October 23, 2014

3 Ideas for Saving $500 Right Now!

Nov15

(I just posted “I’m going there: Ideas for saving on healthcare” for more suggestions on how to save.)

With Christmas only six weeks away, it’s that time of year when many desire to create the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” experience within their homes, but instead, that first holiday credit card bill occurs. The pondering of just how much debt is worthwhile for this Christmas season begins.

I’ve spent years sharing simple ideas and tips here for cutting one’s budget and saving money, but many of them center around the Tortoise and the Hare mentality of “slow and steady win the race.”

You remember my big reveal of the Front Porch that took 17 Years to Build?  It still gets me all emotional when I just think about it. If haven’t read that post, it’s an encouragement because slow and steady finally won out! Yes, we finally conquered the long road of unemployment,  built our emergency fund up enough by giving every dollar a job, and we were finally able to make this dream come true.

While I believe this, and see its provisions daily in our own family’s financial circumstances, what if we could slash our budget immediately and with more than just a dollar here and there?

What if you could put an additional $500 in your pocket within the month?

Does it sound too good to be true? Just give it a try!

I know these ideas work because all of them have been  confirmed by my interactive Facebook page readers. When I was preparing for my 80% Living and Loving it workshop, I asked them for their best tried and true strategies for putting cash in their pocket immediately.  I loved every comment and this list represents ideas that showed an immediate difference in cash flow.

1. Save on Food

This sentiment came through over and over again. Outside a mortgage, this is most families #1 expense – the monthly food bill. It’s the budget item we interact with on a daily basis and the one we have the most control over, yet the one aspect that is the most monotonousness to slash.

It takes work and while cutting coupons slowly whittles a budget, I have hundreds of food tips for saving money without using coupons. Start there! Over 185 people have chimed in with comments on my “What is Your Monthly Food Budget? Post. Some of the answers are older, but what’s fascinating is all the different ways that people attack the food budget. Lots of food for thought and encouragement knowing we are all on this journey together.

During my September  No Spend Pantry Challenge Month, I saved over $500 by getting super creative and using up what I had on hand. While this may not be the month to start with the holidays around the corner, the premise is the same. Start now and take this week to stay out of the grocery store. Use up what you have and pocket the savings in cash. Resist the drive through and delay eating out. It adds up so quickly!

2.  Focus on your Insurance policies

For years, we never thought twice about our home owner and car insurance policies. Our bills and statements came and we just paid them, no questions asked.

Now we wonder, “What were we thinking? How did we let that money slip through our fingers?”

Old policies cost us cold, hard cash! Learn from our insurance lesson.

Sole loyalty to only  insurance provider without checking into options is a huge mistake.

Right now, competition in both the home and car insurance fields are at an all time high.  Make your money work for you and shop around with an independent agent who isn’t tied to one insurance company. The assumption that your company will always give you the lowest rate is naive and too many are content with keeping status quo. They may honor that loyalty, but don’t assume.

“Four in 10 auto and homeowner’s insurance customers have had policies with their current company for more than 10 years,” states the Dave Ramsey blog, and that is not helping put money in your pocket.

With four teenagers (yes, three teen boys with licenses – gasp), we had to really take a harsh look at our car insurance policies. Since we drive used cars, we immediately raised our deductibles, which saved us hundreds.   Since our sons’ have always driven famous “Hunk ‘O Junks, we went with only liability insurance for them. (You must read our “It doesn’t matter what you think…well, kind of” story if you ever have woes about driving a second hand vehicle. Our hunk o’junk will make you feel better about yours.:))

Long term, this was well worth it.  We saved cash immediately and were even sent a refund check just by a simple phone call.

I was shocked at how many of my readers chimed in agreeing with this idea about insurance. Many saved hundreds with one call. Our economy is in a state where we have to take control over these aspects of our finances, and while this doesn’t sound like a fun way to spend your next hour, just do it.

Be proactive!

Find out if an independent insurance agent can help save you money and give you peace of mind about your insurance coverage. As you know I’m a huge believer in Dave Ramsey’s principles and I trust and highly recommend their insurance Endorsed Local Providers (ELPs) for advice.

