Tips for finding an affordable car

Buying a car is one of the biggest purchase decisions you can make at any given time, and it’s important to get the best possible price. However, dealerships are looking out for their bottom line, and they know exactly what they can do to game you into spending more than you should. To get the best deal for your dollar, we’ve created this guide to help you get your next vehicle as cheaply as possible.

Get Preapproved for a Loan

Getting pre-approved for a loan can seem like a waste of time; however, it can save you thousands of dollars in the long run. Did you know that car dealerships will often jack up the interest rate on a loan that they’ll eventually split with the financial institution? To avoid this, go into the dealership with a preapproved loan offer and see if the dealership will match it. This can save you thousands of dollars in the long run.

Focus on One Transaction at a Time

A lot of people go to a car dealership with the intention of trading in their car for a new one. As the car salesman comes up, they’ll ask if your car is a trade-in. The first mistake most people make is saying, “Yes.” Why? Because many salespeople will low-ball your trade-in while trying to sell you a car for as much as possible. Instead, say that you’re simply looking to purchase a car. The salesperson is more likely to give you a lower offer. After agreeing to a price, you’ll then be able to mention your trade-in (make sure you check it on a site like Kelly Blue Book for a ballpark estimate). This allows you to get the most money for your car while getting a lower price on your new one.

Ignore Add Ons

Dealers will offer you a ton of add-ons, ranging from “free” oil changes to tire protection. These add-ons add up quickly, and many times are severely marked up from what they would normally cost. Instead, simply tell the salesperson you’re not interested. You’re not going to miss these add-ons and you’ll save several thousand off the purchase price.

Don’t Go Long-Term

Long-term loans can seem great on paper. They’re allowing you to purchase your dream car for significantly less per month. Rather than spending three years paying everything off, you can look forward to 6-7 to pay it off. What can go wrong? It’s important to remember that the dealership is looking to make money—and that 6-7 years means they are making significantly more when it comes to interest. Instead, look to pay off your car as quickly as feasibly possible.

Buy Used

While we all may dream of a flashy new car, there are plenty of excellent used models available as well. Used cars, especially those 3 years and under, will commonly offer many of the same features for significantly less than what a new model is selling for. The main thing to remember here is to really research what’s available and how much they are worth. There’s no reason to pay almost as much for a used car as the same car new would cost.

Pay with Cash

While this may seem impossible, paying with cash is an excellent method to get the lowest possible rate. Nothing speaks to dealers more than cash; it’s going directly to them and allowing the purchasing of new inventory. Most will give you their lowest possible price if they know you’re paying with cash.

Check Your Credit

Before going in to purchase a car, it’s important to know your credit score. Do you have a lot of inquiries? Is your credit score in need of some help? Take the time to fix your credit as much as possible before purchasing a car. Next, go in armed with your credit score. If the dealership offers you a high-interest loan, you’ll have the information at your fingertips to explain why you should get a better deal.

Be Flexible

Many people go into a dealership knowing exactly what kind of car they’ll want. Some even get as specific as certain colors, trims, rims, etc. However, dealerships see these people coming a mile away, and they’re more than happy to charge these people top dollar to get the vehicle they want. Instead of setting your heart on one specific car, you should be willing to be flexible with your options. Look at a variety of colors, makes and models before making a decision. You might find a car you like even more.

Look at Ownership Costs

That sporty little European number would look great in your garage; however, are you willing to pay the maintenance costs if something goes wrong? What about the gas costs of a large SUV? Ownership cost is an overlooked aspect of car ownership; however, it can save you thousands of dollars in the long run. By knowing exactly what you can expect to spend, you can plan on whether or not a car is right for you.

Consider Leasing

Do you want the latest model every few years? Want a cheaper payment? Leasing might be for you. While you won’t get the equity that comes with ownership, you won’t need to worry about a lot of things that can possibly go wrong with the car. The best part? If you love a car, you’ll have an option to purchase it after the lease is over.

Purchasing a car is one of the biggest decisions you will make. In order to get the best possible price, you need to follow certain steps, including getting pre-approved for a loan, being flexible with what kind of car you will buy and looking at the actual ownership costs. Whether you decide to get a used car that you know will be reliable at a discounted price or a brand new sports-car for those weekends away is up to you; however, by following the tips above, you can get the best price on your next car.

What to Use an Installment Loan For?

