Monday, November 30, 2015

5 Tips for Surviving Cyber Monday

A TV worth braining Granny for in the UK last year.
Courtesy Daily
Did everyone survive Black Friday? If you're reading this, I'm assuming you haven't fallen to the zombie hordes during a fight over portable electronics or accessories.

And if you are one of the lucky ones who made it out alive (and with some remnants of currency left in your pocketbook), then you're probably already embarking on the joy and terror that is... *enter Rod Serling impersonater* CYBER MONDAY.

Even though you'll be doing it from the relative safety of your a computer screen at work or at home (possibly even in your jammies and you lucky SOBs know who you are), there are still plenty of perils to be avoided and on this spendiest of weekends. The biggest of those perils is too often overspending. Just because it saves you $100 now doesn't mean you really NEEDED that combination Roomba/Coffee Maker/Wine Decanter, right? So here are some quick tips to help get you through Cyber Monday with sanity AND money intact:

1. BUTCHER THE HELL OUT OF YOUR LISTS. Make lists, check them twice, then ditch anything you don't really need. Now think about everything you just hauled off to Goodwill during your last cabinet and attic raid and remember how excited you were to get those gadgets on sale. NOW go through the list again and try to imagine how long before you shove this year's gadget of your dreams to the attic... and then to the Goodwill pile.

2. STAY ON TASK. Those ads, those beautiful colors, the flashing lights... all telling you how much you need this multi-function foosball/ping-pong/air hockey/puzzle table to reinvigorate your family game nights. Ooooh! Or this at-home soda maker with healthy and all natural additives, and some nearly natural colors. DON'T GET DISTRACTED *whiplash*. If you go into your Cyber Monday shopping knowing that you need a Star Wars present for little Becky, vacuum for Mom, or to replace your threadbare towels in the guest bathroom, stick to it. No buts, just do it.

Edina and Patsy are fabulous, but
probably poor choices.
3. DON'T SHOP ALONE. There's no shame in admitting it - it's hard to police ourselves. If nobody sees us cheating on our diet, or splurging on that little item, it doesn't count, right? Wrong. And we know it. That's why this tip is true for every day of the year - don't even go to the grocery without a watchful eye if you can help it.

4. PICK A RESPONSIBLE SHOPPING BUDDY. It should go without saying, but make sure that the person you choose to help keep you honest this shopping season isn't a shopaholic fashionista in faux-Target slacks.

And last, but not least...

5. DON'T SHOP HUNGRY. Did you think that was just for grocery shopping? Heck no. As any Snickers commercial will tell you - hunger makes you crazy. At the very least, hunger can make you rush decisions and react more negatively to situations that normally wouldn't ruffle you, like when the website inevitably crashes and makes you start over just as you're buying the shopping cart you painstakingly filled. (ah, technology...) Make sure you start your Cyber Monday on a full and happy stomach, otherwise you'll be adding a monitor to your list to replace the one you just threw out the window.

Until next time - HAPPY SHOPPING!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Surviving the next month...

I wish I could just enjoy Thanksgiving without having to worry about Christmas right around the corner. I feel worse every year for cutting back on the shopping and cards and decorating... but there just doesn't seem to be enough time for it all!

And the stores aren't helping. "Come in on turkey day," some of them say. "Spend less time with family and spend your money here!" And the only way to stop them is to not shop. But some folks just can't resist the deals. My poor holiday is going under!

Black Friday is also scary. I know some folks who have come away with great deals, I myself have joined a relative for one special item or two and I'd rather avoid it. The hectic hustle and bustle sort of taints the "meaning of Christmas" and sours the gift giving, for me. But I know some people love it - and it's part of their holiday tradition. More power to them =)

Cyber Monday - okay, good. I'll take those deals. But I fear one of these years all that data exchange is going to drown the internet! And then where will we be? Ah!

