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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 Personal Finance 

6 simple ways to save more and worry less

If you had to rely on your savings to live, do you know how long it would last?

Forty-seven percent of Americans said their savings would last three months or less if they went through a financial crisis, according to a recent survey by NeighborWorks America.

Whether your stash is large, small, or somewhere in between, putting away a little – or a lot – more doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, following a few steps can make a large impact, especially over time.

The following strategies can help you boost the amount you’re putting away, and build momentum into your savings plan.

Have goals for your savings.

The idea of saving more may sound appealing, but without direction, following through is usually an uphill climb. “It’s incredibly hard to get anywhere without a destination,” explains Kevin Gallegos, vice president of Phoenix operations for Freedom Financial Network.

Sit down with your family and talk about what you want to accomplish, both in the coming months and also in the years ahead. Together, create a list of what you want to save more for, such as a plush emergency fund, an upcoming two-week vacation, college, another vehicle, a new deck, or retirement.
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My plan to enjoy summer without overspending

Overspending on vacations. Day trips that wind up more pricey than planned. Keeping the kids entertained on a boring day. Summer can get very expensive, very quickly!

This year I’m determined to keep a lid on those costs. I’ve come up with a plan to have lots of carefree summertime fun without dipping into savings or running up a credit card.

Here’s what I’m going to do.

Avoid food fights

When I think about past summers where the $20 bills seemed to disappear from my wallet every time we left the house, it usually had to do with certain someone’s (a.k.a. my two growing boys) getting hungry or thirsty just as we’d come upon a hot dog cart or pass a Dunkin’ Donuts. And like the cool mom I am, a good percentage of the time I’d give in to their pleas.

    2015 plan: This time around, no more Mrs. Nice Mom. Well, I’ll still be nice, but I’m going to make sure that the boys eat and drink up before we head out, and I’m going to stash a go bag with icy bottled water (our own reusable bottles, that is) and healthy snacks from the house. Better for everyone’s nutrition, and my pocketbook. That’s not to say we’ll never enjoy a treat out, but it won’t be a daily occurrence.

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 Bank Deals 

Here’s where to stash your cash while waiting for the Fed to finally raise interest rates, probably this fall

It has to happen sooner or later.

After months of dithering, it appears the Federal Reserve will actually start to push interest rates higher, ending years of record low returns on bank accounts.

While it could start as soon as July, the Fed seems more likely to initiate this epic change in policy in September or October.

That means you need a suitable place to park your cash until then. It’s especially important if you have a certificate of deposit that matures this summer. Immediately rolling it over into another CD probably isn’t your wisest choice.

Instead, it’s time to take a look at savings and money market accounts. Many of the best paying banks have nudged up rates in recent weeks, and are paying similar rates to what you can earn with a CD.

The best nationally available 12-month CD, from CIT Bank pays 1.25% APY, which is pretty much what you can make with a top-paying savings account.

You certainly don’t want to tie your money up in 2- or 3-year CDs that pay what, a quarter point more?

If interest rates start to take off this fall, you won’t want to be stuck on the sidelines, waiting for your CDs to mature. You’ll want all the cash you can muster, ready and waiting to pounce.

Here’s where to find the best-paying savings accounts that are open to investors across the county:
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Summer music festivals on the cheap…Or what passes for cheap in these days of inflated prices

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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