Ask And Save On Your Cable Bill

Cable

My wife was getting sick of the cable bill.

It’s gone up recently to the point where we had to question whether it was worth keeping or not.

I mean, remember when TV was free? 

Now to get reception you have to pay (at least until the digital boxes take effect in February).

So my wife said it was time to get rid of cable!

Whoa!  I gotta admit, I’m an addict.  I’ve been glued to the TV since I was a wee little pea.  I know that’s not the best thing but I wasn’t ready to go cold turkey just yet.  But I also understand that we’re spending way too much money for the privilege of watching a ton of commercials on shows we mostly don’t care too much about.

I told my wife to let me take a shot at calling the cable company to see what they can do for us.

So I grabbed our latest bill, a pen, and some paper and gave them a call.

I got a friendly woman who asked how she can help me.  I asked her what can be done to lower the bill as the rates have gotten real high and we were ready to drop cable if the rates continued as they were.

Immediately she said they had a 12 month promotion that would save us $25!

Oh yeah!

I checked with the Mrs to see if this was acceptable (we’re cool like that in that we clear money issues with each other).  I got the yes nod and told the woman we’d take it.

Just like that we saved roughly $25 a month on our cable!

I took the person’s name and company number in case any issues arise on the next bill.  I also wrote the details down so I can refer to then when the next bill comes in.

Lesson – If you want something to change you have to ask!  It won’t happen on it’s own.

Some things to keep in mind if you’re calling to change your cable bill:

  • Calmly but firmly state that you want to find out how your bill can be lowered.
  • Always remain friendly when speaking to the customer representative.  If the person you get can’t help you ask to speak to their superior or someone that can.
  • Be nice!  Customer service probably gets hundreds of calls in a day, many of which are not too friendly.  Being nice can go a long way in getting what you need.
  • If needed, state that you are prepared to drop their service or go to another service provider.  Have an example of a competitors lower prices if possible.  Many companies have a customer retention department who are equipped for these kind of calls.  Remember, only go the drop route if you are really prepared to drop their service.
  • You might not get the answer you want the first time through.  Nicely hang up and call back in a few minutes to see if you get another rep.
  • Ask about combination packages.  You might get a lower cable rate if you combine cable service with internet and/or telephone service.
  • Get the rep’s name and customer number or ID.  They should have some sort of ID to trace the call back to them.  Write down the details and repeat them back to make sure you understand correctly.  Watch for deals that require a contracted time.  That might not be an ideal situation for you.

Do you have any other tips?  Let me know what’s worked for you!

Creative Commons License photo credit: jessicafm

6 Ways Eating Out Less Has Made Our Family Better

As you know we are living off of one income now. It’s been a bit different but I think we’re doing well so far.  One thing we’ve done to help stretch my paycheck is to cut back eating out so often.  I didn’t think we ate out too much before the income switch but now I can see that we had a budget leak that could have been more savings for us.  And we’ve discovered there are more benefits than saving money!

We were already in the habit of making dinner at home and having family time together. It was the weekends when we usually ate out.  Saturdays were probably the worst culprits.  We would get up and go to our favorite diner for breakfast.  Then as we’d go and take care of things during the day we’d find lunch somewhere.  This would also tend to be pretty unhealthy.  I’m talking mall food here.  Afterward we’d be too beat to make dinner so we go out for dinner or order in.  Three meals may not seem like a lot but it would drain my wallet pretty quick!  I would usually go to the bank on Friday to take money out for the weekend and often I’d find that I was broke by Sunday!

And that was just eating out on Saturday! I didn’t even get to eating out on Sunday or during the week.  Sundays would usually be breakfast and lunch out again.  During the week we usually ate in but if we were tired we would easily get food out!

Overall we’re really happy with the fact that we have been eating at home more.

Here are six ways eating out less has made our family better:

  • We have more more family time together. When we eat we eat together at the dinner table.  We have more time for conversation to talk about our days.  Our daughter knows that dinner time is “family dinner.”  “A family that eats together stays together.
  • We are eating healthier. Sometimes we would eat out at a nice restaurant with great food but most of the time it would be at a chain type restaurant.  Yeah, we filled up but the food wasn’t really great for us.  Now the food we eat is prepared by us and we know better what the ingredients are.
  • We’re setting a better example for our children. By eating together at home our kids see that we don’t have to eat out for every meal and they can learn how food is prepared.  This will set them up to take care of themselves later on in life.
  • We’re saving money. This is a big one for us.  This is Free From Broke after all!  It’s tough to put a dollar figure on what we’re saving but I can tell you that I don’t have to go to the ATM twice in one weekend anymore!!  We’re finding that although our food shopping expenses have gone up some we still have extra money at the end of the month that we didn’t have when we ate out more often.
  • We’re being more efficient. Now when we go food shopping we know that everything we buy  on our grocery shopping list will be used.  It used to be we would go out to eat and the food we had would spoil.  Even when we ate out our meals were so big most of it would go uneaten.
  • Our home is a home! It’s hard to explain but our home is more complete now that we eat out less.  We’re using our home to it’s fullest extent.  All those things we got for our wedding like salad spinners and cooking sets are being used rather than sitting up on shelves.  It just feels like this is what it’s supposed to be.

It’s a shame it took our going to one income to take advantage of all of these benefits! Imagine what we could have been saving when we had two incomes?!?  Or how much healthier we would have been eating?

We haven’t completely given up eating out.  We still have the occasional pizza night.  And we’ll get together with friends every now and then at a nice restaurant.  But eating out less has definitely benefited our family in more ways than we would have thought!

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I’m Saving By Bringing Lunch To Work

the finished product

So as you know, we’re living off of one income now as my wife took off from her education job to stay home to raise the kids.  We’ve been looking for all sorts of ways to cut expenses to make my salary stretch a little farther.

One thing I’ve started to do is bring lunch to work a few days a week.

I work in NYC.  I don’t tend to go too crazy on lunches in general.  I tend to stay away from the expensive restaurants.  This was a habit before we were on one income.  But the costs of eating in Manhattan do add up anyway.  A sandwich is easily $5 at least if I go to a small deli.  More if I go to a bigger establishment.  Salads cost at least $7.  One thing to note is that I don’t eat at fast food places such as McDonald’s, Subway, or Wendy’s.  I could get cheaper lunched there but I gave up that food long ago.  I try to keep my eating healthy.  It could cost more at times but I think the payoff to my health is much greater in the long run!

So now my wife has been making lunch for me around three times a week. If I would have spent $5 on lunch then that saves me $15/week.  That’s around $60/month or $720/year!  And that’s if I only spent $5.  I’m saving more if my lunches were more expensive on those days.

I also don’t buy any beverages for lunch.  We have a coffee machine and water cooler at work which I use instead.  This also goes back to eating healthy since I wouldn’t buy soda or sugar drinks anyway.

So there’s one way we’re making our money stretch.  I’ll be telling you about others ways in future articles.

How do you stretch your money?

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Creative Commons License photo credit: the prodigal untitled13

Booking A Hotel Through An Online Travel Site May Not Be Worth It

In planning our recent trip to Virginia Beach I discovered that using an online travel site isn’t always worth it.  In fact they could be ripping you off!

every time we say goodbye

We finally decided on going to Virginia Beach and we wanted to stay as close to the beach as possible.  At the same time we really didn’t know much about the area.

My wife and I scoured the various travel sites such as Expedia, Orbitz, Hotels.com, etc…  Whenever we saw something interesting we checked it in Trip Advisor to see what kind of feedback people who stayed there had.  We tried to find out what we could about the area and what was available.  Because we waited so long to plan our trip many hotels were either booked on certain days or too expensive.  Finally, through one of the sites (I won’t mention which), we found a decent hotel with a rate we were OK with paying.

Here’s where it gets interesting.

So we found a good rate for a room.  We discovered that for $10 more a night we could also get a Continental breakfast included.  Ten dollars more a night to get the four of us going in the morning sounded like a good deal!

Before I was able to reserve the room, my wife, in her mighty wisdom, told me to check out the hotel’s site and maybe give them a call to see what they charge.  Good thing she told me that.  I checked the hotel site and I found that their rooms were the same price as the online travel site.

Ok, no biggie.

Then I discovered that the Continental breakfast was included in all the reservations!!  The travel site was going to charge me $10 a night for something the hotel gave out for free!  It gets better.  We found that the hotel gives discounts to AAA members.  I plugged in our membership card and was pleased to see that the room would be discounted another $18!

In all we saved $28 a night by going directly to the hotel’s site rather than booking through an outside travel site!  Over five nights that’s a savings of $140.

I’m sure there are real great deals out there on these travel sites but this proves that you have to do your homework.

Sometimes the best deals may be from the hotel itself!

What travel tips do you have?

