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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
1.223% Fed tax
2.44 6% State tax
.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
.87 ]3% Fed tax
1.74 6% State tax
.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.

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
Car/House Insurance.........189.00
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
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?