45th Annual Way of Lights Christmas Display

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Friday, November 21, 2014 until Friday, January 2, 2015
National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows

Focusing on the birth of Jesus, this unique celebration of Christmas features a mile-and-a-half drive with over one million lights, electro-art displays, and life-size biblical statues taking visitors on a scriptural Journey to Bethlehem. Tree and wreath displays, an interactive children’s village, camel rides and an indoor laser show add to the festivities. Activities 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. nightly. On Family Night Tuesdays you can experience the lights aboard a horse-drawn wagon and enjoy discounts on activities. Rides start at 6:00 p.m. with rides every 1/2 hour until 9:00 p.m. Activities, restaurant & gift shop closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day & New Year’s Day. The outdoor light display will remain on.

StLouisHomesByGina.com  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

STLive on Washington Ave (EVERY FRIDAY)

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Every Friday UNTIL OCTOBER 2, 2015

WASHINGTON AVENUE IN DOWNTOWN ST. LOUIS

Washington Avenue is alive with the sound of music every Friday night for the next 52 weeks at various Washington Avenue restaurants. Participating restaurants include: Tigin, Pi, Robust, Takaya, Over/Under, Prime 1000, Dubliner, Stanley’s, Copia, Flamingo Bowl, Bobby’s Place, Hair of the Dog, Blondie’s, Lucas Park Grill, Rosalita’s, Flannery’s, Wash Ave Post, Hiro Asian Kitchen, Sen Thai and many more. Restaurants will also be offering drink and dinner specials in addition to the live music. All genres of music will be represented each Friday night from pop to jazz to country to rock. There will be something for everyone to enjoy.

StLouisHomesByGina.com  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

How Much Allowance to Give Your Child

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By FamilyEducation.com

There’s no one dollar amount that’s appropriate for all kids. The amount you decide on should be sufficient to provide your child with some extra money so he’ll learn how to handle it. There’s no educational benefit in setting an allowance at an amount at which it’s already decided how it will be spent before it’s even received.

Many factors go into fixing an allowance. The four main ones are listed here:

  • Your child’s age. Obviously, the older your child, the bigger the allowance (up to a certain point, at which your child may become too old for an allowance).
  • Your family income. Only you know how much your family can afford to allocate to allowances.
  • Where you live. Maybe keeping up with the Joneses isn’t high on your list of priorities and you frequently tell your child, “I don’t care that Jimmy Jones has this or does that.” But, realistically, the neighborhood you live in can certainly influence how much allowance you give your child. What your child’s best friend receives may not be a deciding factor, but it’s a factor nonetheless.
  • What the allowance is supposed to cover. If you expect your teenager to buy all his own clothing from his allowance, then the dollars paid to him each week must be sufficient to allow for this extensive purchase. If you supplement an allowance with spending money, then a less generous allowance may be in order.

Your Child’s Age

Young children should get a smaller allowance than older children. While some families give the same allowance to all their kids even though they’re of different ages, this isn’t the usual approach. Most give more money as to their older kids than younger ones.

Using a rule of thumb to set an allowance is only a starting point. An allowance of $1 per week may be okay for a 10-year-old, but $15 may not be enough for a 15-year-old. You need to make some realistic judgments about what the allowance will buy.

As your child gets older, you’ll have to adjust the allowance. Part of this adjustment is simply because of added age. Because your child is older, she must pay for more things and needs more money to do it. For example, being at college means that your child has to pay for many of the things you used to buy when she was at home, such as toiletries and the newspaper. Of course, inflation also puts pressure on you to increase allowances so that your child’s buying power isn’t eroded.

What if your children are of different ages? Generally, you’ll want to give them an allowance appropriate to their age. If they’re close in age—say, two years or less apart—maybe you’ll give the same amount. A child may complain that it’s not fair that her older brother gets more than she does. Fairness doesn’t mean that everything has to be equal, though: It’s fair to base allowance on several factors, with age being an important one.

Your Family Income

Your head and your heart may want to pay a generous allowance, but your family’s limited resources may dictate otherwise. You have to be realistic about what you can afford to pay as an allowance.

If you can’t afford to pay an allowance or set it at the amount you really think appropriate, be honest about it. Explain that family finances prevent you from giving your child the amount you’d prefer.

