A Few (More) Easy Steps to Take Control of Your Finances

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by your finances? If so, you’re not alone. In a previous article, we covered how to assess your financial situation and put together a budget. Here, we’ll explore some practical ways to get your finances in order.

Current events have added a high level of uncertainty to the mix. The sooner you take charge, the better.

Pay down debt

If your aim is to take control of your finances, it’s hard to imagine anything that stands in the way of that quite like debt. That’s why paying it down should be a priority.

Here are a few tips that may help:

  • Once you’ve made all your monthly minimum payments, put any extra funds toward the debts with the highest interest rates first. For example, credit cards usually have higher rates than student loans. By tackling your highest interest rates first, you minimize the total amount of interest you’ll pay.
  • See where you can cut back on spending. Making your own coffee and canceling subscriptions you don’t use is a good start, but don’t be afraid to get creative and look for ways to save money on necessary purchases. For example, you can take control of your car insurance bill by enrolling in pay-per-mile insurance with Metromile. 
  • If you have good credit, consider asking your credit card company to lower your rate. Or, apply for a card that offers a 0% introductory APR. This way, more of your money goes toward your principal instead of interest.

Automate your finances

Automating your finances might be scary and may even feel counterintuitive — are you really in control if you’re not taking action yourself?

The answer is yes — you are telling the robots what to do, after all. And in many cases, automating your finances is one of the best decisions you can make. When something is unpleasant, like paying a bill or saving (when you could be spending), sometimes it’s best to put as little thought into it as possible. Enrolling in automatic payments or automatically transferring some of your paycheck into a savings account is especially helpful if you tend to spend whatever’s in your checking account. Out of sight, out of mind. 

Just be sure to regularly check up on your accounts so you don’t end up overdrafting. Plus, you’ll want to make sure the robots are actually doing their job.

Save for the future

If you really want control of your financial life, you need to be prepared for the future. This means saving for both emergencies and retirement.

Don’t let fear of what the future holds control your life. While you’ll probably have to sacrifice some of your fun money, saving now is worth the peace of mind knowing you’re covered whenever life happens. Here are a few tips to get started:

Pay yourself first. This basically means transferring a set percentage or dollar amount of your paycheck into a separate account every time you get paid. By socking away money before you get the chance to see it in your checking account, you’ll learn to live off of less — and build a nice rainy day fund in the process. Alternatively, try using an app like Digit, Chime, or Empower, which can help you save money without you having to think about it. A good rule of thumb is to have at least three to six months of living expenses saved for emergencies.

Take advantage of your company match. If your company matches retirement contributions, you should contribute at least the minimum amount required to get their match — otherwise, you’re just losing out on free money! Contributing to a retirement account like a 401(k) or IRA can also help lower your tax obligation, too, so it helps you both today and in the future.

Start! Absent a time machine, the best time to start is now. Time is your friend—just start saving and let compounding returns do the rest.

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Jenna Lee is a content marketer, Oxford comma enthusiast, and cat lover living in the Bay Area. 

7 Ways to Disinfect Your Car

If you, like me, cringe every time you hear one of those studies about how disgusting an everyday item is, then brace yourself: your car probably isn’t the pristine safe haven you think it is. According to one study, the average steering wheel is four times dirtier than a public toilet seat. The cup holder, seat belts, and door handles aren’t too much cleaner. 

Now more than ever it seemed timely to offer some tips on keeping your car extra clean. Of course, we support driving less in general — and especially so these days — but if you have to get out and about we suggest a clean ride.

