Clark Howard for Mobile

Featured Story

4 Items To Always Buy Used

These used items can save you big money!


Buying second hand has become a first choice for saving money, either out of necessity for people or because they're thrifty. But second hand doesn't have to necessarily mean rummaging around a musty old thrift store.

Here are 4 items you can shop for used online from the comfort of your own home, so you can pop some virtual tags like Macklemore.

Gently used clothing

Men's dress clothes are a great buy at thrift shops. They're usually in fantastic shape because few men dress up for work anymore. Instead, today's standard office outfit usually includes khaki pants and a golf shirt.

The flipside of that is you probably won't find good men's casual clothing at a thrift shop because guys tend to wear their casual clothes until they're threadbare.

Women, however, usually cycle through clothes more quickly and you can find some good outfits used.

If you're looking for children's clothing, try ThredUp.com. You can buy everything from 12 months to size 20 at discounts up to 80% off retail—all without leaving your home to go to a thrift store!

You may also want to check out ShopGoodwill.com, which is like an eBay of sorts for Goodwills from across the country.

If you want the best deals, find a thrift store that sells by the pound. Typical prices might include clothes, shoes, and purses for $1.49 a pound and tools and toys for a $1.29 pound.

 

Pre-owned gift cards

I know it sounds weird to think of buying a "used" gift card; "pre-owned" is probably a better term. There's a whole resale market for cards that other people have gotten as gifts that they either can't or don't want to use.

Websites like CardPool.com, GiftCardGranny.com, GiftCardRescue.com, and JunkCard.com offer a way to unload those unloved gift cards for a small profit.

Each of these websites sells gift cards at up to 30% off their face value. The cards are typically guaranteed to work for up 180 days after purchase, though you should check the individual website's policy to confirm.

Still not convinced you should buy pre-owned gift cards? Maybe this will sway you: Crooks are hitting those multi-vendor display racks at retail stores and emptying brand new cards of their value before you purchase them!

Old MP3s

If you're into cheap, legitimate music buying, there's an opportunity to snap up pre-owned digital music for as little as 49 cents per track.

ReDigi.com allows you to either buy used MP3s or sell the ones you've got that you no longer want. Because this is all digital, there's no loss of sound quality like there might be with a used CD, tape, or vinyl record.

ReDigi was shut down in 2013 when a federal judge said it violated copyright under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. But now they're back, having filed a new patent for "copy-less" digital transactions.

Used cars

Finding the right price when you're buying a new car is pretty easy. But finding the right price for a used car? Not so much…until now.

CarGurus.com lets you put in your zip code and the make/model of the pre-owned vehicle you're interested in at their website. Then they'll comb through some 2 million listings available on published databases and rate the vehicles available for sale with notations of "great price," "good price," "fair price," and on down.

This gives you the ability to find a price that is a diamond in the rough and to weed out what would be lousy deals. Another way to find a deal is to use Carvana.com, which has a 7-day no questions asked return policy. It's kind of like the Carmax of the online used car buying world.

Just remember price is only a part of the whole equation. Clark has a list of 4 key things you need to do when you're buying a used car.

 

Bonus tip: Used furniture

My buddy @Joel Larsgaard of SaveOutsidetheBox.com has 3 tips to help you maximize your dollar when buying used furniture.

For further reading:   

13 Things I Learned About Money In My 20s

Next >


Like many people nearing the big 3-0, I’ve spent some time thinking (obsessing) about where I am in my life and what I want to accomplish going forward. Many of those thoughts have centered on my personal life, however I’ve also reflected on my financial life.

On my personal website, I document how I paid off my mortgage in 2 years at age 27. It’s something I’m very proud of, but I don’t think it would have been possible had I not laid the groundwork early on.

Here now are 13 things I discovered about money in my 20s

1. Education doesn't have to break the bank - I graduated from college without any student loan debt by attending a community college, followed by a state school. Total cost? $10,000. I have a bachelor's degree just like all of my friends, but thankfully I’m not still paying for it. Graduating with zero debt helped me jumpstart my savings as soon as I landed my first career job.

