New Year’s Resolution: Read More!

My 2014 New Year’s Resolution is to read more. To be specific, I want to try to read 1 book every 2 weeks. That’s 26 books in a year.

I obviously read a lot in college, because I was an English major and I had to. I think I was lucky because instead of textbooks I got to read novels for my classes, but I still always had a long list of books I would read if I had more free time. But now that I’m a real adult, there’s not as much time for reading as I thought there’d be. Maybe because I mostly use my free time for working out, crafting, or watching Netflix but that is not the point! There’s a whole world full of books out there and I am determined to read them.

Everyone tells me I need to read this before the movie comes out!

Everyone tells me I need to read this before the movie comes out!

Before I start on my reading journey, I think it will help if I have a schedule of what book I will read and when. Here’s a start to my to-read list; its a few books that have been recommended to me, a few I saw online in a “101 Books to Read Before You Die” thing (AH! No pressure or anything), and a few that I only read part of/pretended to read in college and now want to actually read. They are:

– Ulysses by James Joyce

– Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

– Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

– The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

– Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

– Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

– Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

– Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

– The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer

– Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk

– I Wish Someone Were Waiting for Me Somewhere by Anna Gavalda

– The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

– One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

– B***h: In Praise of Difficult Women by Elizabeth Wurtzel (Note: I censored the first word in this title.)

– The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

– The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor

– Divergent by Veronica Roth

But that’s only 17 books. So I need 9 more. If you have any recommendations, please let me know! Leave a title or two in the comment area.

Before January 1st, 2014 I will give you a final list and then I will periodically update you throughout the year on how I’m doing. Maybe do a little book review here and there. Thanks and Happy Holidays!

Advertisements

Vaseline: the Greatest, Cheapest Thing Since Sliced-Bread

This blog post is a love letter to one of my all-time favorite, cheap things. Vaseline.

Vaseline has got to be the single greatest invention ever. Forget electricity. Forget the internet. Vaseline is the one thing I truly could not live without.

I use it for everything. Literally everything. I’m like that old guy in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” but instead of Windex, whenever someone has a minor injury I’m all, “Put some Vaseline on it!”

I always have some on my desk at home!

I always have some on my desk at home!

I use Vaseline as Chapstick. I use it on my feet and elbows for dry skin. I use it on my nose when I have a cold and it gets all red from too many tissues. I use it for razor-burn. I use it for gross, sore hangnails that won’t stop bleeding. I use it for earrings that don’t want to go on. EVERYTHING. It is the most useful thing in the world.

The thing that makes no sense about Vaseline is that it is so gosh-darn cheap. I got a small 1.75 ounce tub of Vaseline to go to college with and it literally lasted me all 4 years. Like there was still a little extra on the bottom when I was packing my stuff up after graduation. It lasts for freaking EVER. And that tub was only $2.94. I use that stuff at least once a day which means that it costs about 1 cent per use. AMAZING! That stuff is like liquid gold! I would pay $100 for a tub and it would still be worth it.

In case I have not yet convinced you yet of the miracle that is Vaseline, here is a list I have compiled of all the things you can use it for. There’s 30 of them here but I’m sure if I tried I could find more. If this list does not impress you, I do not know what will.

Things you can use Vaseline for:

