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Car Replacement Project – Mid Year Update

cars with cash

Since I’ve already shared our progress with increasing our savings, I wanted to quickly highlight what progress we’ve made so far this year with another financial goal of ours. Earlier this year I mentioned that we wanted to work on building up our savings for our next car.

We would really like to avoid taking on a car loan for our next vehicle. Did you know that the average car loan being around $26,300 ? Comerica Bank frames it as almost half of an average person’s annual income. That $26,000 car has a monthly payment of around $464. For us that would be a big obligation – we’d much rather have freedom with our monthly budget.

To do this, we know we need to sock away a sizable amount of money to get a good car and not just a beater. We specifically want to save $5,000 in 2011 to our car replacement fund. Repairs are still sparse on the VW Jetta, but they are getting to become a bit more frequent. While the labor isn’t so bad, the parts for VWs seem to be more expensive than for our other car. We’d rather prepare now and have the money ready than wait until the car dies to save up.

The Car Replacement Fund Plan

Where do we stash our savings? We use ING Direct and have a sub savings account to help us keep track of our progress. If you’re looking for a savings account that works for you, you can compare saving account rates right here on Couple Money.

The key to success with this goal is automating deposits straight to the car replacement fund. I’ve set up an automatic transfer of $400 to be deposited into the the joint savings account each month. This month’s deposit, however, will have to be rescheduled – I had some estimated taxes to pay that threw off my budget just a bit.

Otherwise we’ve been doing well this year with the transfers and our goal is to continue to save until we find a car that fits our needs. I believe the VW can handle until then. We’re also planning on selling the Jetta in a separate transaction to get additional funds.

Looking at Car Makes and Models

Our next step was looking at possible candidates for our next family cars. It start with listed what we need and wanted:

  • Car Style: While we are looking for something bigger than what we have now, I don’t want to get a minivan. I’m looking for a family sized sedan or possible a crossover vehicle.
  • Gas Mileage: Getting better gas mileage is a big concern for us. We want a vehicle that gets at least 30 mpg on the highway.
  • Repair Reliability: We’re buying a used vehicle so we’re hoping to minimize the chance of repairs by focusing on highly rated vehicles. We also used tools like Edmunds True Cost to Own calculator which allows us to get an idea if a car would be a good deal in the long run.
  • Safety: Seeing as this will be the main family vehicle, we’re looking at safety test results for all the contenders.

I then started looking at local car dealerships to get an idea of what we can expect to pay for a car that fits our needs. We’re looking at some cars that are 2007-2008 modesl and are in good condition. I’m hoping that as we continue to build our savings, we can pick from more options.

Another option besides dealerships is buying a car from a private seller. If we do decide to go that route, I’d have to set aside some money to get a thorough inspection from a trusted mechanic or two. While we can potentially save some cash with this channel, I’m a bit more worried about getting a dishonest seller. With dealerships, we’d be looking for a certified used car to cover us.  If you have any feedback based on your own personal experience, please let us know. It’s a big purchase and we’d like to minimize the risk of getting a lemon.

Replacing Your Car

I know there are other personal finance bloggers that have already gone the car and cash route. How have you’ve done it? How many of you will be replacing your car in the next year or so? What’s your game plan for buying?

Photo Credit:  pedrosimoes7

Baby Fund is Up and Ready!

build emergency fund

This year we’ve kept it short because having having a dozen big goals can be stressful to keep on top of and can decrease our chance of success. Instead for 2011, we have just 3 goals:

  • Bump Up Our Savings for the Baby – We want to increase savings to cover baby expenses.
  • Build Our Car Replacement Fund – We want to buy our next family car with cash.
  • Pay Down Student Loan – This is a reach goal and we’re hoping that we’ll be able to get the balance paid down a bit quicker.

I’m happy to report that we have achieved the first goal. Our savings has been bumped up and it’s ready (as much as you can be) for the baby’s arrival next month. Our tax refund finally came in and it helped topped us off.

Baby Fund: Why We’re Saving

We’ve been comfortable with our emergency fund/savings in general, but we wanted to step it up. We’re now trying to be a bit more conservative -having a full six months of essential expenses tucked away makes us feel a bit more comfortable. Between diapers, baby gear, and unexpected baby expenses, we wanted some peace of mind knowing that we can cover these bills as they come.

