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alt.newlywed FAQ

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Archive-Name: lifestage/newlywed/faq
Posting-Frequency: Monthly
Last-modified: November 26, 2001
Version: 3.0
Summary: Posting guidelines for alt.newlywed and answers to
some frequently asked questions
Maintainer: Vicky Larmour <>

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
0) About this FAQ
0.1) Version history
0.2) Where can I find this FAQ?
0.3) What is the basis of the information in this FAQ?

1) Alt.newlywed
1.1) What is alt.newlywed?
1.2) Why is there an alt.newlywed?
1.3) What topics belong on alt.newlywed?
1.4) Do I have to be a newlywed to participate?
1.5) Is advertising allowed on alt.newlywed?
1.6) What are those abbreviations I keep seeing?

2) Methods for resolving arguments
2.1) Advice
2.2) General comments

3) Hints and resources for homebuying
3.1) Before you start looking
3.2) When you find a possible house
3.3) When you make an offer

4) Anniversary gifts and romantic gestures
4.1) 1st anniversary - paper
4.2) 2nd anniversary - cotton
4.3) 3rd anniversary - leather
4.4) Romantic gestures

5) Coping with loss of a child
5.1) aMAZon's book recommendations and comments
5.2) Kellie's book recommendations and comments

6) Hints and resources for car buying


0) About this FAQ

0.1) Version history

- Version 1.0 was written by Wende Feller (
This FAQ is a work-in-progress that will be created by the regular
participants in alt.newlywed.
- Version 1.1 includes minor revisions and additions by Vicky Larmour
- Version 2.0 has been html-ised for web display and includes
sections on "Methods of resolving arguments" and "Homebuying hints
and resources" collated by Vicky Larmour from newsgroup threads.
- Version 2.1 has the section on homebuying hints updated following
another newsgroup thread, and the html in that section has been
tidied up.
- Version 2.2 has the html in all other sections tidied up and a
plain text version created as an alternative to the html version.
- Version 2.3 has some minor additions to the homebuying hints and
abbreviations sections.
- Version 2.4 has section 4 added: "Anniversary gifts"
- Version 2.5 has sections 1.3 and 1.6 updated
- Version 2.6 has been updated for new domain and w* abbreviation
- Version 2.7 has section 5 added: "Coping with loss of a child"
- Version 2.8 has section 4.4 (romantic gestures) added and some
additions to the abbreviations section
Version 3.0 has section 6 added: "Hints and resources for car
buying". Also updated for domain.

0.2) Where can I find this FAQ?

This FAQ is available at
The maintainer (Vicky Larmour) will post a text version of the FAQ
to alt.newlywed approximately once per month.

0.3) What is the basis of the information in this FAQ?

The information in this FAQ reflects the consensus of regular
participants to the newsgroup from July 1998 onwards. Most of it has
been edited for formatting and (slightly) for content by the
maintainer, but the original threads should be archived on Google
Groups ( if anyone wants to read the full


1) Alt.newlywed

1.1) What is alt.newlywed?

Alt.newlywed is a forum for discussing issues that are common to newly
married couples. Potential issues of interest mentioned when the group
was configured on May 6, 1996, include name changes, finances,
combining of households, and compromises.

1.2) Why is there an alt.newlywed?

Alt.newlywed was created to provide a place for newlyweds to discuss
post-wedding issues. Requests that the recently married give wedding
or honeymoon planning advice are more appropriately directed to or

1.3) What topics belong on alt.newlywed?

Topics should generally be related to the unique experiences that
come with the early years of marriage. There also is a legitimate and
valued element of "staying in touch" with other graduates from the
wedding newsgroups. Alt.newlywed is not a wedding planning group, and
wedding or honeymoon planning questions do not belong here.

Alt.newlywed is also not a general marriage support group; people looking
for support for marriage problems should turn to
Pregnancy, babies and infertility are topics that inevitably crop up
when a group of newlyweds get together! After a discussion on the group at
the beginning of September 1999, it was agreed that threads that are solely
about these and related issues should be labelled (eg by putting [Preg] in
the Subject: header) so that people who are not interested can skip over
those threads. If these threads start to overwhelm the group, we will
consider setting up a sub group such as alt.newlywed.pregnancy, but for the
moment the majority preference is that these discussions should stay in
the main group.

It is an oft-noted alt.newlywed phenomenon that any given thread will
eventually mutate into a thread about cats. Further research is necessary to
establish precisely why this is. :-)

1.4) Do I have to be a newlywed to participate?

"About to be wed" couples, especially those experiencing the same
adaptation issues as newlyweds, are welcome to participate.
Longer-married couples are also welcome to share their experiences.

A quote from Robin sums it up nicely: "I think the criteria for
alt.newlywed is being a newlywed, having been a newlywed, planning to be
a newlywed, or none of the above.  You absoluely must fit one of those

1.5) Is advertising allowed on alt.newlywed?

Messages advertising products or services are not permitted on
alt.newlywed. Products or services may be promoted only in
(a) recommendations in response to a specific inquiry and
(b) the poster's .sig file.
Using the newsgroup as a source of mailing list names for unsolicited
commercial or political e-mail messages is also forbidden.

1.6) What are those abbreviations I keep seeing?

