Money-Saving Tips for Millennials Just Starting Out

When it comes to saving money, you may have conflicting feelings. Sometimes, you’re on top of the world, while other times you feel overwhelmed and in need of some lifestyle changes. Your future is bright, but success doesn’t come without a few sacrifices.

Luckily, there are ways to stay on track, and some of the best money-saving tips are easy, quick, and even fun. Here are seven simple ways to save cash without the hurt.

1. Ditch the salon.

Men and women alike spend a lot of money at professional beauty spots, and at the end of the month, wonder where that hard-earned paycheck went. Break the cycle by hitting a local beauty school and have a student sculpt your coif. If you’re nervous about mistakes, don’t be—a licensed instructor oversees the work, and will step in to fix anything you might not like about your locks. The hottest cut will run you less than $10 at most learning clinics.

2. Flex your culinary muscles.

Take a free online class series (or two or three) for a few basic cooking pointers that can turn your restaurant addiction into a money-saving skill.

3. Coupon code everything.

Before placing an order on an online transaction, do a quick internet search for an online coupon or discount code. Whether you’re in the market for new shoes, personal finance books, or a gym membership, you never know what might be out there to help cut costs.

4. Preempt your triggers.

Know your pitfalls, and circumvent them by controlling your environment. Just like a person who cuts junk food from their diet doesn’t keep processed snacks in the house, you can manipulate your surroundings to make them more conducive to saving money. Opt out of the email marketing from your favorite shoe company, for example, and rehearse a concise, graceful demure for when your friends ask you to hit the bar after work.

5. Switch subscriptions.

When it comes to money-saving tips, this one’s huge. Nix the subscriptions you wouldn’t miss, like the fashion mag you signed up for as a gesture of support for your niece’s fundraiser six years ago. Instead, add smart blogs to your RSS feed so every time a new post is up, you’re alerted of valuable new content instead of tempting ads.

6. Sign up for a free trial.

Those first-two-weeks-free deals seem so tempting, but you know there’s a catch. Companies bet you’ll forget to unsubscribe at the end of that free trial, and hope to hook you for life. Thankfully though, there are calendar apps and mobile alerts. Set up a reminder to opt out at the end of each trial period, so you can still receive your free product or service without accidentally signing up past the time limit.

7. Swap and shop.

Buying used stuff might not seem like a fun outing, but you can score some serious swag if you give it a shot. You can also host parties with your friends to make trading clothes and other items fun.

When you successfully pass up a night on the town for a night of board games, or try out a DIY pedicure, Tweet your achievement, however small. The likes and encouragement you’ll get from friends may spur you to keep saving in every area.

The Guide to Georgia Tailgates

Just mention the word “tailgate” and you can practically smell the grilled brats. Images of beer splashing into plastic cups may be dancing in your head. To help assist in creating a solid Georgia-based tailgates playbook, here are some suggestions of how to make the most out of the experience in several pigskin-loving towns.

Atlanta

Before even setting up in the parking lot, consider visiting the College Football Hall of Fame downtown. Interactive exhibits, like kicking a field goal or acting like a sportscaster, drop guests in the middle of the action. If you forget to wear appropriate game-day gear, comb through the gift shop before action starts.

No matter if you’re amping up for a professional game or a collegiate match-up, the iconic Varsity remains an obvious and endearing choice for tailgating take out, if you can stomach the crowds at the world’s largest drive-in restaurant, snag to-go boxes of chili dogs, onion rings, fries, and cheese steaks. If not, visit Antico Pizza Napoletana, one of the most acclaimed pie purveyors on the planet. The communal tables are perfect for groups and the BYOB policy fits right in on game day.

Athens

Tailgating in Athens gets serious. If the crowds are too big, head outside of downtown for a visit to Terrapin Beer Company. The brewers of Terrapin Rye Pale Ale and more offer tours of its facility Wednesdays through Sundays. On Saturdays, even when a big game drops, tours take place from 1:00–7:30 p.m. Visitors not only sample the wares in the indoor tasting room, but are treated to live music and more.

