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Does It Ever Make Sense To Lease A Car?

Most people view leasing with the same attitude as renting a house or apartment. Each monthly payment makes the wallet of the owner a little thicker while the renter has nothing to show for it. At the end of the lease agreement, the lessee (tenant) owns as much of the property as they did before they made the down payment – 0%. If you see a need to lease custom kitchen cabinets in austin for a remodel that’s another article for another day.

The monthly lease payments essentially offset the depreciation value of the vehicle. Just as it always doesn’t make the best financial sense to buy a house, such as only living somewhere for one or two years, there are also times when it might not make sense to buy a car.

car loan refinancing

To lease a car is to rent a vehicle. You will make an initial down payment that can include a refundable security deposit equal to the first monthly payment, any applicable fees or taxes, additional funds to prepay the lease balance to lower the monthly payments, and the first monthly payment.

It won’t be uncommon to pay at least $2,000 just to drive the car off the lot. Most dealers expect an initial down payment of 10% of the capitalized cost (the MSRP and additional dealer fees) of the car. Similar fees are expected when you purchase a vehicle, the primary difference is that you own the vehicle at the conclusion of the financing agreement.

When It Might Make Sense To Lease A Car

Get A New Every Two

If you are one who likes to buy a new vehicle every two or three years when the “new car smell” disappears, leasing can be a better option. Every vehicle depreciates the most within the first few years after it rolls off the assembly line. Some vehicles can depreciate as much as 50% from the original sticker value at the end of three years. Depending on the annual mileage and routine maintenance schedule, cars also start costing a lot more to maintain after the 2 or 3-year mark too.

Leasing is more convenient than buying a vehicle and selling it after 36 months. Instead of trying to sell or trade-in and find the highest bidder, a lessee can drive the vehicle to the dealer lot at the end of the term and drive home in a new one. Part of the lease agreement might also include complimentary routine maintenance at the dealer location. You still might have to pay for normal wear-and-tear expenses such as tires or brakes, but, maintenance can be a “hidden cost” that most people do not budget for on the sales floor.

Lower Monthly Payments

In general, leases have lower monthly payments than car loan payments. For example, the estimated monthly lease for a brand new Ford Focus with an estimated cost of $18,100 before discounts is $181 per month for 36 months. A 36-month loan at 0% APR has an estimated monthly payment of $425. The lower monthly payment can be an affordable way to drive a new vehicle. One expense to consider that might not be included in the monthly lease payment is a product called “GAP Protection.”

Some dealers or insurance providers might require Guaranteed Asset/Auto (GAP) Protection for leased vehicles to cover the difference between the initial lease balance and the payments made so far. In the unfortunate event that the leased vehicle is “totaled” during an accident, this type of coverage will pay the dealer the remaining balance for the vehicle so that the driver will not have to finish paying off that lease and find a way to afford a replacement vehicle.

To save even more money, look out for budget-friendly insurance, which will vary from state to state, city to city. For instance, the best cheap car insurance rates in Austin, Texas will likely be very different from rates in a state that sees plenty of snow and tough rough conditions.

Only Plan to Live Somewhere For A Few Years

Perhaps you need to live abroad for several years for business before returning stateside or bounce around the country every couple of years. Just as you probably wouldn’t buy a house for a 3-year stint as the potential appreciation normally doesn’t offset the fees associated with buying and selling the house, it might be the same thing for a car.

It’s not affordable to ship your car on a barge with your other belongings when you return. Or it might be impractical to own a sports car after moving from the southern U.S. to the northern U.S. with harsh winter conditions. Once again, leasing is a convenient option as you know exactly how much you will pay when you drive the car off the lot.

Factory Overstock Leases

Sometimes dealers will offer lease specials to help clear inventory. This makes the monthly payment even lower than a regular lease payment. At the end of any lease, the driver normally has the option to purchase the vehicle for market value at the end of the lease term. With factory overstock leases, it can make sense to “lease-to-own” as the lease payments can be lower than depreciation. The financing for the remaining value will carry a lower monthly payment than if the vehicle had been financed brand-new.

For this strategy to work, you need to be intentional about banking the extra savings and setting it aside into a “no-touch” fund to buy the car at the end of the lease term. If you decide to purchase the vehicle you will need to pay the appropriate taxes and any loan down payment if you will not pay cash for the car.

Tax Rebates or Factory Subsidies

Sometimes local or state governments can make it cheaper to lease a new vehicle than buy a new vehicle.  This is most common with alternative fuel vehicles such as electric cars or hybrids where governments try to attract new customers to drive these vehicles. Dealers might also add additional subsidies for additional incentives to sign the lease. In addition to eco-friendly cars, certain dealers also offer incentives for high-end luxury vehicles. For some, it might be the only affordable way to drive a luxury car.

Lease For Business

If the leased vehicle will primarily be used for business purposes, it can also make sense to lease as the monthly payments can be tax-deductible. The guidelines are rather strict. It’s a good idea to talk to a tax professional or the accounting department before making this business decision.

lease a car

When It Doesn’t Make Sense To Lease A Car

Drivers who like to “buy and hold” their car until the wheels fall off should never lease. For these types of drivers, it doesn’t make financial sense to constantly be paying a monthly payment to the dealer when that money can be used for traveling, investing, or becoming debt-free. The two most affordable ways to purchase a vehicle that you intend to drive for more than 2-4 years is to buy a late model vehicle that is no more than 6 years old that can be purchased in whole and is still low-mileage.

Even if you need to obtain financing, it will be significantly cheaper than if you had bought the car with 1 mile on the odometer because of depreciation. A low-mileage late model vehicle can still be driven reliably for another 10 years or more, in most instances.

It also might not make sense to lease a brand new vehicle if you can afford the monthly loan payments. Instead of only renting the vehicle for three years (36 months) and returning it to the dealer so they can sell it to somebody else, you actually own the car and can sell it for the same price as the dealer. You won’t get the depreciation value (as the dealer did with lease payments) but it’s still more cost-effective than leasing.

Should You Buy Or Lease a Car?

If you are undecided whether to buy or lease a car, the Edmunds True Cost to Own calculator can help you crunch the numbers.  You should also get buy and lease quotes from your insurance provider as well.  Having realistic cost projections and knowing your preference for convenience (leasing) or ownership, can help make the decision easier.

As you can see, while owning a vehicle (like owning a house) is the most popular option. Sometimes it does make more sense to lease.

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How To Earn Money With Cashback Shopping Portals

roth 401(k) cashback shopping portals

roth 401(k) cashback shopping portals

Who doesn’t want to save money and get cash back on internet purchases? Everybody knows about discount codes that can be entered to get free shipping or a lower subtotal amount. With cashback shopping portals, you can receive these discounts and receive an additional cash back rebate when you shop through a third-party website.

How Do Cashback Shopping Portals Work?

