Happy Friday!  This has been a light posting week for me as my mind has been pre-occupied with other stuff.  I can’t wait to share it all with you through future posts.  Some good….some bad….but mostly good!

Also, congratulations to all the Plutus Award finalists!  I didn’t make it this time, but that’s OK…there is always next year!

Here are some articles I found interesting this week…hope you enjoy as well!

Derek from Life & My Finances explains how we can Exchange Time Instead of Money I ABSOLUTELY LOVE this concept!  Check it out!

Jacob from My Personal Finance Journey shares How to Select the Right Health Insurance When Taking a New Job.  Great recap!

Get Rich Slowly shares the High Costs of Infertility.  This article hit close to home…not only is the monetary cost high, but there are emotional costs attached as well.

ChristianPF asks the hypothectical question: If God Promised To Give You Anything, What Would You Ask For?  Hmmmm????

Wisebread lists 5 Things to Say to Your Boss to Get a Promotion or Raise
OK — I admit….I looked for a “list of 5″ to include….after 3 or 4 weeks….its now a thing to do!

 

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Random

I thought I’d switch it up a bit with a fun post ~ 20 random things about me.  Hope you enjoy this lighter post and share a couple random things or maybe something we have in common in the comments section!

1. I have a black belt in Matsubayashi Shorin-Ryu Karate

2. The weirdest thing I’ve eaten is sun dried rattle snake (tasted like fish)

3. I’ve had the same cell phone number for at least 12 years…that has to be near a record!

4. I’ve known what I wanted to do since I was 8 years old….my career ambitions were pretty spot on.

1 Set of my gifted Swords

1 Set of my gifted Swords

5. I am in the process of adopting my son

6. I’ve been married for less than 5 years

7. I’m left handed

8. I don’t like chocolate

9. I used to play trombone and was a drum major in high school

10. I’ve always liked school

11. I played tennis my freshman year in HS; now I play racquetball occasionally

12. I don’t like running…its boring

13. I’m an introvert

14. But I like teaching and am OK in front of crowds….go figure

15. My faith in Christ is my foundation

16. I won the invention convention in elementary school and was awarded a patent that I’m sure has since expired

17. I want to be a world traveler one day

18. I was gifted Samurai swords…..twice (see #1)

19. I love sushi

20. I still enjoy a few video games from time to time

What about you? It’s your turn….

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change

This week’s FIVE MINUTE FRIDAY word is CHANGE.  Like last week, immediately a song came to mind.  I guess it was all those year’s in worship arts ministry.  The song that came to mind goes:

A wonderful change…has come over me…..

I started to reflect on all the changes I’ve experienced in my life.  I only have 5 minutes so I couldn’t possibly cover them all…not to mention…I’m sure bored.  But here are the major changes:

- Accepting Christ at the age of 12; but really committing in my adult years.  It was the best decision I’ve ever made!  It was a decision that would impact every other area of my life’s decisions, choices, speech, etc.

- Getting married four years ago.  More than my last name changed on our wedding day.  Two became one, I was accountable to someone else and they were accountable to me.  My hubby would see me at my best and my worst.

- And the most recent change took place less than a year ago when our soon to be adopted son was placed in our home.  I experienced a new type of love.  I realized I could survive on less sleep than I though.  I developed super-sonic hearing and ability to tune out noises that would have agitated me in the past.  My cell phone camera is now filled with pictures of a little toddler…lest I miss a moment of his growth.  My circle of friends shifted to include those with children who understand adventures in potty training, naps, and the excitement of my little ones latest escapade.  The latest significant change in my life is becoming MOM.

Can’t wait to read the other great FMF posts on CHANGE!

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Alexa Ranking!

Alexa Ranking!

Before I get to the roundup ~ I want to share some exciting news.  You may remember me stating I was going to take part in the Yakezie Challenge.  Well, I recently met one of the goals…that is an Alexa Score of <200,000!  If you don’t know what an Alexa ranking is, the short version is it is sort of like what Nielsen Ratings do for television.  Anyone who has the Alexa toolbar has the sites they visit applied to the rank.  The toolbar is free and the more people that use it, the more accurate the overall rankings of websites.  So if you don’t have the toolbar, I would encourage you to get it.  And if you are a personal finance or lifestyle blogger, I would encourage you to look into Yakezie.

This week’s roundup is dedicated to my top commenters as they are obviously visiting the site and keeps it engaging.  Thanks for your continued support!  

Tennille from Two Kids & A Budget lists 5 family fun things to do in August (there is that list of 5 again).  We have about a week left in August…let’s make the best of it!

Kirsten from Indebted Mom lists 6 ways to earn money from being fit. Makes me want to get in shape!

Kara from The Daily Whisk explains How to Be More Frugal Than You Already Are.  I could always benefit from more frugal tips!