Favorite spots for to-go tailgating edibles include Amici with its pizza and chicken wings. Some grab a pie or a slice at Little Italy Pizzeria to take to their preferred tailgate destination. The town also plays host to its own Varsity. Although it’s much smaller than the original downtown Atlanta locale, you can find the same grease-laden fast food.

Statesboro

When filling your trunk with tailgate food in Statesboro, think about swinging by Vandy’s Bar-B-Q. Slip inside the cinder-block joint to grab a sackful of barbecue pork, chicken, fried dill pickles, or its popular Brunswick stew.

Making a tailgate pizza run might find you stopping into Holiday Pizza. If you have carnivores in the crew, opt for the Achilles (think: bacon, pepperoni, ground beef, and sausage).

Tailgates can involve enough pageantry and preparation to rival the football game itself. Long before the snapping of the first ball of the season, you can have your team-color wardrobe ready and begin mapping out the menu.

Affordable Cars: Not Named Camry or Accord

When it comes to affordable cars, such as a compact or midsize sedan, it seems that certain ones typically leap to the forefront of most buyers’ minds. Thanks to reputations of reliability and other attributes, shoppers have gravitated towards vehicles like the Toyota Camry, Toyota Corolla, Honda Accord, and Honda Civic. But in today’s hotly competitive market, there are other options to consider.

From styling and fuel economy to performance and the availability of a diesel engine the following three vehicles deserve a place on your shopping list:

Ford Fusion

Ford’s stylish midsize sedan is a strong choice for those looking for something slightly different from what you usually see on the road. Used Fusions offer four-cylinder power along with available all-wheel drive. Hybrid and plug-in hybrid models are available as well, which is a boon to the customer who wants to save on fuel. No matter the model year or generation, the Fusion offers a good-looking—and in some cases high-performing—alternative to the Camry or Accord. Depending on year and trim level, a used Fusion will cost about the same as a base new Corolla and several thousand less than a new Camry.

Nissan Altima

Nissan’s Altima offers two engine choices: A 2.5-liter four-cylinder and a 3.5-liter V-6. Fuel economy is the selling point here, as Nissan has promised maximum highway fuel economy from both the standard engine and the larger V6. The Altima is positioned to compete with the Accord and Camry, and a used one will save you anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000.

Chevy Cruze

The Cruze has been on the market for some time now, and it’s a worthy alternative to the Civic and Corolla. The Cruze is even available with a diesel engine, depending on the model year. Other available engines include two four-cylinders, one of which is turbocharged, and depending on the trim and model year, you can choose either an automatic or manual transmission. Look for a used Cruze to be $3,000–$6,000 less than a base new Corolla or Civic.

When it comes to shopping for affordable cars, there are lots of choices out there and plenty of reasons to look beyond the usual suspects.

Consider This: Interest Rates and Payments

People usually look at monthly payments when they’re thinking about taking out a loan. And while payments are important, they don’t give you a complete picture of what a loan really costs. To figure out if a loan is affordable, you must consider interest rates.

Interest and Payments

The monthly payment on a loan includes the principal, which is the amount you borrow. If you take out a loan for $2,000, that $2,000 is your principal, and you pay part of it back every month. Your monthly payment, however, also includes interest, and how much interest you pay depends on the interest rate. Interest rates can apply to different periods of time, but every lender should tell you the interest rate for a year, which is called the annual percentage rate or APR. If your $2,000 loan has an APR of 12 percent, you’ll pay $240 in interest on that amount over a year because $2,000 times 0.12 is $240. If the loan has an APR of 20 percent, you’ll owe $400 in interest over a year. A loan with an APR of 20 percent is a lot more expensive than a loan with an APR of 12 percent, even though you borrow the same amount of money in both cases.

