Tips before buying a used car

In most parts of the US, having a car is a must. For most families, it is also one of their biggest expenses, along with housing and health insurance. That’s why it is important to invest time in researching all of your options, both online and in your general area, to find the best deal, which very well might be a used car.

First question… New or used?

While the idea of a new car is fun, let’s be honest, we have other priorities in life, right? Also, new cars lose their value faster than used ones. The good news: You can find high quality and reliable used cars nowadays.

For families or individuals on a budget (aka all families!), especially one with other important needs, used cars are a great choice. Keep these thoughts in mind before buying yours!

Narrow your options

There are so many options available. To help you narrow down the selection and make the right choice, consider the following:

DAILY USE:

Ask yourself: “What will I use it for?”, “How often?”, “What roads will I drive on?”, “Do I need extra space for kids?”, “How often do I transport or store stuff in my car?”, “Will anyone else need to drive it?”, “How often will I need to take it on long trips?”. Be honest about your primary needs so you can determine:

  • How many miles should be on the used car already? You’ll want a car with fewer miles if you need to drive long distances or have the car last longer.
  • Do you really need all-wheel-drive? If you live in the snow belt, consider getting an extra set of wheels with snow tires mounted instead. It could end up being the same or lower cost, and offer better gas mileage as well as better traction.
  • How many passengers will you be transporting on a regular basis? How many doors and seats do you need?
  • How much “stuff” needs to fit?  Do you need a big trunk or will a small one do? If you only need to haul large loads occasionally, can you borrow or rent a larger vehicle for those times?
  • How important is good gas mileage? The environmental impact?

MONEY:

Think about the maximum budget you can afford and how you might get the money you need. Will you need to take out a loan? If so, ask yourself these 3 questions before choosing a lender. Also know that dealers and retailers have relationships with banks and might be able to help you get a loan.

If you want to pay for the car in cash, how much would you need to set aside each paycheck and for how long, in order to buy the car?

How to find a used car worth your money

Start with an online search to learn about available options on websites for used car retailers, like Carmax, used car dealerships, or through private sales found on Craigslist or eBay.

Check reviews about retailer / dealership businesses online to see which ones seem trustworthy and if other people have had good experiences. In the Google search bar, simply type the name of the company followed by “review”, to find customer opinions.

If you opt for a private sale, try to figure out if the seller is a reliable person. You could also consider buying from a trustworthy friend, a friend of a friend, co-worker, or neighbor.

With a private seller, you might have a better chance to negotiate the price, but it could be riskier in terms of liability, since retailers and dealers might offer warranties.

Once you see that dream car…

No matter how in love you might be with a car, don’t forget to take these precautions before making the commitment to purchase:

  • Safety comes first! Always keep that in mind.
  • Inspect the car by closely looking at windows, seats, tires, suspension, car body, lights, controls, trunk, roof, engine, etc.
  • Take it for a test drive on a highway and in traffic, and in conditions similar to those in which you drive most often.
  • Ask for an independent inspection from a professional mechanic (you should be willing to pay for this). If the seller does not agree to an inspection, think twice before buying it.
  • Look at the miles driven and age of the car.  A car with 12,000-15,000 miles could last many years. If it has more than 100,000 miles driven, it may need repairs more often, but could also still last years. Keep that in mind.If you do decide to buy this car in a private sale, take a picture of the dashboard for a record and in case of any oddities during the pink slip transfer
  • Check if it is a fair price: Using the mileage and year, check the value on Kelley Blue Book’s website.
  • Do internet research to find out if this particular kind of vehicle is affordable to maintain. Look at fuel consumption, for any typical breakdowns, cost of maintenance, etc.
  • Does the car have a warranty? If it does, the seller should show you a written document saying so.

Your car insurance costs could change depending on the auto. Check it out before buying!

Finally: “finance” steps

  • Negotiate. Do not be afraid to discuss the price and conditions. Remind yourself that you are in control and that you must feel convinced about the deal before you take it. If not, push back and leave. It is as simple as that.
  • Ask for the real final price, including registration fees, to avoid surprises.
  • Dealerships sometimes offer extended warranties. Check what the warranty on your car choice covers and double check that your car insurance doesn’t already cover it.
  • Finally, sign the deal and…

LET’S RIDE!

More info and sources at: Federal Trade Commission

Tips to save money in your back-to-school budget

We hope you enjoyed at least a few days of relaxation this summer! But now…let’s get back to reality and schedules. We know it can be tough, but it does not have to be tough on your pocket with this back-to-school budget plan.

Planning, planning, planning

NOTEBOOK AND PEN (OR A COOL BUDGETING APP ON YOUR MOBILE!)