Creative Commons License photo credit: [charlie cravero]

Our Vacation To Virginia Beach And Such

We got back a few days ago from our trip to Virginia Beach. According to Google Maps this was around 380 miles and should take about 7 and 1/2 hours to get there (more on that later).  We drove down on Sunday morning and came back Friday evening.

I was originally going to call this our “staycation” but it seems that staycation really means that you stay home and go to local attractions.  Still, this was our first driving vacation.  In previous years we would fly to our destinations.  Since we just bought a new mini-van we figured it would be a great time to drive and save money on plane fare too!  Virginia Beach seemed close enough to drive to from NYC and we heard a lot of great things about it.

So we packed up our stuff and put the kids in the car and left Sunday morning.  Many, many hours and rest stops later we finally made it to Virginia Beach (we had a major delay at one point but more on that later).  It was basically an all day drive for us, what with stops and all.  One exciting about the drive was going over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel which spans 20 miles (on the way back we saw what might have been a a Navy Destroyer passing through the channel section).  It was also interesting to see all of the different towns and landscapes in the different states (four total: New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia).

Virginia Beach is beautiful! Our hotel really was just two quick blocks to the beach!  There was a beautiful boardwalk on the beach to walk along with a separate trail for bikes (we wanted to rent a bike for all of us but we didn’t get a chance).  Within two from the beach are places to eat (the four main  food sources seem to be seafood, ice cream, waffle/pancakes, and pizza), shops, a fun house, a haunted house, lots of ice cream shops, outdoor performance areas, miniature golf, and more!  It was really fun to walk around at night and take in the scenery.  In fact one of the performances we saw was the Edgar Winter Group at a bandstand right off the beach (we caught Frankenstein and Free Ride)!

An interesting thing we discovered was that Virginia Beach is close to a Naval base.  As a result there are military jets flying routes overhead all day.  Living near two airports in Queens, NY I’m used to hearing planes overhead but seeing military jets is different.  The last time I saw a military jet flying was on September 11th over the Empire State Building so it brought back some somber memories.  Once I got used to that though it was pretty awesome seeing the jets flying.  At times we would see three together flying in close formation.  If we ever go back we’ll have to tour the Naval base!

Funny story…One day my daughter wanted to go to the pool rather than go to the beach.  She couldn’t quite grasp that we didn’t drive 400 miles to go to a small hotel pool!  Well the beach won out.  As I was playing with her, jumping waves I saw a fin a little ways off.  I noticed it was a curved fin.  I told I thought I saw a dolphon but wasn’t sure.  She got worried thinking it could be a shark!  A few minutes later I saw for sure two dolphins swim to the surface.  Other people noticed it too.  In all there were about four dolphins swimming around and playing a little ways off from us.  We saw a couple jump out of the water and twist.  We must have watched them swim around on and off for the next hour!  At one point, holding my daughter up to see the dolphins, I asked her if she would have rather stayed at the pool.  Begrudgingly she said no, that it was much more fun at the beach.  Ha!  On a similar note, I had seen dolphin watching boat rides advertised for about $20 a person.  We saved a bundle by just going to the beach instead!

As well as the beach and the local scenery we also went to the Virginia Beach Aquarium and spent a day in Colonial Williamsburg.  The little princess loved seeing all of the old time building and costumes.

Remember how I said Google Maps said the trip should be 7-8 hours?  I’ve discovered that with two kids we have to add at least 30% to the time listed!  Coming home took much longer with stops and traffic entering NYC.

The trip was a lot of fun and I would definitely consider going back to Virginia Beach but it seems for us every silver cloud has a lead lining.  While driving down there we got into a car accident.  We got rear ended on the highway.  Our brand new car now has a dent in the front and a smashed in rear door.  No one was hurt and the car runs but it really hurts to have a new car get beat up like that.  The accident was the other person’s fault and insurance should cover the repairs but it did put an ill feeling over the trip.  We even considered going back home after the accident but we’re glad we went through with the trip.

In all I think we saved money by not flying off someplace.  We certainly spent money but it was less than we would have flying to a Caribbean locale.

Accident aside, we had fun and I think we have more driving trips in our future. As you can see from the Frugal Things To Do series there’s so much to see and do in this country!  Even a couple of days before the big trip we went out to Sesame Place and a couple of weeks earlier we went to the Bronx Zoo.

Do You Have Frugal Tips For Your City?

If you’ve been keeping up on things then you know the Money Life Network has just finished our series “Frugal Things To Do In…” where we listed out great things to do in each of the cities we live in.  Check out the great map showing all of our locations!

