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Buying new cars and trucks is killing our finances

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Personal finance blogger Robb Engen wonders how many families have two brand new vehicles worth $40,000 each or more sitting in the driveway that are leased or financed over five-plus years. Me, too.

I'm a car guy who has owned vehicles ever since I was 16. Where other people notice houses as they drive through neighborhoods, I take in the cars parked in driveways. I keep asking myself: Where do people get the money to buy these really cool cars and SUVs, many of them from luxury carmakers?

In a column written a while back, I argued that people aren't paying enough attention to the way car ownership undermines their personal finances. Two rules to follow to contain car costs are, first, to be making payments on one car at a time per household and, two, to stretch car loans out no more than five years. Here's some tough advice on how much to spend on a vehicle – 20 to 25 per cent of your yearly income.

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A blogger on how he has exploited Costco's very liberal policy on the return of goods purchased at the store.

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Today's featured financial tool
Budget travel expert Barry Choi sent me this list of travel deal websites – NextDeparture, Daily Trip Hack and SkyScanner, which he contributes to as a writer.

If you're looking for a robo-adviser, check out this detailed list of the players and their particulars.

Ask Rob
The question: "My wife and I are at different poles when it comes to our finances. We're always at odds. I try to save and she has no clue of how a mortgage or a secured line of credit works. Help. I'm sure I'm not alone."

My reply: "Here's a thought – make an appointment with a fee-only financial planner and get a neutral third party to explain to your spouse the long-term implications of not saving. Basically, you need someone to say that spending excessively today means no money to spend in retirement. Note: Fee-only planners charge hourly or flat fees and don't sell products. Try a google search to find a fee-only planner in your city."

Do you have a question for me? Send it my way. Sorry I can't answer every one personally. Questions and answers are edited for length.

What I've been writing about lately

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