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It used to be that every high school in the country offered classes that taught life skills. For girls, it usually meant they would be taking “Home Economics” courses. These included topics such as sewing, cooking, childcare, and home management. The boys took things such as agriculture, woodshop, welding, and auto repair. They may not have known it, but they were being taught life skills – how to survive as an adult in the real world.

Unfortunately, these types of vocational classes are no longer common in the technology-driven high schools of today. Our modern world of cell phone convenience and disposable everything actually keeps people from learning some basic skills to survive. A large part of the population would freeze in their tracks if the internet and cell phone system went down. They would have no clue how to proceed and survive without their constant technology. To combat this possibility, here are 5 life skills to learn and teach your children.

Feed Your Family

Learning to plan and cook nutritious meals for yourself and your family is not hard. With the millions of cookbooks and classes available today along with readily available ingredients, you can be whipping up good, tasty food in no time. Let your kids join in on the fun and soon they will be cooking for you.

Aside from the large amounts of money you save by preparing food at home, knowing exactly what you’re feeding your family is important. Food that is created from fresh ingredients will always be healthier than that take-out pizza or noodles from a box.

Don’t Throw Out That Sock

The simple task of sewing a button back onto a shirt terrifies many people. When a sock gets a hole in the heel, it is easier for them to toss it and buy new ones instead of taking a few quick stitches to close up the tear.

Community colleges and adult schools offer simple sewing classes that last from one day to entire semesters. They will teach you how to preserve and even make your own clothing. Online videos can also teach you to easily darn that holey sock.

Fire the Maid

Busy households get messy fast and need constant attention. If you’re one of those fortunate people with a maid or staff, that’s great. If not, you need to know some basic cleaning skills: washing dishes, vacuuming the floor, dusting shelves, scrubbing the bathroom, doing laundry, etc.

It is never too early to start teaching kids to do household chores such as taking out the garbage and sweeping the garage. Why hire a maid if you have kids (or a spouse) that can pull their own weight? Fire the maid and save the money for a family vacation or better yet, a spa trip for yourself.

On the Road Again

It’s true that cars used to be pretty simple beasts. They had straightforward components that were easy to identify, monitor, and maintain. The cars of today are complicated, computerized machines that watch their own fluids, talk to you, and even drive themselves in some instances.

This is still no excuse to not have the ability to change a tire in an emergency. Tires go flat all of the time and when it happens, you’re stuck. If you’re somewhere with no cell service to call for help, you’re really stuck. Have your mechanic or car dealer show you how to change the tire on your car so you can get back on the road right away.

My Pipes are Leaking

Learning to do simple home maintenance yourself can save you thousands of dollars. If you don’t have to call out the plumber to replace a faucet washer or an electrician to change your light bulb, you’re ahead of the game.

Many of the big box hardware stores have regular classes to teach these routine skills. They even have some classes taught exclusively for women who want to learn how to lay tile, install a garbage disposal, or hang drywall. The possibilities (and the savings) are endless.

If you were to look only at the money you would save by doing any of these tasks yourself instead of paying someone else, it would be eye-opening. When you add in the satisfaction you’ll feel when you’re able to say “I did this myself”, it becomes priceless.

What are some life skills that you learned in high school?

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Oh, we are all about…

Should You Buy a Foreclosure?

In today’s market, where foreclosures are becoming as common as houseflies, buying a property in foreclosure might make financial sense. On average, foreclosures sell for about 10-20 percent less than the market value of similar properties in the same location. Some properties sell for less than tax value. That could make all the difference to buyers who could not otherwise afford it.

But amateur buyers should proceed with caution. A foreclosure carries serious potential risks. If you are just an average Joe wanting to get a good deal on a home for your family, a little bit of homework will go a long way toward preventing a costly mistake.

Get loan approval first.

Before you do any looking, get pre-approved by your bank or a trustworthy lending company. That will save you precious time that you will need once you find the property you want.

Liquidate assets for a down payment.

Most loans require some percentage for a down payment, so gather what you have before you start looking. When you know what you want, you will have the cash (or the check) ready to put on the table.

Use a realty professional.

Unless you have done this often, this is not the time to go solo. The details and legal aspects of a foreclosure vary from state to state, county to county, and even from case to case. A realtor will provide valuable advice and will think of details that would not likely occur to you.

Decide what stage of foreclosure you want to pursue.

You can buy property in foreclosure in three ways:

-Pre-foreclosure means the homeowners have been told by the lending company that they have X amount of time to sell or they will lose the property. They will be motivated to sell for less so it doesn’t go to foreclosure. Buying in pre-foreclosure means you have to be ready to act quickly, but you will be able to view the property.

-Foreclosures sold at auction usually take place on the courthouse steps. Normally you will not be able to view the property. This is the riskiest way to buy. In most states, cash is required, and the new owner is responsible for any liens on the property. It may seem like the best way to get a good deal, but you will also have to compete against knowledgeable bidders.

-Real Estate Owned (REO) homes are properties that did not sell at auction and are owned by the bank or lending company. The bank pays a real estate broker to clean it up and sell for a profit, usually at or just below market price. The discount may not be as deep as those in the previous stages, but banks are usually willing to negotiate, especially if they have a number of these properties on hand. You can see what you are buying, although in this stage properties are sold “as is”: nothing further will be done to fix it up before a sale. To the average buyer, the process of buying an REO property is much easier.

Be ready to repair and remodel.

Just assume at the outset that the house, barn, etc. on the property will be in need of some repair. If the owners could not keep up with the payments, they probably did not spend money on maintaining or upgrading the property either. If you have experience with remodeling, then you are in a good position to buy a foreclosure and fix what is needed. Hiring contractors will be more expensive. Either way, you will have the cost of materials, and that can add up to a significant amount of added cost to the total that you paid for the house. In the end, making repairs might be worth it, if you like remodeling, if the house is sound, and if you have ideas that you would like to try but could not afford to otherwise – and, of course, if the total cost of the house plus repairs is less than you would have paid for full market value.

Beware of hidden costs.

Even newer homes could be hiding serious structural imperfections. The most costly repairs to a home are often those that the amateur eye does not always recognize: replacing a roof, replacing the plumbing system, foundation and support beam repairs, rewiring, or replacing a septic tank. A home inspection by a professional can provide you with a better idea of what you are in for, if you are allowed to do one. Keep in mind that even a professional inspector might miss something major (hidden termite damage). Just be ready for the possibilities beforehand. Repairing old barns and out buildings is a lot easier but can also be costly. Fortunately these can probably wait a little longer or until you are ready to use them.

Keep a cool head.

It helps not to get too attached to a property. A foreclosure that looks too good to be true probably is, or else the investor sharks would have snatched it up. If you are outbid on a property you really liked, keep looking. There will be something out there for you, sooner or later.

Consider buying a HUD home foreclosure.

HUD properties (ie., government-owned) have some advantages. One is that prospective homeowners get first dibs over the investors. HUD also offers photos of the foreclosures for sale, inspection reports, and an estimate of what it will cost to make repairs to the property. Sometimes the property will have thousands of dollars of free equity after you purchase it, so it really is worth looking into.

Buying in foreclosure could be the best deal you ever made, especially if you are able and willing to put some “sweat equity” into it. You will be better off if you have already owned a home and know the ins and outs of home ownership. You will also be ahead of the game if you enter it with savvy, experienced professionals – real estate agents, brokers, or a real estate attorney. Do your homework, and get ready to find the property you’ve always dreamed of owning, and making it your own.

More info: I Dream About Owning A Farm. Where Do I Start..?

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