5 Mistakes to Avoid when Selling Your Home

Note from Cathy: Our next guest post while I’m out on vacation is by Andrew, who gives some great advice if you are thinking of selling your home.

homeIt may not be easy to sell your home especially when the property market is getting unpredictable. Before putting up your home up for sale, it is imperative that you first understand and learn from the common mistakes local home sellers commit. Knowing about them could help you avoid committing the same.
It is not easy to sell a home. But it may not be too difficult as well. You could possibly sell your house at an ideal price and sooner if you would avoid committing the common blunders according to expert property sellers. Here are five of those blunders you should avoid.
Mistaking previous appraisals for the current market value

It is a big mistake not to get the most updated estimate of the property prior to its sale. The real estate market is moving constantly. The actual and current valuation of your property may not be accurate today especially if the appraisal was conducted more than 6 months to 12 months ago. Your property-for-sale could be priced lower or higher today compared to the recent valuation.

Not getting a sworn valuation

A sworn market valuation could provide you with the best and most accurate pricing structure for your property. You surely would not want to spend thousands of dollars on advertising your home at a very expensive and unreasonable price (which would not attract any buyer). Prospective buyers surely would also run their own valuation of your property. Make sure you get a valuation from independent valuers to make sure the price obtained is fair and accurate. Most agents are also knowledgeable in valuing properties, but they may have hidden agendas for setting prices.

Selling at auction

Putting your home at an auction would only put pressure to yourself. Many experts assert that auctions only condition sellers’ minds to accept low prices for their properties. Do not easily give in if your agent is convincing you to join an auction. Even the ‘dummy bidding trick’ (a practice that is aimed at setting higher prices for properties for sale) is not recommended.

Setting selling price too high

Many home sellers end up not finding good buyers for their properties because they set sale prices too high. You surely are tempted to set a high price range for your home because you intend to negotiate it a little down from there. The result: good buyers who really want to buy the property could be instantly turned off by the very expensive tag price.

Setting selling price too low

On the other hand, do not set a price that is too low for your property. If you succeed in selling your home without proper valuation, you might forever be wondering if you could have possibly sold it at a much higher price. Actual valuation of the home might reveal you surely could have done so.

Lastly, intend to sell your home to a buyer who you think would take care of the property. It is ideal if you sell at a good price. But it could be better if you sell to the right buyer. Good luck.

Andrew has contributed to numerous real estate blogs. He specializes in refinancing solutions for both consumers and businesses.

Tips to Save on Groceries

In today’s economy, food is just so expensive. Unless you are wealthy, it can be hard to make ends meet. Next to rent or mortgage, groceries are usually the largest expense in households with more than 1 or 2 people. And fortunately, unlike your mortgage, you can do things to reduce what you spend on groceries.

Many people do not feel like they have time to clip coupons, make a meal plan and shop by what’s on sale each week. But if you don’t, you are throwing money away. If you have time to watch television, you have time to plan your meals and grocery shopping. In fact you can do most of it while you are sitting in front of the TV.

If you read my post on Meal Planning you know how I do my meal planning and grocery shopping. But my way is not the only way.  Here are some tips I use or know others who do them:

  • Many of those who are really in to couponing, (my sister in law does this) carry a 3 ring baseball card binder around when they shop. Each page in the binder has clear pockets where the coupons go.  My S-I-L  leaves a few of the pockets on the first page for coupons she plans on using on her next shopping trip. As for the other pockets, each pocket holds coupons for certain type of items. One pocket may hold shampoo coupons, another may hold yogurt coupons, and so on. She has these pockets organized by the way the store is organized. For example, she goes to the produce section first, so any produce coupons would be in one of the pockets on the first page. You could also organize it alphabetically or by more general categories such as all health and beauty items on one page, all meats on another, etc.
  • If you don’t want to go to all the trouble of a binder, you could go more simply and just use an envelope. Get an envelope out of your junk mail, and write your grocery list on one side. Put a “C” by anything on your list that you have a coupon for. Then put your coupons in the envelope.
  • Eat before you go shopping. And if you have a sweet tooth like I do, eat something that is sweet. Doing this keeps me from buying all the junk like ice cream, cakes, etc. that I don’t need.
  • If you can go alone, do it. If you have to bring the kids, prepare them by making sure they are not hungry, If they are school aged and up, get them to help by retrieving items for you. If they are younger, bring a favorite toy or better yet, a toy they only get to play with when shopping with you. My daughters had their own little Fisher Price shopping cart that I let them push around. My son had a special video game for his Gameboy that he played with while sitting in the cart when I shopped.
  • When walking down the aisles, look at the bottom shelves for cheaper alternatives. Also some of the top shelves too. The shelves at eye level will usually have the most expensive products.
  • If you have a freezer, stock up on meat when it’s on sale. Stores have a sale cycle. I can count on every 4 weeks my local grocer will have boneless, skinless chicken breasts on sale for $1.99 a pound. I stock up with enough to last us until the next sale.
  • Sign up for your stores mailing list and savings card. You will get a weekly circular with what’s on sale that week. Plan your meals around the sale items.
  • Only buy what you know you will use. And only buy what’s on your list.
  • Two of my favorite grocery sites are  grocerysavingtips.com and couponsuzy.com. Check them out.
  • One of my readers reminded me about keeping a price list. Get a small notebook and keep track of the prices for things you buy and how much each store is charging for them. You will get a feel after awhile of where to shop for certain things and if it is a good deal or not.

Those are my grocery savings tips. Any others you want to share?






