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Posts tagged with: Budget

6 Reasons I Want to Cut Cable, Save Cash

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I’ll begin with addressing my own concern and letting you know that I have cable. I have U-Verse and wish that I didn’t. My cable bill in my previous house was $100+ for 3 cable boxes and internet as a bundle package. Yesterday, I searched for cable/internet packages for my new house-hack and was offered $165 for 4 tv boxes and internet. That’s more than my student loans, more than half of my car payment, and entirely, utterly ridiculous. I know that we can all also find tons we would do with our money if it weren’t tied up in a cable bill.

I have cable only because I am renting rooms in my home to other people and marketing housing that comes with Hulu Prime, rather than cable, would probably sound a bit odd to renters. If it weren’t for that reason, I would not enter a cable contract again. If you are considering ways to save larger amounts of money, here are my pros and cons about cable:

I need to save money

I don’t want to save money, I need to save it- which means that I need to make some sacrifices. The more intentional that I become about my finances, the more I understand the value of making larger monetary cuts. For example, cable can easily cost me, at the least, $1200 a year. I could significantly decrease my debt with $1200 a year, buy assets or make investments, or maybe even take a quality, week-long vacation abroad- all by eliminating cable. When I examine all of my expenses, cable gets chopped.

I don’t watch many channels

Confession: I think I watch what is considered bad TV. My TV is probably stuck on only a few stations, including Bravo TV for Real Housewives episodes, the Gameshow network for Family Feud, and FX since the American Horror Story season has started again. (Are there any other junk TV watchers out there 🙂 ). My TV screen pretty much never even sees any other stations. So I don’t need to pay for 250 channels, many of which are seldom viewed. Do you know about many channels you watch? If so, do you feel that the number of channels are worth the cost?

Don’t watch much live TV

I think that cable still has a major advantage over options such as HULU, Roku, and Amazon Stick because it offers consistent and quality live and local TV programs like the news and sports games. If you are a big sports fan, this may be something to consider and is what my boyfriend is still debating. Missing out on local programming does not bother me much because I opt out of watching the news and don’t need a play by play of sports games. My boyfriend has pulled up streaming for NFL games on our Amazon Stick, and I must admit that there was a noticeable difference in the quality. However, since I’m not the biggest sports fanatic, watching a sub-par football game without cable is worth the sacrifice.

Technology can frustrate me

If you substitute cable for an option like Amazon Stick, then you may spend some time programming the stick. My boyfriend programmed the amazon stick at his house and it took about 15 minutes. Although this is not necessarily a long time, the task seemed tedious and I did not want to do it. If technology like this can frustrate you as it can me, you may want to take this into consideration. (There are options of purchasing jail-broken Amazon sticks that already come programmed that I have seen on resale sites like Craigslist, but I cannot vouch for this as I have not done it).

Is is just me, or are HBO and STARZ pretty bad?

I recently stayed with someone who had HBO and Starz and browsed these channels for a few days. I think that HBO showed that yawn-worthy horror movie “The Boy” 4 out of the 5 days that I turned to it. I would turn to Starz once a week for the show “Power”, but that’s about it. I seldom saw programming on these stations that piqued my interest and simply didn’t think its worth the extra payment in a cable package. (Plus, I believe that most of the movies and programs shown on these stations are on Amazon stick anyway.)

Weighing the value of my entertainment and time

I recently had some spare time, and one of my goals was the finish a new season of a show that I started watching (and now I’ve gotten hooked on the Good Doctor and have given myself a new addiction, great!). I say this to illustrate that I enjoy laying on my couch and watching TV and value this relaxing time. However, I’ve recently given thought to how much more productive I would be if I substituted some of my TV watching for other time fillers.

As a teacher, I firmly believe that we should never stop learning. Since I’m serious about my financial goals, I want to time reading books about finance rather than watching TV every afternoon. Since I want to invest in more real estate, I could spend time going to conferences rather than binge Mr. Mercedes all weekend long. I thought about taking a cooking class at one point, and could put the money saved from cable into my cooking class. So I don’t believe that $1200 a year is worth all of the other things that I could be doing with money and do not want to pay that much for this form of entertainment.

