Frugal Tips Archive
This is a sponsored post, however, all opinions are mine.
Finding The Right Car For You
Are you looking for a new car (or your very first car) and feel overwhelmed with the vast array of choices in the market? There are many factors to consider and many questions to ask yourself before even heading to the dealership to browse. This post will provide tips and advice for car buyers looking to identify the right vehicle for their budget and lifestyle.
Things To Consider Initially
First, you’ll want to take into consideration how much you can afford. Make sure you have a budget in mind to help you stay focused on cars you can truly afford. A good rule of thumb that I’ve heard from multiple sources is that your car payments should not exceed 20% of your monthly net pay (or in other words, the total value of all your vehicles should not be more than half of your annual income). How much money can you put down on the vehicle? Remember that the bigger the down payment, the lower your monthly payments will be. Such websites as Cars.com have handy tools that can help you estimate your payments and how much you can afford.
Next, consider your wants and (more importantly) your needs. This includes the many car features that are available to you. Here is a list I’ve compiled that outlines such considerations:
- Type of car
- Sedan, minivan, compact car, convertible, coupe, etc.
- Make and model
Needs (Focus on these)
- Size / Space – How many passengers will you typically have?
- Transport / Cargo
- Fuel efficiency
- Manual vs. Automatic transmission
- Weather conditions
Features (What are your “must haves“?)
Finally, determine whether you want to buy a new car or a used car. Buying a used car will save you money and it can be hard to tell the difference between a new one if there’s not a ton of miles on it. Consider, too, whether you want to lease or buy (this has been a very hot topic the past few years). A lease allows you to put a more expensive vehicle in your driveway for less money every few years. However, if you tend to keep your car until it quits, leasing isn’t probably your best bet. Owning gives you more flexibility and usually makes more financial sense when interest rates are low.
Research, Research, Research
Now that you have a good idea of your budget and needs, and may even have a particular vehicle in mind, it’s time to do some research and planning. This is a critical step in the process (especially the pricing portion) and much of the information can be found online. Without research, your vehicle purchase is more likely to lead to buyer’s remorse.
Before visiting the dealership, make sure you know the market price of the vehicle(s) you are interested in. Both Kelley Blue Book and Truecar.com provide such information, offering a fair market value price and price range for a new or used car based on what others have paid. Not knowing this information can be an expensive mistake.
Read what the experts and current owners have to say about a certain vehicle to discover it’s performance strengths and how it compares to others in it class. J.D. Power and Cars.com offer such reviews and ratings.
Many websites offer side-by-side comparisons that are also helpful in choosing the right car that meets your needs.
Search the Internet, call around, and visit local dealerships to explore your options that are in your local area. Be sure to compare quotes from multiple dealerships.
How Cars.com Can Help You Research and More
Cars.com is an excellent resource to use when looking for a vehicle, as they offer a ton of information to help make the right choice. A comprehensive array of research tools and services can be found on their website such as the following:
- Find cars for sale/trade and sell/trade your own – Cars.com has a wide selection of new and used cars available for you to purchase. You can even find a connected dealer near you, along with contact information and reviews. Cars.com gives you free, no-obligation new car quotes from up to 3 local car dealers. If you’re selling your own vehicle, they help you to find its current value and offer valuable advice on how to sell it.
- Research car models – Even if you’re just starting your search, you can scroll down to “Browse Models” on the main page (or here) to view models by body style (SUV, sedan, convertible, etc.), make, price, and more. Cars.com also offers side by side comparisons where you can see how cars compare to one another.
- Service and repair – Get a service estimate, find service centers, get repair/maintenance advice, and find information on the latest recalls.
- Expert and consumer car reviews – Cars.com has the largest database of consumer reviews in the car industry. There are also bias free expert reviews on new 2017 models as well as on models dating back many years.
- Videos and reviews – The “Videos & Reviews” section is one of the best sections of the website. Watching the video reviews gives you a virtual dealership experience in a way, showing you the all of features both inside and outside of the car you are interested in.
