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Love and Debt: Why you need to talk about money

How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck

Where to go for mortgage and debt help

What You Should Know About Debt Settlement

Create a plan to deal with medical debt

Options for Higher Education

Will Changes in Credit Reporting Affect You?

What to do if your medical bills are turned over to collections

What to do if your spouse can't pay his or her bills

What to do when a family member ruins your credit

Homeownership is possible

What you need to know about the IRS and collection agencies

Will being turned down for a store credit card hurt my credit?

Beware of credit repair

Debt Management versus Debt Settlement

How to get ahead of late fees

Is There a Service That Helps You Not Pay Bills

Is a Debt Owed

Patience is the key to furnishing a new home

How to split expenses with your partner

Will my boyfriend's bad credit affect me?

What to do if your account is turned over to collections

Personal Credit and Starting a Business

Finding Money to Reduce Your Debt and Improve Your Credit

Simple Keys to Personal Finance

Be vigilant to avoid telephone and internet scams

Debt Settlement

Understanding credit utilization

The pros and cons of skipping a payment

Keep an open line of communication with parents about their finances.

Make a Choice to Get Ahead Financially

What to do when a relative asks you for money

Should You Buy a Home Now or Wait?

The difference between debt settlement and debt management

The negative impact of paying a payment 30 days late

Stressed by Finances

How to navigate two significant financial decisions: starting a family and buying a home

How to advise someone close to you who is coming into a significant amount of money

Make a Conscious Decision on How to Spend Your Money

How do you know if you have a good credit score?

Americans spend more money eating out than on groceries

Having Good Credit Saves You Money

Developing good money habits with your first job

How to save for a home

How to Know if you are Ready for Home Ownership

When is the right time to buy a home?

You can improve your credit to buy a home

Plan a Memorable Vacation Without Incurring Debt

The Hidden Costs of Payday Loans

Be Wary of Credit Repair Services

Use Caution when playing the credit card game

What does it mean to say bankruptcy gives you a clean slate?

How your credit is affected by various debt options

Be wary of predatory small business loans

What to do if you fall behind on mortgage payments

Financing a College Education

Money, Credit and Relationships

Should you be concerned with your date's credit scores?

Best options for a small, short-term loan

How to help a relative who is always borrowing money from you

Skipping a Payment over the Holidays

What to do if you are overwhelmed by medical bills

Make your financial intention a financial goal you can achieve

What to do when a collector calls you

The difference between paying bills and managing your money

My wife and I have gone through some tough financial times, which eventually led us to file for bankruptcy.  Following this experience, I don’t ever want to use credit again, but my wife

What do I need to know to pay ahead on my mortgage?

What to do if you get an unsolicited credit card in the mail

What to do when moving in to share expenses doesn't work out

How to Know if you are Ready for Home Ownership

Q. We are ready to buy our first home, but don’t know where to get started.  Can you help?

A. When you want to buy a home, it’s tempting to start the process by trolling real estate listings or going to open houses. This may be fun, but it isn’t the best place to start your homeownership journey. In fact, it can be a recipe for disappointment.

Before you do anything else, you need to determine if you can afford to make a mortgage payment. Buying a home is the most significant purchase that most people make. What’s more, most home loans are for 30 years. So it is essential that you end up with a payment that fits your budget. 

A mortgage payment will include principle, interest, taxes and insurance. While a lender may tell you what you qualify for, only you can determine what you can afford. Only you know if you have higher- than-normal expenses because of unique circumstances in your life. When your budget gets squeezed, you cannot just stop paying a mortgage loan; if you do, you will lose your home and harm your credit. If a prospective payment is too high for your comfort level, then you need to look for a lower-cost home.

If you feel you can afford a mortgage payment, then your next step is to visit with a lender. If you have an account with a bank or credit union that offers mortgage loans, make an appointment here first. Explain that you want to see if you are credit-ready to buy a home and want to know how much home you can qualify for.  Keep in mind this is only an estimate, as lender cannot give you any exact numbers until they have more specific information.

Ask about the current interest rate on the loan, and what the monthly payment on that loan would be. Ask, too, for an estimate on taxes and insurance, which have the potential to raise your payment to the point where you can’t afford the loan. Finally, get an estimate of your closing costs. Interest rates and closing costs vary from lender to lender, and all the initial numbers you get will be estimates that could change.

If the lender tells you that you are not credit ready, ask what steps you can take to change this. You may need to pay off or pay down your debt, or you may need to be at your job longer. Don’t view a “no” as a permanent answer. Instead, see it as “not ready yet,” but with a plan to be so in the near future.

If you are credit ready, do you have the cash on hand to close your loan? If not, now is the time to save for the closing costs.  

If you decide to do your research online, rather than talking to a local lender, make sure you use a legitimate website. Many lenders have homeownership calculators on their websites. Never enter personal information on an unfamiliar website.  

Once you start looking at homes, remember that you will need to consider other costs, too. Are there homeowner’s association fees? Is flood insurance required? What is the average gas and electric bill? Will you be traveling farther to get to work? If you are buying a fixer upper, how will you come up with the money to fix up the home?

The process of buying a home requires big-picture thinking and a willingness to be honest with yourself. Only you can know for certain how much you can truly afford to spend on your new home. 

Bonnie Spain is the executive director of the American Center for Credit Education and Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the Black Hills. For more information, email

The material in this transmission is provided for personal, non-commercial, educational, and informational purposes only. ACCE makes no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this transmission and assumes no responsibility for errors, inaccuracies, omissions, or any inconsistency herein. You should consult a professional where appropriate.