Everything in life is going fine when suddenly, you’re hit with a major medical expense for your dog. Or maybe you want to take your dream vacation after fantasizing about it for years, but you simply don’t have enough money. In order to get funds fast, many people will opt to pay for these things with an installment loan. However, what is an installment loan? Are there pros and cons? What can you use an installment loan for? Read on to get the answers to all these questions.

What is an Installment Loan?

An installment loan is a common loan structure. Unlike credit cards or a line of credit, called revolving credit, installment loans are a set amount of money you pull out at once to pay for a specific item. You will have the amount needed already determined before borrowing and will pay in installments. The most common types of installment loans are mortgages and auto loans; however, there are other causes for installment loans as well—usually falling under the term “personal loan.” Personal loans will have a slightly higher interest rate being there’s no collateral; however, most people get them paid off relatively quickly.

Pros to an installment loan

Know Your Payment Schedule

When you decide to take out an installment loan, you will know exactly what terms the borrower is placing on you, how long the loan will last for, and when you can expect to have it paid off. This allows you to plan your finances around paying off the loan rather than worrying about what your next payment amount will be.

Debt Will Be Paid Off

Revolving credit can feel overwhelming—especially if you add to it each month. With an installment loan, you’ll be required to pay it off in a certain amount of time. Once you reach that date, assuming no missed payments, you’ll be done with the loan.

Examples of What You Can Use Installment Loans For

Installment loans are commonly used for the following:

Vacations – $2,000

The average American plans on spending roughly $2,000 per vacation, and many people will pull out a loan in order to make up for the costs. Sites like Affirm will offer 12-month installment plans for sites like Orbitz and Expedia, allowing you to get instant approval for the exact amount you choose to spend.

Car Repairs – $600+

According to AAA, the average car repair costs about $600, but expenses can quickly go much higher, depending on the state of the car. Some car repair places will offer financing programs; however, many people can get the amount they need from their bank.

Unexpected Expenses

Emergencies happen, and these unexpected emergencies can quickly add up when it comes to expenses. Rather than over-exerting your bank accounts or credit cards, a personal loan can get you out of an unexpected bind.

Pet Care – $500-$1,000+

Pets are wonderful companions, but they also rack up extremely high veterinary costs. The American veterinary industry makes an average of $14 billion a year; people want to keep their pets around as long as possible, and it takes a lot of money to make that happen. The average person can expect to spend anywhere from $500-$1,000/year on their pets; however, these costs can quickly skyrocket if a pet is diagnosed with a serious condition.

Home Improvements – $15,00-$200,000

Your home is likely the biggest purchase you’ll make in your life, and people want to ensure their home looks as wonderful as possible. Renovating a home is a fun experience, but it can easily exceed $15,000—especially if you need to renovate the entire home or more expensive areas like kitchens, laundry rooms and bathrooms.

Technology – $500-$2,500+

The technology industry moves extremely quickly, and people spend a ton of money each year. How much exactly? About $1.94 trillion USD per year to be precise. With more and more people opting to work from home, we can see tech spending increase as new computers and accessories are purchased for work. To mitigate these expenses, a personal loan can help you buy the equipment you need.

Medical Bills – $12,500+

Medical emergencies sadly come at a price, and the average American expects to have roughly $12,500 in medical bills at any given time. Of course, some people have significantly more, and these bills can feel soul-crushing. Many hospitals and banks offer medical debt relief programs, allowing you to pay your bills over time for significantly less.

Moving Costs – $800-$2,500

Moving is a wonderful experience, but getting your stuff from point A to point B is expensive. With the average move costing roughly $1,400, it’s not shocking that many people look to secure an installment loan to pay for the costs. Moving companies may offer you a plan through their business while others will require you to secure funds through a bank.

Installment loans are an excellent option for those who need a large amount of cash fast. From veterinary bills to moving expenses, an installment loan can help you pay for the things you need over the course of several months or years rather than needing to pay for everything up front.

Planning for Summer Vacation on a Budget

Summer vacations are one of America’s favorite pastimes, and they can quickly rack up astronomical prices. From plane tickets to events, vendors know more families are likely to take luxurious vacations during the summer—with sky-high price tags to match. Luckily, there are several ways to plan for the ultimate summer getaway without paying thousands of dollars. Read on to learn the best ways to plan and save now so you can have your best summer vacation.

Automate Your Bank Accounts

It’s safe to assume that you probably have a bank account, and now is the perfect time to start putting aside your vacation fund with automated transfers to your savings account. This allows you to build up your vacation fund week-by-week rather than relying on making a large deposit or needing to scrounge during your vacation. A great savings account will also offer you an interest rate that will allow your money to grow over the coming months. While it might not seem like a lot initially, by the time you’re ready to go on vacation, the interest on the account will likely be enough to at least buy dinner for a night.

