Archive for: My Life

Save the Dates and Invitations

Oddly, save-the-date cards and invitations were a more simple part of the wedding planning process (and one of the least expensive).  I had narrowed down a few options and then drafted Zach to help finalize our decision.  We chose something simple and a little bit rustic.

The challenge to the save-the-dates and invitations was narrowing down the details – time, including website details, ensuring address information was correct, etc.  However, needing these details forced us to make decisions, which was a good thing!  Having an idea of time and other specifics helps in moving forward with planning.

Once in, the fun part began.  Addressing and stuffing.  In the interest of saving time, I utilized labels.  Instead of paying for a calligrapher to do work that would end up being thrown away, I chose an easy-to-read, rustic font and typed up address labels (which can be printed twice – once for save the dates and a second time for the invitations).  It was simple and it cut down on the time needed for getting everything out the door.  (Bonus:  we bought everything from Invitations by Dawn and were fortunate enough to get a 25% discount)!  I was very happy with the final product – it was affordable, simple and the invitations were a reflection of us and our wedding.

I personalized slightly by choosing fun stamps that had a rustic, country feel.  They “spiffed up” our envelopes and added a bit of color.

If you’re planning a wedding (or any large event) – I truly suggest choosing simple invitations – they will be more affordable and easier to work with.  Try typing labels with a nice font and find a fun, colorful stamp to finish off your envelopes!  Good luck 🙂

Cheers,

Sharon

(Before) Photos of the Basement

As a brief side note, I am unsure as to why these photos are so grainy.  Apparently I’m not as savvy as I’d like to think…I’ll see what I can do about that in the future.

Without further ado, here are the pictures of our basement.  Two bedrooms, 3/4 bath, laundry area, rec room, and general storage.  I think the bathroom forgot to leave the 80’s when the rest of the world moved on…

As you can see, we have plenty of room – can’t wait for our friends and family to visit!!!  We have already started work on the remodel/updating upstairs – this house could single-handedly be a portfolio for Zach and I – there’s just that much work!!  But it’s a fun project and we’re loving it!!  More on our work on the house to come… 🙂

Cheers,

Sharon

The Guest List

First – we are 87 days and counting ’til our big day!!!

Okay, now that my excitement is out of the way for the morning, I can continue.  The next step in wedding planning was determining our guest list – that was a bit stressful.  My biggest concern was that we might forget someone…well, turns out, that just can’t be avoided.  You should just know now that you will forget to invite someone to your wedding.  Can’t be helped.  If you’re the one forgotten, don’t take it personally.  Seriously, you can spend a lot of time thinking about who you’re going to invite to your big day, and when the time comes to put it all on paper, every last name will rush out of your head and you’ll be stuck.  That being said, we somehow ended up with 300 people on the guest list.  Zach has a large family, thankfully, because I love family, and we knew we wanted to invite everyone.  So our wedding will be somewhat of a reunion, too – which essentially means, it’s going to be one big party.  I could not ask for anything better.  🙂

The good news is:  if you start organized, you’ll stay organized (in theory, anyway – I’ll let you know in a few months if my theory is true in practice, too).  Here’s my tip(s) for starting and staying organized when it comes to the guest list…3 words:

Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet.

I merged some cells, added some basic formulas, threw in a few column headings, added a title in a pretty font and Voila!  I have me all my guest info in one place!  I made columns for:  Person, # of Invites, Address, Save the Date Sent, Invite Sent, RSVP, Names Attending, Gift Notes, and Thank You Note(s) Sent.  In the Person column, I gave one line for every individual we intended to invite.  Then I merged the rows in the following column, # of Invites, for each family or group to which I was planning on sending an invite – and I put the number 1 in each merged cell.  At the bottom of the Invite column, I used the Auto Sum button to tally up the number of invites I need to order – it makes quick work of adding everything up, instead of counting by hand.  Next column, same as the previous, I merged each row for each family/group, and started compiling addresses.  In the next two columns, I simply put “yes” when I sent out the corresponding save-the-date and invite.  Since I sent out over 100 of each, I did so in batches and it was a good way for me to keep track of where I was at in the process.  (Side NOTE:  You can print this thing, mark it up as you work, then go back and make edits on the computer later, and reprint a clean copy…Repeat as necessary).  As I receive RSVPs, I’ve been putting in the number attending in the next column.  As with the Invite # column, I just totaled this guy at the bottom, using the auto-sum feature, and I now have a running tally of the number attending (again, super convenient).  Finally, in the Gift Notes column, I can keep track of who sent us what, when (I’d include a date received so that you can be prompt in your thank you note writing) – and then if I’ve sent a thank you note in the last column.

