Friday, August 24, 2012

Embrace Your Inner Telemarketer

Since the advent of caller ID, we all do it.  We screen our calls so we don't have to talk to bill collecters, in-laws, or most often - telemarketers.  I have often fantasized about putting my daugther Hannah on the phone whenever I see one of them is calling.  Then I think of the prattling on and on, and ultimately I take pitty on the poor person on the other end of the line and decide not to.  Afterall, they're just doing their job, and really listening to my daugther go into excruciating detail about why violet is her favorite color is mine.

Since becoming a SAHM (Stay At Home Mom) I have slowly begun to train myself to tap into my inner telemarker.  With less income coming in, it's now my mission to staunch the flow of money going out.  After making our first family budget (hey better late than never) I looked at areas that could be cut.  Then I honed all my persuasive skills and picked up the phone.  I knew that if I didn't want to pay as much for some of my regular expenses then I had no choice, but to ask.  Not being my strong suit - asking for things I want - I let my inner telemarketer take over.

First up was the most expensive item on my list - #1 The Mortgage.  This being the worst time to sell my home, I knew that left me with one choice - refinance.  Since we bought our townhouse eight years ago at an interest rate of 5.875% and with rates being so low now I knew I could cut our payments if I could get a lower rate.  So I got on the phone.  I called banks and submitted my information for free quotes online.  I eventually got a call from a mortgage broker willing to give me a rate of 3.5%, which will save my family approximately $260 a month.  So I have become my family's broker to the broker if you will.   I have been working with him since June, and although we missed two closing dates in July, I'm still calling my broker like he's my new best friend.  Even when he has no news to tell me about the status of my loan, I know I will not let him forget my name.  My family could use that saved money to pay off other debt more quickly and provide some much needed wiggle room in our tight budget so if I have to be a bit persistent and yes, annoying even to get it, what's it really costing me anyway - some time.  Well worth it, if and when this loan ever goes through.  Sigh.  I'll call again next week just so he remembers I'm waiting.

#2 Debt Consolidation - After finally fessing up about the real credit card debt we have I got on the phone with my bank - Hudson Heritage FCU.  I heart them so much.  Thankfully, even though we had a lot of our credit lines close to tapped out, we were able to get a debt consolidation loan with a pretty low rate - 8.9%.  Compared with the 14-19% interest rates on our credit cards, there's no denying it's a sweet deal.  Not only is our payment pretty much the same as what we were paying for the minimum payments on our cards, it's gauranteed to be payed off in five years, a feat that would take a small miracle if not for this loan. 

#3 The Cable - I thought about dropping cable altogether, but ultimately our cable bill includes our phone and Internet and we have limited options up here in the mountains, otherwise known as Sullivan County.  Since I pretty much hacked dining out and entertainment like movies out of our budget, I knew I'd be hard pressed to keep a sane family without cable.  So here's what I did - I decided how much I could afford to spend before I got on the phone.  I told them what that number was and discussed options that might be cut out to bring it down to that payment.  I wanted to pay $100 a month for phone, Internet and cable, not the $153 I was spending.  I told them if I couldn't get the payment down to that number than I would have to cancel it altogether.  It was not that hard at all.  In light of losing my business, they found a special incentive program that would give me all three for $99 a month plus taxes for the next year.  With taxes it's about $118, but still much easier to afford than the $153 for the exact same service.  Guess what's on my agenda for July of 2013- oh yes I'm getting on the phone once again before they can raise it again.

#4  Miscellaneous expenses not in the regular budget - Ok so these things will not individually make or break your budget, but add them up and it does make the effort worthwhile.  I got on the phone this week and booked my FREE haircut for my daughter Hannah at JC Penney Salon in Middletown, which they are giving away during August for school age kids.  It saves me a little bit of money and a trip down to Newburgh where I would normally take her.  Gas money saved is definitely a bonus.  I felt a little guilty, because I could technically afford to pay for it, but I'm developing a new mantra- "If I want to be financially independent, then EVERY penny MUST count."  I also plan on taking advantage of Shop Rite's new program, which offers free prescription multivitamins for children.  With two kids and $5 co-pay for each prescription that's $10 a month or in other words $120 a year we'll save. 

I find that if I look at little savings multiplied over the course of a year, it's hard to deny that they can make a significant impact on a family like mine.  So for now I'm going to keep scouring the Internet looking for new ways I can lower my bills and save my family money.  I guess you could say that's my job now, well besides wrangling two kids, a husband, house oh and when I remember to - taking care of myself as well.

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