Wealth Habits: Six Ordinary Steps to Achieve Extraordinary Financial Freedom

Title: Wealth Habits: Six Ordinary Steps to Achieve Extraordinary Financial Freedom

Author: Candy Valentino

Hardcover: 256 pages

Publisher: Wiley

Publishing date: Nov. 15, 2022

Who is this book for? 

  • Anyone lacking connections and/or an education who’s wanting to build wealth.
  • Seasoned entrepreneurs, young adults and everyone in between who is looking for financial guidance. 

What’s inside this book?

  • Candy’s own story of how she opened her first store at age 19 (without the benefit of a college education) and built it into a 7-figure business before most of her friends had even completed college.
  • The six key habits to building wealth:
  1. Long-term investing strategies
  2. How to recession-proof your life
  3. Ways to keep money out of the IRS’ hands
  4. What to teach your children about money
  5. How to establish financial protection and security
  6. The secrets to keep more of the money you make (so you can invest more of it)

4 questions this book will answer for you:  

  • Can I get ahead in life without having a formal education?
  • What are the key habits needed for building wealth?
  • Is it too late to turn my money story around?
  • How can I overcome obstacles to my financial freedom?

What people are saying about this book: 

“I love the way Candy thinks. She shows you how to collapse time in a way the most successful people I know have done: breaking wealth down to the simplest form of the game to create success. This book should be required reading for every high school student, aspiring entrepreneur, or anyone who wants to turn the tables on their current financial situation.” – Rick Steele

“People that build wealth do things differently. Not only does Candy understand this from her own experience, but she does a masterful job of giving the reader actionable steps to immediately put them on the path to financial freedom and generational wealth. She has cracked the code, and if you’re looking to change your financial reality, this book is for you.” – Todd Davis

“Candy Valentino is the real deal! She’s overcome massive obstacles and built practical systems to help anyone achieve massive wealth. I highly recommend this book!” – Rory Vaden

“Candy Valentino is an Entrepreneur’s Entrepreneur! By researching and interviewing the various stages of wealth creation from industry leaders, Candy has really done a masterful job of simplifying the complex. This book is a must read!” – Tom Hatten 

Your Turn: What did you think of Wealth Habits? Share your opinion in the comments.

How to Budget in Times of Inflation

With inflation at record highs, many Americans are finding it difficult to stick to a budget. After all, when groceries have leapt in price and household staples can be double, or even triple, what they cost just a year ago, how can the same amount of money get you through the month?

Sticking to a budget during times of high inflation is challenging – but not impossible. Here are five ways to budget while in times of inflation.

  1. Plan your grocery purchases

Groceries can take a huge bite out of a monthly budget. Fortunately, there are ways to trim your grocery bill, even when prices are soaring.

First, shop your pantry and fridge before hitting the store. You may not remember exactly what you have at home, and doing a quick scan of your food items can help you stick to purchasing only what you need. 

Next, plan your week’s dinner menu before shopping so you can pick up exactly what you need for the week in just one go. The fewer trips you make to the grocery, the less you’ll spend on impulse buys. Also, when you have the ingredients you need and plans in place for dinner each night of the week, you’ll be less likely to make a last-minute decision to indulge in takeout or fast food.

Consider joining a club store at this time as well. You’ll need to spring for a membership, but you’ll enjoy steep savings on groceries and other products. Just be careful to only buy what you need, no matter how cheap an item might be.

Finally, don’t forget to shop sales and to couponize. Use apps like Reebee, Checkout 51, Flipp and Grocery IQ to stay in the know of what’s on sale in each store, and to download coupons for even bigger savings. 

  1. Consider an energy audit

With winter approaching and the cost of energy sources still climbing, this can be a good time to have an energy audit performed on your home. An audit will help identify energy drains around your home, such as air leaks near your windows and doors, so you can fix them to make your home more energy-efficient. You can also take additional measures toward saving on energy costs, such as switching all lightbulbs to LED bulbs, unplugging electronics when not in use and setting your thermostat a little lower during winter, and a bit higher in the summer.