How Interest Rates Affect Your Payments

Interest rates can affect your payments in two ways. First, a loan with a higher rate may have higher monthly payments than a loan with a lower rate while taking the same amount of time to pay off. Second, a loan with a higher rate may have similar monthly payments to a cheaper loan, but it could take longer to pay off. In the second case, you’re paying less of the principal each month, so a larger portion of each payment goes to interest. Since a cheaper loan and an expensive loan may have the same monthly payment amount, the monthly payment by itself is not a good indicator of how much a loan costs.

Comparing Loans

To compare two loans, look at their APRs. You generally want to choose the loan with the lower APR. However, some lenders charge fees that are not included in the APR, so you should also learn about any extra charges that relate to the loan. Choose the loan that is cheaper when you consider both the interest rate and fees.

The amount of your monthly payment matters because you must make sure there is room in your budget to pay it each month. But by itself, the payment amount doesn’t tell you how much a loan costs. Interest rates are what matter when you shop for a loan.

Declaring Bankruptcy: How to Bounce Back

Declaring bankruptcy is usually a last-resort measure to deal with debt problems. Cornell Law School explains that declaring bankruptcy allows you to reduce or eliminate certain debts, and provides you a more accessible timeline to repay any non-dischargeable debts over time. But there’s a lot more to filing for bankruptcy that you need to know.

Big Picture

Bankruptcy is a legal process, and not everyone is automatically a candidate. For starters, there are certain conditions that must be met, such as undergoing six months of credit counseling prior to filing. And, as explained in detail by US Courts, for some types of bankruptcy, you may have to sell off your assets. Keep in mind that filing bankruptcy does come with a monetary cost, usually a few hundred dollars in court and attorney fees.

Non-Dischargeable Debt

The non-dischargeable part of the definition of bankruptcy is important since it breaks down a misconception that you get a clean financial slate after bankruptcy; however, not all debts are treated the same. For instance, if you owe money on certain student loans, aren’t up to date on child support payments or alimony, or have an outstanding tax bill, those debts cannot be canceled out by bankruptcy, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

When to Declare

People sometimes consider this route when they truly cannot afford the minimum payments on their accounts or when they’ve fallen so behind on their monthly bills that they can’t catch up. In order to avoid foreclosure or the deactivation of utilities, some consumers also turn to bankruptcy.

Other signs that bankruptcy might be a route to consider are relying on credit cards to pay for household necessities, getting numerous calls from collection agencies, or ultimately losing track of how much you owe because it’s become so overwhelming.

Potential Consequences

The positive side of declaring bankruptcy is that it gives you a clear action plan for removing and/or repaying your existing debt, but a bankruptcy won’t just disappear right away. In fact, it stays on your credit report for seven to ten years, depending on which type you choose, so there could be a long road to recovery for your financial status. The good news is that gradual improvements will happen over time if you stay committed to responsibly managing any new lines of credit. Many consumers are able to overcome past challenges by filing bankruptcy and starting over, but it takes diligence.

Additionally, it can be challenging to qualify for a credit card or small loan immediately following a bankruptcy. Until your credit improves and the bankruptcy is removed from your credit report, you won’t qualify for the best interest rates if you decide to take out an auto loan or other lending product.

Bouncing Back

A great way to bounce back is by opening a secured credit card. A secured card works like a regular credit card, except you put down a deposit up front that the lender will hold onto as long as the account is open, notes Forbes. Eventually as your score improves, you can move into using unsecured products again.

There are different types of bankruptcy and they each have their own set of rules and limitations, so it’s important to understand the consequences and speak with a financial adviser or attorney before moving forward. Still, declaring bankruptcy often ends up being the best solution for some people. If you’re considering it, don’t think of it as a failure, but as the chance to rebuild toward a better financial future.

How to Compare Credit Cards and Use Them Wisely

For anyone trying to build a solid credit history, it’s a good idea to compare credit cards before you open them. More importantly, no matter what’s in your wallet, managing your plastic responsibly can set you up for financial success later on.

