Late last week, my husband and I had our second money meeting of the year. These money meetings are our way of ensuring that we talk about our finances with each other. The idea is that the more we work on our finances together the better it will be for our marriage and our money.
After our first money meeting where we figured out where we were financially, we set a few goals: Start tracking our spending and look at ways we can trim our expenses.
I’ve gone back to tracking expenses with an iPhone budgeting app. I love the Budgets Free app because it doesn’t require you to provide any personal account information. Once you get it set up, it’s pretty easy to use and showed us where our biggest money leaks were (groceries). It has taken a little discipline to remember to enter our expenses into the app, but the information that the app has given us has been very helpful.
Refinancing our mortgage (again)
Shortly before Christmas, our mortgage company left a message on our answering machine telling us we should refinance. The last thing I wanted to think about at that time of year was adding paperwork to my to-do list. So I ignored it. But as my husband and I sat down to work on our budget, I remembered that the message had said something about the refinancing being a simple process. And since interest rates were much lower than the last time we refinanced our mortgage, I figured it couldn’t hurt to make a phone call.
I learned that my mortgage company offers a “streamline refinance” in which they essentially modify the terms of your loan agreement without starting the clock over on a mortgage. We’re not in a position to refinance to a 15 year mortgage, but we were able to drop our interest rate from 4.875 to 3.75 percent. Because we were already customers, we didn’t have to do another appraisal or do all of the income qualification paperwork you normally do with a a mortgage refinance. The closing costs were very reasonable and will pay for itself in just a few months.
A half hour phone call means we’ll be saving approximately $110 a month (not to mention thousands of dollars in interest over the course of the loan!) when we close on our new mortgage in a the next couple of months.
Tackling the satellite bill
In addition, my husband also talked DirecTV into dropping our monthly bill by $30. We’re not ready to ditch cable TV just yet, but we were willing to make some changes to our satellite package.
We researched the various deals that they were offering new DirecTV customers and picked a package we felt still met our viewing needs but cost less than what we had. Then my husband spent about a half our on the phone negotiating the lower price. DirecTV was unwilling to give us the introductory rate on their website, but as my husband held his ground and repeatedly told them that we were willing to cancel if we couldn’t get our bill lowered, they agreed to knock $30 per month off our bill for one year without having to lock into a contract.
You can bet we’ll be talking to them a year from now to work on keeping that discount.
Tapping our savings
Unfortunately, we had a series of expenses that forced us to tap our savings – mainly the dog needed more teeth pulled and our minivan needed new brake pads, a new battery, and the hatch repaired. I’m grateful that we had the money in savings, and am happy that we spent the money in a practical way that will hopefully keep our dog healthy and our van running for a long time, but it was hard to work so hard on our budget this month only to have something throw a wrench in it so quickly.
New goals for a new month
Our budget tracking showed us that we have some pretty big leaks in our grocery budget. I’m well aware of the grocery budget busters and have been avoiding them, but I haven’t been watching the sale or couponing as much as I should be. My goal is to work on planning menus based on what we have and what’s on sale, and to start working the deals again.
In addition, my husband and I will be spending some time working on increasing our income (primarily through our blogs and other freelance projects). We know that there is still more budget trimming to do, but improving our income would also help.
How did the month go for you? Have you reviewed your finances? What goals are you setting for this month?
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