I Switched To Sprint SERO And Saved Some Money

A little over a week ago I signed my wife and I up each for the Sprint SERO cell phone plan.
We were already on Verizon Wireless. So why switch? First let me explain our Verizon experience:We had been looking into upgrading our phones since they were over two years old and we were due a credit for a new phone as part of Verizon’s plan. We even went so far as to visit a few Verizon stores but I felt like I was getting the run-around at each. See I was supposed to get $100 towards a new phone. At each location I went to they told me only $50 even though when I called Verizon they confirmed the $100. Two of three of the stores pretended to not know about a buy-one-get-one-free offer that was being advertised. This didn’t sit well with me. The next concern was cost. We had a family plan for 700 minutes that could be used between our two lines. This cost us $79.98 without any taxes or extra charges. Any texting was extra. Like 15 cents a text extra. We try to keep our texting below $5 which is what we would pay for their text plan (I don’t generally text much but my wife sometimes does). Our bill would end up between $90-$100 a month. Oh, did I mention that we got terrible reception in our home? We’ve traveled all over and Verizon has had great signals but our luck has it that our service stinks in our living room. So, we were willing to stay with Verizon but our minds were open to finding another service.

Fortunately we never found a Verizon phone deal to upgrade to.

I had remembered reading an article from Cash Money Life about how he transferred his cell plan to someone else and ordered the Sprint SERO service. Since we were already off our contract I figured I’d check the plan out. I went back to the post and saw that he got his info from fivecentnickel, checked out his site and checked out the Sprint SERO site. And isn’t fate funny? The day after I was looking at the SERO site Cash Money Life published 15 Ways to Save on Your Cell Bill. If that’s not synchronicity for you… Suffice it to say I signed us up for two plans.

So what is Sprint SERO? It’s the Sprint Employee Referral Offer. Here’s the $30 plan:

– 500 anytime minutes (they have bigger minute plans that cost more)
– Unlimited nights and weekends starting at 7PM
– Domestic long distance
– Unlimited mobile to mobile
Unlimited Web/Data access
– Unlimited picture mail (with compatible devices)

Currently there’s unlimited texting until 5/31/08. I was told that they tend to keep extending the free texts. Hopefully this is true.

What I really love about this plan is the unlimited data/web access. I can now access my Gmail account on my phone as well as many other web functions (Gmail is really great for on phones BTW). From what I recall from Verizon their data plan is much more expensive!

But wait. How do I sign up? I don’t know any Sprint employees! If you use the email savings@sprintemi.com at the Sprint SERO site you should be fine. This worked for both Cash Money Life and fivecentnickel when they ordered their phones. Check out fivecentnickel’s article for details.

Me, I’m still a little paranoid about getting stuff online (there’s a bit of irony in there somewhere, no?) so I entered the email address then checked the site for what I wanted. I settled on the Motorola Q9c Smartphone for me and the LG Rumor for my wife. I was a little skeptical about the email address working based on info I read so I picked an employee email from the Sprint Media page (check out this forum on FatWallet.com for SERO info). Next I called their SERO ordering number. I gave the salesperson the email and it went through with no problems. He asked if it was ok for them to check my credit. This is a requirement to make sure you can afford the phones and the plan.

Here’s where it paid to speak to a human: online there is a spot to enter any promotions codes you have (you might be able to find some online). On Nickel’s site he mentions that he used the code URANG to get a $25 credit on the first two bills. This no longer worked on the site but I mentioned it to the Sprint rep anyway. He was able to still apply the credits to each line so I should be getting a total of $100 back in credits. It always pays to ask! Also, if you order by phone make sure you don’t pay for shipping. They wanted to charge me for this but I mentioned that shipping was free when ordered online and they agreed not to charge me (it also pays to check out the deal online first).

So far we love are phones and couldn’t be happier with the text and data plans!

Pros:

– $30/month for 500 minutes. That’s $60 for the both of us. I went in for the insurance plan on my phone which is $7 extra a month. The phone’s a little more expensive than my wife’s and we have two kids. Still, this is cheaper than our last plan and has more minutes ($67 versus $79).

– Unlimited data/web and texts. I’m loving having the web on my phone!

– We have a great signal at home now and have had no problems so far with dropped calls (make sure you check your area for service on the site).

Cons:

Sprint customer service is horrible! You probably don’t have even a 50/50 shot at getting someone who knows what they are talking about! Seriously. When I called to activate the phones I mentioned to the rep that we would be porting our old numbers over (you have to order the phone with a new number then port over your old number when you activate the phone if you want to keep your old number). The rep didn’t know what to do and at one point told me I had to call Verizon and tell them to release the number. Had I actually done that I might have lost the number! He finally put me on with the porting dept. and they were able to get it taken care of with no problem. Why their reps don’t know what the process is I don’t know (my guess is their customer service is outsourced to another part of the world). Next, my wife’s phone wasn’t working. I spent a lot of time over several days getting them to fix the problem. I finally found a woman who was kind enough to take a real interest in my problem and she put a ticket in to tech support. Finally my wife’s phone was fixed but it took a LOT of time and patience! Note: If you plan on using your old cell phone number make sure you don’t cancel your plan until after you’ve ported you’re number to the new plan. Canceling it before can cause you to lose the number.

