Hope for your financial life and beyond

When to Avoid Zero Percent Financing Offers On Cars

At some point we’ve all run across an advertisement on TV from a car dealer pitching some form of incentive. Manufacturer incentives are special offers designed to entice you to buy a car. Overall they have been found to be very effective in drawing consumers to car lots.

zero percent financingThese deals usually come in the form of rebates (cash back) or a low annual percentage rate (APR). The APR is the amount of interest on the loan that you will pay during the year. Of course lowering the interest rate reduces your monthly payment. The lowest APR a manufacturer could offer would be zero percent. This means you pay no interest on the car loan.

Zero percent financing on a car sounds like too good a deal to ignore. Who should pass up free money, right? However, you may want to think twice before signing on the dotted line. There are several reasons these deals could be bad for the consumer.

The Story on Zero Percent Financing

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Customer Service Training Ideas: No Comments on How Much Food I Buy

I love good customer service. When you find a store that consistently provides it for you it’s a thing of beauty. It’s obvious their employees have been through customer service training because they consistently focus on it day in and day out. I find it really makes shopping at their establishment enjoyable.

grocery cart with healthy foodOn the other hand bad customer service turns me off. What’s frustrating is when it happens at stores I frequent because of a) their location, b) their superior products or c) their prices. I intentionally go to these stores for one of those reasons and to shop elsewhere would be inconvenient. So I’m forced to endure the annoying service at times because those other reasons win out.

I took over the majority of the shopping last fall when I quit my job to be a stay at home dad. In the past year I’ve noticed some of the worst people at customer service are the ones I have the most contact with: the checkout clerks. The ones who have me riled up right now are those I find at the grocery store.

“Yes, I Know My Cart Is Full”

It’s a constant chore to manage the food budget, especially for large families. We have four kids so with six mouths to feed each week I’m buying a lot of food. It doesn’t matter how much I plan or try to cut back, my grocery cart is always full – or overflowing – by the time I roll into the checkout line.

And oh, you should see the looks I get.

But the worst part is the comments.

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How to Prioritize What’s Important When You Make a Budget

I remember the first time my wife and I really tried to make a budget. So many expenses were coming to mind it was difficult to prioritize which ones were most important. We messed up many things in that first month’s budget and felt really frustrated at our efforts.

make a budgetIt didn’t deter us however from trying again…and again…and again. We found that after several months of trial and error certain expenses always drifted to the surface first. It was apparent that we were drawn to some expenditures more readily than others because they represented fundamental needs for our family each month.

So what expenses go first when you make a budget? Then how do you determine what comes next? Today I’m going to outline our five-step thought process as we make a budget each month. Hopefully it will give you some direction as you try to figure out how your hard earned dollars will be allocated.

Process to Make a Budget

When you begin the process of putting a budget together, start with the highest priorities and work your way down. It should look something like this:

Budget Priority #1 – Necessities Above All

Put simply, you have to survive. Nothing else can happen in the budget before your basic needs are taken care of.

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How An Expensive Camera Purchase Ended Up Being Worth Every Penny

Like you I enjoy summer vacations and think travel should be a part of any budget. Actually vacations at any time are great. We just end up taking most of ours during the summer as a reward for my wife making it through the busy tax season. Come the first of June we are (she is) ready to head somewhere.

This summer we had our sights set on a brand new destination – Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. We’ve done Disney before and the beach and the cruise ship – all multiple times. So, with the kids getting older, we wanted to venture into new territory – places with new scenery and new adventures to create new memories.

We knew heading out West (from Georgia) would be expensive. Plane flights for six, rental car for 10 days, hotels, meals, activities…you can see this is adding up quickly. We also knew though the West would provide incredible scenic views – mountains, rivers, wildlife – all of which we would want to capture. However, all we had to use were the cameras on our iPhones and an older Canon PowerShot Elph 110HS.

There is nothing wrong with either of those for capturing basic pictures. But neither of them would do for bringing out the most vibrant color in images nor for when distance from an object or its movement is a factor in the quality of the photo.

So as part of our vacation budget, we saved to make a camera purchase. The one we chose was pricey but as you will see it was worth every penny.

Pictures Are Worth a Thousand Words

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How Do You Respond to the I Need A Vacation Voice?

I need a vacation.

i need a vacationHow many times have you said that?

When work has become a drag…

When school has you worn down…

When family life has become monotonous…

When you’re just plain bored.

In all those situations I’ve found myself daydreaming and saying internally, I need a vacation. Get me on the next flight outta here!”

The question is – how will you respond to that little voice inside that cries I need a vacation so often?

Reactions to the I Need a Vacation Voice

Depending on your personality you may react in one of these ways:

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Technology Is Revealing One Big Flaw That Crushes Our Finances

The world is changing rapidly. It’s moving so fast sometimes it feels like your head is spinning faster than the earth on its axis. You wake up one day and say, “Whoa…what happened? How did we get here?”

technologyThe tough part is when we get the sense we are falling behind the times. It’s as though we are hamsters in a wheel – continually running but never catching up.

This rapid change and our pursuit to keep up is nowhere more evident than with technology. And while it has helped create a great standard of living for us I’m afraid it’s revealing one big flaw we’ve yet to conquer.

A Technological Revolution

I think technology is awesome! It has literally shaped the world, perhaps no more so than in the past 150 years. Just think about the inventions since 1850 that have altered life:

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Secret Advice For Teenagers Who Love to Spend Money

You know who you are…teenager who loves to spend money like it’s going out of style. You spend money faster than it takes a snapchat to disappear. Money comes into your hand one minute and it flows out like water the next.

spend moneyAnd you like it that way!

