10 Tips for Budgeting Your Holiday Season

Americans tend to spend a lot of money during the holidays. After all, it is the season of giving.

In fact, the average person planned to spend $1,455 on holiday shopping in 2022, which included the cost of gifts, food and decorations. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), consumer spending on gifts and other holiday expenses has increased each year since 2009 – and will likely continue to rise this coming year.

However, some people aren’t so sure. Although overall spending will increase, a recent survey suggests holiday shopping will be more difficult this year than in the past. On average, U.S. consumers said they plan to spend 39% less compared to 2022. A third of Americans even plan on going into credit card debt just to fund their holiday purchases.

10 budgeting tips for holiday shopping

Want to take the stress out of holiday shopping? Here are 10 budgeting tips you can’t afford to miss:

1. Get a head start

Did you know that almost a third of consumers kick off their shopping in October or even earlier? There’s a good reason why. If you wait until the last minute to start browsing, you run the risk of paying extra for expedited shipping or getting stuck with pricier items.

The earlier you shop, the better chance you have crossing every name off your list without going over budget. Plus, you’ll have a much bigger window of opportunity to think up the best possible gift for every recipient.

2. Set holiday spending limits

A good way to think economically about your shopping is to put a cap on how much you can spend. Start by figuring out how much you’ll need for your regular monthly expenses. Then, add what you anticipate spending during the holidays. If you’re not sure, use last year’s expenses as a realistic reference.

Now that you know your must-haves and nice-to-haves, you can set a spending limit that reflects your financial position. At the very least, this exercise will help set parameters before you start shopping.

3. Prioritize bills and other essentials

The last thing you want to do is to put holidays over essentials. Try to curb impulse buying and reserve a set amount to cover your most important items: rent, utilities, insurance, loans and so on. If you need help identifying these expenses, try the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s free budget tool to get started.

4. Take advantage of shopping holidays

It’s a smart idea to time your buying around certain consumer holidays, such as Black Friday or Cyber Monday. This is usually when stores and retailers feature their best deals of the year, allowing you to scoop up plenty of exciting items at a fraction of the cost.

5. Consider homemade gifts

Do-it-yourself (DIY) gifts can save you a lot of money in the long run. Plus, they offer a more personalized, meaningful sentiment that store-bought items simply can’t replicate. Whether it be arts and crafts or baked goods, you can’t go wrong with a homemade present.

6. Track your spending as you go

From parties and presents to food and travel, there are many different ways to blow through your budget in a hurry. So, why not make a list and check it twice?

Start by listing all your planned holiday expenses, then group them into relevant categories (decorations, gifts, etc.). Not only will this process help you keep tabs on your spending, but it’ll also ensure you don’t forget anything important.

7. Shop online and compare prices

Do your due diligence and browse around for the best deals. You may find an item on your list at a bargain on one website compared to another.

8. Leverage cash-back and rewards programs

If you own a cash-back credit card, you can use it to manage spending on a budget. These cards let you earn rewards for everyday purchases, which could mean more money in your pocket while you’re shopping for presents.

9. Reuse last year’s decorations

Why waste money on replacement decorations when last year’s are perfectly good? Although new is always exciting, reusing older ornaments and trinkets will free up more budget to spend on loved ones, travel and essentials.

10. Conduct a post-holiday analysis

Look back at your holiday spending. Did you stay within your budget? Did you overspend? Was there an unexpected expense? This activity will help you plan ahead and make next year’s holiday season an even better experience.


15 Random Acts of Kindness You Can Share This Holiday Season

More than just gifts, songs and celebrations, the holidays are a time of goodwill and giving back. Most importantly, they’re a chance to lend a helping hand, spread kindness and uplift your community — all in one fell swoop.

In a world where stress and negativity can sometimes overwhelm us, it’s vital we take some time to make a positive impact on others. So, this year, let’s make it our mission to uplift our communities. To help you get into the holiday spirit, here are 15 random acts of kindness you can share in 2023.

1. Donate to a food bank

It’s not always easy to put food on the table. In fact, many families struggle. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 10.2% of households were food insecure in 2021 — roughly 13.5 million people.

Consider donating non-perishable items to your local food bank. Or, if you can, think about making a monetary donation to help fight hunger and erase food insecurity.

2. Pay for someone’s order

Next time you’re in a drive-thru or in line at a coffee shop, take the opportunity to spread a little holiday cheer. How? By surprising the person behind you and paying for their order. It’s a simple, small gesture with a mighty impact. Not only could it brighten their day, but it may even inspire a chain reaction of repeat kindness.

3. Send a handwritten letter

Text messages and emails may be fast and easy, but they lack a personal touch. But receiving a handwritten letter in the mail? That’s priceless.

Take the time to write out a thoughtful message to a friend or family member. You’ll be surprised how much they appreciate the effort put into it — and who knows? They just might write you back!

4. Volunteer your time

Sometimes the most valuable present of all is the gift of time. Your presence, whether it be with loved ones or someone in need, can go a long way toward making a tangible impact on someone’s life. Consider volunteering a few hours of your time to a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter.