Here are some must-know tips to disinfect your vehicle:

  1. Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize. You already buy those handy disinfectant wipes for the surfaces in your home — why not keep a spare box handy in your trunk? Wipe down the steering wheel, gear shifter, handles, and any other surfaces in your car that get a lot of attention. 
  2. Don’t wait to clean up messes. Most of us are guilty of snacking or full-on dining in the driver’s seat from time to time. But some research indicates that food spilled on a dashboard has 10 times the bacteria than the seat belt or radio dial, so make sure you promptly clean up any soda spills, sandwich crumbs, or other food-related deposits. 
  3. Shampoo and vacuum the upholstery. It’s one of those tasks we often ignore, but vacuuming the upholstery in your vehicle can make a big difference in removing dust mites, food crumbs, and all sorts of icky substances that can get you sick.
  4. Replace the air filter. Spraying disinfectant into your intake vent and replacing your old air filter can help weed out some of the germs circulating in the cabin of your car. 
  5. Roll the windows down from time to time. Viruses love stale, stagnant air, so do your best to prevent those conditions in your car. Roll down the windows when you can and let some fresh air waft through.
  6. Take a mop to the mats. Think about it: your feet, which drag on all kinds of sidewalk gunk and street junk, rest on your car mats. Shouldn’t you make it a point to clean those every once in a while? Taking them out and mopping or spraying them can help clean up some of the mess.
  7. Clean your keys too. Your car keys see a lot of action, whether they’re buried in your backpack or jammed along with discarded tissues into your pocket. Get in the habit of wiping them down with sanitizer too.

Stay safe and stay healthy — in and out of your car! We’re available as usual for pay-per-mile insurance quotes, customer support, and to take care of our customers’ claims.

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Michelle Konstantinovsky is a San Francisco-based freelance journalist, UC Berkeley alumna, and Metromile customer.

Q&A with Metromile’s Sana Farrukh

Meet Sana Farrukh, software engineer extraordinaire and a member of our mighty Boston team. (Aside: the team is looking to grow!) Here Sana shares about her background, what drew her to Metromile, and why she likes holding down our fort on the east coast.

Tell us a little bit about your background.

I am originally from Lahore, Pakistan. Back in 2015, I came to Boston for grad school and graduated from Tufts. My area of expertise is in computer networks, more specifically internal data center networks.

What interested you about Metromile?

There were a few things that compelled me to explore and advance my career with Metromile:

  1. The vast variety of interesting projects that Metromile offered based on the collected telematics data really spiked my interest. This is still a relatively new field, so there still is plenty of opportunity to explore even more interesting projects.
  2. It offered an entirely different domain, compared to what I had experience with, in academia. So I wanted to move into something different.
  3. As a small company with new, budding projects, Metromile offers the opportunity to work on projects from start to launch, not to be pigeon holed on one product or discipline. That means, too, that all my contributions are meaningful. 

 And now that I am here, it is also the people I work with and the amazing teams I’m part of, that makes me want to come in everyday.

As a software engineer, where specifically is your work focused right now?

So far I have been lucky enough to work on a few different projects: customer outreach, our analysis of driving behavior, mobile telematics integration (that is, syncing customers’ phones with their driving data). At present, my work is focused on making the new customer experience the very best possible one. This means ensuring that the customer receives consistent and coherent communication from us in their first few weeks and that their experience with the Pulse device is seamless.

Boston is a smaller office than our San Francisco and Tempe locations. Plusses and minuses?

Boston is indeed a small team, which is one of the things I love about our office. 

It is relatively quiet, which works best for me as I like to work in quiet environments. And being three hours ahead of San Francisco, we start early and get adequate time to work continuously before afternoon meetings start. 

Being a small team, everyone knows everyone. We often find ourselves taking a deeper dive into discussions about current teams, projects, interests both within and outside of work, vacation plans, pets, etc. Impromptu lunches often gather the whole office on one table — you can’t do that in a big office.

With everyone sitting close to everyone else, it is often effortless to seek guidance and help on tasks we need a second opinion on. Despite our size, we still have a good mix of folks from different teams, so we’re able to apply diverse expertise to problems.

What kind of person would you suggest consider working at Metromile?

Metromile is more than just an insurance company. It offers a unique combination of IoT, engineering, research, and, yes, insurance. Anyone who is interested in the intersection of those things should definitely look into Metromile.

Car Insurance for Teens is Expensive. Here’s How to Save.

