7 Stress-Free Steps for Selling Your Car Online

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So, you’ve decided to sell your car, but you’re not sure where to start? While it’s important to not only do everything above board, it’s also essential that you get the best deal from the sale. No matter what your motivation is for selling your vehicle, following these steps will ensure that the process goes as smoothly as possible:

Get Your Car Inspected

In order to get an accurate idea of what kind of shape your car is in, you should take it to a certified mechanic for an inspection. This will allow you to fix minor issues before the sale and prevent potential buyers from trying to negotiate the price down due to the need for small repairs. You’ll also be able to stand by the condition of your car by having more knowledge of any problems.

Clean Your Car

Nobody wants to buy a car that’s full of remnants of its previous owner, which is why you should clean your car before listing it for sale. By simply washing and cleaning the interior and exterior of your car, you’re more likely to increase your car’s perceived value to buyers. Make sure that you don’t miss all of those little nooks and crannies when you go in for a deep clean!

Hold a Photo Session

Once your car looks good as new, you should take some high-resolution photos of your car that will make people to want to check out the vehicle in person. Review ads on Craigslist and dealer websites to get an idea of the types of interior and exterior shots that you should include.

Write Your Ad

Now that your photos are ready, it’s time to craft a stellar ad. You should include basic information about the car, list any marketable improvements that you have made to the vehicle, as well as any issues that the new owner would need to know about. You should set your starting price based on the Blue Book value of the car and the price others in your area are selling that make and model for so that you can remain competitive. Additionally, you can consult Black Book and NADAguides for information on the value of your vehicle. Having multiple sources detailing the value of your car will come in handy when it’s time to negotiate with a potential buyer.

Before posting your ad, have someone review it for spelling and grammar errors, as well as clarity. Once you’ve finalized your ad, it’s time to post it to websites such as Craigslist and Autobytel and then wait for some fish to bite.

Get Your Paperwork Together

Before you meet with potential buyers, you should get as much of the necessary paperwork ready as possible. Review your state’s individual requirements to make sure that you have everything you need to make the sale legal. You’ll need the following documents when selling your car:

If you’re not offering a warranty on your vehicle, then you should include language that you’re selling the vehicle “as is” in the bill of sale.

The Negotiation

Once you find an interested buyer, the fun begins in the form of negotiations. Of course, you’ll start with your asking price, but you should also keep in mind the lowest offer that you are willing to accept. If you want to learn how to stay on top of negotiations, consult this resource on car sales negotiations. Once you’ve agreed upon a price, that’s when the bill of sale and as-is paperwork will become important.

Don’t Stress

It may seem like there are a lot of pitfalls associated with selling your car, but that doesn’t mean that you have to experience them. If you follow these steps, you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting the best deal for your vehicle.

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How to Talk About Money Before Marriage

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In the midst of the hustle and bustle that comes with planning a wedding, talking about finances is likely to get lost in the shuffle. While it’s not the most exciting conversation that you’ll have with your intended, it’s certainly a necessary part of maintaining a healthy relationship. Here’s what you should discuss when you sit down to talk finances before walking down the aisle:

Financial History

It’s important to get a history lesson covering your future spouse’s financial decisions because they directly affect your financial future the day you say “I do.” You should discuss what kind of debt you have and how much, as well as outline your plan to pay it off. Make sure that you cover how much you each make, your bank account balance and what kinds of investments you have. You also need to talk about your credit score during this conversation since it affects your ability to take out loans and what interest rate you’ll receive.

Uncover Your Financial Personalities

Are you a spender or a saver? Are you more pragmatic or emotional in how you approach financial decisions? You need to know how the other approaches their finances and establish boundaries on discretionary spending so that you’re not putting each other in a bad financial situation. Additionally, you should be open about what areas you can improve on and help each other achieve those goals.

Combining Assets

When it comes time to discuss combining your assets, here are some questions you’ll need to answer that will allow you to navigate this process with ease:

  • Which assets will you combine and which will you keep separate?
  • Who will take the lead on managing your finances?
  • How will you split expenses?
  • Will you sell any property?

You also need to discuss the tax implications of your impending marriage with an accountant.

