Thursday, May 28, 2015

Tips to Buying Your First Home: And being successful

When I graduated college at age 22, my life changed far more than just a diploma in my hand. I became a registered nurse, I got married, I became pregnant with Elliana, and then I found myself sitting at an unusually long table signing approximately 100 pieces of paper that stated something around the lines of, "I will be a responsible individual and pay for this home." Andrew was in grad school at the time, so it was my income that we were solely basing our first home on, and an income that was only 9 months new at that time. Talk about life changes and taking on a very large financial responsibility all at the same time.

So is it safe to say that I had a few jitters sitting at that table with all these grown-ups all around me with some probably assuming that we would fail? Yes, I did. But I also sat there with confidence. Because I didn't just wake up one day and say, "Today sounds like a good day to buy a house." In fact, it's far more complicated than that. The preparations, the planning process, and the steps that needed to be taken in order to get to that place: to that table.

Here are some basic tips when thinking about buying a home:

1. Look at what you can afford. Really, look. Take a look at what you bring home and what you pay every month in regards to bills. A common rule of thumb that I have heard is to look at homes that are 2.5 times your annual salary. I'm going to challenge you to actually make a spreadsheet and look a little deeper. For some, they have higher student loans than others {some may not have any at all}, and also factoring in the important things like car payments, cell phone bills, cable, gas, food, and projected bills like electricity, gas, and sewer. You can call your local gas and electric companies to get an estimate of what you may be paying ahead of time. Do this. After you factor in all those necessities, make sure that you leave yourself room to actually live. 

2. Stick to what you can afford. Very important. You have made a spreadsheet, you have calculated your finances, you have crossed your t's and dotted your i's, and then you find yourself on the website looking at slightly higher priced homes that get you to fall in love and somehow convince you that you can wiggle some numbers around. Don't do it! Trust me, it's tempting to want to compare and see what is out there, but believe me when I say this: no good will come of it. It will only make you want something that you know you shouldn't have. Don't be Adam and Eve.

3. Check your credit. Make sure that before starting this process you are aware of your credit score, any dings on your credit history, and any open accounts that you may not be aware of. Something I found out while we were applying for our loan is that my parent's mortgage popped up on my credit history because my mom had {before I was married} the same exact name {I share a first name with her as well}, and we obviously lived at the same home. Even though we had different social securities numbers, it still looked like I had a mortgage already out on my name and it took a couple of days for them to confirm that it was not in fact me. During your application process, the lenders will look closely at all these numbers and your credit score will be very important in telling them how much a risk you are and your probability of affording the mortgage and paying it off on time. If there are any questions, discrepancies to clear up, or credit cards you can pay off, do so before you start. It will make things go much smoother, and not to mention, faster.

4. If you can, put 20 percent down. We didn't have this sort of cash, and as a result we had to pay a fee which was known as "mortgage insurance." Essentially it gives the mortgage company a little cushion when taking on a risk with someone that cannot bring as much to the table. Unfortunately for us, and you, it meant that we had to add on $50 every month to do so. With our next home, we won't have that problem, but it's often the case with first time home buyers to have to pay mortgage insurance.

5. Ask your lender about closing costs. Every lender varies, and some have costs that others don't, so be sure to ask about your specific lender's closing costs and an estimate of what you will need to bring to the table to close. For us, we were able to negotiate with the seller to pay closing costs, but remember that is not always the case and these numbers are in the thousands.

6. Factor in renovations. Do you plan on doing remodeling right away? Even something as simple as painting multiple, if not all, rooms in the house can add up quickly. Do you want to buy perhaps a home that is below your price range and spend more money out of pocket making the changes that you want? Those are all things to consider, and those are all things that actually played into our first home. We stripped our house from top to bottom, and literally made it our own. I love that about it. It looks nothing like the day it did when we first opened the door, and I am so proud of the hard work and effort that went into making this home its best. Is it still done? Absolutely not. But when do house projects ever feel complete? 