Knowing the Differences Between Real and Fake Charities

Fraud vs. Fact: Knowing the Differences Between Real and Fake Charities


Along with holiday cards and calls from family members and friends during the holidays, mailboxes, email inboxes and voicemails are bombarded with the messages from charities asking for money to support their cause. While some of these may be legitimate (Red Cross, Salvation Army, etc.), scammers often take advantage of the giving spirit of winter, using charities to fraudulently earn money and even to steal people’s identities.

Be Proactive

Whether you are visited by a door-to-door supposed supporter, asked outside your local grocery store, emailed or called, take a proactive approach to donating by doing research to protect yourself. Do not give any potential scammer the opportunity to take advantage of you. You are not obligated to return messages, read emails or have conversations with people that you do not want to. Identity theft protection is fiercely important not only during the gift giving season, but for all seasons. Staying up-to-date on the latest protection and tips, like on Lifelock’s Twitter page, will help keep your personal and sensitive information locked down.

How to Tell?

Start by asking for the charity’s name, address and phone number; the truth is in the details. Ask the person if they are a professional fundraiser and what percentage of costs will actually be going to the fund. If any person pressures you see it as a red flag as well as anyone asking for cash donations or offering a collateral for gifts for donating. Some scammers will try to mock well known charity uniforms and logos, do not be fooled. Do some research on the organization, look up state-wide locations and officials on the National Association of State Charity Officials website.

The Right Status

It’s smart to only support organizations granted tax-exempt status under section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code. The IRS grants tax-exempt status under this code, under this groups are required to meet a specific criteria one major factor being that in order for the charitable organization to be able to receive donations it must not work in favor of private interests. legitimate organizations will be granted this. Do not donate to groups whose status is still processing or declined as your money is not guaranteed to go where you want it to go.

Research the Company

Research how charities determine their CEO’s salary. According to Charity Navigator “the most efficient charities spend 75% or more of their budget on their programs and services and less than 25% on fundraising and administrative fees.” Another important aspect of organization life to look into is the groups consistency and ability to withhold long-term projects and growth. being able to sustain these two things shows security. While researching, it’s important to take the company’s transparency and willingness to divulge information to the public. If you are committed to change in your cause, research the actual impact an organization has made in research, government and social policy. Is this organization worth putting your money towards?

Author: William Hernandez After covering his local school districts for his community newspaper for five years, Will launched his own freelance business where he writes about education, community and social topics.
photo credit: EricGjerde via photopin cc







The Four Top Apps to Use to Track Your Savings

Note from Cathy: The following is a guest post about the different phone apps available to help you save money. I don’t know if you have a smart phone or not (I have an iphone and don’t know how I could live without it) but if you do check these out.


Top Smart Phone Apps to Save Money

Looking to save more money this year? Whether you’re saving for a down payment on a house, a new car, your child’s college education, or just for a rainy day, you can use your smartphone to help you track your savings. In November 2011, the personal savings rate in the US was about 3.5%, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. If you want to beat that rate this year so that you can really be prepared for the future, these four apps will help you:


Mint is one of the most popular financial management apps out there. To use it, you have to have an account at Mint.com. Your Mint account will automatically link up to your bank and credit card accounts, so that you can get automatic updates on all your transactions.

The Mint app is helpful, as well, because it will allow you to set and track goals. Set up a goal to save $5,000 by the end of the year, and it will tell you how much money you need to save each month to get there. If you’re a visual sort of person, the Mint app can be helpful, too, because you can watch yourself reach your goals or hit the limit on your budgets with nifty colored bar graphs.


If you want to track your savings goals as well as other personal goals, the 42Goals app might be for you. It has a simple layout, but it’s very in-depth. It gives you many different ways to visually track various goals, including your savings goals. You can log daily expenses or monthly savings, and track your goals as you go. Want to save a certain amount of money each week? It can track that. Do you need to use your gas credit cards regularly but pay them off each month? You can track that, too!

42Goals can be a better app for you than Mint if you want to track multiple types of goals – not just financial ones. It’s also helpful for tracking financial goals if you aren’t comfortable with an outside program like Mint accessing your personal financial data through your bank or credit card company.

College Savings Apps

Depending on the program you use for your child’s college savings account, you may be able to get an app for this account. College savings accounts apps are helpful for tracking how much is in savings as well as how the accounts are doing investment-wise, since most accounts set up specifically for college savings are invested by the company that runs them.

A college savings app can also be helpful if other people are making contributions to your child’s college savings account. With an app, you can easily see when Grandma makes a deposit for your baby’s birthday or when Aunt Lucille gives her some college money for Christmas! With an app like this, you can track how much you’re putting into savings for your child each month or year so that you can see how well you’re meeting goals in this area.


This app is a social mobile app that lets you set savings goals for yourself and see your friend’s savings goals, too. You can access your accounts from the SmartyPig app, and you can even do transfers to your savings goals straight from the app.

The SmartyPig app is great if you have a few savings goals for different things, because you can track several goals at once. The main interface will show you what percentage you’ve reached on each of those goals, and you can share in Facebook or Twitter how close you are to reaching various goals. Since you can easily add additional funds to any of your SmartyPig goals, you can decide to skip out on the latte at Starbucks and put $5 towards a goal, instead.

You can also link your SmartyPig account with your SmartyPig Cash Rewards Card, and the app will let you see exactly where you can get cash back by location. Whether you’re getting gas rewards or rewards for buying groceries, this can mean more savings for you.

Ashyia Hill from CreditDonkey.com says using apps like these can help you reach your savings goals faster, if only because they’ll keep your savings goals right in front of you! Instead of having to wonder where you’re at on saving for something specific, apps like these can help you keep careful track of your saving, which will make you want to save even more!