Here's my advice to have a less stressful holiday season (which I intend to do every year, but usually get sidetracked)
  • START EARLIER - I know it goes against the natural order to start thinking about Xmas in September, but we don't have to say it. Just buy a little at a time and put it to the side, like a secret squirrel. Sometimes this can backfire and you overbuy, so keep a list and check it twice (ho ho)
  • MARK YOUR CALENDAR - I really need to pick goal dates to have things done by - gift buying, decorating outside, decorating inside, wrapping, and especially putting together and mailing the Xmas cards! Can you believe I already got one? Eesh!
  • REMINDERS - I have a ton of things I'd like to do in December that I always forget about - crafts with my boys, caroling, visiting a shelter, seeing the Nutcracker, ice skating... I need to set reminders on my phone.
  • MAKE IT FUN - last year, my boys helped me decorate the tree like it was a time-consuming chore. I was so sad! This year, I'm going to spice it up. I'm going to put the tree near the TV and add some Christmas cheer with a movie and treats - I might even add a competition angle for them. Hopefully they will be a little more spirited!
How do you make it from Thanksgiving to Christmas? Or whatever holiday you enjoy in these cold winter months? As for my friends on the warmer side of the globe - I wish I was there! Ha ha ho ho!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Weary and dreary

I'm proud to say I was born in Plymouth, Mass. So Thanksgiving has a special place for me. As a kid, I visited the Rock (the original Rock) many times on field trips.

We know the story, but do you know what the pilgrims really went through? The voyage across the Atlantic Ocean took 66 days - Over two months at sea!! And imagine the storms they encountered toward the end of hurricane season (September & October). And with all those people crammed on the Mayflower, ew! That would make a great Survivor - living on a boat for 39 days!

Very determined people! I admire and respect them so much more when I think of what they went through.

And once they finally landed, it took them another month to decide where to settle - they chose Plymouth on December 25th. How bout that!

All we have to do is endure our relatives and try not to overeat! Be thankful.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

(For more about the Mayflower crossing, here's my Source)

Monday, November 23, 2015

I'm glad I wasn't a pilgrim

Those pilgrims were tough people. They made a horrendous ocean crossing, then built their homes, suffered horrible new diseases, and finally survived a grueling winter. Their numbers dwindled, but many survived. And here we are!

But those early settlers were also inventors - we are always searching for a way to make life easier and solve life's problems! Check out these gadgets I saw at a museum this summer, from games and entertainment to clothes washing and cooking... each new generation wants to do it better!


I can't remember what some of this stuff was, but it was so cool to see it all. I can just hear the grandma of these inventing pioneers, "In my day, we washed our clothes on rocks at the stream."

I doubt I would've been tough enough to survive. I can't imagine living without electricity or plumbing. Heck, I can't imagine living without a dishwasher. I despise cooking and cleaning as it is - I'd never be able to kill a chicken, pluck the feathers, and butcher it for dinner! Ack!

But then again, I probably would've been fine not knowing what I was missing. Just like I don't know what I'm missing in the future - What will they think of next??

What could you "not live without?"
Happy Monday!

Friday, November 20, 2015

I Can't Live Without White Vinegar

The emergency supply cabinet for Really Real Housewives must include white distilled vinegar. I always have at least a gallon on hand. Why? Because it’s inexpensive, non-toxic, and can be used for lots of household chores. It also substitutes for things that I’m out of and am too lazy to go into town for. 

Got Gum in your carpet or on your upholstery? If you have kids, you just might. Put white vinegar on a sponge or on a cloth and apply it to that sticky mess. Let it soak a few minutes, the when it’s loosened, wipe it off. 

How about unwanted decals and bumper stickers? 

Got those, too? Spray them with full-strength white distilled vinegar and let it stay on for about an hour. You might have to repeat a couple of times, but while you’re waiting, read your romance novel or write it. 

Any haze on the inside of your windows? Here’s a number for a great window-washer . . .just kidding. While you’re waiting for those decals to shrivel, use some of that vinegar spray on those windows and they’ll sparkle.

How about too many cukes in next summer's garden? White vinegar to the rescue. Here's a quick recipe for white vinegar brine: 
  • 1 cup White Vinegar 
  • ½ cup water 
  • 1 tablespoon sugar 
  • ½ tablespoon salt

I’d much rather grab my handy container of vinegar, than troll the cleaning supply aisle with a shopping cart. Just call me Lazy! But better yet call me Real.

