Archive for January, 2010

There’s An App For That: 35 Ways To Slash Your Household Budget!

January 25th, 2010

I hope you’ve enjoyed this series titled, “There’s An App For That”, which has given numerous ways to help find wiggle-room in your monthly budget.  In case you missed some (or all) of the series, you can read them with the links below.

Also, I checked with the Twitterverse to see what tips regular folks like us use to free up some extra money each month. I included those at the end of this post.

All together, there are over 35 real-life, tangible “Apps” to cut your monthly household budget.  Enjoy!

There’s An App For That: The Series

  1. There’s An App For That: Series Opener
  2. The Grocery Game: Review
  3. The Grocery Game: Personal Account
  4. 2 Ways To Slash Your Dining Budget
  5. ‘Universally’ Slash Your Health Care Costs
  6. Low-Cost Life Insurance
  7. 3 Easy Steps To Slash Your Home & Car Insurance Premiums
  8. Credit Card Interest Rates
  9. How I Cut $25/Month Off My TV & Internet Bill


Twitter Tips

Here’s what my Twitter friends had to say about how they save money:

@OneMoneyDesign “Play the Grocery Game and get strategic about entertainment so that it’s not impulsive.”

@PFJourney “I cut my cable 7 months ago!”

@MattJabs “Only reason I have cable is because Comcast gives it to me free in 6 months blocks after threatening to cancel :-)

@FrugalPhx “No ppr towels or napkins, reusable coffee fltr and recycle (less trash bags) ~$48/mo saved”

@BSimple “What are some ways you have trimmed your monthly household budget?  Here are mine.”

@BradleyCoaching “Using cash ONLY for food saved me tons!  You start seeing how much chips and a drink cost!”

@TheyCallMeCheap “Cancel most subscriptions including cable, learn to cook, coupon, shop Freecycle, end recreational shopping, pay off debt, borrow books (paper & audio) from the library, switch to boxed wine, ALWAYS look for a coupon code.”

@RevancheGS “Trimmed budget by changing auto ins, phone & internet carriers, changing cell phone plans.”

@MomentumPFC “We have cut our budget by cooking real meals, driving one car, eating out less, using the library, canceling the home phone.”

You can follow any of these great people on Twitter by clicking their links above, and you can follow me, @MyMoneyMinute too!


There’s An App For That: How I Cut $25/Month Off My TV & Internet Bill

January 25th, 2010

$46/month for DSL?!?

When I looked at my phone bill I couldn’t believe it. We gave up the cooler, faster Internet a while back because we were on a budget kick, but now AT&T’s basic phone/DSL package was running at nearly the same levels.

E.T. Don’t Phone Home

Just call my cell instead. We technically have a home phone number, but never even physically hooked up a phone since we switched! We are truly a mobile-only family.

App: DSL Without Phone
DSL no longer needs an actual phone line activated to connect you to the Internet. So why not drop the phone? I chatted online with a service rep, who directed me to a tech line to call. After confirming my identity and an attempted up-sell, AT&T removed the basic phone charges, which amounts roughly to $15/month.

Dish Network Customers Save $10/month

In case you missed it, I wrote an article a few months ago on how I saved $10/month on my bill.  Basically, Dish changed their HD package options, rendering one option included in another. So all you have to do is go online and “fix the glitch”.  Check out the link in the previous sentence for instructions.

What About You?

Have you tried these, or other tips to save on your monthly phone, TV, and Internet charges? Let us know below!

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There’s An App For That: Credit Card Interest Rates

January 25th, 2010

With the economy in the tank, the credit crunch has hit all areas of our lives. Included in this crunch is the credit card industry. Two years ago, the credit card industry was pre-qualifying unemployed people for $15,000 limits. Now, interest rates are hiked without any reason; and if the account is not active enough, it will be shut down, potentially affecting your credit score and financial plan.

App: Press to Have Your Interest Rates Reduced

Another tangible way to reduce your monthly budget expenses is to call your credit card companies and request that your interest rates be slashed. If you are carrying a balance, it comes with a monthly minimum payment. The higher the interest rate, the higher that minimum payment will be.

A Personal Account

A friend of mine, Stephany, recently took this application to heart. She mistakenly missed her payment due date by one day, and the credit card company immediately jacked her interest rate from 13% to 29%! Gone are the days of a free pass by the credit card company!


The key to getting a rate reduction is persistence — don’t give up! Stephany called the credit card company three times before getting a hold of someone who was willing to work with her. The first two rejected her, but on the third call she spoke to a woman who said she could help her.

Her stragegy? Stephany explained that she was working to pay off the current balance so she could use the card later in the year for a big event. This gave the company a bit of assurance that she would be back to the trough to pay interest later. I hope Stephany isn’t back feeding at the credit trough later this year, but the prospect of future business was enough for the credit card company to lower her rate.


