Managing Household Finances

How We Pay $64 a Month for Auto Insurance on Two Vehicles

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by Alex on May 7, 2014

how-we-pay-64-per-month-on-auto-insurance-for-two-vehicles

Early this week we posted our $27K budget for this year.  We did this for a couple of reasons:

  1. Many of you asked for us to share this so you can get an idea of a real budget, and
  2. We thought we could use it as a sound board to share articles on how we save in each area.

We have had many articles in the past on how we have saved, like our 10 Ways to Save on Car and Home Insurance, but when you can attach a real-life figure to it, it makes it that much clearer!

So when we shared our budget, we honestly didn’t know how this would compare to others’ budgets.  In fact, we know that we still have more to learn from many of you as you are finding ways to drop your budget. Everyday is a new learning experience and we consider our site as bringing you along on our journey – sharing both our successes and our failures – and hoping they can be a benefit to you in whatever financial situation you are in.

Well, one thing that many have commented on in regards to our budget was our car insurance.  Basically, the question asked hundreds of times was “Why is your car insurance only $64 for 2 vehicles?”

We don’t want this to discourage anyone, but to be an encouragement on finding ways to lower insurance on cars.  However, our factors are not going to be like yours, but we hope that some of the tips we use to pay $64 a year just might help you lower your rates as well.

*Please note, this article is not intended to tell you what you should do with your insurance as everyone’s situation is so different and you need to be advised under an agent.  We are just sharing EXACTLY what we have and our circumstance since so many were asking.

1. We don’t have teenagers – we are only insuring 2 adult drivers.  And even more we certainly don’t have teenage boys on the policy (yet and not for 9-10 more years – WHEW!). But teens -and especially teen boys – will drive your insurance through the roof!

2. We own our vehicles so we only need liability instead of full coverage - However, neither do we want you to think we have the bare minimum insurance either as we appreciated some of the tips from our insurance agent on why raising some of the limits could be beneficial in an accident.  (On a side note, finding an agent you can trust is a real bonus – it took us years to find one that we believe is answering our questions fully and thoroughly with our best interests in mind.)

3. We selected a higher deductible plan - As we mentioned with our home owners insurance, so we do with our auto insurance.  Selecting a higher deductible will help lower your premium.  As our agent tells us, the hope is that filing a claim from an accident could result in a bad day but shouldn’t be something that will ruin our family’s finances.

4. Our vehicles are old and not fancy - Its possible – even probable – that our rates may go up in a year or so when we need to retire Thrifty Helena with about 200K miles on her right now, but until then we enjoy our low rates and no payments.  But while our cars are old and paid off they are definitely cheap to insure.

5. We qualified for the lowest possible rate because of several factors - no claims in the past and with our current company, no traffic tickets or violations in the years that they track – both of which make for a safe driver discount. Good credit was another big one as it shows responsibility (trust us, if you’ve been following our Deep in Debt to Debt Free story, you’ll know that our credit would have never been close to qualifying in the past).  These three factors contributed to putting us in the lowest rate category, and then the rates were based on the other factors within that category.

6. We always make sure to discuss all our additional possible discounts that we might qualify for - With that we qualify for “professionals” and low mileage discounts (see those tips here on discounts).

7. We bundled all of our insurances with one company - The more policies we had, the bigger the discount – currently home, life and car are bundled.

8. Finally, we pay for the whole year at once –  They had three payment options (monthly, semi-annual, annual) with two discount options – pay for 6 months at a time for a small discount or 12 months at a time for a larger discount.  We pay annually, but break it out in our monthly budget throughout the prior year so we have the lump sum each year when it is due.

So, using our personal experience and 10 Ways to Save on Home and Car Insurance ideas, check to see if you can get some lower rates.  Some of you actually mentioned that area/region may have something to do with it based on number of car break-ins, traffic, and other factors as well; it seems like our area might be included in a lower risk area so if that is true it might contribute to our lower premium as well.

See our Finance and Managing Money Section of our site for more ideas

See our Finance and Money Pinterest Board for even more ideas

{ 10 comments }

Alex & Cassie
 

Our Budget – The Breakdown of the $27K Annual Budget

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by Alex on May 5, 2014

our-annual-household-budget

So, we are finally sharing our personal living expenses budget with you again this year.  Many of you have asked for us to share our 2014 budget just like we did in 2013.

