Monday, August 31, 2015

A Tornado of Emotions: Leasing A Car for the First Time

I've talked about my car troubles in the past. Here, here, here, and here. Once or twice a year, my car decides to crap out on me. It was a cheaply made car that I've been regretting almost since I drove it off the lot (The visors broke within a month).

My sister and I have been talking about trading out our cars for something cheaper for the last two years or so, especially since neither are worth what we owe. Kiri actually contacted the husband of a friend of ours to help her get a new car with a lower payment. She suggested I come with her to keep her company, and maybe we'd get lucky and find one for me, too.

We decided that leasing would be a better option, potentially, because we'd get a better car, build up credit, and not really have to worry about depreciation. Plus, several months of free oil changes and tire rotations.

All sounds pretty great, right?

It would've great except for one thing.


I can't believe it takes that long to get approved for anything. There's so much back and forth with you, the salesman, and management. It's absolutely exhausting. I can't imagine doing it too often. It's absolutely ridiculous.

While we were waiting, we kept imagining the worst, hoping and praying that the extra time was going to be for our benefit, and that nothing bad would happen.

I honestly hate shopping for a car. I've done it three times now (well, the second time, I didn't do any purchasing, but it was still a learning experience), and the best part was the test drive.

Today, Kiri and I both test drove a 2015 Chevy Cruze, which was great, with a smooth ride, and it looked like I'd be getting that car, but after being left to our own devices for probably close to forty-five minutes, Robert, our salesman, returned, asked us to follow him, and I admit, I was a bit scared.

He laughed, I laughed, I was still not entirely certain what was going on. Then he took me to a 2015 Chevy Malibu, had me sit in it, check out some really cool features (CARS have WiFi now! Why do cars need WiFi?!) including Blu-Tooth, phone holders, XM Radio, OnStar, spacious trunk, and remote start, which can be started with an app on my phone from anywhere. Come Winter, I can start my car from my desk at work, and it'll be toasty when I get out!

Oh, and there were only six miles on it. It's a baby! Almost too little to be away from its mommy!

That left us with the scary part of the day. The cost.

I've been paying $300/month for the last year and a half. Paying a bit more every month than I needed to, as I wanted to attempt to pay it off early. It was rough. Like really, really rough. Things were breaking on it (Remember the visors?) left and right, it was old, questionable, and while I think with the right owner, it would go to 150k miles, possibly more. I know I'm not that person.

For the same price (almost), I could have this brand spanking new car, with all its bells and whistles, everything that's included in the lease, a much safer car just before winter, everything lined up. I kept thinking, "Can I get this down any lower? Should I try to get this down any lower?"

In the end, I agreed to the terms. Winter is coming, having something that is reliable, with new tires, and remote start, that will do well on hills and in the cold is something that I feel I need.

I also have to say, working with the husband of a friend was a lot better than working with a regular salesman. He kept joking that if he didn't help us as much as he could, his wife would kill him. Despite the waiting, the whole process was slightly less stressful than the last couple times, when it felt like the salesman only cared about his commission.

If you're in the Omaha/Council Bluffs area, Edward Chevy Cadillac is great, and Robert Simmons very nice and knowledgeable. He's been selling cars for the last fifteen years! If you go, be sure to mention my name.* ;-)

I get my car soon, and I'm really looking forward to it. I'll run a full review on it once I get it and drive it around, but I'm seriously excited about it.

  • Do you prefer to lease or buy?
  • What's your favorite car?

*For every person I refer that buys, I get $100. If you buy from them, you'll get the same deal for everyone that you refer!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday Finds #1: Blogging Tools

I'm back. My blogging has been sporadic, at best, but I've been trying to find out ways to blog more, My dream is to use this blog to help me be a full time freelancer, but until that day comes, I'd like to share some cool things I've been finding on the internet.

Twitter Chats

I think the most I've participated in Twitter Chats is when I'm watching Project Runway, and need to vent to the world about designers I don't like. Turns out, there are professional things you can do, too!

