6 Things to Do Before You Buy a Car

A car lot with new cars lined up

The process of buying a new car can be quite hectic and intimidating. The process may seem daunting, especially if you have to deal with a car sales agent. The car’s value will depreciate with time, and it’s imperative to look for the best deal. However, with improving car affordability, it has become relatively easier to purchase a car.

Even so, it still requires you to be skeptical and keep an eye out before making the final offer on a motor vehicle. Thus, it would help if you considered a few elements before buying a new car. Here are some aspects to keep in mind when going for automotive shopping.

Do Your Research

You should first take the time to conduct extensive research on the car you want to buy. Take time to research the vehicle(s) you have in mind. There are many car review pages online where you can find relevant information on various cars.

You should avoid buying the car blindly. Do your homework and find out more aspects of the vehicle. This should include the pros and cons, as written by unbiased reviewers.

It always helps if you had all the facts right regarding the vehicle. Before you can walk into the dealership, ensure that you have enough knowledge about the cars in your wish list. Determine your price range and find the vehicles that you can afford.

It can also help if you attend car shows in your area to gain more information about specific models. The auto shows also enable you to make side-by-side comparisons of the vehicle models. This way, you can learn more about the trim options, color, and availability. You can take advantage of the show and schedule a test drive to know how the car feels on the road.

Look for Online Deals

The internet has made almost everything better and more straightforward. Taking your vehicle search to the web allows you to come across various deals offered by different vendors and private sellers. Some online dealers provide virtual showrooms and provide more information on the vehicle. You can make your purchase request through the dealer’s website and enter an agreement.

The entire purchase process doesn’t need to be online since you may need to schedule a test drive before you complete the transaction. Look for good deals from different dealers online and walk down to the dealership to check out the vehicle as you finalize the transaction.

Think About Fuel Economy

More and more, you’ll want to consider the fuel consumption of a given vehicle and know how to save on the fuel costs. The federal government has levied taxes on cars with a specific fuel consumption rate. That said, it would be a shame to have nice wheels and lack the finances to fill up the gas tank.

Hybrid vehicles are a great way to minimize fuel consumption. Electric vehicles can even more significantly minimize gas costs.

Shop Both New & Used Cars

Slightly used cars are cheaper than new ones and will work to save you money. Even so, it doesn’t mean that you should write off the possibility of purchasing a new car. Your decision to buy a new or used vehicle depends on the vehicle’s condition and how long you intend to use it.

Calculate Insurance Costs

It is a good idea to find out in advance how much it would cost to insure the vehicle–especially if you’ll be wanting comprehensive coverage. Generally, if you take out a loan to buy a car, the lender will require you to buy comprehensive coverage. You can get an anonymous car insurance quote online, however, to arm you with this information without having to give your personal information to an insurance company.

Affordability and Financing

Make sure that you buy a car that you can afford. Consider whether you have the budget required to either pay in a lump sum or make payments over the duration of the loan. Take time to think and get your finances in check. Consult the dealer and find out more about their payment options and consider the asked down payment.

A Beginner’s Guide to Mortgages

Residential home for sale

If you’re buying a home for the first time, it’s important to learn about mortgages so you can select the best home loan for this major purchase. When you’re aware of your mortgage options, you can save money and find the home with the features that you want. Here are a few tips that will make the process of buying a home a little easier on your wallet and your mind. 

Where to Apply for Mortgages

Typical homebuyers apply for mortgages from traditional banks, credit unions, mortgage brokers, or online lending companies. Some financial experts advise credit union loans over the alternatives because, with credit unions, the approval process can be more forgiving, the interest rates may be lower, and the service may be more personalized.

Understand Mortgage Interests and APR 

When you apply for a mortgage, your lender will be required by the Truth in Lending Act to disclose the annual percentage rate (APR) and interest rate of the loan. This enables you as a borrower to know the actual cost of the mortgage and compare loans from loan competitors, so you’ll know which mortgage is right for you. It’s important to note that our monthly mortgage payment is based on the loan’s interest rate. 

