Getting Steeped in Online Shopping

As steeped as we are in car culture, it’s no wonder people place a car at the top of their list when asked what they’d like as a gift for Christmas.  Christmas, birthday, graduation, retirement – there are as many reasons to buy a car as there are cars for sale.  Getting financing for an auto can take days and weeks to figure out.  We’ve all heard horror stories about jacked up rates, hidden fees and lemons so sour states have passed laws to prevent their sale.  Still, finding a dealer you can trust to give you a fair deal must be a priority.  When you sign a contract for a new or used car, you’re signing away a significant amount of money, using your credit and taking a chance on getting reliable transportation.  You can’t overlook the minor details on a deal this significant.  Yet every day, people use the services of an online car buying service and are happy with the results.  Gone are the days when you needed your dad or menacing looking uncle to accompany you to the used car lot to duke it out with the sales manager.  And you can thank online shopping sites like Groupon for upping consumer confidence in the process.

Groupon is a mega site that lists deals for millions of items from thousands of retailers and businesses offering everything from burgers and fries to a fleet of autos.  They are a shopper’s paradise, clearing house and broker all in one.  And you can get significant deals when you use their codes on items you use every day.

For the first time in history, you can sit down and manage your shopping from one site, and get access to every type of item you desire.  Say you wanted a new suit of clothes to go with your new car.  You’d search Groupon for Joseph A Bank, search their site for some of their current deals, then apply the code from Groupon as you check out.  Not only would that suit arrive when you specify, it would be guaranteed to fit, or you could return it for free.  In the meanwhile, you could shop for any number of things from your first cup of coffee in the morning to the last cocktail at night and you’d never have to leave your home to do so.

Online shopping is here to stay and most folks are very happy about it.  It keeps cars off the road, even the one they just ordered, using an online application like ours.

Steps To Take When Just Can’t Pay Your Bills

Life is full of ups and downs. Some of the most stressful can be the bumps in your financial life, especially when you can not see any hope in the near future. Whether these financial bumps are from unexpected emergencies, unemployment, or chronic low income, there are a few steps that you can take in order to lessen the stress and, perhaps, find a way out.

Where Does The Money Go?

That is usually the first question that people ask themselves when their bank account is empty and there are still bills to pay. Not knowing where your money goes can also be a major contributor to the situation. Every person or family should have a way to track their every expenditure. You can start by writing down each of your monthly bills:  what they are, who the money goes to, how much, and when the bill due. The list needs to be very detailed, so include groceries, gas to get to work, parking, anything that you have to pay regularly in order to survive. This list of bills is a solid foundation for a budget.

Once you have made out your list, you can move on to keeping track of other cash outlay. Items like a soda when you fill up the gas tank, coffee and donuts, money dropped into a vending machine, everything that you spend cash on needs to be written down so you can visualize and eliminate the ways that you are wasting your money.

Face Late Payments Head On

One sure way to make things worse is to ignore the problem. If you know that you are going to be late, contact the company that you owe money. Many companies will waive late fees and penalties if you contact them. In many cases, a phone call is the only way to avoid having your utilities and other services disconnected. Of course, this will only work so many times.

Often, if the current situation is a result of unemployment or disability, many lenders have policies in place to help you avoid suspension of your credit card accounts, repossession, or foreclosure. These can include an extension of the loan or interest only payments for a short time. You will never know if you do not make the call

Back To The Bills

If this bump in the road is going to last for awhile, it is time to make some tough choices. Pull out that list of recurring payments. You will have to trim that back. You may need to turn off the cable and land line package for a few months. Even worse, the internet may have to go as well. What’s next? Can you trim your grocery bill by changing your shopping habits? Name brand and organic items add tons to your bill and are often a waste of cash. Can you eliminate alcohol and tobacco, or at least cut back?

You can save money on your heating/cooling bill by lowering the thermostat two degrees in the winter and raising it two degrees in the summer. When you are at work, you can go ten degrees lower/higher depending on the season. The EnergyStar people estimate that you can save $500 a year or more just by changing your thermostat setting while you are at work.

Plan For The Future

The only way to prevent this financial cycle from happening over and over again is to plan your way out of it. The best place to start is your list of cash outlays. Does the list show you that you shop too often? Does it show glaring areas where you regularly waste money? If so, simply changing those habits may be the key to success. On the other hand, if you have a bare bones budget and rarely shop, the issue could be chronic low income.

If low income is the issue, how can you make more money? Do you have a marketable set of skills? Every one has a skill, finding is often the issue. Can you walk dogs, mow grass, deliver newspapers? Is a lack of education holding you back? What about getting a GED or finding a short certificate program at a technical school?

These are just a few ideas to help you find a way out of your financial crisis. The most important step you can take is to create a written list of your bills so you can form a concrete budget. If you have any other ideas, feel free to tell us about them. Perhaps your tip or story could help another one of our readers.

Is it Really the Right Time to Buy a New Car?

Have you got the fever for a new car? Maybe it’s that new Scion FR-S, or the Mercedes C-Class, or one of those rugged 4-door Wranglers? The research firm Polk has data that indicates Americans buy a new car every 6-8 years until they reach the age of 76 when they stop buying cars altogether. But you’ve got to ask yourself:  is it really the right time to buy a new car? There are no hard and fast rules about when or how often you should buy a new car; however, there are items that you should keep in mind when trying to decide if and when you should buy one.

