Tips to Save when Purchasing a Vehicle

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There are DOs and DON'Ts when it comes to buying a car.  Check out these tips our readers shared on what to do when you are in the market for a new one!

 

Purchasing a new vehicle can be scary. Often times we catch ourselves considering if now is the right time, can we afford a car payment, what if… and more. If you’ve reached the point of considering the purchase, there truly are ways to save, so consider them before hitting the car lots. Keep in mind, fully loaded, brand new and others will jack up your price, is that something you really need? So what are the ways you can save when purchasing a vehicle?

We posted this question on our weekly Penny For Your Thoughts post on our Facebook page. Here are the tips which were shared by our readers.

Know what you really want- what is a “must” and what you can live without. Being firm in your decision and knowing what you want going in can help you better negotiate a price.” – Sarah C.

 

Don’t sign anything until you’ve shopped around and are happy. You can bargain with them, if they won’t budge leave and start over until you get what you want for the price you are willing to pay.” – Amanda E.

 

DO NOT BUY BRAND NEW, EVER!!!” – Gari O.

 

Buy a used car with low miles. The factory warranty is still good and it costs thousands less.” – Leslie A.

 

Save up and pay cash.” – Hilda R.

 

Another tip is to always check a dealers price with TrueCar.com and compare the two. The dealer should match it!” – Tracie D.

 

Be informed before you go. Research the internet for prices and even look at options online to get a feel for what things are going for. Ask yourself what you need in a vehicle and what you would like to have. Don’t be pressured into add-ons that you might never use. If you know someone that works at one of the manufacturing plants sometimes they are allowed a couple friends and family discounts if buying new. Plus, they often know salespeople or about cars that are being sold used in the area. I’ve found that those people that work around cars or for a hobby keep an eye out for what is being sold.” – Stephanie C.

Make sure you watch Facebook each Monday for our newest question and share your ideas.  You may find your name and tip featured each week on Penny Pinchin’ Mom!

How Do I Start Talking To My Partner About Being Fair And Frugal?

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Only one of us is paying and handling the bills.

How do I talk to my partner about being fair and frugal?

In this day and age, there’s no excuse for one person to pay for everything or ignore the golden rule. However, it’s still a fairly common complaint for many people who are in relationships. When only one half of a couple is covering costs, it’s an issue that often leads to resentment. Not only that, but unbalanced spending can cause additional relationship issues, too. The only way you can start to change behavior is by addressing the situation head on.

Depending on your partner’s financial situation, he or she may not be able to split costs evenly, but under no circumstance does that mean they’re off the hook. Sit down and create both a budget and a guideline for responsibilities. If this doesn’t work, you might consider keeping separate accounts and going Dutch on whatever you share, be it a meal or a mortgage.

 

Ten Events Home Owners Insurance Does NOT Always Cover!

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Did you know that your home owners insurance may not cover everything?  Read up on these common occurrences so you know if you are covered (or not)!

If you own a home, you have insurance (or you should).  You know that it covers your home if there is a fire or tornado, but did you know there are many things which are NOT covered? Before you have a claim, it is important to know what they will and will not cover.

1.  Flooding.  Unfortunately, this is never covered by insurance.  If you live in a flood plain, you probably have flood insurance.  However, many people who do not live in a required area, do not have this additional coverage.  You might do some research to find out how you can pay for this insurance. You can visit the National Flood Insurance program to learn more about adding this to your insurance line up.

2. Earthquakes. Many people probably feel they do not need to worry about earthquakes, however, we have seen more instances of this in “unusual” parts of the country. I actually felt an Oklahoma quake right here in Missouri!

Your policy will not cover this type of damage. Therefore, you will need to take out additional insurance to cover your home. This is usually only an issue in areas which face higher risk, but you can ask your agent about this and if you should purchase it or not.

3. Animal Bites. Many times, your homeowner’s insurance does not cover any sort of animal bite. This is very true with some of the more aggressive breeds. You need to check your policy to see if you are covered or not. If you are not, find out what you can do to cover yourself should this ever happen to you.