The lady at the credit card company lowered her rate from 29% to 9%, which was even lower than the original interest rate! It may not be a lottery windfall, but when you’re trying to scrape every extra dollar together in your monthly budget, every bit counts.


Have you called your credit card company to request interest rates lowered? I’d be curious of your experiences.


There’s An App For That: Low-Cost Life Insurance

January 25th, 2010

Many people dismiss life insurance because they think it’s too expensive, or already have a policy and feel stuck paying an exorbitant premium. But life insurance can be had for a modest price, and provide security for your loved ones if the unthinkable happened.

Who Should Get Life Insurance?

Single, Ready to Mingle
If you’re young & single without many financial responsibilities, odds are you need little or no life insurance at all. If you had student loans, car notes, or any other debts where a co-borrower is involved, they would be on the hook for your debts. When you’re young, that co-borrower is usually a parent; so be nice to your parents and take out a policy that will cover your debt expense, and list your parents as a beneficiary. And if you want to sail right through purgatory on your way to sainthood, take out a bit more to cover funeral and burial costs.

Married… With Children
If you’re married, and/or have children, take out a policy roughly 10-12 times your salary. That way the beneficiary (your spouse and kids) can live on the income generated from investing the policy pay-out.

Easy example: if you make $50,000/year, you’d want roughly a $500,000 premium, when invested, would provide about $50,000/year to replace the lost income.

Real-World Application: Term Life Insurance

There are plenty of debates between buying whole life or term life insurance, and that’s a topic for another day. What you should know now, is term insurance can be bought for 5-10% the cost of whole life. And in this series, we’re all about saving money in your budget. It is not an investment vehicle, it is an actual insurance against your death for a fixed amount of time.

Term Insurance
The theory behind term is that you buy a policy for a 20-30 year period. If you outlive that timeframe, your kids will be out of the house and your family finances will be under control; therefore you have no further need for life insurance.

Where To Get Term Insurance

I bought mine through Zander Insurance, an independent agency that can price shop for the best rates. For $75/month, both me AND my wife have 20-year policies that pay out $1,000,000 upon death. We’d better sleep with one eye open!

Does anyone have term, or other life insurance products? Are you satisfied cost-wise?

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There’s An App For That: 3 Easy Steps To Slash Your Home & Car Insurance Premiums

January 25th, 2010

1934 Thompson House Car 01 by jacksnell.

The weekend is here, so I’ll spare you a long post with detailed instructions to reduce the cost of your home and car insurance premiums.  Here’s the basics needed:

1. Review your current policy

Take a look at your current policy for the basic coverage limits, deductibles, and the policy cost on a monthly or yearly basis.

2. Identify a few other insurance companies

Find two or three companies that you would feel comfortable with purchasing insurance from — if you don’t want bottom of the barrel, pay by the month, no service insurance company, then disregard them in your search.

3. Contact them and get a quote

I could write half a dozen paragraphs on why you should get other quotes, but the bottom line is, take the 10 minutes and contact one or two other companies.  See if they can beat your current rates at the same coverage level.  It may save you hundreds of dollars each year!

Personal Application

Currently, we have auto insurance through  I think the coverage is great with pretty low premiums, but I will contact a few other comparable companies, like GEICO and Progressive, to see how they compare.  I’ll report back with my results.

Your Turn

I challenge you to take a few minutes and get a quote!  Insurance companies count on your complacency, but it may be costing you big money.  Tell me what insurance company you have and whether your got a better deal with someone else.

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There’s An App For That: ‘Universally’ Slash Your Health Care Costs

January 25th, 2010

Don’t Wait for the Government to Fix Your Health Care!

Previously, I gave real-world applications to help trim the food & dining budget. This seems like the obvious place to drastically help your financial well-being each month, since food expenses can literally vary by hundreds of dollars each month if not held in check.

Not so obvious, but just as dramatically punishing to your budget, is the cost of Health Care. In my household, I do project-based, temporary work, while my wife has the “stable” job. Her health care is covered by the employer, but adding me onto the policy has cost us nearly $400/month. Agh!!! Talk about a budget buster!

Auto-Deduct = Passive Mentality

To tell you the truth, fixed costs are often harder to be motivated to fix. It comes out of your check automatically, so you never see that money deposited into your account. At least with food, you see all the restaurant tabs add up!

A New Deal: How I Found New Coverage

$400/month for a relatively healthy, 30 y/o non-smoker like me should not cost so much. I was determined to find health insurance at a lower cost. Luckily I didn’t have to go very far. 

I logged onto financial guru Dave Ramsey’s website and requested an Endorsed Local Provider (ELP) for health insurance. Within minutes I got an email from a local agent. I called him back on my way home from work, explaining my situation, and asking questions about my potential options. He was extremely helpful, and e-mailed me quotes before I even got home. How’s that for efficiency? 