Plan for the Future

Before the big day, you should determine what kind of lifestyle you want and if your incomes will support that once you’re married. Be realistic about what you can reasonably achieve both now and in the future. Create a budget to help you both stay on top of necessary expenses. It’s essential that you keep your goals in mind since they dictate the decisions that you both make.

Estate Planning

Estate planning is not an exciting topic, but it’s essential to ensuring that you will be taken care of should something happen to you or your spouse. Consider the following when doing your estate planning:

  • Who will be the beneficiary on your insurance policies, IRA and 401(k) plans?
  • Who will make medical decisions for you?
  • Do you need to update your will?

It’s easier to make these plans in advance, so don’t put off making a decision about estate planning before it’s too late.

Track Your Progress

Financial planning may not be fun, but it goes a long way to minimize future frustrations and to establish trust between you and your fiancé. Plan regular meetings to discuss your financial situation and track your progress towards established goals once you’re married. These meetings will keep you honest about your progress and will allow you to address any issues that may arise.

Talking about finances isn’t always easy, but once this conversation is out of the way, you can get back to the more exciting parts of wedding planning and focus on your life with your future spouse.

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What to Look for When Buying a Used Car

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Purchasing a used car can be a stressful and confusing process. That shiny vehicle that you found may look good as new on the lot, but it could also be hiding a seedy past. If you’re in the market for a new-to-you car, keep these tips in mind and you should be able to drive home with a winner.

Research. Research. Research.

Being prepared is key when it comes time to buy a used car because there are an increasing number of variables that affect the performance of a pre-owned car. Make sure that you research which cars fare well over time so that you’ll know which ones to avoid—Consumer Reports has a lot of helpful information that will keep you informed on which cars hold up the best over time. Additionally, check the Blue Book value of models that you are interested in so that you’ll know how much you should pay for a specific make and model.

Once you’ve found the specific vehicle that you want to buy, check the CARFAX to learn what that specific vehicle has been through. If you’re purchasing a used car from a dealer, you’ll also want to check the buyer’s guide on the windshield for detailed information about the car, including dealer warranty information.

Interior Inspection

Once you’ve found a car that looks like a winner, open the door and check for odor, make sure that the seats and seat belts are in working condition, test the gas and brake pedals, fiddle with the instruments, turn on the radio to check out the sound system and look for any damage to the roof or trunk, such as a torn lining or water damage. And, of course, don’t forget to test the A/C and heater.

Inspect the Exterior

After you have inspected the interior, check the exterior of the vehicle for insight into whether or not the vehicle has been well-maintained. Look over the body for scratches, dents, rust and misaligned panels, all of which can be signs that the vehicle was in an accident. Be sure to open and close all doors to see if they are in good shape and check all of the seals for tearing and rot. You’ll also want to make sure that the windows are free of cracks. Finally, verify that all of the lights and signals are functioning and that the tires are in good shape.

Under the Hood

Next, pop the hood of the car to see if there are any engine-related issues. Check the hoses for cracks and frays. Inspect the fluids to confirm that they are the right color and that there are no leaks. You should also confirm that the radiator isn’t cracked and that the battery still has some life left in it.

Under the Vehicle

If possible, you should slide under the vehicle to check for leaks and look for signs of welding that might indicate that the vehicle was in wreck. Additionally, you should feel the tailpipe for residue, which could indicate that the car needs a new exhaust system.

Get the Most from Your Test Drive

The test drive is the best time for you to get a feel for a used vehicle since you do not know what the car’s previous owners put it through. If possible, you should take the car on the highway to see how it performs at high speeds. If the car shakes when you’re driving fast, it might need an alignment or new tire rods. If the brakes feel spongy, that could be a sign of bleeding and a stiff brake pedal could be a sign of a bad brake booster. You should also listen for any noises coming from the engine in order to determine whether or not the engine needs repairs.

Consult an Expert

If you don’t feel comfortable assessing the state of a used vehicle or if you just want a second opinion, take it to an independent mechanic to have them look over the car. They will let you know what could potentially cause issues and what is a deal breaker. They’ll also point out smaller issues that can help you negotiate a lower purchase price.

Buy Certified Pre-Owned

Many dealers provide an additional guarantee on their used cars in the form of a certified pre-owned designation. Certified pre-owned vehicles are newer, typically have lower mileage and are a good alternative to buying a new car that might be out of your price range. Certified pre-owned classification give buyers the added comfort of knowing that their vehicle has been through rigorous inspection tests, meaning that it should be in better shape and come with additional guarantees. However, you should research what certified pre-owned means to dealers that you’re considering and, of course, do your own inspection.

