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Archive for August, 2006

My Search for a Lower Phone Bill

August 31st, 2006 at 03:35 pm

Today is one of those days I just want to yell at the top of my lungs. I got my Verizon phone bill today. It was like a slap in the face! Here I thought I had made a great decision that was going to save us money, but nope- I'm staring at a $100.00 phone bill. That includes our dsl, but $70 is just from the phone alone. I signed up for the new "freedom essentials" plan they just recently offered in my area. $50 to cover local & unlimited long distance plus caller id & other stuff. But I didn't account for almost $20 in fees & taxes.

That simply won't fit in my meager budget. So it's back to the drawing board I go- time to review my choices again. The problem is we've tried so many things with our phone bill that I'm frustrated.

In the past we've learned several things:
1) Long distance is a must for us
2) We really hate using 10-10 numbers & phone cards
3) Vonage works great but there isn't a local number, so we still need a landline
4) Using cellphones can be more expensive
5) Caller Id is something we really, really, really love & use all the time

I'm going about this smarter than before. I'm doing some serious searching and using my calulator to figure out what my bill would be after all the stupid fees. How low I can get my phone bill depends on if I can convince DH that we can try and do without caller id. I've come up with two options- both will use Pioneer for long distance that I found at lowermybills.com.


(BTW- Can anyone give me some tips on making my stuff like I have below line up right?)
Option A with Caller ID:
30.95 Local Pkg w/ features
3.25 Intrastate access
6.50 Interstate access charge
40.70
1.223% Fed tax
2.44 6% State tax
44.36
.19 Emergency Service
.69 Fed. Universal fee
45.29 Sub-total
29.95 DSL
2.70 Supplier fee
77.89 Total

Monthly Savings: about $20

Option B w/o Caller ID:
19.17 Basic Local Plan
3.25 Intrastate access
6.50 Interstate access charge
28.92
.87 ]3% Fed tax
1.74 6% State tax
31.53
.19 Emergency Service
.69 Fed. Universal fee
32.41 Sub-total
29.95 DSL
2.70 Supplier fee
65.06 Total

Monthly Savings: About $35

I'm opting for Plan B and just suffering without caller ID. I figure we can screen our calls other ways. Our phones have a "distinctive ring" we can set for numbers stored in the phone. We've never used it, but I'm gonna haul out the manual & check into it. Also we can let the answering machine pick-up first, but I don't like that idea. Or just simply hanging up or making an excuse. I don't favor that option either. But I'm willing to try if it'll save us an additional $15/mo.

The other thing I found is that Verizon offers 2 DSL speeds- the one I get is up to 3.0 Mbps for $30/mo. The have one thats up to 768 Kbps for $15/mo. I don't know how much the difference in speeds would be. It'd save us an additional $15/mo but I don't want to get stuck in a year contract and find out that it's not much better than dial-up.

Show Me the Money! (My Income Ideas)

August 30th, 2006 at 08:03 am

I've been brainstorming & researching all week about ways I can make money from home without investing alot of money. I'm looking for a way to make at least $50 a week for general income to go towards bills, debt & our EF. Plus I'm also thinking of little easy ways to make some chump change to add to my challenge jar. I've come up with several ideas. I think I've decided what I'm going to try, but I'm going to list them in case some one else can use some ideas too.

Additional Income Possiblities:
1) Find another kid to babysit regularly
2) Have drop-in babysitting 3 days a week
3) Do before & after school childcare
4) Have "Healthy Home" Parties to sell my Melaleuca products & Essential Oils
5) Start a Grocery Shopping & Delivery Service
6) Do Holistic Housecleaning
7) Buy clearance & yard sale items to sell on Ebay or Half.com
8) Try to sell homemade gift baskets & crafts
9) Become a party planner
10) Decorate & sell cakes

What I'm going to do is #5- Start a Grocery Shopping & Delivery Service! I'm actually really excited about this idea. I figure I should be able to really sell this because none of the grocery stores in town have delivery & my couponing makes for cheaper bills. I just have to hammer out all the details now.

Money for Challenge Jar Ideas:
1) Mystery Shopping
2) Paid Emails
3) Paid Surveys
4) Sell stuff I already own on Ebay or Half.com
5) Write reviews & articles for money
6) Roll all my pennies (I *never do!)
7) Take bottles back (DH normally does & whoever does keeps the money)
8) Sell my extra coupons on Ebay
9) Start doing rebates
10) Play scratch-off tickets LOL (Joking)

I plan on doing all of these- except #10 of course! I think it's a good idea I posted them here because than maby I'll actually do them.

Household Beneficial & The House Payment from Hell

August 29th, 2006 at 08:28 am

I decided to share the main reason why my DH and I are in the financial straits that we are. If anyone's bothered to look at our budget they'd notice our outrageously high house payment. It didn't use to be that way before we blindly trusted Household Beneficial.

