The Cheap Guide to Father's Day in Baltimore

by Erica Starr 14. June 2012

"I don't need anything," "Don't worry about it," or my personal favorite, “Kids that listen.” If you are like me, these are some of the responses that you’ve gotten from good ol’ Dad when it comes to what to get him for Father’s Day. I interpret these responses in one of two ways: he’s either telling the truth, or as always, he’s looking out for me and doesn’t want me to spend too much money on a gift for him. Gotta love Dad…always looking out for his number one (whether or not I’m still his number one is up for debate, but I like to tell myself that it’s true).

Seeing as Dad is always trying to help me become more financially responsible and independent (his nice way of telling me to stop asking him for money), a great present for him and for myself is to open my own checking and savings account.

Making the old man proud feels great, but I'd still like to do something extra special for him. Luckily for Dad AND my new bank accounts, there just so happens to be several practical yet fun ways to spend Father’s Day this year in Baltimore.

For the History Buff Dad:

The Star-Spangled Sailabration is bound to spark an interest for not only Dad, but for everyone in the family. From June 13th through June 19th, more than 40 tall ships and naval vessels will parade down the Chesapeake Bay and into Baltimore’s Inner Harbor in celebration of the bicentennial of the War of 1812 and the writing of the Star-Spangled Banner. From watching the U.S. Navy Elite parachutists leap out of aircrafts some 12,500 feet above the harbor, to checking out one of five high-precision aviation acts by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, to touring these incredible ships, this is definitely something that Dad will never forget.

Be sure to check out the schedule of events as there is A LOT that you don’t want to risk missing.

Visit our Facebook page for more photos of the Star-Spangled Sailabration.

For the Foodie Dad:

OpenTable restaurants are serving up numerous Father’s Day deals and specials, like steak dinner prix fixes or bottomless beer. It’s the perfect way to say, “Thanks!” to Dad.

For the Music Lover Dad:

Pier 6 Pavilion Summer Concerts

On Sunday, June 17th, Bonnie Raitt and Mavis Staples will be in concert at the Pier 6 Pavilion. Don’t have the funds to purchase tickets? Have no fear! Bring a few lawn chairs and join the folks on the waterfront promenade just outside the pavilion. Better yet, go by boat…the acoustics are just as good as being inside!

Concert time is 7:30 p.m.

Harborplace Summer Live! – Free concerts outside of Harborplace

On Fridays and Saturdays during the summer months, Harborplace & Gallery are filled with music lovers, shoppers and people from all around to enjoy the live entertainment. Make sure to get there early so you can grab a seat at the Harborplace Amphitheater to enjoy their FREE summer concert series.

Friday, June 15 – U.S. Navy Cruisers Rock Ensemble* (Rock)
Saturday, June 16 – Maryland Defense Force Band* (Military/Brass)

*These bands are part of Star-Spangled Sailabration

Friday Night Live! - Free Concert Series

Every summer, Power Plant Live!  provides a FREE Friday night concert series that is held on their outdoor stage. Power Plant Live! is one of Baltimore’s premier dining and entertainment destinations. With over 15 restaurants and bars to choose from, you’re bound to find a place you like to grab some food prior to the show.

Reel Big Fish is slated to perform the Friday prior to Father’s Day this year.

For the Extreme Adventurer Dad:

Is your Dad always looking for the next adventurous, heart-pounding, pulse-racing, extreme rush challenge? Why not check out  Fearless Father's Day at Terrapin Adventures? The special will get you two paid admissions for the zip line, giant swing, climbing tower or high ropes course. Dad gets the third for FREE.

For the “I always wanted to be a Pirate” Dad:

Yep – you read correctly. What? You didn’t know that your Dad secretly always wanted to be a pirate? Isn’t that every little boy’s dream? Help him live out his childhood dream by booking a  Family Adventure Cruise with Urban Pirates. In celebration of Father’s Day, all fathers ride the Family Adventure Cruises FREE all day on Sunday, June 17th. What more could your Dad ask for but living out his dreams with the family?

