Business Digest - June, 2012

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Five Ways to Save for a Down Payment

If you are looking to buy a house in the near future, you are probably also looking for the best ways to save for your down payment. The larger the down payment you have, the lower your monthly payments will be, making this an important step in your overall financial plan. This becomes especially important if you can put at least 20 percent down. By doing this, you will be able to keep from having to pay private mortgage insurance, or PMI. These extra charges are required if you have less than 20 percent equity in your home and are not tax deductible.

There are some simple strategies you can take to maximize your down payment. As you plan to begin the home buying process, keep these ideas in mind.

1.  Get Motivated
If you are truly interested in saving as much as you can, you will need to have the right frame of mind. To save money effectively, you have to really want to save it. It takes some willpower to forgo those things you normally do, like eating out, purchasing new clothes, and going on a weekend vacation. While you are saving for your down payment, you should do all you can to squeeze the most you can out of your budget.

2.  Budgeting to Save
Your budget can be your best tool for saving money. If you are not already doing so, now is the time to start keeping track of all of your expenditures. See if there are places in your budget you can cut spending, like magazine subscriptions, eating out for lunch, babysitting expenses, and clothing purchases. You can also look for ways to decrease your spending by considering using coupons, carpooling, taking your lunch to work, and making your own coffee at home.

3.  Develop a Savings Plan
You will also need a strategy for handling your savings before you actually purchase your home. Your best bet is to open a special savings account for just this money. Consider using a certificate of deposit (CD) account. Although you would be penalized for an early withdrawal, you will get a better interest rate than a regular savings account. And that penalty might just be a good incentive to keep from using that money for other purposes.

4.  Reduce Your Debt
You will want to be sure to keep your credit rating as high as possible during the time frame before you buy your home. This means making sure that you are paying all of your bills on time. If possible, begin paying down your credit card debt as well, as this can help you get a better rate on your home loan.

5.  Explore New Places to Get More Money
Consider implementing an automatic transfer from your paycheck to your savings account. That way, you will not see the money and will be less likely to spend it. If you are normally given expensive gifts for birthdays or holidays, let your friends and family know you'd prefer to have the money placed in your savings account. If you do pay off a credit card, car loan, or student loan during the time before you purchase your home, keep writing checks for that amount and deposit them into your savings account. Finally, consider a short-term second or weekend job to generate some extra cash flow. You can do this until you buy your home and will appreciate the extra money when you finally do sign your closing papers.

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Fan Fare

Have you noticed the change in recent years in the food at ballparks? Peanuts, Cracker Jack, and hot dogs are all still there. But now you are as likely to find sushi, shrimp, and pasta-and you are likely going to be paying more for everything!

From New York to L.A., fans can enjoy great fare such as fresh mozzarella and pork sandwiches at Shea Stadium and Caesar salad and turkey dogs at Edison International Field in Anaheim. At stadiums around the country, fans can enjoy crab cakes, sub sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, and burritos.

Taking it up a step, some ballparks are now catering to the taste of more discriminating diners as well. Keep your eye out for such offerings as buffalo carpaccio, ahi tuna salad, freshly carved roast beef, fish tacos, and lobster rolls. Add a glass of chardonnay, and a fine cigar, and you've got a meal that might leave you with better memories than the game.

But be prepared to pay for these luxurious new offerings. A simple hot dog will probably set you back just under five dollars. And the prices only go up from there. Most fans, though, don't seem to mind the cost. A sampling of ballpark attendees indicates that the most important factor is the taste. "As long as it tastes good, I don't really pay attention to the cost," said Alicia Fortunato at Coors Field in Denver.

"If you don't want to pay these prices, then eat at home," stated Willy Largo. "This is the world of baseball. It is all part of the experience. I think they've done a great job with the food, and I'm enjoying every minute of this."

So, next time you are at the ballpark, take a moment to see what is new. Bring along a few extra bucks and try something different. You are sure to make your day at the game a little more interesting.

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Green Living Tip

A toaster oven is not very well insulated, but it is a good choice when you are cooking a small portion of food. Instead of heating up your large oven for something small, use your toaster oven instead. Not only does it use less energy, it will also cook your food more evenly and quickly.

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Internet Tidbit

Do you like to send thank you notes, but have trouble finding the time to get them all done? Check out Thankster.com. This website makes the process of sending out thank you or holiday cards simple. You can type in what you want to say on your cards and can customize them for each recipient. Best of all, Thankster lets you use a font that is similar to your own handwriting. You can use one of their handwriting styles and adjust it to look more like yours or you can submit a handwriting sample and they will design a font just for you. Lastly, Thankster will address your cards and mail them off for you, making it easy to cross this off your to-do list.

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Theo's Corner

Pet Dental Health

Dogs and cats can benefit from good oral care. You should plan on examining your pet's mouth regularly. Your dental routine should include teeth brushing and regular visits to your vet. To make sure your pet has a life of good oral health, keep these tips in mind.

1.  If you smell bad breath, your dog or cat may have tooth-related trouble. While dogs and cats do not have perfectly smelling breath all the time, if you notice a particularly strong odor or the sudden onset of a different odor, something may be amiss.

2.  Once a week, examine your pet's teeth and gums. If you notice any discoloration, inflammation, swelling or bleeding of the gums, you should be concerned. You should also look for any discolored, chipped, loose, or missing teeth. If you see any of these conditions, it's time for your pet to see a vet.

3.  You can get toothbrushes and toothpaste made especially for your dog or cat. Human toothpaste should not be used on your pet's teeth. It may be difficult to brush your pet's teeth at first, but after some regular practice, he or she will get more used to it, and it will be easier for both of you. Plan on brushing your pet's teeth at least once a week.

4.  Let them chew safe and healthy products. Chew toys and chew treats are good for your pet, satisfying their urge to chew and providing good stimulation to the teeth and gums. They also help scrape plaque from teeth and massage their gums.

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