5 Factors to Consider When Buying a Car

Buying a car

Buying a car can be an exciting process. However, the excitement can blind a person to the point where they can’t see the difference between a deal and a dud. The following are five factors you need to keep in mind when buying a car.

1. Considering Lifestyle

Your lifestyle should play a factor when buying a new car. For example, if you’re someone who drives through various types of terrain for work or just for fun, you need a vehicle that can handle it. If you have a large family, then a small car won’t serve you too well. The trunk of your vehicle has to be large enough to accommodate your needs. In essence, you want the vehicle you’re thinking of purchasing to solve as many issues in your life as possible. This is how you know you’ve made a good choice.

2. Thinking About Finances

It’s essential to think about your finances when making this purchase. A new car shouldn’t cause you a headache, and that could happen if you don’t budget right. A vehicle that’s too expensive will stretch you too thin and make it challenging to pay the installments. The good thing is if you’re looking for auto loans in Fresno and other major cities, a company will loan you what you can comfortably afford. They’ll do this by looking at your credit report and assessing your cash flow.

3. Out for a Spin

The test drive is usually overlooked. Of course, everyone takes the car out for a spin, but it’s usually done to drive the car or for fun. You need to take the test drive more seriously and avoid letting the salesperson control the ride. Don’t get suckered in by the gadgets, the satellite radio, or any of those little things. These are factors the auto dealership will dangle in front of your eyes. Yes, they might be nice, but you want to pay attention to how the vehicle handles curves and turns. Try to look around the vehicle. Are there blind spots your old vehicle didn’t have?

4. Look at the Reputation

You should be sure to pay attention to the vehicle’s brand reputation. It may not seem like much, but the reality is each brand has its weaknesses and strengths. If you care about safety, then look for a brand that consistently scores high with safety ratings. Those who care about convenience may want to look for perks like keyless entry and other little things like that. You should also find out if the vehicle’s brand makes cars that are hard to repair or not. Some brands build their vehicles with easily replaceable parts.

5. Incorporating the Weather

The weather is another thing you have to keep in mind when purchasing a vehicle. If you live in a seasonal climate or like to drive through areas that get too cold, then be sure your vehicle can handle it. For example, you might want to have heated seats and a heated steering wheel for your comfort. You might want to consider a few cooling features like ventilated seats for hot areas like Southern California. You might also want to have dual-zone automatic climate control, which gives you a chance to control the temperatures for each passenger.

Try to incorporate these factors as you start the car purchasing process. The more you address, the better your choice will be, and you’ll probably be happier, too.

Management Tips to Get The Most Out of Your Credit Cards

Couple sitting in the park with credit card

Whether you’re trying to establish or improve your credit history, a credit card is a viable solution. They’re a lot easier to qualify for than a personal loan and can be used as many times as you’d like to make purchases (as long as you continue to pay down the balance). However, all too often, people obtain credit cards and mishandle them, resulting in an accumulation of debt and poor credit history. 

Essentially, the most effective way to reap the benefits of being a cardholder is to be financially responsible. Whether this is your first or fifth credit card, the tips listed below can make credit cards more comfortable to manage. 

Select The Right Card

Not all credit cards are the same. As such, it is essential to do research to determine which is best for you. More than the credit limit, you want to apply for a card with low-interest rates, minimal fees, and perks or rewards programs that you can use to your advantage. 

Review Paperwork

It’s exciting to receive an acceptance offer from a credit card company. However, keep in mind that accepting this offer is like going into a contract with the creditor. In exchange for a line of credit, you agree to repay the balance in full, along with any interests and fees. So, before signing on the dotted line, however, you should review all the paperwork. You want to ensure that you’re aware of what you’re getting into. 

Develop a Management System

To be a responsible cardholder, you must develop a system to keep up with your accounts, due dates, and payments. When you’re unaware of what you’re spending, when payments are due, and how much is owed, you run the risk of missing payments. Missed payments then lead to late fees, penalties, accrued interests, and a negative credit rating. 

Fortunately, there are several strategies and tools to manage your credit card accounts. You can install a debt payoff app that can assist you with payment reminders, automatic payments, and late payment protections to keep your accounts in order. You can also use debt management apps, calendars, and automatic bill pay services through your local bank. 