Don’t forget to check Cars.com to learn more!
Test Drive Before Making Your Final Decision
You’ve done your research and narrowed down your choices. It’s now time for a test drive.
Test driving a car gives you “peace of mind” that you’re making the right decision. Doing so allows you to test out all of the features and get a good “feel” for how the car performs.
You will most likely be driving this vehicle daily, so it’s important that it fits your lifestyle and that you’re comfortable in it.
(5) Other Money Saving Tips
Besides doing your research ahead of time, here are a few other ways to save money in the car buying process:
1] Pay in cash (if you can)
This is certainly not an option for everybody, but if you can pay cash in full you will eliminate monthly interest costs and finance fees. Monthly car payments are also eliminated. Owing money on a car only makes it more expensive, with the value of your car only going down once you drive it off the lot.
You may also be able to get significant discounts by paying in cash, as well as more bargaining power at the dealership.
According to Cars.com, paying cash can also make it easier to sell your car when the time comes.
2] Best times to shop for a car
Month – August is said to be the best month to buy a car, as the highest discounts are offered and incentives are increased. Honorable mention goes to December, when dealerships offer year-end discounts try to get rid of last year’s inventory to make way for new models.
Day of the week – According to TrueCar.com, the best day of the week to buy a car is Sunday, when there is lower consumer demand and higher incentive for dealerships to close out the week with strong sales.
Other – Salespeople may be more willing to offer better deals the last few days of the month, as they work on commission and often get bonuses for the number of vehicles they sell in a month.
3] Visit multiple dealerships
Especially if you’re looking at used cars, be sure to visit at least 3 to 4 different dealerships to see what financing, pricing, and service they have to offer. Don’t be afraid to use dealership competition to your advantage. With the rise of online sales, there’s no longer a need to spend valuable time haggling at a dealership.
4] Buy used
Buying a used car comes down to two main advantages: less depreciation and lower insurance rates.
As mentioned previously, cars lose value as soon as they drive off the lot. Within the first year, some new models can even lose 20-40% in their value.
Also, a vehicle that is worth less money costs less to insure.
Overall, going the used car route is going to save you thousands of dollars with the elimination of fees, subsequent costs, and depreciation.
5] Don’t negotiate based on monthly payment
One question you are bound to be asked by a salesperson is “How much are you looking to pay per month?” This is because they want to set the price based on the maximum monthly payment that you are willing to pay and will adjust this price to get you the exact monthly payment you’re looking for. However, make sure you negotiate the price, not the car payment!
Best of luck! * Comment below with what things have made your past car buying experiences enjoyable and less stressful *
It’s that time of the year again… the NY State Fair!
UPDATED FOR 2017!
Spending a day (or more) at the Fair can be an expensive outing (on average, visitors spend about $121). As the goal of this blog is to help save you money, I’ve compiled a list of ways to have a good time at the Fair without breaking the bank:
Tickets / Admission
- Advance sale tickets – Available through August 23, 2017 only – $6 for adults* (otherwise $10 at the gate)
- A full list of locations where these are sold can be found here
- *NEW* Preview Day/Governor’s Day – $1 admission on Wednesday, August 23
- Six-Day Frequent Fairgoer Admission Pass – allows one person to attend six days at the Fair for $30
- $3 admission Thursdays (August 24, August 31)
- *NEW* Family Fishing Day (August 27) – free admission for those who show a valid sporting license at the gate
- Law Enforcement Day (August 28) – free admission to any active or retired law enforcement personnel or corrections personnel
- Senior Citizen’s Day (August 28 and August 29) – free admission to senior citizens (60 years of age and older)
- Fire & Rescue Day (August 29) – free admission to any active or retired member of a fire department or emergency services organization
- Armed Forces Day (August 31) – free admission to any active duty or veteran with military identification
- Six Nations Day (September 1) – free admission for Native Americans
- Student Day (September 1) – free admission to those 18 years old and under
- Summer Send Off “Dollar Day” (September 4) – $1 admission on the last day of the fair
- The Fair has sold $4 general admission tickets in the past few years, as well as $3 Cyber Monday tickets, and $3 tickets during the Solar Eclipse
- *NEW* Groupon is currently offering 50% off general admission tickets
*Children 12 and under are admitted free every day of the Fair*
Save on gas and parking (and hassle, too) by taking the bus!