  1. Lip balm. Your lips will be soft, smooth, and kissable with just a little dab.
  2. Lip gloss. Mix it with Kool Aid for a little color.
  3. Foot cream. Put it on your heels, put socks on, and go to bed. When you wake up they’ll be nice and smooth.
  4. Elbow/ Knee cream. No more cracked dry skin!
  5. Razor-burn soother. Put some on those red, irritated bumps after you shave to help them go away faster.
  6. Manicure helper. Put some on your cuticles, especially if you have hangnails. It will help keep them looking healthy.
  7. Eyelash grower. I didn’t know this one, but apparently some people swear by it. Put just a little Vaseline on your eyelashes before you go to sleep to help them grow.
  8. Make-up remover. Dip a Cue-tip in some Vaseline to wipe off make-up. Your face will be clean in no time.
  9. Make your make-up pop. Put some on your eyes before you put eye-shadow or eye-line for a creamy look. Or put it on your cheeks for you put on blush.
  10. Use Vaseline to remove left on glue from fake eyelashes.
  11. Use just a little dab to keep eyebrows tamed and looking well-groomed.
  12. Can’t get that earring in? Put a little Vaseline on the stems to help them slide right on.
  13. Mix Vaseline with some sea salt for a great exfoliating scrub!
  14. Avoid stains on your skin from hair dye. Rub a little Vaseline on your forehead and neck before you start to avoid dye seeping into your skin.
  15. Vaseline is good on leather. Use it remove scuffs on shoes or bags.
  16. Perfume aid. Vaseline holds on to scents, so dab a little on your wrists before you spritz to help your scent last all day.
  17. Prevent streaks. Rub a little on the area you will put self-tanner on to make sure to spreads evenly. Now your fake-glow looks more natural.
  18. Put some on your teeth so they won’t stick to your lips. Great for beauty pageant contestants or actors who smile a lot.
  19. The teeth-trick also stops lipstick from spreading onto your pearly whites.
  20. Rub a little on your finger to help slide off a stuck-on ring.
  21. Can help prevent chaffing.
  22. Therapeutic for skin conditions like poison ivy or eczema.
  23. Helps heal and protect new tattoos.
  24. Use just a tiny bit to help split-ends look healthier.
  25. Rub a little Vaseline on the neck of a nail polish bottle so it’s easier to open.
  26. Stretch your favorite lotion by mixing it with Vaseline.
  27. Remove chewing gum from wood. Stick a little Vaseline on there and the wad of gum will fall right off.
  28. Remove watermarks on wood. Rub Vaseline on the stain, leave overnight, and in the morning wipe the stain away with the Vaseline.
  29. Protect your skin in harsh weather conditions. A little Vaseline on my lips, cheeks, and nose when I’m skiing keeps my face warmer!
  30. Aids with healing after cosmetic surgery.

So many uses, so little time. You should buy Vaseline for everyone on your Christmas list. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Save, Save, SAVE! First-Time Home-Buying Part 2

Confession: this series of blogs on buying your first home has NOT been easy to write. Want to know why? Because there is SO MUCH INFORMATION to share. Buying a house is just so darn complicated that is not easy to sift through all of the great tips, ideas, and hints out there to compile the best resources for your reading pleasure. But I will not give up! I will break down the multi-step process of home-buying into easily readable, semi-enjoyable narrative quips if it kills me!

I thought that the next post for this series would be a sort of “how-to” series of instructions of how to work your way through the home-buying process. You read the first post, decided you were truly ready and committed to becoming a home-owner, and now you need to know how to do that. So I tried to write a list of things such as “get pre-approved”, “get a realtor”, etc.

But while I was trying to sort all of that out, I realized that the pre-approval step was about 20 times longer than any other. Mainly because I was trying to cram all of this stuff about how much money you might need saved up for a down payment and other closing costs into it. It simply could not be condensed into 2 or 3 quick sentences. Therefore, I have decided to give saving its own post. So here it goes . . .

You will need to save up a lot of money to buy a house. A LOT!!!

Image

Your piggy bank better be FULL when you start looking for homes.

Here’s a quick run-down of the different kinds of expenses associated with buying a house:

EARNEST MONEY OR DEPOSIT – This is a deposit you make on a home when you submit your offer to the seller. It is used to show that you are serious about purchasing the home. In most cases, the earnest deposit is applied to the down payment if/when your offer is accepted. If you were to back out of the sale, you may or may not get these funds back, depending on the terms of your contract.

DOWN PAYMENT – This is a percentage of the total cost of the home that you must pay when you close on the purchase and attend the settlement. In some cases this can be as much as 10-20% of the total cost of the home. If you were purchasing a $200,000 house, that might mean between $20-40,000. In the case of many first-tome home-buyers, the down payment is lowered to between 3-5% which would make a down payment on the same property around $7,000.

CLOSING COSTS – These expenses are any number of additional fees that you might incur during the purchasing process that would not being included in the mortgage financing of your home. They include things like Real Estate Broker Commission/Fees, Appraisal Fees, Title Fees, Inspection Fees, etc. In general, they tend to be around 3-4% of the total cost of buying your home.

As you can see, buying a house is not cheap. Even if you have perfect credit and have shopped around for the lowest mortgage rate possible, you will still need money in the bank before you can make a purchase.

My recommendation? Ask your financial institution for help! Visit your credit union or bank to speak with the mortgage officer. You can get pre-approved for a mortgage without actually committing to buying a house. What it will do is give you an idea of how your credit looks, as well as an estimate of how much house you can afford. Knowing that number will give you an idea of how much money you will need to save for a down payment, closing costs, etc. If you have enough put away to begin the actual house-hunting process – great! Go out there and start hitting up open houses. But if that amount is still a little out of your reach that’s ok, too. Now you have a tangible goal in mind of how much money you will need to save to purchase your first home. Saving is always easier when you have a concrete goal in mind.

