Helpful Hacks to Stretch Your Holiday Budget

While the holiday season is a joyous time of year full of laughter, love, and cheer, it can also be a time full of stress and financial despair. According to a study completed by the American Research Group, Inc., the average American is expected to spend over $900 on gifts for family, friends, and loved ones this holiday season alone. If you don’t have $900 already set aside for gifts this season, you’re not alone. That’s why we’re bringing you some great ways to stretch your holiday budget and save you from financial distress.

Hacks to stretch your holiday budget:

  1. Make a Plan: First things first – sit down and take a hard look at your finances, how many people you’d like to purchase gifts for, and what your budget will allow. Making and pricing out a list will also help you to stay on track and on budget.
  2. Do your Research: Have your eye on a specific gift for someone? Don’t jump on the first deal that comes your way. Try comparison shopping online or download a digital coupon app like RetailMeNot for deals and discount codes.
  3. Sign up for Email Alerts: If you’ve got several favorite stores, make sure you sign up for email alerts to receive news and information on sales and discount offers.
  4. Pay with Cash: While it’s tempting to charge up your credit card for gifts you think your family and friends will really love, setting a strict budget and taking out the exact amount of cash you plan to spend will help you to avoid that post-holiday debt.
  5. Take Advantage of Credit Promotions: While we do encourage you to use cash to stay on budget, it may be smart to check into your credit card company incentives and promotions to see if they offer cash rewards or points that will help you earn more. If you do decide to go this route, please remember to use credit responsibly
  6. DIY: It’s truly the thought that counts, so why not channel your creativity to make your own, personalized gifts for your loved ones? With the robust internet today, you should have no problem finding a number of ideas. Try checking out Pinterest to get you started.
  7. Set a Limit: There’s no harm in proposing a monetary limit with family and friends to help you stretch your budget on gifts this year. It is likely that they are in the same boat as you are and will welcome the gift limit idea.

So, leave the stress behind this season and use these handy tips to help you stretch your holiday budget.

5 Great Ways to Give Back to Your Community

5 Great Ways to Give Back to Your Community

The holidays, especially Thanksgiving, are a time for us to pause and reflect on all of the good fortune life has bestowed upon us. We all have something we can be grateful for, and what better way to express our gratitude than to pay it forward to our communities. We’ve compiled 5 ways you can give back to your community.

  • Shop Local

Planning a shopping trip? Rather than buying your shopping at a big box store, support your local businesses and your community by taking your holiday shopping lists to your favorite local shops. The Saturday after Thanksgiving, otherwise known as Small Business Saturday, commemorates the annual shopping tradition made to support small businesses and celebrate communities everywhere. So, grab a friend or family member this Saturday and enjoy!

  • Become A Sponsor

Whether you have a student-athlete in your home or not, chances are you know someone who does. One great way to give back to your community that involves very little time and investment is to become a sponsor for a local sports team. Are the Arts more your scene? Sponsor your high school or community theatre’s upcoming production. Whatever you are passionate about, there are local organizations and events that need your financial support.

  • Volunteer

Volunteering in your local community is a great way to give back and feel great. While time and a little internet research will likely give you a variety of volunteer opportunities to choose from, you can narrow down your options by selecting a prospect that involves offering up your own set of skills, or, choose an organization that supports a specific cause you care about.

  • Get to Work

Help build a better community by rolling up your sleeves and putting yourself to work! If you are physically able, why not offer your time and energy to get involved in construction projects within your community. Try getting your hands dirty in a community garden, grabbing a hard hat to help build a home, or channeling your inner artist to help paint a mural.

  • Talk to Your Employer

Employee volunteerism is important to a lot of companies and organizations, so consider contacting your own HR department to find out ways your employer is involved with giving back to your local community. Some employers even offer incentives for giving back and volunteering on your own time.

 

 

Our Favorite Ways to Give Back

Here at Inlanta Mortgage, serving others and giving back to our local community is very important to us. In fact, Inlanta contributes to our communities year-round! Some of our favorite philanthropic charities that we give back to include the Cancer Research Institute, the Lombardi Walk/Run to Tackle Cancer, the American Red Cross, the Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation, the United Performing Arts Fund, the local Pewaukee Food Pantry, and more.

Inlanta just recently wrapped up our 2017 Hunger Games food drive to help support our local food pantry, collecting 2,984 items total to help fight hunger and feed our community! Inlanta is also planning to hold our second blood drive for the American Red Cross this December and is looking forward to planning other various philanthropic initiatives in 2018.

How to Host a Budget-Friendly Thanksgiving

How to Host a Budget-Friendly Thanksgiving

It’s the season of giving. So, why are we spending so much? If you’ve signed up to host Turkey Day this year for your family and friends, here are some ways to save you from financial distress while planning the perfect holiday get-together.

  1. Crunch the Numbers

Take a minute to sit down and plan out how many people you can comfortably accommodate in your home as well as how many people you can afford to invite. This will help you determine the size of your party and how much food and drinks you will need to serve.

  1. Plan Ahead

Now that you’ve got the numbers down, it’s time to plan your budget and your shopping list. Remember that Thanksgiving is a time to gather and enjoy a feast with those you love, so have some fun planning the menu and don’t forget to take into consideration your guests’ dietary needs and restrictions.

  1. Divvy Out Dishes

Just because you are hosting the event doesn’t mean you can’t ask your guests to bring a bottle of wine, extra dessert, or side option. With you taking on the hosting duties and responsibilities, your friends will likely prefer not to show up empty handed and will be more than happy to help you out.

  1. Shop Early

There’s no need to stress yourself out even more by rushing to the store the night before the big event. Plan ahead and shop early, picking up items you need as you go along. This will help you avoid an overflowing shopping cart, an extra-long grocery receipt, and a hefty credit card charge. Don’t forget to check for coupons online or in store as well when doing your shopping.

  1. Save on Decorating

While seasonal home decor always adds a nice touch, it is important to remember that you can still fill your house with holiday cheer without breaking the bank. Check out Pinterest for these awesome DIY Thanksgiving decorating ideas or head to your local dollar store for inexpensive party extras.

  1. Turn Down the Heat

With the heat of the oven and baked dishes, along with all the extra guests hustling and bustling around your kitchen, you can opt to save a little extra on your heating bill this month by turning down your thermostat.

  1. Remember the Reason

In the chaos of it all, take time to remember the reason why we celebrate and appreciate the love that is shared amongst family and friends this time of year. No matter how extravagant your event turns out to be, there is greater importance in gathering together than there is in spending your savings on dinner.

Looking for more ways to save this season? Check out these 50 Ways to Save Money on Your Thanksgiving Dinner. From all of us at Inlanta Mortgage, we want to wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving and joyful holiday season!

Save Yourself from Overspending This Holiday Season with These Tips & Tricks!

We’ve all done it. Waited until last minute to do our holiday shopping only to overspend on gifts for loved ones, leaving us with extra credit card debt and buyers remorse. While the holidays prove time and again to be an expensive time of year for many, they don’t have to be. Here are some tips to help keep you from overspending this holiday season.

  • Set a Budget – and Stick to It.

It is always best to begin with a budget. Once you have your budget set, take the time to contemplate how you will best utilize that budget amount to get all of your holiday shopping done efficiently and wisely. Avoid going over budget – even just a little – as this can lead to falling into the trap of overspending.

  • Shop Year Around

Did you know that you can buy holiday gifts for family and friends year around? Most of us often forget this fact and like to put off our holiday shopping until the last minute when the malls are extra hectic and the clock is ticking. While this stressful strategy may work for some, finding and purchasing gifts year around can help you avoid the extra spending as well as the chaos of the holiday season. Just remember to stick to your budget!

  • Get Crafty.

They say that it’s the thought that counts, so why not get crafty and create a homemade present for someone you love? If you find you’re not the crafty type, enlist the help of a friend who is, or offer to do a favor. We recommend checking out Pinterest for some great DIY ideas your friends and family are sure to love!

  • Look for Deals

During the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it’s important to look for the best deals on gift items before doing your shopping. There are typically deals happening everywhere, so take some time to sit down with your phone, tablet, or computer to research the best deals for the items you need. When shopping in store, try an app like Retail Me Not for any coupons or extra store savings.

