Sunday, March 18, 2012
Trimming the Fat
I mentioned before that I want to share our strategies for how I am able to stay home. I feel that if a mom has the desire to stay with her children she should be able to. I understand it is not always possible for every family, but I think it should be noted that it doesn't come without sacrifice and a dedication to a common goal.
The major way I have made staying at home even a possibility is by cutting down our monthly bills. Over the last 6 months this is where we were able to trim some fat from our monthly bills.
We don't have it! It saved me $75 per month by canceling. We use Netflix and Hulu for our tv watching needs.
Cell Phones: -40
Because of the nature of John's job, an iPhone is almost a necessity. Otherwise, I am pretty certain he may go insane from boredom without music, sermons, and sports radio. So for me I knew that asking him to get rid of his data plan was just plain mean! So I cancelled my iPhone. Because I will be staying at home, most everything I need I will be able to access on our home computers. I was not eligible for an upgrade, so buying a phone was a challenge. I really wanted to keep the ability to take pictures/video, and wanted a touch screen with a full qwerty keyboard. Another feature that was important was bluetooth since my car is bluetooth compatible. I ended up purchasing an AT&T Go Phone. It was $99 and had all the features I wanted, minus the $25 per month data plan (which is really more like $40 per month after taxes). I simply put my sim card into the new phone. It is an LG Prime and so far I have been very happy with my purchase.
Auto Insurance: -$25
Since we had paid off the Dodge with the selling of the Focus I was able to drop our coverage to liability. This saved me $25 per month. John drives the Dodge to and from work and really not much further, so the coverage is cheap.
Credit Cards: +$0
We finally have paid off and kept our credit cards paid off! This was probably one of our first victories. In the past we had used our credit cards for either major life events (owing taxes, hospital bills, etc) or for frivolous things (ski trip, phones, birthday gifts). Now we still have one credit card, but it is only used for hotel reservations or emergencies.
Gas/Electric Bill: -$100
This may not be a possibility for everyone to see immediate savings, but it has helped us! Over the past year we purchased a new heating/air conditioning unit and had our 1950s house re-insulated. The total cost was a little over $5000, but the savings are awesome. Our first month our electric bill went down $100! We probably would not have made this big investment if our heater had not kicked the bucket, however, now that is done I am very glad we made the investment!
When we first canceled our cable we upped our internet. We felt that we needed a faster speed so that John and I could simultaneously be online. Since then we have come to our senses! We can save $20 per month if we are online together (i.e. watching shows together) or one of us can do something unrelated to media while the other is online (i.e. sewing, cleaning, playing with our son). It was pretty much a no brainer! These days the slowest high speed internet is plenty fast for us!
Student Loans: -$250
This is very exciting for us! Most of my college was paid for with scholarships, so paying mine off was not really that big of a feat. However, John's scholarships only helped pay for his first year. The rest was on him. So he had a pretty hefty student loan. When we decided that I was going to stay home with Gatlin, we starting using any extra money we had from my pay check to pay off bills. With the help of our tax refund we are happy to report that John's student loan is gone! Again some people go to more expensive colleges than we did, so this may be more of a challenge, however, we never made just the minimum payment. We always rounded up to the next hundred dollars for the entire duration of the loans.
We had to purchase a new car right before the birth of Gatlin in July. We had sold our Ford Focus in March and had been sharing our Dodge Caliber ever since. Thus we had eliminated our monthly car payment. We were planning to save enough cash to eventually purchase a new vehicle. Then the transmission in our Dodge threatened to go out and I refused to pay $4500 for a transmission in a car worth $5000! So we decided would drive it until she died. Also, since there was the threat of the car dying, I refused to be driving a car that could die at anytime while 9 months pregnant. We bit the bullet and purchased a Chevy Malibu after several LONG weeks of car shopping. Thus we now have a car payment and two cars since the Dodge is still kicking! Our goal is to have the Malibu paid for by the end of 2013.
Learning to live not just within our means, but below our means has not been an overnight process. It has taken prayer and self evaluation to decide how God wants us to spend the money he gives us. However, it is a great feeling to know that we are very close to being debt free and we are prepared for emergencies with adequate savings.