My verdict

There are several reasons why someone may or may not choose to have cable, as well as many alternatives. The amazon stick is the alternative that I am familiar with and would chose if I could eliminate cable. This could result in a difference of a $1200 cable bill per year or a 1-time $100 purchase fee and the yearly cost of WiFi which could be about $360 a year ($30 a month). The cost of cable does not support my financial goals and I would eliminate it if I could, as I think that an alternative would be best for me. Does anyone use any cable alternatives? How do you like them and how do they save you money?

 


The End of a Decade plus

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Hello BAD Community, I apologize for my long absence. I’ve visited often, with the thought to write an update, but never seem to focus on something to write about.  We are fully settled into small town life in Georgia, our lives in Virginia settling into mostly fond memories.  I think Gymnast still struggles the most.  Change is hard for everyone, but I know the kids are resilient and in time will find their groove here.

Not much has changed as far as busy-ness from my last update (you can read it here .) I’m still working all my jobs and continuing to pick up odd jobs (primarily from previous customers – websites, etc.) Since we had gotten rid of EVERYTHING over the last couple of years, it took a little while to fully furnish our home.  The last big purchase was a used washer and dryer with a one year warranty for just at $500 for the set delivered.

It’s been nice to be in our own home again after 2 1/2 years of tiny living and then glamping. I certainly do not miss either of these living spaces, but there are a number of things that linger.  First, we are still very much minimalist.  There is  nothing in our home that is not used every day.  As a result, our approx 1200 square foot home feels large because it is not cluttered.

We spend a great deal of time in one room – our eat in kitchen. I know it’s always called the heart of the home, but I think we take that to the extreme.  We school in there, eat in there, I work in there and we hang out in there doing crafts and playing lots of board games.  So much so that I’ve decided to divide the boys (Sea Cadet and Gymnast) from the bedroom they are sharing and move Sea Cadet into the living room (it has a door) when Sea Cadet returns from his summer away working at summer camp.

The frugal habits that we were forced into because of being completely broke are now in our nature.  While I do grocery shop once a week, I typically spend less than $100 and just purchase fresh produce and milk, etc.  (We buy meat in bulk at Sams Club and keep it in the freezer. The 20lbs of frozen chicken breast, 2 family packs of pork chops, 1 roast and 10 lbs of ground beef I purchased in April have lasted us and we will probably go another month or so before we need to restock.)

We are spending our “free” time visiting small towns around us, free festivals and lots of live music. I say free time loosely as I still work the bulk of every day between my full time job and my part time jobs.  The kids are asking more frequently when I will slow down, but as of now, I haven’t made definitive plans.  I keep thinking/saying the end of the summer, but I’m not certain I will.  I just don’t ever, ever want to go through what we’ve been through again – ever!  The money is nice but even moreso, the security of knowing if one jobs fails, I have the others.

I still have not sat down and come up with a budget…I keep saying I’m going too.  And I am. Soon. I’m continuing to save 10% of all income in a hard to reach account. And I guess  most impressive to myself, is that I’ve continued to control my travel bug.  I think fear more than anything is guiding my financial decisions.  Which I’m sure is not healthy, but right now, it’s working.

I promise to write a more finance oriented post soon.  We are doing well. Sea Cadet leaves this week for the summer (returning to the camp in VA where he will work as a Senior Camp Counselor through August.)  When he returns, he will be attending the local community college under the GA MOWR program for his last year of high school, focused on pursuing an EMS certificate.  Princess continues to work hard at her academics, and is ready for collegiate classes in some subjects, but not old enough to attend the local community college.  I will have to address that soon.  Gymnast continues to train and will move up another level this fall.  The two littles are looking forward to going to camp this month for two weeks.  I am looking forward to that as well, no kids, two weeks.  I may even treat myself to a day off, but have made no plans for that yet.