Both DH and I were working when we got our house 7 years ago. Our house payment was very reasonable, less than $600, and it included an escrow account for taxes & insurance. But unfortunately we were young & stupid then. After a few years we each had racked up a ton of cc debt & had made a few other stupid decisions (like doing business with family which resulted on a repo in my DH's name!) Trying to avoid DH filing bankruptcy we added another idiotic decision to the mix and consolidated/refinanced our house & bills.

Unfortunately because we had really no idea what we were doing & the way Household Beneficial (I *HATE* that company!) did everything, they essentially screwed us over. I was paying all my bills through a non-profit debt consolidation place and it was going great. We wanted to consolidate my DH's (we weren't married then) bills. Household Beneficial didn't do what we wanted, they chose the ones to consolidate. That messed up my debt consolidation aggreement I had and didn't pay all DH's outstanding bills. It also raised our house payment up to $836, without an escrow account. Looking back I know we should of told them where to shove it, but I was younger, naive, and looked to my DH for almost all the major decisions. Unfortunately, he wasn't much brighter than me when it came to finances.

Then I lost my job before the Holidays & couldn't find another one. I was pregnant with our third son & we decided I was going to be a SAHM. Childcare alone would of taken almost all of my paycheck. Things spiraled out of control from there. My DH did end up filing bankruptcy and that was when we learned that we should of filed bankruptcy first & then refinanced the house. (Hindsight is always 20/20 they say.) The bankruptcy lawyer also told us that they've heard been many similar sob stories about how Household Beneficial railroaded their customers.

Over the years I've taken over our finances and have grown a lot smarter concerning them. That doesn't help us now though. I tried refinancing our house- not wanting any extra money, just a much lower interest rate to save money- and we can't. All because Household Beneficial used up almost all of our equity in our house. There's virtually nothing left. I was told that even if we sold our house for it's full value we would still owe Benefical a good chunk of money.

So we're stuck with a super high payment & interest rate. The only thing we can do is deal with it until we can pay the house down enough to get some equity back in it. We could try to increase the value of the house, but was honestly told that wouldn't be enough. So- if anyone's been where we are and has gotten out or has advice- I'd greatly appreciate hearing it. Thanks for listening to me rant about this and remember you was forewarned about ever dealing with Household Benefical.

Coupons = Free Items = A Happy Challenge Jar

August 28th, 2006 at 12:29 pm

I've always loved the idea of taking the money you saved using coupons and putting it away. Unfortunately my budget won't allow me to do that- I have to use coupons so the money we save can go towards bills & such. But I figured out an alternative idea- I decided that every time I get free items due to my coupon usage I'm going to put .10 into my challenge jar. (I wanted to do .25 for every free item, but I got 38 free items this weekend and I don't have the 9.50 to donate right now!)

So here's where I'm at with my challenge so far:

$33.35 Challenge Jar
3.80 for Free Items
1.92 Change found cleaning bedroom
39.07 New Total for Challeng Jar

The Grocery Game

August 27th, 2006 at 04:59 pm

I just gotta say I *LOVE* coupons! Months ago I was clueless- I never used coupons. I just bought generic brands & what I thought was stuff on a good sale. I was always running to the store & spending more money that I needed. Then I discovered The Grocery Game and my life was changed. I learned the phrases "Phantom Sale", "Rock-bottom Price" & "Stockpile". Now I'm a smart shopper. I don't fall for those fake sales & buying something without a coupon is unheard of. I routinely get items for free or close to it. My savings are normally around 70%, sometimes more, sometimes less and my family is eating better that we ever have.

My Miller's Grocery Tally

Friday- 70% Savings
$30.16 Shelf total
21.02 Coupon total
$9.14 Total paid

Saturday- 73% Savings
$44.29 Shelf total
31.96 Coupon total
$12.33 Total paid

Sunday- 80% Savings
$36.68 Shelf total
28.91 Coupon total
$7.77 Total paid

Bargain Shopping Day

August 26th, 2006 at 01:36 pm

Summer Saturday's are my bargain shopping days. If the weather's right I'm out scouring yard sales for unbeatable deals. For just $8.25 my great finds today were a like new Michigan Fleece & cute fall shirt for me, 3 school shirts, jean shorts, pj's, undies, snow pants & sandals for my 2 oldest DS and a New "Picnic Backpack".

Now we needed everything except the Picnic Backpack, but I've wanted one for so long I couldn't resist. And it was only $2.00!!! So I'll match that in my challenge jar and still be way happy!

**I'll add in a picture of it after supper!**

I also went to Goodwill today. I love that place! Especially on the last Saturday of the month- everything's 1/2 off! I only spent 2.62 there. Added to my winter decor with a snowflake tealight holder, fed my book obsession, got my middle DS a needed school box and picked up 2 Pokemon Invites & 2 pokemon napkins for my DS birthday party. So that's another $1.00 matched in my challenge jar.


$8.25 Yard Sales
+ 2.62 Goodwill
$10.87 Total Daily Spending

Challenge Jar
$30.35 Total Before
+ 3.00 Matched Spending
$33.35 New Total

My Laughable Budget

August 25th, 2006 at 12:45 pm

I know in order to get our finances under control that I have to have a budget. But it's just so depressing! I know that having (and sticking to) a budget does help, I've done it before. So, to help motivate myself I'm going to post my budget-in-progress here.