2. Credit cards aren't always a bad thing - I've had credit cards since I started working at age 16. It only took one late payment fee early on to set me straight. Since then, I've paid off my balance every month without a problem. I've also redeemed credit card rewards for thousands of dollars in cash, gift cards, and travel expenses. 
 
3. Life is easy without a mortgage - I paid off my mortgage in 2 years at age 27. It was only possible because I bought a home with an original monthly payment that looked more like a car payment! That meant sacrificing square footage in order to live the lifestyle I wanted to.

4. It doesn't matter what other people think - I spent the first few years of my 20s buying “stuff” to fit in with people who I thought were my friends. This is no way to live. Now, I don't worry about not having the latest car, clothing, or gadgets. True friends will like you for who you are.

5. Recognizing wants vs. needs - Before I go shopping, I ask myself whether the purchase is a want or a need. If it's a need, I buy it without hesitation. If it's a want, I ask myself if the purchase will make me happy before going any further.

6. Negotiating pays off - When I feel like I'm not getting a good deal on TV, phone or internet service, I pick up the phone and ask for a lower rate. I've learned that it's best to have a competing offer in hand to get the best value. Most importantly, I've always been willing to walk away if the negotiating isn’t working out.

7. Budgeting is beneficial - This is the most effective way to make sure I'm not spending more than I'm earning. I use Mint.com to track my expenses. It also sends alerts to my smartphone if I go over my budget. Knowledge is power.

8. Eating out is dangerous - Food and dining is the most difficult budget category for me to manage on a month-to-month basis. Eating out is definitely a luxury, though I’ve found a balance between cooking at home and going to restaurants. My general rule is that I will only eat out when there’s an opportunity to make memories with family and friends—no solo dining. (Editor's note: See 8 Ways To Save While Dining Out)

9. Comparison shopping is worth the effort - This is where watching The Price is Right has paid off. I've learned over the years what things should cost, so I never pay more than I have to at retail stores. When I'm not 100% sure of a price, I can usually find the answer with a quick Google search.

10. Start saving for retirement early - I graduated from college at age 19 and started working full-time a few months later. Unfortunately, I didn't start saving for retirement until I was 24. I used the excuse that I wasn't making enough money, however looking back I know that I could have found at least 5% to contribute to a 401(k).

11. Manage your career wisely - I've held several positions in the decade since graduating from college. I've always worked hard to master my job and the jobs of those around me, which has led to several promotions. As far as moving on, I usually look for new opportunities when I realize there’s no more room for growth.

12. Side hustles make a difference - I’ve managed to supplement my full-time salary by working overtime, waiting tables, and picking up odd jobs, like pet sitting. Working just a few extra hours per week has provided me with thousands of dollars per year to spend on travel and entertainment—guilt-free.

13. Leasing a car isn't usually a good idea - I've owned 4 cars since I started driving at age 16. That's more than I'd like to admit, especially since I don’t drive all that much. I've also had one lease. The dealer talked me into it because it had a complimentary service package. However, the problem with a lease is getting out of it. Once you've signed on the dotted line, you may be stuck. I will never do that again.

What lessons did you learn about money in your 20s? Share them in the comments section below.

About the author: Michael Timmermann paid off his mortgage in two years when he was 27. Now, he shares his money-saving tips on his blog, Save on Almost Everything.

How To Sell An Upside Down Car

< Prev Next >


If you have financed a vehicle, chances are that you are upside down. What does that mean? It means that you owe more on your car loan than the vehicle is actually worth.

This can be discouraging to think about, however, it is not the end of the world. It is possible to get rid of your upside down car, although it might take some work on your part.

5 steps to sell your upside down vehicle

1. Determine the value of your car

Go to Kelley Blue Book and search for the year, make, and model of your particular vehicle. Once you have done this, then select all of the options and add-ons that could increase your car’s value like power seats, sunroof, premium wheels, etc. After that, choose the “Sell to a Private Party” option because you will get more for the vehicle that way than if you traded it into a dealer. Lastly, you will pick the condition of your car.

