Thursday, August 30, 2012

8 Things to Consider When Buying a SUV


I recently rented a car and was given a SUV.  It drove decent but there was nothing special about it to incline me to buy a SUV.  I spent a lot of money in gas and didn’t really need the extra room.  The cost of gas has financially hurt many Americans. For SUVs owners getting gas can be a nightmare.  Some SUV drivers have to fill up multiples times a week and costs can range from $400 - $600 a month.  That is the same amount of money some Americans pay on their monthly car payment. 

SUVs require more maintenance than as compared to cars. Many insurance companies charge higher rates for SUVs than cars.  Auto manufacturers spent more money to build SUVs because of their weight, construction and size which means a higher sales price for consumers.   To help ease the burden when getting gas for your SUV follow these 5 tips:

  1. Future.  If you don’t need the space now or in the future for a SUV don’t buy one. You will just be paying for extra space and features that you will not use and it will be a waste of money.
  2. Keep your trunk empty.  Remove heavy and unnecessary items from your trunk, cargo bed and the inside of your SUV.  Traveling with a lighter load helps improve your gas mileage.
  3. Maintain a constant speed.  Maintaining a constant speed reduces the amount of gas needed to rev up the engine to go faster, is better for the economy and will keep you from filling up more often.
  4. Ditch the fancy tires.  When your fancy tires wear out buy the standard tires that were on the SUV when you purchased it.  This will improve gas mileage and save you money when buying new tires.  The standard tires also provide a better ride especially on the highway, save the fancy tires for short trips.
  5. Carpool.  If gas prices are hurting your pocket, start carpooling.  Offer to pick up co-workers or friends who work near your job. Make sure you charge enough money to cover the increasing costs of gas and inform your carpool riders that the price may increase as gas costs increase. 
  6. Regular maintenance and repairs. Perform regular maintenance on your SUV at the scheduled intervals, make sure you get regular tune-ups, oil changes, check tire pressure, air filters, and check your tires for wear.  This will improve gas mileage and save you money in the future.
  7. Downsize. Trade your SUV in for a smaller fuel efficient or eco-friendly car within the first 3 years of ownership. You will save on gas, car payments and maintenance.  Also consider trading in your SUV for a hybrid.
  8. Other costs to consider.  Factor in other costs when purchasing a SUV such as depreciation, insurance rates, registration, parking and tolls.

Monday, August 27, 2012

How Small Businesses Are Getting Squeezed

According to the Office Depot Small Business Index approximately 40% of small business owners have seen decreased profits this year or have not seen an increase in profits since last year. 

Many small businesses have had a harder time getting approved for business loans.  In some instances business loan limits have been reduced which prevents small business owners from getting additional work and makes it more difficult to pay employees and pay for equipment and supplies.  Small business owners have been forced to apply for business credit cards with higher interest rates.  

I renewed my business license this year and the cost increased by 62.5% with no warning.  I was shocked to see the price increase and called to verify.  The price had increased in January 2012 with no notification sent to business owners.  This seems like poor customer service. This is just one small example of the increased costs required to manage a small business.

Many invoices are paid 45 to 90 days or more after receipt for small businesses which makes it difficult when paying creditors, payroll and other business expenses.  An alternative is to seek non-traditional funding sources such as venture capitalists, angel investors or bank with credit unions.  

However, some credit unions have a cap on the amount of lending they can offer.  Small businesses employ approximately 50% of the private sector and lead in innovation of new products, services and technologies.  Lack of access to bank credit prevents small businesses from becoming innovative by developing new products or services or having resources to grow their business. 

Some small business owners try to offset costs by increasing their prices or selling more products and services but that is just a temporary solution.   Here are 9 tips to prevent getting squeezed.

  1. Late fee.  Charge a late fee for unpaid invoices over 90 days late.  Offer discounts and incentives to customers who pay on time.
  2. Plan B.  Look for additional ways to increase revenue to offset unpaid invoices and reduced access to credit.
  3. Quit.  Fire customers who repeatedly pay invoices late or not at all.  Consider hiring a collection agency to collect on unpaid invoices for large amounts.
  4. Sales.  Increase your marketing efforts.  Offer a referral or affiliate program to gain new sales.  Use free ways to advertise such as social media.
  5. Service. Provide exceptional customer service.  This will ensure you retain customers and helps to gain new customers.
  6. Think Outside. Think outside the box for inexpensive ways to gain new customers and gain exposure for the business.
  7. Reinvent.  Revamp email messages, business plan or marketing plan, slogans, mottos, logos, business cards to show off new ideas, products and services.
  8. Partner. Partner with local social and civic organizations or other businesses to offer special to members and employees.
  9. Verify.  Verify all orders, inventory, customer service levels, etc. to ensure you are providing 100% to customers and suppliers at all times.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Are You a Selective Spender


Do you spend $400 on an iPhone but say you don’t make enough money to save.  Did you buy a Lexus truck but complain about paying a parking ticket? Do you complain about paying for health insurance but spend $800 on a pair of Louboutin shoes? Did you buy a new $30,000 car instead of saving for a down payment for a house? If this sounds like you, you are a selective spender.  You spend money on frivolous items that have no value with no problem and complain about spending money on important items such as insurance, rent, mortgage, gas for your car or contributing to a savings account.

