Friday, 9 March 2012

Cutting Back.

I'm always looking for ways to cut back on our spending & within our budget in the areas that are not fixed, like our mortgage. We're great at saving & we refuse to carry any credit card debt. What goes on our cards must be within our budget each month or we don't buy. We do pretty good for staying within our food budget, although using leftovers instead of composting them would be an area we could improve. Our "free" spending ~ clothing, antiques, treasures ~ is always small & we truly only buy when the deal is awesome. We're very careful when it comes to our utilities & have received comments from the electric company & gas that we should be the "poster family" for others. Our cars have been chosen for their value, safety ratings & gas consumption. We rarely go out to eat but will treat ourselves to an occasional Timmie's hot chocolate or a Second Cup fruit smoothie. Where we spend money is in the area of the Arts, which we are very involved with in our community. But most of this is also budgeted as we know when the next festival is coming up or what our costs will be when we're involved in a theatre production.

The one expense that sometimes comes along is when Kent, who is a film maker by trade, has to put a charge onto our Mastercard. He is often paid a bit up front but usually the major funds come at the end of the project. So we throw it on our card, buy some time, pay it off & then pay ourselves back when the payment comes back to us. I also often purchase items for our family centre & then have to claim back that money. I'm not great about doing it on a monthly basis & sometimes save up receipts for a couple of months & then submit them. Drives my administrator crazy & I'm working to change this. We recently acquired a free "in perfect condition, not a scratch on it" desk to be used in our "library" that we are creating out of one of the kids bedrooms upstairs. We have a beautiful couch in a light purple velvety fabric, purchased for $100 from a family who had just bought it, then got transferred. Along with some metal shelves, this wood desk will look great with the wood floors, sage green paint & white trim. But what I am excited about is the drawers! Yes, the drawers. I envision one for utility bills, all in their neat, labled file folders. One drawer for all my writing paper & my collection of letters from pen pals & family members, bundled with pretty ribbon. One drawer for Kent's film expenses. One for my work expenses. One for our home expenses. That leaves three more drawers. One for the centre. One for my contract. One for pens, paper, greeting cards, stamps, the chequebook & computer stuff, like blank cd's, sticks for storage & batteries. I keep dreaming about this desk as the one piece of furniture in our house that will save us from potential disorganization. It will become the hub of our paper ~ the place to throw those things we need to dig up later! Can't wait ....

In looking at our budget, the one area we could improve on is expenses that are fixed but could be lower by comparison shopping. For example, we've been with our insurance company for our home forever. We used to pay under $400 a year to insure our home & contents. It would increase slightly each year for inflation but always a comfortable increase. Two years ago, without notice, our premium rose by $28 a month. Ouch. But great coverage, so we didn't protest. No claims but we're told across the board, increases were due. Then last year, they decided they needed to review all policies & this included a tour of our home to determine if we had adequate coverage. They never toured our home when we took out the policy in 1984 but ok. Let them in the door & bam! A month later, our premium rose up to $112 a month, another $40 dollar increase. So our premium in two years doubled. We read on the net this national company was doing this to get rid of long term customers. What?? So this past week, I received a quote from the company who has our car insurance & guess what? For better coverage, our premium will drop to $74 a month, a savings of $38 to us. We'll be switching right away.

The next thing we're doing is calling our cable/internet provider. We currently pay $145 a month for HD tv & high speed internet. We've had no issues but the other provider in town keeps hounding us to switch. And for a $60 a month savings, I would. But instead, I'm calling our provider & insist they lower our fees to the same as the other provider, or we'll switch, knowing they will transfer us to their "Customer Retention Department" who will then invite us to stay by meeting our demand for the lower fee, same service. Already did this with our land line & saw our phone bill drop from $46 a month to $28. We also renegotiated our cell phone plan & dropped it from $110 a month to $70 for both phones with all the features we need.

And speaking of our land line, we never use it anymore. No one calls us (sad, I know) because we all converse by email. skype, Facebook or the occasional cell call. Truly, the only time our phone rings is when the telemarketers feel the need to check in on us. Or my mother calls when she is out somewhere. She doesn't have our cell numbers & we'd just have to give those to her but other than that, our phone is silent. The sum of $28 a month doesn't sound like much but in a year, that is $336 we could use towards a trip or a holiday, like Christmas!

The other thing I'd like to convince Kent to give up is our daily paper, a $26 a month expense. We are activists & truly, the paper is something we don't have time to read much anymore. We recycle but our bag is overflowing each month with paper ~ not a nice visual outside our home each week when the recyclying truck comes for pick up.

If we make all these changes, we could save a total of $152 a month or $1,824 a year. Wow! That's money into our RRSP's, our savings, our trip fund, Christmas ....

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