How Much Are Old Records Worth? Here’s What We Found Out

Money sits on top of a record in a record player.


Getty Images and Ken Lyons/The Penny Hoarder

When it comes to selling your old records to make extra cash, don’t get your hopes up.

And know this: Condition matters most. Frank Sinatra matters least.

“At one time the shelf that held all the Sinatra albums was 70 feet wide,” said Doug Allen, owner of Bananas Records, which is based in St. Petersburg, Florida. “We have way too much of that.”

What Bananas Records buys and sells the most are classic rock ‘n’ roll, punk and jazz albums. And that’s for around $5 — if the album and the cover are in great condition.

“Records don’t compare to coins and stamps and books,” Allen said. ”There’s not really anything that’s worth $100,000 or more.”

Many records that sold in the millions are still popular with collectors and album buyers, but so many copies are still in circulation that they don’t sell for much.

On the other hand, records that only sold 20,000 copies — jazz from the 1950s, early punk rock — may be worth more. Allen has seen jazz albums from that era, such as early Miles Davis, go for $500 to $700 a piece, while classic punk might sell for $50 to $100.

Most record collectors these days are between the ages of 18 and 35, and used record dealers will try to buy records that will appeal to both avid collectors as well as other, more casual buyers.  That includes artists like Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, David Bowie and John Coltrane.

“There are still some Beach Boy fans out there,” Allen said. “There’s some country that’s worth something. Early Hank Williams. Some Johnny Cash.”

Allen would pay around $3 to $5 an album for these in good condition. He noted that Michael Jackson albums in good shape are selling.

“Two weeks after his death you could sell anything you could get your hands on for $30 to $40,” Allen said. “Now they are worth about $7 to $10.”

However, don’t bother bringing your Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow or Elvis Presley records.

“These kids who are buying records today, many of them have never heard of Elvis,” Allen said. “That era is gone.”

This three part photo shows the album cover and the actual record of Sonny Rollins, who is considered one of the most important jazz musicians in America. The record retails for $1,000 at Banana Records. Then there is a portrait of Doug Allen, the Banana Records owner, with his warehouse full of records. Some are on shelves while others are in boxes.
Doug Allen, bottom, co-owns Bananas Records with his wife, Michelle Allen, not photographed, which is one of the largest vinyl record retailers in the world with about 3.5 million records. Sonny Rollins, top, is considered one of the most important jazz musicians in American history. His sixth album, Saxophone Colossus, is selling at Bananas Records for $1,000. Chris Zuppa / The Penny Hoarder

An Album’s Value Is About More Than the Music

Other factors affect the value of an album, including a record label or address of the recording studio, which can indicate if it’s a first or second pressing; the country in which the album was released; and whether the album was autographed.

The condition of the album cover is as important as the vinyl itself. Water damage, tears and marks can all decrease an album’s value. However, Allen and other collectors frequently buy the album alone if it’s in good shape and the cover isn’t, and vice versa.

Allen advises anyone who is trying to sell their collection to take it to their local vintage record store and have them take a look and let you know what’s worth money.

One couple recently brought two wheeled suitcases full of albums into Bananas Record, and they were able to sell many of them for a total of $60.

Here’s What Your DVDs and CDs Are Actually Worth

What about DVDs, CDs and even 8-tracks? Allen and Genny Stout, manager of Bananas Records,  have some guidance for anyone trying to unload their old movies and music.

CDs

CDs are less popular each year, as there are fewer cars with CD players. Stout usually pays 25 cents for them.

DVDs

Stout will offer up to 50 cents for DVDs from the ‘80s and ‘90s that aren’t very common. This does not include romantic comedies and blockbusters like “The Matrix.”

“Nobody wants to buy romantic comedies, or all the Adam Sandler movies,” Stout said.

A Disney classic in good shape might bring $1 or $2.

“Most of those are destroyed because people let their children put them in and out [of the DVD players],” Stout said.

VHS 

“We haven’t purchased those in 5 to 6 years,” she said, adding that it’s hard to find non-profit retail stores that accept them.

8-Track

“I would say there’s no market for them with the exception of a cult following,” Allen said. “Maybe a KISS 8-track, something you wouldn’t expect.” Those might bring in $10 to $15.

Katherine Snow Smith is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

9 Pantry Essentials to Stock Up on if You Want to Cook More

A father cooks in the kitchen while he holds his infant daughter

Marcelo Avila holds his daughter while cooking dinner in St. Petersburg, Fla. Keeping some basic pantry essentials on hand allows you to whip up tasty meals with minimal effort. Some basics include pasta sauce, chicken broth and coconut milk. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

You finished another long day at work, and you’re ready to kick back.

But you’re hangry, and the last thing you want to do is stand over a hot stove and make dinner.

We’ve all been there. Saving money doesn’t mean becoming a superhuman who can ignore the stress of the day to create a three-course, budget-friendly meal.

Saving money on food comes down to working smarter, not harder. And that starts with keeping some basic pantry essentials on hand at all times, so you can whip up tasty meals with minimal effort (and thinking).

The Budget Cook’s 9 Kitchen Pantry Essentials

If you’re trying to cut down on eating out and looking to stock your cabinets on the cheap, grab these pantry essentials to build quick and easy low-cost meals.