  • Watch Your Calendar

While it’s tempting to attend every holiday party or gathering that you’ve been invited to, you must remember that these events are typically costly. Save a little extra this year by skipping one or two parties or holiday dinners. Your wallet will thank you for it!

  • Plan Ahead for Travel

Do you travel somewhere for the holiday season? Plan ahead to figure out what is best financially for you and your travel companions to avoid the high holiday rates and travel prices. You may also want to weigh and measure your luggage ahead of time to avoid extra fees and skip the upgrades this time as well.

  • Keep Track for Next Year

Regardless of what your holiday shopping strategy may be, it is important to reflect on what you spent in total to help you plan better for next year’s festivities. If you find yourself overspending, look to what caused this and how you can fix your budget to help keep you on track next time. Once you have a total that you are happy with, you may want to open an extra savings account to set money aside all year. This will help keep you on track as well as save you from overspending.

Help Build Your Savings Account with These Simple Tips

Setting aside money each month for your savings account can often feel like a daunting and sometimes impossible commitment. Perhaps you’d like to buy a home someday or purchase a new car. Maybe, you’ve got a serious case of wanderlust and are wanting to travel the world. Either way, achieving these dreams often requires diligent planning – specifically financially.

If you constantly feel like you’re living paycheck to paycheck without saving a pretty penny, don’t fret. We’ve got some simple solutions for you to help boost your savings and get you one step closer to achieving your dreams.

  1. Set Up Direct Deposit: A good rule of thumb when it comes to savings is to set it and forget it. It may seem like an obvious tip but is often overlooked. If you already have a savings account, decide on a feasible amount to add to it directly each pay period. You may notice a difference at first, but soon enough, it will become the norm and you will have started building a nice little nest egg.
  2. Unplug and Turn Off: Do you often leave your TV on all night or come home from work to find your coffee pot still on? It may not seem like it, but simply leaving a light on or electronics plugged in can substantially increase your electric bill each month. Try diligently to ensure you turn the lights off when you leave a room and unplug electronics that are not in use to save extra on bills.
  3. Sell Your Stuff: It is likely that you have extra “stuff” lying around. That is, shoes and clothing items you no longer wear, old electronics you don’t use, furniture you don’t need, books you’ve already read, etc. Why not try to sell your useless items online or have a yard sale to add some extra cash to your savings account? This will also help you declutter your space as an added bonus.
  4. Brown Bag It: Do you go out to lunch regularly? Do you make a Starbucks run every morning on the way to work? While we all enjoy a pumpkin spice latté every now and then, spending money on fast food and coffee daily can take quite the hit on your paycheck. Perhaps it’s time to start bringing your lunch and coffee from home or setting some rules regarding how many lunch outings you can really afford each week.

While these may seem like small adjustments to make, over time, it can make a big difference in your savings account. Looking for more tips and tricks on ways to save? Check out this list of 100 Ways to Save Money from Nerd Wallet!

If you’d like additional tips on saving for a down payment or if you are interested in learning more about mortgage loan options for you, please contact one of our loan officers today. We’d love to help you achieve your dreams of homeownership!

Navigating Waves of Success – Inlanta’s 2017 Sales Conference Highlights

Navigating Waves of Success

We are thrilled to announce that our Annual Inlanta Sales Conference was a smashing success! We want to thank all of our dedicated employees that attended, our trusted sponsors that participated, and our inspiring speakers that motivated our team. Not only did we learn a lot while bonding with our friends & co-workers, but we also raised a whopping $24,541 for the Cancer Research Institute through raffle & silent auction! To learn more about the Cancer Research Institute, please visit www.cancerresearch.org.

This year’s conference, held at the Blue Harbor Resort in Sheboygan, WI, offered the members of our Inlanta family the chance to connect with one another personally, celebrate this past year’s successes together, and learn new best practices to ensure success in the upcoming year.

Awards & Recognition

The conference also included a service award ceremony honoring those who have proudly served on our team for the past 5, 10, 15, and 20 years on. Congratulations to the following members of Team Inlanta on their service.

