How to Write Better Online Reviews

Customers leaving online reviews

As a budget-savvy consumer, it has never been a better time to share your thoughts and opinions about a product you ordered online. Whether you realize it or not, the people that want to purchase the same item will often read reviews–negative and positive–before they decide whether the product is worth their time, effort, and money.

If you’re someone that wants to give clear and concise online reviews that will help other shoppers make their final decisions, here’s what you can do to improve your outreach.

Constructive Criticism Is a Fine Art

For many shoppers, the idea of giving constructive criticism is an excuse to scold and attack a vendor or product sold by a specific entity. Don’t be “that person” that goes online and argues with individuals. Instead, use these points as a way to finetune and craft your insights:

  • Instead of critiquing a product in its entirety, be specific. What was the defining detail that made you dislike the product?
  • Keep the critique personal, and don’t encourage other people to chime in on your review or add criticism unnecessarily.
  • While your first inclination may be to focus purely on the negative aspects of a product, make sure to incorporate what you enjoyed about the item as well.
  • Avoid overly-dramatic and negative tones when writing your review. By doing this, you help both the shopper and the vendor make better decisions in the future.
  • Ask yourself this question before submitting a review: If someone were to speak to me this way, would I become upset or enraged?
  • You must realize an Amazon seller might have the opportunity to delete your Amazon review if you violate the website’s terms of service or use abusive language. Knowing this, don’t turn a review into a platform to launch an all-out attack on someone.

These tactics, when taken into consideration, will help you not only express your dissatisfaction but help the vendor create high-quality products in the future.

Tell the Vendor How They Could Improve the Product

An often underutilized approach when leaving an online review is how the vendor could improve their product or service. Have you ordered a product from the internet, and while you had high hopes, you found yourself disappointed? If you take a closer look at that experience, you may have noticed how the vendor could have improved the product or service to meet your standards.

Although it may be challenging to do, put yourself inside the shoes of a person selling products online: If you sold items to a crowd of people that were unsatisfied with their experience, wouldn’t you want them to discuss how to improve your product?

Corporations, both medium and small, spend exorbitant amounts of money annually to make high-quality products and services. While a small business owner or online vendor may not have the budget to perform these tests, customer reviews give insight into how they can improve their outreach. Whether you’re aware of it or not, your words and criticisms help sellers grow and expand.

Don’t Forget the Human Element

When you have friendly and pleasant customer experiences, find a way to weave that interaction into your online review. With the growing presence of technology and automated software systems, dealing with another living, breathing human becomes rare. And when that human genuinely wants to help you with your shopping experience, it’s something to behold.

Don’t be afraid or shy away from telling people the type of interaction you had; good or bad. Many up-and-coming vendors and sellers maintain their status within the market purely on their pleasant customer service. While it’s OK to talk about these individuals, refrain from leaking personal information or details that could identify that person. In today’s online world, maintaining a sense of privacy and anonymity while writing a review is critical.

Let Your Voice Be Heard

As our society pivots toward online shopping platforms, make sure you share the moments that caught your attention. These small events, whether we realize it or not, make the marketplace better for both sellers and customers in the future. Who knows, your online review may be the defining moment that finalizes a customer’s purchasing decision!

9 Financial Tips for Newlyweds

Newlyweds on a honeymoon

Getting married is a significant life change. You’ll want to think about your plans for the future together. Well-honed financial goals are the foundation of any good marriage. These tips are easy to follow and will set you on the path to a tremendous joint financial future. 

#1: Talk About Budget as a Team Effort

One of the first things you should do is talk about your budget. Set up a list of your expenses, including everything from housing costs to how much you’re spending on lunch. Allow each partner some leeway, but try to stick to the overall budget. 

#2: Talk About Your Financial History 

Most people have a financial history before they get married today. Now is the time to reveal that history to the person you’re going to marry. Each party to the marriage should know about the other’s credit score and any previous debts and assets they bring the marriage before heading down the aisle. 

#3: Talk About Your Educational Plans 

If you haven’t completed your educational plans, tell your partner. You might have a bachelor’s degree in literature when you really want a master’s degree in library science. Maybe one of you wants to go to medical school. Now is the time to make future educational plans clear before you make any further moves. 

#4: Talk About Life Insurance 

Insurance is there to provide for you in the event of an emergency. As a young couple or a newly married couple, you might be wondering how much life insurance do I need. Many employers offer a basic policy that includes a year’s salary. If you face specific circumstances such as prior dependents or lots of expenses, find out if you can increase the amount. That offers more protection at less cost. 

#5: Get Started Retirement Planning Now 

It’s never too early to begin planning for retirement. Getting married offers the perfect time to examine your finances and think about where you’re headed right now. You should ideally agree with each other about your plans for retirement. 

