Our Journey to Home Owning & Tips for Building Better Credit

Tracking PixelDisclosure: This post has been sponsored by Credit Karma™. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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My husband and I have officially started traveling down the road to becoming home owners. Since we first began living together back in early 2011, we’ve lived in two different apartment complexes. Sure, there are some perks to apartment life, but we are well beyond that point in our lives.

We want our own home and room to grow. We need more space. We want a backyard for our fur-baby. We want to be able to host gatherings with enough room for friends and family to be comfortable. We want a bigger kitchen, more storage space, a garage would be nice, etc. The list goes on and on. Plus, we are so over sharing just one bathroom between the two of us! We have simply outgrown our apartment and are more than ready to move to that special stage in life… becoming first time home owners!!!

We have set a goal date and plan to be in our new home by the end of October 2015 when our current lease is up! That gives us one whole year to continue saving. I’m excited to begin blogging about our home buying adventure because as you might know, these things take time and there are many steps that lead up to the big move (in). One of the main things we are focused on at this point in the home buying process is building our credit. My husband has not been as blessed as I have by the credit score gods so it’s taking some definite time and effort to build his score up to where we want it to be. We’re getting there, but not alone.

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How Credit Karma™ Can Help You Reach Your Financial Goals

Today, I’m sharing about one website that has truly served as the ultimate resource for us over the last few months. Credit Karma™ is a credit monitoring website that offers you free access to your credit report and credit score. I’m sure you’ve seen their commercials on TV.

This is one of my faves:

Credit Karma™ is PRO-consumer, which is awesome. Their founder believes that everyone should have free access to their own data. It’s just FAIR. If you think about it for a minute, in order for us to get anything done in this world, ie. applying for a job, buying a car to get to said job, applying to purchase a home, etc… you must have a credit score or you may not get very far.

Credit Karma™ offers its users free weekly access and monitoring so that we can do what we have to do to build, maintain, and just be aware of our credit health.

It’s quite shocking if you take a look at the statistics about credit. There are an estimated 220 million people out there with a credit profile. 33% of those people have never even checked their credit scores before. The little lady in the video above is not alone. There’s also another 25% out there with errors that they don’t know about on their credit report that could be causing them some major financial headaches.best credit monitoring service, credit karma features, is credit karma helpful, should i sign up for credit karma, credit karma facts, how to improve my credit score

By using a credit monitoring service such as Credit Karma™, you are only empowering yourself and your future. Plus, it’s FREE. Absolutely FREE. They will never ask you for a penny when it comes to using their services. You have NOTHING to lose. Actually, you have a LOT to gain. Aside from monitoring your credit report, you can also connect all of your financial accounts into once easy place (a lot like Mint). Once you link up your accounts, read-only data is safely transmitted to your Credit Karma™ dashboard, making it a one stop shop for all of your financial health monitoring.

Other favorite features of mine at Credit Karma™ are their awesome forum community and blog. They have a vast amount of helpful articles and forum topics about anything having to do with your credit score, money habits, and beyond. It’s important stuff that we all need to know about.

Sign up today for your free credit report monitoring and give yourself the gift of financial health awareness.

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Tips for Improving Your Credit Score

Don’t be late on your payments! 

Set alert reminders in your phone or on your calendar. Be sure to never miss a payment. Even just missing ONE payment can affect your score tremendously. Personally, whenever I charge something, I put a calendar reminder in my phone to pay ASAP as soon as it posts.

Deal with any derogatory marks ASAP.

Once you’ve been alerted that you have an outstanding payment and collections accounts are trying to reach you, take care of it. Credit Karma™ does a good job of monitoring and the second something pops up, they alert you immediately. Taking care of collections matters in a timely matter is very important. Also whatever you settle on with these people, make sure to get the agreement in writing.

What’s a good credit score goal?

Aim for a score of 720. When applying for a home, you’ll need a credit score of at least 720 to get the best offers on loans, financing offers, etc.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Credit Karma™.