Is Your Existing Vehicle Paid Off?

The first thing that should cross you mind before you buy a new car is whether you still have a balance left on the loan for the last one. If you have a loan balance that is greater than the trade-in value of your car, you should wait to buy. You do not want to start a new loan with a large amount of negative equity. If you do, you may find yourself required to carry some very expensive gap insurance.

Is Boredom Your Motive?

Secondly, why are you considering a new car? Is your current one in need of expensive repairs? If the only reason is that you are tired of it, then consider this…you will get tired of the next one too. Why not keep on being tired of this one for another year or two, pay off your loan or, if it is paid off, why not put some money into savings. If you can save a little more for a down payment, you will keep your next payments low and pay less interest.

Why Wouldn’t a Pre-Owned Vehicle Meet Your Needs?

Lastly, do you really need a new car? Would a used one meet your needs just as well? There are plenty of reliable certified used cars on the market, many of which still offer part of the factory warranty. You can secure big savings by opting to buy pre-owned. How big? Well, a new car is loses 40% of its value after just two years, and 50% after three years. So you can get a car with low miles and little wear-and-tear, which costs several thousand dollars less. Put those saved funds in savings, or invest them prudently, and you’ll be in a much better financial position for years to come.

Massachusetts Company Leading the Way in Quadruped Robotics!

You have probably never heard of Boston Dynamics, an engineering firm based in Waltham, but the company is building some of the most cutting-edge robots in the world. Beginning as a spin-off from MIT, the company has been specializing in robots that can walk, run, gallop, climb, and move like animals.  They are perhaps best-known for their record-setting feline-based robot Cheetah, whose development was funded by DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a part of the DOD.  Cheetah recently became the fastest “legged” robot in the world, breaking the old MIT-held record of 13.1 mph with a run of 29 mph.  Yes, that’s faster than Usain Bolt, who’s maxed out at 2.78 mph, though slower than real cheetahs, which top out at 60+ mph!  The key to these velocities is Cheetah’s articulating spine, which allows it to extend and contract with each stride–just like the real McCoy.  Below is a video of Cheetah making its record-setting run of 29.3 mph.

Cheetah Births WildCat…But Why?

As you can see, this run was done on a treadmill, and Cheetah was “tethered”–kept centered by a boom-like device, and powered by an offboard hydraulic pump. However, the company is now working on WildCat, a free-running version powered by an onboard two-stroke. Boston Dynamics is apparently aiming for 50 mph over rough terrain. Apparently, having legs could allow a robot to cross ditches and deal with obstacles that wheeled and tracked vehicles cannot. So what’s the end goal of all this? An article in PC Magazine from last year stated the following:

One day, [DARPA] hopes to let Cheetah loose in the natural and man-made environments where defense personnel operate, allowing the robot to contribute to emergency response, humanitarian assistance, and other missions.

“Other missions,” huh? Sounds like we might not be very far from having quadruped war-machines that can operate over the rough terrain of places like Afghanistan, which has battered our Humvees and other “tired” vehicles.


Chinese Restrictions on New Car Purchases Tighten as Citizens Cough, Wheeze

Combatting what some have dubbed the Great Smog of China, the leadership of the Red Nation has announced that it is increasing the number of cities where auto purchases will be restricted. In these cities, only card-carrying members of the Ruling Class will be allowed to purchase cars whenever they’d like. Experts believe this will result in a temporary jump in vehicle sales in impacted areas, but will lead to a long-term decline in domestic auto sales.

Eight cities that are going to start limiting car purchases are Chengdu, Chongqing, Hangzhou, Qingdao, Shenzhen, Shijiazhuang, Tianjin and Wuhan. Additional details of the restrictions, such as when they will be implemented, have not yet been released in a language that I can read.

The Fun, Speedy 2014 Volkswagen Passat Rates 24/35 MPG with New Turbo Engine

The new 2014 Volkswagen Passat will be one fun, speedy ride. It will also, despite sporting a turbo engine, be a relatively fuel-efficient little thing. Featuring a new base engine, a 1.8-liter turbo-four deal that churns out 170 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, the 2014 Passat is rated 24 miles per gallon in the city and 35 on the highway, better numbers than of the old Passat, 22/33.

The new Passat realizes this improved efficiency through the use of electro-hydraulic steering and a fuel-friendlier engine. VW will also offer this turbo engine in its 2014 Jetta, Beetle, and Golf.

Kelly Blue Book Breaks Down The Coolest 2013 Cars

The Men and Women of Kelly Blue Book have again helped the consumer pick an affordable and cool car. In this article, the list of the Top 10 coolest affordable cars, made by Kelly blue Book is examined. The cars are all less than 18,000 dollars and are filled with cool and interesting gadgets. Coming in at number one was the Hyundai Veloster, a car with a slick exterior and plenty under the hood. According to the article, we may see more of these affordable cool cars, as the manufacturers are making it easier and easier to purchase them as they can build them cheaply.

Read the full article here:

2.24% APR On Car Loans Through Athol Credit Union

Athol Credit Union offers 2.24% APR on auto loans. Members of the Direct Rewards program can get even lower interest rates. This offer only applies to new cars, and up to 100% of the price of the car is available in the loan. To join the Athol Credit Union, you must live or work in Worcester, Franklin, or Hampshire County.

Learn more here: