Is It Time To Fix Your Home Loan?

The main question on most people’s minds, particularly in our current financial climate, is whether it is time to fix their home loan. So what’s the difference between a fixed and a variable rate home loan?

A fixed home loan has the same interest rate for the duration of the fixing period. Most home loans are fixed for 1, 2 or 3 years, but you can also fix your interest rate for 5 years. The longer the time frame, the higher the fixed interest, so banks can off-set any potential losses if interest rates rise. At the end of the fixed period, your home loan reverts to a variable rate, unless you re-fix the interest rate for another term.

A variable rate home loan has a varying interest rate, which is calculated daily and in general reflects the RBA interest rate. As the RBA varies its interest rate, so the interest rate on your home loan also varies.

You don’t have to settle for one type of loan, you can actually fix part of your home loan and leave the remainder variable. This gives you the advantages of both worlds and gives you a buffer if interest rates rise dramatically.

Now you understand the difference between these two types of home loans, here is a short list of the advantages and disadvantages of a fixed interest rate.

Advantages of fixing your home loan

  • If you fix wisely, you can lock in a very low interest rate for up to five years.
  • If the interest rates sky rocket all of a sudden, you won’t suffer from escalating repayments.
  • If you are on a tight budget, you always know what your repayments will be each month.

Disadvantages of fixing your home loan

  • You can’t take advantage of interest rate drops, because your repayments are fixed.
  • You can’t make extra monthly repayments.
  • You might be able to make an extra payment every 12 months, but this is capped.
  • Fixed rates are usually higher than equivalent variable rates, at the start of your loan.
  • If you want to refinance, you may have to pay a penalty to break the fixed time frame.
  • If you want to repay your home loan, you may have to pay a penalty to break the fixed loan.
  • Redraws on extra yearly payments is not always available.

In general, the most common reason people fix their home loan is because they are on a low income and it is easier to budget for fixed monthly costs. Another good reason is when interest rates are very low – but you must accept the disadvantages of a fixed loan as well as the advantages.

Call Newcastle Permanent home loans for more information on fixed and variable mortgage rates.

May 5, 2015 at 10:40 AM Leave a comment

Storing Versus Buying at a Moment’s Notice

toy box

My husband and I are not always on the same page about money. In his recent quest to rid the house of unwanted clutter he’s discussed a new philosophy I’ve nicknamed just buy it again. He told me to get rid of everything I don’t want to part with fully knowing that nothing is particularly unique and that everything can be purchased again.

The frugal side of me is fighting against the clutter-phobic side of me. If I had to pay to store these items I would get rid of them in a heartbeat. I would simply sell and donate everything we owned and start again when and if the need arises. But since I don’t have to pay to store them, (I can find space somewhere in my house), the penny pincher in me doesn’t want to risk paying for things a second time.

Space now exists where stuff once stood and my husband is adamant that we stick with our minimalist basement. When our monthly shipment arrived from Amazon’s Subscribe and Save he nearly lost his lid. “How many tissues do we need? How much toilet paper?” The answer is quite a bit. My son often refuses to use a tissue more than once. The result: a lot of tissues end up in the wastebasket each day.

Along with the just buy it again philosophy my husband is attempting to institute a just in time approach to our belongings. His philosophy is not to keep a lot of stuff on hand. There is no need to stock up on supplies when Amazon Prime can ship most packages to our home within two days. The prices aren’t as low as they would be with sales and coupons, but they are most definitely lower than the retail price at most brick and mortar stores. He is willing to pay a little bit more to keep our rooms spacious and open.

I’m still struggling with his concept. We have very limited storage space at our beach house and my son has outgrown the majority of toys we keep there. Our younger son is at least a year or two away from playing with these items. Is it in our best interest to donate the toys we own and simply buy them again when the time arises or try to cram them in some small space just so we don’t have to buy new toys many moons from now?

