What You Need to Know before Buying Your First Car

by Sara Seeger 9. December 2014

Car Keys

You are finally prepared to trade in that hand-me-down car your parents gave you (that has seen much better days) and grab your own four-wheeled automobile. But where do you start? It doesn’t matter who you are, your first-time car buying experience can be filled with uncertainty and misunderstanding. To help unclutter some confusion, we have come up with six steps on what to do when buying your first car.

The following steps will help you determine how much “car” you can afford, research to find the car that meets your criteria, secure financing, and ultimately purchase your first car, while hopefully saving you some “moolah” in between.

1. Figure out what you can afford.

The first thing to do, even before car searching, is to establish a realistic budget. Take into account warranties, maintenance, and even gas. You may think that the new Audi A3 is trendy and perfect, but the premium gas it requires may hurt your wallet.

2. Establish your needs.

Think about it, do you really need that convertible? If you have a family (or foresee a family in the near future) you may need a car with more room. Do you just need a car to get you from point A to point B? Do you need a car that drives better in inclement weather? These are all factors you should consider.

3. Identify your wants...and then prioritize them.

Your first car will most likely not be your only car in your lifetime. It is not the be-all and end-all. You may not need all of the bells and whistles in a car, especially when working within a strict budget. If you can’t afford it, forego it. However, you don’t want buyers’ remorse after entering into a 4-5 year auto loan. So if you need those heated seats and sunroof, see how much more per month it will cost and perhaps sacrifice a few happy hours or dinners out with friends.

4. Do your research.

There are plenty of websites where you can start your car search. This way you can research any car in the comfort and convenience of your own home instead of visiting dealerships. Also take a look at the current inventory in dealerships. Some common web buying websites are: Cars.com, Autotrader.com, and Edmunds.com. After you’ve narrowed it down to look and feel, price, and size, you can schedule a test drive at a dealership.

5. Determine the proper purchase price.

It is important to make sure you are knowledgeable about how much a car should cost before you walk into the dealership. Do your due diligence, research prices, and see what dealer fees can be waived. Remember, knowledge is power and never be afraid to negotiate. Not into negotiating? Check into the True Car price of the car you want. True Car is a tool that allows a buyer to find information about what the car they want is actually worth. Select dealerships offer True Car, no-haggle pricing for similar cars they have in their inventory. Also be sure to ask about any discounts a dealership may have for military, new grad, etc.

6. Secure financing.

The last thing you want to do is fall in love with a car that you’re not sure you can secure affordable financing for. Although dealerships offer financing options, you may want to shop around at banks for interest rates/programs to get a better idea of what your personal financial situation and credit report allows you to afford. First-time car buyers often have a limited credit history and may require a co-signer in order to avoid a high interest rate.

The above above advice could seem daunting to a first time car buyer, but thanks to lower automobile interest rates and online research tools, purchasing a car has never been easier. There is a wide variety of options at different price points to accommodate the majority of people’s needs. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

If you found this article useful, be sure to check out these related articles:

The Ultimate Question: Buy or Lease?

Is It Good Debt or Bad Debt?

Establishing Credit for Beginners

Winter is Coming: How to Winter-Proof Your Home

by Sara Seeger 4. December 2014


Many winter-related disasters can be prevented if you take a few simple steps to prepare and protect your home from winter’s less than favorable conditions: freezing temperatures, snow, and wind. In fact, according to the Insurance Information Institute more than 10% of all catastrophic losses are a result of winter storms. Although the weather has really gotten cold recently, the weather is overall still mild, and perfect for winter-proofing your home.

For the Outside

  • The Gutters - Remove sticks, leaves, and any other debris that could clog your gutters, so that melting snow and ice can drain properly. If water can’t drain freely ice damming can occur, which is where water is unable to drain through the gutters and seeps into the house instead.
  • The Trees - If you have trees on your property, especially near your house, be sure to trim any fragile, low hanging, or dead branches. As ice and snow build up on weak tree branches, they become heavy and can break, which could result in damage to your home or car, as well as injuring someone walking on the property.
  • The Steps - It’s difficult (and dangerous) enough to walk on broken steps or without a handrail. If you add in ice and snow, the result could be catastrophic. Repairing steps and handrails to your front or back porch may prevent someone from falling and being injured.
  • The Foundation - Before it gets too cold, seal any cracks in your home’s outsides walls and foundation. Use caulking to protect outdoor water pipes and if you have a skylight or any roof openings, be sure they have proper weather stripping to prevent melting snow or ice to seep in your house.