So the teenager in your household is driving. Congrats! And condolences — perhaps this exciting new development has made you aware of the fact that insurance for teen drivers can be pretty pricey. Adding a single teenager to your policy may cause your annual premium to rise by an average of 78%. It turns out there’s a good reason for this sticker shock — and plenty of good ways to work around that issue to save money on your bill.

Why is insurance for teen drivers so expensive?

When it comes to insurance costs, it’s all about risk, and teen drivers are considered some of the riskiest behind the wheel. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States and In 2017, 2,364 teens in the U.S. between the ages of 16-19 were killed, and about 300,000 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes. 

The CDC considers a few subgroups particularly at high risk when it comes to car crashes: male drivers, teens driving with teen passengers, and newly licensed teens. A combination of factors, including inexperience, speeding, lack of seat belt use, and alcohol use may make teens more dangerous behind the wheel, and that danger is heightened at night and on the weekends.

Even if your teen has a squeaky clean driving record, a perfect grade on their driver’s test, and no inclination toward any bad behavior, you’ll likely be paying steep rates for their coverage. The rates typically tend to decline around age 25, but for high school and college kids, prices will probably remain high. 

How can you save money on teen driver coverage?

There are some strategies to lessen the pain here. Ask your insurer if they offer discounts for a high GPA or consider enrolling your teen in a safe driving course. If your teen driver is away at college without a vehicle, they may be eligible for a discount. Remember, too, that your teen driver’s car matters; a brand new or luxury vehicle is decidedly not the way to save.

One super simple way to save money on your teen’s insurance coverage is by making the switch to pay-per-mile insurance. Most teens aren’t making major commutes everyday or in need of a vehicle 24/7. If your teen’s driving mostly consists of short trips to school and back, pay-per-mile may be a good fit — and could lead to significant savings.

A novice driver is never going to be cheap to insure, but there are ways to manage the cost without skimping on quality. Is pay-per-mile right for your teen?

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Michelle Konstantinovsky is a San Francisco-based freelance journalist, UC Berkeley alumna, and Metromile customer.

A Few Easy Steps to Take Control of Your Finances

As a child, you probably looked forward to becoming an adult so you could make your own decisions. It wasn’t fair that your parents could tell you when to go to bed, what you had to eat, and that you had to take a bath every day! 

As an adult, you probably crave that same control. Unfortunately, many of us now report to a different master: money. This new boss controls everything from where we live to whether we can go on a much-needed vacation.

Pay-per-mile insurance is about more than savings — it’s about control. As a Metromile customer, you will only pay for the miles you drive, and that amount is up to you! But insurance is just one piece of your financial puzzle, and greater control of the rest is also within your reach. Here’s how to get started:

Take stock of your finances

When fixing a flat tire, you don’t just randomly slap a patch on it and hope you covered the hole. You have to inspect the tire and identify the issue so you can figure out how to fix it. 

It’s the same with your finances. If you want to take control, the first step is assessing the situation by taking stock of where your money is coming from and where it’s going.

This might be the scariest step, but it’s the most important, as you’ll use this information to make a plan. So take a deep breath, log into your financial accounts, and jot down the following information:

  • All of your income. This includes your primary salary, any side hustles, etc.
  • All of your debts. Make sure you total up everything — credit card debt, student loans, auto loans, medical debt — the works. Conveniently ”forgetting” to include debts so your total sum looks smaller will only hurt you later when the numbers don’t add up.

While you’re at it, check your credit so you know how other people are assessing you. Your credit score and history can impact everything from whether you get that dream apartment to how much you’ll pay for car insurance, so it’s important to keep track of. You can pull your credit report for free from each of the credit bureaus every year.

Make a plan

While winging everything might’ve worked for Harry Potter, it probably won’t help you win the war against debt. You need a good plan if you want to take control.

In the financial world, plans usually take shape in the dreaded “b” word: budget. Don’t worry: a budget isn’t as scary as it sounds. John Maxwell explains that a budget is simply “telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.” It’s also nothing to be ashamed about — in fact, the one thing most millionaires have in common is that they make a budget.

First things first: have a goal. Maybe that’s paying off all your debt, saving a certain amount of money this year, or buying a new car. This will help you focus when you’re tempted to stray.