Daisy from Praire Eco-Thrifter lists 4 Ways Pet Ownership Can Benefit Children.  I agree with this and see the benefits of between my dog and son.

Jay from Thinking Wealthy asks Is My Company 401K Above Average?  An interesting read on what is common and what is average.  Where does your company rank?

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Mom Makes Sense Around the Web

Guest Post on Wealth GospelYour Finances Simplified With the BASIC Loop

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Those that have been following this blog, my comments on other blogs, or my twitter feed know that I would love nothing more than to cut the cable.  Unfortunately, hubby is not ready to cut the cord.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t try to get our bill reduced.

I was inspired by an article written by J. Money / Budgets are Sexy where he saved 47% on car insurance from a 15 minute phone call.  Well, it was a Saturday morning and a had some time to kill before my next errand.  I didn’t feel like going through the line items for 3 vehicles, but I did want to try to attack the cable bill!  The call went something like this:

customer service representative

Customer Service Agent

Agent: Thank you for calling _____ cable how can I help you?

Me:  I’d like to review my services; frankly my bill is too high and if we can’t get it down I may have to cancel altogether (yes, I was bluffing)

Agent: OK – I’ll see what I can do.  Oh, I see you are under our old pricing plan.  Let me see what the difference would be on the new plan.

Me:  OK great – what is the difference in services under the 2 plans?

Agent:  There is no difference

Me: (internally storing that bit of information….)

Agent:  Under the new plan you will save $22/month
There was some other chatter about digital boxes, how many, how much, etc…mostly irrelevant

Me:   That’s great!  When did the new pricing plan go into effect?

Agent: April of this year

Me:  April through August is 5 months of lost savings…why wasn’t I converted over?  I would like to be credited for $110 in lost savings

Agent: Customers had the opportunity to opt into the new pricing plan

Me: That seems illogical…if there is NO DIFFERENCE in service….why would I have to OPT IN to save money.  Who wouldn’t take advantage of the new pricing plan?

Silence….

Me: How was I supposed to know this was even available?

Agent: Notifications went out….

Me:  Really? When? I don’t remember getting one….can you pull up the bill with the notification attached?

Agent:  Give me one sec, I’m looking…..

Silence….

Agent: I can only go back as far as February

Me: Well, since the change happened in April, it stands to reason the notification would have been in Feb, Mar, or Apr.  Again, I did not receive any notification.  I would like a $110 credit for lost savings that I was not notified about.

Silence…

Agent:  What I can do is waive the rental fee for one of your digital receivers for a year.

Me: And what is the cost of the receiver?

Agent: $13/month

Me: I do some quick math and determine that is $156 in savings…more than the $110 credit I asked for!  I guess I was taking too long to calculate because the agent chimes in…

Agent: That is actually higher than a credit

Me: I appreciate that, thank you

Agent: Sigh of relief.  Whew…because that was the last offer I was authorized to make.

Me:  laughter.  I’m glad we could come to an agreement.  So to summarize, effective immediately I am saving $35/month for the next 12 months, then I will continue saving $22/month and I retain all the same services I have now.

Agent: Yes ma’am that is correct.

I recorded his name, reference number and date/time of call.  The entire conversation lasted about 17 minutes.

What about you?

Have you ever negotiated your way to a lower bill?  I want to hear about it!

PS: Car insurance…your NEXT!

Posted in Personal Finance | Tagged , | 7 Comments
Massage

Massage

I had a blast this weekend as I took a much needed vacation.  I was able to relax, enjoy the company of my sister-in-law, and indulge in some comfort food….and all for less than $150! How I was able to do so had a little to do with opportunities, advanced planning, ingenuity and compromise.  Here is a breakdown of my spending.  Hopefully you can employ some of these methods to vacation on the cheap too!

Continue reading

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Netflix and Other Cable Alternatives

Netflix & Other Cable Alternatives

Eliminating cable is a great way to increase your cash flow.  Many have trouble chopping the cable because of the limited programs available through broadcast channels.  However, Netflix and other streaming programs offer enough variety to make up the difference.

Netflix is one of the more popular choices for paid streaming content.  The price is $8/month for a variety of shows.  The split section for Netflix Kids is very convenient since my son is the primary user these days.  Most of Netflix’s content is movies and older season shows, which is great if you want to get caught up on a show, but not so good if you want to stay current.  Netflix is also experimenting with a new business model:  Netflix Original Series, such as House of Cards and Hemlock Groove will keep them especially competitive.

HuluPlus is another popular service.  Like Netflix, it is priced at $8/month.  Hulu contains more current TV shows and also older shows, but hardly any movies.  Hulu does still have ads, which is a turn off to some considering you are paying for the service.