If you’re taking out a fully amortizing loan, every mortgage payment will include the interest and principal. You should know that you only pay interest on the portion of your mortgage that is still unpaid. This is why your mortgage payments will have a higher interest initially and will slowly decrease as time passes. So, every payment you make will reduce your overall principal mortgage loan amount. It’s helpful to refer to a mortgage calculator so you can organize your finances accordingly. 

Remember that lenders will charge more than the interest rate for your mortgage. The annual percentage rate includes the one-time fees and costs that come with borrowing. The APR is expressed as a percentage rate that you are charged yearly and is the actual cost of your mortgage after you pay fees and interest rates. Fees that are associated with buying a home can include origination fees, discount points, prepaid interest, and PMI premiums, along with closing costs. Your APR is a more accurate reflection of the net cost of your loan every year. 

What Are Mortgage Points? 

Mortgage points pertain to the American process of home financing. One mortgage point is equal to around 1% of the amount of the mortgage loan. For example, if your mortgage loan is $300,000, one mortgage point is $3,000.

Mortgage points fall into two categories: origination and discount. 

Origination fees are charged by lenders to take care of loan processing costs. These fees are often a percentage of the total loan amount and represent a mortgage point instead of an actual dollar amount. So, if the origination fee is $1500 and the mortgage loan is $150,000, the lender should inform you that your mortgage has a 1% origination fee, which translates to one origination point. 

Remember that your credit history is taken into account when determining the amount of origination fees you’re obligated to pay. You can not deduct origination points when you file your taxes.

Discount points, on the other hand, are tax-deductible. The points are a type of prepaid interest that you pay when you close on your home. You pay the interest directly to your mortgage lender to reduce your interest rate. So, you’ll receive a lower monthly mortgage payment when you pay more upfront and receive discount points. Mortgage points usually reduce your rate by about one-eighth to one-fourth. The discount varies depending on your lender and can change as a result of the housing market. 

Mortgages and FICO Scores 

Whether you’re looking to purchase a more traditional family home, a penthouse, or condo, you’ll probably need a mortgage to complete the deal. If you apply for a mortgage, lenders will look at your credit score to determine how big of a lending risk you are. Before you enter the pre-qualification process, make sure you know your credit score and the factors used to determine your score. 

Your credit score is a way for creditors to determine how likely you are to repay your debts. If your score indicates that you’ve paid some, but not all, of your past loans, or if you’re in the process of improving your credit, you may be approved for a mortgage. However, your interest rates will likely be higher. Some lenders understand that there are several legitimate factors that could explain a low or average credit score. Some lenders will take this into consideration to increase your chances of loan approval. 

This helpful information can ease some of the anxiety that comes with applying for a mortgage. The more prepared you are, the sooner you can get into the home of your dreams. 

6 Ways to Decrease Your Housing Expenses

Housing is one of the single most considerable costs people face in the modern world. Many people find they can easily spend a third of their income (or even more) to pay the rent or mortgage. This can mean all kinds of budget problems. Fortunately, there are ways to bring these costs down. It’s possible to reduce the amount of money you’re spending and still get the kind of housing arrangements that offer privacy, safety, and convenience. And decreasing your living expenses can lead to an increase in your quality of life.

Option 1: Downsize to a Smaller Apartment 

If you’re a young person just starting in life, chances are you don’t need a lot of living space. The same is true of empty-nesters and people who are retired. Think about how much space you’re using right now. You might have a three-bedroom house when all you need are two bedrooms. That single additional room can cost you hundreds of dollars a month. Instead, look for smaller options. You’ll often be delighted at how much you can save by aiming for a one-bedroom or even a studio instead of something even a little bit larger. 

Option 2: Move to a Less Expensive Area 

Some areas are just more expensive than others; that’s just a fact of life. If you live in an expensive-housing area, you can shave lots of money off your housing costs by choosing to live elsewhere. Many cities have much cheaper housing options, and in the digital age, it’s often possible to work remotely. That makes it easy for people to head off to a different place and reduce the amount of money they pay in housing. You’ll save money on housing and see a brand new place at the same time. 

