Consumer, Finance, Home, House

Ask Chuck: Is Low Price Better Than High Quality?

By: Chuck Bentley, Crown Financial Ministries

Dear Chuck,

I like nice, quality things. My husband prefers lower prices. My perspective is that buying quality is better in the long run. Is there a right or wrong way to look at it? We are stuck on which refrigerator to buy to replace the old one we have now.

Needing A Compromise

Dear Compromise,

Let’s reframe the choices you have from just two to three. You could get a quality refrigerator, you could get a low priced refrigerator, or you could get the best value refrigerator. The final choice is the best one but getting to the compromise will be the challenge.

My wife and I both like nice things…at a good price. But it can take months to find a deal! My wife, Ann, will research an item to death, whereas I’m ready to buy when I know an item is right for us. The key is learning to work together by honoring each other’s personality and opinions. Both of you can be equally right, and wise decisions can be made through prayer and honest, respectful communication.

There is a time to spend more for quality and longevity. There’s also a time where the extra expense doesn’t matter. However, some people do not understand the difference. Rather than using common sense and trusting the Lord, some people are caught up in the need for luxury.

In The Psychology Behind Why People Buy Luxury Goods, Vanessa Page writes:

People buy luxury goods for a variety of reasons, all of which are related to the strong emotions that we attach to expensive material goods. Whether we are financially comfortable or not, we will often purchase luxury items to show off to or gain acceptance from others and to reward ourselves for an accomplishment.

A good steward has his/her identity in Christ and does not ‘need’ luxury. Quality is different. Here are a few basic things to remember when shopping for the best value: a quality product at a great price. 

Consider the length of ownership to determine what should be quality and what is non-essential. A refrigerator lasts a long time so quality is important. You need to know for certain that it will protect the food you buy for your family. A cat bed, however, is disposable and does not need to be the best on the market.

When to Spend More for Quality

  • Energy efficiency
  • Longer life of the product
  • Dependability
  • Maintenance free

When to Be Frugal

  • Disposable items
  • No difference in quality
  • Functionality is equal
  • Less expensive won’t affect safety or health

Tips on Getting the Best Value

Know what you need to best serve your family. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and talked into spending more money than is necessary because there are so many bells and whistles on appliances today that have little meaningful purpose.

If you shop Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace, remember, not all sellers can be trusted. In addition to having no warranty or guarantee that the product will work, you may have to move it yourself. And, when replacing appliances, that means moving out the old ones as well.

Check out sales over holiday weekends and check for online sales. Avoid new models and take advantage of the old stock that retailers want to clear out. The end of the month is a great time to negotiate a purchase because employees working on commission are eager to make more sales. Always ask to see any ‘scratch and dent’ items. They are often significantly discounted for appearances only. 

Ask if there are delivery and installation charges and any fees with hauling away the old appliance. I ignore extended warranties and always research reviews and consumer reports.

Steward Time, Money, and Relationships

The time you put into researching the purchase of a higher costing item can be saved over the life of a product. Do your work upfront. Time is money. Read reviews. Talk to salesmen, people you know, anyone willing and trustworthy to educate you on the purchase.

Pray for discernment and for leading to the right item. Needs and wants should be vetted. God often grants us the desires of our heart when he knows our desire is to use His money wisely. Let your husband know that you are willing to work to find the best value refrigerator and ask for his support.

Seek harmony and peace in your marriage. Respect your spouse’s opinion. Be quick to listen and slow to speak. In humility, present your case with proven research while honoring your husband. If he believes his way is best, then submit in love. Sometimes we have to sacrifice our desires for the good of the marriage. Your relationship is more important than an appliance.

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:14-15 ESV)

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High Car Payments Can Drive You Over the Edge

car

High Car Payments

It is an all too common story. Many people struggling with debt can trace the beginning of their debt problems to a new car purchase – a big monthly payment, financed for too long. Some households even have two vehicles with large payments in the $400 to $500 range. With the budget maxed out, you can see how this type of financial burden could lead to a crisis. It’s easy to start falling behind on your budget and ultimately turning to credit cards, cash advances or loans to make up where your cash flow is lacking.

