Go To The Museum For Free – Bank of America Museums on Us

museums-on-us-dates

What a wealth of culture and learning we have here in NYC!

The only thing holding us back from taking in all of the museums, gardens, zoos, and whatnot is time and money.  We’ve been trying to make the time to take the kids out and do things with them whenever we can.

That leaves money!

It’s expensive taking a family out these daysWell, it was a most pleasant surprise to learn that Bank of America was extending it’s Museums on Us program.  Not only did they extend it but they added museums and states that the program takes part in.

What is Museums on Us?

Continue Reading

Save On Your Car Insurance With Proper Emergency Savings

car-insurance

We already know the importance of adequate savings don’t we?  Well here’s an additional benefit for having savings – You can save on your car insurance!

You know about your car insurance deductible? This is the amount you have to pay on an insurance claim before your insurance kicks in to pick up the repairs.  Say you have a $500 deductible.  You get into a fender bender and file a claim to have your bumper repaired.  An estimate for the repairs is $1500.  You have to pay $500 and insurance picks up the $1000.  If your deductible were $1000 then you pay $1000 and insurance covers $500.  Get it?

So why not make the deductible as low as possible?

Sounds reasonable. You would rather your insurance pay more and you pay less.  Things is though, the lower your deductible the higher your premium is!  You pay more on your plan when your deductible is low.  This is the insurance company’s way of getting that extra cash layout back before an accident.  The opposite is true too.  The higher you make your deductible the lower your premium payments are.Continue Reading

9 Ways To Save On Baby Costs

Baby Feet

So you’re expecting?  Congratulations! A new baby is an exciting event in one’s life (how’s that for understatement of the year!).  In preparing for the little one’s arrival you’ll start to think of all of the things you are going to need for the baby as well as the costs!  But it doesn’t have to always be expensive.

Here are 9 ways to save on baby costs:

1) Shop at wholesale stores

Places like BJ’s, Costco, and Sam’s Club will be your friend when it comes to shopping for your baby.  We love the big boxes of diapers and wipes that we get at BJ’s.  They also have great deals on car seats and strollers from time to time.  Do your homework on what you expect prices to be of course, but we find that things like diapers are always worth getting at a wholesale store.

2) Reach out to friends, family, and co-workers

If you know anyone else who had a baby before you then talk to them about what they have.  Not only can they give you some practical advice on what they bought but odds are they have a ton of stuff that’s relatively new that they would be happy to give you!  Baby stuff takes up space and parents love to clear out the clutter.  We’ve gotten tons of clothes (it’s great when you can be clothing kids close to free), toys, bassinet, high chair, swing, and much more from friends and family.  Sometimes it was to keep while others said just give it back when we’re done.  Understand that many items will be used for a baby for a few weeks or months and will still be like new!  Heck, there was a time when we had to rush to put our little guy in clothes before he outgrew them.  Seriously, reach out to friends, family, and co-workers!

3) Check Craigslist and local Mommy forums for toys and furniture

Remember my point above about parents wanting to get rid of clutter?  Same idea here.  A parent buys X for their baby, uses it for a couple of months, and now it sits in the garage practically new.  We picked up a huge toy chest for $25 that originally cost about $75.  It looked like new and the Mom was more than happy to have us take it off her hands.  Bargains like that are all over the place!  You want to be careful with something like a crib or anything that the baby would be supported in to make sure it’s fully intact and has all the parts.  Safety first!  Bargains second! (Car seats may not be a good idea to get used as they wear out over time).

4) Breastfeed

This one is a personal choice for sure.  But by breastfeeding you don’t have to buy formula!  Plus it’s natural and better for your baby.  But what about a pump?  First, you may not need one, it depends on your situation.  Second, you could rent them out if needed or possibly you may have a friend that doesn’t need theirs anymore.  My wife bought her pump when her daughter was born.  It was well worth the money as it was used for our son and will be used for the little one on the way.

5) Set Up a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account

If your employer has this option you can set up flexible spending money to be taken out of your paycheck pre-tax for child care expenses.  If you already have a plan but re having an additional child you can make flexible spending account changes to account for costs on the additional child.  You then apply with a receipt to get the money back.  The benefit here is this money isn’t taxed!  The limit is $5000/year when I last checked.  That’s a lot to not be taxed.