Your Town

You can bet that the kids who live in the real Beverly Hills 90210 don’t receive the same allowances as the kids in most inner-cities. You may feel that this is really just another way of saying that a family’s income should influence the allowance. But there’s more at work: There’s peer pressure to get the same allowance that the other kids do.

Of course, you can take your neighborhood into account when fixing your child’s allowance, or you might decide that this element shouldn’t be factored in. It’s your call.

StLouisHomesByGina.com  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

9 FALL OUTDOOR DECOR IDEAS

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By stylishpatina.com

Fall is one of the most fun seasons to adorn our front porches for – the colors are rich and warm and nature provides plenty of decor elements for us to incorporate – plump pumpkins, rustic corn husks and beautiful blooming mums.

Here are just a few of our favorite fall front porch decorating ideas with tips and tricks to get the look. Using elements from summer decor, you can transform your porch into a warm and inviting celebration of the autumn season.

1. Fill your summer planters with mums for a splash of seasonal color. Stack pumpkins in varying sizes on your porch steps and voila – a fall front porch brought to you by nature. We love the pumpkins in the gutters in this photo – a fun, unexpected detail (make sure they are cleaned out first).

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2. Find a fun twist on tradition with gold-leafed and metallic pumpkins and gourds. Painting pumpkins is a fun fall activity for you and the kids – and the end result is a super-chic fall front porch.

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3. Hanging paper lanterns in clusters looks beautiful on this front porch. Its an easy way tot fill space on your porch. We love that this front porch created a fall look with a modern twist focusing on the yellow hues of the seasons. Gold painted pumpkins and succulents give it an ultra modern feel too.

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4. Fall greenery! Embrace the harvest season and ask one of the farmers at your local farmers market for some fresh corn stalks for your front porch. You often see corn stalks dried – but we love the farm fresh look of green ones.

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5. This is a Stylish Patina tested and true fall decorating idea – stacking pumpkins right in the middle of your summer planters. It’s easy and beautiful and will carry you through the fall season until Thanksgiving!

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6. Baskets of bounty! You can score large baskets at Home Goods and Target for great deals and load them up with pumpkins, fall gourds and mums for easy and elegant front porch decor.

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7. Simple but chic – this is a true Southern inspired front porch. Having a neutral front porch palette all year lets you toss in a few seasonal elements – like pumpkins – for a quick and easy fall look.

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8. Painted pumpkins! This is an adorable idea for welcoming your guests – paint your house number on pumpkins. We love the state pumpkin too, show some local pride. Paint the with chalk paint.

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9. In a hurry? These fall wreaths and front door decor are the perfect way to celebrate the season. We love the old rake repurposed as a door hanger, the group of pumpkins nestled in a green moss wreath, and the sunburst of corn husks!

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StLouisHomesByGina.com  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

3 Tips for Selling Your Home

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Selling your home in today’s market requires strategy and execution. Here are three tips to help sellers reduce their time on market:

  • Make it shine. Buyers are attracted to attractive homes. Make your home stand out by mowing the lawn, raking the leaves, washing windows, and cleaning the carpets. These are small things that make a big difference.

  • Remove clutter. Not only do clean homes show better, but tidy homes offer more to the imagination. One person’s treasure is another person’s trash. Removing unnecessary clutter will help potential buyers envision their own potential for the home.

  • Pay attention to the market. Work with your agent and price your home to sell. A competitively priced home is the one that sells first, and in this market that counts for a lot.

Sold Home For Sale Sign in Front of New House

These simple tips can help you sell your home and take advantage of our today’s market. Please contact us if you have any questions about selling your home. We are here to help!

