Saturday, May 1, 2010

Let's leave John Hancock out of this

Frugal Friday...finally! I scrapbooked tonight trying to slide some last minute stuff in for the Canadian Scrapbooker Magazine call for Fall. It was worth being late for the whole blogging thing.

So let's talk about your John Hancock. Not into obscure references to politicians past? This is the post where I harass you about fees and tell you not to rush into contracts. We live in such an advanced age that really, you don't need to sign your life away anymore even if that's what the companies want us to do. If you are trying to get your budget under control, the worst {and I mean WORST} thing you can do to yourself is get into a lengthy contract no matter how inexpensive you think the payments are. Cell phones, gyms, cable, vehicles, you name it...there is a contract for it. Usually they are taking advantage of people with less than glamorous credit by making them commit to a year {or 2 or 6} of payments right up front. So as a frugal gal, I am telling you to STOP SIGNING FOR STUFF. If you need a cell phone, get a pay as you go. Yes, in the long run they are more expensive per minute of talk...I've crunched those numbers. But if you are rearranging your finances and need to cut back for now, the pay as you go {of course paired with limiting your talk} is the path to take. And on that same topic...don't get sucked into the cycle of constantly upgrading your phone because the company gives it to you for free if you sign another contract. I have a great cell phone story. And must post a photo because you won't believe me until you see it. I have had the same cell phone package for a little over 10 years. Nope, not kidding. And I've had the same cell phone {yes, the very same one} for about 8. Years. Yup, you read that right. I love technology but the only reason I have a cell at all is for emergencies. So I can call the Hubs if I get a flat tire. So my son's school can always reach me. So my Hubs can keep track of me when I am out of town. So I can call my girls when I find an amazing sale. My cell has saved me many, many times. But let's face it, I am not Ivana Trump. I don't need to be that hooked up all the time. I am a SAHM who does not need to check Facebook while in line at the grocery store. And I'm pretty sure I won't die if I don't receive my e-mail the second it is sent to me. Even though I have complained many times about "The shoe" {it's as big as my hand} has served me well and I have saved money sticking with what I have. But Kate, strangers make fun of you when they see it. Friends snicker when it rings. People have asked you {more than once} "Your house phone works this far away from it's base?!" And I take all the ribbing with good humour because of one thing and one thing only: I am billed month to month {no contract} and by the second people. Nobody has that's all by the minute now. This is the reason I have not changed my package. Oh sure, my company tries to entice me to change all the time with new "Free" phones, offering me a bunch of free minutes on a new package, even going so far as to send me personally addressed letters in the mail explaining all the wonderful technology I am missing out on. They will do anything to get me to change because I pay $30 per month (including all fees, taxes, etc) for 150 anytime minutes and I am billed by the second. It's sweet. And I have only ever gone over my minutes twice. Once the month I got married and once the month my sister got married. That's it. And they hate me for it. LOL So analyze your use, is your large package really that vital? Is your fancy phone all it's cracked up to be? If you are trying to cut some corners this is a great place to start.

Gym? I touched on that yesterday and highly suggest you ask around to see if they have a babysitting program you could volunteer for. Works for me. Or check out your local community association classes that are held in neighbourhood school gyms. Waaaay cheaper! Right in my area there are aerobics and Step classes!

Vehicles...don't even get me started here. Now there are certainly situations where your need for something far outweighs the best possible scenario for purchase. We've all been there. However, don't let that warp your belief of what you are actually in need of. If you are having a baby and want to get something bigger than your Civic Hatchback there probably isn't a huge need to jump right into a Cadillac Escalade with the pimped out rims. Catch my drift? This falls under the category of just because you can doesn't mean you should. The banks and finance places want to lend you lots of money. The longer it takes you to pay it back, the fatter their pockets get due to those two wonderful words: Interest and Late Fees. Ok, so that's 3 words.

This all goes together with things like overdraft protection. They call it protection...but what it really is is a chance to take a bit more money from you. This is something I learned the hard way. Going into overdraft is like bouncing a get in less trouble but end up paying way more. When we moved up North our finances were screwed up for the better part of 4 months waiting for reimbursement. I thought overdraft was my friend, "protecting" us when we were a tad short for a day or two. We'd be in OD for a few days, get out then the next week slide back in. What I didn't realize was those nifty little "NSF-$25" charges coming out of my account. YIKES! There was one month I paid $75 in fees because of going in and out of overdraft so many times right around my billing date. It was nasty so I started asking questions. Believe me...overdraft is not your friend...knowledge is your friend. Ask your bank about different accounts and packages and what is right for you.

One last point...don't get caught up in the cycle of late fees and collection charges. And gym memberships are a great example here. When you let something lapse or are consistently late there are extra charges involved. And at the time you think "Well, it's only $1.25" Let's say you are late with 2 seperate bill payments per month for a year. Quick math...{oh who am I kidding, I used a calculator} you just wasted yourself $30. $2.50 in late charges every month x 12 months. $30 pays for a haircut, dinner out, a movie night or if you want to hit a little harder on the heart it pays for a box of diapers, a whole lot of baby food or could be put away towards some other big event your little one had her heart set on. It all adds up. So leave John Hancock out of it for a while and see how frugal you can be.


sassy said...

you know your stuff girl! pop by and tell me why you love to blog!

Saucy said...

Phone plan: AGREED.

Here's my story: I feel the exact same way about the phone. I'm no superstar and I only carry the phone so that Veto and I can stay in touch because he travels and has such a hectic schedule. In fact, I didn't even carry one until he insisted... I don't check my email on it and I don't yack and yack (the handsfree laws didn't really change my habits either because I don't run up the minutes, but I did miss that daily call to check in on my Granny whilst I picked up Loopy)...

I caved and we got the iPhone for me when Veto moved the plans around. Mostly I use it as my music player and the Cheerios text me questions ALL THE TIME but I am wane to text back too much.

To you, for carrying your albatross: kudos! I miss my phone that was easy to find in my purse, easy to read the numbers on and easy to dial. Newer technology doesn't always mean better!