Though we expect some expenses to decrease (less eating out for example), we want to play it safe and assume in our estimates that we’ll see an overall increase as we get adjusted to being parents.

Our Hurdles with the Baby Fund

I have to admit -saving was harder than I thought these last few months. When I first wrote about our financial goals for this year, I was pretty confident that we were going to make it. We had a system in place and a plan of action. Truth is you have to anticipate some hurdles when setting up goals.

I had mentioned earlier this year that money saved from food expenses will be going towards the savings account. I was basing that on the fact that in my first trimester I wasn’t really eating much. Well guess what? The next few months I started eating more than usual.

We also had to deal with baby expenses along the way that would work for us. We got out of the habit of doing a few big trips for items and switched to several smaller trips throughout the month. What happened is that as we made the smaller trips, we picked extra items. Those extra items added up throughput the month.  While we had many of them on our list, we didn’t shop around to see if we were getting a good deal or not. We just got them because they were in the same store we were in.

We’re now back on track, but we have to remain on top of this, especially when the baby comes. I know we’ll be crunched for time and it can be quite easy to go for convenience. At the same time we have to be balanced and give ourselves some room for transition.

I’m curious to hear from all you parenting veterans on how you manage to stay focused with a new baby.

Our Baby Fund Strategy

For us automated savings is the main plan. Whenever we get a windfall such as a tax refund or bonus, having an automated deposit or transfer has helped us stay on course. While we have created some sub-savings accounts at ING Direct for specific goals, we decided to keep this in the general savings account.

If we find that our balance is steady and we haven’t dipped into it much with the new baby, we’ll reevaluate and decide if we want to use a chunk of that money for one of the other financial goals that we have. Right now, though, we rather have the money there in case it’s needed to smooth out any spending bumps that may come up over the next 6 months or so.

Thoughts on Savings and Financial Goals

We shared out progress, how about you? Since it’s  halfway through the year, how are you doing with your financial goals? Have you had any hurdles while working towards them? What has been going well? Please share your thoughts – I think it’ll be great to learn how others have accomplished their financial goals as couples.

Photo Credit: epSos.de

Rock Your Life Sale!

rock your life sale 72 hours only

Update: My guest post on Ways to Save on Your Wedding is live on Lending Tree’s blog. Please check it out!

Today I wanted to share a big sale with you. There’s a huge sale going on at Only72.com. They’re selling 22 lifestyle guides (they usually sell for over $1,000) for $97. It starts today and runs for 72 hours only (hence the site name). If you’re looking into starting an online business, pick up a language quicker, or even cook with only 5 ingredients these guides can give you a boost.

Check out the complete list below to see the guide you can get. I’ve included some information on each of the books and guides so you can get an idea of what you can learn from them.

The sale goes live today, June 20, at noon Eastern and closes Thursday, June 23, at noon Eastern.

Focus by Leo Babauta ($35)

  • The full version of the book, including bonus chapters, in PDF, EPUB, and AZW
  • An email fast guide (PDF)
  • A decluttering quickstart guide (PDF)
  • A guide to changing habits
  • 3 Audio Interviews
  • 5 videos


Momentum Kickstarter Kit by Charlie Gilkey ($47)

  • Living the Good Life (PDF)
  • Email Triage (PDF)
  • Premium Planners Set






Reclaim Your Dreams by Jonathan Mead ($47)

  • Reclaim Your Dreams – “Everything Package” (70-page PDF)
  • “I’m Serious About Action” Worksheets (30-page PDF)




52 Weeks to Awesome by Pace & Kyeli ($52)

  • 52 emails, each with a tidbit to learn and a mission to accomplish
  • A 128-page workbook (PDF)
  • Pace & Kyeli’s best-kept secret to living an awesome life






5 Ingredients | 10 Minutes by Jules Clancy ($77)

  • 133 totally NEW 5-ingredients recipes
  • Colour photographs of every recipe (343 pages)
  • 50 videos






Rebel Fitness Guide by Steve Kamb ($37)

  • Rebel Fitness Guide (40-page PDF)
  • Rebel Diet Guide (35-page PDF)
  • Rebel Food Fighter (60-page PDF)
  • 6 Separate Workout Exercise Books



Fear-Crushing Travel Guide by Farnoosh Brock ($57)

