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Know the 4 Most Common Auto Loan Mistakes Before you Go to the Dealer

cash and car for auto loan
Be aware of auto loan pitfalls and save! 

 

Want to hear something scary? “The big mistakes are made in the financing office,” explains Phil Reed, senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds.com, the auto research website. “Making the right decisions can save thousands over the life of the loan.”

A car is a big purchase with a lot of moving parts. Dealers makes their profits between the gaps in buyer’s knowledge and they may try to confuse by unleashing lots of terms like “negative equity” and “origination fees.” Use these recommendations from experts to save thousands over the life of your car loan.

Don’t let the dealer define your credit score or credit “worthiness.”

Walk into the showroom with your credit report snugly in your back pocket. Otherwise, you run the risk that the salesperson leaves your negotiation only to come back with bad news about your credit. And of course that score isn’t high enough to get you the best rates. Who knows if he or she was checking your scores or playing a quick game of hacky sack? Dealers know that most consumers do not check their credit before being lured in by deals. Don’t make yourself vulnerable to this unethical treatment.

We discuss how to find your credit score easily in our previous blog post on rebuilding your credit (LINK). Just go to Annualcreditreport.com, fill out a few fields and your report arrives in you inbox instantly. Trust these results from the only free site authorized by the U.S. government’s Federal Trade Commission. Typically, anyone with a credit score of 720 or higher gets the lowest interest rates as they’ve demonstrated the most responsible money management. Still high 600s to low 700s is considered a “good” score. Those with lower scores can still get loans, but they will pay more in interest and fees.

Another way to check your credit is to get pre-approved from an outside lender like your bank or by applying for an online auto loan.  If you can manage to shave just 1 percent from your car loan, you’ll pay hundreds less over the next five or six years.  

Don’t make the wrong choice between a loan interest rate and a cash rebate.

Sure, the cash rebate feels enticing. And it might be the right choice if you use it to pay off other, higher interest loans like cash advances or credit cards. Basically, you need to decide if you want a lump sum up front or lower monthly payments over the next five or six years. Of course, not every car buyer is offered low-interest car financing, only those with the best credit scores. Again, know your score before you go to the dealership.

Don’t roll negative equity forward.

Some like to get new cars every two years. Often, they walk into the dealership with their auto loan “upside down.” That means they still owe more on the car than it’s worth. While those loving shiny new cars can get their next ride even if their loan is upside down, they’re putting themselves on a downward financial spiral.

Dealers don’t care what financial shape the car buyer puts themselves in. They will just add the negative equity–what you owe–into the purchase price of the new car. Chances are, this frequent buyer will just roll even more negative equity into the next new car, too.

Rather than enter this vicious cycle, consider buying a used car. A car loses much of its value in the first two years off the lot. And today, most cars are built to last 250,000 miles. Consider keeping the car longer and buying used to get the most for your car budget.

Don’t finance costly add-ons.

Just as movie theaters make most of their money on the popcorn, 37% of auto dealer’s profits come through aftermarket add-ons. These add-ons include  extended warranties, fabric protection and paint sealant and they are always less expensive from vendors other than the dealer. These costs feel like a no brainer when amortized over the life of the loan. The salesperson is quick to tell you that they add just a few dollars to every payment. Still, even $20 more over 60 payments is an additional $1200–real money.  

Don’t hesitate to question all fees.

With the deal wrapping up, a buyer’s guard is down. Salespeople know this well. The deal takes so long for a reason. It’s at the end that a salesperson may bring up unusual fees that may have official sounding names. Review all of the legitimate fees here and don’t hesitate to push the salesperson to drop anything that sounds suspicious.

A+ Rated First Financial Approves Auto Loans Up to $45,000

Better Business Bureau A+ rated First Financial has helped arrange over 1,000,000 auto loans, some with approved amounts of up to $45,000. We have loans for borrowers with all credit scores, even fair poor and bad credit. Take three minutes to apply here for a new or used car loan and get your answer fast!

 

How to Pay Off your Cash Advance with a Crafty E-commerce Side-Hustle

hands knitting
Craft your way to paying off bills and cash advances.

 

Did you think those oven mitts and coffee cozies were just heart-felt gifts for family? Think again! By selling your crafts online, you can get ahead financially and even pay down credit cards or a cash advance due soon.

Yes, 55% of all retail shopping happens on Amazon, but that’s the place people get products from the brands they’re always familiar with. Generic, dull products! Big brand electronics, books, tin foil, toilet cleaner. Nothing made with love and unique vision.  

