Category Archives: Budgets

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How to Get a Car Loan with Bad Credit

Online Pre-Qualification at U.S. Auto Sales

Are you in the market for a reliable vehicle? Do you have struggling credit? No matter your credit score, you should be able to get access to a car you can afford and depend on for work, school, and running errands. However, getting qualified for a car loan can feel daunting if you don’t have excellent credit. Here’s how you can get a car loan with bad credit with our online pre-qualification application at U.S. Auto Sales.

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Person handing a car salesman money for a car

How Much Should I Put Down for a Car?

Pros and Cons of Large and Small Down Payments

You may have found the perfect car for your needs and comfort. Perhaps you even got qualified for a car loan. As you close the deal, the question of how much you want to leave as a down payment is raised. How much should you put down for a car? Ideally, you’d want to put down around 20% of the purchase price. What if you have more than 20% of the cash saved? What if you have less? Here, we will explore the pros and cons of making large and small down payments.

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What is the 50/30/20 Budget Rule?

Easy Budgeting Method to Save Money Every Month

Having a hard time budgeting? Want to save some money every month? Determining your budget for a variety of different things can be time-consuming and feel difficult. The 50/30/20 budget rule is an easy way to figure out how much you can afford for necessities, wants, savings, and debts. Here, we will walk you through how you can figure out your budget using the 50/30/20 rule.

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How To Save Money On Your Groceries

Groceries can be a formidable expense each month, but with a little planning you’ll be amazed at how much you can save. Here are some ways to significantly cut the cost of your monthly groceries.

Shop around

On a day where you find yourself with a little extra time, check out all the supermarkets in your area. Take time to walk around and check out prices on items you purchase frequently. You will be amazed at how much the price can vary from store to store. You may find one store is significantly lower on packaged items such as granola bars, chips, cereal, etc., and another may be cheaper when it comes to produce or meat. Although this may mean shopping at more than one store, it could save you serious money.

Store brands

Whenever possible, buy store brand items versus the name brand. Quite often they are nearly identical, but cheaper. In fact, many store brand items are made by the same companies that make the brand name products! Most supermarkets have their own brand for grocery items, pharmacy items, and paper products.

Weekly flyers

Taking the time to go through the supermarket weekly flyers and planning your menu based on what’s on sale can save a ton of money. This again may require shopping at more than one store but can be worth the extra time. Most stores have great weekly deals on meat, so stocking up and freezing some will also help save money. Be careful not to purchase items you would not normally buy just because they might be a good deal.

Rewards programs

Sign up for your local supermarkets’ reward programs! These programs offer a number of features, including:

  • Money back on store brand items
  • Points towards fuel
  • Online coupons
  • Coupons towards frequently purchased items
  • Coupons towards new items

Many of these programs also offer a phone app, and the coupons are digital. Just take a little time and select the coupons on the app before you go shopping, and they’re automatically applied at checkout. No need to remember to hand over a pile of clippings!

Coupons

While it can be time-consuming to cut coupons, the rewards can be worth it. If you get the Sunday newspaper, or have family or friends who do, ask them to save the coupon inserts for you.  You can use several of the same coupons you purchase that number of items. For example, if you buy granola bars every week and you find a coupon, you can use three coupons if you buy three boxes. Also keep in mind that coupons are often valid for at least a month, so shopping the flyers and using the coupons when they are on sale will save you even more money!

Shop early or late

Most stores will discount deli and meat items after a certain time in the evening based on the expiration date. Shopping late at night will give you the best chance of being able to buy meat at a discount price, but you might have luck first thing in the morning as well.

Saving money on meat has a significant impact, as meat and seafood make up an average of 20% of Americans’ grocery costs, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. One thing to keep in mind is that you’ll need to either eat the discounted meat within a couple days of purchase or freeze it immediately.

Even if you choose to try only a couple of these money saving tips, you are sure to notice it in your grocery bill!

What to look for in a Crossover

The SUV of the 90s and early 2000s has largely been superseded by the crossover, that blend of car and SUV providing the utility of an SUV with a more car-like driving experience. They’re great grocery-getters, carpool carriers, and general stuff haulers. As the fastest-growing new car segment in the US, they’re also easily found on the used market. But before you fall in love with that crossover, here’s a few considerations.

Small, medium, or large?

Crossovers come in lots of different sizes now, from subcompacts like the MINI Countryman to large crossovers like the Chevy Traverse. Figure out how much you need. If you regularly carry a lot of people or stuff, spring for the bigger one, but understand that you’re probably going to have to pay a bit more, both in the initial purchase price and in fuel over the long term, since larger crossovers tend to be powered by V6s, with some luxury models offering V8s.

How big is your crowd?