Look at Credit Cards

Credit cards have gotten a bad rep over the years for offering paltry rewards; however, credit card companies have upped their game over the last few years, especially regarding travel. From air miles to cashback rewards, credit cards can save you a lot of money on your vacation. Also, remember to check if your credit card offers specific deals on sites. For example, some companies partner with do-it-yourself travel sites like Expedia or Travelocity to offer a cashback reward on already low prices.

Know When to Book

When looking to plan, you were probably considering the mid-summer, right? Most people do, and businesses know to capitalize on this. This leads to surge pricing, meaning that companies will charge much more money for their services/accommodations simply because they know demand is high. To get the most out of your money, it’s important to go on off-times, like early June or in mid-August. This is when prices for summer getaways will be at their lowest, with many hotels and restaurants offering deep discounts to get their leftover rooms booked ASAP.

Book for the Experience, Not a Destination

Hawaii, Disney parks, and NYC are popular summer destinations for everyone—not just you—and prices are aimed to reflect this. Tourist areas will increase their prices during the summer months, leading to already pricy vacations costing much more than they normally would. The key to great summer vacations on a budget is being flexible. For example, a theme park may be on your “must-do” list, so consider looking at more budget-friendly options like Six Flags. Want a tropical vacation? Look at locations in Mexico or Central America. When you plan for the type of experience you want versus only considering a singular destination, you’ll find creative ways to save more money in the long run.

Prioritize Your Wants

What do you really want to get out of your vacation? Are you looking to spend a lot of quality time with your friends and/or family? Do you want to experience local culture? Spend quality time on a hobby like scuba diving or surfing? When you take the time to prioritize your vacation’s goals, you’ll be able to create a budget that reflects that. By taking the time to create a budget that reflects what you want to do, you can have one of the best vacations of your life while also doing everything you want to do. A sample budget for a foodie might look like:

  • 20% Transportation
  • 30% Lodgings
  • 35% Food
  • 15% Activities

Create a budget for your needs and make sure you…

Stick to Your Budget

Creating a budget won’t mean anything id you don’t stick to it, and it’s integral that you try to stick as closely as possible to your budget. Some things to do include:

  • Create a Daily Spending Limit – Think about what you want to do each day and ballpark about how much that will cost. For example, your first night there will probably be relatively affordable, but you may want to splurge more on your second or third day. If you don’t meet your budget on a specific day, you can plan to use that money on a different day.
  • Don’t Use Your Credit Card – If you’ve planned to use your credit card, that’s great, but credit cards are frequently utilized to overspend. If you find a product or service you really want, look to cut down on your spending in other areas instead of relying on credit cards for splurges.

Look for Discounts

Whether you decide to go someplace far away or someplace close to home, you can likely find a lot of freebies and discounts wherever you decide to vacation. From group rates for theme parks or free admission on certain days to special deals and promotions at restaurants, there are likely ways to get discounts on whatever you’re looking to do on your vacation. Take the time to research where you want to go and what specials they’ll be offering.

Flexibility is Key

Planning a luxurious vacation on a budget is not impossible; however, it does require flexibility on your part. By being flexible on your dates and making changes to your itinerary, you can save thousands of dollars while still having a wonderful vacation experience. If dates aren’t flexible, look to be flexible in other areas, such as changing your destination to a cheaper alternative or selecting different venues that are more budget-conscious.

Planning a summer vacation on a budget may seem like a monumental task; however, once you know how to plan smartly, you’ll be able to get the best vacation of your life without needlessly spending thousands of dollars. From looking to budget and automating your bank accounts to remaining flexible and prioritizing what you want to get out of your vacation, you’ll save money while creating the trip of a lifetime.

Best Places to Travel in the Winter on a Budget

The new year is upon us, and many people wrote “Travel More” as part of their New Year’s resolutions. Luckily, the new year brings new savings for those looking to travel on a budget during the winter months. Winter traveling offers a host of benefits for those looking to take a vacation on a budget, ranging from cheaper airfare to great hotel deals due to many destinations considering the winter months their off season. However, savvy travelers can still score great deals for nearly any locale they wish to visit. Read on to learn more about the places to travel to this winter that won’t break the bank.

