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6 Basic Instant Pot Recipes

instant pot recipes

Having a yummy, wholesome, home cooked meal for dinner each night is a part of the typical dream lifestyle. But who has the time? By using an instant pot to make your meals you won’t need time to have home cooked meals every day!

Below are some the most basic instant pot recipes to help get you started:

  1. Potatoes
  2. Rice
  3. Beans
  4. Chicken
  5. Vegetables
  6. Pasta

More Recipes
 

Unlike a slow cooker, an instant pot lets you make healthy, budget friendly meals in a matter of minutes instead of hours. It can bring you back to cooking basics and save you on the kinds of groceries that add up quickly the way things like frozen pizzas do.

If you need any help with the food bill this week while you wait for an inconveniently placed payday, you can always get a Check City Personal Loan to tide you over.

With an instant pot cooker you can plan your weeknight dinners for the week much more easily. Instant Pot is one of the main instant pot brands, but there are many brands of pressure cookers you can choose from for your instant cooking needs.

Instant Pot’s website also has their own list of recipes for you to choose from. The recipes below come from a couple different sources, and are some of the most basic recipes you’ll want to to start saving on your grocery bill and getting back to the basics of homemade meals.

1. Potatoes

potatoes
 

You can do so many things with potatoes, mashed potatoes being one of the most popular American dishes. With the quick and easy instant pot you can make comfort foods like potato soup as well.

Ingredients

3lbs russet potatoes (cut into cubes)
1 cup chicken broth, or water
1/2 cup milk or half and half
3 tbsp butter

Steps
  1. put potatoes, broth or water in the pot
  2. seal the lid
  3. select pressure cook and adjust to high
  4. set timer for 8 minutes
  5. After 8 minutes turn the valve to venting to manually quick release the pressure
  6. drain potatoes and set the liquid aside
  7. add milk (or half and half) and butter
  8. mash
  9. add back the liquid you set aside as needed

2. Rice

rice
 

Rice is a side dish that can go with almost any meal. For instance, you can serve chicken and rice along with some steamed vegetables for a rounded dinner.

Ingredients

1 cup rice
1 cup water
1 tsp oil
a pinch of salt

Steps
  1. rinse rice
  2. add rice, water, oil, and salt to instant pot
  3. lock lid and set steam valve to seal
  4. cook 4-8 minutes
  5. let pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, then release manually

3. Beans

beans
 

Beans are a healthy source of protein and can also go well with a lot of other dishes. You can use beans in different soups and salads as well as a side dish to your main meal.

Ingredients

1 lb black beans
1 tbsp onion powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1-2 tsp salt
1 bay leaf
6 cups vegetable/chicken broth or water (Use 4 cups liquid for every 1 cup beans. Make sure the pot is not filled more than halfway so your beans have room to expand)

Steps
  1. put everything into the pot
  2. turn valve to sealing
  3. press beans and chili
  4. release pressure naturally for 20 minutes before opening

4. Chicken

chicken
 

Instant pot chicken may be one of the most popular dishes to make. Chicken is cheap and with some seasonings and sauces it can make a truly delicious meal. You can even use chicken thighs for some extra tender flavor.

Ingredients

2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried dill
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried chives
1/4 tsp onion powder
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

Steps
  1. set to saute and add oil
  2. sear chicken on both sides until golden
  3. transfer to a plate and add spices to the chicken
  4. add broth to pot
  5. put trivet in pot and put chicken on the trivet
  6. Lock lid and pressure cook on high for 5 minutes

5. Vegetables

vegetables
 

Vegetables are an important part of our diet, but we often forget about them. With a pressure cooker you can easily whip up any assortment of your favorite veggies to go along with almost any supper. Buying fresh vegetables is often cheaper than buying them frozen too.

Ingredients

1 cup water or vegetable broth
1/2lb carrots
1lb fresh, trimmed green beans
1 1/2lbs chopped red potatoes

Steps
  1. pour water into the pot
  2. put steamer basket into the pot
  3. place vegetables into the steamer basket
  4. secure the lid
  5. steam for 5 minutes and let sit for 5 more minutes
  6. season the vegetables to taste

6. Pasta

pasta
 

Next to bread, pasta may be one of the world’s favorite carbs. Healthy pastas can be a great source of grain in your diet when eaten in moderation. Pasta can also be a great base for a lot of creative dishes.

