Saturday, February 28, 2009

Let's cut some more dollars out of that budget

It seems I've constantly got money on the brain: or at least how to spend less of it. I've found ways to cut my groceries (, a way to cut my satellite bill ( and I even cut my phone and internet bill ( I then canceled our dairy service (some would say we should've done that first, but I really loved their milk--which is saying something since I'm not a big milk drinker to begin with), and I now spend half as much for our milk at the store.

Since my husband's hours aren't looking like they're picking up anytime soon, I'm looking for more ways to cut our spending. We just knocked our thermostat down to 66 degrees for our heating. We were at 68, which was already saving us money over last year's gas bill, even with the rate hike Questar was granted.

You won't catch me without my long sleeves, even in the house. Haha! But really, it hasn't been too bad. It's not a real noticeable difference, and when I cook (which I do a lot of to save money), that warms up things a bit. We also turned our water heater down, which means we're using less gas to heat our water. Now we just add less cold water while filling the bath or sink. That's going surprisingly well for us (even with a family of six).

We're also on the budget plan, so we pay the same amount monthly, but I see that we have a good amount still left in the reserve they set for us, so that amount should be going down shortly with our lessened usage. I'm excited to see how much it will go down when they do our review!

If you haven't signed up for the budget plan (also known as the equal payment plan) for your utilities, I recommend doing so. It makes it sting less in the times you use more, though that also means you pay more in the times you use less. The companies that offer this feature generally review your account periodically to make sure you're not being over or under charged. Having this feature makes it easier to make up your household budget too, since you know what you're going to be billed each month.

Anyway, we've also switched out more of our light bulbs for the energy efficient ones. Of course, we're also making sure that we're all turning off the lights when we're not using a room, or opening the shades on a bright day to help us to cut our electric costs too. While the initial cost for the bulbs is more than the standard ones, they last much longer and cost less to use. They also have the added bonus of being the more environmentally friendly choice. We've actually been switching them out gradually (as our old bulbs burn out), so that we don't pay so much to switch them all out at once.

Once the weather gets warmer, we're going to make sure we don't crank up the central air too much, resulting in a high bill. We plan to open our windows in the morning when it's cool, and in the evening. During the day, when it's hot, we'll have our windows closed, and the ceiling fans going. With this, I think we'll be able to keep our air set at 80-83 degrees without feeling too much of the heat. I'll also keep the ice water handy.

I've made my loads of laundry larger, using less energy to run fewer loads. I've also made sure to not run the dishwasher unless it's full. I'm finding I'm also using less detergent, fabric softener and rinse aid by doing this. This also means I'm running up and down the stairs less, since I'm doing laundry less frequently. I still have to do laundry daily though, living in a house with four kids!

All of these money saving ideas also happen to be green, so that's a plus. For more ideas on going green in your home and saving money, check out this article by ethoslogos: I think it's great that his ideas are not only good for the environment, but they're also good for your pocket book.

Well, I wish you all well in your endeavors to save money. Please feel free to share any of your tips here as well.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Don't Forget about What You Do Have

Everyday I seem to read another article, or hear another news piece about desperate people in the news. People are losing their jobs, which often means losing their insurance and yes, even their homes. For some it comes quickly, before they even know what's happening. For others, they watch everything they work for gradually slipping away.

Whichever way it happens, there's no question that it's stressful. It's no secret that one of the main fights in a marriage, which can often lead to divorce, is about money. And in this bad economy, I'm just hoping our already high divorce rate doesn't sky rocket even higher.

If you've experience jobloss, or a paycut, and are finding yourself fighting more with your spouse, make an effort to stop. I found a great article with some insight on this issue on ehow by joni04:

Times are tough and, yes, too many people are losing a lot, but many of them still have a lot, too. Don't take it for granted if you have a spouse by your side, standing by you you through this hard time (it was for better or for worse, right?).

Don't take it for granted if you have a loving and supportive family, doing their best to be with you in your troubled time. This family I speak of can include close friends who would give you the shirt off their backs if you needed it.

Don't take it for granted if you have a child, or children, who look up to you, and don't care if you're feeling like a failure--for them, you are the most important person in their world. They're learning from you how to be an adult. You want to show them the best way to deal with the worst situations.

