The Best Car Insurance Companies of 2021

To help you understand what makes a top-rated car insurance company, it’s important to first find out how much coverage you need. This guide will help you understand what makes a top-rated car insurance company, how much coverage you need and ways to save money when getting a car insurance quote. Don’t worry; our top […]

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New PUA Rules: Don’t Miss These Unemployment Deadlines

The second stimulus package is tightening the rules for millions of gig workers, independent contractors and self-employed workers receiving unemployment aid.

On Dec. 27, the $900 billion stimulus package extended Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a critical benefits program for folks who don’t typically qualify for regular unemployment aid. The deal lengthened PUA benefits for at least 11 weeks, but it also created new filing rules that affect current recipients and new applicants alike.

Chief among the new rules: You will need to submit income documentation to your state’s unemployment agency if you are a gig worker or self-employed worker — or risk losing future benefits and having to return any benefits collected after Dec. 27.

“I think they are a real pain,” said Michele Evermore, an unemployment policy analyst for the National Employment Law Project, regarding the new PUA filing rules. “Not just for recipients, but for state agencies to collect. Every burden we add to state agencies slows benefit processing for everyone.”

The new requirements are intended to combat fraud. According to the Department of Labor, more than 7.4 million people are relying on PUA and are subject to the changes.

New Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Rules and Deadlines

The new deadlines established by the second stimulus package are different for current PUA recipients and new applicants.

As a current PUA recipient, you have until March 27 to submit income-related documents to prove your PUA eligibility. If you apply for PUA before Jan. 31, you also have until March 27.

If you apply for PUA Jan. 31 or later, you will have 21 days from the date of your application to submit income-related documents.

Need to apply? Our 50-state Pandemic Unemployment Assistance filing guide includes an interactive map and the latest information from the second stimulus deal.

The Department of Labor requires each state to notify you of your state-specific rules. Your state may have different deadlines. In that case, refer to your state’s instructions. The DOL is also leaving it to each state to determine exactly what documents are required to prove your eligibility.

Here are some examples of documents your state may ask you to file:

  • Tax forms such as 1099s and W-2s.
  • Ledgers, recent pay stubs and earnings statements from gig apps.
  • Recent bank statements showing direct deposits.

If you’re self-employed, you may be required to submit:

  • Federal or state income tax documents.
  • A business license.
  • A 1040 tax form along with a Schedule C, F, SE or K.
  • Additional records that prove you’re self employed, such as utility bills, rental agreements or checks.

If you’re qualifying for PUA because you were about to start a job but the offer was rescinded due to COVID-19 related reasons, you may be asked to submit an offer letter, details about the employer and other information related to the job to verify your claim.

Another new rule is that you will have to self-certify that you meet one or more of the following PUA eligibility requirements on a weekly basis:

  • You have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have symptoms and are seeking diagnosis.
  • A member of your household has COVID-19.
  • You are taking care of someone with COVID-19.
  • You are caring for a child or other household member who can’t attend school or work because it is closed due to the pandemic.
  • You are quarantined by order of a doctor or health official.
  • You were scheduled to start employment and don’t have a job or can’t reach your workplace as a result of the pandemic.
  • You have become the breadwinner for a household because the head of household died due to COVID-19.
  • You had to quit your job as a direct result of COVID-19.
  • Your workplace is closed as a direct result of COVID-19.

Self-certification means that you swear the reason(s) you are on PUA is or are true at the risk of perjury. Previously, PUA applicants had to self-certify only once at the time of their initial application.

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Evermore says that since current PUA recipients weren’t asked to submit all this information when they were first approved, they might no longer have access to the requested documents.

“People who were told they don’t need documentation may have lost it, and this will create panic resulting in more stress on people who have already had an unimaginably bad year,” she said.

The good news, Evermore says, is that states have leniency to waive some of these requirements if you can demonstrate “good cause” for not being able to submit the requested documents. What’s considered “good cause” is also determined on a state-by-state basis.

“People who got approved for benefits in the past won’t necessarily get cut off from benefits simply because they are unable to produce the requested documentation,” Evermore said. “Just follow all of the agency’s instructions carefully.”

Adam Hardy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He covers the gig economy, remote work and other unique ways to make money. Read his ​latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

10 Risky Investments That Could Make You Lose Everything

If the stock market crashed again, would you respond by investing more? Is day trading your sport of choice? Do you smirk at the idea of keeping money in a savings account instead of investing it?

