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5 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying A Used Car

used-car-blowoutShopping for a used car can be exciting and scary at the same time. The prospect of driving away in a flashy new (to you) ride is intoxicating…but if you aren’t careful, you can make mistakes that cost you money, or result in buying a car that you’ll be “stuck” with for a long time. Here are some tips from on 5 mistakes to avoid when buying a used car.

#1: Not Thoroughly Inspecting The Vehicle

Don’t let a shiny paint job fool you. Potential problems can be hidden, and you owe it to yourself to be diligent and tough with the seller so you don’t get ripped off!

David Hays, a 25-year automotive industry veteran and former owner of Wrenchmasters in Rockville, Md., says that even if you aren’t a mechanic, you can inspect the car yourself, and there are specific things you should look for.

“On the exterior, look for oil or other fluid leaks under the car, odd wear or worn-out tires and new or different paint,” Hays says. “A car that has been painted indicates crash damage and is a red flag. Crash damage can be extensive or minor but always affects the value negatively. Look for ‘orange peel’ paint on body panels, paint fading at different rates on different parts of the car, irregular gaps in between body panels and overspray on weather seals.

“Pop the hood and look for cracks on the back of drive belts, excessive black crud under the oil fill cap, which indicates a lack of oil changes, and stickers under the hood,” Hays says. “If there aren’t any stickers, the hood panel may have been replaced, a red flag that the vehicle was in an accident.

“During the test drive, listen to the exhaust,” Hays says. “Does it sound normal and not overly loud? Make sure the blower (fan) works, and the power windows and locks are functional. Check to see if engine lights or other dash lights are on. On a level road, does the car track straight if you were to remove your hands from the steering wheel? Does the car drive to one side or does the brake pedal pulsate when braking?”

#2: Not Getting A Vehicle History Report/Mechanic Inspection

Services such as CarFax or AutoCheck can provide you with a complete vehicle maintenance record and accident history for the vehicle (provided the previous owner kept proper records of course), which can alert you to any potential problems the seller may be keeping from you. And if the seller doesn’t allow you the opportunity to have a qualified mechanic inspect the vehicle for any potential problems, that should be a red flag to you that they may be hiding something, and the vehicle might be one to avoid.

#3: Not Doing The Research To Make Sure The Price Is Right

The internet has made shopping for a used car a LOT easier than it used to be. You can do a ton of research before you ever go look at a car…finding out what common issues that model might have, or getting a firm idea of what people are paying for the model you’re looking for. Websites like Kelley Blue Book allow you to input the features and mileage of the vehicle you want, and find out what the fair market value is. Having this information in hand when you go talk to the seller can make a world of difference when it comes to negotiating a price, and how you feel about the transaction afterwards.

#4: Don’t Find Out How Much The Insurance (And Other Extra Items) Will Cost Before Deciding

A very common mistake people make before deciding on which car to buy is not finding out how much it will cost for other things like insurance and “wear and tear” type services. Insurance costs can vary widely from one vehicle model (or insurance company) to another, so do your homework and find out how much you’ll be spending every month for insurance, and get some idea how much typical services will cost.

#5: Exceeding Your Budget

According to, even if you did your research, evaluated your needs, arranged the financing, there’s still the possibility of entering the dealership, only to let yourself get talked into the kind of car with a price tag that is much more than you have budgeted for. So stay with your budget, and ensure that you can really afford the vehicle you want to buy, thus avoiding buyer’s remorse or getting in too far over your head.

If you do your homework, and walk up to the seller’s house or a dealership armed with the information you need to make an informed, wise decision about the vehicle you’re interested in, you’ll have the power! And when you drive away in your spiffy new ride, you’ll know you made the best deal you could, and that a few months later you won’t be kicking yourself for a bad choice!

Don’t forget to check out some great used car listings at!

Andy Poston is the Marketing Services Manager at PennySaver USA, California’s leading resource in print, online, and mobile for hyperlocal advertising, local coupons, classifieds, and business listings.

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Make Your Space Look Bigger for Less than $50

Make your space look bigger for less than $50

Cathedral ceilings and floor length windows fill your dreams, but your reality is a tiny little flat where the walls close in around you. Grab your penny jar, because for well under $50, you can make your space feel bigger with these tips from PennySaver USA. A little paint, a mirror and an afternoon spent de-cluttering are just what your space needs to feel bigger.


The right color scheme can be life changing. House Beautiful suggests painting everything in the room from the molding to the walls and the window sills the same shade of deft blue. The unification blurs the boundaries of the space and makes it feel bigger. If blue is not your thing, pick a light color. White can be mixed with your favorite undertones of green or blue, or you can just pick pure white for a light and airy effect. Because white will reflect the light in your place, it will make your rooms feel bigger.


