Financial Tips for Buying Your First Home

so we're still on the hunt, in case you were looking for an update on the home search front.  and touring homes is still totally exhausting for me, but fun for john.  you would think it would be the other way around.  you know what is fun for me though?  the finances part.  john's all fish out of water over things like budgets and loans, but i totally love it.  house hunting is about gut feelings and patience (not my strong suit).  but loans and budgets?  those are cold, hard numbers.  i can do facts and figures.  and i weirdly love budgeting, i look forward to the 1st of the month so i can do it all over again.

it's hard to get a handle on every little aspect of the finances involved in owning a home, especially when you're a first-time homebuyer like john and i are.  i thought i could get an estimate based on what i pay in rent, but it's so much more than that.  there's maintenance costs, property taxes, insurance - no landlord comes in to save the day when the furnace stops working in january in chicago.

so how do you budget for it?  experience.  i know, i know.  not fun.  but every home is unique and you can get a great idea of what budget categories to include by using some budgeting software or app, but you won't know the exact number to put into those categories until you're in the thick of it.

but you can budget for getting the new house in the first place, and it's not as complicated as you'd think.  once you have a good financial plan for the purchase of the house, you won't be so strapped once you move in that you can't afford the heating bill.  you just have to have your ducks in a row financially:

(1) first figure out how much home you can afford and search for homes only in your price range.  the general rule of thumb is to look at houses that are 2.5 times your annual salary.  you don't want your monthly payment to be more than 28% of your gross monthly income.  the average in america is 31% and that includes utilities.  i think the one really helpful thing john and i are doing in this area is that we're getting a mortgage based only off of his salary.  (even though my job is more stable.)  so it's less than what we'd get if we combined our finances and credit scores, but if we did combine we'd have a high mortgage and more house than we need for 2 people.  plus this way, we won't get stuck in a situation where we're really in trouble and tapping into savings if something happens to one of us.

(2) know your financial history.  the mortgage lender is going to look at not only your income and job history, but also your credit score, all debt you have, any assets in your name, and how much you can put down for a down payment.  so if you're looking at houses 2.5 times your salary, but you also have .5 times your salary in debt, this will bring your loan offer down considerably.

(3) aim for a 20% down payment.  this will lower the monthly payments and you won't have to pay the personal mortgage insurance that's assessed to people who only put down, say, 5%.  there are some financial incentives offered to first time buyers, but 20% down will always give you a great start and safety net.

(4) don't forget closing costs.  they vary between lenders and between attorneys.  this can total thousands of dollars, to be paid on the spot, so don't underestimate it come closing day. 

(5) be prepared for all the options coming your way - there are so many different mortgage types.

still confused by #5?  or any of the steps?  you're not alone.  the only reason i understand real estate closings is because i work in a law firm that handles them.  and i still have more to learn.  so if you still need help, work with a mortgage lender you trust and try Capital One.  they launched a new online learning center for first time homebuyers.  the Capital One Home Loans Online Neighborhood is a free online resource where you can learn all about home buying through articles and videos, including deciding how much home you can afford and listing the documents you need to apply for a mortgage.  it's one of the most helpful resources i've come across in planning to buy a house.  i've made my way through the entire site, watching all the videos and reading everything.  so i highly recommend you check it out.

it seems like a lot of information at first, and a lot of numbers to figure out.  but to me, it's far easier than actually finding the house!  so if you need tips on house hunting, i'm not your girl.  and if you’re interested in learning more about Capital One Home Loans, visit or call at 855-900-8886.

and then buy the house and decorate it with all things blackhawks.  happy house hunting!

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Confessing More Unpopular Opinions

yeah... not the first time i've talked about my unpopular opinions on this site.  ah well.  on to the confessing, because that's what happens on wednesdays:

- in a similar vein as that post, yes, it costs more to execute someone then it does to keep them in prison for life.  however, that's not a reason against the death penalty, that's a reason to streamline it.  and if we can please start executing animal abusers, i'll press the button.  i know my mom is going to say 'two wrongs don't make a right' and to that i say 'no, but it does make it even.'  and i'm a lawyer.  and ocd.  i like even.