5. Shovel snow for a neighbor

You may not realize it, but even the smallest favors could make a big difference. Shoveling snow, for instance, is an important household chore in the winter months, but not necessarily an easy one for elderly or disabled people. Taking that burden off their shoulders is a good deed they’re sure to appreciate.

6. Shop at local businesses

It’s important to support small businesses, especially now that over half of consumer shopping budgets are spent online. Being the season of giving, the holidays are essential to independent stores’ overall financial well-being. Choosing to shop local can help small businesses survive well into the future.

7. Participate in a toy or clothing drive

Not every child is fortunate enough to receive presents during the holiday season. And, by the same token, many people go cold during the winter chill. Fortunately, you can lend a helping hand by donating gently used toys and clothes to organizations that support these worthy causes.

8. Make care packages for your loved ones

Let your loved ones know you’re thinking of them by creating thoughtful care packages. You can fill them with their favorite goodies, snacks and sweets for a nice, personalized touch.

9. Tape spare change to a vending machine

Imagine the disappointment you’d feel if you went to grab a snack from the vending machine only to find yourself a few nickels short of your favorite go-to treat. It’s a small problem, but it’s enough to ruin your day (at least until the next meal).

Luckily, you have the power to make sure that doesn’t happen. Taping change to the machine may not satisfy your hunger, but it’ll certainly bring a smile to a stranger’s face in their time of need.

10. Hand out compliment cards

Compliments are a great way to spread the holiday cheer, even to people you don’t know. Write down heartfelt affirmations on a notecard, then hand them out to friends, coworkers and strangers you encounter. A few words here and there could really uplift someone’s spirits.

11. Pick up litter alongside your street

Did you know there are nearly 50 billion pieces of litter on U.S. roadways and waterways? Unfortunately, it’s true — but, the good news is you can do something about it. Join the effort by walking your neighborhood streets and picking up litter as you go.

12. Let someone cut you in line

The holidays are a busy time of year, especially when you’re out shopping. Next time you’re in a store, practice patience and courtesy by allowing someone to cut ahead of you in line, especially if they have fewer items than you. Although it’s a small gesture, you never know what it might mean to someone else.

13. Go caroling with your neighbors

Caroling is a staple holiday pastime. Not only is it a fun and happy experience, but it’s also a chance to spread joy across your community. So, gather up your family, friends and neighbors to sing a few happy songs for those who could use it, such as people in nursing homes or hospitals.

14. Bake cookies for coworkers

Help your colleagues get in on the holiday spirit by baking them a tray of festive treats. Chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, sugar cookies — whatever the choice, they’re sure to appreciate the effort. Plus, sweets are a great way to make your workplace a warmer and friendlier environment.

15. Donate to charity

Lastly, consider making a charitable donation to a good cause. Do your due diligence and research a charity close to your heart. Your contribution, no matter how big or small, will make a world of difference during the holiday season. And, as an added bonus, it’ll definitely keep your name off the naughty list.

The ABCs of the Housing Market

Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or new to selling property, the housing market can be complicated and confusing. With a lot of moving parts and factors involved, it’s best to know the basics before making a major financial decision.

The good news? We’re here to help. So, let’s discuss the ins and outs of the United States housing market.

Understanding the housing market

The term “housing market” – also known as the “real estate market” – is used to describe the network of stakeholders involved in buying and selling homes. Simple, right?

Not so fast. Although it sounds pretty straightforward, there’s more to it than meets the eye. There are several different types of players in the housing market, each with their own goals and intentions. Generally, the most prominent of these parties include:

  • Homeowners: Those who are selling their properties.
  • Real estate investors: People who buy and sell properties to make a profit.
  • Brokers: Agents who facilitate the buying and selling process, representing a seller or buyer.
  • Lenders: Who control credit requirements, impacting a buyer’s ability to access credit for purchasing a home.
  • Homebuyers: People interested in purchasing real estate.

Buying and selling property is a bit more complicated than the typical transaction. After all, homes can be expensive. According to the National Association of Realtors, the median sale price for an existing house was $410,200 in June 2023 – the second highest ever recorded. So, it’s wise to time your real estate decisions for when market forces are in your favor.

In other words, consider whether or not you’re in a buyer’s or seller’s market. Don’t know the difference? Allow us to explain:

  • Buyer’s market: This refers to when home sales are slow, there are many available properties and prices are in decline. These factors make it more difficult for homeowners to sell their properties, giving buyers an upper hand when it comes to negotiation.
  • Seller’s market: By contrast, this term means home sales are surging, properties are in short supply and real estate prices are rising. In turn, homeowners have an edge over buyers who have to compete with other offers.

Alternatively, you may also be in a balanced market. This is normally when there’s 3-6 months of housing inventory listed in an area at a given time.

What determines a buyer’s or seller’s market?

The short answer: It’s complicated. However, we can break it down into a few fundamental concepts, starting with the laws of supply and demand.