So often we lash out at the ones we love. Why? Perhaps it's because we feel safer with them than anyone else. If you bottle up all of your fears and put on a happy face for the outside world, you might find yourself exploding on your family at home when it all becomes too much.

Your family loves you unconditionally, and that's no small gift. I often find myself thinking that I don't know what I would do without my family around me. They lift me when no one else can. They love me at my worst, and they support me without question. I think that kind of love and loyalty deserves payment in kind.

If you find yourself becoming so angry, you're lashing out at the ones you love, find someone you can talk to. If you do have an insurance plan, many of them offer some kind of counseling services over the phone for free. Also, don't be afraid to talk to your close friends, and especially your spouse, about your fears. They might be able to help you come up with a plan, but even if they can't, talking about it can help you vent some of that stress in a good and calm way.

You could also talk to someone from your church. The church I attend encourages its members to come in and talk whenever we need to. Most churches have this same policy.

If you don't feel like you want to talk to someone at the moment, but still need to vent, try writing. Sometimes putting your thoughts down on paper is an excellent release. It can also help you clear your thoughts, and possibly help you come up with a new plan.

Please don't act out of desperation. If you're feeling overwhelmed, reach out for help. Don't do anything you might regret later. Believe me when I say that there are people out there who understand what you're going through. And no matter what you may think right now, things can always be worse, so try to remember the blessings you do have in your life.

Don't lose hope. Don't lose faith. Keep your loved ones close and don't hesitate to ask for help.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Are Medical Bills Dragging You Down?

I know first hand how medical debt can put a strangle-hold on you. In our family we've experienced: 3 appendix surgeries, 1 gall bladder surgery, 1 surgery to repair a hernia, 1 laparoscopy, 2 ear tube surgeries (the second was a replacement one with adenoid removal) and 1 foot surgery on two feet. Add to that having 4 babies, emergency room visits and the normal doctor and dental care, and you've got a lot of medical debt, even with insurance.

At first, I thought that I just had to pay the bill in full, without question. Then it became apparent, as things racked up, that it just wasn't possible for us to do that. That's when I started making calls. The first ones were for the bills my insurance was refusing to cover. In one case, they'd refused to cover an emergency apendectomy performed by a doctor out of their network. This is what I told them, "I went to a covered hospital in severe pain and feeling extremely sick. I figured I was safe since they were listed in your network. I'm sorry that I didn't think to ask them when they told me I was having emergency surgery if the doctor performing it was covered by my insurance. My appendix was about to burst." They paid the bill.

As for the bills that weren't covered by insurace, I called the doctor's billing office myself and asked if they would discount my bill, since my insurance wasn't going to cover any of it. All of them did--some of them by as much as 50%!

Another thing I was able to do was set up payment arrangements for the bills I couldn't afford to pay all at once. If they suggested an amount that I couldn't afford, I told them a lower number that I could manage. If they hesitated, I would tell them that I would love to pay more, but I had a long list of other bills, all of which I'm having to make payments on, and that was the best I could do. They all accepted that.

Also know, that as long as they are accepting your monthly payments, they aren't supposed to send you to collections because you are showing a good effort in repaying your debt. If you are sent to collections by mistake (which happened to me once) call them and tell them. If you are patient, but insistent, chances are they'll take the account back out of collections (Yes, this is possible).

One thing that helped us was that several of our bills were for the same company (Intermountain Healthcare), and when I called them about all of my bills (I had six with them at the time) they combined them all in one, with just one affordable monthly payment that was much lower than the six payments I had been making. So if you notice that any of your bills are for the same provider, or medical institution, see if they will do that same thing for you.

Another thing that some of them are able to do, but they don't advertise, is write your bill off. If you are having a rough time financially, and unable to pay your bill, explain your situation and ask them if they are able to write any of it off. Some of them are allowed to do that with a certain number of accounts each year, and it doesn't hurt your credit. Many of them also have programs for low-income families, which will help you to take care of your bills. It doesn't hurt to ask.

Make them an offer. If you do have most of the money you need to pay for a certain bill, ask if they will accept that lower amount. A lot of them will! I did this last year when I got my tax return. I called my dentist's office and asked if they would discount the bill if I would make the lowered payment in full and they did! I saved over one hundred dollars that time.

