You Are Paying Too Much for Your Cell Phone

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If you’re ready to try out Ting – use this referral code to claim your $25 credit.

Do you know that feeling when you’ve discovered something that is actually a good product or service and you want to share the news with everyone? In my voyage to cut costs and save money I have found one of these.

Before Ting, I was paying over $95 a month for my cell phone bill. The funny thing is that I sit next to a land line 5 days a week and also have a company paid cell phone. I could non longer justify paying for two phones but the idea of losing my personal number was kind of risky to me. I would have to inform everyone of my new number and I may not be with my current employer forever.  I started to do some research.

In summary, Ting is a pay for what you use cell phone carrier. The pricing structure is fairly straightforward and  they provide a handy calculator to take out of the guesswork of what you would truly save by switching to Ting. In my case, My bill is on average $25 a month.

I would  consider myself a heavy internet user but my savings advantage is that I am almost always near a wifi connection so I save by not using data when I can avoid it. My number was ported in from Sprint with ease and I still have the advantage of a reliable network as Ting uses the Sprint network. This includes 3G, 4G, and 4G LTE.

Not to mention, they pay a portion of your ETF fees from your previous provider. This coupled with the  impressive savings was enough for me to terminate my plan more than 6 months early. I was able to break even (including the price of a new cell phone) after three months.

So what’s the catch? Some may say it is the fact that they do not subsidize their cell phones so you have to purchase a compatible phone for full price. This also means that you are not locked into any contract. Not to mention they have an great online community of buyers and sellers of Ting compatible cell phones.

For me the thing that stands out the most with Ting is their Customer Service. It is by far the most impressive customer service I have experienced in a long time. I have yet to call and experience more than one ring before I am connected to a friendly representative who is clearly trained and happy to be doing what they are doing. After each of my phone calls I have received a personal email from the person I just spoke with summarizing the call and offering their further assistance should I need it.

All in all, I give Ting 5 stars. I am saving $70 a month for the EXACT same coverage that I was receiving before.

 

 

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Missing In Action

Aside

Time is very telling. When I first started this blog last year, I had a number of goals. After an extended hiatus I am back and the first thing I did was check to see how I measured up against them. The second thing I did was promise myself that I would never take as long of a vacation as I did from my blog again. It is a great way to keep myself accountable and create and reach new goals.

With that being said, I would say I still did a fairly good job at keeping my promises to myself. First of all I went back to school. This of course means a lack of free time as well as some new found debt in the form of student loans. I also have successfully gotten my first business up and running. There is still a long way to go but so far it has been an adventure as well as a small stream of monthly income.

Despite my lack of free time and increased workload from my job (by the way, I left my old company for a nice promotion) I want to start off with a few of my new goals. It’s not the New Year I know, but I figure there is no reason I can’t start bettering myself today .

The end goal in all of this is to develop a steady stream of passive income in order to be financially independent well before what is traditionally considered retirement age. When exactly, I don’t know yet, the math can wait. But in the meantime I will put away as much as I can in order to reach this goal. Through blogging I hope to not only hold myself accountable for my goals, but inspire others to do the same.

2014 Goals:

  • Write! That means staying loyal to this blog as well as pick up a few writing assignments with other blogs. I love writing but you wouldn’t think so seeing as how I fall out of the routine when things get busy in my life.
  • Create business plan. Like I said, I’ve started running with my new side business but do not have a plan for sustainability. I would like to create one so I can have a clear projection of the future as well as goals.
  • Max out retirement vehicles – 401K and Roth

2015:

  • Travel- I have three destinations on my list. Denver, Europe, and Thailand. I have been doing a lot of reading on how to acquire airline tickets for relatively cheap or free so I will most likely write more about that more in the near future.
  • Invest 40K. This one will be tough for me but I think through a modest lifestyle and discipline I can achieve this. Details to come as I make my way through it.
  • Surpass 200K net worth. I will have student loans working against me but I think I can make a gain over 2014 of 50k all things considered.
  • Stockpile cash. I am looking at purchasing an investment property and August 2015 is when I feel I will start looking and getting a feel for the market.
  • Blog goals-
    • First 10 subscibers ( first I have to figure out how to offer email subsciptions)
    • First revenue from blog ( again, a vast world that I know nothing about. Research awaits me)
    • Network with other bloggers.

I will add to this list as I think of new goals. In the meantime it feels good to be back!

Boozin’ for a Bruisin’

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It’s never too late in the month/year to add a goal to the list. This one definitely makes the list for a couple of reasons. Most of my challenges/goals thus far have not been all that challenging. Since I am frugal by nature, my usual goals such as “not eating out at lunch” are not as difficult as they are fun.

After a nasty hangover and a subsequent series of realizations, I’ve come to a challenge to add to my April goals that will actually be challenging. Quit drinking. Yes, we are halfway through April. But it’s April and it’s sunny, and there are festivals, and good fall brews galore, and patios to sit on, etc so I must start small. Wait, I forgot to mention I live in Atlanta so Sweetwater is everywhere. It’s really just cruel.