Honestly, it is always a little hard to share our personal budget as it is just, well….. personal.

But after hearing from a number of you that this was a help and an encouragement to you when we shared this last year finally made us decide to post it again!  As promised, we are sharing our living expenses budget with you to show you what we budget for and changes made from 2013 and what our lowest budget was historically. We encourage you to read our post HERE regarding setting your budget.  It also includes a free download to fill-out for your high level budget view.

A few points to make:

  • We are out of debt, so our budget could look a lot different than yours
  • When our budget was the lowest, we had the two of us and 2 babies (who don’t eat a lot), and I (Alex) worked 1 mile from home.  All factors that make food/gas (the biggest expenses) a lower option.
  • We are a family of 7
  • This is a base bottom budget.  We base our budget and stick to a budget with a low income in case of famine in business/work.  But when business is booming, we still stick to this budget, but it means that we can add to our home improvement, Christmas and travel/fun fund as well as our savings. But we have learned to live off of this in case we lose some of those extra income outlets.
  • We also have a savings as this budget is less than our normal income and so the excess from our normal income and from our extra businesses goes into savings to pay cash for future purchases like a new mini-van, basement finishing, etc.
  • We are not sharing our mortgage nor our tithe and charitable giving as these are very personal.

Monthly Bills Category

2014 Insurances

  • Term life insurance $160 (all 7 family members)
  • Car insurance for 2 vehicles $63.85 (details on our policy here)
  • Home Insurance $30

2014 Utilities

  • Phone $38.25 ($25 a month plus taxes)
  • Cell Phones $75.59 ($55 a month plus taxes and fees)
  • Gas bill $70
  • Electricity $152
  • City Utilities $96

2014 Entertainment

  • HuluPlus $7.99
  • Amazon Prime $6.58 monthly (this also covers us in our grocery, gift and household category, but easy to categorize here, and….next time we renew, it will be $99!)
  • Netflix $8.51 (with tax)
  • Sermon Audio $4.99

Medical Bills

We do have some medical expenses as well that are not calculated above as it is so random and often without planning.  But we do have an HSA that this comes out of and has covered our medical bills every year for the past few years.

Total in the Monthly Bills Category

$713.76 monthly = $8562.12 this year

Living Expenses Category (This category also shows previous years’ amounts)

Groceries/Household/Personal Care: A note, as a family, we try to live a whole, natural and even organic life when and where we can.  We modify recipes to meet this desire and we shop according to this desire without our allotted budget. We implemented this living goal last year and it was a success and so we will continue this again this year! 

  • 2014: $430 per month (about $107.50 per week). However, we usually only shop once or twice a month at the grocery store since our milk is delivered and produce from co-op and meat in the deep freezer. In addition, much of our excess $250 goes for bulk food buying for nearly all of our dry foods (cereals, grains, beans, etc.) and so just a little at the actual grocery store.   Pretty much all we buy at the grocery store are eggs, cottage cheese, cheese, sour cream, a few of the sale items that week and a few markdowns.
    • Natural fresh milk delivery $30 per month
    • Fresh produce either through Bountiful Baskets or the Warehouse/Grocery stores for $100 per month.
    • Meat Savings for our bulk grass-fed beef and natural chicken orders twice per year $50 per month (this is $600 per year.  Our 1/4 cow usually costs around $400-$450 and chicken is just over $100 – $150)
    • Everything else is $250 per month or about $50 per week at the grocery store/ bulk foods store on needed odds/ends.
  • 2013:$500 per month ($125 per week)
  • 2012: $300 per month or $75 per week
  • Lowest in our budget history:  $150 a month or about $35 a week (not necessarily healthy or organic)

Eating Out (one of our favorite luxuries)

  • 2014: $160 per month
    • Date Nights $60 mo.
    • Alex lunch with clients $20 mo.
    • Mom and Kids lunch outs on field trip days $35 mo.
    • Family Meals out $45 mo.
  • 2013: $200 per month
  • Lowest in our budget history:  $40 a month

Automobile Expenses

  • 2014:
    • Gasoline/Fuel $290 mo. (I commute quite a bit, but much less than last year)
    • Oil Changes for all vehicles  $40 per month (we get high mileage oil and usually a extra service every third time)

    2013:

    • Gasoline/Fuel $433 mo.
    • Oil Changes for all vehicles  $40 per month (we get high mileage oil and usually a extra service every third time)
  • Lowest in our budget history: 
    • Gasoline/Fuel $100 mo.
    • Oil Changes for all vehicles  $15 per month

Diapers/Wipes

  • 2014: $15 per month (we now only have 1 in diapers and we are using cloth during the day at home and it takes us about 5-6 weeks to get through a case of diapers that costs us around $22 on Amazon with the cloth option – Details on this here)
  • 2013: $20 per month (nearly the same)
  • Lowest in our budget history: Now – this year 2014

Clothing

  • 2014: $80 per month (essentially just over $11 per person)
  • 2013: $80 per month (same)
  • Lowest in Budget History:$25 per month ($300 per year)

Health Products/Supplements

  • 2014: $55 per month
  • 2013: $50 per month (essentially just over $7 per person)
  • 2012: $20 per month
  • Lowest in budget history: $0

Hair Cuts/Salon

  • 2014:$10 per month (Just the girls get hair cuts at the local beauty college – Cassie cut bangs and the boy’s hair at home)
  • 2013: $10 per month (no change)
  • Lowest in budget history: $5 per month

Babysitting

  • 2014: $20 month
  • 2013: $20 month (Same)
  • Lowest in budget history: None – $0

Allowances: for the kids, we give them .50 per year per week

  • 2014: $108 total
      • Alex – $20
      • Cassie -$20
      • 10 year old – $20
      • 9 year old – $18
      • 7 year old – $14
      • 5 year old – $10
      • 3-year old – $6
  • 2013: Same formula but $96 due to younger ages
  • Lowest in budget history: none – $0 (not a good idea as we couldn’t stick to it – give yourself something)

Homeschooling/Education

  • 2014:
    • $150 per month for supplies, books, curricula, etc.
    • $198 Tutor fees ($2375 annually in tutoring fees for 4 kids)
  • 2013: $160 per month (covers supplies, books, curricula, etc.)
  • Lowest in budget history: none as it wasn’t needed with 2 babies

Totals in Living Expenses:

2014: $1,556 per month (it is actually $1,600 as we also give ourselves nearly a $100 incidentals) – which is $19,200 this year

Past years:

2013: $1,609 (it is actually $1,700 as we also give ourselves nearly a $100 incidentals) – which is $20,400 for the year

2012: $1,349 (Actual amount we budgeted $1,450 to include incidentals and the biggest change was in the groceries from $300 to $500) – which is just over $16,000 for the year.

Lowest in budget history for living expenses category: $335, but we had it at $400 to cover incidentals and Christmas.  BUT… we really, really struggled to stick with this and found it nearly impossible.  This was in our unsuccessful 3 years of only paying off $15k debt.  It wasn’t until we became realistic and started our 2×2 plan that we were successful in sticking with our budget and seeing big debt changes by paying off $85k the next 3.5 years.   The 2×2 plan is how we would recommend making and sticking to a budget and you will get to your rock bottom budget soon and much less painfully!

The GRAND total of both bills and living expenses category = $27,762.12 this year

So you may be asking about…… Christmas, Travel, fun and home improvement. Well, we have saved for Christmas before at $5 – $15 per paycheck ($5 x26 = $130 at lowest and $15×26 = $390) but we have done something different the past 2-years.  We’ve mentioned many times that we run our own home businesses and so we now save a percentage of our excess income to pay for these extras.  This would be a fun way to motivate you and your family to earn extra for travel and Christmas if you wanted. Check out our Over 100 Ways to Earn Extra Income post HERE. If you don’t want to do this, we would highly recommend saving monthly for those events in your normal budget.

Here’s what we do with our extra income:

  • 10% tithe
  • 30% Home Improvement (we have a lot of projects we want to complete)
  • 5% Christmas fund
  • 15% Travel/fun fund
  • Remaining in savings and other charitable giving

So for an example, between our extra businesses (we have about 4), we could bring in $1,000 extra per month.  $300 goes into home improvement, $150 for travel/fun and $50 for Christmas.  The rest is savings and tithe.  Some months are more and some are less, but that gives you an idea of what we do! It is also a great motivator for us!