DH = dear husband, dratted husband, and other variations thereto
MIL = mother-in-law
FIL = father-in-law
BIL = brother-in-law
SIL = sister-in-law
  - Preceding any of the above with "F" adds "future";
  e.g., FSIL = future sister-in-law
HFC = Hypothetical future children
  - saves us saying "if and when we have children, assuming we
  are even able to, ..."
LDR = Long distance relationship
TTC = trying to conceive (borrowed from the pregnancy newsgroups)
BU =  before "us"
Relaxing = not strictly an abbreviation, but a euphemism we use
  instead of the S-*-X word, in order not to attract unsavoury types
  to our little corner of the Internet! Some posters have been known
  to coin related words such as "relaxuality" (you work it out!) :-)
TCOYF - the book "Taking Charge of Your Fertility", by Toni Weschler.
  Many on the newsgroup have found it an invaluable source of
  information, both for those who are trying to conceive and those who
  are trying to prevent conception!
FAM - Fertility Awareness Method, a method of birth control/pregnancy
  planning promoted in TCOYF
NFP - Natural Family Planning, a method of birth control/pregnancy
  planning similar to FAM
w* or w****** or w*****g (you get the idea) - we don't ever refer
  directly to "weddings", since those are the only things that are
  strictly off-limits for discussion on this group :-)
LEB / LEG - loser ex-boyfriend / girlfriend
ANCW - alt.newlywed collective wisdom
ANCC - alt.newlywed cooking club
ANBC - alt.newlywed book club
ANBI - alt.newlywed bad influence


2) Methods for resolving arguments

- Contributions taken directly from the group are marked with >.
The contributors have been credited at the end of the contribution.
- "EE" indicates that the advice comes from the Catholic Engaged
Encounter "Openness in Communication" outline (September 1994),
posted by Kathy Kula.

2.1) Advice

Presented here in no particular order, the collected alt.newlywed
wisdom on resolving arguments!

2.1.1) Never go to sleep angry [EE]
Lots of people came up with this one, with several people noting it
does lead to some sleepless nights - but they are worth it!

 >If we hadn't agreed to use this "golden rule", I know we would
 >probably have had fights drag out for a while precisely because of
 >work and other things keeping us too busy. Who wants to sit down in
 >the only free moment you have with your spouse and finish a fight?
 >For me, it's much easier to stay up all night and finally come to an
 >understanding of some kind while you are together than it is to let
 >the problem fester while you are apart. Either way you lose sleep,
 >but at least the problem gets solved more quickly if you try to work
 >it out right away.
-Fiona D. Russell Cowen

2.1.2) Fight naked!
It might not work for everyone, but several people mentioned that
they had been offered this advice - Jennifer was even told this by
her wedding officiant!

2.1.3) Hold hands [EE]

 >When things are *really* stressful, sit down facing one another, and
 >maintain eye contact while discussing the issue. It worked best for
 >us when we held both hands, to enrich the connection. It really
 >helps you feel important and cherished, and eliminates the hostile
 >body language. We usually sat on the floor.
-Sandi Rollins

2.1.4) Use humor [EE]
It's hard to fight when you're laughing!

 >When one or the other starts escalating, the other partner usually
 >escalates the discussion straight into a silly, hyperbolic area.
 >So "You really don't seem very affectionate any more; you must think
 >I'm fat/unattractive/unlovable" could become "You're absolutely
 >right. What was I thinking? I'm sure that I could have held out for
 >Jennifer Anniston. Now, where did I put that phone number?" Pretty
 >soon, we're giggling.
-Sandi Rollins

2.1.5) No name calling [EE]
.. including using "affectionate" names sarcastically.

2.1.6) No third parties [EE]
This argument is between the two of you only.

2.1.7) No past history [EE]
If it's already been settled, don't bring it up again.

2.1.8) Avoid blanket statements
Saying "you always..." and "you never..." is unconstructive.

2.1.9) Stop and think about whether you are hungry or tired
A few people mentioned being hypoglycemic - and in any case, low
blood sugar makes anyone grumpier.

 >Examine yourself to see why you're getting upset. Are you frustrated
 >at something else, and DSpouse is just getting in the way? Could you
 >be feeling irritable because you're hungry or tired? Don't be afraid
 >to say, "I think you/we are just tired. Let's drop it." Be open to
 >being told the same thing.
-Jeanne Petrangelo

2.1.10) Try not to raise your voice

 >It's very powerful to be able to say "I'm upset" WITHOUT ACTING
-Sandi Rollins

2.1.11) Stick to the subject [EE]
Identify the real problem, don't go to other issues.

2.1.12) No cheap shots [EE]
Don't use the other's weakness to gain an advantage. You may win
the argument, but you'll injure your relationship.

2.1.13) Remember your spouse isn't a mind reader

 >*Tell* them things. Like, "Don't get defensive - I'm frustrated
 >because of XYZ, not anything you've done." Or, "I don't understand
 >why you're upset about this. Please tell me." Conversely, "I'm
 >upset for these specific reasons."
-Jeanne Petrangelo

2.1.14) Recognize when it is your fault, and apologize

 >An apology isn't just an acknowledgement, but an effort to avoid the
 >problem in the future.
-Jeanne Petrangelo

2.2) General comments

2.2.1) Mars and Venus

 >There seems to be a common thread that the husbands want to be left
 >alone while the wives want to work things out. I think that maybe as
 >women we want to talk about our feelings while men don't. Is this
 >the Mars/Venus thing?
-Kathy Kula

A few people said they fell into the opposite camps, or in some cases
both partners had the same style, but still there did seem to be
quite a notable bias.

2.2.2) Text-book arguing :-)

 >We talk about how we feel, we ask for the other's reasons for
 >thinking or doing certain things, we try to look at each other's
 >point of view, and we usually are able to reach a consensus. About
 >the only time we ever devolve into shouting matches is when we're
 >both tired and cranky... even then, we usually manage to "wake up"
 >and realize that the only thing we're accomplishing by that is
 >hurting each other, and we stop. We then agree to talk about the
 >touchy subject when we're both less irritable.


