Amy Fontinelle's Articles

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Replacing your HVAC system can be expensive … here’s how to get the best value

by Amy Fontinelle on August 01, 2016

HVAC system

With summer in full swing, it might be time to starting thinking about upgrading your home’s heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) system.

“Many homeowners don’t think about their HVAC system until it breaks,” says Dave Moody, vice president of marketing for Service Experts Heating and Air Conditioning, one of North America’s largest HVAC contractors.

“You don’t want to be forced to make decisions on purchasing a new system on the coldest or hottest day of the year. Ideally, consumers would approach this like any major purchase, such as a car,” adds Moody.

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WalletHub review: Free credit scoring and monitoring

by Amy Fontinelle on July 27, 2016

Wallethub review

With credit such an important part of our lives, it’s frustrating not to know where you stand.

Is your credit good enough to get approved for the loan you want? Has someone stolen your identity after your personal information was compromised in a major data breach?

WalletHub’s completely free credit scoring and credit monitoring service can help answer these questions.

But is it worth your time? Use this WalletHub review to guide your decision.

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I’ve got to stop watching HGTV … It creates unrealistic expectations that make me hate my home

by Amy Fontinelle on December 14, 2015

Want to enjoy your home more? Stop watching HGTV

I’ve been an HGTV addict for years. From House Hunters to Property Virgins and Rehab Addict to Property Brothers, I couldn’t get enough.

For the last few months, though, episodes of what used to be my favorite shows have been piling up on my DVR. When I try to watch an episode, I find myself shutting it off after a few minutes.

What’s happened?

I’ve realized that the shows I thought were light, easy-to-digest morsels that don’t cause me any stress — in contrast to the shows my husband enjoys, like Walking Dead and American Horror Story — are actually making me unhappy.

Every time I see a beautifully designed renovation on Property Brothers, I get depressed that my home doesn’t look like that and probably never will.

When I watch buyers tour turn-of-the-century craftsman homes with exquisite woodwork and coffered ceilings, my mass-produced box home seems so boring.

What’s more, these buyers are usually in their late 20s to early 30s, and they’re already getting their dream homes.
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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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