If you answered yes to these questions, you’re probably an investor with a high risk tolerance.

Hold up, Evel Knievel.

It’s fine to embrace a “no-risk, no-reward” philosophy. But some investments are so high-risk that they aren’t worth the rewards.

10 Risky Investments That Could Lead to Huge Losses

We’re not saying no one should ever consider investing in any of the following. But even if you’re a personal finance daredevil, these investments should give you serious pause.

Sure, if things go well, you’d make money — lots of it. But if things go south, the potential losses are huge. In some cases, you could lose your entire investment.

1. Penny Stocks

There’s usually a good reason penny stocks are so cheap. Often they have zero history of earning a profit. Or they’ve run into trouble and have been delisted by a major stock exchange.

Penny stocks usually trade infrequently, meaning you could have trouble selling your shares if you want to get out. And because the issuing company is small, a single piece of good or bad news can make or break it.

Fraud is also rampant in the penny stock world. One common tactic is the “pump and dump.” Scammers create false hype, often using investing websites and newsletters, to pump up the price. Then they dump their shares on unknowing investors.

2. IPOs

You and I probably aren’t rich or connected enough to invest in an IPO, or initial public offering, at its actual offering price. That’s usually reserved for company insiders and investors with deep pockets.

Instead, we’re more likely to be swayed by the hype that a popular company gets when it goes public and the shares start trading on the stock market. Then, we’re at risk of paying overinflated prices because we think we’re buying the next Amazon.

But don’t assume that a company is profitable just because its CEO is ringing the opening bell on Wall Street. Many companies that go public have yet to make money.

The average first-day returns of a newly public company have consistently been between 10% to 20% since the 1990s, according to a 2019 report by investment firm UBS. But after five years, about 60% of IPOs had negative total returns.

3. Bitcoin

Proponents of bitcoin believe the cryptocurrency will eventually become a widespread way to pay for things. But its usage now as an actual way to pay for things remains extremely limited.

For now, bitcoin remains a speculative investment. People invest in it primarily because they think other investors will continue to drive up the price, not because they see value in it.

All that speculation creates wild price fluctuations. In December 2017, bitcoin peaked at nearly $20,000 per coin, then plummeted in 2018 to well below $4,000. That volatility makes bitcoin useless as a currency, as Bankrate’s James Royal writes.

Unless you can afford to part ways with a huge percentage of your investment, bitcoin is best avoided.

4. Anything You Buy on Margin

Margining gives you more money to invest, which sounds like a win. You borrow money from your broker using the stocks you own as collateral. Of course, you have to pay your broker back, plus interest.

If it goes well, you amplify your returns. But when margining goes badly, it can end really, really badly.

Suppose you buy $5,000 of stock and it drops 50%. Normally, you’d lose $2,500.

But if you’d put down $2,500 of your own money to buy the stock and used margin for the other 50%? You’d be left with $0 because you’d have to use the remaining $2,500 to pay back your broker.

That 50% drop has wiped out 100% of your investment — and that’s before we account for interest.

5. Leveraged ETFs

Buying a leveraged ETF is like margaining on steroids.

Like regular exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, leveraged ETFs give you a bundle of investments designed to mirror a stock index. But leveraged ETFs seek to earn two or three times the benchmark index by using a bunch of complicated financing maneuvers that give you greater exposure.

Essentially, a leveraged ETF that aims for twice the benchmark index’s returns (known as a 2x leveraged ETF) is letting you invest $2 for every $1 you’ve actually invested.

We won’t bore you with the nitty-gritty, but the risk here is similar to buying stocks on margin: It can lead to big profits but it can also magnify your losses.

But here’s what’s especially tricky about leveraged ETFs: They’re required to rebalance every day to reflect the makeup of the underlying index. That means you can’t sit back and enjoy the long-haul growth. Every day, you’re essentially investing in a different product.

For this reason, leveraged ETFs are only appropriate for day traders — specifically, day traders with very deep pockets who can stomach huge losses.

6. Collectibles

A lot of people collect cars, stamps, art, even Pokemon cards as a hobby. But some collectors hope their hobby will turn into a profitable investment.

It’s OK to spend a reasonable amount of money curating that collection if you enjoy it. But if your plans are contingent on selling the collection for a profit someday, you’re taking a big risk.

