Many people are faced with this question when the time comes to get a new car. By some estimates, leasing vehicles has increased 30% in the past 10 years. Leasing is becoming more popular and can be confusing. Both buying and leasing have their advantages and disadvantages and one should be aware of what those are before making a decision. Leasing a car is appealing to many because you get to drive a new car for lower monthly payments than if you bought (or made payments) on the same car. This is because you are only paying for the three or four years (or however long you lease for) worth of depreciation versus paying for the whole car. For this reason, many people choose to lease a more expensive car than they could afford to buy. Another lure of a lease is that in three or four years you are free to turn the car back in, lease another new car, and never get tired of the car you are driving. Leasing may also be advantageous in some instances due to the fact that the IRS allows for more generous write-offs for lease payments than for loan payments on more expensive cars. Also, you may be able to find a great deal on the interest rate for your lease if a dealer is trying to move certain vehicles. Maybe the money you save in that case each month could be used to pay off debt with a higher interest rate. However, the disadvantage of a lease is that at the end of your lease you have no ownership in the car you have been driving for several years. You can purchase the car at the end of your lease if you have the chunk of money needed to do so (not likely if you chose to lease in the first place). My husband and I leased a vehicle a few years back. When the lease was up we were struck with the fact that we had payed all that money for all those months and were just going to hand the vehicle back to the dealer. Instead, we took out a loan to purchase the vehicle, sold the vehicle for more than the amount of the loan, paid off the loan, and had some money “left over”. A lot of work. Another thing to be aware of is that there are penalties you will pay if you fail to meet the conditions of your lease. For example, many leases have mileage limitations on them and if you exceed those miles (usually somewhere around 15,000 miles/year), you will pay for the extra miles you drove. That could add up if you spend a lot of time on the road. Excessive wear and tear on your leased car can also end up costing you extra money.
When my family began to budget and be more careful with our money after I stopped working, one of the areas we had to hit hard was our weekly grocery bill. It took a little planning and several efforts, but we finally got to the point where we could meet our budget and still have enough food to eat for the week. There are lots of ways to save money at the grocery store, and here are some that worked for us. Each week, I make a menu that includes what we’ll have for dinner each night the next week. This simple step becomes the basis for our grocery list and ensures that we will have exactly what we need and not a bunch of food in the cupboards that I can’t figure out how to put together into a meal (cooking isn’t my strong point). Denise Schofield, in her book Confessions of an Organized Homemaker, goes a step further. She includes “menu selection sheets” in her planning notebook (ie. a Day-Timer planner). These sheets list all of the main dishes she routinely serves for dinner as well as their ingredients. This makes creating a menu, and a grocery list to go along with it, a little easier. I try to include one or two meatless meals and some “cheapie” meals in each week’s menu to help keep us under budget.
Another thing we do before heading out to the store is to check out the food ads for several grocery stores near us. We buy the bulk of our food at a grocery outlet type store (you know, the kind where you bag your own groceries) and then hit one or two other stores for the items on our list that they are having a good sale on. If a store is having a good sale on something not on my list, I may scratch a planned menu item and substitute it with a meal made with the sale item, or I may just purchase the sale item and save it for later use.
Price lists are another good method for finding the best prices at the grocery stores you frequent. With this method, you record the best price you have paid for an item, using grocery store receipts and ads. You can have a separate sheet in your price book for each main category of food you purchase. Take your price book with you to the store and see if you are getting a good deal on an item.