4. Sewer Backups. This is one thing that actually happened to me. If your sewer backs up into your home, insurance may not cover you. If you live in a newer home, this may not be a concern. However, if your house is older, this could be more of an issue. Ask your agent about adding in additional coverage.

5. Sinkholes. With more and more stories of these instances hitting the news, it is something you need to consider. If you reside in Missouri, Texas, Florida, Alabama, Kentucky or Tennessee, you are more likely to have this potential issue arise. There are riders you can add to your policy to protect your home, should this happen to you.

6. Termites. Unfortunately, these are never covered. Those little bugs can also do a LOT of damage! The only way you can cover these costs is out of your own pocket.

7. Simultaneous events. If you happen to suffer severe wind damage and then your home floods, you may not be covered. The reason? Flood is not covered under your policy. It is what the insurance world calls “anti-concurrent causation”. This is when two events happen at the same time – one of which is not covered under your policy.

8. Burst pipes. While many times a burst pipe is covered, there are times when it may not be. If it is due to homeowner negligence, such as not leaving the heat on when away on a winter vacation or forgetting to drain a pipe, then it may not be covered. Make sure you take the necessary steps when you are going to be away (turn off the water on vacation and/or leave a small stream running while away during cold vacation months).

9. Mold. Mold is horrible and not only is it ugly, it can actually make you sick. You might check with your policy to see if it is covered. If you ever have water in your home for any reason, get it cleaned up as soon as possible to prevent mold growth.

10. Identity Theft. This is actually slowly changing with many companies, but some do not cover this. Some companies will cover the costs to get your credit restored while many will not.

No matter who you use for your insurance, you need to make sure that you talk about these instances and add in those riders or purchase additional insurance as needed. Make sure you take the time to read your own policy so that you have no surprises.

Ten Simple Tips to Prevent Overspending

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It happens to us all.  You do your shopping and before you know it - you've spent too much!  Check out these TEN simple tips to prevent overspending!

I am sure it has happened to all of us.  You are doing your weekly shopping and plan on spending only a set dollar amount.  You find a few good deals here and there and before you know it you’ve spent twice as much as you planned!  There are some simple things that you can do to help ensure that you don’t overspend when you are at your favorite store.

1.  Make a list and stick to it.  

This sounds so simple, but it is true.  Plan your meals for the week and make a list.  Take inventory of the other items you need and add them to the list as well.  You might have a good idea as to what those items will cost, so stick to your list.  When you add in an item here and there, it quickly adds up and you pay more than you planned.

2.  Know How Much You Have to Spend and Track It. 

Keep track of your spending by adding up the amounts on your phone.  This way, you’ll have no surprises when you get to the checkout lane. You can try Running Total for Android or Calculator for Shopping on iTunes.

3.  Don’t use your coupons.

No -that is not a typo.  What it means is don’t use a coupon to purchase something you normally wouldn’t.  If you don’t buy “that brand” of a product, don’t buy it simply because of a coupon (not if it will cost more).  If you don’t usually purchase a particular product, a coupon does not mean you have to purchase it.  If you are using coupons simply so you can save money and buying items you never have before, then you are not saving money.

4.  Shop at the right time.

If you shop when you are hungry, you will purchase more items than you might have planned on (and those items are usually also less healthy).  If you are planning a weekend away, you might buy extra clothing or accessories you really don’t need.  These are emotional purchases and can quickly add up.  Keeping this in mind when you shop can curb your spending.

5.  Negotiate.

This may sound like something you can’t do, but you actually can – and it works!  We have purchased furniture and electronics with cash and have received at least a 5% discount each time.  When the store doesn’t have to pay the credit transaction fee, they are sometimes willing to pass that savings along to consumers.

6.  Stay Home / Keep Busy.

If you go to the store simply out of boredom, you will spend money.  Even if you are “window shopping” you will probably head home with something you normally would not have.  If you feel the need to go to the store out of boredom, find something to do — read a book, play with your kids or even go for a walk.