Collectibles are illiquid assets. That’s a jargony way of saying they’re often hard to sell.

If you need to cash out, you may not be able to find a buyer. Or you may need to sell at a steep discount. It’s also hard to figure out the actual value of collectibles. After all, there’s no New York Stock Exchange for Pokemon cards. And if you do sell, you’ll pay 28% tax on the gains. Stocks held long-term, on the other hand, are taxed at 15% for most middle-income earners.

Plus, there’s also the risk of losing your entire investment if your collection is physically destroyed.

7. Junk Bonds

If you have a low credit score, you’ll pay a high interest rate when you borrow money because banks think there’s a good chance you won’t pay them back. With corporations, it works the same way.

Companies issue bonds when they need to take on debt. The higher their risk of defaulting, the more interest they pay to those who invest in bonds. Junk bonds are the riskiest of bonds.

If you own bonds in a company that ends up declaring bankruptcy, you could lose your entire investment. Secured creditors — the ones whose claim is backed by actual property, like a bank that holds a mortgage — get paid back 100% in bankruptcy court before bondholders get anything.

8. Shares of a Bankrupt Company

Bondholders may be left empty-handed when a corporation declares bankruptcy. But guess who’s dead last in terms of priority for who gets paid? Common shareholders.

Secured creditors, bondholders and owners of preferred stock (it’s kind of like a stock/bond hybrid) all get paid in full before shareholders get a dime.

Typically when a company files for bankruptcy, its stock prices crash. Yet recently, eager investors have flocked in to buy those ultracheap shares and temporarily driven up the prices. (Ahem, ahem: Hertz.)

That post-bankruptcy filing surge is usually a temporary case of FOMO. Remember: The likelihood that those shares will eventually be worth $0 is high.

You may be planning on turning a quick profit during the run-up, but the spike in share prices is usually short-lived. If you don’t get the timing exactly right here, you could lose big when the uptick reverses.

9. Gold and Silver

If you’re worried about the stock market or high inflation, you may be tempted to invest in gold or silver.

Both precious metals are often thought of as hedges against a bear market because they’ve held their value throughout history. Plus in uncertain times, many investors seek out tangible assets, i.e., stuff you can touch.

Having a small amount invested in gold and silver can help you diversify your portfolio. But anything above 5% to 10% is risky.

Both gold and silver are highly volatile. Gold is much rarer, so discovery of a new source can bring down its price. Silver is even more volatile than gold because the value of its supply is much smaller. That means small price changes have a bigger impact. Both metals tend to underperform the S&P 500 in the long term.

The riskiest way to invest in gold and silver is by buying the physical metals because they’re difficult to store and sell. A less risky way to invest is by purchasing a gold or silver ETF that contains a variety of assets, such as mining company stocks and physical metals.

10. Options Trading

Options give you the right to buy or sell a stock at a certain price before a certain date. The right to buy is a call. You buy a call when you think a stock price will rise. The right to sell is a put. You buy a put when you think a stock price will drop.

What makes options trading unique is that there’s one clear winner and one clear loser. With most investments, you can sell for a profit to an investor who also goes on to sell at a profit. Hypothetically, this can continue forever.

But suppose you buy a call or a put. If your bet was correct, you exercise the option. You get to buy a winning stock at a bargain price, or you get to offload a tanking stock at a premium price. If you lose, you’re out the entire amount you paid for the option.

Options trading gets even riskier, though, when you’re the one selling the call or put. When you win, you pocket the entire amount you were paid.

But if you end up on the losing side: You could have to pay that high price for the stock that just crashed or sell a soaring stock at a deep discount.

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What Are the Signs That an Investment Is Too Risky?

The 10 things we just described certainly aren’t the only risky investments out there. So let’s review some common themes. Consider any of these traits a red flag when you’re making an investment decision.

  • They’re confusing. Are you perplexed by bitcoin and options trading? So is pretty much everyone else.If you don’t understand how something works, it’s a sign you shouldn’t invest in it.
  • They’re volatile. Dramatic price swings may be exciting compared with the tried-and-true approach of investing across the stock market. But investing is downright dangerous when everything hinges on getting the timing just right.
  • The price is way too low. Just because an investment is cheap doesn’t mean it’s a good value.
  • The price is way too high. Before you invest in the latest hype, ask yourself if the investment actually delivers value. Or are the high prices based on speculation?