As Amazon.com, Walmart.com and others continue to take over the retail space for generic products, American consumers are craving handmade, unique items for themselves and for gifts. Even better, several online platforms offer websites (LINK to other post) where crafty types can put up their own stores (beyond selling on Etsy.) These platforms have made selling online simple, even fun.

You may be even more encouraged by knowing the biggest issue ecommerce entrepreneurs face: uncertainty about what products to sell. As a craft artisan, you HAVE the rare skills to create the products  that will appeal to shoppers.

Here, we’ve listed 20 low-cost, do-it-yourself crafts that you can shape with your own color, texture and creative skills. None takes advanced skills, but they do take originality, which if you’re reading this post, you most likely have in spades.

Bath Bombs

In today’s go-go culture, who doesn’t need a bathbomb pampering. You might be surprised to learn that the ingredients of bathbombs are just: baking soda, epsom salts, food coloring, citric acid, and a bath bomb mold (~ $5).  Ambitious crafters can also add products like dissolving glitter and essential oils. These inexpensive ingredients amount to about $2 to $3 per bomb. Sell them for $5 each and you have a 100% mark-up. More, unlike crocheted or knitted items, bathbombs can be made quickly and in bulk. There are countless websites describing exactly how to make bathbombs, but more, how to make money making them.

Candles

While candles are everywhere, no one turns them down as a gift. And unique, quality candles can provide months of pleasure for the gift recipient. Crafters who make candles for birthdays, anniversaries and even unusual holidays like Opposite Day know their customers need them all year.

They key is to diverge from the low quality candles one finds in the large retail stores. With high mark-ups, these generic candles burn rapidly, often with little to no scent. Quality candles, often fashioned with essential oils, fill a room with rich ambiance and fragrance.

Getting started requires a website (and/or Farmer’s Market tables), raw materials costing under $200 and your hard work. People have made livings from creating candles infused with the spent grain from local craft breweries, excess grapes from wineries and more. Often, candle crafters can sell their company-inspired candles right to the company. Now that’s smart entrepreneurship.

Pet Toys

You thought the kids were bad? Pets go through toys fast, both by getting bored with them and destroying them at a high rate. Each year in the United States, pet owners spend $60 billion on their pets. If you can convince a dog or cat owner that your product will make their beloved happy, you should go online with it. After all, impulse buys made on emotions tend to have higher profits.

Adding an extra twist to your pet toy can push your sales even further. For instance, using eco-friendly materials can lower a shopper’s resistance, as can stating that a percentage of your profits goes to animal charities. You can create toys just for large dogs, senior dogs or puppies going through teething. Consider, too, creating toys from materials that come to you at the lowest cost. Get them online, promote them on social channels and you have a new income stream!

Handmade Soap

The power man-made chemicals unleashed astounded us . . . until we realized the damage their overuse could cause. Consumers are attracted not only to organic food, but organic cleaning compounds as well. These include mixtures made of vinegar, baking soda and other common household item. Handmade soaps have the added benefit of being less expensive and potentially plastic-free.  

With the amazing varieties of scents and dyes available, it’s easy to develop products for specific markets. In the United States, one woman makes a living using the spent grain from breweries to make soaps the brewery then brands and sells as keepsakes. Hostesses, parents and friends feel spoiled when they get to use lovely soaps that smell far better than grocery store brands.

Printed Throw Pillows

You may have gotten a deal on that new couch, but putting coordinating pillows on it will cost you another $200. If you have a sewing machine and an eye for distinctive fabrics and trims, maybe your future is in pillows.

American’s spend $62.5 billion each year in home decor. Keep up with decor  styles and colors through the design magazines to get an edge on the slower-moving corporate brands. For 2019, people are talking about bright “jewel tones” which really means just bold primary colors. Grays are out (finally!). Take photos of your creations, don’t be afraid to mix stripes with polka dots. Eclectic is in! (as long as the colors coordinate). Fabric stores constantly have sales. If you go shopping knowing with an idea of what you’re looking for, you can get your raw materials at low prices.

Resin Jewelry

With a special plastic called resin, hardener, dyes, glitter, photos and whatever you can think of, you can create beautiful pieces to sell online. Don’t forget the silicon or metal molds of course. Make a quick photo keepsake by pouring clear resin into a mold and then covering it with a carefully trimmed, small photo. Cover the photo with a sealant (like ModgePodge) and then let your masterpiece rest for 24 hours. Once it dries, pop it out of the mold and your photo sits behind a glass-like substance. Some artists like to layer in different pieces like beads, natural objects before putting a final backing on the piece. They even finish it with a layer of glitter.  Once the piece is finished, you can adorn it with wooden elements, silver or gold wire as well.

