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5 Mobile Apps To Help Lower Vehicle Costs

mobile apps t save money on cars

The average annual costs of owning and maintaining a typical sedan in the U.S. was $9,122, or about $0.608 per mile based on 15,000 miles driven, according to the 2013 AAA Your Driving Costs study. That number represents a 2 percent increase from the previous year.

Some automotive-related expenses are unavoidable, but proper maintenance and due diligence can cut costs significantly. Download these five apps to start saving money immediately:

aCar

It’s difficult to find a more comprehensive app that offers a fully functional free version. Once you install aCar, enter all your vehicle information including make, model, and year. You can then track gas mileage by entering your odometer reading at the time of fill-up, along with the number of gallons and price of the gas. The app also keeps records of all maintenance and repairs to determine the total costs to keep your car on the road, and whether it may be time for a new one.

The aCar app is Android and Blackberry compatible. The free version is adequate for most car owners. The $5.99 Pro version allows data import and export, and has multiple language options.

Flat Tire Help

For those who do not have roadside assistance and technical expertise for these types of emergencies, Flat Tire Help is the app for you. It gives simple step-by-step instructions, complete with detailed images, for changing a tire on any type of vehicle. Flat Tire Help will save you towing fees and help get you to the nearest shop to determine if the tire is salvageable or new tires are necessary.

Flat Tire Help is available for Android devices for $0.99.

GasBuddy

The average price of a gallon of gas across the U.S. on October 11 ($3.25) was the lowest recorded since 2010, according to AAA. Missouri had the cheapest gas in the country that day, but the range between stations was substantial. A Conoco in South St. Louis had $2.65 gas, while a West St. Louis BP was selling gas at $2.93. That is why the GasBuddy app is so invaluable.

Simply enter your city, state, and zip code, and GasBuddy does the rest. Prices are updated throughout the day by the app’s community of users to ensure accuracy. Those who report prices accurately receive rewards points that enter them in prize giveaways.

GasBuddy is free and compatible with Android, Blackberry, and iOS devices.

Car & Auto Insurance Quote Finder

Auto insurance premiums vary greatly by state, age, and several other factors. But the National Association of Insurance Commissioners placed the average yearly costs at $797 for 2011, the most recent data available. That means insurance can represent upwards of 15 percent of annual expenses for some car owners.

Car & Auto Insurance Quote Finder allows you to compare several quotes from multiple companies to find the best deal. It acts as a virtual marketplace that puts all the quotes in one place and saves you from surfing the web from site to site.

The app is available for all iOS 5.0 or later devices.

Torque Pro

Automotive technicians hook your car up to fancy diagnostic machines to determine a repair and maintenance schedule. Of course it will cost you upwards of $200 for this service. The Torque Pro app can do all that and more for you for a fraction of the price.

You’ll first need to get a Bluetooth on-board diagnostic tools, which costs about $15. The other caveat is that your car must be a 2000 model or later, as older vehicles do not have the port to plug the adapter in below the steering wheel. Once you sync the adapter and your phone, it sends emission, fuel economy, torque, and other data depending on the vehicle. Mechanics and other car geeks rave about its accuracy and overall usefulness.

The total investment for the app ($4.95) and Bluetooth adapter will pay for itself the first time you use it.

Optimize Your Investments with Personal Capital

personal capital investment tool review

Many my friends want to get their investments squared away without having to track every small dip and tick of the market. They are living busy lives and they don’t have the time (or really the desire) to nitpick their investments. They’re also tired of all the crazy fees that seem to be tacked on.

I feel the say way and I think you probably do too. (After all, that’s why you’re here – to save time and money, right? )

Free Financial and Investment Tools with Personal Capital

If you are looking at optimizing your accounts, Personal Capital has some wonderful tools to get you ready. One of our goals is to retire early. I’ve been using them because I was looking for a more robust tracking tool to gauge how our investments were doing. We have several accounts between the two of us and I wanted one place I could log into to get a snapshot of our progress.

We also wanted to see if there were some ways we can optimize our portfolio so we could minimize fees and instead use that money to grow our net worth.

I first heard about Personal Capital from Financial Samurai and I’ve been pleased with their service so far.

Portfolio Check-Up

Even if you think things are going well, it’s also handy to do a check up on your portfolio to make sure things are truly squared away. Besides making sure that your asset allocation meets your plan, you should also see if there is a way you can lower your fees. Personal Capital offers a free portfolio review so you can eliminate excess fees from your 401(k) like us.