With all of that being said, I do live in Atlanta, and there are patios to sit on, and festivals, etc. all of which I can still enjoy with a nice cold…water. This statement is made easier by this nice calculator. 

Yes, it is just a calculator so you can do the same thing on your TI-83. BUT, for some reason I plugged the numbers into this online calculator instead and WOW. The numbers didn’t lie. Not only do I drink alot, but I spend even more. There really is nothing like filling in the little boxes with the number of drinks you consume in a sitting or a week to make you open your eyes to what a money pit drinking can be.

Not to mention all of the empty calories, ew.

So in the spirit of simplicity, frugality, and enjoying the finer things in life, I declare this No Alcohol April. Cheers!

-Sober Sally

An Equation for Peace of Mind

Today I am going to address something that affects all investors everywhere. Fear. If you are like I was when I initially started investing, fear is what’s keeping you from moving forward in your investments. I am a worrier by nature, so it is very easy for me to fill my head with “what-ifs”. What if I lose my job, what if the Walking Dead plays out in real life, what if the economy tanks. Believe it or not, you are more in control of these events than you know. The answer to these “what-ifs”, that may or may not keep you up at night, lies in living today as if these things already happened. It just might happen that when you start living below your means, these new actions will become habits, and eventually open the doors to so many new possibilities. Let me explain.

One of the biggest fears that I have had in the past is the age old “what if I get laid off”. Although it was not an immediate threat to me and although I had 12 months of emergency funds saved, I still constantly worried. I decided to do something about it. I thought about how if I lost my job, I could make my emergency fund stretch for longer than it was intended. I decided to put it to the test and start living conservatively today, just to see if I could. I automated most of my investments and savings so that whenever I received a paycheck, 70% of it would be invested into other accounts. The remainder is what I used to live on. If you are going to try something similar, I would suggest starting at something reasonable, maybe 40-50% and increasing that amount monthly until you start to sweat a little.

After a month or more of living this way, it starts to become habit. For me it is a game of sorts – just how little can I live on (without sacrificing my quality of life)?  If  you are in debt, this may be less exciting but just think, eventually all of that money you aren’t spending is a big fat paycheck to yourself (hopefully one that pays dividends, and gives you the peace of mind to live without saying “what-if”). I initially automated my investments in order to achieve that peace of mind, now after a few years of growth and continued investments, I have bigger and better plans for that money including retirement, a jaunt through Europe, starting a family, an investment home. The possibilities are truly endless-and anyone can do it with a little discipline and the ability to determine wants vs. needs.

An easy way to start in this journey is to track your expenses. For each purchase, you should clearly mark whether it is a want vs. a need. As you learn to say no to certain purchases and your savings rate becomes larger, you can begin to hone in on your needs further and determine how you can save even more money. For example groceries would be considered a need, but are you shopping at Whole Foods or Aldi, could you clip coupons, is half of your grocery bill dedicated to beer, etc.

The second component to this is increasing your income. The idea of this is to do something on the side that you enjoy. As you learn and grow your side hustle, you just may find that you no longer need the nine to five.

The combination of cutting expenses and increasing your revenue is a constant battle but one that you should find enjoyment and instant gratification out of. Make it a goal to start today and you will quickly learn that it isn’t as difficult as it seems.

Gym-Pact App Review

Despite my frugal ways, there is one avenue that I have always splurged on. I consider it my hobby and one that keeps me young and in shape. I am pretty obsessed with outdoor athletics and therefore I am always finding myself shelling out cash to keep up the lifestyle. It is for this reason that I was pretty ecstatic when the app called Gym-Pact became available on Android devices.

It is simple to use and actually pays you to do what you hopefully already do, take care of your body! Once you’ve installed the app and registered for a free account, you commit to how many days you are going to work out (your “Pact”). All you have to do is “check-in” at your gym, or you can pair it with Runkeeper, and the app uses your GPS location to confirm that you are indeed working out.

The only catch is that you have to follow through on your pact. If you don’t, this can be an extremely expensive app. Your pact determines how much money you forfeit from your linked credit account if you don’t work out the number of days per week that you committed to. My current pact is to work out five days a weeks with a $5 a day penalty if I don’t meet my goal. If you meet your pact, you get a portion of the money that other Gym-Pact users lost for not meeting their pact. Going on vacation? No problem, you can easily set up a break. What’s better is that Gym-Pact is a great company and with a great support team to help you with any issues you may have.

Now I’m not so sure how this works as a motivational tool for someone who doesn’t work out, but for me, it is just a little icing on the cake for something that I already love doing. The weekly payouts are not significant, usually a couple of bucks, but as anyone reading a PF blog knows, every penny counts.

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March Round-Up, April Goals
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Hopefully everyone’s March was as good as mine! It’s time to review if we’ve met our goals and make new ones! If you don’t recall, below are my March goals both related to Finance and living more simply.