Ingredients

4 cups water, plus more as needed
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 (16 ounces) package penne pasta
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes in puree
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried basil OR 1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Freshly grated parmesan, romano, or mozzarella cheese for garnishing

Steps
  1. put the water, vegetable oil, salt, and pasta into the instant pot
  2. place rack in the instant pot
  3. put the tomatoes, garlic powder, basil, red pepper flakes, and salt into a pot on top of the rack
  4. lock the lid
  5. select high pressure and set to 3 minutes
  6. quick release the lid
  7. strain water out of the noodles and combine the pasta and sauce

These are just a few examples of some super basic instant pot recipes that you can use to make an unending array of meals throughout the week. Make your meals quickly each night or cook in bulk and have awesome leftovers for the rest of the week.

These aren’t the only basic recipes you can do with a pressure cooker though. Take a look at the READ MORE section at the bottom of this article for more essential instant pot recipes.



READ MORE
Learn all about taking care of your instant pot, “How to Use an Instant Pot to Save You Money.”

For a collection of beef recipes, including beef stew, “Most Popular Instant Pot Beef Recipes.”

For instant pot pulled pork, “Instant Pot Pulled Pork.”

For roasting pork in the instant pot, “How to Roast Pork in the Instant Pot.”

Instant pot boiled eggs recipe, “Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs.”

For some other ways to save money on your grocery bill read, “How to Save Money on Food Costs.”

Today’s Amazon Daily Deals!

amazon daily deals

There are lots of great deals you can take advantage of every single day, with Amazon’s Daily Deals! You won’t believe some of the great things you can find. Every Tuesday we highlight some of our favorite Amazon Daily Deal buys. Here are some of our top picks from today:

*The prices shown below are the sale prices listed at the time of posting.

Robot Vacuum Cleaner

 
robot vacuum
 

Current Sale Price: $95.93
Originally: $165.99
You Save: $70.06! (42% off)

Let’s be honest, everybody wants a robot vacuum cleaner. With a robot vacuum, you won’t have to vacuum your carpets or sweep your hard floors ever again! This Coredy brand vacuum even comes with a pet filter.

Echo Wall Clock

 
echo wall clock
 

Current Sale Price: $24.99
Originally: $29.99
You Save: $5.00! (17% off)

Yet another great Amazon device! Amazon Echo now has a sleek wall clock that’s compatible with Alexa. You can set timers using Alexa, and she’ll show you the timer on your wall clock, so you can now see how much time you have left instead of just waiting for Alexa to let you know the timer is done.

Weighted Blanket

 
weighted blanket
 

Current Sale Price: $47.92
Originally: $69.90
You Save: $21.98! (31% off)

Weighted blankets have been proven to help you sleep better and reduce anxiety. But all that extra weight can make these blankets cost a little more than the average blanket. If you’ve been wanting the calming help of a weighted blanket in your life, this deal is for you. It also comes with different colors and patterns to choose from, and weight options from 5lbs to 30lbs.

Portable LED Camping Lantern

 
camping lantern
 

Current Sale Price: $14.44

The Odoland portable LED camping lantern isn’t just a great light source, it can also easily hook onto the ceiling of your tent, and it has a built in fan to keep you cool when the wilderness nights are warm.

Amazon Cloud Security Camera

 
security camera
 

Current Sale Price: $89.99
Originally: $119.99
You Save: $30.00! (25% off)

Keep your home and loved ones safe and secure with the Amazon Security Camera. The Amazon Cloud Camera is a great way to always keep a good eye on your home. It comes with night vision and two-way audio.

Reusable Collapsible Straws

 
reusable straws
 

Current Sale Price: $13.99

You don’t have to be panicked about the planet to see the value of these travel friendly, compact straws. They can clip easily onto your bags and this pack comes with 2 straws, and a straw cleaner. Never be without a straw again while showing a little extra friendliness to the planet with these convenient collapsible straws.