Talk about convenient.  This spreadsheet has it all, and keeps you organized, with all guest information in one easy place!

I’ve loved learning more about Zach’s extended family, and it makes my day every time we get another RSVP in the mail!!!

I cannot WAIT to see everyone in July 🙂

Cheers!

Sharon

(Before) Photos of the Main Level of Our New House

Here are the photos of the main level of our house.  Keep in mind, these are before – as in, waaaaaay before.  We have since pulled wallpaper, started patching and sanding the walls (which needed that, badly), all in preparation for paint (also badly needed).  We also have plans to refinish the floors – we will do that ourselves, as well.  Stay tuned for stories of our renovations and house work, as well as pictures of our basement!  🙂

Good Friday – the Best Friday of the Year

Today is Good Friday.  Not to be confused with Friday being good.  Good Friday.  Today is the day we remember Christ’s sacrifice on the cross to save us from our sins.  The Ultimate Sacrifice.  I remember growing up having this bulletin board in our laundry room.  Mom had about three pieces of paper pinned to it.  One was Attitude (the poem), one was an inspiring quote from a little picture card from Alaska Airlines, and the third was a photocopy of a cartoon.  That cartoon has resonated with me.  I believe that the comic strip was “Wizard of Id” – and it was about Good Friday.  Many, I think, struggle with the idea of Christ dying on the cross as something less than “good.”  This comic strip puts it all into perspective:

A:  I hate the term ‘Good Friday’

B:  Why?

A:  My Lord was hanged on a tree that day.

B:  If you were going to be hanged on that day, and He volunteered to take your place, how would you feel?

A:  Good.

B:  Have a nice day.

Says it all doesn’t it?  I get the chills and tear up every single time I see that comic and every time I think about the kind of love Christ and our Lord have for us…all of us.  It’s so perfect, so complete.  It makes my love for Him grow, too.  We cannot imagine, cannot wrap our minds around that kind of love, not really.  But we know it, we know it in faith, in our relationships with Him.  What hope it gives me.  We are saved.  And we are saved because we are loved.  That makes today a good day.

“Have a nice day”

Cheers,

Sharon

P.S.  Here is a link for this comic strip.  http://facultycommonsslo.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/good-friday-cartoon-bc.png

Choosing a Wedding Venue

As previously mentioned, I’ve been waiting for a few years for the proposal to happen.  And in that time, I’ve given thought to our wedding – not in great detail, but I’d think of things here and there.  One of the ideas that popped into my head was to get married in the summertime at a big ski house up in the mountains.  I thought a weekend getaway with family and friends would work out wonderfully.  Not to mention that those ski houses rent for extreme discounts in the summer (or, most of them do).

As usual, my GREAT idea wasn’t such a great one after all…  Turns out that many of the houses actually don’t allow weddings.  As one agent told me, too many of the owners had bad past experiences with weddings and had since nixed the idea.  The few that I found that would allow large events and weddings just weren’t going to accommodate everyone we needed to accommodate.

So, I was back at square one.  In searching for venues that had an outdoor ceremony site with a rustic, mountainous setting, I found that they came with exorbitant prices tags, too.  I knew weddings were expensive.  I didn’t know just how expensive.  I had gotten pretty frustrated, trying to find the right location, especially with so many possibly coming in from out of town, with the right setting and the right price.

I asked my co-workers if they knew of any local areas that weren’t listed on all of the wedding websites (since I’d already exhausted all of those…twice).  I got lucky.  A co-worker told me about a local historic apple orchard that also does events.  After showing me all of the pictures on their Facebook page, I was in love.  It was perfect!!  Even better that he knows the owner – and, here’s the kicker, her name is Sharon, too!  He texted the owner and found out that cost for getting married on a Friday was half the price of anywhere else I’ve looked and she already had many of the tables and chairs we’d need.  She also didn’t have nearly the requirements that other sites did, so we could really make our wedding what we pictured.

We went out that weekend to tour the farm – I tell ya, the views are amazing!!  Longs Peak sets the backdrop, and the farm is set with old cottonwood trees, historic buildings, and fun animals.  There is even a lake at the back of the orchard!!  Zach loved it, too

🙂  I wrote the deposit check on the spot!!!  And all my stress disappeared!!!  Well, that is until we had to tackle the guest list……..

This is our dance floor the evening!!  I love those cafe lights!!  We'll have fire pits, lights, beautiful flowers and more!!

This is our dance floor the evening!! I love those cafe lights!! We’ll have fire pits, lights, beautiful flowers and more!!