Make Timely Payments

It can’t be stressed enough how important it is to pay your credit card bills on time. Review your card statement to identify the due date. Then set up automatic payments or put a reminder in your calendar to ensure they are paid by that date. If you’re short on funds for one month, at the very least, you should pay the minimum amount to avoid late fees and poor credit ratings. 

Keep a Reasonable Balance

Just because you have a credit card with a $1,000 limit on it doesn’t mean you should spend the entire $1,000. Most account holders fail to realize that the utilization rate is a factor used to calculate your credit score. A utilization rate is how much you owe compared to your card’s credit limit. Lenders and service providers use this information to determine your ability to handle your bills. Keeping your credit card balance at 35% or lower is advised. So, if you have a $1,000 credit limit, you try and maintain a balance of no more than $350. 

Make Informed Purchase Decisions

When you have an extra few hundred or thousand dollars, it can be tempting to spend it on things you really want. What’s important to remember, however, is that you have to repay the balance with interest. While you don’t have to pay it upfront, the interest and fees accrue over time, increasing your outstanding debt. You could spend years trying to pay off that flat-screen television or that new wardrobe you purchased. So, it’s best to make informed decisions when using a credit card. If it’s not something you can repay in a few months, chances are you should wait. 

Credit cards can be a real gem when used correctly. They can be the foundation for establishing credit, enabling you to acquire anything from loans to affordable car insurance without an issue. To reap the benefits of credit cards, you must manage them responsibly using tips like those provided above. 

5 Ways to Save Money on Home Repairs

Doing home repairs

Believe it or not, home repairs don’t have to be incredibly expensive. There are plenty of ways that you can save money on essential fixes.

1. Set a Budget and Keep to It

First, set up a dollar amount that you’re comfortable with spending. Next, contact your contractor and see how much a repair will take. If it ends up going over your budget, see if the repair can be done with cheaper materials while ensuring that more affordable doesn’t mean shoddier. If it’s an essential repair that you can’t live without, like a burst pipe or broken furnace, then see if your contractor will set up a payment plan that fits your needs and wallet.

2. Have Repairs Done During the Offseason

Demand for certain home improvement services goes up and down throughout the year. Because of this, homeowners can save money by opting for services in the offseason. Take repair services for heating and cooling in Santa Rosa, for example. If you need AC repairs, try having them done when temperatures are cooler. If you need furnace repairs, late spring or summer is a good time for them. Insulating your plumbing can be done in the summer before frozen pipes become an issue. This way, you’re more likely to get a good deal for the job since these are in lower demand.

3. Perform DIY Repairs Whenever Possible

Simple fixes, like snaking your drain or repainting peeled paint, can be done without the need of an expensive professional. Even replacing window panes can be done by yourself with little difficulty. All you need to do is keep your skills and limits in mind. If you don’t know how to do something safely or can’t learn too easily, then a professional may be a better option. If you can learn quickly, however, you can look up simple fixes on YouTube videos or a whole host of websites.

4. Keep Preventative Maintenance a Priority

DIY preventative maintenance can cost money, but it costs a lot less than a massive repair job down the line. Cleaning gutters and sealing cracks can prevent roof leaks and basement flooding. Taking care of pests can keep you from repairing structural damage caused by termites or carpenter ants. Fixing pipe leaks can keep you from having to undertake expensive plumbing replacements. Changing an AC filter every month can also keep unnecessary repairs away while cutting down energy costs.

5. Prioritize Your Repair Needs

Not all repairs have to be done right away. Before you contact a professional, think about whether or not the issue at hand will lead to more significant problems down the road or if it’s just an inconvenience that you can live with. Is the issue an immediate safety hazard? Can it cause bigger issues if left unaddressed? If any of these can happen, then contact a professional right away. If not, leave it until you can save enough money to have it done without breaking your bank.

If you follow these guidelines, you’ll not only save a lot of money on repairs, but you’ll prevent a lot of repairs from happening in the first place. You’ll also gain the skills necessary to undertake simple repairs yourself and save hundreds of dollars by not calling a professional contractor.