1. Whole Grains and Breads

  • Oatmeal
  • Quinoa
  • Rice
  • Bread
  • Tortillas
Oatmeal, Quinoa, rice and tortillas in a kitchen.
Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

Quinoa and rice are standard bases for taco bowls, curries and fried rice. What you may not realize is that oatmeal is just as versatile. In addition to overnight oats and oatmeal cookies, you can create a savory breakfast bowl by adding some cheese and an egg.

Throw anything between two slices of bread and call it a sandwich, or add some cheese in a tortilla and call it a quesadilla. These vessels are a tasty way to mix up the delivery of leftovers to your mouth.

Reducing food waste for the win!

2. Pasta

  • Spaghetti
  • Penne

You don’t necessarily need these specific noodles, but a long noodle and a short noodle will do all the things you need noodles to do.

Say that 10 times fast.

Your short noodle can make mac and cheese or a great pasta primavera with leftover veggies. Long noodles are made for a good sauce like Alfredo, pesto or marinara.

3. Beans and Legumes

  • Chickpeas
  • Lentils
  • Black beans
  • Kidney beans
Beans and lentils in glass jars
Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

Beans and legumes cost a fraction of the price of meat, making them an affordable way to add protein to soups, chilis and tacos. Roasted chickpeas make a healthy salad topper, while lentils are great for a fantastic curry.

You can buy these canned, but buying them dry is even cheaper. Bonus: You can store them in decorative jars, and friends will think you know what you’re doing in the kitchen.

4. Baking

  • All-purpose flour
  • White sugar

All-purpose or whole-wheat flour is essential for more than just cakes and breads. You can use it to make your own pancake mix, biscuits or even fresh egg pasta. Flour is also used as a thickener in homemade sauces.

A little sugar can make a yummy sweet-and-savory sauce or quick fruit crisp in the microwave.

Sugar shouldn’t be a staple in your diet, but it’s necessary in your kitchen. You’re likely to consume less sugar when you make your sweets at home instead of buying them at the store.

5. Nuts and Seeds

  • Almonds
  • Pecans
  • Pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
Almonds and pumpkin seeds
Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

Basic nuts and seeds have a dual purpose: They’re a great snack on their own, and they give a nice crunchy texture to salads, oatmeal and baked goods.

They’re also ultra healthy. Pumpkin seeds are chock-full of nutrients — just 1 ounce has 7 grams of protein. Nuts also contain a hefty dose of healthy fats and nutrients, so skip the chips and keep these tiny gems on hand.

6. Oil and Vinegar

  • Olive oil
  • Sesame oil
  • White vinegar
  • Apple cider vinegar

You can make some awesome marinades and salad dressings with this classic combo. Apple cider vinegar makes a tasty vinaigrette; add sesame oil to peanut butter and soy sauce to create your own peanut sauce.

If you want to expand your oil and vinegar inventory, balsamic and rice vinegars add a lot of options to your pantry arsenal.

7. Condiments and Sauces

  • Mayonnaise
  • Dijon mustard
  • Soy sauce
  • Hot sauce
  • Honey
  • Peanut butter
mustard, peanut butter, honey and soy sauce jars
Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

Much like oil and vinegar, condiments and sauces give new life to bland meats and veggies. Mix Dijon with a little oil and vinegar for a salad dressing. I’ve found that a little hot sauce corrects all recipe mistakes.

Peanut butter toast makes a great snack — and we’ve found that, surprisingly, there are a lot of household uses for it, too.

If you’ve already got a lot of condiments to work with, don’t let them die in your fridge. There are several ways to put them to good use.

8. Herbs and Aromatics

  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic
  • Cumin
  • Italian seasoning
  • Crushed red pepper

Salt and pepper are a given. But buying pre-minced garlic saves time — and allows you to add fresh garlic to anything. Cumin is a staple in Mexican dishes.

Italian seasoning is a frugal life hack. It includes all the seasonings you want in the ratio you want them, without having to buy seven different bottles.

And crushed red pepper is an easy one to have on hand because you can always refill your container with the packets that come with your pizza.

9.Canned Goods

  • Tomatoes
  • Pasta sauce
  • Coconut milk
  • Stock or bouillon
pasta sauce, broth and coconut milk on a kitchen counter
Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

Coconut milk, stock and tomatoes are necessary bases for many soups, chilis and curries. You can also cook rice and quinoa in stock or coconut milk to add some flavor.

It’s always nice to have a fancy pasta sauce on hand if you don’t have time to make your own — even though it’s really easy.

And if you’re embarking on a pantry challenge by eating what’s on hand before buying additional groceries, having ample canned goods will help you tie together some delicious meals.

Jen Smith is a former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Wondering How to Become an Audiobook Narrator? Here’s How

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2019. 

While readers and writers have skeptically watched the fluctuating publishing industry in recent years, one literary market has caught us all a bit by surprise: audiobooks.

Somewhere along the path of lengthy commutes and ubiquitous smartphones, a market for audiobooks erupted: people who don’t otherwise read much.

This exploding market makes it imperative for authors and publishers to get books into audio form and on the most popular platforms — Audible (Amazon) and iTunes.