The answer seems simple; donate the stuff we don’t need and buy it again if we need it in the future, so why can’t I convince my frugal self to do that?

May 4, 2015 at 5:54 PM 1 comment

The Freedom of Less


A member of the family is house hunting. His goal is to find a well priced home with a minimum of five bedrooms and four bathrooms. So far he seems most interested in houses with at least 2500 square feet.

A few of the houses have been more than double the size of mine, which always seemed quite reasonably sized at 1600 square feet.

I wonder if our little family will move one day. The schools in our current district are all poorly ranked, which means we will most likely have to shell out $15,000 to $20,000 for private school if we decide to stay. Do we move to a new neighborhood with better schools and higher home prices or do we stay put knowing that tuition rates for two children will easily cost us more than the price of a new home?

I don’t know. What I do know is that I will not be tied to huge mortgage payments. I would prefer to discard half of our possessions and live in a smaller home than to live in a larger home and spend the next thirty years paying it off.

Right now my husband and I are only four years away from the final mortgage payment on our primary home. Four years from now, with our home paid off, my husband can rethink his career path.

He can continue to run his own business or he can quit his current line of work in search of something more rewarding. I’ve been out of the workforce for three and a half years and will most likely will remain that way for at least five more. When my youngest son marches off to kindergarten I can decide exactly how I want to spend my days.

Do I return to a career in software development or do I look for a more meaningful, but much lower paying position? I don’t know. What I do know is that I cannot make that decision if I move and tie myself to a huge mortgage payment.

When shopping for a home it is easy to lose sight of the all the lifestyle factors that exist outside of the walls you want to live in. A large house with a big mortgage payment might seem like an okay idea now, but what happens fifteen years from now when you are unhappy with your line of work and looking to do something different?

I know that I would happily choose less over more. I would choose a smaller space and fewer possessions for the freedom of future possibilities.

Would you?

May 2, 2015 at 4:24 PM Leave a comment

Would You Attempt to Return an Item to a Store Even If You Knew It Was Not Purchased There?

shopping bags

Dear readers, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one…

Here’s the scenario. you receive duplicate gifts at an event, after noticing the duplicate item a family member turns to you and says “is there a gift slip in the bag?” When you answer “no” they say “I bought mine at Target, but I don’t have a receipt, so just take it to Walmart. They take back everything there.”

This reminded me of a story from long ago. Way back in 1997 my boyfriend received a computer game for Christmas that was a duplicate of one he already owned. With the gift slip in hand we drove to the store to return it. When we reached the counter the cashier told us the item could not be returned. Apparently we had only fourteen days to return the game and we were a day or two beyond that period of time.

My boyfriend was disgruntled, but he picked the game off the counter and walked down the mall to another store. That store allowed him to exchange the game for another with no questions asked. The store took his brand new, shrink wrapped game and he walked out with a different one.

At the time I didn’t think much about our decision, but as an adult I view the situation with a little more guilt. Is it wrong to take advantage of a lenient store policy?

In the original scenario detailed above would you try to return the gift to Walmart even if you thought the gift giver didn’t buy it there?

April 26, 2015 at 12:28 PM 1 comment

Money Saving Tips for Families Looking to Vacation in the US

Many families dream of a vacation in the United States, but worry they can’t afford it. Good financial planning and a reasonable daily budget will help your vacation run smoothly and make those hard-earned dollars go much further.

Make a budget

A daily budget to spend on goods and services can help families avoid many financial problems – particularly towards the end of the vacation. A budget also enables the family to set up a ‘slush fund,’ meaning there is additional cash available if something goes wrong.

Advance planning

If your kids have their heart set on the more popular resorts and theme parks such as those located in Orlando, Florida you can save a lot of money by buying tickets in advance; savings of up to 20% on some amusement park bookings are available. Look out for coupons as well, such as ‘one kid free with every paying adult’ type deals.

Remember to buy your vacation essentials at home before you leave. Resorts add hefty mark-ups to items like bug spray and sunscreen.

