Monday, August 18, 2014

Drive For Less: Save Money on Car Insurance Without Changing Carriers

You may be able to save on car insurance in 15 minutes, or even in seven minutes, if you are willing to change insurance companies. What if you like the service you currently receive but just want to pay less? There always seems to be an excuse every renewal period why your premium went up a few dollars more a month. For the frugal-minded, like myself, I think about how those few dollars would be better left in my favorite high-yielding savings account. There are ways you can combat those renewal increases without changing your current coverage.

Get a quote online.
Pretend you are a new customer and get an online quote at your current carrier's website. Compare the quote with your renewal rate. I filled out their questionnaire and received a quote reference number with a lower rate. With that reference number, I called my carrier and asked why the quote is significant lower than my renewal rate. If your carrier doesn't have the disclaimer "only for new customers" associated with the online quote, they must give you that lower rate.

Telecommute? Less liability means more money in your pocket.
If you drive your car less than average, you should get a break on your rate. For example, I work remotely one day a week. Since my yearly mileage decreased, my carrier decreased my rate.

Check your discounts every renewal period.

Don't assume your car insurance company has applied all discounts to your account. It is your responsibility to ensure all applicable discounts are applied. Every renewal period, give your insurance carrier a list of all your memberships. Both my alumni association and professional organization provides discounts with my carrier. I make sure if I can only have one discount, they apply the largest one out of the two.

Clean record? Show me the money!
Every car insurance company has a good driver discount. Every year of no claims, you should be rewarded. Make sure they apply that discount every renewal period.

Use one carrier for all your insurance needs.
You need insurance for your car and house or apartment. Why not bundle? I get a discount just by having multiple items covered by the same company. They want your business, so negotiate a great rate for all your insurance needs.

Cash talks! Pay upfront and save in the long run.
If you had cash to buy a car, you can negotiate a much better deal than sticker price. Car insurance is the same. When you pay monthly, you are paying a service charge to process each payment. Save that money and pay yearly or every six months.

I save hundreds of dollars every renewal period. A great company will want to keep you. If none of these methods work for your car insurance carrier, it may be time to save hundreds on your car insurance by switching.

Photo by Bob Jagendorf via cc.

By Jeanine Lewis Copyright 2014 brass Media, Inc.

Monday, August 11, 2014

What Does Your Car Color Choice Say About Your Personality?


The colors of the things around us are said to influence our moods and highlight personal attributes. Every item we own is an extension of our personalities, but how much does that really say about us? Specifically, what do the colors of the items we own say about us? Perhaps we don’t think of it right away, but most of us want our cars to reflect who we are because we spend so much time driving in them. Take a look at what your car color choice might say about your personality.

White
White cars are the most popular on our roads today. At first glance, white cars portray a fresh, clean and modern look. This could reflect the driver’s own personal style, as they may also have a taste for elegance and enjoy the finer things in life. If you drive a white car, your personality probably includes honesty and purity, with a bit of confidence. Drivers of white cars tend to be more extraverted.

Black
The color black is often associated with power. That may be the reason why black is the most common color of luxury vehicles. If you drive a black car, you may be a bit of a sophisticate as well. You may enjoy things labeled as classic and timeless. As the driver of a black vehicle, you are not easily manipulated and are usually in total control of many areas of your life. Your personality may be a touch mysterious and a bit competitive.

Silver
Silver cars are the third most popular vehicle color on our roads. The color silver is linked to innovation. If you drive a silver car, you might enjoy having the newest technology available. Drivers of silver vehicles are most often self-assured, unfailing and calm. They are also very detail-oriented people. Silver cars can represent luxury, wealth and prestige - those who own and drive them often subconsciously exude these qualities.

Gray
Gray is a cool, sleek and practical color. As the driver of a gray car, you know who you are and probably prefer things on the subtle side. People who drive gray cars often don't want to stand out. The color gray accompanies wisdom and formality. If you drive a gray car people may describe you as refined, conservative and pragmatic. People who choose to drive gray cars are often reasonable, helpful and agreeable souls who like to go with the flow of life.

Red
If you want, or already drive, a red car you’re probably a go-getter looking for action. Red is a color that often represents confidence and fun. Similar to black cars, red cars can be associated with status. Drivers of red cars usually want attention and to look impressive to others. Red cars denote those who have high performance energy and drive, and who are full of courage and ambition. They can be impatient characters who live their lives at a fast pace. People who drive red cars are often enthusiastic about life and are passionate about their interests and themselves.

Blue
The color blue symbolizes stability and safety. If you drive a blue vehicle, people might describe you as dependable, trustworthy and at peace with who you are. Like the driver of a white car, you might also like to portray a fresh look in your own personal style. Those who drive blue cars are generally consistent in their moods and attitudes. They also prefer to blend in rather than stand out in the crowd.

Brown/Beige
Brown and beige are colors that are peaceful and earthy. The driver of a brown car values a long life of purchases and doesn't necessarily care about the newest trends or technologies available. Those who drive brown cars are usually known for being frugal and practical with their spending.