Use a Checklist

Purchasing a car is never easy, especially when you’re buying a used one. If you’re afraid that you will miss something when you go to test out a vehicle, bring this checklist with you for added peace of mind.

Have you purchased a used car recently? If you feel that you didn’t get the best interest rate when you financed your car, you should apply to refinance your auto loan with rateGenius.

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Money Mistakes You Should Avoid

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When it comes to personal finance, we all have some habits that need to be broken. Whether you’re aware of them or not, now is the time to leave those bad habits behind and take control of your financial well-being. To help you do that, we’ve compiled a list of common financial missteps that you should avoid:

Not Having a Game Plan

You need to set financial goals and regularly evaluate where you stand so that you can improve your financial situation. In order to make meaningful progress, you should decide what is important to you and what you would like to achieve. These goals may include:

  • paying down debt,
  • buying a house, and
  • saving for retirement.

As you reach your goals, a sense of accomplishment will empower you to continue to make even more good financial decisions.

Purchasing a More Expensive House than You Need

Buying a larger or more expensive home than what you actually need is one way to waste money year after year. Evaluate what you and your family actually need from a home before starting the process of looking for a house. By living in a home that suits both your financial and physical needs, you’ll be less likely to overspend. You should also make sure that you have the appropriate interest rate on your home so that you’re not paying too much for your mortgage.

Not Investing

Investing your hard-earned money may sound scary if you’ve never done it before, but you’re missing a huge opportunity to increase your net worth by not doing so. Investing allows you to save for retirement or other financial goals faster than if you were to let it sit in a low interest bank account. Research financial planners in your area and make an appointment with one to further understand their process and how they can help you. They will make you feel better about investing and create an investment plan that meets your specific goals.

Paying Full Price When You Go Shopping

With so many websites devoted to helping you save money, it would be a shame to not take advantage of them. There are a variety of discount and flash sale websites waiting to help you save money. Websites like RetailMeNot provide coupon codes from thousands of retailers so you won’t have to pay full price for products and other services that you regularly use. A word of advice on this matter: don’t purchase something that you weren’t already planning to buy, otherwise, you’re just throwing money away.

Not Understanding Your Responsibility as a Cosigner

When you cosign for a loan, you must understand that you are responsible for ensuring that the borrower makes their payments to the lender or you will be held equally responsible for the payments. Should they not make their payments on time or if their account is sent to a collection agency, this will be reflected on your credit report as if you took out the loan yourself, which can lower your credit score and affect your ability to get credit for a new home or car. Make sure that you trust the person you are cosigning with and that you maintain an open line of communication with them throughout the life of the loan.

Start Now

If you have been looking to break your bad financial habits, now is the time to start. Write down your plan to keep yourself honest and you will discover that life is just as enjoyable (if not more so!) when you make wise financial decisions.

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8 Personal Finance Tips for College Graduates

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Congratulations, you made it to graduation! After all of those sleepless nights studying and hours spent in class, you’re ready to march across the stage and claim your diploma. But what do you do after that? If you’re like most college grads, you’re going to start focusing on your finances more than you did in college. Here’s what you should do to make the transition a smooth one:

Avoid Using Credit Cards

When you first finish school, you will likely have a variety of new expenses that you are responsible for. It may be easy to reach for the credit card, but hold off and evaluate whether or not it is necessary to charge that expense to your credit card and if you have other payment options. With such high interest rates, credit cards aren’t the best option if you’re going to rack up a lot of debt, which can put you in a bad place financially at a time when you should be developing good spending habits.

Pay Off Student Loans

Once your credit cards are paid off, focus on aggressively paying down your student loan debt. Even though a student loan isn’t considered “bad debt,” it is still debt. If you have multiple loans, you should look into consolidating your debt, which should lower your minimum payment and reduce your number of monthly payments down to one, making your student loan payments easier to manage.

Create a Budget

It’s important to know where your money has to go every month. Create a budget that lists your bills, as well as other monthly payments and expenses. Include a reasonable limit on entertainment spending, as well as payments to your savings and then stick to your spending plan.