Secondly, create a plan for every dollar. To simplify things, break your expenses up into categories. For example, you may want to allocate 50% of your after-tax income to necessities (rent, food, transportation, etc.), 20% to wants (your favorite drink at Starbucks, date night, etc.), and 30% to savings and debt repayment. There are some fantastic tools to help on this front like YNAB (You Need a Budget).

Next, track everything. This step is essential if you want to create a realistic budget and stick to it. It doesn’t matter whether you use an app or record everything manually, you just need to be able to glance at it and know how you’re doing. Check in several times each month and adjust your spending pace as necessary.

Finally, keep adjusting. No one expects you to spend and save the same amount each month. Things happen; give yourself some flexibility and don’t beat yourself up if you occasionally go off-track. 

Bottom line

When it comes to taking charge of your finances, getting started is the hardest part. Just remember: it’ll all be worth it when you finally have control over your life again. In a future article, we’ll go over practical ways to set yourself up for financial success in the future.

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Jenna Lee is a content marketer, Oxford comma enthusiast, and cat lover living in the Bay Area. 

Metromile 101: Privacy and Calculating Miles

We’ve received thousands of questions about car insurance coverage, billing, and more over the years. Today, an answer to one of the most common: “How does Metromile measure miles, and what does it mean for my privacy?”

How do you measure miles?

Metromile customers’ miles are calculated by a device called the Pulse. We believe the most significant risk factor for getting into an accident is mileage — if you aren’t on the road, your risk is quite low — and the Pulse device is the key to measuring this factor accurately. It connects to your car’s computer to keep an eye on mileage and act as a GPS device. Besides calculating miles, the Pulse device can decode a maintenance light in your car, alert you when you’re parked in a street sweeping zone, remind you where you parked, help you optimize fuel use, and more.

When you become a Metromile customer, you are covered as of the effective date of your policy, regardless of whether or not your Pulse device is plugged in. As you near your policy effective date, we will ship your Pulse device to you, and your job is to plug it into what’s called the OBD-II port in your vehicle — the same port your mechanic uses to diagnose issues.

If my driving is being tracked, how do you ensure my privacy?

The Pulse securely transmits data through a cell modem to update your account with trip information. No smartphone or Bluetooth pairing is needed. Metromile takes electronic, physical and procedural steps to help protect your personal information and has security personnel on-site that investigate and respond to issues. Your information is not sold or rented to third parties for marketing purposes.

Metromile also offers you some degree of control; customers can opt to disable the GPS function on their Pulse through the Metromile online dashboard, which means we won’t store your location data long term. Your miles will still be calculated accurately in this case, but it will mean that some of the bonus features that use your location, like street sweeping alerts, won’t work.

There you have it: no tricks, no games, no violations of your privacy. Just a way to offer you the fairest car insurance rates possible — and a few bonus features on top of that.

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Julianne Sawyer is a freelance writer, app producer, and real-life Metromile customer living in the San Francisco Bay Area.

How to Handle an Accident in a Rental Car

So, you’re finally on vacation. Yay! After stepping off the plane, where do you go first? The rental car agency, of course. At the counter, you confidently decline the rental insurance because you “don’t need it.” Three days later, you get into an accident…in said rental car. If you’re internally screaming at yourself for declining the rental insurance, you’re not alone. Getting into an accident on vacation in a rental car is the perfect storm of bad luck. 

My husband and I were on a romantic anniversary trip in our favorite place on earth: Maui. Unfortunately, we learned that it’s possible to be rude even in paradise; someone side swiped our rental in the parking lot of a restaurant before driving away.

Stressful, right?

Metromile customer or not, here’s what you should do if you get into an accident in a rental car:

Step 1: Keep your cool. Make sure your car is fully stopped before exiting the vehicle.

Step 2: Check-in with your passengers and the parties in the other car. If anyone needs medical attention, dial 911 immediately. Then, move your car out of the flow of traffic (as best you can). 

