I couldn’t let another holiday season go by without addressing the dilema many put themselves into during the holiday season by making purchases on credit cards. I feel being financially responsible and a conscious consumer is THE BEST way to avoid the holiday stress. This funny SNL skit sums it up perfectly. If that doesn’t then watching “The Story of Stuff” might do the trick!
In addition, I am a fan of Leo of Zen Habits and we share a common practice of not getting into consumer hysteria. He challenges everyone to make it a no new gifts holiday season. Read his article HERE.
Lastly, I find it a powerful practice to turn around the focus and really help others in need. I personally have a huge soft spot for children. Tonight my children and I reached out to an organization called “Temecula Valley People Helping People“. It serves all the children in foster homes or who are without any parents in the local county. There were so many stacks of postcards of children who are without their families. When we reach outside ourself then we are given the most priceless gift of all: compassion and fulfillment. Perhaps, this shift is all that is needed during this holiday season.
Challenge: Do not purchase anything on credit this season. Can you do it? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
I recently watched this on the documentary “Dirt”. BTW, if you have not watched it yet. Find it on Netflix! My kids and I loved it. A nice little surprise was to see Gary Vaynerchuk in it too. I was so touched that I wanted to share it with you and see if it inspires you to be a hummingbird too!
“The less one feels that they can make a difference the more they must.” -Jane Goodall
Last year I wrote a blog titled, “Financial Slavery and Financial Freedom“. Then, in my last blog post I shared with you that I had been doing a “Life Detox”. One thing I did not mention was my financial life. In February I experienced a little taste of financial freedom when I paid my last car payment. That feeling of wanting MORE financial freedom inspired me to delve into my finances and see where I could make more improvements……and I did!
I pulled out my cell phone bill, my car insurance, home phone, cable, Internet connection and my last 2 remaining credit cards and went into research mode. Not only did I find errors, I was able to make corrections that will save me almost $5000 this year! This was shocking, and I got an adrenalin rush. How many other people are depleting their funds unnecessarily? When I realized it was about $5000 I began to realize how the pennies that were slipping through my bank account could add up to pay for a simple family vacation in Hawaii. Imagine receiving a family trip to Hawaii just for doing a little personal research on your finances…would you do it?
Here is where my $5000 was hidden.
Car Insurance First I called my car insurance company. Since I now owned my car I wanted to change my policy from full coverage to liability, but in the process I had asked if they showed any driving violations on my driving record. I was glad I asked that simple question because they were charging me according to having 2 traffic violations on my record. So, they did a little research and found that I did not have any violations and that I had over paid by $620. By switching from full coverage to liability I would save another $427 a year. That comes out to $1047 just from my car insurance company.
Cell Phone I looked into my plan and found that there was an error on my bill here too! I was being charged $50 more a month. It seems that someone entered things wrong in their computer system and they would have never corrected it if I hadn’t called. By checking in and reviewing my plan I am saving $600 a month on my cell phone bill.
Internet, Cable, Home Phone Originally I was calling on my home phone because I needed to change my long distance plan. Then the operator informed me of a promotion they were running to bundle my Internet, cable and home phone into one package deal. I have been paying for Internet and cable in one bill and my home phone on another. I currently was paying $110 for cable and Internet and $65 for my home phone. The bundle is a 2 year contract, but it comes out to $124 a month. This saves me $51 a month which in one year is $612.
Credit Card Interest Rates I decided I had gone this far in researching my expenses, I might as well see what interest rates I was paying and if I could decrease the rate. Of course somewhere along the road my interest rate of 9% had been increased to 20%. I was paying almost $120 in finance charges on one account alone. This was very frustrating to realize. I’d much rather have that money in my pocket than just spent on my poor financial decisions and now in finance charges. I asked my credit card company if they would reduce the interest rate and they said very kindly, “NO”. So, I looked into a balance transfer that offered a better interest rate. I found an offer for 10% that not only would I be saving $2367, but all the other saved money from the above accounts would allow me to pay off both credit cards (that total about $10,000) in one year as opposed to the typical 3 years one might pay off a credit card.
All these inquiries led up to a savings of $4626 over one year. All it took was a few phone calls and some curiosity. The scent of financial freedom has me hungry for more. I am now going back to a financial habit that I once was very dedicated with which was to write down my spending everyday. I always find that the pennies here and there add up and I tend to sacrifice the things I really want because I am blowing my money little by little on things that don’t even benefit my life in a great way.
I really hope this blog post inspires you to take a look at your expenses and to check for errors and find ways that you can improve your financial life. Who knows, maybe one day we will meet on the beaches of Hawaii and toast to the mantra, “A penny saved is a penny earned.”