Aug 26 2013

The Best Brand New Cars Under 25k

By |August 26th, 2013|General Personal Finance|Comments Off|

Although the Australian car market has seen some major shifts from automobile manufacturers, many of whom are still struggling to find their place in the global economy, 2013 is proven to be a banner year for showrooms.  If you’re in the market for an affordable new vehicle, you’ll find plenty of reliable options available, including a few small luxuries that are becoming more and more standard.

Here are four brand new cars under 25k to be on the lookout for.

Fiat 500 and 500C

Fiat

Image by: That Hartford Guy – 2013 Fiat 500 – Flickr.com

Although not technically a new vehicle, Fiat introduced a new pricing structure this year, allowing drivers to get a new car from the 500-series line-up starting at only $14k. This compact offering is high on style and value, with features such as Gucci stripe seat belts and matching interior decor/trim, chrome bumper accents, and leather wrapped steering wheel with an equally “luxe” looking dash panel – all features unsurprising for a brand that tries, successfully, to promote style as important as function.  For the best prices, you’ll want to opt for a “Drive Away” option that comes in a pre-configured arrangement; customizations will push you up towards that $25k price point.

Mitsubishi Mirage

Mirage

Image by: Michael Gil – CIAS 2013 Mitsubishi Mirage – Flickr.com

$13k is the starting price for the new Mirage from Mitsubishi, a cheap and cheerful price point to work from. Japanese manufacturers haven’t had great success in Australia, and Mitsubishi started from the ground up in deciding on the right vehicle for today’s Australian consumer.  The price point allows drivers plenty of flexibility in choosing upgrades to suit their needs, though many will find the bright colors and nicely furnished interiors quite suitable as they are, perfect for those urban dwellers that need to get around quickly and in style.

Nissan Pulsar

Nissan

Image by: NRMA Motoring & Services – 2013 Nissan Pulsar – Flickr.com

If you’re looking for that luxury car feeling without the associated pricing, take a look at the Nissan Pulsar, a Nissan model making a new return to the Australian market. With both a sedan and hatchback version to choose from, it’s a very flexible vehicle and built to top-of-the-line quality standards. The one feature that almost all reviewers mentioned in their test drives? Interior comfort – this is one for the commuters and road trippers. Pricing starts from $22k and features both excellent fuel economy and several technology upgrades that come standard.

Holden Barina CDX

Holden

Image by: Tom Reynolds – WP Holden Barina 2013 – Flickr.com

Holden makes a renewed push this year for lower prices, increased safety features, in addition to surprising consumers with practical technology upgrades.  For example, Holden was the first car manufacturer to launch an Apple-compatible Siri interface, beating luxury brands to the punch.  This is part of the fully-featured MyLink infotainment system that the company has been perfecting, with other integrations such as Sticher (for podcasts) and BringGo (for navigation).  That’s in addition to rear parking sensors, fog lights, heated front seats, extra under-seat storage, and leather-wrapped gear shift and steering wheel. The CDX starts from a cool $21k – that’s a steal, making it one of this year’s top picks.

This was a guest post by Platinum Direct Finance. Learn more about car finance and take a look at our novated lease calculator today.

Aug 22 2013

Why We’re Spending $20,000 on Our Wedding

By |August 22nd, 2013|Blog, Life|64 Comments|

I’m marrying my fiancee in less than a year and we are going to spend around $20,000 on the wedding.

Let that sink in for a moment. I’m sure I have some frugal readers who think I’m crazy, and I’m sure I have some not-so frugal readers who, well, also think I’m crazy. But I’m not.

I plan to talk a lot about the wedding and how much things are costing over the next few months, so I will be constantly referring to this article when people ask, “Why not just throw a kegger at your house and save all that money?!”

So here are the two main reasons why Tag and I are spending a boatload of money on our wedding.

I’m Accomplishing a Life Goal

A few years ago I sat down and wrote up a bunch of life goals. I had them pinned to a tack board in my bedroom and looked at them from time to time. I don’t do a great job of keeping up with these life goals, but there is one that is very important to me, and it reads as follows:

Give my future wife the wedding of her dreams.

This isn’t just a little important to me. It’s one thing that I expect to look back on and know, without any question in my mind, that I did everything I could to make my wife happy on her wedding day.