Test Drive the Monthly Payment

You may think you’re getting a steal of a deal on that new SUV or speedster. After all, the dealer said he’d take $2,000 off the sticker price – how could you pass that one up! You know the saying: Buyer beware. Be aware of what you can afford, and go into the purchase with a plan. Find a comfortable monthly payment that allows room in your budget for maintenance, and possible gas and insurance increases. You want a vehicle that improves your lifestyle, not one that enslaves you to a high monthly expense.

Car Payment Facts

  • Monthly payment

Financial experts recommend spending no more than 15% of your monthly take-home pay on a car payment. If your budget is tight, a more conservative figure like 8% would be appropriate. Even though a lender may approve you for more than you have budgeted, you don’t need to spend it. Consider the future effects of your decision and your other lifestyle and financial goals. Balance is key to budgeting.

  • Term of the loan

According to the Federal Reserve, the average auto loan term has been creeping up over the years. In 1998, the typical car loan was a 4-year term, and now, lenders commonly offer 6-year terms. It certainly lowers your monthly payment and may help you reach the 8% you budgeted for. However, it doesn’t come free of charge. Obviously, you’ll pay a lot more than you signed for because of the increase in overall interest. And, if you want or need to sell, chances are you’ll owe more than what the car is worth. It takes longer to build equity with a long-term loan. Consider what you can afford monthly and base a purchase on a four year loan. This doesn’t have to mean less car. Shopping used cars in your price range can offer a fleet of options.

  • Interest

Do some investigating and shop around for the best interest rate before negotiating a purchase with a dealer. Check other dealerships and financial institutions. Dealerships and financial institutions often run promotions, offering incentives like lower interest rates, zero down and cash back. Also, if you can afford to send in payments above your monthly payment, it will pay down your premium faster, save on the overall interest and shorten the life of your loan.

  • Pleasure

Don’t buy a vehicle that you don’t like or are embarrassed to drive. It is important that you are happy with your purchase for more reasons than simply the cost. The best car deal is one that you can afford, meets your lifestyle needs and that you enjoy driving.

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    Budgeting, Christian Credit Counselors, Credit, Credit Cards, Credit Counseling, Debit & Your Credit Score, Debt, Debt Settlement, Finance, Goals, Money Management, Personal Goals, Saving

    Credit – The Four Most Common Forms

    What is credit? art-credit-cards-620x349

    Credit is defined in a couple of ways. One is the amount of money you are approved to borrow from a lending institution. With this approval comes an agreement to repay the charges, any additional fees that can or will be applied, and to abide by time restrictions.

    Credit can also be classified as your borrowing reputation. It paints a picture of your payment history and provides the lender with information regarding the likelihood of your repayment, in other words, your risk factor.

    Use of Credit

    When used responsibly, credit can be a convenient and effective financial tool. From a simple credit card to an auto or home loan, credit is the American way of life. Cashless transactions are soon becoming the way of the future, and credit cards are among the most prevalent. Understanding credit is important in order to use credit to your advantage and to prevent the common financial pitfall – debt.

    Four Common Forms of Credit

    Revolving Credit

    This form of credit allows you to borrow money up to a certain amount. The lending institution sets a credit limit, or the most you can borrow. In revolving credit, the borrower revolves the balance by rolling from month to month until it is paid in full. Interest charges typically occur for any revolving balance. As the money is paid back, the difference between the maximum credit limit and the current balance is available to be borrowed. This is the most common form of credit issued by credit cards, such as Visa, MasterCard, and store and gas cards. Credit cards are considered unsecure credit because there is no collateral securing the amount borrowed.

