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Military Child of the Tear 2020-SemifinalistsNinety-five military children have advanced as semifinalists in Operation Homefront’s 2020 Military Child of the Year® Award program

This year marks the 12th anniversary of this special event as the nation’s premier celebration of the achievements of America’s military children, reflecting the positive impact they’ve made on their families, schools, and communities. The Military Child of the Year® Award is a lifelong source of pride for the recipients. Participating in the program provides them with amazing opportunities to meet senior military leaders, elected officials, celebrities, and other remarkable military children.

The following are all the 2020 Military Child of the Year® Award semifinalists by service branch. Semifinalists for the 2020 Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation are also designated:

Army

Jonathan Bailon, 17, Corpus Christi, Texas

Abigail Birano, 16, Mt. Pleasant, Mich.

Jordan Daugherty, 18, Alexandria, Va. Daugherty is also one of 10 semifinalists for the Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation.

Lauryn Dixon, 17, Cabot, Ark.

Peyton Faulk, 17, Lansing, Kan.

Coralynn Fisher, 14, Stafford, Va.

Ashley Gorrell, 16, Fort Polk, La.

Morgan Kim, 15, Richmond Hill, Ga.

Fionnuala Mahoney, 18, Bethesda, Md.

Amara Park, 18, Fort Belvoir, Va.

Olivia Starz, 16, Fort Campbell, Ky.

Austin Theroux, 17, Cranston, R.I.

Anna Torres, 16, Fort Riley, Kan.

Anna Turlington, 16, Cecilia, Ky.

Devin Woods, 17, Bel Air, Md.

Marine Corps

Aubriannah Aittama, 14, New Bern, N.C.

Lee Balderaz Jr., 17, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Niklas Cooper, 16, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Dean Fecteau, 18, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Hunter Galvin, 17, Holly Ridge, N.C.

Clyde Harris, 17, Oceanside, Ca.

Payton Jeffers, 17, Holly Ridge, N.C.

Harmony Jones, 14, East Garrison, Calif.

Jason Morrison II, 17, Maysville, N.C.

Iain Nicol, 13, Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Abigail Paquin, 17, Tarawa Terrace, N.C.

Ethan Perdew, 17, MCAS Iwakuni, Japan

Gabrielle Ryder, 17, Smithsburg, Md. Ryder is also one of 10 semifinalists for the Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation.

Justin Skillings, 13, Tarawa Terrace, N.C.

Michayla Wittner, 16, Jacksonville, N.C.

Navy

Michael Archie, 18, Pensacola, Fla.

Catherine Besachio, 17, Norfolk, Va.

Danielle Bilotta, 18, Albuquerque, N.M.

Chloe Cullen, 17, Petaluma, Calif. Cullen is also one of 10 semifinalists for the Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation

Logan DeLisle, 17, Beavercreek, Ohio

Nai’a Freeman, 17, Cathlamet, Wash.

Wester Gapasangra, 16, Honolulu, Hawaii

Sawyer Getschman, 17, RAF Molesworth, England

John Grady, 18, Chula Vista, Calif.

Jalen Hines, 17, St Johns, Fla.

Kaitlin Howard, 16, MCAS Iwakuni, Japan

Kainath Kamil, 16, Oceanside, Calif. Kamil is also one of 10 semifinalists for the Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation

Katherine Kennedy, 17, Crozet, Va.

Miryam Smith, 17, Virginia Beach, Va.

Lauryn Williams, 18, St Johns, Fla.

Air Force

Lance Almand, 16, Southlake, Texas

Kabryni Bruening, 17, Sembach, Germany

Audrey Camper, 15, Talofofo, Guam

Marina Cardoso, 15, Minot AFB, N.D.

Jessop Collins, 17, Bedford, Mass.

Brianna Cooley, 14, Bossier City, La.

Taylor Curro, 17, Carrollton, Va.

Merideth Curwen, 17, Tokyo, Japan

Samantha Grab, 18, O’Fallon, Ill.

Rachel Kent, 18, Ramstein Air Base, Germany

Jordyn McNeal, 13, Apollo Beach, Fla.

Taylor Sandlin, 17, Cedar Park, Texas

Jacob Taylor, 17, Tucson, Ariz.

Brian Thompson, 17, Bel Air, Md.

Stephen Wolf, 13, Xenia, Ohio

Coast Guard

Alexis Blyth, 18, Santa Rita, Guam

Liam Cooper, 17, Port Jefferson, N.Y.

Pierce Corson, 17, Virginia Beach, Va.