– I got the first bill already and it’s wrong. They didn’t include the credits. More time with customer service not knowing what to do. Eventually I was told that the credits were there it just didn’t update. We’ll see soon.

– It’s not open to existing customers. We switched from Verizon so it was no problem but if you already have Sprint you may not qualify.

All said we are very happy with the phones and the phone service so far. And we’re saving money and getting more services from our phones. If you’re looking into a new phone plan then you should consider the Sprint SERO plan. Check out fivecentnickel’s experience as well as the FatWallet forums and decide for yourself if it’s worth it.

Let me know what you think if you sign up or if you already have the plan!

ING $25 Referral Bonuses

Have you wanted to open an online savings account?

Well here’s your opportunity to open one with ING Direct! They offer high-yield savings with no minimum to open (this includes both savings and CD’s). This means better interest earnings than most other banks. I’ve been using them since April 2003.  If you use one of the referral links below you will receive a $25 bonus. You’ll also be giving me a bonus of $10 so it’s great for us both. In fact, once you open an account you can refer your friends and receive the same bonus as I would. The catch (isn’t there always one) is that you need to open the account with at least $250. What about those no minimums? You can always open an account with any amount lower than $250 but you won’t be eligible for the $25 bonus.

And check this out - If you open with $250 your $25 bonus is an instant 10% return!

Here are the links to use:

Shoot me an email for a link!

ING Sign-up Bonus
ING Sign-up Bonus
ING Sign-up Bonus
ING Sign-up Bonus
ING Sign-up Bonus
ING Sign-up Bonus

If you get the message “We’re sorry, but the referral link within the email you received has expired and is no longer valid. We recommend that you contact the sender and ask them to re-send the referral email. Or click ‘Continue’ to proceed with the application process without the account opening bonus” then the referral has already been used. Shoot me an email and I’ll send you a new link.Like I said, I’ve been using ING Direct for years and I highly recommend them. If I had kept my savings in my brick and mortar bank I would have missed out on a lot of savings and earnings. So what are you waiting for? Go open up a high-yield savings account!

If you don’t have $250 but still want to open an an ING account please click the banner below (please note this is for the Electric Orange account not savings):


As always read the fine print from ING to make sure their online savings is right for you. You should never sign up for anything online without understanding what you are getting into.

Loose Change Gets Us Free Meals On Vacation

So we usually go on vacation in the Summer.

Every time we get free meals from loose change!

Let me explain – We have two change jars in the house: one for quarters and one for all other change. This gets filled up whenever we come home for the day with change in our pockets. The quarters are for laundry so those get used pretty quick and isn’t part of our free meals. The other jar though slowly fills up over the course of the year and is usually filled to the brim by the Summer.

All year we watch the jar fill up higher and higher. It almost becomes a calendar for us to tell when it’s time for vacation! The week before our trip my wife and daughter will go to the local Commerce Online bank (yeah, it says online but they have a ton of brick and mortar locations where I live) and use their coin counting machine which is free for anyone! [This is better than Coinstar since Coinstar charges 8.9% to count your change (though if you convert your change to a gift card or eCertificate the counting is free)].

Now with cash in hand we’re ready to go on vacation.

We can usually get anywhere from $60-$100 depending on the change that’s in the jar. Maybe this only covers one special dinner or maybe this covers the first few meals for us. Either way we look at the meals as being free, paid for by change that accumulated in our pockets over the year.

Of course we understand that the meals aren’t really free.

What’s important is this is another small, disciplined way for us to save some money that we get to use on vacation. What’s more is it’s fun to watch the change grow and fun for our daughter to pour the change in the counting machine (extra bonus here is that she gets to see how saving small amounts can turn into large amounts in time).

What small tricks do you use to save money? Let me know!

Buying A Car – Know Your Credit Score And Get Financing Before Hand

Monster+Car+Sale

A few years ago I set out to buy my first car.

This was a big deal for me, it was to be my most expensive purchase as well as my greatest debt.  Thankfully I was able to get a lot of advice from the site The Motley Fool (check out their steps to buying a car).  Even if you don’t follow each of their steps I think you will find their information useful.

I don’t want to go into what my whole car-buying process was like.  That might be too long a post (there was much drama but that’s for another time).

What I want to discuss is knowing your credit score and getting financing before-hand.

I knew I needed to check my credit report and score before making a big purchase.