  1. Choose your indulgence

Everyone needs to treat themselves to something special every now and then, but with costs rising on restaurant meals, movie tickets and clothing, something’s gotta give. Take a closer look at your just-for-me purchases of the last few months, and try to narrow them down to just one or two treats. You can swap them with an enjoyable activity that doesn’t cost much, such as a hike or bike ride, or cut them out completely.

Alternatively, you can find ways to trim the cost of your indulgences. For example, if you love dining out but restaurant meals are destroying your budget, you can decide to eat out but skip the desserts and wines, or opt for a midday meal so you can take advantage of lunchtime specials. 

  1. Switch your auto insurance plan

If you’ve had your auto insurance policy for a while and you’ve maintained a good driving record during that time, there’s a good chance you can save a bundle by switching to a new insurance plan and/or provider. Reach out to a representative at your current insurer to discuss your options. Ask about raising your deductible in exchange for a lower premium, reducing overall coverage or negotiating for a safe driving discount. After obtaining a quote, call several other providers to get competing quotes. You can choose to go with your lowest offer, or call back your present provider and ask them to match it for your continued business.  

  1. Pad your income

As always, when income doesn’t meet expenses, you have the choice of trimming expenses or boosting your income – or you can do both! In addition to following the cost-cutting tips outlined here, you can also look for ways to increase your income.

If your paycheck is suddenly not enough to support your lifestyle, consider asking for a raise. Your workplace may have already given you a cost-of-living raise to reflect rising inflation last year, but this may prove to be insufficient as costs have continued to rise. Don’t be afraid to ask for another raise at this time.

In addition, you can look for other ways to pad your monthly income. Find a side hustle, like driving for a ride-share company or consulting for hire, which you can do at your leisure on weekends. Ask your workplace about taking on additional projects on an as-needed basis for additional pay. Open a small service business doing something you love and excel at. Every extra dollar earned counts!

Times are hard for the average American consumer, but with careful planning, you can ride out the record-high inflation rates and keep your budget intact. Use the tips shared here to get started. 

Your Turn: How are you adjusting your budget for inflation? Share your tips and hacks with us in the comments. 

What to Buy and What to Skip in December

December blows in at the peak of the holiday shopping frenzy, and then it tiptoes out with the end of the year and post-holiday calm. Black Friday deals are long over, and there are no major shopping holidays this month, but you can still find a fabulous deal before and after the holidays. So, whether you’re finishing up your holiday shopping or looking for year-end bargains in any category this month, we’ve got you covered. 

Here’s what to buy and what to skip in December. 

Buy: Electronics

If you missed the Black Friday sales on electronics, you can still cash in on some incredible savings. Many retailers will keep the leftovers from November’s sales marked down through the end of the month. Look for discounted electronics at big box stores, online retailers and directly from manufacturers.

Skip: Winter clothing

It’s still too early in the season to find any real discounts on clothing. If you can wait until retailers start slashing prices on cold-weather wear after the holidays to drum up some business, you’ll save big on winter wardrobe essentials. 

Buy: Toys

As the year draws to a close, you’ll start seeing steep discounts on toys and games from retailers that are looking to clear the season’s inventory before the holidays. If you can handle the stress of last-minute shopping, the week or two leading up to Christmas can be the perfect time to pick up some budget-friendly stocking stuffers for the special little someones in your life.

Skip: Fitness equipment

Trying to slim down before the holidays? Hold off a bit on purchasing exercise equipment and you can save big. Soon, fitness gear and clothing, as well as gym memberships, will drop in price as consumers commence with the annual New Year’s resolutions fitness craze. Until then, you can enjoy brisk walks and runs around the neighborhood at no cost.