Financial Advantages of Having a Credit Card

Shopping with a credit card

When it comes to personal finance, credit cards tend to have a bad reputation. If you were to conduct research, you’d find money blogs and financial experts advise consumers to steer clear of using plastic. In all fairness, this advice is based on the experiences of individuals who misused their credit cards and consequently suffered financially. However, the truth is that when used correctly, credit cards have several advantages. Continue reading to learn more. 

Establishes Credit History

Credit is essential for purchasing products and services. It is a summary of your financial accounts, assets, and money management practices. Whether you’re trying to apply for car insurance or a home loan, your credit history is a determining factor in whether you get approved and how much assistance you can receive. As you might imagine, a person without a credit history doesn’t give creditors, lenders, and service providers much to use. 

Credit cards are one of the first types of financial products you can use to establish a credit history. Many credit card companies have fewer guidelines than banks allowing applicants with no credit history to apply easily. From the moment you get approved, the account is added to your credit report. Creditors then maintain a record of your payments by reporting to the three major credit bureaus every month. 

Builds Credit

It’s not enough to have a credit card on your credit report. If you’re going to get approved for loans and save money on other products and services, you need a favorable credit rating. While several factors determine your rating, making timely payments is at the top of the list. When you use money management practices and tools that help you pay your Sears credit card or your Capital One Mastercard on or before the due date, this is reported to credit agencies, reflecting positively on your behalf. 

Reward Programs

Credit card companies go to great lengths to attract new audiences to their products. Such marketing tactics often include offering rewards programs in addition to a line of credit. Depending on the type of credit card you apply for, you could receive percentages off your purchases, cashback, points towards future purchases, and frequent flyer miles. Some credit cards even offer travel, product, and payment protection insurance. 

Covers Financial Emergencies

While having an emergency savings account is recommended for financial protection, your credit cards can be another nest egg. Should an unexpected expense arise that you don’t have enough money to cover, you can charge it to your card and repay the balance in installments. Using credit cards to cover financial emergencies ensures you can handle the situation instantly to avoid further consequences. 

Fraud Protection

Financial theft and fraud happen all the time. Criminals gain access to valuables and use them to fund their own interests. Victims are left to pick up the pieces. While the odds of retrieving a wallet full of cash are improbable, credit cards are a lot easier. Once you contact your creditor and report a stolen card or suspicious activity, they will provide protection, including closing the card, issuing a new card, and covering the costs of any purchases you didn’t advise. 

Acceptability

For those who love to travel internationally, credit cards are your best friend. It’s a lot easier than trying to acquire local currency. Since most credit cards are accepted everywhere, you won’t have an issue paying for anything from your airline tickets to souvenirs. 

If you held off on applying for a credit card because of all the bad press they get, it’s time to reconsider your decision. Of course, credit cards can cause issues if you take on more than you can afford, max them out, miss monthly payments, and allow fees, penalties, and interest to accrue. However, if you use them to make wise purchases, keep the balances under 35%, and make timely payments, the skies are the limit. If the above financial advantages have persuaded you to want a credit card, ensure that you do your due diligence to select a card that is most convenient for you. 

Save Money with These 10 Subscription Services

A collection of makeup brushes and powders.
Save money on makeup with a subscription like Ipsy.

Subscription boxes are popular today, and it is easy to see why. Everyone loves getting mail, especially packages. Like Julie Andrews sang, “Brown paper packages tied up with string,” have sweet suspense, like a gift on Christmas morning, and they are one of our favorite things.

Subscriptions are great for several reasons. First, they can actually save you money. By paying a flat rate each month, you can save money on products you already buy or would like to try. Secondly, they are like giving yourself a treat. Thirdly, they are a delightful gift idea, and truly a gift that keeps on giving. 

Here are ten fun AND useful subscription ideas you might not have known about:

#1 Clothing

The options here are endless. There are boxes for men, women, children, and babies. Is it more T-shirts you need? Socks you are always losing? Maybe a fresh monthly pair of undies, or some new activewear? How about some trendy pajamas? There is a subscription box for you! There are also companies that send you complete outfits based on your style choices. 

#2: Produce and meat

Do you want to eat healthier, but find it expensive? A subscription to Imperfect Produce or Misfits Market could be the key. They will send you a package of fresh fruit and veggies that are discounted because they could not be accepted by a grocery store because of a misshape. This not only saves you money, but it also causes less food waste. 