Cheers,

Sharon

What it Costs to Own a House

There are a few obvious expenses associated with buying and owning a home – mortgage payment (principal and interest) and utilities.  But there are also other fees, costs, bills and charges that add up quickly.  To save you the headache of finding out about these costs later in your home shopping and buying process, here is a quick run down of lesser-known expenses and costs related to home buying and ownership:

Your monthly payment is perhaps the most obvious of housing costs, aside from your purchase price.  However, there are certain expenses included in your monthly payment of which you may be unaware.  Your principal and interest are the bulk of your payment, but if you’ve put down less than 20% of your purchase price, you will be paying PMI, Private Mortgage Insurance, which essentially “makes up” the difference between what you’ve put down and 20%.  This can be significant – over $100 a month in some cases.  Keep this in mind.  You will stop incurring this monthly payment once you’ve paid your principal down to less than 80% of your purchase price, but that could take years.  You will also pay into an escrow account every month to cover your home owner’s insurance and annual property taxes (you can estimate this by looking at tax records for the property available on the assessor’s website – see my previous post Be a Know-it-All).  You will be expected to make up the difference if what you’ve contributed to your escrow account does not cover your taxes.

In addition to your monthly payment, you’ll pay for utilities.  This includes:  water, sewer, gas (if applicable), electricity, trash and any cable, internet and phone services you want.  Some of these may not apply – for example, if you’re on septic, you won’t have a sewer bill, but you will have to pay to have your system pumped occasionally.  You may be on strictly electric (no gas).  However, these costs can definitely add up.  Unfortunately, utility companies are not allowed to give you any information pertaining to what prior owners have paid – that information is now covered under privacy laws.  But you can ask friends and other people you know for some estimates and ball park your costs from there.  If you live in an HOA, your trash may be covered in your dues.  HOA dues are also recurring fees that you need to be aware of and for which you need to budget.  Cable, internet and phone bills seem to be on the constant rise and I think you can expect to pay $150 per month for a mid-level package (*this is only an estimate – there are ways to lower this payment, and believe me, there are ways to make it higher)!

When purchasing a home, you again are aware of the cost of the house – the purchase price (if you’re not aware of this expense, I’d like to live in your world for a day).  The good news is, your fees are less than those associated with selling your house.  You shouldn’t be responsible for paying your agent’s fees.  You will need to pay for your inspection, appraisal and any other similar services (a sewer scope, for example).  You may also need to pay for an ILC (Improvement Location Certificate), which is just a basic survey.  Your lender/title company can give your more information on this, if it’s needed.  Some of these charges are part of your closing costs, but will be paid for in advance.  Some are entirely independent but recommended.  You can offset some of your fees by asking for closing costs from the seller.  If you’re using an agent, they should explain all of these options to you in further detail.  Certain fees (title, survey, closing) can be negotiated in a offer.

You will be required to put a certain amount of money down.  And, here’s the kicker:  it’s got to be YOUR money.  Your lender can give you further detail, and fill you in on applicable laws, but it’s worth knowing that you have to have proof of funds for your down payment, and in today’s financial world, chances are you’ll have to justify any deposit that is not salary related.  So, if your down payment is a “gift” from a family member, you may run into some trouble.

Hopefully, some of this information will give you a heads up on what can be associated with house-buying and ownership, and it’s definitely worth crunching and recrunching the numbers.  But, I’d rather know ahead of time what I’m getting myself into (it’s usually nothing good) than have awful surprises down the road.  Good luck!

Cheers,

Sharon

Our First House! Exterior Pictures

The front of our new house!

The front of our new house!

Zach and I finally closed on our first house about a week and a half ago.  Many of you have been asking for pictures.  I took a LOT of them, so here is round one – the exterior of the house and our property.  We bought a 1948 ranch home on about half an acre.  We have a detached garage/shop and plenty of room to play.  Duke is in HEAVEN in his new yard 🙂  There are many bunnies for him to chase.  Keep in mind, these are VERY before pictures.  We bought this house as a fixer upper.  Stay tuned for more before pictures, and our work and renovations on our property!!!

The LOOOOOONG To-Do List

After thoroughly enjoying the almost overwhelming joy of finally being engaged, I got right down to business with the planning of our wedding.  (Again, in case you missed it, five years comin’).  Wonderfully, we had the “down time” away from our daily lives being that we were out of town on holiday.  Step one was calling and telling ALL family members.  My uncle, seriously funny man that he is, asked me if I had gangrene between my toes, when I asked, GUESS WHAT!  (EEEEWWWW)  Notifications done, we had to choose a date – one date – preferably one that Zach would be able to remember, one that most people could attend, and one that would suit our preferences (outdoors, etc.).  Out of 365 days, we had to choose 1.  Hmmm….that was a challenge.  To make a long (and probably less-than-interesting) story short, we chose July 25.  Yes, that’s a Friday.  Since I’ve answered this many times already, I’ll save you the trouble of asking, “Why Friday?”  Well, because it’s cheaper than a Saturday in wedding world, and because it’d work out well to have the rest of the weekend for us, since we won’t be taking a honeymoon.  So, Friday, July 25, 2014 is the 1 in 365 choice we made 🙂  Let the countdown begin….

