5 quick ways to save a few bucks

One of our new year goals was to save money. With me staying home (and not having a money tree growing in our yard), every little bit we can save matters. We set off this year to be intentional about where we put our money, and making a few phone calls changed our situation greatly! And we already thought we were getting "the best possible deal". Companies change and it never hurts to call every so often.

1. Negotiate medical bills!

I blindly just paid for the birth of my firstborn. A few co-workers clued me in on a secret about having the hospital combine all our bills into one account (in some places this is NOT automatic). So I was receiving bills from anesthesia, for my hospital visit, from Luke's hospital visit, from the pediatrician, and from the doctor. Yikes! I was able to roll the anesthesia bill, both hospital bills, and pediatrician bill into one so all I had to pay on was ONE balance plus the doctor bill (which was through their practice, not the hospital). While the lump I had to pay got larger (since it wasn't spread out over 4 different bills), it was easier for me to keep up with.

Also I learned that as long as I paid SOMETHING (anything), the bill was kept out of collections (at least at our hospital). So I set up to pay $25 a month. I had to remember to call every month, but it was still easier (on my sanity and our budget) for me to pay this way! With Luke we paid it within a year. With Emmie, our insurance changed and we owed a little more.

So at a year and a half (with a little over $2k left on the balance) I called to ask if they would reduce it if I offered to pay cash on the spot (well credit over the phone). She said they'd bring it down $500 (that's nearly 20% off)! Heck that was like my anesthesia bill! The call lasted about 5 minutes and we instantly save a lot of money!

2. Call any company you pay money to and see if you are getting the best rate! Most companies would rather lower the price than lose you. We called AT&T and lowered our internet bill 50% (yes in HALF).
We got an offer from a competitive company and considered switching- we called and told them, and they lowered it for the next 12 months.  After 12 months it will go back to what we were paying. #yay! If we hadn't called, we would have never known. Now let's be honest- I'm totally not comfortable making those calls (well I did for the hospital), but Josh has a way on the phone, so he's usually the negotiator.

3. Switch providers if #2 doesn't work. Of course this will be different for everyone (depending if you are bound to a contract). My example: We just switched natural gas providers. Georgia (and many other states) have made it INCREDIBLY easy to switch companies. We signed a contract a year ago with Georgia Natural Gas and locked in our rate at 52cents per therm. This was a great price at the time and while the variable rate plans were tempting, we'd rather have the price be consistent. That rate is set to expire at the end of the month (and they sent us an offer for 56cents/therm. Um thanks but no thanks), so I jumped onto clarkhoward.com and searched for "natural gas rates". From there I found a chart comparing companies. I found the company Infinite Energy offering a price of 49cents per therm.
I did use my #2 strategy and asked GNG if they would match this price, but they said the best they could do is 54cents. Unfortunately we had to break up. I went ahead and signed up for Infinite Energy with service to start March 1st. When you switch providers and keep the bill in the same name (no new connections) then there is no fee! So instantly I saved us a few cents a therm. I did have to lock in for a year (we are sure we will be here another year since we will be slammed with tax penalties if we move before the 2 year mark).  We love our ventless gas fireplace and since we have no chimney it keeps all the warm air in the house. It's cheaper for us to run our fire place and keep the heat low (67 degrees usually). With the fireplace going it will take the house temperature to 70 degrees! Natural gas is really the only utility we can shop around for (garbage is included in our power- which we have to have through a certain company since we live in city limits), and water is included in our HOA fee.

4. Don't fall for free shipping! Ever been to a website that says: "Free shipping when you spend $75 (or $35 or whatever)!"?
Do NOT load your cart up with $75 worth of stuff if you were only planning to spend $20. We made a purchase online line a few days ago. We spent $16 and shipping was $11. At first that seems OUT OF CONTROL (I will do ANYTHING for free shipping), but we were buying 4 items. These items typically cost $10 each. So we were already getting them for a deep discount ($3.99). Then divide the shipping by 4 and it's just $2.75 each brining the total of each item to $6.75. Still a discount when you consider they are between $10-12 on amazon (with free shipping). Of course sometimes shipping is just a racket, but I try to rationalize what I'm purchasing and how much PER ITEM it actually costs.

5. Date night. We LIVE for date nights. And eating out is EXPENSIVE. Occasionally I will find our favorite spot on a Groupon, but when the Groupon gods are not in our favor, I resort to coupons and... wait for it... EBAY!

Before you think I'm crazy, you have to plan this in advance. Typically the best deals are found when you plan. Just by gathering coupons (we grabbed a $4 off 2 dinners) and buying a discounted gift card on Ebay I was able to save us $7 off our meal. Be careful buying gift cards on Ebay. Make sure the seller is reputable. I prefer the "buy it now" option or using a sniper service like hammersnipe to bid on my behalf. I grabbed a $25 multiresturant gift card for $22. $7 isn't much to some, but that savings can cover a tip, appetizer, or half a meal! Typically the best you can do with gift cards is $3-4 off face value. Any less isn't worth it in my opinion and any more is rare. Be sure shipping is FREE (or calculated in the price).

And a bonus? If you don't feel like couponing (I know- what a drag), shop at Aldi!

They have great prices on everyday items. I try to steer away from prepackaged food in general, but their dairy and produce sections are awesome! Greek yogurt for less than $4? Yes please. Be sure to bring your own bags (and a quarter for the cart). I also shop at a local discount bakery. I can get name brand bread for 99cents a loaf. I shop there once or twice a month and freeze what we won't immediately use. The expiration dates are close but in the year that I have been going there I've only had a loaf or 2 spoil before we were able to finish it. And when you're paying 1/3 of grocery store price it's not really a big deal!

Oh and Chick-Fil-A has free coffee all month long (all day long!). No purchase necessary! #yourewelcome

**I was not paid or perked in anyway to mention any of these companies. These are simply brands that we have fallen in love with- and sharing is caring! 

As with life, everyone's situation is different and all companies are different. You may not get the same deal as we did (or you may get a better deal!). I am in no way a financial expert so take everything I say with a grain of salt. This is simply our experience and a few situations that worked in our favor :) See my disclosure policy here

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