How to Save Money on Phone Bills: Switch From AT&T to Republic Wireless

My November AT&T bill was $252. Ouch!

My December bill is $209. Better, but still quite high.

There are three lines in our account:  mine, my husband’s, and my mom’s.  We share a measly total of 550 plan minutes. I’m the heaviest user as I use the phone for my business, too.

I called AT&T and asked how much my monthly bill would be if I disconnect my line. I was told it will drop to $122. It will save me $100/month or $1200/year if I terminate my line. But, of course, I have to pay the pre-termination  fee, buy a new phone, and pay the monthly fee to the other cell phone provider.

After researching several cell phone carriers, I settled on Republic Wireless. Its hybrid calling (routing calls over WiFi automatically) seems to be the best fit for me. I work from home and almost always has WiFi. When not connected to a WiFi, I still have access to a full 3G cell data network using Sprint’s network. My area has a strong Sprint coverage so it really works for me.  Their $25/month plan, which includes WiFi + Cell (3G) Talk, Text, & Data service, is crazy cheap!

So, here’s how the math works out:

Remember that it will cost me $1200/year to stay with AT&T. I’m also always worried to go over the limit and end up paying more.

By switching to Republic Wireless, my costs will be:

$215 — early termination fee to AT&T

$370 — cost of Republic Wireless’ MotoX phone, case, taxes, shipping

$300 — ($25/monthly service fee) x 12 months

$885 — TOTAL cost of switching my cell phone service from AT&T to Republic Wireless

So, $1200 (cost of staying with AT&T) – $885 (cost of Republic Wireless) = $315.

I will be saving a total of $315 by switching from AT&T to Republic Wireless, and that is without the fear of going over my limit and what-not.

Also, I still have my old phone, a Samsung Galaxy S3. If I sell it on Gazelle.com, it will net me an additional $100, bumping my total savings to $415. I could probably get more if I sell it on Craigslist.

On the second year (if everything works out), I will be saving $900 with Republic Wireless vs staying with AT&T. Sweet!

I’m loving the savings, but I’m more excited of not having to think about going over my plan minutes because there is none!  No more counting minutes! Freedom!!!

I placed an order for a MotoX and I really hope Republic Wireless is all it’s cracked up to be. If not, I fully intend to take them up on their offer of 30-day money back guarantee. I will write another post/review within a month or so to report on how the phone and the service is working out for me.

How about you, how much do you pay for your cell phone bill? 

Merry Christmas!!!

merry christmas

Merry Christmas everyone!

Noticed the new look on this blog? I migrated from Blogger to WordPress! Ms. Jennyfer Tan here did the heavy lifting. I highly recommend her! I’m still learning my way around WP but it looks fun and exciting! What plugins are a must?

May your Christmas be filled with joy and laughter!

A Frugal Gift For Kids (Free Printable Nursery Wall Art)

To download this pink wall art, please click here.
To download this blue wall art, please click here.

Today I would like to share two FREE digital nursery wall arts. These are 8″ x 10″ JPEG files, 300 dpi ready for printing at home or at your local print shop.

Print it on a heavy cardstock and place inside an inexpensive frame to make a frugal but thoughtful gift for the little people in your life. Print as many as you want.

For personal use only, please.

PS. Make sure to download the file using the link provided above. Don’t just copy and save the picture as the resolution might not be as good.

PPS. Not sure why the pink one is somewhat dark. If you click on the download link, you’ll see it’s really a much lighter pink than shown here on  this post.
Pins are very much appreciated!

Of Brand New Homes, HOAs, and Mello-Roos

My husband and I are thinking of selling our two houses. We will use the proceeds of the sales to buy a bigger house that will also accommodate my business. Ideally, we would like a 5bed/3bath house with a 3 car garage. At the very least, a 4 bed/2 bath with loft and 2 car garage. We haven’t put any of our houses in the market yet, but we’re already kinda looking around where we might like to move.

We’ve looked at new communities being built and we were blown away by the model homes. The granite counter tops, cherry wood kitchen cabinets, stainless steel appliances, walk-­in pantries, the decor, the wooden floors, spacious master baths, all those make for houses that are oh, so fancy!

Some of the houses we looked at were within our price range, although on the higher side. Some were just too far out there. However, what seems to be a common theme among these new houses is that they have HOA fees and Mello­-Roos.

HOA (Homeowner’s Association) fees are used to maintain common areas and IS not a property tax. Mello-Roos is a special property tax in California collected to pay for public improvements and services, mostly in new developments. The residents in these communities are paying $250­ to $300 on top of their mortgage each month.

When we were checking out model homes, we immediately started imagining ourselves living in those houses in those communities. It was easy to somewhat justify the HOA fees and Mello­-Roos when you’re sitting on a couch in a spanking brand new house.

We started saying inane things to each other like:

HOA fees include basic cable and they have a private park.”

“Yes, you’ll pay Mello-­Roos, but it’s a brand new house. No one has lived in it.”

And here’s my favorite, courtesy of my husband:

We deserve to live in a beautiful, brand new house. We work really hard.”