7. Comparison shop.

Know where you can get the best deal on the item you need.  You can use apps on your phone and quickly compare prices in the store with those on-line to ensure you are getting the best deal.  Give RedLaser a try on your iPhone or Shop Savvy Barcode Scanner on your Android device.  Both apps are free, so you will be out no money if they end up not working for you.

8.  Define Need vs. Want.

There are items we need.  Sure, you need food, but do you need the extra box of cookies?  Sure, the sweater is really cute, but is is something you need or just something you want.  Ask yourself this question with each item you buy and you might find your spend less.

9.  Stick with cash.

When you have $100 to spend, you are much more aware of what you are placing into your shopping cart as you need to stay within those financial constraints.  Whereas, when you use a debit or credit card, you may not be as concerned with your final total.  Not only that, it hurts much more to hand over cash than it does to swipe a credit  card, so you really think twice before you buy.

10.  Save first, spend later.  

It is important to always pay yourself first.  Remember that the amount you have to spend is what is left over after you pay your bills and pay yourself.  So many do that the opposite and save after they spend.  If you always save a little, you will quickly build a nice emergency fund and can have less guilt about your spending.

How Do I Start Talking to My Partner About Money?

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Opening the lines of communication.

How do I start talking to my partner about money?

Whether you’re considering a deeper commitment or those wedding bells have already rung, having the talk about money is critical. Did you know money is one of the top reasons cited for divorce? However, just one conversation won’t do – finances are a lifelong conversation. By opening up the lines of communication about finances, you’re not only potentially saving money; you could also be saving your relationship.

You and your partner should start by gathering any financial documents and information you have to get a clear picture of your current situation – everything from paystubs to student loan documents. To avoid arguments and additional anxiety, try to remember that A) no one can change the past, and B) together, you are creating a new beginning. By laying it all out, both physically and emotionally, the two of you can make a plan for your collective future.

Once you both have a clear view of the situation, try to delegate changes according to your individual styles. If he’s the spender and you’re the saver, put him in charge of paying utilities while you manage the groceries. Remember, since the talk is ongoing, don’t be afraid to try something else if your original plan doesn’t work as well as you’d like. Together, and with a little patience, you and your partner will find a method that works for you both.

 

H&R Block Budget Challenge – Gives Away $120,000 in Scholarships!

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We all know how very, very expensive college is.  It just seems to go up every single year.  This makes it difficult for kids and parents to save and not to have to take out those horrendous student loans just to get an education.  There is a great way that you can try to help your child offset these costs – and H&R Block has the answer!

H&R Block has an amazing program called the H&R Block Budget Challenge.  This is a program which was created to help teens with financial management, which they can carry with them through adulthood.  During the 2014-15 school year, the program focused on budgeting.  This is a skill which is normally not learned until after many mistakes are made (if you are in debt and don’t have a budget, you may understand this first hand – I know I do)!

H&R Block did a study and found that 57% of teens make purchases with their own money, yet only 17% of them maintain a budget.  Look at the H&R Budget Challenge like a road test for financial management.  They learn how to time their student and auto loan payments, the consequences of paying rent late, how to stay within a credit limit — and so much more.  These are tools that are just as important as other topics our kids learn in school.

What makes this program different is that H&R Block gives away real money.  Over the course of the challenge, H&R Block will give away more than $3 million in scholarships and classroom grants.  The 20 top-scoring students in each simulation will each receive $20,000 for college!  That results in 120 winners!!!  The top five classrooms  can win up to $5,000 in grans.  At the end of the program, the highest scoring student will receive $100,000 — on top of the $20,000 that they won!!

This past year’s winner was just announced this past week (on May 9th).  The winner was Sean Lawrence, a St. Clair, Michigan, high school senior.  He plans on studying chemical engineering at Macomb Community College for two years and will then transfer to Western Michigan University.  His future goals include working hard at a well-paying job while investing in retirement and saving for a house and a car.

