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Property Tax Appraisals Matter

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For the last few years, I’ve been getting more involved in my local community mainly through and our neighborhood’s Facebook group.  I wanted to feel more connected to the people who exist around me.  What does this really mean?  I spend WAY too much time on social media.  AND, I get to see questions that I no longer see in personal finance blogs.  It can get a little stale preaching to the choir. Getting Blind-Sided by Property Taxes For example, one of my neighbors from got walloped by her bank for a couple of extra thousand dollars because her home’s appraised value zoomed up, she escrows, and the bank didn’t take enough every month last year to cover the property tax increase.  She knew in passing that the appraised value increased but didn’t know to protest it.  She also didn’t know what that would do to her property taxes.  So now she feels blind-sided. Crystal’s Take on Official Home Appraisals and Property Taxes Here was how I replied: It looks like a few people have already summarized the process. We receive our annual property tax appraisals from in the first 3rd of the year. They can increase the … Read more

We Don’t Escrow, So This Month Hurts to the Tune of $12,250!

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December can be slightly depressing if you are one of those people, like us, who don’t escrow their property taxes.  That means that our monthly mortgage total is always identical but we have to pay our own property tax bills each year.  Escrowing means having the mortgage lender estimate the annual taxes, include that in the monthly payments due, and then change the monthly payment the following year based on whether they over or under estimated previously.  I don’t like inconsistency, so we chose to NOT escrow.  But I pay for that aspect of control by having to watch GOBS and GOBS of money disappear every December.  Granted, we set aside the money throughout the year for exactly this purpose.  It’s not a shocking surprise.  But it still hurt to transfer out $12,250 this year just to pay our home’s HOA dues ($719) and property taxes on two houses in an expensive (aka, nice) school district.  Yep, our net worth just took a $12,250 smack to the face.  I always feel broke right around the day I hand over that hefty, annual chunk of change.  Property Taxes Keep Rising And that payment number is growing thanks to home values ($148k … Read more

Let’s Whine About Insurance Costs!

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It’s that time of year for us again – most of our insurance policies are up for renewal.  I cringe every time I pay one of the bills, and yet I know that we’re actually getting fair renewal rates. How do I know?  I shop around every couple of years or when there is a significant jump in cost.  AND I talk a lot about everything to everybody, so I usually have a good idea of what is being paid by others. So chime in below so we can all keep up on the going rates in our own regions.  I’m starting with our most costly out-of-pocket coverage and working my way down.  Knowledge is power…knowledge of costs is the power to save money! Health Care Coverage We don’t technically have health insurance.  We joined Liberty Healthshare in 2016, which is a health cost sharing group.  It’s not actually insurance, but they work similarly.  They don’t guarantee coverage, have a maximum coverage amount of $1,000,000 per incident, and they don’t cover pre-existing conditions fully for the first few years. But they let us join, cost WAY less than our previous health insurance ($299 a month instead of $570+), and have … Read more

Owning Vs. Renting – Not Just About the Numbers

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Any of y’all on  It’s a community forum just for your neighborhood and the ones around it.  I do Nextdoor like most people do Facebook.  Anyway, someone there brought up the rising monthly rental costs this past week, and I started to feel that tingle all personal finance geeks get when money starts getting discussed publicly. “THERE BE MY PEOPLE!!!” I ran some numbers to help put things in some sort of perspective.  Here’s what I got for the average 3 bed, 2 bath homes around us (outskirts of Houston, Texas) that sell for $150,000-$180,000… A $150,000 Mortgage Example A $150k mortgage at 4% for 30 years is about $715 a month.  Then you have an approximate 3% rate for property taxes on $150k ($135k if you have the homestead exemption, but that goes away as a landlord), so that’s $4500 a year or about $375 a month. Then there’s the $1200-$2400 a year home owner’s insurance policy, the $600 flood policy for non-homesteaded homes, HOA dues that range from $0-$3000 a year, and then the maintenance and repair costs for everything. That boils down to:  $1300 a month + HOA dues + Upkeep and Repairs Owning Vs Renting All in all, if you are renting a … Read more

The Luxury of Minimalism

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Minimalism with Kids | Toy Minimalist | Staying Sane as a Parent | Minimalism is a Luxury

I’m away from the online world this week, so here’s an awesome post from Revanche at A Gai Shan Life.  She and I have only met in real person once so far, but I consider her one of my closest friends.  If you don’t already read her blog, open it right now in another tab and check it out after you’re done here.  Revanche lives in constant pain, she lives supporting others, she lives for her family and friends…key word here…she LIVES.  And she’s been blogging about it all in heart-wrenching and uplifting detail for more than 10 years. Our Spring Culling I maintain a strict policy on JuggerBaby’s (JB’s) toys. I refuse to break my neck in an unintentionally hilarious pratfall dancing over the seemingly inevitable mountains of two-year-old appropriate possessions. The one challenge to this rule is one that I can’t, in good conscience, say no to. We see my aunt twice a year and without fail, she has a pile of used toys, books, and clothes, carefully cleaned and curated for JB’s health and education. She’s not wealthy, she’s the self-described “poorest of the whole family”, so she’s gotten good at rescuing abandoned things at the church and … Read more

How to Save Thousands of Dollars on Your Mortgage

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That's amazing! Just $10 extra a month would have saved me $3000+ on my mortgage!!! A little bit extra really can save me thousands of dollars on my mortgage!

Classic mortgages are pretty straight forward after you finally jump through all the hoops and complete all of the paperwork to get one.   You have a set amount to pay per month for the term of your loan, which is determined by the amount you need to borrow and the interest rate you agree to pay.  And little changes to those payments can save you to thousands of dollars! Just Round Up Your Monthly Payment!!! Did you know that just rounding up your payment to the nearest $100 could save you thousands of dollars during a 15-30 year mortgage term?!  I was blown away when I saw the calculations. To prove my point, I’m going to share my real numbers for our current mortgage (you can check out all the details of our current, 3750 sq. ft. house in this other post). Original loan amount – $207,448 Original loan term – 30 years / 360 monthly payments Interest Rate – 4% Our Monthly Payment – $990.39 That $990.39 is just our mortgage payment since I don’t escrow.  I put aside $1000 a month into a separate account to cover the property taxes on our current home and our rental home. For all … Read more

Blast from the Past – Our House and Mortgage

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About 5 years ago in April 2011, I blogged about our house and mortgage.  Here was our house at the time: Here Were Our April 2011 House Details: Built in 2004 2 Stories – Brick and Hardy Plank Attached 2 Car Garage 1750 square feet 3 bedrooms 2 1/2 baths The bedrooms and two full baths are upstairs The kitchen, living room, dining room, and half bath are downstairs (great for our potlucks!) Covered back patio Small front yard and smaller back yard It was listed by the bank at $119,500.  After nearly 6 weeks of very slow negotiations (a downside to buying a foreclosure), we settled at $114,000, had the place inspected, and closed the deal towards the end of April 2007. Here Were Our April 2011 Mortgage Details: We forked over a 20% downpayment – $22,800 We also paid all of the silly closing fees – about $3000 The mortgage came to $91,200 5.375% rate 15 year term We did not escrow 5 Years Later That was our first home, and it became our first rental property.  We ended up having our current home built in 2012 and paid off that first house in 2013.  Here are our 2016 details: Built in 2012 2 … Read more