Posted in College & Student Loans, You and Your Money

Back to School

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Well, here we are again.  One week from today, my daughter will be heading back to college for her junior year.  Where does the time go?  But I digress.

This time of year can be a major budget breaker if we are not careful.  Last year, I spent a lot of money getting her everything she needed for her dorm thinking this was a one time thing.  But every year they change dorms so of course there is always that “need” for new stuff.  And if your children are in K-12, don’t think you are off the hook.  Every year the schools provide a new supply list based on their grade.

The one big lesson that I have learned, however, is that just because the school or even your student says they “need” it doesn’t mean you have to buy it.  Below are a few tips for saving money when the “Back to School” season starts:

  • Take an inventory – Whether it is clothes, school supplies or dorm items, make sure you take an inventory of what you already have.  Just because it is a new school year doesn’t mean everything has to be new.  Did you know that it is possible to start the new school year without one single new outfit?  Or one new notebook?  I’m not saying don’t buy anything – I’m just saying be realistic about what they need and what they want.  Don’t break the budget buying items that they already have and are in perfectly good shape.
  • Stick to the budget – I love a good sale!  Who doesn’t?  And the sales at this time of year can be amazing.  But it is only good if you need the item that is on sale and if you have the money budgeted to buy the item.  Be careful not to get swept up in all the sweet deals.
  • DIY – This is mostly for the college readers, but can apply to anyone.  Instead of spending hundreds of dollars decorating your dorm room, use stuff that you already have from home to make it feel more comfortable.  Also, make stuff to decorate with.  Get a cool frame from a yard sale, thrift store or even the dollar store and put your favorite picture in it.  Decorating doesn’t have to cost a lot of money and you will feel at home if you have touches of it with you.

It is so easy to get swept up in the chaos that is back to school shopping.  And it is easy to spend way to much if you don’t go in with a plan.  Using the steps above, you will be well on your way to making this the best year ever without breaking the bank.

I hope everyone has an awesome year – whether you are starting school for the first time, moving on to the next grade or heading to or back to college.  These years are precious and need to be treasured, not for what you bought but for the experiences you will have.  Sending you prayers, love and encouragement!  Go kick some butt!  ~Debbi

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Posted in Car Buying, College & Student Loans, Debt Free, Financial Freedom, You and Your Money

To Buy or To Lease – That is the Question

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This weekend I was having an intense conversation with my 19 year old daughter about all of the options for buying a car.  In her mind the only option is paying cash for a used car and at her age that is the best option.  No one in college or even a young adult starting a family should have a new car with an average car payment of $350.  One of the many things that I have realized over my 15 year career is that there are 2 important steps in making all financial decisions:  always do the math and do what will work for you personally and not anyone else.

Having said that keep in mind that debt doesn’t work for anyone.  Never buy anything that you do not have the money for.  This is why the only option, in my book, for a millennial is paying cash for a used car.  But as we get older, many of us build up our savings accounts and we end up having the money to comfortably drive a new car.  So how do we decide what to do between the two options that are available for getting a new car.  The Bible is an awesome book of instructions that God has given us, but no where in the Bible does it tell us to buy a car over leasing or vice versa.  However, it does tell us to be good stewards and great managers of what God has given us which is where the math comes in.

The math when it comes to buying vs. leasing has to be looked at long term.  For example, if you are planning on owning a car for 10 years, you need to total in the amount you pay for the car in addition to repair bills that will be paid over the course of that time.  About 3 years ago, my husband and I were in need of a different vehicle.  We had the financial ability to get a new car and so we began the numbers game.  The van we had that needed to be replaced had 420,000 miles on it and we had owned it for 9 years.  We paid $20,000 for it and had put in at least $5-6K in repairs including a new engine.  That means that over the time of owning the car, it had cost us $240 a month to have that vehicle.  So we decided to look at both of our options and decide if we wanted to buy or lease our new vehicle.

I want to be up front before I go any further.  Leasing is not for everyone and you should never lease just for the low payments.  It can be very attractive especially to people who live in a monthly payment, paycheck to paycheck world.  And just like deciding whether to rent or to buy a home, you need to do what is going to work for you in a positive way.  Leasing is not what it was 20 years ago and there are advantages to leasing, but you must do your research and be honest with yourself about your needs.