Carnivore Club and ButcherBox are two meat boxes you can subscribe to that send you specialty cuts of the meats of your choice. 

#3: Coffee and tea 

With a good coffee subscription, you can get your morning started right. Some companies offer coffee from around the world. Trade Coffee Co. has the best french press coffee, and they totally customize your coffee experience by allowing you to choose what types you enjoy, the grind setting, and how often you receive it. 

For those who would rather a cup of tea, Sips By is a good choice. They have so much variety that it is a tea discovery box. They let you set preferences for flavors and types with their quiz, which you can retake as often as you want. 

#4: Makeup

Ipsy is an inexpensive subscription that sends you five beauty supplies each month. This way, you get to try new products, other companies, and different shades and colors without breaking the bank to be your most beautiful you. 

#5: Period supplies

Monthly and Co., Period Packs, and Tampon Tribe all offer period supplies like tampons, pads, feminine wipes, and other self-care necessities for those days. With a monthly subscription, you will never be caught without period supplies when you need them. 

#6: Cleaning supplies

Clean & Green supply you with laundry care that is fresh and natural. The Honest Company can send you personal products like shampoo and hand soap, but they also have a cleaning line of cleaners for every area of your home. 

#7: Contact lenses

Hubble Contacts and SightBox have subscriptions for contact lenses, so you never run out. 

#8: Books

A book box subscription is a great gift idea for kids, and there are many choices available. Or, if you are a reader yourself, try an adult book subscription. The Hygge Book Club sends books AND other fun trinkets, like fuzzy socks, notebooks, and tea. 

#9: Cheese and Wine

The Gold Medal Wine Club is a fancy wine subscription that offers only gold-medal awarded wines. While you are at it, pair your wine subscription with a good cheese from Curdbox so you can enjoy the full experience. 

#10: Crafting

Adults and Craft Crate will focus on a different type of craft and send you a starter kit with the tools and instructions each month. 

Whatever you enjoy, whether it be snacks, healthy eating, fitness, jewelry, or your pets, there is a subscription box that you would enjoy. Have fun treating yourself.

How One Man Conquered a $50K Debt in 5 Years

A case full of money

For most of my adult life, money was a topic I never discussed. When I would go out and socialize with friends, I was the person who would pull out their credit card and cover the bill. When I would travel to a location and see something that caught my eye, I’d whip out that plastic card faster than you could say ‘booyah!’

But as the years mounted and I became wiser, the bills started rolling in. There were even months where I couldn’t pay the minimum on my cards and this, ultimately, crushed my credit score. 

Then, one day, I hesitantly sat down with a financial advisor to see the damage I had caused myself after decades of undisciplined spending; I was over $50,000 in debt! To say that I was embarrassed by my behavior would be an understatement. Although this may sound like a recipe for disaster, I can safely say that I am currently debt-free and living life on my terms. If you’re interested in how I did it, you’ll want to keep reading.

Initial Momentum

Although debt is one of the most black-and-white topics you could ever discuss, paying it off is a game of managing your emotions and internal monologue. Often, when we get our paycheck deposited into our bank account, our initial inclination is to hit the mall, buy some clothes or look at holiday deals for new cars. 

The area I struggled with the most when lowering debt was allocating resources to an account that I would use to target my issues. If you want to pay your debt off as I did, start by visiting your bank or credit union’s website and opening a secondary account. It helps if you can find banks with no overdraft fees.

From here, I set up my pay so that a portion of every check I received was placed into that account. Then, I used auto-pay services so that each bill was paid, in full, at the same time each month. When money was out of my sight, and it wasn’t easily accessible, my mind adjusted to living below my means. Over the years, this paid off big time!

The Avalanche Method

For me, the avalanche method was a lifesaver. Without going into the technical details behind the method, financial experts found the most effective means of paying off debt was by targeting areas with the highest interest rates first.

Once you target the high-interest debt, you set up your accounts on the other debt to make the minimum monthly payments. With the remainder, you tackle the area with the highest rate. Although the total debt amount of that area may not be the highest, it saves tons of cash that can be applied to other debt areas.

Motivation

Humans are creatures of habit and need incentives to keep moving forward through difficult times. Knowing this, I began rewarding myself when I would make a payment on my debt.