Your initial thoughts on size may be influenced by how many people you need to carry – and how big are those people. Subcompact crossovers generally are limited to four people, and the rear seats may not be comfortable for larger adults. Some midsized crossovers have a third-row seat option, giving you capacity for as many as eight people… or the ability to put the kids as far from the driver as possible! And if you go for the third-row seat, remember to try them out yourself and see if they’ll be comfortable, and don’t forget that your kids are going to grow!

And now for the feature.

Crossovers can be feature-rich, particularly as you get into high-line models. Consider things like cupholders, which can be numerous, power ports and outlets, and maybe rear-seat entertainment if you’re going on long trips. Other niceties can be power liftgates, which make access easier, and large moonroofs to make the interior seem bigger.

Drive it!

If this will be your first crossover, make sure to take a test drive. While crossovers are essentially cars under the skin, they tend to be heavier and taller, changing the center of gravity and their handling. Some handle really nicely for a large vehicle, but you have to expect a different driving experience, and it’s important to know if you’re going to like it!

When you take that test drive, make sure to get a little highway time to make sure you have enough power for passing maneuvers. If that unloaded crossover runs out of steam with just you and the salesperson, imagine that it’s probably not going to do as well with a full load.

Once you’ve figured out your needs, it’s time to head to your local US Auto Sales and pick out your crossover!

Mindshift – Back to School Driving

While we’ve all enjoyed the shorter commute times that come with summer, school is starting! With that, of course, comes longer commute times, which can be frustrating. Don’t let the frustration get in the way of making sure that the kids get to school safely, and you get to work safely and on time! With that, here are a few tips on driving as school starts back in.

  1. It’s big. It’s yellow. You kinda can’t miss it. The obvious sign of school starting back up is the school bus! When you see them, put yourself in the bus driver’s shoes. You’re driving a huge, slow vehicle filled with 40 children. The noise is crazy, and the responsibility for getting them home is yours. Probably pretty stressful. So give them a break. And of course, be aware that it’s illegal to pass a stopped school bus from either direction on undivided roads.
  2. Trade your smartphone for smart walking. According to Safe Routes to Schools, a third of young pedestrian vehicle strikes can be attributed to kids darting out in the road. While there’s no available data about how many are looking at their phones, it’s safe to say that fewer distractions while walking are better.
  3. You’re in the zone. Be aware of school zones with reduced speed limits on your commute. If you need motivation, speeding fines in school zones are higher than tickets outside of school zones.
  4. Pool rules. If you’re driving your kids to school, nearly every school has carpool drop zones and rules designed to keep kids safe and traffic flowing. Try to find out what they are before you show up. If nothing else, you’ll avoid the wrath of angry parents.
  5. Stay alert! Kids are kind of unpredictable, and they’re comfortable in the areas around their school, and getting on their bus, so they’re not likely to be paying as close attention. Avoiding distractions is a good idea in general, but in school zones and around buses it’s especially important.

Keep these tips in mind, and give yourself a little more time to get where you’re going as school starts in your district, and everyone should get where they’re going safe and happy.

Bring Rover! Buying a Car for You and Your Dog.

Bring Rover! Buying a car for you and your dog.

Your dog loves to travel with you, right? So what cars are best for your dog?

First, let’s consider what your dog wants from a car – comfort, and security. An uncomfortable dog is unhappy, whiny, restless dog, and nobody has time for that when they’re driving. An unsecured dog is a risk to the driver and passengers and could be injured or killed in an accident. You also want something your dog fits in easily. Not a big deal for your Chihuahua, but if you have a giant breed like a Great Dane or a Saint Bernard, you’re gonna need a bigger car.

Also, consider ease of getting your dog in and out. Make sure that the doors open wide enough for the dog to access their seat. Sliding doors like those on minivans, or big hatches in some SUVs and hatchbacks make it easier. Floor height is important, too. A smaller dog may not be able to jump into that lifted Jeep, and you may not be able to lift a larger dog into the vehicle.

A bench seat is crucial, and preferably one that’s fairly flat, especially for your larger dog. If you’ve ever slept on a lumpy mattress, you know those semi-buckets in the back of that sports car aren’t going to be comfy for your dog.

Cloth seats may stay cooler in summer, but if you’ve ever tried to vacuum dog hair out of cloth seats, you know that vinyl or leather is better. If you’re concerned about the dog’s claws tearing up your leather seats, invest in a good set of seat covers.

For security, plan on picking up a pet harness that clips into the cars seat belt or child seat anchors. Before you choose which one, figure out if your car has child seat anchors, and how accessible they are. If you plan to put your dog in a crate in the car, make sure the crate is tied down. So when you’re shopping for the car for you and Rover, make sure there are tie-down points for the crate that you can find.