Try driving rather than flying as this will often save money, and consider destinations that you can reach in a day or two. Additionally, try traveling out of season if possible – you will not only save money, but also time waiting in lines.

Best locations to make your dollars go further

For history buffs, set the GPS for Colonial Williamsburg – with Water Country USA nearby to keep everyone happy – and Washington DC less than a three hour drive away. Many of the museums in the US Capital are free, including the Museum of Natural History. You can save on the cost of accommodations by booking lodging in nearby Arlington, Virginia.

If you enjoy the great outdoors Yellowstone and Yosemite national parks are the perfect destinations. Entry fees are more than reasonable, and you can even camp out under the stars to save on hotel bills. Speaking of national parks, the world’s most famous natural wonder – the Grand Canyon – is easily reachable from many of America’s largest cities and costs virtually nothing to visit.

If you want to hit the beach consider the resort community of Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, or Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

Where to stay

Campsites, RV sites and self-catering homes are generally cheaper than hotels when it comes to accommodations. For all-inclusive deals, however, you might consider using Bluegreen to book a great vacation in the US. Bluegreen was established in the 1960s as a way for busy families to slow down, relax and share time together. There are more than 60 family-friendly Bluegreen resorts in over 40 popular destinations in the US and Caribbean, including Las Vegas, Williamsburg, Aspen, Myrtle Beach and Orlando.

April 21, 2015 at 9:44 AM Leave a comment

Letting Go


I noticed his picture while panning the shelter’s website. I sent a link to my boyfriend. (I wish I still had that email.) It said something like ‘this is the one for us.’

The little kitten was standing tall staring straight at the camera. His ears and paws seemed much too big for his tiny body. He held one paw up the air, a habit he kept for the first half of his life. Always lifting one paw when he greeted me at the door then switching to the other.

Although my boyfriend, (now my husband), picked him up from the shelter I immediately felt as though he were my own. Actually he decided to bring home two cats and while everyone in the family fawned over the quiet, shy cat I took an immediate liking to the frisky one that feared no one.

I didn’t like cats. I still don’t. I only had one friend with a cat growing up and that cat was a crazy one. It flew across the sofa in the middle of the night and jumped up walls.

This cat was different. He wasn’t aggressive or wild in temperament. He had a ridiculously loud purr that you could hear before he even walked into the room.

When we moved out of my boyfriend’s apartment the cat claimed my bedroom as his own. He would curl up on top of my soft blankets and purr throughout the night. He loved a particular white comforter of mine. Every time I pulled it out he would come running up the stairs and hop right onto it. I still don’t know how he knew I was laying it across the bed. I couldn’t hear a sound when I unfolded it.

He may have belonged to my husband but he was 100% my cat. I remember walking into the basement one night after a huge fight. I don’t know what my husband and I were fighting about, but I remember crying hysterically on the floor while our cat nudge his head against my arms, legs and elbows. I dripped tears onto his shiny coat, but he didn’t seem to mind. The more I cried the more he nudged against me.

When I broke my wrist that cat would nestle between the arm of the chair and my good side. He always managed to place his head in the perfect location for petting.

The poor guy produced excess saliva whenever he got excited. As I stroked his fur he’d often gulp loudly almost to the point of gagging. I’d have to stop every once in awhile because I was always afraid he’d get physically sick from the excitement.

In my darkest hours he sat on the recliner next to me and somehow made me feel better. He sensed my sadness and came running every time. How do animals sense emotions like that? He seemed to know the moment I was upset.

He slept on my bed after my surgeries and as I suffered through the pain of drug induced neuropathy. Any time I didn’t feel 100 percent the cat would be at my side.

He was my one and only baby for 11 years. When my son was born he dropped in the ranks, but never acted out as a result of it. In fact, he remained the calm, quiet animal he had always been. My son was extremely gentle with our cat. He would put his hand in front of his whiskers and let our cat sniff his hands before reaching out to pet him. I never worried that my son would injure the cat and I never worried that the cat would lash out at my son. He was too gentle to harm anyone.