Buy: Champagne

Welcome the new year with the pop of your favorite champagne, all at a price that doesn’t break the budget. Liquor sellers will be competing for your business this time of year, and prices on the celebratory beverage will plunge as New Year’s draws near. Take advantage by stocking up on your favorite bubbly at a bargain price.

Skip: Furniture and bedding

This isn’t the time of year to upgrade your household and give your bedroom a facelift. Furniture and bedding will be sold at full price at most retailers this month. Instead, wait for the January white sales to purchase the same items at discounted prices. For even deeper discounts, shop for furniture and other home goods at fantastic prices at Presidents Day sale events in February.

Buy: Christmas decorations

Prepare to deck the halls without spending a bundle. You’ll find holiday decor, wrapping paper, tree ornaments and more slashed up to 50% in price the day after Christmas. With prices like these, it’s not too early to think about next year’s holiday season! Just keep

everything well-wrapped and store in a dry place. Come next year, you’ll be ahead of the holiday shopping before the season even starts. 

Buy: Gift cards

Gift cards are the perfect antidote to out-of-control inflation. They’re always appreciated, and you won’t feel like you’re spending a ton on a gift that’s not really worth the price. Best of all, you can find discounted gift cards all through December on sites like GiftCardGranny, CardCash and through private sellers listing on sites like Craigslist. Some sites will even let you customize the card with a personalized message for the recipient. 

The year is drawing to an end, but the savings on some items is just beginning. Use the tips outlined here for knowing what to buy and what to skip in December. 

Your Turn: Have you picked up any great buys in December? Tell us about them in the comments!

Buy This, Not That: How to Spend Your Way to Wealth and Freedom

Title: Buy This, Not That: How to Spend Your Way to Wealth and Freedom 

Author: Sam Dogen

Hardcover: 336 pages

Publisher: Portfolio

Publishing date: July 19, 2022

Who is this book for? 

  • Financial Samurai fans looking to learn more.
  • Readers of average economic status who want to learn how to build wealth and achieve financial freedom.

What’s inside this book?

  • The Financial Samurai’s unique approach to money management, which has been absorbed by an audience of 90 million over the past 13 years.
  • The Financial Samurai’s innovative 70/30 framework for optimal financial decision-making.

4 lessons you’ll learn from this book:  

  1. How to tell the difference between good debt and bad debt.
  2. The best way to invest on your own terms.
  3. How to create your own rules for spending.
  4. How to take the guesswork out of financial planning.

4 questions this book will answer for you:  

  1. Can I invest in real estate if I can’t afford to buy property?
  2. How can I build passive income streams that work with my goals and risk tolerance?
  3. What’s the best way to pay down debt?
  4. How do I optimize every dollar I earn so I can maximize my wealth?

What people are saying about this book: 

“Financial Samurai and this book have prepared me for life after basketball! A straightforward guide to live a balanced, financially free life. – Shaun Livingston

“A no-nonsense guide to living your best life now while also ensuring a financially independent future.” – Emily Chang

“A one-of-a-kind book! Bold advice from someone who’s not just done the math, he’s lived it. A must read!” – Kumiko Love

“Step-by-step, chapter-by-chapter, Sam shows how to make optimal money choices that focus on wealth building—not just saving for saving’s sake, but for living life on your terms.” – David Mcknight

Your Turn: What did you think of Buy This Not That? Share your opinion in the comments. 

Cash, Credit or Debit–How Should I Pay?

Q: With inflation soaring, I want to spend my money in the best way possible. When paying for various everyday and occasional purchases, should I be using cash, credit or debit?

A: There’s a time and place for everything. Some purchases should be paid for with cash, some with a credit card, and others with a debit card. Your lifestyle and personality may influence this choice as well. Let’s take a closer look at each payment method and when they should be used.

When should I use cash?

Between P2P payment platforms, mobile payment wallets and the growth of cryptocurrency, the world of commerce is becoming increasingly cashless. In fact, some consumers barely touch cash at all. 

