How Buy Now, Pay Later works - Times Money Mentor (2023)

Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) has become a popular way to borrow small amounts of money for a short period. Its success has been driven by just how easy it is to use.

But while BNPL can be a useful way of spreading the cost of a purchase, there are risks consumers should be aware of.

Klarna and Laybuy have both begun reporting their users’ payment history to credit reference agencies, which could affect their ability to get credit in the future. Meanwhile, data from Citizen’s Advice has found that half of 18 to 34-year-olds are taking out loans to make repayments.

With takeaway app Deliveroo recently adding Klarna as a means of payment, many are concerned it could lead to increases in levels of debt among younger customers.

However, the government has detailed plans to regulate the BNPL industry from 2023. It expects that these plans will include tougher affordability checks and approval from the Financial Conduct Authority to trade.

The most known brands in the BNPL market are Klarna, Clearpay and Laybuy. But what do you need to know about them? We take a closer look.

Our guide below looks at:

  • How Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) works
  • The best BNPL providers
  • Why BNPL can cause problems
  • Charges and fees for using BNPL
  • Is Buy Now, Pay Later safe to use?
How Buy Now, Pay Later works - Times Money Mentor (1)

What is Buy Now, Pay Later?

Buy Now, Pay Later, as the name suggests, is a way to spread the cost of your shopping. Buying something today, but paying for it over the following weeks or months.

It’s popular because if you opt for short-term agreements of up to two months, BNPL is usually entirely free of interest or fees. BNPL firms make money by taking a commission from the retailer, which means they don’t need to charge anything to customers.

However, the fact that BNPL is so easy to use can be a drawback as much as it is a benefit – find out why.

Is Buy Now, Pay Later regulated?

The way BNPL works means it doesn’t count as a regular credit agreement in the eyes of the law. As a result, the sector is currently unregulated. However, the government has announced plans to introduce regulation, which should come into force in 2023.

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As part of the government’s regulation of the industry, BNPL lenders will also need to be FCA approved to operate in the UK.

Customers will also be able to complain to the Financial Ombudsman service if they are unhappy with the way a BNPL firm has treated them. Currently, customers can only complain directly to BNPL firms.

Do Buy Now, Pay Later lenders carry out credit checks?

As things stand, there is no requirement for BNPL lenders to carry out credit checks on their borrowers, and many don’t. This means that they may not appear on your credit file or affect your credit score.

However some lenders, such as Laybuy, do carry out ‘hard’ credit checks. And these do leave a ‘footprint’ on your file and could affect your score, and ability to be accepted for a loan, if you are shown to have made a number of credit applications in a short space of time.

Bear in mind that without a full assessment of their ability to afford a loan, BNPL borrowers could be at risk of taking on debts that they won’t be able to clear on time.

And if you miss an instalment with Clearpay or Laybuy, for example, there is a late fee of £6 to pay.

The government expects that once the sector is regulated, BNPL providers will need to carry out tougher affordability checks on its customers. This is likely to be in the form of ‘hard’ credit checks, which will show up on customers’ credit files.

Read our guide here on whether it’s worth taking out a loan to rebuild your credit history.

Who are the best BNPL companies?

Each company has slight differences in how repayments work.

For example, Klarna – the largest BNPL provider – offers the option to either:

  • Pay the whole amount 30 days after purchase
  • Settle up in three instalments that are taken on the day you make the purchase and then at 30 and 60 days later

In contrast, Laybuy allows you to pay in six instalments. The first is taken on the day of purchase, and the remaining five taken weekly.

Below, we round up the top BNPL providers.

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Klarna

Best for: Customer service and longest free repayment period

Klarna topped our latest customer happiness poll – carried out by the independent research firm Fairer Finance – achieving a score of 69%.

Its slick customer service is popular with borrowers. And it remains one of a handful of providers to promise no late-repayment fees, as well as no interest.

Klarna offers two main products: “Pay in 3” and “Pay in 30”.