The bottom line is that most of your providers will be willing to work with you. Also, don't necessarily take the first answer from your health insurance if you think something should've been covered. Appeal it. Lots of people get their way when they do this.

I wish you all luck in lowering your medical debt this year! Let me know if this works for you, or if you have any other tips to help.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

In the Interest of Making Money

Today I've been mainly focusing my efforts on getting this blog off the ground. Why? Because done right, it can bring in a pretty decent income. The last few days I've been searching what seems like every inch of the internet on how to make a successful blog (meaning one that earns me some much needed cash).

There's no simple answer on what makes a blog successful. You have to talk about something people want to read about. You have to know what you're talking about (or eventually people will find you out and lose interest), and I think you also have to enjoy doing it.

Once you have a topic and the knowledge to get going on it, you have to find where you want your blog. Obviously, I chose Blogger ( and so far I'm happy with my choice. There are plenty of free sites to publish on, and you get decent tools to build your page with.

Those first steps are certainly the easiest part. After you get going on your page, you can monetize your site with adsense. Google puts in ads that sponsor your site, and that's where you earn revenue. The only thing left is to get people to come. It's not as simple as sending out an email to all your friends and family, telling them to come see your site.

Before you get them to come though, you have to have something to keep them coming. It's a good idea to have your site ready before you open the floodgates to traffic. You have to have a friendly layout, good widgets and enough information to keep them reading. Here are some sites I found to help you on the gadgets needed for blogging and the know-how to make it profitable

The next step is you have to list with search engines. Some sites will do multiple listings (such as, and I found a lot of useful information about web marketing on

Be sure, once your site is ready and listed, that you don't leave it at that. You still need to network. Find forums to discuss your blog. You can connect with other bloggers and get your site known. Here is a site giving you ideas on how to do that:

None of this is really difficult to do, but it does take time. I think the hardest part for me was the fact that I do still have to perform my mommy duties while working on this. But once it gets going off the ground, it should be much easier to maintain.

The best part of all of this is that I get to make money doing two things I already love doing: researching and writing.

Give Gifts without Going Broke

Times are tough now for everyone, making it more difficult to give to those you love. The days when my mom would buy a gift for my friends' birthdays are long gone. Now I get to be the mom doing the buying, and believe me when I say that there's definitely not a lack of opportunities here.

Being the mother of four children who have more than their fair share of friends, and also being someone's sister, daughter, friend.....yeah, you get the point--I've been in the position numerous times where I needed a gift for someone. I don't have the benefit of limitless funds, but I don't want to come across as being a scrooge or a cheapskate either. So what are my options?

Surprisingly, there are several, and they are just as appreciated as their more expensive counterparts:

Find out what books they want to read. Try The Children's Book of the Month Club (, or Double Day Book Club (, or The Literary Guild ( You can get good deals on books at all of these sites. They're always offering specials, which makes them convenient to use at any time. If you're just signing up, you get a great deal on enrollment. If you give them your email address you get better offers than by snail mail. You do have to buy a few books (not necessarily at regular price) over the course of two years. Once you do that, you can cancel your membership so you don't have to respond to the featured selections. If you did end up cancelling you could even re-enroll at a later date and get the enrollment deal all over again.

How about a movie? With Columbia House ( you can get a great deal upon enrollment too. They also give the best deals (such as Buy One, Get One Free) if you give them your email address, and sometimes you even get free shipping on top of that. They also have a certain number of DVDs you have to purchase over the course of two years.

Clothing? For children I prefer The Children's Place ( You can get quality clothes without breaking the bank. They always have what they call "Monster Sales" where you can get deeply discounted clothing for kids of all ages (up to size 12). Sign up with your email address and mailing addresses and you get an additional discount when they send out their coupons (about 3-4 times a year). You can also enter your children's birthdays and receive an email with up to 20% off all their merchandise during the month of your child's birthday. They also offer a Place Perks Card which gives you additional deals. Add to that the paltry $5 flat fee shipping rate, and you can walk out of there with a lot, paying very little.

You can also get good deals at JC Penney (, Kohls (, Old Navy ( and the Gap ( by signing up for email with them. They also have clearance sections and send out coupon codes to their customers. So you don't have to skimp on quality just because your wallet is money-handicapped.