Application: High-Deductible, HSA

The answer for me is to purchase a high deductible health policy, and fund a Health Savings Account (HSA) to help pay any medical costs up to my deductible amount. You can fund an HSA pre-tax, and qualified health expenditures may also be tax free. The best part about an HSA – it’s not a “use it or lose it” account, which means you can continually fund it and grow it tax-deferred, essentially turning it into something similar to a retirement account. 

My Quote

Two of my agent’s quote allows me to stay with Blue Cross:

(1) With a $2,500 deductible, policy cost is $88/month. If I exceeded my deductible in a given year, I pay 25% of the cost of the next $2,000 in expenses ($500). So basically, the max out of pocket per year is $3,000.

(2) With a $5,000 yearly deductible, the price drops to $71/month. There is no additional out of pocket expenses; $5,000 is the ceiling on your expenses.

Funding the HSA

The IRS allows you to fund your HSA tax-free up to $3,000/year. To fund at that rate, you’d be saving $250/month. Add that to the cost of the plan, and I’m still better off by $50/month. Also, once you’ve saved your maximum yearly out of pocket expense in your HSA, you can reduce your HSA monthly savings rate, freeing up hundreds per month in your budget!


I will purchase Plan (1), the $88/month policy with the $2,500 yearly deductible. I plan on fully-funding the HSA since we have funds available. This will leave us with $300/month savings in our monthly cash flow. How’s that for a real-world budget buster?!? 

Do you have questions, or currently have an HSA or high-deductible health insurance policy? Tell me about your experiences in the comments below!

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There’s An App For That: 2 Ways To Slash Your Dining Budget

January 20th, 2010

We all know the best way to slash your food budget is to stop dining out, make your own food, take a sack lunch, and eat at home for dinner. That’s why my first “App”-posts in this series center around cutting your grocery bill using The Grocery Game:

Part 1 – Review of The Grocery Game
Part 2 – Personal Interview with Julie, a GG user

Eating every single meal at home is not only HARD, sometimes it’s darn near impossible. Long commutes, work schedules, and social activities often get in the way of your plan. Or maybe you just want a break from home cooking and want to get a meal out.

Luckily, you have options to eat out that won’t bust your budget. One tangible way to succeed is to buy coupons from! partners up with local dining establishments to provide gift certificates at reduced rates. These local shops get publicity, and the consumer gets a deep discount. A win-win all around!

A typical certificate worth $25 at a particular restaurant can be purchased for $10 – a 60% savings!  Quite often, will run sales upwards of 80% off of their normal sales price. So in otherwords, a $25 certificate can cost you as little as $2 – insane!

Current deal at

Currently on their website, is offering certificates for 70% off regular sales price ($25 for $3) PLUS a $50 certificate off of a trip from Use the promotional code FEAST when checking out, and of course, see their website for details.

There Really IS An App For That!

I came across an iPhone app to help you find restaurant coupons, called Upon initial inspection, it appears not to be directly affiliated with, but only provides a list of establishments listed on Basically a 3rd party app for

The Pros
It’s a free download, and can use your current location to help you find restaurants in your immediate area that take coupons. This is really helpful when you’re on the go and don’t have time to figure out what restaurants are nearby when surfing through

The Cons
They charge their own $1.00 convenience fee when purchasing a certificate through their website.  But like I said, this is a 3rd party app and they have to make money somehow.  I consider them the Ticketmaster of restaurant coupons.  If you are already out on the town and can’t use the regular website, looks like the next best alternative.

I Need Your Comments!

Have you ever used or the iPhone app What was your experience? How else do you save money when eating out?

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Quotes of the Day – MLK Edition

January 19th, 2010

Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.

Pity may represent little more than the impersonal concern which prompts the mailing of a check, but true sympathy is the personal concern which demands the giving of one’s soul.

Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.

Do you have a favorite quote? What can you take from these quotes – socially, financially, or otherwise? Is there an “App” for that?

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There’s An App For That: Personal Account – The Grocery Game

January 18th, 2010

Last week I reviewed The Grocery Game, a real-world application to help trim your household food budget.  To give personal insight, I recently interviewed my neighbor, Julie.  A teacher by trade, Julie has transitioned to stay-at-home motherhood with the addition of her first child.  Moving from duel-income to a sole breadwinner while adding an extra mouth to feed means big sacrifices and careful planning with your household budget.

Julie is the textbook definition of a home economist, and a big winner in The Grocery Game.  Here’s what she had to say about her experience in coupon cutting:

Why did you start using The Grocery Game. Were there rough patches initially?