 


Peeking in to say Hello!

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After a whirlwind trip to Utah (one full day up; one full day back; only 2 days there), I’m back in Tucson and back at work.

I am eternally grateful that all of these issues are popping up during summer when I have a pretty flexible schedule. Even so, it’s been tough to keep up with work, as I missed 3 days the first week of June (for my grandmother’s funeral), had one solid week back at work, then missed another 3 days last week for my Dad’s house clear out. This week is also a short week, as my Mom flies in on Thursday to help celebrate the girls’ 4th birthday with us this weekend. I’m still treading water, but just barely.

Also, hubs just received word this morning that his grandfather has passed away (if you read this post, you know that this was expected as his grandfather has been on hospice and not doing well). Fortunately (if you can even call these things “fortunate”???), his grandfather specifically requested to be cremated and have no funeral. His only wish was to have his ashes spread on his family land out in Luling, Texas. My husband plans to go back to Texas to be with his mom at that time, but it will be awhile. Basically, my mother-in-law is in the process of buying a home right now (her closing date is set on July 15), and she wants to wait until she’s closed on the house to spread the ashes because she wants my husband to do some flooring work in her new house (remember, hubs is a flooring contractor), and it just makes his life easier to make one trip (for the ashes AND floors at same time) rather than having to make multiple/separate trips. It’s a bit unconventional, but mom-in-law was an only child so there’s no one opposing the plan and it’s what works best for her so I guess that will be happening in about a month. We haven’t decided yet for sure, but I believe the girls and I will stay in Tucson at that time (of course, the family makes a plea for us to go back any chance we get, but – well, work. Like, that thing that pays our bills and keeps a roof over our heads. So, yeah.)

The passing of hubs’ grandfather does have a (very) small monetary benefit to us. He wrote in his will that each of the grandchildren should receive $1,000 from his estate. Hey, every little bit helps, right?

For those who asked about the estate sale, let me give a super quick update.

Basically, it went “okay.” I was so terrified of a potentially huge turnout that I didn’t advertise widely. I only put it on a single Facebook yard sale site (with 3500 members) and advertised it as being Thursday night and Friday morning. I was able to have a friend babysit the girls on Thursday night, but it was for naught, as only 4 people came that evening. On Friday I was able to convince a cousin to come help us in exchange for some free goods (being that EVERYTHING that didn’t sell was literally going to be thrown away or donated anyway). All day Friday was pretty steady (from 7am-9pm), but it was never crazy. As the day wore on I kept posting reductions in prices on items, etc. By the end of the day we’d barely made $600. To be fair, a lot of the big/pricey items had been moved when my Dad moved, but this low number also reflects the fact that we were practically giving items away (again – we didn’t have the luxury of time on our side, so we couldn’t be choosy or hold out for better offers).

That being said, by 4pm on Friday we were still overwhelmed with the amount of items still laying around. We ended up calling a local company (Everything Goez) and paid them $500 to clear all the remaining property items. So in the end we had made just a teeny tiny profit of about $100. Next-to-nothing.

That being said, the #1 objective of our trip to Utah was to clear out the property. When I got there and realized how much remained, I was worried about what would happen. My sister and I were on the phone a lot and talking about additional trips, etc. I didn’t feel good about that (plus don’t have time for extra trips and more time off work), so in the end I thought this was the best possible solution. My siblings aren’t thrilled with the lack of money made at the estate sale, but I think we all realize that the alternative would have been even more costly (again, given the time off work, additional travel expenses, and longer time that this house is sitting vacant and costing us money). So in the end, paying to have the place cleared was the right move for us. I went with one goal (= clear out property), and I accomplished that goal (albeit, only by paying people to help us).