  • Fear-Crushing Travel Guide (113-page PDF)
  • 7 Fear-Crushing Travel Worksheets
  • 10 Audio Interviews with experienced world travelers
  • Bonus: The Master Travel Preparation Tip Sheet



Overcoming the Fear of Uncertainty by Sean Ogle ($47)

  • Overcoming The Fear of Uncertainty Guide (15,000 words)
  • Using Mint.com to Change Your Life (7,000 words)
  • Ultimate Guide to Starting a Blog
  • 5 Interviews, including Chris Guillebeau and Pam Slim
  • Worksheets, review sheets, questions, answers, and a remote work agreement template



The Creativity Toolbox by Ali Luke & Thursday Bram ($47)

  • Mapping Your Project: The Big Picture and the Details (22-page PDF)
  • Game Plan: Spark to Business (36-page PDF)
  • Balancing Life and creativity (26-page PDF)
  • 7 interviews
  • Resource Directory
  • 65 Jump-leads for your creativity


Make Sh*t Happen by Jenny Blake ($47)

  • Make Sh*t Happen (80-page PDF)
  • Workbook of all exercises (Google Docs)




The Language Hacking Guide by Benny Lewis ($67)

  • Language Hacking Guide in PDF, ePub, Mobi, and printer-friendly
  • Full translationss of the guide in 23 different languages
  • Worksheets, also translated
  • Almost 3 hours of audio interviews
  • Lists of free resources for practicing any language



Sex, Love, Liberation by Ev’Yan Nasman ($47)

  • Sex, Love, Liberation: A manifesto for the bold at heart (61-page PDF)
  • Sex, Love, Liberation Workbook (29-page PDF)





Learn More, Study Less by Scott Young ($67)

  • Learn More, Study Less (200+-page PDF)
  • 6 bonus printable workheets




A Daring Adventure collection by Tim Brownson ($47)

  • How to be Rich and Happy (215-page PDF)
  • Don’t Ask Stupid Questions (94-page PDF)
  • Don’t Panic! A Practical Guide to Dealing with Fear, Anxiety, Panic & Public Speaking (45-page pdf)
  • 16 Ways to Destress Your Life (34-page pdf)



The Less Work, More Harmony Relationship Guide by Cara Stein ($47)

  • 25 PDf modules (96 pages, 38,000+ words)
  • Better Communication Workshop




Brilliantly Better Collection by Dragos Roua ($43)

  • Natural Productivity (156-page PDF)
  • 100 Ways to screw up your life (109-page PDF)
  • 100 Ways to improve your life (108-page PDF)
  • 30 Sentences for a millionaire mindset (96-page PDF)



How to Become an Advanced Early Riser by Steve Aitchenson ($37)

  • How to Become An Advanced Early Riser (66-page PDF)
  • Success Log to track your progress
  • 4 MP3 audio downloads
  • Quick start guides



Cheap Family Fun by Kim & Jason ($52)

  • 52 weekly emails of ideas for free or very cheap fun
  • 52 short, entertaining videos




The Art of Relaxed Productivity + The Power of Positivity by Henrik Edberg ($44)

  • The Art of Relaxed Productivity (98-page PDF)
  • The Power of Positivity (132-page PDF)
  • Quick Start To Relaxed Productivity Audio Guide (MP3) + 5 more audio files
  • The Ultimate Guide to Motivation
  • 2 Workbooks
  • Audio Transcripts



Discover Package by Barrie Davenport ($59)

  • Discover Your Passion (116-page PDF)
  • The Bold Living Guide (46-page PDF)
  • Coaching Works (10-page PDF)
  • Life 101 Master Course (9-page PDF)



Mind Control Method: How to Get What You Want by Karol Gajda ($47)

  • Mind Control Method (37-page PDF)
  • 5 MP3 audios




Sell Your Crap by Adam Baker ($47)

  • Sell Your Crap (67-page main guide PDF)
  • The Definitive Step-by-Step Guide to Selling Your Crap on eBay (171-page PDF)
  • The Definitive Step-by-Step Guide to Selling Your Crap on CraigsList (49-page PDF)
  • The Definitive Step-by-Step Guide to Selling Your Crap on Amazon (41-page PDF)
  • 10 Video Interviews with Anti-Clutter authors and bloggers, including Leo Babauta, Chris Guillebeau, and J.D. Roth


 

 

If this looks like a great deal and investment for you and your online business, please click here to visit Only72.com. If not, no, worries, hang tight for tomorrow’s post.