C. Lee McKenzie
In Lee's writing, she takes on modern issues that today's teens face in their daily lives. Her first young adult novel, Sliding on the Edge, which dealt with cutting and suicide was published in 2009. Her second, titled The Princess of Las Pulgas, dealing with a family who loses everything and must rebuild their lives came out in 2010. Double Negative (2014) was her third young adult novel. Researching it turned her into a literacy advocate. Her fourth YA, Sudden Secrets came out in December 2014.

When she really wants to have fun, she writes middle grade books. Alligators Overhead was her first published book for readers age 8-12, and the sequel, The Great Time Lock Disaster, is now out.

Lee's website

Great big cookie thanks to Lee for helping add flavor and offer solutions for us housewives!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What Not to Do for Your Health

Yikes! Who Knew?

When I was thinking about what to post on Wellness Wednesday I did a little research. I thought I'd find a healthy exercise routine to share. Instead, I found some things Not To Do if you're concerned with your health, and who isn't?

So I'm sharing two things I learned from my little excursion into the Internet world of health.
  • We're into the winter months and most of us have closed our windows and turned on the heat. If you're like me, you miss that fresh air of summer. Do you reach for the aerosol? Light one of those delicious smelling sandalwood candles or find the incense?  


John Naish of the British Daily Mail has written that some of these products are making us sick. He even says that incense, such as agarwood and sandalwood, are more toxic than tobacco smoke.  

But wait! There's more.
  • In a recent study, 79 percent of mascara tubes were plagued with staph bacteria and 86 percent of women in the study admitted to using mascara past its prime. One very helpful hint I gleaned from the article is this: set up a calendar alert for dumping your mascara 3 months from purchase even if it's still moist. 

Now here's something healthy to DO. 
I tested it and it's actually pretty good.  I'm not glowing yet, but I'll let you know if that happens.

Glowing Skin Smoothie

It's packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that infuse new life into your skin. (I can use some new life infused into my skin.)
Here's how to make it...
Ingredients (for 2 servings)

  • 2/3 c. of almond milk
  • 1 cup of Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup of your favorite berries (blueberries are best!)
  • 1/2 of an avocado
  • Handful of spinach or kale
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
Generous drizzle of organic honey
1 small banana
A few ice cubes (more for a frostier smoothie, fewer for a creamier one)
Put all of the ingredients into a blender and pulse until no lumps are visible. Serve immediately. Drink as often as you like... of course, every day is best!
If you're not a berry-lover, pineapple is a GREAT choice to get an extra dose of collagen-boosting Vitamin C... and it tastes like a tropical vacation in a glass!

C. Lee McKenzie
In Lee's writing, she takes on modern issues that today's teens face in their daily lives. Her first young adult novel, Sliding on the Edge, which dealt with cutting and suicide was published in 2009. Her second, titled The Princess of Las Pulgas, dealing with a family who loses everything and must rebuild their lives came out in 2010. Double Negative (2014) was her third young adult novel. Researching it turned her into a literacy advocate. Her fourth YA, Sudden Secrets came out in December 2014.

When she really wants to have fun, she writes middle grade books. Alligators Overhead was her first published book for readers age 8-12, and the sequel, The Great Time Lock Disaster, is now out.

Lee's website

Monday, November 16, 2015

5 Little Tricks to Meet Monday

and Survive. . .Smile, Even.

Please welcome C. Lee McKenzie - guest posting all this week! She's got a clever cure for Making the Most of Mondays!

You've had a wonderful weekend. You were with friends or family and relaxing, maybe planning the holiday get-togethers. Then whammo! It's Monday. Just the thought of dragging your bones from the bed and off to work is making you think about spending money on Lottery Tickets! With millions you could retire! But the fact is your chances of winning those millions before the alarm stops ringing are nil. 

Up you go, but for help with that transition from a horizontal to a vertical Monday, read on. 

1. Have something fun planned with your family or friends for Wednesday. 

2. Write something sweet to yourself Sunday night and put it where you'll find it first thing Monday morning. "Dear Me. You are amazing.  Today's going to be the best day for you."

3. Save a huge treat for yourself to have later that day. Plan to buy a new something or other. Schedule a Monday massage in the late afternoon. Save the last chapter of that thriller for Monday at lunch. Choose a quick dinner--leftovers, take-out, or better yet, out-out. Let the restaurant do the dishes on Monday night. You can look forward to that from the minute you wake up.

