My husband and I periodically dream about what it would be like to have our mortgage paid off. Can you imagine? For us, it would be like doubling our income by having our mortgage paid off. We got a great deal by refinancing a few years ago. Now, I’d love to get that mortgage paid off early. In case you’ve had similar conversations (and dreams), here are a few tips on how to pay off that mortgage early.
1. Mortgage payments. When you first buy your house, try to keep those payments at about 15 percent of your income. As I shared above, that’s not the case for us. (Maybe that’s why we are still working on it!) In any case, this is good to know when you first buy a house. The national average is 30 percent; aiming for about 15 percent of your income will give you a much better shot at paying it off early.
2. Check out bankrate.com. This site provides a tool to help you figure out various combinations of payments to pay off that mortgage early. You’ll just have to plug in the amount left on your mortgage, the amount of time you’ll like to pay it off or the extra amount you’d like to pay each month. You’ll end up finding out exactly how much extra you need to pay to pay it off in a given period of time. Check it out.
3. Divide up your payments. Rather than making one monthly payment each month, make two payments every two weeks. Because of the way the calendar is set up, you’ll end up making an extra payment without even thinking about it. That’s a great way to make a nice extra payment to move that ball down the field.
What are you doing to pay down your mortgage?
As a thrifty shopper who may also be a couponer, grocery shopping is all but a mindless activity. So considering the day of the week and the times of the day that suit you best will help to alleviate any additional stressors on these weekly trips.
On what day should I do my shopping? If you are looking for specific advertised sales, you’ll need to consider going on the first day or two of the sale to make sure you get what you want. If the sale starts on the weekend, though, consider waiting for Monday to make your stop. Have you been to the grocery store on a Saturday or Sunday? It can be crazy! I avoid it whenever possible.
What time of the day is best for shopping? Because I have young children, I have gotten accustomed to shopping either early in the day or very late (once the rush hour crowds are long gone and tucking themselves in to bed). As my children have gotten a bit older, it’s not much of a challenge to take them with me. So, I’m not going shopping at 6am and 10pm anymore. However, I still tend to go no later than about 11am.
Other special days. I tend to avoid shopping on the day before a big holiday, like Easter or Christmas, because I can’t stand shopping with the masses. However, if you don’t mind, you can sometimes get some great deals on the day before a big day like that. I’ve heard about deals I’ve missed when I’ve gone into the store the day after a holiday. That said, I’ve also gotten amazing deals on gift and food items on the day after holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas. So, figure out what deals you want, whether you can withstand the crowds, and get those deals.
When do you prefer to do your shopping?
It’s the number one new year’s resolution because it’s, among other things, not very easy to do. It’s not the weight loss itself that’s difficult, it’s the changes, the choices we have to change that we prefer to keep as they are, that make the process difficult. But, if you think of weight loss in the context of baby steps, then everyone can do the following three things and lose weight this year (even with just about one quarter of the year behind us)!
1. Baby steps. Make one healthy choice this week. Instead of having dessert every night, cut it out during the week or on the weekend. The following week, make an additional change while keeping the first one. Maybe you can eat an apple instead of a bag of chips as part of your lunch.
This concept is backed by a study done by the National Institute of Health, which showed that people lost more weight and kept it off for longer periods of time when they made small, gradual changes to their lifestyles.
2. Skip commercials. I know that technology now often allows us to fast forward through commercials. However, for those of us who still have commercials to sit through, take the time to get your body moving. If you don’t see commercials anymore, just hit that pause button for a minute or two for a workout. Anyone can do a 1-2 minute workout, right? Do as many jumping jacks as you can in a minute. Attempt a few push ups. Jump rope.
Did you know that adding five minutes of exercise (cardiovascular) translates into burning 30 to 50 calories? Burning that many calories per day means potentially losing 4 pounds in a year. Just imagine what 10, 15, or 20 minutes a day could do.
3. Make your own lunch. Don’t go to the vending machine, or the fast food restaurant, or even the grocery store for a something quick and easy for lunch. Make your own. You’ll cut calories, sodium, and sugar because processed foods are full of all those obstacles to your weight loss. You’ll save money and feel better as a result.
What baby steps have you taken to lose weight?
If your electricity bill looks anything like ours, this month is your favorite of the year. Spring has arrived in our neck of the woods. So, when I looked at this month’s bill, I knew that we would begin to see both the temperature and the electricity bill rise as summer sets in soon. We have already had to run our air conditioner this week and I’m sitting under a fan even as I write this. There has to be a way to cut energy costs, right?
There are a couple of things to consider as we approach the higher temperatures and the higher electricity bills of the summer months.
1. Insulate. Insulate. Insulate. Check and double check your insulation. Your heating and air conditioning system is your most biggest culprit of energy costs. So, be sure to check your insulation, look for cracks in your windows and doors. Seal any area that may be allowing heat out in the cold and allowing hot air in when it is hot outside. Don’t throw away your cash.
2. Consider a clothesline. Next to your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system (HVAC), your washer and dryer are the next big offenders when it comes to energy costs. A few years ago, our dryer died. Yes, it was a very sad day. For various reasons, we delayed purchasing a new one for a few months. So, my husband just put up a line for us to use to dry clothes. It’s amazing the amount of money we saved on our energy bill. We have a dryer now. However, this weekend, my husband moved the line over for greater efficiency. I plan to start using it again, not because we don’t have a dryer but because it’s a great way to save money!
What else do you do to save money on electricity in the summer months?
I’m sure some of you are already rolling your eyes at the thought of not taking a shower every day. Of course, if you are like me, then you are hopeful that your current pattern might be justified by some authority on health and medicine. Well, if you are in that second group, you are right.