The bottom line: If you can afford to put a small amount of money in high-risk investments just for the thrill of it, fine — as long as you can deal with losing it all.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder. She writes the Dear Penny personal finance advice column. Send your tricky money questions to DearPenny@thepennyhoarder.com.

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

4 Major Trends Every Gig Worker Should Expect in the 2021 Economy

As a staff writer, I cover trends in side gigs, app-based work and odd jobs, collectively referred to as “the gig economy.” These trends are volatile during a good year, and 2020 was anything but a good year. Last year, I wrote a similar article about what to watch in the gig economy in 2020. […]

This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

These Free TV Apps Will Let You Cut Cable but Keep Content

Try these free TV apps out and see which works best for you.
Owned by Amazon, IMDb TV (formerly Freedive) features a host of full episodes of your favorite current and classic TV shows as well as an array of movies.
While there are ways to download YouTube content for offline viewing, proceed with caution: Many of these sites and apps are full of malware.
The kids (or kids at heart) can check out Nickelodeon classics like “The Fairly Odd Parents” and “Dora the Explorer.”
Since the service is ad-supported, you can expect to watch a couple minutes of ads every 10 minutes or so. The experience is pretty similar to watching normal television.

12 Free TV Apps That Will Help You Cut Cable

NBCUniversal launched this streaming service, which includes over 7,500 hours of free content, in July 2020.
Chris Brantner is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder. Senior writer Nicole Dow contributed to this article.

1. Crackle

And you aren’t confined to squinting at your phone’s screen or gathering the family around the old iPad to watch your favorite TV series and movies — you can download apps to your Smart TV or even your Xbox or PlayStation consoles.
If you’re a fan of shows like “The Office,” “Law and Order: SVU,” or “Saturday Night Live,” you can watch them on this streaming service.

2. Tubi TV

The library is solid and has started offering popular Fox TV series like “The Masked Singer” and “Gordon Ramsay’s 24 Hours to Hell and Back.”
Whether you want it now or later, Xumo offers live TV and on-demand options.
The catalogue includes some binge-worthy sci-fi hits like “Lost” and “Fringe.”
You’re there anyway — why not get paid to play video games? Here are four simple ways to start earning real cash for virtual play.

3. Pluto TV

Almost all of the networks and cable TV channels have their own free apps for you to download — although many charge you to actually watch current content.

Users can then select which news segments they want to watch from categories like sports, weather or entertainment. NewsON is compatible with iOS and Android phones and tablets, as well as Roku and Amazon Fire TV.
Luckily, there are more options than ever for replacing your traditional cable setup. Many free streaming services have stepped up to offer access to content overlooked by subscription-based services.
The Crunchyroll app is supported by Apple, Android and Windows mobile devices, as well as by gaming consoles, Chromecast, Apple TV and Roku.

Pro Tip
You can even tap the “Live TV” button to watch what’s currently airing on your local PBS station.

Customers can stream Peacock on a variety of platforms, including LG Smart TVs, Vizio SmartCast TVs, Roku, Google and Apple devices and Playstation and Xbox consoles.
Both live TV and on-demand news broadcasts can be streamed from over 275 local news affiliates in 160 markets. The broadcasts are available for up to 48 hours after they air, so even if you don’t catch the news as it happens, you can catch up later.
Xumo is available on most smart TVs and Roku and for download on iOS and Android devices.

4. NewsON

Crunchyroll is a great app for anyone with an interest in anime. Of course, when it comes to anime content, you have to be watchful with your younger children, as a lot of it is geared toward teens (and sometimes even adults).
Twitch hosts user-created channels and streams focused on video games and other esports. It features a built-in chat feature, so users can chat with other streamers in real time.
Got a library card? You have access to even more entertainment options (besides the obvious, books). Check out these library apps for free access to movies, TV shows and more.

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5. Funny Or Die

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Pro Tip
Content on the app must be streamed and cannot be downloaded.

Tubi TV’s library is updated regularly, and the service claims to add new content every week. The Tubi TV app works on more than 25 devices, including Android and iOS, Roku, Apple TV, Xbox, Samsung Smart TVs and Amazon Fire TV.

6. PBS Kids

Yes, YouTube. YouTube apps are compatible with just about every device that has a screen, and the service features videos to choose from on nearly any topic imaginable.
Streaming video isn’t always just about entertainment. The NewsON app provides hundreds of local and national news streams.