 7.Think about the future. I know I mentioned looking at your finances at that present moment in time, but you need to also remember to look at the future. For us, I was pregnant. I knew that I would be working night shift and that I would not be relying on day care {that was our plan}, but I imagine that is not the case for many people. If you don't have kids and plan to have them in the future, think about the cost of day care {again in the thousand range}, and how that plays into what kind of home you can afford. Other things could include your need for possibly a new car down the road, or if you are planning on going back to school. And lastly, don't forget that homes also come with repairs. Often times, these repairs are not planned and they can be pretty costly. Plan for that and give yourself enough freedom to be able to afford unexpected expenses.

Are you ready to buy a home and want a resource to turn to?

The Capital One Home Loans Online Neighborhood is a free online resource about home buying with helpful articles and videos. You can also read about Capital One's Home Loans and the offers they have available.

Buying a home is an important step and certainly one that comes with challenges and great planning. Capital One's new online resource guides you ever step of the way with giving you all the home-buying terms to be familiar with, an overview of the loans available, and the documents you will need to apply for a loan.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A little girls trip +Graham to the mountains.

At the beginning of the month, my mom, sister, the kids, and I all decided to take a trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Andrew and my dad were both going to the Derby with my in-laws in Louisville as a yearly tradition, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to take a girls trip {+Graham man} to somewhere we hadn't been before. After doing a little browsing online, and flip-flopping back and forth between Gatlinburg and Tennessee, we finally settled on Gatlinburg.

My next dilemma was whether we would get a cabin, a condo, or a hotel. All had it's perks, all had its downfalls. Inevitably though, I went with the cabin because after talking to others who have made the trip themselves, it was the consensus by all that when you visit Gatlinburg you MUST stay in a cabin. And I have to agree. When  you visit Gatlinburg, please do stay in a cabin.

The drive was around 6.5 hours, but with the two stops that we made, it ended up being approximately 7 hours. I did all the driving mainly because I knew I was carrying the most precious cargo and although I know my mom and sister are great drivers, I would be a nervous wreck the whole way through just worrying about it. Plus, I really don't mind it and find it to be quite peaceful actually.

Not to mention, it was beautiful and never left you bored.

We were able to check in early when we arrived which was great because we arrived a couple hours prior to planned, and it was nice to be able to put all our luggage away, get cleaned up, and lounge for a little bit. The bedroom downstairs had a large Jacuzzi tub that the kids were dying to get in, so water was turned on, bathing suits put on, and splashing away. And the big kids were also excited about their fun tub outside too... the hot tub.

One thing I learned about Gatlinburg is that it's like a "standard" for all of the cabins to have hot tubs. A hot tub that has the most beautiful views out there. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to get in, seeing as how I was pregnant, but because ours barely got hot, it was just right. Actually, it was just right for the kids as well who saw it as their opportunity for a "pool." I think we went into the hot tub about 3-4 times a day. And a little part of me was almost convinced that we needed one back home.

Just a little part.

We spent all weekend just shopping around the downtown area, which was beautiful {and fun} all at the same time. I think the overall theme was to get you high on sugar because there were ice cream shops, fudge shops, and candy shops on every corner that you looked. Hey, I'm not complaining.

We also had the opportunity to go to the aquarium, which was something everyone raved about, and definitely was fun and exciting for the kids. We loved it {minus the sharks that the kids feared}. I have to say though that for 3 adults and 2 children, spending $100 was a little over-priced. We only spent an hour in the aquarium, and I think if the kids had never been to an aquarium it would have been well worth the price, but since the kids had already been to 2 different ones, it wasn't quite as exciting for them. Or us. But I can also understand that to keep the aquarium going, they have to have ticket prices be that high so I guess it supports all the animals if you look at it that way.

Probably the most fun the kids had was going to the arcades. Which I think is funny and sweet at the same time because that was definitely my favorite thing to do as a kid. Playing those silly games where you have to follow the light and hit the button right on time, or the fishing games, or even driving the cars. And then going to pick out your cheap plastic toy with the precious tickets that you worked so hard to get.

The wonderful thing about Gatlinburg is that there is SO much to do. I cannot wait when the kids are bigger and we can go rafting, we can go on the sky tran, we can go hiking, and so much more. Not only when the kids get bigger, but also when I'm not pregnant.