  • Supply: This law holds that higher prices boost supply while low prices tend to diminish it. This is because consumers are less willing to buy goods at a greater cost, resulting in a larger quantity being available.
  • Demand: Conversely, demand levels rise for a particular good when prices are low, as consumers are more willing and able to purchase. Likewise, demand tends to decrease as prices rise for the opposite reason.

In theory, supply and demand work together to establish who has a competitive advantage in the housing market. However, there are also other noteworthy factors involved. With regards to real estate, we’re talking about housing stock, interest rates and other economic variables.

The impact of housing stock

Housing stock refers to the total number of residential properties available for sale in a particular geographic area. Real estate analysts pay close attention to housing stock because it’s a great indicator of supply.

The type and condition of these properties also matter. For example, a town rich in single-family homes may experience a different real estate market than one dominated by apartment buildings. According to the Congressional Research Service, you’re more likely to encounter higher home prices with a shorter supply of residential properties. But, if there are many options available, you may see lower, more affordable listings.

How interest rates affect the housing market

Interest rates significantly drive the health of the housing market. Borrowing is more affordable when rates are low, making homeownership more accessible. In turn, new homeowners are more likely to seek out and purchase property.

Conversely, high interest rates deter would-be buyers from entering the market. Because homes are less affordable, fewer people are willing to take out a mortgage. Notably, they also discourage sellers, who are less willing to “give up” their more favorable rate for a higher one if they’re purchasing another property. In short, interest rates alter the cost of borrowing, which means they’re a significant indicator of housing demand.

On a related note, credit standards also matter. Strict requirements discourage homebuyers because it’s harder for them to borrow. If standards are too lax, however, it may be too easy for buyers to take out mortgages they can’t afford — as was the case with the 2008 housing crisis.

Additional factors to keep in mind

Lastly, it’s important to consider other factors that could potentially alter the state of the housing market. These include:

  • Economics: High unemployment, for instance, could lower consumer spending as budgets wear thinner. Likewise, people may be less likely to take out a mortgage if they anticipate a recession in the near future.
  • Seasonality: The housing market tends to slow down in winter and picks up in the summer.
  • Legislation: Government policies and laws also impact the market. For instance, tax credits may temporarily boost demand, whereas zoning regulations may limit the supply of properties in a given area.

Ultimately, participating in the real estate market is a major financial decision. Whether you’re a buyer, seller or budding investor, knowing the market dynamics at play is key to negotiating a good deal. With these considerations in your back pocket, you’ll be well on your way to success.

10 Simple Home Security Tips

Your home is probably your most valuable asset. More than that, it’s where your family should feel comfortable — and safe. Taking steps to enhance your home’s security can prevent theft, personal risk and damage, and may facilitate home insurance discounts, reduced neighborhood crime and improved sales appeal. These 10 home security tips can help you deter burglaries — giving you peace of mind whether you’re at home or away.

Burglary Statistics

  • $3 billion Total estimated annual losses due to burglaries1
  • $2,661 Average burglary loss per person1
  • 56% Number of burglaries involving a forcible entry1
  • 60% of burglars would choose another target if they knew a home had an alarm2

Install a security system

You can choose from many types of home security systems. On the lower end are simple, do-it-yourself versions that may be composed of just a doorbell camera and mobile app. On the high end are complex, professionally installed and monitored systems connected through the internet.

In between you’ll find multiple variations, many of which will include some combination of these components: security cameras, motion sensors, entry sensors, glass-break sensors, sirens, code-enabled keypads, and yard signs or window stickers that show your home is protected. Security systems may be hardwired into your home’s electrical system or connected through your Wi-Fi network. Some “smart” systems give you live, real-time views of your home.

Secure exterior doors

Make sure doors and door frames are strong and in good repair, with hinges on the inside (or use special security hinges). Use three-inch or longer screws on all door components. Avoid glass-paneled entry doors and ensure no one can reach through a mail slot to access your door locks. To further enhance security, add deadbolts and strike plates, or install password-protected smart locks.

Secure windows

Prevent easy window entry with moldings that have built-in stops, and use security bars or “Charley” bars — wood or metal pieces that fit into the rails of windows and sliding glass doors. Keep your windows locked when you’re not home and consider upgrading to key-operated lever locks. Improve impact-resistance with glass-block windows or a layer of security film. Be sure to extend protections to your basement windows.

Enhance exterior lighting

Burglars love the dark, making bright lighting a smart and simple security step. Besides a standard porch light at the front door, consider motion-activated lights on the garage, back door and outdoor buildings. Solar-powered lights can be an inexpensive and decorative way to brighten pathways and densely landscaped areas. Timers and smart lighting let you keep your home strategically lit even when you’re away.

Safeguard the garage

Make sure your home security system includes the garage. Always lock the garage door, bring your automatic opener inside if your vehicle stays outside and keep any keypad codes secret. Or upgrade to a smart garage door, which lets you operate the door through a mobile app and get notifications when the door opens or closes.

Assess your landscaping

Keep shrubbery, hedges and trees trimmed so they don’t provide inviting hiding places for burglars. Pay particular attention to landscaping around doors and windows, and take extra security precautions as needed, such as when branches could assist a window entry. It’s also smart to lock up your yard care equipment. Some items — like ladders and hammers — can prove helpful to a burglar intent on breaking in, and unsecured tools are ripe for theft.