Save for a Rainy Day

You also need to set aside money for emergencies that may arise once you graduate, including sickness, unemployment and car repairs. You can avoid adding to your debt when you have an emergency fund waiting to save the day.

Brush Up on Your Personal Finance Knowledge

Consult online resources or purchase a book or two on personal finance to learn how to start on level financial footing as you begin a new chapter in your life. The knowledge that you learn will help you for years to come.

Sign Up for a Retirement Plan

The earlier that you start saving for retirement, the better. You’ll have so much more saved if you start building your nest egg now than if you wait five years. And don’t forget to check if your employer provides 401(k) matching. You will want to take advantage of that if you can.

Get Insured

Make sure that you have adequate health insurance whether you’re under the age of 26 and on your parents’ plan or have a plan of your own. It’s essential that you’re properly covered so that you can avoid hefty medical bills.

If you have cosigners on any of your loans, you should also consider life insurance so that your cosigners will not be held liable for the payments if something happens to you.

Make Saving a Priority

Saving for the future may not sound like fun, but it is necessary. Determine what your financial goals are—buying a house, traveling the globe or even buying a car—and make sure that you pay yourself each month so that you can get closer to reaching these goals. If you are worried about remembering to pay yourself, set up auto transfers to go from your checking to your savings on payday.

Financial Health is Different for Everyone

Everyone has different financial responsibilities and goals, but developing good financial habits now will benefit you no matter what you want to achieve. What has helped you establish good financial habits since you graduated?

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Get Your Car Summer Road Trip Ready

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With summer just around the corner, it’s time to make sure that your car is ready for your next big road trip. The last thing that you want to deal with while you’re trekking across the country with your family or friends in tow is a breakdown or flat tire. Here’s what you’ll need to do to make sure that your car is roadworthy:

Check Your Tires

Before you hit the road, check your tires to see if they are in working order. Start with the tire pressure; incorrect tire pressure can result in poor fuel economy and decrease the life of your tires. Next, you’ll want to make sure that your tread is in shape. Legally, you must have 2/32 of an inch of tread. Replace your tires if your tread is low—it is dangerous to drive with low tread and can cause damage to your vehicle. Then, check your spare tire to be sure that it is still functional. Hopefully, you won’t need it, but it’s important that you have it as a backup. If necessary, have your tires rotated. Rotating your tires every 5,000 to 10,000 miles allows them to wear more evenly.

Change Oil and Replace the Oil Filter

To avoid doing unnecessary damage to your car, change your oil and oil filter before your road trip if you haven’t done so recently. Heat causes oil to break down more quickly and become less effective, which is why you’ll want a good batch of oil pumping through your vehicle.

Inspect Your Radiator

Your radiator functions as a cooling system for your car and is something you definitely need during those hot summer months. Inspect your radiator for cracks and leaks and the radiator hoses for brittleness and cracking. If you see any damaged components, get them fixed before your trip. You’ll also want to make sure that you have the right mix of antifreeze while you’re inspecting your radiator and put more antifreeze in your coolant tank if necessary.

Get Those Wipers in Shape

Windshield wipers may seem like such a small detail, but they are essential to staying safe while on the road. Replace windshield wipers that are cracked or show signs of roughness so that you’ll be able to see while driving through those summer showers. And while you’re at it, top off your wiper fluid so that your windshield will remain crystal clear throughout your trip.

Replace Your Engine’s Air Filter

Your engine’s air filter catches airborne particles—such as dirt, dust and bugs—that can damage your engine and negatively impact its performance. A dirty air filter causes your engine to not work as efficiently as possible, putting strain on your vehicle as a whole. Recommendations on how often to change your air filter vary, but you should assess the state of your air filter every 6,000 miles to make sure it’s still in good shape. Check your owner’s manual for more information on how often to change your vehicle’s air filter.

Get Your Air Conditioner Evaluated

Being caught in the middle of your summer road trip without air conditioning sounds like a nightmare. Don’t let this happen to you! Take your car in for an air conditioner inspection to avoid suffering in the summer sun.

Test Your Lights and Signals

Before you go, be sure that your headlights, brakelights and turn signals work. Getting a ticket because your lights or signals are not working would be unfortunate, but getting in an accident would be even worse.

