Mitch Strohm's Articles

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

by Mitch Strohm on October 08, 2015

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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Should you tip your Uber driver?

by Mitch Strohm on October 05, 2015

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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No car … No problem

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

by Mitch Strohm on August 31, 2015

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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Non-stop price hikes make Disney vacays a stretch

by Mitch Strohm on July 30, 2015

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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Summer music festivals on the cheap…Or what passes for cheap in these days of inflated prices

by Mitch Strohm on June 18, 2015

When it comes to attending a music festival, cheap simply isn’t on the table anymore. These days it’s a matter of limiting cost.

This April, for example, a three-day general admission pass to the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival pass cost $375.

Anyone who wanted a few perks had to pay $899 for a VIP pass and remember, that only covered one of the festival’s two weekends. You’d have to spend twice that if you wanted to take in the entire spectacle in Indigo, California.

Beyond the tickets, here’s a breakdown of some other common expenses at Coachella, according to CNN Money:

  • $400 for round trip airline tickets.
  • $80 to get from the airport to the festival.
  • $60 to ride the festival shuttle around for the weekend.
  • $85 to camp out over the weekend and $500 per night to stay in a hotel.
  • $50 to $225 per meal.

If you go with the hotel option, you could easily spend around $2,500 at Coachella for one three-night weekend, not including meals.

Go with the camping option and you’ll spend somewhere around $1,000 without meals, $2,000 if you go both weekends.

That’s a lot of cash to spend, especially for concert goers such as myself. And we are, after all, the ones who spend our summers traveling around to these raucous celebrations.
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Americans are spending how much on weddings?! Here’s how we had a blast on a budget on our big day

by Mitch Strohm on May 07, 2015

Planning on getting hitched soon? Start saving.

Mitch Strohm and Mandy Boyd on their wedding day

The average cost of a wedding is now a hefty $31,213 (honeymoon not included), according to the 2014 Real Wedding Study from

That’s up from $29,858 in 2013.

As a guy — and finance writer — who just got married last year, I find that number pretty outrageous. That’s a down payment on a home.

Thanks to our frugality, and the incredibly hard work of our friends and family, we didn’t even spend a fourth of that on our big day and an entire weekend getaway for our guest list (more on that later).

The study from The Knot surveyed nearly 16,000 brides and grooms married in 2014 to figure out the financial spending habits and trends of couples in America. It includes both national and regional stats on the average costs of tying the knot.

The venue was the priciest part of couples’ budget last year, hitting an average of $14,006. Next was the engagement ring at an average of $5,855 and then the wedding band for music at $3,587.

Couples are also spending more on each guest – an average of $68 last year, up from $66 in 2013, according to the study.

Here’s the wedding budget breakdown from The Knot:
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When you want to travel determines when you’ll find the cheapest airline tickets

by Mitch Strohm on April 06, 2015

If you’re shopping for a great deal on a plane ticket, the best time to book depends on when you’ll be traveling.

During off-peak season, on average, you’ll get the best prices on domestic fares 47 days before takeoff, according to a recent report from

For summer travel – June to August – 76 days out is the average target for the cheapest airline tickets.

And if you’re traveling during holiday seasons, the earlier the better. Booked 320 days in advance, air fares for peak-season travel were just $8 more than their lowest price point.

In order to get those averages, the online airfare shopping engine tracked nearly 1.5 billion trips in 15,000 markets and recorded the lowest fare for each trip every day from 320 days in advance up until one day before departure.

Of course, those averages are just a guide. For individual trips, it really depends on your destination, the time of year, and the days you’re traveling, notes CheapAir.
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The secrets to saving $1 million in your 401(k)

by Mitch Strohm on March 30, 2015

If you’re striving to save for retirement take some cues from the 401(k) millionaires over at Fidelity Investments.

According to recent Fidelity data, 72,379 of its 13 million 401(k) accounts now have balances of over $1 million.

That’s more than twice as many as in 2012.

And while the average annual compensation for these individuals was $359,000, between 1,000 and 1,200 of them made under $150,000.

How’d they save $1 million or more?

These individuals average 60 years old and had been with the same company for somewhere around 30 years. So stability at work is key.

But it’s not just one thing that these individuals did. It’s a lot of different things.
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