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How to Get the Most Bang For Your Buck When Buying a Car

Need a new car? Car shopping can provide the perfect mix of excitement and stress. On one end, you’re getting a new car. On the other, you probably know it’s going to cost you a pretty penny. 

With the average cost of a new car being $37,000 and $15,000 to $20,000 for a used car, there is plenty of opportunities to save money on this large expense. In this guide, you’ll learn some basic car shopping tips along with how to save money and get more bang for your buck. 

Determine How Much You Can Afford

It’s best to determine a budget before you start looking for cars. Be honest about how much you can afford to spend or finance. If you can’t see yourself paying a car note for a $35,000 vehicle, don’t put yourself in that situation. 

Tap your savings and use other windfalls like work bonuses or a tax refund to add to your car budget. Look at your other current expenses and see how much you can afford if you’re going to finance along with how long your ideal term would be. 

For example, some car dealers can make the monthly payment seem smaller by stretching out the term for 5-7 years. Do you really want to be paying on your car that long?

Check Your Credit

If you’re going to be financing a car, check your credit early on to see where you stand. It doesn’t affect your credit when you check your score online and it usually won’t cost you anything. 

See if you can use a site like Credit Karma or Credit Sesame to check your credit for free. Realize that these sites provide a Vantage score which is different from the Fico score that most car dealers use. Just keep in mind that your score may show up higher on a site like Credit Sesame but it does give you a range to consider. 

You can also try to sign up for MyFico to check your actual Fico score or Discover Scorecard which is free to use. The better your score, the better rate you can get on a car loan.

RELATED: 5 Reasons Why Your Credit Score Can Decrease

Compare Your Shopping Options

There are so many places to consider when you’re looking to buy a car. There are car dealerships, private lots, and even rental car companies that sell cars like Enterprise. 

You can start by visiting a few websites or calling car lots to see what type of inventory they have. There Car dealerships do a good job of regularly updating their website. 

Schedule a day and time to come in and look at cars and do a few test drives. 

RELATED: 5 Things to Lookout For When Purchasing a New Car

New or Used?

A common question car buyers have is whether they should get a brand new vehicle or go the used route. This really depends on your budget and preferences. For most people, buying used will be the best decision because it saves you money. 

Used cars can be in great condition and some may even have low mileage. Buying used doesn’t have to mean your car was manufactured in 1992. You can still buy a fairly newer car that has all the features you like without the brand new price tag. You may even be able to get a warranty on the used car as well for a few years.

When considering a used car, make sure you ask to see all the details regarding the full history of the car like maintenance, repairs, accident history, etc. CarFax is a site that provides detailed reports on all used cars that you can access. If you’re purchasing a car from a private owner, you can always have a mechanic come with you to assess the vehicle. 

Remember, it’s important to do your due diligence in this area because if you catch potential issues early, you can save a ton of money.

RELATED: Buying a New Car? 5 Areas Your Mechanic Should Check Beforehand

Where To Finance

If you’re going to finance your car, you want to get the best rates and terms possible. Car dealerships tend to offer in-house financing but it’s not the best. It also takes a while as your salesperson may spend time shopping around with their dozens of lenders to find you an ideal interest rate. 

Other car lots may offer a ‘buy here pay here’ option where you don’t have to finance through another company. While this may sound convenient on the surface, you won’t have any other rates or offers to compare and the car lot may not have the most competitive offer. This means you could end up overpaying extra for financing. 

One of the better options to get affordable financing is to use your bank or credit union. Don’t forget, you can also get financing online from trusted lenders. 

See if you can get a loan with better terms and interest then pay the car owner or dealership with the cash. From there, all you’d need to do is pay the loan off with your 3rd party lender. 

Need a new car? Car shopping can provide the perfect mix of excitement and stress. Click To Tweet 

Saving More on Your Purchase

Buying a car can be expensive no matter how you dice it. However, there are quite a few things you can do to save while car shopping. 

Trade-in your current car. Some car lots and dealerships will pay you cash if you trade in your current car in exchange for the new one. Depending on the car you have and its condition, this could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Have excellent credit. There are so many benefits to having great credit. With a high credit score, you may even be able to get a 0% APR on your car loan for several months or years. 

Negotiate. Many people forget that they can negotiate the price of their new car. Dealerships may not be so willing to work with you, but if you’re buying from a smaller car lot or private owner, they may be more willing to negotiate on the price of the car.

Shop around for insurance. Auto insurance is a requirement. Still, that doesn’t mean you have to pay an arm and leg for it. Shop around and compare quotes to find the best option for your needs and preferences. 


How to Feed a Family of 5 For $350 Per Month

A new year often brings a lot of change, and my once family of 3 is now a family of 5. We have two boys staying with us for a while and even though we’re making adjustments as they get settled, I don’t imagine my food budget to increase by much.

In fact, I’m expecting to only spend around $350 per month for our new family size of 5. No, we will not be eating rice and brand or canned meat every night. Yes, we will be eating healthy, balanced, and filling meals. We may even dine out once or twice as well.

If you’re interested in learning how I plan to feed a family of 5 for $350 per month, keep reading.

