Graduated Learning: Life after College

I got my degree, I got a job…now what?

Christmas Car Commercials, I Hate You: 2011 Redux December 2, 2011

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 7:08 pm
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You remember when I posted about my hatred of Christmas car commercials?  Well guess what.  I still hate them.

Again, it’s the Lexus ads driving me nuts.  This year, all the gift giving occasions revolve around recognizing the somehow universally known “Lexus song”.  You know, because when you hear that song, you know your significant other dropped a minimum of $34k to surprise you.  Was it on your Amazon wish list or something?

I did a little research, and it turns out that “Lexus Song” is actually called “Family & Friends“, written by Steve Kujala, a prolific composer and flautist.  I actually listened to the whole piece.  Luckily, listening to the actual piece doesn’t fill me with infinite range.

So, back to the commercials.  The couples are together, and then they hear the song, played by some clever means, like in a music box, as a ringtone, or the Muzak playing in the elevator.  I will admit, as a video game fan, I was least annoyed by the one where they programmed the song in Guitar Hero.  But still.  You don’t buy cars for people.

Unless, of course, you’re a millionaire:

Like last year, I was able to make an exception for commercials that amuse me and make fun of other ads. 🙂

So, what commercials are making you angry this holiday season?

 

Christmas Car Commercials, I hate you December 6, 2010

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 11:40 pm
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Well, the holiday season is here.  And with that comes lots of car commercials where one spouse surprises the other with a brand new luxury car, with a big red bow on top.  And guess what?  I HATE THOSE COMMERCIALS!

I suppose part of this is from my personal finance views.  Would you really surprise someone with a car?  I mean, that would be quite the surprise.  But that would also surprise me when I looked at my bank account and discovered $50k+ missing, or saw a new car loan in the mail.  It tends to be the more expensive, luxury cars or sports cars, too.  You wouldn’t surprise the love of your life with a Honda Fit, would you?  A large expense like that is something you plan, discuss, and make sure you can afford.

I started writing this post a while back, but I’m currently watching the Patriots/Jets game, and it seems like every other ad is a car ad, with most of them being the Lexus ads, all complete with red bows.  I’ll admit, the idea for the ads (that they need more giftwrap, or a bigger chimney, stocking, or tree) is a little cute.  But still…I don’t like the whole message:  give your love a ridiculously expensive car.

My boyfriend knows I hate these commercials.  I got a text from him the other day:  “Saw an ad for a car with a giant bow on top while I was watching the morning news.  Made me think of your infinite rage.”

I guess I just think cars are a weird and expensive thing to surprise someone with.  How easy is it to return it?  Exchange it for a different color or size?  I’d rather get a nice sweater.

I do have a few exceptions to my hated car commercial list:

From a few years ago, a Mastercard commercial promoting a giveaway they were hosting.  The commercial is mocking the traditional Christmas Car Commercials:

 

 

I also really like Pomplamoose’s music/videos, and so, even though it seems like they sold out a bit, I like their Hyundai ads:

 

 

How do you feel about these ads?  What Christmas (or general holiday ads) do you hate?  One from last year that I both hate and love is the one that lumps all the December holidays together

Do you have better ideas for surprising your loved ones this holiday season?

 

A Commercial Holiday December 3, 2008

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 11:41 pm
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Usually, I leave the advertisement discussions to my friend at Drink Moxie, but since this one has a bit of a personal finance relationship, I figured I’d mention it.

Every year, when Christmas starts to roll around, there’s a whole slew of ads.  And the ads that bother me the most are the ads for new cars.  Almost all of them involve someone surprising their loved one with a brand new shiny car.  Complete with a bright red bow on top.

Do these ads bother anyone else?  How many people actually do this?  I’m guessing it’s usually just the luxury cars on these ads since it’s the more well-to-do people that could actually afford to surprise someone with a car.  But how often do people do that?  Every Christmas?  But like most ads, they’re trying to convince you it’s the thing to do; everyone else is doing it!

Do you let the commercials out there impact what you buy?  I’d like to think that most commercials don’t affect me.  The only ones that make me crave what they’re selling are ads related to chocolate.  M&M’s and Toll House ads get me drooling every time.

 

An update on my car discoveries October 3, 2008

Filed under: Boston,Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 3:15 pm
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So, the other night, I told you about learning more about my car (including how to pump gas).  I actually got linked to by a Boston-related blog, Universal Hub, which is pretty cool.  I think I might start reading them!

And today, I discovered a few more facts.

The top number the instantaneous mpg reading can hit is 99.9 (it only has room for those digits).  And I’ve found that I can hit that number pretty often!  Basically, if I’m coasting (taking my foot off the gas), I can pretty much max out, since I’m using so little gas.  Let this act as a reminder that you should try to coast as much as possible (when it’s safe!) because your momentum can take you pretty far!