When my son was young the cat always wanted to be nearby watching, but for the most part did his best to remain just out of reach. At seven months my son was determined to see that kitty. As the cat sat quietly perched on the cushion of our couch my son used his chubby, little fingers to pull himself to his feet. He tried to hold on to the couch with one hand while reaching out to the cat with the other.

When the cat realized how close he was he quickly jumped to another cushion and within a day or so my son began cruising along the furniture trying to keep up with him.

When my son became a toddler I would occasionally walk into the room to find him talking to the cat. One day he told me he was teaching our cat the ABCs, another time I stumbled upon him singing songs as the cat sat high in the kitty stand above him.

That cat, our cat, was no ordinary feline. I used to tell people he was more like a dog. He’d follow me around the house wherever I went. He’d pop down off the cat scratcher whenever anyone came to visit. He’d hop onto the couch and rub up against the strangers skin until they stroked his fur and talked to him. He followed vendors around the house, plumbers, painters, electricians, it didn’t matter.

My mom who truly dislikes animals always said “I really like your cat.” A few times when she spent the night at our house the cat slept in bed beside her.

Last night I cried hysterically while thanking my cat for everything he’s done for us. I let him lick the bottom of my ice cream bowl then picked him up and rubbed his head. This morning I said goodbye one last time. I told my son our cat will go somewhere he won’t be in pain any longer. Over the past few days he was unable able to hold down any food and I knew it was time to say goodbye.

I keep telling myself he had a good fifteen year run, but that doesn’t really make it any easier.

April 20, 2015 at 4:26 PM 4 comments

Savoring Life: I Nearly Died Ten Years Ago Today


My first delivery was much harder than my second. The contractions were stronger, I pushed longer and ultimately spent forty-five minutes after delivery watching the doctor stitch me up. I winced in pain as I felt each stitch tear through my skin. I imagined holding my baby for hours after delivery, not laying spread eagle in pain while my husband held him.

In the big scheme of things both my labor and delivery could have been much harder. I didn’t suffer any major complications and I didn’t end up with an emergency c-section.

Still labor and delivery was much easier this time around. Although I was in labor for twice as long the contractions were easier to handle. I learned to breathe through them and though I wanted to jump out of body during transition I managed to calm down long enough to push my son out.

On the day my second child was born the nurses commended me on a medication free delivery. “Your chart says no epidural. Way to go mama,” they said. They cheered when I told them I breastfed my first child for twenty-one months. When they asked if I needed medication the day after delivery I often said ‘no.’

At some point I turned to my husband and said, “Everyone is acting like I’m superwoman.”

A week after my son was born my husband and I gathered up the boys and took a walk to the playground. Along the way we ran into a few other moms who peeked into our stroller and inquired about our son’s age.

Every time I answered seven days the other mothers jumped back in shock. “You look amazing,” they said. “I couldn’t get out of the house for three months after my son was born,” they told me.

That’s the way I felt after my first delivery too, but this time was different and I’ll be honest their words were a boost to my ego. I began to feel like superwoman.

Not because I didn’t have an epidural. Honestly I avoided that because of my history with neuropathy. Not because I breastfed for twenty-one months. I was lucky to have lactation support and a baby who was patient with me. And not because I was out and about a week after delivery.

The truth is ten years ago today I sat in a hospital bed with a pulmonary embolism unaware of what that meant or what was wrong with me. As months passed and doctors failed to diagnose my condition I felt broken. I cursed my body instead of praising it. I went on long walks and cried at the realization that I could die and that if I lived I surely would never be well enough to give birth to any children. Years later, when I finally felt well enough to get pregnant, I spent months failing to conceive. And in the midst of trying was unexpectedly diagnosed with blood curdling neuropathy. Once again I felt let down by my own body.