Centro will once again provide its popular direct service to the New York State Fair. The 12 Park-N-Ride locations and schedules can be found here. Centro Ride Passes and transfers are accepted. For most of the locations, it is a $2 fare for adults (ages 10-64) and children 5 and under are free.
PLEASE NOTE: Centro will NOT be running direct service from the Syracuse Transit Hub to the Amphitheater during the State Fair.
Park-N-Ride at Destiny USA
Looking for the closest, quickest, most convenient way to get to and from the New York State Fair? Destiny USA is your official Park-and-Ride location! Centro provides direct service to The great New York State Fair from Destiny USA. The Park-N-Ride Express departs every 10 minutes from the shelter located between Eastside Lots 2 & 3 on Solar St beginning at 10:00 am and continuing until midnight. Returning shuttles depart the State Fair Main Gate every 10 minutes beginning at 10:15 am and continuing until 12:15 am.
*NEW* Round-trip shuttle passes available for purchase at the Park-N-Ride location. Cash only. See Centro attendant at shuttle shelter for details.
Money Saving Coupons
Head over here to check out and download the State Fair Money Saving Coupons! The coupons include discounts on a variety of things including food, wine, bull riding, and more. These easy print at home coupons are the perfect way to save a buck.
- Wade Shows Midway Monday (August 28) – Special limited wristband offer, 10 rides for only $10.00.
- Advance sale:
- Midway Mega Pass Unlimited Ride Wristband Vouchers – $70.00 each for unlimited rides (all day, every day)
- Midway One-Day Unlimited Ride Wristband Vouchers – $20 or $25 each (all day, any one day)
Perhaps the best FREE concert series in America, the Chevy Court stage will host 26 free concerts this year from artists like LeAnn Rimes, 3 Doors Down, Kansas and more.
For $2, you can visit the SkyRiver Butterfly Exhibit, where you can hold a butterfly on a q-tip.
There are dozens of other attractions at the New York State Fair that are displayed here, including free shows and exhibits. Here are some new ones for 2017:
- Animal Cracker Conspiracy
- Coronas Circus
- I LOVE NEW YORK Exhibit
- Mango and Dango
- MooU Guided Tours
- Pirates of the Colombian Caribbean
Food / Drink
- Get a delicious 7 ounce cup of chocolate or white milk for 25 cents at the Rainbow Milk Bar (Dairy Building)
- Baked Potato
- Get a baked potato with toppings for only $1 at the Potato Booth (NE corner of Horticulture Building)
- Hot Dogs
- There are various food stands that offer $1 hot dogs (i.e. Emmi’s Hots)
- Ice Cream
- Utica Coffee Company offers $1 ice cream scoops
- Several ice cream stands offer mini-cones for $1
- Turkey Hill is handing out free carmel-peanut butter gelato cups this year
- $3 to $5
- $3.50 quarter-pounder hamburger – Horan’s
- $4 sausage burger – Gianelli Sausage
- $3 double cheese burger – Emmi’s
- $2 and under choices
- Las Delicias – Chicken Empanadas ($2 each)
- Several stands sell 12-ounce cans of soda for a dollar
- The apple fritters from The Cabin at the West End are three for $2
- Chicken tenders – The Hofmann Hot Dogs/Twin Trees Restaurant stand offers tenders for $1 (Hot dogs and water, too)
Bonus tip: If you go on a hot day and/or tend to get thirsty often, plan on purchasing from a vendor who offers free refills. For example, you pay $10 upfront but get unlimited refills throughout the day. If possible, never pay more than $1 for a bottle of water or a soda.