Take Only the Essentials

Overpacking your car can put undue strain on your tires and decreases your fuel efficiency, which you definitely need on a long road trip. Try taking only what you need and leave extra room for souvenirs that you might pick up along the way.

Be Prepared for Anything

Make sure that your insurance is up to date before you go, and don’t forget to bring your insurance card and contact information for your emergency roadside assistance provider. Additionally, pack an emergency kit that contains water, flashlights, flares, jumper cables, nonperishable food items, blankets and first aid supplies. You might want to include some cash, as well.

Staying safe on the road requires a bit of maintenance to your vehicle, but it’s worth it to keep you and your loved ones safe and your car in good working condition while you’re out on your next adventure.

Where are you going on your summer road trip?

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Tips and Tricks to Save on Summertime Airfare

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Ensuring that you receive the best deal on airfare is a major concern when making travel arrangements for yourself and your family. This is even more accurate for summer travel, which is why knowing what resources will allow you to save money on your summer trip is important. Of course, figuring out which resources will actually work can be frustrating, so we’ve put together this handy list of tips to make booking your tickets a little less stressful.

Clear Your Web-Browsing History

Airfare booking websites track your web-browsing data and some even use that information to raise the price of a flight that you’ve previously searched for. To prevent this from happening in the future, clear your web-browsing information prior to booking your plane tickets.

Purchase Tickets One to Three Months Out

With everyone traveling during the summer months, gas prices will skyrocket. In order to get the best deal possible, you should book your tickets between one and three months ahead of your trip. The ideal time to buy tickets varies on your destination, so use this resource for a more in-depth look into the best time to purchase tickets.

Be Flexible

Being open to alternate travel dates is another way to save money on airfare. You should compare prices of flights within a range of dates that work for you, assuming that you don’t need to arrive at your destination or return home by specific dates. Most airfare booking websites allow you to compare prices of tickets within three days of your ideal departure and return dates. However, you will need to factor in the cost of additional nights at the hotel and extra meals if you decide to extend the length of your trip to save money on airfare.

Combine One-Way Tickets

In some cases, purchasing two one-way tickets could end up costing less money than a round-trip ticket. This won’t always be the case, but it won’t hurt to test this one out for your trip since you only have something to gain.

Travel at the Beginning or End of Summer

If your summer travel schedule isn’t dictated by the academic calendar, then schedule your trip for the beginning or end of the summer season. When the kids are in school, ticket prices are lower because fewer people are traveling. Take advantage of this if you can.

Check Out Fares to Nearby Airports

Start your trip with a drive to an airport that might be a little farther away than your usual departure airport and you could potentially save hundreds of dollars. Also, if you’re planning a getaway to Europe, you should consider buying a ticket to one of the major hubs and purchasing an additional ticket to your intended destination through one of Europe’s budget airlines.

Sign for Alerts and Get on Social Media

When researching travel prices, be sure to sign up for fare alerts for your trip so that you can stay on top of changes in prices. Instead of returning to the booking website several times before you can purchase your tickets, you’ll have all of the information you need sent directly to your inbox.

It will also be beneficial to follow your preferred airline on Facebook and Twitter to hear about sales as soon as they’re announced. Another helpful resource is airfarewatchdog; check out their Twitter profile for a list of regularly updated airfare deals.

Game On

Trying to find the best deal on airfare is basically a game. Knowing the right moves will put you at an advantage when you’re making your travel arrangements. While there are no hard and fast rules to getting the best deal, these tips will serve you well when it comes time to book your flights.

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6 Reasons Why You Need Car Insurance

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Car insurance. You’re required to have it, but, sometimes, you may wonder why you actually need it considering how rarely you use it. Car insurance protects not only you but those who are on the road with you, as well. It provides financial and legal support following an accident, allowing you to feel safe whether you’re cruising down the highway or taking a leisurely weekend drive through the countryside.

What Insurance Covers

There are many kinds of auto insurance policies available to you. Understanding an insurance policy may seem confusing, but a standard policy typically includes the following forms of coverage:

  • Liability
  • Uninsured Motorists
  • Personal Injury Protection
  • Comprehensive
  • Collision
  • Emergency Roadside Assistance
  • Loss of Use or Rental Vehicle

Protect Your Investment

Not only is it expensive to purchase a vehicle, but it costs a lot to maintain one, as well. Insurance protects the investment that you made in your vehicle when you purchased it. In order to retain as much of your vehicle’s value as possible, you must be able to restore it to good condition should your car become damaged. Most likely, you won’t be keeping your car forever, so you’ll want to keep it in the best shape possible so that the resale value remains high.