  • Pay in 3: Allows you to split your purchase into three instalments, with the first due on the day of the transaction and the second and third due 30 and 60 days later. This is about as long as you’ll get from a free BNPL provider, although PayPal also offers 60 days on its Pay in 3 product.
  • Pay in 30: Lets you pay the whole sum 30 days after purchase.

Klarna is also launching a new card, which can be used in any store.

Laybuy

Most trusted BNPL provider

New Zealand firm Laybuy won the title of Most Trusted brand in our latest Fairer Finance customer poll, and was only just behind rivals Klarna and Clearpay in the customer-satisfaction stakes.

Unlike Klarna, it does levy charges if you miss a payment. But it’s a fee of just £6, and the fees are capped at £24. So you won’t be charged more than four late fees for any one loan.

Laybuy’s service offers the ability to pay for your purchases in six weekly instalments, the first taken on the day of purchase.

When you apply, you will be subject to a hard credit check. This could have an impact on your credit score.

OpenPay

Best for: Vet fees and dental bills

Openpay is an Australian firm, and it currently only offers loans for vet and dental bills in the UK.

The length of the interest-free period depends on who you’re buying from.

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It charges a fee of £7.50 if you miss a payment (up to a maximum of £15).

With living costs rising due to rising inflation, watch the video below for our top budgeting tips.

What are the advantages of BNPL?

As well as often being free, BNPL is popular with many customers because they can try online purchases before they buy.

Some BNPL providers don’t make you pay anything upfront. This allows you to receive your order before you have paid a penny.

That gives you time to try on a new item of clothing and send it back if necessary, without having the money leave your bank.

Another reason BNPL is popular is that it does not come with the commitment and temptation that a credit card or overdraft might.

Once your purchase is paid back, the agreement is closed and you do not have any long-term agreements to tie you down.

What are the dangers of Buy Now, Pay Later?

The ease with which customers can use Buy Now, Pay Later can cause serious problems. Despite the lack of interest and fees, any money you borrow via BNPL is still debt, and needs to be repaid.

When you borrow to make a purchase, it should generally be carefully considered, planned and budgeted for – debt should never be taken on lightly. Being able to use BNPL to pay for small, everyday purchases makes it easier to spend beyond your means and acquire debt, which can spiral quickly.

For example, takeaway app Deliveroo recently added Klarna as a payment method. Takeaways are nearly always a non-essential purchase, and if you’re not sure if you can afford it, you shouldn’t get into debt to pay for one.

When deciding whether or not you should use Buy Now, Pay Later to pay for a purchase, ask yourself if it’s important enough to go into debt for, and make sure you budget for all the upcoming repayments.

Are there any fees or charges?

Most BNPL providers charge no interest, and only levy fees if you miss a payment. However, some – such as Klarna, PayPal and Zilch – don’t charge any fees even if you miss or are late making a payment.

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Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean there are no consequences. Most firms will start off fairly gently, sending reminders by email and text.

But if you continue to fail to make your payments, you could end up being referred to a debt-collection agency. And it could also be reported to credit reference agencies, with Klarna reporting payment history from after 1 June 2022 to Experian and TransUnion, and Laybuy sharing users’ data from after 1 September 2022 with Experian. This could affect your ability to get credit in the future.

It’s worth noting that many of the firms in the BNPL sector do offer longer-term credit agreements. These are regulated and come with interest and fees just like regular personal loans and overdrafts.

For example, if you want to buy a bike from Halfords, Klarna’s “Financing” product offers the option to pay in instalments over up to four years – at a fairly high interest rate of 18.9% APR. This will appear on your credit file like any other loan or credit card.

Is Buy Now, Pay Later safe to use?

Even though BNPL is not regulated, the main companies in the market are large, respected firms that are already preparing for a regulated world.

However, BNPL does not offer the same consumer protections as credit cards, the other popular form of short-term credit.

If you make a purchase of between £100 and £30,000 on a credit card, you will have what is known as Section 75 protection. This means the credit card company is equally responsible with the company you bought the product or service from if something goes wrong.