Make sure that you read the description of each condition thoroughly as the majority of cars fall in the “good condition” category. Once you have done all of this, you will see an
estimated value of what your car is worth.

2. Verify that value

Although Kelley Blue Book is a reliable site, it is not always accurate. The true market value of your car could be different and the best way to find out if this is the case is to do your research. Go to Craigslist and search for the year, make and model of your car in your area. Look at least 3 of the listings and compare their mileage, features, and condition to your vehicle. This will give you a better idea of what you can actually get for your vehicle.

3. Figure out how much you are upside down

Call up the bank that holds the note on your car and ask them for the payoff amount. They will give you the exact amount that you owe so that you can determine how much you are upside down. For example, if they tell you the payoff amount is $15,000 and you have determined that the true market value of your car is $14,000, than you are upside down by $1,000.

4. Come up with the difference

There are many ways that you can come up with the difference. The first way is to sell stuff around your home that you don’t need. Some items that sell well are things like old cell phones, textbooks, designer clothes, and electronics. You might be surprised at how much stuff you really could sell to come up with the difference.

Another option is to borrow the money. This is not the most ideal option, however, it is better to owe $1,000 than $15,000, wouldn’t you agree? With services like peer-to-peer lending, it should not be too difficult to find the money you need by going this route.

You can also consider getting a second job for a short period of time. Consider a job like delivering pizzas or serving at a restaurant, as these kind of opportunities are generally part-time positions that are outside of normal business hours. This way you can still work your full-time job and the two won’t interfere.

5. Put your vehicle up for sale

Once you get to the point where you have a buyer, the process is fairly simple. The buyer will write a check to the bank that holds the note for the payoff amount and you will write a check for the difference. And there you have it. That is how you sell your upside down car and begin your journey toward being debt-free.

About the author: Check out more money related tips from Deacon on his blog WellKeptWallet.com or follow him on Twitter.

Will Applying For Multiple Credit Cards Hurt My Credit Score?

< Prev Next >


A couple of years ago, my wife and I earned well over a million miles just from sign-up bonuses, and there's nothing special about us. Trust me.

On my blog, Noobtraveler.com, I teach people how to travel with rewards miles and points. And a big part of collecting reward miles is by signing up for and using rewards credit cards.

You can earn mega bonuses just for signing up for these rewards credit cards and meeting their minimum spending requirements. And you can keep your credit score in great condition in the process.

See here how you can get started traveling with rewards

In the last few years, we have traveled to Thailand, London, Paris, Rome, the Greek Isles, the Caribbean, and many more destinations with the help of miles and points. But before you go all out, you should know what the implications will be on your credit score, and some tips to help protect it when you're applying for rewards cards.

Before we dive in, you should not apply for rewards credit cards if:

  • you can't manage your credit card spending
  • your credit score isn't in good condition
  • you will be taking out a mortgage or other loan in the near future

But, if you can manage your spending and multiple accounts, you can leverage your positive credit score for insane travel or cash back, all while keeping it in good condition.

For example, four months ago, I bought a house at the best possible interest rate. I had applied for 8 rewards credit cards in the 12 months leading up to it, but none in the 6 months prior to my loan application. My credit score always remained above 740, which is considered excellent and guarantees me the best interest rate for a loan. My recent credit card applications never even came up in the application process.

Tip: Even though I applied for credit cards just 6 months before I took out a loan, I always recommend holding off for at least 12 months before applying for a mortgage. You really can't be too careful.

 

What makes up your credit score

First, it's important that you know what makes up your credit score. Your FICO score is 35% payment history, 30% amounts owed, 15% length of credit history, 10% new credit, and 10% types of credit. Here's how you can get a free credit score today.

 

 

It's also important to know that there are 3 different credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and Transunion. So you essentially have three different credit scores, and not every bank and credit card company reports to every credit bureau.

Tip: To know which bureau your bank will pull, check out CreditBoards.com.