Cashback shopping portals are the 21st-Century version of mail-in rebates, except shoppers must take the additional step before making a purchase instead of after to get cash back. Portals are also similar to rewards credit cards. Cardholders earn additional cash or travel rewards when they make a purchases with certain merchants.

The one main difference is that cashback shopping portals are a “middle man” between the shopper and the merchant. Shoppers need to use a portal to earn additional money. Otherwise, they only receive the discount that retailers are offering to the general public (assuming they have a discount). Portal users might pay the same price for an item at checkout as a non-portal user, but they will see the additional savings later.

How To Use A Cashback Shopping Portal

Cashback shopping portals make agreements with online retailers to pay customers with cash rewards when they make a purchase using the portal. To receive the reward, an online shopper must first visit the website of the portal (i.e. Ebates, Swagbucks, etc.) and choose the online store they want to shop at. The portal will open a shopping session and redirect the shopper to the store’s website.

Any purchases made during this session will be awarded the advertised cash reward that the store has agreed to pay.

Reward Payouts

Regarding reward payouts, every portal is different. There are several cashback shopping portals that you can choose to shop with. Some portals offer higher payout rates for a particular store than another portal. For instance, Portal A rewards 5% @ JC Penney, but Portal B only rewards 3%. It’s not uncommon for avid cashback shopping portal users to “reward shop” to use the portal that will give them the most cashback for a purchase.

When it comes time to actually getting the rewards into your bank account, portals also pay on different schedules. The one downside to portals is that most do not offer immediate access to cash rewards. It can take up to a month for some merchants to reimburse the reward to the portal.

Portal payouts are typically on a quarterly basis (i.e. rewards earned January-March are paid on May 15th). Also, portals usually require a minimum reward balance of at least $5. Some portals will pay rewards via PayPal on a more frequent basis (i.e. weekly or monthly) once you earn the minimum balance amount. Shoppers preferring check payments have to wait for the next quarterly disbursement.

Real-Life Example

Let’s use a real-life scenario to help make the cashback shopping portal process easier to understand:

  1. Jane wants to buy a new outfit from JC Penney.
  2. She visits her favorite cashback shopping portal and sees they are offering a 5% cashback reward on all items purchased.
  3. Jane clicks the “Shop Now” button and the portal takes her to the JC Penney homepage.
  4. After adding the new outfit, Jane completes the checkout process.
  5. Within 24-48 hours (for most merchants), Jane receives an e-mail from the cashback shopping portal saying she was rewarded $3 from the shopping session!

“Fine Print” About Earning Rewards

There are some tips that portal shoppers need to know about to make sure their purchases qualify for rewards.  It can be easy to make a mistake and not get credit.

1. Must Checkout Through the Portal Session

If Jane had gone directly to JC Penney’s website or a brick-and-mortar store instead of visiting the portal first, she would not have earned the 5% reward. By shopping through the portal, she still had to pay the same upfront price for the outfit as any other internet shopper, but will receive additional savings that retailers do not advertise to the average shopper.

2. Open New Session If You Do Not Checkout On Original Session

Also if Jane started the shopping session with a portal and added an item to her cart but doesn’t complete the checkout process with that same browser window, she may not earn reward credit. To earn credit, she will have to visit the retailer using the portal and check out with a new session.

If she checks out by going directly to the JC Penney website, she will not earn the reward, even though she put the item in her cart during a portal shopping session. It can be easy to forget to open a new session if you wanted to wait a day or two just to make sure you didn’t want to purchase any additional items.

3. Retailers Do Not Remember Previous Portal Cashback Purchases

Just because you made an online purchase with a cashback shopping portal at a store before doesn’t mean you will automatically receive rewards for future purchases. Retailers provide rewards as an incentive to attract shoppers, but will only reward those who go the extra mile. If you want to save money on each purchase, you need to use the portal every time.

4. Portal Shopping Sessions Have A Different Web Address

The reason why portal shopping sessions have a different web address is because of an affiliate code. This lets the merchant know that you are shopping with a portal and qualify for additional cashback.
Here is how to tell if you are in a portal shopping session by looking at your web address if you shop at JC Penney:

Web Address Without Portal

The above image is what your browser’s web address bar looks when you visit JC Penney without using a portal.  The below image is visit JC Penney with a portal.

Web Address With PortalNotice how one address is shorter than the other? The additional characters are what tell the merchant that any purchase made while this browser session is open is eligible for cashback rewards. This is an easy way to remember if you activated a shopping session or accidentally went directly to the store.

What Stores Award Portal Rewards?

The largest cashback shopping portals offer rewards at over 2,000 online stores. Most major retailers participate in the program. You can earn rewards in just about every category including gift cards, home improvement stores, clothing, and travel.

Certain stores have exclusions or tiered reward payouts. Most major retailers will not offer rewards on gift cards, although you can earn rewards by buying the same cards through gift card merchants.

Cashback Shopping Portals To Consider

If you are new to the cashback shopping portal scene, below is a list of four of the most popular portals.  There are plenty more available on the internet. Some stores like Walmart even have a cashback shopping portal of their own.

  • Ebates – This is the original and the largest cashback shopping portal. For additional rewards, you can also sign-up for the Ebates Cashback Credit Card that rewards an additional 3% on all purchases made through Ebates.
  • Giving Assistant – Giving Assistant is a portal with a social mission. For every purchase made using GA, they will donate a meal to the charity Feeding America. As of this post, they have donated 600,000+ meals.
  • Ibotta – If you like to save money at the supermarket, this is the portal for you. While most portals are online only, you earn rewards with Ibotta by sending a receipt of your purchase at one of the 189 participating stores to earn rewards. Despite making a purchases in-person, you need to “unlock rewards” on the Ibotta website prior to making a purchase.
  • Swagbucks – With Swagbucks, you earn gift cards instead of cash. Rewards can also be earned by taking surveys, playing games, and surfing the web. Swagbucks is popular because you can earn shopping portal rewards, but can also earn rewards without having to spend money.
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What Are Some Alternatives To Craigslist and eBay?

Craigslist and eBay are two of the most visited websites for shoppers looking to buy used items. Craigslist is great for local pickups of bulky items, while eBay is a fun option for those who like the potential bidding wars between potential buyers for a coveted item. Although eBay sellers can offer local pickup options, most of the items sold are shipped to the final destination. But, did you know there are other websites that buyers and sellers can use besides Craigslist and eBay? While you can find just about anything on either of these sites, you might be able to find a better selection for potentially lower prices too.

While some websites listed below sell a little bit of everything, the list is organized as much as possible into distinct categories. You might be wondering why people would even try selling on websites besides Craigslist and eBay. This is primarily because selling fees are less than eBay (Craigslist is free) and less competition among other sellers to stand out to buyers. Chances are a buyer will at some point have something to sell on the internet and will want to choose a site that charges the fewest fees to make the largest profit. They might be looking for a way to earn a little extra money online.

Sites That Sell Everything

These following sites sell a little bit of everything.  They are essentially going to be more like “eBay alternatives” than similar to Craigslist.