I also browsed around GasBuddy some more after my post.  One thing to note is that it sends you to the local site (for me it was BostonGasPrices).  One feature I’m a fan of is the Fuel LogBook.  It lets you keep track of what you’re spending on gas.  And it also tracks your gas mileage, so if you don’t have that fancy feature on your car (like I do), you can still see how you’re doing on gas mileage.  And it’s easier to just enter the information there than set up a spreadsheet to do it.

I also wanted to note that this is in no way a sponsored post.  I realized I’ve now posted twice about GasBuddy…I just wanted to share some things I’ve found!  You can also use MSN’s Gas Prices page to look at local gas prices.  They get their numbers from OPIS, rather than from local price-spotters.  Do you have a favorite place to go to find gas prices?

So far, it looks like my average mileage is 35.8 mpg.  I’m going to keep trying to drive as efficiently as possible!

 

Gas gas gas! October 1, 2008

Filed under: Personal Finance — Stephanie @ 10:35 pm
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Today I did something that I’ve never done before.  It may come as a surprise…but today I pumped my own gas.  For the first time.  Ever.

Yes.  It’s true.  Now, I’m not a spoiled or lazy limo rider or something like that.  I got my license in New Jersey, one of the few states where you can’t pump your own gas.  And I rarely drove in high school anyways.  Take four years living in dorms in Cambridge, and two years taking public transportation, and you have a girl who didn’t really need a car.  And whenever I did need gas (borrowing my boyfriend’s car on occasion), the nearby station had full serve (and the cheapest gas in the area), so I didn’t have to pump my gas there, either.

And so today came…I was halfway through my drive to work when I noticed “the light” go on.  You know, the warning light that says that you only have a gallon or two left in your tank.  By the time I got to work, the needle on the gas gauge was nearing the zero line.  I hopped online briefly and took a look at GasBuddy to see what the prices were for gas in the area.  And since the nearest gas station to work was a little pricey, I bought a few gallons to make sure I got home, and rode the rest of the way home feeling a lot safer knowing I wasn’t running on fumes.

The funny/sad part is, I probably could have made it home…or at least known if I could make it home, had I read a little further into my owners manual.  When looking at the manual to see what gas level the warning light signified, I saw something about other information besides speed, miles, etc. on my dashboard.  I figured that was only an option for the “fancier” version of my car.  But nope, it turns out my car has all sorts of information!  While one meter shows the odometer and a few “trip” odometers, the other meter shows, among other things, the time, the outside temperature, instantaneous mpg, average mpg, and, the one that would have helped me out:  miles left on the tank.  Yep, they have an estimate for how much farther I could have gone.  But I didn’t try that out until after I’d gotten some gas.  Well, I guess now I know for future reference.

The mpg information is pretty cool, too.  The instantaneous mpg value fluctuates quite a bit, which makes sense (based on your speed, incline, gear, etc.).  The coolest moment was when I saw the reading go up to 99 mpg.  Yep.  It was pretty cool.  It was only on there for a moment, but I was kind of excited about that.  And I’m glad to report that my average mpg is above 30.  I don’t remember exactly what it’s at, but it’s pretty good.

So, there you have it.  I’ve finally pumped gas.  It’s really not hard at all!  I’ll keep you posted about the gas mileage I’m getting!

 

I finally have my car! September 16, 2008

It all started when I got a new job.  Remember that?  Those were good times.  I knew I was going to have to buy a car for the job offer I accepted, but I figured I could work my way through that slowly and surely.

Then I started narrowing down my choices.  I knew I wanted a Toyota Corolla or a Honda Civic.  So I went to a few different dealerships to see what kind of deals I could get.

This is where it gets tricky.  When I originally put down my deposit (on August 23rd) they told me that I’d have to wait a bit for the car to get here.  They didn’t have any meeting my specifications (not too fancy, not too basic), as Corollas are in high demand due to the recent rise in gas prices (though they’re going down…but that’s another story).  They told me that the car should be in NYC by around the 28th, at which point they’d have the VIN for me (so I could finalize my insurance and everything).  They also said that after it hit New York City, my car would take about a week to get to Boston.  And I was okay with that.

