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Cell Plan, Check. Groceries, Check. What’s Next?

Okay, so I’m in a weird must-cut-all-bills state of mind.

Cuts Already Made

First it was the easy cuts like finding a different electric provider like I do at the end of every contract.  Then it was the harder ones.  Cutting cable and switching to Ting were big leaps for us.  Then we cut biweekly house keeping, which we had for 7+ years.  I thought our heads may explode without our big luxuries.  Now it’s become like a game.  I need to get a real hobby, huh?  ;-)  Let’s look at this piece by piece:

Budget Cuts Made and Future Plans

  • Income Taxes – $2250  Can’t change this…
  • Home Mortgage – $990  Can’t change this right now either…
  • Home Insurance/Property Taxes/HOA – $800  I keep fighting the good fight with the appraisal board, but this is what it is for now.
  • Rent House Home Insurance/Property Taxes – $350  Diddo.
  • Food – $500  Putting a pin in this for right now.  Our potlucks are a main entertainment expense as well as food-heavy.
  • Health Insurance – $320  This was the lowest plan I could find that had anything we needed.
  • Electricity – $150  Switched to Discount Power a couple of months ago since they were at 8.9 cents per k/h.  So far, so good.
  • Gasoline – $150  We don’t drive excessively for fun and gas prices are at $1.83 per gallon here right now.  This is as good as it gets.
  • Car Insurance – $80  This is for full coverage on two vehicles…I can’t find better.
  • Cell Phones – $60  Yay, Ting!
  • Internet (DSL) – $55  WANT TO LOOK INTO THIS
  • Lawn Care – $50 (average over the year)  I’m good with this luxury.
  • Water – $50  Sadly, our public utility district water company is just expensive.
  • Natural Gas – $40  Only one provider.
  • Life Insurance – $30  Solid price for a $250,000 policy on both of us.
  • Medicines – $20  This is better when our allergies behave.
  • Netflix – $10  We use this daily since we cut cable.  And I cannot wait for the new season of Orange is the New Black!
  • Other Entertainment – $50  We generally keep this to $30-ish for a movie night or something, so I may lower this target.
  • Miscellaneous and Cash – $250  Stuff pops up and I think it’s unrealistic to think otherwise…

Next Target – Internet

Looks like the only two categories I really have a shot of changing right now are food and the internet.  I am mulling over getting crazy with our food budget.  This leaves the internet as my next target!  Let’s see if I can find high-speed providers for less than $55 a month…

Overall, I am pretty surprised that there isn’t much more I can do.  I guess once we actually, voluntarily gave up biweekly house keeping, I knew that we were towards the end of our options, lol.  I literally started this post and just ran with it.  I bet if I do find cheaper internet, food may be hit next…

What budget cuts are you looking into?

 

Ting Wireless FOR THE WIN!!!

I wrote about switching from Sprint to Ting Wireless last month and promised to update you once we received our first bill.  Here it is, and I am AMAZED:

Ting 1st Bill

Our Bill is Down Nearly $100 a Month!!!

Yep, our first month’s Ting bill came in at a whopping $55.38.  We were paying $150 a month with Sprint for the exact same network for unlimited everything.  That means we saved more than $94 in just one month!!!

To do the math:

  • Sprint’s early contract termination fee:  -$230
  • Ting’s reimbursement:  +$100
  • Signing up using a friend’s referral code:  +$25
  • First Month’s Pure Savings:  +$95
  • Net Loss in the first month = $10

We are only out $10 after a month, and we will make that up and then some in the next month!  Then it’s pure savings!  This is just too cool!!!

Other Cool Features

And if saving a butt load isn’t reason enough to be happy, I also like:

  • I was able to keep my Samsung Galaxy S3.
  • I was able to keep my phone number.
  • The service seems to be the same for me on everything.  My husband thinks that the data part is a tiny bit spottier, but he isn’t sure whether it’s the plan or the fact that we were traveling so much in December.  He doesn’t care at all and is ecstatic with our new bill.
  • It is easy it is to track our used minutes, messaging, and data.
  • You can set up alerts or even blocks to keep you informed on what you are using or to cut it off completely when you hit your maximums.  We just set alerts.
  • Their customer service reps are friendly.
  • They credited my account the $100 within 2 days of submitting Sprint’s final bill.
  • They credited my account the $25 within 24 hours of using my friend’s referral code.
  • They offer $25 for the new user and the current customer when you use a referral code.  Mine is https://ze1f6b36368.ting.com/

If you want a walk through on how to sign up, please check out this past post for all of the details.