Option 3: Get Roommates 

Roommates are another way to reduce your housing costs. A roommate can help split your housing costs in half; multiple roommates can decrease your mortgage or rent even more. At the same time, bear in mind these arrangements can be highly complicated even if you’ve done it before. It’s a good idea to have your roommates sign an agreement before you agree to share housing. This way, you have something in writing if there are ever disputes down the line. Agreements don’t have to be complicated; you can find a roommate agreement template online and modify it to your needs.

Option 4: Airbnb

If you’re lucky enough to have a back house, mother-in-law suite, or other section of your home with a separate entrance, consider operating as a host on Airbnb. You don’t have to take in paying guests all the time; you won’t be running a rooming house. You can simply list your property on the service for just the dates you’re willing to play host, and mark it out the rest of the time. The extra money from Airbnb guests could help with your mortgage payments.

Option 5: Refinance Your Mortgage

In the last few years, mortgage interest rates have fallen by several points. If you have an older mortgage, now makes the perfect time to look into refinancing. This is a good choice if you’re planning to live in a given location for at least the next several years. There are initial fees that can run several thousand dollars. However, those fees can be rolled into the rest of the mortgage and paid off over time. In the meantime, you can benefit from reduced payments each month that still have a tax-deductible interest. Do a quick credit check and find out how much you can save. 

Option 6: Co-Living Arrangements 

Co-living arrangements where people share housing costs have become increasingly popular in recent years. These are all about living in a place with others at the same time. They can be informal or formal. If you know people who are looking for a place to live, ask them if they want to set up an arrangement for housing with you. In other instances, you’ll find specific co-housing arrangements that have already been set up by people in the area. You can often join them and share in housing expenses for vastly reduced rent.

6 Ways to Make Ends Meet When You’re Living Paycheck to Paycheck

A girl who is stressed out because of finances

Chances are, you are not the only person living paycheck to paycheck. As a result, it can be challenging to account for emergencies. For instance, what happens when an unexpected expense comes up?

 If you are not careful, such expenses can send you into debt or turn your finances upside down. 

If you are not earning a lot of money, waiting for your next paycheck can be stressful. It is even more worrying, trying to figure out how you will pay your monthly bills.

Most individuals who live paycheck to paycheck are not aware they do. It is because they have a backup plan in case their money starts to get low. Below are signs that you are living paycheck to paycheck: 

  • It is challenging to pay off your credit cards every month.
  • You exhaust your paycheck before the next one arrives.
  • You have to use your savings to pay for necessities. 
  • You often max out your credit cards. 
  • You often borrow money from friends and relatives.
  • It is impossible to control your impulse spending.

Fortunately, there are several ways to ensure that you manage your money correctly, stay out of debt, and have a better financial future. Here are ways to makes ends meet when you are living paycheck to paycheck. 

Have a Side Hustle 

Having a side hustle is one way to make ends meet when you’re living paycheck to paycheck. If your nine to five job isn’t paying much, you need to consider other options. 

For example, you can work as a security guard, a copywriter, a taxi driver, etc. Remember, you will still have to go to work the next morning; therefore, ensure that you start a side hustle that isn’t exhausting or time-consuming. 

Ensure that you use the money you earn from your side hustle to pay your bills and debts and to get back on track.

Have a Budget 

Having a budget will help you control how and where you spend your money. First things first, you need to figure out how you spend your money each month. As a result, you will identify the areas where to cut back.

When budgeting, it is important to be realistic. It is almost impossible to stick to a strict budget. If you notice certain areas aren’t working for you, do not hesitate to make the necessary changes. In the long run, you will stay out of debt and have enough to cater to emergencies. 

Avoid Using Credit Cards

Debt is probably the reason why you are living paycheck to paycheck. You spend most of your money paying high-interest rates. Therefore, to make ends meet, you need to get rid of any debt that you may have. The best way to do so is to avoid using credit cards.