Then, I’m told by all of the those amazingly helpful (overwhelming), organized (messy) and “everything in one place” (ALL things you could ever want and NOT ever want) websites that my to-do list is in the range of 155 items long.  WHAT?!  Yikes.  Well, okay – here we go…plug in my wedding date and…AHHHHHH!!  25 of those 155 things just became overdue.  Huh?  You mean I’m supposed to take a year to plan?  No.  I’ve waited five.  One more is not an option.  So, Plan B it is.

Plan B consisted of deleting those tasks that do not apply, i.e. write an engagement/wedding announcement for your local paper and submit with a picture.  Right.  I’m excited for me, but I’m fairly certain that no one else will care.  One down, 154 to go.

Skip forward approximately 30 minutes and my to-do list is in the manageable range of 110 ish items.  Well, November to July – that’s eight months, totally do-able.  So, I began the joyous process of planning my wedding….next up, find a venue….

Cheers,

Sharon

Financing – The Nitty Gritty

Most people might think that looking for a home comes first, but having just gone through all of this, I suggest getting your financing in order first…so that you’re ready to pounce on the dream home when you find it.  Wonderful as it is when everything falls into place, it’s devastating when the money side falls apart – and on that note…

Money.  A lot of money… is needed to buy a house.  (Unless you’ve figured out how to grow money on trees, in which case, I’d love to know your secret.)  Regardless of your source, money is required to purchase a home.  I’m going to guess here that the financing aspect of buying a home is probably the most daunting part in the entire process for most.  If not, you’re a lucky one.  While I am not an expert, I will share with you a few of our experiences that might help you feel a little more reassured about the financing side of buying a home.

First, there is an important distinction to make.  Being pre-qualified and getting pre-approved are two different things.  Being pre-approved carries a stronger value.  To put it briefly, being pre-qualified essentially means you’ve talked to a lender and based on limited, basic information (income, debt, etc.) they agree they think you’ll qualify for a mortgage.  Being pre-approved gets a bit more dirty.  You’ve talked with said lender and they’ve pulled your credit, you’ve given them an amount for which you’d like to be approved, you’ve submitted bank statements, taxes, pay stubs, etc. etc. etc. (our lender calls it the “infamous list”) and the lender has “crunched the numbers” (I’ve always wondered where that saying originated) and come back with interest rates, closing costs, etc.  Basically, the money is yours pending approval (usually from an underwriter).  You are a stronger candidate to a seller of a home if you’re pre-approved.  The lender can provide a pre-approval and/or a pre-qualification letter for you to submit with an offer on a house.

Okay, now that those are out of the way, here’s the good news.  There are actually a lot of options out there when it comes to financing a home.  Even better news, there are lots of options for first-time home buyers.  At first, we were limiting ourselves to using our credit union (with which Zach has been banking for life and through which I intentionally got my car loan in order to build some financial history with them).  Turns out, they weren’t the most competitive, by far, particularly when it came to closing costs, which we knew we needed from a seller anyway.  Enter:  Agent (see my previous blog about whether to use an agent).  Our agent pointed us to a lender who has provided us with a product that perfectly suits our needs!  Mortgage and/or finance companies have the ability to offer products not available through banks, which generally offer traditional options.

There are other sources for financing mortgages, too.  The government is an option (this is accessible through your lender).  Certain states may have programs, too.  Keep in mind that you must qualify for some of these programs.  VA has loan programs, but again, you must qualify.

The process for procuring financing can be a lengthy one.  Here’s what we learned along the way.  A good loan officer can give you a rough idea of where you stand in regards to a mortgage simply by getting a few details from you and working through the numbers.  Be honest throughout this entire process – and on that same topic, be conservative.  You’ll be glad for it.  Be prompt – if your lender requires information – get it quickly.  Don’t necessarily be sold on the first option.  NEWS FLASH:  In the past, it’s been detrimental to shop around for mortgages, because every company pulls your credit.  It’s now OK for you to have unlimited mortgage-related credit pulls within 30 days.  So, get multiple options and choose from there.  Be good to your credit and finances until a few days after you’ve closed…only then may you go charge all of your new furniture, décor, etc. on your credit card.  But, maintaining the financial picture you present to your lender is crucial – they will re-verify your credit/finances the week and morning of your close.  NOTE:  Quitting your job at all during this process is not recommended.

Happy shopping!

Cheers,

Sharon