Some choose to subscribe to both HuluPlus and Netflix, at $16/month that still beats the cost of cable.

iTunes & Amazon Instant Video are pay-as-you-go services.  Digital rental fees range from $1-$6 per movie.  If you are going to watch more than 2 movies per month, you might as well get a month subscription.  Unless your picky about what movies you want to watch.

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Unless you want to watch TV from your smartphone, tablet, or laptop; you’ll need a way to stream content to your television.  If you have a Wii, PlayStation, or Xbox, these devices are capable of streaming.  They also can be found reasonably priced on Craigslist or Facebook Yard Sale Groups.

You can also use a device like Roku Streaming Media Player to syndicate all channels in one place.

I hope to one day convince hubby to cut the cable.  I saved $80/month before we got married by cutting cable.  I didn’t have a Netflix subscription, I simply watched shows on my laptop from Hulu (the free version), and various stations that offered full episodes online (CBS, ABC, USA, etc).

My mom doesn’t have cable, and I recommended she go with Roku + Netflix instead of cable, which she is going to try.

What about you?
Have you ditched cable?
Do you use any of the services listed above?

Posted in Personal Finance | 10 Comments

Five-Minute-Friday-4When I saw this week’s Five Minute Friday word – TELL.

My first thought was the song…Go Tell it on the Mountain….over the hill and everywhere….Go tell it on the Mountain that Jesus Christ is born.

We all have a story to tell, but there is only one story that every Christian is commissioned to tell.  Jesus was born, walked this earth, was crucified and rose again.  Everything that I am is because of Him.  Go tell it!

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Last week I found out about Five Minute Fridays – the idea is a word will be released on Thursday night at 9ET.  Bloggers are challenged to write for 5 minutes only…unedited, raw devotional. 

Posted in Five Minute Friday | 12 Comments

Here are some articles I enjoyed this week!  I hope you’ll give them a read!

Since I’m getting ready to go on vacation, let’s start with Wisebread’s list: 10 Most Creative Ways to Avoid Airline Fees.  I’m not flying, but it was in interesting read nonetheless.  Some of the suggestions are “out there” – and a couple are borderline unethical and I don’t endorse those.  But it is interesting the lengths people will go to save!

20s Finances list 6 Tips to Budget for Your First Car – I could have used this advice 12 years ago!

Mom’s Plans has an interesting commentary on How Job Searching has Changed Over the Years.

Speaking of jobs….Frugal Confessions instructs How to Pass A Job Interview Successfully.

It seems there has been a lot of writing about jobs this week!  ChristianPF shares 6 Online Jobs for College Students

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Mom Makes Sense Around the Web

Carnival of Money Pros hosted by Penny Thots

Yakezie Carnival hosted by Monica on Money

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ATM and Bank Fees

Overdraft Fees

Overdraft fees are annoying and expensive!  There is nothing worse than being penalized for a careless mistake.  The good news is, they are also preventable.  Listed below are 15 ways you can avoid dreaded overdraft fees:

1. Alerts
Most banks allow you to set a low balance threshold that will alert via text or email when your balance falls below a specified amount.  Unfortunately, the alerts aren’t transmitted in real-time so this method is best used in conjunction with…

2. Buffer
Set a buffer for yourself and treat that amount as 0.  For example, if you set a buffer of $100, when you see $150 in the account, you tell yourself you only have $50 available to spend.  The goal is to never dip below your set buffer.  It takes some discipline to trick your mind into “seeing” your buffer as zero, but if you can do this you will have wiggle room in your account.

3. Budget
Make a budget and stick to it.  A budget does NOT have to be complicated.  Create 2 columns:  Income & Expenses.  Make sure the INCOME column is LESS THAN the EXPENSES column.

4. Cash System
Using a cash only system, such as the envelop method, will ensure you don’t overdraft because you are only spending cash on hand.  Some people find it harder to track their spending using cash, others report being more resourceful because of the tangible impact of money leaving their hand.  This is a good method, but isn’t fit for everyone.

5. Opt Out of Overdraft Service
If you opened your bank account before 2009/2010, you were most likely immediately enrolled in your banks Overdraft “service” and subject to all fees if you elected to take advantage of this service.  At $20-$30 per overdraft, do you think we should have some say in rather we want this “service”.  Lawmakers thought so, and now Overdraft services are opt-in.  However, that does nothing for older accounts.  If you don’t want to use the overdraft service, you can manually opt-out.

This means if you run don’t have the funds to cover a purchase, you will be denied at the counter.  Being denied now, or a $20-$30 fee later?  Only you can decide for yourself which is more of an inconvenience.

6. Balance Your Account
Many people shy away from the idea of balancing their checkbook or account, but using a ROUND UP method makes it easy.  This way you don’t have to add cents.  Always round up, even if it is a penny over – your account will not be balanced to the penny, but you WILL create an extra buffer.

