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Mon 27th Apr, 20200

The current ‘stay at home’ order gives us the perfect opportunity to engage in many activities that we would normally be too busy to do. We can learn something new, give more time to a hobby or enjoy more quality time with our family. Why not try something that encapsulates all three like starting a home garden?


Caring for a home garden is an excellent way to:

  • Use extra time productively
  • Save money spent at markets/groceries
  • Bond with your family and teach your children life skills
  • Get some physical exercise and a little bit of sunshine while at home
  • Ensure you have fresh ingredients for your pot in the future
  • Manage stress related to current social restrictions

You are probably saying to yourself that you know nothing about gardening and how to even begin? Fear not. It’s rather simple to start growing your own food.


Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. A small area in your front or backyard to set up your garden
  2. Pots to plant in; these can be any clay or solid plastic containers
  3. Potting soil (or garden soil if you don’t have or can’t get potting soil)
  4. Pebbles, gravel or stones
  5. Seeds or seedlings (these can be from kitchen scraps)
  6. Any watering vessel (this can be an old kitchen jug)
  7. Garden tools like a mini shovel or fork for dealing with soil
  8. A lot of helpful hands (this is a fun family project)


Choosing the Right Plants to Grow

Naturally, the plants that you should feature in your home garden would depend on the produce that your family uses the most. These can be herbs used in cooking like chive, chadon beni, basil, parsley, oregano, thyme etc. You can also consider: pimento and sweet peppers, bodhi, cucumber, lettuce, patchoi, kale and celery. The good news is that you won’t need to purchase seeds or seedlings for some of these. Instead, you can simply cut off a piece of the bottom of any produce that you already have at home and use it to replant. For fruits, simply use the seeds of the fruit. Always remember to do proper research on each plant to ensure that you are familiar with the right growing conditions and plant care instructions.


Getting Started

To begin, gather all the supplies you’ll need and place them in the designated area. It is best to plant in the early morning or very late afternoon when the sun is not too hot and harsh. Ensure that all your pots have holes at the bottom to promote proper drainage. In each pot, add a layer of pebbles and follow up with potting soil until the pot is filled enough to accommodate a plant. Use your finger to make a hole in the soil and put in your cuttings or seeds. Cover up the base (or the entire seed) with soil neatly and water the new plant lightly.


Taking Care of Your Plants

This is the part that would be especially fun for children. Establish a routine to check on and care for your plants on a daily basis. Each plant would have their own care instructions so ensure that you research and are following them. Generally, you would need to ensure that your plants are well-nourished and that the soil is well-aerated. This may require you to water them regularly (always check the moisture in the soil before adding more water!) as well gently turning the soil to ensure that air can get in. Watch out for pests too and research organic solutions that use items you have on-hand to defeat them.


Making Compost

As your garden grows, you can make your own organic compost from items that you would normally throw away, such as banana and potato peelings, vegetable ends etc. This would reduce your need to purchase expensive fertilisers or use harmful pesticides. To make your compost, make holes along the sides of a large container like an old garbage bin. Throw in the kitchen scraps, along with some shredded newspaper and grass cuttings, cover and leave to decompose. Every week or so, roll the bin so that the contents are evenly mixed up.


And that’s it for starting your home garden! Feel free to experiment to see what’s best for your family needs. Always remember to be safe and smart and you’ll do just fine.

Fri 20th Mar, 20200

Purchasing a home will probably be the biggest financial decision you will ever make in your life so you can’t afford to take the decision lightly, especially since it involves taking on long-term debt. There are a couple of very important questions that you should seek answers to before you sign on the dotted line. We thought we’d share these so you’d be better prepared at your mortgage application appointments.


Ask these questions:


  1. What is the Interest Rate?


The interest rate on your mortgage represents the true cost of borrowing the money you need to purchase or construct your home. It is communicated as a percentage of the principal (i.e. the amount you borrow) and is one of the main elements of a mortgage that can be compared among offers by different mortgage providers. A lower interest rate is more desirable than a higher one because it means that you will be repaying less money overall on your mortgage.


  1. Is the interest rate fixed or variable?


It’s very easy to overlook this question. You may believe that it’s a given that all loan interest rates are fixed. However, that may not be true, particularly when it comes to mortgages. If you visit a bank, they will give you a quote for an interest rate which may be attractively low, but it’s important to note that their interest rates can change every year on the anniversary date of your mortgage. This is because their interest rate is variable and is based on a Mortgage Market Reference Rate (MMRR) which fluctuates. On the other hand, our interests are stable. Our interest rates are not impacted by the MMRR so our customers are able to stay in control of their mortgage payments. On our open market rate which is currently 6%, this interest rate does change with time. However, the 2% and 5% interest rates increase over time, but, they are measured increases that homeowners can account for from the beginning of their mortgage. Therefore, they can plan for the increase in mortgage payments. For more insight, please read our previous Home Smart blog “Stable Interest Rates” where we discuss how our rates offer more stability to our customers than the banks’ rates.


  1. What are the upfront costs?


When you apply for a mortgage, the lender isn’t the only party who would be writing a cheque. To become a homeowner, you’ll have to dip into your pocket too. Unless you are offered 100% financing, chances are you will need to make a downpayment on the home you are interested in purchasing. Additionally, there are several other closing costs that you must be prepared to pay in order to seal the deal. These are: statutory fees, legal fees and other costs to get your valuation report, property charges etc. You can learn more on closing costs here.


  1. Can I make additional payments?


There may be times when you may want to make additional or lumpsum payments apart from your monthly payments. It’s important that you find out whether your mortgage provider would accept these. Ask about the minimum or maximum amount you could pay and how often you are allowed to pay them. Also, you should get clarity on how these lumpsum payments would impact the overall cost of your mortgage. Ideally, it should reduce the overall interest charges that you pay, and not just reduce the time that it takes you to repay your mortgage. Remember to ask whether there are penalties for early settlement of your mortgage too, such as additional interest charges.


At TTMF, you can make lumpsum payments that are equal to or more than your monthly instalment at any time. You would need to specify that you’d like your lumpsum payment to be applied to your principal balance if you want to reduce the interest charges you pay thereafter when compared to your original repayment schedule. If not, your additional payment would be considered a prepayment and therefore would only reduce the time it would take for you to pay off your mortgage; it would not save you money. Fortunately, we do not charge any penalties for paying off your mortgage earlier than expected.


Here’s a question for you: Are you ready to get started?


We’d be more than happy to help you with the answers to these questions regarding your mortgage application. Feel free to set up an interview with one of our mortgage specialists to get pre-qualified for a mortgage here: or give us a call at 623-TTMF (8863)