You can also go the creative route, if you're handy with the crafts. You can make a baby blanket fairly easy with minimal sewing skills (if I can do it, anyone can). You can create a scrap book for someone dear to you. You can put together a special photo frame collage. The possibilities are endless, and you can also get great deals on the web for the products you're looking for. Try Hobby Lobby (, Hancock Fabrics (, Michaels ( to get you started. They also send out specials and coupons to their customers.

I just found a great article on eHow by kaseysviewblog that can give you plenty of ideas too:

These are just a few tips to get you thinking. I hope you'll find these tips useful.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Juggling is definitely the right word for it

I've found that writing articles is very much a job. I don't know how I'd ever considered it as anything else. One thing about me is that I always like to give all that I have to whatever job I'm doing. Usually, that means parenting, now it's also writing.

I'm obviously going to have to learn balance. I have found that if I work first thing in the morning on the house and family stuff, that leaves me more uninterrupted time in the early afternoon (well, unless you count a toddler climbing up on my lap every now and then to see what I'm doing and to make sure she's still my priority as an interruption--or my preschooler coming to tell me she wants a snack).

The problem I'm having is turning the article writing part of my brain off while I'm trying to concentrate on kids and homework in the late afternoon. I keep thinking about what I'm going to write next and how I'm going to advertise it. Yes, advertising, unfortunately is a big part of being a successful blogger and in article writing (if you're going the route I'm going with eHow and adsense).

This could be because this is all so new to me. I'm hoping that once I've gained momentum, things will be easier and I'll be better able to change channels. I'm sure that's the case, right?

As for the business side of writing, I found some encouragement, and more tips on this website:
If you have some writing skills and are looking for a way to make some money, I suggest you check it out.

Anyway, on that note, I have another article on eHow. I've already talked a bit about it in my blog here, but it goes into more detail in the eHow article. Feel free to check it out!

How to Get a lower Rate on your Satellite Bill

But before you go, take a look around here. I've got plenty of money-saving tips to help you out and there's more to come. Don't forget to tell your friends!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

How to Deal in a Bad Economy

If you've experienced a job loss or a paycut, then your head is probably spinning from fear and confusion of what to do next. It doesn't help that you keep hearing all over the media about the unemployment rate going up and the availability of jobs going down.

You also probably have the very real fear of losing your home. How can you pay for your rent or your mortgage when you don't have enough money? What can you do? What are your options? I'm going to try to help you in this area.

First of all, if you don't have a budget, make one. You need to write down all of your monthly obligations and total them out. Then you'll know how much money you need. Also, a budget only works if you follow it, so try to avoid any impulsive expenditures.

Of course, you have to have enough money to make your budget work. If you're having trouble in this area due this bad economy, there are programs out there to help you.

My state has a program called The Utah Department of Workforce Services (here is their website: Through this program you can find out how to see if you qualify for financial assistance, food stamps, health care, or it can even help you look for another job. Check your state government website to find out what programs they have in your state.

Are you low income and having trouble paying your utilities? Winter is a hard time when it comes to paying that gas bill. In my state we have a program called HEAT ( Those who qualify for this program can get help paying for their gas and electric bills. Our program opens in November and goes until it runs out of money. Check with your utility company and they should be able to tell of the programs available in your particular area.

Do you have children in school? See if you qualify for free or reduced lunch. Many schools also offer breakfast to your children. This can really help you lower your food bill. The program is confidential, so no one else will know if you're paying for your kids' food or not.

Call your mortgage company, if you have one. See what options they have available to you. Don't give up if you don't get the answers you're looking for the first time you call. Your answer there is only as good as the person's knowledge who works there. Sometimes, oddly enough, the person you're talking to may not know what your options are, so ask to speak to their supervisor.

Sometimes you can modify your home loan and add what you've fallen behind on to the end of your mortgage. Sometimes they can even lower your interest rate or your payment to make it more affordable to you. They can also help you negotiate a short sale on your home, if that's what you need to do. Check with your mortgage company.

I checked to see what my mortgage company, Countrywide Home Loans, offers. They have their Financial Hardship Program information listed on their website ( Your mortgage company's website might be a good place for you to start looking.