If it's just a drive away, I would definitely recommend going. Three days is perfect, and probably 4 would be ideal if you plan on doing lots of activities.

The best part of all though was just sitting around the table with my mom and sister, listening to music, and laughing hysterically at the kids dance moves. Relaxing in the hot tub and breathing in the fresh air. Wondering if the bears were going to come out and play. And scaring the crap out of my mom every time we had to drive up the big "hill" to get to our cabin.

Being together was the best part. Simple as that.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Shark Rotator Powered Lift-Away Review: The Abilities are LIMITLESS!

This is a review post for The Shark Rotator Powered Lift Away, all opinions and thoughts stated are that of my own based on my experience with this product. 

When we first moved into our house, 5 years ago this month, the owner of the home had installed new carpets as a means to try to sell the house quicker. Although it sounded great at the time, and I am sure it beat the alternative {nasty old carpets}, the carpets that they did choose to install were definitely the lowest quality out there. We knew right away that this would be something that would have to go in the future. When? We weren't sure,  but we definitely didn't think that we would still be in our home with the same dreadful carpets as we are today. And so here we are, present day 2015, stuck with terrible quality carpets and even worse, reminded of this fact every time we look at them. Which is every day.

I blame it on having 3 babies in five years and completely losing track of time. Not to mention, we flipped every room in the house from top to bottom, and at the time we were more concerned with getting rid of the old versus the new. But this year is going to be our year. I am certain of it. I had been talking to Andrew about it since the beginning of January, and we had both made a mutual decision that we would have new carpets installed downstairs as well as the upstairs hallway before the year was over.

We were ready to take the plunge last month, earlier than we had anticipated {we truly are very antsy about getting this big project out of the way}, until something magical showed up on my door. Literally, it is as though a bright light came shining down on my doorstep and the angels were singing when I opened up the door to find The Shark Rotator Powered Lift Away just sitting there waiting for its home. A home that was in desperate need of saving, and carpet that had never understood the real definition of clean yet. I was astounded by the results, and I vacuum now more than I probably care to admit. Let me walk you through The Shark, step by step.


Easy to Assemble

I am not one to follow instructions, and also not a handy person by any means, so when  The Shark Rotator Powered Lift Away arrived, I thought that I would have to wait until my husband came home before being able to put it into action. That is until I became so anxious and excited just by staring at this box sitting in my living room that I convinced myself I would be able to do it. I didn't have to open a single instruction manual, and it only took me about 5 minutes to put together, but I was able to put it together on my own, and better yet with ease.

Upright Mode with Advance Swivel Steering.

One of the things that surprised me the most when I turned the vacuum on was the immediate power. I felt like I was there to just guide The Shark Rotator Powered Lift Away, and it was doing all the work. There was no loss in suction while vacuuming, and it was so easy to maneuver around small corners as well as under couches. UNDER COUCHES! That gets an exclamation mark. Sure, it doesn't get completely underneath, but just enough to pick up this crumbs that the kids inevitably leave behind. And the heavy coffee tables that I no longer have to push to the side just to get right under the edges.

Powered Life-Away Mode

With just a push of a button, I am able to transform The Shark Rotator Powered Lift Away into a handheld machine that allows me to take it to hard to reach places including the ceilings, the stairs, and other corners that involve crowed spaces.

Hardwood Capability

Again, with a simple push of a button, I can change the power level to have the ability to clean my hardwoods throughout. And it works wonderful and picks up things that my old vacuums never could {most never even had the function}.

Complete Seal of the System

I never understood how the filter in our old vacuum was able to trap all the allergens and dust that I was vacuuming, and that's because it actually wasn't. With the The Shark Rotator Powered Lift Away, it is completely sealed and therefore hold over 99.9% of the dust that it picks up, leaving your air nice and clean especially those who own pets as well as those with allergies.

Pet Owners Customer Satisfaction

Being a pet owner myself, and one to a dog that sheds, I have to say that The Shark Rotator Powered Lift Away has definitely solved one of the biggest problems in our house: pet hair. It comes with pet upholstery tool that makes cleaning those couches and loveseats so much easier and efficient.


