Showing posts with label lower your bills. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lower your bills. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Even Better than I Thought

So as you may remember, we decided to get rid of our satellite service to save some money. We went ahead and ordered the Netflix streaming service too after a while. The verdict? We love it! We don't do the DVD plan with it, because really, we already have quite the collection as it is--and also, they've raised their price on the combo from what it used to be (which was only two dollars extra if you subscribed to both streaming and DVDs, but now the price is double at $15.98).

We've discovered new series to watch, as well as got to catch up on episodes we'd missed out on with old favorites. Our new favorite is Psych. Too funny! We try to watch an episode each week together if we can. There's also some old movie favorites they offer on there too. They're not always the more popular movies you hear about, but we've found a lot of good ones nonetheless.

As for the new episodes of any series that we can't get through Netflix yet, we can usually find those on the network websites. It's free to watch, but the downside is that we do have to watch the commercials. Perish the thought! Yeah, I remember the day when that was a given. Oh how DVR has spoiled us over the years!

I hadn't realized how satisfied I was with the way things worked out until this week when Dish Network started calling us to get us to come back. Keep in mind that we were happy with their service for the most part, and they were very generous with the discounts because I'd call them and remind them that I was a longtime customer (about 10 years long!) and ask for them to give me a better deal. They would every time. I always had a discount on my bill. In fact, I even wrote an article letting people know how they could do that themselves. You can find it on Hubpages here.

Anyway, I wasn't even tempted to go back. The kids are happy with what's available to them on Netflix. Hubby gets to watch all those History Channel shows he loves so much and I get to find all those romantic British period pieces based on the novels I've loved and even many that I didn't know about. Win-Win!

Oh, and I thought I should mention that Hulu is another option you can look into for new episodes for many TV shows. It's free to use their regular service, or they even have a paid service that offers even more called Hulu Plus. I've only ever used the free service though.

So I just thought I'd let you know how great it's been working out for us. Maybe I've even inspired some of you who looking to save some money to make that jump too.

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, April 8, 2009

HASP Part 3

I've realized that I only detailed half of what Obama's Homeowner Affordability and Stability Plan offers so far in my articles here. I wrote about the part of the program I was applying for, and completely neglected the other side, which could benefit other homeowners in different situations from ours, but still serious.

HASP isn't just for those who have received a pay cut and are in need of a loan modification. It's also for those who need to refinance out of an ARM or higher interest rate, but their homes have lost value and so they haven't been able to do that. The catch for this part of the program is that you have to be current on your loan and the investors or guarantors in your loan have to be Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. You can call your lender to find out if your loan is eligible or check here. Don't make any assumptions until you make that call.

If you want to read some examples of families who have qualified under each of the HASP parts, you can go here. That link is in the Making Home Affordable government website. If you go to that site, you can find out if you may qualify for either part of HASP, and what your next step should be if you do.

Not all mortgage companies offer HASP, but most of the major ones do. You can go to Hope Now to find out if your company participates. If they don't, Hope Now also offers free counseling help and could help you figure out your next step. This site is entirely free, as is all HASP information and processes. Beware of scams. You can also call Hope Now at 1-888-995-HOPE.

If your loan is FHA, they are doing their own program for financial hardship that is supposed to parallel HASP. Call your lender for details on that.

As for what's happening with our HASP application, it's still up in the air. Countrywide has just started choosing eligible customers and sending out packets to them. I called them this morning (1-800-669-0102) and they said they only started mailing today, and if I qualify, then I should get one in about a week to ten days. Apparently our status isn't in the computer yet, but they didn't seem concerned by this. If, at the end of 10 days, I don't receive a packet, they said to call back and check my status again.

I'm not losing hope or getting discouraged by any of this. If we're meant to stay here, we will. If we're not, then I figure we must have a purpose somewhere else. In the meantime, I will do what I can for my family. That's all anyone can do.

Good luck to you all. If you have any questions, you can more than likely find them in the links I've given you in my HASP articles. If not though, or you just want to talk, feel free to email me.

If you don't qualify for any part of HASP, don't lose hope. You can still call your mortgage company about other financial hardship programs they offer.

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.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Loan Modification to Save Your Home

I spent over three hours this morning getting together all the materials I needed to do a loan modification with our mortgage company. We looked into refinancing first, but while our credit is good for the moment, our house has dropped at least $40,000 of its value in the last two years. Because of that we wouldn't meet the required loan-to-value ratio and so we didn't continue down that avenue.

We thought of selling, but we couldn't get what we needed and none of the houses in our area are selling (and there are so many!). So that idea was also quickly scrapped. I decided to find out what exactly our options were, and I'm going to share them here with you.

