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The Top 5 Cars for Girls

[This is a guest post by Jennifer Meyers. Think you've got what it takes to be a guest poster? Contact Em at em [at] blondeandbalanced [dot] com to learn more about becoming a guest poster yourself!]

Along with beer, sports, and red meat, cars are a stereotypically male interest. Yet women are just as interested in driving as men, if not more so! In fact, a study just released by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Bureau shows that there are now more licensed female drivers on U.S. roads than male drivers. And a car doesn’t have to be Barbie-pink to be attractive to female drivers.

So what do women want?

We want a car that’s stylish, of course, but we also look at safety ratings, carbon emissions, fuel efficiency, and value for money. Family-friendliness is also a bonus when we’re looking at car reviews. Following are five of the top car contenders for women:

Volkswagen Beetle

The Volkswagen brand is mighty popular with female buyers, managing to be both reliable and stylish. The VW Beetle is one of its most iconic cars, with 54.6% of new Beetle owners being female. The older version of the Beetle was even more popular with women, due to its retro looks, but the updated version is courting a more balanced audience. Still, the VW Beetle has plenty to offer for both genders, including precise steering, a surprisingly spacious trunk, and a powerful engine for such a small car.

Honda CR-V

Crossover SUVs are big business these days. While the minivan was ubiquitous in suburbs throughout the 1990s, and the SUV took its place in the 2000s, the crossover vehicle is now the new standard family car. The Honda CR-V is attractive enough to appeal to younger women, while practical enough to be a great fit for growing families. It offers plenty of room in the passenger and cargo areas, an array of tech-savvy features, and is priced under $25,000.

Subaru Forester

Another hit crossover, the Forester is extremely popular with women. It’s a fun car to drive, with great performance on highways and in the city alike. It also boasts an extremely high safety rating, handling slick roads with ease. In addition, female drivers tend to prefer to sit lower to the ground than men do, which is why cars like the Forester are a hit. They offer the size and range of an SUV with a lower, sleeker build that’s closer to a regular car. Although it’s not the most fashion-forward car on the market, the Forester offers good value for money and plenty of cargo space.

Mazda 3

Both the 4-door and 5-door versions of the Mazda 3 are a hit with the ladies. Mazda’s compact car offers ample space for groceries and family belongings, while still managing to be sporty and fun to drive. It’s the perfect blend of practicality and a little bit of edge.

Fiat 500

Let’s face it; the Fiat 500 is one of the cutest cars on the road today. It has vintage flair, a petite size, and rocks colors like pale blue and pink. It even plays dress-up in Gucci and Diesel with promotional fashion tie-ins. This makes it irresistible to women and a brand name consistently seen in car news. Yet it’s also a car that retains its value well and offers decent fuel economy at 65 miles per gallon, giving it added substance beyond its good looks.

By combining style, smooth handling, and good value, these cars are ahead of the curve when it comes to attracting female attention.

Photo credit:  bibendum84

Why I will drive my car into the ground

On Monday, The Bumblebee died on me.

What on earth is The Bumblebee? It’s my well-worn, (well-loved), glorious 2004 VW Beetle. Actually, it’s technically “Sunflower Yellow,” but The Hubby likes to tease me for owning a bug, and a bright yellow one at that (did he expect any less from me?), so “The Bumblee” it has been since I brought it home.

Anyway…

The ’Bee is still in good condition. I keep it serviced on schedule, drive pretty conservatively, and don’t put a ton of mileage on it. It’s got some dings from stray parking lot shopping carts (and one jerk at the pharmacy who backed into me as he was pulling out of a space, paused for a second, and then sped off). It’s also got some bumper stickers on it. And also maybe some nose prints inside the back windows from carting Little and Big Dog around.

It doesn’t look like a new car by any means, in other words, but it’s my baby. And on Monday, that baby had some issues.

Why my mother is every car salesman’s dream

What happened? The battery died.

That’s it. The car is 8 years old, and things like this will happen. At the time (stopped at a red light and suddenly unable to go), I didn’t realize this was the only thing that was the matter with it. I just knew that I was blocking traffic and hopefully I had my roadside assistance card on me (I did). So as I waited for the tow truck to come, I called my mother to ask if she could drive me into work the next morning if I needed it (my office is on the way to hers).

My mother’s first reaction? (After “are you OK?): “I think it’s time you start pricing out new cars.”