The perfect way to reflect light and virtually enlarge any spaces, mirrors should not be overlooked. New, a mirror can cost a lot of money, but a trip to the thrift store or a bit of crafting means that you can have a mirror without sacrificing your budget. Home Depot offers workshops for women, and one of their most popular classes has been the Tile Mirror workshop, which teaches how to convert a plain mirror into a framed tile mirror. Alternatively, you can frame your mirror with a repurposed window frame or a funky used picture frame.

Clearing Clutter

Clearing clutter will make your house feel bigger, but according to WebMD, it will also have positive effects on your mental health. To reduce your junk, make three piles: one destined for the thrift store, one for trash, and one for things that just need to be put away in another room. If you have trouble getting rid of stuff, revisit this strategy every month or two. It’s usually easier to get rid of things when you’ve deliberated over it for several months. If you are really on the fence about an item, pop it into storage. If you don’t use it within the next 12 months, dump it.

Find a New Space

Rather than making big changes to your current space, simply look for a new one. Sites like let you search by location and size. When you finally tour the apartment, look for lots of natural light, light-colored walls and high ceilings. All of those features will make you feel like you are in a big space.

Living Large

Ironically, according to Lowe’s, big objects can make your room feel bigger. Rather than cluttering up the walls with lots of little pictures, invest in a large print, a mirror, or a cool piece of big art. If art is out of your budget, consider some wall decals. They are the perfect way to fill up space without spending too much cash. Replace small throw rugs with a big area rug, and instead of end tables, give your room a focus and some extra light with a giant glass coffee table.

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Wall of Shame: How to Sniff Out Scammers from Ad Listings is airing out some dirty laundry. We have something not-so-pleasant to talk about, but we want to make sure our fans always have the best experience possible. So we’re just going to say it, some of the ads on our site are created by scammers. Ugh! Luckily, we have a hardworking team, who spends hours upon hours scouring our ads and banishing scammers into cyber world oblivion.

Unfortunately, there are always new ones entering the field, old ones changing up their game, and real people who get hurt for falling into their trap.

We want to give you the tools to be protected from scammer ads and aid us in winning the war against the scammer bullies.


Found a scam on Please leave us a comment and let us know.

So when looking at ads on, keep an eye out for these red flags for scammers:

  • Ads in the wrong category. If a listing is posted in a category that’s completely from left field, it is most likely a scam. For instance, if you are searching garage sales and puppies come up – that is a big red flag! Turn away from those puppies and their pink noses – they are scammers in disguise.
  • Prices are missing or way below market price. Like the saying goes, “when it’s too good to be true, it usually is,”. Don’t fall for ads that promise you the cutest purebred puppy for $100 when it’s typically thousands of dollars more. These are hands-down scams.
  • Incorrect grammar, misspellings, and awful punctuation. There should be some leeway with this one, since everyone makes spelling errors once in awhile. The key is to fish out when the sentences don’t make sense or don’t sound like normal conversation and steer clear from those ads.
  • Photos of Poor Quality. Photos that are too small, too blurry, or you’ve seen elsewhere before are huge red flags. Take a second and Google the item for sale in the ad. If the same image appears multiple times, then chances are the ad was built by a scammer.
  • Same ad over and over again. Real people typically post one ad on PennySaver for an item. If you see an ad posted multiple times over and over again for the same item (sometimes different photos and same phone number), then you’ve just caught yourself a scammer.

What should you do if you think you accidentally contacted a scammer? To be 100% sure that you found one, ask yourself these questions to navigate the mine field:

  • Is the seller asking for you to send money first? RED FLAG! Don’t send a cent until you know you are dealing with a real person. Get on the phone with the seller, exchange multiple emails, and ask questions. If the seller is attentive and answers your questions, he or she is most likely a real person.
    • Example from a real email sent to a PennySaver user: “All you are going to pay is just for their change of ownership papers which will cost you only $150 each”
    • Is the seller telling you a sob story? RED FLAG! Liars tend to make up huge detailed stories to appear more believable to why they are offering such a low price. If you feel the story is fabricated, ask the seller questions about their story to see if he or she contradicts the information first provided.
      • Example from a real email sent to a PennySaver user: “I am giving them out because they were always cared and looked after by my father but with a heavy heart i lost him and he was all I got…My father died in an accident last month on his way back from work and i have very bad memories when i see these puppies around me, because they were always together with him since i am always busy in the laboratory..”
    • Is the seller claiming they are out of the country? RED FLAG! If the person is really out of the country on vacation or for missionary work, it should wait until they get back. Chances are you won’t hear back from that scammer if you ask to hold off until his or her return.

