Category Archives: Cost

5 Simple Ways to Cut Down Your Grocery Bill Without Coupons

Most of us have a love-hate relationship with the grocery store. Some coupon-savvy families squeak by on less than $300 a month, while others jam-pack their carts to the tune of $300 a week.

So who’s right?

It depends. We recommend spending 5–15% of your take-home pay on food, which includes groceries and meals out. But even if your food budget falls within that healthy range, maybe you’d still like to see it come down a few notches. Check out these five easy ways to change your grocery shopping habits for the better—without clipping coupons.

1. Redefine Dinner

If the word dinner conjures up a big homemade meal with a nice cut of meat, two steaming sides, a crusty French loaf and a chocolaty finish, cut yourself some slack! This isn’t the 1950s and weeknight suppers don’t have to be a big production.

Your kids and spouse will survive on BLTs, omelets or a nice salad several times a week. So don’t be afraid to plan simple, one-item-only meals. Reduce your guilt andyour budget by redefining the most expensive meal of the day.

2. Buy the Store Brands Already!

You know generic pasta is cheaper, but you’re still not convinced it won’t ruin your great-grandmother’s lasagna recipe. In a 2009 Consumer Reports study, 29 brand-name foods went up against their generic counterparts. Of the 29 pairings, 19 scored “equally good” in the blind taste test. In other words, your less-expensive lasagna will taste just as delicious.

Still not sold? According to a 2014 academic study, when chefs bought staples like salt, sugar and baking soda, they were much more likely to buy the generic than were non-chefs. And they’re the food experts! The study concluded that if more of us purchased store brands, we could save roughly $44 billion collectively. It pays to be brand un-loyal.

3. Change Up Your Grocery Stores

What made you pick your current grocery store? Is it the friendliest? How about the most convenient? Maybe you just know where everything is? Don’t let a comfortable routine cost you money.You may even find that two grocery stores are your best bet—one for meats and bulk items and another for everything else.

If you’re still not sure which grocery stores are worth checking into, ask around. People love talking about getting a good deal, and the ones who are getting the best deals will gladly gush about their favorite spots. Figuring out a new grocery store may be frustrating at first, but it’s worth learning a new layout to keep that extra $20 in your wallet.

4. Make a Detailed List

A list is simply a plan. You must plan out what you’ll make for breakfasts, lunches and dinners for the next week and then write out each ingredient you’ll need for those meals (plus a few snacks, of course).

When you arrive at the store, remember to buy only what’s on your list. This is key to staying on budget! And if you go shopping as a family, let your kids help plan the meals on the front end so they know this trip isn’t a junk food free-for-all. It’s much easier to stay on budget when you’re shopping with a plan and working as a team.

5. Always Use Cash

The best way to stick to a lower food budget is to pay with cash. When you enter the grocery store with cash in hand, you know exactly how much you can spend. Plus, you’ll stick to the meat-and-potatoes necessities of your budget rather than your ice cream-and-cookie impulse buys.

If you still find you’re eating high on the hog at the beginning of the month and then scraping by on tuna fish by the end, make a cash run every two weeks, instead of every month. This way, you’ll have a better picture of how much you can actually afford to spend each week, versus for the entire month.

Better Habits, Better Budget

By simply starting a few new habits, you can lower your monthly food budget and meet your money goals even faster. That means more cash to pay down debts, invest for the future, or save up for something fun—like a babysitter and a nice meal out where someone else cooks and cleans up.

See why Dave recommends eMeals to help you gain control of your family meal plans and food budget.

(Courtesy of Dave Ramsey, “Top 6 Life–Changing Articles of 2015” http://www.daveramsey.com/blog/5-ways-cut-grocery-bill-without-coupons?ictid=604O1208)

Thinking of Selling Your Home? Get Ready to Negotiate!

Thinking of Selling Your Home? Get Ready to Negotiate! | Keeping Current Matters

Now that the market has showed signs of recovery, some sellers may be tempted to try and sell their home on their own (FSBO) without using the services of a real estate professional.

Real estate agents are trained and experienced in negotiation. In most cases, the seller is not. The seller must realize their ability to negotiate will determine whether they can get the best deal for themselves and their family.

Here is a list of some of the people with whom the seller must be prepared to negotiate if they decide to FSBO:

  • The buyer who wants the best deal possible
  • The buyer’s agent who solely represents the best interest of the buyer
  • The buyer’s attorney (in some parts of the country)
  • The home inspection companies, which work for the buyer and will almost always find some problems with the house.
  • The termite company if there are challenges
  • The buyer’s lender if the structure of the mortgage requires the sellers’ participation
  • The appraiser if there is a question of value
  • The title company if there are challenges with certificates of occupancy (CO) or other permits
  • The town or municipality if you need to get the COs permits mentioned above
  • The buyer’s buyer in case there are challenges on the house your buyer is selling
  • Your bank in the case of a short sale

Bottom Line

The percentage of sellers who have hired a real estate agent to sell their home has increased steadily over the last 20 years. Meet with a professional in your local market to see the difference they can make in easing the process.

California Real Estate: Who Pays For What?

RE Fees

Customary Fees

In most areas in California, at close of escrow the buyer pays:

  • escrow fees (50/50 split)
  • title insurance fees (for 2 policies protecting the interests of themselves and their lender)
  • loan origination fee and discount points
  • miscellaneous doc drawing and courier fees
  • inspection and appraisal fees
  • loan closing costs, like prepayments of property taxes, interest, insurance and homeowner’s insurance or HOA dues, when the buyer is obtaining a loan with an impound account or as otherwise required by the buyer’s lender.

And the seller pays:

  • escrow fees (50/50 split)
  • broker commissions
  • a re-conveyance fee to their lender
  • buyers home warranty

However, ALL of this is open to negotiation. These are standard practices, but vary more and more in this market climate.

Also, be aware that with bank-owned properties the standard allocations are somewhat different. For example, banks often will pay for the buyer’s title insurance policy, assuming the buyer uses a title provider the bank chooses. Or, the bank may defer to the buyer to elect the title company at which point the buyer is responsible for title and escrow fees.

Also, costs like HOA transfer and documentation fees, city and county transfer taxes, and even escrow fees are often negotiated between buyer and seller. Additionally, many times buyers agree to “pay” their customarily allocated fees, but then negotiate a closing cost credit from the seller that covers some or all of that.

Loan closing fees vary significantly by loan type (i.e., FHA vs. conventional). Also, transfer taxes also vary widely in different California counties; I see transactions where buyers need to be prepared to pay anywhere from 2 to 6% of the purchase price in closing costs – depending on the location. Again, this can be reduced if the buyer is able to negotiate for the seller to pay some or all of their closing costs.