Pay your mortgage off early….on ONE income!

MORTGAGE.  One word included in many household conversations.  The mention of this sometimes unavoidable financial responsibility makes people cringe.  Paying off your home loan is a homeowners dream.  There’s no better feeling than walking through the front door of an OWNED home.  It’s mine….finally!  The process of paying off your home can be a long and stressful period….even for the most financially stable household.  How can you possibly live on one income and pay your mortgage off early?  I’m a new homeowner living on one income and this is my strategy for eliminating my monthly mortgage burden.

1.)  Buy What You Can Afford

Buying a home is one of the biggest financial decisions individuals will make during their lifetime.  It takes careful planning and negotiating.  Your future goal is to pay off your mortgage; therefore, buy a home within or under your price-range.  Buy what you can afford!  It’s easy to lose focus when buying your dream home.  With so many homes on the market, it’s tempting to buy a home out of your budget.  After all, the mortgage would only be an extra $200 a month!  Don’t do it!  Buying more house than you can afford is decreasing your chances of PAYING your mortgage….forget paying it off early. My husband and I qualified for homes double our price range, but we knew our budget and what we could comfortably afford.  The amount of home you qualify for and can afford are drastically different.  Have a grasp on your monthly expenses before attempting the housing market.

2.)  Down Payment

You’ve now entered the housing market and hunt.  Homes have different financing options….which one do you choose?  Many will argue that the best way to create instant equity in a home is invest a minimum 20% down payment.  I agree.  It will decrease your monthly mortgage payment, eliminate the need for PMI insurance, and create equity.  It’s an excellent way to jumpstart your early mortgage payoff.  However, if a down payment is impossible, search for a zero down payment mortgage option.  Invest in sweat equity instead of instant equity.  With no down payment try to come in under budget when house hunting.  The saved funds can be used for future mortgage payments.

3.)  Eliminate Revolving Debt

Try to eliminate most of your revolving debt before tackling early mortgage payoff.  Credit cards, personal loans, car payments all contribute to revolving debt.  Decreasing or eliminating these amounts will make extra cash readily available for future mortgage payments.  I understand that some revolving debt is unavoidable, ie. car payments.  However, constant debt will hinder your mortgage progress.

4.)  Open A Mortgage-Only Bank Account

I chose to open a bank account that is dedicated solely to our mortgage.  Money is transferred into this account on a weekly basis according to our budget.  Our mortgage payment is readily available and temptation spending is eliminated.  Any extra money saved from our weekly budget is transferred directly into the mortgage fund.

5.)  Pay Extra Principle

You have a house you can comfortably afford, debt is at the bare minimum, and a mortgage fund has been established….let’s strategize and pay the mortgage off early.  Where is the extra cash coming from?  Your household budget!  You budgeted $1600/month for your mortgage, but actually pay $1500/month….$100 into the mortgage fund.  You allowed $200/month for utilities, but only paid $150 this month….$50 dollars into the mortgage fund.  The weekly grocery bill was under budget and you saved $15….mortgage fund!  At the end of one month, total your savings and contributions to the mortgage fund.  Apply that amount as extra PRINCIPLE on your mortgage payment.  It all adds up!

6.)  Amortization Schedule Calculator 

Still not convinced you can pay your mortgage off early on one income?  Find an online amortization schedule calculator and calculate your mortgage schedule for your existing loan.  Then, do the same calculation with an extra monthly principle payment of $100.  The interest saved will be incentive to start building that mortgage fund!  Right now, my husband and I are paying an extra $250/month toward the principle of our mortgage payment.  It doesn’t sound groundbreaking, but that small amount will enable us to pay our mortgage off  10 years earlier and save over $57,000 in interest!  Our goal is to OWN our home in about 7 years.  It’s going to require some creative money management, but the reward is worth the challenge!