If you discover a scammer, please add a comment to this blog post and a link to the ad. We’ll get our team to remove it as soon as possible.

Thanks and let’s work together to banish scammers back into the dark holes they came from!

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Healthy Eating Tips for busy moms

Between getting the baby to go down for its nap and calming your toddler’s tantrum, trying to fit in a lunch is the last thing on your mind. Today we’re rounding up some of our best healthy eating tips for the busy mom.

Even if you don’t think you have a second to spare, these tips are simple to follow and will start you on a healthy path.


Being a mom and maintaining a healthy diet isn't always easy, but it is possible.

  1. Drink Water – Our bodies are made of 60% water, but between rushing to drop the kids off at day care and getting to work on time, it can be tough to fit in our recommended 9 glasses. A simple solution is to buy a water bottle with a carabiner attached so you can clip it to your purse. Drinking water throughout the day will keep you hydrated and energized. To find out exactly how much water you should be drinking, check out this fun water calculator.
  2. Snack Smart – We’re busy, and grabbing the office donut is sooo much easier than trying to cut up carrot sticks before work. Plan your snacks the night before, and make them easy to grab and go. Staffer Alisha remembers her fit grandmother snacking on delicious frozen grapes. Bananas, granola bars, and mixed nuts are also get snack alternatives, and won’t take much time to put together.
  3. Plan Your Meals - When we’re trying to plan dinner last minute, more often than not we’ll end up choosing the less healthy, easier option just so we can have extra down time with the family. If you plan your big meals a week ahead of time, you’ll have more time to choose healthy ingredients. You can also cook some of the dishes over the weekend and freeze them. Dinner is a cinch when all you have to do is pop it in the oven.
  4. Reduce Your Caffeine Intake - I know, you’re only getting 4-5 hours of sleep a night, and the thought of parting from your morning, afternoon, and evening best friend sounds hellish. But habitual coffee drinking can actually cause disrupted sleep cycles, headaches, irritability, and more says – things no mom can afford to deal with. Try healthier alternatives like green tea, which has much less caffeine and is rich in antioxidants and metabolism boosters.

Start practicing these healthy eating tips now to feel like a lean, mean mama machine by Mother’s Day. You deserve it.

Do you have a healthy eating tip for the busy mom? Leave a comment below, and don’t forget to enter our #Pennyshout contest where you could win $100 for a Mother’s Day brunch.

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Healthy Eating Tips: Introducing a New PennySaverUSA Blog Series

Donuts the latest diet trend… of course that’s what we all wish this post was going to be about, but let’s be real. Until they make some huge scientific breakthroughs, we’re going to have to learn to love our fruits and veggies. In our new monthly blog series, Healthy Eating Tips, we’re going to share healthy recipes and tips for making nutritional choices that are as flavorful as they are fun.

grocery store coupons

Get grocery store coupons from

Healthy eating doesn’t begin and end with the foods you choose at meal time. It’s a choice that encompasses many decisions throughout your week. One of the biggest decisions in this cycle is how we go grocery shopping. If you’re anything like us, there have been times you’ve gone shopping without a plan of attack, only to end up going home with frozen pizzas and ramen noodles. But by following a few of the simple grocery shopping tips below, you’ll be able to make much healthier buying decisions.

  1. Make a weekly menu plan – Planning a week’s worth of healthy meals in advance keeps your commitment to eating healthy on track. Whole Living magazine, which is chocked full of recipe ideas each month, is a good place to find healthy recipes.  The free Epicurious Recipes & Shopping List App, which shows you the nutritional information for thousands of healthy meals, is another fantastic resource. Once you’ve picked your recipes, organize them into a handy menu plan (Tsh of has some great menu planning tips).
  2. Make a grocery shopping list –Going into the grocery store with a shopping list makes it less likely you’ll come home with pizza bagels and popcorn. Inventory your recipes and write down everything that’s not in your fridge or pantry. Of course, there’s always room for Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia, but stick to your list as much as possible for a healthy week ahead.
  3. Grocery shop at your local produce market – Head to your local produce or farmer’s market to find the freshest fruits and veggies at a reasonable price. Being in SoCal, we frequent the farmer’s market at the Orange County Marketplace on weekends and Wholesome Choice grocery during the week. We’re usually able to find every ingredient on my list without going over budget.

When beginning this endeavor you might think sticking to a meal plan will be boring, but it’s likely to turn out to be quite the opposite. Making the healthy recipes you pick turns the shopping experience into an adventure and makes actually eating the fruits of my hard work much more rewarding.

