The Real Cost of Your Car
Cars are expensive to buy; even an older used car will require a good chunk of savings or a sensible financing plan. This isn’t a one-time expense, however. There are going to be plenty of other costs rolling right into your budget, even after you drive your vehicle off the lot. Here are some things to expect:
Tag, title, registration and all of the paperwork you need to file to get the car assigned to you within your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles will cost some money. Some dealers will roll these costs into your purchase price, especially if you are buying new. If not, you’ll have to find out what it costs to register the car and make sure the state has it listed as being owned by you.
Every state has different insurance laws; some of them are strict and some of them are fairly simple. It’s not always a good idea to only get the minimum insurance required by law. You want to be able to replace or repair your car if something happens to it, so make sure you have enough coverage. Liability insurance is absolutely necessary, so don’t skimp.
It has been a good many years since gas was reasonably priced. The cost is only climbing higher, so take this into consideration even before you buy. That enormous party bus might look like a lot of fun, but if it’s going to cost half your paycheck just to fill up the gas tank, it might not be worth it. Depending on the amount of driving you do, your gas budget will likely fall somewhere between $20 and $100 per week.
No one ever expects their car to break down. But, it happens. Try to keep a reserve fund for things like car repairs. Always get your car serviced and inspected regularly. It might be hard to scrape the money together for an oil change every few months, but if you don’t do it then small problems have the chance to become large – and more expensive – problems.
Tipping Tips: What to Leave Behind
If you’re confused about how to tip and when to tip, you’re not alone. When it’s time to pay the bill, you can see patrons at most restaurants struggling to figure out the math and leave the correct amount. At the airport, some people tip the guy who helps you off the shuttle with your luggage and some people don’t. What are you supposed to do? Here’s a general guide that should help you with tipping protocol.
Standard tipping procedure is to leave at least 15 percent of the bill when your service was good. Some people round up to an even 20 percent and some people leave less. Unless your server made some grievous error, try to reach the 15 percent threshold at least. No one gets rich being a waiter. When you are dining with a large party, say of six or eight people or even more, your gratuity might be included in the final bill. It’s a nice gesture to add a few dollars to that total anyway. Keeping up with a huge table is hard work, and if your server gets most of it right, she should be compensated.
The 15 percent rule generally applies to other professionals such as hair dressers, barbers and beauty technicians. If your manicure and pedicure costs $50 together, tip between seven and 10 dollars. The strange thing about these establishments is that you don’t always get the chance to tip when you’re paying with a credit or debit card, unless you ask for the tip to be included when they swipe your card. That’s awkward, so keep some cash on hand for your appointment.
Always tip your taxi driver a few dollars, and try to round up to the nearest whole dollar when it helps. For example, if your drive across town costs $7.20, just give the driver a $10 bill and call it even. At the airport, you should tip anyone who helps you with a suitcase or checks your luggage at the curb. Most people give a dollar or two per big, but if you have excessive luggage or its raining outside, a little more will be fondly remembered and appreciated.
Who Pays Utilities in a Rental?
Owning and occupying your home means being responsible for all the utilities that are required to light, heat, cool and keep the home running. When you rent a house or an apartment, there are often different ways that the utilities get paid. Some renters are required to pay for everything, from electricity to gas to water to sewer and trash. Other tenants have some of those utilities rolled into their rent payments.
If you’re not sure what you are responsible for, check your lease. Any rental agreement will spell out what the tenant is responsible for paying and what the landlord is required to pay. Utilities should be covered.
Talk to your landlord. The ideal time to discuss utilities would be before you move in, maybe even before you fill out an application. The rent might seem great, but if the average electric bill is $300 per month, you’re going to have to factor that into your living expenses. Find out what utilities you are responsible for paying and also ask for an estimate that can guide you in your budgeting process.
Get those utilities turned on before you move in. It’s no good to start unpacking in the dark. Make sure everything is on and functioning one day before you move. If you need to transfer service from your own home, schedule that appropriately so you aren’t missing heat or water in one or both places.
Don’t forget the extras. Electricity, heat and water are things you absolutely need in order for the place to be habitable. You’ll need to set up your own cable, phone and Internet as well. Those are expenses that landlords rarely cover. However, some apartment communities will offer basic cable in order to avoid having their tenants put those satellite dishes up all over the building.
How to Choose a Mutual Fund
Mutual funds are an excellent way to invest the money you have, even if you do not have a lot. They make great investment vehicles for retirement funds, college funds and even basic savings plans. You can deposit a large chunk of your money into a single mutual fund or you can set up an investment plan where you deposit a regular sum every month, every week or every quarter. The process is easy, but the complicated part can often be choosing the best mutual fund for your money. Here’s what to look for:
• Review the prospectus. The prospectus is a document that describes the investment in great detail. This will help you make an informed decision about what you buy, and you can also use it to compare one fund to another. The prospectus is required by the Securities and Exchange Commission, and don’t be intimidated by its length and fine print.