However, there can be times when you’d be better off using cash. First, some gas stations charge less per gallon when the driver pays in cash. The difference is usually modest, up to 10 cents a gallon, but with gas prices soaring, it can add up to substantial savings over the course of a month. Next, if you have trouble sticking to your budget when you shop, it can be helpful to take only the amount of cash you need and leave your cards at home. This way, you’ll be forced to stick to your budget. Finally, some small businesses, like food trucks or independently owned stores, only accept cash payments or offer discounts for paying cash.

On the flip side, there are many disadvantages to using cash. First, cash provides no purchase protection. Consequently, it’s best not to use cash for very large purchases. Next, cash leaves no paper trail and it can make tracking expenses difficult. It’s best not to use cash if you’re trying to get a clear picture of where your money is going. Finally, cash always carries the risk of being lost or stolen. 

When should I use my credit card?

Credit cards are the double-edged sword of personal finance. On the one hand, credit card debt is one of the leading causes of consumer debt in the country. On the other hand, owning credit cards and using them responsibly is a crucial part of one’s financial health. 

In addition to the impact to your credit score, responsibly used credit cards offer two primary advantages: rewards and purchase protection. Using a rewards card for purchases you’d need to make anyway, such as paying utility bills or subscription fees for a service, can help you earn cash back, airline miles or another reward. The second big advantage to using a credit card – the purchase protection it offers – makes it the ideal choice for paying for large purchases or when buying something from a newer retailer. Knowing you can always dispute the charge or even cancel it if the product turns out to be different than expected, can help you shop with confidence. In addition to these advantages, paying with a credit card and making on-time payments can help boost your credit score while making expense tracking easy. 

Ideally, credit cards should only be used to cover fixed or steady payments, such as monthly bills, and for purchases you know you can pay for in full when the bill becomes due. It’s never a good idea to swipe your card for a purchase you cannot pay for today or within the next few weeks. Use your cards responsibly to ensure a healthy credit score and to stay out of debt. 

When should I use my debit card?

In many ways, debit cards offer the best of both worlds. You can always track your spending by reviewing your checking account statement, and you generally can only spend what you have. This helps minimize the risk of falling into debt. In addition, if your card is lost or stolen, you can cancel it and/or close the associated account. 

Debit cards can be a great choice for everyday purchases of any kind. However, since they  typically don’t offer rewards or the same level of purchase protection as credit cards, they may not be the best choice for large purchases, or for paying for products from a new retailer. 

Life is expensive, and you want your money to go as far as possible. Use this guide to help you choose the right payment method in every situation. 

Your Turn: When do you use cash, credit and debit? Tell us about it in the comments. 

6 Ways to Pay Less at the Pump

Just when you think they can’t possibly jump any higher, gas prices start rising again. They’ve long passed the $5 mark in much of the country, and in some areas they’ve even gone beyond $6 a gallon. This means it’ll cost the average American close to $100 just to fill a 16-gallon tank. With prices peaking on so many other goods, the pain at the pump is real.

There isn’t much you can do about the cost of gas, but there are ways you can pay less at the pump. Here are six ways to save on the cost of gasoline.

  1. Use cash

Lots of gas stations offer a discount for cash payments, sometimes up to $0.20 per gallon. This can quickly add up when pumping a full tank. Just be careful to have the cash handy when you need it, as you don’t want to lose all those savings to ATM fees when using machines that are not connected to your credit union.

  1. Use a rewards program or credit card

If you don’t like the idea of carrying around a lot of cash, but you still want to save at the pump, consider signing up for a rewards program or credit card. Tread carefully, though; not all of these programs actually benefit the consumer. Ask these questions about any rewards program or credit card you’re considering before signing up:

  • Is there an annual fee? An annual fee can easily offset any savings you might incur from rewards.  
  • Is there a cap on rewards? Some programs limit the amount of rewards that can be accrued per quarter or year. If the cap is not sufficient for your needs, the program might not be for you.
  • What is the redemption value for each reward point? Actual rewards can vary tremendously by program. Be sure to find out exactly how much a rewards point is worth  to see if it’s actually a good deal.
  • Is this card only good for purchasing gas? Some rewards cards allow you to rack up points with any purchase at a gas station, while others are strictly for fuel only.
  • What are the membership requirements for this rewards card? Make sure the requirements aren’t so rigid or restrictive that you can’t earn enough points to make it worthwhile.