5 Year Recognition: Jill Golla, Diane Kramasz, Rosemary McCullough, Liz Labodda, Trisha Mulder Conwell, Mike Ponce, Josh Badciong, Jon Donovan, Mark Polanco, Gail Carrick, Yvette Clermont, Sherri Mayer, Kerry Heus, Mark Schulenburg, Jon Bakovka

10 Year Recognition: Gilbert Bundy, Jim Fittante, Mike Fittante, Andy Patterson

15 Year Recognition: Kent Sova, Emily Whitstone

20 Year Recognition: Dennis DeGrave and Chris Knowlton

As a special honor to our 20-year veterans, Dennis & Chris both received a gift fitting for what they love most. For Dennis – that means anything Harley-Davidson! For Chris – that means all things Buffalo Wild Wings, Pepsi, and Hershey’s Chocolate!

Inlanta also honored Katrina Cole, Business Development/Marketing for our Grand Rapids, MI branch, with the second annual Brand Spirit Award! Katrina was proudly recognized as an individual that has grown the basic footprint of marketing and assisted in setting the foundation of the Grand Rapids branch for future growth. She consistently comes up with exceptional marketing ideas and reaches out to Inlanta’s corporate marketing team to ensure that brand standards and guidelines are met. Katrina has also received the following awards or has obtained a seat on the following boards: National Mortgage Professional Magazine’s 50 Most Connected Mortgage Professionals; Mortgage Professional America Magazine’s Elite Women in Mortgage; Vice President of the Michigan Mortgage Lenders Association West Chapter; Co-Chair of the Western Michigan Women’s Council of Realtors; and Board Member of the Michigan Mortgage Lenders Association.

Additional Highlights

The event also included a Top Producers Panel where Inlanta’s best divulged their keys to success, a number of breakout sessions featuring LOS system best practices and an Underwriting Panel, exciting company news and announcements, excellent motivational speakers, and continuing education for our Loan Officers.

On the second day of the conference, attendees experienced an excellent presentation by Garth Graham from the STRATMOR group on customer satisfaction in the mortgage industry. One of the most interesting takeaways was that satisfaction and net promoter scores were highest in the Third-Party Originations channel, proving TPO can lead to more happy clients through increased product offerings and competitive rates as well as leveraging the TPO provider’s technology platform.

Another highlight of the event included the presentation of the Customer Service Superstar Awards presented by Craig Pollack from Social Survey. Congratulations to Craig March, Dee Cayo, Yvette Clermont, Herb Lessmiller, and Jason Kupka for having the top customer satisfaction ratings in the company.

Inlanta was also excited to announce the destination of our 2017 rewards trip to beautiful Cap Cana, Dominican Republic!

Last, as the sun set on another great #TeamInlanta conference, we closed with excitement for the future – our upcoming 25th anniversary!

To see more from our Sales Conference, click here to watch a fun slideshow!

Mortgage Professional Spotlight with Dennis DeGrave

Obtaining a mortgage loan can often sound like a foreign concept to those who have not undergone the process before. The work of a mortgage professional, or a Loan Officer, can sound even more foreign to the unfamiliar. That is why we are diving in to the life of a mortgage pro with an up close and personal interview with one of our top experienced Loan Officers, Dennis DeGrave!

Check out our interview below to read what Dennis had to say about his career in the mortgage industry.

Inlanta Mortgage: Tell me about yourself… how many years have you been in the industry and what made you become an LO?

Dennis DeGrave: I have been with Inlanta for 20 years as you know, prior to this I had been doing lending for the previous 8 years with a finance company and a credit union.  One of the things I loved the best was being able to help people out financially when they needed it, so working for the finance company allowed me to help out those people with challenging credit or financial situations, however, we were typically working with pretty high-interest rates.  When the finance company was going out of business, I then was offered a job at a credit union.  The credit union gave me the opportunity to do the same thing, however now I was able to do that with great low rates to the members of the credit union.  The biggest draw for me when I then had the opportunity to work at Inlanta Mortgage, is that I now could help people of all financial statuses buy homes and experience the pride of homeownership or better their financial situations by refinancing their existing mortgages.

IM: You have been in the industry a long time – what makes you successful?

DD: Always doing what is right for my clients’ financial future.  I love to educate my clients on what options they have available and solving problems. If there is a way to help them out, I believe I can find the best solution for them to accomplish their goal.