Jade Davis, 16, Alexandria, Va.

Callie Graziani, 17, Virginia Beach, Va.

Ethan Hunt, 18, Key West, Fla.

Veronica Kavanaght, 16, Orlando, Fla.

John (Jack) Kennedy, 17, Grangeville, Idaho

Kimberly Locke, 17, La Plata, Md.

Hennessy Martinez, 17, San Deigo, Calif.

Kaytlyn Meyer, 17, Owensboro, Ky.

Evelyn Nutt, 16, Ketchikan, Alaska

Tucker Pullen, 17, Bahrain

Tyler Schultz, 17, Forestdale, Mass.

Giavanna Vinciguerra, 14, Palmetto Bay, Fla.

National Guard

Logan Carter, 18, Clinton, Mo.

Bethany Chacon, 17, Albuquerque, N.M.

James Chattaway, 13, Stanton, Calif.

Olivia Chiancone, 17, Winterville, N.C.

Easton Christainsen, 16, Pleasant Grove, Utah

Maya Faulds, 16, Barnegat, N.J.

Victoria Fillipi, 18, Anthon, Iowa

Hannah Grau, 14, Virginia Beach, Va.

Anna Harris, 18, Warrior, Ala.

Audrey Hartgraves, 14, League City, Texas

Gavin Holland, 18, White House, Tenn.

Kristina Lee, 18, Galion, Ohio

Maycie Madsen, 18, Richfield, Utah

Allison Roper, 16, Morganton, N.C. Roper is also one of 10 semifinalists for the Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation

Noah Sherman, 17, Acworth, Ga.

Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation

Shaylee Barber, 17, Clinton, Utah, Air Force

Chloe Cullen, 17, Petaluma, Calif., Navy

Jordan Daughterty, 18, Alexandria, Va., Army

Denitsa Dimitrova, 17, Virginia Beach, Va., Army

Kainath Kamil, 16, Oceanside, Calif., Navy

Hannah Lipschutz, 17, Charleston, S.C., National Guard

Kaileen Myers, 17, Virginia Beach, Va., Navy

Clairissa Nivens, 17, Chillicothe, Mo., National Guard

Allison Roper, 16, Morganton, N.C., National Guard

Gabrielle Ryder, 17, Smithsburg, Md., Marine Corps

Thirty-five finalists will be selected in February by a panel of judges chosen by Operation Homefront’s senior leadership and Booz Allen Hamilton, a global technology and management consulting firm. The final seven award recipients will be announced in March and will travel to Washington, D.C. to be recognized at a gala on April 2, during which senior leaders from each branch of service will present the awards. They’ll also each receive $10,000, a laptop, and other donated gifts.

Six Military Child of the Year® Award recipients will represent each branch of the armed forces — the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard — for their scholarship, volunteerism, leadership, extracurricular involvement, and other criteria while facing the challenges of military family life.

The seventh award is the Military Child of the Year® Award for Innovation presented by Booz Allen Hamilton. This award goes to a military child who has designed a bold and creative solution to address a local, regional, or global challenge. The Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation recipient will work directly with a team at the BAH firm, developing a plan to help scale the recipient’s project — drawing on technology and strategic thinking.

More information about the Military Child of the Year® Awards is available at www.militarychildoftheyear.org.

For media inquiries, please contact Mike Lahrman at communications@operationhomefront.org or call (210) 202-1243.

Inquiries regarding sponsorship of Military Child of the Year® can be sent to development@operationhomefront.org.

While the holidays can be filled with joy, friendship and family, they can also be a stressful time for military families who are on a tight budget or are separated from their loved ones.

Thanks to our generous donors, Operation Homefront’s Holiday Meals for Military program helps fill some of those gaps by providing military and veteran families with a dinner complete with all the fixings. Throughout the holiday season, Operation Homefront and their partners will have hosted nearly 60 events nationwide, serving more than 10,400 families.

Some of the events also include toy giveaways and visits from Santa.

At a recent Thanksgiving event in San Antonio, Texas, hosted by San Antonio Shoemakers, more than 400 families picked up meal kits and their turkey. Now in its fifth year, the shoe company’s HMFM event has distributed 9,500 meals across Texas since the partnership began, and this year they packed 1,600.

The Cino triplets and friend had a blast at HMFM 2019!