Thank goodness one can’t buy a house overnight or we would have been in big trouble. We came to our senses when we got home and started really thinking about the $300/month fee towards HOA and Mello­-Roos.

$300 a month might be just chump change to some but it’s extra payment we could put towards our mortgage. I found this Mortgage Prepayment Calculator to see how an extra $300/month could affect a mortgage.

I assumed the loan to be $300K with a fixed interest rate of 4.365% for 30 yrs. Here’s the result. Click on the picture to enlarge it.

If you can’t see the picture well, it says the mortgage will be paid off in 103 months or 8.5 years earlier and save $80,600 in interest! Wow!

I would very much prefer to be mortgage-­free 8.5 years sooner. I could live not having access to a private park. There are plenty of city parks anyway. I wouldn’t mind living in a slightly older home either in order to save over $80K in interest.

I would love to live in a brand new house but I’m not paying HOA and Mello-Roos. I’m sure we’ll find the perfect house soon enough. But first, we have to put our houses up for sale!

What do you think of HOA and Mello-­Roos (if you’re in California?)

 

Homeschooling Through a Charter School

When my husband and I first looked at homeschooling, we quickly realized that it would cost us a lot of money. Curriculum could easily cost $500, or more. I could cobble up my own from free resources out there, but the process could take time. A lot of time. And time is money. Plus, I want a proven curriculum that lots of kids had used already.

School room furnitures are costly. So are consumable school supplies (paper, paint, glue, etc). We now have to pay for classes that are normally available for free in public schools such as PE, art, and music classes. We have to coordinate our own field trips, and pay for assessment tests to make sure the kids are at the level they’re supposed to be.

I think that in some families, the biggest “expense” of all would be one parent having to stay home to teach the children. But because I have a small business I run from home, this is not a very big concern for us.

My daughter will be officially a Kindergartner next school year. We have decided to enroll her in a Charter school which will make her technically a public school student. This entitles her to some tax dollars just like other public school students. Whereas School Districts receive those tax dollars for their students, homeschoolers receive a yearly spending allowance.

Depending on which route we take, she could receive between $1,000 to $1,600 to spend on (non-religious) curriculum, activities (dance, art, karate, tutoring), and supplies. We also get to meet with a Credentialed Teacher (CT) every so often for guidance. In addition, the charter school we picked provides enrichment classes in a group setting once a week. I love that my kid will still have “classmates”.

One more thing that really sold us to the Charter school is that one of the families in our homeschooling meet-up group already goes through them. They are happy with it and have no plans on leaving.

For now, going through a Charter school seems to be the best option for our family. We will evaluate our options yearly. If it becomes too restrictive, or convoluted, we can easily drop out of the program and go independent or even enroll in public school. We plan on paying for our children’s expenses out of our pockets so any reimbursements we receive will be deposited to their 529 college fund.

A Frugal Gift For Moms (Free Printable Nursery Wall Art)

Babies Don't Keep Gray Chevron2

Today I would like to share a free digital nursery wall art. This is an 8″ x 10″ JPEG file, ready for printing at home or at your local print shop.

Print it on a heavy card stock and place it inside an inexpensive frame to make a frugal but thoughtful gift for moms. Print as many as you want; one for you (or your wife), and one for each mom you know.

For personal use only, please.

PS. Make sure to download the file using the link provided above. Don’t just copy and save the picture as the resolution might not be as good.

Pins are very much appreciated!

Our 529 College Savings Account

My husband and I have two kids. Aside from the day-to-day mundane responsibility of keeping these little buggers alive, fed, bathe, and entertained, we also have to think about college. The rising costs of college is scary and leaves me wondering… how are we going to afford it and save for retirement at the same time?

It seems to me that a 529 savings is the best answer for us. Here’s a great primer on 529 plans if you’re not familiar with it. Pretty much, it allows your investment to grow tax-free. Withdrawals are also tax-free as long as they’re used for college expenses. The parents own and control the accounts and the kids (or any family member/s) can be the beneficiaries.

We were skittish about the stock market in the last few years so we opted to deposit their money in a savings account instead. There it sat and stagnated while the market soared. Yes, I’m still kicking myself over this, but what’s done is done. They are still young so there’s plenty of time for their accounts to grow now that we’ve finally opened 529 accounts for them. Gotta love the power of compounding.

We picked the Vanguard 529 College Savings Plan of Nevada, named one of the best 529 College Savings Plan by Morningstar. We chose the Vanguard Aggressive Growth Portfolio. This portfolio is 100% stocks, the asset allocations being 45% Large domestic stocks & stock funds, 25% Mid/small domestic stocks & stock funds, and 30% International stocks & stock funds.

I opened two accounts: one for each kid. I could have just opened one account since I can easily add/change the beneficiaries. However, with separate accounts, it would be easier to keep track and deposit money each kid receives as gifts.

Also, my daughter received more money already compared to her little brother simply because she’s two years older. She had a head start. My boy only has half as much savings as his sister currently. I don’t think it’s fair to lump their money together and then divide it equally in half when one ”contributed” more than the other.