It is advisable only to use credit cards during an emergency. If you do, ensure that you repay as much as you can afford every month. 

Find Cheaper Alternatives

You do not have to sacrifice everything that makes you happy to make ends meet when living paycheck to paycheck. Instead, find cheaper alternatives for the same. Doing so is arguably the best way to cut back on your spending. 

Think Of Downsizing 

One of the reasons you are living paycheck to paycheck is that you live beyond your means. If you have more houses than you can afford or are driving an expensive car, you need to consider downsizing. 

You can sell your current car and buy one that fits your needs without leaving you broke. 

Apply For a Personal Loan 

If you find it challenging to make ends meet, a personal loan company like Oportun can help you sort your financial issues as you wait for your next paycheck. However, not all personal loan companies have your best interests at heart. Look for one with fair interest rates and strong involvement in the community.

There are many personal loan options. Therefore, you need to choose the one that concurs with your financial needs. When applying for a loan, ensure that you provide the necessary documents such as a valid ID, proof of address, proof of income, and references. 

The above tips will help you make ends meet even when you are living paycheck to paycheck. Once you learn how to manage your money correctly, it will be easier to pay your monthly bills and account for emergencies. 

An Introduction to Environmental Law

Photo of a lightbulb with an ecosystem inside

The modernization of our world has led to several significant changes in our environment. While many of the technologies and methods we use to do business or even run our households have proven convenient and necessary, we have seen serious damage to our environment. Poor air quality, unclean water, lack of natural resources, and animal extinction, among other factors, are all signs that we have to do more to care for the environment.

The United States has environmental laws that we should all be aware of if we want to do our part to make the country, and the planet, a better place to live. 

Clean Air Act 

The Clean Air Act was established in 1963 as federal law, and it was designed to monitor national air pollution. The Clean Air Act is one of the first modern environmental regulations in the U.S., and one of the world’s most detailed laws pertaining to air quality. It is administered by the EPA and works in connection with local, tribal, and state governing bodies. 

In 1955, the Air Pollution Control Act was established. It is somewhat of a precursor to the Clean Air Act. The Air Pollution Control Act offered government funds for the research of air pollution. When the Clean Air Act was passed, it provided a federal program from the U.S. Public Health Service to authorize research to control and monitor air pollution. 

Clean Water Act 

The U.S. created the Clean Water Act to govern water pollution. The objective of the law is to both maintain and restore the biological, chemical, and physical integrity of the water in the country. This entails addressing contamination and providing states with funding to improve wastewater treatment. The Clean Water Act is also intended to protect the wetlands of the country. In coordination with state governments, the Clean Water Act works to assist states with dredging and filling — these tasks are carried out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. 

Migratory Bird Treaty Act 

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act came into effect in 1918 and is a federal law in the United States. It serves to implement the protection of migratory birds, particularly those that travel between the U.S. and Great Britain, which means the law acts on behalf of Canada as well. According to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, it is illegal to capture, hunt, kill, pursue, or sell birds that are classified as “migratory.” The Act doesn’t discriminate against dead or live birds and offers total protection to bird parts, such as eggs, nests, and feathers. Currently, more than 800 species of birds are protected under the Act. 

National Forest Management Act 

The National Forest Management Act was put in place in 1976. Its goal is to require the U.S. Forest Service to create objectives for national forests, set guidelines for the sale of timber, and implement policies to monitor the harvesting of wood. These regulations serve the purpose of conserving the forests in the U.S. and preventing irreversible damage from clear-cutting and constant logging. The Forest Service is required by Congress to intently assess, plan, and research for the national forest resource use. The Forest Service must also predict future demand for wood and review the economic and environmental impact of timber harvesting. 

Attorneys and Law Firms that Practice Environmental Law 

There are also lawyers and law firms who specialize in environmental law. These legal professionals are committed to defending individuals and corporations that are working to preserve the environment. Attorneys who specialize in environmental law also hold people accountable when their personal or professional practices can harm the environment. 