When my husband and I drove away from the hospital on the day my second child was born I bawled uncontrollably. I still cannot believe how my body has healed over the last ten years. It is certainly not free of aches and pains, it couldn’t run a marathon or even run a few miles, but the fact is I survived two medical crises and infertility.

My body is stronger than I ever could have imagined and I have two beautiful boys to prove it.

Photo Credit

April 15, 2015 at 5:37 PM Leave a comment

$50 Novica Gift Code Giveaway


I’m hosting a contest! Hooray! The fine folks at Novica provided me with a $50 gift code to give away.

NOVICA works with National Geographic to give talented artisans around the world a place to express their talents and provide access to the world market. They sell a HUGE range of unique, hand crafted items that you won’t find anywhere else.

Novica recently launched the UNICEF Market. Thanks to this partnership between UNICEF and Novica every marketplace order will directly impact families and children through UNICEF’s global programs.

The U.S. Fund for UNICEF’s mission is to

…save and protect the world’s most vulnerable children.

Through fundraising, advocacy and education in the United States, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF’s work, and other efforts in support of the world’s children.

UNICEF has helped save more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization.

If you aren’t familiar with UNICEF you can learn more about them here. They were founded in 1946 to help children suffering in the aftermath of World War II and currently provide support in the form of clean water, sanitation, nutrition, food security, immunization, education, schools and disaster relief all over the world.

I can spend hours combing the pages of Novica’s website. There are thousands of products to choose from in every category from handbags to home decor.

I tend to spend the most time browsing the jewelry collections. Here are a few of my favorites:

flower powerFlower Power


Siam Butterfly

To enter this contest simply leave a comment telling me what you’d like to buy if you won. For extra entries follow me via RSS or twitter and leave me separate comments letting me know you did so.

One winner will be randomly selected on Monday, April 27th. Good luck!

April 11, 2015 at 9:00 AM 23 comments

Book Review: Donkey’s Kite & The Three Little Horses and the Big Bully Donkey

Donkey's Kite

Book Description:

The three horses Jack, Max, Lax and their friend Donkey are back!

In Horse Valley, it’s a perfect day to go kite flying. Jack, Max, Lax, and Donkey decide to get creative by putting together their own homemade kites. However, Donkey‘s kite doesn’t work. No matter how hard he tries to get it to fly, it just keeps tumbling to the ground. How will poor Donkey get his kite to fly? A friendly goose named Gusty is delighted to help him out.

In this Horse Valley Adventure, Donkey learns not to give up when all seems hopeless. The friends all learn a lesson about helping others and true friendship.

My Thoughts:

There are a number of valuable lessons in this book including teaching children the importance of being kind to others and taking the time to help those in need.

None of Donkey’s friends seem to notice that he built a kite that can’t fly. Donkey asks for assistance, but Jack is too busy coloring his kite, Lax is too busy bragging to his friends and Max is too busy eating to help. When Donkey feels discouraged there is no one around to help and just when you think his day can’t possibly get any worse he wanders off sadly and encounters a goose that ruthlessly teases him.

Luckily a magnificent and beautiful bird named Gusty comes to his rescue. Gusty puts the nasty goose back in his place and offers to help with Donkey’s kite. There is an important lesson in the exchange between Gusty and Donkey. Gusty recognizes Donkey’s distress and is eager to take the time to help Donkey feel better about himself.

I like that this book teaches children the importance of looking out for others. Despite being busy any one of Donkey’s friends could have offered to help him or at the very least offered to help him after they were finished working on their own kites. Unfortunately, they were all so busy they didn’t realize how sad their friend had become.

This book focuses on the importance of empathy. Even very young children can learn to recognize the thoughts and feelings of their friends and family members. When Donkey’s friends eventually realize just how sad their friend has become they all pitch in to help him build a truly magnificent kite.