Avoid the appearance of an empty home

An obviously empty home is like an invitation to a burglar. When you’re away, take steps to make your home look lived in. Ideally, use a house sitter when you’re gone for extended periods. Set up timers to turn on interior and exterior lights, and play the television or radio at times when you might normally be home.

Plan for deliveries

Part of giving your home a lived-in look is not letting mail or packages pile up. If you’ll be away for more than a day or two, put a stop order on your mail or have someone collect it along with other deliveries. Alternatively, have items delivered to an office, a service like Amazon Lockers, invest in a locked delivery box or use smart locks that let you remotely open a door for a trusted delivery person.

Know your neighbors

Connect with neighbors to watch for suspicious activity and let each other know when you’ll be away so you can increase scrutiny. Consider joining or creating a neighborhood watch group to spread the responsibility — and the protective force.

Practice online safety

What does online activity have to do with in-home security? Potentially quite a bit. For instance, if you have smart security devices, create strong internet passwords to prevent hacking. You can also hide your home network so others can’t easily find it or consider a virtual private network (VPN). If you’re on social media, avoid broadcasting when you’ll be away. Save those vacation posts until you’re home again.

Reinforce Your Security Plans

You can begin your home security updates by talking to your local police department to see if they offer free evaluations of your home’s defenses. This can help you create a plan and establish priorities so you can take the next steps on your way to a secure home and peace of mind.

Remember that you have options when it comes to financing your home security upgrades, from credit cards for smaller purchases to tapping home equity for larger upgrades or using a personal loan. You can find tips here for choosing the best lending option for your needs. Or connect with us to learn more. Visit us online or call 1-844-518-2360.


  1. “2019 Crime in the United States: Burglary,” FBI, https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2019/crime-in-the-u.s.-2019/topic-pages/burglary, accessed May 8, 2023
  2. “Home Security tips, Facts 7 Statistics,” Aliza Vigderman, Gabe Turner, Security.org, updated Feb. 14, 2022, https://www.security.org/home-security-systems/tips/, accessed May 8, 2023
  3. “What is a home security system and how does it work?” Aliza Vigderman, Gabe Turner, Security.org, updated March 24, 2023, https://www.security.org/home-security-systems/what-is-a-home-security-system/, accessed May 8, 2023
  4. “11 Simple Ways to Secure Your New Home,” Rebecca Edwards, Safewise.com, posted May 1, 2023, https://www.safewise.com/blog/10-simple-ways-to-secure-your-new-home/, accessed May 11, 2023
  5. “7 Ways to Make Your Home More Secure,” Jodi Helmer, AARP, posted April 20, 2022, https://www.aarp.org/home-family/your-home/info-2022/home-security-tips.html, accessed May 11, 2023
  6. “10 Tips for Keeping Your Home Safe and Sound,” Karen Dybis, Dawn Bradbury, U.S. News & World Report, posted Feb. 16, 2023, https://realestate.usnews.com/real-estate/articles/5-home-security-tips-for-protecting-your-family-and-valuables, accessed May 11, 2023
  7. “6 Reasons Glass Block Windows Are Still Used in 2023,” Quality Glass Block & Window, posted Feb. 22, 2023, https://www.qualityglassblock.com/benefits-of-glass-block-windows/#:~:text=Glass%20block%20windows%20provide%20excellent,places%20where%20protection%20is%20essential, accessed May 11, 2023
  8. “Does Window Security Film Really Work,” ClimatePro.com, https://www.climatepro.com/does-window-security-film-really-work#:~:text=The%20truth%20is%20there%20is,have%20to%20flee%20to%20safety

Choose the Right Financing Option for Your Needs

When you bought your home, obtaining a mortgage was probably the obvious financing choice. For other needs, though, the best lending option isn’t always so clear. It’s important to consider your options as the choice you make can impact qualifying criteria, payment affordability, upfront costs and your interest rate.

Factors to Consider

Start asking yourself the questions below.

  • Why do you need the money? Is the financing for a specific use (like a car or a home) or “general purpose?”
  • What’s your timeline? Credit cards and personal loans enable you to access funds quickly, while you may need more time to obtain funds using a new home equity account. Similarly, it’s important to understand the repayment terms, including monthly payment deadlines and when your balance must be paid in full.
  • What’s the interest rate? Know whether the rate is fixed (meaning it won’t change during the loan term) or variable (meaning it could increase or decrease over time). If it’s variable, are there caps limiting the periodic or lifetime interest rate increase? Also be sure to estimate the total interest you’ll pay over the life of each loan option. What
  • What monthly payment can you afford? Know your budget and only borrow what you can comfortably pay back without creating financial stress. The amount borrowed, interest rate and loan term will impact the monthly payment.
  • What other costs are involved? Ask about potential fees, such as processing, underwriting or origination fees, as well as charges for late payments or for paying off the loan early.
  • Is collateral required? As we’ll discuss below, there are two primary types of lending solutions — those that require collateral (secured) and those that don’t (unsecured).