Choosing the Right Credit Card

If you compare credit cards before you apply, you can assure you’re getting the one that fits your needs and spending style. There are many types of cards, from ones with lower interest rates to those that offer hotel rewards and points toward air travel, to cash back cards, and more. Try using an online card comparison tool to see the details laid out side by side. From there, make sure you read the fine print so you understand what your interest rate is, if there are annual fees, and any other perks, terms, and conditions.

Credit Limit

One of the biggest misconceptions people have is that if you carry a balance but pay on time, your credit will remain strong. While that’s partially true, the amount of debt you have has a significant impact on your score—30 percent. This is called your debt utilization rate, or how much of your available credit you are using, notes myFICO. For example, if you have a credit card limit of $1,000 and carry a $600 balance, you are utilizing 60 percent of your available credit.

Although there isn’t an official number to aim for, many credit experts advise staying below 30 percent utilization at all times, and the closer to zero, the better. Your best bet is to just pay your balances in full each month so you won’t be charged interest.

One Card Versus Multiple Cards

While there’s no magic number as to how many credit cards are ideal, you should have at least one if you want to begin building your credit history. As myFICO notes, your credit history accounts for 15 percent of your credit score. In other words, you have to use credit to get more of it, and the earlier you start, the better.

While you can certainly get more than one card, it’s not a good idea to apply for credit everywhere you go since you could easily become overwhelmed. Plus, if you open too many accounts in a short time period, it could signal to lenders that you are having some cash flow troubles, as explained out by the credit bureau Experian.

A good plan is to start with one, and then add a couple more as you get more comfortable using plastic. As long as you’re paying your bills on time every month—the most important component of your FICO score comprising 35 percent of it—you’ll remain in good standing.

All in all, if you open up a credit card but pay it off on time every month and keep the balance as low as possible, you’ll build a strong credit foundation, as illustrated by Bank of America. Compare credit cards to find the ones that are right for you, and use them as a tool rather than a way to spend beyond your means. If you manage your plastic wisely, you’ll position yourself to get the best rates on future lending transactions like auto loans and mortgages.

Car Tires: A Key Vehicle Component

Car tires are the only parts of a vehicle that actually touch the road, which means they greatly affect your car’s ride and handling. They’re one of the most fundamental parts of the car, so it’s vital to take care of them.

Here’s your primer on car tires so you can be in the know on everything from inflation level to fuel economy.

Tire Pressure

While the recommended tire pressure varies from car to car, it’s important to keep your tires properly inflated so performance doesn’t decline. The recommended tire pressure will be found on a sticker inside the driver’s door or doorjamb, or in the owner’s manual. Keep in mind, the pressure listed on the tire itself is usually the maximum and not necessarily the recommended.

Be sure to check the pressure whenever the temperature drops or warms up as these factors can cause the pressure to fluctuate. A visual check is recommended each time you get in your vehicle, but you should also use a tire-pressure gauge (available at most auto parts stores or gas stations) to check the pressures every so often. Once a week is the recommendation, and certainly not less often than once a month. Newer vehicles are often equipped with tire-pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) that alert the driver when pressures are too low or otherwise out of whack.

Fuel Economy

The United States Environmental Protection Agency has found that for every one pound per square inch (PSI) drop in tire pressure, fuel economy drops by 0.3 percent. That means underinflated tires can negatively affect a consumer’s fuel budget over the course of a month.

Car tires are important both from a fuel economy and safety standpoint as well as a performance one. As noted above, underinflated tires can hurt fuel economy, and they’re also a hazard. Routine checks of tire pressure can help you spot slow leaks or other problems that need to be addressed. Finally, a car will perform at its peak when the tires are properly inflated. So to ensure the best ride and handling, tires must be inflated correctly.

Tire Costs

The cost of replacement tires can be as little as $50 per tire to as much as $200 per tire. The brand, size, and type of tire as well as what kind of vehicle you drive are factors that influence the price. Tires typically last about 40,000 to 50,000 miles, but some tires wear faster than others. Exposure to outside elements like the sun can also create a need to replace the tires. Some brands offer run-flat tires, which will allow it to “limp” to a shop for repair if a tire suffers a puncture.

