Somethin’ ‘Bout a Truck: Picking the Right Pickup

If you farm or are in the construction or mining industry, you need the hauling capacity of a pickup, but you may want a pickup for personal use as well.

If you’re in the market for a pickup truck, but want to make sure you get one with the best possible gas mileage that fits your needs, consider the three best-selling choices in the U.S. market. Here’s what magazine and website reviewers have to say about their comparative pros and cons:

Ford F-150
In a 2013 challenge among pickups, the website PickupTrucks.com (affiliated with Cars.com, Chicago) ranked the F-150 tops based on its strong showing in various performance tests such as acceleration, braking, hill climbing, and towing. But the judges agreed that interior comfort and features did not match the Ram or Silverado trucks. With the new aluminum 2015 F-150 scheduled to go on sale in the fall, bargain hunters are likely to find good deals on the 2014 F-150. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) mileage ratings on the 2014 are 16 MPG in city driving, 22 on the highway for the turbocharged V-6 engine. The V-8 is rated 13 MPG city, 18 highway.

Ram 1500
The Ram finished a close second in the PickupTruck.com challenge, and was the top choice this year of Consumer Reports. Both reviews praised its comfortable interior and smooth and relatively quiet ride and dashboard information and entertainment system. The Ram comes with both V-6 and V-8 engines and a diesel option. EPA mileage ratings are 20 MPG in the city and 28 on the highway for the smallest V-6. The V-8 engine is rated 15 MPG city, 22 highway.

Chevrolet Silverado
Consumer Reports praised the redesigned 2014 Silverado for having responsive handling for a full-sized truck and for its quiet and spacious cabin. It also performed well in the magazine’s towing and hauling tests. Like its competitors, Silverado offers both V-6 and V-8 engines. EPA ratings for the V-6 are 18 MPG city, 24 highway. The 5.3-liter V-8 is rated at 16 MPG city, 23 highway.

If you’re in the market for a truck, doing some research before buying can put you in the driver’s seat. The professionals at Hopewell Federal Credit Union can help you decide how much truck you can afford before you even hit the lot.

How To Tell If Your ID Has Been Hacked

The 2013 Identity Fraud Report from Javelin Strategy & Research, Pleasanton, Calif., revealed that almost one of four consumers who received a data breach letter became a victim of identity theft. The same study revealed that consumers who had their Social Security number compromised in a data breach were five times more likely to be a fraud victim than the average consumer.

How can you tell if your identity has been compromised?
* Surprise! You’re denied. If your credit card is denied, find out why—especially if you always pay on time and haven’t reached your spending limit. Don’t shrug it off and assume your card will work the next time; investigate immediately.
* Unexpected increase in an account balance. This could be a sign that someone made changes in your name and went shopping, hoping to leave you with the bill.
* Unauthorized inquiries. If you see inquiries on your credit reports that you didn’t initiate, that’s a sign someone might be trying to open credit in your name.
* Sudden drop in credit score. An unexplained drop in your credit score is a sign someone is using—and trashing—your credit.
* Mysterious new account. The sooner you notice unauthorized accounts opened in your name, the faster you can shut them down.

Bottom line: Review your credit reports regularly. You can order one free credit report a year from each of the “big three” credit reporting agencies—Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian—at annualcreditreport.com. And keep an eye on your credit score. Ask at Hopewell Federal Credit Union for help, or visit myfico.com. Finally, contact one of the credit bureau fraud units about placing a fraud alert on your file. Find contact and phone numbers at ftc.gov/identitytheft.

How to Keep A Budget, Even While On Vacation

Everyone deserves a vacation from time to time, so it’s only fair that you treat yourself to one this summer. But while indulging, keep in mind that not balancing your budget while you’re away can really put a damper on your trip. After all, what’s the point in spending a lot of hard-earned cash to decompress if your debt will only stress you out later? Here’s how you can stay within your budget while on your vacation and keep your Zen mind state long after you return.

Calculate daily spending limits
Before you can stick to a budget, you’ve got to sit down and work one out. It helps if you plan out your trip beforehand, so you know which days might demand a bit more cash and which days allow you to be more frugal. For example, one day you may want to visit an amusement park. On that day, you know that you’ll need to spend more money than the day after, which you’ll likely spend resting—perhaps lounging lazily by a pool.

Figure out your likely expenses for each day by looking up typical prices for costs like admission and food, and also set aside a reasonable amount for unexpected expenses. Keep in mind that if you’re traveling abroad, you may find that not every establishment will accept your credit card or you may be charged foreign transaction fees when you go to take out cash. It’s better to have the extra cash when you’re caught off guard instead of feeling helpless or paying fees.

To calculate your daily limit, add your likely expenses plus unexpected expenses allowance. If your total daily limit amounts exceed your total budget, you can use the following strategies to reduce costs.

Figure out the exchange rate
Before you travel, find our what the exchange rate for your dollar is, so you can ensure you’re not getting shortchanged for goods and services abroad. Not only will committing the foreign exchange rate to memory keep you from getting ripped off, it’ll keep you from accidentally exceeding your daily limits. For example, spending Euros like dollars can quickly throw you off track budget-wise. Currency conversion apps for your smartphone, like the XE Currency App (available for iPhone and Android), can help you do the math in a pinch.

Mix restaurants with fresh, local food
Many travel destinations offer cuisines that are unique to that particular region. Of course, that makes going out to eat at restaurants just as much a part of the vacation as checking out the tourist attractions. An effective way to check out the local culture and food on a budget is by visiting the local farmer’s market. While there, you can purchase an assortment of fruits or fresh vegetables to prepare instead of dining out. No stovetop or microwave? Beat the summer heat by making fruit or veggie salads. To cut back further on food costs, be sure to take advantage of free breakfasts in your hotel, if it’s offered, or ask around for restaurants with discounts for kids.

Take public transportation
According to a survey conducted by the American Public Transportation Association, 58% of travelers visiting U.S. cities plan on using public transportation. Almost a quarter of all respondents cited saving money on rentals or cabs as their main motivation. While alternatives to taxis, like Sidecar and Lyft, are more affordable, they’re not available in all cities. Consider downloading smartphone apps that’ll help you navigate the city’s public transportation system. Also look into daily or weekly passes that can save you money and time, so you’re not fumbling for exact change.

Cait Klein, NerdWallet

 

Hold Down Costs When Purchasing a Vehicle

Whether you’re buying a new or used car, careful research and planning will help you get the right vehicle without the one option nobody wants: onerous monthly payments.

Here are some ways to save money:

* Check on reliability–Nothing can torpedo a budget like unexpected repair costs. The annual Consumer Reports car reliability survey cites both overall ratings and specific problems. If you’re a paid subscriber to the magazine or online service, go to http://www.consumerreports.org.

* Look at continuing costs–Although insurance and gasoline costs are continuous, new-car depreciation–the value it loses each year–is a major factor. Edmunds.com summarizes these variables in a feature called True Cost to Own, accessible on their home page. A vehicle that costs less to buy now than a competitor may in fact cost more to own over a five-year period.

* Negotiate hard–Reduce your purchase price by looking for the dealer cost or “invoice price” on sites like Edmunds.com and Kelley Blue Book (kbb.com). Then aim for a selling price before any rebate of no more than 2% over the invoice price. Better yet, talk to us at Hopewell Federal Credit Union about pre-approving your auto loan before you even start to shop for a car.