Again, it seems like Ting is an excellent idea if you don’t mind Android phones instead of Apple products.  It also makes sense if you don’t tend to use more than 1 gig of data a month.

Yay for switching, finally!  Please let me know if you have any questions!

Ting Wireless – Still Super Happy that I Switched

There are referral links in this post, but I found out about that program after I already switched to Ting.  Oh, and if you use one of these referral links to switch too, we both get $25 credits to our Ting accounts!

About 17 days ago, I finally switched my husband and me from Sprint to Ting Wireless.  I had been procrastinating since they were new-ish and an unknown.  Plus, we had been with Sprint for 10+ years and had gotten used to paying $150 a month for our two 4G Samsung’s with unlimited everything (yeah, we’re Android people).

Well, Ting is temporarily covering 50% of early cancellation fees from other wireless carriers this month instead of their normal 25%, so I switched about 17 days ago. And it’s been awesome!

So Happy with Ting

Switching over our lines was as easy as they said.  I’ll re-post the step-by-step below again.  Our service hasn’t changed at all.  They use the Sprint and Verizon networks.  If anything, our data is slightly faster.  PLUS, I just submitted our last Sprint bill with the $200 cancellation fees to Ting last Thursday, and Ting just credited our account with a $100 credit this past Saturday!  They are super fast!

Saving Money

Based on our current usage doubled (which is actually over-estimating by 3-4 days), our bill will be for two lines, about 1250 minutes, about 2500 text messages, and about 450 megabytes of data. That will come to $70 plus taxes, so less than $85 total. We were paying $150 at Sprint.  And if we keep our calling minutes to 1000 or less, our bill will actually be $53 plus taxes instead, so around $65.  I’ll let you know what happens.

You can see their rate tables on their site – it’s nice and easy to select what you use and it’ll tell you what it’ll cost.

We paid Sprint $229 total to leave early ($200 plus taxes and random fees). The $100 credit from Ting will cover our first bill with them in early January and leave some credit for us for February. I would have paid $300 in those two months with Sprint, so I’m ahead almost immediately!

If you end up wanting to switch, use my refer-a-friend code and you and I will both get a $25 Ting credit. :-) https://ze1f6b36368.ting.com/

I swear, I shouldn’t have put off switching.  There are also other options like Republic Wireless but I wanted to keep using the phones we have right now. I don’t know of options for IPhone users since I’ve never looked into it.  If you use a ton of data, make sure to look closely to see if you will be saving a lot.  We use less than 500 megabytes a month (500,000 kilobytes according to Sprint).  Good luck!

Ting

How to Switch to Ting

From my Post, Finally Switched to Ting:

  1. Look at your last cell phone bill to see how many minutes, text messages, and data that you use and how much you pay.  This was actually the hardest part for me since I lost our login.  But once I was in, woot!
  2. This is the fun part!  Check out Ting’s rates for the same usages.  Keep in mind that even if you have multiple lines, add up the total minutes, messages, and data as entities unto themselves.  Ting charges $6 per line and then the amounts stated for the pooled totals.
    For example, my husband and I generally use about 800 minutes, 1500 text messages, and 500-600 megabytes of data.  We pay $135+$15 in taxes.  The same at Ting is $12 (2 lines) +$18 (minutes) + $8 (messages) +$19 (data) =$57 plus taxes.  $150 compared to $75-ish.  I’ll post an update after our first bill.
  3. Create a quick account with Ting.
  4. Call Ting and tell them that you have a referral code to use – https://ze1f6b36368.ting.com/
  5. Use Ting’s Activation page to activate a new device with Ting or to port your number to Ting.  This can take up to 24 hours.  It took about 2-3 hours on our phones.  I suggest doing it overnight.  They will email your when it’s done and explain how to finish the download process.  Takes less than 10 minutes after that initial few hours.
  6. Once your phone has been switched over, call your previous carrier to request your final bill that will include the early termination fees if there are any.  This bill can be online or on paper.
  7. Turn that bill with the early termination fees over to Ting.  They will reimburse the 25%-50% within 2-3 business days.
  8. Enjoy your lower bills!

