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Monthly Archives: June 2012


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After leasing the car, I started wondering about our credit.  It turns out it’s pretty good, and I wanted to know why!  Marco and I both made mistakes with our credit in the past, and we have been trying to get out from under that dark cloud.  Here are some things that worked for us, if any of you are in need of a credit boost:

1. Always pay on time, even if you’re just making the minimum payment.  Late payments lead to increased balances and astronomical percentage rates.  I have one that went to 30% in my early 20s, and it never went back down.

2.  Close your small store credit cards.  We had cards for Express, Victoria’s Secret, Home Depot, and Best Buy.  We bank at a Credit Union, and they worked out a deal with us to pay off a number of cards.  We ended up closing all of these cards, and we pay the bank each month to pay off the loan.  The nice thing is that the loan doesn’t seem to affect our credit score.

3. If you need to borrow money to make a big purchase, use things like Bill Me Later.  It didn’t show up on our credit report, and it has 0% interest for the first 6 months.

4. Look for alternative credit offers in the mail.  We receive notices two or three times a week, and they often offer 12 to 18 months of 0% interest.  I transferred a balance from the 30% card to one of these, and it has taken a great weight off my shoulders.

5. Remember that loans for education are what people call “good debt.”  Although you still need to make the payments, they are usually at a low interest rate (2-3%) and the lenders will work with you if the payments are too high.  When you get frustrated with the payments, remember that they have allowed you to earn something that will always be useful in life, whether personally or professionally.

6. If you get over-extended with credit, reign it back in.  Stop using the cards for everyday purchases.  Remember that every time you use your credit cards, the business is being charged 2-3% of the cost.  This causes them to lose money, and the widespread use of cards has forced them to raise the prices of goods, thus contributing to inflation.  If you stick to cash, you save them money, and you will be more aware of what you are spending.  Marco and I went to Italy for a week last year, and we only took $1000 cash.  By the flight home on the last day, we had just enough cash to eat.  It was perfect, because we watched our spending, and didn’t buy a bunch of useless souvenirs.

7. Take a look at your credit occasionally, on sites like and TransUnion.  Remember that these sites will start charging you if you don’t cancel their services, though, and they might charge you to download the report.

8. Pay off  a loan to increase your score.  This shows that you are a low risk to lenders.

People have different ideas of what good credit looks like, so here are a few scales of the different score brackets.


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Marco and I have been talking about replacing his 2002 Mitsubishi Montero for a few months (years, really, but he kept saying, “I think I can make it one more year with this car”) and we finally did it!  We test-drove a Prius and looked at some Kias, and walked around Carmax, but we finally decided on the Mazda 3, for the gas mileage.  We looked up local Mazda dealerships, and decided on Mazda of Orange, since the taxes would be cheaper in the OC than in Riverside County.

We went for a test-drive, and told ourselves we weren’t going to buy yet (famous last words), and we drove my car there.  Well, he decided he liked the hatchback, and our 22-year-old son-of-the-manager salesman awkwardly suggested that we buy it.  Actually, he was great, and we spent the whole test-drive talking about cameras.  After Marco parked the car and we got out, he hastily pointed out all the features one would normally discuss while on the drive.

Anyway, Marco picked the black one, and we sat down to see what kind of deal we could make.  We decided to lease it.  They ran our credit, because Mazda requires a 700 FICO score for a lease.  We passed!  Who would have guessed??  Apparently we have good credit!

We put $1,000 down, and told them we would trade in the old Montero.  They accepted our trade, sight-unseen.  Now, anyone with internet access can look up that car on the Kelley Blue Book site and see that it’s worth about $1400.  Marco told them he wanted $2000.  I almost choked, and he shot me a warning look.  They asked us to put down $1500, and I balked.  They said, no, $1000 down would be fine, and they would give us $1,000 on the trade (they hoped we weren’t offended), even though we had not brought the car in.  We tried to contain our joy, because we both knew we were getting more on the trade than the old Mitsu was worth.

After all the paperwork was done, our payment was $395.  On a lease?!?!  I was screaming inside, but I remained calm, and tried to tell myself that we would make a chunk of that back on the 40 MPG we’d get, compared to the 20 MPG he got in the Montero.

When we got home that night, I happened to look at the clock at 11:11.  I made a quick wish that we would be able to make the payments without too much trouble.

The next day, I took the Montero to the dealership, and they informed me we needed to sign the contract again, because they had made a mistake.  I nervously walked in, thinking they were going to add to the payment amount.  The finance guy (an Indian guy who believes in karma…more on that later) said our payment would now be $290.  What?  Really?  He pulled the contract back before I could sign it, said he needed to see his manager, and left the room with both the old and new contracts in his hands.  He returned a few minutes later, mumbled something about computer codes and confusion and too many managers in one business, and put the new one back down on the desk.

As he smoothed it out for me to sign, he said he had never seen this before.  He said Marco and I must be good people, and karma has brought that back to us, because nobody gets a new contract with a lower payment.

So here are my tips!

1. Don’t bring your trade with you…just get them to offer an amount, sight-unseen.

2. Don’t agree to anything higher…they will come back down to your highest price.  We said ours was $350, even though it was really $400.

3. If you are a good person, good comes back to you.  And I really believe that!

Here’s Marco with his new car.  He’s trying to get used to being so low to the ground, but he loves the ease of it.

The Continental Room

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This is an exciting time of year for high school teachers!  We are winding down the year, finishing up the last tests and projects, and the seniors have graduated.  To celebrate, I met some teachers at The Continental Room in downtown Fullerton.  Fullerton is a great place to hang out.  It’s a little college-friendly (too young for me), but bars like The Continental Room and Bourbon Street cater to patrons in all stages of life (post 21!).   Marco loves this place for its Mad Men feel…every girl is Joan Harris and every guy is Don Draper.

Here’s Marco doing the “Draper:”

The Continental Room is a fun place!  It inspires one to order something like an Old Fashioned or a martini.

It was a much-needed break after a long school year!  Here I am trying not to show my annoyance after school when a 7th period student grabbed my camera:

And here we are as we begin the weekend!  Much better.

The Continental Room has great bartenders who specialize in remembering drinks for their regulars…there were three guys on the other side of the bar who are in there every day.  They also have awesome little details, like a direct taxi phone:

The only thing missing at The Continental is a kitchen.  We went around the corner to Heroes for some huge nachos:

Only two more weeks, and it’s summer vacation!

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