For the Inside

  • The House - I know you won’t want to see the heating bill, but turn (and keep) your heat on. It is recommended that you set the thermostat for at least 65 degrees. This will prevent the pipes in your walls from freezing.
  • The Heating System - Have your heating system serviced. It is recommended that furnaces, boilers, and chimneys be serviced once a year to help prevent fire and smoke damage.
  • The Pipes - Check for cracks or leaks in your pipes and if anything is wrong, have it repaired immediately. It’s important to wrap any exposed pipes with heating tape. While you’re checking your pipes for cracks, learn how to shut off the main water valve (if you don’t already). Time is of the essence when your pipes freeze.
  • The Alarms - Residential fires increase in the winter, so make sure that smoke alarms, fire alarms, and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly.

By protecting your home from the harsh conditions of winter, you are helping to prevent damage that could happen due to ice, hail, or snow and may also be extending the life of your home by completing annual repairs and checks.

If you found this article useful, be sure to check out these related articles:

10 Affordable Ways to Survive the Polar Vortex

Spring Forward with These 5 Energy Saving Tips

The Best Things to Buy in the Winter

Three Things To Consider When Choosing a Bank

by Renee' Anderson 3. December 2014

Shop for New BankYou’re looking for a new bank. But you don’t really know what to look for. Is there a difference from one bank to another? Does it matter? Here are three key things that many people choose to consider when looking for a bank.

1. Customer Service

It seems like good customer service is hard to come by these days. Not that I’m that old or anything, but honestly, I remember a time when people that worked in a customer service role were truly happy to be doing what they were doing and gained satisfaction from helping their customers. Now, you’re lucky if you get a “Thank you, have a nice day!” There is something to be said for positive interaction. Furthermore, I’d rather do business with someone interested in helping me with my needs.

Here’s an example. Have you ever lost your bank card? I have, and the first thing that went through my mind was I need to cancel it quickly before someone gets ahold of it and makes charges. Second thing that went through my mind, I need a card! Who carries cash? Not me. I need my bank card, now! Well, I’ll tell you, I didn’t have to panic for long. I called my bank, quickly was connected to the appropriate person, who immediately deactivated my current card and said my new card would be in the mail right away. They also gave me the option to visit my local branch to get a card that would be activated today! That’s great customer service!

2. Products & Services

This is important. However, it can be overwhelming to think about due to technology and the way products and services have evolved and the way you prefer to do your banking. Don’t let it overwhelm you. Just think about how you prefer to do your banking. Are you on the go a lot and prefer to access mobile banking for your day-to-day banking needs? Choose a bank with good mobile banking options (an app to access your accounts from your phone or tablet that will allow you to check your balance, transfer funds, pay bills, and even deposit a check from your phone). You’ll want to take a look at what kind of fees are associated with these features. Only pay what you’re willing to pay for products and services that mean the most to you. If mobile isn’t your thing, just make sure whatever products and/or services you need are available and not for a ridiculous price tag. It’s always helpful to check out your bank’s website for more information, or stop in a branch.

3. Hours & Locations

This is particularly important if you frequently visit a branch. Where I rarely go to my bank branch, my husband does once a week. Everyone has their reasons, whatever yours is, it doesn’t matter. What matters is, is the branch open when you are able to get there? And, do you feel like you have to drive to Guam, or is it conveniently located near your home or work?

Moral of the story, don’t’ just flip a coin, don’t just do eenie meenie miney moe, chose a bank for all the right reasons.

If you found this article useful, be sure to check out these related articles:

How to Change Banks in 5 Simple Steps

Bank Jargon 101

The Importance of Reviewing Your Beneficiaries

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