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Have you used Credit Karma™ before? Has it been helpful?

Are you currently saving up to buy your first home? Share your story.

Are you already a home owner? What advice would you offer to first time home buyers?

Get in on the conversation! I LOVE hearing from my readers. Please share your answers, thoughts, and opinions in the comments section below!

Latina Houstonian Honored with Toyota’s Standing Ovation Award at Oprah’s Life You Want Tour

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Photo Courtesy of Harpo Studios, Inc. / George Burns

During The Life You Want Tour in Houston last weekend, Amy Purdy was on hand to present the Toyota Standing O-Vation Award to Yamile Jackson of Nurtured by Design.

The Standing O-Vation Award recognizes extraordinary people who are making positive changes in their communities and beyond by inspiring others to do the same.

Meet the Houston Woman Touching Lives, Yamile Jackson

Yamile is a Latina, originally from Bogota, Colombia. Her family always emphasized the importance of education. She moved to Houston when she was 21 to go to school and pursue higher education. She earned a bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. all in engineering. Wow! Truly inspiring to see a fellow Latina doing so many amazing things.

Yamile is now the founder and CEO of Nurtured By Design, experts in ergonomics and safety engineering who specialize in helping mothers nurture their newborns – especially, those who are very fragile. The company is making a tremendous strides.

“The Zaky” Comforting Babies Around the World

Yamile has engineered an incredible product, called “The Zaky,” helping high risk, fragile babies all over the world. These hand-shaped ergonomic devices are designed to simulate the touch of the babies’ mother when she cannot be there. Parents are also able to leave their scent on “The Zaky” so the child gets to know their family, even if they are in an incubator for months or weeks after birth. Yamile’s inspiration behind this product came from her own premature pregnancy and birth. Her son, Zachary, was born at only 28 weeks via an emergency C-section.

Back in 1987, I was also a preemie. From hearing many stories from my mom about how difficult it was for her to leave me in the hospital, I know just how important these Zaky’s truly are! For my mom, it would have been very reassuring to know that although, she couldn’t be there 24/7, I would at least have her scent and her comfort with me inside that incubator.

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“I think everybody has a calling. I found mine. And it’s out there for everyone.” -Yamile Jackson

Yamile was awarded a $25,000 grant from Toyota USA and plans to utilize the gift to further the growth of Nurture by Design and continue serving babies all over the world with her special ergonomic products.

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“To be recognized by Oprah and Amy Purdy for doing something that was born out of love for my child is simply incredible,” said Yamile Jackson. “We all have the power within us to bring about positive change in the world, and sharing that with others is how we express our love and gratitude. This $25,000 grant from Toyota will allow us to bring even more help to babies and children during critical stages of their young lives.”

To learn more about the Zaky and Nurtured by Design, visit the official NBD website here.

Meeting Amy Purdy at The Life You Want Tour

[Disclosure: Thank you to Toyota for taking me places and sponsoring me at last weekend's The Life You Want Tour stop in Houston.]

Like many Americans, I got to know Amy Purdy on season 18 of Dancing With the Stars when she partnered with one of my favorite Dancers, Derek Hough. You could not help but fall in love with her.

AND WHAT AN INSPIRATION.

I instantly connected with her story and was amazed by her grace, spirit, and unwavering enthusiasm for life, even minus her two legs. She underwent a terrible fight for her life at age 19, which resulted in losing her legs to a horrific bout with bacterial meningitis but that did not stop this woman. Doctors gave her a 2% chance of surviving.

Well, survive, SHE DID.

She also went on to: accomplish her dreams of becoming a pro-snow border, continue her “pre-amputee profession” as a massage therapist (for a little while), become an “Amputee Advocate” for Freedom Innovations, co-found her own non-profit: Adaptive Action Sports, make an appearance in a Madonna music video, WIN A BRONZE MEDAL in Snowboarding during the 2014 Winter Paralympics, and nearly win Dancing with the Stars but placed runner up…

AND THE LIST GOES ON.