In addition, consider your personal track record with credit cards before signing up for a gas rewards credit card. If you already find it challenging to pay off your balance in full each month, it may not be the best idea to open another credit card. 

3. Check your tire pressure

According to the US Department of Energy, a  well-inflated tire can save you $0.15/gallon by boosting your gas mileage by 3%. Check your tires regularly to ensure they’re always inflated. To make this easier, consider springing for a tire pressure gauge that will automatically monitor the health of your tires.

  1. Use a gas-tracking app

In 2022, there’s no need to search for the gas station offering the best-priced gas. There’s an app for that! Popular gas-tracking apps include GasBuddy, Upside and Waze. Using the gas station conveniently located right near your home or workplace might be easier, but taking the extra time to find one that sells fuel for less can save you a bundle.

  1. Purchase a club membership

If you don’t already have one, this may be the time to buy a club membership. Costo, Sam’s Club and Walmart Plus all offer discounted gas exclusively to members. Of the three, Costco tends to feature gas for the lowest price, up to $0.34 less per gallon than a typical gas station. In today’s gas-crazy climate, that’s a huge difference. Of course, you’ll want to find out how much a club membership will cost you before signing up to join any of these or other club stores to ensure it’s worth the price. Also, be prepared for long lines at the club store’s gas station, especially with spiking gas prices. 

  1. Buy gas at the right time of day

Did you know there’s an ideal time of day to fill your tank? And no, we’re not talking about shorter lines, or even the time of day before prices will change yet again. You can get more bang for your buck if you buy your gas in the early morning or late evening hours, when it’s generally cooler out. If you pump gas during the midday hours, after the sun has been beating down on the gas reservoir all day, the gas has likely expanded. This means you’ll be paying the same price for a less-dense gasoline, which will not last as long. Pump when it’s cooler outside for the densest gas.

It’s sticker shock at the pump these days, but there are still some ways you can save on gas costs. Use these tips to get started.

Your Turn: How do you save at the gas pump? Share your best tips and hacks in the comments.

Step 8 of 12 Steps to Financial Wellness-Know When and How to Indulge

[Now that you know how to spend mindfully, pay it forward, and regularly set aside money for savings, you’re ready to learn how to indulge in the occasional expensive treat–responsibly.]

Many people equate financial health with a life of deprivation, but this is far from the truth. In fact, living a life of true financial wellness means being happy with a lifestyle that is within your means, but does not leave you feeling like you are lacking. Like an overly restrictive diet, an overly tight budget is more likely to become broken.

On the flip side, financial wellness means spending your money wisely and learning how to treat yourself for less – or for free. It means money choices are governed by discipline, and not by emotion. And sometimes, it means telling yourself no.

How, then, do you strike a balance between the two?

Here’s how to indulge responsibly. 

Live with a budget

The first step to financial wellness is knowing where your money is going and how much you actually have to spend. The best way to always have this information is to create and stick to a budget. 

[If you’ve been following all the steps to financial wellness until this point, you’ve already developed and live with a budget. So you know how to stick to it. Let’s take a quick review of this crucial money management tool.]

Create your budget by tracking your spending for three months. Make a list of all your expenses, including fixed, non-fixed and discretionary expenses, and list your income in a parallel column. Tally up your totals and assign a realistic dollar amount to each expense. Going forward, be sure to only spend within the allocated amount for each expense category each month. 

