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Finding it hard to save for a down payment?

Making small changes to your habits can make a big difference in your ability to save. Saving takes some pre-planning and discipline and a well-executed strategy.

Here are a few ideas to help you save.

  1. Take it right out of your paycheck and transfer a fixed amount into a special savings account. This is probably the most convenient and practical way to save. Take it right out of your paycheck. Make sure you set up an automatic direct deposit into a savings account that is earmarked for your down payment only. Commit to using this money for a down payment and no other purpose.
  2. Take advantage of special programs including down payment assistance programs. Check with your lender to see what type of down payment assistance programs they offer. See if you qualify with the FHA, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Housing Service and the Veterans Administration. Also, check out local housing authorities, such as MSHDA. If the lender doesn’t offer these programs find a knowledgeable, reputable local lender that specializes in these programs.
  3. Skip vacations for a year. Make if a fun goal to forego any large vacations. Plan a staycation, or a night somewhere, and focus on how great it feels to get closer to your goal.
  4. Lower your expenses. Look at your budget to see what small things you can cut per month. Cut out a coffee per week, make your own pizza on Friday night. If you don’t have a budget, sit down and make one and evaluate it quarterly to see how you are doing. Shop at Costco, Aldi and other discount stores.
  5. Sell your stuff on EBAY or Craigslist. If you have Designer clothes, furniture, antiques, art, gaming devices that you barely use, consider selling them and putting the proceeds in your down payment account.
  6. Start a Side Hustle. Commit to a temporary period of time and put all of the money in your down payment account.
  7. Ask for a raise. If you’ve been thinking about a raise, and feel you deserve one, now may the time to talk to your superior about the value you bring to your organization.
  8. Use gift money. Parents or relatives may be able to gift money to help out a first-time home buyer. Gifts can come from your family, spouse or a domestic partner. Be sure to include the amount of the gift on your loan application and check with your lender as the best way to obtain and track this. To be recognized as a “gift” the donor will have to sign a gift letter saying there’s no expectation of repayment, interest, or anything else.
  9. Be wise with your money. Think about your purchases before you make them. Are there cheaper brands at the grocery store that are the same quality as the premium brand? Are there restaurants that offer the same quality and experience that are a little less expensive? Do you need another tan sweater? Be mindful about your purchases and avoid impulse purchases.
  10. Use your tax refund. Set aside a percent of your tax refund to deposit into your down payment savings account.

For more ways to save for a down payment, reach out to our team at Michigan Mortgage. We’re here to help in any way we can.

Image showing a happy homeowner!

Success Story: Bianca and Paul Urban

In the mortgage business, we help our clients achieve a small portion of the “American Dream.”

Landing your dream job, home ownership, getting married, having children – memories that will last a life time.

For Bianca and Paul Urban, their dream began to take shape in 2016.

“I had been renting for about five years and Paul had purchased his first home a few years prior,” Bianca said. “We got engaged and started putting our lives together in the Spring of 2016 and together decided to put his home up for sale with the goal of purchasing a new home in early 2017.”

Bianca is a hairstylist in Holland and Paul is a truck driver out of Byron Center. Together, they decided that the Zeeland area was the perfect place to call home. Their goal was to be settled before tying the knot in 2017.

“Our Realtor is a good friend of ours – Nicole Kayser with Five Star,” Bianca said. “She set up our connection with Mark and the team at Michigan Mortgage.”

“Nicole was great! She was there to answer any questions and we are so grateful she led us to working with Mark. They made a great team and were in constant communication to help us reach our goal of home ownership.”

Bianca and Paul knew what to expect while working with Nicole, but weren’t sure about the financial side of things. This was their first big purchase as a couple, so they relied on Nicole’s recommendations.

“It was easy for us to trust Mark with Nicole’s recommendation and how personable he was,” Paul said. “His ability to help us find the best rates without having to shop around and apply at several different places was a bonus.”

