Georgia's Own will be closed November 22nd and November 23rd for Thanksgiving.
Tips for how to maintain your car without breaking the bank
When you purchase a car, new or pre-owned, you don’t necessarily factor in the cost of maintenance or repairs. Ensuring your car is in good, working condition helps keep you safe and extends the life of your ride. Routine maintenance is what keeps it running every time you step on the gas. Why then, do most people stall when it comes to caring for their vehicle?
Car maintenance does not come cheap, and most times, especially in our hectic lives, it’s somewhat inconvenient. Think about it, though. If your car breaks down on the side of the road, it’ll likely be a whole lot more expensive and ill-timed that the alternative.
It’s a smart idea to add a line item to your monthly expenses and start planning your car’s recommended maintenance schedule. Now, all maintenance doesn’t need to be done at the dealership—mostly because it’s cost prohibitive for most people—but you should make friends with your local mechanic. And don’t underestimate your own skills, either.
Here are some auto maintenance basics that could use your attention:
Change your oil
Changing your oil is one of the easiest care requirements to follow. Check your owner’s manual to see the manufacturer’s recommendation, but the majority suggests an oil and oil filter change between 3,000 and 7,000 miles.
Check out area high schools or technical schools to see if they offer free or reduced price oil changes performed by students. You could try and tackle it yourself, but it does require some upfront costs, like an oil drain pan ($10), a jack ($40), a jack stand ($30), a funnel, and some towels. Going forward it would save you some cash, but there are some concerns and environmental issues to think about, and it does make a mess. If you’re not too keen on DIY projects, don’t go to a drive-through oil change shop without a coupon—or a Groupon.
If you’re a Marietta or Cobb County school employee, check out this staff appreciation deal at Ed Voyles: Free Oil Change
Replace your air filter
Your air filter keeps dirt and debris out of your engine and should be changed every 15,000 miles. A technician will almost always ask you if you want it done while you’re having your oil changed, but it’s much less expensive if you do it yourself. Check out YouTube for one of the many quick tutorials and an easy 15-minute DIY project that’ll save you some cash.
Change your brake pads
Now, this sounds a lot harder than it actually is. It requires an initial investment to buy the tools you need, plus about $30 for the replacement pads. It might take a few extra hours to figure out exactly how it’s done, but after the first time, you’ll be an expert. In the future, one afternoon is all it will take, and you’ll save hundreds of dollars over the life of your car.
Replace your own windshield wipers
Worn out windshield wipers are not only frustrating, they’re dangerous. But having them professionally replaced is just downright silly. It’ll cost between $20 and $53 including parts and labor and depends on the type and length of the blade. You can easily replace them yourself, or head down to Pep Boys or Advanced Auto Parts and they’ll have a technician install them for free. No kidding.
Flush the radiator
Flushing the coolant in your car’s radiator keeps metal engine components at their best, prevents rust and your car from overheating. It ultimately helps the engine perform at its optimum level. A flush removes the old coolant that is no longer effective and replaces it with a fresh dose. The DIY version will cost significantly less than a mechanic. The only things you need to purchase are new coolant, a flushing agent, and distilled water. Money wisely spent…and saved.
Repair your own flat tire
If you’ve got a spare and some elbow grease, you’re all set for the moment, but don’t run out to buy a replacement tire, or even pay for a tire repair. If you have some tools and a patch kit you can save yourself twenty bucks at a minimum and maybe the cost of a new tire. Better yet, if your tire is underinflated and is leaking air, or is even completely flat, take it to Goodyear, Kauffman Tire, Tires Plus, Discount Tire, Pep Boys, and many others who fill fix your flat for free.
While we’re on the subject of tires, make sure they’re always properly inflated to the appropriate pressure and rotate them as recommended by the manufacturer. You’ll get greater fuel efficiency, and the tires will wear more evenly and extend their useful life. Check the shop from where you purchased them since many offer free tire rotations. If you have a jack, it’s an easy DIY, too.