Cover Your Medical Expenses

Car insurance prevents you from being held personally responsible for accident-related medical expenses by providing coverage for those injured in an accident. The cost of medical care is not cheap and being held financially responsible for yours and others’ medical bills could force you into financial ruin.

Access to Legal Coverage

Your insurance policy provides you with access to legal support following an accident that you are involved in. Legal costs are notoriously high, which is why you’ll want to ensure that you’re covered in the event that you do need legal assistance after an accident.

Damage Protection

A variety of external forces can cause damage to your vehicle, many of which provide you with no other means to recoup your losses besides calling your insurance provider. This kind of damage could be caused by theft, vandalism, a collision with an animal or even a natural disaster, which can result in thousands of dollars in repair work or lost property. Your insurance policy will help cover the damage to your vehicle caused by these costly incidents.

Uncle Sam Says So

Driving without insurance leaves you open to both financial and legal risk. If you’re caught driving without insurance, you can be fined and even have your license suspended. Educate yourself on your state’s insurance requirements and make sure that you meet them.

Peace of Mind

Knowing that your vehicle is covered will ease concerns that you may have while driving your car. Nobody wants to deal with the costs and hassle that comes with getting into an accident. Luckily, your insurance agent is trained on how to manage the entire process of getting you back behind the wheel after an accident and will help you understand the process from beginning to end.

If you’re in the market for a new auto insurance policy or are looking to explore what other options are available, contact rateGenius Insurance Services for auto insurance quotes from the nation’s top auto insurance providers.

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Essential Home Maintenance Projects for the Savvy Homeowner

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Just like regular car maintenance is a necessary component of owning a vehicle, home maintenance is a necessary component of being a homeowner. Houses are long-term investments for buyers and it’s essential that you protect your investment by staying on top of regular home maintenance. In doing so, you’ll prevent costly repairs in the future and likely help increase the value of your home.

Home improvement projects may sound like quite the undertaking, but it’s in your best interest to regularly assess what aspects of your home need a little TLC. If it’s been awhile since you last performed some work around the house, this list provides some helpful information on what you should look for when trying to keep your home in good condition.

Clean or Replace Vents

In order to keep your air conditioner running smoothly, you must replace your air filters every few months. If you have pets, you should change your filters monthly. Pollution and debris build up on your air filter over time, requiring your air conditioner or furnace to work harder to heat or cool your home. Not only is this wasteful, but the added work results in a higher energy bill for you. Changing and cleaning your air filters takes very little time and the benefits will save you enough money to make the effort worth it.

Clean Refrigerator Coils

Repairing a refrigerator is not cheap and buying a new one is another story entirely. Did you know that you can keep the repairman at bay by simply cleaning your refrigerator coils a few times a year. Don’t be intimidated! By following these easy steps, you’ll have your refrigerator in good shape in no time.

Drain Your Water Heater Annually

Over time, sediment builds up at the bottom of your water heater, making it more difficult for the drain valve to work properly and preventing your water heater from functioning efficiently. If you are you ready to roll up your sleeves and make sure that your water heater stays in working order, follow these instructions to safely and effectively drain your water heater.

Clean Gutters

Cleaning your gutters is a must. Gutters function as a means to divert water away from the siding and foundation of your home and they keep rainwater from destroying your landscaping. The best time to clean your gutters is at the beginning of spring and then again at the beginning of fall. Waiting too long to clean out your gutters causes clogs and allows bugs and other critters to take up residence in the leaves, twigs and other debris in your gutters. You might even be forced to replace your gutters if you go too long without cleaning them. As with most home maintenance, it’s best to be proactive and fix minor problems before they require more expensive remedies.

Check for Holes and Gaps

Increased energy costs, pest infestations and water damage are all results of letting holes and gaps around your house go unchecked. Starting with the roof, check for leaks and any missing mortar around your chimney. Then, check your siding for damage, such as rot, warping, cracking and holes. Finally, assess any damage to your foundation. Issues such as these need to be addressed quickly because they can cause major damage to your home.