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 hashtags #amazondailydeals #checkcity

How to Set Goals

setting-goals

We all make goals and we make them for many reasons. They can help us be productive in both our personal and professional lives. But if you don’t know the key aspects of goal making than your efforts can seem pointless. By taking into mind the following key components of goal setting, you can successfully accomplish all your goals.

  1. Make the Main Goal
  2. Find the Goal’s Purpose
  3. Make a Detailed Plan
  4. Measure the Results
  5. Reward Yourself

Why Make Goals?

Goals are how you decide to do something and the plan you take to achieve it. Goals consist of long term and short term goals. Sometimes your goal is a big picture, far in the future kind of goal, and other times your goal is closer to the present. Sometimes long term and short term goals can be seen as main goals and sub goals that lead you to your ultimate goal.
For instance, maybe you want to start a successful business, having a successful business would be your long term or ultimate goal. All of the tasks and accomplishments that are necessary for you to get to your ultimate goal are the short term goals or subtasks or steps necessary to achieve the main objective. One of those short term goals might be getting the papers for your business in order.
inspirational-quote-goals

Different Kinds of Goals

Goals don’t just have to be professional. You can make fun goals too! There are lots of formal, professional, and serious goals we need to make throughout our lives, but there are personal and fun goals we can be making along the way as well. Make goals for your more professional and serious successes, but set goals for yourself as well, like to get out every Friday, or to save up for a vacation this summer. You’ll also want to be making financial goals, like to save up for a new car, or spend less on entertainment this month. If you ever need help reaching your financial goals and getting back on track you can take out a personal loan at Check City.

  • Professional Goals (goals about work, or your own professional endeavors, hobbies, or talents)
  • Fun Personal Goals (goal to save up for vacation this summer)
  • Serious Personal Goals (goals to better your physical or mental health)
  • Financial Goals

What are SMART Goals?

SMART goals stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. It is an acronym that describes the kind of goals you want to make. You want the goals you make to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
 
Don’t just make a blanket goal to lose weight, make a specific goal to lose 10 pounds.
Utilize a scale to measure your progress.
Plan to achieve your goal by formulating a new plan for your meals and exercise.
Make a plan to lose weight because this goal is relevant to your life, and will give you tangible health benefits.
Give yourself a timeline by planning dates for weigh-ins, with specific weight goals for each weigh-in date.

1. Make the Main Goal

Don’t have too many goals at one time. This may be difficult if you are creating a business, but that is why hiring dependable employees and delegating effectively and communicating well with each other is so important, especially in the beginning. If any one person in your project has too many goals they need to achieve they can have trouble focusing and end up not accomplishing anything very well. So delegate goals so that each person can have the most focus possible for their manageable set of goals. That way, each goal gets accomplished on time, and in the best way, done all the way and not incomplete or done poorly.

2. Find the Goal’s Purpose

Every goal needs a clear sense of purpose. You need to have a specific objective in order to effectively motivate yourself to achieve this goal. Yes you may want to have a successful business but why? Think about your reasons and write these down. Many successful businesses today made it big because they had a clear motivation behind all they do, and a lot of them end up sharing this in their company’s origination stories or in their company motto.

3. Make a Detailed Plan

When planning your goals you’ll want to list out a series of steps or subtasks, or sub-goals that are going to get you to your main goal. You want these steps to be very specific things you can really do. Be detailed so nothing important falls by the wayside. For instance, only saying “make print ads” may not be helpful. You also need to plan out how you’re going to make them, when they are due, and where they’re going to get posted, and who is in charge of getting the permissions to post them at each location. Right all these things out, plan out the times, the places, and the people involved.

4. Measure the Results

Keep track of how you’re doing. If the steps you have in your plan aren’t giving measurable results than you can change your plan.

5. Reward Yourself

Sometimes an extra motivator or benefit is helpful when reaching your goals. In life we always like to have good things to look forward to, so feel free to reward yourself when you reach your goals. There are many healthy ways you can reward yourself. You can reward yourself with food, like a celebratory dinner, or a favorite dessert. You can also reward yourself by going shopping and buying yourself a gift. It doesn’t have to be expensive either. Activities like fun outings, a movie or spa night, can also be great ways to reward yourself for achieving something.
 
goal-chart-printable

Create a Goal Workspace

It can also help to have a place where you write all these things down. Some even find it helpful to hang up your planned goals where you can see them every day. It can also help to place your plans in the most relevant place. For example, if your goal is about losing weight it would make sense to keep your goal chart in the kitchen, or near your treadmill. If your goal is about work then you’ll want to keep your goal chart in your workspace.