By learning real life lessons while still in school, these kids are set on the right financial path.  The idea is just to help these kids be successful in everything in life, and not make financial mistakes along the way.

If you are interested in learning more for YOUR classroom, you can head to the DollarsandSense Blog and make sure you follow them.  Sign up will launch in August of this year – so make sure you are ready!

I love that H&R Block has taken such an interest in our youth.  By helping them with the topics that are just as important as sports, math, reading and science, these kids are truly on their way.

 

 

Tips to Save when Traveling with Kids

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When you head out on vacation, you may find that you quickly find yourself spending more than you should!  Check out these great tips to help you Save Money When Traveling with Kids!

 

Are taking vacations as a family a thing of the past? They don’t have to be, but if you’re concerned about fuel, airline tickets, food, hotels and more… I can surely understand where a family may start to feel uneasy, especially if you don’t have expendable income. What ways can you save when traveling as a family?

We posted this question on our weekly Penny For Your Thoughts post on our Facebook page. Here are the tips which were shared by our readers.

 

“Hotels with free breakfast!” – Jana K.

 

“Travel at night so they sleep and don’t need to eat. Also we pack snack boxes and a cooler with drinks.” – Amy R.

 

“Crock pot meals in the hotel room and eat by the pool instead of going out to dinner!!” – Gina M.

 

“Look up the community on Facebook and reach out for suggestions from local parents on where to go for fun, inexpensive (or even free) activities for kids.” – Jill T.

 

“Rent a house/condo from VRBO or homeway instead of hotel rooms. They are cheaper and you can cook two meals a day, which saves a bunch.” – Stephanie B.

 

“Plan ahead. Spur of the moment trips always cost more.” – Kristi S.

 

I pack a cooler with drinks, snacks, cold cuts and bread to save time and money for those random hunger moments that cost you an arm and a leg at the gas station convenience store.

On our down time I plan some time to shop at thrift stores, goodwill or local big box stores for the souvenirs.

I research nearby restaurants to the hotel and look for coupons or promos that will save us some money on our vacation dining.

I pack a bag of fun for the kids. This is the bag that has games, crossword puzzles, favorite toys etc to keep them occupied during travel or in between activities.” – Marisa A.

 

Make sure you watch Facebook each Monday for our newest question and share your ideas.  You may find your name and tip featured each week on Penny Pinchin’ Mom!

Six Tips To Help You Save Money on Meat

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It may seem impossible to save money on meat, but there are actually things you can do!  Check out these six MUST KNOW tips to help you cut your grocery bill!!

 

If you take a look at your grocery budget, one of the biggest expenses is often meat.  It is just so pricey – but we need it (or really want it).

While in a perfect world we would just eliminate meat from our diets, that just isn’t possible for many.  What are you to do when it comes to this costly food item? We’ve got SIX great tips below and you can find that your grocery bill will decrease (at least when it comes to meat)!

 

1. Freeze It.  When your store runs a special on chicken, pork or beef, buy more than you need for the week and then freeze it.  One way to save more may mean that you purchase the products in a larger package.  Just break it out into more manageable sizes when you get home from the store and then freeze it.  Not only will you pay less per pound, but your meat will be in the perfect size portions for your meals!

 

2.  Watch What You Buy.  When you purchase items which are already specially prepared, such as chicken cutlets or breasts, you may pay more per pound than you would if you purchased an entire chicken and cut it yourself.  You pay more as you are paying for the butcher to prepare it for you.  Buy purchasing an entire chicken, you will pay much less — just by doing the slicing yourself!

 

3.  Extend the Life. With three young kids it is simple for me to do this.  When we prepare chicken breasts for dinner, I will often have one for all three kids and then I eat only half of one myself.  That leaves another half for my husband and then we fill up on the veggies and sides.  Just by consuming less, we are able to stretch our budget for meat.