    Charge Cards

    This form of credit is often mistaken to be the same as a revolving credit card. However, the major difference between a credit card and a charge card is the credit card can carry a balance, whereas the charge card must be paid in full each month. If the balance is not paid on time and in full, penalty fees will be added. American Express is an example of a well-known charge card. This form of credit is advantageous against accumulating credit card debt.

    Installment Credit

    Installment credit involves a set amount borrowed, a set monthly payment and a set timeframe of repayment. Interest charges are pre-determined and calculated into the set monthly payments. Common forms of installment credit agreements are home mortgages and auto loans.

    Installment credit is also typically secure. Secure credit requires security for the lender. The borrower must provide collateral, something of value pledge in order to guarantee loan repayment. If the borrower fails to repay, or defaults on the loan, the lender may confiscate the collateral. A home is an example of collateral on a mortgage, and a vehicle on an auto loan. If the borrower were to default, the home or vehicle would be repossessed.

    Non-Installment or Service Credit

    This form of credit allows the borrower to pay for a service, membership, etc. at a later date. Generally, payment is due the month following the service, and unpaid balances will incur a fee, interest, and/or penalty charges. Continued non-payment will result in service cancellation and can be reported to the credit bureau, affecting your credit score. Service or non-installment agreements are very common in our everyday life. Cell phone, gas and electricity, water and garbage are all examples of service credit.

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      Christian Credit Counselors, Credit, Credit Cards, Credit Counseling, Debit & Your Credit Score, Debt, Debt Settlement, Finance, Goals, Investing, Money Management, Personal Goals, Saving

      Making Money Matters Manageable in Your Marriage

      Mutual Money Management moneymarriage

      Is it love or money that makes the world go round? It’s both…Make money work for your marriage, not against it.  You need tips on strengthening your marriage through mutual management of your money.  This can be done and can even be fun!  Keep reading to find out how.

      Financial Honesty

      Have open, honest and non-confrontational discussions about your finances.  Set aside a regular time to talk about where you are, where you want to be and how you will get there…together.

      Budgeting and Strategic Spending

      Make budgeting a positive and fun project, rather than a chore.  Don’t view a budget as a way to plan spending out of your life.  News Flash: While you are alive, you will never stop spending money.  And, the ultimate goal is not to spend less, but to spend strategically and find ways to increase your income to continue to meet your financial goals.  Plan in the things you want and enjoy and work together to achieve them.

      Money Habits

      Be aware of your spouses habits and tendencies when it comes to finances.  Don’t eye one another to find fault, but look for opportunities to step in and offer encouragement or a listening ear.  Fear can lead people to hold onto finances tightly, or spend impulsively.  Find ways to help build faith and trust into each other, and encouraging one another daily.

      Reward Sacrifice

      Regardless of the roles you’ve decided upon in the area of finance, you are both working towards your mutual goals.  Look for opportunities to reward your spouse for their hard work.  Have they been making personal sacrifices to stay within the budget?  Acknowledge that in a way that will tell him or her: Thank you. I love you. I’m proud of you. I’m glad we are on the same team.

      Learn from Financial Freedom

      Get around other couples who are walking in financial freedom and learn from them.  Look for couples who are seasoned and successful in the area of mutual finance, and allow them to mentor you as a couple. They have been where you are and have insight into your success.

      The Three L’s

      Love much. Live well. Laugh often.  Always remember the love you have for your spouse.  Keep that as a forethought, prizing it more highly than anything money can buy.

      Do you want to know more about debt and how you can make smart financial decisions now that will help you secure a more prosperous financial future? Sign up for our newsletter for monthly money tips.

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        Christian Credit Counselors, Credit, Credit Cards, Credit Counseling, Debit & Your Credit Score, Debt, Debt Settlement, Finance, Money Management, Personal Goals, Saving

        Money, Love, and Marriage

        il_570xN.417833387_htxl

        Marriage and Money

        Roses are red; violets are blue. No matter the cost, I’ll stand by you…

        Have you had the talk yet?…You know, the one about money, spending habits, future goals, budgeting…?