Next up . . . the last (hopefully) step to becoming a first-time home-buyer – going out there and actually picking a house! Coming to the Kelsey at Casco Blog soon 🙂

Don’t Be a Scrooge – Charitable Holiday Giving on a Budget

Every year our credit union “adopts” a local family for Christmas. They give us their wish list and we take care of the rest. Staff and members buy gifts off the list and bring them back to the office so we can wrap and deliver them to the family. This year our anonymous family has a 4 year-old daughter and I have honestly NEVER had more fun Christmas shopping than when I went out to buy a gift for her. I spent way too much time the kid’s section of Target selecting just the right outfit. I don’t have a lot of extra cash this time of year so I had to limit myself to just 2 items. After much debating here are the adorable clothes I finally picked:

If these are not the most adorable clothes you have ever seen, you must not have a soul.

If only it were appropriate for my clothes to have this much tulle and glitter . . .

Why was shopping for her so much more fun than for everyone else on my list? The easy answer is that I have always had a soft spot for clothes that are fashionable but tiny. They’re just so darn cute. But I think a better answer might be that it’s more fun to shop for someone when you are not obligated to do it. No one makes me take an Adopt-A-Family ornament. I do it because it’s fun. I do it because it gives you that warm fuzzy feeling of doing something good for someone else. And I do it because I want every kid to have Christmas memories that are just as great as mine are. I am unbelievably lucky to come from a family where piles of presents, warm yummy meals, and loved ones gathering together were a given every year. My parents never worried about being able to afford the Christmas they wanted to give my sister and I. Not every family has that luxury. My small purchase is just one step in helping a family have a Christmas to remember. And even though I won’t get to see them open up their presents on the 25th, it’s enough just knowing that they will get to is enough.

Hopefully that wasn’t too sappy for you, but I think we all want to give a little something back to our communities this time of year. Like me, your wallet might not be bottomless this holiday season. So here are a few ideas on how you can spread some holiday cheer without overspending:

1. Donate Within Your Budget – You don’t have to make a Bill Gates sized donation to make a difference to a charity; small donations are just as valuable. According to the Dunkin’ Donuts website, they serve 1.7 billion cups of coffee in a year. That’s 4.6 million cups a day. A large coffee costs about $2 which isn’t a lot, right? We could all scrounge up $2, even if you had to use some change. But if all 4.6 million people donated their $2 coffee budget to a charity for one day you could raise $9.2 million. That’s HUGE! So this holiday season, think about making a small donation of just $5 or $10 to a charity that’s important to you; it will make both your wallet and your heart happy.

2. Add Up Your Spare Change – Have spare change laying around at home? Why not roll it or bring it in to a coin machine so you can exchange it for bills. Then donate that money to charity. You won’t miss it because you weren’t using it anyways. Ask your financial institution if they have coin wrappers or a coin machine you can use.

3. Wrap Gifts for Someone – I know most people hate it, but I LOVE to wrap presents. If you’re on a tight budget and donating money is out of your reach this year, this is a 100% FREE way you can lend a helping hand. Tell a family, friend, or neighbor that you’ll be their wrapping elf this year – with all of the other chores to do during the holidays, I bet they’ll truly appreciate the help!

4. Volunteer for an Hour – Serve lunch at a soup kitchen. Participate in a blood drive. Help out at your local animal shelter. Whatever you choose to do, your time as a volunteer is a priceless gift.  There are so many great organizations out there who could use an extra hand. You might not be able to donate money, but your time is just as valuable check out http://www.volunteermatch.org/ for volunteer opportunities in your area.

5. Donate Old Clothes, Coats, Hats, Mittens, Etc. – Here in the great old state of Maine, it is currently 19 degrees outside. Imagine if you didn’t have a good winter coat to wrap up in? Clean out your closet for old winter gear you no longer use and donate it your local Good Will or Coats for Kids http://www.coats-for-kids.org/ .

I hope you and your family have a very Happy Holiday and the Best New Year! – Kelsey

Mark-A-Thon

WCYY DJ Mark Curdo, me, and co-worker extraordinaire Mel in the studio.

WCYY DJ Mark Curdo, me, and co-worker extraordinaire Mel in the studio.