Enter Amazon’s Audiobook Creative Exchange (ACX), which connects audiobook narrators with books to narrate.

Like other publishing services you’ll find at Amazon — CreateSpace for print-on-demand books, CDs and DVDs; and Kindle Direct Publishing for ebooks — ACX simplifies the process of producing an audiobook from start to finish.

If you’re an actor or voice-over artist, you could make money working in this market.

Not sure where to start? Here’s our guide.

How to Become an Audiobook Narrator

Actor Kris Keppeler has been doing voice-over work for over a decade.

“I got started through freelancing and bidding on work,” Keppeler said. “I bid on a short audiobook and got that, and it went well. When ACX came along, I started auditioning there… It’s taken a little bit to discover where my voice fits.”

Based on her experience, Keppeler shares some advice — and warnings — for anyone interested in doing audiobook work.

What You Need to Know Before Auditioning

Before you spend months auditioning to land your first gig, we have some tips to help you get started.

“My voice just fits with audiobook work,” Keppeler said. “Actors are especially tuned in for audiobook work, by the nature of our training.”

That’s because actors learn how to represent multiple characters, necessary for fiction narration in particular. Even for nonfiction, acting training can help you animate narration and make a book interesting.

“You definitely have to have some training,” Keppeler said. “If you regularly listen to audiobooks and like them, that’s a good starting point. But you have to have a real desire to do this kind of work, because it’s a lot of work.”

How is narrating an audiobook different from just reading a book aloud?

“When you read a book, you’re seeing and hearing things in your mind,” she said. “When you’re narrating that book, what you’re seeing and hearing in your mind you have to then vocalize. That’s not easy!”

Because an audiobook listener relies entirely on your narration, painting the picture just right (and meeting the author’s vision) is vital. It’s a distinct difference from other voice-over work, like commercials, where images or video complement the narration.

Because of this need to draw the reader into a made-up world, narrating fiction requires acting skills. Not everyone is cut out for it.

But, “nonfiction has its own challenge,” Keppeler said. “Sometimes what you’re reading is kind of dry, but you still have to make it interesting.”

She says it doesn’t necessarily matter whether a book is interesting to her.

“At this point, whether it is or not, I am narrating it and finding the interesting bits for me and putting it into my voice,” Keppeler said.

Even if you don’t enjoy the subject matter, you can still enjoy the process of producing the book for readers.

Learn Proper Technique

Before landing her first gig through ACX, Keppeler submitted auditions to the platform for well over a year.

Why does it take so long to land a gig?

Some of it, Keppeler says, is just learning how to narrate correctly. “I had some coaching that finally brought me to the point of doing a fairly good job.”

Author Joanna Penn recorded the audio versions of some of her own books. If you can’t afford coaching, she offers some tips for beginners at The Creative Penn to help you get started.

Some tricks to consider:

  • If you’re new at recording, schedule sessions a few days apart to ensure you have enough energy.
  • Try to avoid dairy before recording. Same goes for foods like peanut butter or anything that clogs up your mouth or throat (yeck!).
  • Try to modulate your breathing so you don’t end up holding your breath. This has a real effect on stamina.

Find Your Niche

Once she’d mastered the audiobook reading techniques, Keppeler said, she had to find her niche.

She used trial and error. She took whatever narration work came her way, and listened to client feedback. When an author liked her voice, she knew it was a good fit.

“In voice-over in general, there are so many different genres,” she said. “Most people find you have certain specialities and certain ones don’t fit.”

Once you know your voice and which genres are the best fit, she says, jobs come much more quickly.

Only audition for gigs that fit your voice, and the success rate is much higher. You can even search for books by genre.

“I’m becoming a bit of a nonfiction specialist,” Keppeler said. “[When it comes to fiction], it’s hard to learn to do the different voices… Fiction books are heavily character-based, so you’re going to have to handle [those] unless you’re hired to work with a group, but that’s not that common.”

The Challenges of Audiobook Narration

Some of the work involved goes beyond just recording the voice-over. “Especially if you work through ACX, you have to do the producing yourself,” Keppeler said. “[That’s] editing and mastering yourself. There’s a technical learning curve.”

Audiobooks require hours and hours of editing, making them much more labor intensive than a lot of other voice-over work.

“What I learned editing smaller jobs contributed a lot to being able to jump into audiobooks,” Keppeler said.

So you might consider starting small.

Search online for voice-over jobs — you’ll find promotional videos under five minutes or corporate training videos of five to 15 minutes.

Even online course videos requiring a few hours of voice-over are much shorter than most audiobooks, which run closer to 10 to 15 hours. Hone your skills on smaller jobs and work your way up to the lengthier projects.

What about contracting the technical stuff out to an audio editor? Keppeler says that for what you’re paid, it’s not usually worth it for an audiobook.

You’re expected to record, produce and deliver a finished product. Any additional help you bring in will cut into your pay. Keppeler says you’re better off just learning to do it yourself.

The Creative Penn also offers a few editing tips:

  • Avoid page turning noises — read from a tablet, Kindle or other electronic device.
  • Turn off any devices’ Wi-Fi connections and set them to Airplane mode to avoid static noises. (They may be there, even if you can’t hear them.)
  • Each ACX file needs to be a single chapter of the book. It’s easier to record these as separate files rather than cut it up later.
  • The ACX technical requirements mean you have to add a few seconds of Room Tone at the beginning and end of the file.