Summer Send Off “Dollar Day”
- Adult admission to the Fair will be $1.00 per person all day (September 4)
- All of the rides in the Wade Shows Midway will be $1.00 per ride
- Vendors will be offering $1.00 specials on food, drink, and merchandise
- There will be also be a fireworks show after the Kool & The Gang concert
Do you know of any other ways to save money at the Fair? Please comment below 🙂
DINING OUT (FOOD)
Look For Deals
- Consider buying a few Restaurant.com Gift Certificates or an Entertainment Book for the area you are traveling to.
- Check Groupon for current restaurant deals in the area.
- Check for other coupons and discounts by doing a quick Google search.
Pack Lots of Snacks
- Pack a lot of snacks (granola bars, nuts, etc.) to have on hand to avoid unnecessary food purchases.
- Backpacks, lunchboxes, or a large purse allow you to easily store and transport snacks.
- If you’re driving to your destination, consider packing a cooler and a portable grill.
Take Advantage of Your Hotel
- Many hotels offer a free breakfast for guests – make sure to take advantage of this.
- Choose hotels with full or half kitchens so that you can prepare many of your meals right in your room.
- Ask hotel employees about any available special deals for certain nearby restaurants or if they can recommend any affordable options
- The most popular areas of any city (i.e. heart of downtown) will always be more expensive.
- By staying just a few miles away from major tourist areas, you can usually save a good amount of money.
*One caveat to this is that staying further away does add time and potential travel costs such as transportation fares and parking. Be sure to research nearby public transportation and see if anything is in walking distance*
Timing is critical to getting a good deal. The cost of a hotel stay can vary dramatically from one week to the next, depending on many factors.
- If you have a flexible schedule, consider staying at a hotel during the off-season.
- Less demand = lower prices
- As a bonus, this will also mean less crowds for you to deal with
- Even staying in a hotel during the week instead of during a weekend can usually save you money.
- Sunday usually has the lowest occupancy rate which might mean lower rates.
- Many hotels offer special promotions if you book months, weeks or sometimes just 10-days in advance.
- Not only will you be able to get the best price, you’ll also secure your room before they sell out.
A few potential alternatives to hotels include the following:
- Airbnb – rent a house
- Hostels – good for younger travels; many even have private rooms
Join Rewards Programs
- Many hotels, especially hotel chains, offer free rewards programs.
- You can earn points by booking hotel rooms that can get you rewards such as free hotel stays, upgrades, etc.
- Be sure to check out a website called Rocketmiles. This website allows you to book hotels all over the world and earn Amazon Gift Cards back — up to $100 per night! You can even book for other people and still earn gift cards.
Hotwire – Save up to 60% on hotels
Tingo – Offers automatic refunds when a room rate drops
Hotel Tonight – Get amazing last-minute deals. Book wherever, whenever on your mobile device for tonight, tomorrow and next week.
Hotels.com – Instant savings up to 50% off with special prices on their app
After you find a good deal, make sure to compare it to the price on the hotel’s main website
The bottom line: Book your flight early and not on a Friday. Be as flexible as possible as to when you fly. Also, make sure to use different online tools to find the best flight prices.
Booking Date + Day of the Week
When you book your ticket can have a huge effect on your fare.
- Book as early as possible.
- Booking your ticket roughly two months (47-57 days) ahead of the departure date is recommended for domestic flights.
Research has shown that searching for flights at midnight on Tuesdays can save you 6% or more.
- The overall best day to book? Sunday, followed closely by Saturday.
- The worst day to book? Research has shown that Fridays are the worst day to buy flights (13% pricier on average). This is due to sales expiring and cheap seats selling out by the time Friday rolls around.
Flying Time of Year + Day of the Week
- Like everything else, it is a matter of supply and demand.
- July and December are two of the costliest months to fly (~30% more compared to April and February).
