doing chores they learn they can be productive, successful, and accomplish tasks set before them. They learn that they can become competent at the things they work on and that they can contribute in meaningful ways as a valued member of a team (their family).

It also teaches them that they can have a level of control over maintaining their own environment. All of these things boost a growing person’s confidence, leading them to lead more confident and successful lives in the future.

Another way that chores build confidence in kids is through their failures. When kids are first learning to do chores they often fail. The first time a kid sweeps the floor they may miss a lot, or the way they fold clothes might not be as tidy if you just did it.

But if you see their failure and just do it for them, then you’ll teach them that they are failures who are so far from succeeding that they shouldn’t even try and someone more competent, like yourself, should just do it for them.

This is key for parents to remember because chores are not just so kids can help out around the house and alleviate the parent’s workload. Chores are also an integral part in a young person’s development and therefore has a learning curve.

Helps Them Practice Self-Care

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Caring for the space you live in is a big part of caring for yourself. Chores provide some key habits that help people maintain their mental and emotional health as well as outward hygiene. Living in a clean and organized environment is an important element in a person’s mental well-being, and by having your kids do chores you give them the power and know-how to create that healthy space for themselves.
Cleaning Their Own Room
Many children and teenagers struggle with keeping their own room clean. Since it’s their own space you may think it’s not a battle worth waging, but many times in life we end up sharing our personal space with others, like roommates, friends that come over, or a future partner.

Maintaining your own room is also part of personal grooming and hygiene. If you teach your kids now to keep their stuff together then other aspects of their life will be more put together as well.

A messy room also creates a stifling atmosphere. A lot of the angst you may be dealing with from your child may partly be because their personal space is messy. Cleaning their own room helps kids learn how to better take care of themselves.

Teaches Self-Motivation and Responsibility

If you persist, and start at a young age, you can teach your kids to eventually be self-motivated about getting their own chores done. You can also teach kids responsibility, a quality that will serve them well in all other parts of their lives. Giving them the chores also helps them practice being responsible for something. Being responsible and self-motivated are necessary traits for success later in life in their education and their jobs.

Social skills

Chores teach the value of working and cooperating with others. Not only do you learn to work well with others while doing chores, but you learn how to better communicate with others as well. They have to communicate when they need help or when they don’t know what to do next. You can also take the opportunity while cleaning together to just chat and enjoy some one-on-one time together.
fail-family-endure

It’s Ok to Fail

Chores offer a unique opportunity for kids to safely fail and try again at something. Much of life consists of trying, failing, and trying again, and chores are a great way to give kids this practice in a safe environment. With chores they can learn what it means to try again and again at something until they finally succeed.

Setting Up Your Family’s Chore System

There are many ways to set up a chore system. There are also thousands of chore chart templates and ideas online that you can work from. You can find all kinds of free chore charts online, and even free printable chore charts. Having special chore charts for kids can also make doing chores seem more like a fun game than a responsibility. There are point systems, reward systems, and chore assignments that rotate every week or every month.

Figuring out what works best with your family is probably going to include plenty of trial and error. Here are some suggestions that could help turn chores for kids into a bonding experience for you and your children and make managing chore assignments easier.

Cultivate the Right Perspective

Part of cultivating the right perspective around chores is not overwhelming them, letting them make choices, and not using chores as a form of punishment. Household tasks are a necessary part of everyday life, like eating and sleeping. They should be treated as a routine part of life for everyone and not as an extra burden being forced upon them.

Don’t Overwhelm Them

No one likes doing things they don’t feel capable of doing. As an adult it may be hard to understand, but for children something like cleaning their entire bedroom by themselves can seem like an impossibly giant task. A common problem between kids and their chores is getting them to do their chores in the first place. Getting overwhelmed and burnt out by the task is the primary thing keeping them from taking initiative with their chores.

A child’s workload is going to look different than an adult’s workload. Likewise, their workload is going to look different depending on their age. You might be able to easily spend an hour or two cleaning and organizing, but for a child that feels like a whole day and they become burnt out in the same way adults working overtime might feel burnt out. They have smaller bodies and their brains are still developing to withstand the mental fortitude needed to work and focus for that amount of time.