        If you haven’t, it should be a top priority for your relationship.  If you have, have it again.  Discussing finances should be a regular and healthy part of your lifestyle together.  Being on the same page in this area will protect your marriage (or future marriage) against the most common relational enemy.  You’ve heard the statistics.  Money and finances are the number one reason couples argue and ultimately divorce. Don’t let your marriage become a number.

        Make Finances a Joint Venture

        Regardless of you or your spouses accounting or investment skill set, planning out your financial future and implementing those strategies should be a mutual effort.  Coming together to decide matters in the area of finance will allow you both to be on the same page number…of the same book.  Couples drift away from each other day by day when they are not planning their future together.

        Relationships and matters of finance should not be left to one person alone, even if he or she is “better at it.”  This disconnects one partner from a key area and anytime one of the partners is left out of a major area of the relationship, it will lead to the two of them planning and living, by default, two separate lives.  We, as humans, are meant to be in relationship with each other, and drifters will eventually wash up on someone else’s shore.  So, make it a priority to come together and stay together in the area of financial planning.

        Tip for Financial Success

        Use this time of planning as an opportunity to build closeness into your relationship.

        Respect and Love

        The two greatest relational needs. Anytime you are communicating with your spouse, you are communicating either respect and love or their opposites.  Since the topic of finance can stir one or both of you up, be especially careful to communicate this respect, love and trust through words, tone and body language.

        Listen and Speak Lovingly

        Listen for his or her dreams, desires, goals, reasons.  Your partner has spending habits, as we all do.  Find out the why behind the what.  This will help you to understand your partner better and offer support when needed.

        Be a voice of encouragement. Speak highly of and to your spouse.  Build him or her up with your words. Remind your better-half how capable, intelligent and valued he or she is.  You have the power to build up or to tear down, and it starts with a simple comment.

        Give Financial Grace

        If this is a new process for your relationship, a new way of doing things financially.  Give yourselves grace to get through the transition. Old habits may die hard, but building new and healthy patterns into your relationship is definitely worth the initial investment!

        Do you want to know more about debt and how you can make smart financial decisions now that will help you secure a more prosperous financial future? Sign up for our newsletter for monthly money tips.

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          Budgeting, Money Management

          Money Saving – Top Ten Tips

          Setting a Spending Plan

          At the beginning of each year, many Americans include “get out of debt” on their list of New Year’s resolutions and then seem to live under the illusion that they will be able to wish this into reality since a spending plan is never created or written down. The most important part of taking control of your finances is starting somewhere and starting now.

          The only way you will get out of debt is if you stop unneeded spending and start allocating the money you are saving toward your debts.

          Money Saving Tips

            1. Stop eating out –  Even if you only eat out once a week, if you spend $25 each time you eat out, you’d be saving $100 per month—so there you go, that’s already $100 you are saving.
            2. Stop spending at Starbucks –  Let’s low ball this and say you spend $3 each weekday on coffee, meaning you spend $60 per month. Now you’re at $160 saved.
            3. Use coupons wherever you go – Coupons.com has a plethora of coupons that you can print out. No one wants to be dubbed coupon-crazed, but one or two dollars here and there will definitely add up. Just make sure you aren’t buying something just because you have a coupon for it (and you don’t need it).
            4. Cut out luxuries – If you’re serious about getting out of debt, you can find alternatives to these luxuries.
              • Ladies— getting your hair done; either go natural or do it yourself. Color out of a box will save you at the very least $50. This also goes for getting your nails done.
              • This one is for guys and girls—cancel your gym membership and go hiking instead. You’ll save $20-$30 per month and you’ll get some fresh air in the meantime.
              • If you can think of some other luxuries you can live without, like massages or having a monthly cleaner for your house, you’ll notice that you’ll save at least $100 on those alone.
              • Now for something a little harder to cope with for some—cable. Cancel cable and watch shows for free online at hulu.com. Most shows are available online and you can watch them at anytime. This will save you at least $30 per month.
            5. Downsize your living space. You won’t have to stay in this situation forever, but this could be an easy way to save a few hundred dollars a month.
            6. Downsize your car. Sell your car and buy a less expensive car if you would be able to make a significant amount on the sale. If your family has two cars, try downsizing to one and sell the other. It may not be very convenient, but if you are serious about getting out of debt as soon as possible, these are some options that could help you right now
            7. Sell some of your items on Amazon or eBay.
            8. Work overtime or ask for a raise (only if you deserve it). This also means it’s important to make yourself an asset at your company–do your job.
            9. Take side-jobs if you can. Learn a new skill or use a skill you already have to make some extra cash outside of your current job.
            10. Rent out an extra room in your house if you have one. Advertise this availability amongst your friends and family and post it at church. You’ll need to choose a renter wisely since they will be living under your roof.

