Thursday, January 14, 2016

Getting Creative with Savings

The other day, Adam and I were sitting down doing all that grown up stuff that makes me want to stick my fingers in my ears and cover my eyes. We were doing a closer look at our budget. What comes in, what goes out, where it goes, does it need to go la la...I can't hear you. I hate these conversations, because it feels like we're pretty hard working, well educated, intelligent people, and these conversations are still incredibly stressful. If I were a Powerball winner, I'd probably still be stressed over these things. Maybe not as stressed, know, I  take that back. I'd get therapy and adjust.

Anyway, we didn't go into the conversation thinking we'd make any major changes in providers, but as we started really looking at our bills, it started to make sense. Rather than just add the oil company, or the internet provider, or our car insurance, or the electric bill to our list of "output", shouldn't we see what else was out there?

Coincidentally, Direct Energy asked me to share some of their New Year’s deals with you right around that time, and I realized it was the perfect time to share my own family’s efforts to save money and get a little smarter about budgeting.

Lately we've talking about budgeting with Madison. We had planned to start an allowance system with her this fall, but it didn't happen yet. I think that once things settle down, we'll find the system that works best for us. Still, Madison has found herself in possession of some coins and bills from grandparents and the tooth fairy. She has a piggy bank that's started to fill up, and she's become very interested in what that money can do for her.

Not only that, but this past Christmas she got several gift cards. As part of our school day recently, we sat down and took inventory. As the total grew, I could see her eyes lighting up with the possibilities. Trips to Toys R Us were dancing in her mind, with the bonus of not hearing the word NO once she got there. Both girls are actually very good when we shop - window shopping is accepted as the norm, anything else is a bonus - but now it would be her choice.

So after she had finished her schoolwork, we packed up our purses and rolled over to Toys R Us. And I was filled with pride that some of my teaching had stuck.

She started filling a basket with things that caught her eye. Shopkins, Tsum Tsums, Lego sets. After gorging herself, we walked over to a price checker to get an accurate tally. As the numbers flashed up, her face dropped a bit. She had more than enough gift card to cover the items she'd selected...but then it would be gone, and she'd be in a tight spot for a while.

It was one item in particular that made me realize that she's starting to "get it". We'd been to Target the previous day and she'd been looking at the Shopkins there. They were $9.99 at Target, and $14.99 at Toys R Us.

"Mom! That is a BIG difference! Why do they cost more money here? That doesn't seem fair."

"It's the way stores work. You have to make a choice. We're here, and you have a card, and it's easy. But you'd be paying more money."

Ultimately she decided that two new things were all she needed, and her grand total was about a tenth of her budget. She decided that she could "wait for a sale", or "use her other money at Target".

That's a good lesson for us too. We've always had the same provider for electric, and we just accept it, because it's easy. But that doesn't mean it isn't overpriced. And if a five and a half year old can figure out that sometimes it's worth crunching the numbers than going with what's easy, I think we can try.

Why is Direct Energy such a smart choice? It offers a fixed-rate energy plan: your electricity rate won’t fluctuate throughout your contract term. Even if you aren’t a CT resident, Direct Energy offers different savings depending on where you live – plug in your zipcode on the landing page to learn about the offers available in your area. You can also score big with Direct Energy as it’s the only energy provider to be a part of Plenti, which allows you to earn monthly rewards.

This story was sponsored by Direct Energy, but the excitement of cutting our bills is all my own!

Direct Energy has special offers in CT the month of January!

Connecticut - • Save up to 25%* over United Illuminating’s electricity rate, and up to 18%* over Eversource’s electricity rate.

*All savings refers to the current difference between Direct Energy's fixed rate offer and the Utility’s current Fixed Rate for Basic Service as of January 8, 2016, and does not include any other component of the electricity bill. Utility rates are subject to change and there may be no savings following the respective official utility rate change date. Direct Energy's fixed rates include electricity supply charges only and excludes delivery/transmission charges, taxes, and all other utility-related charges. Offer is limited and valid for new residential customers only.

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