- August 22 is been known to be the day each year when average U.S. domestic fares get cheaper
- Avoid flying on a Sunday if possible (you are likely to pay ~10% more compared to a Tuesday, for example).
- Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are best
- It’s best to not check a bag at all and just take a carry-on with you. Avoid costly airline baggage fees when possible.
- Booking a flight with at least one layover can save you $100 or more.
Flight Resources / Tools
Google Flights – One of the most useful tools for finding cheap flights. This tool gives you the flexibility to check a variety of dates, times and destinations. It also shows you all of the carriers that serve the route you’re flying.
Hopper – Predicts whether fares on a certain route will go up or down and alerts you when your ticket price has dropped to its likely cheapest point. Hopper claims to save a typical user around $50 per flight.
Momondo – Helps you find and compare fares from 700+ travel sites, giving you access to the best rates for airline tickets online.
Airfare Watchdog – Monitors airline websites for deals and sends you email alerts regarding them.
Kayak – A aggregator that pulls together fares from a number of travel sites. They will email you daily or weekly when the price drops.
Travelocity – Another fare aggregator that will send you an email when airfare to your destination drops below the amount you’ve set the alert for.
Make sure to search for flights multiple times and over multiple days, both with and without the cookies cleared from your browser.
- Look for travel packages. You can considerably lower the price of your hotel stay by buying a vacation package. Get your flight, rental car and hotel reservation all at once through websites like Expedia or Travelocity, saving you hundreds of dollars.
Use Credit Card Points for Flights, Hotels and Cars
- Be sure to check out the travel discounts and rewards associated with your credit card.
- Several credit cards offer rewards like free flights, discounted hotel stays and more.
Saving Money On Your Wedding
It’s no secret that weddings are very expensive. In fact, Americans spend close to an average of $27,000 on a wedding, according to The Wedding Report. With a little creativity, however, it is possible to plan an unforgettable wedding even if you’re on a tight budget. Money Saving Quest is here to help.
Let me begin by saying that it is best to first decide what is most important for your wedding day. Try not to cut back on these things but do so on everything else. Are pictures most important? How about the location? Sit down with your soon to be spouse and start listing out these items on paper.
“The point is to be married to each other, not debt.”
- Limit the open bar selections.
- Don’t spring for premium brands.
- Serve beer and wine only. Maybe even champagne for toasts. This will be cheaper than a full bar.
- Consider boxed wine. You can pour the boxes into other drink dispensers (no one will ever know). Consider shopping Walmart for the cheapest options.
- Not sure how much wine to use? Check out this handy guide
- Consider having a dry wedding.
According to Bridal Guide, the average wedding cake cost $466 in 2014 (not including delivery and cutting fees)
- Order a small, decorated cutting cake (one or two tier) for photos. Then serve sheet cake to guests.
- Keep the cake add-ons simple.
- Consider cookies or cupcakes instead of a cake.
- Schedule the wedding in off-peak times (low demand seasons). When there’s less competition for dates, you can have more negotiating power for a better rate. January and February weddings (excluding Valentine’s Day) are typically the least expensive.
- Choose a day other than Saturday. Friday and Sunday nights cost less than Saturday nights. Weeknights are cheaper options, too.
- Consider renting or borrowing a dress. Purchase used from a second hand store, as chances are, it’s only been worn once. Look on OnceWed.com, eBay, Craigslist, or Tradesy for used gowns as well.
- Shop sample sales for cheap wedding dresses. These sales typically happen once a year and are a great opportunity to find designer dresses at low prices.
- Skip the favors. It may be wise to skip the favors all together and donate to a charity instead.
According to a survey conducted by The Knot, the average couple spends $2,141 on flowers.
- Do it yourself. Make your own centerpieces by ordering wholesale flowers from places such as freshroses.com.
- Check out Costco. They have a variety of wedding flower packages at huge savings that can be shipped right to your doorstep. However, keep in mind that Costco’s flower department is not an official florist so there may be limitations in what you can order.