6) Set up Health Care Flexible Spending Account

Same idea as dependent care but this can be used for things such as prescription medication and doctor’s visit co-pays.  Check with your employer for the contribution limit.

7) Set up a 529 plan for the little one

A 529 plan doesn’t only save for college in the future.  Many states offer tax benefits now for money you contribute to a 529 plan.

8 ) Sign up for a baby registry

I’ve heard parents-to-be say that they don’t want a baby shower; that they don’t like the idea of a registry.  But the truth is this is one even in your life that people genuinely want to help you start off on the right foot and want to contribute to your child’s well-being!  You don’t know who may be planning a surprise shower for you or who wants to send you a gift.  One thing they’ll ask about is a registry to get you something you need.  You don’t have to get a baby registry.  But it could also leave with a TON of onesies, bibs, and clothes as gifts rather than items you really need (nothing wrong with onesies, bibs, and clothes, but there comes a point where it too much).  Maybe your aunts and uncles will chip in to get you a crib?  Perhaps your college roommates will get together to buy you a car seat?  You don’t know!  Give them the option.  Also, most places that have a registry make it very easy to return gifts.  You’re going to find that you have extras you don’t need or items you thought you needed but don’t use.  We had a registry and were still fortunate to get two car seats!  We returned many a bib that we never used too.

9) Check product forums and sites like Amazon for reviews

If I’m making a big purchase I scour the web for product reviews!  I want to know what everyone is saying.  I’ll try to get as much information as I can.  I want to know the pros and cons of an item from people who are not salespeople in the store.  There are a ton of choices out there for expecting parents and it can be a daunting task trying to figure out what is best.  Do your research!  You may find that for some items spending a little more will save you in the long run.  I’m thinking about products like strollers which take a lot of abuse.  Amazon Bonus: They now have a program called Amazon Mom that offers discounts and free Amazon Prime for a time.

There you have it! 9 ways to save on your baby costs.  Can you think of any more?

Creative Commons License photo credit: lepiaf.geo

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

Frugal Alternative to Microsoft Office

ffbguestcomment

So I got a new computer recently. The last one went back to the turn of the century and the screen finally died (the battery had already gone).  Anyway for all of the great programs on my new computer I didn’t have a good spreadsheet or writing program.  Of course the industry standard is Microsoft Office.  Office 2008 for the Mac on Amazon is going for a little over $100.  Pretty good but still expensive after already buying a computer!  I found out I could get a pretty good discount through work but a discount still means I’m paying for it.  That’s when I remembered an article 9 Tips to Save Money on your Next Computer which mentioned OpenOffice.org!

I was a little skeptical of OpenOffice.org at first. I mean, it’s touted as a free alternative to MS Office.  Could it really be as good if it’s free? I’ve used another alternative, Google Docs, a bunch of times.  Google Docs is also free and is nice in that you can access your docs on any computer where you can get Google.  It’s got good programs but falls behind in what MS Office offers.

OpenOffice.org , on the other hand functions almost exactly like MS Office!! So here’s our story: Last week my daughter had a science project due.  In true fashion we all waited to just about the last minute.  I hadn’t bought MS Office and didn’t use OpenOffice.org yet.  We needed to print out her project, titles, and a graph of her research.  Uh-oh!  So I went to the OpenOffice site and downloaded thier suite which includes Writer (Word), Calc (Excell), Impress, Draw, and Base.  I gotta tell you. I was surprised to see that it looked and operated just like MS Office would!  I am sold!  On top of the great programs you can also download templates and extensions to help you further.

Here’s the welcome page when you first open it:

openofficeorg-welcome-page

Here’s what a spreadsheet looks like:

openofficecalc-spreadsheet

Looks an awful lot like Excel, no?

Here’s what Writer looks like:

openofficewriter

Very similar to Word!

And here’s the templates and extensions screen:

openoffice-templates-docs

There are a ton of great templates to chose from!

I mean, whats more frugal than free?!?  And with the functionality of MS Office products it’s really a no-brainer!  Although I haven’t gotten to use it too much yet I’m really liking it so far!

If you are looking for a spreadsheet, document, or presentation program I really think you should give OpenOffice.org a shot before you go out and buy anything!

Have you used it?  What do you think?

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!

Sign up with ING Direct and get a $25 bonus