Yesterday, I became famous. At least my voice did when got my 15 minutes of radio fame. I’ve always known I had a face for radio . . . 🙂

It all started when my co-worker Mel and I were lucky enough to be invited to visit the 94.3FM WCYY studio in Portland to be a part of the 6th Annual Mark-A-Thon. Local DJ Mark Curdo stays on the air for 102 hours straight every year to raise money for the Center for Grieving Children. How does he stay awake for that long? I have no idea! If I was him I would have been curled up in a corner asleep by the time we got there at the end of Day2. But I think working for such a great cause was keeping him peppy and awake. Or maybe it was Red Bull.

Anyways, the Center for Grieving Children is a great organization working in Southern Maine to offer counseling services to children and families who have suffered the loss of a loved one. They have 2 locations, one in Portland and one in Sanford, and over the last 25 years have been able to serve over 66,000 Maine children, teens, and families. The best part? The services offered by the center are 100% FREE. They describe their mission as “to provide loving support that encourages the safe expression of grief and loss and fosters each individuals resilience and emotional well-being” (from their website http://www.cgcmaine.org). It is a truly invaluable service to the kids and families who go there.

The deal with the Mark-A-Thon is that all week long while Mark is on the air you can call in, make a donation to the Center for Grieving Children, and he’ll play any song you want. CYY is normally an alternative rock station, but during this event he will literally play any song from any genre by any artist. We requested Jimmy Buffett which we discovered is on Mark’s all-time never ever play list and he even played that for us. Not without making fun of us a little, but he played it. This year during the Mark-A-Thon he played everything from Taylor Swift to Frank Sinatra to Jay Z to N SYNC. It’s such a cool event which pulls people from all different backgrounds and musical tastes together for a worthy cause.

This morning on the Mark-A-Thon, I heard a clip of a little boy who called in to donate all of his Christmas money to the Center for Grieving Children. Instead of getting presents this year, he asked his parents to donate the money they would have spent on him to this cause.  He said he is lucky to have his loved ones around to give him gifts and that he wanted to do something for other kids who might have lost the loved one who gave them presents. I tried not to cry when I heard this adorable child because I was driving, but that is too precious! With all of the Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Shop Til You Drop commercialized buzz this time of year, it’s so easy to forget that this is what the holiday season is really about – giving and sharing with the people we care about. There’s nothing that gives you that warm, fuzzy Christmas feeling like donating to a good cause or helping out a neighbor.

Mark 6 Web Flyer

Although we are more than half-way through the 102 hours of this year’s Mark-A-Thon, there’s still time to donate! The Mark-A-Thon will run until 5pm tomorrow, Friday December 6th. Visit https://www.gifttool.com/donations/Donate?ID=1226&AID=3018 and if you pledge a donation to the center, Mark will play any song you want to hear. Any artist. Any genre. Even a song for you Parrotheads:)

No More Barbie Dreamhouse: First-Time Home-Buying Part 1

A week or two ago I had some friends visit from out of town for my birthday. Sunday morning we went out to brunch; I was casually enjoying some waffles and bacon when my recently engaged friend (CONGRATS! by the way 🙂 ) asked me if I could write a blog about how to buy a house and apply for a mortgage.

A house.

With a mortgage.

With her fiance.

We are NOT. OLD. ENOUGH. FOR. THAT.

A Barbie Dreamhouse is the only home I am interested in mortgaging (especially if it’s the one with the elevator) in the near future, though I think a lot of girls my age probably outgrew those a long time ago.  At 25 my friend and I definitely fit into the “First-Time Home-Buyer” category and are probably ready for homes we can actually live in.

barbie dream house

Once I calmed down enough to actually think about writing this post, I realized how complex of a question she was asking. How the heck do you buy a house? I have shown many a member into our mortgage officer’s office since I started working at the credit union. But other than the fact that he eats a lot of Ramen Noodles while listening to Justin Timberlake, I know absolutely nothing about what our mortgage expert Erik does or how he gets people into their new homes. So he and I chatted and he gave me these tips for first-time home-buyers.

First things first, you should be familiar with the 4 C’s of Credit. These are the main factors that will determine your ability to get a loan.  When you go to a credit union, bank, or mortgage company to get approved for a home loan, these are the things they will consider.

CAPACITY – What is your ability to repay the loan? Do you have a job or another income source? Do you have other debts? Lenders love when you are a Steady Freddy in terms of your income. They are looking to give loans to people who have had the same job for at least 2 years, who are likely to see an increase (even if it’s small, incremental raises) over the next few years, and who are therefore likely to continually be able to make payments.  I know I personally have had 3 different jobs in the last 2.5 years, which isn’t unusual for someone my age, but which doesn’t make me seem very reliable to lenders.  Experimenting with jobs to find your passion is great, but it might mean that your income is inconsistent, you might have to relocate frequently, and it might even mean that some day you won’t be able to make your mortgage payment. Lenders don’t want to stop you from finding your dream job, they just want you to do that before you find your dream home.