Tires may seem boring, but consumers who don’t pay attention to routine maintenance and care are putting themselves at a disadvantage.

Minivans, Trucks, and SUVs: Planning Your Automotive Upgrade

Minivans might not be the most exciting automobiles on the lot, but when it comes to practicality they’re hard to beat. The same can be said about trucks and SUVs, especially if you’re looking to upgrade from a smaller sedan or hatchback to accommodate a growing family or tackle the kind of hauling or towing that a compact car simply can’t manage.

Consider three important factors about your automotive needs and expectations as you plan for your next upgrade.

1. Your Passenger Needs

Minivans lead the seven-to-eight-passenger pack, with even their third rows offering adult-friendly accommodations. This is something you’ll have trouble duplicating in the SUV world, although models like the Honda Pilot come as close to minivan-levels of space as you’re likely to find in a fullsize sport-utility vehicle. That being said, if you’ll only occasionally use the back bench, you might want to look into a smaller crossover like the Dodge Journey, which can seat six in a pinch.

2. Cargo-Hauling Wants

Take the seats out of class-leading minivans and you’ll find close to 150 cubic feet of total cargo space, which is again far and away the most you’ll find on the market from any type of vehicle. Still, not every type of cargo fits under a roof, so if you need to haul fridges and motorbikes more often than furniture and sports equipment then you might be better served by a pickup like the Chevrolet Silverado, which offers an enormous open-truck bed that’s excellent for carrying over-sized items.

3. Behind-the-Wheel Expectations

A great question to ponder when upgrading from a compact car or hatch to an SUV or minivan: What kind of driving experience are you looking for? Minivans offer a reasonably comfy ride, but they don’t have the same easy-driving experience as a smaller SUV like the Ford Escape or the Honda CR-V. Nor can they go off-road like the Ford F-150 pickup or the rugged Jeep Cherokee. Compared to what you’re used to in a compact car, you might be surprised just how big some SUVs and minivans feel around town. Test drive as many models as you can before making your decision.

Make a list of everything you want, need, and expect when upgrading to a larger vehicle, and use your list to narrow down the choices. With so many SUV-, pickup-, and minivan-options out there, it won’t be long before you’ve found a model that matches your lifestyle.

Six Financial Terms You Should Know

You may be used to acronyms when it comes to texting your friends, but what about other aspects of your life? Certain situations and life events, like starting a new job and applying for an auto loan, involve several specialized financial terms and abbreviations.

Learning these unknown phrases can be intimidating, especially if you’re starting your first job and don’t want to be seen as the “new kid.” To prepare, start by brushing up on some of the most common ones.

401(k)

Your employer may offer a retirement savings account called a 401(k). You add money to the account before you pay taxes on your earnings. Your employer can also contribute to your 401(k), although depending on the company, that benefit may not apply until after you’ve worked there for a certain amount of time. The money you contribute isn’t taxed until you withdraw it, which allows you to postpone paying some taxes until you’ve retired. You’ll decide which investments to purchase with the money in your 401(k), as The Wall Street Journal explains. Pro Tip: Don’t withdraw early from a 401(k) because you’ll have to pay some heavy penalties.

IRA

A traditional Individual Retirement Arrangement, an IRA, is another type of retirement savings plan. Because you sponsor the account, you can contribute to an IRA regardless of whether you have a 401(k) through your employer. However, factors like other employer retirement plans and income will determine if you’ll be able to postpone taxes on the full amount you put in. You can set up an IRA with a bank, a life insurance company, or a mutual fund, notes the IRS. Keep in mind, there are limitations on how much you can contribute annually. As with a 401(k), you’ll decide how to invest the money and you’ll be charged a penalty if you withdraw early.

