The Home 

Right now is the best time of the year to buy a home … No really, real estate data says it’s today

If you’re in the market to purchase a home, mark October on your calendar as the best month to buy.

That’s when you’ll get the biggest discount, according to a new study from RealtyTrac, a company that tracks real estate data and trends.

RealtyTrac analyzed more than 32 million single-family home and condo sales across the nation dating back to 2000. The average sales price in October over that 15-year period was 2.6% below the average estimated full market value at the time of sale – better than any other month.

On a $200,000 home, that’s more than a $5,000 discount — more money toward your down payment and more equity in your home.

When you buy, as this report demonstrates, can play a major role in how much home you can afford.

“The start of the school year and the holidays influence our buyer decisions and serve as a strategic indicator of the most advantageous times for buyers to land their lowest-priced deal,” Mark Hughes, chief operating officer with First Team Real Estate, told RealtyTrac.
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 Culture Cents 

Should you tip your Uber driver?

Should you tip your Uber driver? It’s a big debate lately. And if you’re confused about it, you’re not alone.

But here’s the fact. With Uber, tipping isn’t required. Uber says so.

“There is no need to tip. Once you arrive at your destination, your fare is automatically charged to your credit card on file, making for a cashless and seamless experience,” Uber recently told MarketWatch.

What does everyone else think?

To find out I also asked family, friends, co-workers — even a few Uber drivers — and the general consensus is, no, you don’t need to tip your Uber driver, but you probably should in a few fairly rare circumstances (more on that later).

For those who aren’t familiar with Uber, or don’t have it in their city, Uber is a ridesharing app that’s taking over urban transportation.

You download the Uber app on your smart phone, request a car at your pickup location, and within minutes you’re on your way to your destination. Approved Uber drivers use their own cars to drive passengers around town – it’s peer-to-peer ridesharing at its best.
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 Bank Deals 

Whether you’re a novice saver or seasoned investor, here’s how to earn fall’s best possible returns on CDs

Ever since the Federal Reserve lowered interest rates in 2008 to lessen the blow of the Great Recession, it’s been hard to earn much on your savings.

Although the Fed is teetering on the edge of finally raising rates, that first increase won’t come until late October or December and future hikes will be rolled out slowly over the next several years.

So where should you put your hard-earned cash in the meantime?

With the typical savings account paying a pathetic 0.10% APY, it’s definitely worth your time to find higher-paying options, such as certificates of deposit.

Nationally available CDs are paying as much as 2.45% APY this fall, while credit unions and community banks are offering local deals that pay nearly 3% APY.

You can also find a number of special types of CDs, such as those that help you get started with a small investments or those that allow you to earn a higher return if rates go up while you own the CD.

Let’s begin with the banks offering the best nationally available deals on three of the most popular CD terms: 1 year, 2 years and 5 years.
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 The Home 

I’m into serial refinancing … You should be, too

My husband and I bought our house in 2008, and we’ve refinanced the mortgage three times since then.

Sounds crazy, right? Who would want to go through the cost and hassle of taking out four home loans in just seven years?

We would, and you should consider it, too.

Refinancing doesn’t take much of your time and it can save you a couple of years’ worth of income. You could take that huge savings and retire earlier or put the money toward other major goals.

There’s no reason not to refinance repeatedly as long as you calculate the break-even period and it shows that you’ll likely come out ahead each time.

I say “likely” because it’s never a sure thing.

Your job could get transferred the day after you refinance, and you could end up selling your home unexpectedly.

That’s life, as my dad would say. The best you can do is make an educated guess about how long you’ll keep the new loan.

We were able to go from a 30-year, fixed-rate FHA loan at 6% to a 30-year, fixed-rate FHA loan at 4.5%, then to a 15-year, fixed-rate conventional loan at 3.375% and finally to a 15-year, fixed-rate conventional loan at 2.875%.
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No car … No problem

Life without wheels is good and I’ve saved a fortune

A little over a year ago, I ditched my car.

It’s a decision I’ve never regretted, and that’s saved us thousands of dollars.


Mitch Strohm biking across the Cumberland River from downtown Nashville

You’ll probably be surprised to find that my wife and I don’t live in a pedestrian friendly big city crisscrossed by bus and train lines, such as New York or Chicago.