3. Luxury Cuts

Yes, these are the most painful. Those steps that most of us don’t want to take, but if you are committed to creating cash flow, they may be necessary. Pair any of these together and $500 can be in your pocket over the next few months.

Cable – a large majority of my readers canceled their premium cable channels, but I was shocked to find how many have completely canceled ALL their cable and have gone to completely online viewing with programming through Hulu, Netflix and others, along with a nice HD antenna.

Have you done this? I’d love to hear what you are doing! (Edited to add: Read through the comments for testimonials on how this is working.)

Land line and Cell Phone coverage – if you are still paying for a land line, you are paying for two duplicate services and it will be well worth the effort to check into cutting the land line. Those dollars add up.

Have you looked at your cell coverage lately? Do you need unlimited data? Even with my full time job working online and using my cell phone often, I still have limited data, calls and texting. (And yes, I even saved more when I was on a prepaid phone up until 1 1/2 ago.)

Call your wireless provider to see what coverage you can eliminate. If you are anywhere near the end of your plan, negotiate. They want your business and they will work to keep you.  You’d be surprised at how easy it is.  From a parenting perspective, significantly drop your children’s’ wireless plan. When we realized the draw and time temptation that unlimited data had on our first son when he got a cell phone, we immediately slashed it and never looked back.

Speaking from personal experience, these money saving ideas work, and they are immediate!!

Take a few minutes, jot down a tangible goal of what you will do with that $500, and get to work.

You can do it!

Let’s review the first steps of getting cash in your pocket immediately? Find an independent insurance agent, call your wireless provider, stay away from the stores, and start debating whether you can get rid of some of those luxury items. Baby Steps!

I can’t wait to hear what you do!! (Make sure you read the comments for other great ideas.)

What would you do with $500 this month? If you speak it, it makes it more realistic!

(I’m grateful for the sponsorship of Dave Ramsey’s ELP program for encouraging me to share our financial journey.)


Comments

  1. I can vouch for the cable – we completely dropped TV, keeping only the internet. Our TV has internet capabilities, so we use Amazon Prime or Hulu or Vudu and watch almost everything we want with those services and spend literally hundreds less. We also bought a HDMI cable to hook our laptop up to the TV, so now we can watch anything at all that we could browse on a computer on our TV instead. Strictly controlled by the parents! :) We can’t watch sports, but that’s the only downside we’ve seen so far.

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    Jen Reply:

    It’s so great to hear that! It’s one of those that I have been toying with. We didn’t even have cable until three years ago and then got it, but I am regretting it. It’s the sports channel that wooed them. :) Thanks for sharing.

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    Michelle Reply:

    @Lori Fast,
    We are a cable free family also. It was a little hard to for the kids to adjust but it has been 6 months with no cable. We bought a RoKu box for $100 and are subscribed to Hulu and Nexflix. Yes, the only downside is sports but my husband will go to a sports bar if he really doesn’t want to miss the game.

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    Melissa D Reply:

    @Michelle, we bought a Roku as well — actually 2 of them. What a relief to ditch the commercials and mostly awful network programming!

    And Jen, I used a fat Xmas client check and splurged on a nice commercial treadmill about 2 years ago — I think I paid less than $1k for a NordicTrack on super deep discount. It’s in my laundry room with the older Roku and a monitor — and now we both run on the treadmill instead of paying for 2 gym memberships we didn’t every use faithfully.

    A good treadmill is a huge expense, but we have 3 little kids — for me to hit the gym I’d need to get up by 5AM at the latest, make sure I didn’t wake anyone else up, drive there and back, and have only about 30 minutes to run. Now I can hop on and off throughout the day, I don’t spend time and $ on the commute, and we were able to ditch 2 membership fees. No guilt!

    (BTW, a basic Roku now is only about $40)

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    Jen Reply:

    Melissa – that is so good to know you bought a Roku too. I’ve heard great things about it. Now, I’m more impressed though that you are diligent with your tread mill. I MUST get back on the exercise wagon and you are right, me getting to the gym doesn’t happen.