Start by writing down a list of all expenses the school year involves. It may include supplies (pens, crayons, notebooks, binders…), backpacks, clothes, extracurricular activities, lunch money, field trips…

CHECK WHAT YOU ALREADY HAVE

Can you re-purpose anything? Maybe you have an old backpack that needs a washing and some cool patching designs, so your kid can be excited to use it. Look for supplies/clothes in those boxes or drawers you haven’t opened in a while. Sometimes we buy new items only to discover we already had them, hiding in unexpected places.

FOLLOW A MONTHLY SCHOOL BUDGET

Plan the amount of money you can afford and make a list of what you will buy with it each month. Think about seasonal sales. For example, most stores offer school supplies in August at a discount, while other items, like shoes, might go on sale in December.

Consider hosting a costume “trade” with other families, looking for easy-to-make costumes online, or buying Halloween costumes the year before since they tend to go on sale right after Halloween. Goodwill is a great place for Halloween shopping!

Month  Budget What Where
August $80 Backpack

Pens

Binders

Goodwill

Discount Grocery Store

September $50 Art class fees

Swimsuit

School

End of summer sale

October $50 Halloween costume

Sports fee

Walmart

School

INVOLVE YOUR KIDS IN THE PROCESS

Education is one of the most important things in their lives, and you can teach them to follow a monthly budget so they can help you stay within yours.

Now yes! Let’s go shopping!

While trying to find the best school bargain, you could consider these tips…

SHOP DISCOUNTS AND SALES!

Dollar stores are a great option, and only buy what you really need. Sometimes “Just $1” is very appealing, but as you know, dollars can add up and get you off budget! Check discount grocery stores, too, since they dedicate full aisles to “back to school” items and sometimes have good deals as well.

PLAN SEASONAL SALES

At the end of August-September, you can find sales on summer clothes that can be used in the transition to Fall (maybe just in warmer states). Planning a few seasons early will save you money next summer.

CHECK IF YOUR STATE CELEBRATES TAX HOLIDAY

(Not all states apply). You will not pay the taxes on certain, important items. For example, On August 10-12, Texan residents don’t pay taxes on clothing, backpacks and school supplies up to $100! If you live in one of these states, take full advantage by gathering coupons.

SHOP USED CLOTHES

You can find pretty cool clothes for your kids at thrift stores. Swap stores even allow you to bring in your clothes in exchange for some new (to you) used clothes, a perfect situation for growing children. Remember as well to check Craigslist, Facebook Market, and other webs/apps where people in your community offer good prices or even items for free!

THINK IF IT IS WORTH TO BUY IN BULK

This could saves you money long term if you have the money to make the purchase and the space to store extra items. Or you could plan bulk purchases with other families. For example: kids need 4 notebooks a year. You can buy a pack of 12 notebooks for 12 dollars. That pack could be divided among 3 families (3 kids) and each family pays just 4 dollars.

EXTEND THE LIFE OF THE ITEMS

Remember your childhood when your parents bought you that large t-shirt saying “Bigger the better! It should last all year and you grow too fast”. The story is the same generation after generation. Also, for any jackets or other goods your kids might lose, help your kids form the habit of always double checking for items through constant reminders. (Label them just in case.) Consider second-hand jackets, either hand-me-downs from older friends and cousins or inexpensive ones from Goodwill or thrift stores.

And now that you are ready with these tips… Let’s rock that school year, family!

New Jersey residents can now apply for affordable Oportun loans!

Hello New Jersey! Hello Elizabeth!

We’re Oportun and we’ve just opened our very first location in New Jersey (and 300th nationwide) – right on Elmora and New Jersey Avenue in Elizabeth.

Don’t live near Elizabeth? You can still apply for our affordable loans online and by phone.

During our 12 years as a personal lending company, we have provided affordable loans to more than a million customers, many of whom had little or no credit history before coming to us.

Our first-time customers save an average of $1,000* when they choose Oportun over alternative lenders like payday, auto-title and pawn-shop loans. That is because our personal loans come with fixed and affordable payments. You’ll know how much you borrowed, how much you owe, and the total cost of the loan before you even sign the contract.

But that is not the only advantage: We can also help you establish credit history by reporting your account to two of the three major credit bureaus.

We are thrilled to be here and excited to help New Jersey residents begin building a better future.

