February 2011 Vol. 6 No.2

• 5 Quick Phone Calls to Lower Your Monthly Expenses • February's Home Value Improver • About Us

5 Quick Phone Calls to Lower Your Monthly Expenses

Here are five areas where a couple of phone calls can help you lower your monthly bills.

  1. Credit Cards.
  2. While it seems the 0% interest on all transfer junk mail seems to be abating, there are plenty of ways to lower your credit card bills. If transferring your debt to 0% is your goal, you can still do it. Do some Googling, and you'll find the best deal. Some offer 0% for 12 months with a 5% fee, others have different structures. Either way, it's a good way to save on that monthly interest.

    You can also try calling your credit card company and telling them you are planning to transfer to a zero percent. You might be surprised at how quickly they are willing to reduce your interest rate when they hear they may lose you.

    If you're really committed to paying off your credit cards, you might even want to take out a personal loan from your local bank, pay off the credit cards and just make one payment a month to the loan.

  3. Cell Phones.
  4. As a smartphone lover, I pay my monthly bill without the blink of an eye. If you want to play, you have to pay, right? Maybe not. I was shocked when a friend told me the other day that she pays less than $40 a month for her smartphone services. This is one area where shopping around can save you money!

  5. Phone, Cable, Internet.
  6. You have a few different options here. You could go the bundling route and see if buying all your services from one provider may get you a deal. My friend claims her cable television is "practically free," since her new bundled bill for phone, cable and Internet is equivalent to the total she used to pay for phone and Internet bills when they were charged separately.

    You can also ask about special promotions. These utilities often offer new customers enticing deals. Perhaps you could entice them to give it to you as an incentive to stay with them by informing them the offers their competitors are currently tempting you with.

  7. Oil.
  8. If you are one of the many New Englanders who relies on that truck with the big hose to deliver your heat, you are likely hurting pretty bad when you pay that oil bill this year. A client just told me hat she actually renegotiated her oil price! She was paying $3.81 per gallon, and another company was offering her $3.19. That's a huge savings. She called her oil company and told them about this offer. They offered her a much better price, and her oil bills now are more tolerable.

  9. Mortgage/Insurance.
  10. If you haven't refinanced in a while, you may be very pleasantly surprised by the rate you can get. And it is always worth a call to your insurance agent to discuss strategies for lowering the premiums on your car and homeowners insurance.

February's Home Value Improver

8 Curb Appeal Tricks You Haven't Heard

Even if you're a devotee of the home and gardening shows, there is always more to learn about that enticement we call "curb appeal." Think of curb appeal as your home's first impression. If you want your home to look inviting, comfortable and well-appointed, it all starts at the front door. You probably know about good lighting and well-manicured gardens, so let's go beyond those things to the nitty gritty details.

  1. Keep it neat.
  2. Do not, for goodness sake, leave toys strewn about the front walkway. If you have kids that play in the front yard, at least line the toys up on the edge of the lawn when they're not playing.

  3. Class it up.
  4. If the numbers on your house are the same ones you put up during the Clinton administration when you bought your house, it's probably time for a change. You'd be surprised at how nice some new, shiny brass numbers look. Also look into new door hardware such as a brass doorknocker or mounted mailbox.

  5. Details, details.
  6. If you're up for a more involved weekend project, adding molding around your front door instantly adds some architectural detail and makes your front door look wonderful.

  7. Even it up.
  8. Create symmetry in the front entry. Instead of one light overhead, install a sconce on each side.

  9. Brighten up the trim.
  10. Few things make a home pop like nice bright and fresh trim. Get those window trimmings, railing spindles, and other trim clean, and get them painted if need be.

  11. Accent (or replace) your asphalt with pavers.
  12. Think of two identical houses side by side. One has an asphalt driveway and one has bricks or pavers - or asphalt lined with bricks or pavers. Which looks better? This move can give your home a rather dramatic appearance upgrade for a relatively low price.

  13. Gate it.
  14. A wooden or wrought iron fence at the end of your front walkway creates a focal point that will make the home more pleasing to the eye.

  15. Give your mailbox some personality.
  16. If you're in a community where the mailboxes sit at the end of the driveway, you probably know that there are all sorts of novelty mailboxes out there. You don't need to install a train on the end of a post (unless you like trains), but a granite post, or some beautifully stained wood will put a smile on your face, the mail carrier, and whoever walks by.

Westchester Mortgage

I love to come to your inboxes each month and talk to you about all things mortgage. But as mortgage approval requirements have become more and more stringent, a lot of my clients are talking about the need to lower their debt-to-income ratio and their monthly expenses overall.

Lower monthly expenses mean more savings. More savings mean more for a down payment, more towards building equity and more peace of mind in general. Take a look at the five areas outlined in our feature article this month - hopefully you'll choose at least one to pursue and enjoy some savings.

I am always available and happy to answer your questions about home financing!

Best regards,
Debbie Siegel
Westchester Mortgage

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