Wednesday, August 22, 2007

how to find money

How much money did I "find" this last week?



Now to a lot of you personal finance gurus and those otherwise experienced with all things money, you can more than likely skip this. For all you others out there, read on.

"Finding" this money was simply a matter of making some calls. This past week I have gathered all of my monthly bills and expenses into a pile. One by one, I called the customer service numbers to see what they could do about lowering the amount. For other expenses, I realized that I wasn't really using them enough for what I was paying, so I simply canceled.

Credit Cards
This is a biggie. Since I'm young with a short credit history (though it is good), my rates are through the roof. When I first had the cards, I probably took too much advantage of the intro rates and never really paid attention when the finance charges started accruing. Solution?

I called each card and told them I was looking to consolidate all of my cards, that I was calling each one to compare the rates, and then asked them what could they give me. The last one I called gave me the best deal. Only 2% balance transfer fee and 0% interest for 18 months. That's way better than any intro rate I've ever had! Some handy calculators at my card's website allowed me to calculate how much I would save in the next year minus the transfer fees and interest I would have been paying on my other cards. It was a lot, and most of what you see in that number up top.

So now that the finance charges are under control, I will be able to pay off everything in 6 months. Not to mention only one payment deadline to keep track of every month!

The Gym
I hate going to the gym. For some reason, I thought signing up for one a block from my office would convince me to go, but now I laugh at myself thinking that. Needless to say, I canceled my membership. If I really become motivated to workout, I will be motivated enough to work out at home. Another small plus is that I won't feel as guilty when I walk by the gym on a frozen yogurt run because even though I'm not working out, at least I'm not paying to not workout!

I hardly ever watch tv. I mean really, weeks go by that I don't even turn it on. I called Comcast to cancel, but doing so would raise my internet bill by $10. I complained, and the second rep I talked to instead cut my cable bill in half for the next 6 months. Savings? A cool $150 just with a phone call.

Bill Pay
I've never realized that my bank was charging me for this. Shame on me, I know. What effectively was happening was that I was paying $6.95 per month to pay one bill. Ridiculous, I know. I canceled that pronto to quickly save myself almost $85 dollars in the next year.

Cell Phone
I researched other phone plans, but I found that I have the best (read: cheapest) deal that fits my needs. I wasn't able to save any money here, though it's still comforting to know that I'm not overpaying.

Sticking with a plan
The last step? I've been tracking my expenses, keeping all receipts and once a week, entering them in a spreadsheet by category. These categories would be different for everyone, but the bulk of my spending falls into the following buckets:
  • Dining out
  • Coffee & drinks
  • Alcohol
  • Clothes
  • Apartment shopping (decorating, org stuff, etc)
  • Misc Shopping
  • Books
  • Groceries
  • Cabs
  • Medical
It surprisingly isn't taking much time at all, and it's allowed me to create a reasonable budget for me to follow each month to quickly pay off my debts.

It feels so good to be in control. How much money can you find???


Dan said...

want me to forward you my budget spreadsheet which tracks spending by category and calculates how much you can spend before going over on a monthly and lifetime basis, showing categories in red that are overbudget?

Darlin' T said...

who the heck charges for Bill Pay anymore?

this is an awesome post. would you be interested in maybe being a guest poster for our Financial Lit website when it's up and running?

Just Between You and Me said...

Ashley - this is REALLY a great article! I would like to forward it to Dave Ramsey! He would be impressed!

Jennifer said...

Very good suggestions! Congrats on your savings! I like the idea of tracking your expenses weekly. I have been trying to do it daily and I just can't seem to keep up. Thanks for that suggestion too. I think I'll give that a try!