The house, garage, and yard are all now completely empty and ready for a professional cleaning and to be placed on the market. I met with a property management company while in town and got some pretty bad news about rental prices. I’ve since then called to get another quote (actually 3 in total), and it looks like we might not be able to make as much from renting as we’d originally thought. That means (fingers crossed), I may be able to talk the siblings into just selling the property, as I’ve wanted from the beginning. There’s not a lot of equity in the property, but enough that we wouldn’t lose any money. Plus, I literally had 3 separate groups of people offer to buy the house while they were going through and looking at items to purchase. One family (across-the-street neighbors) offered to pay cash with a quick close. We have a sibling conference call planned this week so we’ll see what happens (for newer readers, my brother & sister are both proponents of keeping it as a rental. I’m the only one in favor of selling, but I respect the majority vote so there are no hard feelings one way or another. I just don’t want to deal with this out-of-state property anymore).

So that’s about it. I have to apologize for my lack of numbers posts lately. I’ve still had it in the back of my mind that I need to do a budget update from last month (May), but by the time I have a chance to write it we’ll likely be ready for a June budget update. With all the balls I’m juggling I just have to do what I can and that may mean a missed numbers post here or there.

That being said, June should be a good month for us. My full-time job paycheck is higher because I have fewer deductions (I work at a university where most are on 9-month contracts, so during the Spring semester the deductions are higher to account for summer months. But since I’m actually working over the summer, too, I get my full without those deductions since they were essentially “pre-paid”). My part-time job paycheck is higher, too (since I only get paid in 2 lump sums:  June and July. Though that means I get no paycheck at all in May or August).

I’ve really got to get our emergency fund back up after raiding it last month (which I mention here), coupled with the fact that we were hoping to buy a house soon! For those wondering, we haven’t even started looking yet! With all the health crises and emergencies we’ve been experiencing, we’ve talked about the possibility of pushing our house hunt back into the Fall (we’d always planned to start hunting this summer). We could start in late summer, though, so that’s a possibility too. We’ve got to save more for our downpayment and need to get a bit beefier safety net (in terms of the EF). So that’s what’s going on with that. I’m still searching Zillow all the time and grabbing flyers from desirable areas whenever I see them – just for reference (and for fun). But no official looking yet. I’ll keep you posted on that.

I hope you all have a great week! Talk to you soon!

 


A Different Perspective

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I posted several weeks ago about my Glamping Budget expectations, but I have been putting some thought into it think I want to change my perspective.  Before you jump down my throat, hear me out.

I wrote the budget anticipating income from two part time jobs, a small amount from child support and adoption assistance for the twins.  But two things, one of my part time jobs has thusfar been unreliable in producing hours (like 3 weeks with no hours) and two part of this move is to let me get on my feet, build a consulting business and save for the future.

So, since our overhead is going to be SUPER low, I have been thinking that I should budget my percentage rather than by actual number.  Ok, I don’t actually have a plan yet, but what are your thoughts.

It would look something like this I suppose and as any income came in it would be divided up based on these percentages.

Saving – 35%

Debt – 35%

Living – 20%

Giving – 10%

A little more of my thoughts on this:

Saving – when our Glamping time is over, I have to have a substantial amount of money to get us into something new, whatever and wherever that may be, having this savings is very important.

Debt – obviously need to pay off debt, big time!  So don’t want to slow down on that, but this would balance paying on debt with saving, and using percentages would leave no question of what to do on months I earn more, which I hope will come soon.

Living – In an ideal world, I think you are supposed to be able to live on 30-40% of your income, right?  Because our rent/utilities are going to be covered for the time being, I think we can live on significantly less, in fact, I’m wondering if we could live on less than 20%, but this seems safe for now.

Giving – I know many would say don’t give in the situation you are in, but frankly, we have been given so, so much that I cannot, cannot NOT give, so this is staying.

So with my regular income the last few months being right around $2,000 per month that would break down as:

Saving – $700

Debt – $700

Living – $400

Giving – $200

Breaking things down this way, really tell me I have got to get more work!  But aside from that, what are your thoughts on budgeting by percentage rather than by actual number? 

