Showing posts with label budgeting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label budgeting. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Trading Satellite for Netflix

So most of you know by now that saving money has been my main mission in life, especially since the economy tanked a few years ago. We've managed to keep our satellite service with Dish Network for years now, and I have to say that we are still happy with it.

We've downgraded our service quite a bit in the last two years and they've given us plenty of discounts too on top of that. We have two dual-tuner DVRs in our house and subscribe to the Dish Family package with our locals. It's a total of about 50 or so channels, and most of them are pretty good. We get channels like Nick Jr., Investigation Discovery, Animal Planet, Hallmark and several others that our family really likes. Still, even with the discounts, because of our two DVRs, we are putting out about $40 a month.

We were thinking of completely getting rid of the satellite (no small thing when you realize we've had a DVR for about 10 years now) and saving that money. We've heard good things about Netflix, and were told that for about $8 a month we can download unlimited content to our computer, Xbox or Wii. For a few dollars more you can also get DVDs sent to your door.

We're big movie fans. We don't do the pay-per-view though, unless they give us the free certificates for them (which does happen now and then). If it's not a movie we're sure we want to buy, then we usually get it from Redbox. So really, the idea of having new movies so readily available to us sounds great. But I'm wondering if there's a downside?

Have any of you subscribed to Netflix? What can I expect to find if we make this jump? I've heard we can download stuff to our laptop and then hook it up to our TV to watch it on the bigger screen. That would be great, since it would mean that we could still watch our favorite TV shows off the TV station websites. Am I right? Or is it more complicated than that?

Anyway, if we go ahead and do this (and we're about 80% sure we will right now), it would mean a savings of over $30 a month. It might not seem like a lot to some people, but for a family of seven, saving any amount of money is a big plus! They do have a free trial, so I guess we'd have nothing to lose on trying it.

So what do you think? Does it sound like a good idea?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Inside Scoop on Those Credit Cards

Did you know that according to 98% of the revolving debt (which is well over 800 billion dollars) is from credit cards? While the amount of debt carried by the average American family might be surprising, the fact that most households utilize credit cards is common knowledge, and I'm no exception.

If you've wondered how credit cards can affect your credit rating, then I've got the perfect article for you. If you've found yourself in over your head with credit card debt, then that makes this article even more perfect for you. If you're ready to become more financially fit then read my article on HubPages: The Truth about Credit Cards.

Getting a handle on credit card debt and taking control of your credit score would be a perfect New Year's Resolution! Good luck to all of you who have this goal in mind.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Lesson Learned

I had planned to write everyday, no matter what. I underestimated the curve balls life can throw, and how that can definitely influence motivation. At least I'm learning to be more flexible, right?

We've been busy figuring out some big projects we've got coming up, besides our garden I mean. Oh, did I mention we had to start over on most of our seedlings? I believe I told you they grew a lot faster than we'd expected. They outgrew their containers and we didn't know what to do with them, as it is still too early to take them outside--we can't do that for another two or so weeks. Then, hubby didn't read the section where it says to get your new plants used to the outdoors gradually. He set them outside for the day, while we were doing yard work. Only the bell peppers survived. Haha!

I can laugh because they were so inexpensive. Now we know we don't need even close to the 7 weeks we planted ahead. A few weeks seems to be sufficient for our growing conditions. So we went and bought new seeds, put them back in our closet under the fluorescent lights, and now that they're all sprouted we'll gradually get them adjusted to the outdoors. Lesson learned!

Speaking of learning from trial and error, we've decided that we're learning a lot from these experiences. We've learned so much from the hard times we're experiencing now--things that we never would have even tried to find out about if life hadn't thrown a few bumps in our path.

Come to think of it, I think that I've learned the best lessons in life during hard times. Go figure. We always dread these difficult times because we're worried we won't get through them, or at least not come out of them intact. I wonder how many of us realize how much we actually gain from so many of those trials. I know they've made me stronger and I'm a better person because of them.

It's not always easy for me to admit that. There have certainly been times when I've been sure that someone "up there" must be out to get me and I've begged for some peace. Yes, even recently I've asked that God not put any more on my plate, as it seems to be overflowing just now. But in the end, I know I'll come out of this stronger. I'll come out of this smarter.

Does that mean I'm winning every battle? No (though I sometimes wish). But I'm not leaving any of these experiences empty handed. If nothing else, I'm learning to be a better gardener, a more creative manager of finances, a competent letter writer, and a pretty good negotiator;-)

I think you'll find that you've gained some knowledge from all of your hard times too. Just be sure that you do learn from them and don't repeat mistakes. Then you can say "Lesson Learned." I heard this simple phrase from a dear friend of mine and, believe it or not, there's some satisfaction in being able to say it at the end of it all.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Saving with Your Newspaper Subscription

Today's blog was inspired by this morning's events. I received the renewal notice for one of our newspaper subscriptions, and cringed when I realized I have another check to write--small though it may be. Some may ask why I don't just let the newspaper subscription go, especially considering I have two of them. I'll tell you why, it's because those two subscriptions (both with the Sunday papers) save me a lot of money on groceries, and consequently, more than pay for themselves.

I'm guessing, with my Sunday and groceries clues, you know how I save money with these papers: I clip the coupons. I save money on toilet paper, granola bars, cereal, diapers, wipes, toiletries, pet food, produce, etc. I have even, on several occasions, gotten coupons for free items (ranging from salad dressing, gum, cough drops, frozen shrimp--you get the idea).

