CostcoI don't shop at Costco often, though I probably should given all of the money I save when I do venture in to fight the crowds, parking hassles and lines. It's not a place you want to deal with if you're only getting a few items.

I rarely get out of my local Costco store without spending at least $100, which is one reason I don't go there more than every two to four weeks. That's a lot of money to thrown down at one time, though the deals almost always are worthwhile.

From time to time, however, I find myself with too many bagels — you have to buy two packages, and really, you can only eat so many bagels — among other things that are easy to get tired of eating after a few pounds of (insert your favorite food here) whatever.

But there are some things that I do go back for regularly because they're such great deals that I feel foolish to buy them elsewhere. Here are my 10 favorite deals at Costco, though I'm sure I could list 10 more if needed. I've looked up prices at Costco and my local supermarket, though some may be approximations based on recent shopping trips. Prices will obviously differ by location.

In no particular order, here are my top 10 Costco buys:

1. Coffee

As I wrote last year, making coffee at home is saving us a lot of money. This includes buying a 3-pound bag of coffee beans every two months at Costco for about $15.

We buy a local brand that's organic and tastes great, but I'm open to a Starbucks or Peet's bag from Costco too. Most 3-pound bags sell for about $15 at Costco, which lets you grind the beans for free.

A 12-ounce bag of Starbucks coffee — four ounces less than 1 pound — costs $7.48 from Jet.com. I'm saving at least $7 per 3-pound bag at Costco. ...continue reading

first time car buyersI can't imagine my life without a car. I know there are plenty of people who are embracing the minimalism and frugality of living without a car, not to mention the health benefits of walking or biking everywhere, but my lifestyle is pretty dependent on having a car I can use whenever I want.

I'm also lucky because when I got ready to buy my first car, my parents where there to help walk me through the process and to make sure that I made the best decision possible.

If you are a first time car buyer, here are 4 things you need to know.

Consider Your Total Budget, Not Just Your Monthly Payment

Most first time car buyers don't have the luxury of having cash saved up to pay for their entire car purchase. If you know you are going to have to take out a loan for a car, make sure you consider your entire budget for buying a car, not just how much your monthly payment will be.

Every time I've bought a car the salesmen are quick to ask me what I want my monthly payment to be. This is when they try to make a car fit in your monthly payment budget no matter if it's really a good financial move. Sometimes they will extend the loan terms, causing you to pay more interest over the life of your loan, just to make sure it fits within the monthly payment target you've set.

When you go shopping for your first car you can avoid this by having a total budget in mind for your car purchase, not just what you want your monthly payment to be.

Know What You Need

Car needs are different for every person. Some people need lots of cargo space, some people need lots of space for passengers, some people need 4 wheel drive, and others don't care about that at all. No matter what your situation is, you need to keep your overall needs in mind when decided what type of car you want to buy.

Prioritize Wants & Be Willing to Compromise

You might want a car with leather seats, a remote start, or under 100,000 miles. Everyone has things they want when they go to buy a car, but it's important to know what you want most so you can prioritize that and compromise on other things that are less important to you. This will also help you stay within your car budget too.

Do Your Own Research

Before you set foot on a car lot, do your own research about how much a car you want will cost you. You can easily compare prices online at different dealerships, along with checking out car values on reputable sites, like Kelley Blue Book. This is an important step that you shouldn't skip if you want to get a good deal on your car purchase.

Buying a car for the first time doesn't have to be a scary process. With these tips in mind, first time car buyers will be able to walk confidently into a car lot and find what they really need and want the most without overpaying.

Did you make any mistakes when you bought your first car? Do you have any other tips for first time car buyers?

credit cardsCredit cards can act as a lifeline during lean financial times. An unexpected period of unemployment, a move to a new city, a medical crisis — life happens. But credit cards also entice people to live outside their means without realizing the long-term consequences of their spending.

Many credit card holders mistakenly think they’ll be OK making minimum monthly payments, only to one day realize they’re on the hook for thousands of dollars in interest. Instead of remaining stuck in the revolving door of credit debt, consider taking out an alternative loan to pay off those debts and get back on firm financial footing.

Here are the three most compelling reasons we know to drop your credit card debt as soon as possible.

1. Large balances hurt your credit

Using credit cards for small purchases each month and paying them off right away can boost your credit score because it proves you can manage debt, but large balances do the opposite.

Lenders use your debt-to-income ratio to determine whether you are financially stable enough to take on new loans or credit lines. If you’re using more than 30 percent of your available credit and paying only the minimum payments, you appear as a risky borrower and chances of approval drop significantly.

Taking a loan to pay off high credit card balances is one way to regain financial control and improve your score. By paying off your high interest debt with a low interest monthly payment loan, you will be back to building positive credit and saving hundreds of dollars in interest, which leads us to number 2… ...continue reading