Hawaii

Hawaii offers several destinations, with O’ahu, Maui and Hawai’i (the Big Island) leading the pack, and all have their own unique vibes. Most people will travel to Honolulu, O’ahu this winter, the state’s capital, to visit mainstays like Waikiki and the Polynesian Cultural Center. While Honolulu definitely offers a lot of different activities for travelers, those who want a different atmosphere that’s not saturated with tourists may want to visit a different island. Hawai’i gives a more laidback atmosphere, allowing plenty of time to explore the island’s natural wonders (including volcanoes!). Maui offers a more luxurious vacation experience, with an assortment of large resorts and boutique hotels dotting the island. Those looking to save a little bit will likely want to visit Oahu or Hawai’i, with both offering affordable hotel and airfare rates.

Puerto Rico

An island paradise without a passport? You’ll find it in Puerto Rico. With a plethora of beaches, ranging from Las Salinas’ pink sand to the glow-in-the-dark Mosquito Bay, restaurants and historical San Juan, Puerto Rico has a little something for everyone. Roundtrip air travel can be as low as $150/person to San Juan, making this a much more affordable tropical destination than other places on our list. Because Puerto Rico uses the U.S. dollar, travelers don’t need to worry about currency exchange rates and plush, luxurious resorts cost much less than you probably expect.

Spain

Europe on a budget? It’s easier than you may think if you want to visit Spain. Barcelona, Madrid, Costa del Sol, and Seville offer unique experiences travelers will love. Temperatures during the winter months hover between the 40s-60s in most areas, making it a cool but comfortable destination for nearly anyone. Flights can easily be obtained for under $1,000/person while hotel rooms and food are some of the lowest on the continent. With an assortment of museums, restaurants, festivals and local charm anywhere you visit, Spain will quickly become both you and your family’s favorite winter season travel destination.

Lucerne

Not everyone wants to visit the tropics during their winter getaway, and that’s what makes Lucerne the perfect destination for those who want a cooler holiday. This Swiss town will get anyone in the holiday spirit, offering plenty of cheer thanks to numerous ski resorts and markets as well as plenty of spots for snow-centric activities like snowshoeing and sledding. The variety of hotels in the area means lower prices for those wanting to visit, with many offering rooms for a little over $100/night. Save even more by booking red-eye flights which will also give you the benefit of cutting down on your jet lag.

Quebec City

Don’t want to travel all the way to Switzerland? Quebec City lets you get your snow-covered vacation right here in North America. With chilly temperatures and plenty of the white stuff, Quebec City will quickly become one of your favorite travel destinations. Historical Old Quebec features plenty of shopping and restaurants decked out in holiday décor to put you in the festive spirit while those wanting a more activity-based vacation can go ice skating at Place D’Youville or skiing at Station Touristique Stoneham. While Quebec City is famous for its Christmas décor, the city hosts an assortment of attractions during the winter months, including the Carnaval de Quebec in February. Save some money on your visit by driving or booking a mid-week flight to get the best deal.

Lake Tahoe

Once a hotspot for gangsters and celebrities, Lake Tahoe still has plenty to offer anyone looking for a relaxing winter vacation. With plenty of snow for skiers and snowboarders but moderate mid-day temperatures hovering in the 40s, this picturesque town on the California-Nevada will take your breath away. The casinos offer those who don’t want to go out in the snow plenty of gambling options while the numerous lodges in the area are perfect for cozying up next to a roaring fire. While winter months are the busiest in the area, budget travelers can find plenty of deals for 3- and 4-star hotels at under $200/night, especially if they don’t mind staying on the Nevada side (called Stateline).

Boracay Island, Philippines

Still a hidden gem for those looking for a tropical getaway, the Boracay Islands offer plenty of amenities and scenic views. The affordable prices allow travelers to take their vacation to the next level, getting an experience that would cost tens of thousands for pennies on the dollar. Smaller crowds from January to February means you won’t need to worry about fighting crowds while you snorkel, scuba dive or sunbathe on the beach. Mid-range hotels can be found for about $70/night; however, your food, drinks and activities are (usually) much lower in price than other locales on our list.

Taking a vacation during the winter months doesn’t need to break the bank. Whether you’re looking for a tropical location like Boracay Island or O’ahu or want something a little cooler like Quebec City or Lucerne, you can plan a luxurious vacation on a budget this winter. The main thing to remember when looking for the best deals is to have some flexibility on your dates, so don’t be afraid to shop around. Finally, planning your vacation in advance allows you to create a budget you can stick to. Where are you going this winter? What’s your favorite winter destination? Let us know below!