“Working with Mark was honestly super easy and comfortable from the first meeting,” Bianca added. “It can feel awkward or intimidating when going over all your finances with someone and we never felt that way through this entire journey. Mark was there to answer any questions we had and was there at each step of the process.”

“He genuinely cares for his clients and wants to see them succeed.”

They found their dream home on the first day of their search, wrote an offer contingent on the sale of Paul’s home and it all worked out as planned.

“Our expectations were definitely met with our situation to sell and buy at the same time having Mark and Nicole guide us through the process,” Paul said.

“I always recommend getting in touch with Mark anytime I hear a friend of a client of mine in my chair start to think about buying or selling their home,” Bianca said. “For us, Mark has become more than a mortgage lender. He and his family are friends we are thankful to have!”

Headshot of Julie

Hometown Highlight: Call to Lead Coaching

With a radiant smile and exuberant welcome, Julie Stenberg exudes confidence with equal parts caring.

As a life coach, Julie helps people create a “Go For It” life and business. Julie’s goal is to guide people back to life.

When you meet her, it is obvious that Julie is living out her purpose, using her gifts and talents to impact lives in a beautiful and positive way. With multiple careers, three universities, John Maxwell Coaching and Leadership Certifications, and several years of coaching under her belt, Julie brings a unique perspective and varied skill set to her clients.

Whether teaching Kindergartners Spanish, teaching Shakespeare to gang members, coaching participative management Toyota-Production-System style, Julie is inspired by the human spirit. She is passionate about serving the people whose spirit is a little broken, underdeveloped and sometimes just lost.

“It breaks my heart to see people mired in the circumstances of life and never feeling they have the ability to change their situation,” Julie said.

Like so many successful people, Julie believes that everyone benefits from having a coach.

“Coaching is not therapy, it’s a specific set of ACTIONS to break patterns that do not serve you and to build vital behaviors that take you where you want to go,” she said.

Julie offers predominantly two types of coaching: leadership building and individual success coaching.

She serves organizations in developing leadership practices to take them to the next level of life and business. She thrives in speaking to groups of 25-300 people, getting them fired up to tackle change head-on. She teaches all aspects of change, from identifying the compelling need, to their current culture, to their ideal state, and then building the actions to take them from here to there.

The majority of Julie’s clients are small to mid-size businesses that want to up-level and increase the effectiveness of their managers and processes, allowing the executive team to focus on strategy and business development. She also works with family-owned businesses that are looking to pass their legacy off to under-developed heir, or team of managers, as well as those needing to systematize the business for potential sale.

In Julie’s one-on-one success coaching, she works with healthcare executives, stay-at-home moms, university professors and air travel professionals, among others, to prioritize their personal, physical and professional lives.

One of Julie’s clients had this to say: “From the first meeting with Julie, I knew I had found the right person. She ‘got’ me. Through her one-on-one coaching and her workshop, she has helped me adjust my priorities, set goals and take action steps to structure my life around my true passion.”

To contact Julie for more information, you can reach out via email at julie@calltoleadcoaching.com or visit www.calltoleadcoaching.com.

Image showing what Valeo looks like on the inside

Hometown Highlight: Valeo

With all of the fitness options out there, Valeo strives to be just a little different in their approach. Located in downtown Holland, Valeo has a hip, industrial vibe and the space offers every client an awesome environment on their journey to better health and wellness.

What does “Valeo” mean? “Vuh-lay-oh” is Latin for “Have strength, have power, be effective” and that is exactly what they desire for their members.

In 2006, Jessica Luepke took her Exercise Science degree from Hope College and time spent in corporate wellness and established Valeo in her apartment. The business has grown to what it is today with her passion for functional training and her passion for creating a space for people to feel welcomed and proud of themselves.

Along with her husband Mike, who studies Exercise Science at Purdue, Valeo strives to help people look, move and feel awesome!

As part of their mission, they are dedicated to the joy and success of their members. Their goal is to help their members become healthy, active people by providing a welcoming environment and exceptional results-based fitness activities for all ages and abilities.