Step 3: Report the accident to the police. This step is critical, especially in the case of a hit-and-run.

Step 4: While you’re waiting for the police to arrive, do not admit guilt or apologize (an apology can be considered an admission of guilt in some circumstances).

Step 5: Document the scene with photos and videos. Snap pictures of both cars, the driver, signs, lights, lane markings, skid marks, road construction, etc.

Step 6: Obtain a police report. Having a police report can help expedite an insurance payout.

Step 7: Contact the rental car company and ask how you should proceed. If you purchased rental insurance, they will explain the next steps.

Step 8: File a claim with your personal insurance company.

If you’re a Metromile customer, you’re in especially good hands — our agents are here to help and our claims team is lightning fast. But if not, knowing the steps to follow in the event of an accident in a rental car is beneficial. Don’t let it ruin your vacation!

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Julianne Sawyer is a freelance writer, app producer, and real-life Metromile customer living in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Winter Storm Driving Tips

There’s nothing quite like staying warm and cozy indoors on a warm winter day…and nothing quite like navigating the messy roads and chaotic weather conditions when you just can’t justify a sick day. There are plenty of things to love about winter, but sloshing through storms isn’t one of them. Before you get behind the wheel this season, take heed of these must-know winter storm driving tips:

Never leave the house unprepared. Try to keep at least half a tank of gas and stock your vehicle with cold-weather essentials like extra food, warm clothing, blankets, a flashlight, and any other items you think you might need in the event that you’re stranded. Better to be safe than sorry. 

Slow down. Even if you’re normally tempted to zoom in the fast lane, consider winter storms the time to take your speed down several notches. The season brings ice and snow to the roads, and even if you can’t see any obvious obstacles, slippery patches can make your car skid.

Increase your following distance. Try to stay at least 5-6 seconds behind the car in front of you. That extra little buffer will give you space to brake in case they make a sudden stop.

Keep the exhaust pipe clean. One part of your vehicle that may often be overlooked is the exhaust pipe. But exhaust pipe blockages caused by mud, snow, and ice can be serious — even fatal — as carbon monoxide can build up and leak into the passenger compartment. Be sure to keep an eye on it throughout the season. 

Keep going if you can. Stopping and starting your car during a winter storm can actually be risky since it requires extra inertia to get going again after a full stop. Slow down gradually, speed up gradually, and plan ahead to avoid full stops if you can.

Stay as visible as possible. Before you hit the road, consider tying a bright cloth scrap to your antenna and using your dome light while driving at night. Anything you can do to keep your vehicle easy to see and find in case of emergency may help you escape a scary situation.

If you can, just don’t drive. The very best way to avoid winter storm issues on the road? Avoid the road completely. While you may not be able to get out of work or other necessary obligations, consider canceling any unessential plans and rescheduling for better weather days.Another benefit to driving less? You may be able to save major money with pay-per-mile insurance.

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Michelle Konstantinovsky is a San Francisco-based freelance journalist, UC Berkeley alumna, and Metromile customer.

Metromile 101: Is Pay-Per-Mile Legit?

One of the most common questions we hear from car insurance shoppers is a pretty simple one: “are you guys for real?” To be honest, it’s the question I first had when I was considering making the switch. My monthly premium with another car insurance company had recently skyrocketed and I couldn’t fathom forking over a significant chunk of my salary considering I was only driving a few miles each week. I saw a Metromile ad but figured the prospect of pay-per-mile insurance was too good to be true.

How could one company charge me an arm and a leg while another was promising fair prices and only charging me for the miles I drove? 

Is Metromile legit?

I couldn’t make the decision alone, so I posed the question to my social media circle. Within minutes of my Facebook post, I received all kinds of feedback from friends and acquaintances who’d either already switched to Metromile or were seriously considering it and wanted the same info I did. After doing a bit more digging and talking to some of the early employees, I uncovered the truth: Metromile isn’t just legit; it’s the ideal solution for occasional drivers like me.