Wednesday night, I took part in my first Twitter Chat, #NectarChat. The next one is on September 9 at 9 PM PST (I think. Check out The Nectar Collective for more info on that one!), and I was going to participate in #ElleChat last night, but I was too late. I did read up on some great tips, though. It was kind of cool to get my feet wet, and hopefully figure out how to use Twitter for finding writing clients. I feel like such a newbie with certain social media things, but I'm really working to get to know what some are.

Which leads me to


I just heard about this on Wednesday, on the radio, didn't really pay it any mind, but then while I was reading up on #NectarChat, it was a popular topic, so I signed up. Follow me @martinbeks!

Periscope is a way for you to broadcast live to your followers, and they can comment while you're talking. How cool is that? If you're doing a tutorial, people can ask you questions while you work, so you can get back to them right away! I don't think I know how to ask questions on there yet, but I guess if you tap the screen, a heart comes up, and I guess that means you really agree? Can someone clarify this for me? I'll be doing a bit more research in the coming weeks. I'm currently watching Dana Loesch, and DANG! Is she on fire! This is a woman who has some very strong opinions (no wonder I like and follow her!). Hope I enjoy other broadcasts as much as I enjoyed hers!

I have no idea how or if I'll ever do my own broadcasts, but maybe it's something to consider, eventually.

This isn't new to me. I've signed several petitions here in the past, which have been animal and writing related. For instance, a couple years ago, I signed one to change the laws in a friend's town so that her family could keep backyard chickens, which not only provided her family (five children!) with healthy, organic food, but was a way to teach her children responsibility, and life science. I've done a lot of research into backyard chickens myself, and I honestly think that every home having a flock of chickens is a good way to help connect America to what it eats, and how things work. Not to mention, what a way to save money! I mean, yeah. You need to pay for feed and bedding for the chickens, but you'd be getting organic eggs in return that are super fresh. What's not to love there?


Sorry. Getting off my high horse now. Sadly, that petition didn't pass, but I'm very optimistic about this next one.

I signed one today, about changing the dog breed laws in my hometown. For the life of me, I had no idea Council Bluffs HAD dog breed laws! Totally baffling. Anyway, if you have a moment to sign it, I'd really appreciate. Breeds aren't the problem! It's unfair to take a loving animal from its loving family just because he happens to be a Pit Bull. It's just bananas. 

That's all I've got for today.

  • What finds have you uncovered this week? 
  • Any advice you can give me on Twitter Chats or Periscope?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Cruise Planning 101: It's Not As Difficult As You Think

I'm in dire need of a vacation. I'm currently at a place in my employment where my PTO is accruing faster than I can spend it (thank you, HyVee, for my feeling-guilty-when-calling-in-sick work ethic), and I just like to dream about tropical locations and fruity cocktails brought to me by a waiter, who I'm unsure of how to tip, because I'm never sure of tipping protocol in other countries.

I'm also becoming the unofficial Cruise Gal at my job. I've had no less than five people ask me how I can go on a cruise every year, especially the super expensive DISNEY cruises. 

The answer to that is knowing where to go, when to buy, and how to save.

I went on my first cruise when I was 23. I'd just graduated college, as had my sister, and our mother had just kicked cancer's booty. We had a lot of celebrating to do, and since my mom had been laid off from one company, only to be re-hired by the company that bought her previous company, she had a hefty severance package that she wanted to use on something fun. A pretty cushy situation, if you ask me. 

It was the Carnival Fascination to Key West and Nassau for five days, with two days at sea. It was absolutely amazing. Throughout this first cruise, we kept saying how much fun we were having, how great the food, service, etc, was, and to this day, it's one of my favorite vacation memories, just because it was all new and exciting. 

In 2011, my parents arranged a family reunion-type cruise with my mom's siblings, and it was on the new Disney Dream. We went back to Nassau, and Castaway Cay, Disney's private island. Everything on the Dream was so opulent and beautiful, we felt like we were on a modern-yet old-fashioned cruise liner. It has probably been my favorite cruise to date.