Fix Drafty Windows

Drafty windows contribute to high energy bills and make it more difficult for the temperature in your home to stay at a comfortable level. If your windows aren’t functioning properly, try these tips to seal up your windows and keep drafts out.

Budget for Home Expenses

Preparing yourself for repair costs is essential to ensuring that you can cover maintenance costs as they arise. How do you estimate the amount of money that you will need to be properly prepared?

One way to budget for home maintenance expenses is to set aside $1 for every square foot in your house annually for maintenance expenses. If your home is 2,000 square feet, then you would save $2,000 for expenses per year. Another strategy is to save 10 percent of what you paid for your house each year to cover costs, meaning that you would need $3,000 annually for a $300,000 home. If you’re looking for a more precise method, try this plan, which is based on the value and age of the appliances and fixtures in your home. Regardless of the method that you use to save, having money set aside for home maintenance projects will keep you from having to take out additional credit to cover such expenses.

Make it a Habit

Once you get into the swing of things, home maintenance won’t seem like such an overwhelming task. Mark it on your calendar or set up regular alerts to keep you in the habit of making necessary improvements to your home. Not only will most of these repairs decrease your energy bill and preserve your home’s value, but you will feel an increased sense of pride in your home, as well.

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The Ins and Outs of Emergency Funds

build-emergency-fundHaving an emergency fund is essential to your financial well-being because it allows you to prepare for the unexpected and prevents you from having to take on more debt to pay for costly emergencies. If you currently do not have an emergency fund, you’re not alone—fewer than four in 10 Americans have a rainy day fund.

While the idea of starting an emergency fund may be intimidating, not having one leaves you susceptible to financial risk. If you have no idea where to begin, start with these emergency fund basics and watch your fund grow.

How Much Do You Need?

You have to start somewhere and the best place is small when it comes to getting your fledgling emergency fund off the ground. Start with an initial goal of $500 and then set your sights on $1,000. Once you’re in the swing of things, shoot for 4–7 month’s worth of expenses. Remember that expenses and salary do not mean the same thing. Determine what you absolutely have to pay for each month and use that as a base when calculating what you’ll need in your fund. Keep in mind that you should regularly reevaluate what your expenses are so that you can adjust how much you need in your savings.

Establish a fixed amount that you can deposit to your fund each month and stick to it! Treat this deposit like a bill that you pay to yourself. That way, you will no longer see this money as expendable income but as money that serves a necessary financial purpose. When developing your savings plan, it’s also important to create a reasonable timeline for reaching these goals so that you know what to expect of yourself and don’t become discouraged.

When Should You Use Your Funds?

They key to maintaining your emergency fund is to not use it for inappropriate expenses. For the sake of your fund’s continued growth, keep this list of acceptable emergency fund expenses in mind when deciding whether or not you should withdraw money:

  • Health emergencies, such as hospital stays and trips to the ER
  • Paying for bills while unemployed
  • Emergency travel for funerals or to visit sick friends and family members
  • Major car repairs
  • Replacing or repairing major household appliances
  • Large, unexpected home repairs
  • Job relocation expenses

Where Should You Keep Your Money?

Keep around $1,000 in a low-interest account at your bank or credit union. This money should be tied to a debit card and your personal checks. You should also keep some cash in a secure location at home. It’s important to have funds that you can easily access should a situation arise where you need money immediately.

The remainder of your fund should be kept in an account that earns interest but still allows you to access your money with a couple of day’s notice, such as a CD or money market account. Rates on these types of accounts change regularly, which is why you should talk to your financial institution about which one is best for you. Having your money in an account that earns interest will allow your fund to grow even more and will also force you to think twice before withdrawing money because of the extra work required to make a withdrawal.

Be Patient

Building an emergency fund takes time, so don’t get discouraged. As long as you stick to saving money every month, you will see progress. Reward yourself when you hit specific milestones—just don’t go too crazy. Try to limit yourself to a $20 reward so that you don’t undo all of your hard work.

Most of us feel like we couldn’t possibly free up some cash from our long list of expenses to save money for an emergency fund, which is understandable. If you’ve had that thought in the back of your mind as you’ve read this article, try these expense-cutting tips to help you save money for your emergency fund.

What have you done to stay motivated while building your rainy day fund?

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