StLouisHomesByGina.com  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

15 Ways to Teach Kids About Money

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By Paul Richard

Introducing Kids to Money

Money gives people — both young and old — decision-making opportunities. Educating, motivating, and empowering children to become regular savers and investors will enable them to keep more of the money they earn and do more with the money they spend. Everyday spending decisions can have a far more negative impact on children’s financial futures than any investment decisions they may ever make. Here are 15 simple ways to help educate children about personal finance and managing money:

  1. As soon as children can count, introduce them to money. Take an active role in providing them with information. Observation and repetition are two important ways children learn.
  2. Communicate with children as they grow about your values concerning money — how to save it, how to make it grow, and most importantly, how to spend it wisely.
  3. Help children learn the differences between needs, wants, and wishes. This will prepare them for making good spending decisions in the future.
  4. Setting goals is fundamental to learning the value of money and saving. Young or old, people rarely reach goals they haven’t set. Nearly every toy or other item children ask their parents to buy them can become the object of a goal-setting session. Such goal-setting helps children learn to become responsible for themselves.
  5. Introduce children to the value of saving versus spending. Explain and demonstrate the concept of earning interest income on savings. Consider paying interest on money children save at home; children can help calculate the interest and see how fast money accumulates through the power of compound interest. Later on, they also will realize that the quickest way to a good credit rating is a history of regular, successful savings. Some parents even offer to match what children save on their own.

Allowance and Spending Decisions

  1. When giving children an allowance, give them the money in denominations that encourage saving. If the amount is $5, give them 5-1-dollar bills and encourage that at least one dollar be set aside in savings. (Saving $5 a week at 6 percent interest compounded quarterly will total about $266 after a year, $1,503 after 5 years, and $3,527 after 10 years!)
  2. Take children to a credit union or bank to open their own savings accounts. Beginning the regular savings habit early is one of the keys to savings success. Remember, don’t refuse them when they want to withdraw a portion of their savings for a purchase–This may discourage them from saving at all. You can also introduce children to U.S. savings bonds. Bonds are still a good value, costing one-half their face value and earning interest that in some instances will be tax-free if used for a college education. Perhaps more importantly, when given as a gift, bonds will not be spent immediately, reinforcing saving and goal-setting lessons.
  3. Keeping good records of money saved, invested, or spent is another important skill young people must learn. To make it easy, use 12 envelopes, 1 for each month, with a larger envelope to hold all the envelopes for the year. Establish this system for each child. Encourage children to place receipts from all purchases in the envelopes and keep notes on what they do with their money.
  4. Use regular shopping trips as opportunities to teach children the value of money. Going to the grocery store is often a child’s first spending experience. About a third of our take-home pay is spent on grocery and household items. Spending smarter at the grocery store (using coupons, shopping sales, comparing unit prices) can save more than $1,800 a year for a family of four. To help young people understand this lesson, demonstrate how to plan economical meals, avoid waste, and use leftovers efficiently. When you take children to other kinds of stores, explain how to plan purchases in advance and make unit-price comparisons. Show them how to check for value, quality, repairability, warranty, and other consumer concerns. Spending money can be fun and very productive when spending is well-planned. Unplanned spending, as a rule, usually results in 20-30 percent of our money being wasted because we obtain poor value with our purchases.
  5. Allow young people to make spending decisions. Whether good or poor, they will learn from their spending choices. You can then initiate an open discussion of spending pros and cons before more spending takes place. Encourage them to use common sense when buying. This means doing research before making major purchases, waiting for the right time to buy, and using the “spending-by-choice” technique. This technique involves selecting at least three other things the money could be spent on setting aside money for one of the items, and then making a choice of which item to purchase. 

     

Buying Smart

  1. Show children how to evaluate TV, radio, and print ads for products. Will a product really perform and do what the commercials say? Is a price offered truly a sale price? Are alternative products available that will do a better job, perhaps for less cost, or offer better value? Remind them that if something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
  2. Alert children to the dangers of borrowing and paying interest. If you charge interest on small loans you make to them, they will learn quickly how expensive it is to rent someone else’s money for a specified period of time. For instance, paying for a $499 TV over 18 months at $31.85 a month at 18.8 percent interest means the buyer really pays about $575.
  3. When using a credit card at a restaurant, take the opportunity to teach children about how credit cards work. Explain to children how to verify the charges, how to calculate the tip, and how to guard against credit card fraud.
  4. Be cautious about making credit cards available to young people, even when they are entering college. Credit cards have a message: “spend!” Some students report using the cards for cash advances and also to meet everyday needs, instead of for emergencies (as originally planned). Many of those same students find themselves having to cut back on classes to fit in part-time jobs just to pay for their credit card purchases.
  5. Establish a regular schedule for family discussions about finances. This is especially helpful to younger children–it can be the time when they tote up their savings and receive interest. Other discussion topics should include the difference between cash, checks, and credit cards; wise spending habits; how to avoid the use of credit; and the advantages of saving and investment growth. With teenagers, it’s also useful to discuss what’s happening with the national and local economies, how to economize at home, and alternatives to spending money. All of this information will be important as they take on more responsibility for their own financial well-being.