    Now I need you to pop over to my post that just went live and tell me what you are doing about the big healthcare issue. Any suggestions for saving money there? :)

  2. No cable bill been using antenna for 10 years as I tell people what ever the rabbit ears bring in is what we watch. Gone to pre pay phone hubby has Verizion (due to work and where we live) unlimited pay as you go I use Tracfone. Got the debt snowball rolling will be debt free in 9 months except the house which we are fixing up so we can sell it empty nester house is to big,

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    Jen Reply:

    WOOT! Congrats, BEth!! That is amazing. 9 months to go. You can do it!! Have you tried Dave’s ELP’s? I’d love to hear from a reader who works with them. Our local provider is amazing.

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  3. I really enjoy your blog and never comment but I do have to say something about the insurance. When you have been with a company for a number of years, there are discounts that you have accrued which would not have with another company. I have worked for State Farm for 26 years and have seen people leave and then come back when they have had a claim and were dissatisfied. Talk to your agent about reducing coverages, change in vehicle rating and other ways to save before you start switching!

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    Jen Reply:

    Thanks for that input. That is wonderful to know and I do think competition has a lot to do with it. It’s a tricky time in the insurance world and faithful companies are so important.

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  4. I can speak for the no cable. We have internet 45 per month and netflix 9 per month. The kids get to pick their shows and never know they are missing out. We watch past seasons of our favorite show. The best part is you get to watch the programs in sequence, you never miss an episode. Also since there are no commercials my kids don’t ask for all the latest toy trends. They are (7,5,3,1). If you have to watch the current season check out the networks website, we can watch the shows we like a day or two after they air.

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  5. Re:insurance – we have a friend who is a new agent so we got new and better quotes from his company and were about to switch. Called our existing carriers to let them know and they dropped our costs and improved our coverage on the spot. Hundreds saved in a few phone calls. We felt bad for our friend but not bad enough to pay more for less coverage.

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    Jen Reply:

    YAY! it’s crazy how a simple phone call can make a difference, right? And I am sure your friend understands. :)

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  6. Michelle R. says:

    We also went cable free! I’m loving it since I am not a TV watcher. My family still enjoys Netflix, Hulu, and having a laptop hooked to the TV to watch some shows online.

    As far as cutting the phone, there are a lot of people who do that. We still have a landline and probably always will as much as I hate the bill. Nor will I go to a bundle package with our local cable company. The phone service has been very reliable through all the storms we’ve had while the cable has not. Several people I know lost their cable service as well as cell phones (once they died) when we’ve lost power. Another issue I have is their reliability for emergencies. Emergency cell calls and sometimes cable phone are handled differently than local ones. Sometimes they can be an issue in locating an address since they go through a different system. Just something to think about. :-)

    Love the Dave Ramsey principles! We are working towards being debt free too!

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  7. I’d love to get rid of our TV service. The problem is that we are a sports-watching family! We love to watch baseball, football, soccer, sometimes basketball. We even have a Spanish channel package so my hubby can watch his hometown team (he’s Colombian). You just can’t (legally) watch live sports at home without TV service.

    Did you know that you can suspend service for up to 6 months straight with Directv? You don’t pay for the time service is suspended and when you reconnect, you get the same plan and rate as when you stopped. You have to have service reconnected for a full year before you can suspend again. It’s a great way to save money for short-term or if you’re going to be away from your home for a long time.

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  8. Michelle m says:

    After almost 20 years with the same insurance provider, my husband and I recently looked into changing ouf policies to another provuder. We will save over $1400 a year!!!!! Yes, I have been over-paying that much! Only one of our policies will be lower coverage and on a couple the coverage increased. I resisted for years out of loyalty to our agent who was a close family friend. After he passed away, we started to think about changing. I am so glad we did!!

    Also, by questioning our cable provider, we were able to reduce our bill by about $50 a month. My husband refuses to cancel cable and would probably would get a 2nd job just to pay for it:)

    These 2 savings show that questioning the services we pay for is well worth the time!