  • Put your goals on a calendar. With a calendar you can easily outline the dates of your plan.
  • Put your goals on a template, or chart. With a chart you can keep track of your progress levels and check off items once you’ve finished sub-goals.
  • Use an app. There are countless apps out there to help you track your habits and reach your aspirations. Here are some of the best goal setting apps:

Daylio is a great app for journaling and tracking your moods. It is also one of the most customizable apps, and allows you to track anything you want. It has a pleasing design, icons, and color palettes.
Loop is another great app for tracking. With Loop you can easily see all your goals and their progress in one place.
ATracker has some nice calendar and task features.
TickTick is a great goal app for groups or partners. You can sync and share tasks and goals with other people. There’s also a function to help you focus on certain tasks.
 
In some ways, goals are how we live our lives. It’s how we make decisions and enact change. Knowing how to properly set goals can help you level up in your personal and professional life. As Les Brown once said, “Your goals are the road maps that guide you and show you what is possible for your life.”


READ MORE
Learn more about setting goals by reading, “How to Set Goals the Easy Way.”
 
Read more about SMART goals and how this acronym applies to your personal life by reading, “Personal Goal Setting: Planning to Live Your Life Your Way.”

Budgeting in 4 Easy Steps

budget
No matter your financial situation in life, everyone needs a budget. With a budget you can plan for needed expenses and prepare for the things you want. In fact, the most simple budget only needs a couple lists, a calculator, and some goals. Below are the the main points our post will go over to help you set up your budget:
 

 
Budgets are an important tool in anyone’s financial arsenal. Budgets can help you organize your needed expenses, like rent and bills, prepare for emergencies and get ready for whatever your future might hold. By knowing how to budget you can learn to stop living paycheck to paycheck and start building up your savings. it can help you save up for big expenses or future life events like a wedding, starting a family, buying a car or a house or moving to a new state.

Budgeting can also help you save for retirement, something else that even younger people just starting out on their own sometimes forget to think about but should. But most of all a it can grant you financial power and freedom and help you provide for your wants and needs. But for those just starting out on their own especially, it can be hard to know where to begin.

There are several key elements you’ll need to include in your budget. You need to think about all your necessary expenses and plan them out accordingly so you are aware of how much of your monthly income you need to spend each month no matter what. Then you’ll have to think about unnecessary expenses. This is where you have the most freedom to plan out the numbers and make adjustments.
budget-template

How to Budget

There are many ways to budget and there is a lot of advice out there in the financial spheres about how to do it. You can also choose to plan for certain events by making a specific wedding budget, or for major purchases like car payments. But if you’re making a simple budget for yourself, then the main thing you’ll want to decide first is whether you want to make a monthly or yearly budget. Most people like to create a yearly one to get a general big picture view of their financial goals and future plans. But, a monthly one is more helpful for everyday use. We’re going to try and condense all that down to the bare bones minimum of what every smart budget needs.

#1: List your monthly income

List out all your forms of income. This would include the paychecks from your job, but also any extra money you make from any of your side hustles. Here is also where you can decide whether you want to organize your finances for gross income or net income.

Gross income is simpler and easier to calculate. You just need to know how much you get paid and use that money for your calculations.

Net income isn’t as simple to figure out but there are advantages to using it. You figure out your net income by looking up what the income tax is in your state, and taking out that percentage from your gross income. Using net income instead of gross income is perhaps better because it more realistically reflects what you will actually receive from your paycheck.

