Better Life

FHFA's new program to help underwater homeowners

Today the Federal Housing Finance Agency announced a new program designed to help even more underwater homeowners refinance their mortgages at today's low rates. The plan hopefully will allow homeowners to lower their monthly mortgage payments, thus freeing up money to be spent in the broader economy and help the US from slipping back into recession again.


Previous programs had been restricted to homeowners who were no more than 125% upside-down on their homes. The new FHFA program places no cap on how much the borrower owes, or how far underwater they are.  Only mortgages backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will be eligible. Need to know if your mortgage is owned or managed by Fannie/Freddie? Check here and then here. Then call us for a loan officer recommendation.


Helpful links -

Does Freddie Mac own your mortgage?

Does Fannie Mae own your mortgage?

Make your own non-toxic bathtub cleanser

I found this recipe on Apartment Therapy (they credit Natural Home magazine with originally publishing the recipe). Seems to me you could go green AND save a bunch of money using this to clean your bathtub, instead of buying expensive commercial brands of cleansers.


Silky Bathtub Scrub


1 cup baking soda in a medium-sized mixing bowl
1/2 cup liquid castile soap
5-10 drops of antibacterial essential oil, such as lavender, tea tree or rosemary (optional)


Pour baking soda into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add liquid soap a little at a time, stirring continuously. Stop adding the soap after the mixture begins to resemble cake frosting.  Mix in drops of essential oil.  Store in an airtight jar for up to 1 year.


This sounds really interesting to me! I'm going to give it a go, this afternoon. Would you ever think about trying it? Do you have any money-saving or green tips for household cleaning tasks?

10 Tips to save more money

From time to time, we post articles that aren't related to our primary business, real estate sales... except that they sort of are.


All our clients, friends and family are in the same boat we are: living through the New Normal Economy, learning to make due with less in a post-Great Recession world.


Pretty much everybody we know has made resolutions to "spend less money" and "save more" but it's awfully hard to do so without a definite plan. Today's 10 Tips come from one of my favorite blogs, CreditSlips.




  1. Meeting friends at a restaurant for dinner? Tell them "I already ate," to save you from chipping in on the big tab at the end of the meal. Of course you either need an iron will, or you need to have pre-planned and already eaten something from home!  See CreditSlips' 10 Mantras to Help You Meet Your Financial Goals, Tip 1, for sneaky ways to get out of tossing money on the table when the tab arrives.

  2. Leave your plastic at home so you can honestly tell friends, "I don't have my card," when you're invited out for after dinner drinks.

  3. When it's gift giving time, remember that "simple" and "homemade" equal "thoughtful" and "expensive" just equals "expensive".

  4. See the CreditSlips post, 10 Mantras to Help You Meet Your Financial Goals for the full list of ideas, including The Waiting Period and The List.


Good luck out there in the New Normal Economy! Remember, we're all in the boat together. Your friends and work colleagues are probably trying as hard as you are to save more money.


 

The New Normal: save money on laundry detergent

A while back I re-posted a money saving laundry tip from the blog HomeEc101. It mentions the many ways white vinegar can help you save money when you do your laundry at home. See the original money saving laundry tips there and over here too.  Then the super-awesome Sarah Cooper of CoopCrafts dropped by and mentioned that she makes her own laundry soap.


Wha???


I was baffled, and intrigued. I googled around her site and found the CoopCrafts recipe for homemade laundry soap. I got more intrigued. I went shopping. I decided to give it a whirl.




[caption id="attachment_8858" align="alignleft" width="105" caption="retail box of 20 Mule Team Borax household cleaner"]retail box of 20 Mule Team Borax household cleaner[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_8857" align="alignleft" width="107" caption="retail box of Arm and Hammer "washing soda" laundry additive"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_8859" align="alignleft" width="109" caption="Retail bar of Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap"]Retail bar of Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_8860" align="alignleft" width="79" caption="retail box of Arm and Hammer Baking Soda"]retail box of Arm and Hammer Baking Soda[/caption]

First you grate the bar castile soap very finely (this is especially important for cold water washing).


I used the smaller of the 2 lemon zester options on my kitchen box grater.




[caption id="attachment_8861" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="box grater for kitchen use"]box grater for kitchen use[/caption]

Then I mixed the soap crumbles with 1 cup each of the Borax, Washing Soda,  and baking soda.


Et voila! Laundry detergent.



Estimated total cost for about 5 cups of detergent = maybe $2.00.  Use 1 tablespoon per laundry load, 2 for big loads or very hard water.


GoogleCalculator tells me that's 80 loads of laundry worth of detergent... for about $4! I stored it in my laundry room, in an old heavy-duty plastic bucket with lid.





retail package of Kirk's Original Coco Castile soap
retail package of Kirk's Original Coco Castile soap


Dr. Bronner's isn't the only castile soap out there. It does come in many scents, but it's a bit pricey at a little over $4 per bar. I found a cheaper version at my local supermarket where Kirk's Original Coco Castile soap is about $1.39 per bar.  I found all the ingredients I needed locally, at my regular supermarkets.


I also have begun adding about 1/3 cup of white vinegar to the rinse water and gave up my regular fabric softener. Holy laundry revelation, Batman! I can hardly even begin to describe the positive difference: Soft, fluffy towels. Super clean and clean-smelling laundry. No static cling. No more chemicals going down my drain into the public water supply. No more rendered animal fat on my clothes.**


Making my own laundry detergent and using white vinegar in the rinse water has been a revelation to me. I can't believe I spent a fortune for all those years on commercial laundry soaps.  Never again will I buy All, Cheer or any of the others.


You should try this at home. It's a ridiculously easy way to start if you're baffled by how to live a little greener and reduce your carbon footprint on the planet. Plus your laundry will come out cleaner with no static cling.


**you do know that fabric softener is largely made of rendered animal fat, don't you? that's a bunch of dead, boiled animals all over your clothes


disclaimer - I do not own sticky-stain-makers, otherwise known as children. Your mileage may vary. Parents, you might want to try this on your own laundry first and work your way up to the truly nasty piles of laundry-like filth kids can create.