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  9. Great ideas. I had to do one the opposite way, though. My DH gets his cell through work and my cell was over $100/month. So, we called our company that provides our internet – we could reduce that bill by $15 and add home line to it. So, we turned off my cell and added a land line back. While it has been a bit of an adjustment – that was an automatic $115 savings right off the bat.

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    Jen Reply:

    I would have added that line right back too. :) $115 is $115. :)

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  10. We are trying so hard to get out of debt right now. Instead of buying new clothes, we usually shop at the thrift store. I also know how to sew so instead of getting my daughter new clothes, I will sew her something with clothes that don’t fit me anymore. Christmas gifts are going to be purses made out of a thrifted skirt and jeans ($2 total). also buying Walmart and Target brand items instead of name brand stuff helps. I also stock up when things are on sale, especially fresh fruit (can be frozen) or I will blend it all up and use in a smoothie pack. I check sale prices and totally do ad-match. Not sure how much I have saved but every little bit helps. My mom has also recently lost a bunch of weight. I am a size or 2 bigger than she is and so I get lots of free clothes when she cleans out her closet.

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  11. Jackie Brown says:

    I love change, anytime I see a penny, dime, quarter, whatever–it goes in the pocket and into the old wine jug. Every month I collect about 20-30$ just in loose change I’ve found. Not a large amount, but still helps :)

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  12. I’ve just recently discovered your blog. You story on your porch is very inspirational and I cannot wait to read all you previous entries. We featured this particular story on our News portion of our website today at http://www.honestled.com/saving-steadily-and-slowly/. Thank you for all the great tips.

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  13. We’ve cut cable out of our house for more than 3 years. We just watch our shows online like Hulu. You can also watch Hulu Plus using your credits for bing. I’ve done it twice using my credits.

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  14. I am 14, and I’ve grown up without cable. My parents have always said that we could be spending our money on better things and as I grow up, I see that they are completely right!

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    Jen Reply:

    Moriah – you have WISE parents, and you are obviously a really smart girl yourself to appreciate that. :)

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  15. We looked into losing our land line and it would save us a whopping $7 a month (it’s bundled with our internet). We have Amazon prime and Netflix for TV with a Roku and love it! I remember when cable came out, the selling point was NO commercials. I can’t bring myself to pay for commercials!

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  16. We had only Netflix for years, then added an antenna, and now have a roku box. It’s all the tv we need for relatively little money. We keep our landline tho, I’ll never do without that, it’s more reliable than my cell phone. We’ve had state farm insurance for many years, they give us a great rate. My van with full coverage is only $45 a month. We get discounts because of ages, good driving records, Nd the fact we have all of our insurances except health with them. Outr house insurance is high, has tripled in the last few years but in hurricane country you best not skimp on that.

    Porch taking 17 yrs? Guess I shouldn’t feel bad that my bathroom is taking 7 yrs!

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  17. Just found your site through Pinterest, what a great and timely post! I also wanted to chime in about insurance. I too worked at State Farm for several years before my kids were born. I can tell horror stories of people leaving for a cheaper premium only to be burned when they have a claim. Make sure you do your research so you fully understand what type of coverage you are switching to. The old saying “you get what you pay for” rings very true, especially for auto coverage. As someone else suggested, call your current company and see what kind of discounts they will offer if you tell them you are considering leaving. Going to explore the rest of your blog. Cheers to 2014! :)

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    Jen Reply:

    Absolutely – thank you for the great input.

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  18. This is such a great write up. We ditched cable and got an attic antenna to get local stations and then netflix for other things and don’t miss the other junk out there. Occassionally during play off time my husband will moan and groan, but he doesn’t like to pay the extra expense. I have a 4 yr old and 3 yr old as well as 2 other children in school and we cut out pre-school saving me $3,000 the past two years. I think people forget that pre-school is a luxury but not a necessity. Trust me, I would love a break just like everyone else, but more money each month in our pocket in order for me to stay home is worth it. My husband also found a cell phone service through Republic Wireless where I pay $25 a month for my smart phone fee coverage and there is no contract. You have to buy the Moto X phone for $300, but we will get that back after 4 months when we’re not paying $100 a month for phone service and I still get to keep my smart phone. We’ve also said no to camps, or extra activities like gymnastics that help keep that money in our pocket and more money in our pocket means less stress on the whole family!

