Our Journey Part 1

by GettingFreedom on November 1, 2008

We’ve not always been a frugal family, so I thought I would shed some light on how we got here. We still have a lot more to learn, but our journey this far has been a great one.

Our actual journey for freedom started just over a year ago. I’ve since lost the exact figure, but I know we were over $36,000 in consumer debt. This entailed 2 credit cards totaling over $7000 and 2 vehicle loans. Scary, huh?!

Previous to this point, we had debt…but not like this. And, I was working so there was a second income. My husband had a relatively small student loan, we had a vehicle loan and some random personal loans. All of those together were still not close to $36,000.

But, we started to see a pattern. Thanks to FPU! We were living off of debt. We had nothing. Looking back, oh 5 years ago, I still have no explanation as to why we didn’t save. At that time, my husband and I were both working, and each of us were making a decent salary. We have nothing to show from “those” days.

I don’t think that we realized these things, until we were sitting in FPU, and wondering “how in the world did we get here!”. As I’ve said before, at the start of FPU, we had no money left over after the bills were paid. Which thankfully all of them were paid on time.

We’ve had no change in income, but still managed to pay off over $16,000 in debt. How did we do this?

Re-evaluating our life, and becoming accountable for every last penny (literally) that we spent. Today, we aren’t that tight that we go down to the penny…but that is how we started.

We wrote all of our bills/outgoing money on a piece of paper. Having it all totaled up at the bottom was a real eye opener. Then, we looked at each bill/expense individually to see if we really had to have it, and if we had to pay that much monthly.

In doing so, we cut down our satellite. We cut it at that time down about $10, and currently (I just cut it again a couple weeks ago) my bill is literally $10!! Most people do not realize you can get it that low, so it never hurts to try! This particular package is not advertised by the company. We went from $40 to $10, so $360/yr savings!

We cut down our landline bill, also. I do not remember how much we cut it last time…but we also cut it again last month by another almost $20. Watch those crazy fees and the suppossed bundle packs that will save you money. That isn’t always the case! In this particular case, they had us on a bundle that included all the calling features, the fastest DSL, and a long distance plan. Here’s the problem. We live in a rural area, not all the calling features are available to me (like voicemail, caller-id on call waiting, and some more). But they had no problem charging me for them. Plus, do you really need them?! Also, we both have cell phones and we always have used it for our long distance. It’s free, afterall. So there was no need in us paying for it (and all those extra taxes) on our landline. As far as the DSL went…did we really need the fastest?! Yeah, it was nice, but that alone was an extra $10 a month. While that may not sound like a lot…it adds up. My total savings on my phone bill is equivalent to $240/yr.

Our cell phone stayed the same. We are already on a base package anyway..so there wasn’t much that I could do there. However, if you are not on a base package and you want to see if you can lower your rates, heres what you can do. First off, make sure that if you have any added features that you actually use them. If you use them, are they worth their cost (like text messaging, mobile internet, etc.). As far as your rate plan goes..do you need all those minutes? I used to work for a cell phone carrier, and one of the main things I did for my customers was a rate analysis. You can do one yourself, or call the company. All it is an average of the minutes you’ve used for the past however many months you want to know. If you are consistently close to your minutes…I wouldn’t change it. But, if you are under by a hundred or more minutes, it is time to look into changes your rate plan. That could easily be a savings of $10 or more a month.

Just in looking at our bills we were able to save $600/yr by cutting back things we weren’t even using in the first place. We’ve not missed a thing. That $600, in our current state, is the same as an extra truck payment a year. Amazing! Yeah, I know $600/mo for a truck is stinkin ridiculous! But, that is what happens when you buy a new vehicle, and 3 years later decide that you want another new vehicle. It’s called rolling….and it is a flat out waste of money, and an ignorant financial decision. Never, ever, ever roll money from one car loan onto another car loan! :)

This extra $600/yr goes right into our debt snowball but on a monthly basis, so $50/mo. The snowball, definitely has helped us stay on track, seeing the progress is our addiction. Which is probably why I still write out all my bills on a piece of paper with the final total. I try to do this every month, or every other. This way I can still look over them and decide if I should cut one out or try to lower it again. You never know if a company has changed their rates, and possibly added a lower one. Again, it isn’t always the case..but it never hurts to try.

In my next installment, I will go over how we cut down on all the “other” areas such as groceries (even before the coupons), gas, and frivolous spending.

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