Keychains

The keychain never goes out of style. Today, keychains come in the forms like initials, animals and scenes from tourist attractions. All of these shapes indicate the user’s identity. People can’t resist items that reflect their egos. If you can shape leather, canvas, plastic, or cloth into pieces that reflect interests and habits, you have a winner. Sell to both men and women, keeping your market large. Bonus: keychains’ small size ensure your materials go a long way.

 

Ceramics

Don’t you just get fascinated by people shaping clay on a wheel with muddy hands? A pinch here and a squeeze there reshapes the piece entirely. Ceramics amy seem challenging but you can start with a simple bowl. If this tactile hobby feels irresistible, you could be on your way to a whole new side-hustle.  Adding acrylic paint, glitter, and even nail polish can further hone your brand.

Whichever of these craft avenues you choose, rest assured you can find a market for your work. Reaching your market is easier than ever with an online store and social advertising. Don’t let money worries overtake you. Use your spare time to create something beautiful and profit from it!

 

How to Get a Personal Loan for a Remodel

 

There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.

-Jane Austen

a man nailing a board in a home remodel

Home has a magical place in Americans’ hearts, and lenders know it.

Because much of the U.S. economy is built on home ownership, the federal government encourages banks to lend to homeowners looking to remodel. If you want to get a personal loan for a home remodel, rest assured, many lenders will be happy to help. Interest rates on personal loans range from as low as 3.49% to as high as 36%. On average, they run from 10% to 32%.  Those going for a 32% loan typically plan to remodel the house, sell it fast and repay the loan as quickly as possible.

Today’s remodeler can get more money than ever (even with bad credit), but finding the right deal has gotten challenging. Use these guidelines to get clear on your needs and limitations before evaluating different lenders. Your first step is understanding how much you will need.

A Shortcut to Your Estimated Remodel Costs

HomeAdvisor.com provides estimates of how much your remodel will (or should) cost. It gives you the high, low and average prices. You can even fill in your zip code to get the most accurate figures. Lenders will ask for an estimate and accounting of your costs. They will also want a bid from a contractor that specifies labor, materials and other costs.

Create a spreadsheet or list of all the new features you’re looking for. In our kitchen example, a new stove can run anywhere from $400 to $5,000 for a premium gas range. In the bathroom, color-bathing with LED lights is the new rage. Get on board with your spouse or anyone else determining what will go into your remodel. Create a spreadsheet or list of all elements and their prices using a checklist from the internet that focuses on your specific room. Baseboards may be boring, but they cost money and that should be figured in (plus they make a room look really finished!)

Some costs homeowners tend to forget include:

  • Permits
  • Equipment rental
  • Clean-up and hauling charges

Going to a contractor with a spreadsheet of remodel elements sends the message that you know prices. When he or she then estimates labor, you can check those figures against. Labor typically runs 30 to 35% of the entire remodel. Once you get all potential charges, add 20% to 30% because, as contractors often say, “there’s always a wrinkle in the rug.” Unexpected issues will arise.

Elements that Figure Into Your Loan Amount and Terms

Lenders consider two elements when evaluating how much of a personal loan you can get for a remodel: your credit history and your income

To prepare for lenders’ offers (several is better than one), use CreditKarma or another service to uncover your credit score. The highest loan amounts and best interest rates go to those with good or excellent credit (no late payments in the last year and credit utilization (LINK to other blog post) 50% or lower). Still, as mentioned above, lenders like home remodeling loans because the federal government likes them. Therefore, even those with fair credit can get a personal loan for a remodel. You’ll just pay more in interest and possibly get a smaller amount.

To lower their risk, lenders evaluate your ability to make your monthly payments by examining how many other debts you currently have. They add up your monthly credit card, auto and student loan payments and then divide that figure by your monthly gross income. Many banks see a debt-to-income ratio or DTI of 35% as manageable. They recognize that you have some spending money left after paying your bills. They want this extra spending money to come to them, and will be eager to provide a personal loan.

A DTI of between 36% and 49% doesn’t mean you won’t get a loan. Lenders may want you to have a cosigner. Make these calculations before you apply for a personal loan so you can be prepared to select the right loan with the best terms.

Ready to Apply

The last piece of information you need when choosing a personal loan is the interest rate and fees the bank will charge. Lenders do NOT do a “hard pull” or serious credit inquiry when evaluating personal loan applicants. Instead they run a “pre-approval” or “pre-qualification” check.  This means you can review several offers before making a decision without any impact to your credit score. Once you select your lender, they make the hard pull ONCE.

A+ Rated First Financial Has Personal Loans for All Credit Scores!