Diagnose your car for free
Is your check engine light on? When it is, it’s important to find out why, but paying $75 -$100 for a technician to hook it up to a computer and spit out a report just adds to your frustration. Head to AutoZone or Advanced Auto Parts and they’ll happily diagnose it for free. If it’s a fix that you can handle, you’re already at the store, so pick up the parts you need and get to work. It’s an answer and a solution all in a matter of minutes.
At the end of the day, it’s important to keep up with scheduled maintenance and make the necessary repairs to your car as soon as they’re in need. An inexpensive repair can grow into hundreds or thousands of dollars when they’re not addressed. With tons of information and DIY tutorials, there are many things you can do to save money, but don’t sacrifice the safety or the quality of your ride.
Class of 2018: 8 Ways to Prep for Financial Adulthood
Whether you’re graduating from high school or college, a diploma and a job represent the beginning of your personal — and financial — adult life. It’s an exciting, sometimes overwhelming time.
When you have the inevitable “I have no idea what I’m doing” freakout, remember these tips:
Set clear financial priorities
You probably can’t save, invest and pay off debt all at once, so prioritize in this order:
- Save $500 for emergencies, because there will be emergencies
- If your employer offers a 401(k), contribute at least enough to get any “employer match” — it’s free money
- Pay down high-interest debt, like credit cards
Learn a simple budgeting strategy
Identify your after-tax income on your pay stub, then use the 50/30/20 rule as a budgeting guideline:
- Use 50% for necessities like rent, groceries, transportation, utilities and minimum loan payments
- Put 20% toward savings and debt repayment
- Spend 30% on nice-to-haves like restaurants, travel and entertainment
If 50% isn’t enough to cover living expenses, dip into your nice-to-haves bucket.
Learn how credit works and why it matters
Credit is adulthood’s currency. You need good credit to qualify for travel rewards credit cards, get the best rates on loans and insurance and eventually buy a house.
To have a good credit score, you generally must:
- Use credit by taking out loans and opening credit cards. You don’t need to carry a balance on them, though
- Consistently make payments on time
- Use less than about 30% of your available credit. If you have a card with a $3,000 limit, for example, charge no more than $1,000
Check your credit score to see where you stand. If you have bad credit or no credit, consider getting a secured credit card or credit-builder loan to boost it.
Do some money multitasking
In fact, credit-builder loans can help establish credit and save money at the same time.
You can get credit-builder loans through some credit unions, community banks or the online lender Self Lender. Borrow a small amount — say, $1,000 — and repay in installments over a year or two. The lender holds the cash until the loan is repaid. Then you’ll get the money, minus some interest.
Assuming you make full, on-time payments, you’ll get some positive credit history under your belt — and have cash on hand for that emergency fund or retirement account.
Leverage your youth to build wealth
Speaking of retirement, saving for it is one of the best uses of your cash now. Compound interest over decades is like magic: A small amount invested today will be worth more than a larger sum you invest 10 years from now.
For example, every $1,000 you invest at age 22 becomes nearly $20,000 at age 72, assuming a 6% rate of return, according to NerdWallet’s compound interest calculator. If you put off starting by a decade, you’d have to save almost double to have the same amount by age 72.
Start saving for retirement
We didn’t use age 72 by accident — that’s the age at which the class of 2018 can expect to retire, assuming they contribute 6% of their incomes to a 401(k) and have a 50% employer match, according to a 2018 NerdWallet analysis.
If your employer offers a 401(k) with a match, sign up and contribute at least enough to get the match. Increase your contributions annually or whenever you get a raise.
If you don’t have an employer-sponsored retirement account, open a Roth IRA through a credit union, brokerage, or robo-advisor and contribute up to $5,500 yearly. The account’s earnings will be tax-free.
Make a plan for your student loans
Student loan payments typically come due six months after you leave school, giving you time to get a job before payments begin. But interest accrues during this grace period — except on federal subsidized loans — so begin making minimum payments sooner if possible.
Once you have very good credit and a job with a steady income, consider refinancing your student loans to save money by lowering your interest rate.
If payments on your federal student loans are overwhelming, review your options carefully. Income-driven repayment and Public Service Loan Forgiveness may offer relief, but both require meticulous attention to detail and annual maintenance to pay off.