Try dividing the job up into smaller, defined tasks
If you just tell your child to clean their room they might more easily become overwhelmed and lose focus, leaving the job uncompleted. But if you divide the task of cleaning their room into smaller chunks they can more easily know how to tackle that job on their own. So instead of asking them to clean their room, have them go through a checklist of smaller tasks like,

  1. fold and put clothes away
  2. put toys in the toy bin
  3. make the bed

This may seem tedious to some adults but you have to remember the level of development you are working with. Children aren’t adults in smaller form, they are still growing in mental maturity and capacity and this fact carries over into their ability to do chores.

Think of it this way: in school you weren’t just told to write a 20 page paper. First you learned the alphabet, then you learned words, then sentences, then paragraphs, then you wrote a page, and from there you kept working up to writing larger and larger page assignments. Kids need this same principle of education in learning how to clean as well.

Let Them Make Choices

Involve your kids in deciding what chores they do. Another thing that makes it difficult for kids to get their chores done is feeling like they have no choice in the matter. No one likes being forced to work. As an adult you probably do chores because, at some level, you want to—whether you’ve grown to enjoy the work or because you want the results of the work.

Giving kids a sense of choice in their chores helps them feel more motivated to do them. Involving them in choosing their chores also helps them practice making decisions and coordinating workloads with others.

Don’t Use Chores as a Punishment

One way to make your kids hate chores is to use them as a punishment for bad behaviors. If they associate helping out around the house with punishment, then you’re quite possibly setting them up to be a slob for life.

Start Younger Than You Think

When kids are as young as 18 months they often naturally start wanting to help out around the house. This may seem very young but you should let them.

You might be tempted to scoot them away when they express interest in helping with something, because obviously they aren’t going to be very good at it. But if you take the time to include your kids in chores at a very young age, then they’ll be much more likely to have a good attitude about helping around the house as they get older.

Age Appropriate Chore Lists

Along with starting younger than you think with chores, make sure you are giving your kids age appropriate chores. It can help to have a chore list that you can work from to let you know what chores are accessible to which age groups. Below is a list of age appropriate chores that become doable for each age group:
Toddlers

  • Put their toys and books away
  • Help wipe up spills
  • Let them “play clean” beside you as you clean

Young Children

  • Make bed
  • Clean room
  • Put their things away
  • Fold laundry
  • Set the table
  • Help cook simple things
  • Feed pets

Older children

  • Clean room
  • Do laundry
  • Vacuum
  • Sweep
  • Mop
  • Dust
  • Empty trash
  • Wash dishes
  • Clean the bathroom

Teenagers

  • Babysit
  • Yard work
  • Do laundry
Schedule Chore Time

Designate a specific block of time when everyone in the house pitches in. If chores are part of a routine, and siblings and parents are all involved, then your children will need less reminders and less nagging. They’ll also feel more like a contributing member of the family, which can develop into a good motivating factor.

One fun way of doing this is to make a music playlist for chore time. You can pick a time each day where you do chores, like after dinner, then turn on your playlist and everyone works until the playlist is done.

“Gamify” Chores

The term “gamification” refers to turning a mundane task into a game. Household chores offer an incredible opportunity for gamification, and you and your children’s creativity is the only limiting factor.

You could turn cleaning time into a dance party, or have a race to see who gets done first. Another classic gamification technique is to create a “sticker chart,” but instead of a regular calendar sticker chart, turn it into a board game where their stickers lead to a winning destination.

Rewards for Chores?

The purpose of rewards for doing chores should be to teach them that cleaning has natural benefits, not necessarily that doing regular housework will earn them money. For example, once the kitchen is clean they can have dessert or watch their favorite show, or maybe once their room is clean they can have friends over.

Another reason to reward your kids for doing chores is to acknowledge the work they’ve done. Children want approval and appreciation and after chores is as good a time as any to give it. Just like with criticism, you don’t only want to hear from your boss about what you did poorly, you also want to know what you are doing right. Your kids need to hear that too, after all, rewarding success is more effective than only disciplining failures.

For younger kids you can teach them stuff while they clean, like count the toys as you put them away, or say the color of the book and put it on the shelf with similar colors.

The Parenting Press advises parents to not give allowance for chores because in real life you don’t get paid in money to do regular household work. Children need to learn to maintain their living space for that sake alone.

Conclusion

Parents want chores to be a positive part of their child’s life. You want to instill the right perception, facilitate their development and growth, and make chores a bonding experience. Keeping a tidy home should be something that everyone participates in and everyone enjoys doing. So stop nagging, and use chores to help bring your family closer together.


READ MORE
Check out Jessica Lahey’s book, the Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So their Children Can Succeed, to read more about how chores and failure can help your child grow.