          Have more tips to add? Share them in the comments below!

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            Budgeting, Christian Credit Counselors, Credit, Money Management

            Financial Literacy: Money Lessons

            Financial Literacy Month

            We are back! I hope you had a Happy Easter with family and friends. And even though April is coming to an end, it is still Financial Literacy Month. Gregory Karp of the Chicago Tribune has put together a money quiz to help contribute to your understanding of money topics. Here is a chance to test your knowledge and hopefully learn a thing or two that will ultimately help you with your finances.

              • Do your credit scores rise when you get a higher paying job?

            Simply put, no. Your income in not shown on your credit report, so that isn’t a factor when determining your credit score. Using credit, and using it well, is what really matters.

              • Is a household budget meant to restrict your spending?

            Restrict is the wrong word. Budgeting allows you to tell your money what to do instead of wondering where it disappeared to. If you keep track of your spending and budget wisely you can set aside money to spend on fun things. Indulging once in a while will keep you on track so you don’t feel so restricted.

              • Should I pay off highest interest-rate debt first?

            Mathematically, using extra money to pay off high-rate debt, such as credit cards, makes sense. But if you have many different debts, you might get a psychological boost by wiping out smaller debts first.

              • What is the only official site for getting your credit report?

            You can request a free credit report annually from the three main credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. For the most part, they have the same information, so you could request one every four months to keep track of your score throughout the year.

              • If a thief steals your credit card and charges $1,000, you’re responsible for how much?

            Federal law says you’re responsible for $50, but most major credit-card issuers absolve you of all liability if it’s a clear case of a stolen card or number.

              • What is likely to provide the highest returns over time: stocks, bonds or CDs?

            Most financial advisers suggest a mix of stocks and relatively safer bonds, with the mix getting more bond-heavy as you approach the time you’ll need the money. Stocks have provided the highest returns over long periods, especially if you’re talking about decades.

              • Which is more expensive for a family of four: food or financing a new car?

            Food costs more, unless you’re talking about an especially pricey car. The American family of four spends about $8,700 on food in a year, or $725 per month, according to the most recent government Consumer Expenditure Survey. That’s far more than most monthly car payments. People will research for months to get a good deal on a car, but many won’t look at a sales flier or clip a few coupons.

              • How large should your emergency fund be?

            Three to six months of bare-bones living expenses, most money experts advise. But with the current state of the economy, six months should be the minimum.

             

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              Credit Cards, Debit & Your Credit Score, Money Management

              Repairing your Credit – Five Trouble-free Guidelines

              Repairing Your Credit

              Repairing your credit is something we all have to do from time to time. It may appear like a hard task to do, but the fact is that it can be fairly easy when you follow these five simple guidelines to repairing your credit and getting back on track for a future with easy credit options.

              Pay your bills on time.

              A full 35 percent of your credit score is made up of your payment history, meaning it matters more than anything else. Hence, it is incredibly important that you pay back your bills on time and do not let them get late, or go to collections. One late bill can send your credit score spiraling down. This is why it is so important that if you are repairing your credit, to pay your bills. Even if it means minimum payments, you should pay your bills as soon as you can without letting them be late.