How Much Money Can You Make Reading Audiobooks?

ACX doesn’t set or recommend rates for producers to charge.

But it does point out many narrators are members of the SAG-AFTRA union, which lists minimum rate restrictions.

These guaranteed rates vary by publisher/producer. Author Roz Morris tells authors to expect to pay around $200 per finished hour for audiobook narration.

However, Keppeler says most freelance audiobook work will be paid in royalties. As you might guess, this reduces an author’s upfront cost — as well as their risk in hiring you.

While ACX may be a good place to find the work, the pay is usually lower, especially compared with freelance broker sites that aren’t dedicated solely to audiobook narration.

When you record an audiobook with ACX, you’ll choose between setting your own per-finished-hour rate or splitting royalties 50/50 with the rights holder (usually the book’s author or publisher).

If you charge a flat rate, you’ll be paid upon completion of the book. Royalties are paid monthly based on sales from the previous month.

Mostly, Keppeler focuses on short books she can quickly complete. And she gets paid a flat rate of about $100 per finished hour, rather than royalties.

“I have done royalty deals but only on ACX with short books,” she said.

“I don’t want to tie up my time, because you [typically] make very little on royalty books… I have four royalty books [on ACX], and about $20 trickles in every quarter.”

Whether or not a royalty deal pays off is largely based on an author’s platform, The Creative Penn points out. Research an author before signing an agreement.

If you’re just looking for a quick job and aren’t concerned with long-term sales, you can work with an author regardless of their audience. Set a flat rate, and get your money when the job’s done.

But if you want to develop a long-term relationship with an author and you’ve found someone with a sizable audience, you may be better off with the royalty deal.

Long term, you could make much more money in sales royalties. Your working relationship with the author also will be strengthened, because you’ll be invested in the book’s success.

Where to Find Audiobook Work

As with any freelance work, booking a gig directly with the client in your network allows you the most autonomy in setting your rate.

Connecting with a client through a freelance broker like Upwork and Freelancer offers less autonomy and usually lower rates than working with someone directly.

Bidding through an exchange site like ACX offers the lowest of both.

“I only go out to ACX when I don’t have other paid work,” Keppeler said.

ACX also makes it difficult to achieve one of the staples of successful freelance work: repeat clients.

Keppeler said the platform isn’t really set up to connect authors with narrators long-term. Instead you audition for each job. It eliminates a huge opportunity for narrators to work with an author on a series or future books.

Directly connecting through a freelance broker does offer that opportunity. Keppeler said it’s how she found the author of this series of books on Wicca, which offered her ongoing work.

What ACX is good for, she said, is building your portfolio.

If you’re just getting started, the platform gives you an opportunity to hone your chops.

Practice your narrating and editing skills through auditions, and improve from author feedback. Once you land a few gigs, use those as samples to land clients elsewhere.

As audiobooks increase in popularity, Keppeler is seeing more audiobook work appear on Upwork. Freelancers, she says, tend to be better for general voice-over gigs, but not audiobook narration.

Audiobook Narrator Must-Haves

Keppeler’s top tip for anyone getting into voice-over work is to invest in a good microphone and headphones.

Early on, she says,  “I lost out on work because I didn’t have a really great pair of headphones, and there was background noise that I wasn’t hearing. If you send something out that’s not good enough, they will never hire you again.”

Eventually, she hired a professional to help improve her set-up. She says she wishes she had done it up front, instead of DIYing.

A good pre-amp or audiobox can also help clean up your sound and eliminate background noise. But Keppeler warns against buying a cheap one — it’s a tool worth spending money on.

Finally, “You have to have a desire to learn the technical part of it,” she said. “You can ruin an audiobook with bad editing.”

How to Get Started

ACX offers comprehensive guides and FAQs for authors, narrators and publishers, so review those before you get started.

Here’s an overview of how it works:

  1. Create a profile to detail your experience.

  2. Upload samples to your profile to showcase your various skills — accents, genre, style, etc.

  3. Determine whether you’ll always want to be paid per finished hour or by royalty agreements, or if you’re open to either.

  4. Search for books authors/publishers have posted, and record a few minutes of the manuscript to audition for the gig.

  5. When you’re chosen by the author/publisher, they’ll send you an offer. To take the job, accept the offer. All of this should happen through ACX (not over the phone or via email) to ensure the contract terms are on record.

  6. Record and edit a 15-minute sample for feedback before recording and editing the full project. They’ll also have the right to approve or request changes once you’ve submitted the full project.

  7. You’ll be paid a flat rate upon completion and approval of the project or monthly royalty payments based on book sales.

If you’re just getting started in voice-over work, try browsing Upwork for smaller projects you can use to find your voice, build your technical skills and grow your portfolio.

Or reach into your network, and get creative to find freelancing gigs on your own.

Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a former branded content editor at The Penny Hoarder.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com

How a Sou-Sou Helped This Woman Save Money to Start a Business

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in 2016.