Military spouse Jackie Cino brought her triplets and made sure to tell her friend Stephanie Robirds, another military spouse, so she too could come along to pick up a meal. This was the third year in a row for Jackie whose husband Miles is a staff sergeant in the Army. He’s served for 11 years and is now stationed at Fort Sam Houston where he and Stephanie’s husband, Chris, a staff sergeant with seven years of service, work as instructors.

“This year we’re doing dinner for guys that don’t have their family here that will be coming to eat with us,” Jackie said.

Stephanie and Jackie thanked donors who help out, “especially this time of year,” Stephanie said, “because money is always tight.”

“This year we’re doing dinner for guys that don’t have their family here that will be coming to eat with us.”

With more than 100 volunteers from SAS Shoes who either packed up the dinner kits during the week or helped with distribution on the weekend, SAS CEO Nancy Richardson said the company’s employees want to help make a difference. San Antonio is known as “military city” and many of the employees have either served themselves or have family members who are veterans or active duty.

“To actually do something that feels meaningful to them in a positive way so that (our military) truly do feel appreciated.”

“Part of what we are trying to do here is not to make it seem like a platitude,” she said. “But, to actually do something that feels meaningful to them in a positive way so that they truly do feel appreciated.”

At the weekend distribution, three active duty airmen helped carry frozen turkeys. Air Force Staff Sgt. Ashley Warden is in the volunteer reserves for Operation Homefront and this year brought along Air Force Master Sgt. William Laflair and Master Sgt. Nancy Horsey.

Nancy said she would like the donors to know that “a lot of military members would have a hard time at the holidays and this really makes it easier for them.”

Ashley sees volunteering for OH as a time to pay it forward from when she would get assistance.

“Especially this time of the year, there’s no better time to give back and be thankful for what we have and what we have benefited from in the past and help others who might be struggling or might experiencing a rough patch,” she said.

The San Antonio event gave Operation Homefront staff and volunteers the opportunity to meet some new people as well as catch up with some longtime friends.

Operation Homefront events often feel like reunions for our volunteers and families.

Veteran Army Spc. Charles Henry was one of those familiar faces. In 2012, Charles received a home through Operation Homefront’s Homes on the Homefront program.

“During Thanksgiving time, it’s always something we don’t have to think about because Operation Homefront is there for us,” he said.

He often tells people about Operation Homefront’s programs and the great support his family has received. He hopes donors and volunteers, like those at San Antonio Shoes who hosted the HMFM event, plus OH staff and volunteers know they are making a difference.

“My family thanks you,” Charles said. “We are very appreciative of the work they’ve done in San Antonio and throughout the United States. (Operation Homefront) is a great organization that changes veterans’ lives, as they did mine.”

For more information on Operation Homefront’s programs, including Holiday Meals for Military, visit operationhomefront.org.

See pictures from many of our Holiday Meals for Military events on our Flickr page.

Clockwise from left to right: Isabelle Richards, Campbell Miller, Eve Glenn, Shelby Barber, Elisabeth Lundgren.

As the deadline nears to nominate outstanding military teens for Operation Homefront’s 2020 Military Child of the Year (MCOY) Awards, past winners explain why nominating someone matters.

The deadline for nominations is TONIGHT. Anyone can nominate. Click here for more information and to nominate a military dependent between the ages of 13 and 18 who has a parent serving in the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, or Navy.

Military children can apply here for the Military Child of the Year Innovation Award.

These five winners share how the nominations are significant for military children:

Isabelle Richards, 2018 Military Child of the Year® , Navy:

As military kids, we rarely look for acknowledgements or accolades, but Operation Homefront gives everyone the opportunity to show military kids that their work and mission matter.

This is your moment to inspire change in a military child’s life by nominating them for the prestigious Military Child of the Year Honor. You know them, you know the adversity they face, you see them thrive, so take he few minutes to #inspirechange!

Campbell Miller, 2019

Every military child has a story that is worth being told. It may be supporting their parents going overseas or moving across the country or even just being here at home for those who proudly wear the uniform. By nominating someone for MCOY, that story can be told.

No matter if they are chosen as a Military Child of the Year or not, it is an honor to share the story of a military child – a story of toughness, sacrifice, and ultimate love for our nation and those who defend it. For me, having someone tell my story was an amazing honor.

Eve Glenn, 2018 Military Child of the Year®, Air Force

Holding the identity of a military child, by itself, distinguishes an individual as unique and resilient. If you are or know of an outstanding military youth, apply to be recognized. This opportunity honors the sacrifices made by the military child, service member, and family.

Selection as a finalist provides all-inclusive access to connect with an expanding network of working professionals. Likewise, finalists are introduced to other driven young, military-brat identifying, servant leaders.