Leave room in your budget for “just for fun” purchases

As you work on building and sticking to a budget, be sure to leave room in your spending plan for the occasional treat. The exact amount will vary by income level, lifestyle and personal choice. However, choose an amount you can easily afford without feeling deprived. 

To ensure you don’t overspend in this area, you can borrow an idea from the money-envelope system and withdraw the designated amount from your checking account at the beginning of the month. Place this cash in an envelope, and use it as necessary. When the money is gone, so is your “allowance” for pricey treats this month.

It’s important to note that the indulgences referenced here are spontaneous buys, or small purchases that aren’t part of your normal budget. Large purchases you have planned for and saved toward for months, or even years, are in an entirely different category. 

Review your savings

Before giving yourself permission to indulge, make sure you are setting aside a percentage of your monthly income to savings. Savings should be an item line on your budget, with short-term savings like an emergency fund in a savings account, holding enough to keep you afloat for 3-6 months if you have no source of income. Long-term savings should be sufficient to support your retirement and any long-term savings goal you may have, like saving for a house or a luxury vacation. 

Choose your “treats”

Everyone’s got their personal vices and their guilty indulgences. Take a look at where your non-discretionary money went during the last month or two. Highlight the more expensive impulse buys and hold them up to these questions:

  • Did this purchase bring me happiness or positive energy the day I bought it? Did that feeling last until the next day? The next week?
  • Did this impulse buy blow my budget?
  • Does thinking about this purchase now fill me with joy, guilt or something else?
  • If I found myself in the same circumstances today, would I make that purchase again?

Here, too, the answers to these questions will depend on your personal set of circumstances and lifestyle. Use the insight you’ve learned about your indulgences to help you make better money choices in the future. 

Lose the guilt

Once you’ve decided how much you want to spend each month on indulgences you can afford, it’s time to let go of the guilt. If you’re spending responsibly and you’ve already fed your savings as well as your future, there’s no need to eat yourself up over an impulse buy you could have done without. As long as you’re keeping these just-for-fun purchases within your budget, and your choices fill you with happiness or positive energy, you can still maintain your financial wellness.

Your Turn: How do you indulge responsibly? Share your best tips in the comments.

Cashing Out: Win the Wealth Game by Walking Away

Title: Cashing Out: Win the Wealth Game by Walking Away

Author: Julien Saunders, Kiersten Saunders

Hardcover: 272 pages

Publisher: Portfolio

Publishing date: June 14, 2022

Who is this book for? 

  • African Americans who find it challenging to build their wealth despite following all the right rules.
  • Anyone struggling with money management and career growth.

What’s inside this book?

  • A roadmap to financial freedom that makes wealth possible despite a broken economic system. 
  • A financial and career path that breaks free from corporate America’s rules so you can build wealth on your terms. 

4 lessons you’ll learn from this book:  

  1. Which goals to prioritize at each stage of your career so you can plan for an early retirement.  
  2. How to talk about money with your partner without every conversation ending in an argument.
  3. Practical strategies to grow your wealth without a large investment of time and energy. 
  4. Why the mantra of “Black Excellence” is an unsustainable form of motivation for building wealth. 

4 questions this book will answer for you:  

  1. I’m following the same script as my white colleagues; why am I only seeing half the results?
  2. Is financial freedom really within my reach?
  3. Why am I always being passed up for career opportunities?
  4. Do I have to sacrifice my time and mental health to maximize my income?

