My good friend Laura over at Life Happens has had some great posts recently about money - successes she has had, changes she has made, sacrifices she has had to make. And today she decided to start a blog hop talking about ways to save or things we do to make good money choices. In fact, later this week she will be giving away a copy of Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover book, so hop on over to her blog and leave a comment! Better yet, link up with your money story!
You may have read before that I am a HUGE Dave Ramsey fan. I've read several of his books and we have been working his Baby Step plan for a few years (we're working on Baby Step #3!). I just finished taking Financial Peace University at my church. I believe it will be the best $100 investment we have ever made. Sure, I already knew all the stuff he taught in class (I have read his books, remember?), but it helped give me the kick in the pants that I needed to get serious about this money stuff again. Sometimes I tend to get a little lazy or stubborn or childish - you can pick your term - so it is good to have a refresher every now and then. Doug was able to attend a few sessions with me (shift work!), but he is more of the saver and I'm the spender in our marriage, so I probably needed the butt kicking more than he did. :)
One of the things we have gotten serious about this year is budgeting. And not just writing it down, but actually sticking to it. We've been writing it down for a while now, but most months we didn't do what we wrote down. Not exactly the right way to budget. Actually not at all.
We've also cut back in a few areas - trying to grocery shop smarter, menu planning instead of wondering what's for supper at 5:30 and calling for pizza, eliminating a few unnecessary things (extra cable channels and DVR, which I will miss terribly, by the way and I only watch 4 shows a week unless they are reruns), adjusting our car insurance (Doug's 13-year old truck is only worth $5K and doesn't need full coverage anymore!), things like that. We will continue to evaluate things and make changes where necessary. For instance, when school starts in the fall, I will drop my YMCA membership down to individual instead of family because I'm the only one who uses it, so why pay the extra $19 per month. (If I drop it now, Keira and Nick won't be able to use the rec center this summer, which is why I need to wait. I need them to be able to use the rec center while I exercise.)
We've set up a savings plan for our 3 to 6 months expenses emergency fund and we're also saving for Christmas every month, something we've never really done before. Doug's work contract is up in October of this year, so we really need to have the emergency fund in place just in case. Not that I expect he will be out of work for long, because the bosses know he is a hard worker (he just got a $250 bonus in his pay last week for recognition!), but we need to be prepared.
Another change we've done with our budget is we're living on Doug's base pay and saving the overtime or allocating it toward the house (we've been working on this house since we moved in back in 1999 and would like to be done already!). Before this year, we just spent pretty much all of his pay and looked back at 2009 and wondered where it all went. Sure we paid off my car 2 years early, put in a water-filtering system (we have crappy well water), replaced some windows, put siding on the house, and made a couple other "major" purchases (over $500), but we didn't do as good a job as we could have with what he made last year. Not gonna happen this year. We pledged to do better.
Laura was asking us to give any money-saving tips. I'm not sure I can tell you anything that you don't already know. One thing we've been dealing with lately is hospital/doctor bills from Keira's recent appendicitis and surgery. Praise God that we have good medical insurance and it covered about 90% of the bills. But we have been getting some bills coming in. Every one that we receive over $100, I call them and ask for a discount for paying in full (because we've got the money in the bank just waiting for the bills to come in). Not all of them will give a discount, but it doesn't hurt to ask, right? Our local hospital will give 15% off, which has saved us $46 so far. Plus they gave me a discount in the ER since I paid right away, another $15 savings. Not huge amounts, but that hospital wasn't where the surgery took place. The hospital that did the surgery wouldn't give me a discount because we have insurance. :(
I received what I believe will be my last large bill (about $220) today, so I will be on the phone with them tomorrow asking for a discount. And they better give me one! This is the company that supplied all the IV meds and supplies so Keira could get her antibiotics at home after her appendix burst. I have all this extra stuff that I know we/our insurance company paid for and didn't need and can't send back or give to any other place (I guess it is against the law?). So I won't actually be asking for discount, I'll be demanding! :)
Let me just end by saying that we still mess up with money. Just because we know the right things to do doesn't mean we always do it. But being aware and knowing where our money is going really makes a huge difference! And we keep getting better. And that's the important thing.