Secured Lending Options

Secured financing requires that you have collateral, which the lender holds a lien against until you pay off the loan. This is often a vehicle or other asset you purchased with the loan proceeds. If you default, the lender can claim the collateral to cover their loss. Because of this, secured lending options are potentially less risky for the lender. For this reason, secured financing tends to have lower interest rates and longer repayment periods than unsecured loans.

Mortgages are among the best-known secured lending options. Other examples include:

  • Home equity financing – Lets you borrow against your home equity, making your home the collateral. There are three primary types of home equity financing. Each is ideal for financing home improvements but can be used for nearly anything.
    • Mortgage cash-out refinance replaces your current mortgage with a new one that provides you with an additional lump sum of funds to use. You can also adjust your mortgage loan term, interest rate (subject to current rates) and current monthly payment in the course of refinancing.
    • Home equity loan provides you with a lump sum through a second mortgage.
    • Home equity line of credit provides a revolving line of credit that you can borrow from again and again up to your credit limit, making it useful for recurring expenses or emergencies.
  • Cash-secured loan – Provides a lump sum using money in your savings account, or a certificate of deposit, as collateral. This is ideal when:
    • You want to build or rebuild your credit
    • You don’t qualify for an unsecured credit card or other types of financing
    • You have money that you don’t need for other purposes
  • Secured credit card – Provides a line of credit using cash you deposit to the card account as your credit limit. It’s ideal when:
    • You want to build or rebuild your credit
    • You don’t qualify for an unsecured credit card or other types of financing
    • You want to pay for smaller or recurring expenses
    • You have money that you don’t need for other purposes
  • Vehicle loan – Ideal when:
    • You’re comfortable using your new car, boat or recreational vehicle as collateral
    • You want a better interest rate or different repayment terms compared to unsecured financing
    • You want to secure financing outside of a dealership

Unsecured Lending Options

Unsecured financing doesn’t require collateral. Qualification is based primarily on your creditworthiness, including your credit history, credit score and income. These solutions are riskier for lenders. Because of this, unsecured financing may have higher interest rates and stricter qualification requirements than secured financing.

Examples of unsecured lending options include:

  • Personal loans – Can be used for nearly any purpose, from an unexpected home repair or medical expense, to a planned event like a dream vacation or wedding. They typically have lower interest rates than credit cards, with terms from a few months to a few years.
  • Private student loans  – Help bridge any funding gaps between education savings and financial assistance from federal loans, grants and school aid. May offer repayment options, such as deferred or interest-only, as well as variable or fixed interest rates.
  • Most credit cards – A revolving line of credit to borrow from again and again, up to your credit limit. Options include cards featuring low interest rates, cash back and rewards.

Next steps

Before applying for any type of financing, it’s always a good idea to check your credit report and make sure there are no errors or omissions in your credit history. This can increase your chances of qualifying for the financing you want, with the best interest rate and terms.

Learn more about your financing options through a lender you already know and trust. Visit us online or call 1-844-518-2360.


Why and How to Check Your Credit Report

Your credit report is the story of your credit experiences. It can impact everything from loan qualifications and interest rates to employment opportunities to your mobile phone bill. That’s why it’s important to understand what’s in your credit report, review it regularly and address any errors you find.

What is a credit report?

A credit report contains information about your credit obligations and repayment history. It includes details such as:1

  • Your current and previous loans or other types of debt, including credit limits and balances
  • Your payment history, including how much and how often you pay, as well as missed or late payments
  • Bankruptcies and liens
  • Your personal information, including current and former name(s), address(es) and employer(s); your birth date and part or all of your Social Security number
  • Businesses that have recently requested your credit report

Why is a credit report important?

Many companies review your credit report when deciding whether to do business with you and when determining the interest rate or other terms they’ll offer you.2 This includes lenders, insurance companies, mobile phone providers and utility companies, landlords and even some employers.

The data in your credit report is also used to calculate your credit score, which lenders use to predict how likely you are to pay back money you borrow. The best-known credit score is the FICO Score®, which is used by 90% of lenders.3 The five factors below are weighted when determining your FICO Score:4

  • 35% Payment history (do you pay on time)
  • 30% Credit utilization (how much of your total available credit are you using)
  • 15% Length of credit history (typically, the longer you’ve held credit accounts, the better; includes the average age of your credit accounts)
  • 10% New credit (in general, opening several new accounts in a short time is considered risky behavior)
  • 10% Credit mix (such as credit cards, installment loans, mortgage loans)

How do you review your credit report?

Given the importance of the information in your credit report, it’s vital to review your credit report to make sure the data is accurate. This can also help you spot signs of potential identity theft or fraud, such as finding credit accounts you never opened.

There are three primary agencies that compile credit reports — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Not all businesses report to all three agencies, so you should review reports from each one, as they may contain different information. You can request a free credit report through AnnualCreditReport.com.