• Talk to a financial planner. Most investors buy their mutual funds through a brokerage or a financial company. Use the professional expertise available to your advantage. Talk about different funds and find out what is good and bad about each. When you discuss your options with a broker or a financial advisor, make sure that person is not receiving any kind of commission from a particular fund or product. You want impartial, unbiased opinions.
• Compare performance to your overall financial goals. If you are investing for the long term, and you won’t need to access your money for 20 or 30 years, it will make sense for you to invest in a mutual fund that provides a record of slow and steady growth.
Mutual funds are one of the easiest investments for average people to make. You don’t have to be wealthy and you don’t have to invest a ton of money upfront. Take the time to invest in the right one, and you’ll be well on your way to reaching your financial goals.
How Public Transportation Pays
Unless you live in a city like New York or Washington, D.C., you probably have a car and you’re probably pretty dependant on it. Your car takes you to work or to school, picks up the kids and helps you run your errands. It’s wonderful when you need it, but when you don’t absolutely need it, give public transportation some thought. Your access to trains, buses, subways, light rail and other methods of public transport will depend on where you live. However, if you can take advantage of public transportation, think about taking it for a test drive. It will bring a lot of savings to your life that you might not have considered.
Gas and Maintenance
The more you drive your car, the more you need to pay for gas and the more you need to keep it maintained. When you hop on a city bus or take a train instead of driving, you’re saving yourself some money. It suddenly doesn’t matter how outrageous those gas prices are, because you’re spending only the cost of your ticket.
Traffic and Stress
When you take the bus or the subway, there’s no need to feel your blood pressure rise while you sit on a busy highway or manage to get stuck at every red light from Point A to Point B. Travel becomes a lot more simple when you simply have to get on the chosen method of transportation and then exit at your stop. You don’t have to worry about other drivers, pedestrians in your way or missing the turn you were looking for.
Not only does public transportation save you money, it also keeps you healthier. Walking to your subway stop or taking a few blocks by foot when you get off the bus and head towards work will give you a few bonus minutes of exercise, something which is priceless.
Buying Beauty Products: How to Save
The beauty business is big, and with the explosion of the online and mobile marketplaces, you can get whatever you need with a few clicks of your fingertips. Whether you’re a brand loyalist or you’ll buy anything that comes with a competitive price tag, it pays to diversify your shopping habits when it comes to beauty supplies. Instead of buying everything in the same place, buy where you can save the most money. Such savings will allow you to splurge on that extra nail polish once in a while.
Buy your shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, soap, lotion and, if you can, cosmetics at your local drugstore. Not only will you save money, you’ll have a large selection to choose from. If something is on sale that you’ve wanted to try, snatch it up. Some drugstores have a program where you get special deals and prices when you become a member of their email list. Never buy hair products at the salon and save those expensive lotions and perfumes for special occasions. Overall, the drugstore is the best place to stock up on all your health and beauty essentials.
The high end department stores with their own fancy people behind counters are going to carry the highest price tags. They will spritz you will cologne samples and offer you free makeovers, all the while try to sell you something that costs as much as your phone bill. The only time it’s a good idea to shop here is if you have a gift certificate or you absolutely cannot live without a particular upscale brand.
Great deals can be found online. There are websites devoted to hair care products, men’s beauty products and creations that play to all your favorite vanities. When you buy online, make sure you’re only buying a product that you have purchased before. You want to be sure you know it and use it, because returns can be a hassle and it’s not like you can pick it up and give it a sniff before you buy. Try to find a site that offers free shipping so you can save even more.
Why You Should Grow Your Own Food
There are tons of health benefits involved in growing your own food; you know where it’s coming from and it’s not processed or packaged, so you know there aren’t any sneaky ingredients with chemical-sounding names you can’t even pronounce. If your good health isn’t enough of a reason to start a garden, consider your bottom line. Growing your own food can be better for your wallet as well as your waistline. Here are three good tips to getting started.
• Low start up costs. You don’t have to do much to start growing your own food, and there is very little money to put down. If you have a yard or even communal outdoor space, you can grow a few things with just 10 square feet. The amount of money you’ll spend on things like soil, seeds and maybe a nice pair of gardening gloves is probably not even close to what you’d spend in a morning at the grocery store.