Oh, and if you forget to use my referral code or someone else’s in the excitement of signing up, you can call them the next day and they will still give both people the $25 credit!

 

Finally Switched to Ting!

There are referral links in this post, but I found out about that program after I already switched to Ting.  Oh, and if you use one of these referral links to switch too, we both get $25 credits to our Ting accounts!

I’ve been mentioning it on and off, but we finally followed through on it.  We switched to Ting wireless services from Sprint yesterday.

Why We Switched to Ting

It’s about the money, honey!  We’ve been with Sprint for more than 10 years now.  Until last year, I didn’t know of options like Ting and Republic Wireless, and I wasn’t interested in trying out the pay-as-you-go plans I do know about since we do use more than 500 minutes a month, 1500-2000 text messages, and lots of data.  I knew the existence of options in a vague way, but I liked ours the best.  We paid $150 a month and had unlimited everything on two 4G phones.  It was easy and we didn’t need to think about anything.  But then I saw Ting’s rates about 6 months ago…

I also saw that we could get exactly what we have now with Ting for $50-$75 less per month.  Ting uses the Sprint network so our experience would be the same.  Same network, same 4G.  Oh, and we could bring our own phones since they are approved.  AND we could keep our phone numbers!

Did I switch immediately?  Nope.  I procrastinated because it was an unknown, and I kept prioritizing everything else.  Besides, the contract cancellation fees would stink, right?  Yeah, but Ting would cover 25%.  I wiffle-waffled anyway.

But yesterday, I received an email from Ting announcing that they are currently covering 50% of the contract cancellation fees up to $150.  I just couldn’t put it off any more.  I called, I figured out what I needed to do, and we have switched cell phone carriers.

My Samsung Galaxy S3

Yep, my actual phone!

How to Switch to Ting

Take it from a procrastinator, you should look into this and just switch if it’s a killer deal for you too.  And it is not as daunting as I thought it would be:

  1. Look at your last cell phone bill to see how many minutes, text messages, and data that you use and how much you pay.  This was actually the hardest part for me since I lost our login.  But once I was in, woot!
  2. This is the fun part!  Check out Ting’s rates for the same usages.  Keep in mind that even if you have multiple lines, add up the total minutes, messages, and data as entities unto themselves.  Ting charges $6 per line and then the amounts stated for the pooled totals.
    For example, my husband and I generally use about 800 minutes, 1500 text messages, and 500-600 megabytes of data.  We pay $135+$15 in taxes.  The same at Ting is $12 (2 lines) +$18 (minutes) + $8 (messages) +$19 (data) =$57 plus taxes.  $150 compared to $75-ish.  I’ll post an update after our first bill.
  3. Create a quick account with Ting.
  4. Use Ting’s Activation page to activate a new device with Ting or to port your number to Ting.  This can take up to 24 hours.  It took about 2-3 hours on our phones.  I suggest doing it overnight.  They will email your when it’s done and explain how to finish the download process.  Takes less than 10 minutes after that initial few hours.
  5. Once your phone has been switched over, call your previous carrier to request your final bill that will include the early termination fees if there are any.  This bill can be online or on paper.
  6. Turn that bill with the early termination fees over to Ting.  They will reimburse the 25%-50% within 2-3 business days.
  7. Enjoy your lower bills!

I’m really looking forward to updating you all with my first bill in about a month.  Wish me luck!

