Earlier this summer, I fell in love with a foreclosure in my area. It seemed like the perfect investment property; it was in a good area, had good bones, and just needed some basic cosmetic work — like replacing the carpet, stripping the wallpaper, and painting.

After stumbling upon the house, I drove past it several times. I had my heart set on buying it, but it wasn’t even on the market yet. I had no idea how much it was going to go for, just a rough estimate based on other properties in my area. I also didn’t have enough money for the down payment. Sure I could’ve (in theory) used my emergency fund for the down payment, but that would’ve been a pretty risky move.

Still, I had this childlike mentality come across me; the house looked like a diamond in the rough, and I wanted it!

I made a goal to save enough money to cover the down payment, closing costs, and a small renovation budget — a total of $15k. (Keep in mind real estate is fairly cheap where I live in the Midwest.) I also set myself a now seemingly unrealistic deadline: less than one year.

I started putting money away in June, averaging about $400 per month. While I’m glad this house motivated me to create an investment property fund, I’ve also come to the realization that I set a pretty unrealistic goal.

Because saving money takes time. [ continue reading... ]

One of the big expenses many of us associate with raising children is a college education. As the cost of college rises, and as more students graduate with crippling student loan debt, many people are wondering how they can prevent a debt-laden future for their children — without putting their own retirement at risk.

If you want to be ahead of the game when it comes to paying for college, the key is communication. You need to talk to your child about paying for college well in advance.

Here are some tips for making the most of your conversation: [ continue reading... ]

I remember that scorching hot July like it was yesterday. Money was tight, and the measly income I was bringing in barely covered the cost of part-time childcare. There were only two options to get over the hump: quit my job and desperately hope that a better opportunity surfaced, or find ways to make my money stretch.

So, out of sheer desperation, I scrutinized every dime leaving my bank account and started making phone calls to see what could be done.

Here’s who I called:

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As I enter my fifth month of pregnancy with my second baby, the inevitable is happening. Fewer clothes are fitting; and for me, expensive new maternity clothes aren’t an option. It’s hard to pay $30-40 for a dress I’ll only wear for five or six months. Of course, you could wear it longer — but most moms, like myself, want to get out of maternity clothes as soon as possible.

A lot of women suggest just buying bigger or plus-size clothing, which may work for some of you — but I think these tend to make you look bigger. Also, if you buy your clothes used at Goodwill, maternity items are around the same price.

Here are a few tips for saving money on maternity clothes, which I’ll be implementing in the next few months:

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If you haven’t already heard, the newest feature from tech giant Apple is a cash- and card-less payment system aimed at revolutionizing the way you shop. It’s called ApplePay.

The concept itself isn’t new; other companies have been offering versions of a mobile wallet for several years. The fact that we haven’t seen a massive switch to pay-by-phone (a 21st century redefinition of the term payphone, perhaps?) shows that this type of feature either isn’t deemed useful or safe enough by the majority of smartphone users. Still, Apple hopes that by adding their own twist and reputation, iPhone customers will become mobile payers.

Here’s what you need to know about ApplePay:

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Earlier this year, I renewed my Costco executive membership. On top of the $55 annual cost for basic Costco membership, it cost an extra $55 and offered 2% cash back on all my purchases.

I had the following goals in mind:

  • Go to Costco for products I’d normally buy at the supermarket
  • Don’t spend more just to earn cash back
  • Earn enough cash back to pay for next year’s membership

That was five months ago, so I wanted to see if I was on track to reach my goals. [ continue reading... ]