              Pay and Transfer

              Pay off your high interest credit cards and transfer balances to your low interest credit cards. Interest can sink you when you are trying to pay your credit cards, so transfer your high interest balances to low interest cards to save money. As well, if you have more than three credit cards, close out the high interest cards to get yourself down to two or three credit cards, no more.

              Credit Report

              Get a copy of your credit report. Understanding your credit report is key to fixing your credit. It will show you what to fix and what to not worry about. On top of that, it will help you see if you have any problems with errors on your credit report, something that affects 75 percent of all credit reports. Repairing a credit report error can drastically fix your credit, so make sure you get your credit report.

              Don’t spend.

              The smaller amount you spend on credit, the less you have to pay back and the easier it will be to start cutting down on your debt. You should try and limit all your everyday expenditured and create a budget so you can observe yourself and see accurately how much you need to allocate each month to pay off your debts in a year or so.

              Financial Accountability

              Talk to someone about your debt. A credit counseling company will take all your debts and put them into one loan that is easier for you to pay back. A credit counseling company will help you learn more about your credit and how to fix it. You won’t be so worried because you will have these companies on your side, helping you fix your credit. Just be careful of debt consolidation and debt counseling companies that are not legit and only want your money. Do your homework.

              These five tips can help you repair your credit and get yourself out of a debt spiral. Use these tips and before you know it, your credit will be back up above 650, and you will be living a much easier life again.

              Do you want to know more about debt and how you can make smart financial decisions now that will help you secure a more prosperous financial future? Sign up for our newsletter for monthly money tips.

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                Holiday Tips, Money Management, Saving

                Saving Money During the Holidays

                Holiday Money Saving Tips

                The holiday season is officially here! While money is tight for many of us this year, there are some ways to save a little bit of money.

                Reuse wrapping paper and gift bags

                Even though it’s too late now to go back and save the wrapping paper and gift bags from earlier in the year (although you can start saving this Christmas/Hannakuh for next year!), recycle the wrappings from any gifts you get between now and the holiday from work parties or friendly gift exchanges. Sometimes even the bag from the store in which you purchased the item can be fancied up with a little tissue paper and ribbon!

                Get creative with your wrapping paper

                When I was little, my mom would wrap presents in the comics from the newspaper. If you don’t get the newspaper, you can always use magazine pages, decorated paper bags, or by decorating computer paper or butcher paper if you have access to some.

                Give homemade gifts

                This is especially appropriate for co-workers and/or a boss. I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t enjoy getting some homemade baked goodies! Parents and grandparents also love homemade crafts from their children, especially if there is a picture of the child involved (such as a frame ornament made out of popsicle sticks) or the child’s handprint. For tons of great ideas for things that children can create, visit Amazing Moms.

                Christmas Postcards

                Postcards require less postage to mail, and spread holiday cheer just as well!

                Use a Smartphone App

                Check out apps such as ShopSavvy or Coupon Online Codes, both free. ShopSavvy allows you to scan the barcode of a particular item and then tell you where else it is being sold (including online) and how much it costs, saving you a considerable amount of driving all over town to compare prices. Coupon Online Codes allows you to search hundreds of retailers for coupon codes to use towards your online purchase.

                Give up Starbucks

                If you cut out your coffee, lunches, and dinners out for a month, the extra money can be put towards gifts at the end of the month. You can do it – it’s only a month!

                Split the Cost of Gifts

                For example, go in with your siblings to purchase something for your parents. Chances are that you can get a decent gift for less of a contribution than you would have shelled out on your own.

                Set a Dollar limit

                Talk with your family members/co-workers/friends ahead of time and agree on a set amount that you will spend on each other. This way, everyone knows what to expect and no one has to worry about “outspending” anyone else.

                 

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