Cutting Costs

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SmurfJust one week into the new debt reduction plan and things are going just fine.

Actually, it’s been a pretty uneventful week on the financial front — ignoring the markets, of course.

I’ve sent payment out for the three smaller debts already, tomorrow’s paycheck will put a dent in the larger debt, and by the end of the week, according to the debt snowball payment schedule, I’ll be done for the month of November.

That probably means the $2000 per month number was too conservative on my debt reduction plan. Whatever — this way I’ll still have the cash cushion I’ve be *so* wanting for the last few months.

Attacking the beast from both sides, expenses are also way down this month.

November will be the first month where I’ll notice the lack of a cell phone bill. The jump to Virgin Mobile was a great money saving move. Instead of a $40 bill to Verizon each month, I’ll just be sending Virgin $20 every 3 months.

At the end of October, after much delay, we *finally* moved all of our stuff out of the storage unit we had been renting for nearly a year. We’d originally rented it to clear out the attic before we had the roof done last December. Before we knew it, it was just an extra off-site closet costing us $140 per month. Not any more.

In addition, the annual Escrow Analysis that Countrywide did on my mortgage lowered my payments $40 each month.

All of these together, in the span of one month, trimmed $220 from my monthly expenses. Over an entire year, that will be $2640 more that I can throw at debt, or even better, savings.

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UTstarcom SliceReceived my new cell phone last night. Took me nearly 10 minutes to get the package open — it came sealed in one of those super sharp plastic enclosures that you need scissors and a crow bar to get open. Thankfully I didn’t cut myself.

Took me another few minutes to get the stubborn battery door off. I was pushing so hard, I was concerned I’d snap the phone in half.

But after that, it was smooth sailing. The phone is a lot smaller than I’d expected. The thing is tiny, but feels nice and solid in my hand. Definitely not a hunk of junk, by any stretch.

I went online to activate the phone and have a number assigned. Not even 30 seconds after submiting the phone’s information, I had a text message come in saying the phone was now active. Quick and painless. Didn’t have to sit on hold, didn’t have to speak to a person, didn’t even have to lift a phone. That’s just the way I like it.

Sadly, my new number contains both zeros and ones — so I can’t say things like, “Yeah, my number is B-R-A-I-N-Y-8,” but that’s okay, I guess. I’ll live.

So far, so good. I’m very happy with the phone. The signal looks good, call quality was better than my Verizon phone. The volume, of a call and the ringer, destroys my old phone. I used to hate how I could never hear the other end of a call and I don’t think that will be a problem with this phone.

Voicemail set-up was short and simple. They even had an option to skip putting in a password each time you want to check messages — and that’s a feature I like. I’m sure Verizon had that option somewhere too, but it certainly wasn’t well advertised.

I also set up my account online to automatically bill me the $20 every 90 days to keep my service active. It comes out to $21.20 including taxes, but wow, I mean, by next month, I will have already cut my costs by $30 and that’s including the cost of the phone itself.

Better phone, better features, better call quality and at one sixth of the cost.

Why didn’t I do this sooner?

Verizon WirelessWhile working a golf tournament today, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t going to bother keeping my cell number when I make the switch to Virgin Mobile later this week.

When I arrived home, I called Verizon Wireless customer service. Amazingly, only a 2-3 minute hold time and the woman I spoke to, Shawnita, spoke perfect English. Things were going well so far.

I was prepared for a fight — you know, them saying I was breaking my contract or something and that it would cost me $175 to cancel, or maybe they’d pull a fast one and try to keep me by offering me even more minutes. You know, the passive aggressive technique credit card companies use when you activate a card. I hate that.

We went through the “verification” things like my name, address, account number, that sort of thing, and then she asked what she could do for me today.

When I told her I’d just like to cancel the service, she responded with the loaded question, “Well, that’s unfortunate Brainy Smurf, is there a reason why?”

“Um, I just don’t use the phone.”

Silence. I heard a few keystrokes and then she said, “Wow, you really don’t use the phone. Can’t argue with that reason.”

And with that, my Verizon Wireless account is no more.

It was so much easier than I expected.

UTstarcom SliceI pulled the trigger this morning after mulling it over all weekend. I’m switching my cell service from Verizon to Virgin Mobile.

I was very tempted to take their most basic phone, the Nokia Shorty, which comes free and with $20 worth of free airtime upon activation, but the old materialistic side of me wanted something that looked a little flashier.

I ended up selecting the red version of the UTstarcom 1400 Slice. It has the options I’d like to have on a phone, you know, like make and receive calls, and more critically, it looks, well, modern? I think that’s why it won out over the Nokia phone. Hey, even one of the reviews on Amazon said hers had been mistaken for one of those LG Chocolate phones… As far as I know, those are expensive.

This way, I get the expensive look without the hefty price tag. Besides, I don’t really know what BlueTooth is, I won’t listen to music on my phone (really, what’s the appeal?), and I’m not really interested in having memory for 1000 different contacts. I’m not sure I even know that many people…

Let’s see… There is Papa Smurf, Smurfette, Jokey, Vanity, Hefty, Baker, Handy, Sleepy, Harmony, and Clumsy… I guess to fill a few extra spots, I could put Gargamel and Azrael’s numbers in there too, but let’s be honest — I’m not actually ever going to call them. Seriously…

Total spent so far is $31.79. I should have the phone later this week at which point I’ll have to activate it. Did I mention that there isn’t a contract either? I’m really upset with myself for delaying this process for so long.

From the way I’m interpreting it, the flat 18 cents per minute plan is what will suit me best, and to keep my phone activated, I need to send in $20 every 3 months. The fine print is kinda tough to understand, but I believe that’s what it boils down to.

It’s unlikely, still, that I’ll use $20 worth of minutes at 18 cents in a 3 month span, but when compared to the $40 per month I’m sending to Verizon currently, this switch will save me over $400 per year.

And for that, I don’t feel so bad about paying $31.79 for the phone.

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My Verizon Cell PhoneAfter following the Happy Rock‘s postings this week regarding Virgin Mobile’s pre-paid cell plans, I’ve decided to follow his lead.

I’ve been a customer of Verizon for nearly a decade now. I’m on my third phone with them. The plan I’ve been grandfathered into is what I’d call an affordable rate these days. It’s just shy of $40/month with all of the taxes rolled in. Certainly within my budget.

Problem is — I’d say in that over the entire decade, I’ve used less than 500 minutes. That’s right. I average less than 5 minutes of airtime per month.

That, my friends, is a waste.

Thanks to the Happy Rock, my eyes are now open to the fact that I’m essentially paying $8 per minute at my current rate?

I always considered having a cell phone, given my daily activities and total lack of usage, to be a waste anyway, but on the freak chance I *needed* to make a call (such as after the accident, the convenience of having one available was worth the monthly bill.

Well, with more attractive alternatives out there, those days are nearing an end.

Can You Dig It?

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