I am a selective spender too but I shop smart. I don’t pay full price for items and I don’t spend a lot of money on cars, electronics or food.  I also comparison shop on prices for everything I buy.  However, I don’t mind spending money on important things like homeowners insurance, car insurance, life insurance, health insurance, groceries (to cook at home), contributions to my savings and  retirement account and car maintenance to name a few.  It baffles me how many Americans spend $25,000 - $30,000 on a new car but complain about spending money to purchase health insurance or co-pays at a doctor’s office.  

The average cost of an iPhone can range from $200 - $800 for the phone plus additional fees for a voice plan, data plan and text messaging.  My car  was recently totaled and it amazed me how so many people offered car choices that cost $25,000 or more as if they were speaking about buying a new shirt.  So and so just buy car X and got a good deal for $25,000. I’m thinking, $25,000 I will never pay $25,000 for a car that will depreciate as soon as I sign the contract. A car that only takes me from one point to another that does not have diamonds and rubies or include a driver to take me where I want to go. 

According to the National Automobile Dealers Association, the average price of a new car sold in the United States is $28,400.  An automobile is a passenger vehicle designed for operation on ordinary roads that has 4 wheels and a gasoline or diesel internal-combustion engine. Automobile originated from the French meaning self-movable.  

If you purchase an automobile for $25,000 you are paying for an item used to move yourself from one point to the next over a 3- 6 year period depending on the length of your car loan.  It costs approximately $1,255 to manufacture an average family car and up to $2,475 for a luxury car or sports car which includes the labor costs and worker benefits or 8% the cost of the car.  

Last year, Americans spent $10.7 trillion shopping.  Americans spend more on
transportation, housing, and health care than Canada, United Kingdom and Japan but we spend less on food, clothes and alcohol.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Americans spend more money eating but spend less on cooking at home than Canada, Britain, or Japan.  Last year Americans spent more than 15% of their income on food, almost 17% of their income on transportation and 41% on housing.  In 2011, Americans spent $96 billion on beer, $4.14 billion on St. Patrick’s Day, $11 billion on coffee, $5 billion on ringtones, $18 billion on credit card late fees and $500 million on Twinkies. If they used 1% of the $5 billion spent on ringtones or $500,000 they could all become homeowners or business owners.  Are you a selective spender?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

9 Easy Ways for Single Parents to Save Money

                                                           Single Parent
According to the US Census Bureau, there are approximately 14 million single parents in the United States. Child care subsidies and public health insurance can help with closing the gap between low income and what it takes to make ends meet. Not all low-income families receive the benefits for which they are financially eligible.

Families who receive multiple work supports can lose assistance before they reach self-sufficiency. Single parents often struggle with buying basic necessities and paying bills and usually live paycheck to paycheck.   

As a single parent you have to cover all the household expenses and when a financial crisis occurs it can be devastating to your family.  Develop a support system to help you through this difficult time and develop a plan to reduce your expenses to pay off debts and pay for basic necessities.  Here are 9 easy ways to help single parents save money:

  1. Buy Generic. Buy everything generic: household items, clothing, prescriptions, toiletries, dry goods, canned goods, paper products, etc. This will save you on average $10 to $50 a month.
  2. Downsize. Buy or trade in your current car for a used car with a cheaper note. This will either eliminate your car note or save you $50 to $200 a month on your car payment.
  3. Reduce expenses. Reduce or cancel your cable plan, cell phone or internet service or get the cheapest plan available. This will save you $20 to $100 a month.
  4. Buy Washable Clothes. Buy clothes that do not require dry cleaning. This will save you on average $50 to $150 a month.
  5. Personal Care. Do you own hair and nails and buy your makeup from the drugstore such as CVS or Riteaid.  Watch, style and cut your child's hair. This will save you on average $40 to $100 a month.
  6. Shop at Discount Stores. Buy household items in bulk such as paper products, cleaning supplies at discount stores such as Target, Walmart, Costco, etc. This will save you on average $10 to $50 a month.
  7. Buy groceries at superstores. Buy your groceries at superstores or wholesale stores such as Walmart, Costco, Sam's Club, etc.  Buy nuts, grains, spices, legumes at wholesale or health food stores. This will save you $30 to $200 a month on processing costs charged at regular grocery stores.
  8. Fun with Kids. Check your local library or newspaper to find free activities that you can do to with your kids.  This will save anywhere from $10 to $100 a month.
  9. Free.  Look on the internet and in your local newspaper for free coupons, free activities, and free giveaways to save money.