- i don't like stitch fix.  i mean, i understand the appeal - no malls and crowds, a surprise at your door, someone picking stuff out for you.  and i've seen bloggers post adorable photos of themselves in the things they got.  my girl meagan comes to mind.  but i could never do it.  maybe i'm just more picky than others?  i don't like other people picking my clothes.  also, the price.  holy bananas.  you could spend on a stitch fix in one month what i spend on clothes in an entire year.  (in case you're wondering what that number is, like $200.  maybe.  i dunno, i haven't added but i rarely clothes shop and when i do it's (a) with gift cards and (b) on the clearance rack and/or from target.  or the thrift store. anything nicer i own is because my mother bought it for me for christmas.)  anyway, i think my feelings towards stitch fix is the same as everything else in my life - i'm too cheap and i hate surprises.

- how do people live making every. little. situation a big issue regarding politics, social economics, race, etc? there's legitimate things out there to worry about, and then there's spending every moment of your day being an activist for 4000 causes, including whether or not the guy who dropped a gum wrapper on the north side of the street did so because that was the poor side, and lord knows the city only cleans the south side of the street because that's where the rich people are. come. on. isn't it exhausting? can't you just look at a puppy and smile for 2 seconds of your day, and admit the man dropped the gum wrapper because he's a lazy fuck?  not everything is the perceived slight you want to think it is.

- sour and bitter are the best flavors, and your sugary sweet pink starburst are the worst ever.  give me the yellow and orange ones.  or better yet, warheads.  i miss warheads.

- if i see one more damn loop giveaway on your instagram, i'm unfollowing.

- i finally made it through all the seasons of friends.  sucked the whole way through.  i've happily moved on to lie to me, which is fantastic.

- all my favorite shows have some sarcastic, douchey yet enjoyable boss.  like lie to me and house.  i have no idea why that is.

- kids. cost. money.  why do people not realize that?  if you're complaining your life is impossible and you can't live on $20k a year, it's not going to magically improve once you have 3 kids with no salary increase.  it's not exactly rocket science.  you're free to keep on complaining, but quit acting surprised that i refuse to take your calls any more.

- pinterest has been on a crappy kick lately.  nothing new, which is impossible because bloggers put up new, pinnable content every single day.  so why does my feed suck?  maybe i'm just not following the right people - leave me your pinterest link.

- diets be damned, i'm ordering pizza for lunch.  because it's my half birthday and that's what you do on half birthdays.

okay so that last one was just more of a statement than i confession.  what unpopular opinion do you have today?

Share a Chocolate Coke Cupcake

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #ShareAtSchnucks #CollectiveBias 

have you been checking out the new share a coke line that coca-cola introduced?  there's over 1,000 names, have you found yours?  stephanie is easy, i've seen it.  but i also wanted to check out the other products offered, because there's so many more options that would make great gifts.  the coke products are easy to locate in my schnucks store, and schnucks always has good prices.  you know i love me a sale.

(thanks to stephanie for the photo credits, she helped me out!)

i grabbed 'crystal' because it was the first in the cooler and was calling to me - our very first dog was named crystal.  and i thought finding 'hawkeye' was probably unlikely.  they have all sorts of options - cute new glass bottles, including 'mom', 'dad', 'grad', and tons of others.  there's also two liters and mini cans, which are perfect for parties.  but of course, it's more fun to be creative so i decided to use the coke in my baking.  and chocolate cupcakes with chocolate coke buttercream frosting were born.

coca-cola will cook your cupcakes right up!  diet coke works as well.  no need for oil, eggs, all those other ingredients.  just grab yourself a box of chocolate cake mix, stir in 12 ounces of coke.  mix them until the batter is just a bit lumpy, and place into liners in a cupcake pan.  bake according to directions on your box, usually around 16 minutes at 350 degrees.  always go the lower of the time suggestion, this is how you keep them moist since they continue to cook while in the hot pan after you pull them out of the oven.

for the frosting, beat 6 tablespoons of room temperature butter in a bowl for about 1 minute.  slowly add 2 and 2/3 cups of powdered sugar and 1/2 cup of cocoa.  once those are mixed, slowly add in 1/3 cup of milk and 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of coke.  frost away once your cupcakes are cooled!  easy, right? a quick and cute way to share a coke this summer.  perfect for a barbecue with friends.

but hey, maybe cupcakes are just me.  how would you share a coke?  and don't forget, you can whatever name you want online here.