Conservation Law Foundation in Portland, Maine, concentrates on cases involving clean air and water, climate change, and keeping the ocean free of contaminants. The foundation also focuses on market strategies, partnering with investors, and community organizations to create clean energy and implement environmentally-friendly practices in communities.  

Cory Briggs, a San Diego attorney, ensures that new and existing communities in Southern California are safe from environmental contaminants. Briggs and his team are well-versed in zoning regulations that permit construction while keeping water and air safe for those who live in the area.  

And Portland, Oregon’s Chenoweth Law Group is also committed to upholding the law as it pertains to the environment. Whether you’re facing environment-related allegations or your property has been affected by pollution, the qualified attorneys at Chenoweth Law Group will review the details of your case and ensure that you’re well represented in court. 

Learning about environmental law can help you make wise decisions for your family and your business. Becoming familiar with these laws also helps you protect yourself from environmental violations, so you can make strides to protect your community. 

The Basics of Buying and Selling Real Estate

A couple who has just purchased a home

In the U.S., real estate has time and again proven itself to be a terrific investment option. Over any ten year period, most real estate owners can safely count on getting appreciation of as much as 50% on their investments. In some cases, the 10-year appreciation number could be significantly higher than that.

If you are looking for ways to create additional wealth, you have to consider investing some of your money in real estate. You can start by being a homeowner. After buying a place for you and your family to live, you might even want to consider getting involved in investment properties. A second home as a rental property often provides positive cash flow in addition to the usual appreciation. 

The following information is going to focus on helping you understand the nuances of buying and selling real estate. For purposes of this discussion, we will limit the focus to residential real estate.

How to Buy a Home

When you start looking for a home to buy, you need to take a serious look at market conditions. That’s a key component to making sure you don’t overpay for the property. It’s important to remember it’s a game. The seller wants as much as they can get while the buyer is looking for a bargain. The intent of the purchase is also key. Is the purchase intended to be an investment or your place of residence?

Once you understand market conditions and your intent, you need to set a realistic budget. You might want to approach this task by getting preapproval for a mortgage at a certain level. From there, you should be ready to begin the search.

While it’s fine to search on your own, you still stand to get the best results through a real estate agent. They understand the marketplace and have access to listings they can use to match up with your home wishlist. Ultimately, they serve as a great time saver. Remember, Realtor commissions are paid by the seller.

When you find a home of interest, it’s important to give the home a thorough going over. If you don’t want to invest time and money in “projects,” you want a home that’s in great shape. If the seller states they are selling a house as is, take them for their word. 

Finally, you must be willing to negotiate. Very seldom is it a good idea to pay the selling price. Unless it’s truly a seller’s market, the asking price should be considered a starting point. Your job is to get the price as close to your target as possible. 

How to Sell a Home

When you go to sell a home, the shoe is on the other foot. You are looking to get the highest price possible. Again, it’s fine to try to sell your home without an agent. However, you would need to invest a lot of time during the process. It would be your responsibility to show the home, negotiate with potential buyers, and do the work necessary to schedule and coordinate appraisals and inspections. In most cases, a Realtor is worth the commission you might have to pay.

As you contemplate selling your house, you are now the one who has to decide if you are going to be the one to sell a house as-is. If you choose to go in this direction, your starting price needs to reflect it. The buyer is almost always going to want enough room to make repairs and upgrade some features.

If you want the highest price possible, you will likely need to make repairs and consider doing upgrades. The key to getting the most “bang for your bucks” is to focus on upgrades and repairs that will add value to the home. Of course, doing minor repairs is a given. Beyond that, every upgrade and repair you make should return some multiple in the form of the selling price. 

As an example, investing $5K to install a pool might look good, but it would only make sense if it would add $10K of value to the home. You should consult with a Realtor before making upgrades and repairs. 

This last point is important. Don’t accept an offer until you feel really good about it. You need to feel satisfied with your decisions. The only exception to this rule is if you are in a desperate financial bind, you might have to settle on less to close the deal faster. 

