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March Tech Tip: Pack Smarter With PackPoint

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How many times have you packed for a trip and arrived at your destination only to discover you forgot an essential item… or two. Buying things you already own is a waste of time and money.

PackPoint is a smartphone app that eliminates the two most prominent problems travelers experience when preparing for a trip: deciding what is essential to bring when space is at a premium and remembering to put it in your suitcase.

Whether you’re traveling for business, pleasure or both, PackPoint suggests what to pack based on the length of travel and planned activities, adjusting suggestions based on the weather forecast at your destination. You even get a web link to share your list with fellow travelers, so they’ll know what to pack too!

PackPoint is free for both iOS and Android, with a premium version ($2.99) that allows you to customize packing templates and activities, as well as sync your list with TripIt and Evernote for even more productivity.

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4 Ways to Pay Off Your Mortgage Early

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4 ways to pay off your mortgageAre you ready to start chipping away at your mortgage at an accelerated pace?

For those homeowners who are fully funding their retirement accounts, are free of high-interest debt and have enough cash socked away for other life goals, here are four simple tactics may help you to pay off your mortgage early on your home.

1. Refinance into a shorter-term mortgage: If you have a 30-year mortgage consider refinancing it into a 10-, 15-, or 20-year loan. With a shorter-term mortgage, you will pay significantly less interest, but only if you can afford the higher monthly payment. Use this calculator to compare different mortgage terms, and let us help you decide which term is better for you. If you want a quick calculation, check out our Mortgage Comparison Calculator

2. Make an extra mortgage payment every year: Even small additional principal payments add up over time. On a $150,000 loan for 30 years at 3.75%, with no additional payments, more than $100,000 will be paid in interest over the course of the loan. By adding just $100 per month in principal payments, you will reduce the total interest paid by nearly $25,000 and the loan will be paid off more than six years sooner.

3. Set up bi-weekly mortgage payments instead of making 12 monthly payments, this equals out to 26 half-payments — or 13 full payments — per year. Give us a call before you start with a bi-weekly payment schedule. We will make sure your extra payments are applied to the principal of the loan and not being applied towards the interest. Use our Mortgage Payment Calculator to the calculate your savings.

4. Round up your monthly payments: This is similar to making bi-weekly payments. If your monthly payment if $815, try rounding your payment up to $900. The extra $85 goes toward the principal. Early in a mortgage, most of your regular payment goes toward interest.

As always, if you have questions about paying off your mortgage early, please give us a call. We would be happy to review your current financial situation and help you determine the best course of action for your unique situation.

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Clean House in a Hurry

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vacuum-2116241_1920 While having friends or family over at the last minute can be a pleasant surprise, there may be times when your house isn’t guest ready. These quick cleaning tips will help you spruce up your home just in the nick of time.

Odor eliminator. Get the air moving with your HVAC, ceiling fans, open windows or all of the above. If you have some handy, pop frozen cookie dough into the oven. It’s a chemical-free way to add an appealing aroma and makes a yummy treat for guests.

Clutter bust. Grab an empty laundry basket and clear clutter. Begin with the entryway, and then focus on rooms you’ll entertain in. Clear toys and clothes that are laying on the floor. Straighten books and magazines. After your guests leave, put everything back in its proper place.

Furniture refresh. Hide stains with throws and pillows or flip the cushions.

Kitchen spiff. No dishwasher space? Rinse dirty dishes, stow in a large stockpot and hide under the sink or in a pantry. Wipe down surfaces and sweep the floor, paying close attention to spaces where crumbs, dirt and pet hair gather.

Restroom refresh. Wipe down surfaces and mirrors with disinfecting wipes. Empty the trash. Refresh the hand soap, hand towel, and toilet paper. Drop excess clutter into a bin and stash it under the sink or behind the shower curtain. Shake out the bath mat. Light a candle.

Walk this way. Vacuum the main walkways to refresh fibers and pick up lint. The vacuum lines give that freshly-cleaned look.

These tips will ensure you can enjoy company without worrying about the state of your space.

Sources: The Spruce, Real Simple

© 2017 Vantage Production, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Your Mortgage, What To Expect: Document Review

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Getting ready to buy a home?

This short video will help you understand the first step of the mortgage process for home buyers: the initial document review. Find out what to expect and learn what the mortgage lender or broker will look at and analyze during the review process.


Ready to get started? Give us a call or fill out an online application: APPLY ONLINE HERE.

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Chill Winter Utility Bills

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  There is no doubt that winter is here is full force. If you are like many savvy midwesterners, you have prepped for winter by replacing your HVAC filter, checking the weather-stripping around your home for air leaks, and scheduling an energy audit from your local power company, you’re ahead of the game on reducing utility expenses this winter. Here are even more ways to lower your bills.

Know your thermo. For each degree you drop your thermostat (between 60-70 degrees), you can reduce energy expense by 5 percent. For maximum savings, set your thermostat to 68 degrees when you’re home and 55 degrees when away or sleeping. Programmable and smart-home thermostats help save even more by regulating temperatures automatically.

A tankless job. Heating water accounts for about 12 percent of utility costs for most households. Traditional tank-style heaters are less efficient than on-demand or tankless systems because they must continuously keep water warm. However, lowering the temperature to 120 degrees on tank-style heaters will reduce costs. Every 10-degree reduction in temperature can lead to savings of 3 to 5 percent on your bill.

Flip (or fill) your fridge. According to the EPA, more than 60 million refrigerators are over ten years old, costing consumers $4.4 billion a year. If you’re in the market for a new fridge, consider a top-freezer model certified by Energy Star, which uses less energy than a 60-watt light bulb. If a new refrigerator isn’t an option, keep your current one as full as possible. Food acts as insulation and shortens the amount of time your fridge needs to run to keep items cold.

Shed a little light. Swap household incandescent bulbs for LED bulbs, which are approximately 90 percent more efficient and last years longer. Also consider installing dimmer switches, giving you even more control over energy use as well as the ability to add an ambient touch to your space.

Preempt your phantoms. Seventy-five percent of the energy consumption by home electronics is when devices are off but still plugged in. The most common culprits of “phantom” or standby power include TVs, DVD players, stereos, computers, kitchen appliances and phone chargers. Place items on a power-strip so that you can turn it off will save money by the minute.

Big fan of savings? While running a fan during winter seems counterintuitive, you can boost HVAC efficiency and reduce your costs up to an additional 10 percent by changing the direction of your ceiling fans to run clockwise. The fan will push warm air that rises to the ceiling down throughout the rest of the room. Look for the switch on the side of the motor.

Sources: The Balance, Apartment Therapy,

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