Until next time, happy meals to you!

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Save Money Monday: Spoil your pampered pup without breaking the bank!

Dog lovers like myself are known to spoil our four-legged children. From doggy spas to luxurious beds, we tend to justify these extra costs even though the dog might not even be aware of any of it! Isn’t it right that at the end of the day, your pup is just happy you’re home? Here are some ways you can still spoil your dog without spending a lot!

Pet care doesn't have to be expensive.

1) Skip the store-bought treats! If you take away the cute puppy on the packaging and those touching commercials, packaged treats are just dried jerky for $20 a pound! In my house, we buy lean cuts of steak for our dogs so we have a generous supply of treats for a fraction of the cost of store-bought treats. Preparation is easy and you can do this every two weeks. Just sear your steak plain without any seasoning, cut up into bite-sized pieces (get rid of the fatty parts), and store in the fridge. Please check with your vet and make yourself aware of harmful people foods that you should NEVER feed your dog.

2) Brush your dog’s teeth daily! Our family vet actually recommended this instead of buying expensive dental chews. Just put a dab of doggy toothpaste on your preferred doggy toothbrush or finger brush and a quick 1-2 minute massaging of the teeth and gums every day can help keep those canine teeth in great shape. Get your dog in the routine of this so it’s not as daunting of a task and you can avoid expensive trips to the doggy dentist!

3) Rotate and wash toys! Instead of buying new toys, keep toys on a rotation so there’s always something new and exciting for your pup to play with! It’s amazing what a wash cycle will do. It’s like a brand new toy!

4) DIY Doggy Bed! When you think of it, those doggy beds are just really expensive pillows, sometimes costing up to $50 a piece! You can recycle old pillows and make your own doggy bed! Check out the instructions for a No Sew Pet Bed! (It’s great for cats, too!)

5) Keep your dog happy and active! Dogs are social creatures and require lots of care and attention. The best activities for your dog are often free! Whether it’s a stroll at the park or some extra belly rubs, spending time with your dog is all you need to ensure your dog’s happiness! Pawdicures and collar bling are all optional.

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How-to keep your home organized

PennySaverUSA’s garage sale mobile app MOGASA will provide a guest blog post each Tuesday. The second one comprises tips for how-to get and stay organized. Enjoy …

Each episode of that classic little American cartoon G.I. Joe finished with the axiom “knowing is half the battle.”


Use a declutter calendar to keep your home organized.

Put in the proper context of this blog, it’s more appropriate to say “organizing is half the battle,” and we covered that topic in Part I of our organizing your home series last week.

It’s the other half of the battle we are delving into this week, and that’s staying organized. In many ways it’s actually easier to get organized in the first place than it is to maintain that organization, but we do have a few tips to help you out:

  1. Utilize a declutter calendar to keep yourself on track. If you stick to the calendar, you will be forced to constantly keep up with your organization and won’t let it slide to the point it becomes overwhelming. This tip comes from MOGASA Facebook fan Annie Lema, who even found some free downloadable declutter calendars online for you to use.
  2. Make organization part of your routine. Wake up. Brush your teeth. Get dressed. Organize whatever you left out the night before. By training yourself to follow that same routine every day, it will become second-nature to remain organized.
  3. Share the organizational responsibilities. If you have a roommate, a spouse or children, this tip is a must. If only one person in the household is doing the organizing, it will quickly become daunting and probably won’t last. Getting everyone involved is the best way to stay organized. At the very least, it prevents arguments from arising when your hubby can’t find where you placed his golf clubs.
  4. Make an inventory of the items you have in your fridge and pantry. As they run out check them off the list. On your next shopping trip, that will serve as your shopping list. This will keep you from disintegrating into disorganization in your kitchen, which sets the tone for the rest of the house. This tip comes from MOGASA blog partner Adventures of the Mommy Homemaker.
  5. Put new items away immediately. The fastest way to falling back into your disorganized ways is to let those new Christmas or birthday gifts pile up. Every time you bring something new into the house, you should fit it into your organizational plan. Otherwise, it will begin to decay the order you have established with the rest of your house and lead to chaos.

Now that we’ve aided you in organizing your home and keeping it organized, next week’s MOGASA blog will focus on helping you figure out the difference between a family heirloom and junk.

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How-to organize your home

PennySaverUSA’s garage sale mobile app MOGASA will provide a guest blog post each Tuesday. The first one comprises tips for how-to organize your home. Enjoy …

organize your home

Take control of your home before it takes control of you.

