Monthly Archives: February 2010

Phone Plans

I got my cell phone bill this week.  Between my husband and I, we talked for only 353 minutes on our $70 per month plan.  It truly seems wasteful, especially when you figure that we have a land line that I’m perfectly happy with.  I’d drop my cell phone all together, but it really does come in handy every so often.  For example I was in a car accident a month or so ago and thanked my lucky stars that my cell phone was in my purse and charged at the time.  I also use it now and then to call H when I forget the grocery list, or to call any long distance (that way we don’t pay out the wazoo for the land line).  I’m weighing my options, though, to see if we can save a few dollars since I don’t use it frequently.  Here are the pros and cons of the options I’ve thought up.

Option 1: Keep our Current Plan

Summary

Family shared plan, $70 per month after all taxes, fees, and discounts.  700 anytime minutes per month, unlimited weekends and nights after 7 pm, unlimited mobile to mobile.

Pros

  • Don’t have to mess with contracts, service people, and general hassle
  • No worry of going over minutes – don’t need to keep track of minutes
  • Already have all equipment (phone, home chargers, car chargers)
  • Same brand of phone as husband, so can share chargers on trips
  • One bill to pay

Cons

  • Expensive, especially since so many minutes go unused (used about 60 of 700 anytime minutes last month)

Option 2: Change Plans, Keep Cell Phone Company

Summary

Two individual basic plans, about $60 after fees/taxes/discounts, 200 minutes per phone per month, free weekends and nights after 9 pm.

Pros

  • About $10 savings per month ($120/year) over the other plan
  • Already have all equipment (phone, home chargers, car chargers)
  • Same brand of phone as husband, so can share chargers on trips
  • One bill to pay

Cons

  • Hassle to deal with phone company again
  • Worry/hassle of checking minutes used
  • If we go over, 45 cents per minute charged – if we use 20 minutes more on either plan, it will be more expensive than keeping our current plan

Option #3: One Tracfone, One Individual Plan

Summary

H keeps individual plan for $25 or $35 per month, depending on plan; I use tracfone – $40 for 400 minutes/90 days

Pros

  • Least expensive option – savings of $15/month ($180/year)

Cons

  • Must track minutes
  • Minutes expire
  • Cancel current plan – worry about contracts, service people, and general hassle
  • Must buy new phone and chargers ($10-50)
  • Different brand of phone than husband, so can’t share chargers on trips

**Update: After all of that, we decided to stick with what we have.  If either of us go 20 minutes over on plan #2 (switching to the minimal plan), all savings for the month are negated.  And #3 (Trac Fone)…. to many cons to justify it.  It would be a big money saver, but the hassle isn’t worth it – for now.

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This is why I want to learn to sew…

Date Night Apron from Quilted Treasures


Slashing the Grocery Bill

The grocery bill seems to be inching up lately, and I’m resolved to reverse that trend. It seems like I find fabulous deals every time I go to the market… until the next week, when I realize my “fabulous deal” was just a marketing trick that I had fallen for. Some of my recent realizations:

  • Endcaps do not equal savings. Look for an item in it’s regular location – then you can truly see if it’s a deal.
  • A larger package may not be the best deal. The unit price is the most important number to look at – a small container may have the same unit price, and may not go bad as quickly.
  • Do the math. The store I shop at has the unit price printed on most price labels. Unfortunatley, I’ve seen a misprinted unit price several times now, so it makes sense to do the math.
  • Get a basket or small cart. This limits the amount that you can buy!
  • Pick up the flyer. The best deals in the store are typically located on the front and back pages, so it’s worth checking out. Scan the middle too, but be wary… just because it’s in the flyer does not mean it’s a deal.
  • Wasted food is wasted money. Don’t buy more than you’ll eat.
  • Clip coupons, and use them wisely. Go to the market on double coupon day. Even if you only save $4 per trip, you’ll save over $200 per year.

Coupon Mom is one of the best resources I’ve found for grocery tips and tricks. Download her tutorial, “Cut Your Grocery Bill In Half,” at her website for an overview of her program. It’s based on the following principles:

  1. Strategic shoppers know how to get low prices: They know what the lowest prices for their most common grocery items are, where to find them, and how to pay the lowest prices every time.
  2. They know when to use coupons: They know when to use their coupons to get the lowest prices and even get some grocery items absolutely free with coupons!
  3. They know where to find coupons: They know the best sources of coupons and they know how to use the Internet to get great printable and electronic coupons.