4. Do a quick routine that refreshes you once you're out of bed: a stretch routine, meditation, warm bath or shower, freshly brewed tea or coffee or freshly squeezed juice or smoothie. 

5. Have something you love the taste of set aside just for Monday morning--that chocolate donut that's not good for you, but you can enjoy once in a while or the spinach omelet with your favorite cheese. Don't cut back on Monday mornings. 

C. Lee McKenzie
In Lee's writing, she takes on modern issues that today's teens face in their daily lives. Her first young adult novel, Sliding on the Edge, which dealt with cutting and suicide was published in 2009. Her second, titled The Princess of Las Pulgas, dealing with a family who loses everything and must rebuild their lives came out in 2010. Double Negative (2014) was her third young adult novel. Researching it turned her into a literacy advocate. Her fourth YA, Sudden Secrets came out in December 2014.

When she really wants to have fun, she writes middle grade books. Alligators Overhead was her first published book for readers age 8-12, and the sequel, The Great Time Lock Disaster, is now out.

Lee's website

Friday, November 13, 2015

It's Football Time

As a mom of four boys, I do a lot of football watching. From August to January, football is what's happening in the Seckman house.

Whether it's live football at the stadium, fantasy football online, or games on TV and the subsequent moderator chit chat of what they just is a 24/7 sort of habit.

I wasn't always a fan of football, but I decided I wasn't ever going to beat them, so I may as well join them. So after years of the football life, I have a few survival tips.

*Sleeping bags for cold winter nights in the stadium. Yup, just your standard sleeping bag. It's so much better than a blanket. You can stand up, cheer, sit down...all within the confines of your toasty warm cocoon.

*Cheap/clear rain ponchos from the discount stores deflect rain and still allow you to show off your team pride.

*Cheap and easy noise maker? Drop pennies in a milk jug and use it as a shaker. Be sure to duct tape the lid on. I once blew my cap in my excitement...pennies everywhere.

*When it's cold, rainy, or snowy- forget fashion. Go hoods up, hats on and add as many layers as you need. One of the great things about football season is that men are too distracted by the action on the field to care about anything else.

*Invest in a water proof bag. My football purse is water resistant and big enough to hold the camera.

*Water proof shoes. No matter how dry your body is, if the tootsies get cold, you're cold.

*Warm boots. When the season goes from rainy to snowy, it's time to switch footwear.

*Learn the game. Here's a football for Dummies website. It's a complicated game. Knowing the rules makes it more fun.

But if you can't, or don't want to learn it...there's other interesting ways to enjoy football. You don't have to know anything about the game to participate. There is more than one way to pick a winning team!

Next thing you know, it will be Superbowl Season...and we'll have the snacks and commercials to look forward to.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Wonders of Water

Water really is wonderful.

It's cheap.

It's easy.

It's essential.

The only thing more important to survival is oxygen.

When the body is dehydrated, it often confuses thirst with hunger causing people to over eat. A dehydrated body is also more prone to muscle pain, fatigue, head aches, depression, constipation, wrinkles. and illness.

A well-hydrated body is like a well-oiled machine. The water circulates all the organs and muscles detoxing the body. If the body is running short on fluids, the detox cycle suffers. Just like a car that's short on oil, the body's systems will function at a lower level. The muscles and brain will ache. The body will feel sluggish and slow, leading to feeling blah which can lead to depression. Even the eyes, when lacking proper hydration, will burn and feel fatigued.

Keeping the body tissue supple causes the skin to be smoother, younger looking. And it also keeps the mucus membranes more pliable and resistant to germs. Not to mention it keeps the bowels moving, which possibly cuts down on the risk of colon cancer.

There really are no arguments against drinking water...unless you're planning to drink it from a puddle.

So come on! Drink some water!!!

*If you find the flavor boring, add some lemon. Or lime. I've often heard people like it with cucumber, but I've never tried that.

*Want to save some money? When eating at a restaurant, order water with your dinner. It will save you at least $2.00 per diner.

*Carry your own water bottle and fill it with tap water. When it's time to clean it, soak it in vinegar water over night.