Amazon

We couldn’t leave this elephant out of the room. Most likely, online shoppers will purchase from Amazon if they do not purchase from Craigslist or eBay. You can buy just about anything new or used here and their Kindle eBook & Amazon Prime video streaming platforms make it a go-to source for digital entertainment. Sellers also like Amazon because of its household name status. They can price products competitively with Amazon’s prices, enticing customers with reasonable shipping options and accountability.

Bonanza

Bonanza might be the best eBay alternative that you have never heard of before. In 2016, Entrepreneur Magazine ranked Bonanza as “Best Entrepreneurial Company in America”. This platform might be best known for its offerings of eclectic items, but there are still plenty of items for sale in traditional categories like fashion, handbags, and jewelry.

There is one large difference between Bonanza and eBay. The most noticeable difference is that Bonanza’s site is a lot easier to use and navigate than eBay. Another difference is that Bonanza charges fewer fees to its sellers than eBay. This can also help keep prices lower than eBay. Unlike eBay, Bonanza only sells fixed-price listings. For sellers, Bonanza only collects a fee when a product sells. Their fees are significantly lower than eBay and Amazon.

eBid

This e-commerce platform has been around since 1999. eBid has fixed-price and auction-style listings, just like it’s larger competitors. If you want to sell on eBid, there is not a listing fee. The final commission will cap at 3% and all listings are also visible on Google Shopping.

Handcrafts & Vintage Items

You can buy handcrafts & vintage items on any of the sites above, but serious shoppers and sellers should also consider these two websites a try.

Etsy

Etsy is the marketplace for those who do not have the time or talent to complete a pin they might have found on Pinterest. If it can be made by hand, it’s on Etsy. While you will find traditional crafts like clothing, quilts, and jewelry, you might also find some other gems like ornate lampshades or glass art. The sky is the limit at Etsy. Sellers will pay a listing fee of 20 cents per item that is valid for four months and will pay about 6% of the total value when an item sells.

Ruby Lane

If you are a serious antique collector or lover of all things vintage, Ruby Lane is worth a visit. They bill themselves as “The world’s largest curated marketplace for vintage & antiques.” It is an easy site to navigate and buyers will like the high-quality images for each listing. For sellers, Ruby Lane has an initial membership fee of $100 and charges a monthly maintenance fee, depending on the number of items you have listed. Each new listing costs 19 cents and includes an “Advanced Processing Service” for the first image.

Craigslist Alternatives

It’s hard to beat Craigslist if you are looking to buy or sell items locally without the hassle of shipping. It’s free to list so it is hard for competitors to offer lower fees than free. But, there are still a couple other options available for those that might not like the spam listings that disguise themselves amongst the legitimate listings.

Let Go

Let Go launched in September 2015 and allows people to connect to buy or trade used items. It is very similar to Craigslist but is more designed for those that like to shop with a mobile app. Craigslist has an app too, but shoppers might like Let Go because it has a lot of the same listing categories as Craigslist without all the spam and false advertisements. Plus, the image quality tends to be better than on Craigslist.

Oodle

Oodle claims to have 15 million unique visitors each month. They pull listings from eBay and other social media sites to create a local marketplace listing for the buyer. Sellers can automatically share listings on Facebook. This also helps assure potential buyers that a listing isn’t a scam because Oodle links to a seller’s social media profile.

Recycler

Originally based out of Los Angeles, Recycler has transformed from a local classified free ad paper into a website that serviced the second-hand needs of Southern California before going national. Recycler has partnered with the social media platforms Facebook and Twitter to help increase seller exposure to local and national buyers. Unlike Craigslist, where buyers can only view listings from one geographic region at a time, Recycler makes it possible to view local and national listings at the same time.

Sellers can post ads for free although premium ads will cost money. Depending on the ad package, a listing will display from one week up to nine weeks.

Summary

You probably didn’t know of all these different options existed. While you will most likely find what you are looking for on Craigslist or eBay, it still doesn’t hurt to give these sites a try as well, especially the specialty websites. Another benefit of shopping with either of these sites is that you are a “bigger fish” in the pond.

There are fewer buyers competing for the same product and sellers will have a better opportunity of receiving a first-page listing at a lower cost because of reduced fees and less seller competition too. The next time you need to make a purchase, it might not be a bad idea to shop around!

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Can You Make Money Selling On eBay?

eBay is the online market platform that demonstrated to the world that any individual could make money selling things online. Twenty years later, is it still possible to make money (and a side business) by selling on eBay? With so many different online market platforms there is more competition than ever before.

Yet, more and more consumers make online purchases every year. So can you make money selling on eBay? Yes, you can make money selling just about anything on eBay, but will you need to be strategic to make a profit.

Can You Make Money Selling On eBay?

eBay Selling Fees

The original intent of eBay was to be an online marketplace for individuals to buy and sell goods of every sort. Unlike Craigslist that is fee-free for sellers, those that conduct business on eBay will need to pay seller fees that go into the profit margin. Otherwise, they require you to sell at a higher listing price. You can find more information on eBay’s website.

If you are just getting started and do not want to open an eBay store, you can list the first 50 items each month for free – whether it’s being sold auction-style only or with the “Buy It Now” option. Any additional items will have an “insertion fee” of 30 cents per item. However, this fee will be refunded for most auction-style items that sell. Once the item sells, you will also need to pay a “final value fee” of 10% of the total amount of the sale (maximum fee of $750). eBay defines the total amount of the sale as the selling prices, shipping charges, and any additional fees the seller charges to the buyer.

eBay Store

If you plan on becoming a volume seller, you will want to consider opening an eBay store. An eBay store allows you to have more free monthly listings when you play a monthly subscription fee. There are three different types of stores that you can setup depending on the number of listings you will submit monthly*.

Type of Store Amount of Free Monthly Listings Monthly Subscription Fee Yearly Subscription Fee
Basic 250 fixed price listings and 250 auction-style listings $24.95 per month $19.95 per month
Premium 1,000 fixed price listings and 500 auction-style listings $74.95 per month $59.95 per month
Anchor 10,000 fixed price listings and 1,000 auction-style listings $349.95 per month $299.95 per month

These are the categories that qualify for free* insertion fees:

  • Clothing, Shoes, & Accessories
  • Health & Beauty
  • Jewelry & Watches
  • Antiques
  • Art
  • Coins & Paper Money
  • Collectibles
  • Dolls & Bears
  • Entertainment Memorabilia
  • Pottery & Glass
  • Sports Memorabilia, Cards, & Fan Shop
  • Stamps
  • Toys & Hobbies

Items listed outside these categories are subject to an insertion fee*. The most applicable item might be motor vehicles such as cars, trucks, motorcycles, RVs, and boats.

Lower Final Value Fees

Another advantage of an online store is lower final value fees* (instead of 10%) charged on certain categories!