The 28th rolls around.  No VIN, I don’t think it had even reached NYC.  A week passes.  By then, the car should be in Boston.  No such luck.  Basically, I kept calling.  Friends suggested I call and threaten to go elsewhere (or not just threaten, but actually go elsewhere), or demand extra perks for having to wait so long.  On September 9th I called a few more times.  By then, the car was supposedly in New York City, but they still didn’t have the VIN.  I was pretty angry, because I was then told that they had originally told me that the car would be here by mid-month…which is NOT what they had originally said.  I called and spoke to the manager.  I started out trying to be really demanding, but he somehow had a way of calming me down (that’s why he’s the manager).  But I believe talking to him helped, because they knew I was serious about my car…maybe. And that maybe they’d give me a bit of money off of the car, or give me a few free oil changes or something.  He suggested that he could get me a rental car for the interim.  His main excuse was that the transit from wherever the cars came from was delayed by all the hurricanes.  I wasn’t so sure about this.  By the 11th, I was assured that my car would be in Boston by the 12th-15th…which calmed me down a bit.  I finally knew the end of the debacle was in sight.  By then, I figured it was worth it to just wait instead of see if I could get a car through another dealer more quickly (and I didn’t want to go through the whole hassle again).

The afternoon of Friday the 12th, I get a phone call.  My car was here!  FINALLY!  Of course by that time, it was too late to finish up the financing before the weekend…but I figured that I could go in on Monday to get the loan finished up at AAA.  I plan with the dealership to come in on Saturday to do all the paperwork.  I get a call Saturday morning…the dealer informs me that they don’t have the seal yet.  I really have no clue what that is.  I agree to wait until Monday, when they should have the seal, because at this point, I’m figuring I can’t do anything until I have the check for the dealer.  That, and I felt pretty lazy.

Monday, I head out to the dealership after work.  I’ve called the insurance company (since I finally got the VIN) and had my insurance selected and the information sent to AAA for finishing up the paperwork.  I sign all sorts of forms, and have the necessary forms faxed to AAA.  They try to sell me all sorts of different “packages”, including Lojack and assorted teflon coatings and things for the car.  He even said that I could extend the warranty to 8 years for almost $2000 extra.  I am almost certain I don’t want that, but call home quickly to confirm.  It was funny, because the guy said “I wouldn’t let my brother buy a car without this package” in response to the warranty and lojack.  He rattled off a statistic that a Carolla is the 3rd most likely car to get stolen.  I head home after all the paperwork and wait.

Today, I went to work as usual, but took a few hours off to get this car thing all settled out.  I’ll admit, it’s pretty convenient that I am allowed to modify my time at work, which allows me to use some time for appointments and the like, and just make up the time within a few weeks.  Anyway, I get out to AAA, and sign all sorts of papers, and then drive over to the dealership with a hefty check.  When I show up, my dealer seems a bit worried that they wont get everything done by the end of today (since it took me a bit longer than expected to get to the dealership).  I cringed, but hoped for the best.  I drive back to my place (I borrowed my boyfriend’s car) and try to get some work done.  Within the hour, I get a call from my dealer saying that everything should be done by 5pm.  I get out, take the T to the dealership, and sign a few more papers, and drive off.

As I’m driving away, I’m freaking out a little bit.  It’s like a new toy…it’s exciting!  And I’m having trouble coming to grips with buying a new car.  But the funny part is, it’s the biggest purchase I’ve ever made, and I am not regretting it.  Which is really weird for me…I’m always second guessing my decisions, and looking back and wondering if I did the right thing.  But in this case, perhaps I know that, at this point, it’s pretty much too late, I’m in it for the long haul.  And I’ve wanted/needed a car, and this fits my needs.  So I’m happy.  It’s a big step, a “grownup” step, and a pretty large addition to my debts.  But I think I’m going to be okay.  It’s a weird feeling.

Whew.  So, yes, I probably should have stopped waiting sooner, and demanded more.  But I think they’re willing to give me a free oil change or two.  And I’ll be happy to finally have a car of my own.  I’m excited to see how many miles per gallon I can eke out.

Have any of you had experiences like these?  What “grownup” steps are you taking?

 

I bought a car! August 24, 2008

Yep, you read correctly.  I bought a car.  Technically I don’t have it yet (it’s in transit) but I’ll have it in about a week.

I first went to Herb Chambers Honda to test drive a Civic.  When I got back, all I really wanted to know was what sort of price they were going to be able to give me.  But they definitely gave me a bit of a runaround, and I felt very pressured to buy the car right then and there.  I was there alone, and really wasn’t ready to make any decisions just yet.  They kept pointing out that they could accommodate any monthly payment my budget would allow.  I kept asking what interest rates they could give me, or the lowest price they could sell it to me at, and they continually changed it from rate to monthly payments…very sneaky.  Because, as you and I know, you can basically make a monthly payment of any amount, as long as you stretch out the payment schedule long enough.  And who wants to pay all that extra interest?