Hopefully I’ve offered some encouragement to single income homeowners.  A 30 year mortgage doesn’t have to last 30 YEARS!  After relieving yourself of unnecessary debt, tackle your monthly mortgage payment.  Save and contribute as much as possible to the principle amount.  If not monthly, then every other month.  Use an online amortization schedule calculator and understand the long-term effects of additional payments.  Paying off a mortgage early with only one income can be accomplished….convince yourself of the benefits.  Do you have any mortgage payment tips for single income households?  Leave them in a comment.  Was this post helpful?  Let me know!  Take care and good luck!

What? Only one income?

Having children, becoming a caregiver, health concerns, or divorce are scenarios that attribute to a single income household.  How can you survive with limited resources?  Divide your life into two categories….necessary and unnecessary.  List everything that is either necessary or unnecessary to live.  Put monetary values on your necessary items. The total of these items becomes your family budget.  Now you have a starting point for living on one income!  Budgeting household expenses is vital in a limited income household.  Every dollar should have a purpose.  From food, electric, and gas to clothing, coffee, and Chinese takeout…each dollar is budgeted!  You’re reading this article because you’re preparing for the financial struggles of living on one income.  It’s difficult and stressful, but doable.  With the correct strategy and mindset, it can be achieved.

1.)  Learn To Cook

Yes….learn to cook!  Once you choose to live on one income, eating out becomes a luxury and falls into the unnecessary category.  Besides, home cooked meals are more tasty! Shop sale ads from your local grocery stores and make an itemized list.  This helps avoid impulse shopping and keeps you on budget!  Buy off-brand or bulk products when it’s more cost-effective.  Shop weekly instead of daily.  Your bank account will thank you!

2.)  Brown-Bag It

Whichever spouse is earning the income should consider brown-bagging it!  My husband and I save $100 a week using this concept.  One of the perks of home cooking is LEFTOVERS.  They make GREAT next-day lunches!

3.)  No Credit Cards

Credits cards are tempting.  And yes, I do have one for emergencies.  But, credit card debt is not welcome in a single income household.  You’re budgeting on necessities, not debt!  Charge now and pay later is a poor strategy when budgeting household expenses.

4.)  Negotiate Necessary Bills

Car and health insurance, electric and phone bills are necessities.  But, all provider companies are not created equal.  Contact your current providers and negotiate lower bills.  Current provider won’t negotiate? Shop around and find a more reasonable rate.

5.)  Try To Save….a little

Living on a single income tests your creative money management skills.  However, be sure to include an emergency savings fund in your budget.  Life has unexpected twists, so be prepared for those obstacles!

6.)  Have The Right Mindset

Be content with your future lifestyle before attempting a single income life.  Are you convinced that the rewards outweigh the struggles?  Can you give up your daily Starbucks coffee and night on the town to stay home with your children or care for your mother?  Are you willing to overlook that new car for a simple vacation?  You should be convinced of your answers before considering a limited income household.

My husband and I have successfully lived on one income for 11 years.  We live a simple and fulfilled life.  It’s not always easy, but definitely worthwhile!  As you adapt to your new lifestyle, you’ll create and utilize your own strategy for smart budgeting.  Add your money-saving tips by leaving a comment!  Thank you for reading!  Take care!

Farmhouse rustic on the CHEAP!

For the last few years, farmhouse rustic/distressed furniture has been the desired trend.  Buying furniture pieces with this desired finish can be quite costly.  So, how can you get the same look for less?  I put my creativity to work and this is how I successfully gave my furniture pieces a farmhouse rustic look on the cheap!

When you think farmhouse rustic or distressed, you think chippy peeling paint and a tattered appearance.  Your desired finish should look old, worn, and weathered.  It’s easy to achieve this look even if you’re not artistic….I’m certainly not an artist!  For years I was a stay-at-home caregiver living on only one income.  I didn’t have the luxury of spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on a distressed piece of furniture.  Using my lack of funds as inspiration, I decided to test my DIY skills to achieve my shabby furniture goal!