We were told by several of our friends the nightmare stories of trying to get the mortgage companies to work with you. We were told mixed stories of what your status on the loan had to be (some said you had to have missed a few payments, others said the loan had to be current). I decided to stop taking other people's words and experiences for it and give my mortgage company (Countrywide Financial) a call.

They were surprised, it seemed, to hear from me. "But you're not behind on your payments and your credit is good." Yes, I know this, and I'd like to keep it that way, but with no end in sight to hubby's pay cut, our savings is nearly gone, we're eating mainly out of our food storage and things don't look promising, to say the least. When I told them this, they transferred me to their Financial Hardship Department and I talked to a consultant there.

The woman I talked to was very friendly and helpful. She asked me a few questions about our situation, I answered her, and then she asked if I would be willing to tell them all of our expenses, fax them our recent tax returns, a 4506-T form, checking, savings and 401k statements, credit card and loan statements, and the last two months' pay stubs. I also had to write a Letter of Financial Hardship. I was more than willing to do whatever she asked if it meant we might be able to afford to stay in our home.

I got the 4506-T form off the IRS website. I found out what a financial hardship letter should include. I went to the Making Home Affordable Government website which I was told by the mortgage consultant to look at. On that site you can find out if you may be eligible and if your mortgage company participates in Obama's Homeowner Affordability and Stability Program (HASP) set up in February. So far, it looks like we meet the requirements.

What HASP does is lower your mortgage payment within 31% of your gross monthly income. They can lower your interest rate down to as much as 2%. If that won't do it, then they look at extending the life of your loan to 40 years. If approved, you are put on "probation" for three months. If you make your payment on time for those three months, then you get that lowered rate for five years. If, in that five years, you have made all your payments on time, they will pay $5,000 toward the principal of your loan balance.

After five years, your interest rate will increase one percent each year--but will at no time go higher than what the current rate was at the time you modified (currently around 5%). This would be a great option for us, so we've sent them all the information they've asked for and are now awaiting the approval. They say the whole process takes about a month, so we'll just have to wait and see how it goes.

Beware of Foreclosure Rescue Scams. This whole process is free and can be done by yourself. You do not need to pay anyone for this process and should not be charged for a single part of it. If you wish to know more about this program, go to the FAQ on the website.

If you're struggling to make your mortgage payment, please look into this program. If your bank doesn't offer it to you, ask them to. Don't necessarily take no for an answer. Ask to speak to someone else if you're not getting anywhere. Keep calm, you'll get further if you're clear-headed and non-threatening. Be persistent, the squeaky wheel gets the grease:)

If you have any questions throughout this process feel free to shoot me an email. I'll be happy to help if I can.

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!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Find out about Your Credit for Free

This is such an important subject, and one that is too often overlooked by so many people. Do you know what's on your credit report? There was a time, I'm ashamed to admit, that I could actually say no to that question. Once I set out to change that (when we were interested in buying a house), I had a crash course in credit bureaus, credit scores and credit repair.

You can go to and get all three of your credit reports for free, without having to get out your credit card or subscribe to a service. This site takes you to Equifax, Transunion and Experian. You can do it all in one visit, or you can spread it out over the year. Since it takes you directly to the credit bureaus' sites, you can also take action immediately if you find errors on your credit report. You can use this site to gain access to your reports once a year for each credit bureau.

You might not think that there would be errors on your credit report, but you could very well be wrong. We found out, by doing this very check-up, that there was another man, living in our state, who shares my husband's exact name. I only wish I were kidding. We found hospital bills, cell phone bills and judgments against this other man on my husband's credit report. It was easy enough to fix once we found it, since the social security numbers and birthdays didn't match up, but if we hadn't fixed it, it could have prevented us from getting any credit.

Errors do matter and they can affect whether or not you get a job, how much you pay for insurance, whether or not you're approved for a loan and even whether or not a landlord will approve your application for renting a place.

If you find an error in your report, you don't have to hire anyone to fix it. It's so easy to fix it yourself. You dispute the item online (which can be done at the credit bureau's website), or even over the phone if you prefer. You will also want to call the company that is involved in the item you're disputing to make the updated report go through faster (and in your favor).

We had so many errors in our report, that by the time I was finished disputing and making phone calls, our credit rating went up about 100 points. This dramatically lowered the interest rates we qualified for, and our home and auto insurance rates were dropped quite a bit as well.

Also know that if you have been turned down for credit, refused insurance or lost out on a job because of your credit, this automatically entitles you to a free credit report. So don't be afraid to get yours ASAP!

Here are the credit bureaus websites. You cannot access your free yearly credit reports by using these though. For that, use the link I gave you at the beginning of this blog.

For more information on credit issues, check out this site I found:

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.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

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!