Yellow
You are probably a pretty happy person if you drive a yellow car! The color yellow represents joy and a positive attitude. Drivers of yellow cars are also more willing to take risks. Those who own and drive yellow cars have great self-confidence and enjoy having fun and embracing their inner-child.

Green
Green is nature’s color. If you’re driving a green car, you are probably very similar to the drivers of brown and blue cars. The color green symbolizes balance, stability and growth. Those who drive green cars are generally civilized, socially-conscious and well-adjusted people. If your car is dark green, you might like classic things and be more traditional. Those who drive lime and neon green cars on the roads tend to feel more young and hip.

Orange
Orange is a warm color that has the ability to stimulate and arouse the senses. It symbolizes self-expression, flamboyance and passion. Orange also encourages energy, activity and motivation. Drivers of orange cards tend to be more on the frugal side. They aren’t afraid of going against the tide and enjoy having things that are a little unusual.

No matter which color you prefer for your vehicle, Community Financial offers low rates for used and new auto loans. Visit our Auto Resource Center to help you find the perfect color car that fits your personality.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Preparing for College - Mentally & Financially


Are you ready for college? Fall is right around the corner and that means it’s almost time to head back to school. You probably have your classes picked out and have started shopping for your dorm room or apartment, but are you mentally and financially ready for college? You’ll need to use these last few weeks of summer to prepare your mind for college level classes and your wallet for the cost of tuition. Here are some tips that could help you steady your focus.

MENTAL AND ACADEMIC PREPARATION

Going to college for the first time or heading back after an absence can be an overwhelming experience. For some, it may be their first time away from home which brings its own set of life adjustments. Being organized can help alleviate some stress that you will face during this transition.
  • Keep an updated calendar or planner. Succeeding in college requires a keen sense of time management. Your classes will be longer, your study materials will be heavier and your deadlines will be shorter. You’ll want to utilize a planner more than you did when you were in high school. Buy one now and map out when midterms and finals will be so you can go into the academic semester knowing what to expect. You could also set up the calendar on your phone with reminders to reflect important dates throughout the academic year.

  • Reflect on your study habits. Did you procrastinate in high school? The first day of your college course when the syllabus is reviewed will most likely be overwhelming. You can avoid being caught off guard by the amount of work you have by looking into what your courses will require ahead of time. If you want to know what type of course load to expect you can email your professors before the semester begins. Strategize what study methods helped you in high school and weed out the ones that weren’t productive. Establishing positive study habits early on will help you with the rest of your college career.

  • Find students you have a shared connection with. Establishing relationships with at least one other student before you arrive to campus will help you feel more acquainted with the school. To find some new college buddies before you move, ask friends and other acquaintances if they know of someone attending your college. Touch base with your new connections online a few times before the semester begins. You could also research clubs and societies you could join at your school to find other students that share similar interests as you.

FINANCIAL PREPARATION

If you don’t plan ahead before you go to college, you may find yourself saddled with debt come graduation time. To avoid this, you will want to establish a realistic budget of what you will spend during your college career.
  • Start a savings and checking account. Experts recommend that you save at least three months of living expenses at any given time. Starting your savings account before you head off to college is a great idea. Community Financial offers Free Basic Savings and Student Certificate of Deposits for members ages 13 to 23. We want you to feel empowered to save your money, that’s why we offer these accounts to get you started. We even have Deposit Punch Card Rewards that pay you to save!

    We also offer Free Student Checking for members ages 16 to 23. There are no maintenance fees or balance requirements, and it includes a free Visa Debit Card to help you make purchases for college and beyond. Having a credit card while in college is for the sole purpose of building credit and should not be viewed as a way to spend more money! Always pay on time and make sure that you have the cash to pay off the card in full after each month.

  • Consider selling your car. If you are going to a school in a city where a car doesn’t make financial sense, selling might be a good option. To take a trip home you can find a carpool forum around campus or consider taking the train if it’s an available option. Not having a car while in college could help you save money since you wouldn’t have to pay for parking, maintenance fees or insurance.

  • Apply for scholarships and financial aid. Financing all of the expenses for a college education can be daunting. A private student loan from Community Financial can help fill the void. Our private student loans do not have a need-based component, so they are open to all members. You can borrow anywhere from $2,000 to $30,000 a year. Apply quickly and hassle-free with no application or processing fees on our Private Student Loans page.

    You should also apply for as many scholarships as you can before heading to college. Scholarships are the most underutilized source of financial aid for college. Every year, Community Financial grants thousands of dollars in scholarships for its student members who embody our “People Helping People” philosophy. To learn more about this program visit our scholarships page.
Deciding to go to college is a big decision. The more prepared you are mentally and financially, the easier it will be to make the transition into your new life on campus.

Monday, July 21, 2014

When is it a good idea to buy in bulk?


Have you ever wondered when it does and doesn’t make sense to buy in bulk? If you have a membership card with a wholesale retailer like Costco or Sam’s Club, you’ll want to learn which bulk items you can purchase to save money in the long run. What are some of the best and worst things to buy in bulk?