3) Hints and resources for homebuying

- Contributions taken directly from the group are marked with >.
The contributors have been credited at the end of the contribution.
- This information is strongly biased towards the USA homebuying
process - buyers in other countries are welcome to submit their
- The maintainer and contributors take no responsibility for the legal 
accuracy of any of this

3.1) Before you start looking

3.1.1) Get your finances in order

 >Order copies of your credit reports. Clear up any discrepancies now.
 >Creditors and credit reporting houses sometimes just plain screw up
 >-- you don't want to be denied a mortgage because Equifax has you
 >confused with someone else or because your car lender wrongly
 >reported a 90-days past due.
 >Also, if you have a number of credit cards that you don't use,
 >close the accounts. Mortgage companies sometimes look at the amount
 >of debt you *could* run up if you used every single credit line to
 >the max. Then avoid applying for any new credit, as some mortgage
 >companies get antsy if your credit report has been pulled "too
 >often" recently.
-Wende A. Feller

 >It helps to do this *early*. I closed out most of my credit cards
 >60 days ago and they're still shown as active in some instances.
 >Even if you don't pay up and close all your cards, PAY THEM ON TIME.
 >I cannot believe how finicky some places are. In fact, if you have a
 >choice between taking out a loan to pay bills on time it almost
 >looks better if you take the loan out.

 >Run out and get a copy of quicken or other financial software that
 >can let you track many different kinds of accounts. Take your last
 >bank statements and your last credit card statements, and start
 >figuring out your true worth (savings/checking/etc vs. credit cards
 >and school/car loans). Quicken is also GREAT for looking at how your
 >expenses are currently broken down, and is a good tool for setting
 >up a budget for your current situation(s), so you can see how things
 >would change if you moved to a house or condo or townhouse.
 >Look into consolidating balances on high-interest credit cards to
 >lower-interest cards.
-Kate the Short

3.1.2) Get pre-approval for a mortgage

 >Get pre-approved for a mortgage (not just prequalified) before you
 >look seriously at houses. If you live in a fast-moving market,
 >pre-approval is crucial to being the winning offer.
-Wende A. Feller

 >Unfortunately, even if you have all the papers *right there* it
 >could take upwards of two hours.

 >You only need one pre-approval to go house hunting; go to a loan
 >broker who can present your application to the lender who will
 >approve you for the highest purchase price. Then you can start
 >worrying about what type of loan you really want, and once you
 >actually have an offer accepted is the time to research rates and
 >apply wherever you can get the best deal. If it takes you more than
 >a few months to get in contract (not unusual right now in Northern
 >CA) you will have to reapply with updated information anyway.
-Holly Lewis

 >This means getting all your tax returns from 1996-98 together, bank
 >statements for 3-6 months, W-2's, 1099's, pay stubs, and more paper
 >you ever believed possible. Start looking for it all now, and get it
 >organized. Being organized will make the process MUCH less stressful.
-Sandi Rollins

 >Get pre-qualified now if possible. Even better get pre-approved, but
 >make sure that the pre-approval can be extended if you go this route.
 >We ran into problems with 30, 60 and 90 day pre-approvals where we
 >would have needed to go through the process again once that time was
-Rachel Sandfordlyn Shreckengast

3.1.3) Make use of books and the Internet!

Recommended books include:

"Buying a Home in California" by Ira Serkes, published by Nolo Press
  - versions for other states may also exist but a lot of the info is
    generic in any case

"Homebuying for Dummies"

"Guide to Inspecting Your Home" from Century 21
  (published book, not pamphlet)
  - checklists covering everything from internal traffic flow to
    foundation to air conditioning to wiring

"100 Questions Every First-Time HomeBuyer Should Ask : With Answers
from Top Brokers from Around the Country"
by Ilyce R. Glink

"Your New House" by the same people who wrote Bridal Bargains (Alan
and Denise Fields)

Your state's Dept. of Real Estate may have useful publications that
are cheap or free.
  - lots of info, from houses to neighborhoods and various other
    regional chunks
  - this site lets you compare standards of living in different US

Various on-line mortgage calculators - let you play around to see how
much you can afford, for example

3.1.4) Mortgage brokers

 >Make sure your mortgage broker is experienced/specializes in first
 >time buyers. Many brokers get impatient if you don't make an offer
 >the first couple of weeks. We needed more time to feel secure that
 >we were making the right choice.
-Sandi Rollins

 >The mortgage broker can also provide a lot of crucial information
 >about what to expect in terms of closing costs -- local taxes, local
 >customs as to which party pays for various things.
-Holly Lewis

 >Make sure you really click with your broker, if you use one; make
 >sure s/he truly understands what you want, *not* what s/he *thinks*
 >you want or should want.
-Geri Clark

3.1.5) Save!

 >Have a discussion with your parents about whether they would be able
 >and willing to help you, and in what ways. Someone told me recently
 >that something like 80% of first-time buyers in California have some
 >form of down payment assistance from parents. It never hurts to ask.
 >Figure out how much you can afford to pay. Rule of thumb: You can
 >borrow approximately three times your annual income (depending on
 >how much debt you already have -- a car loan, for example), and you
 >will need cash savings of at least 10% down for a conventional
 >mortgage package. You can get away with less down if you are lower-
 >to middle-income, if the house you're buying is within the price
 >limits of the various down-payment-assistance programs, and if you
 >meet various other requirements. Check to see if your city or county
 >offers special first-time buyer assistance programs, and research
 >whether you qualify for any of the FHA programs (anyone know the
 >url?) You will also need cash for closing costs, unless you get a
 >no-cost loan, which usually involves higher interest rates. Closing
 >costs will run you about 3% of the purchase price. So, let's say
 >you've got $25,000 in the bank, your total household income (before
 >taxes) is $75,000 and you have no other debt. You can probably buy a
 >house for $191K - $262K (the upper end probably means you need to
 >save a bit more or cajole some down payment assistance out of your
 >parents). Remember, however, that the amount the bank says you can
 >afford to pay every month for mortgage, insurance, and real estate
 >taxes may be more than YOU think you can afford (and  still be able
 >to go out to eat sometimes and buy new underwear once in a while).
 >Budget carefully.
-Holly Lewis

 >Get your cash in early so you don't have as much paperwork -- if
 >your family is giving money, have them write gift letters. Save more
 >for your down payment so you can afford more. Interest rates may
 >gradually rise, but if you're saving at a good rate, you should still
 >be able to afford more house after a year of socking away funds.