Personal Capital will review your portfolio to make sure your investments are reaching their potential. You have the flexibility of tracking your portfolio by account or asset class.

401(k) Fee Analyzer and Mutual Fund Fee Calculator

Nobody wants to their hard earned money working for someone else when it could be put to better use (like growing for your retirement). Besides typically having fewer investment options than an IRA, 401(k)s can sometimes have higher expenses with their funds. That’s a double whammy.

The money comes from you, so you’re the one losing out. If you have a 5.75% front load instead of investing $500 a month, you’re investing $471.25. That might not sound like a lot, but it adds up over time. There is also no proven advantage into getting a loaded fund versus a no load fund with the same performance level. How can you avoid such a waste?

Personal Capital will also benchmark your 401(k) for free so you have a clear idea of whether or not, you need to update your holdings. It’ll be a change that will speed up your portfolio’s growth as the years pass.

Stay in the Loop with Personal Capital

You can set it up so Personal Capital can give you helpful and informative weekly updates on your finances, allowing you to know right away if you need to make any adjustments.

We’ve been using them for about a year now and I enjoy how easy it is to get a snapshot of our finances with them. With the free tools that they offer, it has been a great solution for us. Since most of our financial system is automated, Personal Capital is a tool that keeps us in the loop without having to log on everyday. If you’re in a similar boat, I recommend checking them out and signing up today.

For those who have already tried out their service, please share your feedback in comments.

Can You Afford to Buy a Home on Your Salary?

afford a house

57 percent of Americans feel buying a house has become less appealing, reflecting a widespread belief that fewer people can afford to buy homes, according to a Hart Research Associates survey. Ray Martin of CBS MoneyWatch says this reflects property costs rising faster than wages, coupled with economic challenges for consumers trying to save down payments and afford mortgages. Given these conditions, you might be wondering how to go about determining whether you can afford a home on your salary.

Estimating What You Can Affordafford a house

As the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation explains, a number of key factors determine whether you can afford a home. These include annual gross income, credit history, and down payment availability.

To evaluate how these factors translate into your ability to afford a home, lenders consider two key ratios. The first is your housing expense ratio, relating your mortgage payment costs to your gross income. Lenders recommend your mortgage payment should be no more than 28 to 36 percent of your monthly gross income.

The second key is debt-to-income ratio. This compares your obligations on mortgage and other debts such as student loans and car payments to your gross income. Your monthly debts should not exceed 30 to 43 percent of your gross income.

For a precise estimate of what you can afford, Bank of Little Rock Mortgage Senior Vice President Lee Maris recommends that first-time home buyers get pre-approved for a mortgage before shopping for homes.

Searching for Affordable Homes

With a sense of what you can afford, you can gather information about homes within your range. Online databases such as those provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Socialserve can help locate homes fitting specific criteria. Geographical search tools can also help you find locations with homes you can afford. For instance, as of July 2014, Trulia’s national homes price page shows that the median listing price of a home in New York’s Queens County is $419,000, compared to $839,000 for San Francisco County, $189,500 for Cook County, or $142,500 for St. Louis County. Another way to find a more affordable home is to purchase a less expensive residence to renovate. For instance, you might buy a home and then install energy-efficient windows, both improving the value of the property and lowering your long-term energy costs. Realtor recommends that if you buy a home to renovate, the most cost-efficient strategy is to look for these types of potential cosmetic renovations to windows, paint, wallpapers, carpets, tiles, doors, kitchens, bathrooms, and fixtures. Do a home inspection and count the cost before considering more expensive renovations such as upgrading roofing, heating, or air conditioning.

Exploring Down Payment and Financing Options

When it comes to paying for your home, nearly eight out of 10 first-time home buyers use savings to raise their down payment, while a third receive a gift from family or friends, and about one in 10 draw from investments or retirement savings, according to the National Association of Realtors. Traditionally your down payment should equal 20 percent of your home’s price, but some options allow this to go as low as 3 to 5 percent. As for financing, the NAR reports that over nine out of 10 first-time buyers go with a fixed-rate mortgage, four out of 10 use a low down payment FHA mortgage, and nearly one in 10 go with no down payment using the VA’s loan program. HUD’s site can point you towards online resources and housing counselors and other resources to help explore financing options.