Things is though, there’s only seven of us in the Money Life Network and that barely puts a dent in the map.  We need your help to fill the map up!  If you have a blog then write about frugal things to do in your city , link back to us and contact us and we’ll add you to our map.

Check out the Money Life Network cities:

Now let’s fill up that map!

Money Life Network Summer Saving Series Articles

Real Joy

The Summer Saving Series has come to an end.  In all there were 15 articles from the Money Life Network.  We also had about 15 articles from other writers who wrote about Summer savings on their sites!  Check the Money Life Network site for the contest winner announcement.

I hope we were able to provide a lot of info on how to save in the Summer!  We’re thinking up some new contests/series so let us know what you thought of this one.

Here are the great articles written by the Money Life Network:

Monday 6/9: Summer Savings Series #1: Food is a big expense. How can you save?

Tuesday 6/10: Summer Savings Series #2: 9 Money Saving Ways to Prepare For a Vacation

Wednesday 6/11: Summer Savings Series #3: Everyone Can Save Money This Way In The Heat!

Thursday 6/12: Summer Savings Series #4: Fun Frugal Ices With Your Child

Friday 6/13: Summer Savings Series #5: Make Summer Activities Affordable

Monday 6/16: Summer Savings Series #6: Save like you’re paying off a high interest debt

Tuesday 6/17: Summer Savings Series #7 – Send Your Kid to Summer Camp Without Blowing the Budget

Wednesday 6/18: Summer Savings Series Tip #8 – Watch Movies And Play Video Games For Free!

Thursday 6/19: Summer Savings Series #9 – Our Disney World Vacation

Friday 6/20: Summer Savings Series #10 – What is a staycation?

Monday 6/23: Summer Savings Series #11 – Saving at the movies this summer

Tuesday 6/24: Summer Savings Series #12: Save Money and Get Fit with These Summertime Activities and Programs

Wednesday 6/25: Summer Savings Series #13 – Don’t Drive 10 Miles Out Of Your Way To Save $0.20 On Gas! Use GasBuddy!

Thursday 6/26: Summer Saving Series #14: New York State Empire Passport

Friday 6/27: Summer Savings Series #15: The art of Hypermiling

And these amazing articles were submitted to us from other sites:

8 cheap summer fun ideas @ Broke Grad Student

Military Discounts @ Military Finance Network

Summer Savings – What I did @ OneGirlsQuest

You Know What I Did This Summer – Save Money! @ Are You Going To Be This Way The Rest of The Time I Know You?

7 Ways to save money this summer @ Dreamline Savings

10 Money Saving Vacation Tips @ Think your way to wealth

Summer Savings Series: My Game Plan @ Kingdom First Mom

Freeze Your Air Conditioning Costs @ CashMoneyLife.com

How I Plan to Save Money This Summer @ Amelia’s Healthy Life

How I Will Save Money on My Summer Vacation @ The Dangling Conversation

Saving Money This Summer @ Keep it Simple

Here are some of the comment tips:

The Happy Rock “Get your air conditioning unit checked and tuned up to help save on energy costs.”

otherdeb (Deb Wunder)“Know that bicycle that’s been moldering against your back porch/in your attic/in your garage, etc? Get it out, get it checked over, and start using it for local errands!

If you are anything like me, as you build up a bit of endurance, you will also want to start using it to do some local sightseeing!”

Rachel“Summer Money Saving Tip: For a cheap sun burn treatment that won’t require an extra trip to the pharmacy, freeze some of the lotion you already have on hand on a piece of tin foil. Once it’s frozen, it cools and soothes the burn and also moisturizers to ease peeling and blistering. Works great too for those who are allergic to Aloe Vera like me! :-)

Sam”Turn you thermostat up to 80 and use your ceiling fans or box fans.

We also turn off the AC at night and just use our ceiling fans.”

That One Caveman “Vacation in or near your hometown. There are often a lot of cheap or free ways to entertain yourself – you just have to look for them. We’ll be visiting a few local museums (free entrance + free air conditioning), the zoo, the lake, and a few parks this summer – all for free!”

Mercedes”This summer I have decided to quit driving my kids around for activities and stay local. I have been lucky to have found things to do in the small town that I live. So far I love this simple summer life. I am kicking back and enjoying the nice weather without a hectic lifestyle.”

There are a bunch of other great tips as well.  Make sure to check out the comments section of the original article!

Without you, the reader, the Summer Saving Series would not be possible.  It’s great to see all of the articles and comments that were submitted!

photo credit: Todd Baker << technowannabe

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