Ideas for holiday savings

Lighting: Invest a few extra dollars in LED lights. They use 80 to 90 percent less energy. Set up a timer so they go off automatically at 10:30 or 11 p.m.

Wrappings: Special paper and bows are expensive and wasteful. Save a tree and some cash by using gift bags saved from last year. Try creative wrapping with fabrics, posters or magazines.

Trees: Fake trees are expensive, petroleum-based and not biodegradeable. A real tree can be taken to the county recycling facility and turned into mulch.

Holiday cards: They are expensive to buy and mail. Instead, create an email greeting that could include photos. Send individually to each person, not to an entire list at once.

Low interest on 15-year mortgages brings many refinancing deals

Mortgage interest rates are the lowest in half a century, and the 15-year rate is lowest of all.
Some mortgages are being offered at 3.75 percent for the 15-year. A year ago, the average rate was 4.68 percent.
In the past, many people would have opted for a 15-year instrument instead of one for 30 years, but couldn’t afford the higher monthly payments. The gap on monthly payments has now decreased.
Refinancing -Low interest on 15-year mortgages A 30-year mortgage holder on a $200,000 loan at 7 percent would pay about $1,330 in principal and interest for 30 years. If the $200,000 mortgage was taken at 3.75 percent interest, the monthly payment would be just $124 more, or $1,454 for only 15 years.
Twenty-year loans have also become a good choice. At today’s rates, a borrower with a 30-year loan at 6.5 percent, and a $200,000 principal balance, could save some $70,000 in interest over the life of a shorter 20-year mortgage.
According to HSH Associates, a publisher of mortgage and consumer loan information, the shorter terms are especially attractive to people who want to build equity more quickly and those who want to pay off mortgages in a shorter period of time. About one-third of refinancers are moving to 15-year or 20-year loans.
One lender, quoted in USA Today, says more homeowners who are in their middle years are applying for the 15-year mortgages. Their income is higher now than it will be at retirement, and they can afford to pay off the loan before they retire.
About a quarter of residential properties are now worth less than the amount owed on a mortgage. If they can afford it, some people are paying cash up front to move from a more-expensive mortgage to a cheaper, shorter-term loan.