A similar scheme, known as chargeback, can be used for debit card payments. But you may not be able to make a successful Section 75 or a chargeback claim if you pay using BNPL.

As long as BNPL is not regulated, it may also be that you are not able to escalate your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service. Find out more here about the difference between credit cards and buy now, pay later.

Some of the large BNPL providers, such as Klarna, have voluntarily signed up to the ombudsman’s jurisdiction.

But for those that haven’t, it may be hard to get a complaint resolved independently without heading to the courts.

Finally, it’s worth remembering that BNPL is a credit agreement. And while it is all too easy to be accepted for these and to set one up, it’s important that you are confident of your ability to repay.

About our ratings

Independent research firm Fairer Finance polled 10,000 UK consumers in the spring of 2022. Those who had used Buy Now, Pay Later were asked which company they had borrowed from and how happy they were with the service, as well as how much they trusted the brand.

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FAQs

How does buy now, pay later scheme work? ›

You make a purchase at a participating retailer and opt for buy now, pay later at checkout. If approved (you're told in seconds), you make a small down payment, such as 25% of the overall purchase amount. You then pay off the remaining amount due in a series of interest-free installments.

How do you buy now, pay later schemes make money? ›

How do BNPL providers make money if they don't charge interest or fees? Instead of charging you, BNPL providers make money by taking a cut from anything they help a retailer to sell. One of their main pitches to retailers is that BNPL can significantly increase sales numbers.

How does buy now pay 6 months later work? ›

Buy now pay later (BNPL), is a payment option that allows you to buy goods and services on credit and pay for them later. This is usually done by making regular interest-free payments, for example three monthly instalments. You are essentially buying something now but paying for it 'later'.

Does buy now, pay later require a credit check? ›

Many BNPL services don't require a hard credit check for you to qualify for them, so applying won't hurt your credit score. If a BNPL provider reports your account activity to the credit bureaus, making on-time payments can help you build a good credit history and a solid credit score.

Which pay later is best? ›

Now let us take a look at the top BNPL apps in India.
  • CashE. CashE is one of the most straightforward Buy Now Pay Later lending options on the market. ...
  • Zest Money. By far the most popular BNPL platform for online shoppers is Zest Money. ...
  • Amazon Pay Later. ...
  • LazyPay. ...
  • ZIP by Mobikwik. ...
  • Flipkart Pay Later.
12 Sept 2022

Is buy now, pay later a loan? ›

Buy now, pay later, or BNPL, is a type of installment loan. It divides your purchase into multiple equal payments, with the first due at checkout. The remaining payments are billed to your debit or credit card until your purchase is paid in full.

What is the easiest buy now, pay later to get? ›

Affirm is our choice for the best overall buy now, pay later app because it has no fees of any kind, not even a late fee. For transactions that do charge interest, Affirm charges simple interest, which means that your interest charges won't compound and grow larger.

Can I borrow money from Klarna? ›

Klarna also offers a traditional loan option, which is available at select retailers and includes repayment terms up to two years. These loans may charge interest up to 24.99% APR.

Which buy now, pay later doesn't check credit? ›

Afterpay never does credit checks or report late payments, so using it won't affect your credit score. Spending limits start at $500 and increase as you responsibly use the app.

Who is the biggest BNPL company? ›

Who are the biggest BNPL companies? With millions of users, Klarna and Afterpay are the two biggest BNPL companies, according to a 2022 report from yStats.com. Both companies work with tens of thousands of retailers and are responsible for millions of transactions.

What happens if you miss a Very payment? ›

If you miss a payment or are late you'll be charged interest and you may incur a late payment charge. You can also set up a direct debit on your account, to ensure you don't miss any payments.

Can I use pay later to pay bills? ›

ZIP Pay Later is very easy to use. You get a credit up to Rs 60,000. You can use that money to pay bills, order groceries, food, medicines or shop for anything online and simply pay the bill via ZIP.

What credit score do you need for PayPal? ›

PayPal credit requires a minimum credit score of about 700 for approval. If your application was denied, it's probably because your score is below 700.