Also, you might want to try going to your church. Many churches have programs and funds available to those in need. The church I go to helps many people with food and other necessities. Check to see what's available to you in that avenue. Don't lose faith. We have to go through these hard times to get to the good times. It can be scary, but realize that God is there for you and will take care of you. He may not always take you in the direction you want to go, but trust that He knows better than you.

I hope these tips will help you in your hard time. If you know of any other resources out there that I haven't listed, please let me know.

How to Make a Some Extra Cash at Home

There are quite a few things that you can do for some extra spending cash, and this post is going to focus on just a few of them. First, don't panic. You need to have a clear head so that you can consider your options. Honestly, when things started going south in my family, I had to fight the instinct to shut myself off from everyone.

There are so many things you can do at home. If you have writing skills you can generate income by doing freelance work. Here are some places to start:

Aluminum cans can generate a little extra cash. You can just save what you use at home, or go out and collect them to get even more. If you want to know where you can cash them in, Earth911 is a good place to start (

If you're not interested in going that route, try going through your old things. It's not quite yard sale season in my neck of the woods, but you can sell on ebay all year long. If you have a digital camera, a computer, and items you and your family aren't using anymore, set up an account on ebay and make some money off of them! I found a good article with some tips on selling for ebay on eHow by static404:

You can also do surveys from home. This doesn't generate a lot of cash, but it can definitely help. I've found these legitimate companies:
Inbox Dollars
Tiktik Cash

The easiest $5 I ever made was from Nielson Netratings Panel. All you have to do is download their software (no malware included, I promise) and enter in the information for your household. Then, when you use your computer, a window comes up asking who's using it, you click your name and then go about your business as usual. Every three months I get a $5 check for doing practically nothing. Plus, they send me free entries into their weekly sweepstakes for my participation.

So, these are a few of my ideas to help you through this hard time. Feel free to let me know of any others you have learned. I wish you all the best!


Lower Your Monthly Bills without Losing a Thing!

I've decided that today I'm going to share a few tips on how I lowered our monthly bills with very little time and effort. The best part of this is that it doesn't hurt your credit, you get more for your money, and just about anyone can do it.

When my husband's hours got cut at work, one of the first things I did was sit down at my computer to go over my budget. Yes, I have a budget, and I've found it very useful in keeping our finances in line over the years.

What could I cut? We were already eating all our meals at home. I was packing breakfast and lunch for my husband, and making good, but inexpensive dinners. Our entertainment fund was already severely cut and I was maximizing my grocery savings (see how I did this at What else was there?

Medical bills are one of the easiest creditors to negotiate a lower rate with. In my case, I called and asked that my $50 a month payments be dropped to $25. I explained our situation and they were more than happy to work with me. They also charge me no interest as long as I make my payment every month.

I called our satellite company. We've been with Dish Network for almost eight years now. We found them to be cheaper with more channels than our local cable company and we've had very few problems with reception. Before I called them, I looked at what they were offering new customers. I also compared them to the competition (Here it is DirectTV--who also happens to bundle with my phone company, so I knew I could get a discounted rate with them).

I knew what I wanted and called them to see if they would give it to me. Once I let them know that I was a longstanding customer, was aware of their promotions and that I was tempted by their competition, they were more than happy to work with me. They gave me a $10 credit per month on my bill for five months, free Dish Home Protection Plan on my equipment for nine months. Free Premium HD Programming for three months, Free HBO, Showtime and Starz for three months, and 12 months of Cinemax for a penny.

I called my phone company (Qwest, who also provides my DSL) to see if they would do the same type of thing. They were less willing to work with me even though I've been a good customer for nearly four years. So I called their competition (Comcast). I asked what their current promotions were for phone and internet.

I found that I could get faster internet than what I currently have (test your internet speed here:, unlimited long distance (which I have now), and more phone features for nearly $40 less than I'm currently paying. There is a small catch to this in that my rate would go up after six months, but I can downgrade for free with no problems.

Also, even once I downgrade I would be getting the same speed of internet that I currently have and still have the bonus phone features for $35 less a month than what I pay now. I also get to keep my current phone number, so I can't lose! When I asked them if they were still offering deals on installation charges (which regularly run $100 for the two services together), they asked what special I was looking for. I turned the question back on them and asked what was the best one they could offer me. I got it for $25 total!