Saving has always been a challenge for me. While I continuously applied the pay-yourself-first principle to my finances, I struggled to stick to my budget.

So when I wanted to start a cake-decorating business, I needed another way to cover my startup costs. I preferred not to take out a loan because of interest charges.

A co-worker suggested starting a sou-sou.

What’s that? you’re wondering. Well, read on.

What’s a Sou-Sou?

A sou-sou is a simple savings plan.

The West African tradition, which is also popular in the Caribbean, requires a group of people to contribute a fixed amount of money either weekly, bi-weekly or monthly to a group account, with one member responsible for collecting the cash.

The group holds a random draw to determine the order in which each person will receive their lump sum payment. However, once each person receives their cash, they still have to contribute until everyone gets paid.

A sou-sou could run for six months or up to a year — it all depends on how many people are in on it. Sou-sous continue until everyone receives a payout at least once.

How I Used a Sou-Sou to Start a Business

Here’s how I started a sou-sou to help me make enough money to get my cake-decorating business off the ground.

Determine How Much Cash You Need to Start Your Business

I created an inventory of supplies I’d need, then calculated the total cost of buying them. This helped me make sure I’d be able to get started once I received my payout.

Next, I shopped around to find the best prices — then asked vendors about a discount for buying in bulk. It never hurts to ask! It helped me save 20% of the original cost when I eventually bought everything.

Find Cash in Your Budget and Earn Extra Money

I needed to free up some money to go toward my sou-sou, so I decided to eliminate one bill from my monthly budget.

I compared my cable and internet bills to see which was costing me more, and then canceled my $50 per month cable service.

To earn extra cash, I sold cakes at community events at a reduced price.

Consider how you could earn a few extra dollars a month for your business. Consider this list of 43 ways to save money fast.

Form a Group

Everyone in my department had previously been involved in a successful sou-sou, and since we were all working toward financial goals, it was easy for the team to get on board.

A total of 10 colleagues joined the sou-sou, but you can start one with any number of people. Ask co-workers, relatives and fellow church or gym members if they want in.

Choose a Cash Collector

We nominated my supervisor as cash collector and placed our money in a locked box in her office. Two people had to be present when money was deposited or paid out.

Since we all earned monthly salaries, we decided on a deadline for everyone to pay up.

My supervisor was also in the sou-sou. If the person collecting the cash isn’t in on it, they’re sometimes paid a percentage by each member. If my supervisor hadn’t been a member, she would have received 5% of our earnings for managing the sou-sou.

Decide on a Reasonable Contribution 

We considered our final objectives and unanimously decided on a realistic amount each person would pay.

With 10 members, we decided to each contribute $100 per month — meaning we’d each get a $1,000 payout.

A few members were unable to contribute the full amount, so they joined with another member to each contribute $50 per month. When their payout time came, each person received $500 — a 50% payout.

I decided to double my contributions and pay $200 a month, meaning I’d get two $1,000 payouts to help me fund my business.

Propose Accountability 

We suggested each person in the group be accountable to another member to make sure they spent their money on fulfilling their goals.

For example, I chose an accountability partner who would make sure I invested my $1,000 in my business.

If I didn’t, I’d have to pay my partner 20% of my payout — a huge amount we chose to help motivate me.

How My Sou-Sou Worked Out

Our sou-sou began in January and I received my payout in May. Since I doubled my contributions, I received another payout in November, which I also put toward my business.

The group initiative was a huge part of my motivation, and everyone agreed that having the support of other members of the sou-sou was crucial to our success.

My choice to use a sou-sou rather than take out a loan paid off. I didn’t owe the bank any money, and I saved $200 I would have paid in interest charges.

With the assistance of friends or family, saving money to start a business is possible. Making $100 or $200 contributions may not seem like much, but with time, it could be enough to get your business off the ground or help expand it without a loan.

Kerry Mc Donald is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder.

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Source: thepennyhoarder.com

Car Repossession: What to Do Before, During and After

So what can you do if you know you’re in danger of having your car repossessed — or if it’s already been repossessed? Check out this guide to help you before, during and after car repossession to help you and your finances survive this bumpy ride.
If you’ve missed even one payment, here’s why now is the time to dig up the loan agreement you signed when you originally bought or leased the car:
“Act very quickly,” she said. “Because at that point, the loan has not been sent out to collections.”
“Communication is one of the best tools that you have in the earliest stages when you’re late making car payments,” he said. “The fewer unanswered questions that your lender has, the more likely they are to try to cooperate.”

Car Repossession: What Can You Do Before, During and After?

And if you think hiding the car will keep the repo company at bay, you’re likely only adding to the fees you’ll end up having to pay as the company expends resources — including paying someone to follow you — to locate the vehicle.
“I would put it on that scale of somewhere around bankruptcy or foreclosure,” McClary said. “You can climb out of this hole, but it will take some time.”
Ready to stop worrying about money? The effects of the coronavirus pandemic have been especially burdensome on auto loans borrowers. Unlike student loans and mortgages, there are no government-backed relief programs to cover a monthly auto payment.
That’s where you drive the car to your lending institution and hand over the keys. Doing so voluntarily still counts as a type of repossession, but you’ll avoid towing costs and other expenses the repossession company charges to locate your car.