1.)  Choosing A Project Piece

Trying to decide what type of furniture to distress is an important question.  Too big of a project….you may lose interest; too small of a project….it may require too many details.  As for me, when chosing my starter piece, I chose a functional piece of furniture that would serve a purpose in my home.  Unlike some, I don’t have a huge house.  Therefore, whatever furniture I decide to makeover needs to serve some purpose….storage, accent table, end table, ect.

2.)  Where To Find It?

Once you figure out the piece, GO FIND IT!  I visit thrift stores, yard sales, free classifieds online….you never know what you may stumble across.  Remember, the least amount of investment possible is preferred.  I set my limit at $10-$20!  Try to find a project that doesn’t involve a lot of fixing….missing legs, missing half of a tabletop!  Make a smart purchase!

3.)  Supplies

Now that you have project piece, what do you do with it?  Go to a local store and pick up some cheap primer (latex), paint (latex), brushes, sandpaper (160 grit and fine grit), and polyurethane (water-based).  These five basic supplies are all you need to successfully finish many distressed furniture pieces.  I prefer to use latex or water-based primers, paints, and sealers.  They are SO much easier to clean-up and you can wash and reuse your brushes!

4.)  The Process

Clean your project piece with a damp rag and remove any dirt.  Now, lightly sand your piece with any grit sandpaper just to rough up the surface.  This will allow your primer to adhere better.  After sanding, wipe down the piece again and remove any dust.

Ready to primer!?  Using any type of paintbrush, apply the primer to the piece.  Let the brush strokes show!  I prefer using only one coat of primer.  This allows for easier sanding and a better finish.  Let the primer dry for 24 hours.

It’s primed, so LET’S PAINT!  Again, apply your favorite paint right over the primer.  Go crazy here!  Paint in all directions!  Show a lot of brush strokes!  These techniques add to the distressed look of your piece.  After you finish applying the paint, allow it to dry 24 hours.  At this point, it’s entirely up to you if you want additional coats of paint.  I usually apply two coats, but it’s all individual preference.

Finally we can sand!  Using your coarse grit sandpaper, start sanding your piece until you get your desired look. Don’t worry about messing up, it’s only paint!  You may want to wear a dust mask when sanding….it can get a little messy!

Everything is sanded down and you have your rustic look. Let’s preserve it for years to come!  I prefer a water-based polyurethane.  Some people prefer other sealers, but again it’s personal preference.  For me….whatever is on sale or the cheapest!  Remove any dust from your piece and brush on your sealer.  This is the only time I recommend trying to reserve your craziness and take it easy on the brush strokes.  Try to be consistent and go one way with your strokes.  It gives a more finished appearance.  After applying your topcoat allow it to dry at least 24 hours.  At this point, I prefer to gently sand the entire piece with fine grit sandpaper, wipe down, and apply a second topcoat.  This ensures a nice appearance and better preservation.

All done!  Now step back and admire your farmhouse rustic furniture piece.  Let’s not forget, you completed this project on the cheap!  Using my secrets to achieving that shabby look, get creative and showcase your DIY skills on more projects!  Let me see those finished projects by commenting below.  Do you have tips to add?  Comment below. Talk to you soon!

Tips on being a caregiver AND keeping your sanity!

By now most of you know my story….30-something woman, B.S. degree in Chemistry, full-time caregiver for 11 years.  How did I manage to successfully care for my grandmother and keep my sanity during the entire process?  It wasn’t easy.  I applied the same trial and error mentality I had used in my Chemistry courses to create a caregiving strategy.  The following day-to-day tips will help you create a balance between your caregiving duties and personal life.  Everyone needs balance!

1.)  Create a Routine

Although each day as a caregiver has unexpected twists, try to create a routine that’s beneficial to you and your loved-one.  An environment becomes less stressful when those involved know what to expect.  Feed meals and give medications at specified times each day.  Try following an effective sleep schedule.  A customized sleep schedule is vital in avoiding caregiver stress and burnout!

