Budget Lesson, Part 5

I’ve explained my budget in some detail already.¬† See these posts for the history of this series.

Now, I’m going to go through each section, reviewing ways that I can reduce, or have reduced, my spending.¬† I’ll be starting with my monthly payments.

  • House Payment ‚Äď I’ve mentioned that we have a small house payment.¬†¬†¬† A few years ago, when the interest rates dropped to almost the lowest point they reached in that particular cycle, we refinanced and got in under 5%.¬†¬† There is nothing to cut.¬† We won’t refinance again, and the loan will be paid within 7 years, according to the lender’s schedule.¬† I’m aiming for 4 years.
  • Netflix ‚Äď We’re on the 2 DVD/unlimited plan for $13.99.¬† We could drop down to the single DVD plan, but I’m worried that will trigger a rash of movie-buying.¬† 2-at-a-time scratches that itch well.¬† I don’t think we’ll be reducing this plan in the foreseeable future.
  • Cell Phone ‚Äď We recently doubled our contract price to get smartphones.¬† I’ve got a hundred rationalizations for the cost, but it wasn’t a cheap decision.¬† With the phones we have, we could drop the data plan, and just rely on wifi for the internet features.¬† I’d be covered at work and home, while saving $30-40 per month.
  • Dish¬†¬† – We recently called and asked to have our bill lowered.¬† We were planning to cancel, but our contract isn’t up until December.¬†¬† So, to save the $10-per-month penalty, we are paying $40 for our package.¬† That’s some bad math.¬†¬† As soon as I can convince my wife the fee won’t hurt, we’re done with the Dish.
  • Cable Internet¬† – While many people consider high-speed internet a luxury, I consider it a necessary expense.¬† I am a computer programmer, and I try to maintain a regular side-hustle or two.¬† I regularly use this to maintain current income and generate alternate income streams.¬† I need to find some time to call and ask for a lower price.
  • Car Payment¬† – My loan is scheduled to be paid off in 18 months, but I think I can trim it to under 12.¬† Then we start saving for our next car, which will be paid for in cash.¬† No more car loans.¬† In the meantime, there’s no way to reduce the payments.
  • Insurance¬† ‚Äď We have the multi-line/multi-policy discounts.¬† It’s been a while since I’ve checked, but nobody comes close to the price for what we have.¬† I am appropriately insured.¬† Our deductibles are on the high side, but within our emergency fund, which saves quite a bit on the monthly cost.¬† I don’t think this can come down much without leaving us unde-rinsured.
  • Personal Line of Credit¬† – This is my snowball target.¬† It is currently sitting at about$5000 and will be gone by spring, I think.
  • Credit Card¬† – We’ve got a decent rate:¬† 9.99% for life.¬† The CARD act screwed us on the payment amount and the original transfer rate.¬†¬† I can’t wait until this one is gone, but it will be a couple of years, yet.¬† Until balance transfer rates recover the CARD Act Travesty, this can’t come down, except for making payments.¬† Transfers are unlikely to improve the overall cost.[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="196" caption=" "][/caption]
  • Gas(Home)¬† – We put in a new furnace and central A/C, cutting this bill in half.¬† The return-on-investment there is a bit under 10 years, which made it a good plan.¬†¬† We have an appliance repair plan that I’ve considered dropping, but won’t.¬† Our sewer main is covered on the plan.¬† We have a tree that keeps growing into the main.¬† This plan pays for itself just in getting that cleaned out every year.¬†¬† I took the tree out this summer, but the roots will still grow for a couple of years.
  • Allowance¬†¬†¬† ‚Äď This won’t go down, and will surely go up as my son gets more ambitious and my daughters get old enough to want spending money.
  • Electric¬†¬† – Shut off the lights!¬†¬† I’ve got this trimmed.¬† The video game setup all gets shut off with a power strip and most of our house is on dimmer switches.¬†¬† They save electricity, but eliminate the idea of using hazardous waste CFLs.
  • Debt¬† – We won’t lower this one until the debt is gone.¬† The higher the better.¬† This is the amount, over and above the minimum payments, that we pay to our debt.¬† Effective debt reduction will not get reduced.¬† The savings from every other category get moved to this bucket.
  • Phone¬† – The only further reduction possible is elimination, which won’t happen.¬† As long as my kids may possible spend time at home alone, we will have a land line.
  • Savings¬† – As the debt goes down, we will be adding to this one a bit.¬† Until the debt is gone, this will never be a huge amount, but it will always be something.¬† Another entry to grow, instead of shrink.
  • College fund¬†¬† – See [Savings].

Every time we contact any of these organizations, we ask to have our bill lowered.¬† Usually, they cut the price for a few months for us.¬† Unfortunately, I’m not very good at remembering to do that often enough.¬† Time to add that to my calendar.¬† From now on, I will be calling to get my bills reduced quarterly.

Update:  This post has been included in the Carnival of Debt Reduction.

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    1. I just reviewed our bills and we weren’t willing to give anything up, so I called and talked AT&T Uverse into lowering our cable $20 a month and giving us a free high-speed internet upgrade…now we only pay a ridiculous $86 plus taxes instead of a more ridiculous $106 plus taxes…yay. We watch enough tv to more than cover the cost, but ouch. ūüôā

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