Here are a few things to consider when making the decision between buying and leasing:

  • When you buy a car, you own it but cars are not investments and they are only an asset to the extent of what they are worth minus what you owe.  Don’t pay more for a car just because you will “own” it.  Research the car you are looking at and know how well they hold their value.  For example, a Honda will be worth more 10 years from now than a Kia will.
  • When you lease a car, you have no maintenance and this can be a big deal to many people especially as we get older.  An average lease is for 36 months and that is the minimum warranty on most vehicles.  And tires and brakes usually last at least 40,000 miles so you would only be responsible for oil changes which many dealerships will throw in.
  • As you probably know, new cars lose value quickly in the first year or two.  Most leases come with GAP insurance included which will cover the difference should your car become totaled from an accident.  This is an additional purchase when buying (if you are financing) and should be included in the math.
  • When you buy a car, you can drive it as many miles as you want.  However, with a lease you are limited in how many miles you can drive per year (average is 12,000/year or 36,000 total).  When your lease ends, if you don’t purchase the vehicle you will be responsible for paying for the miles over at the rate of the lease agreement (usually .20/mile)

I am not one of those money people who says “never buy a new car” or “never lease a car”.  I have done the research and there are advantages to both.  You can have anything but not everything.  This means that in life we have to choose what is important to us and use our financial resources to do those things.  God loves giving us the desires of our hearts, but He will never help us get something that is going to hurt us.  You work hard for your money and God wants you to enjoy life.  A godly life has great balance.  That may mean that if you have a new car you can’t travel as much or have as big of a house as some.  It may mean that you don’t buy “stuff” everyday.  But if having a nice car is important to you, you will be willing to sacrifice in other areas in order to have what adds value to your life.

Let me close with this – new cars are not evil.  They are awesome and frankly can give you peace of mind when traveling the highways and byways.  But they can also cripple you and take you into bankruptcy if you buy them before you have the ability to pay for them.  Debt is not ok – God made that one pretty clear.  This is true for a used car or a new car.  Anytime you are looking at getting a new car, weigh all of your options, know your true financial situation and always do the math.  Do what is going to move you forward, not backwards.

Have a blessed week!  Lots of love!

~Debbi

http://www.debbiking.com

 

 

Posted in College & Student Loans, You and Your Money

Raising Adults

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Yesterday, I returned home from a seven day cruise with my 19 year old daughter.  It was an awesome trip full of bonding moments as it was just her and I out in the world for 7 days (and she was trapped on the ship with me with no where to go).  On the last day of our trip which was a sea day, we were eating lunch and starting talking with this couple who had 2 teenagers but were traveling alone.  The gentleman was in law enforcement and my daughter is in college for Criminal Justice.  We talked to them for almost an hour sharing great advice and talking about our passions.  My daughter shared many of the things she has learned over the years and the couple seemed shocked and impressed at her knowledge and grasp on reality.  One of the subjects we talked about was the epidemic in this country with teenagers and young adults believing they are entitled to everything without working for it.  And my daughter agreed – she sees this with her friends and others all the time.  When it was time for us to part ways and move on to other activities, the lady leaned over and whispered in my ear “You raised her well.”  I admit I teared up a little.

I don’t say this to brag although I am super proud of my daughter and the young lady she has become.  I am telling this story because it brought home a lesson that I learned many years ago and have shared from that day forward – we are raising adults.  It doesn’t matter whether a kid is 2, 12, or 20, you are always raising an adult.  Let me explain.

Your kids and kids in your life – whether for a moment or for a lifetime – are watching every move you make and every word you say (and the way you say it).  Kids aren’t born knowing how to do things.  They learn by what we teach them.  The key word is teach them.  Now, you can teach your kids on purpose like I did my daughter or you can teach them by default – either way, they are watching and learning every moment of every day.  The other day I was in Wal-Mart and I heard a kid screaming from 4 aisles over.  He just kept screaming until he got to the aisle I was on.  Then I saw his mom give him a phone and he stopped.  Whether she realized it or not, she taught him that if he screamed, he would eventually get his way.

I hear parents say all the time “We don’t use the word no”.  Well you should, but not as a mantra.  Use it in conjunction with an explanation as to why the action or behavior is not allowed.  A great example is the entitlement issue I spoke of earlier.  Kids believe they are entitled to everything because that is what they have been taught – again either on purpose or simply by not teaching them a different way.  My daughter is no different than every other kid out there – she wanted stuff and still does.  However, I have no issue telling her no and at the same time explaining to her why not.  She has never once heard “because I said so” from me.

We must realize we are raising adults from the moment our kids are born.  Did you know that a newborn will cry and get upset if you are stressed when holding them?  But if you are calm and soothing they will be too.  It starts from day one and continues through their entire lives.  My daughter is still watching me even at 19 years old.  It is still my responsibility to be an awesome example to her on how to navigate life in a positive direction and reach all of her goals and dreams (not mine, hers).  So the next time you are speaking with a little tone because something isn’t going right or you are swiping that credit card to pay for something, just remember they are watching your every move.