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Sep 102013

I Saved $700 Replacing the Suspension On My Car

By |September 10th, 2013|Blog, Personal Finance Tips|7 Comments

Have you ever taken your car into the shop and been given bad news: they recommend you do a repair and it’s going to cost over $1,000. I got that news a few weeks ago, and as I’m saving up money for my wedding I knew I didn’t have that kind of money for repairs.

I also knew that I needed to replace the suspension, or struts, on our car. We have a 2000 Buick Century and it meets the criteria for the greatest car in the world: it runs and we don’t have a car loan. The problem is the car is 13 years old and has almost 130,000 miles on the odometer. And in all that time, the suspension had never been replaced.

Did I Really Need New Suspension?

So the shop told me I needed new suspension, but were they being honest or just trying to get me to pay them to do some work? I did a little research and found this link from Pep Boys that gives some recommendations for when to change your struts and shocks. Some of the symptoms we were experiencing were uneven tire wear, excessive nose dive when breaking, and excessive vehicle bounce.

When we hit a bump in this car it would bounce up and down for about 5 minutes until it finally settled down. Okay, I might be exaggerating a bit.  But it was pretty clear that the car could use new suspension. I want us to be safe as we take some trips (like a road trip to St. Louis for the Financial Blogger Conference where I’ll be the MC for the Plutus Awards again this year!).

I was willing to accept that we could use new struts and shocks, but I wasn’t willing to pay $1,100 for the new parts and installation.

I know how to change my oil and change a flat tire, so I decided to see if I could change out my strut assemblies as well.

Parts and Tools for Replacing Strut Assemblies

I don’t know much about cars, but here’s what I know about the suspension. If you want to change just a small part of your suspension (like the strut itself) then you need special tools to decompress tightly wounds springs. It can be very dangerous, and in my case I didn’t know which specific part of the strut assembly would need to be replaced. I opted to just order brand new pre-built strut assemblies.

Parts – $282.24

I ordered strut assemblies from Amazon. I got two front strut assemblies for $150.42 and two back strut assemblies left and right for $131.82. The shop quoted me $620.22 for the parts they were going to use. That’s a savings of $337.98 already. If I wasn’t able to install them myself, I could have at least bought the parts and had that shop install them. That’s still a big savings that many people don’t consider. Keep in mind, the shop might take longer to do the install (aka, charge you more in labor) if there is anything about your parts that are different from the ones they are familiar with.

Tools – $103.44

I have a set of rhino ramps for changing the oil in the car, but you can’t use rhino ramps when you are taking off the wheels. Thus, I had to buy a jack and jack stands. I also needed another set of wheel chocks to make sure my car didn’t roll away once I jacked it up. If you work on your car often, you probably already have these tools and won’t need to buy them. Here are the ones I ordered:

After tax my total came to $103.44. I also needed a ratchet set and a hammer, but if you don’t already have those things then you might want to reconsider doing this kind of work. Also, prices change on Amazon all the time so they might be more or less if you click through to check.

Total Cost – $385.68

My total cost for everything was $385.68. The shop quoted me about $1,100. By doing this myself I’m saving just over $700. Pretty cool huh?

How to Replace Your Suspension

actual photo of my car

actual photo of my car

This isn’t an auto blog so I won’t bore you with the details, but it’s actually pretty easy. Here’s essentially what I did:

  1. Jack up the car and take off the wheels.
  2. Remove 5 nuts and bolts for each front strut assembly and 7 for each rear strut assembly to take out the old ones
  3. Put the new ones in and put those 5 or 7 nuts and bolts back.
  4. Put the wheels back on and lower the car.

So that’s the simple version, although it did take me about 6 hours. For someone who is a little more experienced with working on cars, it would obviously take much less time.

Here is one of the many video tutorials I used to help me figure it out. It’s all online and it’s all free.

One final step is to have the car aligned. I don’t know how to do that so I just paid the shop $90 to do it for me. If you are up for figuring that out yourself then go for it. It seems complicated and at just $90 I think it’s worth it to let the professionals do it.

I Saved $700 in 6 Hours

Here’s the bottom line: I replaced the suspension in my car, making my car safer and helping it last longer (which is important since it’s our only car). I also did it for over $700 cheaper than it would have cost to have the shop do it.