Friends Are Priceless in More Than One Way

Friendship is emotionally priceless.  It makes a bad day tolerable and turns fun events into stellar, life-long memories.  It can also save you money.  ;-)

The 2014 Texas Renaissance Festival

It’s that time of year again, and I accompanied my best buds to the Texas Renaissance Festival (TRF) on the opening weekend this past Sunday.  It ended up being a rainy day for the first couple of hours, but the last 3-4 hours were clear and much drier.  I also noticed one other, giant difference.  I was comfortable the entire day!

My friend and house mate, Mandy, had replaced the super tight arm bands off of my usual Renaissance Festival dress with gold fabric she had left from a past project.  Not only did my dress still look as awesome as ever, but it was comfortable for the whole day!  No cut off blood supply, no red marks on my arms when I took off my outfit, and no tiny holes where the fabric had started pulling apart because of the strain!  Woot!

Cost of Dress in 2011 – $40
Years Worn to TRF – 4 years and running
Cost of Dress Alteration from Mandy – $0
Total Cost of Costume from 2011-2014 – $10 per year

That’s just fantabulous!

Renaissance Festival Dress in 2011

Here was my dress in 2011. The arms were already stupid tight, but I didn’t know that they could be fixed…

Renaissance Festival Dress in 2014

Left to Right:  Costumed Awesome person that I don’t know, Mandy, H behind her, Dee, me, and another awesome costumed lady that was very much in character.  Now my dress still looks great AND doesn’t hurt! Who would have thought that could happen?!  Now, don’t judge the overall dress or outfit from this picture though.  We had just finished being rained on for 2 hours.  Yes, those are two awesome costumes from Hocus Pocus.  Oh, and yes, my blue hair has faded to a sort of teal/green color.  We’ll be dying it fuchsia or magenta soon!

 

The Friendship Barter System

This is not a post condoning the outright use of your friends.  This is a post to point out the value of bartering, the give and take, when it comes to friendships.  Mandy is a seamstress and makeup artist.  She has fun doing craftsy projects and doing our nails during Girls’ Nights.  She was the one that made me really look like the Black Widow and Cat Woman at the last Comicpalooza.  She spoils us rotten with her talents.  Her boy, H, is good with his hands and fixes what he can around the house.  Our friend, Will, is an amazing artist that made me the most awesome Halloween decorations I own.  You get the point…all of our friends are extremely talented in some way, and we all trade our talents to each other as needed.  :-D

When it comes to my own offerings, I am not craftsy and my cooking is still improving.  BUT I am the go-to person in our friend group for money questions, anything to do with online website stuff, and they all know that I love them and will be a listening ear or shoulder to cry on at any time.  Mandy likes to run budget stuff by me to double-check herself.  I helped Dee create her own budget last year, which helped her reach her goal for her trailer purchase recently.  I’ve also helped Mandy and her boy find their most recent cheap but running car, and I helped our other friend, Isabelle, work out a good deal for her nearly-brand-new Honda Civic.  I tagged along with Dee to find her trailer, although she found a great one on her own a few months after that.  So I may not be as great with the detail-oriented stuff like my closest buddies, but I do try to make up for it whenever I can be useful.  ;-)

Do you remember to ask your group of friends for suggestions when stuff pops up?  You may be surprised on what everyone can bring to the joint table.  :-)

I’m a Cruise Addict and Other Financial Oddities

I saw this question left in my newsletter post this month from Alexis (thank you for subscribing and commenting!):

What financial things do you do that makes you think you are a little overboard? Is there anything you do to save money that makes you think “OMG, I’ve really lost it now”?

Cruise Addiction

I have gotten better at judging myself for my financial oddities, lol.  I also understand that Alexis was asking about my savings habits BUT my main financial oddity is at the other end of the spectrum.  I am addicted to cruising.  I love cruise ships, dining rooms where I’m spoiled, ports of call, and just showing up to scheduled activities all day.  If I won the lottery tomorrow, I’d be booked for several cruises in a row that would start next week after #FinCon14.  ;-)

In case you haven’t been reading for the entire last year, my addiction is fed regularly.  We took a 5 day cruise in early September 2013, a 7 day one in January 2014, and another 7 day one in August 2014.  In my defense, I did at least find great deals.  All three of those cruises plus taxes, tips, excursions, and extras came to less than $4600 total for the two of us.