#2: List your fixed expenses

After you have all your sources of income written down you’ll want to form another list for all your fixed expenses. Fixed expenses are the expenses you have each month that don’t fluctuate in amount. Everyone’s list is going to look different depending on what expenses do and don’t apply to you, but here is an example list of some fixed expenses:

  • Rent or Mortgage: A calculation you’ll want to do when looking at your housing expenses is to check that your total housing expenses aren’t over 28% of your monthly gross income.
  • Insurance
  • Debts: A calculation you’ll want to do when looking at your debts is to check that your total debts aren’t over 36% of your monthly gross income.
  • Loans
  • Student loans
  • Credit card payments
  • Streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Spotify
  • Phone bill
  • Medication you pay for each month
  • Child support
  • Education

After you’ve listed all your fixed expenses total the amount, subtract it from your monthly income, and that’s what you have left to spend on varied expenses . . .

#3: Set up your savings

Before we go into varied expenses though, let’s take a moment to think about your savings and retirement. Get a savings account if you don’t have one already, and set aside a portion of what’s left over after fixed expenses. Any amount you can afford to put away into a savings account each month will set you up for success in the long term, even if it’s only 5 to 10 dollars a month.

Aside from general savings and saving for retirement, you also want to set money aside in an emergency fund. It’s recommended that you have at least 3 months worth of your fixed expenses put away into an emergency fund at all times.

Digit is a great app you can use to help you plan and organize all your savings.

#4: List and portion out your varied expenses

Everyone’s list of varied expenses is going to look differently depending on what expenses do and don’t apply to you. Varied expenses are any expenses that are going to fluctuate in amount each month, or are considered more like luxury expenses than needed ones.

Varied expenses are a big reason to do a budget in the first place so that your varied expenses each month don’t overtake your more important fixed expenses and your savings. Here are some examples of varied expenses you might need to consider:

  • Groceries
  • Eating out
  • Entertainment
  • Gas and transportation
  • Recreation
  • Clothes
  • College textbooks

Another way to figure out the reality of what you’re spending on varied expenses is to look at your transaction history for the month and see 1) How much in total you were spending on varied expenses that month, and 2) What those varied expenses were on. Do this for a couple months back to get a more realistic idea of what you are spending on varied expenses each month.

Organizing your varied expenses is where you have the most control over your budget. Whatever is left over after your fixed expenses and your monthly payments to your savings account is what you have to spend on all your other spending for the month.

Here is where you will list out what all those varied expenses might be and portion what you have left in the budget into them. Remember that you don’t necessarily want to portion out 100% of what’s left into these categories so that you can accumulate a comfortable cushion in not just your savings account but your checking account as well.

Budgeting Tips

Invest

Making investments is a great way to beef up your financial portfolio. There are probably a trillion ways to invest, but the idea behind investments is that you put money into something that will give you more money in return later. This is called compounding interest.
interest-rate
A helpful tip to remember when going into any investment is the rule of 72. This rule means that if you take 72 divided by the interest rate you’ll figure out the estimated number of years it will take for your interest to double your initial investment.

Personal Capital and Acorns are some of the most helpful investing apps you can use to step up your investment game.

Where should I put my budget?

Figuring out where to even put your budget can get complicated. You can use excel or make your own table in Word or Google Docs or any note taking program of your choice. There are also many free budget templates online that you can print out and use. Budget tools are all around if you take the time to look and decide on which ones best suit your needs.

Click here for a free budget worksheet from the Federal Trade Commission.

You can also use budgeting apps to keep track of all your bills, expenses, plans, and goals. Some of these apps even allow you to connect your budget to your financial accounts.

Control your spending

Sometimes it can be difficult to control your varied expenses throughout the month and track your spending. You can make controlling how much you spend each month easier by using a prepaid debit card. With a prepaid debit card you put money on it like a gift card to yourself almost. You can also use a similar method of spending control by just taking money out and only using that cash for your varied expenses each week.

PocketGuard is an app that can help you track your purchases.

Get a Side Gig

Getting an extra source of income can really come in handy. There are a million different kinds of side hustles any ambitious person these days can get into. You can babysit, drive for uber, or sell your own products. The possibilities are endless and it never hurts to have a little extra money each month.

Plan to Decrease Debts

Debt can be a real financial weight on your shoulders, but it can also be a necessary evil in order to get a house, get a car, get through college, and much more. Decreasing the amount of debts you owe can still help alleviate some of that weight and provide more financial comfort and peace of mind.