Research your job’s market value
Advocating for yourself can be a particularly challenging part of adulthood. As your career progresses, you’ll feel empowered to negotiate your salary if you back your ask with hard numbers.
Research the going rates for similar roles in your field, at your skill level. Then, reference your findings during the negotiation conversation. Even if the employer declines, they’ll likely respect your preparedness and confidence.
Smart ways to save money on Amazon
If you’re buying something online, chances are you’re headed to Amazon.com. Selection, convenience, service, and price are what keep consumers coming back day in and day out and bookmarking the site as one of their favorites.
Don’t be fooled, though. While Amazon’s prices are typically among the lowest, that’s no reason to stop shopping around. But, if price comparisons bring you back to old faithful, there may still be room for savings.
Here are some smart tips for getting the best deals on Amazon.
1. Subscribe and Save
If you’re purchasing items on a regular basis, like laundry detergent, baby food, dog treats, or paper products, be sure to “subscribe and save.” Choose your schedule and quantity, and you’ll receive automatic deliveries of your favorite items when you’re running low. The Subscribe and save feature offers discounts on thousands of items, free shipping, and lets you save up to up to 15% on your entire order. If you’re a Prime Member, you could save up to 20%!
2. Check out Today’s Deals
Electronics, toys, books, snacks, jewelry, fashion, and more–Amazon offers new deals every day. Shop Lightening Deals, Deal of the Day, and Limited-Time Deals when you visit Amazon, or let the deals come to you and opt for a Daily Deals email.
3. “Clip” Amazon coupons
Bet you didn’t know you could use coupons at Amazon.com, did you? From vitamins to motor oil, goldfish crackers to flip-flops, Amazon offers online coupons that further discount your purchases. Simply click the coupon button and choose the offers that apply. Add your coupon-eligible product to your cart and the discount will be automatically applied at checkout. Want a list of available coupons each week? Subscribe and receive Amazon’s weekly coupon email.
4. Send in the trackers
Price tracker apps like Honey will scan pricing from all other Amazon marketplace sellers to make sure you’re getting the best deal. It’ll also give you the price history for the last 30, 60, or 120 days and send you an email alert if the price drops. At checkout, it’ll automatically apply the best promo and coupon codes. Don’t shop on Amazon without it.
5. Double dip with Ebates
If you don’t have an Ebates account, you’re missing out on some serious cash back opportunities. Use the portal to shop on Amazon.com and you can earn an additional 3-5% in rewards, depending on the item.
6. Determine your Prime needs
Amazon Prime offers members free two-day shipping, unlimited photo storage, music and video streaming, access to special discounts and a whole lot more. Sign up for and take full advantage of the 30-day trial before you buy the $99 annual membership to get that extra month of benefits. Then, be sure to add your family members to your account through Amazon Household so they can share in the savings, too!
If you’re a college student with a school email address than ends in .edu, Amazon offers a free six-month trial membership. Once the trial period expires, it’ll upgrade to an Amazon Prime Student membership that only costs $49 a year.
If you’re not into long commitments, you can opt for the Monthly Prime memberships. It’s only $12.99 for a traditional membership and $6.49 for a student membership.
Amazon’s minimum amount required to qualify for free shipping is only $25. Consider the amount and frequency of your Amazon purchases to determine whether or not any Prime membership is a smart investment for you.
7. Slow down for credits
As you check out and place your order, you’ll be prompted to choose a shipping option. Prime members who forgo the free two-day shipping will receive promotional credits that can be applied to future purchases. Be sure to note the expected delivery dates for each option. Sometimes there’s only one additional day you’ll have to wait, which is well worth the savings, in some cases.
8. Get rid of your old stuff
Amazon’s trade-in program will take your old tablets, DVDs, CDs, phones, video games, speakers, and books in exchange for Amazon gift cards. Clean out some clutter, make a few bucks, and buy anything you want on Amazon.
