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Buying A Car – Know Your Credit Score And Get Financing Before Hand

Monster+Car+Sale

A few years ago I set out to buy my first car.

This was a big deal for me, it was to be my most expensive purchase as well as my greatest debt.  Thankfully I was able to get a lot of advice from the site The Motley Fool (check out their steps to buying a car).  Even if you don’t follow each of their steps I think you will find their information useful.

I don’t want to go into what my whole car-buying process was like.  That might be too long a post (there was much drama but that’s for another time).

What I want to discuss is knowing your credit score and getting financing before-hand.

I knew I needed to check my credit report and score before making a big purchase.

 

I purchased all three reports and my score online.   I was surprised at what I saw!  I expected to have a mediocre score due to past late fees and debt but what I found was that my score was actually very good.   I guess my efforts at reducing my debt and transferring balances to 0% cards helped.

With my credit score in hand my next step was to secure financing.

Included in my credit score was a description of how the score was determined as well as what kind of credit I could expect.  I applied for financing through an online bank and received a check to fill out when the purchase was made.  Due to my credit score my interest rate on the financing was favorable and below the average for a car loan.

Credit_report_history_225I don’t know how many of you have purchased a car but you may not know that you aren’t done negotiating after you have figured out the price of your car-to-be.

Oh no!

You spend your time and effort haggling over the car price with the sales person and maybe the sales manager and you finally come to an agreeable price and you let out a sigh of relief.  Finally, all I have to do is pay for the car and it’s mine!

Well at this point the sales person brings you into the office of the finance manager!  Sitting in the manager’s office, he looks over my forms and tells me I can get financing for X percent and goes into what I need to sign (it’s in his interest to give me a loan with as high a rate as possible).   “Whoa,” I say.  “I know my credit score can get me better financing” I tell the manager (keep in mind I already have financing in place).   The manager looks at my credit report and tells me I do have a good score and offers me a lower interest rate.  This rate is still higher than my outside financing!  It’s then I tell him that I already have financing so I don’t need to finance through the dealership.  Wanting to have my debt through his dealership he then offers me a rate about half a point below what my outside loan was.  I accepted the new rate and was finally able to buy my new car.

If I didn’t have a loan already and didn’t know my credit score before hand I would have paid significantly more for my car!

It would have been very difficult to negotiate at this point without those two pieces in place.   Having my credit score and a loan in place allowed me this:

  • I knew what kind to interest rate to expect.
  • I was able to get a rate lower than the financing I already had set up.
  • I saved money.

Finally

Remember, the price you negotiate with the sales person is not what you are paying for the car (unless you’re paying in full of course).  You have to add in the cost of your loan.  When you go into a major purchase you need to have as many tools and as much information as possible because you can be taken advantage of and you might not even know it.

Make sure to check your credit score and know your financing options before-hand!

How AMEX And ING Gave Us A Wedding Gift

My wife and I have been married for almost two years now.

When we were planning our wedding (which we planned in three months) we didn’t want to get too extravagant and end up in debt because of the wedding (not a good way to start a life together). Still we knew there would be some hefty expenses to cover.  Luckily for us I got an offer for an American Express credit card with 0% interest on charges for a year.

I know, some of you may be thinking “Uh-oh credit card debt!”

Well yeah but look at how we made a new credit card work for us:

  • We charged what we could on the card. This included not only wedding expenses but also the honeymoon and many other charges over the course of a year (we would have charged more but some vendors preferred cash or check).
  • When the monthly bill came we paid only the minimum. I know, another red flag – Never pay just the minimum. Stay with me it gets better.
  • We took as much of the remaining monthly balance as we could and put it in our ING account and labeled it AMEX. This money would only be used to pay the Amex bill once the 0% offer was over!
  • Fortunately we already had money saved for the wedding so we were able to add money to our ING “AMEX” account. Essentially we could have covered the credit card bill at any time but let it sit since we weren’t being charged interest.
  • At the end of the offer we paid our bill in full. We continue to use the card paying off the statement in full every month.

Basically what American Express did was give us a free loan for our wedding! On top of that we were earning decent interest in our online high-yield savings account for money that could have paid off the card. AND for the charges we made on the card we were earning rewards points as well. The points translated into a nice gift certificate to the Pottery Barn! Thank you American Express and ING!

Understand, we had to be disciplined to do this. At no time did we go crazy making charges we couldn’t already pay off. We had a plan and stuck to it.

This shows you that credit cards don’t have to be bad if they are used correctly. Money can be saved and earned in all sorts of ways. We just have to be open to how it can be done.

Let me know what you have done creatively with a credit card or online bank account!

Start Saving and Let That Money Build Itself

So we all want to save more money right?   What can we do to increase our savings?

Many of us were told by our elders that if you want to save money the best place to put it is in a savings account at the bank (remember that old question of whether it’s better to put it under your mattress or in a savings account?).

This was good advice back in the day but the problem with it now is the average bank savings account barely gives you any interest on your money.  Truth is, for most people you are probably losing money since your interest rate is lower than the rate of inflation.

Yup, all that conventional wisdom about putting your money in a savings account is losing you money.

So what do you do?

A savings account is still a good idea but you need to find one that actually gives you a decent interest rate.  A good place for that is an online bank savings account like Capital One 360 Savings.

I’ve been using them for about four years or so and it has been great (there are other online banks out there but 360 Savings has been pretty good to me so far).  They have no minimum and no account fees.  Many other banks offer higher rates but you have to start with a good amount of money (doesn’t it seem likes it’s easy to make money when you have money?).

Go over there and start saving.

Here are some tips to start saving up money that will build itself:

1. If you don’t have to put a lot in, start with something small like $20.  Now you aren’t going to get rich with this but you will see your money growing.

2. Set up an automatic deposit for $5 a week.  We can all scrape together $5, can’t we (you can even start smaller if you need to)?  After a few weeks you’ll see your account growing.

3. As you feel more comfortable try to up the dollar amount, maybe $7 or $10?

4. Once you’ve saved for a bit ask yourself if you can afford to put away some money that you will absolutely not touch for six months.  It doesn’t have to be a lot just something you won’t be needing.

Really, don’t touch the money!  You don’t want to use this money.

Now take this amount and open up a 6-month CD, or Certificate of Deposit (Capital One also has no minimums for their CD’s).  This will give you a slighter better interest rate than your savings account.  Remember though, you shouldn’t need this money for at least six months (12 months CD’s are even better but that’s up to you).

When your CD matures (the six months are up) see if you can open up a new CD maybe with more money.

If you have specific goals to save for you can set up different accounts within your account and fund them differently.  For example, if you need to save up for the holidays set up a holiday account and put a few of your dollars in their every week/month, etc…

You should be seeing your account growing now both due to the money you’ve put in as well as the interest you’ve earned.  It’s actually kinda fun to look at my account and see how much interest I’ve earned this month.

I didn’t mention it but you will need to have a checking account already.  This will be where you transfer your money from into your 360 Savings account (and vice versa).

This in itself isn’t going to get you rich but it can help you to start saving more effectively.  The hardest part is putting those first dollars in there and keeping up the discipline.

The journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.  The same idea holds true with savings and wealth – it all starts with that first dollar!

Let me know what you think and if this works for you!

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