I have always loved to save money and get a bargain. I had tried in the past to use coupons, and at times got great deals. The problem I ran into was that I was spending a tremendous amount of time finding the deals and then trying to find the coupon I was sure I had clipped. I had heard about the Grocery Game and a couple of years earlier I actually gave it a trial run. I wasn’t successful at it then because I didn’t have a good system for organizing my coupons, and I didn’t understand the idea of stockpiling.

So what changed where The Grocery Game became a success for your family?

Well, two years and a baby later, and down to one income we needed to lower expenses, and I decided to do it again. I did a bit of research and figured out how to set up a coupon binder, and went at it whole heartedly. I have gotten our monthly grocery bill down to $130, and in the last 5 months I have saved over $5,600 while spending under $1,500.

How do you like it so far?

I love it!!! Many people hate the idea of paying for a site to help you have money. Please, please, please believe me: it is worth every penny! The site does all the work for you, all you have to do is clip your coupons, print your list, and head to the store. The time savings is huge. I want to spend all the time I can with my daughter, not looking at sale ads. The GG has allowed me to do this. Plus, how can you not love saving TONS of money!

What were you spending on food each month, and what are your spending goals with GG?

I had a monthly budget of $500 for all food and supplies, including going out to eat, previous to GG.  I have gotten our bill down to $130/mo, and it is only that high because I choose to go to Sprouts once a week and spend between $10-$15 on fresh produce and nuts. It’s kinda like my little treat for saving so much money. My stockpile could last 3-4 months, possibly longer. We only go out to eat 1-2 times a month. Now I put $250 in my food envelope per month, and I have money left over at the end.

Was it a rough transition learning to sort & cut all those coupons?

When I began GG I was buying 4 newspapers a week. This way I could build my stockpile faster. If you have a larger family you may want to buy more, but 4 is a good place to start. Setting up your coupon binder is really important. I watched You Tube videos to get an idea and then set it up in a way that made sense to my brain. I got a heads up from other couponers to pull apart the inserts and stack them, then cut them. This is a HUGE time saver! Do this and you will never go back! It also allows the coupons to be sorted before you clip! Now I spend about 30 min. a week clipping my coupons and putting them into the binder. Not bad.

How much time per week would you say you spend preparing (coupon cutting, list sorting, etc.) and how much time actual shopping?

I spend 30 min. cutting and sorting, and shop for about 2 hours (including travel). I get my list together, and only buy what is on the list. I go to Sprouts on Wednesday’s because it is double ad day and more is on sale. This is where I am at now. However, when I began I probably spent 10 hours a week. I also spent $500 getting my stockpile going, and I would hit every store each week. There is a bit of a buy in, but just set your budget and do what you can. If I had understood CVS and thier ECB (Extra Care Bucks) program, I probably would have spent half of that. Oh well, live and learn.

What stores are in your shopping rotation?

Currently I shop at Target, Kroger, CVS, Walgreens, Albertson’s, Tom Thumb, and Sprouts. I go to Target 2-3 times, Kroger 2 times a month, CVS 2 times, Walgreens 1 time, Albertons twice, Tom Thumb once or bi-monthly, and Sprouts weekly. Of course it does vary, but I would say that is about average.

2.5 hours?  That’s not long at all!  Do you have any other tips on saving time cutting coupons?

Many people wonder how I do it in such little time. I have found sites that post the deals and then I mimic them. This saves tons of time! Here are the best sites for me:

A Full Cup (visit the forums)

Swag Grabber

Hip 2 Save

Christine’s Coupons

Happy Couponing!

Feel free to comment or ask questions below on this interview with Julie.  If you’d like to sign up for The Grocery Game, use her e-mail address as a reference: sharpjulie [at] ymail [dot] com.

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Text Donations for Haiti: 90-Day Wait?

January 14th, 2010

In the wake of the Haitian earthquake disaster, let’s interrupt my current series to focus on how we can help.

Flexo, a blogger for Consumerism Commentary wrote a great article with good advice on how and where to contribute safely to the Haiti Disaster.  In his article, he cites NPR’s report that donations via text message that charge your phone bill may take as long as 90 days to be received by the Red Cross!

Responsible Giving

To avoid scams and prevent delays in your donations, give directly to a charity’s website, and give only to established charities whose values align with yours.  A quick 5 or 10 minute Internet search is well worth it.

If you’re looking for a place to donate, here’s a few reputable charities that are heavily involved in Haiti that I recommend:

Food For The Poor – this is where I contributed.  A great organization that has been in Haiti for years.

Samaritan’s Purse – recommended by Jon Acuff from Stuff Christians Like.

The Haitian-American Friendship Foundation

Two orphanages already operating in Haiti (via Hugh Hewitt website):

God’s Littlest Angels

Mercy & Sharing

Feel free to post other reputable charities in the comments below.

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