Amy is now a Team Toyota athlete and brand ambassador. It was such a sweet surprise to learn that she would be presenting the Standing O-Vation Award at The Life You Want Tour.

She continues to take the world by storm. I feel grateful that she has chosen to share her story with the world.

“If your life were a book and you were the author, how would you want your story to go?” – @AmyPurdyGurl

Amy inspires me to not let my nystagmus eyes limit me.

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Yes, something awful happened to her, but she chose not to feel sorry for herself. Reflecting back on what I went through, including a severe depression through out my first year and a half of recovery, it was all a waste!

Amy inspires me to make the most of what I do have to work with. Yes, my nystagmus causes my eyes to shake involuntarily, 24/7, but I am grateful for the vision I do have! Many people who undergo brainstem surgery are often left with blindness, blind spots, or double vision.

We ALL have our challenges in life, it’s how we overcome them that makes the story worth telling.

I have been able to work with my nystagmus and see the world in a whole new way. It’s about focusing on the positive side of life, being grateful, and moving forward!

ADAPT, OVERCOME, & LIVE!

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Isn’t she sooo PURDY? Sorry sweet Amy, I could not resist! YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!

Getting to meet Amy was definitely one of my many #LifeYouWantHOU highlights. Click here for more of my event coverage during Oprah’s weekend in Houston.

For more of Amy’s incredible story, check out her 2012 Ted Talk – Living Beyond Limits. I absolutely love the challenge she leaves you with in the last minute of the video clip. Pure inspiration gold.

Amy will be releasing her upcoming book, On My Own Two Feet. I cannot wait to get my hands on it!

[Disclosure: Once again, HUGE thank you to Toyota for taking me places and sponsoring my time at The Life You Want Tour. I am so grateful!]

Oprah’s Life You Want Tour HOUSTON

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Photo Courtesy of Harpo Studios, Inc. / George Burns

What an amazing weekend it has been in Houston! We got to hang out with the amazing, Ms. Oprah Winfrey! Isn’t she just a vision in yellow? Beautiful!

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Oprah’s Life You Want Weekend Tour has been hitting arenas nationwide for the last few weeks. With a total of 8 stops in all, Houston was number five to experience this awakening, transformative two-day interactive life class with Ms. Winfrey and her hand picked Life Trailblazers.

Oprah’s Life Trailblazers:

With with so many incredible takeaways, my coverage of this weekend will be broken up into a Life You Want Houston blog series. Stay tuned for more coming very soon!

My #LifeYouWantHOU Blog Series:

[More to come! Check back soon!]

What is The Life You Want Tour All About?

The entire line up included powerful presentations and conversations by each Trailblazer, amazing music by DJ Kiss, tons of dancing between activities, an amazing SOUL15 work out with SoulCycle Master trainer Angela Davis, an interactive workbook used throughout the workshop and some very special moments with fantastic  tour sponsors like Toyota and their Standing O-vation Award presented by the incredible, Amy Purdy! Like I said, it was a busy weekend with too much AWESOME to fit into just one blog post.

It was a packed house at the Toyota Center with thousands of women and some very secure male counterparts experiencing all that this unique event had to offer. This arena was well prepared for such a busy event; they were even clever enough to turn a couple of the designated male restrooms into female restrooms during Oprah Weekend to meet the demand. If that’s not a great host then I don’t know what is! Kudos to Toyota Center!

A Shared Experience Different From the Rest!

This weekend truly felt like an intimate adventure but in a very unique way which I had never experienced before. Not only was this feeling evident with Oprah and her guest speakers but with fellow audience members, the many thousands of us. We were all on this journey together. We all want to live our best lives. We are all here to learn and grow.

We know that Oprah has an uncanny ability to “speak directly to you” and you alone – whether it’s through her television shows or standing on stage in front of massive crowds but I have to mention this essence was captured and multiplied so well through out the event!