Don’t let important home remodels go. A leaking roof can cause damage that multiplies your costs. First Financial has helped arrange tens of thousands of low-cost personal loans for home remodels. We have MORE loans for MORE applicants because working 100% online helps us reduce costs. Apply today!

 

Credit Score Hit by Holiday Shopping? How to Rebuild with Credit Cards

 

The bill for the holiday fun comes due in January when the credit card statements arrive. You may even have used a quick cash advance to get all your gifts purchased during November and December. Prepare now to tackle those bills AND improve your credit score throughout the new year.

Step 1: A Few Clicks Gets Your Credit Report in Your Inbox

The first of the year inspires all kinds of resolutions. If you want this new year to be when you get your financial house in order, it’s time now to tackle that daunting document: your credit report.

You’re entitled to a free credit report every 12 months. Annualcreditreport.com is the only free site authorized by the U.S. government’s Federal Trade Commission. Don’t be intimidated. Just fill out a few fields, check some boxes and it comes right to you.

Step #2: Take a Look at Your Credit Utilization

Statement in front of you? Good. We’ll take it step by step.

The first element of your credit card examine is your credit utilization–basically, how much credit you have used compared to the total that banks are willing to lend you. Those using 50% of their available credit on any one account or 50% of credit offered across ALL accounts have lower scores than card holders using less than that halfway point. If you’ve spent $10,000 of a $15,000 limit, you’re using 67% of your available credit. Your annoying brother-in-law using only $5,000  of a $15,000 limit has a 33% credit utilization rate.

Credit utilization accounts for a whopping 30% of your score. It’s also rather simple to improve. How? Apply for new credit cards and ask for the highest limits. Then, assuming you start with the $15,000 credit limit we discussed above, an additional $10,000 in new credit available to you gets you to a new limit of $25,000.  $10,000 out of an available $25,000 credit line creates a 40% credit utilization, far lower than 67%. Keep working on it and you’ll be below 30% in no time.

Credit card limits are tricky. Even if a credit card issuer approves you for $10,000 or $20,000, it doesn’t mean they think you have the income to spend all of that. Approved for $20,000? Best to keep your debt to $10,000 and under.

Your new January approach will be to work your credit card balances down below 50% of your limits or the amount your bank permits you to borrow. Whether that’s through paying down balances or opening new credit lines depends on your financial situation.

Step 3: Look at Late and Missed Payments

Where credit utilization accounts for 30% of your credit score, late payments impact it even more. Even one payment that’s late 30 days starts shaving points, but 60 and 90 day late payments wreck real havoc. At 120 days, most card issuers hand the account over to a collections agency. Now you’re talking about having your credit score drop into the 500s.

If you see that you have late payments, don’t despair. These three options may get them removed:

  • Ask the creditor for a “goodwill adjustment,” based on the responsible payments you have made.
  • Tell the creditor you will sign up for automatic payments debited from your bank account if they remove the late payment.
  • Claim the late payment is inaccurate. This works only if you have documentation, however.
  • Employ a professional to negotiate with the creditor.

After you’ve addressed your credit utilization and payment history data, you can go forward knowing exactly how to put your best foot forward in rebuilding your credit.

Step 4: Rebuild with Secured Credit Cards

With a firm understanding of how credit scores are calculated and how your behavior contributes to them, you can be confident about finding credit cards that will stabilize your finances.   

Keep that positive in mind when you find out that you most like will need to start out by using “secured” credit cards that have fees, low limits and may even require a deposit. Banks and the U.S. government want you spending, so the secured credit card is the way they make it happen.

These credit cards work just like a regular credit card, except you deposit often the same amount of cash collateral that they permit you to spend. What’s the benefit, then? These secured credit cards report to the three credit bureaus ( Experian, TransUnion and Equifax ) that you’ve shown responsible use of your secured credit card. Every on-time payment gets documented.

Eventually, the secured credit card company should approach you about using an unsecured credit card, where you don’t have to put up the cash. If they don’t after six to nine months, by all means apply for a different unsecured credit card or approach your current company for the same opportunity. The credit card company will consider how you’ve managed –not only your secured card– but all of your credit cards and loans.

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Once you get the unsecured card, your collateral from the secured card comes back to you, given you’ve paid all charges.  

Come Back from Your Holiday Spend the Smart Way

Holidays are not ALL about the gifts, but they sure make these few days out of the year more fun. And the fun is not just in receiving, but giving. In fact, studies have shown that those who spend money on others feel happier  and have more of a sense of purpose than those who don’t. Gift exchange has promoted connection and well-being since prehistoric times. If your generosity is crushing your credit score, rest assured you can work your way out slowly but surely.

 

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