2.)  Make Time for Fun Activities

My grandmother was house-bound, so we spent A LOT of time inside the same four walls.  Planning fun activities enabled us to laugh and be active while being limited to the home.  Those activities included baking cookies, watching her favorite television shows, dancing or rolling (she was in a wheelchair) around to her favorite music, going outside in the warmer months to plant flowers and mulch the flower beds.  These little things kept her happy and me sane!

3.)  Remember Yourself

When caring for an ailing loved-one, it’s easy to forget yourself.  Your most important concern is the well-being of your patient.  But, try to dedicate some time to your own personal life.  An unhealthy caregiver is not beneficial to themselves or the patient.  Allow 30 minutes of YOU-TIME a day.  These 30 minutes may be available early in the morning, before your loved-one wakes or during your patient’s afternoon nap.  Whenever you can sneak a little time for yourself, DO IT!

4.)  Be Happy

Caregiving is a stressful situation and if given the opportunity your loved-one nor you would choose this life path.  Whatever the circumstance, your loved-one is dependent upon you for their well-being.  Never make them feel like a burden.  No matter how stressful the situation or lifestyle becomes, try to keep a smiling face.  It provides your loved-one with security and reassurance.

5.)  Ask For Help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help!  Short-term breaks can alleviate a lot of stress.  If given the opportunity, ask someone to relieve you from your caregiving duties.  Take an extended lunch break or arrange a date night with the hubby.  It sounds small, but those few hours will make the coming days SO much easier.

Caregiving is a stressful but rewarding experience.  As a caregiver you have the ability to create an amazing bond with your patient.  I’m so glad I chose to be my grandmother’s caregiver!  We created an unbreakable bond filled with happy memories.  GOOD LUCK!

Stoichi-what!?

Stoichiometry.  It has brought many General Chemistry students to tears.  Like so many students, I struggled with this concept when it was first introduced to me in my sophomore year of high school.  Through my learning experiences, I will hopefully help you understand the method behind the madness of this somewhat complex word.  Simply put, stoichiometry is a concept in Chemistry that describes the amounts of substances, either reactants or products, in a given reaction.   It’s based on the Law of Conservation of Mass….mass is neither created nor destroyed.  Using stoichiometry you can determine the amount of product produced during a chemical reaction using a coefficient ratio of reactant to product.  It sounds complicated, right?  It can be, but if you have read my other posts and have mastered balancing chemical equations, then you will easily see the direct correlation between balancing equations and stoichiometry.  In order to be successful at stoichiometry, you must have an average understanding of the fundamentals of balancing chemical equations.  So, if you have supreme confidence in your balancing capabilities, let’s get started with my tips on understanding STOICHIOMETRY!

1.)  Know the Terminology

If you’re going to succeed with the mathematical calculations involved in stoichiometry, make it a point to familiarize yourself with basic terminology and various phrases used to describe a chemical reaction.  Know chemical equation, mass of reactants, mass of products, molecular weight, molar mass, formula, mole, Avagadro’s number, coefficient, standard unit (mg, g, kg, ect.), conversion factor, yield, molecule, element, and atom. By understanding these terms you will optimize your knowledge of stoichiometric calculations.  Know the terminology the lecturer is using and stoichiometry will be more enjoyable.

2.)  Know Your Algebra Rules

ALGEBRA!  I had that years….I mean decades ago.  Who needs Algebra?  Every single General Chemistry student.  Algebra rules are the core of stoichiometric calculations.  Know the rules of exponentials, cross-canceling, cross-multiplying, parentheses, scientific notation, and most importantly significant figures.  This tip is fairly straight forward….familiarize and remind yourself of the forgotten Algebra rules.  Understanding, performing, and applying the mentioned mathematical operations will make stoichiometry a breeze!