About a year went by, and my mom noticed that my sister, dad, and I were all moping around. She said we needed something exciting to look forward to, so she booked us a cruise on the Disney Wonder, out of Miami to Cozumel and Grand Cayman. After that day, we couldn't stop smiling for anything.

That was kind of the kicker to our cruising. Almost as soon as we got off the boat, I started planning my next cruise, and this time, I set my sights on the Disney Magic, which had just been remodeled. I went in October 2015 with my sister, and our friend, Lisa. It was an absolute blast!

In September 2016, my sister and I did our first duo cruise, just the two of us, to New England, visiting Boston, Portland, Bar Harbor, St. John NB, and Halifax on the Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas. Bar Harbor was our absolute favorite spot. It was just the cutest place! We actually met our parents in St. John, NB, as they were on the Carnival Sunshine.

Our next cruise is in December on the Ruby Princess. It's all paid off and we're just raring to go!

Whew! That was a lot. Now, onto actually affording to go on a cruise.
  1. SAVE SAVE SAVE! Set up a separate savings account, and have direct deposits go into that account, every paycheck. If you find yourself with extra money, put it in your savings (Shop around for higher interest rates, too). 
  2. Book through a third party cruise company. We go through and have been very happy with them. It's not to say that regular cruise websites don't have better deals. Sometimes, the deals are the same, or better. Which leads me to my next point:
  3. Watch the websites for specials. We try to get in on No Deposit sales (you still have to pay something to hold your spot, but it's not as much). Plus, they're always having deals where you can get on board credit, depending on the length of your cruise. 
  4. One of the best things about calling in to set up your cruise is that they set you up on a payment plan. So long as it's paid off  4 months before you leave (that's what I've been told, anyway), you should be good. 
  5. Stick with the same cruise line for savings. This, take with a grain of salt. This will be our third Disney, but I don't think we're actually saving money. We do get to book excursions earlier, and there's a special line to skip ahead while boarding, which is great, but unless you go A LOT, you don't see the specials like some do. My parents have been doing a lot of Carnival lately, and we were going to use Carnival, but we got a good deal on Ruby Princess.
  6. Plan ahead. You can get reasonably great prices if you keep an eye on things, and book early. Sometimes you can get great rates when they're trying to fill the rest of the rooms on the ship, but I never want to take that chance. I say about a year in advance you should start looking. I've already got my next cruise on my radar (I won't be able to afford the down payment until after Disney, though).
As you can see, it's not difficult. It takes a little planning, but it's doable. If someone like me can do it (and I'm terrible with money), then anyone can. :-)

Even after your cruise is paid off, I recommend opening another savings account for spending money. Keep yourself to a cruising budget so you won't get any surprises. Your room key acts as your money while you're on the boat, and frequently charging things to your key could get you into trouble.

One thing I always like to do is to take your savings, and put into onto a Cruise Line Specific Gift Card. Take your gift cards to the Guest Services desk to place on your account. They'll use this money before charging your debit or credit card. For mother's and father's day, and my parents' anniversary, my sister and I got them Carnival Gift Cards for a little extra mad money for their trip. I got to use gift cards for my last few cruises. It was very helpful, and a bit off my mind. I'm paranoid I'm going to walk away from my trip thousands of dollars in the hole. When things are paid for in advance, you don't have that fear.

My final tip is this: DO NOT GO INTO DEBT FOR A VACATION. 

Sorry. That was my inner Dave Ramsey speaking. But seriously. Saving money for your trip as opposed to putting it all on credit cards, will make your trip that much more enjoyable because you won't have to face the bill later. Be mindful of your onboard spending. And don't forget to bring cash to tip for Room Service (usually, the food in room service is included, except for alcohol and cans of soda. Just check before you say yes).

Your Turn!

  • What vacation advice do you have?
  • Where is your favorite vacation destination?
  • Have you ever cruised before?