As far as I’m concerned, I made about $116 per hour working on my car. I don’t know about you, but I don’t even make half that much at my normal job.

If you can work on your own car, do it. You know I’m not a big fan of frugality and pinching pennies, but we’re talking about hundreds of dollars here.

Readers: Have you ever worked on your car to save yourself money on repairs? What did you do and how much did you save?

Sep 92013

Three Common Home Loan Rejection Reasons

By |September 9th, 2013|General Personal Finance|1 Comment

If you have ever applied for a home loan and been rejected, you know how difficult it can be to determine why the loan was rejected. This is because there are many different reasons why a home loan may be rejected. There are numerous lenders currently doing business and each lender uses the lending criteria that they believe is best for their business. This means that not all lenders use the same factors in determining the rejection of a loan application and just because you have been turned down at one lender doesn’t mean that you will get  turned down by all other lenders. Here are some typical reasons for a home loan request to be rejected.

Your Credit Score Is Too Low

Most lenders have a minimum credit score level for approving loans. If your credit score is not high enough for the loan request that you are making, the lender will automatically reject your loan application. Fortunately, there are several things that you can do to correct this problem. You can pay down any existing debt that you have to boost your credit score before reapplying for the loan with another lender. You may also try reducing the requested loan amount or putting a bigger down payment down on the home, which may result in a lower credit score requirement for the loan. Mortgage calculators like the one found at http://www.newcastlepermanent.com.au/ will let you see the loan amounts and interest rates for various credit scores.

Income Is Not Stable

Another reason why your home loan application may be rejected is that your income is not stable enough for the lender to assume the risk. This is especially true for individuals that are self-employed and contractors that see their income fluctuate dramatically from month to month. This occurs even if you have had a high income for the past few years, because the lender has no guarantee that you will continue to earn as much. Lenders are much more comfortable accepting the loans of people that receive a steady income from a paycheck than they are loaning to people that are self-employed.

Your Co-Applicant Has Financial Issues

Another common reason for a home loan application denial is that your co-applicant has some financial issues that you are not aware of. It would be beneficial for both you and your co-applicant to acquire a copy of your credit report before beginning to apply for home loans so that there are no unpleasant surprises that result in the rejection of your home loan. You also have a better chance of being approved for a home loan if the co-applicant is a parent instead of being a friend or a sibling.

Sep 42013

Stop Reading All Personal Finance Blogs Now!

By |September 4th, 2013|Blog, Life|33 Comments

Hi. Thanks for coming to my personal finance blog. Unfortunately you probably shouldn’t be reading what I have to say. You see, I recently posted about how I’m spending $20,000 on my wedding and apparently if you waste $20,000 then you are no longer eligible to have a personal finance blog.

It’s all there in the comments, and since it’s on the internet it has to be true. Check it out:

You are crazy…After reading this post, I have a hard time believing that anyone would actually listen to the financial ‘advice’ you dish out on this blog. Dude, you don’t even have a car! Why would you spend $20,000 on ONE day?!?!?

Hello, my name is Kevin and, apparently, I am trying to lose all credibility with my readers who come to my blog to get ideas for sound financial planning. [this was not actually me]

Dude, you totally lose your license as a financial blogger….

So there you have it. Apparently if you “waste” $20,000 then you lose your personal finance blogger license. While it is a little upsetting that I’ll have to shut this site down due to the revocation of my financial blogger license, I also want to make sure we shut down as many other sites as possible so people aren’t reading unlicensed personal finance blogs.

Here are a few other categories of people who waste $20,000 or more. Make sure to find out if your favorite blogger does any of these things, and if they do stop reading that site immediately before you catch their stupid.

Anyone Who Doesn’t Live With Their Parents

People who move out of their parents’ house call their decision “being independent”, “growing up”, or “getting some privacy”. Let’s just call it what it really is: a big fat waste of money.

Renting or owning a place costs as little as a few hundred bucks a month, and as much as a few thousand or more! Then those people have to buy all new furniture, kitchenware, get renters or homeowners insurance, and who knows how many other costs.

If someone wants to waste their money paying for a house or apartment, just make sure you don’t waste your time reading their website!