Obviously I don’t have unlimited funds so I can’t give her every single thing she wants, but I’m going to do everything I can to make it the wedding of her dreams on what I believe is a pretty significant budget. This is something I WANT to do for my wife, and I’m happy to do it.

I’m Creating a Life Long Memory

Guess what? This wedding isn’t just for my future wife. It’s also for me!

The whole reason I work hard and make money is to have incredible life experiences. After I put a roof over my head, food on the table, and money into savings, everything else is mostly allocated towards creating incredible memories.

I have absolutely fantastic memories of my 5 weeks of backpacking through Europe. My Costa Rica trip is such a fond memory that I actually had a dream about it last night; years after the trip!

wedding

photo credit: Katsunojiri

It’s amazing how often my vacation to New York and Boston in 2010 becomes relevant in conversation, and it’s still hard to believe it took me 28 years before I witnessed the size and beauty of the Grand Canyon.

Those trips were worth every penny I spent on them.

When Tag and went to Mexico last year and spent a whole week together, I knew that was a girl I could spend the rest of my life with. That trip was DEFINITELY worth every penny.

I literally have one single pair of jeans without holes in the knees right now. It’s been that way for over a year. In the last 3 years, I might have spent $300 TOTAL on clothing, with most of that going towards socks and underwear. I recently bought a new pair of tennis shoes because my other pair was 5 years old and had multiple holes in them.

I don’t even have a car because I work from home and my fiancee uses her car to work on weekdays. I don’t want to spend money on a car and insurance I don’t need because that money could be used to create an incredible memory.

I am frugal when it comes to day-to-day purchases. But I’m not frugal when it comes to the important stuff in my life, and what can be more important than marrying the woman I love?

If my goal is to use money to create incredible experiences and memories, then I’m actually thinking $20,000 on the biggest day of my life sounds like chump change.

I’m not just trying to create an incredible memory for myself and for Tag, but also for our family and friends who will be a part of the wedding. I want everyone to have good food and to drink as much as they like. I want a great photographer to capture all of the events of the night in clear, artistic photos. I want Tag to feel like the most beautiful woman in the world when she puts on that dress.

I’m Happy to Spend $20,000 on My Wedding

$20,000 is a lot of money. It’s also a very small amount of money when I consider how much I will earn over my lifetime.

I’m still contributing to my 401k. I’m still paying off all my credit cards at the end of every month. My student loans are still paid off (although Tag’s aren’t, but we’re working on it).

We can spend $20,000 on a wedding and still be in a very comfortable financial position.

We WILL spend $20,000 on our wedding, and we WILL create memories that last a lifetime!

Readers: If you are married, how much did you spend on your wedding?

Aug 22 2013

Simple Solutions to Life’s Most Stressful Financial Problems

By |August 22nd, 2013|General Personal Finance|Comments Off|

If you’re losing sleep over money matters, being blinded by stress can sometimes mean you miss the most obvious solutions to your troubles. If you’re worried you might be that person, then take our advice and double-check you’re not missing out on implementing a simple solution to your financial problems.

My House Won’t Sell

So, your house has been on the market for months, maybe even years, and it’s stressing you out to no end. Your estate agent is ‘doing their best’, but you’re not seeing results. Have you considered taking matters into your own hands? Try using your own social media channels to market your property, and ask friends to share the link to your home’s online listing with their friends and followers. If you don’t know where to start, check out this guide to marketing your property via social media.

Another option is to go for a quick sell, but only consider this if you’re really desperate, as you might end up getting less cash for your home than if you were to persevere with selling through an estate agent.

I Can’t Secure a Job Interview

Unemployment can be one of the most depressing and demoralizing things you can go through. If you have the right skills and are going for the right jobs, there’s nothing worse than never hearing back from a position you spent hours applying for. A simple solution is to make your CV stand out. It’s a risk, as some employers don’t favor unusual layouts and color schemes, but it’s worth a shot if you never normally get a response anyway. Experiment with color and design, but keep things professional looking. Check out these amazing examples for some inspiration.

My Debts are Crushing Me

Everybody falls into debt at some point in their lifetime, but if yours is keeping you up at night, then you need to take action. If you think you’ve tried everything, how about the simplest, most obvious solution? Pay it off fair and square. Cut back on everything; no eating out, no new clothes and no unnecessary expenditure until it’s gone. You might think that sounds like a miserable existence, but if your debts are really crushing you, the chances are you won’t feel any worse than you do currently. For a bit of inspiration and proof that it can be done, take a minute to read through this success story about a man who cleared £35,000 debt in less than four years.