The below list is only a partial listing of categories with fee reductions* for eBay stores:

  • Books, DVDs, Movies, Music, & Video Games: 9.15%
  • Clothing, Shoes, and Accessories: 9.15%
  • eBay Motors: 8.15%
  • Select Musical Instruments & Gear: 7.15%
  • Select Computer/Tablets & Networking and Video Game Consoles: 4%

If an eBay store is for you, be sure to read the full listing of reduced “Final Value Fees” for eBay stores.

Setting Yourself Apart

You can list the best products for the most reasonable prices, but if you do not include certain information in your listings, you might not be maximizing your income potential.

Here are some tactics you should utilize to increase the likelihood of a sale and receiving a higher auction price:

Check The Prices of Similar Items

There’s a good chance that similar items have recently been listed by other sellers. Although two identical items can both fetch different prices with eBay’s auction listing, you can at least get a basic idea of what to initially list the product for and a “ballpark” estimate of the final selling price.

It’s also not a bad idea to check out prices of similar items on another online store like Amazon or the retailer website. Most people won’t buy or bid on your listing if they know it can be founder at a lower price at another site.

To attract additional attention to your product, you can also consider listing it at 99 cents and watch the bidding pursue as the countdown clock on the listing counts down. This is a judgment call on your part. Depending on the product you are selling, you may want to start with a higher price as a low initial price might deter potential buyers who might perceive the product as “junk” or a scam.

Take Good Photos

You can upload up to 12 pictures per listing. Depending on what you want to sell, you may want to include more than one picture. For example, one picture can be of the original packaging and additional pictures can be of the actual product or a seal of authenticity. People love pictures and studies show that customers are more willing to make a purchase if pictures are available, regardless of the product or website.

Provide A Detailed Description

If you are looking to buy a product on eBay or Amazon, are you more likely to consider purchasing from the listing that only states they will ship within 24 hours or the seller who gives specific details about the various scratches, dents, and add-ons that come with the product? Most people will choose the latter listing.

Similar to good photos, most people also want juicy details about the item they are considering. As you buy items “sight unseen” (you cannot physically inspect or test the item) from the internet, pictures and a good description are very important.

For example, you might be selling a “box of clothing” and the item description only says “Box of clothing for sale. All items in new condition with tags still attached.” There are probably 20 questions going through you (the buyer’s head) including how many items of clothing if it’s adult or children’s clothing, or whether it’s summer or winter clothing.

Instead, the description should be something along the lines of: “Ten men’s Under Armour clothing items for sale. Includes 5 golf polo shirts, 2 pairs of white golf pants (size 36 x 30), 2 one-size-fits-all adult hats (white & blue), and 1 pair of men’s gold gloves (size Large). All items are new with original tags still attached. No defects.”

A description makes a big difference and can help increase the interest in your product listings (and hopefully start a bidding war between two potential buyers). It doesn’t have to be a 1,000-page book, but include any important details you think will help a buyer pay a higher price than the initial listing.

Sell What You Know

With eBay, you can sell anything – whether you are a content expert or not. It will be easier to competitively price and describe items if you are a content expert in the category you are listing items. You have an inherent advantage for knowing what to look for if you try to flip items by buying low from others and selling high.

There are several blogs where people write about flipping items on eBay. They go to the local yard and estate sales and find good deals. Then they take the item home, list it, and make a profit. It sounds easy, but it takes some experience by having prior knowledge of the average selling price of a particular item.

Time The Market

It’s somewhat hard to time the market to make the most money on a product listing. The best advice is to try and schedule your listings so they close over the weekend. eBay receives a lot of traffic on the weekends and one source of an eBay adrenaline rush is the bidding wars that take place in the final two minutes of a listing.

Having a listing close over the weekend invites more people to watch and bid on your items. As any auction is uncertain, there is no guarantee you will receive larger profits on weekend listings compared to weekday listings. But the odds increase with the more people that view your product.

Summary

It is still very possible to make money on eBay. The established stores have an advantage because of their experience and number of buyer reviews, but there is still plenty of room for newcomers. With the prevalence of online selling platforms, it’s only a sign that eBay and its competitors will not go away anytime soon.

For starters, choose several products that you want to sell and see what they are currently listed for on eBay, Amazon, or other selling platforms. Also, consider seller fees. If eBay isn’t cost-effective, choose another platform. Finally, be sure to price your product competitively and give the buyer plenty of information.

*As were the terms/fees/conditions at the time of publication and are subject to change.

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How Much Do Weddings Actually Cost?

For some, dreamy ideals of the perfect wedding swirl around in the mind years before the right person comes along. Weddings are often referred to as the best day of a couple’s life together, and a well-planned event is remembered by guests for years to come. However, the dollars and cents that go into planning a wedding can add up quickly, given the sheer number of details necessary to pull off an event for potentially a few hundred people. Everything from invitations and seating charts to food and alcohol must be budgeted for, regardless of the extravagance of your big day. If you’re on the cusp of planning for a wedding or have already started the tedious process, it is important to know how much weddings actually cost.

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Average Total Cost by State

According to recent survey data, the average cost of a wedding held within the United States is an impressive $31,213. That’s quite a bit of dough! Costs vary widely from state to state with the lowest average coming in at $15,257 in Utah. Overall, the celebration of your nuptials is lower in the Midwest and Southwest. Arkansas closely follows Utah at the lowest average cost. For those planning to get wed in the Northeast, however, the average costs quickly creep up. On average, couples planning their big day in Manhattan pay an average of $76,328 – the highest in the nation. Northern and Central New Jersey, and Chicago, Illinois round out the most expensive wedding areas throughout the country.

What Goes into Wedding Costs?

Keeping a lid on the exorbitant cost of a wedding can be a challenge. This is especially true if you don’t know all of the factors involved in planning the event. Traditional weddings often require planning for a reception space. Additionally, the items that go along with throwing a fabulous party, like entertainment and music, decorations, tables, chairs, and linens can add up easily. A ceremony space is a must for the most conventional couples, which can either be held at the same venue as the reception or in a different location altogether.

Adding to the list is the attire for the couple, which not only includes pricey suits or dresses but also accessories, shoes, hair, and makeup services. Flowers for bouquets, boutonnieres, and ancillary décor may also be needed. Some couples include gifts for the supportive friends and family who are an integral part of the wedding party. Photography, videography, parking, and transportation should also be considered. Invitations, save the date announcements, and wedding rings are other items to consider. If you’d rather not take on the arduous task of planning every detail of your event, plan to spend some of your wedding funds on a planner, too. Last but far from least is the food and beverages that will be provided during the reception.