Word on the street:

“There is a feeling of my ‘fitness family’ when I walk into Valeo. I love the encouragement, the challenges, the laughs and the conversation. It is a welcoming environment. I need you, my body needs you and my well-being needs you.” – Deb

“I can’t enough positive things about my time at Valeo. The atmosphere of encouragement, positivity and community is unique and I find myself leaving each time strong, happy and proud of the achievements they foster in me. I would recommend Valeo without reservation.” – Ryan

Valeo offers personal workout plans, semi-private training, larger group classes and a nutritional lifestyle program that gets at the root of the habit change. There is something for everyone!

Valeo has been honored with the Official People’s Choice Award in both the “Fitness Center/Gym (2016)” and “Personal Training (2016, 2017)” Categories in the Holland’s Best of the Best Awards.

For more information, check out Valeo’s website.

 

A Night of Pearls Event Brochure

Hometown Highlight: TCM Counseling

TCM Counseling is not unlike so many of the amazing non profit organizations that organically came about when a need arose in the Tri Cities area.

For 40 years, TCM Counseling has been providing accessible and affordable professional therapy services along the lakeshore. TCM’s mission: to offer help and healing for all, by providing accessible and affordable professional counseling services.

“Our unique business model enables us to maximize donations and help everyone who calls or walks through our doors. No one is ever turned away,” said Sarah Lewakowski, executive director.

In 2017, TCM provided over one million dollars of mental health services on a budget of $406,000.TCM is able to turn a $1 donation into $3 worth of counseling. The organization depends on every generous dollar received, with the great majority of that money going directly to client care.

With offices in Grand Haven and Holland, TCM helps with issues affecting adults, children, teens, and families, including but not limited to depression, anxiety, stress, trauma, parenting, marriage counseling, addiction, sexual abuse, conflict, coping, communication, ADD/ADHD and more. Partnering with over 50 therapists, all in professional practice, they will find the best counselor for each individual’s needs.

“To me, my counselor has been an angel in disguise. She has faithfully listened and shared her wealth of knowledge with me. Prior to meeting her, I had thoughts of suicide, as it seemed there was no way out due to a very difficult divorce, complications from a car accident and being told that I would never work again as a nurse. She helped me pick up the pieces of my life and put them back together again, all while showing great compassion and understanding,” said one client of her experience with TCM.

On November 8, “A Night of Pearls Down to Earth Fashion Event” fundraiser will offer a magical evening at Porto Bello Restaurants Grand Ballroom to raise funds for needed counseling, and to support awareness of current mental health issues. All proceeds will go to TCM to support their efforts, including the growing School Outreach Program.

For a fun filled evening with upscale fashion show, music, cash bar silent and live auction, as well as a raffle drawing go to tcmcounseling.org for your tickets or to learn more!

Image of a winding staircase

Life Outside of Loans: Baby Steps

I had a salad for dinner last night…and I’ll tell you why that matters in just a bit.

I was recently introduced to the idea of compound effect, and although it’s a simple idea, it really blew my mind. You’ve probably heard of compound interest when it comes to your money — the more money you save, the more interest you earn.

Until recently I had always thought my goals had to be monumentally planned out. I envisioned setting aside 90 days for each goal, spending days planning out each step, laying it out on the calendar, and executing every day for three months. And while that’s a completely valid, brilliant way to see progress in your life, I was getting hung up on how many 90-day goals I had. If I have 10 major areas of my work and life I want to improve on, it’d take me nearly three years to get through it all!

Enter the compound effect. It’s a little like Baby Steps by Dr. Leo Marvin from What About Bob.

The concept of the compound effect is this — that taking even small steps toward a goal adds up to something greater.

A diet, for example. If I’d have chosen to have a couple slices of pizza last night instead of that salad, would it have really mattered? Probably not. One individual meal doesn’t tend to move the scale. How about if I chose pizza again tonight? And tomorrow, and every day for the next six months? Ah, now we’re seeing how the compound effect moves the scale!