12 Career Opportunities to Help You Pay it Forward

Humans helping humans

Service to humanity brings with it unmatched joy and fulfillment. If such is your calling and would like to earn from it, here is a list of just but some careers you can pursue to fulfill your passion.

Medicine

The work that doctors perform in society cannot go unnoticed. A lot depends on an individual/society’s health, and doctors are at the forefront of ensuring this. With four years of full-time study, you can obtain a bachelor’s degree, but this could stretch to eight years or more, depending on the level of skill you wish to obtain. 

Nursing

Perhaps the most important job in a healthcare facility is the one performed by nurses. Nurses are with patients the longest, from when they enter a facility, attend to patients round the clock, and see them off when they are discharged. A nursing degree can take two to four years, with a master’s degree required for specialist nursing services such as midwifery, which could take an additional two years.

Law Enforcement

Police officers ensure law and order is maintained in society, ensure the citizenry have a safe space to live in. They are at the forefront when people report break-ins in their property, theft, etc. To be qualified to enforce criminal law, an individual is required to undergo police academy training that takes about six months and have college certification.

Paramedicine

Think of emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics as doctors-on-the-move, operating from an ambulance. They respond to health-related emergencies, and their job profile is extremely time-sensitive. They can provide basic life support services to more detailed treatment based on their certification level. Also included in this category are air evacuation paramedics who respond to emergencies using ambulance-equipped helicopters or planes. To be a skilled EMT, you’ll require only about 150 hours of training. Qualification for a paramedic takes about two to four years. Paramedics with at least three to five years of experience can qualify to be air ambulance after clocking 32 hours of specialized training.

Call Center Representative/ 911 Dispatcher

Call center reps respond to nerve-wracking situations, talking with distressed persons on the phone and dispatching the necessary assistance in terms of first responders, i.e., police officers, paramedics, and firefighters. Along with high school certification, to work on that end of 911, you need one-year training to become a skilled 911 dispatcher.

Firefighting

Theirs is a calling of courage, tasked to put out fire breakouts in residential, commercial, and industrial property. More importantly, they risk their lives to save those who may be trapped in the raging infernos. To work as a firefighter, you may need to be a certified EMT or paramedic. 

Law

Lawyers are central to the justice system, dedicating their lives to ensure the rule of law prevails, be it in court, or give clients advice where paperwork is involved. You can choose to pursue law subsets, such as property, family, criminal, labor, tax, immigration, etc. A lawyer will need to undergo four years of training to obtain a bachelor’s degree. Attorneys require at least seven years of training and practice to get certified, with their aides, such as paralegal officers, undergoing two years of study to obtain an associate degree, and four years for a bachelor’s degree.

Social Work

A social worker works with an individual or community in addressing issues that they face. These can range from caring for the vulnerable, community planning, crisis resolution, and engaging families. To qualify to do social work, you’ll need social work certification or certification in related disciplines, such as sociology or psychology. A master’s degree in social work will qualify you to be a licensed clinical social worker.

Psychopharmacology

A psychopharmacologist is a medical practitioner who uses brain-altering medication in treating patients, mostly those with mental disorders. These practitioners may include doctors, psychologists, and psychiatrists. The practice entails ongoing study to keep up with the dynamism of mental health. To obtain a Master of Science in Clinical Psychopharmacology, you will need a medical degree. The program can take two to four years to complete.

Acupuncture

This form of Traditional Chinese Medicine that uses needle insertion on the body has evolved from treating pain to managing stress. A Master of Science in Traditional Oriental Medicine or a more specific advanced degree in acupuncture is required to practice in this field. The training duration is about four years.

Counseling

Counselors deal with the mental and emotional behaviors of individuals. They may or may not use the medication in treating patients. Certification in psychology or its equivalent is required to be able to practice in this field. A degree program can take two to three years, with a master’s program taking an additional two years to complete.

Teaching

Teachers play a significant role in molding learners in their careers and general lives. It is, arguably, one of the most respected professions for the impact it has on society. A high school diploma is sufficient to land a teaching assistant job, with a teacher requiring a bachelor’s degree to obtain a teaching license.