Is buy now, pay later real? ›

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau launched an inquiry into buy now, pay later credit late last year. A new survey from the bureau found buy now, pay later loans have been taking off in recent years: There were 180 million loans worth $24 billion among just five firms in 2021, almost a tenfold increase from 2019.

Does PayPal pay Later do credit check? ›

PAYPAL PAY IN 4, BUY NOW PAY LATER, CREDIT REQUIREMENTS ...

How do I apply for a Pay Later loan? ›

Just follow the steps below to apply for a Paylater loan:
  1. Download the Paylater app here.
  2. Register your personal details.
  3. Choose your desired loan amount and duration.
  4. Submit your application. You will get a loan decision in seconds.
  5. If approved, your account is credited within 5 minutes.
10 Feb 2017

What is buy now pay later called? ›

What is buy now, pay later (BNPL)? Buy now, pay later is a form of financing that lets consumers pay for purchases over time. Buy now, pay later, also called installment lending, is surging in popularity as technology has made it easy to offer fast, seamless experiences in store and online.

Does Pay Later affect credit score? ›

Does BNPL affect credit? As long as you repay the amount on time, your credit score will not be impacted. If you clear the amount on time, you credit score is likely to improve. However, if you miss or delay your payments, then you credit score will fall.

Does Amazon accept buy now, pay later? ›

Amazon's BNPL service — also known as Amazon Monthly Payments — allows customers shopping on the site to pay for select products over the span of five payments total.

Can you borrow cash from Affirm? ›

Affirm offers small personal loans, which means you can typically borrow between $50 and $17,500 and have three to 36 months to repay the loan. Once you apply for an Affirm loan online, you'll receive a decision right away. If approved, your order will be processed immediately and the loan will be funded.

Why is buy now, pay later so popular? ›

BNPL allows shoppers to pay less now without having to worry about interest rates, like you might on a credit card. It's an attractive option at checkout — but it has the potential to impact young people and low income people more than anyone else.

Can I borrow money from Afterpay? ›

These loans are interest-free with a 25% payment upfront and 25% payments every two weeks until the loan is paid in full. There are no fees on any Afterpay loan as long as you make your payments on time. If you do pay late, late payments are fixed, capped, and do not accumulate over time.

What's the max Afterpay limit? ›

What Is the Highest Afterpay Limit? The highest a customer can spend with Afterpay in a single transaction is $1,500. In addition, customers can hold an outstanding limit of $2,000 per Afterpay account.

What websites allow you to buy now and pay later? ›

Best buy now, pay later sites of 2022
  • Affirm: Best for long-term financing.
  • Afterpay: Best for zero interest.
  • Klarna: Best for variety of payment plans.
  • PayPal Pay in 4: Best for no late fees.
  • Sezzle: Best for rescheduling payments.
  • Splitit: Best for those with credit cards.
  • Zip (formerly Quadpay): Best for no credit checks.
18 Aug 2022

Can I withdraw cash from my Klarna card? ›

With the Klarna card, you can shop in most physical stores where Visa is accepted when you checkout. But hey, it obviously cannot be used to withdraw cash from an ATM. Remember- it is still a digital platform that allows you a limited credit for a short period of time so make sure to use the card responsibly.

What is karma payment? ›

Karma, a FinTech app which alerts shoppers to price drops and coupons has launched a payment service. Pay with Karma allows customers to purchase goods across different retailers with multiple payment options including Apple Pay, credit cards and interest free instalment plans.

How do I get Klarna ghost card? ›

How to create a One-time card
  1. Shop with us in the Klarna app. Choose Pay with Klarna when you shop in our app or create a new One-time card in the app.
  2. Set the spending amount. ...
  3. Check out on the store's site. ...
  4. Pay with your One-time card. ...
  5. Check the app for updates.

Does Zip do a credit check? ›

Have bad credit or no credit: Zip doesn't do a hard credit check, so it's an option if you need access to financing and have no other way to get it. Zip is a better choice compared with much higher-interest loans like payday loans.