On the flip side, if I choose a salad every night for dinner for six months, imagine how much the scale would move in the other direction.

So, while I was getting hung up on spending significant amounts of time to focus on each of my life goals, I started applying the compound effect instead. If I do even five minutes each day on each of my 10 goals, I’ll be taking baby steps toward my goals.

Five minutes a day toward decluttering my home.
Five minutes a day spending more one-on-one time with my kids.
Five minutes a day building my website.

After six months, those little steps will have compounded into something significant and concrete. Much more so than spending my time and mental energy on being overwhelmed or spinning my wheels in planning mode. And I’ll have the changes I’ve made to build momentum to fuel further change.

Use the compound effect to achieve anything in your life or work. Baby steps are better than no steps at all!

On Wednesdays we wear pink!

“On Wednesdays, We Wear Pink”

Every two minutes, a woman in the United States is diagnosed with breast cancer.

To help combat these staggering numbers, every Wednesday during the month of October, North Ottawa Community Hospital (NOCH) will be offering any woman the opportunity to stop by the Breast Evaluation Center to get an annual screening.

Walk-ins are welcome and no appointment or physician referral is needed on Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to noon, making it as easy as possible for women to obtain the screening. All that is required is proof of health insurance.

The American College of Radiology recommends that women receive an annual mammogram starting at age 40 – even if they have no symptoms or family history of breast cancer. Early detection and effective treatment resulted in a 40 percent decline in breast cancer deaths in the U.S. in the last 25 years.

How? Annual mammograms. Mammograms can detect cancer early-when it is most treatable, up to two years before a patient or physician can feel them.

During this effort to expand their services to more women, NOCH employees and volunteers will be wearing pink as a visual reminder for everyone who visits the hospital that mammograms save lives. The Breast Evaluation Center is located on the first floor of NOCH inside the Medical Imaging Department.

The whole program is located at NOCH. All of their experts and technology are in one location.

For more information call 616-847-5430 or visit the NOCH Facebook page.

Image inside a coffee shop

Life Outside of Loans: Take Time to Make Time

I grew up with three brothers, all of us within five years of one another. You can imagine, especially when we were all teenagers, how much the grocery bill must have been.

It was a near constant race to get the “good” food before it was gone – like when our parents would splurge on special cereal, or name brand Mac & Cheese. Even to this day, I still have impulses to guard or hoard my food because of this.

Many people have a scarcity mindset – around food, money, etc. They grasp onto what they have for fear of not getting more.

But have you ever thought that way about your time?

Intellectually, we all understand our lifelines are limited. But even though time is such a precious resource, the majority of people don’t plan for it, like they might make a budget for their money. We live very reactively when it comes to our time, as if we’re waiting to see what life brings to us, when we should be out there creating what we want with our lives.

Here’s a few tips for how to better allot and maximize your time:

Spend time planning. Seems counterintuitive when we’re trying to achieve more to slow down and plan, but it’s necessary to have a road map. Choose a goal and break down the individual steps that need to be completed.

Commit to keeping the plan. The plan itself is great, but it’s completely useless if you don’t execute it! It’s key to write down or type in each of the components into your schedule, and treat those like firm appointments.

Restrict yourself to just one or two goals at any given time. Self-explanatory—the more time you have to commit to a goal the better, so it’s best not to spread yourself too thin with too many targets.

Banish buffering. Buffering is activities like watching TV, scrolling through social media, snacking, etc. These can be some of the biggest time-wasters that we face, and mostly don’t provide us with any real, tangible benefits.

Try these techniques for even a few weeks, and you’ll likely be amazed at your increased productivity levels!

“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four-hour days.” – Zig Ziglar

Image of a person reading a book at night

Life Outside of Loans: Telling Stories

This morning when I got to the office, a co-worker asked me how my morning was going. Most of us respond to this with a knee-jerk “good, you?” or “Ugh, terrible!” Have you ever stopped to think about how subjective those responses are?