If that’s you, I have some special advice today. It’s unusual, maybe even secret advice you may never have heard in your life. In fact, I’m actually running a huge risk by even sharing this with you. Your parents may hate me for saying this because it might go against how they have instructed you to handle money. (That alone should excite you to listen up, right?)

But before I reveal this big secret about spending your money, you have to promise me something.

The promise I’m asking you to make is to read this entire post. You are going to love what I have to say about spending money but you can’t take it as stand alone advice without understanding the bigger picture. As they say, the devil is in the details so I’m asking for five minutes of your time to help you avoid failure on this issue.

Ready for the big, secret advice? OK, here goes…

Go ahead and spend money because you’ll never know a time with fewer financial obligations than you have right now.

Now remember that promise to read the rest of the post? Good…because I’ve got some serious cleaning up to do with the mess I just created.

Six Possible Reasons You Love to Spend Money

Have you ever thought about why you love to spend money? Don’t fret if it’s never crossed your mind. Most adults haven’t considered it either.

Based on your age right now (ages 13-19) one of these issues is likely driving you to spend money all the time:

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The Best Option for the Extra Budget Money at the End of the Month

Perhaps you’ve had this experience with your monthly budget money:

At the beginning of the month you allocated “X” amount for a particular budget category. Due to clipping coupons, noticing that sale item or exercising some intense discipline, you didn’t end up spending as much for that category as you had planned.

budget moneyPut another way you budgeted $600 for groceries but only spent $525. You thought that dress would be $100 but you lucked into a half-off sale. There was no car maintenance for the month so the $75 you earmarked for that wasn’t used.

What do you do with that extra money? Where does (or should) it go?

It may seem like a silly question but there are actually some issues here that need to be addressed. I can think of three different options for your extra budget money at the end of the month with one of them being the clear winner in my book.

Options for the Unspent Budget Money

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A Beginner’s Guide to Home Remodeling Costs

The first house my wife and I owned was brand spanking new – right out of the box. We walked in to fresh paint, clean carpets, new appliances and a cute little covered porch right off the back door. Everything was so perfect…so new. We had no home remodeling costs to speak of.

home remodeling costsA few years and two kids later we decided it was time for some more space, so we moved into our second (and still current) home.

While nice, this home was, well…not so new.

The carpet was bad, EVERYTHING in the kitchen was dated, the deck was falling apart and who could forget that rust-toned, orange paint in the hall bathroom.

Of course we were thankful for finding a home to fit our growing family needs. But we knew changes to the home were in order…starting with the hideous orange bathroom.

Once the bathroom paint was satisfactory to our eyes, we set out creating a home projects to-do list. Needless to say it became quite long. In fact, 12 years later several of the projects on that list (like finishing the basement) have not been completed.

But in that time we have incurred some major home remodeling costs for our various projects including:

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Is Investing in Collectibles Like Valuable Baseball Cards Worth It?

Like so many young boys my love affair with baseball cards began in Little League. Each week our coach would give us 50 cents or $1 to spend at the concession stand after the game. On weeks where we won and received a $1, I’d get a pack of cards and a cream soda, secretly hoping some of those might turn into a valuable baseball cards.

valuable baseball cardsIn those early days I didn’t have a lot of money so the collection grew slowly. I amassed only several hundred cards and kept them rubber-banded together in a shoebox. I shuffled through them a lot so the surfaces became dull and the edges worn.

Then in 1986, I scrounged up enough money to buy my very first complete set of Topps baseball cards. I also bought plastic card pages in which to insert each card and a three ring binder to hold all the pages. So began a decade of collecting the full sets and the update sets each year. By the time I ended college, I had amassed over 15,000 baseball cards.

Then guess what happened…

Marriage…grad school…buying a home…kids…career…more kids. Through all that the baseball cards I had enjoyed collecting spent years boxed up in the back of the closet rarely seeing the light of day.

My love affair with collecting baseball cards resurfaced about 10 years later in my early 30s. This time around though I wasn’t attracted to purchasing individual packs or complete sets. I wanted to focus specifically on valuable baseball cards – which can only be found by collecting those that are professionally graded.

This was a change in strategy and required me to understand what I was getting into and why I was doing it.

How Do You Define Investing in Collectibles?

The above question is tricky to answer in part because it depends on your definition of “collecting” and “investing.”

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My Carvana Review: The Online Vending Machine For Buying Used Cars

In my adult life I’ve been involved in eight total car transactions. In all those transactions – both buying and selling privately and at a dealership – I’ve never had an experience like the one I’m about to share in this Carvana review. This 2-year old company based in Atlanta may be revolutionizing how used cars are bought and sold.

carvana reviewYou may have heard about Carvana from their “lazy man” Super Bowl ad spot. I first ran across their name while shopping for a used Suburban. I did what a lot of consumers do when they see an unfamiliar name the first time – I ignored it and looked away.

But their name surfaced again in an advertisement when my wife and I were doing a private sale of my Toyota Tundra. We had run into some headwinds (i.e. no one was interested) in our initial attempts using Craigslist and were looking for other options to move our truck. So she decided to check out Carvana and see if selling them our truck might be an option.

Here’s what we learned about the company…and eventually experienced first hand.

Some Background on Carvana

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