Given this lengthy list, it is not surprising that the cost of a wedding skyrockets for some. The average cost of each wedding expense is as follows:

  • Attire and accessories: $1,629
  • Beauty treatments (hair, nails, and makeup): $129
  • Entertainment (live music or DJ): $1,389
  • Flowers and décor: $1,563
  • Gifts, including guest favors: $702
  • Invitations: $789
  • Jewelry, including wedding rings: $4,133
  • Photography and videography: $2,835
  • Event planner: $827
  • Venue, including catering and table/chair/linen rentals: $11,944

Budgeting for the Wedding

To steer clear of a massive wedding bill, budgeting ahead of time is key. Establishing a budget for a wedding is not much different than it is for monthly expenses, but there are a few key differences. First, family assistance is often a major help in reducing the out of pocket costs for your big day. If you know parents, grandparents, or other relatives are planning to lend a hand with the wedding expenses, talk with them openly about how much they plan to contribute before you start spending. Not sure if the family is able to help? Simply ask. The worst that could happen is that the wedding cost falls squarely on your shoulders as a couple. It may result in pinching pennies along the way. But knowing what you’re up against prior to starting your planning will help overall.

Another aspect of creating your wedding budget relies heavily on the type of event you want. If you’re planning a formal ceremony and reception, you’re safe to add a substantial amount to your venue and catering budget. Conversely, a celebration that is more casual in terms of location and feel often costs significantly less. It is also important to know your projected guest list size, as this has a direct impact on your total spending. Invitation costs, favors, food, and venue costs all rise as your guest lists grows. Building out your wedding budget should be based on these considerations. You’ll have far more success when you create a system of budgeting – and stick to it.

Tips for Reducing the Expense

The cost of a wedding does not have to overwhelming. There are a number of methods to cut out expenses. First, pay close attention to the contracts you sign, specifically for the venue and the caters. Are there “hidden” fees such as overtime or cleanup that add to the total costs? Will tips be included in the contracted amount? Are you paying for their servers, security staff, and/or parking attendants? Most of the time, wedding vendors provide this information up front in the contract, but it is up to you to know what you’re getting into.

Sizing down your total guest list also helps reduce the total cost, as that number directly affects every aspect of your planning. Taking just 10 guests off the list could put nearly $1,000 back in your pocket. Don’t be afraid to trim the headcount as needed. Additionally, keep things simple as much as you can, leaving out glamourous details that simply don’t fit into the overall budget. Oftentimes, pricey additions are a waste of hard-earned cash, and you nor your guests will notice their absence.

Finally, be prepared to negotiate with wedding vendors before an agreement is signed. It never hurts to ask. Some wedding professionals offer discounts for referrals, while others may cut off a portion of the cost if you leave a solid review of their services online. If they are unwilling to wiggle in terms of price, it may be worth seeking out alternatives. Whatever you do in your wedding planning adventure, keep your bottom line in mind.

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Why Having a Rewards Card Makes You More Likely to Spend

There have been many studies and clinical trials that set out to prove or disprove that having a credit card increases the occurrence of spending money. Over the many years that this particular question has been combed over, the same answer is extracted almost every time: yes, people do spend more money when they have a credit card.

The question that we derive from there is why? Why do people feel more inclined to spend more when they have that little plastic rectangle in their wallets as compared to loose cash or even a debit card? The answer has two prongs:

1.) a delayed payment as a result of the credit card, and

2.) the sweet, sweet smell of those rewards.

Here is a closer look at why we love swiping the plastic, and why we should all be a little warier about being so focused on those rewards points.

Our love affair with the modern credit card.

With the verdicts from the earlier studies coming out the way that they did, it sounds pretty relatable doesn’t it? We all feel a little better using our credit cards instead of the debit.

When you go to the grocery store and are waiting for your turn to exchange awkward pleasantries with the person behind the counter, and you spy that king size KitKat bar on the shelf, you are faced with a quick choice –should you go ahead and splurge for it? You don’t need it, but you kinda want it.

According the studies that were done, if you only have cash you more than likely will pass on the opportunity to indulge your sweet tooth, but when the checkout person asks you if there is anything else you would like to include and you only have your credit card on you, you are much more likely to lean over and snatch up that chocolatey crunch stick before leaving.

So why does this happen, and if you are like me, keep happening? The answer is that in our minds, credit cards are not real money. At least, not as real as the money attached to our debit cards, or even cash.

The New York Times refers to this mentality as the “Credit Card Premium”, and it goes to the reasoning behind why we prefer to reach for credit card instead of methods of payment that subtract an instant total from our accounts: it feels like we are delaying the payment indefinitely, even though in reality we are putting off the payment for only about a month or so.

We prefer the idea of not having to think about the money leaving our account instantly versus having our money drained after a lengthy delay. One of the deeper reasons that we tell ourselves that this is an alright way of thinking — security.

“Credit cards are much safer than using my debit card!”

With credit cards come with a sizable amount of security and peace of mind.

If by some odd chance we come across a situation that while using our debit card someone snagged our account info, they could make all kinds of wild and extravagant purchases with our accounts before we even notice that we had our identity stolen, and that could wreak all kinds of havoc within our financial holdings. With a credit card however, we have that comforting feeling of a “safety net” that if something goes wrong, we can deny the purchases and walk away from the situation unscathed.

This mentality of credit card = safety and debit = bad isn’t always a wrong way of thinking, but being 100% responsible with credit cards is not always possible 100% of the time. When we let the false freedom of credit cards get the better of us, it can actually be more dangerous that having your account info stolen from you. In other words, when it comes to the plastic, you are your worst enemy. 

Reaping the rewards.

The reason that we love credit cards so much and never shy away from the opportunity to stick our rectangles in that painfully slow chip reader is the rewards.

It’s pretty insane when you think about it –we are essentially getting paid to spend money. Rewards points, when used carefully and acquired strategically can be a huge life help and financial boost, as it can lead to cheaper airline miles that otherwise would cost you an arm and a leg, cash back that can cover a fancy night out for you and the Mrs., or even just “thank you” bonus’s like first dibs on concert tickets that otherwise are unavailable to others. All this just because you like to spend money so much that you decided you should be payed to do it.

These rewards can be insanely awesome, but when we get nothing but rewards points on the mind, that is when we can find ourselves in some pretty hot water that we never thought we would get into otherwise. Having a credit card that gives you an insane rewards points ratio is a great way to enhance your life, but it can also be a dangerous way to push you into overspending without you even noticing.

It may sound simple and amateurish, but you always need to keep track of everything that you purchase, and if you are swiping your card just so that you can earn some rewards points, then you might want to reconsider what is more valuable: saving a few bucks on an airline ticket through your rewards program, or the money you just wasted on a gas grill from Patio World just so that you could earn a few points?

A ridiculous example, I know. But if you aren’t paying attention, you can run around town just looking for ways to rack in more rewards points and completely forget that rewards points are just “thank you’s” for spending your money with a particular credit company. If you aren’t careful, you just might find yourself at Patio World making more and more unnecessary purchases (Nothing against Patio World, really, they just came to mind as an example).

Don’t get wrapped up in the rewards hype.

Don’t get carried away by the glitz and the glamour of credit card rewards. They can be amazing, absolutely, but when we lock our sights on them, things can get pretty crazy.