For instance, let me show you two possible stories about my morning:

“I woke up late and had to rush to get ready. I dropped everything I touched, couldn’t find anything to wear and my hair looks terrible. Then I go to leave the driveway and the Shipt shopper pulls in behind me, blocking my car so I can’t get out. On the drive to work some jerk cut me off and of course I hit every red light too. What a terrible start to the day!”

(My blood pressure was totally spiking as I typed that!)

Or I could tell the story like this:

“I got a little extra and much-needed sleep this morning. I connected with my husband for a few minutes — it’s always nice when I get to talk to him for even just a short time. I even got groceries delivered already. How productive! On the drive in to work I tuned into my favorite podcast; I’m always so excited when I get to hear new episodes!”

(This story puts me in so much better of a mental state!)

Both of these stories are 100 percent accurate. The events of the morning didn’t change at all. All of these things happened. But the story takes such a different shape depending on which events I focus on, and how I choose to interpret them.

Our brains are hardwired to revert to the familiar; which for most of us is negative. It’s so much easier and automatic to focus on the stresses in our life versus the blessings, or the long list of obligations for each day instead of the accomplishments achieved.

I know sometimes this talk of “positive thinking” invites skeptics to complain that thinking positively is just delusional. But guess what? All thinking is delusional! Look at my stories above — both are true.

So, if life is going to be delusional either way, it might as well be a good one!

Guest blogger Sarah Beahan has been a loan processor and executive team member of Michigan Mortgage since 2002. In addition to her work at Michigan Mortgage, she is a certified Life and Weight Loss Coach, and owns her own coaching practice called Weighed Down Coaching.

Woman in front of a cluttered pantry

Life Outside of Loans: The Freedom of Constraint

Last night I went to get a manicure. First thing they ask you to do is pick your color – sounds simple, right? Do I want pink, red or purple?

Nope. Most salons have literally hundreds upon hundreds of shades to choose from. Last night’s salon had not only 2 walls filled with bottles, but also every variation of pink, red or purple you could imagine. And the hot pink looks identical to the neon pink looks identical to the shocking pink.

Some may find it exciting or empowering to have so many choices in life; from nail polish shades to coffee flavors to cell phone cases. But I’ve started to appreciate the powers of constraint.

I recently went on an out of town trip, and when I packed I only brought one basic set of makeup: one lipstick, one eyeshadow, etc. It struck me while gone for that week how much simpler it was to not have to use any mental energy making decisions each morning about which product to use.

Instead of using that 5 minutes of brain power on makeup choices, what could I create with my mental energy? A pep-talk to start my day off right? A prayer for a friend in need?

My example of makeup selection may seem insignificant; try on these larger examples of constraint:

  • Only shopping for clothing at one store. Gone would be the hours of online browsing.
  • Making a regular rotating meal plan. No more wondering what’s for dinner.
  • Checking social media once a day. If you know you’re only going to log in one time each morning or evening, then no more obsessive opening and closing apps all day long.

Minimalism is also a great form of constraint. Many people think minimalism means owning one outfit, in an apartment with bare walls and one chair. Certainly, some minimalists take it to that extreme.

But minimalism can also be reducing the number of items we have—think of it this way, how many coffee mugs or water bottles do you have in your kitchen cupboard? They all take up space, require washing and maintenance, etc. They take up mental energy-when you open that cupboard, is it simpler to look at one mug or 13?

We can embrace and apply constraint in so many aspects of our daily lives. Then think of how those extra minutes and extra thought space can multiply into something larger. It’s a way to give yourself the gift of time, which we could all use more of.

Guest blogger Sarah Beahan has been a loan processor and executive team member of Michigan Mortgage since 2002. In addition to her work at Michigan Mortgage, she is a certified Life and Weight Loss Coach, and owns her own coaching practice called Weighed Down Coaching.