Extra links:

See our Finance Category for more helpful articles

See our Financial Tips and Resources Pinterest Board

{ 33 comments }

Alex & Cassie
 

5 Easy and Quick Steps to Save Big on Medical Bills

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy here.

by Alex on March 31, 2014

5-easy-steps-to-save-on-medical-bills

It has been a while since we have talked about this – like four years! So we thought it was time to share with you one way to save big money on your medical and doctor bills.  We were reminded to tell you about this again because we just used these steps again last week and saved another $252 by following these steps to save money on our medical bills!

We first mentioned this a while back when we told you about our $1,000 meal.  That “expensive meal” was mainly due to a quick trip to the emergency room; as it turned out it was actually $1,300 submitted to insurance (not our portion thankfully!).  But, even after insurance, our portion of the emergency room was $600 (we were so close to meeting our high deductible if you’re wondering).  So why are we telling you all of this?  It’s because we want to always give you the full scoop, but even more so let you know what we really paid.  Even though the hospital showed my portion as $600, I paid $450 which then resulted in a zero balance!!  How did we do it?

The secret is in negotiating your balance by paying the total amount in full and early.  We do this all the time and are successful in negotiating the rate a majority of the time.

Here’s the simple steps we use:

  1. Make sure to watch closely for your Explanation of Benefits (EOB) from the medical insurance company.  The sooner you can call the hospital/practice, the more bartering power you have. It shows you are on top of the bill and a responsible person.  This sets the stage for them to give you a balance break.
  2. Call and plan on paying the amount in one lump sum – you lose your negotiating power unless you can pay it all right then.
  3. Speak kindly to the person that answers and confirm your information.  Ask them if there is any way they could give you a discount if you pay in full today.  Explain that you would like to pay this balance in full.
  4. If the representative can’t help you, thank him or her for all their awesome help and ask to talk to their supervisor or administrator (trying to skip talking to the representative in step #3 is often viewed as offensive and rude – and just last week I didn’t need to talk to a supervisor to receive the discount).  Remember to be kind and relate that you will make sure to tell the supervisor how much you appreciated the help – you only want to talk to the supervisor to see if they might be able to help with discounting the balance.
  5. When the supervisor gets on the line make sure to do as you just said – tell him or her that you really did appreciate the representative’s help.  Then ask what kind of discount they will give you for paying in full today (again remembering to be very kind in the phone call).  Explain that you would like to pay this all off today and if you did that, would they give you a discount?

And voila!  Our average discount is generally about 10-25% off the remaining portion of the bill.  We really can’t give you the definitive answer why they do this, but it appears some of the reasons is due to lesser administrative costs in combination with how difficult it can be to collect the amount in full.  Cassie used to work as a paralegal early in our marriage and one major client was a large hospital.  Eventually they would have to go the legal route with collecting on the long overdue unpaid medical bills.  It’s a nightmare for doctors and hospitals to collect the amount they are owed.  So many will be happy to reduce for full payment and close the account that day! It saves them tons of money to reduce the “risk” of not collecting.

We don’t have large medical bills often but when we do, we try to follow this process.  We can’t say that it has worked every time – because it hasn’t.  Some are not willing to negotiate.  However, it only takes a few minutes to ask and it is worth asking, especially if you can save big money.  We have  but we just did this process again this past week on another emergency bill and sure enough, I followed the steps above and within minutes, I saved $220 and the bill was complete.

Now we did want to clarify and give a caveat.  When we were in debt and had our financial woes, there was no way we could do this – we did not have an extra few hundred laying around to pay off a medical bill all at once.  It wasn’t until we became debt-free and had money saved to be able to cover things like this.  We tell you this because we realize that it will require extra money around, and that we haven’t always been able to do this.  We also want to make this an encouragement for yet another reason to become debt-free!

Have you ever tried this before?  What tips do you have?

{ 3 comments }

Alex & Cassie
 

Why It’s Important to Create a Price Comparison Shopping List

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy here.

by Cassie on March 10, 2014

why-its-important-to-create-a-price-comparison-list

As a reminder, the 30 Be Intentional baby steps are designed to get you on the right foot, the right track and give you energy, efficiency and organization which will propel you into a life that is able to develop an overall financially smart, happy and frugal home. We encourage couples and families to do these challenges together so the whole house can function well!

As the 30 steps go along, we will be focusing on 5 areas for the Be Intentional Month:

  • Self
  • Home
  • Budget
  • Schedule
  • Frugality

See the full list of baby steps HERE.