My only complaint would be that it is heavier than most vacuums I have owned, but I have to say that I'm not sure that would constitute as a complaint seeing as how I believe it is because it is better made than any other vacuum I have ever owned. And better yet, they solved this problem by making the main body just a click away from being a hand-held device.


5/5 stars. I would recommend it to all my family and friends {in fact, I already have}.
My carpets look so good that we have even delayed getting new carpets for another 6 months.


At only $249, this is a price that simply cannot be beat. For the quality, the features, and the overall design, I cannot imagine spending a penny more for any other vacuum. And I have to say, after owning many vacuums that were middle-of-the road {and have all broken on me within 2 years}, I would definitely say spend the money on a good quality vacuum that will definitely make your carpets look cleaner than you have ever seen them before.

Invest in one. Gift one {or many}. Whatever you do, you have to try it out!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

I've made $2,500 in 1.5 years by simply "Shopping Online"

**Not a sponsored post, simply sharing an awesome program!!

With double cash back rewards going on now at Ebates for Memorial Day Weekend, in combination of all the other savings that online stores are offering, I couldn't help but tell you guys AGAIN about this awesome program.

No gimmicks. No strings attached. Simply FREE money for shopping online {and referring your family and friends to do the same}. And by shopping online, I mean shopping at the places that you do. You don't actually shop at Ebates, you shop at Target, or Walmart, or Macy's, or American Eagle, etc. Wherever you shop, Ebates tracks it and gives you a percentage back. Seriously.

For instance, I just got 8% cash back for placing an order at Macy's. An order I was going to place anyway for a friend's wedding registry, and in return I made $10 back.

How do you get paid?

Every 3 months they send you a check. A check. Cold, hard, cash.

How to make more money?

Refer your family and friends, and if you simply refer THREE people and they shop online during the 3 month period {who do you know that doesn't shop online these days, besides grandma}, you get an extra $75 back.

Don't believe me?

Link to Ebates

I've made $2,500 in the 1.5 years that I have been signed up. Where was I before? Losing money I guess!

Happy Shopping!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Our Vacation Video. The impact. The tears. The GROWTH.

Over the weekend, I finally decided to sit down and finish putting together our vacation video from last summer. Yes, ten months later. The reason for that being is that I was skimming through my computer files upstairs and started watching the videos that I had put together from the previous vacation years and realized that I had yet to finish the one from our last vacation. And well, with another one coming up, I thought I better get on it.

I think around the time that I started putting it together the kids were both arguing about something, testing my patience, and completely misbehaving and I have to be honest and say I was stressed. Frustrated when I sat at the computer, urged my husband to go do something with the kids before I lost it, and decided to get something productive done so I could get my mind off of the crazy.

Then I opened up the videos and pictures and started to put the pieces together and as I started watching the formation of it all, I began crying like a baby. Looking at my kiddos, listening to their sweet voices, and wanting to touch their baby like features right through the computer. I couldn't stop watching. I couldn't stop replaying it over and over again. And I couldn't help but forget any frustration I had felt just moments before. Why? Because it didn't matter. Because looking at my kids in these videos is what truly matters. Watching them discover the beauty of our Earth. Watching them bond and love on their cousins, uncle, and my parents. Watching them just be... kids.

I think sometimes we need little reminders like this. Videos like this. To show us what life is truly all about, and all that other stuff in the middle {the nonsense} really doesn't matter. It passes. Kids grow up. And then... well.... kids grow up. That part is what sinks in the most. It's amazing to look back on these videos and watch how much my oldest has changed just in a matter of 3 years. Drastically. Andrew told me "I can barely see her in there." She's grown now, but yet she still seems like a baby girl to me. And my youngest is a little boy now. And to think now I will be on vacation again with another child in my belly and that one day she will grow up and be running her little feet through these exact same beaches.

It's a lot to take in.

These videos had such a great impact for me over the weekend, put a lot more things in perspective, and really challenged me as a mother.

And to think.... what will they do to me 20 years from now?

Memories, in the form of pictures and videos, are truly one of the greatest gifts in life. I see that. And I want to hold on to that for as a long as I can.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

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