Pro Tip
There is a paid premium feature, but the free Crunchyroll service has thousands of hours of popular series like the “Dragon Ball” franchise, “Attack on Titan,” “Naruto” and “One Piece.”

For a free streaming service, Crackle’s library is truly impressive. Crackle even has a handful of original series to its name. Best of all, Crackle works on nearly all mobile devices, streaming boxes and smart TVs.

7. Xumo

In 2018, the Funny Or Die began publishing on Vox Media’s Chorus and now uses the YouTube Player.
While there are thousands of free streams, Twitch also features premium features for a monthly subscription. Twitch apps are compatible with PCs, iOS and Android devices, game consoles, Chromecast and Fire TV.
Or if you just want to veg out, switch over to their Binge menu for a seemingly endless stream of TV series, like “The Hills” and “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”
But it also includes more than 160 free channels, including themed ones in case you’re in the mood for action movies or comedies — you can watch the Funny Or Die channel here, too.

Pro Tip
Sure, there are the usual big names in streaming services available for a monthly fee, but it’s possible to kick subscription fees entirely.

8. Crunchyroll

Like Pluto, you can choose from an assortment of major network news channels that are live streaming.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.
A division of FOX Entertainment, Tubi TV has deals with major studios like Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and Lionsgate. It also features lots of foreign and independent productions.
Most of those videos are not exactly premium content, but there are still plenty of full-length films, documentary series and curated channels that provide cost-free entertainment for the whole family.

9. Twitch

One of the go-to names not just in free streaming but in streaming video in general is Crackle. The cost-free service has a variety of content, ranging from classic TV shows like “Bewitched” and “Barney Miller,” as well as the newer “Snatch” series. It also has hundreds of films from major studios.
Many of the free TV apps offer “premium” channels — if you see that word, expect to pay for those services.

Pro Tip
While Twitch is popular with children, parents should beware: Twitch streams are somewhat unregulated and can sometimes contain adult language or content.

The free version of IMDbTV is ad-supported, so you’ll have to sit through a few commercial breaks.
Videos from many of PBS’s most popular series are available for streaming including “Curious George,” “Wild Kratts” and “Sesame Street.” The PBS Kids app is supported for Android, Windows and iOS phones and tablets.

10. IMDb TV

Pluto TV offers TV channels of linear content much like a cable package
Like Tubi TV, Pluto TV has advertisements similar to the ad load of normal TV.
As cable subscription prices rise higher and higher and customer satisfaction ratings dive lower and lower, cutting the cable has never been more popular.
With so many free streaming options out there, it’s easier than ever to cut the cord and save big. Whether you’re looking to keep up with the news, find a good movie for date night or entertain your kids with educational content, a streaming service exists to ensure you can do so without paying a dime.

11. YouTube

For anyone with even a passing interest in gaming and esports, Twitch is the go-to free streaming service.
The go-to streaming app for comedy programming is Funny or Die. Founded in 2007 by contemporary comedy giants Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, it has since grown to be a full-blown production house featuring original content from big names in show business.
Although Peacock offers paid premium options, the free version includes current and classic TV shows, movies, news, sports, kids’ shows, Spanish-language programs and even select episodes of Peacock originals.

12. Peacock

Kids need free streaming content, too. PBS has a PBS Kids Video app that provides hundreds of hours of educational and enriching content for the youngest members of the family. The app has a colorful, child-friendly interface, which makes it easy for kids to take control themselves.
Pluto TV boasts a large list of supported devices including iOS and Android devices, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Apple TVand Chromecast devices and Android TV.
It is available in the United States on the IMDb app, the IMDb website, the Amazon Prime Video app and Amazon Fire TV devices.
Of course, there are some rather shady options out there that stream pirated content. But we’ve rounded up free, legal streaming apps that provide no-strings-attached cable-cutting solutions.

Get camera-ready: From masterclasses to gear, The Penny Hoarder Shop has all things photography.

There are dozens of classic TV, movie and sports channels — and even some highly curated streams of niche content.
If you’re looking for breaking news, you can choose from an assortment of major network news channels that are live streaming.
Anime and manga fans are likely already familiar with Crunchyroll. It specializes in mostly Japanese content, but it also features films and series from all over the world. Crunchyroll boasts a library of thousands of anime films and series, many of which are hard to find on other streaming services.