Most places recommend shooting for eight, eight ounce glasses per day. To make sure I stay hydrated, I used to keep eight pennies in my kitchen window and move them from one side to another. It always amazes me how much better I feel when I drink my water.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Procrastination Tip

Here's a tip I've learned from last minute, way too far behind, desperation.

You've had all day to wash your hair, but you didn't. Now a friend wants you to meet her at the mall and maybe grab dinner. You have four options:

1. Wash and blow dry leaving your friend waiting so long she regrets ever calling you.
2. Go greasy. (Gross.)
3. Go wet. (You can bet it will dry either fuzzy or flat...enjoy.)
4. Dry shampoo.

That's right- dry shampoo. It's not just for Fido. They make it for humans too.

You can pick up a can at Walmart. Or any drug store or online store, but if you're anything like me, you're going to be in Walmart fifteen times this week trying to remember all the things you forgot to get the first time you went there.

A bottle of dry shampoo is as cheap as a bottle of real shampoo, but it takes an eighth of the time.

And no, I'm not suggesting you stop bathing, but if you're like me, my hair is dry and curly. If I wash my hair daily, it strips the natural oils and before you know it, I'm looking like Roseanne Rosannadanna.

You do remember Roseanne Rosannadanna, right? If not...

She's hilarious. The hair? Not so much.

Thick, course hair is actually more manageable on the unwashed days. If you're planning an updo or want a head of manageable curls...don't wash it. Now, nobody wants to be stinky. That's where the dry shampoo comes in handy to absorb the oils and smells.

Here's how it works:

*Brush hair, but  don't over brush. Just get the tangles out.
*Spray hair toward the root without spraying directly on the scalp. If you get the spray too close, you'll get powder puddles.
*Allow to dry completely. Maybe spray hair first, then do make-up while it dries.
*Bend over. Finger comb and fluff the freshly unwashed hair.
*Avoid brushing. Brushing moves the oils from the scalp, down the strands making it look limp and greasy.
*Style and you're ready to go! Now,'re probably running late!

**Additional note! Be certain to get a spray shampoo that matches your hair color. Not only does it look more natural, but it will help hide those overgrown roots. Now, that's a bonus!!

Enjoy your Monday. Skip the shower. Take a hot bath when you get home.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Tiny Vacation!

Happy Friday, everybody! 6 weeks ago today, we were on our way up to Nashville. Some people go to Nashville for the music. Some people go to Nashville for the shows.
The Nashville Tiny House was so adorable!

We went for the kick-ass Tiny House.

I love tiny spaces. Seriously. I'm a natural nester and have been for as long as I can remember. Even as a kid I always found the tiny forgotten spaces to hide in with a book and a flashlight, whether it was under the coats in a closet or in the hidden space behind the old entertainment center. The more it felt like a cocoon, the better.

Go ahead - call me crazy. (You wouldn't be the first!) But it's no surprise that I jumped right on board when the Tiny House movements started building steam. It's economical (which really speaks to my heart), it's practical, it's low maintenance, and it's friggin' adorable. Be honest, ladies - who here DIDN'T want to live in their dollhouse as a kid?

We found it on and knew we were going to love it as soon as we saw the fun modern/industrial exterior. Inside, it's about 185 sq feet of cozy awesomeness that made a perfect weekend escape for us.

Chill time in the Sky Palace!
My favorite part was the sky palace - a place of absolute peace and nesting heaven that boring people might refer to as a "loft." Since this weekend was all about R&R, we kicked back with drinks and Netflix and ordered in. (Note the lovely puppy dog pajamas in the pic)

This was more than a vacation for us, though. Since we're planning to build our own Tiny House within the next two years, it was also a test run to see how it really felt living side by side in a space this small. We passed with flying colors! Although, I would strongly recommend to anyone considering it that a powerful bathroom fan is a must-have, marriage-saving addition to a teency living space like this. Seriously. Spare no expense! ;-)

View from the Living Room: Kitchen and Bath  are nestled under the loft bedroom, AKA Sky Palace

When Inspiration Strikes: The hubs working on the design for our own Tiny House.

