• Should You Buy When Mortgage Rates Are at Record Lows?

    This past week, mortgage rates hit a new record low, bottoming out at a 3.79% average for a 30 year loan. A fifteen year mortgage is now at 3.04%. This is compared to rates that were 4.64% and 3.82% a year ago, respectively. To put that in perspective, if you have a $200,000 home loan, …

  • APR, APY, and Mortgage Math: A Real World Example

    I have lots of readers here in the central Iowa area, so it came as no surprise to me that when I began hearing an ad frequently on local radio advertising a particular mortgage product in terms that were a bit on the confusing side, I received an email about it. Jim writes in: I …

  • Why Not Walk Away from My Mortgage?

    Kelli writes in: My husband and I are sitting on a thirty year mortgage (with twenty six years left to go). We still owe $330,000 on our home. A week ago, a very similar home to ours two blocks away sold for $220,000, so we’re under water by at least $100,000. We are thinking of …

  • Raising Deductibles to Save Money on Insurance: Does It Work?

    One common, painful bill that we all face is the insurance bill. Whether you’re talking renters insurance, home insurance, or car insurance, the bill feels painful because it’s not something we can often directly see the benefit from. It just comes in handy when something goes wrong. One of the most common tactics that you’ll …

  • Rent or Buy Is a Stickier Question When You Look at Real Lives

    Howie writes in: My wife and I have been running our own home-based business for three years now. We rent and work out of a smallish 2-bedroom apartment in the very expensive SF Bay Area. One of those bedrooms is an office that we both share as an office. We spend day in/day out working …

  • Home Buying (and Other Big Purchases) as an Emotional Purchase

    A few months before we bought our current home, my wife and I toured literally dozens of different houses, trying to find one that was right for us. We had come up with a budget for our purchase and knew what our firm spending cap was. On one bright spring day, my wife and I …

  • The Total Money Makeover: Pay Off the Home Mortgage

    This is the tenth of twelve parts of a “book club” reading and discussion of Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover, where this book on debt reduction is teased apart and looked at in detail. This entry covers the eleventh chapter, finishing on page 202. The next entry, covering the twelfth chapter, will appear on …

  • How to Organize a “Working Party”

    Eventually, every homeowner finds a sizable home improvement project that they’d like to tackle. Perhaps the project is rebuilding a deck. Maybe it involves putting new concrete in the driveway. Whatever it is, it’s big. You could tackle it yourself, but you’d be working on it after work for weeks, losing many, many hours that …

  • Bigger Dreams, Smaller Houses

    A few years ago, there was a very widely circulated statistic from the National Association of Home Builders about the increase in home sizes over the last sixty years. According to their numbers, the average American home grew from 983 square feet in 1950 to 2,434 square feet in 2005. I grew up in a …

  • New Year’s Resolution Workshop #3: Save for a Down Payment

    Over the next few days, we’re going to take a look at five common New Year’s resolutions that people often adopt for their finances, evaluate some of the traps that people fall into with regards to that resolution, and come up with some real actions that can turn a challenging New Year’s resolution into a …

  • Are You Insuring the Irreplaceable?

    A few weeks ago, I decided to spend a few hours looking carefully at all of our insurance policies. I knew in general how most of them worked, but in many cases I was a little fuzzy (or more than a little fuzzy) on the specifics. As I studied our homeowner’s insurance policy, I was …

  • Some Thoughts on the Small House Movement: Is It Something Worth Considering?

    Over the last week, several readers have written to me with various comments, suggestions, and questions related to the so-called “small house movement.” Given that it’s a great way to save money (as I’ll discuss below), I thought it’d be worthwhile to investigate the movement in detail. What is the “small house movement”? From the …

  • A Guide to Winterizing Your House

    Winter is approaching and in much of the United States, that means very cold temperatures, snow, and ice. Here in the upper Midwest, it gets particularly nasty: we had some amount of ice or snow on our driveway nonstop from October to April last winter. As a homeowner, this change in the season means one …

  • 18 Things a New Homeowner Should Do Immediately to Save Money

    So you’ve just moved into your nice new home. You’ve unloaded the boxes, unpacked most of your stuff, and are just starting to settle into your residence. Right now is the perfect time to walk through a checklist of ways to save money on your home. Starting on these things as early as possible will …

  • Ten Things I Wish I’d Done Differently While Buying a House

    During the summer of 2007, my wife and I purchased our first home. We spent tons of time doing homework and we are still very happy with our purchase, but as first time home buyers, there were simply some things that we didn’t fully understand that fell through the cracks during the process. Hindsight is …

  • The Real Reason They Aren’t Homeowners: Different Goals

  • Twelve Tactics to Prepare For and Minimize Winter Heating Bills (Besides Woodstoves)

    Liz writes in with an interesting question: wonder if you have weighed the pros and cons of switching to pellet/wood stoves for heat this winter? I live in Montana and our heating bills are slated to rise 50%, yes 50% this winter, partially due to the sale of Montana Power to Northwest Energy. Our heating …

  • Is It Ethical to Walk Out on a Mortgage?

    I may have just ruined a friendship from my college years by being honest. A few days ago, I received a long email from a friend I keep in occasional email contact with. That friend, who I’ll call Lindsay, is in an upside down mortgage – the current estimated value of the house is about …

  • Ceiling Fan Hacks: Save Big on Energy Use

    A typical central air conditioning unit uses 3,500 watts of energy when running. A typical ceiling fan uses 60 watts of energy, even when running on high. Thus, if you ran your ceiling fan all day and it managed to decrease your home air conditioner use by just thirty minutes in a twenty four hour …