The Almighty Budget

I cannot stress how very important it it to have a monthly budget. When you’ve got about half an hour of time gather all your bills and your bank statement, a calendar and sit down with a pad of paper.  Write out all your bills and the dates they are due. Once you have that completed take out an old page on the calendar and place the bills according to due dates on it.  If you are anything like my family you will have a whole bunch of bills in the beginning of the month and only a few the third week of the month for instance.  This is where the “budget” comes in. You need to keep money in savings account, in a sock or whatever in order to be able to pay those heavy weeks.  This takes a certain amount of self control and if you don’t have written on the third week of the month “PUT 200 IN SAVINGS” you will not do it.  Trust me I know.  

Now the reason you brought out the bank statement is to see what other things you have spent your money on that is not on your list above for instance movie rentals, cups of coffee, lunch out at the office etc.  At one time I bought a cup of coffee on my way to work at the little convenience store around the corner every at $2.00 a cup. That would add up to $40 a month!  WHAT, $40 a month on coffee?  Now I am not saying that you should never get another cup of coffee out again.  What I am saying is that you need to know where every single dollar is going and make a conscience decision as to whether you want to continue that habit.  You can buy one pound of Dunkin’ Donuts coffee grounds for 5.99 on sale, get yourself a couple travel mugs at the dollar store and make your own coffee every morning and suddenly you can buy yourself a new item of clothing every month if you want to. 

There are some bills that you can lower if you do a little work.  It can take time but if you feel pinched every month saving $30 a month on car insurance can make a difference.  Here in NH we have become “deregulated” in the electrical market so we have recently switched to another company to supply our power to the house since the one we had just raised rates 20%!.  I called around for our car insurance and found that I could save $25 or so a month if I went with another carrier for exactly the same coverage.  You can call your cable company tell them you are thinking of leaving and ask for the retention department; they will usually give you some sort of discount in order to keep you as a customer.  When it comes to TV, internet and Phone you can save a great deal of money in several ways.  Consider whether switching to using your cell phone full time would save you money.  On your cable, go down to the basic service with no boxes, DVR or what not. Keep the highest speed internet you can afford and purchase a device to stream shows on your tv, for instance a Roku.  IF you HAVE a laptop and a newer tv you can watch tv and cruise the internet!  You simply connect your laptop using an HDMI cable and you instantly have access to TV shows, YouTube videos as well at Netflix and Hulu Plus.  You might find you can go down to the most basic of cable packages and watch everything that you love using these methods.  Do some research and see what works best for you.  A roku can cost about $50 and should pay itself off in about a month.  Both Netflix and Hulu Plus require subscriptions which are about $7 each a month.  Use your common sense here and read about each service, I believe they both have free trials; try them out to see if you are really going to watch them. Now on that cell phone, if you do not use it for a home phone as it’s too expensive and want to keep it, would it be less expensive to use Straight Talk or Virgin Mobil, one monthly rate, doesn’t go up and down and there is no contract. You can even get an IPhone and pay only $45 a month for UNLIMITED everything…now that IS a deal!  

Now the oil bill is something we are struggling with immensely.  We use wood to heat the house in the dead cold month of winter to help with reducing the oil bill.  In general we’ve kept it down to about 100-125 gallons a month but that represents around $460 a month and that’s not so great. We do all we can to reduce our usage for instance we try to only heat the rooms we are in  instead of the whole house and use space heaters to do so.  I know it sounds crazy to use electric space heaters but for US it’s much less expensive than buying another tank of oil.  Our goal this year is to save enough money to be able to switch our furnace to wood burning.  With about the same amount we of wood we buy now we should be able to heat the whole house and only use 300 gallons of oil a year. The system would pay for itself within two years. 

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