While you might have your sites set on getting through the next major holiday, Thanksgiving, savvy shoppers are already planning for the holidays. Yes, we know thinking about holiday shopping now seems too early, but by taking just a little time now (even just an hour) can save you a lot of stress, money and time.
- Tip: 3 Foolproof Social Media Marketing TipsPosted: 1 month ago
- Tips for Hosting a Stress-Free Holiday DinnerPosted: 2 months ago
- Is a Mortgage Refinance Right for You?Posted: 3 months ago
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- Create an Early Holiday Shopping BudgetPosted: 4 months ago
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Tip: 3 Foolproof Social Media Marketing TipsPosted by
The social media scene can be overwhelming. When you’re implementing social media in your marketing strategy, it helps to know where to start. As more and more consumers turn toward social media for company reviews, information, and questions, it becomes one of the most effective ways to get in front of potential home buyers.
- Choose the right platform. Should you focus on Facebook? Instagram? Twitter? Pinterest? Not every platform will work for every business type and brand messaging. You should choose based on what your customers are using, and a platform you feel comfortable utilizing.
- Get comfortable. Once you decide between Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or any other platform, you’ll need to be comfortable engaging your customers. You will need to interact with your client base on a regular basis. This means engaging at all levels, including regular posting, responding to comments, and answering questions.
- Learn how to optimize. Using social media will not guarantee results. You’ll need to learn how to optimize your strategy. Always use a real and professional photo so your clients can make that human connection and you can begin to build trust. Also, link to your website and make contact information readily available.
Optimizing your social media profiles, choosing the right platforms, and consistently posting and engaging with your client base are all critical tips to follow to get the most out of your social media marketing.
Sources: Forbes, mConnexionsread more
Tips for Hosting a Stress-Free Holiday DinnerPosted by
The holidays are right around the corner and for many, that means gathering with family and loved ones. If you’re hosting a holiday dinner this year, it may be easy to feel stressed or overwhelmed – especially if it’s your first time hosting. However, with good organization and a clear plan, you can make this upcoming holiday meal as stress-free as possible.
- The first step towards a stress-free holiday gathering is to plan ahead. Before the decorations go up and the grocery shopping starts, sit down and put together a plan. How do you want your home to be decorated? What recipes do you plan on cooking and what ingredients do you need for each? Are there any dietary restrictions in your family you need to work around? What should you make ahead of time and what needs to be made the day of?
- Once you have your plan loosely organized, it’s time to start putting everything together. Stock up on any pantry items you’ll need beforehand so that you’re just getting perishables when it comes time for the final shopping trip. Put together any decorations in advance for easy set-up on the day of. Get your deep cleaning done a week before your big feast and just touch it up before your guests arrive.
By pre-planning and staying organized, you can eliminate a lot of the holiday stress. With a clean home and all the supplies you need on hand, day-of prep can take as little as an hour or two, giving you plenty of time to enjoy the company of your family and loved ones.
Sources: Familymint.com, Marthastewart.comread more
Is a Mortgage Refinance Right for You?Posted by
But before you jump into the refinance process, remember that everyone’s financial circumstances are different. Loan balances, interest rates, remaining months on the loan term – they all vary depending on each situation. However, there is one thing that is, and always will be, the same for everyone: math. And it’s only after you and your First Class Mortgage Consultant “do the math” that you should decide whether or not to refinance.
How does refinancing work?
Refinancing is the process of replacing an existing mortgage with a new loan. Typically, people refinance their mortgage to reduce their monthly payments, lower their interest rate, or change their loan program from an adjustable rate mortgage to a fixed-rate mortgage. Additionally, some people need access to cash to fund home renovation projects or paying off various debts and will leverage the equity in their house to obtain a cash-out refinance.
Goals for refinancing:
- Lowering your monthly payment: With a lower monthly payment, you are free to put the savings toward other debts and other expenditures or apply those savings towards your monthly mortgage payment and pay off your loan sooner.
- Remove private mortgage insurance (PMI). Some homeowners who have enough property appreciation or principal paid off will not be required to pay mortgage insurance which will reduce your total monthly payment.
- Reducing the length (term) of your loan. For homeowners who took out a mortgage in the early stages of their career, a 30-year mortgage may have made the most financial sense. But for those who want to pay off their mortgage sooner, reducing the loan term can be an attractive option.
- Switching from an adjustable-rate mortgage to a fixed-rate loan. When you have an adjustable-rate mortgage, your payment can adjust up or down as interest rates change. Switching to a fixed-rate loan with reliable and stable monthly payments can give homeowners the security of knowing that their payment will never change.
- Using the equity in your home to take out cash. With rising home values, you may have enough equity to take out a cash-out refinance. This money can be used to finance home improvements, pay off debts or to fund large purchases.
Regardless of your goal, the actual process of refinancing works much in the same way as when you applied for your first mortgage: you’ll need to collect financial documents and submit a mortgage refinancing application before you can be approved.
Is Now the Right Time to Refinance?
Ultimately, it’s critical to crunch the numbers to see if refinancing makes sense for you. Our website has a refinance mortgage calculator designed to help you calculate what your new payment would be.