CHARACTER – Will you repay the loan? Have you used credit before? Do you pay your bills on time? The Catch-22 of credit is, you have to use it to have it. If you’ve never had a credit card or made a loan payment in your life, you have no credit history and therefore won’t be able to get a loan on your own. Having student loans, car loans, credit card balances, etc. only weigh you down if you have trouble consistently paying off balances and making payments.  If you religiously pay-off your credit card balance each month and make loan payments in full, you are probably in really good shape because you can prove to lenders that you can be depended on to make payments.

COLLATERAL – If you fail to repay your loan, is there something of value that you agree to forfeit? No one wants you to default on your mortgage loan (aka not be able to pay it), especially not your lender. If this unfortunate event were to occur, they want to know that lending you money isn’t a total loss, meaning you have something of value that they can take in place of you paying back the loan. In the case of a mortgage loan, the collateral would be your home.

CAPITAL – What are you worth? Do you have other assets, such as a savings account, car, or certificate of deposit that could be used to repay the debt? Even if you are able to get 100% financing for your mortgage (which means the loan would include 100% of the cost of your home), you will still need a solid nest egg before you are able to buy. Having money in savings means that you have access to funds to pay your mortgage if your income were to become unstable.  It also means that you will able to pay for closing costs (fees for processing the paperwork of your home purchase) and other unexpected expenses in the process of buying your home.  Lastly, it shows that if you were to default on your loan and not make a payment, you have something of value that the lender could use as collateral.

Now that you’re familiar with the general way in which  lenders will assess your credit, figure out the specifics. Visit https://www.annualcreditreport.com for your free annual copy of your credit report. You won’t get your actual credit score number (that costs money) but you will get your credit history from the 3 major reporters: Experian, Transunion, and Equifax. This way you will be able to check the information on your report, dispute any errors, and try to reconcile any unpaid debts you were unaware of. If your credit needs help, you will know before you look to get pre-approved to buy a home and you can give yourself time to improve your credit. Need help understanding the information on your credit report? Visit your financial institution. Here at our credit union we are more than happy to spend a few minutes helping you look through your credit report. Or, check out the “What To Look For” section on annualcreditreport.com. They give some good advice, too.

Last minute check! If I haven’t scared you away from every buying a home with all of my financial mumbo-jumbo, you might just be committed enough to make the big purchase. Here are 2 final questions to ask yourself before you start the actual home-buying process?

1. Why do I want to own my own home? The cliche answer is: because it’s an investment. We all know that renting is a pure expense; you can pay your rent for years but you never actually own the home you live in. Home-ownership is great because there’s an end in sight. Once you pay-off your mortgage, you OWN the house. But why is that important to you? Is it more important than being able to travel abroad a couple times a year? Is it more important than being able to strike out on your own and start a new business any time you get a good idea? We don’t live in the 17th century any more when you had to be a land-owner to be able to vote or do anything cool. Erik said he often gets people in his office applying for a mortgage loan just because they think it’s the “next step after marriage.” Don’t let peer pressure get to you – if you’re happy in your rental that’s ok! If you’re young but dream of leaving your small one-bedroom for a place of your own even though none of your friends are home-owners, that’s fine too! Just be sure you’re buying a home because YOU want to, not because you think it’s what you should be doing.

2. Can you pay for everything going on inside your home?

Once you stop renting, YOU become the landlord. Can you pay to clean your furnace, get new tiling in the bathroom, repair a light fixture, etc. Can you pay to furnish all of your rooms? Your old hand-me-down furniture from your apartment might not look right in your brand new home, but can you pay to get a new couch, kitchen table, beds, bedding, light fixtures, kitchen supplies, chairs, and more all at once? Buying the actual house is one expense, making it liveable is another. If you don’t want to spend a chunk of your paycheck every month at Lowe’s, reconsidering owning your own place might be a good idea. If you’re Mr. Fix-It and can’t wait to decorate, you’re ready for the next step in the home-buying process.

Coming to the KelseyatCascoFCU Blog soon . . . I’m ready to buy a house – WHAT NOW?! In my next blog I will give simple steps and tips for how to get pre-approved for a mortgage loan, how to shop smart, and what to expect at a closing.