Archive for the 'Budgeting' Category

While I have long maintained that I’m not a fan of Sprint, I’m still using them, partially because while their customer service has been horrible, their coverage and network speeds have been fine, meaning that I’m almost never in need of customer service. But in order to use my Epic 4G I had to change my plan from the $30 SERO plan to a $40 SERO Premium plan with a $10 per month “premium data” surcharge, bringing my total to over $50 per month. I killed off my stand alone mobile data cards when this happened, but I’m still thinking of the future for phone and mobile data.

So I’m now considering Virgin Mobile; they have a $25/month no contract 300 minutes, unlimited data, unlimited SMS deal which would work fine for me. Unfortunately, none of their current phones are as nice as my Epic 4G and while they ride on the Sprint network none of their devices uses Sprint’s WiMax (self proclaimed 4G) data.

This bears more watching.


Financial Time Sink?

One of the practices I am trying to get back to is logging every purchase I make. I used to carry around a composition book to do this, but I’m now using a spreadsheet on Google Docs to log it, hoping that’ll be harder to lose and easier to access through multiple devices.

Yet, I can say one thing: it takes a lot of time to keep up with this log.

I would even call it a financial time sink.

Perhaps that’s part of the beauty of the spending log: if you use one, you spend so much time keeping it up you don’t spend very much.

I’m going to try to stay on track with this.

My expenses went up in 2010, even if I didn’t track them.

In fact, they largely went up because I stopped tracking them.

Monitoring what I spent was one of the most effective things I did to curb spending. It wasn’t that I kept track of my budget; just forcing myself to write things down in a spending diary helped keep me honest, just like writing things down in a food diary helps dieters.

I’m needing to start this again–and stick to it–in order to get my spending back in line with where it needs to be.

As I often do during my downtime at work, I was looking at some of my dream items on eBay; things like Nikon D300s or D7000 digital single lens reflex cameras, Serotta Legend bicycles, and Mac Pro desktop computers. As I compared prices and features between the D300s and D7000, one of my coworkers asked:

“Why not just buy it?”

Because, my answer was, right now it wasn’t in my budget.

“I know you have that much in your rainy day fund, and more.”

Which is true. My response, simply, was that, “A new camera body isn’t a rainy day for me. Even if mine was stolen, I’m a hobbyist, not a professional. I’d like to have it, but it’s not close to a need.”

After which, the same coworker, who had earlier been talking about buying a new purse–her expensive Coach bag had served her for about five years–announced after talking to me that she decided not to buy that purse (for now).

Apparently, modeling financial responsibility affected her in some way. Did it shame her into changing her mind?

I don’t know, but I hope it helped her, somehow.


Switching to VOIP

After a trial period with it, I’ve decided to switch my mother’s phone line from regular copper (also known as POTS: plain old telephone service) to voice over Internet protocol, also known as VOIP.


Primarily one reason: price.

It appears that making this switch would result in mom spending about $25/month less on her phone service.

I’m all for that.


No Amount of Sale Equals Saving

Black Friday is past, yet if there is ever a time of year when discounts are sold and oversold, this is it.

“Save 50% of more!” is one of the cries typically seen in newspapers (and increasingly, on the Web), but guess what?

Unless the 50% not spent is immediately taken and put into a bank account, it’s definitely not saved. It’s just letting a consumer buy something spending less.

There’s no saving involved with spending.


Lower Cost Holiday Gifts

The holidays are once again upon us, and as I’ve said for a short bit, it’s not been an ideal financial year. My investments have gone well, but my income has gone backwards and my expenses have gone up. But that said, it’s still a time for gifts and holidays.

How have I gone about dealing with these end of year expenses? A few different strategies:

1) Coupons

Turns out my most popular gifts this year are based on Groupon or its many competitors. Paying $10 for a $20 credit at a local restaurant has been one of my most popular ideas so far. These have already lightened my financial burden quite a bit.

2) Grab bags and secret Santas

In a group, this can be the most effective way to keep costs down. For work groups and groups of friends, buying one gift rather than ten can meaningfully reduce costs.

3) Feeling okay with inequitable amounts

This comes right down to the feeling of fairness and equality. Lots of my friends are physicians or nurses who make considerably more money than a social worker, and their gifts to me are often quite generous. There’s no way I can afford to give like amounts to them, so after a bit of soul searching, I simply have accepted that it’s how things are. For now, anyway.

The holidays are always a bit difficult financially. Hopefully this could help you in your holiday shopping late in 2010.

This past week Apple, Inc. introduced two new models of its smallest portable computer, the MacBook Air. While the previous models were pricey, underpowered, and niche machines, these newer models are more likely to make a dent.

In particular, I am falling all over myself like a lovesick teenager when I see the 11.6 inch model.

It’s a beautiful machine, quite a bit more expensive than my netbook, but with a larger, higher resolution screen, a relatively large solid state drive instead of a conventional hard drive, and the thinness and lightness that the Air is known for. I could really get a lot out of this machine.

But I don’t need it–at least, I don’t need the expense right now.

I love it, I’ll get it–I just don’t know when, except when I can afford it.


Replacing the Landline

I’m trying to cut down a bunch of Mom’s bills all the while without confusing her (my mom is 76 and her memory is going), so one of the areas I’m looking at is her landline.

Yes, my mother has a landline.

I’ve considered getting her a cellular phone but that just does not seem like something she would do. Also, a cell phone to landline adapter (which I’ve just heard about for the first time) isn’t much of an option because I can’t get another phone line added onto my plan, and starting a second account for her seems silly when some of the other options are far cheaper.

I’m currently looking at a couple of VoIP providers–Future Nine has a plan as low as $0 per month and total pay as you go with a minimum of $3 a month or another plan at $7 per month or $75 a year for 250 outgoing and 2000 incoming monthly minutes; another is 808netphone at $12.95 a month for unlimited local calls. I would really like to use a digital to analog adapter so Mom can keep using her existing phones, so I’m researching that as well.

Anyone out there with experience with this? I’d love to hear about it.


Financing Mom: Part One

I recently took over my mother’s finances, so in addition to my own, I have a whole other person’s income, expenses, and assets to look over.

In a few words: it could have been more of a mess.

The first steps of all of this happened years ago when my father died after a stroke. I’m listed on some of my mother’s accounts and my sister is listed on the rest. As a side note: if you’re concerned about long range planning for the elderly or those with health problems, doing that as well as completing advance health care directives will put you ahead of 80% of the people in the country.

The next steps were assessing the general situation. This is not unlike anyone else’s situation: how much money in the bank, how much income, what do expenses look like? All of those questions need to be answered. Also, bills that are excessive or expenses that could be trimmed are things I’m trying to find.

In mom’s situation, she’s still largely glued to the tried and true old school method of using checks and the U.S. mail to pay bills. I’m going to be changing that as time goes on.

As time goes on I’ll be adding to this series because I’m sure I’m going to find things that are going to be surprising–and things I’ll learn from.

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