How many pay in 4 PayPal can I have? ›

PayPal Pay in 4 is PayPal's buy now, pay later (BNPL) service for online shoppers. If you use this option at checkout, you can split your purchase into four equal payments with no interest or fees.

Can I use Klarna ghost on Cash App? ›

Yes, you can use Klarna ghost card on Cash App. Klarna ghost card is a one-time prepaid card that can be used anywhere visa debit card are ...

Who is BNPL leader? ›

Zip – One of the leaders of BNPL, Zip (formerly known as QuadPay) offers payment options for retail giants, including Apple, Amazon, Walmart and Target, as well as exclusive retail partnerships.

What are BNPL startups? ›

Startups such as Billie, Mondu, Tranch and Tillit are all offering BNPL solutions -- which allow buyers to split their payments into instalments -- to companies in an attempt to secure a slice of a $700 billion industry that gives companies short-term loans to help them manage their daily business.

What happens if you don't pay Afterpay at all? ›

If you don't pay Afterpay, the company does two things. First, you'll be charged a late fee. Second, you'll be locked out from paying for new orders with Afterpay until you pay your overdue payments. It's also possible that Afterpay may not approve you for future purchases either.

Does a 3 day late payment affect credit score? ›

Even a single late or missed payment may impact credit reports and credit scores. But the short answer is: late payments generally won't end up on your credit reports for at least 30 days after the date you miss the payment, although you may still incur late fees.

Whats is a good credit score? ›

Although ranges vary depending on the credit scoring model, generally credit scores from 580 to 669 are considered fair; 670 to 739 are considered good; 740 to 799 are considered very good; and 800 and up are considered excellent.

Do Clearpay do loans? ›

Each Clearpay Plan is a separate short-term fixed sum loan agreement where we lend you a fixed amount of credit to allow you to pay for your purchase over 4 instalments due every 2 weeks under the payment schedule for each Order.

Can I use Pay Later in store? ›

You can use PayLater Postpaid at online stores and pay for Grab services (e.g. Grab rides, GrabFood orders, GrabExpress deliveries), while PayLater Instalments can only be used at partner online stores. *For a complete list of PayLater merchant partners, please check out our in-app store directory.

Is there an app to pay bills in 4 payments? ›

Deferit: Pay bills in 4 on the App Store.

Can you pay bills with Openpay? ›

Paying using Openpay on an invoice for a client, is easy, it will allow them to pay the invoice in regular installments. The add-on will first need to be enabled and setup to do this you will need to create an account with open pay. An invoice will need to be created so that payment can be applied.

What credit score does klarna require? ›

Klarna doesn't set a minimum credit score to qualify for financing. Actually, it's possible to get credit with no prior history. If you choose to four interest-free installment payments, the company may conduct a soft credit pull. This does not hurt your credit score.

What credit score do you need for Amazon credit? ›

To get approved for this card, you'll need to have a good credit score of at least 670, though having a higher one certainly won't hurt your chances.

What score does affirm use? ›

How To Get Approved For Affirm Financing. The good news is you can get approved by Affirm, as long as your credit score is 640 or above. Since they conduct a soft inquiry, applying for a loan with Affirm won't affect your score.

How does buy now, pay later work for retailers? ›

Merchants can offer a buy now, pay later service that customers can use to complete purchases on the merchant's website or at their store. After the customer submits their BNPL payment, the merchant receives the funds within a few days, similar to a credit card payment.

Who qualifies BNPL? ›

You're at least 18 years old. You have a mobile phone number. You have a debit or credit card to make payments. They are able to validate your identity.

Who invented BNPL? ›

“Buy now, pay later” as we know it today probably started with department stores like Nordstrom issuing private-label credit cards in the 1980s and 90s, and in the past decade, BNPL has grown into its own market.

What credit score do you need for PayPal pay in 4? ›

If you have good or excellent credit (690 credit score or higher), you may consider a 0% APR credit card. These cards offer introductory periods of up to 21 months and charge no interest during that period. You may also receive a sign-up bonus or access to a rewards program.

