Be a DIY Diva!

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    Buying a House
    Probably the most expensive single purchase you will make, buying a house can also be the most stressful experience of your life. Finding the perfect house, getting a loan and then finally signing the papers are just the first steps to getting into your new home. Here are a few steps to saving money when you buy a house:

    • Get two pre-approval letters from your lender, one for the maximum amount you can get and one for a lower amount. When you make an offer on the house, give the seller the lower letter and they will think that’s all you can pay.
    • Never tell your real estate agent your top price. The more money you spend, the more money they make off commission, so instead give your agent a range of prices.
    • Have the seller pay the closing costs to raise the selling price. The seller will get his money back and you won’t have to come up with more money upfront.
    • Don’t do any major finances before buying a house. Every time someone runs your credit report, your credit score goes down between five and nine points. Your interest rate goes up as your credit score goes down.  

    Shopping for Appliances
    After you buy that house and get moved in, things are going to break. Hot water heaters will break and leak water all over your floor, causing you to have to replace the carpet. Homeowner’s insurance will take care of some of the bigger expenses, such as wind damage from a tornado, but you’re still stuck holding the bag for those incidental expenses. It really may be a blessing in disguise when your old washer goes out. Sure, you’re going to be out the money for the new unit, but newer appliances are more energy-efficient so you’ll actually be saving money on your energy bill. Just don’t let the salesman talk you into the extended warranty, especially if your new appliance comes with a one-year warranty. The cost of the warranty is usually more than the cost to repair your unit.   Another topic of interest when buying a new appliance is what features you actually need. It’s nice to have the newest, flashiest model on display, but it won’t be kind to your wallet. Instead, look at floor models or hit a “scratch and dent” sale. You can find a discounted model for a fraction of the cost.


    Remodeling Your House
    Maybe you found a fix ‘er upper or just need to make some changes to the house for it to be your dream home. Or maybe you don’t want to move your house, just some things around in it. Remodeling gets expensive, but you can save some money by stopping to set some priorities. Before beginning to remodel, decide what you absolutely cannot live without and what you can save on. If you can find a few smaller things to cut back on, you might be able to afford something bigger down the road. Just be careful cutting corners on highly visible objects such as drywall or trim work. You want that decor to look top-notch. If you are the do-it-yourself type of gal or you have someone who can do some work for you, save money on a contractor by getting some free labor. Also, make sure you take into account your financing options. Be sure that you are getting the best possible rate so your interest charges don’t end up costing more than the improvements on your house!


    Save on Your Energy Bill
    Going green in your home isn’t just kind to the environment. It will leave more green in your wallet each month as well. Replacing all of your appliances can get costly, but having Energy Star appliances will save you money down the road. There are a multitude of other ways to save on your energy bill. Check out this Web site to learn more.



    Paying for College
    It had to be a college student who coined the phrase: “You have to spend money to make money.” Never is that saying more true than when a tuition bill comes due. Whether you are still finishing school, thinking about going back or have children or grandchildren who will one day enter college, paying for higher education gets more and more costly every year. The best way to save for college is applying for federal student aid. Free scholarship searches online, such as and a quick Google search can help you find free funding. Take advantage of whatever services you can use to cut down on college expenses.   If you are finished with college and have children or grandchildren who plan to go, do them a favor and start saving early. Most banks offer accounts that can have a child’s name attached to them so that you can save money for your child, but your child does not have access to spend it until a certain age.  


    Planning a Wedding

    Every little girl dreams of the perfect fairy-tale wedding, and every father dreads paying for it. However, with a little bit of care, you can accomplish your fairy-tale wedding without bankrupting your family!:

    • Don’t invite your third cousin twice removed. Sure you’re forgoing that gift, but do you really thing someone you barely know is going to give you that much? Cutting your guest list can save tremendously at the bar and dinner table.
    • Have your wedding on a Sunday or weeknight. Typically, Saturday is the most expensive day to get married and if you pick any other day of the week you can get some form of discount. Make sure to point out to your vendors that your wedding is on a weeknight to ensure that you get the discount.
    • Scour eBay for everything from your dress all the way down to your favors. You can find almost anything on eBay, usually for much less than anywhere else.
    • Scale down your invitations. Skip the inner envelope and blotter paper and you’ll save money both when you order your invites and when you mail them. You almost need to take out a second mortgage for postage these days.
    • Have a Wedding Web site. Save on the printing, postage and hassle of RSVPs with online wedding tools such as

    Take Your Dream Vacation
    First, you will need to find out how much money you need for your vacation. Shop around for the best airfare and hotel or rental rates and get a rough budget laid out. After that, you can figure out how much money you need to save to get where you want to be. Start your aggressive savings program by shaving some corners off your everyday spending. Find some ways to save on your grocery bill or set aside all the money you save on your energy bill after you get your Energy Star appliances. If you need to raise some money on top of what you are saving, consider having a yard sale or selling some of your junk on eBay. Remember, one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure! As you start stockpiling money like a miser, open a savings account to stash it in. It’s safer than having cash laying around and harder to spend than if it’s sitting in your regular checking account.  


    If you start saving for retirement early in life you can accomplish one (or both) of two things: an earlier retirement date or a more lavish retirement. If you plan right, the last years of your life can be the best! Think about investing in a Roth 401(k). You can save tax-free as long as you wait until you are 59-and-a-half to withdraw from the fund. You can put more into it than a Roth IRA and0608AURA.jpg there are no income limits. If you find something enjoyable enough, you can still work after you retire. Consider working 10 or 15 hours a week to keep you busy and to earn a little extra spending money. But what if you’ve waited until your 30s or 40s to start saving for retirement? You can still save for retirement, you just need to take a more aggressive approach. Start by maxing out your contributions. Put as much money as you legally can into a 401(k) and IRA. Be sure your funds are invested in something that is going to give you a high return on your investment. And remember that while your 401(k) plan may be aggressive, it may just be costing you money. High risk stocks are a gamble.  


     No One Wants to Talk About This…
    Let’s just face it up front. Passing on can get expensive, but planning ahead can save you money and make things easier for your loved ones. If you know where you want to have your final resting place, contact them to make arrangements. Some places offer a pre-need discount and can set you up on payments that will allow you to take small bites out of that unpleasant bill.


    Child Care
    It may seem odd, but the cost of child care can be a major life expense. The task of finding someone you trust to care for your little bundle of joy (or energy) and not having to use your first born to pay for it is a task in and of itself. Talk to your employer and find out if your company has an agreement with any local childcare. Sometimes you can get a workplace discount. Try finding a friend or relative that can take your child for a couple of days a week. You can get a discount on day care costs and your friend or relative will be cheaper as well!   In-home child care is also typically cheaper than a day care center, and your child will get more individual attention. The child care provider will have fewer children to have to tend to daily and will be able to spend more time interacting and working with the children.


    Photo: Neysa Ruhl Photography
    Location: The McAlpin
    Model: Michelle Kelly

    Makeup Artistry: Cecily Claytor, Zoë Custom Cosmetics