What to Do if You Can’t Make Your Auto Loan Payments

But will a lender really take your car if you’re late on this month’s payment? It’s unlikely, according to Bruce McClary, vice president of communications for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling in Washington, D.C.
The result is most devastating for subprime borrowers — those with credit scores under 600. Serious delinquency levels within that group rose about 22% between the fourth quarters of 2019 and 2020.

Pro Tip
If the deficiency balance is small enough, McClary recommended trying to negotiate with the lender to settle the remaining balance so you aren’t still paying for a car you no longer own.

If you had enough money to pay off your loan in the first place, you probably should have done this before the repo company took your car. But if you pay off the loan and all fees, you get your car back free and clear of any loans.

  • Ask about forbearance programs. Call your lender to explain why you’re unable to make your monthly payment and request a forbearance. Be prepared to share details and documentation if it’s due to a job loss, illness or change in family status. Your lender may offer a delay in your payment or a revised schedule of payments, but you’ll still be responsible for the loan — and oftentimes the accruing interest. But if the situation is temporary, a forbearance could let you delay payments until you’re back on your financial feet.
  • Downsize to a cheaper car. If you can trade in your current set of wheels for a more economical version — think smaller and older — you could roll your old loan into a new, more manageable one. Be sure to get a pre-approved auto loan to give yourself some leverage when negotiating the interest rate.
  • Sell your car. If you don’t need the vehicle, you could potentially sell it for enough money to pay off the loan balance, which would free you from monthly payments entirely.
  • Refinance. This option may be the most difficult to successfully pursue for many borrowers, as lenders have tightened their standards due to the current economic situation. But if you have an excellent credit history and you have stable employment, you could qualify for refinancing your loan at a lower interest rate, thus reducing your monthly payment.

Tiffany Wendeln Connors is a staff writer/editor at The Penny Hoarder. Read her bio and other work here, then catch her on Twitter @TiffanyWendeln.
If you haven’t been paying your auto loan, there’s a good chance you haven’t been paying your auto insurance either, and some lenders require insurance as a condition of your loan. Even if you haven’t missed enough payments to have your car repossessed, the lender could potentially take your vehicle due to inadequate auto insurance.

What to Do if Your Car Is in Danger of Being Repossessed

After taking possession of your car, the lender begins the process for recouping the money you still owe on the car loan, plus any fees incurred — think towing, storage of the vehicle, re-keying the car and legal fees.
Although lenders may have the legal right to start the repossession process the day after a missed payment, most give customers a grace period of at least 10 days when they won’t even charge a late fee. If you’re in this situation, the time to act is now.

  1. Depending on where you are in the car repossession process, you do have options for keeping your car — and more of your money.
  2. Car repossession can remain on your credit report for seven years — making it more difficult to qualify for another loan, increasing the interest rate you’re charged on other loans and even potentially affecting your ability to get a job or a place to live.

And although a voluntary repossession will affect your credit score, your lender will technically report it to the credit reporting agencies as a “voluntary surrender” rather than an involuntary “repossession” — which could help as you recover.
How can your bank, credit union or leasing company possibly have the right to take back your vehicle? Read your loan agreement.
Avoid a Friday evening car repossession if possible: Repo companies are often closed over the weekend, but they’ll charge you storage fees for Saturday and Sunday.

Pro Tip
The lender will sell the car, typically at auction, to get some of its money back. It’s technically possible for you to buy back your car by bidding on it at auction, but you’ll still be responsible for paying your old loan, plus all those fees.

If you don’t have enough money to cover the missing payments, you should explain your situation and offer at least a partial amount — in cash — as a show of good faith, according to Davis.
“The efforts to repossess your car typically start after you’ve missed a couple of consecutive payments,” he said. “If you miss two payments, you should start getting a little bit concerned, and if you miss three payments and your car is still sitting in your driveway, you may not have much more time.”
By contacting your lender early in the process, you’ll not only create a record of your attempts to satisfy the loan, you’ll avoid additional fees that the lender may incur by hiring a third party to collect your vehicle.
The first rule of preventing a vehicle repossession: Communicate early and often.
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If the amount is too large to settle, though, the lender will contact you and, depending on the state where you live, can pursue the deficiency balance through collections.

Pro Tip
The repo company cannot “breach the peace” — aka break the law. If the collector uses physical force or destroys your property, you can potentially file a lawsuit. Keep notes of all interactions.

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An auto loan contract states if you fail to make a payment — and the process can legally start after one missed payment — the lender has the right to take back your car.

What to Do if Your Car Has Been Repossessed

“They could take you to court over the money you owe, and try to garnish your wages,” he said. “There are all kinds of ways that they could legally pursue repayment of that debt, beyond the sale of the vehicle.”
“There’s no shame in saying… ‘I have a couple hundred bucks in my budget, can I throw this on the loan so that I don’t get it repoed?’” she said.
If you know that you’re already in danger of having the car repossessed, there is a way to mitigate the financial impact: voluntary repossession.
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  1. Reinstate your loan.

    Your credit score will take a hit — a big one.