So you can definitely get what you want for less if you know how to do it, and I've just told you how. Just be informed, know what's available, let them know that you have less income, but want to keep your services with them, but will go to their competition if necessary.

If you have any more ideas on how to save money, I'd be glad to hear them!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Can I Start Sharing the Financial Burden?

I've spent much of my marriage content to let my husband make the bulk of our income. It was convenient for me because it enabled me to spend as much quality time with my kids as I wanted. It seems those days are coming to an end, and I'm left with mixed feelings about it.

My husband has been cut down on his hours at work. This was nothing new at first, he's a journeyman plumber, and so the company he's been working at for 14 years has definitely been affected by this economy. Nearly two years ago he went from working 60 hours a week down to around 45. Honestly, we were all a bit thrilled by this because it meant that we got to spend more time as a family with him.

Last year he was lucky to make 40 hours. It made things tight for Christmas, but forced me to look for ways to save money, and I feel very enlightened as a result. I'm a coupon-clipping, internet searching fool now, and loving every minute of it.

Now, he's been cut down to just over 30 hours. I have to admit, I'm more than a little fearful about this. We have a little money in the bank, but that's only going to cover the loss for so long. It's made me more creative in how I manage my bills and creditors too. But for once, that's not going to be enough to keep our heads above water.

Hubby suggested he get a second job. While I didn't denounce that idea, it got me thinking: why should the financial burden be placed solely on him? What can I do to help him? What's more, what can I do that won't take me away from home and my kids?

My answer? Writing. I'm happy to get back to it after a long break. I've started writing articles for, I've started networking to draw more attention to my writing and I've learned that it's possible to make money doing something I really love to do. How much money? I don't know yet, but it's good to vent while I'm finding out.

Getting Back on the Horse, so to Speak

So I've taken some time off of writing for a while. Why? Because my family grew from five to six last year. This is, of course, counting my spouse and me. I'm not that crazy--yet.

I'm very happy spending my time taking care of my family. To me, along with God, they come first. There's nothing more gratifying than knowing that you are helping to send a great person out into the world. At least, that's what I hope I'm doing. It's what I'm trying to do anyway.

I've always loved to write, for as long as I can remember. At nine years old I was drawing up my own children's books and trying to sell them to my neighbors for a quarter! No, I'm not kidding. I even managed to catch one nice grandmother on a good day and she bought one from me.

In sixth grade I was making story books for the kindergarten classes. This meant I got out of my classwork long enough to go read my creation to the kiddies. That was cerainly a plus!

By junior high I was writing poetry. All of it was about love, of course. My friends thought I was brilliant, and I have to admit it went to my head. I have to laugh now when I go back and read some of what I wrote then. At least I can say that I had a knack for rhyming.

In high school the school newspaper caught my eye. I spent my last three years on staff and doing mainly book reviews because they were the easiest and most entertaining for me. Of course, I'd have done better if I'd reviewed more of what other people were interested in, and not the romance books I was obsessed with at the time. My teacher did manage to yank a few public interest and feature articles out of me, and even patted me on the back for them, but they were never my preference.

My Creative Writing class was a blessing to me. I got to learn that not all poetry has to rhyme. I also learned that I wasn't nearly as good at it as I thought I was. But I found a love for creating fiction. It's stuck with me ever since and I have a long list of short stories to show for it.

I'd planned on going out into the world, becoming a world famous novelist, and maybe, eventually starting a family. You know what they say about best laid plans...

Instead, I fell inlove, got married, graduated as one of eight valedictorians (I only wish I were kidding), and gave up my full scholarship to start a family. Yes, it was exactly in that order.

Once I became a mother, I tried to continue writing, but my hands were so full of learning to be a mommy to my beautiful baby boy. Over the years he was followed-up with three perfect baby girls. Since adding to my family, I've picked up my writing now and again, whenever time, and yes, inspiration allowed.

I'm hoping to make a bigger impression in that world of writing this time. I'm ready to get back on the horse. I'm ready to start juggling more things and to learn and grow more as a writer and as a mother.

As a result of this particular juggling act, I've written two articles on eHow. I would love for you read them, as I think they will apply to most people in this hard economy. I planning on making a habit/job of this. Wish me luck!

How to Bring Your Family Closer Together without spending a lot of money
How to Save Money On Groceries