4 Saving Solutions for Buyers on a Budget

Here are four of those overlooked expense buckets to make sure you consider.

Apr 6, 2014 at 9:38AM

Most folks do all the math they can find online about how much house they can afford. Then they think about what they are currently paying in rent and how much they'd be comfortable going up from there, if any. Finally, they hit up the mortgage broker, have them run the numbers and get some final, definitive answer on what the bank will allow them to finance and spend.

Somewhere among all those numbers they pick a price that sits well in their heart, their mind and, hopefully, their monthly budget, as a maximum home purchase price – complete with its corresponding monthly expenses like taxes and insurance.

Unfortunately, there are a few critical line items that commonly slip through the cracks of one or more of these calculations. Our mortgage pros only know what they have in front of them, which is mostly based on expenses that show up on our credit reports or loan applications. Additionally, when it comes to our DIY budgets, we often create our household spending plans based on our idealspending patterns, vs. our actual ones.

One critical exercise to do before you lock in a price range is to look back at your bank statements and spending breakdowns from the preceding few months to see how your actual spending measures up against what you think it should be. Find the places where you need to either adjust your spending or your budget to reflect reality before you buy a home. The other critical exercise is to understand what expense categories should be factored into your calculus on how much house you can afford, even though they are commonly viewed by budget software and banks as discretionary or even luxury line items.

According to Trulia, here are four of those overlooked expense buckets to make sure you consider:

1. Essential "Extras" 
Sometimes what we say is important to us is slightly different than what is really important, but I believe you can tell what someone values by what they invest their time, energy, love and money in. So, it's no surprise that there are lots of meaty expenses that some home buyers-to-be see as essential which a bank or even a financial planner might not have on their radar screen.

Just a few of those items include:

  • Charitable giving and religious tithes, dues and offerings
  • Expenses related to caring for an aging parent
  • Non-western health cares and therapies that are not covered by your insurance, like acupuncture, massage and chiropractic.

I call these out in particular because they are categories which millions of Americans spend hundreds or thousand of dollars on every month – and because there might be no place to even enter such an expense on a loan application or budget software. If you invest a great deal of cash into these items and value them enough to keep doing so after you close escrow, make sure you factor them into your own decision making about what you can afford. It's permissible – even advisable – for your personal price max to be a lot lower than what the bank deems your top dollar.

2. "Superfluous" Cushion Stuffing
Ding dong, the recession's over, folks! And we made it through. But during those long, dark years, many people cut back on investing and saving for rainy days and retirement days alike. If that's you, and your personal economy has recovered enough to support buying a home, congrats! Just make sure you circle back to those recession-era cutbacks and correct for them before you increasing your monthly housing spend. You might want or need to save more than traditional financial guidelines would suggest in order to reposition your retirement or to fluff your cash cushion back up to your personal comfort level.

Make sure you don't overextend yourself on a home without accounting first for stuffing the cushion(s) you'll need in the future.

3. Enriching Experiences
Buying a home is one of the single-most high ROI (return on investment) life enriching experiences a person can have, if it's done smartly and sustainably. But lots of us also invest lots of dough into other enriching experiences, and want to avoid being so cash poor we can't afford any of them after escrow closes.

Some of the big-ticket items that you might be expending cash on to engage in include:

  • Travel, vacations and family outings
  • Trainers, coaches and therapists
  • Yoga and mind-body wellness activities
  • Retreats and workshops
  • Schooling, conferences, basic and continuing education

If you decide you're willing to cut back on these sorts of things or forego them entirely to redirect those funds into your home, that's fine. Just make sure you go into that decision with eyes wide open, while you still have time to decide to spend less so you can continue to engage in these enriching activities.

4. Kid-related Cash Outlays
The honest-to-goodness truth about kidlets is as follows: they cost. Sure, the rewards of parenthood are well worth the cash expenses, but the costs are considerable and are often overlooked when it comes time to list out the line items relevant to how much you can afford to spend on housing. The big ones generally get on the list, like monthly child care for very young children and private school and college tuition for the older ones.

Lots of others get lost in translation of your ideal spending categories and allocations against where your money really goes on a monthly basis. Items that often get underestimated or flat-out omitted in this category include:

  • Extracurriculars – language lessons, music lessons, clubs and classes
  • Gear and equipment – all the gear they need to engage in the above, but also things like pricey school books and educational electronics
  • College Savings – Whether or not you have a formal 529 plan, if you have children you hope to help pay for higher education, you should be allocating some level of regular savings for this.

This article originally appeared on Trulia.com

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Tara-Nicholle Nelson is Trulia’s Real Estate Realist helping consumers make real-life real estate decisions smarter. She is the author of "The Savvy Woman’s Homebuying Handbook" and "Trillion Dollar Women: Use Your Power to Make Buying and Remodeling Decisions." 

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4 in 5 Americans Are Ignoring Buffett's Warning

Don't be one of them.

Jun 12, 2015 at 5:01PM

Admitting fear is difficult.

So you can imagine how shocked I was to find out Warren Buffett recently told a select number of investors about the cutting-edge technology that's keeping him awake at night.

This past May, The Motley Fool sent 8 of its best stock analysts to Omaha, Nebraska to attend the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting. CEO Warren Buffett and Vice Chairman Charlie Munger fielded questions for nearly 6 hours.
The catch was: Attendees weren't allowed to record any of it. No audio. No video. 

Our team of analysts wrote down every single word Buffett and Munger uttered. Over 16,000 words. But only two words stood out to me as I read the detailed transcript of the event: "Real threat."

That's how Buffett responded when asked about this emerging market that is already expected to be worth more than $2 trillion in the U.S. alone. Google has already put some of its best engineers behind the technology powering this trend. 

The amazing thing is, while Buffett may be nervous, the rest of us can invest in this new industry BEFORE the old money realizes what hit them.

KPMG advises we're "on the cusp of revolutionary change" coming much "sooner than you think."

Even one legendary MIT professor had to recant his position that the technology was "beyond the capability of computer science." (He recently confessed to The Wall Street Journal that he's now a believer and amazed "how quickly this technology caught on.")

Yet according to one J.D. Power and Associates survey, only 1 in 5 Americans are even interested in this technology, much less ready to invest in it. Needless to say, you haven't missed your window of opportunity. 

Think about how many amazing technologies you've watched soar to new heights while you kick yourself thinking, "I knew about that technology before everyone was talking about it, but I just sat on my hands." 

Don't let that happen again. This time, it should be your family telling you, "I can't believe you knew about and invested in that technology so early on."

That's why I hope you take just a few minutes to access the exclusive research our team of analysts has put together on this industry and the one stock positioned to capitalize on this major shift.

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David Hanson owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway and American Express. The Motley Fool recommends and owns shares of Berkshire Hathaway, Google, and Coca-Cola.We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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