How do you qualify for a PayPal payment in 4? ›

If you have a PayPal account in good standing, you can then select the Pay in 4 option from your wallet at checkout. Under other circumstances, you will need to apply for Pay in 4, but decisions are instant.

Does affirm do a hard credit check? ›

According to the company, Affirm never conducts a hard credit check and considers other data besides your credit score when deciding whether to approve or deny you for a loan.

Does buy now, pay later have interest? ›

What does buy now pay later cost? In general, if you repay the price of what you bought within the delay period you won't pay any interest. That's because these periods are usually interest-free.

Does Klarna affect your credit score if you don't pay? ›

Klarna performs a soft credit check which does not affect your credit score and will not be visible to other lenders when: Deciding to Pay in 4. Preferring to Pay in 30 days.

Will Shopee pay later affect credit score? ›

c) You may hurt your credit score

If you keep missing your payments, your BNPL platform may report it to credit reporting agencies.

What happens if you don't pay BNPL very? ›

What happens after the delayed payment period? If you have not paid the cash price in full or have only made a partial payment, a lump sum of interest will be charged to your Very account. Any outstanding balance plus the interest will now become payable on your account.

Which buy now, pay later doesn't check credit? ›

Afterpay never does credit checks or report late payments, so using it won't affect your credit score. Spending limits start at $500 and increase as you responsibly use the app.

Can you borrow cash from Affirm? ›

Affirm offers small personal loans, which means you can typically borrow between $50 and $17,500 and have three to 36 months to repay the loan. Once you apply for an Affirm loan online, you'll receive a decision right away. If approved, your order will be processed immediately and the loan will be funded.

Can I use pay later to pay bills? ›

ZIP Pay Later is very easy to use. You get a credit up to Rs 60,000. You can use that money to pay bills, order groceries, food, medicines or shop for anything online and simply pay the bill via ZIP.

Why did I get rejected from Klarna? ›

Attempting too many purchases in a short amount of time may result in being rejected (fraud prevention) The approval decision is not based solely on credit score, but rather multiple internal data points such as past payment history.

What is karma payment? ›

Karma, a FinTech app which alerts shoppers to price drops and coupons has launched a payment service. Pay with Karma allows customers to purchase goods across different retailers with multiple payment options including Apple Pay, credit cards and interest free instalment plans.

What is better AfterPay or Klarna? ›

Our choice for the best buy now, pay later app between Klarna and Afterpay is Klarna. It offers more financing options, includes more than twice as many retailers in its marketplace, and can create virtual card numbers to be used anywhere Visa is accepted.

Can I increase my SPayLater limit? ›

You cannot apply to increase your SPayLater limit. Limits on your SPayLater accounts will be reviewed and adjusted (increase or decrease) according to your spending and repayment behavior.

Can I withdraw money from SPayLater? ›

SPayLater is only available to select Shopee users. SPayLater credit cannot be withdrawn. For withdrawable loan, learn more about SLoan. For further details about your bill computation, please contact Shopee to provide steps on where to check the breakdown of the bill.

Can I borrow money from Shopee? ›

Eligible Shopee buyers can get access to loans at competitive interest rates, with flexible options to repay in 3, 6, or 12 months (12 months available to selected users only). Make sure to activate your SLoan and get up to Php 50,000 in loans that you can withdraw and use anytime, anywhere.

Who is the biggest BNPL company? ›

Who are the biggest BNPL companies? With millions of users, Klarna and Afterpay are the two biggest BNPL companies, according to a 2022 report from yStats.com. Both companies work with tens of thousands of retailers and are responsible for millions of transactions.

Can I borrow money from Klarna? ›

Klarna also offers a traditional loan option, which is available at select retailers and includes repayment terms up to two years. These loans may charge interest up to 24.99% APR.

Does Pay Later affect credit score? ›

Does BNPL affect credit? As long as you repay the amount on time, your credit score will not be impacted. If you clear the amount on time, you credit score is likely to improve. However, if you miss or delay your payments, then you credit score will fall.

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