Anyone Who Owns A Car

The next time someone posts about non-traditional investments or generating a second income, you should blatantly ignore whatever they said and ask the important question: do you have a car?

People take out loans (gasp!) to buy cars. Then they pay for car insurance, gas, oil changes, tires, and any other expenses associated with owning a damn dirty vehicle. How ridiculous! You can easily waste $20,000 on a car in just a year or two. Those car owners have no right to talk about personal finance, and you have no reason to listen to a word they have to say!

Anyone With Kids

Can you believe people actually have or adopt kids? From the moment they come into your lives you are paying either expensive medical bills or adoption fees, and the costs just go up from there. They need to eat, have a place to sleep, wear clothes, and more. Do the expenses ever end!?!?

mom and daughter

photo credit: Beth Rankin

Not to mention the fact that they will probably expect presents on their birthday and other holidays. They will want supplies for school. They’ll even want to tag along with you when you go on vacation. Some kids even have the audacity to want to go to college and ask their parents for financial help!

Forget wasting $20,000; each one of these little money suckers can cost you well over $100,000! Honestly, these parents who think they have a right to have a personal finance blog are simply ridiculous.

Anyone With a Pet

If there is one good thing about kids, it’s the fact that they might actually support you financially when they become adults. But has anyone ever heard of a dog paying for someone’s retirement home? Of course not!

Dogs and cats eat, poop, get sick, need shots, and will never contribute a penny to your net worth. One estimate suggests that a dog can cost up to $3,000 per year! Do yourself a favor and never read a personal finance blog if someone wastes their money on an animal!

Anyone Who Goes Out to Eat

Question: Why would a person with any financial sense go out to eat? Answer: Because they want to lose their financial blogger license!

Seriously, you can buy 50 pounds of rice for less than $23! Anyone who would dare to pay a restaurant to make and serve them food has absolutely zero financial sense. You should actually try to avoid even driving through restaurant parking lots, because stupid financial decisions might be associated with some airborne pathogen, and you don’t want to risk breathing in the air of those financial imbeciles.

Readers: Can you believe people try to justify spending tens of thousands of dollars on stuff like homes, cars, kids, pets, and restaurants when they could easily avoid all those expenses? Sure they might not get to live the life they want, but think about their 401ks!!!

Sarcasm Note: This entire post was dripping with sarcasm. Unfortunately, I’ve been blogging long enough to know that some people might not catch it. The point is that we all spend money on things we don’t “need” because it makes us happy. That’s what I’m doing with my wedding.

Sep 32013

Borrowing Tips to Help You Get The Best Home Loan

By |September 3rd, 2013|General Personal Finance|Comments Off on Borrowing Tips to Help You Get The Best Home Loan

With the housing market heating up, more borrowers are looking to get the best home loan that they qualify for so that they can buy a new home. There is a wide range of loans available from various retailers, allowing nearly anyone to find a home loan that they qualify for. If you are interested in getting a home loan, there are some tips that you can follow to help you find the best loan for your current financial situation. Following these tips can make your home loan more affordable and save you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan.

Boost Your Credit Score

One of the best things that you can do to get the best home loan available to you is to boost your credit score as much as possible before you begin shopping for the loan. Your credit score has a big impact on the interest rate that you will be charged for the home loan, so increasing it as much as you can will help you qualify for a lower interest rate. The easiest way to give your credit score a boost is to pay down your existing debts before you begin talking to lenders about loans.

Compare Rates

It is important to compare the rates of several different lenders before making your decision of which lender will issue your loan. The home loan interest rates Australia lenders offer can differ widely from company to company and the difference of a quarter of a percentage point can result in the savings of thousands of dollars over the loan term.

The lenders may also be able to help you qualify for one of the numerous homeownership programs available that can further reduce the amount that you must pay to acquire your home. Take your time and obtain all of the information you can to ensure that you are getting the best loan for your needs.

Do Your Research

There are numerous types of loans available that can be used to purchase a home. Some of these loans have specific features that can make them better for certain situations. In some cases, your occupation can qualify you for a specific loan program. In other cases, what you intend to do with the home after it is purchased will help you qualify for special financing. Before you begin shopping for a loan, do your research on the different types of loan programs and loan types available and see if any of them fit your qualifications or your intentions for the home.