Think you're up for the experience? Chances are there's a Tiny House rental near you or wherever you're headed for your next vacation. Most of these are managed by individual owners, so a search on for "Tiny House" is your easiest way to find them. Have fun with your tiny vacation!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Fruitalicious Dried Snacks

Happy Wednesday, peeps! If you were hanging out with me Monday, you might have picked up on the fact that I’m kind of a fiend for saving cash. I’m a DIY-er driven by an obsession with not paying for anything I might be able to do on my own. Or possibly trade pizza and a 6-pack for.

So sticking with that theme – let’s talk about fruit! Dried fruit, that is...

C'mon, don't act like you haven't seen this in your crisper.
In my 2-person household, we have the bad habit of buying fruit and then forgetting about it in the mysterious depths of the crisper drawer until it sprouts a carpet and/or terrible smell. Out of sight, out of mind, you know. We WANT to eat healthy, but in our busy lives snacks that come pre-packaged and non-sticky tend to be the first thing we grab. Anyone who's ever tried to eat a plum on the drive to work knows exactly what I mean. And has a sticky steering wheel.

After we threw away another package of spoiled apple slices, my wonderfully brilliant husband decided that we should try our hand at drying it and making fruit snacks and trail mixes. If you buy trail mix or dried fruit for your family, you know how pricey it can be in the store for the natural products, and the cheaper ones end up being mostly sugar and preservatives.

So yes, what I’m saying is this is totally a win-win.

Being the thorough engineer that he is, he did the research on what kind of dehydrator would be the best for us and we settled on this one for us based on the size, ratings, temperature settings and price. There are so many options out there and you can spend anywhere from $20 - $200 on a dehydrator, but even some of the higher end ones had terrible reviews. 

Lesson: Unless you like throwing money away for fun, do the research!

After lots of trial and error and some rather interesting experiments, we discovered that our favorites are thinly sliced dried pineapple chips, cantaloupe/honeydew, cinnamon apple slices and watermelon chips.

That’s right... Dried WATERmelon. Counter-intuitive, isn’t it? But O....M....G.... Dried watermelon ultimately tastes like watermelon candy and has a taffy-like texture that will become your favorite sweet snack. And getting healthy snacks in the house that your family WANTS to eat (and quite possibly fights over) is its own reward!

Left to right: Dried Watermelon, zucchini chips, fig slices, sliced/seasoned tomatoes,
honeydew, trail mix, and cinnamon apple slices. One giant pile of YUM.

The snackalicious possibilities are endless with a dehydrator and there are resources a-plenty on the web to give you great ideas to try. Here’s a few to get you started:

Fruit leather guide: These are basically homemade fruit roll-ups with any fruits you choose. It’s the perfect solution for those overripe fruits you don’t want to just throw away. Not to mention delish!
Kale Chips: My favorite is garlic and cashew
36 Foolproof Recipes: This’ll get you started, and then some!

Now that your mouth is watering and your pocketbook is ready for a refill, go salvage your fruit drawer!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Mortgage Straight Talk - Choosing a 15-yr or 30-yr term

HI EVERYONE!!! I’m Ashley, and I’ve been looking so forward to sharing this first post with you guys. This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart and it's a little bit long (in true soapbox fashion). But I promise it'll be worth it!

Here’s the scenario: Think back to your experience buying your first house, maybe even your second or third house. At any point during your purchasing experience, did the mortgage consultant or sales rep really give you the full picture of a 15-yr vs a 30-yr loan? OR give you the tools to make the analysis yourself? Chances are you, like most Americans embarking on purchasing their first or second home, never heard the difference between the two aside from the monthly bottom line, let alone the myriad reasons why one might be better for you than the other.

And that, my friends, burns my biscuits.

If you’ve heard much about them at all, you’ve probably heard the common wisdom that you can keep your payments flexible and lower by choosing a 30-yr and making extra principal payments each month to pay it off in 15 years. And if you’re planning on staying in the house for more than 10 years and having payment flexibility is a concern in your budget, this is a rock solid plan. HOWEVER, there are two big caveats that keep this from working for the majority of the population:
  •        The average length of time homeowners stay in one house now is only 5-8 years, and
  •        It takes a lot of discipline to keep ignoring the calls of life redirecting your extra cash to the mortgage when it isn’t required on the bill. You know what calls I mean.... We are waaaay to good at justifying purchases to ourselves, especially when it’s something for the household and not directly for us. That shiny new TV was for the family, not us, right? RIGHT? 
So what considerations do you really need to keep in mind when deciding if a 30-yr or 15-yr is right for you? I’m glad you asked! The following checklist assumes 100% financing since it’s the most common loan for first time homebuyers.