Remember: credit cards are connected to your own accounts and run off of your own money, which is limited, regardless of how much time there is between you and your bill cycle.

Stay grounded on that fact and you should be alright, and when it comes to earning those rewards points –earn them as you go about your purchases at a normal pace. Don’t go out of your way to earn a few more rewards points if it means that you need to buy something you wouldn’t normally.

The savings earned from rewards points are not going to be equal to that gas grill you just bought, and they never will be.

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How to Pay your Rent with a Credit Card

Every month we have an inevitable and inescapable payment that we have to make, and other than having it serve one general purpose, there really is no other way to capitalize on it. That inescapable and seemingly unnegotiable payment that we make every month on the dot is: rent.

Your rent, unless you worked some incredible deal out with your landlord (your parents can count as a landlord too), is going to most likely be the largest bill you have to pay each month. Because this sizable chunk of your paycheck is not going into the cash pile that is being used to eventually buy the place outright, your rent checks are pretty much going into a black hole—so why not make the most of the situation and at least get some rewards points out of it?

Seems like a nice middle ground, but is this really possible? Paying your rent with your credit card sounds pretty great in theory, but is it great in reality?

Below, we take a look at the steps that would be needed to make paying your rent with your credit card possible, and if it should even be explored for your given situation.

It’s really up to your landlord.

What you need to know right out of the gate is that every landlord is different. Some landlords are very traditional and want a physical paper check in their mailbox by sundown every month on the 15th, and some landlords might be a little more modern and accept a payment via Bitcoin, or even allow you to swipe your debit card into their card reader which is attached to their door mounted tablet (I have never met a landlord who was this current, but I’m sure they are out there somewhere).

It really is up to the landlord on how they want payments to be conducted. No matter what, it is worth a conversation, and the worst they can do is shout at you that they still want paper checks every month.

Realistically, the paper check method is a no nonsense method of rent payment, but in a world where digital currency is how we move all of our funds around, why shouldn’t you be able to use your credit card to make your payment, and also earn some rewards points while you’re at it?

Why is my landlord so against paying with credit card?

The first thing that needs to be understood is why this option of paying rent with a credit card is not normally offered. Truth be told, landlords hate the idea, and they hate it for the exact same reason that every other merchant hates it: the transaction fee.

Whenever you make a payment using a credit card, it brings in a third party into the mix, and that third party wants a piece of the action.  Originally the transaction in between you and your landlord via paper check was a straightforward equation of:

A pays B, and B now has money.

When you pay with a credit card, this equation becomes a little more complicated:

A pays B, and now B has to pay C a fee so that A can pay B.

Before you brought in the credit lenders, there was no added fee that B had to pay, but because you are involving the credit service now, using their services cost money, and that cost has to be paid by somebody.

There is a chance that your landlord might be cool about your proposed idea to pay rent with a credit card and just make you pay the transaction fee (which is around as high as 5% of the payment that is currently going through), which because this is your idea to begin with, sounds pretty fair.

If you want this idea to take, then it might be better if you bring up the fact that you intend to pay this extra fee. If it works and your landlord agrees to make this new arrangement works, then congratulations, you can now earn rewards points by paying your rent.

But here is how you CAN pay rent with your credit card.

If your landlord is unmoving on the issue of the merchant’s fee and wants nothing to do with paying it, there is still hope.

This is an age old issue, whether or not you can make payments with a credit card. Although directly, the answer is still a “No, you can’t swipe your card every month”, there are companies that have devised a workaround and set themselves up within the business of making your rent payments happen via credit card.

These are services that act as a stand-in for your rent payments, making it so that you pay them in whatever manner you please (credit card, debit card, gift card, gold coins…) and they make sure that your paid up rent check finds its way into your landlord’s mailbox by the specific time specified. It’s a simple idea, but one that is successful in turning the question around of whether or not you can pay your rent with a credit card.

Companies like RadPad and Plastiq and RentShare are all companies that have built off of the idea of working as a middle man when it comes to fund sharing, but RadPad is a company that bases itself solely upon the idea of paying your rent with a credit card and making it as easy as possible to do so.

When it comes to services like this, especially RadPad, the good news is that your landlord does not have to be on board or sign up to the service. The money is good, so they more than likely will not care that the rent check looks a little different, and the money will always show up in their mailbox on time (according to the time and date that you specify on your account).

Of course, this service is not totally free for those looking to pay rent with a credit card, as the transaction fee is currently 3.49% of your rent (remember that merchants/transaction fee we mentioned earlier?)

The transaction fee for credit cards is a small price to pay for the luxury of being able to earn reward points while paying for rent. It’s a pretty sweet deal to be finally able to earn some pretty sweet rewards on a regular purchase that you otherwise would not be able to. That $2000 purchase that you make every month by the 15th can finally be turned around into rewards through these kinds of services.

When it comes to the rent payment services, just be sure that the rewards that you will be earning are more than the transaction fee. It wouldn’t be worth it to go through all that trouble just so that you can pay a little more for rent for rewards points that really don’t offer you rewards that are more valuable than the cash you spent to earn them. Always be on the look out to make judgment calls to see whether or not the tradeoff you are making to earn the rewards points is worth the purchase.

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Review of the Best Online Budget Software

Very few actually enjoy the task of budgeting. Understanding and maintaining a cash flow system for income, bills and savings each month takes equal parts effort and time – and when the numbers fail to create a surplus, the big bad “b” word turns into a despised chore. Fortunately, the fusion of technology and innovation in the realm of personal finance has birthed a number of online budget software solutions, meant to reduce the time spent on and pain inflicted by managing your cash flow. While this list is not all inclusive, it represents the top three picks for online budget software based on ease of use, features and cost.

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Mint

By far and large, Mint.com is the queen of online budget software. Established in 2006 and currently serving more than 10 million users, Mint is a no-cost personal financial management tool that leaves conventional budgeting in the distant past. With access both online and via mobile, Mint works to help individual users track where their money is going, for better or worse, by providing account aggregation and real-time updates on spending, saving and bill management. Once the simple set-up process is complete (which consists of signing up with an e-mail address and password), users have the ability to add bank accounts, credit cards and debts from multiple financial institutions in a single place. Why does this matter? Well, customizable budgeting is made substantially less daunting when all of your financial data is in a single location and tracked – without a spreadsheet or checkbook balancing – every minute of every day.

Through Mint, users pick and choose which accounts to add to the dashboard, and the platform syncs transaction data as money is earned and then spent. Mint users can categorize any transaction under the program’s preset list of purchase types or by creating unique categories of their own. The more detailed users are in categorizing money movement, the better the budgeting tool works. Mint allows each user to create unique budgets for an endless number of categories, all which are easily changed as financial habits or obligations shift over time. One of the best parts of Mint is the alerts and advice that come with the software – if you’ve overspent in one category or failed to save toward an established goal, fret not. Mint will let you know.