Aug 21 2013

How to Get the Best Deals for Your Wedding

By |August 21st, 2013|Blog, Personal Finance Tips|2 Comments|

The following is a guest post by Jamie Claver

Getting married – it’s supposed to be the happiest day of your life (and I’m sure it will be), but it can also put outrageous amounts of stress on your shoulders and wallet. Did you know that the average wedding costs more than $28,000? If you’re anything like me, this number sounds a bit steep. With a little bit of creativity, a pinch of cunningness and a flair for haggling, you can easily lower that number without having to make the bride walk down the aisle in a garbage bag.

Choose your Day

Everyone knows Saturdays are the most popular days for weddings, but think of how much money you could save by choosing a Friday night wedding. The location for your reception could have Saturdays booked for over a year, but most likely have a Friday night available much sooner before the chosen date and may be eager to get it filled. This is a particularly smart option if most of your friends and family are local, as out of town guests may not be able to call out of work to arrive in time for your nuptials… It is always considerate to keep your guests in mind when choosing your day, but saving a few extra bucks might come at a higher priority.

Negotiate with Vendors

Always remember that the list price isn’t always the final price. Ask your vendors for their best possible fees before committing, as well as the costs for different options. Most vendors have package pricing available for combined services, such as catering the meal and providing the cake. Additionally, ask if discounts are offered in exchange for referrals. One happy customer praising a vendor’s service is valuable marketing, and you may get a discount for being that customer who shares her endorsement with friends and family.

Bridal Shows

Attending bridal shows isn’t just fun for the ladies, it’s also practical. Vendors offer discounts, coupons and samples at bridal shows. Check websites like Great Bridal Expo to see if there are any upcoming tradeshows or expos taking place around you. You’ll gain valuable experience and contacts, while also having the opportunity to mingle with other excited couples.

Ask for Help

Your close friends and family would love to help you get ready for your big day. For example, having a florist create all of the flower arrangements can cost thousands of dollars. Instead, ask the florist to build only the bouquets and have them source more flowers for you. Buy the flowers and materials in bulk and then the bride can host a party for her bridesmaids during which they create boutonnieres and centerpieces, saving you hundreds of dollars. Plus, it is a great bonding experience in which everyone will feel like they played a key role in creating the aesthetic of the big day.

Seasonal Items

Flowers are obvious, but other items may cost less in different seasons. Wedding dresses are usually discounted in January – March when stores are offering sales to make room for the next season’s styles. If you don’t mind a gown that is a season or two older, you can get a great deal by planning ahead. Popular bridal retailers like David’s Bridal and Alfred Angelo have an enormous selection of affordable gowns and have ongoing sales on gowns from past seasons. Bulk wedding supplies cost less in fall and winter. Champagne is less expensive in June but wine in general is best purchased in August and September. Always keep in mind how seasons effect the cost of supplies for your wedding, and stock up before the price jump!

Hotel Deals

Find hotels convenient to the reception location and discuss group or block rates. Check websites for comparing the best deals, and always look well ahead of time. Most hotels offer discounts for 10 or more reserved rooms. Also ask the manager at the reception location for hotels offering deals. Some hotels even offer shuttles to and from the reception location, which is a valuable addition for you and your guests. If you have need for 30 or more rooms, consider reserving blocks of rooms at multiple hotels to give guests a range of options … and keep Great Aunt Nancy away from the groom’s frat-house friends.

In today’s world, penny pinching has become an unrelenting way of life. On the bright side, with a little craftiness, negotiation, and budgeting you can have the epic wedding day you have always dreamed of, without setting you back financially as newlyweds.

Aug 21 2013

Fun Free Games for Your Android Mobile Device

By |August 21st, 2013|General Personal Finance|2 Comments|

If you have a smartphone or tablet then you have the ability to play games any time you want. There are a bunch of games that cost anywhere from $0.99 to $10. But why pay for games when you have so many options for free!?

Here are a few of the best free android games right now, so these can help you pass the time without costing you any money.

