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Friday, April 16, 2010

Simple Ways to Improve Your Financial Life

Last year I wrote a blog titled, "Financial Slavery and Financial Freedom". Then, in my last blog post I shared with you that I had been doing a "Life Detox". One thing I did not mention was my financial life. In February I experienced a little taste of financial freedom when I paid my last car payment. That feeling of wanting MORE financial freedom inspired me to delve into my finances and see where I could make more improvements......and I did!

I pulled out my cell phone bill, my car insurance, home phone, cable, Internet connection and my last 2 remaining credit cards and went into research mode. Not only did I find errors, I was able to make corrections that will save me almost $5000 this year! This was shocking, and I got an adrenalin rush. How many other people are depleting their funds unnecessarily? When I realized it was about $5000 I began to realize how the pennies that were slipping through my bank account could add up to pay for a simple family vacation in Hawaii. Imagine receiving a family trip to Hawaii just for doing a little personal research on your finances...would you do it?

Here is where my $5000 was hidden.

Car Insurance
First I called my car insurance company. Since I now owned my car I wanted to change my policy from full coverage to liability, but in the process I had asked if they showed any driving violations on my driving record. I was glad I asked that simple question because they were charging me according to having 2 traffic violations on my record. So, they did a little research and found that I did not have any violations and that I had over paid by $620. By switching from full coverage to liability I would save another $427 a year. That comes out to $1047 just from my car insurance company.

Cell Phone
I looked into my plan and found that there was an error on my bill here too! I was being charged $50 more a month. It seems that someone entered things wrong in their computer system and they would have never corrected it if I hadn't called. By checking in and reviewing my plan I am saving $600 a month on my cell phone bill.

Internet, Cable, Home Phone
Originally I was calling on my home phone because I needed to change my long distance plan. Then the operator informed me of a promotion they were running to bundle my Internet, cable and home phone into one package deal. I have been paying for Internet and cable in one bill and my home phone on another. I currently was paying $110 for cable and Internet and $65 for my home phone. The bundle is a 2 year contract, but it comes out to $124 a month. This saves me $51 a month which in one year is $612.

Credit Card Interest Rates
I decided I had gone this far in researching my expenses, I might as well see what interest rates I was paying and if I could decrease the rate. Of course somewhere along the road my interest rate of 9% had been increased to 20%. I was paying almost $120 in finance charges on one account alone. This was very frustrating to realize. I'd much rather have that money in my pocket than just spent on my poor financial decisions and now in finance charges. I asked my credit card company if they would reduce the interest rate and they said very kindly, "NO". So, I looked into a balance transfer that offered a better interest rate. I found an offer for 10% that not only would I be saving $2367, but all the other saved money from the above accounts would allow me to pay off both credit cards (that total about $10,000) in one year as opposed to the typical 3 years one might pay off a credit card.

All these inquiries led up to a savings of $4626 over one year. All it took was a few phone calls and some curiosity. The scent of financial freedom has me hungry for more. I am now going back to a financial habit that I once was very dedicated with which was to write down my spending everyday. I always find that the pennies here and there add up and I tend to sacrifice the things I really want because I am blowing my money little by little on things that don't even benefit my life in a great way.

I really hope this blog post inspires you to take a look at your expenses and to check for errors and find ways that you can improve your financial life. Who knows, maybe one day we will meet on the beaches of Hawaii and toast to the mantra, "A penny saved is a penny earned."


Daniel said...

Great post Lori.

I am a big fan of increasing your auto insurance deductable. Basically it's a way to reward yourself for being a safe driver. Ask your insurance company to run the numbers on your insurance premiums with various deductibles ($250, $500, $1000) and see how much cheaper the annual policy is. You'll be shocked by how much you save.

Another area where you can find great savings (both in money AND time) is ditching cable TV. We tried an experiment last year of giving up cable and found that the money savings were nice, but the time savings were profound.

And finally, it goes without saying that you should at all costs pay off all high-interest credit card debt. Think about it: what exactly are you paying for when you pay interest to a credit card company? What value are you getting?

Keep the good posts coming Lori!

Casual Kitchen

Sky said...

we have a great website in the UK www.moneysavingexpert.com which makes recommendations as to how to reduce outgoings in the same way you have Lori, very helpful to be aware and financially savvy in this way

Amanda@thegrainsofparadise said...

Great post as ususal Lori! You inspired me to pay off one of two of my credit cards today....Feels good to only have one bill now. Can't wait until that ones gone too:-) Aloha!

Lori Painter said...

@ Daniel- Thank you so much for your great advice! I have been wanting to ditch the cable, but I do allow my kids watch discovery, science, national geographic, and animal planet. I use some programs as educational tools since I homeschool.

Sometimes I'd love to shut off all electronics. I am finding with internet & cell phones my time is zapped! Which is why I was absent from blogging a posting recently!

Time is a true wealth! :)

@Sky- thanks for the link.... I am off to check it out!

@Amanda- Woo hoo girly! I am so glad you did that. I cannot wait until my cards are long gone. It's so funny how debt kind of suffocates you slowly! BTW, thanks for always taking the time with my blogs! You are a sweetheart! ALOHA!

JoshuaG said...

Congrats Lori!

I am actually considering dropping driving for about a year starting next month. Should I do it, I'll save roughly $4,000.

I hear you on the electronics...I often find solace in electronics fasts.....I like to go out to nature where I can't even be weak and turn something on.