The Cleverlys – Bluegrass Meets Pop

the cleverlys bluegrass and pop

I love when I discover a new, fun  youtube video to watch! My friend posted a link up on Facebook last week on the Cleverlys and I instantly feel in love with the bluegrass group.

If you haven’t heard of them, they cover several pop hits and I was surprised at how well some of them worked!

My two picks for the group are:

You have to try it out – I think they’re great. How about you? What’s your favorite YouTube video right now? If you want more of the group, here’s the official site.

Deals and News of the Week

There are some great contests and deals going on this week:

  • J from Budgets are Sexy has done it again! He’s started a new site – Giveaways Are Sexy. Check Monday to see the prize and then see if you’re a winner on Fridays.

New Lenders Get an iPad® 2

Prosper’s gift when new lenders invest $20,000*

We’re giving new lenders another reason to invest their money through Prosper. On top of 10.4%** actual returns, we’re giving all new lenders who invest $20,000 by July 31, 2011 a brand new Apple iPad 2. Don’t wait – this promotion ends June 30thSee important details below.

  • 32 GB
  • WiFi
  • Your choice of white or black

Get Bose® QuietComfort® 15 Headphones

Have $10,000 to invest?

  • Acoustic Noise Cancelling® Headphones
  • Significant advances in noise reduction
  • Comfortable around-ear style

Get A sleek new iPod® nano

For investments of $5,000

  • 8GBMulti-Touch display
  • 7 colors to choose from

Personal Finance Carnivals

There were some wonderful carnivals and if you haven’t seen them yet, please check them out:

Personal Finance Posts to Catch Up On

If you have some free time this weekend and want some tips and information for your finances, be sure to read some of these wonderful posts. There are some handy tips this week to help you out.

I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did. I also recommend checking out my blogroll to pick up some great personal finance blogs to follow. Please also let me know what are some of your favorite blogs that you enjoy reading on a regular basis.

Have a wonderful weekend with your family!

Photo Credit: The Cleverlys

 

How Do Mobile Payments Work?

mobile credit card payments

 

A few weeks ago my hair stylist swiped the credit card on her iPhone and then handed it to me to add a discretionary tip and sign the charge with fingertip.  I entered my email address for a receipt and it was in my inbox before I made the short drive home.

That experience and the announcement of Google Wallet made me curious about these mobile forms of payment.

Square

Square is a simple way for anyone with an android phone or iPhone to process credit card payments.  A card reader is attached to the phone via the audio jack.  The free reader is provided by Square or you can buy it at Apple stores and get a rebate.

This is great for small businesses, such as my hair stylist, and eliminates the need for complicated payment systems that require paper receipts and overhead.  I even thought about it as a way to get payments quickly from my adult child who seems to never have cash on him.

PayPass

PayPass is a MasterCard offering enabling users to pay for products with a simple tap of the credit card, key fob or mobile phone.  The “tap” can be read when the card or device is within 1-2 inches of the reader.

The technology that supports this functionality is a hidden embedded computer chip and radio frequency antennae according to PayPass.  This sends the information wirelessly to the credit network.

This is a good payment method when speed of transaction is important.  You can pay quickly at locations that tend to have lines such as gas stations, stadiums and fast food restaurants.

Google Wallet

Google wallet goes beyond processing payments.  The goal is to become a virtual wallet that stores more than your plastic credit card information.  It would become your wallet by storing coupons, gift card and loyalty card details.

This app is set to launch soon and will initially be supported only on the Nexus S 4G phone and limited to Citibank PayPass enabled cards and a Google prepaid card.

Instead of holding your card near the reader, the phone would be placed within a few inches of the payment terminal.

The reason you might want to use this system is to eliminate even carrying a credit card with you.

Security and Privacy

The main benefit to consumers with these mobile payments is that your credit card never leaves your sight.  No one is taking it to a back room and copying the numbers.  Square does not collect or share buyer information.

It’s important to immediately notify the credit card company when you lose a PayPass or Google Wallet card or device.  I recommend reviewing the security and privacy sections of each product before using to ensure you feel adequately protected.

 

I think automating the payment process, without compromising protection, is good for all consumers.  What’s your experience with these mobile payment methods?

Photo: Some rights reserved by @cdharrison