StLouisHomesByGina.com  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

Existing Home Sales Report

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Existing-home sales declined slightly in August after four consecutive months of growth, according to a recent report by the National Association of REALTORS (NAR). Existing-home sales, which include recently purchased single family, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops dropped 1.8 percent in August to a seasonally adjusted 5.05 million annual units.

Existing Home Sales By Region

NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun says the reduction in available cash buyers has slowed the market. “There was a marked decline in all-cash sales from investors,” he said. “On the positive side, first-time buyers have a better chance of purchasing a home now that bidding wars are receding and supply constraints have significantly eased in many parts of the country.”

Nationally, total housing inventory decreased 1.7 percent during August to 2.31 million units. The median time for homes to sell was 53 days in August, up from 48 days in July. Forty percent of August home sales were on the market for less than a month.

StLouisHomesByGina.com  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

12 Numbers That Can Change Your Bank Account for the Better

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By Dave Ramsey

Humans are nothing if not forgetful. We have great intentions, but we lose sight of our money goals faster than you can say, “Attention span.”

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Instead of giving up, give your money memory (and your bank account) a boost. Think of these 12 numbers as a dozen friendly reminders to keep on winning.

10% – Make sure you’re giving 10% of your income to a local church or charity. Net or gross doesn’t really matter. Since most evangelical Christians are only giving about 3% anyway, you’re way ahead of the curve if you’re giving a tithe (a tenth) either before or after taxes.

$15,263 – The average American has $15,263 in consumer credit card debt. That’s a big number, but it’s by no means hopeless. Getting out of debt is 80% behavior and 20% head knowledge. So if you change that way you spend and save, you willchange your life.

$3,000 – Most Financial Peace University class members pay off $3,000 during the course of the nine-week class. That’s impressive. But how do they do it? By learning some simple money concepts and getting intense about getting out of debt. Because once you finally see the light at the end of the debt tunnel, you want out—fast.

4 – Before paying down debts, be sure to cover your Four Walls: food, clothing, shelter and utilities, and transportation. Rude credit card collectors will just have to wait. Use the debt snowball to gain some serious traction, but always take care of your own household first.

$1 trillion – The current estimated student loan debt in America is $1 trillion. Instead of adding to that figure, help your kids stay out of diploma debt by guiding them toward in-state tuition, scholarships and part-time jobs. And if they’re already out of college and carrying a load of student loans, help them start a $1,000 emergency fund, find cheap housing, and live like a broke college student again. Any extra money they earn goes toward the debt! That way they won’t be saddled with loans when they’re ready to start a family and buy a home.

3 – Take advantage of your three free credit reports each year from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. With identity theft on the rise, it’s smart to make sure a bad guy isn’t having a good time on your dime.

60% – New cars lose about 60% of their value in the first four years. Instead of coughing up car payments year after year, save up and buy only what you can afford. Then pay yourself that money. If invested wisely, that car payment could turn into a cool million over a lifetime. Yes, we’re serious! Here’s proof.

10 – When it comes to life insurance, shoot for 10–12 times your current income.Life insurance is important because it keeps your family out of dire financial straits should you pass away. With at least 10 times your current income, your loved ones should be able to invest the money and live off the growth. Avoid gimmicky whole life and universal policies; only buy term life insurance.

$10,000 – A couple with $10,000 in debt and no savings is twice as likely to divorce as a couple with no debt and $10,000 in the bank. If your savings are deteriorating, stop the bleeding with a $1,000 emergency fund. And when you become debt-free, your next goal should be saving 3–6 months of expenses. Your relationship is worth saving for.

15 – We actually prefer the 100%-down plan, where you save like crazy then pay cash for your home, but a 15-year mortgage works too. Stay away from 30-year mortgages though. Dragging out your payments like that will cost you tens of thousands of dollars—if not hundreds of thousands. The faster you pay off your house, the less it will actually cost.