Here’s the thing you need to know about my mom: In the 8 years I have owned The ’Bee, she has leased 4 (count ’em: 4!) cars. All shiny new red cars that look sporty and cool, which she then turns in for another sporty new red car and another 2 years of car payments. Meanwhile, I’ve been payment free for the last 2 years.

I did not get my frugality from my parents, as some people do. I got it from watching the way they handled their finances, and resolving that when I grew up, I would do the complete opposite.

Even when she found out it was only the battery, and not some huge internal problem that would cost hundreds, my mom still kept pushing the argument that it was only a matter of time before my car died altogether, so I might as well just get a new one now. She even sent me links to dealership sites and offered to help me with a down payment. My mom does not have that much money herself. And it is decisions like this that are the reason why.

I will drive this car into the ground. Because I care about my finances.

On the day of our wedding, as he was helping set up chairs with his groomsmen, The Hubby got a call from his car guy, who was doing an inspection on his 1992 go-cart of a Ford Escort. The verdict? It needed so many repairs to pass inspection, and was bound to keep getting worse given its age, that it would probably cost less to buy a whole new car.

(The Hubby likes to joke that we weren’t even married, and the expenses of married life already started rolling in!)

That’s the kind of scenario in which I will give up The ’Bee to take on regular car payments again. Until that point, I will drive it until its Sunflower Yellow is chipping and rusting, its bumper stickers are falling off, and it has more replacement parts in it than original parts. It’s only when the cost of keeping it running outweighs the cost of a new car that I’d ever consider taking on more debt.

Because in the meantime, those non-existent car payments are going straight into savings…something my parents, in my 30 years of living, have never yet accumulated.

Do you lease or own your car? At what point do you decide it’s time to finally give up on your car?

~Heart,
Em

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photo credit:  Rachel Ford James

Ask Em: gift-giving on a budget & “have it all” recipients

[This is a part of a new series I’m launching called “Ask Em”, where I will answer any questions you send me (and also throw them out to our smart readers for their input). If you’ve got a question for the B&B community, send me an email at em [at] blondeandbalanced [dot] com and I (we) will do our best to answer it! (You can remain anonymous if you prefer.)]

 

Hello Em!

Now that we are getting into the holiday season, I am wrestling with how to approach gift-giving this year. As newlyweds and new home owners, my husband and I don’t have a ton of extra money to spend, but we still have a long list of family to buy presents for. Even if we do small gifts, $10 here and $15 adds up SO quickly!!

To compound the problem, many of the people who are hardest to shop for are also the ones who care the most about presents and would be hurt if we didn’t do anything or tried to “cheap out.” We don’t live close to most of my family, so we can’t do the “experience” gift/time together thing, and dietary restrictions mean that chocolates or homemade treats wouldn’t fly, either. We are not crafty or you can bet I would be at Michael’s every day for the next month and a half!

So, I don’t know what the holidays are like for you and your family, but I would love to see your thoughts on frugal (but nice!) gift-giving. I am especially interested in gifts for people who “have it all.”

Thank you! :-)

~Perplexed Gift-Giver

Dear Perplexed:

What an excellent question! (And one I’m sure plenty of readers can relate to.)

You’ve raised a couple great questions, so let’s address them in order:

1. Buying for a large family

We have a very large extended family, so many years back, my aunts and uncles decided to start a white elephant gift exchange for our big gathering on Christmas Eve. We each bring an item up to $20, wrapped up with no name on it, and then all of the adults and grownup cousins spend a good hour or two stealing gifts, swapping gifts, and generally having a ton of fun. Some of the gifts are nice, generic things lots of people might like (booze and car kits are popular with our fam), and some are gag gifts like whatever the latest As-Seen-on-TV item is. (The Shake Weight was surprisingly popular a couple years ago!) It’s always a hilarious time.

The Hubby and I still buy gifts for our immediate families (parents and siblings), but this is a great way to avoid shelling out tons of money—and to have a great time at a family party that could otherwise get kind of boring after the 10th story of Uncle Marvin’s hip surgery!  :)

If your family doesn’t go for this, consider monitoring daily deals sites throughout the year to stock up on presents you know different people will like. If you buy things over the course of the year, it’s not nearly so tough as getting hit all at once at the holidays. We also like to visit the stores right after Christmas (not Black Friday, but the week after) to snag plenty of generic deep-discount things we store in our “gift closet” until Christmas.