In addition to intuitive budgeting and categorization, Mint offers a robust set of features to its users. Access to a free credit score every few months helps users stay on top of changes, and investment tracking highlights performance and growth over time. Additionally, Mint offers helpful tips and opportunities to save money as users continue to utilize the software. For instance, if your credit card has recently assessed a finance charge, Mint may offer a suggestion for a lower-interest-rate card or balance transfer offer from one of its partners.

And in case you missed it, Mint.com is free. Users do experience a relatively heavy ad presence throughout the site, but focusing on the tools available make that only a slight annoyance. The combination of these features and the ability to track money movement against designed budgets makes Mint.com one of the strongest online software applications for personal financial management.

YNAB

You Need a Budget (YNAB) comes in as a close second to Mint for online budget software options. Created in 2004, YNAB is an online budget software based on four foundational rules:

  • Give every dollar a job – categorize where money is spent and how much
  • Know your true expenses – incorporate quarterly, semi-annual and annual payments into a monthly budget
  • Be flexible – establish overspending “buckets”
  • Break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle – pay bills as they come in and work toward living off money earned last month

YNAB offers users a different experience than Mint based on its underlying principals, but the software platform works in a similar manner. Users of the online budget software simply sign up through the website and are immediately given access to both the desktop and mobile applications. Thousands of financial institutions can be synced with the YNAB software, from checking accounts to credit cards, making the task of budgeting far easier. YNAB updates regularly, so users have the flexibility to check progress in terms of sticking with a budget anywhere, at any time.

One clear difference between YNAB and Mint is the cost. While enrolled students can utilize the power of YNAB at no cost for one year, all other users are assessed a fee for access. The monthly option is billed at $5 while paying in full for the year equates to a $50 charge. Part of the justification for the cost of YNAB can be linked to its educational resources provided to users. Classes on budgeting and money management are made available, offering expert advice and tips on how to effectively utilize not only the software but create new habits as well. YNAB also maintains a blog which goes into depth on budgeting topics in a lighthearted but educational way. Through the site, users also have access to a number of guides focused on debt management, prioritizing financial goals, and aging your money. Individuals looking for a more hands-on approach as it relates to budgeting may consider YNAB a better choice than Mint.

Level Money

Touted as a financial GPS, Level Money is another online budget software meant to lend a digital hand when it comes to spending. Unlike Mint and YNAB that focus on the basic principals of budgeting – establishing category limits for spending and sticking to it – Level Money replaces a user’s bank account balance with a spendable amount each month. Users sync bank accounts and credit cards like they would in Mint or YNAB, but Level Money focuses more on how much one has to spend based on bills and savings goals input into the software.

Level Money provides users the opportunity to establish simplistic trackers for a wide variety of spending habits, like dining out, ride shares (Uber, Lyft or cab service), travel and gas. These trackers work to inform users of ongoing spending habits on either a month-to-month or annual basis. In addition, Level Money offers intuitive predictions as it relates to bank account balances and upcoming bills to make it easier to maintain control over spending. Like Mint, Level Money is available via desktop and mobile at no cost.

Budgeting is one of the critical components of sound financial management, but without outside help, the task often becomes a chore. Utilizing one of the online budget software options listed here can help take the pain out of budgeting, no matter your goals or spending habits, paving the way for a much better understanding of how your money works for you.

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How to Budget for Newlyweds

The blissful nightmare that was the planning of your wedding is over, the ceremony went off with minimal hitches, and your honeymoon was even more amazing than you anticipated it to be. So now that you’re back in the real world and all the problems of this world come back into focus, what is living with your newly betrothed actually going to look like on paper?

You have talked about how many kids you want and what their names will be and what sports you want them to play or not play, and you probably went as far as to pick out the kind of puppy that you will eventually buy them to teach them responsibility when they are old enough (even though it will be you who will take care of the thing in the end). Chances are, you’ve talked about all of these things and more, but never once used the “F” word in a conversation with your newly dubbed spouse: Finances.

As you two start your new life together, more important than what your future children’s names will be is the laying down of a plan on how you two will live, with specific numbers and all. Below is a breakdown of some of the most important things to consider as you and your betrothed discuss the nitty-gritty of newlywed finances.

 

Don’t blow your wedding registry.

A wedding registry is a privilege, and although it seems like an excuse to request the most unnecessary items just for the sake of getting it without you having to buy it yourself (I.E. Darth Vader cake molds, a Han Solo-frozen-in-carbonite refrigerator door etc.…), don’t mistake this opportunity for a Christmas wish list of knick-knacks. Don’t blow this opportunity to be showered in gifts on things that are not essential. You only have one shot so think long and hard about it!

Think logistically: what kinds of things will you two honestly need in your new home together? Well here’s a hint: keep track for about a week or so on the things that you use every day. Write them down because you will forget due to how often you use them. Things like: bowls and plates, glass ware, silverware, towels, Tupperware, cookware, a cutting board…you get the idea. Things that are actually essential to your everyday existence.

This kind of planning is best heeded by people who don’t already live on their own or with their significant other. If you already live on your own, chances are that you already have your own dishware…or dishware alternatives on hand (you would be surprised as to how versatile an upside down Frisbee can be).

 

Plan to live as cheaply as possible at the beginning.

When first getting started as a new and young team, chances are that neither of you are making the big bucks yet, but you’ll get there, just hold on. At the beginning, and we cannot stress this enough, live as basic as possible. Although you will want to live the life that you always wanted with a fancy car to call your own, a big house and all the puppies that can fit inside it at your disposal, it just isn’t prudent this early in the game to make those kinds of purchases just yet. Live as modestly as you can, and that can happen by both of you sitting down and talking about just how much money exactly is coming into your new house hold.

 

Budgets, moving money, and spending plans.

You need to make an actual budget and both be on the same page about what you are working with. Talk numbers and discuss if you will be joining accounts into a joint account or not, and discuss why. A lot of places will tell you that you must merge accounts as a newly married couple, but if you two have valid reasons beside pettiness that is keeping you from going down to the bank and pushing all of your money together, then by all means keep to your plan. No two couple’s situation is the same so there is no real blanket rule here.

  • Be transparent about the past

If you haven’t been transparent about your financial situations yet (which you really should have been already at some point), then now is the time to do it. Discuss your financial pasts and what they looked like. This conversation will and should include coming clean about debts, and about spending habits. Are either of you shop-aholics? Penny pinchers? Spending like a ballers or saving like a miser?

Whatever your thoughts on spending money is, you need to share it and make sure you both understand what the other person is used to.

  • Be transparent about what you want for today.

Talk about what you two can realistically afford right now, and what your lives will look like as long as your income is the way it is. Knowing exactly what you have to work with will help you two budget accordingly so that you can keep saving whilst still living a comfortable life.

Work together to map out what luxuries can be afforded, how much should be spent on what, and what kind of areas of interest (hobbies) can still be present in your new lives as well as how often.

  • Be transparent about the future.