Our home is a medium sized southern city where the nearest subway station is 400 miles away — Nashville, Tennessee.

Yet I’ve found that it’s not a difficult place to live without a car or truck.

While only 7.7% of households are carless, according to an analysis of Census Bureau data by, Nashville averages 1.6 vehicles per household, below the national average of 1.8.

Indeed, my wife and I aren’t getting by without any vehicle. She still has her car.

But its main purpose is transportation to her workplace, which is outside of the city limits. It’s old, has over 210,000 miles on it, gives us very few problems and it’s paid off. In other words, it’s very cheap to own at this point.

We had no choice but to say goodbye to my 2004 Saturn Vue when it was totaled in an accident. (Fortunately, no one was hurt.)

Our options were either to buy a used car or to pocket the cash we received from the insurance settlement and do without.
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Everyone wants my money! Here’s how to say ‘No’ and still be a charitable and generous person

School and church fundraisers. Donation requests at every grocery store checkout line. Facebook and Twitter friends asking for support for their fundraising efforts. Tip jars at deli counters. Girl Scout cookie drives.

The pleas for my money never seem to end. And because it’s $1 here, $10 there, I’m a sucker for helping out.

I used to give to everything until I realized it was bleeding me dry.
Alright, maybe I’m exaggerating just a tad, but there have been weeks where it seems anything extra that

I could be putting in my savings account or throwing toward a debt that needs to be paid ends up going toward a charitable endeavor.

Yes, these are good causes and all, but just as in other areas of spending, I’ve had to make up a few rules for myself.

That way, I can still fit goodwill into my budget, but also learn how to say no without feeling guilty when I reach my limit.

I just say ‘no’ at the checkout counter.

Whether it’s the grocery store, a department store, or the dollar store, every clerk during just about every transaction asks if I want to donate to a children’s hospital, cancer research, Autism awareness… the list goes on and on.
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 This is why you're broke 

9 dumb moves to financial failure

At Bargaineering we usually talk about ways to save money, imparting practical advice on the best ways to get the most bang for your buck.

But it’s summer, and things are a little goofy, so today we’re going to suggest a few ways to wreck your finances and stop building wealth.

So here’s nine dumb things to do with your money. Fair warning: I have my sassy pants on, and I’m not afraid to show it.

Dumb Move 1. Buy or lease a luxury car. Investing $600 or $700 a month in a Mercedes, BMW or Land Rover is totally worth the admiring – even jealous – looks from your friends and family. You might not be rich, but all of the dudes and chicks in the Taco Bell drive thru will think you are.

Dumb Move 2. Pay for everything with credit cards. It’ so easy to whip out the plastic or wave your smart phone in front of a terminal. You might lose track of how much you’re spending but when you want something, when you need something, you’re never out of cash, and never leave a store disappointed.

Dumb Move 3. Chasing fashion trends You can’t expect to land the best dates, or invites to the hippest parties, if it doesn’t look like People Style Watch threw up on you. Yeah, today’s trends are so short-lived that they’re on way out before the credit card bill arrives. But you’ve got to wear something, even if the major purveyors of “fast fashion” are bad for the planet. (That John Oliver is such a know-it-all..)
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Non-stop price hikes make Disney vacays a stretch

Taking a family vacation to a Disney theme park was once an affordable escape. Sadly, that’s not the case anymore.

The price of admittance into the Magic Kingdom has jumped up to $105 per person ($99 for kids ages 3 to 9) — a far cry from the $3.50 it cost to get in when Walt Disney World opened in Orlando in 1971.

And it could get more costly, effectively locking out middle-class vacationers.

In a story that certainly got me thinking about my experiences at Disney theme parks, the Washington Post reported:

“For America’s middle-income vacationers, the Mickey Mouse club, long promoted as ‘made for you and me,’ seems increasingly made for someone else. But far from easing back, the theme-park giant’s prices are expected to climb even more through a surge-pricing system that could value a summer’s day of rides and lines at $125.”

Now let’s be clear. Disney says it’s just studying surge pricing and has not decided to adopt the plan to charge more on its busiest days.

But it certainly hasn’t been shy about boosting ticket prices, having done so 41 times of over the last 40 or so years.
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