FEATURE IMAGE BY KELLY SIKKEMA
OTHER IMAGES BY CALUM LEWIS and PATRICIA PRUDENTE

Cheap Ways to Travel on a Budget

Fall is the best time to travel – as crowds in tourist locations decrease, so do the prices of hotels and plane tickets. Because everyone is headed back to school, if you have time to kick back and relax, take advantage of it now. Here are a few cheap ways to travel on your next trip.

Kayak.com

One of the best cheap ways to travel is to plan ahead and pit competing hotels and airlines against eachother. One of the best places to do this easily is Kayak.com. There are a few different places you can go to online to find competing prices for plane tickets – that is, if you aren’t loyal to a particular airline. However, while Priceline gets most of the attention, Kayak is actually the most reliable and informative.

Search for the cheapest tickets from one city to another, with multiple airlines, airports, days, times, and prices. You can adjust your preferences to find the perfect flight, even if you’re looking for a flight that makes a 5 hour layover in a specific city. Not only will Kayak find it for you, but it will give you the best price around.

Explore Feature

If you want to get out of town but you don’t have a particular place in mind to go to, think of your budget and go to the Explore feature on Kayak.com. This feature allows you to see the cheapest flights from your location to different airports around the world. If you’re on a tight budget and you don’t know where to go, the explore feature allows you to just choose the cheapest ticket it can find.

Airbnb.com

Once you get to your vacation destination, it may be difficult to find a cheap place to stay. Hotels are expensive, and sometimes they are out of the way and not very accommodating. So another cheap way to travel is by skipping the hotel altogether and using a site called Airbnb. Airbnb is a website that allows smaller bed-and-breakfast-type locations to show their accommodations and rates. Choose from a private house, apartment, room, or a shared space. Find the option that is best for your budget, as well as the best location and near the necessary transportation you need.

Hostels

One cheap option that you won’t see on Airbnb is a hostel. Some people automatically rule this option out, because they want more privacy. However, hostels actually do offer smaller and private rooms for decent rates. Often they are in much better locations in large cities than small bed and breakfasts on Airbnb. They also usually offer free wi-fi and continental breakfast in the morning.

Compare Prices

When you’re going on vacation, compile lists of all the options you have to choose from. Compare total prices for each destination flight fare, housing accommodations, and additional transportation, as well as must-see tourist sights. Create a spreadsheet to keep track of prices and links to specific flights and lodgings. You may even be able to plan multiple vacations at one time.

Though vacations are fun, they are always better if you plan ahead. Be sure you check the weather before you leave in order to ensure that you pack appropriate clothing. And the trick is, do not overpack!

4 Easy Ways to Give Your Kids Help With Homework

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Lately it seems like we start receiving “parent” homework before the school year even gets properly underway. There’s the little packet of “to dos” handed out at registration. Then another packet of “Spotlight your Child” activities handed out at the teacher Meet ‘n Greet. And if you’re adventurous enough to attend Back to School night, you can bet you’ll pick up another packet of parent homework there too!

Then the school year really kicks off. Sometimes it can feel like we’re drowning in the very schedules we prayed for all summer long. While you’re scrambling to catch up on all the little craft assignments you couldn’t get around to before the first day, the real homework starts rolling in. All of a sudden you’re knee deep in giving help with homework from book reports to science projects, math problems and last minute “Mom! It’s my turn to be spotlighted in my class and I don’t have a cool poster yet!” activities.

Great, only two weeks in and we have a homework situation! Cue the obligatory bout of stinging “parent fail” self-deprecation.

At this point, it can be tempting to jump on Pinterest and see what other parents are doing to maintain the apparently well-oiled machinery of their school routines. But then, if you’re like most people, you’ll just get distracted by some homemade Halloween pumpkin character that would require degrees in engineering, graphic art and interior design to actually produce.

And now the time you’ve spent trying to find ideas for help with homework has actually left you with even less time to spend doing it. And that little homework “situation” has slowly escalated to more of a full scale cataclysm, complete with weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth (mostly yours)!

So how does one climb that mountain of academic tasks and remain on top of it all year long? Well, obviously Pinterest is not a great place to start when you’re already trying to dig your way out of an academic avalanche. Tips are better. So here are some helpful tips for staying on top of homework, no matter how many little people you have contributing to the pile.