Saving money as you two go along should be one of the drivers of your financial planning. Unless you absolutely love the cramped and tiny Harry-Potter-before-Hogwarts apartment that you two are currently occupying, and it can fit all the kids and puppies you two talked about (*spoiler* it probably won’t), then you should be saving to move into a bigger place.

When that future house is finally achieved and bought, then what will the next set of savings go towards? The kid’s college fund? The vacation fund? The dog’s college fund? (hey, I don’t know what kind of future is in store and neither do you)… These are the kinds of points you both need to be clear about as you discuss what your lives will look like from this point forward and onward.

 

Stress comes in the form of money.

As you two enter into this exciting chapter of your lives, remember that you will always have each other to rely on when things get rough. Remember that is isn’t all about the money, it’s about you and your partner. Things will get crazy: one or both of you could get laid off or fired, one of you gets a raise and suddenly gets a “big head”, or one of you is faced with a job opportunity across the country and you both have to move.

When things get crazy, don’t let the stress of the money get to you. It will seem like its everything, but knowing that money is going to try to get in between you two and turn you into a statistic (its common knowledge that money problems is one of the leading reasons for divorce in the US) is going to help you keep those emotions in check. Keep your eyes on each other, and not the money.

Contrary to what Puff Daddy will have you think, it’s not all about the Benjamin’s, baby: it’s about you and your partner.

 

Don’t expect to live in splendor just yet (even if you can afford to).

Keep your living in moderation. This is important because like we said earlier, saving is what is important. Living like your parents (fancier cars, bigger house, and all the dogs that you always wanted to take with you but couldn’t) is just not doable at this stage in the game. Keep your heads down and work hard at your jobs and at your relationship, and eventually you can have all the things your parents do for yourself.

Even if you can afford to live the high life right off the bat (you have family money, you were a child CEO, etc.…), resist the temptation to live in splendor. Live as far below your useable budget as possible. Why? Because it is more important to save up for the bigger things for the future than it is to burn through them in the present. If you have the money, great! You can live a little more posh than the average newlywed, but don’t go crazy with that mindset, you are still advised to keep it modest.

 

So take advantage of your wedding registry as a way to pay for all the essentials you would otherwise have to pay for yourself, create a hard budget lined and drawn from information about past spending habits, current and future goals, and live in moderation. Save your money as much as you can while living well within your means, and before you know it, you’ll be running a successful and stable household all on your own.

So congratulations on your nuptials, and good luck out there!

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Are Gas Prices Going Up This Summer?

Remember when gas prices were as low as $2 at the beginning of the year? If you are like me, you felt like you actually wanted to be the one to volunteer to drive whenever you and your friends had a road trip to plan for. Low gas prices means more cash in all of our wallets, as setting up budgets for fill-ups at the pump is a necessity for car owners.

This window of freedom is sadly coming to a close as we enter into the summer season. With gas pump prices closely tied to the price of oil per barrel, having the barrel prices rise means an inevitable and impending rise in prices for us at the pump. Although we can expect a bump upwards in pricing, what goes up must also come down. Here is what you can expect to see at the pumps this summer.

 

Yes they are, but first-

The bad news.

Yes, gas prices are rising from the unexpected dip that we experienced in and around February of this year, where the national gas price, according to source AAA, was an average of sub $2. Even as low as $1.50 in a handful of states.

This joyous time, as fellow motorists may have noticed is beginning to fizzle out as prices begin to climb upwards as we enter into the warm season of using the summer blend of gasoline. As I write this, the national average for gasoline balances out to a total of $2.375, with highs as far up as $2.81 and lows as far down as $2.01, which compared to the prices we experienced only a few short months ago, has quickly albeit steadily risen.

And now the good news.

There is good news for those of us who are feeling our collars tighten as we read that prices are steadily rising. Like any fever, it gets worse before it gets better again, and that’s just what gas prices will be doing for us as we move through to the end of the hotter months: the price will go back down.

Gasoline is a product like any other, and has price setters and indicators, as well as peak seasons in which it is comparatively in more demand than the other months. Since the beginning of summer is one of the busier times of the year for gas and fueling stations due to all the road trippers, graduation attenders, and overall road warriors due to schools being out and ceremonies to be attended, the price was raised to capitalize on the surplus of gas station fillips, but will return to its already low state and slip even lower.

Good news for all with the exception of – California

The price dropping and staying low is a result of overstock and refinery processes, which is good news for motorists all over the country—with the exception of California.

Due to the refineries around Los Angeles and other metropolises around the state having shutdowns and other difficulties with petroleum refining operations, along with the insanely high demand from the dense populations that surround said refineries, the prices of gas at the pump will remain high, and according to the specialists at GasBuddy.com, will remain high even after the rest of the country’s gas prices drop.

This kind of news is fantastic for those of us who dread filling up at the pump, unless you live on the west coast, of course. With prices that otherwise cause feelings of anger and tension, the price rise does have a finish line quickly followed by a downward stretch. In fact, according to EIA.gov, the price of gas is expected to continue to decrease towards the end of the summer and possibly into the end of the year.

 

Higher prices and the summer travelers.

Although the price of gas is rising steadily as we enter into the season of overheated cars and drivers, the price hikes are actually not a deterrent for those who plan on making road trips this summer. According to a WalletPath study, 64% of participants said that gas prices weren’t a factor in planning their vacation despite driving big cars over long distances.

According to our survey, many motorists are planning on hitting the open road for the long haul this summer, regardless of the highs and lows of the prices, with a staggering 37% or poll participants planning on driving over 500 to 1,000 miles with their vehicles. Despite the number being so high, alongside that fact that gas prices have hit an all-time low compared to the last 12 years, the price to drive off into the sunset with the family in tow actually has not created an issue for motorists in the decision on whether to drive to this summer’s far off destinations or not.

Of the people polled in the WalletPath survey, an average of 30% of participants all stated that the price of gas actually had nothing to do with their decision on whether to road trip or not. Summer being the time that most Americans make the most out of the newfound free time that is gained from schooling sessions being out for the kids, it is not hard to believe that a majority of Americans all intend to take some kind of vacation in their summer season.

Back to the WalletPath poll, participants averaged answers out to a 30.5% confirmation that they will take a summer vacation, regardless of the cost of gas. So no matter how good the prices look up on that roadside sign, the cost of a full tank actually has very little to do with the decision of taking a summer vacation or not.

 

How can we check where prices will be this summer?

For those trying to save the most on money this summer despite the slight inflation of gasoline, the good folks at AAA have devised a gas calculator that can save you money by identifying the cheapest locations for fill-ups. You can check out their handy calculator here, as it can help you figure out any possible routes that have the cheapest gas around as you plan your road trip this summer. 

 

So despite how high the price of gas may be as we enter into the summer months, know that the price will peak and then drop before the end of the warm season, just in time for road trip season.

So in case you were trying to figure out the most cost effective manner of transport for you and your family’s vacation this summer, whether to drive out or fly, you’re decision may have become that much easier to make. See you at the pump!