 


Relocation Expense vs Signing Bonus

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In my defense I haven’t sought a new “job” in almost 14 years.  I’ve written before about how off my resume was at the beginning of this one and Faye from LeapofFaye.com jumped in and saved the day.  And really, truly it was saving the day…I think to date I’ve had 8 first interviews for what I thought were ideal jobs.  I count myself blessed with every single call I get from an application or recruiter.

But now I think, rather hope, I am coming to the end of several application processes…multiple interviews done, references checked and reviewed,  interviews with CTOs done…etc. etc.  What I haven’t been prepared for were questions regarding “What do you expect?”

I mean I’m good with my salary requirements question…and throwing in the request for a full benefits package, that’s coming pretty naturally.  The thought of a paid day off, a paid vacation, well, that’s what dreams are made of!

But what other requirements do I have…and thus we come to Relocation Expenses vs Signing Bonus.  I’ve pretty much been clear with companies that if I need to relocate…well, they have to pay for it.  And then I was told this…

  1. Relocation Express – A budget is set at the beginning of the process, but I have to cover the costs upfront and then be reimbursed.
  2. Signing Bonus – Paid up front but taxed upfront, possibly at a high tax bracket?

So my question…what are your thoughts, have any words of wisdom for me on this front?

Relocation Expenses vs Signing Bonus – which would you choose? Pros and cons of each?  Any words of wisdom greatly appreciated!


Ashley’s August 2015 Budget Update

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Awww, September! As much as I love August I welcome September like a breath of fresh air after the wicked heat of summer. Here in Tucson it’s still HOT (so don’t get me wrong). But we start to notice a cool down particularly in mornings and evenings and it becomes beautiful to hang out outside after dinner, letting the girls run around, enjoying a slight breeze, and chatting with hubs. Good times to look forward to as I welcome Fall weather with open arms!

In the meantime, here’s how our budget from August ended up shaping out:

Place Amount Spent
Rent 1200
Electricity 245
Water 53
Natural gas 17
Cell Phones (2 lines) 150
Cable/Internet 40
Car Insurance 118
Trash 35
Preschool 1116
Gift-Giving 85
Personal Maintenance 12
Restaurants 88
Groceries 566
Gasoline 86
Household Goods 93
Clothing 102
Toddler purchases 30
Rainy Day Savings 300
Savings Goals 600
Debt Payments 2204
Total Budgeted $7140

 

Things to note:

  • Increased rent: I wrote here about how our rent increased. This was our first month at the new rate.
  • Electricity: Still high as the sky, but in-line with last year’s August budget (August 2014’s electricity was $251, so this year we were slightly lower). We can just gear up for a high September electric bill, too, because its going to happen.
  • Cell phones: This category is a bit of a mess that will hopefully be straightened out in the coming months. Remember that we switched to T-Mobile from Sprint earlier this month to save some money (and it also came with a few additional perks, mentioned here). Well we got a ridiculously high Sprint bill after we cut our service ($250!!!) T-Mobile is supposed to credit our account for the equivalent amount so, in theory, we will have no cell phone bill for a few months until the credit has been run down. So I “cheated” a bit here. The full amount we paid was $250, but I put $150 in August and $100 in September to try to spread out the pain a little. It should work out since we’ll have no bill in September. This is something I’ll continue to monitor to make sure everything worked out in the wake of our switch.
  • Cable/Internet: This was a bit of a mess, too! Generally our bill is about $110/month. In August I received a bill for nearly 50% more than what I’d expected. When I called to ask about it I was told we’d been in some promotional package for years and it had finally expired so our bill would increase. I was not willing to pay a 50% increase so I tried to work with them to get us into a better package. Long story short, I had to make 3-4 calls and physically go into a Comcast store to have everything fully resolved. We should now be back in a plan that costs $100/month (probably closer to $110 when taxes are factored in), and we were given credits in August for all the hassle and headache. So this is a temporarily low bill and hopefully in September things should be back to normal in this category.
  • Preschool: This category is also a little lower than is normal. This is the amount we pay for the regular Monday-Friday preschool, but the normal day ends at 3:00pm. We pay extra to have the girls stay longer (hubs usually gets them at 4:00pm), but so far we have NOT been charged for the extra time they’re in school. This was the first month of preschool so I’m not sure what the billing cycle is yet for the extra time, but I know it’s charged separately from the regular bill so I anticipate it coming sometime soon.
  • Household Goods: This included a Costco haul with some paper products (e.g., toilet paper, tissues) and some cleaning supplies at the regular grocery store.
  • Clothing: I discussed how I was budgeting $100/month for new work appropriate attire. This month I got new shoes from DSW and a new bra from Victoria’s Secret (the last bra I bought was from when I was immediately post-partum/still breastfeeding, so I was in sore need of a new bra!)
  • Toddler Purchases: This is just from their Halloween costumes (I wrote about the great deals at Costco and they still have tons of costumes in my area.)
  • Rainy Day Savings: I put $300 toward different rainy day savings categories. This includes:  $75 (car repairs), $50 (travel/Christmas), $75 (health/dental/vision), $75 (annual fees), and $25 (Girls’ college savings). HOWEVER, I should also mention that I withdrew $307 from different savings funds (I keep all my savings in Capital One 360 due to their higher interest rate <refer a friend link). I withdrew $100 from health/dental/vision to pay for my contacts, like an idiot (because now I have insurance!!! I’m going to try to submit the receipt and see if I can be reimbursed). I also withdrew $207 from my annual fees fund to pay for my annual premium of life insurance.
  • Savings Goals: This is $100 for a Roth IRA and $500 for Cruise 2016.
  • Debt Payments: Still chugging right along with debt payments. This is slightly more than last month, but still right around our typical debt payment size.