A 30-yr mortgage is probably right for you if:
  • You can only afford the payment on a 30-yr for the loan amount you’re seeking.
  • You plan to stay in the house for at least 10 years (even better if you can make the extra principal payments)
  • You plan to invest the payment difference responsibly in retirement or other funds that will yield growth at least relative to the difference in the interest payments
  • POSSIBLY for the income tax reduction. See the notes on Taxes below to help you weigh the impact of the added deduction.

A 15-yr mortgage is probably right for you if:
  • You can afford the difference in payment easily – then take the 15 hands down. No contest!
  • You only plan to be in the house 5-7 years. Even if you think there’s a chance you’ll have to put your house back on the market in that time. See the chart below for the evidence as to why a 15-yr knocks a 30-yr out of the water in the short term.
  • You are close to retirement and foresee a need to reduce living expenses. Home equity lines of credit can be powerful financial tools in the case of emergency or illness, but they require equity.
  • The interest rates are higher. When the rates go up, the benefit of a 15-yr over a 30 really explodes.

Taxes (AKA, payin’ the Man):
I’ve had the conversation with many friends who were convinced that they needed the higher interest for the income tax deduction come April 15th.  After we did the math, that only turned out to be true for about half of them. If the higher interest will reduce your taxable income enough to lower your tax bracket, then this is probably a strong consideration for you. If not, you can estimate the value of the higher deduction to your tax savings as:
(Taxable Income2 x Tax Rate) – (Taxable Income1 x Tax Rate) = Tax Savings
In other words, if you make $75,000 a year in a 25% tax bracket with anticipated itemized deductions of $13,500 with a 30-yr loan or $12,000 with a 15-yr loan, your tax savings for paying $1,500 more a year in interest is only $375. Surprising, eh? And not in the awesome finding-money-in-the-laundry kind of way, either.

The Really Real Numbers - Finally!
WHEW! Time for a breather! If you’ve hung with me this long – you are a rock star. Finances are never fun reading, but our home is the biggest asset most of us have, so knowing how to get the most out of it is crucial to our family’s financial well-being. So, if you’re the finance-savvy rock star I think you are – this next part is for you! To play with the numbers and make them match your circumstances, download the full amortization schedules here for each of the scenarios demonstrated below.

Below is a summary of what to expect from the first 5 years of 3 different $150K mortgages:
  • A standard 30-yr loan with no extra payments
  • A 30-yr loan with extra principal payments (the total additional payment is the average of the principal payment cost over the 5 years)
  • A standard 15-yr loan with no extra payments

The loans use the current rates listed on a national bank site as of 10/23/2015 and assume 0% down payments with a start date of Jan 1, 2016. Total Escrow (insurance/property taxes) + PMI has been estimated at $245. 
Terms: *Equity Earned = Original Loan amount less the Principal Balance After 5 Years
**Net Gain = Equity Earned less Total Interest Paid. Interest Paid represents the cost of the loan. The goal is to minimize the cost of the loan while maximizing Equity Earned.

Still hanging in there with me? Then you probably just noticed that Option A left you in not much better shape than having paid rent for 5 years. Granted, your sales price may be higher than what you paid 5 years ago, but in this buyer's market there are no guarantees. Then you get to add in the cost of any repairs you'll be required to do (that can include appliance and carpet replacement, roof repairs, costly structural issues, etc), the 6% broker's fee, and the other closing costs sellers are expected to pay in markets like we're in now. Even after paying down your mortgage nearly $15,000 in 5 years, you could still end up paying out of pocket to sell your house. And I can promise you that it really does happen. In fact, it happened to me just a few years ago. 

That was when I vowed that "With God as my witness, I will never go [uninformed] again!" And hopefully I can also use these experiences to help others make the best decision for them along the way.

Thanks for sticking out my first post with me, friends! I promise the next post will be more light-hearted ;-)  In the meantime, don't forget to download the amortization schedules tool for your own use!

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