Gettin’ my paper straight.

Lately I’ve been in a bit of a budget crunch. I’m basically on a fixed income, and incidental college expenses have caught up with me at about the same time that my roof started leaking, which is far from an ideal situation. I’ve been at the end of my means for a while, which means I can’t really pay anything down to increase my available cashflow. Since picking up a second job is pretty much not possible, I’ve set out to make some budget cuts that will free up cash on a monthly basis and allow me to pay down some debt. These are not new ideas, but sometimes I just forget that there are options. Maybe some of these could be helpful for others.

1. Cable bill – I actually haven’t had cable for a while, but I’m still a slave to Comcast for Internet service, which I really don’t think I could do without. I generally feel like the price is a rip off, but since they’re really the only show in town, I’m stuck. I did remember though that I’m eligible for promotional pricing. Comcast promo pricing generally lasts 6 months, but once your 6 months is up, you have to wait 3 months before getting the same package again. I think their hope is that in that 3 months, you will forget about it; and i did! This was good for about $20 off a month.

2. Cell phone – My iPhone bill is stupid expensive. A few months ago I added a higher level of text messages because I was going over, mostly from texting with just one person. I’m no longer texting that person nearly as much, so I thought I could grab back the $10 or $15 it was costing me. Sadly, AT&T changed my options. This is one of my biggest qualms with AT&T – I rarely look at my rate plan, but everytime I do, I find out that I’m in some now obsolete plan. Regardless, I downgraded from 1500 texts to 1000, (an option I never previously had) and got $5 a month back.

$5 wasn’t much of a savings since my bill is about $80 a month. While I’ve come to depend on the iPhone for mobile e-mail reading, I don’t use a lot of texts, and I rarely make phone calls. When a friend told me that Virgin Mobile has a $25/mo, unlimited data, unlimited text plan. The shortcoming is that it only has 300 talk minutes, but I actually use less than that. So pending a few questions, I think I’m dumping AT&T and the iPhone in favor of Virgin mobile and the Motorola Triumph. It looks like I will have almost all the functionality that I did with the iPhone for a fraction of the price.

3. Credit Card – I’ve been watching for a while for a credit card ad that had some 0% interest time and a low post-introductory APR. Sadly, they all seem to have crappy rates. my current cards are the best I’ve been seeing at 10.99%. However, I did get an offer for a Citibank “Diamond Preferred” card, which boasted 21 months interest free on balance transfers. You always have to check the numbers on these deals, because sometimes the cost of doing the transfer is more than what you would save in interest. In this case it was 3%, not terrible. Plus, this card has a high-ish limit, so I was able to transfer all of one credit and part of another to it. The savings was enough that I will have smaller payments, freeing up cash to pay down the existing cards, and there will be less interest in the long run.

Overall I haven’t freed up a _ton_ of money, but I’ve opened up enough to make a difference. Now if I can just keep from buying stuff!