Even if you’ve been unable to refinance in the past, loan programs and rates are always changing. These changes, along with rising home values in many markets, may enable you to reduce your rate or lower your monthly payments.
But you don’t have to go at it alone! Our mortgage consultants are always ready to answer your questions and guide you along the path to a successful refinancing.read more
Check Your Disaster Supplies KitPosted by
Winter weather season is almost here, and the Department of Homeland Security recommends families prepare ahead to survive independently for at least 72 hours in the event of an emergency, and offers tips on creating, updating and storing supplies.
Basic disaster supplies should be stored in airtight plastic bags and placed into one or two easy-to-carry containers such as plastic bins or a duffel bag. Kits should contain:
- One gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for both drinking and sanitation
- Non-perishable food to feed each person for three days
- Battery-powered devices such as flashlights and a radio equipped with NOAA weather and tone alert capability; or consider a hand-crank radio
- First aid kit
- Dust masks
- Personal sanitation supplies including moistened wipes, toilet paper, garbage bags and plastic ties in case public utilities are unavailable
- Tools and equipment, like manual can openers, a wrench, pliers, a whistle, plastic sheeting and duct tape to shelter-in-place if needed, local maps, backup batteries, and solar or crank chargers for cell phones
Consider unique needs your family may have beyond these basics, such as special foods and medicines or supplies for young children, seniors and pets.
If you have some warning before an emergency, a trip to the market to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables that can last unrefrigerated for about a week will provide a welcome alternative to uncooked packaged foods.
These essential items can make a difference in comfort and survival during a disaster. Visit Ready.gov for more detailed information and free resources.
Sources: Department of Homeland Security, Real Simpleread more
Create an Early Holiday Shopping BudgetPosted by
It’s the perfect time to plan your gift list and save money this holiday season. Taking just a few minutes now can save you a lot of stress, money and time.
- Review last year’s shopping list. Pull up last year’s shopping list and take a look at who you shopped for the previous year and how much you spent. This review can refresh your memory and kick-start your new shopping list.
- Create a budget. Compare last year’s budget with your current financial situation to see how much you can afford to spend this coming holiday season. Also, see what expenses are coming up and make sure you have a cushion for emergencies.
- When creating a budget for the holidays, give yourself a spending limit for gifts and don’t forget to account for entertaining and party hosting, decorations, and travel costs.
- Consider setting up a separate savings account, just for holiday shopping. That way you can avoid overspending.
- For even more control over your budget, you can narrow down a budget per person on your shopping list.
- Download a holiday planning app. To prepare for this expensive time of year, you should start saving and planning now. There are a bunch of apps out there that will help you track your gifts, set budgets, and find the best deals.
- Santa’s Bag (iTunes) – Input every person you’re buying for, what they want most, gifts you’ve gotten them, and your budget. Then, check off as you go and enjoy a more organized holiday.
- The Christmas List (iTunes) – Keep track of stores where you’re doing holiday shopping, so you don’t waste money on shipping or trips out. It also lets you set a max spending budget and allocate how much to spend on who—so you stick to your financial goals. The lists you create are shareable so that you can loop someone else into the shopping plan too.
- GiftPlanner (iTunes) – Track gifts for any event with GiftPlanner. Send gift cards straight from the app, bookmark online shopping items through a widget, and stay on top of your finances by balancing your budget.
- Christmas Gift List (Android) – This app lets you budget, buy and manage your holiday shopping list. If you use it year to year, you can look up past gift history to make sure you don’t double up on the same gift. It’s also just a convenient tool to monitor your spending and gift list.
- Christmas Gifts and Budget (Android): With this application, you can track gift ideas and your budget as you do your Christmas shopping.
- Slickdeals (Both) – Do you love a good deal? Get deal alerts to your phone on items you’re searching for, and displays handpicked deals from the Slickdeals team and deals from sites like Groupon and LivingSocial to make sure you don’t have to break your budget this holiday season.
- Prioritize your shopping. Now that you have a good start on your shopping list, you might notice there are a few gifts that are more specific than others. Your wife might be hoping for a new cashmere sweater, but your daughter has that particular new smartphone in mind – plus, she’d love it in that hard-to-find color. For gifts that will fly off the shelves early, make a priority to get these first. Of course, waiting for the week of Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday will give you the best chance of finding a deal, but you may want to keep an eye out for savings starting now. Note which gifts on your list need early attention and which ones are more generic or flexible that can wait until later.
- Subscribe to stores and coupon websites. Now is the perfect time to get on the email lists of the stores where you know you’ll do most of your shopping. You’ll be first to know when they have flash sales or free shipping days. You can also follow the accounts of your favorite shops on social media for exclusive sales and promotions. Subscribe to coupon and cash back websites and sign up for alerts now, and you’ll have all the best deals hitting your inbox directly – the perfect solution when you need an idea for the sibling who has everything.
See, that wasn’t too hard. Now that you spent a little time getting organized for the holidays, you can go back to enjoying fall.
Source: money.usnews.comread more