Aug 272013

How We Saved Money on a Wedding Photographer and Prints

By |August 27th, 2013|Blog, Personal Finance Tips|8 Comments

As I mentioned last week, we are spending $20,000 on our wedding. Now that I’ve laid out the total budget, I’m going to walk through some of the specific items, how much they cost, and what we are doing to try and save as much money as possible.

Want to save money on a wedding photographer? Here's what we did that helped us tremendously save!If you’re looking for advice on how to do a wedding for a few thousand bucks, I can’t really help you there. I can, however, give some advice on how to do a $30,000 or $40,000 wedding on a $20,000 budget. At least that’s what we are TRYING to do!

One of the most important things you will pay for at your wedding is your photographer. This should be one of the happiest days of your life and you will remember it mostly through pictures and video (if you have a videographer).

In talking with a lot of people who have tried to have a “cheap” wedding, most regret going with a cheap photographer. These pictures are intended to last a lifetime, and you are setting yourself up for a lifetime of disappointment if you pick a bad one.

Here’s our budget for our photographer, which we booked many months ago:

Wedding Photographer: $3,195

We are paying $3,195 for our wedding photos. Keep in mind, this includes multiple sessions, a bunch of prints, high resolution digital negatives, and more

This could have easily cost us almost $4,000 up front, and even more over our lifetime if we hadn’t been smart. Here are some of the details about what is included with our package, and how we avoided some costs that might have burned us.

The Wedding Photography Package

wedding photographer

photo credit: wonderferret

What do you get for $3,195? Here’s what we are getting:

  • An Engagement Photo session with up to 2 locations; includes 3 8x10s and 1 20×24 signature mat.
  • A Bridal Session with a 16×20 gallery wrap
  • Full coverage of the wedding and the reception (which is about 10-12 hours for us!)
  • 2 parent albums (specifically made for the parents of the bride and groom)
  • 1 customized sign in book for the wedding day
  • A wedding album with over 100 images
  • A DVD with a slideshow of the pictures
  • High resolution digital negatives
  • and more…

As you can see we get THREE different sessions (engagement, bridal portrait, and wedding day) and a bunch of prints and albums. I had no idea wedding photographers spent so much time with each client! It makes the $3,200 seem a little more reasonable.

Now let’s review one of my cost-saving strategies: we made sure to get a package that includes high resolution digital negatives.

Why are the negatives important? Because if you don’t own the negatives, you can only order prints from your photographer who will certainly jack up prices to make a profit. When you own the negatives, you can have prints made from any company you want at the cheapest price you can find.

If you don’t own the negatives, you will ALWAYS have to go to the photographer to order pictures, and of course he’s gonna charge more and take his cut as the middle man. This is hugely important when considering a photo package.

Book Early and Save Money

The other way we saved money was by booking early. Tag and I were engaged last fall and started shopping for wedding vendors right away. After talking to a few photographers and not being impressed, we found a guy we really liked. He gave us a $100 off coupon if we booked within 30 days and also said our $200 deposit would lock in the current prices. We decided to go with him and locked in a price of $3,195.

The package we got usually costs $3,295, but we got $100 off; that’s a small saving. The big saving comes from locking in the prices. I checked his website recently and the same package we are getting for $3,195 now costs $3,895.

On January 1st, he is going to raise his prices again for 2014, and there’s a good chance our package will cost $4000 or more. Booking early is very important to saving money on your wedding.

This applies to more than just photographers. Any time you book a vendor it’s important to sign a contract and make sure the price won’t go up before your wedding date. Some vendors (like florists or food providers) won’t guarantee a price because they don’t know how expensive flowers or beef will be in 2 years. In that case, make sure the contract states that the price can’t increase more than x% (try to stay at 10% or lower).

If they aren’t willing to put that in the contract, find a new vendor.

We have $15,805 Left to Spend

We started with a $20,000 budget and the photographer has already taken up almost 16% of that budget. My next post will talk about our most expensive item on the list: the reception venue!

Readers: If you’ve already been married, how much did your photographer cost? Were you happy with your pictures?

Aug 262013

The Best Brand New Cars Under 25k

By |August 26th, 2013|General Personal Finance|Comments Off on The Best Brand New Cars Under 25k

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.