I spent my weekends and spare time researching podcasts and videos about families that had finally pulled themselves from debt. In combination with that, I hung up motivational posters and quotes around my home that dealt with wealth creation. And on special occasions, I would treat myself to a cheap reward such as a movie or a discount t-shirt from a store. These purchases were made with cash and never tapped into my financial plans.

Although you and I are different in many ways, we both need to stoke the motivational fires from time to time. Realize that a debt-free life is possible by getting creative with your motivation!

Final Words of Advice

Once you successfully pay off your debt, breathe a sigh of relief and pat yourself on the back. Many people never put in consistent effort to work towards a better life, not only for themselves but for their family and loved ones. 

It’s crucial that you remember the behavior that got you into this predicament in the first place. While you may have new lines of credit open up to you, avoiding the vicious cycle of debt is the key to financial success and wealth creation. Do what I did: start small, plan for the future, and maintain consistency. If you use the tools and tactics I implemented to get out of debt in 5 years, you can’t go wrong!

9 Business Ideas for Entrepreneurs

Startup company office

The surge in startup companies has been one of the most important trends of the past decade. Entrepreneurs with solid plans and a determination to succeed have managed to launch successful businesses in all sorts of fields. Society is changing fast, and people have new needs, challenges, and desires that didn’t exist a few years ago. If you’re an entrepreneur eager to strike out on your own and start a new company, the current climate is certainly favorable. Here are nine business ideas to consider. 

#1: Graphic Design

As more of our interactions (both business-related and social) go virtual, people are going to need graphic designers to help them create professional-looking and easy-to-use content. Learning a little about this trade will put you in a position to start your own business and take advantage of a booming industry.

#2: Web Design

From small business owners to individual contractors, everybody needs a website in today’s day and age. Many people know they need an online presence, but they have no idea how to create their own content. That’s why they count on web designers. Once you learn the basics of web design, you can market your services to the countless people who need a website but lack the technical know-how to create one. 

#3: Manufacturing

Americans love stuff, and that’s not going to change any time soon. In order to manufacture and sell the products beloved around the country, consider setting up an operation in Mexico. Moving south of the border allows you to cut costs while working with a neighbor keeps operations close enough to home to avoid logistical headaches. The Mexican workforce is skilled in a number of areas, and shipments almost always arrive on time. And now with companies like NAPS International, you can have someone with experience to help with logistics, payroll and benefits management, and scaling–all under the umbrella of Mexico shelter companies.

#4: Tutoring

Knowledge is key in the modern economy, so millions of Americans are eager to further their education and add to their resumes. You can take advantage of this trend by creating a tutoring business. From immigrants looking to perfect their English to laid-off workers hoping to build new skill sets, there are countless people out there eager to learn. Offer to tutor people in subjects you’re strong in, and you’ll likely find the clients piling up faster than you can deal with them. 

#5: Photography

In the social media era, photography has become even more important than it was before. People want to document all of life’s major events, from weddings and baby showers to a child’s first day at school. If you’re at all handy with a camera, consider sharpening your skills and starting your own photography business. You’re bound to find clients quickly since photographers are in such high demand. 

#6: Translations

Every day the world seems to become smaller. Globalization is a constant force, and it requires us to engage across cultures and language barriers on a regular basis. If you’re bilingual, then you can take advantage of your unique set of skills to serve as a translator. Any global business needs people like you to carry out its daily operations. 

#7: Digital Marketing

More marketing takes place online than ever before, and making the most of digital platforms is key to advertising success. Lots of business owners know this, but lack the tech literacy to forge their own digital marketing plan. If you learn the ins and outs of the best practices, you can charge clients to do their marketing for them.

#8: An Organic Restaurant

Every year, more Americans opt to eat a healthier diet and leave artificial additives behind. You can take advantage of this new level of health consciousness by opening a restaurant that specializes in organic food. People will enjoy meals that are delicious, healthy, and safe, while you can feel good about doing your part to make the world a better, healthier place. 

#9: Fitness Instruction

Millions of Americans enjoy working out but lack the knowledge and motivation to exercise by themselves. They count on fitness trainers to put them through their paces and keep their exercise plans on track. If you’re an outgoing person who enjoys pushing others to be the best versions of themselves, then this could be the perfect career for you.