IM: What does a typical day look like for you?

DD: A great day is when I have numerous conversations or meetings with clients and referral partners to discuss financing options.  Typical days involve reviewing applications, putting together financing options, discussing or meeting with clients to review those options, and getting loans approved and/or going to closings.

IM: What is your favorite thing about your job?

DD: Definitely attending my closings with first-time homebuyers, getting to share in their excitement of finally getting the keys to their first home and knowing that I had something to do with that historic day for them is the best.

IM: What piece of advice would you give to first-time homebuyers?

DD: Make sure they are working with a lender that explains the whole home buying process and is attentive to their questions and needs.  Buying your first home is a big deal and can be pretty stressful.  The better understanding the buyer has of how the process works and what the payments and money needed at closing are, before they start looking at homes and writing an offer, the better they will feel about the whole experience.

Special thanks to Dennis DeGrave from our Pewaukee, WI branch for giving us an inside look at the life of a mortgage industry professional!

Tips for Choosing the Right Mortgage Lender

For most, choosing to purchase a home is a big decision. Choosing the right mortgage lender to help you smoothly along the process, one you can entrust with all of your sensitive financial information who can educate you on the proper loan options based on your specific financial situation is key to a successful transaction.

Here at Inlanta Mortgage, our mission is to be the home financing partner that you trust to serve your family, friends, and community. Whether you are purchasing or refinancing, we want you to know we have your back every step of the way. While we want to assist you with all of your mortgage lending needs, we also want to provide you with the tools necessary to choose the right lender for your particular needs and circumstances. Here are some tips on how to choose the right mortgage lender.

Do Your Research

The market is changing every day. That’s why it is wise to shop around and talk to a few local lenders in your area to learn more about the types of loan programs offered and current market rates. This will also give you the chance to explain any unique financial needs you may have to see if they have dealt with borrowers like you in the past. While it may be tempting to want to choose a loan officer that advertises the “best rate,” it is important to take into account customer satisfaction, knowledge, experience, and more.

Referrals and Testimonials 

You can learn a lot about a lender based on real online reviews and testimonials from real clients they have had in the past. Successful transactions produce successful reviews and can provide social proof of happy peers in your area that are now homeowners with the help of their trusted lender. Visit your lender’s website, Google+, Yelp, or Facebook page to get an inside look at former client experiences.

Communication

Communication is key during the mortgage process, so having a lender that will stay in touch with you and keep you up to date on the status of your loan while providing you with honest feedback is important. When researching lenders, inquire with them about their communication styles and if applicable, ask to meet their team prior to conducting business with them to learn how it all works. It is important for you to not feel afraid to ask questions. Open communication with your loan officer will help ease any worries you have throughout the process.

Knowledge and Experience

Strong knowledge of the loan process, loan programs, and mortgage products available along with knowledge of the market is important when choosing the right lender. With knowledge comes experience. Working with an experienced lender who has successfully helped many homeowners achieve the American dream may help give you peace of mind during the process. Whether you are new to the process or are a seasoned homeowner, your loan officer should be able to speak with you on the process and provide you with the education and guidance needed based on your level of experience.

If you’d like to get in touch with one of our mortgage professionals today, click here to find a local lender within your area or contact us today for more information.

Preparing Financially for the Mortgage Process

Purchasing a home is exciting and adventurous. Home buyers, particularly first-time home buyers, typically don’t know a lot about the process of financing a home. To avoid making mistakes, you need to know what you should expect. It is important to consider the state of your credit, the additional costs besides just the down payment, and the important questions dealing with the future.