For the Beach Bum Dad:

Head down to the ocean, hon! While it’s not technically “IN” Baltimore, there is no reason why you can’t take Dad on a trip to Ocean City, Maryland. Cut back on costs by simply making it a day trip. You can spend the day on the beach, walk the boardwalk, pick up some Fisher's Popcorn and eat Thrasher's french fries all before heading back to Baltimore. Before packing the car, make sure you check out Traveling Tips: keep the costs low and the fun level high for more tips on how to save money when taking a short trip.

For the Sensitive Dad:

What dad wouldn’t want a special homemade gift made with love? Get some inspiration from our Father’s Day Gift Ideas board on Pinterest. If you have other DIY gift ideas for Dad that you’d like to share, tag us on Facebook or mention us on Twitter.

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Erica Barry

The Imaginary Mortgage - Fake It Til You Make It

by Erica Starr 2. May 2012

Imaginary MortgageHave you ever bitten off more than you could chew or found yourself asking the question, “How did I get myself into this?” In today’s housing market, thousands of homeowners are asking themselves this very question.

Let’s back track a few years to 2006 – a time when young people applying for mortgages were getting approved for three to four times the amount of what they could actually afford.  But hey…spend it if you got it, right? Wrong.

I can guarantee you that the vast majority of the homeowners who are either a) facing foreclosure or b) have already had their home foreclosed upon are saying to themselves, “If I only knew then, what I know now.”  What if I told you that they technically could have “known then what they know now”?  Sound outrageous?  Not really.

Before you roll your eyes or click away, hear me out.  I promise it’s really not that crazy of an idea.  In fact, it’s actually just a dash of common sense seasoned with a little bit of planning (there’s a novel idea).  For the past three to four years, I’ve been “looking” to buying my first house in Canton.  Like many 28-year-olds, I would be a first time home buyer as this would be my first go-round as a homeowner, and more importantly, my very first monthly mortgage.  I’ve gone through the motions of getting pre-qualified for a loan, and with the help of my real estate agent and lender, I have a pretty good idea of how much house I can afford (keywords “pretty good idea”).  But wouldn’t it be nice to test drive my mortgage payment before I drive it off the lot?

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the imaginary mortgage…kind of.

So how does it work? Let’s discuss…

Do the Math

Talk with your lender to see how much you can afford. Once you find the mortgage payment amount that you think you are comfortable with, work out the numbers to figure out the amount that your mortgage payment would be if you actually went through with a purchase. Don’t forget to factor in property taxes, insurance, interest rates and other monthly mortgage-related payments such as mortgage insurance and homeowner association fees (it may also make sense to kick in a few extra bucks for maintenance and home improvement projects for we all know if it can break, it will).

What is a mortgage? For example, here is a high level look at a 200K monthly mortgage budget for a rowhome in Canton. (These are not exact numbers and don't reflect actual mortgage rates)

Purchase Price: $200,000 

Mortgage: $930.00
Home Owners Insurance: $60.00
Mortgage Insurance Premium: $185.00 (if applicable)
Taxes: $300.00
Total Mortgage Payment: $1475.00

Utilities: $250.00
Cable & Internet: $120.00
Maintenance & Home Improvement Fund: $100.00
Total: $470.00

Total Imaginary Mortgage Payment: $1945.00

“Pay” Your Mortgage Payment

That’s right, actually start paying your hypothetical/imaginary mortgage. Set up an account at your local bank and start depositing your mortgage payment amount into that account on a monthly basis.  (If you are currently renting, pay the amount that your mortgage payment exceeds your rental payment.)

Don’t Cheat

Pay your mortgage and forget about it. Though you technically have access to your “mortgage” funds, that doesn’t mean you should touch it. You wouldn’t be able to use that money if you had a real mortgage, so you shouldn’t think – or more importantly, act – otherwise in this scenario.

