Confessions from the Peanut Gallery

Questions on how we spend our money and our time - consumer goods and services, home and vehicle, leisure and recreational activities
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DFWinvestor
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Joined: Mon Mar 19, 2012 2:05 pm

Confessions from the Peanut Gallery

Post by DFWinvestor » Wed Aug 06, 2014 5:34 pm

I have been a bad boglehead. I am here to confess and ask forgiveness. I am ashamed to admit this but I figured a few others might have similar stories, or it might spark someone to do some leg work themselves to save some money.

I am usually fairly good with my budget. We spend about 1/3 of what we make on day to day expenses, mortgage, bills, etc. So I've had some things on auto pilot for a long time and not really sat down to reassess them. Now that I have done so I am saving a decent amount of money:

1) Electricity bill. I have been with a 100% renewable energy company for about seven years. Ever so slowly, my bills were getting larger. It was death by a thousand little cuts. Eventually when the bill continued to climb I looked at my rate and it was .17/kWh. I can't believe I didn't notice this sooner or act sooner. I made one phone call to the company and told them, "I am a long time customer who has been paying too much for a long time, and I am calling to give you an opportunity to keep my business". Got my rates down to .11 and now saving close to $200/month. Probably could have gotten even cheaper with another company but I like using a company solely on alternative energy.

2) Cell phone bill. My wife and I collectively were paying $240/month. We had the fancy plan with all the bells and whistles. I had a bad experience when I was much younger when I had a cheap plan, and when I exceeded the limits by a good margin I got a few enormous bills. I knew we were paying a lot but I never really sat down to look at how much we were using our phones and data. When I did I discovered we don't use all that much at all. So with ten minutes research looking at our usage and plan options, I was able to get us down to $90/month. Yes, there may be a few cheaper companies out there and we could get prepaid phones and save even more. But this is a number I can live with.

So I have reduced our bills by $350/month. Should have done this a few years ago and feel foolish for not having done so.

Just wanted to pass this along in case anyone else had similar stories, or if anyone else might need motivation to look at their own bills in more details. Having things on "autopilot" and not re-evaluating them cost me a good deal of money. Not any more.

dickenjb
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Location: Philadelphia PA

Re: Confessions from the Peanut Gallery

Post by dickenjb » Wed Aug 06, 2014 5:44 pm

I have a similar confession. Switched electricity suppliers to get 10,000 United miles plus monthly miles. Didn't check the rates until my bills were really outrageous. They were charging almost 2x what PECO our local utility charges. Switched back to PECO. "Won't be fooled again".

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The529guy
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Re: Confessions from the Peanut Gallery

Post by The529guy » Wed Aug 06, 2014 5:58 pm

I never thought I would ever pay an annual fee for a credit card, but when I saw the perks available with the US Airways Premiere World MasterCard a few years ago (e.g., two annual roundtrip companion passes for $99 each, among other things), I figured the $89/year fee was worthwhile...

This year, they're taking away all the benefits that appealed to me. Rather than close it, I had the account converted into a no-fee Barclays Arrival card to serve as a spare. I'm glad to be back to my natural "no annual fee" existence.

clearwater
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Re: Confessions from the Peanut Gallery

Post by clearwater » Wed Aug 06, 2014 6:04 pm

Insurance. Wow, what a scam, huh? Prices will just keep going up up up, no matter how great you are as a customer (which means, you never have a claim, and are basically an ATM for the carrier).

Had Fireman's Fund for a long time. Service was fine (they never bothered me), but the prices just were ridiculous. Eventually I figured it out and switched.

Now I've got Amica, who cannot seem to do the simplest thing without phone calls. What's the point of having a "contact us by email on our web page" when all they do is want to call you? (Sheesh, just fix the problem I sent you a note about. We don't have a "relationship".)

I hate insurance companies. I wish I could find one firm who could just do what I want at a fair price.

Pretty much every company these days wants to find a way to turn you into a monthly recurring revenue customer. It's ridiculous. If I could go off-grid tomorrow I would, just to stop the constant barrage of monthly bills, up-sells, marketing promotions, and other ways to separate me from my money.
Last edited by clearwater on Wed Aug 06, 2014 6:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

dgdevil
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Re: Confessions from the Peanut Gallery

Post by dgdevil » Wed Aug 06, 2014 6:36 pm

clearwater wrote: I hate insurance companies. I wish I could find one firm who could just do what I want at a fair price.
Find an insurance agent. They do all the heavy lifting.

For my part, I went to the trouble of buying an Internet modem so that I wouldn't have to pay the cable company's $5 monthly rental charge. I noticed a few months later that they were still charging me the rental even though I had returned their box. The friendly chap on the phone was most apologetic and credited me the difference. Maybe twice a year - when the clocks change - one should call around the phone/cable companies and take advantage of whatever deals they have.