What people are saying about this book: 

“Cashing Out feels like the talk you desperately needed from the big cousins you’ve always looked up to. It’s filled with gems about money, navigating your career and most importantly — relationships — from people who’ve done it successfully. You can literally feel the love and wisdom they’ve poured into every single chapter.” –Anthony O’Neal

“Read this book. Read it for the cool stories. Read it for the cool concepts. But mostly read it because it just might nudge you toward a far freer, richer and more rewarding life.” –J.L. Collins, author of The Simple Path to Wealth

“The ideas in this book have the power to change the wealth trajectories of Black folks everywhere.” –Jewel Burks Solomon

“An honest and encouraging approach, with a dash of tough love, to help you determine what it takes to be financially, emotionally and mentally wealthy.” –Erin Lowry

“Kiersten and Julien know their stuff, but they never put themselves on a pedestal. Instead, they nudge you along to your best financial life like your favorite older siblings, sharing their own vulnerabilities, acknowledging the many systemic barriers that exist, and never making you feel bad for your past choices.” –Tanja Hester

Your Turn: What did you think of Cashing Out? Share your opinion in the comments. 

Don’t Get Caught in a Shopping Scam!

Shopping in 2022 is worlds away from what it was at the turn of the century, or even just a few years ago. According to retail research firm, Digital Commerce 360, ecommerce sales surpassed $870 billion in 2021, a 50% jump over 2019. Online shopping is quick, easy and convenient. 

Unfortunately, though, when a lot of shopping moved online, it also ushered in a wave of scams that are often successful. Some of these scams can be difficult for the untrained eye to spot, and many offer no way for the victim to reclaim their lost funds. Here’s what you need to know to recognize an online shopping scam and avoid being the next victim. 

How these scams play out

There are several variations to the online shopping scam. 

In one version, a shopper will scour the internet for a specific item in their desired price range. They’ll find the item retailing on a site at an attractive price and then proceed to make the purchase. They’ll share payment information, input their delivery address and complete the transaction. Unfortunately, though, the item never arrives on their doorstep. Alternatively, a cheap knockoff of the product will arrive instead of the item they’ve purchased. When the buyer tries to demand a refund, they are unable to reach the seller. 

In another variation, a shopper finds an item online and tries to make a purchase. They’ll be asked to input sensitive information, such as a credit card or checking account number. At this point, the shopper will be unable to complete the transaction and will continuously run into errors on the site. However, the scammers now have their information and can proceed to empty the victim’s accounts, or worse.

In a third version of the online shopping scam, a seller clicks on an ad, or on a site that came up in a Google search for one of their favorite stores. They’ll proceed to make an order, not knowing they’ve actually clicked into a bogus look-a-like site run by scammers. The rest of the scam will follow one of the scenarios described above. 

Red flags

Watch for these warning signs that you may have stumbled upon a shopping scam:

  • Prices are too good to be true. If you find an online offer for a new iPhone retailing at just $450, you’re likely looking at a scam. 
  • The offer urges you to act now. If an offer warns that the bargain prices it’s offering won’t last until sundown, it’s likely a scam. 
  • The seller demands specific means of payment. If an e-tailer insists that you pay via prepaid gift card or wire transfer, opt out. 
  • The website is full of typos and grammar errors. If the site is badly in need of editing, it may be run by scammers. 

Stay safe

Follow these tips to keep yourself safe from online shopping scams:

  • Only shop on safe, secure sites. Check the URL for the lock icon and for the “s” after the “http”.
  • Check the URL for proper spelling of reputable sites. Make sure the URL of the site you’re on matches the authentic URL for that retailer and that you haven’t landed on a spoof site. You may want to save the genuine URLs on your computer for future use. 
  • Avoid clicking on high-pressure pop-ups and banner ads. These are often scams.
  • Pay with a credit card when shopping online. A credit card offers the most protection for your purchases. 
  • Never share personal information with an unverified contact. Don’t input your credit card number or account details unless you’re absolutely sure you’re dealing with a reputable website. 

If you’re targeted

If you’ve fallen victim to an online shopping scam, there are steps you can take to mitigate the damage. 

If you’ve paid via credit card, call the company to dispute the charge. At this point, you may want to consider closing the card and placing a credit alert and/or a credit freeze on your name. Next, alert the FTC about the scam. If the alleged retailer is on the BBB website, you can let them know, too. Finally, let your friends know about the scam so they know to be aware.

Stay safe!