Here’s the deal: unlike most other car insurance companies, Metromile operates on a pay-per-mile structure. Not sure how that’s possible? Neither was I. The not-so-secret sauce of Metromile is pricing based on one very prominent risk factor that other insurers either ignore or are not so explicit about — time behind the wheel.

I’m worried about a low-cost carrier

Using the model above, Metromile is able to charge customers completely reasonable rates that make sense for lots of different types of drivers. In my case, I pay a monthly base rate of about $40, plus about 7 cents for every mile I drive (usually less than 20). Unlike the $100-plus bill I was seeing every month from my previous insurer, my Metromile monthly bill is about half that. 

I pay less, but the price is more fair and more closely represents risk. In this case, inexpensive doesn’t mean low quality.

What if I have a claim?

To put it simply — Metromile has your back. Savings are a focus, yes, but not at the expense of quality. Many satisfied pay-per-mile customers can attest to that.

If you have a loss, it’s turned over to a team of service-focused experts, led by insurance industry veterans, to take excellent care of you. And the proprietary, AI-driven claims technology speeds the process along; it’s not uncommon for claims to be paid out on the same day they’re reported.

The bottom line is this: Metromile is aiming to make car insurance better, not worse. That means savings, it means great features and white glove service, it means an app you actually like to use, and it means you can breathe easy in case of an accident. 

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Julianne Sawyer is a freelance writer, app producer, and real-life Metromile customer living in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Should You Drive a Hybrid or Electric Car?

Should an electric car be your new ride?

As my ancient and outdated car reaches the end of her lifespan and I’ve been on the hunt for newer, more tech-savvy, eco-friendly modes of transportation, I’ve been a little overwhelmed by the array of options. Electric cars are better for the environment, but they’re not exactly cheap. Hybrid cars offer dual engine support, but it costs a lot of cash to replace their batteries. There’s a lot to consider when you’re considering the jump from a standard vehicle to a hybrid or electric one; here are the main pros and cons to ponder.

The Pros

They’re generally more environmentally friendly. While the environmental-friendliness of a hybrid vehicle depends on a few factors (how you drive it and how you charge it), electric cars require zero fuel, making them the superior choice when it comes to preserving the environment. Of course, electric cars produce zero greenhouse gas exhaust.

You may qualify for some tax breaks. Electric car owners can benefit from a tax credit just for driving an eco-friendly vehicle (the caveat is, you have to be the original owner of the car to cash in on that break). Depending on the make and model of your car, you may be eligible for a tax credit of up to $7,500, but it’s best to work with a tax specialist to decipher the details for your specific situation. Hybrid owners may be eligible for tax credits too, depending on your state

You may get better mileage or performance in certain settings. Driving in the city more than on the freeway? Unlike standard vehicles, which tend to get better mileage on the highway versus urban environments, hybrid cars do better on city streets. And while electric cars have a shorter driving range than standard vehicles, their motors are smooth and quiet, and actually provide stronger acceleration and require less maintenance.

The Cons

You’ll probably have to pay more upfront. Hybrids tend to cost more than standard cars, and electric cars can cost even more. But that looks like it’s starting to shift a bit: while the median retail price for all vehicles in the U.S. is $36,600, some new hybrids are available in the $25,000 to $30,000 range.

You’ll have to know where to charge them. The amount and availability of charging stations for electric and hybrid vehicles is definitely on the rise, but it still takes more time and planning to charge than it does to pop into a standard gas station. Standard hybrid cars can recharge their batteries through a process called regenerative braking (driving on engine power), and still use gas as their primary power source. But plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles have to be charged at a station or at home, so you’ll need to factor that into your trip planning.

Different levels of power. Because hybrid cars have a twin powered engine, the combination of the small gasoline engine and small motor results in less power than one single standard gas-powered engine. Things are a little trickier when it comes to electric cars — some can accelerate faster but their top speeds still can’t reach those of standard vehicles.

Once you’re done car shopping, it will be time to shop for insurance. If you’re not already a pay-per-mile car insurance customer, consider taking a look.

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Michelle Konstantinovsky is a San Francisco-based freelance journalist, UC Berkeley alumna, and Metromile customer.