$2 millionThe average American has more than $2 million pass through his or her hands during a working lifetime. Yes, even you. That’s a lot of money to let slip away with nothing to show for it. Make your money work harder by investing 15% of your income for retirement as soon as you’re out of debt and have a fully stocked emergency fund.

5 – There are only five months left until Christmas. The best time to start saving for Christmas was back in January, but the next best time is now. Decide how much you’d like to spend on meals, gifts, travel and entertainment. Then create a sinking fund in which you save toward that goal each month. By December, you should have exactly what you need for a credit-card-free Christmas.

One last reminder: The best way to create a solid financial future is to stay focused on your money goals now. And when you do slip-up, that’s okay—you’re only human!

Simply course-correct, then chase after your goals harder than before. You’ll get there.

StLouisHomesByGina.com  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

How to Save $1,000 in One Month

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By Dave Ramsey

Baby Step 1: Save $1,000—and do it quickly.

Without this first step, your Total Money Makeover isn’t going anywhere. Baby Step 1 teaches you to make saving a priority, and it gives you the cushion you need to stop using credit and start paying off debt.

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Depending on how much experience you have saving money, Baby Step 1 could be a piece of cake—or it could sound downright impossible. We asked our Facebook followers how they would save $1,000 in one month, and we got loads of advice.

Work With What You Have

Lots of folks turned to the basics: good budgeting and cutting back on spending.

“When we first started, I thought, ‘This will take forever!’” Joanie H. said in her post. “It took three weeks of staying at home, eating only at home, and sticking to a budget.”

Beata T. agreed, saying, “Create a budget, and you’ll see how much money you waste every month. You’ll get to the $1,000 in no time.”

Other posters had tricks to help them save, like stashing away every $5 bill they receive or squirreling away all dollar bills and loose change at the end of the day. That might not add up to $1,000 in one month, but it sure can help you get there.

Eating out was the top suggestion for cutting back on expenses, and many people advised wise spending in general.

“Use cash,” Eve D. advised. “That really helps us see and feel our money.”

Bring in More

One of Dave’s favorite ways to get some quick cash is to sell stuff, and Dave fans are on board!

“Garage sale, eBay or Craigslist!” Traci M. said. “Sell [stuff] to make money and get rid of things you don’t need!”

If you’re not up for a full-on garage sale, sell some gold, like Vicki G. You can easily make hundreds of dollars fast by selling your old gold or silver jewelry.

If your job allows, overtime is another great way to bring in extra money. If that isn’t an option, consider using your skills or talents to earn additional cash.

“You can clean someone’s house for an afternoon, or walk dogs, or show someone how to use a computer,” Jenna M. said. “Teach someone how to cook or teach them how to organize files. Even if it seems like just pennies now, don’t take it for granted. It all adds up!”

Phone Calls and Paperwork

Myra F. said she’s making the wise move of cashing out two whole-life insurance policies to knock out Baby Step 1. Not only will she get whatever cash is available from the policies, she’ll also save money on premiums by switching to term life insurance.

Additionally, you might be able to save money each month by shopping around forbetter deals on life, health, home and auto insurance.

Lots of people like Tana M. and Hillary F. said they were planning to use their income tax refunds to build their baby emergency funds. That’s a great use of this year’s refund, but if you’re consistently getting large refunds at tax time, you should change your tax withholding so you bring more money home in your paycheck. No waiting and no giving the government a free loan!

Believe You Can

No matter what tricks you use or how much money you can dig up, you won’t hit a savings goal if you don’t believe you can do it.

“You have to believe you can do it,” Becky M. encouraged. “Acknowledge [that] you have to do it. And get to it!”

StLouisHomesByGina.com  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

5 Steps to Buying a Home That Won’t Bust Your Budget

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By Dave Ramsey

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the decisions that go into buying a new home. Brand new or existing? Cottage or McMansion? Fixer-upper or move-in ready? City or country? After all, a home is a big purchase, and you want it to be a blessing for many years to come.

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But one question holds the key to home-buying success: Can we afford it?

Lucky for you, you don’t need a degree in rocket science to find the answer. You just need to know how to budget. Here’s how.