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  19. victoria c. says:

    I dropped cable, my son is three and there is a whole kid section on netflix to please! My husband gets to marathon shows and I only pay $9/mo! They have digital streaming for new shows but we work too much. On your tablet, if you download ABC and cw, you get to watch their latest season too! You just need WiFi, which is pretty much essential now a days! Pinterest gave me easy ways to cook lots for less! It’s seriously a heaven sent for simple shortcuts to life.

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  20. Kristin D says:

    We recently dropped cable (have the roku box too) and the antenna. I’m not crazy about the antenna- we have a good one but really only a few channels come in, but with Amazon, Hulu, & Netflix I am dealing. There are a few cable channels I do miss, but it is worth it.

    I also need to chime in about insurance- make sure you know what you are paying for. I also worked for a carrier for ten years and cannot tell you how many times someone would switch and then want to come back because their new carrier used a bait price or greatly reduced coverage they needed, or had terrible claims service. Many carriers keep prices low by not paying for claims. If you have been with a carrier for a long time, there are discounts or ratings you only get because of tenure. There are also things built into older policies that you just cannot get anymore (one of Allstate’s oldest policies has a guaranteed renewal built-in- they cannot drop you because of claims for example). No one thinks this is important until you have an accident (regardless of fault) but please, please know what you have.

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  21. I stopped working last July so I had to learn to stop spending and save everywhere I could and fast. First cut cable and got a roku. Best thing ever. Next I started pinterest account and started learning how to DIY. Can now make my own cleaning supplies without all the chemicals very cheaply.
    Throughout I have learned to be environmentally concious. Started cooking real foods and cut out half the grocery bill. Yard sales and thrift stores have great clothes which I was surprised to learn. It’s also fun. We are following Dave Ramsey to get out of debt. Actually spend less now and having the time of my life learning new things. Being frugal was necessary at first but has now become fun and eye opening.

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  22. We too cancelled our satellite/cable & now only use Netflix. I did insurance quotes with different companies & realized our insurance costs were lower with our current provider (USAA.) We cancelled our monthly credit monitoring, since we no longer use credit cards. Our insurance rates & cell phone bills have dropped by $150/ month this year, not sure why…If you have to have a gym membership, check with your health insurance company. My husband & I were able to get memberships through the health insurance for $25 per person per month. The gym we go to was going to charge $60 per person per month, plus crazy sign up fees & entrance cards. We’re using the Dave Ramsey snowball & should be completely out of debt within a year!!#

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    Jen Reply:

    Celebrating with you, ERIKA!! That is awesome!! BEing debt free is amazing and I am so excited for you all. :) Great tips about the gym membership. I had not heard that.

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  23. Just a coment..we had been with the same insurance agent for our car and crop insurance for many years. We changed companies last year and saved over $2000 just on car insurance and over $4000 on crop insurance. Our old agent was so sad to see us leave, but I tend to think he was just sorry to see over $6000 of his income poof into thin air!

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    Jen Reply:

    WOW, CArol!! That is amazing. What a difference and just think of all you can do with $6K!!!

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  24. I work for the cable company so it’s already free. What else you got?