Some errors to look for include incorrect personal information, accounts you’ve closed that show as open, duplicate accounts, and incorrect balances, credit limits or payment details.5

If you find an error, contact the relevant reporting agency and the company that provided the information (such as a lender or credit card issuer). You can find more details about how to dispute information from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

We’re Here to Help

Keeping your credit report current and correct is critical to your financial wellbeing. It’s important if you’re purchasing a new home and need a mortgage, or if you want to refinance at the best rate and terms. And if you’re ever refused for a refinance or a second mortgage due to poor credit, you should know waiting three to six months may be enough time to improve your credit and have your application reconsidered.

You can talk to our lending experts if you have questions about qualifying for the mortgage loan or the mortgage lending process. Visit us online or call 1-844-518-2360.

1 “All About Credit Reports: What is a credit report,” AnnualCreditReport.com, https://www.annualcreditreport.com/whatIsCreditReport.action, accessed May 4, 2023
2 “Credit Reports and Credit Scores,” Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, https://www.federalreserve.gov/creditreports/pdf/credit_reports_scores_2.pdf, accessed May 4, 2023
3 “What is a credit score?” myFICO, https://www.myfico.com/credit-education/credit-scores, accessed May 4, 2023
4 “What’s in my FICO® Scores?” myFICO, https://www.myfico.com/credit-education/whats-in-your-credit-score, accessed May 4, 2023
5 “What are common credit report errors that I should look for on my credit report?” Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, last reviewed Sept. 1, 2020, https://www.consumerfinance.gov/ask-cfpb/what-are-common-credit-report-errors-that-i-should-look-for-on-my-credit-report-en-313/, accessed May 4, 2023

How to Host a Stress-Free Summer Event at Home

Warm weather, extra daylight hours and summer’s upbeat ambience make this an ideal time to throw a party in your backyard. But sometimes the potential stress of hosting threatens to outweigh the joy. That’s why we’re sharing common reasons you may experience hosting anxiety — and tips to overcome them.

Stress Factor: Cleaning and Preparation

For many hosts, these tasks can create the most stress due to the amount of time and work involved. The best way to handle it? Make a plan. Create a timeline to spread tasks out over time, so you aren’t trying to do everything the day before the party. The same with food preparation: Decide what food you can prepare in advance. Also make lists for shopping, guests to invite and what you’ll need help with.

When it comes to cleaning, focus on areas where guests will spend the most time (include one bathroom). Clear clutter, wipe down surfaces and do other basic tidying up. Then simply close the doors to rooms you want to keep people out of.

Stress Factor: The Menu

If you are proud of your cooking skills and presenting an elaborate meal gives you joy, make that your focus. Give other items — like your “tablescape” or entertainment — less attention or delegate them.

On the other hand, if making toast is the height of your culinary skills, then keep the menu simple. Limit the number of dishes you need to prepare. Consider offering only appetizers, just desserts or fun, easy snacks instead of a full meal. Or use prepared foods from the grocery store or a favorite restaurant.

Stress Factor: Having Enough Space
If you have a large gathering and a small table, don’t worry about seating everyone together. Particularly with an outdoor event, it can be fun to set up several seating areas. Mix and match the furniture — patio sofas, lounge chairs, side tables from the living room, maybe even some rented folding chairs and tables.

Stress Factor: The Weather

You can plan your party for a traditionally warm and sunny time of year, and the weather can still play tricks. So, have a backup plan in case of rain, whether that’s a covered patio, a temporary event tent or simply moving inside.

Also prepare for sun and heat. Even if you don’t have a covered space, you can make use of shade trees, patio umbrellas or shade sails. Consider setting out a few small portable fans. Have plenty of ice and cold drinks, and serve hydrating foods like fresh fruit. It’s also nice to have sunscreen and bug repellant handy for guests.

Stress Factor: Doing It All Yourself

Just because you’re the host doesn’t mean you have to tackle every task yourself. It’s okay to ask for help, and guests are usually willing and happy to contribute. Think about what needs to be done and how you can delegate.

For example, ask one friend to bring extra chairs and have everyone bring a dish to share. Or recruit people to assist with set up and clean up. Delegating can remove that overwhelmed feeling and help ensure you have enough energy left to have fun!

Stress Factor: Aiming for Perfection

You want your party to go well. But don’t be thrown if mistakes or problems happen. Remember that your guests are here to see you and want to enjoy the time as much as you do. So, if the food isn’t done on time, your table settings don’t match or the dog knocks over a pitcher of drinks, don’t worry. Move on and let yourself (and your guests) enjoy the gathering.

Hosting Can Be Fun

When you learn to overcome the stress factors, you might just find you love hosting parties! If you decide you’re ready to update your backyard or home interior to accommodate more entertaining, consider these landscaping ideas and home improvement projects.

If you’d like to discuss options for financing any of your home and yard projects, we’re happy to talk with you about leveraging the equity in your home. Visit us online or call 1-844-518-2360.