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a shopping scam? Tell us about it in the comments. 

Should I Buy Out My Lease?

Q: My lease agreement is nearing its end, and I’m getting many offers to buy out my lease due to the current state of the economy. Should I ignore the hype, or is it really a good idea to buy out my lease?

A: With cars in hot demand, and selling at all-time high prices, many lease customers are looking at trade-in values for their vehicles with the intention of buying out their lease. While this can be a smart choice for many consumers, it’s important to consider all relevant factors before making a decision. Here’s what you need to know about buying out your lease.

What is a lease buyout?

Many drivers are confused by the offers they’re getting and the promotions they’ve seen for buying out leases. How is it possible to buy a lease when a leased vehicle, by definition, is essentially a rented car?

First, buying out a lease involves paying the car’s “buyout price” as specified in the lease contract, which makes you the car’s new owner. Second, it’s important to establish that buying out a lease generally makes the most sense when you are nearing the end of your lease term.   Finally, this may necessitate taking out an auto loan to afford the buyout price, just like you might do when purchasing a new or used car at a dealership.  

How can I determine my car’s buyout price?

To estimate how much you’d need to pay to buy your leased car, look for the term “residual value” in your lease contract. This tells you what your leased vehicle is expected to be worth at the end of the term, which may be months or years away. To reach your vehicle’s buyout price, add the residual value to any remaining payments. For example, if your car’s residual value is $25,000 and you owe another 10 payments of $500, the car’s buyout price is $30,000. Of course, the more time left on your lease, the higher price you can expect to pay to buyout.

Will I need to pay any fees in addition to the buyout price?

Depending on your home state, your vehicle’s buyout price may be subject to an auto sales tax. Your lender may also charge additional fees, such as a ‘purchase option fee’. It’s important to know about any additional fees you may need to pay in addition to the buyout price and to 

estimate the total you’ll be paying before deciding to purchase a leased car.

The good news is that you won’t be accountable for the typical lease-end fees, which can include the costs of reconditioning the vehicle for resale, fixing any damage the car may have incurred during your term, and an over-mileage penalty for every mile you may have driven over the official limit.  

What are the advantages of buying out a lease?

Many drivers are opting to buy their leased vehicles now due to the current state of the auto industry. Supply is low and both new and used cars are in high demand. A driver nearing the end of their lease agreement may find it challenging to purchase or lease another car. Buying a car you already lease will give you first dibs at a hot commodity.  

Some drivers are choosing to capitalize on the high demand for used cars by buying out their leases and then flipping the car to a dealership or selling it privately to a new owner. They assume they will earn enough from the sale to help offset the price of a new car. While this may be true, it’s important to remember that it may be difficult to find a new car in a desired model and at an affordable price.

Before taking out a loan to buy out a lease, find out what your car is actually worth. Due to the state of the market, it’s likely worth more than you’ll pay. However, if it’s worth less than the buyout price, you’ll be upside-down on your loan, which is never a good idea. In addition, you may find it difficult to qualify for a loan in an amount that is higher than the value of the asset.  

How do I buy out my lease?

If you decide to go ahead and buy out your lease, you’ll first need to run the numbers as described above to be sure it’s a financially responsible decision. When you have the total buyout price, your next step is to work on financing. You can choose to take out an auto loan or a personal loan to help cover the costs. 

Next, you’ll contact the company behind your lease and complete the purchase. The sale process will be similar to the sale of any car. Finally, be sure to notify your insurance company about the change in ownership of your vehicle. Leases generally require plans with low deductibles and high premiums, so you may want to choose a new plan with higher deductibles and lower monthly premiums.

If you’re looking to finance an auto loan for a lease buyout car, look no further than Advantage One Credit Union! Our auto loans offer low interest rates [see for current rates], easy payback terms and a quick approval process. Call, click or stop by to get started or discuss available options!

Your Turn: Have you bought your leased car? Tell us about your experience in the comments.