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    Jen Reply:

    That is a great benefit, for sure!! http://beautyandbedlam.com/tips-to-help-your-family-finances/

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  25. Carmen says:

    Hi! Love your blog! I would love to cancel my landline; however, I have a 12 y/o daughter who stays at home by herself sometimes (if we’re going to the store and she chooses not to go). She does not have her own cell phone, only an iPod touch. I worry about her not having access to a phone if there was an emergency. Anyone have any suggestions? Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Robin Reply:

    @Carmen,
    Hi Carmen, a cheap cell phone with pay per minutes is a lot cheaper than a land line plus she can keep it with her when she’s with friends. Keeping it cheap helps keep it only for emergencies. :)
    If you want a better but still inexpensive option for her, we use republic wireless and have been really happy with it.
    Good luck. :)

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  26. I have no idea where you live, but I live in the middle of nowhere in Texas and I have found the best offer for a cell phone service plan ever. I am a tried and true customer of StraightTalk Wireless. Now many people shrug off this idea because it’s a Walmart brand of cell service, but what they don’t realize is what they are missing. I travel quite a bit, most of the time through hills and back roads (normally nightmares for cell reception), but I have never lost my signal for more than 15 or 20 minutes, where as with AT&T and Verizon, I’d always lose it for about an hour. But just wait! You haven’t heard the best part. $45 per month for UNLIMITED EVERYTHING (talk, text, and data), or $300 per year (if I remember correctly)! I pay almost $150 for one month of service with AT&T without unlimited data. It really is a spectacular service and anyone reading this should definately look into it.

    [Reply]

    Jen Reply:

    Amber – I am right with you. I had straight talk for years before I got my iphone, but trust me, the huge jump in price isn’t worth it when on a budget.

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  27. I’ve read through all the responses and I’m hearing great things about tremendous savings..I need some advice…I currently have satelite Internet through hughesnet I pay about 70 per month (service is horrible..smh) early termination fee is $350 ..then I have direct tv..which I pay roughly 200+ that’s excluding state taxes and fees) then I have att&t with 2 active lines and 1 suspended line on the at &t next plan (recurring fees btw) and I have 2 tablets for $10.00 eac..and cell insurance for $6.99. .my bill altogether comes to.. $265.00 ..I’m so frustrated every month because I want to downgrade but they are all contract services and I’m only on 1 income with 2 kids.and really wanting to get out of debt to stay on a fixed budget to be able to have more in pocket each month….help!!!..any advice what to do will help…;-)

    [Reply]

    Jen Reply:

    @endia, Have you tried calling them and explaining your situation? If the representative won’t give at all, I would ask for a supervisor. Tell about your horrible service, let them know your financial situation, see if there is any way they will work with you on negotiating something different.

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  28. We have never had cable and I am fine with it, but, especially in the case of college football, the trend is toward cable. The past few years the only major bowl we could get was the Cotton Bowl; we haven’t been able to watch the national championship the past several years. Last year we watched the NCAA basketball tournament and then found out WHEN THE GAME SHOULD HAVE STARTED that the final was on cable. (We had watched the semifinals.). As far as NFL, there are games on at least two networks on Sunday, and there’s also Thursday night this year. Not sure what your hubby would be missing, but my theory is you can only watch one game at a time…

    So the sports may be the reason we finally break down and get it, but it won’t be for the NFL and it won’t be right now; I’m trying to get out budget firmly under control in a couple areas.

    Love your blog!

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  29. Kelsey W. says:

    My husband and I use the “Chromecast” which is a tiny little usb drive looking thing. There are no boxes needed and we control mostly everything with our phones. We can use hulu and netflix and youtube currently, but they are constantly expanding to new apps.

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  30. Hannah B. says:

    I’m all the time telling my husband we should shop around for a better price. Since I would be the one having to do the work, I need help on how to go about doing this. Our home insurance is escrowed in with taxes and our payment, and honestly I have no idea what coverage we have (I know, I’m cringing as I type this – so embarrassed!) We just turned our insurance provider name in as we were doing our paperwork for the house. We also have our auto insurance with the same company. Do I call my rep and ask her what she can do for us? How difficult is it to change home owners insurance when it’s escrowed in?

    Also another question… We have bundled service (land line, cable and internet) I’ve been saying that we need to drop the land line since we both have cell phones. My husbands response is that we need to have the land line in the case of an emergency and our phones are not working so we can call 911. Anyone have some advice on winning this battle haha.

    Thanks!

    [Reply]

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