  • “Pro Tips for Hosting a 100% Stress-Free Summer Party,” Sarah Lyon, The Spruce, May 17, 2022, https://www.thespruce.com/pro-tips-stress-free-summer-party-5272177, accessed March 27, 2023
  • “How to Bring Your Hostess A-Game to Your Next Summer Party,” Blythe Copeland, MarthaStewart.com, updated April 14, 2022, https://www.marthastewart.com/8116872/how-be-best-summer-party-hostess, accessed March 27, 2023
  • “9 Tips for Stress-Free Summer Parties,” Meseidy Rivera, The Pioneer Woman, posted June 24, 2019, https://www.thepioneerwoman.com/home-lifestyle/entertaining/a102297/9-tips-for-stress-free-summer-parties/, accessed March 27, 2023
  • “Overcoming Party-Hosting Anxiety,” Jon Spayde, Lifetime, posted Nov. 5, 2019, https://experiencelife.lifetime.life/article/overcoming-party-hosting-anxiety/, accessed March 27, 2023
  • “How to Enjoy Hosting Parties: 7 Tips to Stress Less,” OhMyCreativeParty.com, posted April 19, 2021, https://www.ohmycreativeparty.com/post/how-to-enjoy-hosting-parties-7-tips-to-stress-less, accessed March 27, 2023

Your Home Shopping Checklist

Moving to a new home can be exciting, as you picture a perfect new space. Before you get to that point though, you and your real estate agent may have to sift through dozens of properties. It can get overwhelming — and lead to a purchase you later regret.

Defining your home needs, wants and wishes upfront can help. This allows your real estate agent to narrow down the list of properties that meet your criteria and eliminate those which aren’t worth spending time to visit. And it can give you solid ground to work from if you’re choosing between homes or negotiating price.

Use this printable checklist to define your own home shopping priorities and keep track of how each property stacks up.

What are needs, wants and wishes?

Needs are features you won’t compromise on. These may include the number of bedrooms, location, garage or a wheelchair ramp.

Wants are high priority items, but you might be willing to make some compromises here. They might also be things you can add later. Examples might include a finished basement, newly remodeled bathrooms or a two-car garage.

Wishes are the extras that can push one home ahead of another or make a higher price tag worthwhile. These are items that you can easily do without. Examples could include walk-in closets, hardwood floors, solar panels or a professionally landscaped yard.

To define your priorities, it may help to think about what you do and don’t like about your current home. And remember, these are your preferences, so how you prioritize them is completely up to you!

Home Inspections

It’s important to note that this checklist doesn’t replace the need for a home inspection. A comprehensive review of the property condition, by a qualified professional, is necessary to minimize the risk of unexpected and potentially costly surprises later.

Moving Forward

Knowing what you want in a home, and where you’re willing to compromise, is an important part of moving forward with your next home purchase. Getting your finances in order is also critical and this article outlines six steps to help you prepare.

For homebuying tools, to learn about Lakeview Home Rewards and to find a real estate agent, visit our Real Estate Center. To learn more about Lakeview mortgages, click here. If you’re ready to get pre-approved, call 1-855-294-8564. If you’d like to start a mortgage application, go online or call 1-844-518-2360.]

Get Prepared for 4 Common Home Repairs

Home repairs are just part of homeownership. But knowing the signs when a home repair is looming can help you act before the problem becomes more serious. And understanding the potential cost of repairs can help you be prepared when the time comes.

Quick tip: If an item is nearing the end of its average lifespan, be extra vigilant for signs of failure. And if you need to make frequent repairs on a particular item, it may be time to replace it.

A note about prices: Costs are estimates only. Actual prices depend on many factors, including the specific repair, features of the replacement item, local service costs and more.

HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning)

Average lifespan: 12-15 years1
Watch for: Leaky ductwork; uneven temperatures around your home; air not heating or cooling like it used to; higher utility costs without extra usage; system seems to never stop running
Repair costs: $75-$4,2002
Replacement costs: $3,000-$6,0002

23% of homeowners plan to upgrade their HVAC system during the next five years3


Average lifespan: 15-30 years (asphalt shingle), 20-50 years (metal), 30 years (wood), 50 years (clay or slate tile)4
Watch for: Obvious leaks; ceiling stains that indicate leaks; shingles that are missing, peeling away, cracked or torn; large amounts of grit in the gutters; pieces of shingle falling; sagging between rafters
Repair costs: $200-$7,0005
Replacement costs: $5,727-$12,4105

18% of homeowners repaired their roof last year3


Average lifespan: 25-40 years (PVC), 70-80 years (copper), 80-100 years (brass, galvanized steel)6
Watch for: Leaky pipes or faucets; clogged or slow drains; wet spots on floors, walls or ceilings that indicate leaks from hidden pipes; low water pressure; discolored water; fixtures not working
Repair costs: $100-$7007
Replacement costs: up to $2,000 or more7

Water Heater

Average lifespan: 8-12 years (traditional), up to 20 years (tankless)8
Watch for: Cloudy, sandy or rusty water; lack of warm water or warm water doesn’t last as long; heater noises are louder; low water pressure; leaking around base of unit
Repair costs: $493-$6001,7
Replacement costs: $1,400 (traditional)2 to $5,000 (tankless)7

Preparing Your Finances

Since repair and replacement costs vary, how can you financially prepare? You could choose from one of these three guidelines

  • 10% — Every month, save 10% of your total monthly home expenses (mortgage, property and homeowners insurance)
  • 1% — Every year, save 1% of your home’s value
  • $1 — Every year, save $1 for every square foot of livable space in your home

Average annual home maintenance spending: $2,4673
Average home emergency spending: $1,9533

If you need to make a home repair before you’ve built up your savings, you could use a credit card for smaller expenses, while home equity or personal loans can help fill funding gaps for larger expenses. Leveraging your home equity in advance may also provide a financial safety net that’s ready to use when the need arises.