Another way we do this is to freeze or re-use left over meat.  We make a roast on Sunday and then save the left overs and in a couple of days, we often have beef tips on rice.  You could save the broth from your chicken and freeze it, so you can add it to your next soup or awesome dish!

 

4.  Buy a pig or cow.  We’ve purchased 1/2 of a beef in the past.  It was a lot of money up front, but what was great is that we locked in the same price per pound.  That same 1/2 lasted us more than two years!  We had steaks, roasts, ground beef – right in the freezer.  As we watched the news share the rising costs of beef, our family didn’t have to be concerned with that as we already had a nice stock pile in our freezer.

 

5. Skip the meat.  If you serve more meals which do not include meat, you can actually reduce the amount you have to purchase each week.  Start out by trying to swap one meal for one that does not include meat.  Try to work up from there to at least twice  week and you’ll notice some great savings at the store.

 

6.  Know the price per pound.  Smart savers watch prices.  You can use a price book and track the price per pound at your favorite stores.  You will start to learn when something is a deal, as well as the sales cycles (so you can stock up when you find that deal).

This may also allow you find better deals when you buy in bulk.  Just freeze it (as mentioned in #1 above) so it does not go bad before your family has a chance to eat it!

 

BONUS TIP!  I’ve got one final tip to share with you.  Stick with stores such as Aldi and you may find that the price is much lower.  Our family just recently started purchasing chicken breasts through them and not only are they less expensive – they are SO much more tender and juicy than our local grocery store!

 

When you make a change to your spending (and dining) routine, it can seem tough at first.  However, taking small baby steps can make it manageable.  Before you know it, your new way becomes normal and you will wonder why you were spending so much more then you ever needed to.  If you are willing to embrace a change, it really can make a difference.

It may seem impossible to save money on meat, but there are actually things you can do!  Check out these six MUST KNOW tips to help you cut your grocery bill!!

 

 

Be Prepared for Emergencies: Create a Disaster Kit

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None of us wants to believe that we will ever lose our home to storm or fire, but sadly it happens.  You need to be prepared so that you and your family can put your lives back together after a loss.  We've got the tips on how to create a disaster kit including tips on helping your insurance company with your claims.

 

It is the time of year when we see an increased frequency of tornadoes.  It is important that everyone is prepared should you hear the shrill sirens going off near your home.

The safest place to go during a tornado is your basement, however, many people do not live in a home where this is an option.  In that case, make sure you go into a center hallway, closet, bathroom or even under a staircase.  If you reside in a mobile home, you need to get out and seek other shelter as that is one of the least safe places you can be during a storm.

Now that you know where you will go in the instance of a tornado, you need to prepare, should the unexpected happen.  Here are things you should do now so you are ready.

Video or photo your entire home.  If you lose everything you own, there will be no simple way to provide details to your insurance company.  Use your phone and walk through each room, opening closets and drawers and take photos and/or videos of it all.  Once you have done that, upload the images/video to cloud storage (such as Dropbox).  You can also place them all on a flash drive in your disaster kit.  Now, you will have the information you need for insurance, which can help make the process a little simpler.

Make copies of important documents.  If you lose your home, you may also lose items such as birth and marriage certificate, social security cards and perhaps even your license.  Take a moment and make photo copies of all of these.  You can print them off and place them in a binder in  your emergency kit — so you proof of residency if you are evacuated.  You can also upload the images to your Dropbox or cloud storage as well.

Keep cash on hand.  It is smart to get a little cash and set it aside so you can have it in an emergency.  The least amount recommended is $100.   You never know when you will not have access to your debit or credit card, so this will allow you to make any emergency purchases.  Place this cash in your disaster kit.