If you’re like many of us, the New Year’s resolution at the top of your list is to finally organize your home. But this is a task much easier said than done. If cluttered closets and crowded garages leave you feeling overwhelmed, we completely understand. MOGASA (Download for iPhone or Android) is to the rescue with Part 1 of our How-to organize your home series to make any mess seem less daunting.

Part 1: Filtering (AKA, get rid of what you don’t use):

The first step in any organization project is to filter out what you don’t need or use. Follow these simple tips, and you’ll have more room to work with in no time.

  1. For every new item you take in, commit to getting rid of something old – this works great for bringing in all your new Christmas clothes and gadgets to keep your stuff from multiplying.
  2. If you don’t use it, lose it –- Meaning, if it’s been over a year since you’ve laid eyes on something, it might be a good idea to toss it. “But what if it’s valuable?” –See tip 3.
  3. Make a donation and garage sale pile- Make a little money and give back while you organize. Put the items you’d like some cash for in a garage sale pile and the others in a donation pile.
  4. Host a garage sale — Post your ad for free on or on MOGASA (watch our how-to video), and we’ll send you shoppers eager to pay for your unwanted goodies.

For more great tips on kicking clutter to the curb, you won’t want to miss Take Care of It Today: Organized 365 from the Happy Housewife and Clear the Clutter: Sell or Donate One Big Thing from Small Notebook.

Stay tuned for next week’s Part 2 of this series when we’ll discuss how to get and stay organized now that we’ve cleared out the clutter.

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Save Money Monday: Black Friday shopping tips

As if Thanksgiving, one of the best holidays of the year, wasn’t enough, it’s followed by Black Friday – the best shopping day of the year. Save Money Monday is here to provide a how-to shopping tips to help you get the most out of Black Friday.

The first key to a productive Black Friday shopping trip is to figure out what items are on your list to buy. That point is vital to remaining efficient in your shopping.

Once you have a list of items, the next step is to scout out which stores have the best sales for the types of items you are seeking. Coupon bloggers can be of great assistance in this matter. Some of our favorite coupon bloggers are The Realistic Couponer, Nifty Mom, Southern Cali Saver, Coupon Katarina and Coupon Mamacita.

Now that you know what items you want and which stores you need to target, you should figure out when each store opens when and plot out your trip. Some kick off at midnight, while others don’t open until the wee hours of the morning. That information is pivotal to your planning.

Use a site like Mapquest or Google Maps to get directions to each store and take that into account as well when deciding which route to take and which stores to visit first.

Finally, with everything planned, set a budget. Even on Black Friday, you can wind up spending a fortune if not careful. The last thing you need is to go into debt, while buying discount merchandise!

Have fun shopping everyone and share with us your strategies in our comments.

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Save Money Monday: Frugal Thanksgiving ideas

PennySaverUSA is proud to present the latest installment of Save Money Monday dedicated to frugal Thanksgiving ideas.

By any measure, Thanksgiving is a glorious holiday. It involves eating fabulous food, spending quality time with family and watching football. How can you beat that?

free thanksgiving e-book

Frugal Thanksgiving ideas include a free e-cookbook.

Perhaps the holiday’s only downfall is the cost required in cooking such a feast. Enter Save Money Monday’s frugal Thanksgiving ideas.

The Save Money Monday key to having an amazing feast on a budget is to go in with a plan. Figure out exactly what you want to make, which recipes you want to use and how many servings you need to prepare. This will enable you to strategically map out where to find the best deals for each item and ingredient.

It might seem obvious, but it can actually be somewhat tricky just deciding what to make for Thanksgiving. Turkey is a no-brainer, but what about stuffing? Is a ham necessary? Pecan pie, pumpkin pie or both? First you must answer those questions, before you even begin to think about using frugal Thanksgiving ideas to keep your feast under budget.

Once you’ve decided the menu, it’s time to figure out which recipes you want to use. Rather than buying a cook book, simply find an e-book online. is currently offering a free Thanksgiving e-Cookbook that should do the trick.

Now that you have all of your recipes, you are ready to implement our frugal Thanksgiving ideas:

  1. Make a list of all the items you need to purchase for your recipes.
  2. Go through your pantry to see which items you already have that can be used for your recipes.
  3. Do a web search for a coupon blogger in your area (some good ones are Southern Cali Saver in SoCal, Coupon Mamacita in Florida and The Frugal Find in Northern Cali) and take a look at their coupon matchups.
  4. Peruse’s online coupons section and try to find coupons for your grocery list.
  5. Scour your local PennySaver and your local newspaper for more sales and coupons you can use for your list.
  6. Enjoy an awesome Thanksgiving feast, while smiling at your bank statement!
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