Elisabeth Lundgren, 2019 Military Child of the Year, Navy

Often times we forget how much coming from a military family affects children. The constant worry and loneliness when a parent is gone doesn’t get in the way of those children excelling in school and making a difference in their communities.

Military children are strong and resilient, but sometimes we can’t see how much this positively impacts and inspires those around us.

Shelby Barber, 2018 Military Child of the Year®, Innovation

Operation Homefront’s Military Child of the Year gives the child opportunity. A lot of us are hardworking kids who not only deserve the recognition but deserve the opportunity to make connections with other military kids and with a program such as Operation Homefront that helps military families through so much. The connections help us realize how important an influence just one of us can make.

Check out our previous blog where our recipients talk about the impact of receiving the Military Child of the Year® Award.

Military Child of the Year Recipients

Clockwise from left to right: Isabelle Richards, Campbell Miller, Eve Glenn, Elisabeth Lundgren, Shelby Barber, Brandon Mammano.

As the deadline nears to nominate outstanding military teens for Operation Homefront’s 2020 Military Child of the Year (MCOY) Awards, past winners tell us what being a Military Child of the Year has meant for them. Their work and their stories are amazing! Here, six previous recipients reflect on the impact of the awards on their lives:

Isabelle Richards, 2018 Military Child of the Year, Navy

Since being Named the Navy MCOY in 2018, my ability to help inspire change in others has accelerated. I am a grassroots girl who previously helped wounded warriors in a few states. Currently, I am proud to say I serve wounded warriors , healing heroes and veterans in 45 states!

Operation Homefront’s award put what I do on an entirely different networking level. This past year I made or had delivered almost 11,000 cupcakes and cards to those service members and veterans. That is almost 11,000 service members and veterans who know they are still cared about and honored!

Thank you, Operation Homefront, for changing the trajectory of what impact I could have!

Campbell Miller, 2019 Military Child of the Year, National Guard

I am blessed and honored just to have been nominated in the past, but especially to have been chosen. The friendships that I created with the other winners while together have lasted and have been very impactful. We still encourage one another, talk to each other about significant life events, and sometimes just laugh together.

I am grateful for the opportunities that have come from receiving the award and I am excited for the recipients of 2020.

Eve Glenn, 2018 Military Child of the Year, Air Force

Selection as a MCOY finalist gave me the platform to honor my father, who at the time was a in the United States Air Force. Now, I continue to partner with Operation Homefront during the academic year and summer to promote the MCOY award and work on supplementary projects within the nonprofit.

Recognition from Operation Homefront and the MCOY empowered me to advocate for military populations in college and beyond.

Elisabeth Lundgren, 2019 Military Child of the Year, Navy

Winning MCOY was surreal. It was amazing to see how many people I could inspire just by being myself.

Winning was an amazing way to show my dad that my success didn’t suffer just because he missed out on big parts of my life. My success in swimming and in the classroom happened not in spite of my dad’s service but because of my dad’s service.

Shelby Barber, 2018 Military Child of the Year, Innovation

Winning MCOY has connected me to so many people who understand how I feel. I have a better understanding of Operation Homefront and other programs out there to help military families, which also allows me to inform other military families about these programs that can relieve so much pressure from hard situations. Winning the innovation award helped my higher education advance as I have clear goals and good starting points.

Brandon Mammano, 2019 Military Child of the Year, Innovation

I definitely have been very blessed to have won this award because it has given me the opportunity to work with Booz Allen Hamilton and see how they function as this gigantic consulting firm and how they break down all these processes to get a job done. It’s a well-oiled machine. It’s breath-taking to see that.

Having so many people create solutions and seeing the different paths they’ve thought for my project of is absolutely amazing. I’ve seen my it grow from an being an idea to become physical entities.

I’ve also made new friends for life. Each one of the MCOY recipient’s stories shows you a different aspect of military life. But we all have felt that sense of being alone sometimes, and that’s when we have to lean on each other.

To nominate the terrific military child in your life,
go to www.militarychildoftheyear.org and click Submit Here.

Since spring, when Brandon Mammano won the 2019 Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation, the college freshman has seen his dinner-table idea develop into a global initiative that could launch in early 2020.

Mammano, a freshman mechanical engineering major at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, has worked with global technology and consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton – sponsor of the award – to grow his vision for helping children of military members adapt to new schools and communities when their families are reassigned.

Brandon has worked with global technology and consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton to grow his vision for helping children of military members adapt to new schools and communities when their families are reassigned.