1. Homework serves an important purpose. No, really!

Try to keep in mind that the true purpose of homework is first and foremost an opportunity for your child to learn specific skills or information. Most of the time they can do this alone. However, that learning can be enhanced to a level of mastery providing the environment is favorable to it. This means that it is your job as a parent to facilitate this learning, not to do the learning for them. Offering your child help with homework doesn’t really help them if you do it all for them.

Although it is important to help your children complete their homework correctly, it is also important to help them take the lead. Pull the pins out of those incredible Pinterest feats; they make it too tempting to hijack the task, which really defeats the purpose of homework. Step away from the blue prints, hand your child the glue gun (or the Elmer’s glue!) and give them full creative license. Your job here is to encourage (and maybe stifle a cringe or two).

2. Get to know the teacher

Depending on how you look at it, what is required on any given homework assignment can range from pretty basic to “you’re the parent other parents love to hate” over the top! Rather than risk missing the mark, ask the teacher what they actually expect.

Make it a point to attend back to school night and every parent teacher conference, so you can ask them directly what is expected for your child’s homework. Also, ask how involved you should be. This will help you to toe the line between helping your children be successful, doing their homework for them and, let’s face it, running the risk of having other children in the class feel like underachievers!

3. Help your child to set up a homework schedule

The idea here is to keep track of what homework is due, and when. Try to avoid doing this yourself. It’s better to help your child figure out how to do it without depending on you. Help your child to create a homework plan. This is a great opportunity to teach them about time management and realistic deadlines. Then help them to stick to it.

Creating a plan with your child’s help will make them feel involved and invested in the process. It also helps them take responsibility for completing tasks on time. This means they will be much more likely to stick to the plan, and since they work with their teacher directly, they will probably have a better understanding of the expectations.

4. Keep your involvement age appropriate

It should go without saying but, remember to work with your children at a level that recognizes their abilities and limitations. Younger children need more help performing their homework tasks, while older children might just need help staying on task!

A good homework schedule should include the following things:

  • Specific Timeframes for Each Task. By being as specific as possible, and keeping expectations age appropriate, you will help your child to stay on task.
  • Consequences for Positive and Negative Behavior. Try to enforce the idea that a homework task must be finished before your child can enjoy a reward such as play or TV. Other little rewards (like snacks) can also encourage them to stay on task until their homework is complete.
  • Plenty of Time to Complete Assigned Work. Overwhelming your child with too much work in too little time will not help them. Be patient and give them the time they need to successfully complete their projects.
  • Breaks. Watch your child for signs of frustration, boredom or fatigue and give them a break. Remember, they spend all day in school and need time to decompress.
  • Physical Activity: Use breaks to do something physical like jumping jacks or jump rope. It’s a great opportunity to get blood flowing and use up some energy. It’s also a healthy alternative to screens and devices, and will get them back to the homework task faster, and in a less distracted state.

Homework is an important part of success at school, but it can also create stress and anxiety in the home, for both parents and students. Follow these tips to minimize that stress and help your child become much more successful at home and in the classroom.

Save Money With MoviePass

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How much money do you typically spend on movie tickets every month? It seems that autumn has become the season when Oscar-bait movies are released, and depending on the year, it’s not too far-fetched to end up with a list of “must see” movies that can require multiple trips to the theatre in any given week. The problem is that doing this can end up costing a lot of money.

If you’re like me, at this time of year it’s just too hard to wait for those movies to make their way into the dollar theatres, or Red Box, especially when all your colleagues and friends start raving about them without extending the courtesy of any spoiler alerts.

How do you save money on movie tickets then? The answer is MoviePass, it’s a pass that gets you into movies every day for one monthly fee.

Smartphone App and Debit Card Technology

When you sign up for MoviePass, you receive a MoviePass debit card that is connected to an account on the MoviePass smartphone app. When you want to see a movie, you sign into that account on your phone, “check-in” at the movie theatre you are within 100 yards of, and select the movie you want to see, and the time show time you want to attend.

The debit card is automatically loaded with the exact amount of money for the price of the ticket (single) you have selected. You can then purchase your ticket at the kiosk or ticket counter, using that debit card.

Monthly Fee

In return for these daily movie tickets, MoviePass requires its card-carrying members to pay $30 ($35 in some areas) a month. If you’re a true movie buff, you spend much more than that on movies every month. All you have to do is see three or four movies a month to make the monthly fee pay off.

Restrictions

We do live in the real world and so you’re probably wondering what the catch is. Thankfully with MoviePass it’s not actually that bad, it may not even register as a ping on your radar of movie viewing preferences.