 >If parents are giving you any $$ as a help, get it in your bank
 >account ASAP. You will have to provide 3-6 months of bank statements,
 >and any deposits will have to be explained.
-Sandi Rollins

 >Our situation was very different. We borrowed money from my inlaws
 >(money we knew we'd be able to pay back eventually) and the money
 >could NOT go in our bank account. Apparently, our mortgage was for
 >first time home buyers and it had certain income requirements. If
 >we'd had the gift amount from my inlaws in our account, it became
 >our asset and we couldn't have gotten our mortgage (with a great
 >rate, too :) ). My inlaws had to get a cashier's check made out to
 >the name of the law firm handling our closing. I'd check with a
 >knowledgable realtor and see what your mortgage will require.

 >You start by figuring out how much you can afford. With a few
 >calculations, you can figure out how much you can afford and what
 >your payments will be. You should decide the term of your loan as
 >well to determine the monthly payments. We really wanted a 20 year
 >instead of a 30 year loan, and we were surprised to find out that
 >the difference in our monthly payments wasn't all that much.
-Kelli Hughes

3.1.6) Plan ahead and make sure your expectations are realistic

 >Make a habit of looking through the housing ads in your Sunday
 >newspaper and noting the neighborhoods that meet your price range
 >and idea of livability. If what you want is impossible to get, you
 >might as well learn sooner than later, so you can readjust your
 >plans. You'll also get an idea of how long houses stay on the
-Wende A. Feller

 >Planning ahead - Equity is a cool thing, but think ahead about how
 >long you plan to live in the same town. If you'll only stay in this
 >house a couple years, I think adjustible rate mortgages can be
 >cheaper, depending on exactly what's in store. You might also want
 >to check with your lender on what kind of mortgage can build equity
 >fast for your next house.
 >Necessities - Do you really need a .5 acre lot? Are you sure you
 >have to have central air right now? Couldn't you finish the basement
 >yourself over the next year or so?

 >Ask your friends who have bought homes within the last few years for
 >recommendations to realtors. Interview two or three different agents.
 >Even if you aren't quite ready to start actively house hunting, an
 >agent should be willing to have a preliminary meeting with you to
 >help you figure out what your priorities are and what neighborhoods
 >in the area provide a good fit with your preferences and budget.
 >Realtors can also provide a lot of the information about local tax
 >rates and so on.
-Holly Lewis

 >Look at tons of houses. New homes were better for us because I am a
 >wimp and don't like to go into people's homes if they are there (and
 >you'll be surprised at how many people hang around when you do
 >eventually go to existing homes forsale). We went to every model
 >home that we could find for about 2 years. The thing that is great
 >about seeing so many homes is that you will come to find what you
 >really like/want in a home - when you start to look seriously, you
 >will know right away whether or not it's what you are looking for.
 >After you decide what you can afford, I suggest driving around
 >looking at neighborhoods to decide what type of neighborhood you
 >would like to live in. Decide what part of town (if that matters).
 >Make some decisions on what you really want and need in a house.
 >Decide on two-story or one-story if it matters. If you don't mind
 >two-story, do you mind having the master up or down? There are many
 >things to consider. Do you want hard tile in the kitchen? Do you
 >like hardwoods or carpet? If you find a house that you will have to
 >change the flooring, you will have to factor this into your cost. Do
 >you care what the outside is made of (stone, brick, stucco, wood,
 >etc...) We were pretty insistent on having at least 3 sides of our
 >house masonry of some type. This eliminated many of the houses. Of
 >course, decide on the size of the house in square footage and number
 >of rooms. Do you want big trees? Do you want a small yard or large
 >yard? Would you like to be near a park or pool? Anything you can
 >think of that you want or need in a house, write it down. This will
 >help your realtor get an idea of what you are looking for exactly.
-Kelli Hughes

 >Look at tons of houses. This will help you figure out what you want
 >and will give you an idea of what you can realistically expect to
 >get for your money. The first 10-15 places we looked at were purely
 >for educational purposes; we still didn't feel we knew enough about
 >what was out there to seriously consider making a bid on any of
 >them. While you're doing this, picture yourself living in each
 >place. It may be a lovely house, but can you see yourselves being
 >happy there? A house has to suit you and your personality. For
 >instance, I found that I'm a stickler for "flow" in a place -- I
 >like there to be a logical sense to how the place is laid out and
 >room placement is important. I nixed a few places because the
 >bedrooms seemed stuck in a weird location or the kitchen wasn't
 >as accessible as I'd like. Also consider what the "purpose" of this
 >house is -- is this the place where you're going to spend the rest
 >of your lives and raise your family and have the grandkids come to
 >for holidays? Or is it a starter home where you'll spend a few years,
 >build some equity, and then upgrade to a bigger place? In our case,
 >we live in the city and we're young and not independently wealthy.
 >So buying the family home right now was not an option (neither
 >was moving to the suburbs, for job reasons.) So we found a place
 >that we like and is big enough for the two of us and one or two small
 >HFCs. We plan to spend 5-10 years here and then upgrade to a bigger
 >place in the city or move 'way out to the country. Also check
 >out the average price of renovations/repairs in your area. that'll
 >give you an idea of how much it'll cost to change certain things.
-Geri Clark