 

Initial impacts of applying for a credit card

When you apply for a new credit card, the bank backing that credit card will pull your score to see if you're creditworthy for the card. Most banks pull from one bureau, with some exceptions. Capital One pulls all three, which I highly dislike, because I want to keep my inquiries to a minimum.

This initial inquiry will result in a 2-5 point ding on your credit score. But over time, as you build positive payment history and age to your account, your score will recover and sometimes even improve.

Applying for a new credit card could impact your score if you don't have much credit history, but if you have a lengthy history of positive credit, there shouldn't be much effect on your score.

Tip: All American Express credit cards are backdated to your oldest card with them! That's great for your average age of accounts, which falls under your credit history.

I like to do all of my credit card applications on one day, every 95-120 days, for a few reasons:

  • Increases approvals, since sometimes the banks can't see the same day applications from another bank
  • Inquiries combine, so if you apply for two cards from the same bank on the same day, the two initial inquiries might be combined into one
  • Helps me stay organized, since all inquiries are on one day

After a round of applications, I will wait 95 to 120 days before I apply for more cards. Waiting at least 95 days helps me not be denied because of "too many recent inquiries." Nobody wants to waste an inquiry. Of course, I'm monitoring my credit and making sure it's in good condition before I leverage it for more rewards. I have never had it not be in good condition after 95 days from multiple applications, but I pay my bills in full, and have a positive credit history.

There's no doubt that business cards have played a big part in my accumulation of miles and points. And the great thing about business cards is that the only activity that will go on your credit report is the initial inquiry. All account opening, closing, and credit limit will be tied to the business. Of course, you will be personally responsible if you default, but you wouldn't do that!



http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid29023586001?bctid=1123749508001



Will canceling a credit card hurt my credit score?

One of the most asked questions I get is if canceling a credit card will hurt your credit score. First, let me say that you should never cancel your oldest credit card, unless it has an annual fee that you can't justify paying. Your 'length of credit history' is determined by your oldest account, your newest account, and the average age of all your accounts. As long as it isn't your oldest card, canceling a credit card should not have any effect on your average age of accounts, because a canceled card will actually stay on your credit report for 10 years.

One way canceling a card can have a negative impact on your credit score is by lowering your overall credit limit, thus increasing your credit utilization. You want to keep your credit utilization below around 30%. If possible, you could try to transfer over your current credit limit to another card from the same bank before canceling, so your credit utilization will remain the same. Having this credit limit can also be helpful for future applications with the same bank, if needed.

If you're considering canceling a credit card, make sure to review your other options first. My go-to alternative to canceling is asking the bank to downgrade the card to a no annual fee card, so I can keep it forever with no worries. Another option is to call and let them know you're going to have to cancel because of the fee. Sometimes the bank will offer you miles/points or waive the annual fee on the card for you to keep it. I love a retention bonus!

Tip: Never cancel a card right after receiving a sign-up bonus. This could get you black-listed by the banks. I always wait at least 11 months before evaluating if I'm using the card enough to justify the annual fee.

 

Closing thoughts

There is insane value in rewards credit cards, but this lifestyle is reserved for those with very good to excellent credit. Everyone's credit portfolio is different, so it's imperative that you're monitoring your credit on a monthly basis if you plan on applying for any rewards credit cards. If you are, it's definitely possible to accumulate a nice stash of miles and points and still keep your credit score in great condition. I'm living proof!

If your score is in good condition and you're looking for the right rewards credit cards for you, check out my top recommended cards, and remember to start at your own pace.

Why Malt O Meal Is Not Among The Cheapest Cereal Brands

< Prev Next >


When it comes to saving money, every penny counts. There are a plethora of different ways in which families can save money on their groceries, but sometimes the myths and assumptions about food pricing, especially when it comes to brand names and organics, can actually deter shoppers away from some of the biggest savings.

For example, one major myth found right in the breakfast aisle is that Malt-O-Meal cereals (you know, the ones that come in the large bags) are the most cost effective choice, as compared to the other boxed cereal brands.

Check out these 3 free apps to earn cash back on your groceries.