• Free fruits and veggies. Instead of buying what happens to be on sale at the market, you can grow what you like. If you love spinach and salads, plant some leafy greens. If berries are your thing, get a blueberry bush or a strawberry plant going. Think about plants that provide a huge yield, such as tomatoes, zucchini, peppers and onions. If you aren’t sure you have what it takes to grow an entire produce section, start small. Create an herb garden with your favorite spices and you won’t have to pay for them at the grocery store.
• Sell or trade what you don’t need. When your garden produces more than you can eat, set up a stand or become a vendor at your local farmer’s market. Why not make some money off what you’re growing? You can also trade. Maybe you want some fresh corn. Instead of paying $2.00 for a dozen ears, exchange a couple of your ripe cucumbers with a fellow farmer.
Your HOA Dues
A homeowners association (HOA) can be a blessing or a burden, depending on where you live and what kind of experience you may be having with your own HOA. In many cases, they are useful and necessary, especially when large communities need maintenance and assistance with common areas. They can also be a bit burdensome, however, particularly when someone is told they cannot do something to their own property because of HOA rules.
Hopefully, you have a great HOA that’s responsive and interested in improving everyone’s quality of life. If you don’t, it can be hard to pay those dues every month. Here’s what you are basically paying for when you write out a check to your HOA:
• Maintenance around the neighborhood. This might include clearing snow off the sidewalks or even mowing part of your yard.
• Beautifying the area. Planting new flowers, weeding and mulching and keeping the housing development or community looking good.
• Facility upkeep. If you have amenities such as pools, tennis courts, playgrounds, fitness centers or meeting spaces, the HOA dues you pay will keep those areas clean and functioning.
• Security. Your dues will ensure there is enough lighting at nighttime. It might pay for a security guard to check people in and out of the community, or a lifeguard to keep an eye on swimmers in your common pool.
• Space. Your HOA might provide a recreation center or a common area where homeowners can hold parties, meetings and other events.
• Oversight and management. HOA members are elected to the board and they are responsible for writing and enforcing the rules and regulations in your community.
If you’re unhappy with your HOA, do what you can to get on the board, or at least attend the meetings any time they happen. Remember that HOA dues can often seem burdensome, but they are meant to serve a purpose. Any time you begin shopping for a new home, find out if there is an association and what the costs will be.
Money Saving Spring Maintenance Tips
As the seasons switch and winter slowly gives way to spring, it’s a good idea to do a few maintenance checks around your house. You want to ensure everything is working properly and that all of your systems and appliances are as ready for warm weather as you are. Catching problems when they are minor and easy to repair is a lot more cost effective than ignoring them and allowing them to blossom into huge, expensive nightmares.
Start with your heating and cooling systems. You probably used your furnace a lot throughout the winter, and as you stop turning up the heat and start thinking about switching on the air, you need to make sure everything in your HVAC is working the way it should. Replace all of your air filters too.
Check under sinks for any leaks. If you notice pools of water or even drops accumulating near your pipes, you want to have a plumber come and take a look at what’s going on. Examine your gutters and make sure they’re cleared of any wet leaves, branches or debris left over from snow, ice and wind. You’ll want to check out your home’s windows and doors to make sure the insulation held up throughout the winter.
Look at your roof. Winters can be cruel to roofs, and you want to make sure there aren’t any problems that will create leaks and concerns throughout the spring. See if your driveway needs to be resealed and start thinking about what you’ll need to do to your landscaping once things like grass and trees begin to grow.
Finally, check out all your appliances. Run the dishwasher and defrost the freezer if you need to. Part of your spring cleaning regimen should include a seasonal inspection of everything that could possibly go wrong in your house. Those minor repairs are much better than expensive catastrophes.
Determining a Reasonable Car Payment
When it’s time to buy a new car or even a used car, you have to decide what you want to spend and whether you need to take out a loan to pay for the car. If you have managed to stockpile enough cash for either a $1,500 beater or a $25,000 luxury sedan, you’re probably better off paying in cash and avoiding the financing hassle. When you pay in cash, you have more room to negotiate the asking price and you don’t have a monthly car payment hanging over your head and your budget.
Buying a car in cash is not an option for a lot of consumers, however. That means you need financing, either from the dealer or your bank or credit union or some other source willing to lend you the money. Take some time to figure out how much of a car payment you can afford, otherwise you’ll be strapped for cash every month and wondering if your eyes were bigger than your budget.
If you already have a budget in place (good job!) then you’ll have an easy time figuring out how much you can spend on a car payment. Take a look at the extra money you have in the bank after your income is deposited and your other bills paid. If you don’t have a budget in place that you stick to every month, now is a great time to start one. You’ll be able to take a look at what you spend on other bills every month and determine how much of your income is available for this car payment.