 >Talk about which things are MUSTS (more than one toilet, more than
 >two bedrooms, a dining room that can hold your antique but HUGE
 >dining room table and matching china cabinet), which are preferreds
 >(dining room away from the kitchen, washer and dryer on main floor),
 >which aren't necessary but would be nice (some sort of garage vs.
 >street parking), and what you're not willing to pay extra for
 >(fireplaces on two floors, wrap-around deck, etc.). Give these items
 >to your agent, and she'll print out tons of properties that have
 >similar traits in a wide range of prices, styles, and locations.
 >Look in the new homes section of your paper and see what the ranges
 >are for new construction. Figure out what 80% of that amount would
 >be, and run it through the mortgage calculator of the Dummies book
 >to see what the monthly payment for Principal and Interest would be.
 >(Keep in mind that older properties in the area will sell for less.)
 >If you can put down 20%, you won't have to add in Private Mortgage
 >Insurance. Figure out how much you would have to save each month to
 >reach 5%, 10%, 15%, and 20% down on a property. Often, you'll either
 >have to change the size of house you want, how quickly you can get a
 >house you want, or where the house is located. Figure out which is
 >most important.
-Kate the Short

 >Quicken also has a great mortgage calculator. You can enter in such
 >variable as: years for the loan (ie 30 year mortgage), APR, and
 >monthly payment -- leave any two blank and Quicken gives you the
 >third number. So, let's say the APR on a 30 year fixed rate mortgage
 >is at 8%, you know how much money you want to pay each month, and
 >you want to know what is the total amount you can borrow... easy! Or
 >you fall in love with a house that costs $X, and want to know what
 >your monthly payment would have to be. You get the idea. Remember
 >that with most mortages where you've put less than 20% of the value
 >of the house as downpayment, PMI kicks in, adding to your monthly
 >payment. For details of PMI, call a bank in your area. Of course,
 >remember to be realistic, keeping in mind that the lawn won't just
 >mow itself - you may have to buy a lawnmower, a leaf blower, a
 >cordless drill, a tall ladder, garden hose, heavy duty extension
 >cords... it all adds up! And if the hot water heater conks out, you
 >have to buy a new one /and/ pay the plumber to install it at $60/hour.
 >Stuff like that. Do you have children in your future? They cost a lot
 >of money!
-Jeanne Petrangelo

.1.7) Get a blank purchase offer form

 >Get this from your relator LONG BEFORE you decide to make an offer.
 >You should be comfortable with the form, and know what it says,
 >before you're under the gun to fill it out and proffer earnest money.
-Sandi Rollins

3.2) When you've found a possible house

3.2.1) Get an independent inspection

 >Often, you'll be told the house was inspected at the time it was put
 >up for sale. Find out what kind of inspection was involved -- on any
 >older home, you *want* the inspection where an engineer goes in the
 >basement and pokes around thoroughly. But it is legal (here, at least)
 >to call it an "inspection" when someone looks at the exterior and
 >says, "Yes, that's a house, and it's where it's supposed to be."
-Wende A. Feller

 >It also gives you room for negotiating a lower purchase price, if
 >problems are discovered.
-Sandi Rollins

3.2.2) Check out the house and the neighbourhood (at different times
of day!)

 >Househunt in daylight. Artificial light can be used to make
 >"problems" disappear. Drive around the near neighborhood of an
 >interesting house, block by block. Realtors know how to bring you
 >"in" by a route that bypasses the uglies. Be aware of the location
 >of institutions that bring in large numbers of people periodically...
 >In the yard, look especially at trees. Big trees can be wonderful,
 >but they can also create immense problems with foundations, pipes,
 >roofs, and general messiness. Know what kind of tree you have and
 >how much trouble it is currently causing (or likely to cause). Also
 >check for neighbors' swimming pools -- both summer noise and diving
 >boards that allow neighbors to peer over your fence. Ask the
 >neighbors about special property tax assessments or neighborhood
 >improvements plans; grab a copy of the neighborhood weekly newspaper
 >if there is one. Sidewalk rehabilitation, sewer separation, removal
 >of trees with water pipe-destroying roots, etc., may be scheduled
 >and *you* may be assessed a whomping fee for "your share" shortly
 >after you close on the house. I'd even look at the bulletin boards
 >in nearby supermarkets to see if there are protest notices -- these
 >assessments can be huge, and you don't want to be surprised by it.
-Wende A. Feller

 >Those lush, beautful shrubs are very pretty during the day, but at
 >night they can be gloomy security breaches. The elegant condo down
 >the street may force its occupants to take up all street parking at
 >night. High schools and junior highs can be iffy -- some kids
 >consider playing hookey in your back yard to be a cool thing to do.
 >Even being less than a couple blocks from a major shopping center
 >can be an invitation for weirdness from shoplifters and truants.
 >Other reasons to wander past at different times: College kids
 >partying all weekend? Bands practicing in the basement? Little kids
 >in general when you don't *like* little kids? Older/really personally
 >conservative/weird schedule neighbors when you know you'll have
 >people over on summer evenings?
 >Location, location, location - I wouldn't recommend moving into a
 >neighborhood in which you wouldn't be comfortable, but sometimes
 >just moving a few blocks brings you into a different suburb or town
 >with a signficantly lower tax rate, making your monthly expenses
 >that much lower, enabling you to buy more house. Even in the same
 >town or city, check out a variety of neighborhoods. You can see that
 >some areas have really old, huge houses, and some areas are just
 >ranch style, and some are cute tiny bungalows. Look around and
 >figure out what you really like v. could live with v. hate, and go
 >from there.