  • MoviePass does not pay for IMAX or 3D films.
  • It also restricts the number of movies you can watch within a 24 hour period to one. A countdown feature on your MoviePass application will allow you to see when your 24 hour period is up.
  • The final restriction is that you can only choose to see a particular film with your MoviePass once – meaning that you cannot charge your MoviePass with a ticket to the same movie twice.

Aside from these restrictions, you can use your MoviePass to see any movie from any theater within the United States.

Upcoming Movies

When you think about the number of blockbuster and franchise movies pending release before the end of this year, it’s not hard to justify an investment in MoviePass. Here are a few of the highly anticipated releases to whet your appetite: Hotel Transylvania (yes, it’s animated, but… the usual Sandler suspects? Done!), The Intern, The Martian , Pan, The Walk, The Peanuts Movie, Spectre (007), Mockingjay Pt2 and (I can hardly breathe…) Star Wars!!!!!

Calling All Movie Buffs

With only months to go until the Academy Awards, it’s time to get to the theater and judge for yourself what does and doesn’t deserve a nomination and an award. Take a scorecard and rate each movie while keeping track of what you’ve seen. You’ll be shocked at how much money you really spend on movies in any given fall month, and how much money you’ll save with MoviePass.

Keep checking in with our blog for more tips on great tech and smart budgeting and don’t forget we also offer money saving services with great products like, tax preparation and bill pay and even insurance quotes.

How to Make Your Home Pet Friendly

In one of our past posts we discussed how you can budget for a new family pet. In today’s post we’ll discuss how you can make your home pet friendly in preparation for your new furry friends arrival.
Most American households include a beloved pet, but are we really considering their comfort and safety when we bring them home?

Sure we love them, play with them, feed them and so on, but what more can you do to ensure their happiness and wellbeing?

Examine the Problem

Every pet can be frustrating and messy at times, but it is important to examine your house and lifestyle before blaming your pet. Ask yourself, “Is this a pet problem or a people problem?”
For example, is your dog constantly getting into the bathroom garbage? It might seem as though your dog has a behavior problem, but might actually be a people problem. The solution could be as simple as closing the bathroom door when you’re not around. You could even try getting a garbage can with a lid. Changing your routine or placement of items is usually the easier fix!

Avoid Harmful Ingestion

Keep toxins and Poisons out of reach of your pet. This includes medications, household cleaners, and plants, but also food that may be hazardous to your pet. Animals are drawn to smells and can and will eat things that are bad for them.

Empty your garbage cans frequently and keep a tight lid over them; or conceal them where your pet can’t access them. It will save you from cleaning a big mess, but might also save their life.

Common poisons and hazards for dogs:

  • Chocolate
  • Grapes
  • Raisins
  • Caffeine
  • Coffee
  • Nutmeg
  • Xylitol (commonly found in sugar-free chewing gum)
  • Alcohol
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Onions, garlic and chives

Common poisons and hazards for cats:

  • Chocolate
  • Caffeine
  • Coffee
  • Alcohol
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Xylitol (commonly found in sugar-free chewing gum)
  • Milk

These substances can cause diarrhea, liver failure, strokes and more in your pet, even in small doses.
If you think your pet may have ingested something poisonous call the ASPCA poison control center at 888- 426- 4435.

For a complete list of toxins refer to the ASPCA website.

Inspect Your Home

Just as you would baby- proof your home for an infant, you may need to pet- proof your house as well.
This may sound silly, but by crawling around your house on your pet’s eye level you will be able to spot hazards lurking behind furniture and even out in the open.

Is there anything they could get caught in, injured by or otherwise find trouble? You may need to cover a few outlets, shorten some blind cords, cover electrical cords, etc. It’s always a good idea to fix, remove, or cover anything that could harm your pet.

Dedicated Pet Area

Creating a comfortable place for your pet to relax and sleep is very important. Animals instinctually want a space that is warm, soft, and comforting.

A soft bed or blanket placed in a warm corner is the perfect place for your pet to relax. You can also add a toy or two to encourage them to play in this area as well. However, be cautious about choosing toys that are appropriate in size, strength, and material for your pet. Choosing a chew toy too small for your dog or cat could result in choking, injury, intestinal blockage or worse.

Make sure water is readily accessible in a safe location and that it is easy to drink from. Find a place to store their food, toys, and accessories so that you have control over your pet’s access.