Apply online at www.oportun.com 
Visit our office at 128 Elmora Ave., Unit B, Elizabeth, New Jersey 07202
Call us at (732) 497-3253

*Oportun: The True Cost of a Loan – Based on research commissioned by Oportun and conducted by the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI), the total savings number equals the difference between the average cost of other widely-available alternative lending products that customers may have used and the average cost of an Oportun loan of the same amount, multiplied by Oportun first-time borrowers. CFSI analyzed the rates, fees, and terms for payday, pawn, auto-title, installment and rent-to-own products for customers in Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Utah, and calculated the total cost of those products for common loan amounts. CFSI considered the loan repayment structure and timeframe for each product, borrower income, the potential for rollovers and refinancing, and legal parameters that prevent or constrain borrowing. Oportun updates the model quarterly to calculate the total amount that Oportun first-time borrowers have saved since 2006 in interest and fees compared to the alternative products. The actual savings for each customer will vary based on specific loan terms and alternative products available in your area. 

Idaho’s and Wisconsin’s residents can now apply for Oportun loans online!

Imagine this: You’re in need of some quick money to cover a new battery for your car; you have to drive 25 miles every day to get to your job. Your friends or family can’t lend you the money, you don’t have a credit score so a bank won’t lend to you, and you don’t want a high-cost payday or pawn loan.

One of your friends from Illinois tells you about Oportun, which offers responsible loans that come with affordable, fixed payments that can even help you establish a credit history. And even better, you can apply from just your smartphone, computer or tablet. No traveling to a retail office or applying by phone.

This has been the reality for people in Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, Nevada, Texas, and Utah. And now this moment has arrived for residents in Idaho and Wisconsin!

Oportun launched their mobile loan application in both states this May

That means that Idaho and Wisconsin’s residents can apply online, get a decision and, if approved, sign their loan agreement electronically and receive money through a mailed check or direct deposited to their bank account!

How to apply for a loan with our secure mobile application

To apply from your phone or computer, make sure you have access to cellular data or a secure internet/Wifi connection. After that, open the browser and type “Oportun.com” to get to our website, or click the Oportun logo in the top right of this screen.

Click the “Apply Online” button and start the mobile application process, following the instructions. If you cannot complete the process because you do not yet have all documentation required, do not worry. The system will save your application and you can return later to finish the loan application, just remember your login username and password!

What makes Oportun different

Oportun’s mission is to provide inclusive, affordable financial services that empower our customers to build a better future. Oportun has figured out a way to evaluate these borrowers and is able to make loans to people that traditional banks and financial institutions won’t lend to. Not only that, Oportun reports accounts and payment histories to the credit bureaus so that customers can start establishing credit history, and hopefully one day enable them to access more credit options. Oportun’s loans are designed for borrowers to build a better future.

All loans are on approved credit. Oportun reports account payment histories to credit bureaus. Late or missed payments may have a negative impact on credit history or credit score. If you do not have a Social Security number, the credit bureaus may not be able to report your credit history completely and accurately. 

This blog is an advertisement and is not meant to provide personal financial advice. Please speak with your accountant or financial adviser for personal financial advice.

3 things you will need to get organized for your tax return and any refund

With the arrival of tax season, it’s time to get organized so you can file your tax return as soon as possible. The sooner you file, the sooner you can get your tax refund, if any, which you can use for the financial future of your family. Here we’re sharing some of the things that you’ll need to help you get organized.

1. Proof of income

These are the most common forms taxpayers receive about their income. You may receive others if you earn income from different sources.

  • Form W-2: From your employer, or employers if you have more than one job
  • Form 1099-MISC: From your clients, if you’re an independent contractor or self employed
  • Form 1099-INT: From your bank, if you earned more than $10 in interest

2. Documentation about your expenses

Here are common expenses that many taxpayers who itemize their deductions report on their tax returns to lower their taxable income and possibly how much tax they pay. You may have other deductions depending on your situation.

  • Receipts for business expenses, usually for anyone who is self-employed
  • Medical expenses that may apply to you, such as dental, vision, treatment, surgeries
  • Form 1098 for proof of interest payment on your home loan, if applicable

3. Information about you, and your children and relatives that you care for

Having handy information about you and your dependents, such as your children or family members that you care for, will help you avoid delays in preparing your tax return.

  • Social Security Number for you and your spouse, as well as your dependents OR Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) if you don’t have a Social Security Number

Other useful documentation

Bank routing number and bank account number to include on your tax return if you would like the IRS to direct deposit any refund, if you have a bank account.

If someone helps you prepare your taxes, ask these questions
A new federal tax law was recently approved that will affect different taxpayers in different ways, starting with the federal tax return you will file in 2019. Plan ahead by asking your tax preparer:

  • How will the changes to the standard deduction affect you?

A portion of your income is deducted and is not taxed, called “deductions.” Taxpayers can either itemize their deductions or take the standard deduction. The standard deduction amount will almost double from what it was in 2017. Therefore, if you claim the standard deduction, the new law may lower the amount of your 2018 taxes (reported on your 2019 tax return).

  • What are the changes to deductions for state and local taxes?