So it’s important to budget with paying down your debts in mind. You can pay down debts quicker by planning to spend more on that fixed/necessary expenses each month, by spending less on varied expenses, or by getting another job to provide more income to put into your debts each month.
 
Budgeting doesn’t have to be hard. All you really need is 4 lists and a calculator! Everyone should practice using a budget now so that you can control your finances instead of your finances controlling you.


READ MORE
Check out some of other Check City articles on budgeting:
Budgeting for Dummies
 
What is a Budget?
 
Budgeting Tips You May Not Have Thought of Before
 
3 Simple Tips to Building a Budget
 
Ways to Keep Track of Your Spending

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 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

The 5 Best Money Saving Apps Available Today

thursday
With over a million apps to choose from, browsing the iPhone app store or Play Store for Android can be a daunting experience. How do you find the apps that you will actually use and enjoy? How do you sift through all the garbage apps and find those few gems?
That’s a good question, and while people may differ on their idea of what constitutes an awesome app, here are a few money saving apps that we found to be pretty cool for anyone interested in saving a bit of money.

1. Twickets

The first money saving app we recommend is called Twickets. You’ve probably run into ticket scalpers standing outside a concert or sporting event (heck, you might have actually bought a ticket from a scalper to save some money). What they are doing isn’t always completely legal, and they typically add an outrageous mark-up for your inconvenience.
Twickets is an app that allows you to find last-minute tickets to events, but here’s the best thing about it—ticket prices on Twickits will never be above face value!

2. Navfree

Google Maps is cool and all, but it has a way of tapping your data plan. Navfree is an alternative app that provides free navigation through GPS. This app will save you money because it won’t tap into your data plan because it uses maps that you download to your device, and it has voice-guided instruction as well.
Navfree is reliant on user-generated maps, which might be incorrect every once in a while. Therefore, the more you use it (and offer corrections), the better it gets!

3. AirBnB

This is by far the best money saving app for travel. In case you didn’t know, the hotel industry is changing forever—thanks to AirBnB, a service that connects travelers with couches for a fraction of the cost of booking a room at a hotel. The AirBnB app brings hundreds of thousands of listings to your mobile phone, so you can plan your next vacation or get last-minute lodging.

4. GasBuddy – Find Cheap Gas

Are you passionate about finding the cheapest gas in town? Well, you just found a new buddy. One of the easiest ways to save money is by getting things you buy anyway, for cheaper. GasBuddy connects you with the cheapest pumps, and you can earn rewards for reporting changes in gas prices. Imagine the potential savings this app can give you on those rambling road trips!

5. Coupon Sherpa

There are quite a few couponing apps out there, but Coupon Sherpa excels in its simplicity and ease of use. You don’t need an account, you can easily search by store or item, and each coupon comes with a barcode for the checkout attendant to scan on your way out.

What do you think the best money saving apps are? If you have any that we missed be sure to let us know in the comments section below.

Check back with our regular featured blog series, “Tech Thursday,” for more tips on cool ways technology saves you money! Visit our financial services page for easy bill paying and insurance quotes.

Saving Money When You Are Single

Well it’s Valentine’s Day and while thousands of couples will be heading out for a night on the town, there are also thousands of singles out there who currently find their facebook relationship status set to single. For some people, a single Valentine’s Day makes for a sad and lonely evening, for other’s it means saving money by not having to go out. While money in the bank might not make up for the loneliness this Valentine’s Day it’s better to look further down the road and realize that saving now, while you’re single, is one of the easiest times to save money.

For some people learning to budget and save money is something that many of us have to learn on our own by trial and error. It is a rare teenager who graduates high school and goes to college who already understands finances and how to manage them.

That being said, it is very important for a single person to learn to budget and save before they get married or even get a ‘real’ job. While learning all of this in college may be difficult, mastering these skills can save you hundreds and even thousands of dollars in the long run.

Budgeting

This is a word that most people cringe when they hear it. For many it carries with it a negative connotation, indicating a restriction of fun and less money to play with. While learning to budget does sometimes mean limiting the ‘fun’ factor at the beginning, it will earn you skills that can help you build the foundation that financial independence is built on.