Truthfully, the MOM brand is actually one of the most expensive cereal brands on the market. With thoughtful planning and the convenient help of manufacturer’s coupons, shoppers can save an extensive amount of money on the most popular cereal brands like Kellogg’s and General Mills. In fact, the most savvy shoppers are usually able to snag this grocery item for just a few cents, if not, completely free.

Battle of the cereal brands: Malt O Meal vs. Cheerios

First, let’s take a look at the MOM options so there is a starting point from which to compare prices. For the sake of simplicity, Walmart advertises a variety of MOM cereals ranging in price from $4.98-$5.98. These bags also range in size from approximately 32-38 ounces. (Realistic price comparisons should always take into account the weight of the product being purchased!)

Obviously, store sales, regional prices, and manufacturer coupon availability will certainly influence the level of savings that one might experience; however, there are plenty of ways that shoppers all across the nation can snag name cereal brands for much less than the MOM brand.

Currently, Walmart also advertises their General Mill’s brand Cheerios Protein boxes (14.1 ounces) at $2.98. Using a $1 off manufacturer coupon for each box, which can be found on the General Mill’s website, shoppers can snag 2 boxes of this particular type of cereal, which provides more than 1 bag of MOM, for just $3.96.

Harris Teeter has an exclusive stock up and save price of 5 boxes for $9 on several types of Kellogg’s cereal. A typical Kellogg’s manufacturer coupon will usually be anywhere from 50 cents to $1 off. Hypothetically speaking, if a 50 cents off coupon for each box was used, one of those boxes would now cost $1.30. It would take 3 boxes to equal the same volume of the Malt-O-Meal brand, but the price of the Kellogg’s would still be $3.90.

Technically, Harris Teeter will double coupons with a face value up to $0.99 each day, so taking that into consideration, one box of cereal would now cost less than $1 a piece. Even without the stock up and save pricing of Harris Teeter, other grocery stores frequently feature a buy one get one free (BOGO) sale in which each item will ring up half price. With a coupon for each of those items, the savings can be phenomenal.

See 6 Things To Do With Your Milk Before It Expires

But wait, there’s more. Several grocery stores occasionally feature super double and triple coupon savings which allow shoppers to save even more money. With these limited coupon events paired with sale pricing, even the name brands that are traditionally assumed to be more expensive than others can be purchased for dirt cheap—if not completely free.

The Malt-O-Meal brand has a reputation for value because they save money on skimpy packaging and stuff is always cheaper in bulk…right? Yet as I've shown, it doesn’t always come at the most affordable price. In fact, it’s not always best to assume that name brand items cannot be purchased for less!

About the author: Melissa King, a Savings.com DealPro, lives in Savannah, GA. She enjoys "Paying It Forward"  in her community. Check her out on her blog at ThisMommySavesMoney.com.

7 Habits Of Financially Successful People

< Prev


Want to be financially successful?

Join the club!

You’ll need a lot of drive, knowledge, and dedication to manage your money well enough to develop financial security and independence, but the good news is that it’s completely possible  -- even if you weren’t born with a silver spoon in hand. (Editor's note: Read Clark talking about his "silver spoon plan" upbringing!)

The ever-popular personal finance book, The Millionaire Next Door, pointed out that most wealthy individuals in the United States are self-made. This means they earned their million dollars -- and you can, too.

It helps to start by understanding what makes financially successful people stand apart from those who have trouble managing their money. What do they do differently? How do they act with or think about money when they’re growing the value of their nest eggs?

While you’re busy building your own wealth, think about these 7 habits of financially successful people. And then consider how you can develop them for yourself.

They have a good relationship with money

"It will never rain roses: when we want to have more roses, we must plant more roses." – George Eliot

People who are financially successful are actively involved with their money and they understand what their assets are doing. They have budgets, they track spending, they ensure they regularly contribute to investments, and they plan ahead to avoid financial pitfalls. If a financially successful person runs into a roadblock, they work to solve the problem rather than ignoring it or blaming it on something else.