So, that was Tuesday.  I was busy the rest of the week, until Friday evening.  This time, Aaron came with me.  We went up to Commonwealth Motors.  I took another test drive with the Civic they had available.  The woman that showed me the car was really friendly, and took me around the dealership to see all the benefits they had.  I could tell what she was doing, but I let her show me around.  We started talking about cars, and I asked if they could go any lower on the price.  Like at the last dealership, she got her supervisor, who is more likely to actually make a deal.  So he said he could go as low as $17600, which was okay, with an MSRP of $18,430 or so.  Still, I wasn’t quite ready, and wanted to test drive other cars.

So, Saturday morning, I got an email from Herb Chambers Honda (yes, I gave them way too much contact info).  I called them at the number they mentioned, and the guy got his manager, who said they could probably match the price I got at Commonwealth, and that I should come in.  Well, Aaron and I headed over there, and since his car needed a tuneup, we dropped it off at the nearby dealership, (free parking!  except for the cost of the repairs not covered by his warranty)  and headed over to the Honda dealership.  It turns out that they didn’t have any more of the Civics in blue, which was the color I was hoping for.  They did say that they were willing to go as low as $17550, but that they couldn’t go lower than that.  I wasn’t too keen on buying a car without trying any other types of cars, and I also knew that Commonwealth had a few blue cars coming in, so I figured I’d wait and get back to them.

The manager actually offered to have the salesman drive us over to Herb Chambers Toyota in the manager’s car, which I thought was really nice.  Maybe they were hoping we’d come back, or they just wanted to be good guys, but either way, it was a good thing.

We got to Herb Chambers Toyota and had to wait around a bit.  All the salespeople were busy with other customers.  However, a man named CK, who apparently works more in the internet sales department, saw us waiting and offered to help.  I appreciated that.  I told him I was looking for a Corolla, and he had us go out on a test drive.  I found the car to seem a little more “normal” compared to the Civic, which seemed to have a bit more “space age” look to it, especially when it came to the dashboard.  I also noticed that the Corolla had a smoother ride.  I guess they say that it has a looser suspension, which means you feel less of each of the bumps on the road.  The salesperson at Commonwealth said that that meant that the Civic and other cars that touch the road more are safer because you’ll always be on the ground.  I’m not sure how much I believe that.

So, we talked a bit more with CK, and he was really nice.  I felt a lot more comfortable there than at the other dealerships.  I collected as much information as I could, and then Aaron and I headed over to the Super 88 food connection to grab some lunch.  It was pretty darn tasty.  I was going back and forth on which car I preferred.  I knew that really, it was my decision, not his, not my family’s just mine.  And I really hate making decisions (it took us a while to figure out which place to get food from!)

In the end, I decided that the Corolla just felt better.  The smoother ride and more normal looking/feeling car appealed to me.  Not sure if it was because it was the last car I looked at, but either way, I figured I couldn’t really go wrong.  I figured that if I could get a similar deal on the Corolla as was promised on the Civic, I would be happy.

So we headed back, and CK found a car fitting my needs (the Corolla LE) and was looking for a blue car for me when he found the listing that showed that ZERO blue cars were being made for them.  I’m not sure how exactly that happened, or what exactly that meant, but I had to decide if the color was that important.  Luckily, my second choice, silver, was available in the trim level I wanted.  I opted for the LE over the base (CE) because it had power locks, power windows, cruise control, and a few other options.  Yes it’s more expensive.  But I wanted to be happy down the line.

So I was handed off to the actual salesman, and he was able to give me ~$1000 off the MSRP.  In retrospect, I should have asked if he could go lower, and I’ll probably be kicking myself down the line for not trying to get it lower, but there it is.  I signed forms that scared me, and put down a deposit.  My car will be in off the trucks in about a week.

It’s a strange feeling.  It was such a big decision, moneywise.  I know I’ll be happy in the end, but I also know I probably could have gotten a cheaper car if I had gone for a used car.  I’m getting my loan through AAA, like I mentioned before, and they’ve got a rate better than the dealerships could offer (they don’t have deals on the fuel efficient cars because they’re already in such high demand!)  So, I’ve got to decide the length of the loan (likely 3-5 years).  Luckily, they don’t have any added fees for prepaying (I wonder if that also means if I completely pay it off early they wouldn’t have a problem with it) so I could technically get rid of that debt sooner.  It actually is the lowest APR of all my loans…4.49%.  My fixed rate student loans are at 4.5% (not too much higher) and my variable rate loans are currently at 5% (though that wont always stay).  It’s another barrier towards being debt free.  And unlike education, you can’t quite label a car purchase as “good debt”.  But I do plan on having this car forever (relatively speaking), and so I’ll try to get my money’s worth.  I just need to buckle down and work even harder at paying off my debts.

Next step is getting car insurance.  I’ll let you know what happens with that.

And now it’s time for bed.  I’ve got to get up early for work tomorrow so that I, you know, can make some more money to pay off all those bills.