Saturday, August 15, 2015

This Week on Instagram

I've been utilizing Instagram a lot more lately, and I thought it'd be fun to show what all I've taken this week (Mostly because the last picture absolutely cracks me up).

My nails were pretty long at the start of the week. I don't like them this long. Lesson learned.

I LOVED this Jammicure. I thought the purples matched perfectly, I got to show off a wrap that's going away for my customers (Runner Girl), and it was just a flirty summer look. They started peeling almost immediately. I think it was because I'm not used to wrapping such long nails.

Do you watching Ink Masters on Spike? I didn't until three weeks ago. One of the contestants, Chris Blinston, is from Omaha, and founded Big Brain, which is where my sister and I got our tattoos, and he even did one of my sister's! There have been viewing parties, and this past week, DJ's Dugout at Aksarben Village opened up the entire restaurant for a party, and Chris was actually there. My parents had just come back from their vacation that day, and despite being bone tired, they came out to watch with us.

Kiri and I even got to meet (And hug! He's a hugger!) Chris! Seems like a nice guy.

And my dad won one of the drawings! A T-shirt designed by a local artists. It's got skulls on it, which aren't really dad's taste, but it was fun that he won something, just the same.

The Fall Jamberry Catalog is in! Starting September 1, our amazing fall wraps will be available, plus some awesome new surprises! If you'd like to host a party for your own hostess rewards, I'd be glad to help!

This picture I just had to share. We were watching 101 Dalmatians, and Henry was just staring at the screen. It was absolutely hilarious. He and Jane have been known to watch TV (I'm almost positive Jane's favorite movie is The Emperor's New Groove. She always watches it when we do), but his rapt attention on the dogs in this movie was hilarious. He hasn't shown this much interest in a movie since we watched The Three Lives of Thomasina at the old house (BTW, we've been at the new house for a YEAR! How'd that happen?!). I love my animals. They're so funny!

  • What pics have you been sharing on Instagram?
  • Want to follow me? @martinbeks
  • Do you watch Ink Masters? Who do you hope wins? What'd you think of this week's elimination?
  • Don't forget that August is Going Going Gone month with Jamberry! Get these amazing styles before they're gone!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Release Day: Up to I Do by Samantha March

Sorry for my weirdly long absence in July. I was participating in Camp NaNoWriMo, and all of my spare time was put to work on my next novel, which will be the first in a 3-part series. Each will be stand-alone, though. Should be interesting to see unfold. 

Now, on to someone who's actually finished publishing a novel.

Samantha March has recently published a great book called Up to I Do, and to celebrate, she's got a giveaway going on! This book is perfect for summer reading, and with fall just around the corner, time to wrap up the summer with a great book!

About the Book

Emerson Sinclair, twenty-seven year old hotel heiress, has said yes. With just over a year to plan her extravagant, over the top nuptials to Logan Worthington, it’s all hands on deck with the wedding plans. A Sinclair marrying into the Worthington family is the talk of their small New Hampshire town, and ideas include filming the wedding for a TV segment. But as the items get checked off the list, plans start to go ... not as planned. From not getting a designer dress to a selfish bridesmaid and unaccountable best man, Emerson is afraid her wedding will be more a joke than anything. 
When both her mother and sister seemingly begin to lose interest in her wedding plans in favor of their own personal lives, Emerson fears her big day will turn into the forgotten wedding. With the pressure to pull off a beautiful and elegant event that everyone expects from their respectable families, Emerson starts to forget the reason why she is saying I Do in the first place.

Author Bio

Samantha March is an author, editor, publisher, blogger, and all-around book lover. She runs the popular book/women’s lifestyle blog ChickLitPlus, which keeps her bookshelf stocked with the latest reads and up-to-date on all things health, fitness, fashion, and beauty related. In 2011, she launched her independent publishing company, Marching Ink, and has four published novels—Destined to Fail, The Green Ticket, A Questionable Friendship, and Up To I Do. When she isn’t reading, writing, or blogging, you can find her cheering for the Green Bay Packers. Samantha lives in Iowa with her husband and Vizsla puppy.

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