Monday, November 21, 2011

Surviving your budget during the Holiday Season: 101

I've been thinking a lot about saving money. It's always on my mind. We live on a pretty tight budget and depending on the month it's even tighter. Last week, my friend, Stephanie, over at Diapers and Divinity, was asking for advice about sticking to a grocery budget. (Advice? I'm great at advice... *20 points to the first person to name that movie quote!) Anyway, I flooded her comment feed with 3 or 4 long paragraphs about what I do to save money and still feed my kids.

I don't know if it helped anyone, but I was going through my budget this morning for the rest of the month and I noticed there is another thing I often do when money is tight. We had some "extra expenses" come up last week (Okay, Zeke and I were really naughty and went out to dinner on Friday and then, we bought some new snow sleds for the kids and a Christmas gift for Beck that I've been waiting to go on sale!) Anyway, now I need to "find" some more money for our Thanksgiving trip this week. I just felt like I should share this with all of you and hopefully it can help someone.

Our new sleds (the kids had so much fun on Saturday it was worth it):
Whenever this happens, whatever the unexpected expense may be: doctor co-pays, extra prescriptions, birthday gifts for your children's friends (Oi!), money to fix the siding on your house because your 13 year old didn't realize a lacrosse ball would damage it (Really?), etc. I look at the bills I have for that paycheck and see what I can MOVE to the next paycheck. You're thinking, what?! Maybe all of you already know this? Yeah, I know, I am no financial wizard and we are not wealthy in any way, but we are trying to live within our means, get out of debt, not use credit cards, and still pay our bills and have money for all of the expenses involved with raising four children, owning two cats, and one house and ALL that goes along with that! (Breathe!)
Before you swipe that credit card:
Here are some crazy ideas that just might work!

So, I have learned (by calling and feeling really dumb, but you never know until you ask) that several creditors and companies will let you skip a payment or move it up a few days until you get paid again to help you have the extra you need to make it until the next paycheck, sometimes with no late fees or penalties! Many companies have a GRACE period on your payment -- meaning if your payment is due on the 30th of the month, you might not actually have to pay until the 5th of the next month. They don't always tell you, but you can ask. Our car payment is like this.

Maybe all of these companies are going to get angry with me for publicly sharing their "secret", but I don't think they will. Everyone I have called to ask for help has been very nice. All they can do is say no, right? FYI: Credit card companies are not like this, they are not nice and not willing to help you. (That is just from my experience.) Credit card companies are EVIL.

But here are some places that have been great for us:
  • America First Credit Union
  • Allstate Insurance Company
  • Hospitals and Doctor's Offices
  • Gas and Utility Companies
  • Nelnet (student loans), Yes, it's true!
  • Green Tree

For example, this is what I did this morning: I adjusted my budget (I go over my budget EVERY day) and found that I needed another $100 or so to make it to the next paycheck. I don't think I could stretch our groceries that far this month, so I called Allstate to ask them if I could move our payment to next month and then, I would make a double payment. (*Now, you actually have to have enough from your next check to make this payment, so be careful before you promise that you'll pay them -- I don't think they would like you to CONTINUE to skip your payments.)

Anyway, they said SURE! (I knew they would, they've helped us before) That is $80 less I have to pay this check and $80 MORE in my pocket. I know I can squeeze at least $20 or so from the rest of my budget to make up the difference.

Also, we have our car payment through America First Credit Union (AFCU). I LOVE them! We have been with them since 1999. I'm sure other credit unions are just as great, I just haven't had any experience with them. Oh, ENT Federal Credit Union in Colorado was also great. Anyway, AFCU lets us waive one payment a year with no fee or penalty! Waive, as in SKIP completely and not have to pay double the next month! I know this isn't helping pay down our debt, but sometimes you have to deal with the here and now. This has been an absolute lifesaver during Christmas.

I hope all of you can get through the holidays debt-free and stress-free. I am all about SIMPLE everything. Look at what you can cut out. Last year, we didn't even do Christmas cards and I'm not sure if we will this year either. (Oh, the horror!!) I do love to spoil my kids, but I hope it's to a minimum where they are still excited and grateful about it, not just tossing another gift over their shoulder as they look for the next one to open. I truly believe it is possible to live within our means and still have all that we "need" (that is very subjective) and pay our bills so our credit score is still good.

I saw a really cool bumper sticker on a car the other day and I've decided I "need" one. It said: "Debt is normal. Be weird!" This is what we are working towards and hoping to achieve someday. I love it! People try to HAVE so much and DO so much -- I just want to have a BIG savings account and peace of mind AND when the time is right, Zeke and I want to go on a trip somewhere and pay for it with CASH!!

Oh, yeah, I almost forgot, THIS is what I really want for Christmas!! Thanks, Tawnya! Gosh, only $55? What a deal! Where in the WORLD would you wear those?! (Actually, don't answer that -- I don't really want to know.)


  1. Um, to me about this waiving a payment with AFCU? You just call them up and ask? You may have just save our bacon for next month.

  2. Yeah!! Sharon, just call them and ask them, "I was wondering if I could possibly waive our payment this month or move it to a later date?" Something like that, they have been AWESOME about it! It pays for our Christmas almost every year.... good luck! :)

    (My friend just told me they charge you a $10 fee now, but I would still do it>)

  3. I know UCCU (Utah Community Credit Union) usually will waive a payment per year, but only in Nov, Dec, or Jan. That was our experience when we had a car loan through them. We only used it once, but it was so nice to have that extra breathing room!

    I'm glad you're not afraid to call and ask. I think most companies really are willing to work with you!

  4. Thanks Lacy! You just saved me $80! We tried mobile banking for the first time a few weeks ago. Todd deposited a large check from his phone, and then scheduled a large payment the next day. We didn't realize it would take a few days before the money was available and we ended up with $80 in overdraft fee's. I called Mountain America Credit Union after reading your post and when I explained the situation they happily refunded my money!

  5. Yay, Dedra!!! Thank yer!

    Thanks everyone for the great comments;)

  6. I like that bumper sticker :) I want one too :)

  7. thanks for the money saving tips! it's so hard to stay within budget. hubby and i were just talking about that, especially during the holidays. and yes, sometimes things are worth it, like sleds for the kids and dinner with your husband (i think that's important to go out on dates!).

    thanks for stopping by. i've totally missed you!!! hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving!


  8. Dang it! I wish I saw this post earlier!!! You've Got Mail is one of my all time fav's. I even stopped reading to make hoping for the 20 points! I am going to go back and finish reading what I am sure is an amazing post because you rock. ::)

  9. I was right! Awesome post. We have had to call and see if we can skip a payment and they said yes to us too! Life happens and some companies understand that. You are good at advice. :)

  10. Thanks for the tips! and I never do cards. The horror! :)

  11. Go to the mattresses. - Lora

  12. I think this is a great idea. It's way better than going into more debt by putting it on your credit card.


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