Step 1: Add Up Your Income

You can’t make a budget if you don’t know how much you can spend. So sit down and add up every source of income you receive each month.

Let’s crunch numbers based on a two-earner household. In our example, John brings home two paychecks a month, while his wife Jane receives one.

John’s Paycheck 1 = $1,600
John’s Paycheck 2 = $1,600
Jane’s Paycheck = $2,800

Total Monthly Income = $6,000

Step 2: List Your Household Expenses

Next, write down every place your dollars go each month.

John and Jane rent a one-bedroom apartment in the heart of town so they can be close to work. A big chunk of their budget goes toward saving for retirement and a down payment on their new home. Here’s how their current budget looks:

John and Jane’s Pre-Home Budget
Charitable Gifts = $600
Savings = $2,200
Rent = $900
Utilities = $300
Food = $400
Clothing = $100
Transportation = $450
Medical = $400
Personal = $450
Recreation = $200

Total Expenses = $6,000

Of course, everybody’s budget is going to be different. We’ve assumed some things in this sample. If some of these categories don’t fit, feel free to make them your own.

Step 3: Calculate Home-Ownership Costs

Now it’s time to figure up the cost of owning a home. If you can’t pay cash for your home, Dave recommends keeping your mortgage payment—including property taxes and home insurance—to no more than 25% of your monthly take-home pay. That means the maximum amount John and Jane should spend on their home payment each month is $1,500.

Of course, home ownership isn’t limited to a house note. John and Jane make room for expenses like HOA fees, maintenance and repair, furniture and décor, and lawn care in their budget. They also add extra heft to utilities and transportation since they’ll have more square footage and a longer commute in their new home.

John and Jane’s down-payment goal will be complete when they purchase a home, so they reduce the amount they allot to savings.

John and Jane’s Budget: Changes Made With Home Ownership in Mind
Savings = $2,200 $900
Rent Mortgage = $900 $1,500
Other Housing Expenses = $250
Utilities = $300 $400
Transportation = $450 $550

Total Expenses = $6,000 $5,750

With these adjustments, John and Jane still have money left over—but the budgeting doesn’t stop here.

Step 4: Give Your Budget Room to Grow

Life is going to happen in the years you occupy your home. Before you get married to a mortgage, look ahead and consider events that might increase your living expenses down the road.

John and Jane don’t have children yet but hope to start a family next year. Guess what? Kids cost money! According to the USDA, a middle-income married couple spends an average of $727 a month on non-housing expenses in a child’s first years of life. Depending on what you make or where you live, it could be more, it could be less.

John and Jane build cushion for Junior into their budget by parking an additional $750 into their savings account each month. That puts their savings total at $1,650 and bumps their monthly expenses up to $6,500.

John and Jane’s Budget: Changes Made With Junior in Mind
Savings = $900 $1,650

Total Expenses = $5,750 $6,500

Step 5: Make Adjustments

Right now, John and Jane’s expenses outweigh their income by $500, so they’ve got some balancing to do. John and Jane realize that spending 25% of their income on a mortgage will squeeze out their ability to afford diapers and daycare. So they aim for a more conservative home payment and tighten the purse strings in a few other areas.

John and Jane’s Final Home-Buying Budget
Charitable Gifts = $600
Savings = $1,650
Mortgage = $1,500 $1,250
Other Housing Expenses = $250
Utilities = $400
Food = $400
Clothing = $100 $50
Transportation = $550
Medical = $400
Personal = $450 $400
Recreation = $200 $50

Total Expenses = $6,600 $6,000

When income minus outgo equals zero, your job is done because every dollar has a name.

$6,000 – $6,000 = $0

Success!

That means you can feel confident buying a home that won’t bust your budget. Just keep your mortgage to 25%—or less!—of your monthly income and don’t borrow so much that you can’t breathe if life changes down the road.

Boost Your Buying Power

Now that you know the secret to being a happy homeowner, it’s time to go out and get the most home for your money! All you need is an expert negotiator by your side. A buyer’s agent brings your best interests to the table so you can get the best deal on a home that’s right for you and your budget.

StLouisHomesByGina.com  636-229-8746  *Property Search Link*

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