 >Look for kids playing outside, parents *watching* their children, the
 >locations of schools, the closeness of shopping areas (food!), the
 >upkeep of sidewalks, etc.
-Kate the Short

3.2.3) Take notes

 >You'll see so many houses, and in so many nearby neighborhoods, that
 >it will be hard to remember whether that house on Jones St. had the
 >full basement, or whether it was the one on Smith St. I made a
 >"chart" for my notes, which was *enormously* helpful in weeding out
 >over-priced houses. It had #Bedrooms, #bath, Sq footage, address,
 >time on the market, full garage?, formal DR? basement? price? and
 >other comments.
-Sandi Rollins

 >Our realtor gave us printouts with most of the pertinent information,
 >but we found out it's still good to take notes because all those 3
 >bedroom, 2 bath ramblers started to run together very quickly. After
 >a day of looking at houses, my DH and I would be saying, "which
 >house had those neighbors with the junky cars" or "which house had a
 >junkyard right behind it?" Those printouts have a lot of information,
 >but not nearly enough. :)

 >I sat down with my husband and made a list of what was needed, what
 >was wanted and what was a dream. I turned this list into a check
 >list and made copies. At each house we visited, I could fill out the
 >cost, location, and check off the list. It made it simple to review
 >the houses later. I also took a instant picture of the front of each
 >house and paper clipped it to the info page. All the houses start to
 >look alike after a while!
-Jenni Ewing

 >We got into the habit of sketching the floor plan of any house we
 >thought we might be interested in (usually on the back of the
 >agent's flyer). That helped a lot! And we'd take a few notes on
 >significant features, what appliances were included, and whatever
 >information we could get on needed repair work (most sellers would
 >have a copy of a pest reports available at the open house).
-Holly Lewis

3.2.4) Explore all the options

- First-time/low income homebuyer programs
   - your local county office should have more info.
- lease-option
   - this means you rent a house and get part of each month's rent
     credited toward the purchase price. Get an attorney to review
     the contract.

 >I just learned this from one of our tenants, who works for a
 >mortgage company. FHA loans are designed for buyers who have a good
 >credit history but relatively little money in the bank, so the down
 >payment is low. With an FHA loan, the seller must also have an
 >inspection and *correct* certain common problems such as peeling
 >exterior paint, leaking roof, etc. With a conventional mortgage, the
 >down payment is higher (more like 20% although not always so high)
 >but the credit requirements are a tad looser and so are the
 >inspection requirements. There are also ways to finance a house if
 >you don't meet the criteria for FHA or conventional mortgages (if
 >you make a lot of your income from commission or self-employment and
 >have been doing so for less than two years, conventional mortgage
 >companies won't like you), but a much larger down payment may be
- Wende A. Feller

 >There are some loan programs that will let you borrow up to 97% of
 >the purchase price.  There is also a program offered by the company I
 >work for called the GE Cash Saver, and if you have good credit , you can
 >borrow 100% of the purchase price.  Another option to look into are
 >community seconds, which are loans to make up the balance between what the
 >mortgage company will lend you and what the purchase price is.  Many of
 >these programs are forgiveable loans, and if they're not, usually you
 >don't start payment on these until you've been in the home 5+ years.
- Joana

.2.5) Keep your opinions to yourselves

 >NEVER, EVER discuss your true feelings about the house or your
 >financial options in front of other people, unless your agent is a
 >contracted Buyers' Agent. The strategy is definitely of the "Divide
 >and Conquer" mentality. You and DH need to make these choices
 >without outside pressure.
-Sandi Rollins

3.2.6) Sleep on it

 >Don't be pressured into making decisions on the spot.
-Sandi Rollins

3.3) Making an offer

 >If and when you make an offer that's accepted, congratulations! Open
 >escrow, inspect the property, finalize your loan application(s),
 >check out the title, negotiate any contract adjustments, sign a
 >million pieces of paper and close the purchase! (All of this is done
 >with the help of your realtor, your mortgage broker or lender
 >representative, a title officer, an escrow officer (in many places,
 >title & escrow is the same person), and, in some places, your
-Holly Lewis


4) Anniverary gifts

4.1) 1st anniversary: paper
- calendar
- stationery
- Gift certificates
- Tickets to movie/concert/theatre/sporting event
   - something you would both enjoy
- Books
- Magazine subscription
- Stocks or bonds
- A framed lithograph
- a framed calligraphed saying you like
- a calligraphed family tree on parchment, framed
- vacation reservation confirmations are also printed on paper...
- a journal
- How about a letter (on paper) handwritten telling him how much the first
   year of marriage has meant to you?
- framed print

4.2) 2nd anniversary: cotton
- Turkish bathrobe with his initials monogrammed on it
- A nice canvas tote bag/backpack/knapsack
- A lightweight spring sweater, a button-down shirt, some shorts for the
   upcoming summer weather
- Luxurious new bath towels -- with one of those humungous bath sheets
   for him
- High-thread-count sheets or other new bedding
- A two-person cotton canvas hammock for your garden
- A recliner with cotton upholstery
- A new rag rug for the den

4.3) 3rd anniversary: leather
- Dominatrix clothes and whips :-)
- Belt and or a nice pair of leather suspenders/braces
- wallet or purse
- picture frame
- photo album
- a leather-bound first edition or Bible
- leather seats with a Jaguar or Lexus wrapped around them
- Backpack or fanny pack
- Shoes, sneakers, boots (cowboy or fashion)
- Suede jacket or blazer
- "Leatherman" tool
- Briefcase
- Portfolio, legal-pad cover or daytimer cover
- Luggage
- Blotter for a desk
- leather case for sunglasses
- a leather recliner
- a leather mapcase/chart holder
- leather CD carrying case
- key chain
- nice watch straps if they would go with the recipient's watch

4.4) Romantic gestures
- A gift certificate for a bookstore
- A killer back massage...leading to something more? ;-)
- Tuck heart-shaped notes in his/her shoes or lunch-box or under
  the pillow or in the bathroom drawer
- Toss a towel in the dryer so it is warm and fluffy when he/she
  gets out of the shower
- Iron his/her shirts :-)
- Do a chore that is assigned to him/her (if you assign chores
  in such a fashion)
- Cook a tasty dinner and serve it in candlelight, with the nice
  dishes and silverware. Don't ask for help cleaning up at all.
- Give a homemade coupon for a backrub or foot massage
- Give a "pampering" evening - surprise him/her when he/she comes
  home from work with a warm bubblebath, a glass of wine in the tub,
  a footmassage.  Serve him dinner (in or out of the tub!) and then
  don't let him/her clean up!
- Bake a nice treat that you think he/she might enjoy
- Give him/her the entire control of the TV and TiVo for the evening
- Take him/her out to a movie in the evening, and make a date night
  of it on a weeknight
- Make a cocktail for when he/she first gets home, and let him/her
  wind down for a half hour
- Settle him/her on the couch with the remote, a blanket, and a pet
- Wash his/her car, or vacuum it out
- Send flowers / a plant / balloons / chocolates to his/her work