You can do this 2 ways:
Non-technical way: Attach a post-it note to your debit card.  IMMEDIATELY after you make a purchase, record the rounded amount.  At the end of the day or week, reconcile the amounts

Technical way: Use a note-taking app on your Smartphone to record your rounded-up amounts

Example:  I spend $5.73 for lunch, then on the way back to work I fill up and spend $23.04 gas.  My entries would be

  • $6.00
  • $24.00

These numbers are much more manageable.

7. Overdraft Protection vs. Overdraft Service
Some banks offer Overdraft protection.  This is an opt-in service where the bank will transfer money from a linked account (usually savings account) to cover the overdraft.  There is typically a transfer fee that can be half or a third of what the overdraft service would charge.  While it’s better than the service charge, personally, I don’t like the idea of being charged to spend my own money!

8. Communicate with any Joint Account Holders
If you are not the only drawer on an account, it is crucial to keep an open line of communication open with anybody who holds a card or the ability to withdraw funds.  Set a spending policy, discuss major purchases, and reconcile spending routinely to avoid unexpected service fees.

9. Reduce the amount of subscriptions and automatic payments
The dangerous thing about subscriptions and automatic payments is the set it and forget it mentality.  This is especially true of annual payments.  Evaluate your subscriptions – first, are you still using it?  If not, get rid of it altogether!  If it is a valid description, can it be paid manually?

Automatic bill payments are a great convenience, but can make us financially lethargic.  Manually pay your variable bills so you know exactly what is coming out of your account.

10. Know your ATM Fees
If you use an ATM that does not belong to your bank’s network, you get penalized TWICE (I’m sure it’s called a convenience fee…but it doesn’t fee convenient).  Rates can be as high as $3 for not using an ATM owned by your bank and another $3 by the servicing ATM.  So that $20 w/d, just cost $26.  If you frequent ATMs, not only are you being eaten alive in fees, but your chances of over drafting increase if you don’t track these additional charges.

If you must use an ATM:

  • Consolidate withdrawals  since fees are not based on amount
  • Whenever possible, try to visit an ATM that belongs to your bank

If you are a heavy ATM user, you may want to find a bank that refunds ATM fees

11. Don’t try to race the account clock
This is a gamble and it’s not worth the risk.  If you KNOW the money isn’t in your account – do not make the purchase.  If you decide to make the purchase under the assumption that you can deposit the money before the purchase posts to your account you are playing with fire.  Sometimes it may work, sometimes it won’t – either way, it is an irresponsible way to handle finances.

12. Watch out for holds
If you look closely at your statement after pumping gas, it may say $1.  This is a hold until the actual amount is reported.  This happens often at gas stations and also if paying for hotels and rental cars with debit cards.  Any miscellaneous security deposit or lagging payment will make your balance seem larger than it is.  This leads to a false sense of financial security.  This is why it is important to balance the account for yourself.

13. Don’t trust the available balance
This balance is NOT a real time balance on your account.  Small businesses, vendors, and medical billing facilities typically run credit/debit payments at night.  A variety of businesses take 2-3 days to post to your account.  Blindly relying on the available balance reported online or through the phone service does not give an accurate amount.

14. Transfer Funds Immediately
While you should not intentionally try to beat the clock (see #11).  If you are fortunately enough to realize you made an error, transfer funds or make a cash deposit immediately.  If you have multiple phones and a smart phone app, you may be able to transfer the phones instantaneously.  You may be lucky enough to get funds in the account in time.  If not, you have leverage for when you ask to get the overdraft fee waived.

15. Link to a Line of Credit
Similar to overdraft protection, except instead of linking to another bank account and being charged a transfer fee, the overage is linked to a credit card.  Typically the fee is significantly less (a small finance charge percentage).  Depending on how you feel about credit cards and your eligibility, this may be a viable option.

16. Don’t Forget About Outstanding Checks
I wasn’t going to include this one because people that write checks typically balance their checkbook.  But I figured it was worth including…especially for the sporadic check writer.  Make sure to account for money allocated via check.

Bonus Tips:
These aren’t really avoidance, but could save you money in the long run:

Know Your Bank’s Policy:  Some banks have steep overdraft fees.  Because of recent laws, many financial institutions have become more “friendly”.  For example, 1 bank now only charges for 4 overdraft fees in a day…but their fee is $35.  That is potentially $140 in fees!  Some institutions will not charge a fee if the overdraft is less than a certain amount (typically $5 or $10).

Get it Refunded: Mistakes happen!  Banks understand this, and as long as you do not have a history of overdraft fees, chances are you can get that bank fee refunded.  Figure out where you went wrong, implement changes and learn from your mistake.

 

Some of the methods above are better than others.  Personally, I use a 3-fail method of:

Balancing the account
Buffer
Overdraft Protection

What about you?
What methods do you use?
Are there any I forgot to include?

 

Posted in Personal Finance | 8 Comments