  • Purge 100 items- A –Like I imagined it would be, this one was pretty easy. I didn’t sell anything which was the original goal but I did declutter. Looking back two years ago on my college years where I owned a mattress and a laptop, it is truly incredible how much crap one can accumulate. I’m going to renew this goal for April but this time with the goal to sell some items. I think a reasonable goal is to make $100 from things laying around that I can sell.
  • No eating out during the week- A+ Another easily achieved goal and one that I plan to extend into April and probably beyond. If you missed my post on how I achieved this goal, it is worth checking out.
  • invest $2000 of income in taxable accounts- A+ Despite some car maintenance to the tune of $2000, I was able to make this goal by cutting out in other areas.

March side revenue: $640

April side Revenue goal: $1000

I already mentioned my plan to sell $100 worth of stuff lying around. My current rental income is $550. In order to close the gap and reach my April goal, I’m going to focus on my side hustle which I will go into more detail in a future post. I have laid the ground work in March to hopefully achieve this goal. I have a few consultations lined up with the potential to make the $300 in April. I am feeling really good about it so far since it is only 1-month old and already drawing interest. More to come!

Other goals:

  • Log 100 miles on the road bike. It is a busy month already but now that’s it warm I have no excuse. I have a triathlon in June to get ready for and I am always looking for an excuse not to get in my gas guzzling tank of a vehicle.
  • Log 20 miles on the pavement. This isn’t really a test of endurance so much as a test of making myself put on my tennis shoes and finding the time. I plan to run to the rock climbing gym that I go to weekly and knocking out this mileage.
  • Plant my summer garden. Now that I have goats and chickens in the backyard, which is where I formally had my garden, I need to move my beds to the front yard where they are not in danger of being eaten. I’ve always had a pretty hearty harvest but I have lofty goals of living off the land this year so I need to find the space in the front yard to accommodate everything that I want to plant.
  • Add $1000 to taxable accounts – This has decreased significantly from March but only because of some big bills that I have coming due in April (6-months of car insurance, taxes). Hopefully if I keep putting in the work with my side hustle I will compensate for those expenses and be able to exceed the contribution amount.
  • Start studying for GMAT (15 hours a week), apply to 3rd choice school (University of Georgia)

Good luck in April!

* three of our nine chickens. Even they produce income in this family!

Linkedin And Your Career

Almost three years into my career and I have worked for three companies, all of which have been in the fields of Accounting and Finance. More importantly, all of which were acquired with little no effort on my part aside from keeping up with my Linkedin profile. Now I don’t necessarily condone jumping from job to job as I have but in the job hunting world, Linkedin is everything.

When I first created my profile, it was out of obligation to the good grades I promised my parents that I would make while in college. At the time, I thought it was just another site that nobody used and grudgingly built my profile.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. With a few internships under my belt and a college degree on the horizon my job search began, and for whatever reason (at the time I would have called it desperation) I logged into the old LinkedIn account in hopes of landing my first real job – after retrieving my forgotten password of course.

It happened back then, and it has happened to times since. I was reached out to by three separate people regarding open positions in the fields of Finance and Accounting. These days, internal and commissioned recruiters are relying on LinkedIn as their sole means for hiring so having an up to date profile and as many connections and affiliations with groups is an absolute must.

It is an opportunity to brand yourself. It is an interactive resume that is (or should be) constantly evolving and growing as you are in your career. If it is properly managed, it will be your #1 cheerleader that screams, HIRE ME!!

So you ask, how can I create this brand for myself?

Build your fan base

If you haven’t already “linked-in” with every single one of your co-workers or professional connections, now is the time. It is a great way to stay in touch with old co-workers ( of whom you may eventually need a reference from ) and to help advance your current career by way of building relationships For example, Linkedin alerts you when someone’s job title has changed. Now you can be one of the first to personally congratulate them. In the world of networking small gestures like this can make all the difference. It is also probably a good idea to have at least a few people of whom you have worked closely with leave referrals on your page. That way, when a recruiter lands on your profile for a position they are trying to fill, they can have the confidence in referring you if they see one or more of your superiors or co-workers already has.

Keep it up-to-date

The choice of words that you use when describing your prior and current experience and skill sets is key. This is how you will show up in more searches. Think of it as your personal webpage. The more hits your page has, the more likely it is to turn up as the first result of Google. In Linkedin land, if you are once or twice removed from a recruiter through the connections you have in common, the more likely you are to be a top return in their searches. Keywords play a huge factor in this. I am a Financial Analyst, so analyst is my keyword and I make sure to emphasize it throughout my profile. Not surprisingly, I have at least 3 recruiters a month reach out to me for open analyst jobs.

So it is that easy. Whether you are just starting off or you are well on your way to retirement, LinkedIn is a powerful tool that everyone should be using to keep in touch with some of our most important resources- the ones that get you one step closer to financial independence.