5) Coping with loss of a child

5.1) aMAZon's book recommendations and comments

Borg, Susan and Lasker, Judith. "When Pregnancy Fails: Families
Coping With Miscarriage, Ectopic Pregnancy, Stillbirth, and Infant

Davis, Deborah L. PhD. "Empty Cradle, Broken Heart: Surviving the
Death of Your Baby." Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 1996.
Covers a lot of territory: grieving, physical aspects of recovery,
early effects, affirming your baby, resolution of grief, agonizing
decisions, especially for fathers, partner issues, family, support
groups, subsequent pregnancy and coping, raising subsequent children,
protective parenting, remembering and moving on. I especially liked
the sections on keepsakes and memorials, because they were most
helpful to me.

Friedman, Rochelle, M.D. and Bradstein, Bonnie, M.P.H. "Surviving
Pregnancy Loss: A Complete Sourcebook for Women and Their Families."
Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1992.
Experiencing a pregnancy loss, types of loss, including different
first-person accounts of different kinds (miscarriage, stillbirth,
ectopic pregnancy, prenatal testing, assisted reproductive technologies
and multiple losses; husband's loss, children, family and friends,
planning for the future. State-by-state resource listing and
bibliography included.

Ilse, Sherokee. "Empty Arms: Coping with Miscarriage, Stillbirth
and Infant Death." Maple Plain, MN: Wintergreen Press, 1990.

Ilse, Sherokee. "Precious Lives, Painful Choices -- A Prenatal
Decision-Making Guide." Maple Plain, MN: Wintergreen Press, 1993.

Ilse, Sherokee, and Burns, L.H. "Miscarriage: A Shattered Dream."
Long Lake, MN: Wintergreen Press, 1985.

Ilse, Sherokee, and Erling, Susan. "Planning a Precious Goodbye."
Maple Plain, MN: Wintergreen Press, 1994.
I have the first and the third books of these. They were among the
first books on neonatal loss that I read. I had to order them direct
from the publisher, and wait until they came, but it was well worth it.
Wintergreen Press
3630 Eileen Street
Maple Plain, MN 55359

Kohn, Ingrid, MSW, Moffitt, Perry-Lynn with Wilkins, Isabelle
A. MD. "A Silent Sorrow Pregnancy Loss: Guidance and Support for
You and Your Family". New York, NY: Routledge, 2000.
Comprehensive source for lots of information. There are sections
on the grieving mother, grieving father, other family members
(nuclear and extended), physical effects, emotional effects, impact
on career, infertility, etc. This book included some prayers I found
very comforting. Resources and bibliography included.

Lafser, Christine O'Keefe. "An Empty Cradle A Full Heart: Reflections
for mothers and fathers after miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant
death." Chicago: Loyola Press, 1998.
Reflections on loss, with Scripture verses relating to the reflections.
Sections aimed at mothers, at fathers, and at both parents.
Religiously oriented. This can be a great catalyst for feelings,
particularly if you share the author's religious background.

Panuthos, Claudia, and Romeo, Catherine. "Ended Beginnings:
Healing Childbearing Losses."  New York: Warner Books, 1984
I don't own a copy of this particular book, but I did read it after
my first loss.

There are also resources on line. is
helpful, and there are caring people that write to that group.

5.2) Kellie's book recommendations and comments

Lothrop, Hannah. "Help, Comfort and Hope After Losing Your Baby
in Pregnancy or the First Year".
My bible. This was the first book that I read and it really helped
a lot.

The best are the booklets that I was able to order from the
publishers directly (Centering Corporation). All very, very good

"When Hello Means Goodbye"
More for pregnancies that are further along but still an excellent
booklet. Our genetics counselor gave us some photocopied
pages and after that I really wanted the whole thing, so I ordered

"Still to Be Born"
About deciding about subsequent pregnancies.

"Healing Together - For Couples Whose Baby Dies"
Was also good, and helped us realzie why we grieved differently.

"When a Baby Dies"
Helps family, friends and medical professionals deal with parents
who've lost a baby.

Two that I thought would help but didn't:
Hayford, Jack. "I'll Hold You In Heaven"
Vredevelt, Pam. "Empty Arms"
Both are very religious and when I read them I felt like if only
I had enough faith, the pain would magically go away. There were
some good Scripture quotes but most I'd already read. These books
made me feel even worse.


6) Hints and resources for car buying

- Contributions taken directly from the group are marked with >.
The contributors have been credited at the end of the contribution.
- This information is strongly biased towards the USA car buying
process - buyers in other countries are welcome to submit their
- The maintainer and contributors take no responsibility for the
legal accuracy of any of this advice!