9. Return it for free
With any Amazon purchase, be sure to look for the free returns feature on the item’s product page. Amazon won’t refund your original shipping fee, but a free return option may be the deciding factor between two products or two sellers. It will also allow you to buy with confidence knowing that you won’t have to keep something you don’t absolutely love.
10. Consider the value of nearly new
Check out Amazon Warehouse, a collection of open-box items, including tablets, laptops, TVs, appliances, tools, home goods, clothing and more. The items are typically returns that may have been used, refurbished, or repackaged, but the condition is always clearly noted before you buy. Whether it’s in excellent, good, or fair condition, you still won’t be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty, but if it’s that important, you can purchase one from Square Trade.
Refund Mania! Here are six smarter ways to spend your tax refund
The April 17th tax deadline has come and gone, which leads us to the much happier half of the season – TAX REFUNDS! If you were an early-bird filer, you probably already have your tax refund in hand, while the procrastinators will have to wait a little while longer. Either way, you’ll need to come up with a solid plan for that chunk of change.
The average 2017 tax refund in Georgia is expected to be $2,793, slightly lower than the national average of $2,895. Regardless, that’s a hefty sum, especially when you receive it in one big fat check. You may think of it as new-found money, but you need to remember that you worked hard in 2017 and your refund is not just some random windfall. Will you spend it, save it, or invest it?
What’s the plan?
Consider your current financial situation and your priorities. What decisions can you make now that might positively impact your financial future? Here are six smart moves to think about.
1. Transfer it. One of the best recommendations we can offer is to immediately move your refund from your checking account to your savings account. This seemingly insignificant move could be the smartest step in the entire process. Why? Because it’s easy to spend $20 here and $50 there, and when it’s all whittled away, you’ll have nothing of real value to show for it. What to do next is up to you.
2. Catch up on your savings. B-O-R-I-N-G, we know, but excitement isn’t always the goal. Do you have an emergency fund that needs a little boost? Have you fallen a little behind on your child’s college fund? Need to replenish your personal savings? Paying bills and saving for the future is essentially a requirement when you’re adulting. Plus, having some cash stashed away for an unexpected expense would give you some financial peace of mind, and that’s incredibly valuable in today’s economy.
3. Invest in your future. With the help of a financial advisor, find an investment that will help you earn more money in the long-term. Consider an IRA, a 529 plan, or even a traditional brokerage account. Whichever option you choose, be sure to discuss your risk tolerance, time horizon, and ultimate goals before making a decision.
4. Pay off your high-interest debt. Revolving debt is one of the heaviest financial burdens you can carry. As interest compounds monthly and you rack up new charges, your existing balance climbs fast. Now is the time to knock down some debt and regain control over your finances.
5. Spend it on your home. After all, it is one of the biggest investments you’ll make in your lifetime. Shouldn’t you take care of it? Consider some maintenance or improvements that will increase your home’s value, or double up on your mortgage payments so you can pay it off sooner and reduce your accumulating interest.
6. Have a little fun. You need to make a smart decision and use your refund wisely, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself, too. Go out to dinner, take in a Braves game, opt for some wireless earbuds or a trendy new pair of kicks. Just make sure it’s not too extra.
Spring Cleaning for Your Finances
Spring is the time when many people start thinking about purging clutter — that sounds good to us. We suggest expanding that purge to reducing your paperwork, trimming your expenses, and boosting your savings. Sound overwhelming? Don’t worry, we’re here to help.
If it wasn’t one of your New Year’s resolutions, now is a great time to review your budget and see where you can tidy up your spending. Even if managing your budget was one of your resolutions, take the time to see how you’re doing so far. Are there other areas where you can cut spending?
- Cutting the Cord – The movement to replace cable or satellite service and opting for streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu is gaining momentum.
- Gym Membership – If you have a gym membership, are you getting your money’s worth? If not, cancel it. There are other ways to burn those calories that don’t require a membership.
- Cell Phone – Consider changing your plan or even going pre-paid to free up some cash.
- Dining Out – Cook more meals at home. Pack lunches for work or school.
Automate Your Savings
Saving is easy to forget, and money has a way of vanishing when it isn’t designated for a specific function. You have to be deliberate about saving to achieve your goals. By automating the process, you can put a plan in motion and let it take care of itself.