Traditional Warm Breakfast Foods

All three of the kids love pancakes for breakfast and warm breakfast is more filling. Plus, cereal is full of a ton of added sugar and not as healthy as people think. We have a waffle maker too so plan to switch it up between the two. A box of pancake mix is around $2.59 at Target and it makes around 12 to 18 pancakes. We usually get around 20 medium-sized pancakes which is enough to feed the kids for the entire week. We may add a banana or mandarin orange to this breakfast but it’s easy to prep for the entire week.

I also like to prepare my own homemade pancake mix. I use a combination of flour, flaxseed, eggs, baking powder, cinnamon, and stevia or honey and the kids love these healthier pancakes as well. On weeks where I’ll switch it up, I may prepare scrambled eggs and brown rice – a simple breakfast but one of my favorite growing up. Sometimes we add turkey bacon or sausage as to the breakfast meal as well without stretching the budget.

Practical and Creative Lunches

It’s interesting that we all eat slightly different things for lunch but what works is the fact that we keep it practical but creative. Yes, sandwiches are fine but deli meat can get expensive. Since we’re all at home for now, sometimes we do soups, beef hot dogs for the kids, or I’ll meal prep something like chicken burrito bowls or turkey burgers.

We try to make lunches quick and easy and pair them with an in-season fruit or vegetable if possible.

RELATED: 5+ Best Meal Planning Ideas to Save More Money

Batch Cooking Homemade Meals

We live on leftovers in my home and I love batch cooking. Cooking takes time and I don’t always have that time every day so I like to use my Crockpot and pressure cooker to prepare homemade meals that will last us 2-3 days. I keep a Pinterest board of meal ideas so I usually recycle a few of our favorite meals with new ones from my board.

One meal that my family really likes is one that truly tastes like Thanksgiving. Basically, we take about a pound of ground turkey, cut up some onion, green apple, and celery, and simmer everything in some vegetable or chicken broth. When everything is almost cooked, I mix in some stove top stuffing and it literally tastes like a warm and hearty Thanksgiving dish.

 Here’s how to feed a family of 5 on just $350 a month. Click To Tweet

Get Snacks From Discount Grocery Stores

My favorite discount grocery store is Aldi and each year they step their game up in terms of the brands they sell and the foods they have. I can always find good deals on snacks at Aldi so I often take $30 and load up on everything from popcorn and granola bars to yogurt, apple sauce, pudding, and fruit snacks. The kids love snacking and I like to keep the snack cabinet and fruit bowl stocked.

Another cheap way that I stretch snacks is by baking a few sweets. Sometimes I’ll make blueberry muffins or a box cake and serves as a nice cheap dessert or snack.

RELATED: 7 Ways to Lower Your Grocery Bill

Other Ways to Feed a Family of 5 For $350 Per Month

Shop Twice a Month

I’ve been shopping twice a month for a few years now and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. By shopping less, you save more money and get to work with what you have. By naturally giving yourself fewer opportunities to go to the store, you won’t have to worry about going off your list as much.

RELATED: 6 Costly Grocery Shopping Habits

Learn to Meal Plan and Prep Well

Every two weeks, I sit down and plan out dinners for the next 14 days and some breakfast and lunch options for the family. I start by looking at what we already have in our cabinets, fridge, and freezer to use up. Then, I go from there. Meal planning is not as strenuous as you’d think once you get the hang of it. I figure if I can plan 4 batch meals, that gives me 8-9 dinners so I’m halfway there.

When I have time on Sunday, I may prep some meals or food items and this helps us avoid the impulse to order takeout during the week. Other times, I intentionally budget for restaurant meals and include them in our meal plan.

Build a Grocery List Based on What We Have

Never start a grocery list or go to the store without taking a full inventory of what you already have on hand. Even if it’s just frozen vegetables and some sauces, you can likely use these ingredients for an upcoming meal. There have been too many times when I bought food from the store and realized I already had it at home.


To feed a family of 5 for $350 per month requires a lot of planning and creativity, but it’s so worth it. I love how we can eat well and still keep our food budget under control. That way, we can spend money on other goals not have such a tight budget overall. It may take some time and tweaking, but you can also cut your family’s food budget without making too many big sacrifices are well.


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This post may contain affiliate links. Read my disclosure policy here.

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Living On One Income and Living Well

October 26, 2015 | Meg

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Living on One Income and Living Well

Jessica at Life As Mom has a great post up on living on one income and living well. Here’s a snippet:

Fifty years ago it was commonplace for just one parent (usually dad) to work. One income was sufficient to pay the family’s bill. Today, there might be a number of reasons why a family would be living on one income.

  1. Mom or Dad might be laid off from work or unable to find a job.
  2. Mom or Dad might need to leave the workplace for health reasons.
  3. Mom or Dad might decide to stay home to care for the children or an aging parent.
  4. One parent might be in school or other vocational training.
  5. There might only be one parent in the family. Single parenting is a tough job, not to mention it’s difficult economically.
  6. You don’t want to rely on two incomes in case of health or economy-related issues arise in the future.

While our family currently earns two incomes, we try as best we can to make it living on one income, mainly because of reason #6. If one of us became unable to work or the economy took a major dive (again), we’d like to be living under our means to be able to weather the storm.

I never expected that our family would be as hard pressed as we were in 2007. We’d been living beyond our means and got ourselves in a mess of trouble. Thanks be to God, we got out of debt.

Getting out of debt and living on one income have been some of the best things we’ve ever done.

Read the full post here.

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