“It feels like a dream,” said Mammano, the son of Mimi and John Mammano, an Air Force colonel stationed at Hickham AFB in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. “It started as a dinner conversation with my parents, and now it’s something that can help people across the United States and globally.”

The Military Child of the Year Award for Innovation is one of seven awards presented by Operation Homefront to celebrate the achievements of military children. Nominations are open through Dec. 9, and awards will be presented April 2 in Washington, D.C.

The annual awards recognize outstanding young people ages 13 to 18 who are legal dependents of a service member or military retiree. Six Military Child of the Year recipients will represent a branch of the armed forces — the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and National Guard — demonstrating resiliency, leadership, and achievement during their parents’ military service. The innovation award goes to a military child who has designed a bold and creative solution to address a local, regional, or global challenge.

The 19-year-old Mammano based his initiative on the outreach program for active-duty service members. He worked with his father’s unit to include a welcome letter to help ease the stress of students who are starting over.

Mammano understands that stress. By the time he was a senior in high school, his family had moved eight times. His longest stay in one school was three years. That, he said, was lucky.

“Even though I’ve moved around, it’s still hard finding out what there is to do (in a new community) and what clubs (a school) has,” he said. “I wanted to give kids an idea of what they have before they arrive (at their new school).”

Now, less than a year after winning the MCOY Award for Innovation, Mammano has seen his idea blossom from abstract to concrete with input from the Booz Allen Hamilton team.

“Seeing the different routes and paths they’ve thought of is absolutely amazing,” he said. The project has grown to include a website and an application that makes it easier for students to connect with peers in their new communities.

“They can start making plans with friends before they arrive,” Mammano said.

The program is set to launch in the Washington, D.C., area and Europe in early 2020. As Mammano looks forward to the roll-out, he is also relishing the experience.

“I have been very blessed to have won this award because it has given me the opportunity to work with Booz Allen Hamilton and see how they … break down all these processes to get a job done. It’s breath-taking to see that,” he said.

“This program has taught me so much that I can use in whatever endeavor I pursue in life.”

To nominate a child for the MCOY Award for Innovation or another MCOY award, visit www.militarychildoftheyear.org and click the Nominations tab.

Happy Holidays!

The holiday season can be overwhelming with the many events, parties, shopping and gifts that seem to take away from its true meaning of giving. Now that I have kids, it’s important to me and my husband that we start to teach them early what it means to give back, especially when it comes to our military community.

Below, you’ll see several ideas to help you get involved this holiday season but anything that helps is a worthy idea in my opinion. Happy giving!

Holiday Meals for Military 

This yearly program from Operation Homefront distributes ready-to-go holiday meal kits to military families and includes everything needed for a traditional holiday meal. Since 2009, the program has fed more than 90,000 military families and continues to grow each year. Get inspired with photos from past events and help by making a small donation at the Operation Homefront donation page.

Holiday Toy Drive 

I’m sure some of us feel that we can all do with less toys in our lives but for those families who struggle with the expectations of gifts during the holidays, toy drives are the perfect way to pass along the spirit. Operation Homefront’s Holiday Toy Drive is an easy way to do a little good for the next kid. The program collects toys and distributes them at a participating event on base. Learn about how you can get involved at: https://www.operationhomefront.org/holidaytoys.

Consider a Monetary Donation 

We all lead hectic lives, so sometimes it’s just easier to contribute monetarily. Operation Homefront makes it super easy with their Current Needs list, a running list of critical requests for help made by military families across the country. Your donation can help a family pay utility bills, support medical expenses or even pay rent. I love the transparency and that I can see where donations are going. Check the Current Needs page for more information.

Organize a Bake Sale 

Something about the holidays gets me in the baking mood! Instead of doing it alone, think about organizing a bake sale on your base instead. It’s a fun way to connect with other parents in your community, get the kids involved, try different recipes and enjoy delicious treats at the end! A total win-win. You may even want to check in with your local commissary to see how they can help with the cost of ingredients and supplies.

Operation Homefront and Procter and Gamble are proud to partner together to serve America’s Military families.

About Start Strong, Stay Strong: Start Strong, Stay Strong enables military families like yours to connect with your best allies—each other. We’ll help you create the stability, connections and comfort in your military community that you and your family deserve.

