Tag: home ownership

Use Toxin-Free Paint and Create a Healthier Home

Picture this: you?ve just moved into your new home. All of the walls and furniture are bright builder?s white and you can’t wait to paint over it. But the paint you’re about to use probably isn’t toxin-free paint. The fresh-paint smell that makes you feel proud after a long day of painting is not necessarily good for your health.

What makes Paint ?Toxic??

Most store-brand paints have chemicals called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Leading with the word ?volatility? makes these chemicals sound scarier than they are. All it means is that some of the chemicals in the paint evaporate in a normal room. The VOCs in your paint are what make them so easy to paint with and part of why the colors look as rich and bright as they do.

But many VOCs are known carcinogens. If you smear those brightly-colored VOCs all over your walls, you probably won?t notice the effects immediately. However, if your house is poorly ventilated or you use a lot of paint at once, you may feel headaches, dizziness, and nausea. Less irritating paints only result in eye, throat, and skin irritation. In more extreme cases, overexposure to these paint fumes could lead to liver damage, kidney damage, and even contribute to the development of cancer. If that wasn’t enough reason to switch to toxin-free paint, there’s a great environmental impact, too.

Related: Go toxin-free without breaking the bank

The Environment Cares which Paint I use?

Fine, it may not actually care. But it does notice. When high-VOC paint reacts with the nitrogen in the air, it depletes the ozone layer and contributes to urban smog. One household might not make a difference, but how many people have just painted new homes for their families? How many have just decided to repaint their homes? All of this adds up to impact our planet. Thankfully, there are options available that benefit the people in your home and reduce pollutants released into the environment. More and more people are switching to toxin-free paint.

Related: Why this solar company founder is starting a credit union

What alternatives do I have for toxin-free paint?

There are plenty of paint brands that you can choose from that have low or zero-VOC paints. For starters, you can visit Home Depot?s page that shows you their toxin-free paint options. Home Depot is a massive distributor, so if you can find it there, that’s probably the easiest way to go.

Other companies produce toxin-free paint exclusively. ECOS Paints produces zero-VOC paints, wood varnishes, primers, and stains. They even have pet-friendly paints to help keep your pets safe and healthy.

If you don?t want to look into specialty brands, Behr, Sherwin-Williams, and Benjamin Moore offer low and zero-VOC paints. All of these paints seem to perform just as well as conventional paints, so you don?t have to sacrifice?paint quality. Even better, most of these paints don?t cost very much more than a $30-gallon drum from Home Depot. It?s a win-win!

Related: The ABC’s of sustainable style

There?s a BIG Caveat though

Toxin-free paint does have fewer harmful fumes than traditional paints. However, the colorant that’s added to it probably doesn?t. When you go to Home Depot to pick out the right shade of lavender for your room, you?ll get a base color and an additive that will change the paint color to your perfect shade of lavender. A lot of times, that additive has those same VOCs that you tried to avoid.

If you want your paint to really live up to your wildest expectations, you need to make sure that everything you use is VOC-free. Don?t spend all that time and energy keeping your home healthy with conscious choices, only to throw it away because you thought the slightly lighter lavender would make the room look bigger. Read the fine print so you know what?s going in your paint and, more importantly, in your home.

Related: 7 ways to make your home a sustainable source of income

Now you?re a Healthy + Conscious Homeowner

Imagine that you’ve just spent three hours painting your walls. Now your home can look good and you can feel good about your hard work. Choosing to be a conscious consumer doesn?t mean sacrificing quality or your wallet. It simply means being mindful about how you spend your money and the impact those purchases have on the people around you and our planet. There are new conscious products being developed every day, whether it?s the paint on your walls or the credit card in your wallet. What other purchases can you make that will make the world a better place?

Related: How to save for a down payment on your home


 

?Photo by?Bench Accounting?

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How to Save for a Home Down Payment

Have you ever dreamed of owning your own home? Whether that be a condo in the city or a colonial in the burbs, even the most die-hard renters may find themselves peaking at online real estate listings every now and then, thinking of what life would be like. Sure, the housing crisis was scary, the stress of the home buying process is legendary, and the fact that there’s no landlord to call is a lot of responsibility but despite it all, the attraction is still there.

Taking charge of your financial future involves a lot more than simply opening a savings account or signing up for a budgeting app. It requires taking your dreams, translating them into concrete goals, and creating a plan to help you get there. So if buying a home is on your bucket list, it’s time to get started. And the best place to start: a down payment.

Down Payment Details

Unless you happen to be one of the lucky buyers who qualifies for special loan programs through organizations like the VA or USDA, every home purchase normally requires some sort of down payment. We typically hear about down payments of 20 percent of the purchase price of a home, but buyers have the option to put down more or less in order to secure their dream house. Most lenders require a downpayment of at least 3 percent depending on your credit history.

Making a down payment of less than 20 percent can be a big help to get you into a home sooner, but it comes with a catch. Actually, a few catches. In the eyes of a lender, a lower down payment increases the risk they will need to take on by giving you a mortgage. In order to compensate for this risk, you will likely pay a higher interest rate on the loan.

Your lender will also likely require private mortgage insurance (better known as PMI). This insurance policy is used to protect the lender in case you default on your loan. However, the monthly premiums will be paid by you, in addition to your mortgage payments. PMI rates vary, depending on the size of the down payment and the?loan, from around 0.3 percent to 1.15 percent of the original loan amount per year. The less you put down, the higher the PMI.

Kickstarting Your Savings

Now that you know more about the ins and outs of down payments, how do you actually start saving for one?

  • Determine how much house you can afford and how much down payment makes sense for you. Crunch the numbers using Zillow’s Affordability Calculator given your income and the amount of debt you have. Based on the prospective purchase price from an online calculator or the average price of homes in your area, calculate how much a 20, 10 or even 5 percent down payment would be. Which is the most reasonable for you? Also consider how this will affect the monthly payment on the loan (click on the “payment breakdown” tab in the Zillow calculator for details).
  • Get intimate with your budget. Light a candle, open a bottle of red wine, and get to know the ins and outs of where your money is going. Identify specific areas where you can cut back or eliminate spending all together to make room for extra saving. Of course consider small changes like downgrading to a cheaper gym membership or cutting out your daily Starbucks run, but also think about big moves. Selling your car and using public transit or moving to a cheaper apartment can get you into your home even sooner.?
  • Give yourself a reality check. Think about your current housing costs versus the prospective monthly payment on your dream home. For instance, you may be paying $1,500 in rent but think you’d like to buy a home whose monthly costs will be more like $2,500 each month. Aim to save the difference between the two. In this case, save an extra $1,000 monthly. Not only will you get comfortable with the budget necessary to afford the house you want, but, you’ll also be building your down payment as you go. If you’re not able to make this savings target on a consistent basis, then you may need to readjust your expectations of how much house you can afford.?

Even if you’re not 100 percent sold on home ownership, that’s okay. It’s a big decision and there’s no rush. No matter what you mother-in-law, best friend or realtor tell you, there is no perfect time to buy. But even if you’re still on the proverbial fence, preparing for the possibility of purchasing a home down the line is never a bad thing. Who ever regretted learning more about the home buying process, improving their credit score or saving something extra in their bank account?


Photo by Bernadette Gatsby

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