Learn more about home equity financing in this article. Or contact us to discuss your financing options. Visit us online or call 1-844-518-2360.

  1. “What are the most common home repair costs?” Kristin Luna, SoFi, posted Aug. 23, 2022, https://www.sofi.com/learn/content/most-common-home-repair-costs, accessed March 20, 2023
  2. “How much should you budget for home maintenance?” American Family Insurance, https://www.amfam.com/resources/articles/at-home/average-home-maintenance-costs, accessed March 20, 2023
  3. “State of Home Spending in 2022,” Angi.com, https://www.angi.com/research/reports/spending/, accessed March 21, 2023
  4. “How long does a roof last?” Samantha Hunter, Samantha Allen, Forbes, posted July 25, 2022, https://www.forbes.com/home-improvement/roofing/how-long-does-a-roof-last/, accessed March 20, 2023
  5. “How much does a new roof or a roof replacement cost? [2023 Data],” Alison Kasch, Ami Feller, Angi.com, updated Nov. 21, 2022, https://www.angi.com/articles/how-much-does-roof-replacement-cost.htm, accessed March 20, 2023
  6. “5 Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Plumbing,” Hi-Tech Plumbing & Air, posted April 27, 2018, https://www.hi-techplumbingandair.com/blog/2018/april/5-signs-its-time-to-replace-your-plumbing/, accessed March 20, 2023
  7. “Here’s How Much Common Home Repairs Cost — and How to Budget for Them,” HomeServe, posted Oct. 29, 2022, https://www.homeserve.com/en-us/blog/cost-guide/home-repair-costs/, accessed March 20, 2023
  8. “Solved! When to Replace a Water Heater, Explained,” Dan Casarella, BobVila.com, posted Jan. 26, 2023, https://www.bobvila.com/articles/when-to-replace-a-water-heater/, accessed March 20, 2023

Should you move or improve your home in 2023?

You used to love your home. Now, you’re not so sure. So, should you move? Or just improve what you have? Before you decide, there are several key factors you should consider.

What will it cost?

Pricing, of course, depends on the homes or renovations you’re interested in. If you’re upscaling homes, you may have a larger mortgage payment, homeowners insurance premiums and property taxes. On the other hand, if you’re downsizing or moving to a more energy-efficient home, you may reduce some costs.

Buying a home has upfront expenses too, including a down payment, closing costs and moving costs.

Tip: To determine if selling your home might net proceeds to help with these expenses, estimate your home’s potential sale price. Then subtract any mortgage or home equity balances you may have and real estate sales commissions you’ll owe to get a final number.

Home improvement projects can cost a few hundred dollars up to tens of thousands. Some may reduce your energy bills, though, and most will increase your home’s resale value. If your existing mortgage interest rate is lower than current market rates, then taking the home improvement route also provides the ability to retain that lower rate.

Tip: You can estimate the amount of funds potentially available to you with a home equity loan or line of credit. Would it be sufficient for the types of home improvements you’re contemplating?

Why do you want a change?

There are some issues you can remodel away — and some you can’t. For example, if you want a better school district, a shorter commute, a nicer neighborhood, a different size yard or a smaller home, moving is probably the right solution.

On the other hand, if you want to update your home’s look and feel, you can accomplish that with remodeling. Replacing kitchen and bathroom fittings, changing out flooring and window coverings, or simply adding a fresh coat of paint can bring new life to the home you have now.

If you need more space, you may be able to add a room, finish the basement, add a second story or alter your home’s floor plan to get it. If these options won’t work, then a new home may be the answer.

What’s your timeline?

Typically, neither moving nor improving are quick propositions. With current home inventories low and prices still relatively high, it may take time to find a property that fits your needs and your budget. Although, if you’re willing to compromise, you may find more options.

With ongoing supply and labor shortages, you might also face delays with a renovation project. However, you may be able to tackle some home updates yourself — from painting to replacing faucets and sinks, to refinishing cabinets.

How do you feel?

It’s easy to get caught up in the numbers when deciding whether to stay put or move on. But don’t discount the emotional impacts. What does your heart say? If you find the idea of moving exciting, that’s a vote in its favor. But if you have a strong attachment to your current home, that’s a reason for staying. Paying attention to these emotional impacts, along with the other factors, can help ensure you end up happy with whichever path you take.

Whether you decide to start house hunting or dive into home improvements, we can help you find a financing option to fit your needs. Learn more online about our mortgage and home equity financing solutions. Or call us at 1-844-518-2360.