Week 8 Wins: Coming to the defense of my dollars
If past weeks were about adopting new spending habits, then this pay period was for becoming the champion of my hard-earned dollars. In these last two weeks, I stepped up to contest charges that I may not have before deciding my dollars should be mindfully spent and we revamped our budget to begin making a much larger monthly payment to our existing debt. Here is what we're celebrating at the close of Week 8:
A revised family budget.
This journey to spend dollars more mindfully has led to a lot of changes to our monthly budget along the way. While our work to save money on groceries hasn't kept pace with the voracious appetite of the teenage boy in our house, we have reduced our monthly internet bill and tackled our student loans payments. It was time for a mid-year adjustment to our budget. Although we had to increase our grocery costs, we were still able to make some positive change. We also voluntarily chose to further reduce our spending money each pay period. Combined with the payments we'd reduced, this allowed us to increase our monthly payments to knock down our debt substantially. (I'll be writing more in-depth about our family's budget in December as we begin planning for 2017.)
Continued reduced spending on non-essentials.
While my overall spending money was reduced, this was a particularly frugal pay period for me. There was no rule breaking: No meals out, no coffee drinks, no paid parking. There were also no unexpected or larger purchases on this pay period of the essential nature (oil changes, dry cleaning, haircuts, etc). All said and done, I was able to still save $142 to go toward paying off our debt. This was no small feat!
Sticking up for our hard-earned dollars.
Being more mindful about each dollar leaving our bank account gave me the awareness and the drive to contest some charges and reclaim some dollars that I wouldn't have before. This happened three times in one pay period, allowing us to keep $50 additional dollars in our bank account. Here's a break down of how we defended the bucks we had in the bank:
- Contesting a $20 fee from our cell phone provider
We went in to replace a family member's cell phone, and the cost was a bit more than expected. Reviewing the bill when I got home, there was one of those fairly typical $20 fees that seem to be for nothing when you buy a new phone. We hadn't received a new sim card, and the sales clerk hadn't done more than just hand us the box with the new phone before we walked out the door. With this in mind, I politely called our cell phone provider to question the charge. The customer service representative was waiving the charge before I knew it, and she indicated that I could always avoid this charge in the future by conducting my purchases online. This was the easiest $20 I have ever earned. It took two minutes.
- Recovering $10 worth of coupons
Our local grocery store recently hosted a grand re-opening event following a remodel. As part of the festivities, they sent out $10 off coupons for future shopping trips. The coupons had very limited dates when they could be used, but they matched our family's grocery shopping cycle exactly. I was stoked about the easy savings... until I left the coupons at home when I went shopping. I asked the clerk if I could bring the coupon back in with my receipt to the customer service counter after the fact. He was pretty new, but he seemed confident that they would honor the coupon if I also brought in my receipt. And they did! I didn't have to make demands or threats when I came back in. After just a polite question about whether it could be done, they were on top of it.
- Going back to battle over the internet bill (and getting a $20 credit!)
Something was fishy on this month's internet bill. The $10/month modem rental charge that was supposed to have disappeared once we bought our new modem was still there. And there was not credit for the prior month either as was promised. This pickle was admittedly a little more time consuming to sort out, but it could still be done with kindness. I won't go into the technical details that caused our account to not have been updated, but we were able to straighten it out. The 15 minutes I spent on the phone was not just a one-time $20 credit; it will also assure that we receive the correct rate on our future bills as well.
The victories of Week 8 were not the quick wins that provided initial motivation nor the bigger chunks of money we could claim when we had left our spending so unchecked, but these wins speak to something more sustaining - a lasting change in lifestyle. These kinds of changes set us up to live below our means and begin building real savings when our debts are paid down. They are not quick thrills and huge instant rewards, but maybe they are better in that they run deeper.
Vicki Robin's classic "Your Money or Your Life." The deeper I get into this book, the more I agree with it! More good reading selections available on our "Resources" Pinterest Board.