3.)  Stay Organized

Performing any calculations requires a logical thought process.  But, when doing stoichiometry it is extremely important to keep your calculations organized in a step-by-step format.  Stoichiometric calculations usually require several step before arriving at a solution.  Write down each individual step in the calculation.  If 2+2=4 is a step, write it down.  Do not do multiple steps in your head and expect to remember them later.  Calculations, especially those involving chemical equations, can get very complex.  Staying organized and allowing yourself to see the visual logic of a given calculation will enable you to recognize any mistakes before arriving at an incorrect solution.  Take the extra couple minutes and go the extra mile….write down every step.

4.)  Units, Units, Units

UNITS.  DO NOT forget your units when trying to complete a stoichiometric calculation!  Forgetting units while solving a given equation will result in many hours of mind-boggling wrong answers.  Remembering units and staying organized compliment each other in stoichiometry.  A written step-by-step thought process allows you to include units for each and every number (where applicable) in a calculation.  This simple tip will make your entire Chemistry career SO MUCH easier.  One final word….UNITS!

Are you ready to tackle stoichiometry?  Follow my tried and true tips and stoichiometry will become easier as your General Chemistry course progresses.  Preparation and organization are vital in any Chemistry course, but are especially evident in stoichiometry.  

Try the given tips mentioned in this post….they worked for me!  If you have time, read my other posts covering the basics of a General Chemistry course.  Did you find this post helpful?  Let me know by leaving a comment.  Keep me updated on your Chemistry success.  Check back often because I’m always trying to simplify General Chemistry.  Thank you and take care!  GOOD LUCK!

That’s all I NEED to succeed in Chemistry?

You have registered for CHEM 101 and class starts next week….what do you need to pass the Chemistry course?  What supplies are going to help you ace this class?  Words of advice, “Don’t get caught up in technology.  Don’t overthink.  More isn’t always better!”  When taking a General Chemistry course, just stick to the basics.

1.)  Textbook and Solutions Manual

If you have read my other posts, I put a lot of emphasis on note-taking and practice problems.  Therefore, it’s logical that the two most important supplies for any Chemistry course is a textbook and the supporting solutions manual.  Most, if not all, of your course study will be contained within these two supplies.  Oh, and while you’re at it, invest in a few highlighters.  For those of you who own your CHEM 101 textbook and solutions manual, feel free to highlight key aspects of each chapter during lecture.  You bought it, use it!  If you don’t own the book and manual, highlight important chapter components on your notes.  The hidden gem that most students forget about is the textbook solutions manual.  It’s vital for passing any Chemistry course.  The manual doesn’t just contain answers; it contains the logical progression of any given problem in its entirety.  This step-by-step presentation enables the student to see the method for the solution.

2.)  Periodic Chart

Yes, yes, yes….I know a periodic chart is located in either the front or back of your textbook!  But, honestly, who wants to flip back and forth while trying to read and understand the chapter or complete assigned practice problems?  And, who wants to open your textbook every time the periodic chart is referenced?  No one.  Invest in a simple and inexpensive periodic chart.  Laminate and take it with you to every Chemistry class for easy reference.  This small hassle is definitely worth it!

3.)  A Simple Calculator

Remember when I said, “Don’t get caught up in technology.  More isn’t always better!”?  This advice is extremely evident when choosing the proper calculator for General Chemistry.  When deciding the make and model of your calculator, simple is better.  Choose a device that can perform all simple mathematical operations, including logarithms and exponentials.  Technological advances have enabled calculators to perform extremely complicated tasks.  However, for General Chemistry, opt for a calculator that is simple, inexpensive, and easy to use.  Chemistry can be an intense subject.  Focus on learning the subject, not the calculator!  Oh, and please do not depend on your smartphone for a calculator.  Many teachers and professors do not allow the use of cell phones in class.  I’m speaking from experience!

