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Written By: Gary on September 26, 2009 One Comment

I originally purchased my condo almost ten years ago. I purchased it with a five-year ARM (Adjustable Rate Mortgage) which means that after the five years my interest rate changes once a year. Since I never thought I’d live here five years, let alone ten it seemed like a good option for me. I’m still living here and due to a variety of circumstances my rate never started fluctuating until last year (see my ARM story from last year).

I was pretty happy when my mortgage rate only jumped up a little last year, but with the economy even worse this year my rate actually dropped 1.625% to a new total of only 3.25%! I know this shows the economy isn’t very good right now, but (while I don’t really talk about it) my personal economy isn’t so great right now either, so this is really a good thing for me.

I believe my mortgage rate is is based on a margin of 2.875% plus an index (1 year treasury-bills) which is currently 0.40% so that makes that a 3.25%. So unless the index can go less than 0.0.% (and I don’t think it can) I’m pretty much as low as it can go.

FYI, My mortgage was bought up by HSBC as soon as I got it (within hours) and they’ve been a pleasure to work with. And to get my mortgage, my first mortgage, my bible was Mortgages for Dummies. Also, Here’s a place to get the current and past rates from the U.S. Treasury.

Written By: Gary on January 11, 2009 No Comment

As a followup to my post on saving money for the holidays (over at WeLikeMoney.com) I’m going to talk about managing your utility bills, specifically your gas and electric bills.

Your electricity and natural gas bills fluctuate throughout the year: Air conditioning in the summer, heat in the winter, filters for the pool in the summer, more lights in the winter and many other factors. Many utility companies offer something some kind of balanced budgeting billing (my company calls it BudgetWise® Billing). What they do is figure out what your average bill is, guesstimate what it will be over the next 12 months and start charging you this amount. Every so often they re-evaluate they amount (6 months) and every 12 they credit or charge you the difference.

This is great for those months where you get some outrageous bills, especially if they haven’t done any meter reading in a while. Mine is usually pretty accurate and I’ve never owed at the end. This is a saving feature I’ve never used before a few years ago, I was helping a friend with some really tight budgeting and we wanted a specific amount to budget to; when we set up his, I added it to mine and I’ve enjoyed having it ever since.

Pros and cons:

  • No shocking bills! They are all the same.
  • You could get a big bill at the end (this hasn’t happened to me).
  • If you can do this with gas but not electric (or vice-versa) and they sway differently it might not be as useful (my gas and electric are the same company).
  • If you don’t pay enough attention to your bills you might not conserve enough. Not enough shock might not make you conserve enough, which costs you in the end.

From a budgeting standpoint this makes all my utilities the same every month: cable, cell phone, gas and electric. My water is part of my condo association fees so I’m not sure if anyone offers budgeting on water bills since I’ve always lived in some kind of multi-person dwelling.

Hopefully this works out for you as well as it has for me. If anyone has any experiences on this (good or bad) please leave a comment.

Written By: Gary on September 26, 2008 2 Comments

So it’s that time for my five year ARM (Adjustable Rate Mortgage) to start adjusting. Was a little nervous because I didn’t know how it would go. It could have go up 2% but it only jumped from 4.25% to 4.875% so I’m pretty happy about 5/8ths of a percent (it’ll stay that rate for the next year). What I couldn’t understand was why my payments dropped if the rates went up? Turns out they recalculated my mortgage based on what I currently owe and since I’ve been paying extra on my mortgage it went down; so even though my interest is going up $45-ish a month it actually dropped my monthly payment.

I’ve had a really great experience with my first mortgage. I set it up with a local company and it was immediately sold to HSBC (it was sold so fast; I signed Friday at 4 pm and Monday I got HSBC paperwork dated from Friday). I purchased the five year ARM at 6.875 interest (I think I paid a small amount for points to drop it 3/8 of a percent) then a few years later I had them redo my interest rate to 5.25% with just a phone call (and a $750 processing fee on my MasterCard) and then I did it once more (5 years ago) to 4.25% for another $750 phone call. The phone call required no paperwork, just them checking my credit and my payment history. So I managed to stretch this 5 year ARM out to almost 9 years while dropping my interest rate in the mean time.

It’s worked out quite well for me (other than the fact that housing values have dropped) especially since I never thought I’d live here even 5 years :)

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