DH's Paychecks...............$1,600.00
Babysitting Income..............170.00
Total Income..................$1,770.00


I only counted my DH's and mine base pay. Normally he's able to get over-time, so our monthly income should be higher. I'm working on ways to increase our income. I'm going to try and find another kid to babysit, so that should help. I also read about a lady that does "drop-in" daycare and I think that might be a good idea. I was going to get another part-time job in the evenings when school started, but when DH and I discussed it we decided that would actually cost us money since that would limit his over-time. So I'm searching for ways to make money from home.

House Payment..............$827.00
Electric Bill........................95.00
Truck Payment................211.00
Credit Card #1.................15.00
Credit Card #2...................15.00
Cable..............................12.00
Car/House Insurance.........189.00
Telephone/Internet............85.00
Gas Bill.............................55.00
Trash Pickup.....................16.00
Total Bills....................$1,520.00


Our bills are not very negotionable. I'm reading up on ways to reduce them any way I can. I'm looking into a different trash pickup that is cheaper and learning the little things that will lower our gas & electric bills.

Car Gas..........................$80.00
Newspaper........................6.50
Bowling..........................120.00
Household Expenses..........23.50
Total Expenses.............$230.00


Now I know the first thing here that'll get comment on I'm sure is the $120 for bowling. Let me say now that it covers my DH and my 2 older DS to bowl in a league for 7 months (less for my DS). And that it takes place of any entertainment, eating out & extras. Plus my DH has said many times that maby he shouldn't bowl since it's going to really tighten our budget, but I'm insisting he does because it's the only time he takes to himself. Besides, my DH has a record of winning side pots and placing first in his league, winning more money back than he spends the entire league.

Asides from the bowling money- I'm hoping that I overestimated our gas needs and will be able to redirect some of that money elsewhere. I'm also lucky enough that I have an EBT card to pay for groceries for us and I'm a wickedly-good coupon shopper. I'm also hoping to have my parents cover at least one of my DS bowling as a Christmast present, as that would save me $32+ a month.

Emergency Fund.........$20.00

I know to many this measly $20 to an EF would seem ridiculously small. But I'm extremely proud because we have never been good savers, we've never had an EF at all before. Everytime I tried it would get pulled for other stuff. Now I've taken advantage of the Emigrant Direct bonus here and started an account with them. I'm thinking since it's not linked to our checking account (and therefore not too easily transferrable) that we'll actually save money for once. My current goal is just $500, with a $1,000 goal for the future.

So that's my laughable budget. But, hey- it's something to work with! It's gotta be better than the non-tracking floundering we was doing before, right?

Curbing Impulse Buys

August 24th, 2006 at 02:14 pm

I've been reading a whole bunch and have some new ideas for my challenge.

My first one is this:
Any unnecessary spending will have to be matched in my $20 challenge. For example- if I stop at Wendy's for a frosty then not only will it cost me the $1.05 for my treat, I'll have to put $1.05 in my jar too. So that means I'd be out double the money. I'm hoping this will curb my impulse buys. I usually don't treat myself to fast food very often, but I do have the hardest time saying no to clearance items! And maby I'll even take it one step further- if I do resist temptation then I'll take half the money I would of spent and put it in the challenge jar. That should help build it up!

And I'm devising other things that if I do then I'll pay my challenge jar. For now I've added $10.35 to it- the silver from my change purse that normally would get wasted on quarter machines for the boys & maby an occasional frosty. Smile

Previous Total: 20.00
Change Purse Silver: 10.35
Challenge Jar Total: 30.35

My $20 challenge starts today!

August 24th, 2006 at 01:56 pm

First off- I'm changing it from the original challenge so it'll be a little more realistic for me. I'm starting the $20 Challenge because I think it'll be a great motivator. I'm making this as a challenge to myself to see how small things really can make big differences. The end result will be applied to my dh's credit card and my goal of being debt-free.

These are the "rules" I've decided on:

1) My goal is $150 by 2007, subject to be raised if I find it's easier to obtain than predicted.
2) I'm starting out fresh- with only $20 and no past savings (like current change tin) to be put towards the challenge.
3) I can use challenge money to "fund" sales that will bring more money. (For example- selling things on ebay or half.com)
4) Any "non-income money" can be used towards the challenge. Such as rebates, paid surveys, pop bottle returns & such.

I'm using the $20 profit I still have leftover from my garage sale a few weeks ago to start my challenge. I think I'm going to label a jar and put it by the computer for daily reminder/inspiration. Well, I guess that's all I can think of now- I might come back and add or modify things later. Wish me luck!

Starting Balance: 20.00

Getting Started

August 24th, 2006 at 10:07 am

I'm a newbie to all this blog stuff, but I'm hoping it'll help me keep on the straight & narrow financial path I've set for myself. I've spent most of the day checking out other blogs here and seeing how they're set up. I've gotten quite a few ideas & insprirations from people- I hope no one minds if I "borrow" some stuff. Otherwise I don't have a clue on how to get started.