You might be austere and not even know it!

Relaxed couple in living room

What do the words austerity, bailout, blog, woot, and truthiness all have in common?  Stumped?  No, I’ll wait, it’s okay.

Still no answer?  Well, as amusing as it is to puzzle you all, I suppose I will make it easy for you.  All of these words have appeared as the number 1 most searched word list in the last ten years.  The Top Ten Words of the Year list is published by Merriam-Webster (they make dictionaries!) at the end of each year, showcasing the most searched words that can be linked to current events.

This year, the chart topper was austerity.  Now when I saw this, I did exactly what many thousands of others have done this year: I looked it up!  Here is what I found… 

The quality or state of being austere.  

Now that explains it all, doesn’t it?  Further down I go, looking for something that makes sense and I find…

Enforced or extreme economy.  

Oh, okay, that seems a bit more reasonable.  The search for this word peaked right around the announcement of the economic collapse in Greece and continued to pop up whenever there was news regarding newly impacted countries in Europe.

Austerity is not just applied to a global economy or even a national economy, but a “personal economy” as well.  Everyone has taken steps to “trim the fat” out of their lifestyles to try to buckle down and pinch those pennies in hard times.  Myself, I decided I was eating out way too often for lunch!  Now, I find that I buy more groceries to stock my drawer here at work for lunches than I do for the cupboards at home!  I’m not sure if that’s a sign that I eat too much when I’m at work, I don’t eat enough at home, or I just spend too much time at work…but whatever it is, I’m spending less than I was before!

As we begin a new year, many people are considering a financial overhaul to streamline their wallet/purse/satchel and cut the amount of plastic carried around.  Let me share a secret with you though, you can do sooo much more!  And now I’m going to tell you HOW!

Interest rates are so low right now, it’s ridiculous!  Mortgage rates are creeping back up a little here and there (but are still remarkably low – take a look for yourself here) so it’s the perfect time for you to consider a refinance. Or, say, if you think that your belated Christmas gift for this year should be a new house, we would love to help you out there as well!

I’m a numbers guy, all the talk in the world won’t convince me of anything unless I have the numbers to convince me.  Right now, rates are sitting around 4.75% on a 30 year fixed loan (click here to see our latest rates!).  If you are looking at a loan of $100,000 that gives you a monthly payment of $521.65 (principal and interest).  Let’s bump that up to 5.25%, where we were a little over a year ago, and you get $552.20 per month.  Well that’s only a difference of $30.55 right?  What’s the big deal?  Here it is, take that and multiply it by the number of payments over 30 years and you’ll see what the big deal is!

I’m sure you’ve run the math by now and are amazed to see that it’s a difference of almost $11,000 over the life of the loan.  Don’t you think you could come up with something better to do with that money?  Here are some ideas, in case you can’t:

  • An original New York Taxi Painting by Miguel Freitas (it’s on Ebay!)
  • A 2 Carat Leo Diamond engagement ring (From Jared, it’ll even make your car’s GPS love you!)
  • A full size robot model used in I, Robot (It lights up, but it will not do your laundry.  Conversely, it won’t rebel and try to take over the world either!)
  • Your own fleet of Tata Nano cars, four to be exact ($2500 a piece, imagine a smart car got caught in the closing doors of an elevator and was smushed into an even smaller car!)
  • Or you could pay off my student loan debt….just a thought!

So, while you’re doing your planning for the coming year, and think you want to take a more austere approach to life, think about all your options!  When you do, make sure to check out Linn Area’s mortgage website (click here) for some additional ideas!  If you’re like me, the calculator section is pretty enlightening.  You can do a rent vs. own comparison, look at potential tax savings, and find out the amazing benefit of paying just a little extra on your mortgage payment each month, among other things!

Do you have any creative ways you have practiced austerity in the past or plan to practice it in 2011?  We would love to hear about them!