4.)  Notebook and Pencil

Really….notebook and pencil?  Yes, really.  Having observed a broad range of students in my Chemistry lectures and labs, I was always in awe of how unorganized and unprepared students were during class.  A notebook and pencil seemed obvious as supplies needed for any given Chemistry course.  But, to my surprise, students would show up to lecture or lab with a permanent marker and a sticky-note pad!  Invest in a good five-subject notebook.  Dedicate that notebook to General Chemistry.  Use a pencil instead of pens and markers.  Mistakes can be erased and your notes will not consist of white-out and scribbles.  Chemistry makes a lot more sense when you have legible notes!

Stock up on these basic supplies and you will be on your way to passing that General Chemistry course.  Don’t over-complicate the subject and the supplies needed to succeed.  I hope you found this post helpful.  Leave me a comment and let me know how you’re doing in those Chemistry courses.  If you have a minute, view my other posts covering study habits and exam preparation for General Chemistry.  Happy studying!  Thank you and take care!

 

Tips and Tricks for Passing a College Science Exam

EXAM.  That horrible word that plagues so many students attending any educational institution.  Why does an educator administer an exam?  The answer is obvious….to torture and tear down the minds of their students.  Just when you’re feeling secure about the presented material, the word EXAM or TEST creates all new mayhem.  That one word alone can make the calmest person shake and quiver.  However, our disapproval will never make these awful assessments disappear.  So, if you can’t beat’em, join ’em!  As long as students and teachers exist, so will EXAMS.  The preparation a student is willing to devote to an exam directly correlates with the overall outcome of that exam.  How are you going to guarantee a passing grade for your next college science exam?

1.)  Don’t Cram for that Exam

Usually teachers or professors will let you know in advance when each test will be during the course of the semester; sometimes two weeks, sometimes one week.  The moment your teacher mentions the possibility of an upcoming exam, that’s your cue to start studying.  Whatever you do, don’t wait until the night before an exam to review and study all of the material covered in previous weeks.  DO NOT CRAM.  Use every day prior to the exam to utilize your study skills.  By reviewing the material a little each night, studying doesn’t become so overwhelming.  By allowing yourself small segments of study time, the information presented during your lectures can be understood and not memorized.  Studying in advance will also enable you to discuss any questionable material with your teacher prior to the assessment.

2.)  Know Your Notes Inside and Out

Educators give you notes for a reason….to detail the information they find important in a specific chapter or lecture.  Therefore, it’s only reasonable that the upcoming exam will cover those detailed aspects.  Having taken and successfully passed several science courses, I found the majority of any science exam is composed of questions stemming from your notes.  After all, an exam is not only an assessment of what you know, but also how successful the teacher or professor was in conveying their message.  It makes total sense that teachers will include A LOT of their lecture on an upcoming exam.  Review your notes until you can recite them by heart.  Don’t just memorize the material; understand the material.  I found that rewriting notes in my own words helped me absorb and comprehend the information given during lecture.  I couldn’t just read the notes and make sense of the material.  I had to write, write, and rewrite summaries of my notes until the material was ingrained in my brain.  For those of you who are able to just read your notes and retain the information, I’m definitely envious!!!

3.)  Practice Problems

Who’s guilty of skipping the example problems embedded in or at the end of most chapters?  I’m 100% guilty.  Who has time to stop mid-chapter and do a practice problem?  Who wants to do chapter problems that weren’t even assigned as homework?  Nobody.  However, as my education progressed and I entered more demanding courses, I began to appreciate all of those problems within the textbook chapters.  I realized the unassigned practice problems were greatly increasing my chances of acing that science exam.  Remember when I said the majority of content presented on a science exam comes from your lecture notes?  The remaining content of the exam is composed of problems very similar to those within and at the end of each textbook chapter.  I’ve found that teachers and professors will choose MANY of their exam questions from chapter practice problems.  The exam questions, while not word for word, will mimic both assigned and unassigned chapter problems.

Try these three study habits.  They’ve helped me successfully pass seemingly impossible college science exams.  What tricks help you ace your science exams?  Let me know by leaving a comment.  Please share! Thank you again and GOOD LUCK!!!