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gatorman
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Location: The Swamp

Re: Confessions from the Peanut Gallery

Post by gatorman » Wed Aug 06, 2014 7:06 pm

We decided we didn't need our big house since our kids are all gone, so we sold it recently and bought a townhome. The savings are:
mortgage $2400/mo. (5 yrs. avoided pmts., no mtg. on the new place), pool man $200/mo., yard man $175/mo., Property taxes, about $2000/yr. net (say $167/mo.), homeowners ins. $400/mo., net. Utilities net, about $250/mo.We picked up an association fee of $130/mo. So our net savings is about $3462/mo., not including all the money I'll save on groceries via my new patio garden.
gatorman

DFWinvestor
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Re: Confessions from the Peanut Gallery

Post by DFWinvestor » Wed Aug 06, 2014 7:20 pm

gatorman wrote:We decided we didn't need our big house since our kids are all gone, so we sold it recently and bought a townhome. The savings are:
mortgage $2400/mo. (5 yrs. avoided pmts., no mtg. on the new place), pool man $200/mo., yard man $175/mo., Property taxes, about $2000/yr. net (say $167/mo.), homeowners ins. $400/mo., net. Utilities net, about $250/mo.We picked up an association fee of $130/mo. So our net savings is about $3462/mo., not including all the money I'll save on groceries via my new patio garden.
gatorman
Wow, now that is impressive. We are in a town home and it's the only place I have ever owned. I do my own yard work (tiny yard so it doesn't take long).

If and when kids arrive we will probably upgrade to a single family home with a bigger yard. I will stay put as long as possible, even with kids until they are old enough for school if my wife is on board with that. We are surrounded by empty nesters.

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Crimsontide
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Re: Confessions from the Peanut Gallery

Post by Crimsontide » Wed Aug 06, 2014 7:30 pm

I've been very bad as well. I switched from Dish to DirecTV to save a few bucks and get the free Sunday Ticket (that was just for the first year). I let them re-up me for the Sunday ticket last month and now have increased my monthly bill by $49 for the next 6 months. DirecTV finally made a deal to carry the SEC Network (thankfully), wonder what that is going to cost me? Oh well, if this is my only vice I think I'll be alright :happy

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dodecahedron
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Re: Confessions from the Peanut Gallery

Post by dodecahedron » Wed Aug 06, 2014 7:30 pm

I know I could save a ton if I sold this 3,000 square foot home, a beautiful older home with high property taxes, utilities, and maintenance, in a great school district (but we have no school-age kids) and move to a more efficient right-size home in a more walkable neighborhood that would reduce transportation expenses as well, but I love all the memories of spending almost a quarter century living here with my late husband and I am just not ready to do that--and fortunately I don't need to. Plus this is an incredibly safe neighborhood, which is hard to put a price on, especially as I grow older and more vulnerable. And there are cows and a farm selling fresh produce and an old growth nature preserve and a bird sanctuary within a ten minute walk from here. Supermarkets and restaurants and work and library and urban community service locations and church would be an easy bike ride, but I am not really ready to take up biking at age 60, but they are only five or ten minutes drive away, so really I put a pretty small number of miles on my car anyway.

It is a beautiful perfect summer evening and I am sitting out on my stone veranda listening to birds and frogs and insects and a babbling stream in the large tree filled wilderness we call a backyard. It's a matter of priorities. I *am* looking into ways to reduce expenses--possibly filling in the swimming pool (which I really have no desire to use anyway and did not even bother to open this summer), getting an energy efficiency assessment and taking some measures to reduce our high utilities, challenging my excessive property tax valuation (I had to get the place appraised anyway for estate purposes and looking at the appraisal comparables, it became clear our home has been way overassessed for years).

The fact is that I could have taken many of these measures years ago, but was too preoccupied with other things to take a careful look at outflows. Live and learn, as they say.

DFWinvestor
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Re: Confessions from the Peanut Gallery

Post by DFWinvestor » Wed Aug 06, 2014 8:30 pm

Crimsontide wrote:I've been very bad as well. I switched from Dish to DirecTV to save a few bucks and get the free Sunday Ticket (that was just for the first year). I let them re-up me for the Sunday ticket last month and now have increased my monthly bill by $49 for the next 6 months. DirecTV finally made a deal to carry the SEC Network (thankfully), wonder what that is going to cost me? Oh well, if this is my only vice I think I'll be alright :happy
I am with Directv, I have been very happy with the service but paying an awful lot. I just got rid of the HBO channels, saved a decent amount but my wife is already crowing about the fact that she can't watch Game of Thrones. I asked her if she enjoyed the show enough to pay $500 to watch it NOW rather than wait until it is available from other sources. I am not sure I am going to win this battle though.

I am going to look into bundling internet/cell phone/tv with Uverse. We had Uverse previously but had a lot of issues with the tv freezing up in the middle of programming sometimes for minutes at a time (try dealing with that during a big game). This was many years ago and if bundling will save me more money and the service is better now in my area I may do it.

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