  2. Redeem your loan.

    If you can’t reach a deal with your lender, you should prepare to have the car repossessed by removing all personal items from your car, as repo companies can take your car at any time — whether the car is parked in front of your home, at work or at the grocery store.

  3. Give up your car, then buy it back.

    If you’re unable to come up with the money to get your car back, the lender will use the proceeds from the sale to pay off what you owe. If the sale price is less than your loan balance plus any fees, the difference is called the deficiency balance. That’s the amount you’ll be responsible for paying.

Pay the past-due amount, plus any late fees and repossession costs. You get your car back and resume paying your car loan.

Pro Tip
Your loan agreement should state how many payments you can miss before the lender can repossess your car.

But a car repossession isn’t the end of the world, so long as you commit to making smart money-management moves that raise your credit score and help get yourself back on the road to recovery.
Find your contract and contact your lender’s loss mitigation or collections department to explain your situation, advised Jenelle Davis, who worked in the credit union industry for seven years.
Your car has been repossessed. Now how do you get it back?

The Long-term Effects of Car Repossession

If you have the cash, paying off what you owe to make your loan current again may be the ideal solution, but there are other options if you’re struggling to make payments:
If you miss even one payment, and your lender technically can repossess your wheels.
“The difference between the two in terms of impact on your credit score is slight,” McClary said. “But if you’re thinking about trying to restore your good credit and how much effort it’s going to take, every little bit helps.”
You have a few options — some are less costly than others, but none are particularly easy:
Facing bankruptcy? You may be able to hold onto your car. Consult your bankruptcy attorney about whether your filing status allows you to retain property, including your vehicle.
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Don’t destroy your car to get revenge. Your lender may not take the vehicle if it’s deemed worthless, but then they can’t sell the car to pay off your loan. You’ll end up owing more.

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The best way for the lender to get that money is to sell the car, often through an auction. So you’ll have to act fast if you want your car back.

How to Prepare for a Job Interview: 9 Tips to Getting an Offer

Be ready with stories from your professional life that demonstrate the company’s core values, such as collaboration, leadership, teamwork and integrity, says Jill MacFadyen, a career coach and former recruiter who works with clients nationwide.
Did you or one of your colleagues or friends previously work at the same organization? Go to the same school? Belong to any mutual clubs or groups? Check alumni networks, LinkedIn and community pages. You’re likely to score points if a current employee can recommend you.
Search newspapers, magazines and specialty journals to see whether the company or the industry have been in the news recently so you can demonstrate that you know the latest trends and developments.

How to Prepare for a Job Interview

“You have to convey a message that you’re serious about the job,” Gellman says. “And if you go in casually, you’re not going to convey that message.”

1. Seek Information on the Company

“These kinds of things may seem kind of corny and stuck up,” Zimmerman says. “Well, that’s corporate America. That’s what they want.”
If you have to wait before you’re called in, bring a magazine or a book to read that’s relevant to the industry.
Prior to your job interview, ask for the names of the people who will interview you, and search online to see whether you have any mutual friends or connections. You may also be able to get information about those who work in the department from the company’s website or LinkedIn.
“The fact that you got an interview means you’ve done something right,” Zimmerman says. “Relax. Eat a good breakfast and believe in yourself. And then it’s up to the universe.”
It’s a good idea to do a dry run of your trip to the interview site up to a week in advance, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the area or exact location. You’ll flub your chances if you’re late, so make sure you anticipate how much traffic you’ll encounter, where you’ll park and how long the door-to-door process will take.
Write down key points you want to get across so you don’t forget them, and store that piece of paper or notebook in a business-appropriate binder or folder so you can access it easily. Remove any extraneous items from your (clean) pocketbook or (polished) briefcase so you’re not rummaging around to find the essentials.

2. Do Your Homework on the Interviewers

A woman looks at her laptop while relaxing at home in the dark.
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Even if you’re interviewing at a startup where the employees dress in flip-flops and shorts, you need to dress like, well, you’re on a job interview. That means professional and conservative relative to the industry. If you wear a jacket and find you’re overdressed, you can always remove it after you arrive.
Consider doing a mock interview with a friend to sharpen your responses.
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3. Clean Up Your Social Media Profile

Have you won any awards in the field? Did you attend seminars or read books that could help you stand out as well-informed and committed to the brand or industry?
“Err on the side that your grandmother would look at your outfit and say, ‘You look so professional,’” Zimmerman says.
Stand up straight and take some deep breaths. Envision yourself greeting your interviewer with confidence, warmth, good eye contact, a clear voice and a pleasantly firm handshake (no spraining the interviewer’s hand, please). Visualize yourself nailing the interview.
Smile and greet everyone you meet politely, from the receptionist to the CEO; your behavior very well may be reported to the hiring manager, especially if it’s disrespectful.

4. Dress Professionally

A professionally dressed young woman looks in a mirror.
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Then, get to sleep early enough to feel rested in the morning.
A good rule of thumb is to dress a level or two above the position you’re seeking, he says.  Make sure your clothes fit and are clean and wrinkle-free — no stains, rips or pet hair — and that your shoes are in good shape.
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“It’s about judgment,” Gellman says. “It’s about character for the company. Could this person be a good ambassador for us?”