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It was an incredible production, utilizing technology via these really cool light up wristbands, that each and every audience member received. You’d wear your interactive wristband throughout the event to check in, sign up for prizes at O-Town, etc. but throughout the actual showtime and presentations, they would light up, in sync with the stories being told. It was mesmerizing! We were all connected in this shared experience, not only spiritually, but visually. It was powerful. It just added a little touch of goosebump worthy stimulation to go with what your heart, mind, and spirit were already feeling. I have to applaud Oprah’s production team on the excellent execution of this live show phenomena. It was truly special!

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#LifeYouWantHOU

I also loved the interaction with the #LifeYouWantHOU hashtag. Throughout the event, they were streaming tweets and Instagram posts from audience attendees. Again, emphasizing that shared experience and a sense of community, belonging and togetherness amongst the crowd. We all know just how much an excellent use of social media tickles my fancy, just had to mention. Again, major kudos!

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The Life You Want Weekend Tour has three remaining stops that you will NOT want to miss:

Yes, the ticket prices are a tad on the expensive side but consider it an investment in yourself. I guarantee, you will hear things that you NEED to hear and learn strategies to propel your life to evolution and greatness. After all, the entire mission of this tour is to get you living the Life You Want.

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[Disclosure:] Special thanks to Toyota USA for sending me to Oprah’s Life You Want Tour this weekend! I truly appreciate the incredible experience. I’m SO excited to share it with my wonderful readers.

Fall Fashion Spotlight: Five Little Ducks Boutique

My husband and I may not have kids of our own just yet but that doesn’t mean I don’t get excited about seeing the CUTEST clothes on adorable little guys and gals. Our family happens to be full of them!

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We also have an amazing children’s fashion designer in the family and I’m really excited to showcase her today on the blog!

Meet Five Little Ducks Boutique based out of Magnolia, Texas

Heather is an entrepreneur, business owner, happy wife and mother of five.

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Are they not the cutest bunch? Five Little Ducks Boutique offers the highest quality, homemade children’s clothing specializing in holiday-themes and custom creations.

Heather has done a fantastic job of launching her business online via her Big Cartel store and Facebook group.

With Fall being in full effect and the holidays right around the corner, dressing the little ones for family functions is on every mommy’s mind. Five Little Ducks Boutique has an incredible line up of dresses for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas ready for orders! Why not have your little one in a one of a kind, unique creation this year?

Check out a few of my favorites of the 2014 Five Little Ducks Boutique Holiday Collection:

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Pumpkin Set Tilly & Darby Shorts (Made to Order) $65

 

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Holiday Flutter Till(Made to Order) $48

 

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Elf Christmas Dress (Made to Order) $44

 

The Story Behind Five Little Ducks Boutique: Q&A with Children’s Fashion Designer, Heather Buck

What inspired you to start Five Little Ducks Boutique?

“I laid my hands on my first sewing machine when I was twelve but didn’t really learn to sew until just last year. I saw a dress made by Corrina Couture and just HAD to make one myself for my two girls! My kids are without a doubt my biggest inspiration.

What’s the meaning behind the name, Five Little Ducks Boutique?
“I wanted the name to be inspired by my kids. I thought Five Little Ducks did just that, as well as bring about sweet childhood memories for anyone who hears it.”

Have you always been in to fashion design?
“No. I actually went to school for Mortuary Science. I have an Associates of Applied Science and a P&C license. It was not until about 14 months ago after being a stay at home mom for four years did I start my sewing adventure.”

What’s your favorite season or holiday to design for?
“Halloween! Without a doubt!”

Do you get design inspiration from your kids?
“YES! They are my favorite little designers. I will often ask my oldest daughter about fabrics and patterns to get a little girl’s perspective. She has fabulous taste!”

 Get Connected

Join the Five Little Ducks Boutique Facebook group for all the latest fashions available for order, as well as, sneak peeks at latest creations. You can also browse and place orders at: http://www.fivelittleducksboutique.bigcartel.com or the 5 Little Ducks Etsy shop!

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