How Much Should I Spend on a Car?

How Much Should I Spend on a Car?

The sad thing about cars is that like boats and diamond rings, they’re depreciating assets. As soon as you drive yours off the lot, it immediately begins losing value. Some people are lucky enough to live somewhere with a reliable public transportation system. And others can bike to work. If you don’t fall into either of those categories, however, a car isn’t something you can put off buying.

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If you’re preparing to purchase a new or used vehicle, you might be wondering, how much should I spend on a car? We’ll answer that question and reveal ways to make sure you’re not overpaying when you buy your vehicle.

The True Cost of Buying a Car

Next to buying a house, buying a car is likely one of the biggest purchases you’ll make in your lifetime. And if you want a quality vehicle that isn’t going to break down, you’re probably going to have to pay a pretty penny for a new ride. The average cost of a brand new car was about $33,543 in 2015, compared to $18,800 for a used one.

When you buy a car, of course, you’re paying for more than just the vehicle itself. Besides the fee you’ll pay for completing a car sales contract (known as a documentation fee), you might have to pay sales tax. Then there are license and registration fees, which vary by state. In Georgia, for example, you’ll pay a $20 registration fee every year versus the $101 that drivers pay annually in Illinois.

The amount you pay up front for a car can rise by 10% or more when you add taxes and fees into the equation. And if you need a car loan, you might have to put 10% down to get a used car and 20% down to get a new vehicle. If you decide to roll the sales tax and fees into the loan, you’ll cough up even more money over time because interest will accrue.

Once the car is in your possession, you’ll have to pay for insurance, car payments, parking fees, gasoline and whatever other costs come up. In a 2015 study, AAA found that a standard sedan cost Americans $8,698 annually, on average. As convenient as having your own car might be, it’ll be a huge investment.

Related Article: The True Cost of Cheaper Gas

How Much Should I Pay?

How Much Should I Spend on a Car?

The exact amount that you should spend on a car might change depending on who you ask. Some experts recommend that car-buyers follow the 36% rule associated with the debt-to-income ratio (DTI). Your DTI represents the percentage of your monthly gross income that’s used to pay off debts. According to the 36% rule, it isn’t wise to spend more than 36% of your income on loan payments, including car payments.

Another rule of thumb says that drivers should spend no more than 15% of their monthly take-home pay on car expenses. So under that guideline, if your net pay is $3,500 a month, it’s best to avoid spending more than $525 on car costs.

That 15% cap, however, only applies to consumers who aren’t paying off any loans besides a mortgage. Since most Americans have some other form of debt – whether it’s credit card debt or student loans that they need to pay off – that rule isn’t so useful. As a result, other financial advisors suggest that car buyers refrain from purchasing vehicles that cost more than half of their annual salaries. That means that if you’re making $50,000 a year, it isn’t a good idea to buy a car that costs more than $25,000.

How to Buy a Car Without Busting Your Budget

If you’re trying to figure out how to make your first car purchase happen, know that you can do it even if your finances are currently in disarray. If you look at a website like Kelley Blue Book before visiting a dealership, you’ll have a better idea of what different makes and models cost. From there, you can set a goal and work towards reaching it by saving more and keeping your excess spending to a minimum.

Once you find a car you like (and that you can afford), you can save money by challenging or cutting out certain fees. For example, you can lower or bypass dealer fees for shipping and anti-theft systems. If you’re planning on getting an extended warranty, you can shop around and see if there’s another company offering a better deal on it than your car manufacturer.

Meeting with more than one dealer and comparing offers can also improve your chances of being able to find a vehicle within your price range. So can timing your purchase so that you’re buying a car when a salesperson is more open to negotiating, like near the end of a sales quarter.

Try out our budget calculator.

If you need financing, it’s important to make sure you’re not getting saddled with a car loan that’ll take a decade to pay off. Long-term car loans are becoming more common. In 2015, the average new car loan had a term of 67 months versus the 62 months needed to cover the average used car loan.

The longer your loan term, however, the more interest you’ll pay. And the harder it’ll be to trade in your car in the future, especially if the amount of the loan surpasses the car’s value. That’s why some experts suggest that buyers get loans that they can pay off in four years or less.

The Takeaway

How Much Should I Spend on a Car?

How much should you spend on a car? Only you can decide that after reviewing your budget and figuring out if you can pay for the various expenses that go along with owning a car.