DON’T BUY:
  1. Fresh Produce – Bulk food wholesale stores and co-ops offer a lot of choices of merchandise these days, including fresh produce. This may seem like common sense, but unless you’re preparing food for a very large group, buying produce in bulk may not be the best choice. Many fresh produce items only remain fresh for a matter of days so you’ll want to skip buying it if you don’t plan on eating it right away.
  2. Meats and Seafood – Like fresh produce, buying huge quantities of meats and seafood can be tricky, especially when buying them fresh. Meats and seafood can develop freezer-burn after a period of time if left in the freezer too long. It’s important to store a large quantity of frozen meat and seafood in a large capacity freezer at a very low temperature. Many freezers included as part of a refrigerator might not be up for the task.
  3. Natural and organic items - Even when packaged, items that are natural or organic may have a shorter shelf life. Some natural and organic products have minimal processing and fewer chemical preservatives. While better for your health, these products may not last as long causing you to throw them away sooner.
  4. Personal Care Items – Just because it’s sold at a bulk retailer does not mean it’s less expensive. Make sure you comparison shop before you buy and always look at the unit cost. Be careful of buying items like diapers in bulk, since your child could outgrow a certain size quickly, leaving you with hundreds of diapers you don’t need. Another important factor with pharmaceuticals, makeup and personal care items is the expiration date. Check the date and make sure you’ll use the entire item before it expires.
BUY:
  1. Paper goods and office supplies – Products such as toilet paper, paper towels and tissues are excellent bulk buys. These items do not expire and the unit cost is usually less as well. Significant savings can also be achieved by purchasing your office supplies in bulk. So be sure to stock up on supplies like paper, pens, pencils and sticky notes.
  2. Toothpaste and toothbrushes – The long shelf life and small storage space make toothbrushes and toothpaste great buys at a bulk store. Many people see a better value on these items when purchased in bulk.
  3. Alcoholic beverages – One of the reasons alcohol is a suitable bulk purchase is the exceptionally long shelf-life it has. Great deals can be found on cases of beer or larger bottles of wines and other types of spirits. If you’re hosting a party with alcoholic drinks, make sure to purchase the alcohol and mixers in bulk to cut down on party costs.
  4. Gas – Some warehouse clubs also sell gasoline. Check out the rates and you’re likely to save compared to what regular gas stations charge. You’ll most likely need a membership card to take advantage of their gas sales. Try to go early in the morning or times when lines are shortest, too!
Buying in bulk can be an excellent opportunity to save money, just make sure you are checking expiration dates, unit costs, and keeping your home storage capacity in mind. Most importantly, ask yourself if you really need what you’re buying. If it is an item that you know you will use in the future, then buying in bulk could be a great idea. If you find out you purchased too much, consider splitting items up with family and friends. Keeping these tips in mind can help make you a smarter consumer. Have any tips of your own about buying wholesale? Include them in a comment below.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Starting Your Emergency Fund

So, you’re brown-bagging your lunch, clipping coupons and saving your pennies. Now what should you do with your savings? It’s time to do a little planning and settle on your savings goals – both short-term and long-term.

Opening a savings account
Don’t simply decide you’ll keep your extra cash in your checking account and vow not to touch it. It’s far too tempting to justify a splurge on a cute pair of shoes or a night out when the funds are so readily available. Set up a separate account for your emergency fund. This account should be separate from any other savings account, as well.

Setting savings goals
It’s important to start with a goal in mind, but don’t set your sights too high at first. Trying to save too much and cutting out all fun money can lead to frustration and send you off course. Choose a realistic initial goal, like $500 or $1,000. Employ some of the tips from my previous post to gather up initial savings and help you reach your goal as soon as possible. Once you reach your initial goal, set a new goal. Your second goal could be to save enough to cover one month of living expenses.

Experts generally agree you should have three to six months’ worth of expenses in your emergency account. Make this your ultimate goal, but don’t get bogged down with how far away those numbers seem. Remain steadfast with your commitment to save, and watch your account grow.

Make saving a habit in order to grow your fund, and increase the amount you can save each month as your situation changes. Consider setting aside a portion of each paycheck, and have it directly deposited into your emergency savings account. You may never miss the money you don’t see in your checking account, and this way you won’t be tempted to spend it. A little bit each week can add up quicker than you think.

When to use your savings
Emergency funds are just that: funds to use only in case of a crisis. Be clear on what constitutes an emergency for you. Large car repairs, appliance repair or replacement, and loss of employment all qualify. Nearing the end of a pay cycle and not having quite enough to purchase concert tickets, however, does not. Resist the temptation to dip in when it’s unnecessary, and honor the true purpose of your fund.

And as emergencies do pop up, remember to USE your savings. Many people get caught up in hoarding their savings and forget why they created an emergency fund to begin with. Don’t sink yourself into debt when you have the cash available; you’re creating this safety net to use it when you need it. You should choose to rebuild emergency savings instead of incurring debt and paying high interest. Saving now will allow you to handle life’s future twists and turns without disrupting your living habits.

Photo by Images Money via cc.

By Erin Pittman Copyright 2014 brass Media, Inc.
 
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