Create a disaster kit.  This is something that we hate to think about, but if you are in your basement and your home has been destroyed, you need to be able to take care of yourself (and family members) as you wait for help to arrive.  A kit is easy to make and should consist of the following:

  • Bucket or container with a lid (keeps water out)
  • First aid kit
  • Battery powered weather and/or regular radio
  • Flaslight
  • Batteries for both radio and flashlight
  • Blanket or sleeping bags (enough for each person)
  • Spare keys to your vehicle
  • 3 Day supply of non-perishable food and water (around 1 gallon per person)
  • Footwear for each person
  • Clothing for each person
  • Cards or games (to keep kids entertained)
  • Items mentioned above
  • Backup phone charger
  • Whistle (to signal to rescue crews so you can be found)

During this time of the year, it is important to keep your cell phone fully charged as much as possible.  Make sure you take that with you to your shelter – so you can try to call out should you need assistance (hoping that cell signals still are working at that time).  If you can, try to also grab that special blanket or toy for your child, to keep help keep them calm.

This may seem like an extreme list, but when you see first hand what happens to people, you quickly realize how important these items can be.  You can keep items in a couple of bins.  Make sure the cash, clothes, documents, medications and things like that are in a separate bin from food.  That way, if you need to leave your home, you can grab that bin, toss it into your vehicle as you leave your home.

We all hope and pray that nothing will ever happen to us, our home or the city where we live. However, things to do happen.  It is when you are prepared that you can put the pieces back together and start again.

Make sure you also learn Five Tips to Help You Plan for the Unexpected.

 

Tips on Finding a New Bank

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Finding a New Bank

 

In life, things are always changing.  Jobs, homes….the list goes on and on.  Sometimes, we are forced into making changes when situations no longer work for us.  One of those may be with your bank.  It could change ownership and force you into paying fees.  They may change the manner in which they operate.  No matter your reason for leaving, you have to find a new bank.  But what should you consider?

We posed this question on our weekly Penny For Your Thoughts post on our Facebook page.  Here are the tips which were shared by our readers.

 

“Debit card/atm fees & branch locations. Best idea is to stay away from banks all together and look to a local credit union. A bank is out to make themselves money, whereas a credit union is looking to save their members money. Most all fees in a credit union are lower than banks too, which is helpful.” — Chris-Tracy M.

 

“Free checking, user friendly website, and friendly tellers and personal bankers.” — Jennifer H.

 

“As a teller manager at a bank I can agree that banks should have no fee checking accounts. And all banks are required to offer an account (with no minimum balance) for low income households. That does not mean there will not be a service charge.

As for overdraft fees, overdraft protection is available….that being said, if you spend money you do not have, you will be charged. And that charge is costly. When we open an account we explain that, and HIGHLY recommend using a checkbook ledger. 

I can’t speak for all financial institutions but the one I use and work for does offer no fee checking accounts… That is a must. Why should you have to pay to have an account?? As a teller we look for service charges to help you avoid paying unnecessary fees. All it takes is a simple conversation to save people money every month.

Sometimes customers don’t know what’s available, it’s a shame if your bank doesn’t keep you informed.” — Lisa D.

 

“First, reputation is the most important, next, do they offer free checking for direct deposit, ATM availability are the locations convenient to my home and job, is there a minimum for checking and savings, these are the items I find most important.” — Carol N.

 

“Interest rates, atm fee’s, teen or child accounts and what age till they can get an adult, savings certificate and rates plus min to open one, min fee to open account. And transfer fee if you have more then one bank. Credit unions usually have the best rates of all of them. But most won’t let your child get the better interest rates on a checking account till they are 18. The rates for saving certificate varies so much the local credit union I have is better then my military one. Ask a lot of questions and check out the different wed sites for the rates.” — Elizabeth F.

 

“Credit unions are normally best… depending on your situation, card options are always good to know about. For instance I travel a lot to other countries. there are cards available for an annual fee you do not have any additional fee’s in other countries. This is the only thing I have not seen mentioned already.”  — Jin J.

 

“Look for offers from the banks you are looking at.  Sometimes, they will offer incentives such as $100 cash back if you use your debit card “x” number of times or if you set up direct deposit.” – Danielle P.

 

Make sure you watch Facebook each Monday for our newest question and share your ideas.  You may find your name and tip featured each week on Penny Pinchin’ Mom!