This also applies to small animals such as birds, fish, and rodents. The area in which you place their cage is very important. Make sure to avoid drafts, extreme heat, fumes, high ledges, etc; anyplace that causes stress, breathing problems or extremes in temperature or a risk of falling.

Birds, rodents and other small pets like to be able to hide, so placing them in a corner rather than the middle of a room will cause them less stress. Avoiding windows is a good idea as well. Some animals may see outdoor animals as predators and will always be on guard. If appropriate for your pet, purchase a safe hiding toy to help them feel secure.

How do you ensure that your pets are safe and happy at home? Let us know in the comment section below.

8 Cheap Halloween Costume Ideas on a Budget

Halloween is just around the corner, and it’s time to start preparing the costumes. If you have multiple young children, dressing each of them up can be a chore, not to mention the hit you can take to your budget! Have you considered making the costumes yourself? It’s not as difficult as you might think. Here are a few cheap Halloween costume ideas that can be put together in no time.

Hot-Air Balloon Costume

All you need to do for this cheap costume idea is buy some helium balloons from a local dollar store and let them do most of the work for the costume. Tie the balloon strings to a box and have your child stand inside the box. If you have a light weight fabric blanket or plastic painter’s sheet you can even put it over the top of the balloons to give the illusion of one large canvas balloon, and just like that you’ve created a hot air balloon costume! Alternatively, without the fabric cover this would also work as a costume for the house in “Up,” which can also be drawn on a cardboard box and worn by the child.

Ghost Costume

It is a rite of passage to celebrate Halloween as a classically depicted sheet-ghost. All you need for this cheap costume idea is a white sheet with holes for eyes and you’ve got a ghost. Add personality with a hat or other accessory. A simple but effective costume.

Chicken Costume

Dress your child up as their favorite barnyard animal with yellow clothes and yellow feathers. You can get the feathers from a local craft store. Strategically glue the feathers on the arms to create wings, and around the rest of the outfit as needed. You can cut out a simple mask to wear or even just find a yellow cap. This costume has no sewing involved! Extra points if you find yellow or orange rain boots for feet.

Shark Costume

You won’t believe how simple cheap this costume idea really is! To start, you just need grey sweatpants, a grey sweatshirt, and some white, black, and grey felt – you can get this from a local dollar or craft store. The felt will be cut into the shapes of a dorsal fin, eyes, teeth, and a stomach and/or gills. Glue them in the appropriate places (wear sweatshirt with hood up and glue the teeth sticking out of the hood), and you’ve got a shark!

Mickey (or Minnie) Mouse Costume

Disney has made it incredibly simple to dress up as their trademark characters. With hats and headbands sold online for the widely-recognized mouse ears, you can wear anything red, yellow, and black for Mickey, or red with white polka dots for Minnie! Alternatively, you can make the ears out of felt and glue them to a head band. You can even use some face paint to complete the look if your child will facilitate the application process! Tip for Minnie; check search engine images for ways to style long hair into those trademark mouse ears!

Fairy Costume

A ballet outfit can double as a fairy outfit. Put a tutu and wings on over anything and you’ve created a magical fairy. Add a fairy wand for extra magic. Add glitter (“pixie dust”) liberally!

Kevin from Home Alone

Everyone’s favorite mischievous kid is Kevin from Home Alone. One of the easiest costume options available involves giving your blonde son a red sweater, and having him pose with his mouth open in a scream, hands on cheeks. Everyone who’s familiar the movie will recognize the costume. Add to it with any accessories you may have on hand that are also featured in the movie and you have yourself a cheap costume idea that works.

Ghostbuster Costume

Creating a Ghostbuster costume is also easy. Start with a jumpsuit; it can be as simple as some dark pants with a shirt in a matching color, or you could use some work overalls. Use a painted box or large backpack for the ghost catcher, and accessorize the box as extravagantly or as simply as you like – you could use an old garden or vacuum hose. Glue on a couple of Ghostbuster “patches” (use a search engine for images you can use to print or reference) and you’re good to go! It doesn’t need to be a professional-level costume to be recognized for what it is.

You can save tons of money this year by using these cheap Halloween costume ideas and skipping the Halloween store all while creating something completely unique at home. Use these ideas to inspire Halloween costumes you’ll remember for years to come.

Check out our regular blogs for more great tips like these. If you end up needing some quick cash for this Halloween don’t forget that Check City can you a quick online payday loan. Also, don’t forget to visit our services page for information on bill paying services, tax preparation and insurance quotes.

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