Budgeting is merely a way to manage your finances so that you don’t have to worry about whether or not you have enough. When you’re starting out, it can be difficult to learn the control that it takes to not blow your budget on a spending spree, but over time, you will begin to understand how to properly manage your finances.

Saving

The key to a successful budget is saving. When you are single, it is tempting to spend all your extra money on the fun things you could be doing right now. But when your car breaks, or you suddenly find yourself needing to search for new housing arrangements, not having money in the bank means your choices in these situations are severely limited.

When saving, you want to set aside the same amount of money each month, working to slowly build up and then maintain a savings account that holds enough to support you in your current living situation for a 3-6 month period of time. This emergency fund should be the first thing you focus on as you learn to budget and save.

Playing

While living on a budget, specifically a small one can be tough, it is important that you leave some money each month for you to play with or, if you prefer, put some money toward a larger luxury item or trip that you really want. Whether you just want to be able to go to a movie once a month or you want to save for your dream vacation getaway, make sure you are spending some of your money on what YOU want to spend it on.

Understanding the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’ is vital when developing your budget. ‘Needs’ include things like food, clothing, shelter, and basic utilities like electricity, water and a full emergency fund, while your ‘wants’ may be that designer shirt you’ve had your eye on, or the latest piece of mobile technology. Learn the difference between the two and only spend money on the ‘wants’ when you have all your ‘needs’ covered.

Learn how to manage your money now, before you need to merge your finances with another person. Being financially responsible is a skill like any other, and for some it may come easy, while the rest of us will spend our entire lives learning how to do it. Either way, get started, and you won’t be sorry.

The Aftermath of Black Friday

Black Friday claims to be the largest shopping day of the year, followed by small business Saturday and Cyber Monday. Those three days and their phenomenal deals launch the nation into the holiday shopping spirit. Skilled shoppers finish all their holiday shopping and come home happy with their great savings. However, most of the nation is not as good at conquering Black Friday and the other big shopping day as these experts.

Many of us don’t think the fight is worth it. Previous trampling deaths have warded off many potential shoppers. To them, life is not worth the deals. Are there still ways to save big bucks without charging the streets on Black Friday? Yes. Yes, there are. What can non-Black Friday shoppers gain from Black Friday? Here are just a few things.

Shopping Tips

Around Black Friday season, many people/organizations post blog posts and articles packed with shopping tips. These are full of shopping wisdom. The majority of these shopping tips can be applied any time, especially post-Black Friday as stores continually hold promotions and sales in preparation for Christmas. A few of the tips include:

  • Stick to your budget: there will always be unexpected deals and tempting offers that could wipe out your pocketbook if you aren’t careful. Know what you want, how much you are willing to pay, and who/where it will be given to/used.
  • Do your research: Before purchasing a flat-screen TV that is on sale for half price, go online and make sure its reviews are good. Make sure it will fit in your home and be compatible with all the other techno-appliances you already have at home.
  • Shop around: Before you decide anything is a great deal, make sure you know what prices other stores are offering. You may find better deals elsewhere or run across match pricing offers at stores with fewer crowds and better return policies.
  • Know the fine print: always be aware of return policies, warranties, hold onto receipts, and request gift receipts. Make sure there are no hidden fees, deals, or missing accessories that are essential for operation.
  • Apps and online ads: aps and websites often put out special deals that cannot be found elsewhere. Don’t rush into a store thinking you will be getting the best deals when they are actually all online. Check out Facebook pages and stores’ websites and see what exclusive online deals or coupons are available to you. Sometimes they are the best sales and the most convenient ways to shop.

Future Sales

Although Black Friday is certainly one of the busiest shopping days of the year, it is not your only chance to grab good deals. Countless promotions, sales, offers, and coupons will be running from now till Christmas and beyond. Often post-Black Friday sales offer better deals than those Friday morning door busters. Keep an eye out for them and avoid the insane crowds while capturing great deals. Also, keep in mind that a lot of these deals will require you to act quickly so if you need to make a purchase, but dont have the cash right then, remember that you can cash checks and get a cash advance at any of our Check City Locations.

If you don’t want to risk life and limb for Black Friday deals, you won’t be missing out on much. Benefit from Black Friday shopping wisdom and save all season long!

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