- Stick to just one or two kinds of flowers in your bouquets and arrangements.
- Buy flowers that are in season.
- Compare buffet vs. sit-down pricing. Ask your caterer which are the least expensive entrees and whether a buffet is cheaper than a seated dinner.
- Limit the number of entrees. Perhaps one meat, one chicken, and one vegetarian selection.
- Try a combination plate. Eliminate a choice of entrée to save on your food bill.
- Be creative. Think outside of the typical wedding food options.
- Make it a daytime reception. It is always cheaper to to serve lunch than dinner. You’ll want to time your wedding away from a full meal, if possible.
*Perhaps the best way to save money on your wedding is to limit the guest list*
- The price difference between 150 guests and 100 guests is significant. Each extra person means higher catering costs (per person charge) and more centerpieces, rentals, etc. you’ll have to purchase.
- Don’t feel obligated to let single people bring a date.
- Skip the save-the-dates. They’re fun, but not necessary.
- Otherwise, email your save-the-dates to save on postage costs.
- Most photographers offer packages based on the amount of hours of work. If possible, send the photographer home early and pay for an hour less of service at the end of the party (some guests may have already left).
- Many photographers offer an assistant “second shooter” in their standard contracts, but others offer it as an option and charge extra.
- If you’re expecting fewer than 100 guests, you can get away with having only one photographer present.
- Choose a promising photographer who is just starting out. Many talented photographers are still building their portfolios and offer lower rates.
- Skip the lighting package. This includes uplights, spotlights, and other extras.
- Shop for packages. Many entertainment companies will give discounts if you sign up for multiple services (such as a DJ and videography)
- Hire a band or DJ who can do both the ceremony and the reception.
- If you’re having a photo booth, consider creating your own. Set up a simple backdrop and provide some fun props. Guests can use their phones or personal cameras to take pictures.
- Skip the DJ and use your monthly Spotify subscription for background music.
- Ask for non-wedding limo rates.
- Hire a car through Uber or other ride-sharing services.
- Consider a nontraditional venue.
- Find a venue that doesn’t require you to use their vendors.
- Have your ceremony and reception in the same place.
- Check out Airbnb for possible venue locations.
Super Savings For Your Super Bowl Experience
Since most of us don’t have $6,000 for a ticket to the big game, here’s a few tips on how to enjoy the game without breaking the bank.
- Ask your friends (guests) to bring their favorite Super Bowl foods to share with everyone
- Ask your friends/guests to BYOB
- Many grocery stores offer special discounts and prices on items like chips and soda
- Even if you’re not hosting a party, it is an excellent time to stock up on snack items
- Use coupons online or from the Sunday paper to capitalize on savings
- Buy food in bulk at places like Costco or BJ’s
- Put any leftovers in the freezer afterwards
- Instead of ordering pizza, cook one yourself
- Here is one pizza recipe to consider
- If you must order, check for deals at your local pizza restaurants
- Stick with big dish items that are inexpensive and easy to make
- Example: set up slow cookers with big servings of chili
- Beverage wise, soda and water are good choices
- Stick with big dish items that are inexpensive and easy to make
- Take a trip to your local dollar store
- Dollar stores have a lot of cheap decorations that can be used
- Party supplies, paper plates, plastic wrap, etc.
- Look for football themed decorations such as containers and dishes
- Dollar stores have a lot of cheap decorations that can be used
- Make your own decorations
- Wear the team colors with items you already have in your closet (rather than buying jerseys or t-shirts)
- If you must buy NFL-themed gear, check out the following sites:
If you are in the market for a new TV, there are some great deals to be had around this time of the year.
The following are some of the current TV deals going on:
- Amazon: TV Low Price Guarantee
- Best Buy: Up to 20% off Samsung TVs + more
- Consumer Reports Best Bargains
- LG Deals
- Target: Save big on TVs
If you can wait until after you game, however, there will probably be even better deals. At the end of February, new TV models are introduced so you may be able to get last year’s model at a bargain price!