Dr. Joseph Mercola makes the claim that daily showers are actually not good for our health. He explains that we all have beneficial bacteria living on our skin. It works to fight off bad bacteria we are exposed to. But every time we lather up our favorite shower soap, gel, or shampoo, we rid our skin of that good bacteria and the protection it provides. He also suggests that limiting showers would be one major way to conserve water for the sake of the environment.
The natural question arises, of course, about how often to shower. Dr. Mercola suggests that if there’s need, because of body odor, to shower more than once per week (which used to be the standard before the advertising industry got a hold of the bathing and showering market), then it’s important to limit the amount of soap used.
Here are a few tips for healthy showering according to the doctor.
1. When showering, make sure you use warm, rather than hot, water. That’s a tough one because I do love a hot shower at this time of the year. Hot water is harder on the skin than warm water is.
2. When you shower, limit your use of soap to the areas that most need it. He suggests arm pits, groin, and the soles of your feet.
3. As soon as you get out of the shower, moisturize! He suggests getting a generous scoop of coconut oil to seal the moisture all over your body.
Do you shower every day? What do you think of the concept of limiting showers for the sake of our health and our environment?
It may not seem like you will ever bare your arms or legs because spring appears to have been canceled across the nation this year, but spring and summer really are just around the corner. You will wear shorts and tank tops once again. While it’s popular to think about and actually do something to get in shape or get healthy at the beginning of the year, there really is no better time than the present to do whatever it is you want or need to do for your health. Even for those of us who tend to eat healthy and workout regularly, it doesn’t take very much to get out of our routine and find ourselves asking, “How did I used to keep in shape?” So, here are just a few little tips (and perhaps reminders) for weight loss and healthy living.
1. Know thyself. There’s not a cookie cutter workout or “diet” that is going to work for everyone. So, figure out what works best for you. Do you prefer working out in the morning or in the afternoon? Do you like to run on a treadmill or walk outside with the children? Do you tend to struggle with eating right at home or at work? Is your problem snacking throughout the day or eating larger portions at meal time? These are all critical questions to help you customize your fitness routine.
2. Reevaluate your kitchen. Until you can resist temptations in the kitchen, just go ahead and remove them. It’s easier to choose an apple over potato chips when there are no potato chips in the pantry. If you buy snacks for your family, perhaps you can buy them snacks that aren’t tempting for you. I don’t mind having organic cheese sandwich crackers in the pantry for my children because they don’t tempt me quite the same way as do chips and salsa. Choose what sits in your pantry wisely.
3. Enjoy your exercise. There are so many people who will tell you the best exercises to do, when to do them, and how long and how often to do those exercises. However, what matters the most is that you actually do exercise. So, find something you love to do. Run, walk, jump around to music in your living room, get a yoga DVD. Do what you will enjoy! That’s what will keep you going back for more.
What do you do to stay consistent with your fitness routine?
Years ago, when I was a member of a gym, I used to joke that the gym would finally be back to normal in March. We all know why. Those who had “resolved” to get fit got discouraged, didn’t see all the weight loss or fit-ness happen fast enough, or just gave up. Well, even if you are not a member of a gym, this is the time (if you did make a resolution) that your resolve, your motivation, your hope is tested. Don’t give up! Here are a few tips to help you maximize your weight loss in case you didn’t see the results you’d hoped for in the last two months.
1. Vary your workout. Be sure that whatever you consider your workouts include aerobic activity, strength training, and stretching. Cardio alone may not be sufficient for weight loss. Strength training builds muscle, and more muscle translates into better metabolism. So, be sure you’re working on building your strength at least twice a week. If you do the same workout every day, change it. Add weights. Increase weights. Add time. Add intensity. Do interval training. All those changes will change your workout, strengthen your muscles, and improve your ability to lose weight.
2. Watch those extra calories. Sometimes when we work out, we give ourselves the liberty to indulge more than we would when we are not working out. There’s not much room for indulging if you are trying to lose weight. If you want something special, then be sure to cut the equivalent number of calories elsewhere.
3. Exercise is not just what happens at the gym. Be careful not to let yourself get lazy the rest of the day. Let your workout time inspire you to keep moving. If you slow down from your normal pace, you may also cut the number of total calories you’d normally burn on any given day. So, take the stairs and park a little farther. The more you move, the more calories you’ll burn.
How do you maximize your workouts?
My son turned 4 years old today. Last year, I made him a fun (and very easy) construction site cake. Did I mention that it was easy! So, you might imagine that this year, when I asked him what kind of cake he’d want for his birthday, I was a bit intimidated by his immediate answer, “An airplane!” Why, oh why, did I let them watch Planes so many times before this?! HOW on earth am I going to turn a cake into an airplane?
I could have simply gone to our local grocery store and ordered a cake with ingredients I’d rather not have and with a price I’d rather not pay in order to come up with a birthday cake. Instead, I did what any mom today would do… run to Pinterest!
I had to adapt a recipe I found because the cake I made (a grain-free, honey sweetened one) was much thinner than the one pictured on the pin I saw. But, here’s what I did.
First, bake two layers of cake in 9 inch pans using the batter of your choice. Once baked, slice the first one in half.
Use icing to “glue” these pieces together to form the body of your airplane.
Next, slice the next cake in thirds, as pictured.
The middle pieces will become the wings and the ends will be used for the tail. Ice everything and put it all together. Hopefully, you’ll get a better looking plane than ours turned out. In the end, the children were both very happy that we had an airplane cake… and it tasted great!
And, here’s the birthday boy, proud of being 4, blowing out his candles.
How do you make your children’s birthday’s special?