Author Archive: NCN

Call For Discounts

This tip is an oldie but a goodie – and it works for me:

From time to time, I call the companies with which I do business – and ask for discounts.

I just (literally, one minute ago) got off the phone with our television provider – and was able to reduce our monthly bill by nearly 30%.

All I did was call the company – and after trudging through their labyrinth of language-selection, account number-entry, and option-choice – I managed to speak to a customer service representative.

I then had the CSR explain to me, line-by-line, the details of my bill.  (I had a copy of the bill pulled up on my computer so that I could see what we were discussing.)

I then asked about the “end date” of my contract – and soon…

I was transferred to another department – and after going through my bill a second time – I was offered both a credit on my current bill, a selection of free channels, and an ongoing monthly discount.

I usually call every 6 months or so.  I am always polite and I always ask questions about various charges, discounts for e-delivery of statements, discounts for paying online, discounts for loyalty, and for free upgrades to equipment or services.

I’ll take the money saved and put it towards long-term saving and mortgage-debt reduction.  Be blessed.

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Avoid These Budgeting Mistakes

My family and I have been living on a budget for nearly 10 years.  Over that time, we’ve made our share of mistakes – and we’ve adopted some valuable habits.  When making your budget, consider the following –

Do not wait until the last minute to make your budget.  Our budget begins on the first of each month, so we sit down and write ours out a week or more before then.  This gives us a chance to discuss the upcoming month – and it also gives us plenty of time to tweak the budget before the new month begins.

Do not use an unmanageable number of budget categories.  It’s easy to get too complex – or too basic – when creating a budget.  Use enough categories to “tell your money what to do”, but not so many that you are overwhelmed.

Do not use an unusable system.  If you have a spouse who is comfortable using budgeting software, rock on.  If not, stick with pen-and-paper.  Use a system that is accessible for all involved.  Which leads to the following –

Do not use a budgeting system that restricts total-family buy-in.  If the system doesn’t work for everyone, it doesn’t work for anyone.  When it comes to financial planning – I love to nerd-out.  My awesome wife? Not so much.  We want to work together to manage our finances, so our budgeting system has to be something that she will use and enjoy.

Do not forget annual expenses.  It’s easy, when making that first budget, to focus on next-month’s expenses.  Remember – there are taxes, fees, and insurance payments due on a non-monthly basis.  These must be factored in when creating a budget.  We use a savings account, make monthly “payments” into that savings account, and use those funds to pay for annual expenses.

Do not skip the emergency fund.  Budgets are awesome – but they are not perfect.  Unexpected expenses occur – which is why we focus on maintaining an emergency fund.

Do not keep your kids out of the loop.  We have three kids, ranging in ages from elementary school to high school.  We routinely include them (especially our older two) in discussions about money, financial planning, long term goals, and where we are headed as a family.  They like being included – and are developing skills which will be beneficial for them in their adult lives.

Do not overestimate the amount of sacrifices you are willing to make.  This is crucial.  Sure, we all like to think of ourselves as frugal, but creating a super-tight budget, based on unrealistic expectations, is a recipe for failure.  Obviously, we want to curb spending, but let us be true to ourselves.

Do not give up.  The reality is, there will be months when we simply do not stick to our planned budgets.  Life gets in the way, stuff happens, and it’s easy to feel discouraged.  Don’t!  Instead, regroup, focus, and move forward.  Take the lessons learned, and incorporate those into a new, improved budget!

Living on a budget has been a blessing for our family.  I hope that you have enjoyed this article.  If so, please use the social media buttons below to share it.  Thank you.  Blessings.

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How To Save Money On Repairs

Here are a few tips and tricks for saving money on repairs –

Keep track of your manuals.  I have a binder wherein I keep the manuals for all of the tools and appliances that we buy.  Quick tip – If you’ve lost your manual, check online.  Search by manufacturer and model number.

Check to see if the item is under warranty.  Remember those little warranty cards that come with the stuff you buy?  They’re important!  Keep up with them – and register stuff.  If something breaks, and it is still under warranty, you may have it repaired, or replaced, for free!

See if you paid for the item with a credit card.  I know, I know.  I’m no fan of credit cards, but, that doesn’t take away from the fact that several credit card companies offer extended warranties on items purchased with their cards.

Take a look on youtube.  If you have a bit of a “DIY” spirit – search for the repair that you need to make on youtube.  I’ve learned how to replace the drive belt on my dryer and to repair our garbage disposal, simply by watching videos on youtube.  What an awesome resource.

Talk to friends and neighbors.  I was talking to my neighbor the other day, telling him about building a small desk for my son.  A few days later, he stopped by – and asked if I could help him with a small project, repairing a broken board on his front porch.  He saved a few bucks – and I got to repair the board and look like a hero in front of my boy!

tool wall repairs

Visit your local library.  This is old school – but very, very practical.  I love old woodworking books, and our local library has several of them.  I’ve learned how to frame up a shop, install an electrical outlet, and lay shingles, all from books available at most libraries.

Check out the bulletin board at a home center, lumber yard, or feed store.  I live in a rural part of the state – and there are dozens of carpenters who tack their business cards to bulletin boards in local stores.  Grab a few of these and make a few calls.  You might be surprised by the reasonable rates some will offer – especially if the job you need doing is a one-person gig.

Discuss the cost for parts and supplies before hiring a contractor or carpenter.  Often, these folks will be able to buy parts and supplies (think lumber, paint), cheaper than you can.  However, in some cases, if you are willing to do a little legwork, you might find better deals.  Discuss this with your carpenter and figure out what works best for you.

Buy new?  This can be a tough one – but there are times when purchasing a new item is actually cheaper than fixing an old one.  So, do a bit of research and make sure that a repair is worth the money.  Blessings.

Find out if the item has been recalled.  I almost forgot this one.  It’s a good idea, any time you have a product that isn’t performing like you think it should be, to check for a recall.  A simple internet search will reveal several sites where you can find recall information.

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How We Are Paying Off Our Mortgage

We have a 15-year fixed-rate home mortgage – and we are working hard to pay it off in less than 10 years.

We purchased our home in February of 2010.  The original mortgage term of our our loan was 180 months, with the loan due to be paid off in March of 2025.  So far, we have whittled away 7 months from that date.

Here’s what we do –

Each month we make our monthly mortgage payment.  We do so via an auto-draft from our online banking account.

Then, we make an extra, principal-only payment.  We write (type) the words “apply to principal” in the memo section of the check.  Our mortgage company knows to apply this payment towards our principal – and to not treat it as a prepayment for the next month.

(Once in a while, we will combine these payments into a single check – or withdrawal from online banking – but I prefer 2 separate transactions, so that I can more easily keep track of our extra payments.)

Throughout the month, should we make any extra money – or find that we do not spend any budgeted funds – we’ll take that money an send it to our mortgage company, as an additional principal-only payment.  Often, we’ll have months where we send 2 or even 3 principal-only payments.

ncnblog mortgage

I have seen all kinds of formulas for reducing a mortgage, including bi-monthly payments, or adding an extra payment at the end of the year.  These definitely work – but for us – our simple system works.  We make our payment – then we make a principal-only payment (usually just a few dollars) – then we work hard to make (or save) extra throughout the month – and we send that.

Our approach is hands-on and keeps us focused on this long-term goal.  (We are paying off our mortgage in addition to saving for retirement and kids’ college.)  Blessings.

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