This book is a follow up to the story The Three Little Horses and the Big Bully Donkey. In the original story the Donkey is actually the bully. Although the bullying section of this book is quite small, (just a few pages  compared to the original), I like how the author turned the tables on the characters and made the Donkey realize just how painful it is to be picked on. Despite the fact that Donkey no longer picks on others it is an important reminder to choose kindness over cruelty.

We all know childhood can be an extremely emotional and difficult time. This book will help children realize just how hurtful their words and actions can be on those around them.

While it is certainly important to be aware of the thoughts and feelings of others it is equally important to answer their calls for help. I think both books would make a great introduction to bullying and the importance of being kind.

Disclosure of Material: I received this book for free, but the opinions I have expressed are my own.

April 10, 2015 at 9:00 AM Leave a comment

Book Review: Aoléon The Martian Girl: A Science Fiction and Fantasy Saga – Part 4

Aoleon The Martian Girl Part Four
Book Description:
Aoleon and Gilbert have become the Luminon’s top priority in stopping the Martian resistance movement, and after being chased by the Royal Paladin Guard, they are forced to flee the Martian Megalopolis. Aoléon, Gilbert and Zoot escape with the help of Bizwat and his newly found friend, Helios, a first generation soldierbot.
After their saucer is destroyed, they crash land somewhere in the deep Martian desert, and they set out to locate Kyrios and the secret base where Aoleon’s parents are being held captive.

After battling the forces of nature, starvation, a Klyklon dust storm, (and not to mention a giant slor that almost swallows them alive), they finally make it to their destination. However, after Kyrios gives Gilbert some basic training to develop his budding psionic power, they learn that their journey is far from over.

Will Aoléon, Glbert, Bizwat, Helios, and Zoot be able to rescue Aoleon’s parents and stop the Martian invasion of Earth in time?

My Thoughts:

Part Four of the Aoléon Martian Girl contained much fewer action scenes than the previous segments.  While parts one, two and three were packed with adventure part four focused much less on action and much more on character development.

There seemed to be deeper lessons in these chapters. For example, when Bizwat, Aoléon and Gilbert are lost in the dessert Aoléon says “just follow the yellow-brick road. Wouldn’t that not be nice… to have a golden path all laid out before us to follow. If only life were that way,” but Bizwat quickly replies “Life would be pretty boring if it were laid out in advance. It would lose all of its sense of adventure.”

I like the way this sentiment is expressed to the middle-school children who are the intended audience of this story. As kids we often want to take the easy path in life. We want to know exactly what will happen today, tomorrow and into the future. I like Bizwat’s clear-cut approach to the unknown; excitement comes from NOT knowing what’s around every corner. There are so many adventures and events we experience in our lives that we never could have predicted as children.

I also enjoyed reading Bizwat’s thoughts on what it means to be a soldier. He says, “Being a soldier is not about blindly following orders, it is following orders in the service of a higher cause. When that cause is betrayed we are no longer soldiers, just mindless drones dying for the wrong reasons. That faith has clearly been betrayed.” There are many books, movies and video games that depict military sequences and soldiers, but I’m not sure how often children think about the missions or lessons of those games. I like how Bizwat clarifies his desire to follow a higher cause. To do the right thing so that when he dies, he dies without regret. Bizwat makes mention of a higher purpose and talks ever so briefly about having faith.

There seemed to be a lot more in-depth conversations between characters in part four of the series and I enjoyed learning more about the characters and their motivations. This book is not just about aliens and space battles it is also about human connection. When Gilbert talks about divorce, Aoléon says, “being telepathic forces us to embrace our vulnerabilities. It is what makes us real and bonds us together.” It’s certainly an interesting idea. After all, if you cannot hide your emotions, thoughts and feelings then it’s easy to see how stronger one-on-one connections would exist.

I enjoyed part four of this series on a deeper level than the previous three and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.

Disclosure of Material: I received this book for free, but the opinions I have expressed are my own.

April 10, 2015 at 9:00 AM Leave a comment

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