I’ve started working on number one – knowing the lowest prices for my frequently purchased items. I already know what prices to buy cereal, apples, and lunch meat at – but I can never seem to remember what a good deal for peanut butter is, or at what price I should stock up on granola bars. I’m keeping track of the prices of grocery prices that either I buy on a regular basis or are on the more expensive end of the scale. You can see my first attempt here:

Grocery Prices

I’m not sure exactly how I’ll use this information yet – I know I’ll have a hard time remembering all of these prices unless I bring the spreadsheet with me, which I’m unlikely to do. I may somehow add my “stockup price” onto my grocery list. It’ll be a bit of trial and error, but I’m sure I’ll be blogging about my system in the near future!

Organizing Google Reader

I’m a blog addict, truly and honestly.   I’d say I hit my low point when I realized that I was subscribed to about 25o on my Google Reader.  That’s two HUNDRED and fifty.  I’m not a “mark all as read” type of a gal either, so though I didn’t read each post word for word, I spent hours skimming though posts, marking favorites, tagging this and that, and never looking back.  It was certainly not a productive use of time – I spent more time planning than doing.

I’m in a self-imposed “blog rehab.”  I cut cold turkey for a little while, and let my blogs build up (it didn’t take too long!).  After trying a few systems, I’ve found one that works.  I’ve created a new folder called “Keepers.”  When a blog reaches ten unread items, I go through and star/tag/like any items that are interesting enough to want to save or refer to later.  Any blog that has even one positive reference goes into the Keepers folder.  If I scan all ten posts and none peak my interest, it’s unsubscribed.  I’m pretty stringent about this (and considering my history, you can see why!).

The eventual goal is to go through all of the blogs I’ve subscribed to and keep those that I’m truly interested in.  I’m now at 160 blogs…. still over the limit, but I’ve cut out over one third already!

My Pocket Docket

My new lifeline… the Pocket Docket!

I found this expanded daily to do list at simplemom.net. Download it, and more organizational lists, here.  There’s an even larger version with more to keep track of, but it’s a little overwhelming.  Maybe someday I’ll reach that goal, but for now I’ll be content organizing my life with this little bugger!

I wouldn’t exactly consider myself a procrastinator, but for some reason, I have several items on my list that tend to stay there for days or even weeks.  This list helps you set priorities, and that helps me quite a bit.  I can check off four items, but if that “MIT” (most important task) doesn’t get finished, I notice it right away.  In my old system, all tasks were equal, which is why it didn’t seem like such a big deal to put things off for days at a time.

Hopefully this system will stick.  It’s working for me so far!

This Too Shall Pass

Today’s goal is to have a mission.  The booklet I’m reading doesn’t give much of an explanation on how to formulate one, other than that in order to be happy, you must identify a goal in life. This general idea goes hand in hand with a book I’ve been meaning to read:

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.  I’m hold #31 out of 48 at the library… but there are only two copies, so it could be a while.  This might be the time to use my Barnes and Noble gift card!  In the meantime, I did some research on The Happiness Project Blog and its related site, The Happiness Project Toolbo. One of my favorite things that I found on either of the two sites was the Happiness Manifesto, below.  My favorites are in red.

A Happiness Manifesto by Gretchen Rubin

  • To be happy, you need to consider feeling good, feeling bad, and feeling right, in an atmosphere of growth.
  • One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy; One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.
  • The days are long, but the years are short.
  • You’re not happy unless you think you’re happy.
  • Your body matters.
  • Happiness is other people.
  • Think about yourself so you can forget yourself.
  • “It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light.”—G. K. Chesterton
  • What’s fun for other people may not be fun for you, and vice versa.
  • Best is good, better is best.
  • Outer order contributes to inner calm.
  • Happiness comes not from having more, not from having less, but from wanting what you have.
  • You can choose what you do, but you can’t choose what you like to do.
  • “There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.” —Robert Louis Stevenson
  • You manage what you measure.

Seems like many of them are quite obvious, yet somehow I frequently forget them.  One that I do frequently remind myself of may not exactly fit the list, but it does have the same feel:

“This too shall pass.”

I know – it sounds terrible – but it’s not.  I’m not wishing my life away. Instead, it reminds me that I’d better enjoy every moment, because it won’t last long.  It works just as well the tough times, too.  No mater how terrible something may seem, it will get better with time.  Though it’s not exactly a mission, which seems more to do with a goal, it is a way in which I strive to live my life.