- Set Up Automatic Transfers – If your paycheck is direct deposit, have a set amount from each check go directly to savings. You’ll be less tempted to spend it if it never hits your checking account.
- Round-up Savings Apps – Some apps will round up the change from each debit card transaction and deposit it into a savings or investment account. For example, swipe your card for $4.65 and $0.35 automatically gets transferred into a savings or investment account, depending on the app.
Set Up Automatic Payments
Setting up automatic payments either through online bill pay or your service provider’s website (i.e., cell phone, credit cards, utilities, etc.) makes your finances more efficient and reduces the stress of remembering due dates or paying a late fee because you missed a payment. Keep an eye on your account to ensure you have sufficient funds to cover the automatic payments.
Organize or Shred Old Documents
Reducing the clutter of old documents and paperwork can be refreshing. The tips below can help you do it the right way:
- Shred, Don’t Toss – Throwing old documents in the trash increases your risk of identity theft. Shred them in a shredder. If you don’t own a shredder, Georgia’s Own hosts shred day events for members to securely get rid of paperwork.
- Tax Documents – Don’t get too carried away with purging your documents. Remember, the IRS has up to six years to audit you. Hang on to tax returns and supporting documents for at least that long.
- Scan or Snap – If you’re unsure whether you’ll need a document, you can scan a copy to your computer or snap a photo of it with your phone.
Cut Down on Junk Mail
One of the best ways to reduce paperwork is to keep it from ever showing up. You can opt out of pre-screened offers for credit cards and insurance at optoutprescreen.com. Less junk mail means less paperwork to shred.
Financial Literacy: Adding up the benefits of starting young
It’s never too late to start your financial education, but the earlier, the better. From counting coins in Kindergarten to planning for your retirement years, managing your finances is a critical part of your financial security– regardless of how much money you have.
Financial literacy now
A 2015 National Capability Study published by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), reported that two-thirds of Americans could not pass a financial literacy quiz that included basic questions about financial risk.
It also concluded that when age-appropriate personal finance topics, like budgeting, interest rates, and debt are incorporated into a school’s curriculum, it positively impacts the decisions, saving, and spending habits in adulthood.
Benefits of financial literacy
Basic financial literacy helps people become self-sufficient and achieve financial stability. This includes being able to save money, distinguish the difference between wants and needs, manage a budget, pay their bills, buy a home, pay for college, and plan for retirement. Literacy helps them create a realistic roadmap that will take them through their daily lives making good financial decisions.
Financial literacy also empowers people. With any lack of financial education, anything that resembles credit, interest rates, or investments is intimidating and leaves individuals at a disadvantage. We’re not saying you need to be a financial guru, but knowing how interest rates work, the difference between stocks and bonds, and the factors that impact your credit rating, for example, motivate consumers to ask questions and seek out their best options. It also decreases their stress level. When people are well versed in the state of their finances, they have the information they need to take action, modify their investment portfolio, or continue with their current strategy.
Understanding your finances helps reduce the risk of becoming a victim of fraud. Some tactics are easy to believe, especially when they’re coming from someone who seems to be knowledgeable and well intended. A basic level of financial education will help people recognize the red flags and, at the very least, talk with a trusted advisor before making any commitment.
Why it pays to start early
With any educational plan, you’re continually building on the information you’ve learned in the past. It’s the same with your personal finances. You need to know how money works before you spend it, and that takes time and practiced application. Too many of us have learned the value of a dollar a little too late in life or what it means to be drowning in a sea of debt.
Early education allows individuals to develop a healthy relationship with money. They learn the importance of earning, saving, and managing their debt, which leads to becoming a financially responsible adult. They’ll have the knowledge it takes to wisely decide how they’ll pay for college, a car, or even a mortgage and know the consequences of debt accumulation, budget-busting purchases, and high-interest predatory lenders. You shouldn’t have to experience a financial misstep to benefit from it. Start teaching financial responsibility when kids can still be kids and when they’re grown-ups, they’ll know no other way.