I am now attempting to talk my hubby into wanting to go again in either November-December 2014 or February-March of 2015.  I’d prefer both but do want to save for another rental property as well and I know it’ll make it harder if I keep spending $1200-$2000 every few months on what should probably not be happening more than every year or so, hahaha.

Other Money Oddities

Funny Piggy Bank

On the savings side:

  • I haven’t bought any retail clothing in more than a year other than my bride’s maid dress.  I make the exception for undergarments, but all of my shirts, pants, shoes, and dresses have been bought from second hand shops and Goodwill since early 2013.
  • I gave up most drinks at restaurants more than 10 years ago to save that $2-$4 per visit.  I just order water.  I will splurge a few times a year on lemonade or iced tea, but that’s about it.  This isn’t that weird but it came to mind.
  • We have more than 10 accounts at CapitalOne 360 because I manage money better when it is pre-assigned to specific expenses and goals.
  • I save more by using credit cards than cash.  Honestly.  When I have cash, I spend it without remembering what I spent it on.  It’s like drinking water.  But when I use a credit card, I see the charges every time I log in – they stare me in the face and force me to spend less especially towards the end of the month.  I’ve had a credit card since I turned 18, and I have never carried a balance or accrued interest charges in any way.
  • I re-use junk mail envelopes to leave money for our lawn guy.  I think it’s funny as hell that I don’t mind paying $35 to have my lawn mowed, edged, and weeded, BUT heaven forbid I use a fresh envelope for the cash…
  • I haven’t had an ATM usage fee since college in 2001.  I despise getting charged to withdraw and spend money.  So I used to go out of my way to find my own bank ATM’s just to avoid that $1.50-$2.50 charge.  Now I keep a small-medium cash pile at home so I don’t need to use ATM’s at all.

What are your financial oddities?  Please share!!!

And the Winner Is…Patience

Last Friday, I posted about choosing between our want list and buying a new rental property.  Well, we’ve decided to postpone everything for at least a few months.  :-)

Patience for the Win

Patience

I usually love making money decisions, but this time around felt different.  I felt awkward.  Then I realized that every time we squirrel away a large nut, we spend it or invest it nearly immediately.  We always keep a solid emergency fund, but the rest seems to flow in and out like water.

For example, when we had saved up $50,000 at age 23 in 2007, we invested $15,000 in a friend’s business (that failed miserably) and $25,000 into our first home.  It took us about 2 years to save it and was gone within 4 months.  When my online work started taking off unexpectedly in 2011, the money I brought in started adding up quickly.  Within 9 months, we had paid off the remaining $23,000 left on our first house and started building our new one which used up about $50,000 for the 20% down plus the closing costs by October 2012.  When we got a large tax refund this past April 2014, we threw the majority of it to our Roth IRA’s as soon as it touched our account.

We are not patient people by nature.  And we fear missing out on opportunities the first time they present themselves even if there is a good chance that they will be back.  Generally, I love that about us.  But in this case, waiting 3-6 more months to see what sort of cash we can really hide away will probably be the least stressful idea.

Plans Now

We already have an easy $20,000 set aside for a future investment.  That’s not touching any of our emergency or backup accounts – just what we were going to use for investments or property anyway.  We’re going to see what we make over the next 3-6 months with our online endeavors.  If it’s enough to cover our average of $7000 a month for taxes and bills (you can check out our budget for all of the details), then we will put aside all of my pet sitting income and the sports officiating income that Mr. BFS earns into the investment savings.  Then we can check out our cash-for-investments account again in early 2015 and see if we indeed put enough aside to buy and fix up a rental property.  With any luck, we will have put $40,000+ aside total, which would be more than enough to buy a $100,00-$125,000 rental property AND get hubby’s Lasik, get him signed up for that college reffing camp, buy some media room furniture, AND take another cruise.

I have always been a fan of having my cake and eating it too.  This makes me happy.  This makes hubby happy.  I love it when we both come to the same conclusion.  And I should try using patience a little more often anyway.  :-D