 

The Credit Aspect

Your credit score is one of the first things a lender will look at when you apply for a mortgage. To cut through all that confusion, here are five tips you can act on right now:

  • Check your credit reports for free once a year through the three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Why all three? Because the information in each of the three bureaus’ reports can differ. If one or all of the reports include mistakes, your credit score may be negatively affected, and you may need to address the errors before going house shopping.
  • Be strategic with credit card use. The percentage of your credit limit that you use every month can affect your score. Make sure your balance doesn’t come too close to your limit.
  • The simplest and most important tip? Pay off your balance each month. To maintain a healthy score, pay off the balance before the due date. Anything after 30 days past the due date can spell very bad news for your score.
  • Be consistent. Good credit behavior over the long term will keep your score high.
  • Don’t take on more credit. If you apply for several different credit cards, you’re sending a message that you may have maxed out your other accounts

 

Save enough for the down payment and other additional fees

You should plan to make a down payment of 3.5% – 5% at the very least when you are determining affordability. It is important to consider that down payments are not the only costs associated with the purchase of a home. Your lender should be able to provide you with a breakdown of your costs that you will be paying upfront and on a monthly basis. Here are some basic tips to help you save for the costs associated with buying a home:

  • Start a budget: Making a budget allows you to see your expenses, how much money is coming in, and what is left over to save or pay off debts. When you have a savings goal it, helps prioritize your money by eliminating or cutting down on unnecessary expenses.
  • Automate: Once you have created a budget and figured out how much you can comfortably save each month or paycheck, set up a specific amount or percentage of your paycheck to go to savings automatically. For some, it helps to open up an entirely separate savings account for their home’s down payment and expenses. This method allows you to see how much you are saving specifically for the home buying process and keeps you from accidentally spending this money on something other than your new home.
  • Increase your income: If you are worried about cutting back expenses, or just want to save for your down payment faster, consider finding ways to increase your income. Some ideas include working overtime, getting a second job, or finding alternative ways to making money such as selling items online.
  • Save any unexpected money: When you get a large sum of money, such as a bonus or your tax refund, itis all too easy to take on the extra cash and purchase that one expensive thing you’ve had your eye on for months. Instead of going on a shopping spree, take that money and put it into your savings right away to help you achieve your dream of homeownership sooner.

 

Affordability now and in the future

Regardless of the level of income you have today, you need to figure out what the future may hold before you sign on the dotted line. For example, if you’re planning to have kids sometime down the road, how will these happy additions impact your family income? What effect will job changes have on your current income level? And have you planned for monthly payments into your rainy day savings account?

Everyone who looks to buy a home will have a payment amount that is affordable today, but in the face of your answers to the questions above, will that number still work for you down the road? These are some questions to consider as you think about homeownership.

 

Feel free to talk with a loan officer in your area to determine if homeownership is the right path for you!

Automating Your Home

Automating Your Home with Smart Technology

With the advancements that have been made in technology in just the past decade, there are many new ways to incorporate faster, more efficient, and cost-effective solutions to everyday tasks and problems. One big trend that we are seeing right now is home automation, or “smart homes.” With the help of technology, today you can make the functions in your home almost entirely automated or controllable from a smartphone or tablet.

What exactly are the benefits of home automation?

  • Those with home automation save an average of 20% on home insurance
  • You can save around 15% on your energy bill
  • Based on national averages, you could save around $1,352 each year by automating your home
  • Better security and peace of mind
  • Control over almost all functions in your home from one tablet or smartphone

What are the capabilities of a smart home?

Thermostat: You can have the ability to control your thermostat even when you are not home. By adjusting the temperature when you are not home, you save on heating and cooling costs.

Security: With a smart home, you won’t need to be paranoid about whether you remembered to lock the doors to your home. Your smart home system can tell you if your doors are locked or unlocked. Also, with some advanced systems, you can trigger lights and television sets to turn on while you are out of town to give the appearance that someone is home.

Lighting: Some smart home systems have an “all off” button to help easily turn off every light in your home at once. Sensors can also trigger lights to turn on when motion is detected outside of your home.

Television: You can combine all of your remotes into one by using your smart home app on your tablet or phone. You can even set a sequence to dim the lights, adjust the room temperature, and start a movie with one click of a button.

Communication: You can send messages room-to-room through the television or to visitors through a touch screen outside of your home. You can also get notified if there is a leak in your basement or even when the kids make it home from school.

There are many options and benefits to making your home smarter and even the smallest steps could save you a considerable amount of money in the long run. Here are some of the best smart home devices you can implement in your home.

http://www.businessinsider.com/best-smart-home-devices-2015-12

 

 

Sources

https://www.control4.com/blog

https://cleantechnica.com/2013/11/06/home-automation-benefits-infographic/