Keep in mind that getting a new or used car will likely involve taking on more debt. If you can’t make at least minimum payments on the debt you already have, it might be a good idea to get a part-time job or concentrate on saving so you won’t have to take out a huge loan.

Update: Have more financial questions? SmartAsset can help. So many people reached out to us looking for tax and long-term financial planning help, we started our own matching service to help you find a financial advisor. The SmartAdvisor matching tool can help you find a person to work with to meet your needs. First you’ll answer a series of questions about your situation and goals. Then the program will narrow down your options from thousands of advisors to three fiduciaries who suit your needs. You can then read their profiles to learn more about them, interview them on the phone or in person and choose who to work with in the future. This allows you to find a good fit while the program does much of the hard work for you.

Photo credit: Â©iStock.com/Eva Katalin Kondoros, ©iStock.com/michaeljung, ©iStock.com/Antonio_Diaz

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Parking Options When Your Community Doesn’t Have a Parking Lot

Parking is an amenity that some people don’t even think about when looking to rent an apartment. But if you want the convenience of a covered garage or a guaranteed spot for your vehicle, it has to be part of your must-haves.

When a space is not included, then it becomes a much bigger deal. Do you live in an apartment complex that doesn’t have a parking lot? No worries, we’ve got a few options for you to consider.

1. Street parking

street parking

Depending on where you live, street parking may be an available option at no cost to you. While it may be free, it’s often on a first-come, first-serve basis. This means you’ll have to try your luck and find an open parking spot.

Know ahead of time that some street parking will cost you. Think metered spaces or a permit for a block or specific neighborhood. More often than not, time restrictions on parking will be part of the deal.

Keep an eye out for signs posted with instructions. Pay attention to avoid getting a ticket, having your car booted or towed.

2. Garage or lot parking

garage parking

If your complex or apartment building doesn’t have its own garage, then paid parking in a nearby garage is an option. Or, a parking lot within walking distance of your home. Parking lots are most common near shops, bars and restaurants, according to the Parking Network.

There are parking lots that are open throughout the year, but some are also improvised. Think of when you’ve gone to an event. Where do people park for a music festival that only happens once a year? There might be an open nearby meadow for parking, for example.

Paid parking lots and garages sometimes include a parking attendant. Gated entries require a ticket to enter and leave, or a machine to pay the parking fee. For this type of parking, you’re usually charged for the amount of time that you park. If your car is there for more than a few hours, you may incur a flat fee for daily parking.

When parking in an area that requires you to take a ticket, be sure to hold onto the ticket to leave. If you lose the ticket, you may pay a flat fee, which could be more than the cost of the time you actually parked in the space.

It’s a good idea to shop around for the best rate since costs vary from garage to lot. While comparing rates, look at whether it is cheaper to pay for daily vs. hourly parking.

3. Parking apps

parking app

Source: Parknay

Parking apps are one answer, especially in a lot of urban locales. Searching for and paying for parking has become easier because of parking apps. Some apps even let you make a reservation and will provide instructions on how to redeem parking at the garage.

Parknav is an app that offers real-time predictive street parking in more than 200 cities. Search the app for an address. Parknav displays a map with nearby streets. These streets are color-coded according to the likelihood of finding parking there.

That’s only one app out of many that help you find parking. Some apps are city-specific and there are even a few that help you save money. A quick search on your phone’s app store will give you a list of useful parking apps.

4. Ditch the car for public transportation

public transportation

Although it may not be ideal for everyone, public transportation is an option. Do you live in a transit-rich city? If you live in an area that’s easily accessible by mass transit or has everything you need within a short distance, you can always sell your car and use the bus, subway, train, bike or walk.

This option may save you money and will remove the stress of having to find parking. There’s a huge variation among different cities in the price of parking.

Park wisely

Parking is a problem when you live in an apartment without dedicated spaces. It’s also an issue when you’re a two-car family and you’ve only got one reserved space. Street parking could be lacking where you live. Especially in urban areas.

Some cities want to require the unbundling of parking space rentals from housing lease agreements, reports the Seattle Transit blog, which could lead to lower rents! Whatever the case, try to avoid parking in areas that are not well lit at night, block driveways or are in prohibited areas.

If you find that parking is important to you, keep this in mind for future apartment searches. But even if your apartment complex doesn’t have a parking lot, don’t stress. Just look around and know that you have options.

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