This is difficult to do if you have a bad attitude or relationship with finances. You can’t ignore your financial problems and hope they’ll go away on their own, or blame money for problems in other areas of your life. Work to erase your negative or inaccurate money scripts so you too can develop a good relationship with money. Keep a positive attitude and take personal responsibility for your financial situation (even if you’ve been dealt a tough hand).

They live frugally

"Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like" – Will Rogers

Looking rich and having wealth are two very different things.

Financially successful people don’t care about impressing other people with the stuff they own. They live well below their means so that they can invest their money and increase their wealth.

When money is invested, it can compound and continue to earn more money. Big houses, fancy cars, expensive clothing and jewelry, and the latest and greatest things and toys only eat away at your assets. They don’t provide anything in return for the money you had to exchange to acquire them -- not even lasting happiness.

They understand what their values are

"You will recognize your own path when you come upon it, because you will suddenly have all the energy and imagination you will ever need." – Jerry Gillies

That’s not to say financially successful people are cheap. They make sure to live beneath their means and save more than they spend -- but they still spend money. But it’s the way they spend it that makes all the difference.

They understand what matters to them. They’ve taken the time to discover their own values, dreams, and goals, and they use their money wisely. Every purchase is aligned with what they feel is important in life.c

Instead of worrying about what anyone else says you should spend money on, take the time to reflect on what you care about and keep your money habits tuned into these values. Don’t be pressured into spending that doesn’t further you on the path to your dreams and financial goals.

They look for positives (and learn from failure)

"When things go wrong, don't go with them." – Elvis Presley

Did you know negative thinking makes it more difficult to find creative solutions to the problems you may be facing? When you dwell on negative emotions, it causes you to narrow your focus and makes it difficult for you to see the big picture. Positive thinking, on the other hand, can make you more productive, motivated, and able to take on challenges because you’re not blinded by your own negativity.

Financially successful people tend to think positive, and they surround themselves with other positive people. They don’t dwell on what went wrong; instead they use failure or mistakes as a learning opportunity so they can do better next time.

They create their own opportunities

"If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door." – Milton Berle

Those who are financially successful don’t sit around and wait for good things to fall out of the sky. They don’t rely on luck or someone else to help them. They help themselves.

For you, this may mean making your own opportunities by earning more. You can negotiate for a raise, look for a new job, pick up part-time work, freelance or do consulting on the side, try a new career, or even start your own business.

This certainly takes hard work. But the end result is worth it. Take the initiative and then take charge of your own success.

They set goals

"If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else." – Yogi Berra

To be financially successful, you have to know where you’re going. That’s why people set goals and make plans for turning their dreams into realities. They develop an action plan. If you want to be financially successful, you need to sit down and come up with your personal set of goals. Without something to work for, you’ll find it difficult to take action and move in the right direction.

Ensure your goals are realistic and break big ones down into manageable pieces that you can work on in stages. Celebrate small victories and keep track of your progress.

They ask questions

"True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing." - Socrates

Asking questions and constantly growing their knowledge base is one of the most important habits of financially successful people.

If they don’t know something, they ask. If someone tells them, “this is the one right way to accomplish X, Y, and Z,” they go find a second (and third, and fourth) opinion so they can make an informed decision. If they come upon a problem, they research solutions to solve it.

In other words, they constantly seek to become more financially literate. And you should, too.

The world of personal finance is filled with methods, systems, ideas, and strategies for getting things done. We all share a common goal of building wealth and doing more with our money, but there are so many paths to getting there. Learning what others say, think, and do can help you in your own journey.

Don’t let a lack of financial education stop you from trying to develop better money management habits or from building wealth. Even the most financially successful people among us started somewhere. There are countless resources available to you -- and plenty of people who can help -- but you must ask questions to get started.

Kali Hawlk is a freelance writer and content manager currently working on building her business and becoming a full-time solopreneur. She's passionate about personal finance, careers and business, and all things Gen Y--and she writes about it all on her blog, Common Sense Millennial. An avid runner, she enjoys getting outside as often as possible when she's not immersed in blogging and helping other small businesses build and manage their online presence. Connect with her on Twitter @KaliHawlk.

< Older