Existing car payments can also be used as benchmarks. For example, if you already have a car payment that’s $250 per month and you’re almost completely paid off, so you’re shopping for a trade-in, you know you can easily afford at least $250 per month.
Leave yourself some breathing room. If you determine that you can afford $500 per month for a car payment, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go out and buy something that will cost $500 per month. You’ll have gas and insurance and maintenance to budget for as well, and you want to have a little wiggle room in case a rough month rolls around.
Cheapest Ways to Get to the Airport
When it’s time to head to the airport for your business or vacation flight, you’ve probably already spent a lot of money on the plane ticket. There might be hotel bills to pay and rental car expenses, never mind the food and the entertainment costs at whatever your final destination might be. The last thing you want to do is pay a lot for parking or transportation to the airport. With a little planning, you can get there for less. Here’s how:
• Public transportation. If you’re fortunate enough to live in a city that has a train, bus or metro to the airport, use it. Yes, it’s a bit of a struggle to lug all of your bags onto a crowded rush hour subway, but you’ll only pay a few dollars for a quick trip to the airport. It’s worth it.
• Call in favors. Surely you have dropped off a friend or family member at the airport once or twice. Ask them to return the favor and give you a lift. This can be a huge ask when you live an hour or more from the closest airport, but if your flights leave and arrive at reasonable times, your closest pals will usually help you out. It shouldn’t cost you anything except for maybe a beer or a lunch to say thanks.
• Try a shuttle. Most cities and towns offer shuttle services to airports. It might cost you between $10 and $35, depending on where you live. However, that’s still less expensive than if you were taking a cab or parking your car. Make a reservation a few days in advance and arrange pickup for plenty of time to get to the airport, because there may be other stops the driver has to make.
• Economy parking. When you absolutely must leave your car at the airport, park in one of the long term economy lots that are usually off the airport property. They are safe and secure, they give you a ride to your terminal and you’ll pay a lot less than you would at the airport.
The Pros and Cons of Commission Jobs
When you count on a steady paycheck that brings in a specific dollar figure every pay period, the idea of working on commission can be scary. The amount you earn is directly related to how much you work and how successful you are in closing your sales. Some people are comfortable working on commission, and others prefer the known salary. Explore these pros and cons before you jump into a job that pays no set salary or a very low one.
• Earning potential is unlimited. When you work on commission, you can make a very good living as long as you are passionate about what you’re selling and able to turn that passion into paying customers.
• There is often a paid training period. Most companies who plan to pay you on commission will offer a few weeks of training to prepare you for that work. The training will be paid training, so you will have a little money coming in while you learn how to be a sales shark.
• You can set and exceed your goals. When you work for the same dollar amount every week, there might be little incentive to really excel. However, when you know you can earn more this week than you did last week, it’s easy to set those goals for yourself and then achieve them.
• Your budgeting skills must be outstanding. When you don’t know if you’re going to make $50 or $5,000 in a specific amount of time, you need to be prepared to balance your own budget and do some creative accounting when necessary.
• The feast or famine effect. There will be periods that you do really well and periods that you don’t. You have to be emotionally and intellectually comfortable with the unknown.
• Your commission rate is set by someone else. The company you work for will establish how much commission you earn off certain goods and services. This can be frustrating when you feel like you’re doing a lot more work than what you’re getting paid for.
What You Need in a Business Plan
When you have a great idea for a business, it can be tempting to dive right in. However, if you want to maximize your success and really get a professional and credible start to running your own company, you have to draw up a business plan. A business plan will explain who you are and what you plan to accomplish. It can be used to establish yourself in your industry and explore funding options. It doesn’t have to be terribly complicated. Write up a business plan and get started in your new line of work.
Explanation of Business
The first part of your business plan should be an introduction to who you are and why you are setting up this business. Discuss what you hope to accomplish with your new venture and why you think there’s a market for your product or service. Talk about your background and experience, as well as the backgrounds of key people you’ll have on your business team. This will establish you as an authority in your industry.
A good business plan will explain how much money you have in the bank, where you anticipate finding funding and how quickly you expect to grow. You’ll need a basic income statement, a profit and loss statement and some projections on where you see the financial health of your company at the end of a quarter or a fiscal year.
Describe who your customers or clients will be. Explain why they need your business and how your concept will help them in their own lives. If there is a part of the market that other competitors have not yet explored, talk about how you plan to reach that market.
Your business plan needs to explain how the company will operate. Will there be a brick and mortar building, or do you exist in the digital space only? Will you have employees? How will you hire them? Explain your business structure and put together an organizational chart so potential investors have a good idea of how you envision the day to day operations of your business.
Talk about how you’ll market your business and target your customers. You have to have a solid strategy in place that will help ensure your business succeeds and maintains a healthy client base.