You can usually deduct state and local taxes, such as income tax, sales tax and property taxes. However, starting in 2018 the amount you can deduct for state and local taxes that you paid will be limited to $10,000.

Congratulations! Getting organized is the first big step toward filing your tax return early. Remember, the sooner you file, the sooner you can get your tax refund, if you are due one.

This blog is for informational purposes only and is not tax advice. Please speak to your accountant or tax adviser for tax advice.

Need help filing your taxes?

It’s time to file your federal income taxes—the deadline is April 15, 2019. You must file a return even if you don’t owe any tax.

Tax preparation can be stressful, but there are lots of resources available to help you. Here are some options.

FREE: Get help from IRS-certified volunteers

Did you make $55,000 or less in 2018? Do you have a disability or speak limited English? You might qualify for help filing your taxes under the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.

If you are 60 or older, you can also get free help through Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE). IRS-certified volunteers at this program specialize in answering questions about pension and retirement issues.

Call 1 (800) 906-9887 or use this locator tool to find a VITA or TCE location near you.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the government agency in charge of collecting federal taxes. Each state also has its own organization to collect local taxes. You may have to file both federal and state tax returns.

FREE: Use free online software

If you made less than $66,000 in 2018, you can file your federal taxes for free using software from the Free File Program. Most of these programs will walk you through the process step by step as you fill out the form.

There are also free programs for help with state taxes. Look them up here.

Free fillable forms

Did you make more than $66,000 in 2018? Do you also have a copy of your 2017 tax return? If so, you can still file for free online, but will get only minimal guidance.

PAID: Use a paid software program

Many software companies can help you file your taxes online with easy-to-use, guided programs for a fee.

The best-known tax softwares are  “Turbo Tax”, “H&R Block” (software system) or “Tax Act”, just to name a few of them.

PAID: Hire a professional

You can also hire someone to do your taxes. The price will vary depending on the complexity of your financial situation.

H&R Block, Jackson Hewitt, and Liberty Tax are some of the bigger tax preparation services. You can use this tool to find an IRS-authorized e-file provider near you.

It’s always a smart idea to get help with complicated jobs like tax preparation.

The opportunity of “Oportun”, after Progreso Financiero

When we were first founded in 2005, our name was Progreso Financiero, Spanish for Financial Progress. We hired bilingual staff and disbursed our very first loan from a folding card table in a Latino grocery store in the spring of 2006!

Over time, word spread beyond the Latino community about our affordable loans that help establish credit history.  In 2015, we decided we needed a shorter, more memorable name. After months of market research, we changed our name to “Oportun” to reflect what our customers said we represented to them: Opportunity.  They told us that our loans gave them the opportunity to repair the car that broke down, put a security deposit on a new rental apartment, the opportunity to establish credit history for the first time, and more. Three years later, our new name continues to encompass our dedication to helping people achieve progreso financiero, financial progress.

Our mission: To provide affordable loans that help people with little or no credit history establish credit and build a better future.

In 2015, when we changed our name to Oportun, our loans were only available in three states: California, Illinois, and Texas. Now they are available in nine, since we’ve added Arizona, Idaho, Florida, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wisconsin to the mix.  In 2015, customers needed to visit one of our retail locations to complete an application. Today, customers can also apply for a loan online using their mobile device. There are an estimated 45 million people in the United States who have little or no credit history, and we are well on our way to help more of them.

Hurricane Harvey and Oportun’s contribution to help affected employees and customers

Financial stress is difficult enough. When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in 2017, Oportun knew how important it was to support its customers and employees.

Guiding principles: Dignity and compassion

Oportun Houston locations were shut down immediately and remained closed until each could be assessed and considered safe to enter. All staff and customers were encouraged to stay at home rather than come to work or to make a payment at the risk of their personal safety.

Employees

Oportun ensured that all employees were safe, even arranging a boat to pick up one stranded in a flooded home. Then the company issued gift cards for immediate financial assistance. Oportun continued to pay wages as if employees were working their regular schedules to minimize the impact on personal budgets. Further, they provided an emergency phone number for an Oportun-sponsored program that makes referrals to free services, including counseling in case employees needed emotional support.

Oportun also set up an Employee Assistance Fund with a matching grant from Oportun to help affected employees deal with the financial impact in the long term. These funds will be available to employees in any future hardships as well.

Customers

Many of Oportun’s customers live in low-to-moderate income communities whose lives are even more vulnerable in this kind of natural catastrophe. To ease immediate stress, the company postponed payments for some Houston customers affected by the hurricane, and it waived fees for late payments. One of Oportun’s corporate values is care, where compassion and dignity have a place.

The measures Oportun took in Houston demonstrate Oportun’s commitment to community, employees and customers.