2. “Hard to buy for” people

First of all, anyone who takes offense to getting a “cheap out” present doesn’t deserve too much of your time and energy. These people are grownups, right? And they know you’re newlyweds on a budget? If they’re going to get miffed over a “cheap out” gift (which they probably will no matter what you get them), then let them. Give them something you know is thoughtful and caring, and let them be petty if they want.

(Sorry if that sounds harsh, but I have no patience for Grinches!)

I like that you mention doing DIYing gifts if you could. You may not be crafty, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still give people one-of-a-kind handmade items! Check out sites like etsy, local boutiques, and even crafty friends for fun gift ideas. Think outside the box: themed cufflinks for business types with favorite hobbies, framed inspirational quotes, funky wine stoppers for wine lovers. Some etsy sellers and boutique items can be pricey, but you can also find some really great deals if you search a little—and you can guarantee it won’t be something the recipient “already has.” Or, if you have a friend who’s really crafty, maybe they could knit you some scarves/make you some candles/or whatever else they do in exchange for something you can provide. (Babysitting services? Home-cooked meals? Get creative!)

And whatever you give them, don’t worry about putting too much time and thought into it. Give it your best, but don’t be put out by anyone immature enough to hold a present against you.

Turning it over to you guys: Have you dealt with either of the issues that “Perplexed” brings up? How have you handled them? What advice would you give her?

~Heart,
Em

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photo credit:  Vincent_AF

 

Beautify your Bathroom on a Budget

[This is a guest post by Rachel MacDonald. Think you've got what it takes to be a guest poster? Contact Em at em [at] blondeandbalanced [dot] com to learn more about becoming a guest poster yourself!]

If you love spending time at the spa, you can work on creating your own spa-like sanctuary at home. The bathroom is one of the areas where we spend the most time in our homes, yet its design potential is often overlooked.

Luckily, because it’s small in area, you don’t have to spend too much money to give it a complete overhaul, particularly if the major items like sink, toilet, and shower are in working order. For inspiration, you can look at decorating blogs, Pinterest, or photographs on listings sites like HomeSales in Australia.

The following are just a few ideas to give your bathroom a simple makeover that’s easy on the wallet:

Choose Brightly Colored Accessories

One of the most cost-effective ways to give your bathroom a makeover is to choose one or two colorful accent pieces. Shower curtains and area rugs are low in cost but provide a powerful focal point for the room. Although crisp white towels are a classic choice for bathrooms, you could also enliven your selection with colorful washcloths, hand towels, or loofas. Pops of color are desirable, but you don’t want to overdo it or your bathroom will feel more like a carnival than a calming spa.

Re-Paint Cabinets

Save on the cost of replacing bathroom installations like cabinets by giving them a fresh coat of paint. You won’t need too much time or money to accomplish this, but to get the best results you will need to clean and sand them before painting. If you have paint left over from other areas of the home, using it in the bathroom is a good way to tie your overall decorating scheme together.

Install Vintage Tiles

Cheap flooring options such as linoleum can give a clean and modern look. However, another option that injects a dose of quirky personality is to choose vintage tiles. Art deco, kitschy ’50s pastels, and polka dot patterns are all the rage with interior designers, and they don’t have to cost a fortune. Vintage tiles can be used for flooring or even for an accent wall in the bathroom if you have a bit more cash to spend. Cool vintage wallpaper would also achieve the same effect.

Freshen Things Up With Flowers

Create a spa-like ambience in your bathroom with fresh plant life. Hanging plants in the window or a small bouquet of flowers on the countertop can instantly bring the room to life. And if you choose plant life from your own garden, you won’t have to spend a penny.

Find Smart Storage Solutions

Nothing cuts a bathroom’s perceived size more than clutter. If you’re a beauty product junkie, you’ll want to find a place to store your moisturisers, scented lotions, bath bombs, and hair styling products. This could be a good excuse to go through and toss old makeup and beauty products that are long past their expiration date. Organize cabinets to make your items easy to find and free up the countertops.

By giving your bathroom a little TLC, you can make every moment you spend in it more pleasurable. So get ready to drift away with a hot bath and scented candles in your new, personalized spa.

Rachel MacDonald is a freelance writer specializing in travel, food, and design. She also works with HomeSales, one of Australia’s top real estate listings sites.

Photo credit [Flickr]:  ooh_food