Roth IRA

The major difference between a Roth IRA and a traditional IRA is that you pay taxes on your money before you invest it with a Roth IRA. The perk, however, is that your investments are tax-free, as CNN Money reports. So long as you meet the requirements, you won’t pay taxes when you take the money out. However, if you withdraw your contributions early or without an approved reason, such as paying for college tuition or large medical bills, you’ll owe a percent in taxes. Fortunately, there is no other additional penalty.

Fixed Rate

When you take out a loan, you have to pay for interest over the duration of the loan, which is determined as either a fixed or a variable rate. If the loan has a fixed rate, it means the interest rate stays the same as you pay off the loan. If you take out an auto loan, for example, with a fixed rate, you’ll owe the same amount each month as the rate won’t increase or decrease down the line.

APR

APR stands for annual percentage rate and is the rate you pay on a loan over an entire year, including both interest and fees. Lenders are required to tell you the APR on a loan so you can compare it with other available loans and see how much each one would cost you annually.

Collateral

When you borrow money from a lender, collateral is what the company can take if you don’t pay back your loan. When you take out an auto loan, for example, the collateral is the car you’re buying. It serves as an additional form of security, notes the Small Business Administration.

These are just a few of the many financial terms you may come across. It’s always okay to look things up or ask questions, in order to be as informed as possible about your finances.

Seven Common Costs for a Recent Graduate: What to Expect Financially

Congratulations graduate, you did it! You put in the hard work and kept your eye on the prize until it was yours. As you strike out on your own it’s important to learn how to plan financially.

Knowing what to expect helps minimize costs, so it’s a good idea to think about the regular expenses you’ll encounter as a recent graduate. Here are seven categories to consider while trying to get ahead of your finances when you’ve just finished school.

1. Housing

For many young adults, moving out is the number one priority, and rent will likely be your greatest monthly cost as a new grad. There are a two main choices for housing: Move into a less glamorous, less expensive pad or sign on for the sweet digs and take on the extra cost. Keep in mind, one option leaves you with more freedom to grow your personal wealth. The other leaves you what has lovingly been dubbed house poor. Can you guess which is which?

2. Utilities

About ten percent of your income should be allotted to paying utilities—every month, on time, and in full. Some number-crunching up front can help you stay on top of this regular cost. If your starting paycheck is small, then skimp on electricity usage at home: Use hot water during non-peak times of day and layer up instead of cranking the heat. While jobs and roommates come and go, utilities will stay a regular expense, so the sooner you achieve the skill of staying atop of the charges, the better positioned you’ll be for financial success.

3. Food

This line item is responsible for many financial regrets for young professionals. Why? An eight-dollar lunch doesn’t seem like much at the time, but it’ll add up by the end of the month. The solution? Avoid it in the first place. Learn how to cook at home and bring a brown-bag lunch to work. You’ll be glad you did.

4. The Job Search

Looking for a job may cost you more than you think. While you’re on the hunt, set aside a percentage every month for fuel to attend interviews, office supplies for your snazzy resume, and food, since you’ll be away from home networking. Over time, these costs can add up. According to the New York Federal Reserve, graduating workers can’t blame the delay on the Great Recession anymore. Landing that first gig has always taken a bit of time and it will continue to do so.

5. The New Gig

It’s great news to hear that you’ve been hired for a new job, but keep in mind some costs are involved. The aforementioned lunches, as well as office attire, and funds for commuting are a necessary part of every professional’s life. Get used to some of these new expenses and work them into the greater plan.

6. Student Loans

Before you sign a lease for an apartment or purchase a car, calculate the monthly payment on your school debt. The sooner you pay it off, the sooner your education can start working to help you prosper.

7. Savings

As a recent graduate, being strapped for cash is no reason not to save. Start saving now so that you develop a habit of doing it. You have the time to start today, and that puts you at a greater advantage than you know.

You may want to hit the ground running—and that’s a great idea for a recent grad—but make sure to take some time to determine what you can afford in each of the most common budget categories.