The Ins & Outs of Avoiding Bad Credit Pitfalls for College Grads

cit bank savings account review\

When it comes to credit score, there’s no such thing as throwing out the lowest test grade or offering a chance for extra credit. That’s why college students need do their homework early on so they can pass the credit test during those vital first few years in the “real world.”

The first rule of credit: Use it or lose it.

In other words, in order to create a strong credit profile (and qualify for future auto or home loans), you have to demonstrate that you’re able to use credit responsibly. You’ll likely have to start out slow, like opening your first credit card account, making small but manageable purchases with it, and paying your bill on time every month. From there, whether you have an auto loan or a cell phone bill, the key is to make on-time payments.

Need a Bail Out? Transfer Your Credit Card Balance

You’ll have to pay your dues.

As is the case with breaking into a new field right out of college, sometimes your youth goes against you and you have to prove yourself. In other words, you won’t get the best credit card rates in the early years of your credit history because you haven’t earned them. But you can and should still shop around for a card that has terms you can live with for a while (for starters, look for cards with no annual fee). The reason being you want to keep your first major accounts active for a few years to establish a strong history. Opening and closing new accounts all the time will negatively affect your credit score.

Don’t screw up your parents’ credit.

If your parents put you on as an authorized user on any of their accounts or co-sign to help you open a credit account or car loan, that’s an additional reason to be responsible with payments. If you don’t, it will ding their credit scores as well as yours.

Late payments are not “no big deal.”

As soon as you are late — even one day — on a credit card payment, your lateness is reported to one or all of the credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian). The longer it takes you to pay, the worse it is (being 90 days overdue is worse than 30 days, for instance). To avoid being late, be sure you don’t spend beyond your means, and set an email, text, or calendar alert so you have a reminder to make your payments on time.

Minimum payments will keep you in debt for decades.

Paying your bills on time is the easy part; paying your balance in full is the challenge. If you run up your accounts and begin carrying large balances, paying just the minimum won’t do much to bring down your debt thanks to interest that keeps accumulating. And when it comes to credit scores, how much debt you have as compared to how much credit you have available is a big part of the equation. So if you have a $1,000 credit limit and a $700 balance, you have a 70 percent debt utilization (not good!). Experts say to keep it under 30 percent, or even better, pay your balance in full each month.

A healthy credit start takes discipline, especially for college grads who are just beginning to deal with financial independence. But it’s a much easier road than trying to dig out from under a credit score that tanks.

Todd Hills is the CEO of Pawngo , the first full-service online pawn shop intodd pawngo hills the United States. After more than 25 years owning and operating brick and mortar pawn shops, Hills decided to bring this 3,000 year-old industry online. 

Amazon Prime Membership Benefits

amazon prime

When we first signed up for Amazon I had used their Mom membership. We just had a our baby daughter and I heard about the significant discounts Amazon had for diapers and other baby supplies. When that deal ran out I used Prime and really enjoyed the shipping benefits. I also loved their Instant Video options and this year, some of shows are available to watch as they air. Since we’ve cut back on cable, this has been a huge plus for us as I don’t have to miss some of my favorite shows or wait for them on Netflix.

Our anniversary date is coming up and we will be charged the new membership fee of $99/year. As with all of our subscriptions and memberships, we take a review to make sure the benefits outweigh the costs.

Amazon Prime Beefing Up Benefitsamazon prime benefits

As I went on the site to check things, I discovered the company has been adding new features and benefits to Prime.

  • Free 2 Day Shipping for eligible purchases
  • Unlimited streaming of movies and videos with Amazon Instant Video
  • Borrow books from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.
  •  Unlimited, ad-free access to hundreds of Prime Playlists and more than a million songs  on Prime Music
  •  Download a new book for free every month from the Kindle First picks
  • Access to Prime Pantry, allowing members to get  low priced grocery, household, and pet care items for a flat delivery fee of $5.99 for each

I’m glad I reviewed the benefits because I discovered even though we are saving just with the shipping and television benefits, we weren’t really using all that we could.

Thoughts on Amazon Prime

It looks like we’re going to stick with our Amazon Prime membership. I’m also going ahead and try out some of the other features including the Prime Music and the Kindle First download. Hopefully we can save some more money taking advantage of these.