Because of this, I can justify the expense of both subscriptions, but with hubby's pay cut, money is very tight. I decided to call my subscription service (MediaOne of Utah) to test what I'd heard about most companies being willing to give existing customers the promotional rate if they call in and ask for it. Turns out, it was no myth. I got one year for the price of six months, all because I asked if they could offer me a better deal! So now my newspaper is even more valuable to me.

My green readers may be wondering what I do with all those papers after I'm done reading and clipping out of them. No worries! I take them to my children's school, put them in the recycling dumpster and they get money for the school! So it's a win-win.

So if you haven't done this already, I suggest you do. If you currently have a subscription, call to see if you can get a better rate. If you don't currently have one, get one! If you aren't clipping coupons for items you're already buying, that's the same thing as throwing away your money.

If you're not in my area, then you can find your local newspaper, or whichever paper you're looking to subscribe to online. I found a site that offers discounted newspaper subscriptions, and it's backed by the Better Business Bureau. It's called Discounted

None of these things take much time. Calling to lower your rate is easy, subscribing is even easier. Clipping coupons isn't much work either. You can get a coupon organizer for cheap, or you can even keep them in an envelope or sandwich bag (I did this for years). And Newspaper recycling sites are everywhere. You can usually find them on school grounds or even in some store parking lots. If you don't know where one is, check out Earth911.

Do what you have to and lower that budget. Saving money is always a good thing, especially in this hard economy.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

More on HASP

As I told you yesterday, we decided to try to modify our mortgage using the Homeowner Stability and Affordability Program that President Obama set up last month. If we're approved for this, we'll be able to stay in our home, since hubby's work (as a journeyman plumber) is still hurting and his hours are low.

In fact, today his work schedule fell through (they currently have him doing service calls) and they're talking about sending him home. This would be very bad, considering he still isn't allowed to work Mondays, so that would give him just barely over a three day work week. If this happens, we'll have to use another of his already few vacation days (who can afford to take a real vacation anyway, right?) to make up for the shortage on our budget--which I'm constantly working to lower.

So yesterday we applied for HASP. I sent our Mortgage Company (Countrywide Financial) a 42 page fax--the longest fax I've ever sent in my life! Haha! Details of HASP can be found in this post I did yesterday.

I called Countrywide this morning to make sure they had all my paperwork. They did, and complimented me on how thorough I was (I'll gladly take the compliment!). They told me to continue making my mortgage payments as usual (which I planned to do anyway for as long as we're able), and that they will process everything once they know what's going on.

This wasn't really a big surprise to me. HASP is a brand new program, and while many mortgage companies are climbing on board, they are still unsure of all the details. In my mortgage company's case, they said they hope to have everything set and ready to go by April, which starts tomorrow! LOL. Anyway, they said it shouldn't take too long to get things up and running, and in the meantime they have all they need from me.

I'm telling you all this so that you will know that this is more than likely the situation with all the mortgage companies participating in HASP. They're still working out the details, and don't know everything yet, so make sure that you realize that when you call them. The company's participating in this program have said they will hold off on foreclosures for those trying to get approved for HASP.

In yesterday's post I gave you a link for participating mortgage companies, so if you haven't already, check to see if your company is on the list. The list is pretty long, so there's a good chance it is. If it isn't, you aren't out of options. Just call your mortgage company and ask what plans they offer for financial hardship. If you get someone who doesn't seem to know what they are talking about, ask to speak to someone else.

Another good resource is the Making Home Affordable website. It was set up for those looking for more information on HASP, but they offer information to anyone struggling financially.

Don't give up. This is a hard economy for so many of us. With the right tools we can all get through it together. You're not alone.

Friday, March 20, 2009

I Saved Money!

In my mission to cut the bottom line of my budget by lowering my bills, I'd say: Mission Accomplished! My budget plan for my gas bill came and they lowered my payment by $14 a month. I honestly think it will end up going even lower, but I'm happy to see it go down at all.

I also called my motor club company to cancel my benefits and they said if I kept it they would cut my payment 35%, so that was a win, too. They told me if I registered on their website, they even had discount offers for companies I'm already using, so I plan to look further into that to save more money. By the way, I use Allstate Motorclub, and have been with them for six years. I've successfully used the benefits they offer on a few occasions (flat tire once and my car broke down at the grocery store the other time--both times hubby was out of town!).

I already told you that I cut my phone and internet bill by switching to Comcast. I wasn't too happy with my first week of service because they kept having outages (I'm told that's rare). So I called in after the third one in a week and complained (nicely) and they credited my account for my first week of service! It can really pay to let companies know you're unsatisfied.

On that note, when I called to cancel my service with Qwest, they offered to give me six free months of internet if I stayed with them. I chose not to, but they said if I changed my mind at a later date they would offer me some good promotions. We shall see how Comcast does with my service for now, but it's good to know that I can get a good deal if it doesn't work out. See? Playing your company against their competition can save you money, too!

So, all-in-all I'd say I've had a successful time cutting down our spending. I'm not done yet, but I thought I'd let you know my progress and encourage you to do the same. We can make it through this hard economy!

If you're looking for ways to cut down on your grocery bill, you can read my article on Ehow. You can also check out the links I have on this page (toward the bottom) that will take you to coupon and freebie sites.

I wish you all the best of luck on lowering your bottom line. Now go save some money!

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.

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!