Choose Your Own Adventure [Link Up]

i can't believe we're almost to the end of these link ups.  may is the last month!  in case you weren't aware, the theme for may is 'read' and don't worry if you haven't started yet, because i haven't.  this month's challenge has my co-host's name all over it.  ever since law school 'read' has been nowhere on my radar.  i'll try my sincere hardest to read something not-work related this month.  but more on that in a minute.  first, how i did in april when the theme was finances.

how i did:
1. continue on my spending frost, at least until vegas.  i'm hilarious.  no.  notice how there was no april spending recap?  because it was dismal.  i didn't even track it much, just kept buying things.  fail.
2. try to keep a cap on the vegas spending.  shockingly, this went great.  i was under budget for vegas, and i didn't even win anything.  pass.
3. cut down more on vegas costs by being frugal with the stuff that doesn't matter.  like bringing my own brita water bottle and snacks.  indeed!  we hit the walgreens as soon as we got there, to get things like beer and sunblock.  the essentials.  we also saved money while we were there on things like food and liquor, but more on that in a separate post next week.  pass.
4. try not to go too crazy on april 27 - hawkeye's 6th birthday!  i didn't do too bad!  she pigged out on taco bell, but i didn't even get presents.  she got all her favorites that she usually can't have - tissues, chap stick, and john's socks.  it was a bonanza, and a frugal one at that.  pass.

alright on to may.  read.  i wish i had it in me to read more, i really do.  i used to love it.  i even majored in english.  (and poli sci and you read a lot there too.)  but as with everything you have a love for, law school crushed my love of reading.  and my soul.  so i haven't read much in the way of actual books in quite some time.  it would be foolish to put something like 'read 10 novels' on this list when i'll surely fail, so i'm keeping it short and simple.

1. read (and comment on) the blogs on my feedly.  at least once a week.  blog reading is reading.
2. read eat to live which i actually bought (rare for me, the only books i own are... well, dave ramsey's total money makeover.  that's it.) so i want to completely finish that instead of just skimming like i usually do.
3. assess my online library and amazon ebook wishlists.  i add random things but i haven't put anything on hold at the library in awhile (i just do ebooks.)  same with amazon - wish list it and never buy.  time to actually read the reviews, check out the previews, and commit or delete.

so, how was your finance month?  what are you planning for may?  link up below!

also, the last link up will be the first thursday in june.  steph and i are out after that - we've just got a lot going on.  ashley may continue or tweak it, or give it up altogether as well.  but if you love the idea, take it and run.  you have all our permissions.

general guidelines:
1) if you want, follow your hosts not entirely perfect, life according to steph, and keeping up with ashley and cody.  (i like twitter, that way i can follow you back and tweet you encouragement throughout the challenge.)
2) link up your post about your results below for the month - we want to hear all about what you did, how you fared, what resources you used, what you'd recommend to others, etc.
3) please link to your actual post about your results.  links not having to do with the challenge will be deleted.
4) feel free to use this button, created by the lovely sarah at venus trapped in mars.

Not Entirely Perfect

5 Places with Secret Dog Menus

Hello! I'm Rachel and I blog over at Small Towns & City Lights. I'm so excited to be guest posting on one of my favorite blogs, and about one of my favorite topics! My dog, Sheba.

As an obsessive dog mom (like I'm sure most of you are), I like to bring my dog along with me on as many life adventures as possible. Over the past couple years, I've seen quite a few "secret" dog menus pop up, and once I find out about them, they definitely get my repeat business!

Interested in bringing your pup along for a special treat? Here are 5 places with secret dog menus.

1 // PDQ - Free "Doggy tenders" (which are identical to the tenders for humans) are served for pups here. Sheba always gobbles them up quickly!

2 // Starbucks - Here, you can order the "Puppuccino," which is essentially a "tall" (small) cup filled with whipped cream, at no extra cost. This is Sheba's favorite treat in the world!

3 // Sonic - If the staff see your dog hanging in the car with you at Sonic, they'll bring out some complimentary dog treats with your food, so your pup doesn't feel left out.

4 // Dairy Queen - At DQ, you can request a "pup cup" for your dog and will be given a free serving of vanilla ice cream in a tiny cup.

5 // Sprinkles - We've yet to try this one since there isn't a location nearby, but I've heard great things about the sugar-free "doggie cupcakes" with yogurt frosting ($2.50) at Sprinkles. Sheba would be all over this!

Have you been to any of these places with your dog? Where would you like to see a dog menu?