Related to debt payments, I’ve made the executive decision to cheat a little bit on our “living on last month’s income” ideal. We’re still living on last month’s income, BUT September is the first month where I’ll earn double-income (from my part-time job in addition to my full-time job. Remember, I wasn’t paid from my part-time job in August due to regular schedule of payment).

Soooo, I’ve decided to allocate my regular full-time paycheck toward living on last month’s income (so it will go toward expenses incurred in October). BUT I’m going to keep my part-time paycheck for use during September to help speed up debt payments. I’m just REALLY itching to make some higher debt payments and it’s been a real bummer to have started this job nearly 2 months ago and not have made any really killer debt payments yet! Rather than waiting and putting that off until October, I’m going to dive in THIS MONTH with some higher debt payments by putting a portion of my part-time pay toward debt in September. Right now I’m thinking I may allocate 50% toward September and keep 50% allocated toward October. But I want to discuss it further with hubs to make a final decision. I just know that I’m itching to make some big debt payments and I can’t wait until October. Some of it is going down SOON!!!!

So that’s how August shaped up and some plans for how I plan to handle September’s debt.

 

Where are you in your debt repayment? How was your monthly budget in August?


Completely Blown Up

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My budget is completely blown for this month and probably next as well.  Why you ask?

The house needs to be painted, and power washed, landscaping cleaned up and prettied up, two inside doors need replacing, and the list goes on and on and on.  I mean, like 20 things that need to be done around here that I cannot do.  While my dad said he would take care of getting the house ready to sale once I moved out, I don’t feel right leaving him with that.  It’s our mess (it’s not really a mess, just day to day living and things you do to sell a house) and we should be responsible for it.  So I’m doing my best to get most of it done before we move out.  So when he comes into town a week later…voila, it’s ready to go on the market.  At least that’s my goal!

So while I hoped to put up a new monthly budget either this week or next, well, it’s going to have to wait at least a couple more weeks so I can get this housework done.  All but minimum debt payments are on hold until we move out.

Now the bright side…my “deal” for moving into the apartment is that I get October free and 1/2 of November free.  So hopefully, I will catch right back up with my momentum, not to mention all the monies from the sale of stuff and we will be on track or maybe *crossing fingers a little ahead.

Look for a new proposed budget closer to move date.  I did get the “average” utility costs from the apartment management so I can plan that way.

 


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