 

I purchased all three reports and my score online.   I was surprised at what I saw!  I expected to have a mediocre score due to past late fees and debt but what I found was that my score was actually very good.   I guess my efforts at reducing my debt and transferring balances to 0% cards helped.

With my credit score in hand my next step was to secure financing.

Included in my credit score was a description of how the score was determined as well as what kind of credit I could expect.  I applied for financing through an online bank and received a check to fill out when the purchase was made.  Due to my credit score my interest rate on the financing was favorable and below the average for a car loan.

Credit_report_history_225I don’t know how many of you have purchased a car but you may not know that you aren’t done negotiating after you have figured out the price of your car-to-be.

Oh no!

You spend your time and effort haggling over the car price with the sales person and maybe the sales manager and you finally come to an agreeable price and you let out a sigh of relief.  Finally, all I have to do is pay for the car and it’s mine!

Well at this point the sales person brings you into the office of the finance manager!  Sitting in the manager’s office, he looks over my forms and tells me I can get financing for X percent and goes into what I need to sign (it’s in his interest to give me a loan with as high a rate as possible).   “Whoa,” I say.  “I know my credit score can get me better financing” I tell the manager (keep in mind I already have financing in place).   The manager looks at my credit report and tells me I do have a good score and offers me a lower interest rate.  This rate is still higher than my outside financing!  It’s then I tell him that I already have financing so I don’t need to finance through the dealership.  Wanting to have my debt through his dealership he then offers me a rate about half a point below what my outside loan was.  I accepted the new rate and was finally able to buy my new car.

If I didn’t have a loan already and didn’t know my credit score before hand I would have paid significantly more for my car!

It would have been very difficult to negotiate at this point without those two pieces in place.   Having my credit score and a loan in place allowed me this:

  • I knew what kind to interest rate to expect.
  • I was able to get a rate lower than the financing I already had set up.
  • I saved money.

Finally

Remember, the price you negotiate with the sales person is not what you are paying for the car (unless you’re paying in full of course).  You have to add in the cost of your loan.  When you go into a major purchase you need to have as many tools and as much information as possible because you can be taken advantage of and you might not even know it.

Make sure to check your credit score and know your financing options before-hand!

Start Saving and Let That Money Build Itself

So we all want to save more money right?   What can we do to increase our savings?

Many of us were told by our elders that if you want to save money the best place to put it is in a savings account at the bank (remember that old question of whether it’s better to put it under your mattress or in a savings account?).

This was good advice back in the day but the problem with it now is the average bank savings account barely gives you any interest on your money.  Truth is, for most people you are probably losing money since your interest rate is lower than the rate of inflation.

Yup, all that conventional wisdom about putting your money in a savings account is losing you money.

So what do you do?

A savings account is still a good idea but you need to find one that actually gives you a decent interest rate.  A good place for that is an online bank savings account like Capital One 360 Savings.

I’ve been using them for about four years or so and it has been great (there are other online banks out there but 360 Savings has been pretty good to me so far).  They have no minimum and no account fees.  Many other banks offer higher rates but you have to start with a good amount of money (doesn’t it seem likes it’s easy to make money when you have money?).

Go over there and start saving.

Here are some tips to start saving up money that will build itself:

1. If you don’t have to put a lot in, start with something small like $20.  Now you aren’t going to get rich with this but you will see your money growing.

2. Set up an automatic deposit for $5 a week.  We can all scrape together $5, can’t we (you can even start smaller if you need to)?  After a few weeks you’ll see your account growing.

3. As you feel more comfortable try to up the dollar amount, maybe $7 or $10?

4. Once you’ve saved for a bit ask yourself if you can afford to put away some money that you will absolutely not touch for six months.  It doesn’t have to be a lot just something you won’t be needing.

Really, don’t touch the money!  You don’t want to use this money.

Now take this amount and open up a 6-month CD, or Certificate of Deposit (Capital One also has no minimums for their CD’s).  This will give you a slighter better interest rate than your savings account.  Remember though, you shouldn’t need this money for at least six months (12 months CD’s are even better but that’s up to you).

When your CD matures (the six months are up) see if you can open up a new CD maybe with more money.

If you have specific goals to save for you can set up different accounts within your account and fund them differently.  For example, if you need to save up for the holidays set up a holiday account and put a few of your dollars in their every week/month, etc…

You should be seeing your account growing now both due to the money you’ve put in as well as the interest you’ve earned.  It’s actually kinda fun to look at my account and see how much interest I’ve earned this month.

I didn’t mention it but you will need to have a checking account already.  This will be where you transfer your money from into your 360 Savings account (and vice versa).

This in itself isn’t going to get you rich but it can help you to start saving more effectively.  The hardest part is putting those first dollars in there and keeping up the discipline.

The journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.  The same idea holds true with savings and wealth – it all starts with that first dollar!

Let me know what you think and if this works for you!

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