 >DH and I have bought two new cars so far, and each time we've paid
 >many thousands less than sticker price.
 >I second the recommendation for The next time you're
 >at a bookstore, you may want to shell out the small amount of
 >money for the Edmunds Guide to New Cars book, especially if you're
 >not sure yet what you want. A good book to read is
 >_Don't_Get_Taken_Every_Time_ by Remar Sutton. will
 >tell you if there are any extra incentives (like manufacturer's
 >rebates) on the car you are considering. Don't let the dealer eat
 >into those rebates - they're all yours.
 >Basically, there are two prices associated with a car: one is the
 >sticker price, which is the price the dealer wants you to pay. The
 >other price is what the dealer actually paid the manufacturer for
 >the car (the manufacturer's invoice price). Edmunds tells you the
 >latter, for the basic car and for every option available. If you
 >go in to the dealership saying that you know the manufacturer's
 >invoice price and want to work from that, a good salesman will
 >know how to work with you and stop playing games.
 >If you get more than one dealership competing against each other,
 >that's even better. We got our '97 Ranger for just $100 over
 >invoice. The saleskid only made $50 commission, but it was better
 >than no commission had we bought elsewhere. Be sure to ask the
 >salesman for ALL costs involved in buying the car, because they're
 >likely to slip in at the last moment junk like "paperwork fees"
 >and "advertising fees." There's not much you can do about this,
 >except be aware of them up front, get dealerships to compete
 >against each other, and be prepared to walk out if you don't like
 >what you see.
 >Don't feel bad about not giving them a "reasonable profit." Within
 >the manufacturer's invoice is what's called the "dealer holdback."
 >Basically, the dealer pays the mfg invoice, gets the car, sells
 >the car, and then the manufacturer returns to the dealer a certain
 >amount of money, which is pure profit. They don't like to talk
 >about it, but it's there.
 >Another thing to know about is the "floor plan." Somebody has to
 >pay insurance on all those cars on the dealership lot. During the
 >first 30 days, the cars are on the "floor plan," where the
 >manufacturer pays the insurance. After that, the dealer has to
 >insure them, and that eats into profits. So, a dealer may be more
 >motivated to sell you a car that they've had on their lot for a
 >while, because every day is costing them money.
 >If you plan to trade in your current car for part of your
 >downpayment, you need to be aware of a few things. One thing is
 >that since your car is older than 5 years old, the dealer will not
 >be able to sell it on their lot. They will have to dump it to
 >another level of car sales, at a low price. You'll get more money
 >selling it yourself. For example, my old Toyota would have got me
 >$500 from the dealer or any other used car lot, but I sold it for
 >$2000 in a private sale. If you do plan to trade in your old car
 >to avoid the hassle, then keep the negotiations for the old and
 >new cars separate. Don't let them play the "allowance" game with
 >you. Shop your old car by taking it to a few used car dealerships
 >and asking what they would give you for it... then you know the
 >real price and won't get snookered by the dealership.
 >Car salesmen hate to deal with engineers. ;-)
 >Basically, if a dealership doesn't carry cars like yours on their
 >lot, they will have to dump it to the wholesale market, where
 >other dealers who =do= sell cars like yours will buy it. Since
 >they don't have time to putter around every old car they come
 >across, they have set prices for certain groups of cars.
 >If you want to sell your used car to a dealer, it will be possible
 >to get a higher price if you find a car lot that has cars like
 >yours. Of course, you still won't get retail price.
 >It's a convenience thing. If you trade in your old car to the same
 >dealer who sells you your new car, you get to simply switch your
 >license plates over on the spot. Drive there in the old car, drive
 >home in the new car. Convenient, but not frugal. If you sell your
 >old car to a different dealer, you have to make arrangements for
 >the old and new cars separately, but you still don't have to place
 >advertisements and show the old car to lots of different people.
 >Of course, if you sell your old car privately, you'll get the most
 >money, but it's the most work.
 >Oh, you should put down at least 40% downpayment for a new car.
 >Why? Because the moment you drive it off the lot, it will
 >depreciate up to that much. Your car insurance will only cover
 >replacement costs. If you owe more than the car is worth, and you
 >get in an accident, you'll have to pay off the rest of the loan
 >before you can buy another car.
 >Keep in mind that you don't have to settle for what's on the lot,
 >if it's not what you want. You can order the exact car you want,
 >and still pay only $200 over the manufacturer's invoice. (I'm
 >assuming you're looking at 2002 model year cars. The factories
 >won't be making any more 2001 cars right now.) If the dealers
 >still have 2001 model year cars on their lots, they must be quite
 >desperate to sell them, as it is now costing them money to insure
 >Here's another tip: when you are willing to sign those papers
 >today, use that as a bargaining tool. Salesmen know that a
 >low-commission sale that is guaranteed is better than an iffy
 >higher-commission one. When you know what you want and how much
 >you're willing to pay for it, say, "If you sell me this car for
 >$X, I will buy it right now."
-Jeanne P.

 >Several other people have mentioned -- great resource.
 >My tips:
 >Add up the dealer cost for the car and options you want.
 >Reach a total
 >Subtract any rebate
 >Add in $200 dealer profit
 >Smile at your offer amount.
 >What I did, after arriving at the "I know what I want" moment:
 >Called every Subaru dealer in a 40 minute radius, and got a
 >salesperson on the line. Told them what I wanted, asked if they
 >could get it. Of the 7 I called, 3 said yes. I then asked for
 >their fax number.
 >I wrote an offer letter, detailing out my desires and the price i
 >was willing to pay. I told them I was pre-approved from my credit
 >union, and once they calculated the out-the-door price with the
 >above parameters, I could be down within 1 day with a cashier's
 >Two of the three replied. One of them gave me some useful
 >technical info about the dealer CD system (it was FM-modulated,
 >which was mentioned nowhere in the literature). Since he was also
 >the closer dealer, I agreed to buy it from him.
 >The next day, DH dropped me off at the dealer after work. I signed
 >a few papers, got the keys, and was out of there in 45 minutes
 >with my new car. After the rebate, I paid $550 *under* dealer
 >cost. :^)
 >I *highly* recommend the fax methodology.

 >Last time I bought a new car, I used an Internet service (the name
 >of which escapes me right now). This service solicits bids from
 >local dealerships. I selected the bid/dealership that I preferred,
 >walked in, bought car. I don't think that this method got me the
 >absolute rock-bottom price that an expert negotiator could get,
 >but it was worth it to me not to have to deal with the negotiating
-Jeanne J.


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