About Melissa Stockwell: Nothing is harder and more rewarding than being a military mom. This is something American war veteran and Paralympian Melissa Stockwell knows well. After losing her left leg in combat in 2004 as a 24-year-old first lieutenant, the lifelong athlete and patriot knew should couldn’t stop there. She turned her years of hard training and dedication to para-athletics, and in 2008 earned a spot on the U.S. Paralympic Swim team. She competed for the first time as a Paralympian in Beijing, China. This commitment and new path started a journey that eventually led her to become a three-time world champion Para-triathlete, earning the Paralympic Bronze Medal in 2016. She then went on to co-found Dare2Tri, a nonprofit organization that introduces people with disabilities to the sport of triathlon. However, has been nothing compared to the joy and reward of Melissa’s biggest accomplishment—becoming a mom. Her two kids Dallas and Millie motivate her to continue to dream big and inspire her to serve as a role model so that one day they too will learn to discover their own dreams.

Whatever type of mom you are, Melissa helps us see that all moms are on a mission, together. Visit Melissa’s Corner and join today!

Inspire!

Melissa has inspired military spouses across the country at Operation Homefront events like Homefront Celebration and Star-Spangled Babies showers

What to know before you go

Buying a car is often the second biggest purchase a person can make, second only to purchasing a home. Yet, the process can often be rushed and the buyer at a disadvantage. With the holidays around the corner, and dealerships flooding the internet and airwaves with end-of-the-year sales ads, we asked caseworker Tonya Cooper for tips and tricks for buying a car.

Ask yourself some questions. Why are you buying this car? Is it a want or a need? The point is to really examine why you are making the purchase and look at how it fits into your budget. And be sure to look at how you will be using the vehicle. Is it just for one person to get back and forth to work or is it a family vehicle? Looking at what you need will help you narrow down your options.

Research, Research, Research: Knowledge is power, Tonya said. “You don’t ever want to walk into the dealership and give the dealer all of the power. You don’t want to walk in and say sell me a car. Ideally you know exactly what you want and exactly what you want to pay for it.”

She recommends the sites Edmunds.com and Truecar.com as ways to do most of your research. You need to know your budget, the market standard for the vehicles you have chosen, and your financing options. Let’s tackle those one by one.

Know your budget. To help with budgeting, financial counselors recommend that cars take up no more than 20 percent of your gross income, that is including fuel and insurance. Understanding gas prices in your area and knowing the gas mileage capability (like 21 miles per gallon) of your car is important for your budgeting purposes. Of course, this also depends on the rest of the household expenses. To help with budgeting, use the Edmunds.com affordability calculator. Overall, Edmunds.com has several calculators that can help you decide, including a “gas guzzler trade-in” calculator.

Learn market standards. If you know what the market standard is for the vehicle, then it is easier to know if the dealership is selling at a good price. Edmunds has true market standard listings. This is what the vehicle retails for, on average, at the dealer.

Financing options. Always secure financing before going to the dealership. The best places to go are your bank and possibly a credit union. They are the ones who will give the best interest rate. By having financing secure, this ensures that you will not go over your budgeted amount. It also helps you negotiate the total price of the car because you do not need the dealer’s financing. Keep in mind, just because financing is secured does not mean it has to be used.

 

Test Drive. So, you did your research, you have your financing, and now you are ready to go pick out your vehicle. Be sure to test drive. And then walk away, Tonya said. “The biggest thing I can stress here is don’t buy on the first trip to the dealer. Go home and sleep on it.”

Bring a friend or use a car-buying service. You know the car you want and now it’s time to buy. If negotiating makes you uncomfortable, bring a friend or trusted loved one to the dealership. Bounce ideas off them and ask them to help you stick to your financing and plans. Or, use a car-buying service, which takes your information and sends that to dealers who will then contact you. The prices are already lower so when you get the retail price, no need for haggling.

Beware filler! Extended warranties; windshield, dent, and tire protection, are all what Tonya calls “fillers” that are just another way for the dealer to make a profit. And if you do decide to sign on the dotted line always read the fine print first.

A tip on trade-ins. Always negotiate the trade-in value separately. A used car’s worth is easy to find by using Kelly Blue Book, Edmunds and Truecar.com. If the dealer’s offer is too low, try to sell privately, or check in with a car reseller like CarMax. Most states have information online at the department of motor vehicles sites. Ideally, the money made form a private sale will go straight to the down payment of your next purchase.

Even with the best laid plans, emergencies can happen, and help is needed. As a caseworker for Operation Homefront’s Critical Financial Assistance program, Tonya has worked with service members and veterans who have needed help paying for bills, such as car payments. To learn more about the CFA program and Operation Homefront, click here.

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