#6: Talk About Where You’re Going to Live 

Your first home together is not necessarily where you intend to live five years from now. Have a discussion about where you want to live in the future. You might be dreaming of a cottage by a lake. Meanwhile, he’s into a pied-a-terre in the city. It would help if you told each other this before you get married. You can always make compromises that satisfy both parties, such as living in the center of a small town with a lake in the backyard. 

#7: Talk About an Emergency Fund 

Let’s face it. Emergencies happen. One day the car breaks down. Next, you need to bring the dog to the vet. Now is the time to start an emergency fund if you don’t have one in place already. The ideal emergency fund has at least three months of living expenses in a safe place, such as a CD. Many people find it best to add another three months just in case something big goes wrong. This way, they’re prepared for anything. 

#8: Talk About the Distant Future

In the rush of a marriage, it’s important not to lose sight of the coming years. Even if you’re marrying past the average marriage age, chances are you’re going to have plenty of time together. Now is the time to make plans at reasonable intervals. For example, think about what you hope to accomplish after the first year of your marriage. You might want to aim for a certain amount of funds in the bank, a promotion at work, or enough money for a down payment on a house. As the years go by, you’ll want to examine these plans in detail. See what goals you’re meeting and objectives you might need to work on further. 

#9: Talk About Your Bank Accounts 

Your bank accounts play a major role in the management of your finances. Think about the kind of banking plans that are going to work best. You might want to opt for a joint bank account. That can simplify your record-keeping and make it easier to see where the money’s going. However, it can also be useful to have separate accounts to allow each partner certain financial flexibility. 

Proposal: An Engagement Story

A couple holding hands after getting engaged

The night we got engaged, I had absolutely no idea what was about to happen. I did not expect anything like that until his seasonal overtime ended. Sure, I had a Pinterest board filled with engagement rings I liked, but most girls have a Pinterest board like that. 

I guess I should have figured something was up because we had been watching a series of documentaries on jewelry and precious gems. The most recent had been about princess cut engagement rings. Another hint should have been when we talked about how it would feel to be recorded during a proposal. We were watching The Bachelorette, so I did not think anything of it.

To give a little bit of context, we had been dating for over a year, and I knew I wanted to marry him. Because it will come up later, I gave him a blank, leather-bound journal for our first Christmas together. In the first several pages, I had written about our first dates from my perspective.

The night started out with nothing going according to plan. Over the past few days, I had felt the tickle in my throat that heralded a spring cold. Also, it was raining. The incoming spring cold and rain in combination meant I chose to wear my coziest hooded sweatshirt instead of my meticulously selected date-night clothes. If I had known what he was planning, I would have dressed up nicer!

He picked me up at the scheduled time, and we laughed together because the rain was so loud on the roof of his car. No evening stroll along the riverfront for us! A few negotiations later, we ended up reenacting our second date with a trip to Sonic, and then to a bayou-themed winery.

The winery was beautiful in the rain. We sat at an outdoor umbrella table and watched rain fall into the lake. He seemed full of exuberant energy, but I thought it was because this was his first time out after working six consecutive days of overtime. The rain pounded on the umbrella, and we sampled some delicious wines. His bouncy energy was infectious, and it made the wines taste more intense.

Then, he pulled the leather journal I had given him for Christmas out of his pocket. He was ready for me to start writing from my perspective again and invited me to read what he had written in the months since Christmas. At first, I hesitated because I did not want to read it in front of him. After some prodding, I agreed to read it if he agreed not to watch me. Except for some intermittent poking, he behaved. What he had written made my insides feel like melted butter.

When I got to what I thought was the last page of his writing, I noticed there was some writing on the next page. I flipped the page and found one sentence: “Will you marry me?” in his neat, masculine handwriting. My heart started beating really fast. Because I did not think I was supposed to have seen it, I flipped the page back. I was about to tell him how much I liked what I had read when the wind changed.

Instead of falling vertically, the rain started falling diagonally and began pelting us. We retreated to the other side of the table to the one spot where the rain could not reach. He leaned across the table, rescued the journal, and returned it to his pocket. We held onto each other as we tried to stay dry. After not enough time, the rain slackened, and I started to return to my seat. He snagged my hand, stopping me. 

Then, he got down and one knee and held out a ring. He asked if I would marry him. I replied that I would love to be his wife. We kissed, and he put the ring on my right hand. Later, when we were getting ready to tell our parents, I asked if it was a cultural tradition in his family to wear an engagement ring on the right hand. He looked at me with a surprised look on his face. In all the excitement, he had not realized which hand he put the ring on!

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.