Candy Crush Saga

If you haven’t played Candy Crush Saga, you might want to keep it that way because the game is so addicting. The basic premise of the game is to put three candies in a row so they disappear, but it gets more complicated as the game moves on. This is a completely free game but they will try to get you to pay for upgrades. Some levels are intentionally frustrating so you think you need to pay for extra stuff, but with enough patience you can beat the game without paying a dime.

Casino Games

Do you have a trip to Vegas coming up soon. If so, you might want to start practicing your skills with a mobile blackjack or craps game. It’s a great way to learn card and table games without actually spending any money. You can even get a real casino on your mobile phone in some countries, but remember that you’d risking real money in that situation.

Tetris

Tetris is one of the best puzzle games ever made, and there is a new Tetris app that is a lot of fun to play. There’s nothing better than getting caught up in a jam and then getting just the right piece and clearing all your rows. Tetris takes just enough brain power to capture your attention, but is easy enough to be fun!

Classic Board and Card Games

Even though mobile phones have fancy colors and touch screens, sometimes it’s fun to play good old board or card games. Games like solitare, backgammon, farkle, or other common games can be found free in the Google Play store, and will help you to fine tune your board game skills before your next family vacation.

Aug 13 2013

Your Rewards Could Disappear at Any Moment

By |August 13th, 2013|Blog, Personal Finance Tips|3 Comments|

As you probably know from my new website Reward Boost, I get pretty excited about earning rewards. There’s nothing quite like using credit cards, paying them off every month, paying $0 in fees and interest, and getting valuable rewards in return.

There’s also nothing quite like having your rewards account drained to $0 without any prior warning.

That’s what happened to Tag yesterday. Pretty scary huh?

If you have any rewards credit or debit card accounts, you can be certain the terms and conditions include a statement something like the following Wells Fargo disclaimer:

Changes to this Program: Wells Fargo reserves the right to amend, cancel, or temporarily suspend the Program and Your participation in the Program, in whole or in part, or change any of the Terms, at any time for any or no reason, including without limitation, in the event of fraud, abuse of Program privileges or violation of the Terms, as determined in our sole discretion (examples of Program violations include any attempt to sell, exchange or transfer points or any instrument exchangeable for points), without notice to You, which may result in the decrease of redemption value or cancellation of points not yet redeemed.

In other words, your rewards can disappear at any time!

Tag lost $11 in Rewards Yesterday

When I first met Tag, she had a checking account with Wells Fargo which was charging her a monthly fee. They also were very unkind to her when she overdrafted on her account. We decided that she needed a new account.

We signed her up for Perkstreet because they didn’t charge monthly fees and Tag could earn rewards with her debit card purchases. She didn’t have good enough credit to qualify for a rewards credit card, so this was a great option.

closed

photo credit: bmills

Over the lifetime of her account, I think she earned $50 or $75 in rewards and never paid anything in fees. As of Sunday, she had about $11 in rewards saved up, waiting until the balance reached $25 when she could redeem again.

Then Perkstreet sent her an email saying they were closing and all rewards balances were immediately reduced to $0.

It was only $11, and you can’t redeem rewards until you have at least $25, so there’s nothing Tag could have done to avoid losing those rewards. Unfortunately we just have to write it off and move on.

I feel bad for anyone who had hundreds of dollars in their rewards accounts. Tag only lost $11. Some people could have lost much more than that.

Should You Save Up Rewards?

This raises a question: should you save up credit card rewards and risk a large balance going to $0, or should you spend them as soon as possible?

I currently have about 67,000 Citi ThankYou points, which I can redeem for about $891 worth of airline tickets. I’m saving up my points because I hope to use them to pay for our honeymoon (if we can even afford one).

Our wedding is about 9 months away, which gives me enough time to save up so many points that I could probably use the points for 2 plane tickets to just about anywhere. However, in saving them up I’m taking a risk that Citi ends the program and my $891 turns into $0.

So am I worried about losing these rewards? Definitely not.

Sure, Citi could end their rewards program and probably save themselves millions and millions of dollars. They would also have to be prepared to lose billions of dollars in business as everyone flocks to Chase and Amex and Capital One for their rewards programs.

The only way Citi, or any big bank, would end their rewards program without advance notice is if they were immediately going out of business.

The only reason Perkstreet ended their rewards program is because they were going out of business. As long as I think my card issuer is a solvent company, I’m confident the rewards will be there.

Readers: Does Perkstreet closing and canceling rewards make you worried about your rewards with other banks?