Put Yourself to the Test

Really challenge yourself to stick to your new budget and make your mortgage payments on time. If you find that you just can’t survive without tapping into your imaginary mortgage or that you’re making “late mortgage payments” on a normal basis, chances are that you’ve probably bitten off more than you can chew. Sign up for a personal financial management tool to help you find out where your money is actually going. You might find that you could afford to cut back on your trips to Starbucks and save a buck or two.  On the other hand, if you can easily go about your normal everyday life without being drastically impacted by the dent in your wallet, you’ve now not only proven to yourself that you can handle the mortgage payment, but you’ve also gotten used to living within your “new” means and saved up a nice chunk of change to use as a down payment.

That’s it!  Pretty simple, huh?  Nothing but a little bit of planning, discipline and budgeting – the same factors that you’ll need when you finally take the plunge and buy your first home (or second home for that matter). Only now, you’ll sign those papers with the confidence and comfort of knowing that you can easily afford your new home.

If you found this article helpful, be sure to check out these related articles:

Has Anyone Seen My $200 Million?

Tricks to Throwing a Budget-friendly Barbeque

How to Decide: Home Equity Loan or Line of Credit

5 Mobile Banking Security Tips

by Erica Starr 16. February 2012

1st Mariner Bank Mobile BankingIt wasn't that long ago when the only way to deposit, transfer or withdraw money was to physically visit your local bank branch or ATM. Today, thanks to the wonderful world of technology, consumers have a full suite of options to choose from when conducting their financial transactions.

With online and mobile banking on the rise, it's only natural that security be on the minds of both financial institutions and customers.

So what's the deal? Is mobile banking a secure way to bank? In sort - yes. 1st Mariner's Mobile Banking solution offers the full encryption and security suite that is utilized for our traditional (desktop) online banking platform. However, as with most things, as technology gets more advanced you can never be too safe.

There are certain precautions customers should keep in mind when opting to go mobile.

1. Download the official app from your bank's website.

It's only natural to go to the iTunes store or Android Market when you are looking to get a new app. However, non-reputable people are putting apps out there everyday, for the purpose of phishing consumer information. It's always better to start with your bank's website to make sure you aren't being scammed.

2. Don't send personal information via SMS (text messaging).

Regardless of the situation, never EVER send personal information, (PIN, account numbers, social security number, passwords, etc.) via SMS. SMS is not encrypted, so your bank will not send personal information via SMS, and you could leave yourself vulnerable to phishing if you send sensitive information through this medium.

3. Avoid conducting your banking needs on public networks.

While enjoying your coffee at the local coffee shop might sound like a good time to check your account balances,you might want to think again. Most public Wi-Fi networks are not secure so always be sure to switch to a secure network (i.e. your phone's 3G or 4G data plan) before logging into your account information.

4. Take advantage of your phone's security features.

Perhaps the biggest risk associated with mobile banking is the risk of losing your phone. Almost all smart phones offer some sort of security feature that is built into the phone itself. From screen locking mechanisms to GPS locating apps (i.e. Where's my Droid or Find My iPhone), your phone offers several different ways to prevent your personal information from getting into the wrong hands. As new phones hit the market, the security features will continue to become more and more advanced (i.e., facial and fingerprint recognition).

5. Take advantage of your bank's mobile banking security offerings.

If you are considering a mobile banking app, look for one where data can be wiped from your cell phone, if you lose it. With 1st Mariner's mobile banking, users can access their account from their desktop and shut down access through their mobile phones and thus eliminate the risk of fraud.

Still not sure if you are comfortable taking your banking mobile? That's okay - we commend you for being overcautious when it comes to your finances. We are too! That's why we're here to walk you through the ins and outs of our mobile banking services and answer any questions that you have. You'll see for yourself just how secure mobile banking really is.

Answer our Facebook Question of the Week.

Are you using a mobile banking solution? How so? Feel free to leave some commentary on our wall as to why or why not.

 

If you found this article helpful, be sure to check out these related articles:

Top Three Myths About Online Banking Revealed

It's 11:00 p.m. Do You Know Where Your Money Is?

I'll Take "What is Check Fraud" for 500, Alex



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