I plan to make small monthly contributions ($50-$100) to each of their accounts. In addition, all monies they receive from relatives, homeschooling reimbursements (more about this on my next post), and any dependent care account reimbursements will also be deposited to their respective accounts.

Do you have kids? Are you saving for their college education? If so, how?

A Not So Frugal But Fun Birthday Party

My daughter turned 5 years old a few days ago. Eight of her little friends came to help celebrate her birthday which we held in a bounce house. Their party package included one hour in the playroom, 30 minutes use of the private party room, invitations, paper goods (plates, napkins, cups and utensils), pizza, soda, candles, and balloons. I picked up cupcakes from Costco, added 2 more large pizzas, juice boxes, chocolate milks, and loot bags for our little guests. I spent a total of $275.

Sure, it could have been cheaper. I could have whittle down the cost to a $100 or less. I could have tried to squeeze all of the guests in our small house, baked the cupcakes myself, made sandwiches,  lemonade, and gave homemade gifts to our guests. However, all those require time. Time to clean the house, to bake, and craft gifts. Time I simply did not have. Most of all, I just want to focus on my girl on her birthday and not worry if I cleaned the house enough, frosted  the cupcakes right, etc.

So, I compromised and spent a little money. At the end, I think I got a real bargain. The kids had a lot of fun, the parents socialized, and it was all very stress-free. I didn’t even have to clean up afterward. :) Best of all, my daughter thanked me for such a fun birthday party and declared “I’m the luckiest girl in the whole wide world because you’re my Mama!”

The point in all this is it’s okay to loosen the purse strings from time to time. Especially on people that really matter to you.

How about you, what and/or who do you splurge on?

Frugal Double Sided Plexiglass Easel for Kids

My children painting outside

One of our biggest expense as homeschoolers are classroom furniture. We have to buy our own tables, easels, blackboards, white boards, etc. I look at Craigslist, Freecycle, our local selling group on Facebook, as well as surplus auctions by our county (the last time I looked, they were giving away FREE binders and $1 office chairs!) for things that we need in our homeschool.

Of course,  there’s also the DIY route. By doing it ourselves, not only do we save money, we can also tailor it to our specific needs. This double sided outdoor easel is one example. I must have seen this idea somewhere online but can’t remember the site at the moment. It was quick to put together, very inexpensive compared to store bought, it is portable, foldable, and easy to store.

I bought two sheets of plexiglass from the local hardware store and used a clear packing tape to hold the sheets on top. No paper needed. The kids paint directly on the plexiglass and I take a picture of their work for posterity. I then hose it down, dry it, and fold it away for next time.

5 Tips to Save Money on Laundry

 

photo by valleygirl_tka

 

I’m naturally frugal. But now that I have a renewed passion to save as much as possible, I find myself looking for more ways to stretch our hard earned dollars. I thought I’d share today 5 tips to save money on laundry.

1. Wear clothes more than once.

Jeans, tops that have been worn only a short time, and pajamas are all fair game.  Gym clothes go to the hamper right away.  Same with the little boy’s clothes. He always gets dirty when we go outside.  My little girl stays fairly clean so I usually just hang her clothes to air out and have her wear it again.

2. Buy Energy Star-rated appliances, if possible.

They’re supposedly energy and water efficient. According to EnergyStar.gov, you should probably look into replacing your washer and dryer if they’re more than 10 years old.

But, don’t run to the big box store just yet. Try checking your local Craigslist and you might score a new-ish model for a lot less like Mr. 1500 did with his dishwasher. Ours are just a few years old, but when they die, I know I will try to convince my husband to check CL first.

3. Run a full load during off peak hours and use cold water.

According to PG&E, the energy needed to run a full load and a partial load is about the same; so you might as well maximize the amount of clothes you wash per load and run fewer loads.

You can reduce your energy use further by washing clothes in cold water. I still use hot or warm water for washing bed linens and towels.

Also, do your laundry during off-peak hours when energy rates are cheaper. Where we live, the off-peak rate in the summer is $.18 cents/kWh cheaper than peak hour rate.

4. Make your own laundry soap and fabric softener.

Laundry soap: It’s been almost a year since I started using this super simple no-grate homemade laundry soap. I love it! It’s super cheap, and I love that I no longer have to lug big bulky containers of laundry soap from Costco.

Fabric softener: I have read about using vinegar.  We tried it and unfortunately, we’re just not a fan of it.  What I do is dilute our favorite fabric softener with 4x water to make it last four times as long. I still have to lug this from Costco but not as often.

5. Line-dry your clothes.

When the weather is nice, I dry our clothes on drying racks.  I usually fluff them up in the dryer for 5 minutes just so they’re not too stiff.

It only takes a few minutes to hang the clothes on the rack, but as a busy mom, sometimes I simply don’t have those few minutes to spare and I opt to use the dryer instead. When I do, I make sure to clean the lint trap first for better air circulation. I also try to get the clothes out as soon as the dryer is done so that the clothes are not wrinkled. It saves time on ironing.

Do you have a tip on how to save money on laundry? Please share, I’d love to hear it!