5. Turn Off Your Cell Phone

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What should you wear? How can you research the company? What should you say — and avoid saying?
It all starts with first impressions. You can make a good one before you ever walk in the door by researching the company you’re applying to.

6. Treat Everyone With Respect

Two men at an office shake hands.
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“There’s a notion that this person has been vetted in some way,” says Mike Gellman, CEO and founder of High Five Career Coaching in Irvine, California. “There’s a level of trust there.”
Bring at least half a dozen copies of your resume on quality paper (even if you sent it electronically) and, if applicable, a portfolio of your work. Not everyone may have had time to review your credentials. You’ll also want a functioning pen so you can jot down any questions you have for the interviewer.
“In my opinion, you can never overprepare,” says Carlota Zimmerman, a New York City career coach with more than a decade of experience. “I cannot stress how much passion and preparation you should bring.”

Pro Tip
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7. Show You’re Serious

To prepare for a job interview adequately, you must turn off your cell phone — or, better yet, leave it in your car. It’s too easy to reflexively reach for a phone that pings or vibrates. When Gellman was interviewing applicants in his role at a previous employer, the ones who texted during the interview — yes, it really happened — were immediately disqualified.
Then do something you enjoy to wind down. That may mean watching a fun movie, doing some light reading or taking a warm bath or shower.
After the interview, write thank you notes to everyone you met with and send them out within 24 to 48 hours. Email is acceptable, but an old-fashioned mailed card will distinguish you.

Gellman says he made the mistake once of arriving only two minutes before the start of an interview on a windy day and didn’t notice that his hair was sticking up. It stayed that way for the entire interview, and nobody gave him a (drumroll) heads-up.
Just the words “job interview” can strike fear into the heart of any job seeker.

8. Arrive Early

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“They’re trying to get a feel for how you’d be every day in [the] office,” Zimmerman says.
You should also sign up for company newsletters and emails, and follow any influencers at the organization who can keep you up to date.

9. Picture Yourself Succeeding

More than two dozen states have laws prohibiting employers from asking for applicants’ social media usernames and passwords, while federal law prohibits employers from making hiring decisions based on factors such as religion, disability and pregnancy. Accordingly, some companies have stopped monitoring candidates’ social media accounts to avoid potential discrimination lawsuits.
Once you’ve done your research, study the job description and think about how your skills, knowledge and personality mesh with the duties the position requires. Have examples ready from your education and work experience that show you have what it takes to succeed.
Never use profanity, even if your interviewer cusses a blue streak. Sit up straight and don’t fidget. If your interviewer takes or makes a phone call that interrupts the process, just wait patiently. If you complain or get angry, it will be game over.
Allow enough time for unexpected glitches and for a stop in the restroom, where you should give your hair, face and clothes a final once-over. Be ready for show time 10 minutes before your appointment.
“You’re demonstrating that you care enough to have done the research,” she says. “You’re setting yourself apart from the other people who are interviewing.”
But many companies still do check. You can protect yourself by avoiding posting photos of anything you’d be embarrassed to have a recruiter discover — or at least adjusting your social media settings to private. And remember: Nothing is absolutely private on the internet.

A wealth of information is available online. Start with the business’s website and Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn pages.

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It’s the night before your moment of truth. You’ve done your research on how to prepare for a job interview. You’ve picked out the clothes you’ll wear. Your briefcase is packed. Now it’s time to relax.

The Best Time to Buy Airline Tickets Is 70 Days in Advance

Two travelers hug while waiting for their flight at an airport.


Travelers wait at a terminal at the Los Angeles International Airport on Dec. 23, 2020.  Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo

If you’ve anxiously been waiting for the day you can start travelling again, start planning now if you want to save on your flight.

CheapAir.com analyzed 917 million airfares for its annual airfare study and found that the sweet spot for travelers to snag the best deals on domestic flights is between 21 and 95 days — that’s three weeks to three months — before their departure date.

It turns out that this year has been a bit of a leveling field for airline ticket prices — only about $100 separates the priciest month (that was March — likely due to a post-pandemic surge in spring break travel) from the cheapest one (September).

And sure, you could test your luck at finding a last-minute low fare. But CheapAir found travelers who book eight to 13 days before a trip pay an average of $74 more than those who book within the prime booking window. Get your ticket less than a week out and you risk paying an average of $160 more than travelers who booked three weeks to four months ahead of time.

Buying a plane ticket too far in advance can also result in a financial penalty. Those who bought tickets 96 to 201 days in advance paid $37 more and those who purchased airfare 202 to 315 days in advance paid $90 more.

CheapAir found the best time to book varies greatly by season. You’ll want to book 89 days in advance to get the best prices for a trip in the fall but only 21 days in advance for a spring jaunt.

Those planning summer trips should get their flights 67 days days in advance. The best time to buy for holiday travel or a winter ski trip is 68 days in advance.

If you’re wondering when’s the best day of the week to buy your airline tickets, CheapAir’s study says it doesn’t really matter. What matters is what day of the week you plan to leave or return. Travelers save an average of $82 by flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday (the cheapest days to fly) instead of on a Sunday (the most expensive day).

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Staff writer/editor Tiffany Wendeln Connors updated this post for 2021.

Source: thepennyhoarder.com