Today’s challenge is to help in the area of frugality again and this one is going into a home binder that we will be sharing with you in a few days, so print it and get started on filling it in and then you can store it in this binder coming up!

Be Intentional Baby Step #22:

Create Your Regular Shopping List with Price Comparisons

What is a Price Comparison Shopping list? 

This is a free download and you print as many as you need.  Then as you are shopping over the next few months, slowly fill this out to show what the regular price is of the items you buy on a normal basis.  This will help you to monitor sales prices that are posted in our grocery shopping section to compare with the regular price to help you determine when it is a good time to stock-up on that item!

The point of this is to know your price point to help save you money and become a savvy and wise grocery shopper. The cool thing is, this will help you to save loads of money, whether or not you use coupons!

This might seem overwhelming at first, but I am going to tell you that you do not need to have it all filled out today.  The challenge is to print it off and get it in your home binder and fill-it out as time goes on.  I personally find that I could not do something like this just sitting down at one sitting.  I forget and don’t realize just all of the foods we have on our normal “non-coupon” shopping list.  These are items I pretty much buy when we are out regardless of whether there is a coupon and sale attached with it.

Why It’s Important to Complete the Price Comparison List

This list is vitally important as you can then use this list to help you:

  • form future recipes
  • keep your pantry stocked with a several month supply
  • keep inventory
  • This is the FIRST step in our “4 Tricks of the Trade” to save 60-70% on your groceries, household and personal care each week.
  • most of all, track prices so that when your family’s “normal” item goes on sale somewhere, you can nab it for the lowest prices!

I find that this list is often built when I run out of a regular use item.  Just keep it handy and then begin to fill-it out.  It is designed to list a comparison price for up to three stores for each item.  In addition, you can create the store abbreviation legend in the bottom section in case you forget or one of your family member’s uses the list one day!

Here’s some examples for the legend on my list: WM = Walmart, KR = Kroger, TG = Target, etc.

In the end, this is going to be a very useful tool, so just get it printed and started and handy to continue to work on! You will be thankful that you have it!

<== Download your printable Shopping List and Prices Comparison Form HERE

One final thing….. we also have a Facebook Group where you can engage in discussions, receive encouragement and talk to others that are participating in the challenges too for more ideas! Head to the Be Intentional with The Thrifty Couple Facebook Page HERE and ask to join us there! You can also invite friends and spouses too!

{ 2 comments }

Alex & Cassie
 

You May Have Lost Money Out There and Here’s How To Find It: We Just Found $100

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy here.

by Cassie on January 29, 2014

floating lost money

We mentioned this back in 2010, but since it has been a few years, we thought it would be good to remind you about possibly finding lost money! In fact, it comes up again here on our site because we check every once in a while and every time we have come up dry….. except this time! We had just under $100 waiting to be claimed from a medical bill we made an “overpayment” on! SWEET!

In fact, we have checked this over the past few years because we know it works! Last time we found $75 for a family member that was waiting to be claimed! We didn’t have any then, but we do now!

And apparently many people do! There is around 33 billion dollars from 117 million accounts* that have unclaimed money sitting, waiting to be claimed from bank accounts, stocks, dividends, paychecks, etc.  The average account holds around $280!

So if you have you ever wondered if you have unclaimed, lost money floating around out there that you just need to claim? It would be difficult if not nearly impossible to think back over your whole life to determine whether any portion of that unclaimed money belongs to you! Well, thankfully it is actually easy and FREE to claim any lost money that is due to you.

There are two sites that you check this information from:

Each of these sites walk you through the steps to enter your name and any any state that you have resided in and then informs you if you have missing money to claim.  These sites are officially endorsed by each of the states.

We actually heard about these sites many years ago and checked it then.  Neither of us had missing money then and we just checked again today and found money today, so check it often!

When you do a search (like in the case of me searching under family members names) it does not give you any details.  The actual person has to make the claim.  But you can do your close family a favor and check for them too!

We are curious if you have missing money coming to you. Let us know! With 33 billion unclaimed, surely someone is a new millionaire amongst us!

* The actual facts regarding the 33 Billion dollars and 117 million accounts in this article were taken from unclaimed.org/what.

{ 11 comments }

Alex & Cassie