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I take it back … Car dealers aren’t totally worthless

by Amy Fontinelle on October 22, 2015

“I refuse to go to a car dealership for any reason. I don’t shop for cars there and I don’t get maintenance or repairs done there. They have a reputation for charging much more than smaller auto shops.”

Or at least that’s what I thought last June when I wrote a Bargaineering post called Skip the pricey car dealership … I fixed a keyless remote myself and so can you.

I’ve changed my tune since then.

It started when I had to take my Honda to the dealership for an airbag recall.

While the car was there, they fixed the stuck sliding panel in my car’s front-seat storage compartment.

I’d tried everything to fix it myself, from coat hangers to screwdrivers to DIY videos.

The dealership fixed it at no charge.

Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised.

I wasn’t even paying them for other work.

Maybe they wanted to do something nice since it was an inconvenience to bring my car in for the recall service. Maybe they hoped to earn my future business.
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I’m into serial refinancing … You should be, too

by Amy Fontinelle on September 10, 2015

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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Skip the pricey car dealership … I fixed a keyless remote myself and so can you

by Amy Fontinelle on June 08, 2015

I refuse to go to a car dealership for any reason.

I don’t shop for cars there and I don’t get maintenance or repairs done there. They have a reputation for charging much more than smaller auto shops.

So when my car’s keyless entry remote stopped working, I wasn’t about to head to the dealership to get it repaired.

I tried the obvious fix, first: replacing the battery.

I watched a YouTube video to see how to take the remote apart without damaging it. I got out a tiny screwdriver, removed the screw from the key’s plastic backing, popped open the remote case, and checked the number on the lithium ion battery.

A few days later, I had a package of five new batteries from an Amazon seller for less than $3. But switching out the battery didn’t solve the problem.

Maybe I had a bum package of batteries. I didn’t have any other devices I could test them on, so I ordered a different brand of the same battery from a different seller.

No dice.

I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I then pushed the problem aside for about two years and relied on my manual key to unlock my car door.
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Why I don’t bother with manufactured spending…Gaming credit card reward programs just isn’t worth it

by Amy Fontinelle on December 15, 2014

Do you envy colleagues and friends who vacation for free thanks to all of the credit card reward points and cash rebates they’ve earned from work-related travel?

Travel that doesn’t cost them a dime?

Well, the proponents of “manufactured spending” would have you believe that you can enjoy similar rewards even if you spend eight hours in the same cubicle every day.

These enthusiastic credit card bloggers have developed all sorts of schemes to rack up tens of thousands of points and hundreds of dollars in cash rebates with their credit cards without actually spending any money.

Or, to be more precise, without spending very much money.

Now that I’ve done all the research on manufactured spending, I don’t think it’s worth the time and trouble for most people — including me.

But I know it’s the latest money-for-nothing fad out there in the blogosphere, so I’ll walk you through how it works and show you why I’m not going to game my credit cards like this.
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A YouTube video taught me how to fix my oven, saving $1,000 in repair bills and boosting my confidence

by Amy Fontinelle on October 13, 2014

My old oven

When my oven went out a few months ago, I put off dealing with the problem.

The appliance looks about 30 years old, so I assumed it was beyond repair and that replacement parts wouldn’t be available.

Because it’s a wall oven, not a freestanding range, my research revealed that it would cost at least $1,000 to replace it with a bottom-of-the-line model.

How depressing.

I only use my oven about once a week, so the payback period seemed too long. There are other things I’d rather spend $1,000 on.

I made do by learning how to cook the things I used to make in my oven on the stove, in the toaster oven or on the grill. I even found recipes for baking bread in a crock pot.

I decided that when my husband and I finally undertook the kitchen remodel we’ve been coveting since we moved in, we would get a new freestanding range and solve the problem.

But that’s about five years off.

Then I decided to research my oven’s symptoms online.

I found information on common oven problems at I knew from having my father-in-law and the gas company examine my oven that even though the electric starter was glowing, it was probably too old to create enough heat to ignite the gas burner.
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How to get the most from your auto insurance claim

by Amy Fontinelle on August 25, 2014

Being involved in a car accident is scary and stressful. So is dealing with the aftermath.

It’s in the insurance company’s best interest to minimize your claim, but you’ll be able to secure a fair settlement with these four tips.

Don’t admit fault

You typically must file a police report after a car accident. There are situations when you aren’t required to, but to be on the safe side, file a report.

Describe to the police as accurately as possible what you believe happened, but don’t admit fault or say anything to the police, the other driver or any witnesses that might incriminate you.

Gather evidence that might help you later. Photograph the accident scene, capturing the location, license plates and damage. Collect contact information from any witnesses, passengers and other drivers.

At this stage, only discuss the accident with the police to minimize your chances of being misheard or misunderstood.
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Whether you’re a novice saver or seasoned investor here’s how to make up to 3% on CDs this summer

by Amy Fontinelle on June 16, 2014

Interest rates are at record lows, but you’ve got to put your money somewhere.

With most savings accounts paying a pathetic 0.10% APY CDs remain a better paying alternative.

Believe it or not, you can earn as much as 3% on some local deals and up to 2.30% on nationally available certificates of deposit.

There are also some special types of CDs that help savers get started, provide the flexibility to make additional deposits or even benefit from a higher rate during the term of the investment.

Let’s start with where to find the best nationally available deals on three of the most popular terms – 5 years, 2 years and 1 year.
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