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Up until now I've not had a smartphone because I didn't see it as a necessary expense. Yes, it's nice to have, but I didn't want to pay the monthly expenses for it. Now, thanks to T-Mobile Simply Prepaid™ I have found an affordable way to have a smartphone plan. But I didn't want to stop there! If I'm going to have this phone, I'm going to make it earn its keep!
I've been researching the best ways to save money with a smartphone, and I'm sharing my favorite tips here!
1. Get a good deal
If I'm shopping for a new coat or a new set of pots and pans and I happen to find a great price on one while I'm out shopping, I can use a price comparison app like RedLaser, ShopSavvy, or the Amazon app to scan the barcode on an item and see if it's cheaper anywhere else.
2. Score the cheapest parking
I don't live in the city where I would need this tip on a regular basis, but hopefully I'll remember it when we travel. Apps like SpotHero can help you find the cheapest parking spots around a city. Parking a few blocks from the expensive lots can offer some significant savings.
3. Use store coupons
Many stores have their own apps with coupons and special offers. For example, Target’s Cartwheel app allows you to shop sales and coupons and add them to a shopping list. It then creates one barcode hosting all your coupons to scan at checkout. Some stores will send coupons via text that you can show to the cashier to get a discount on your purchase. Others have codes you can scan when you walk into the store to get a special offer.
4. Save on gasoline
If you consistently purchase gas at the lowest price, you can save several hundred dollars over the course of a year. But driving a little ways up the road to check another gas station's prices can actually waste money if it ends up being more expensive there. That's where an app like GasBuddy comes in very handy! You can simply type in your zip code and it will tell you which gas station near you has the lowest price.
5. Save on the essentials
It's great to get the best price on big-ticket items, but consistently purchasing everyday items at the lowest price will also do your budget a ton of good! You can find the lowest prices on things you already buy such as groceries, household goods and clothes with apps like Favado. Checkout51 and Ibotta also give you cash back when you buy certain items. And Shopkick rewards you just for shopping at certain stores. Getting a check in the mail for shopping I would normally do anyway sounds like a pretty smart idea to me!
Combined with these money-saving tips, and an affordable, prepaid smartphone, I'm now fitting a smartphone into the budget.
Prepaid plans have the reputation for having slow data or spotty networks, and a less-than-stellar selection of phones.
Introducing Simply Prepaid™ from T-Mobile!
With Simply Prepaid™ you get 4G LTE data on T-Mobile and a great selection of phones. I got the Samsung Galaxy Avant for myself. I haven't had a ton of time to use it yet, but it seems like it is going to be a great phone!
I easily spotted the T-Mobile Simply Prepaid™ phones at my local Walmart, along with the refill cards. $40 gave me a month of 4G LTE date with unlimited talk and text.
With the 4G data plan, I'll be able to use all the apps I've mentioned above and save myself a lot of money in ways I haven't previously been able to do!
Here's a video another blogger put together about her experience with a T-Mobile Simply Prepaid™ phone:
Buying service is as easy as purchasing a refill card. There is no contract, and if you don't want or need phone service one month, you can simply skip out on buying a refill card.
I was honestly a little intimidated at the prospect of getting the phone, activating it, and using the refill cards with it.
I shouldn't have worried. It was as easy as pie! All I had to do was go to their website and follow the step-by-step instructions and I was done in a jiffy!
Now I'm good to go!
Do you have any other suggestions for saving money using a smartphone? Have you ever tried a prepaid phone or would you like to try one?
One easy way to cut a lot of expense is to shop ahead for gifts. I'm on the lookout all year for clearance items for those that I know will need Christmas and birthday gifts. I also pick up other nice toys when I find them marked way down so that when we get a birthday invitation from some procrastinating person who invites us the day before I don't have to spend gas, time, and stress running to the store to to buy a full-priced present.
The imperfect homemaking way to handle all that is just to do it — see something cheap, buy it, stick it in the gift tub, and forget about it until you need to shop from your tub.
The not-so-imperfect homemaker way to do it is to actually write down what you got for who so that you don't buy the same person two gifts and end up actually spending more.
You can print the one pictured right here.
We imperfect homemakers don't always do the greatest job of planning ahead. But it doesn't have to be hard. You don't even have to keep track on the printable. Next time you see something on clearance for an amazing price, think “To whom could I give that?” If you can't think of anyone, don't buy it just because it's cheap. If you can think of someone, buy it and stick it in your gift tub and you just saved yourself some money and a trip to the store when the next birthday rolls around.
Today's challenge: Get in the habit of taking a quick peek through the clearance racks every time you walk past them at the store.
Don't buy things just because they're cheap, buy them when you know who the recipient will be.
If you’re just joining the 31 Days of Imperfect Homemaking series, you can see all the posts here.
Fridays during this challenge will be all about frugal living. It's easy to get careless and skip over things that could be saving your family money, so I've added a few things to this challenge that you can do quickly and easily to help shave down your family's budget.
Today's Challenge: Make a menu plan.
Menu planning is one of those things I always tell myself I can skip, but I always regret it when I do! We go back and forth to the store to pick up missing ingredients, or we snack on junk because I do the 5 o'clock scramble and everybody's hungry while I try to come up with some type of meal. It really only takes a few minutes to make a menu plan. It doesn't have to be complicated. I like to use Build A Menu‘s service (it's great for special diets too like gluten free and THM!), but you can use a piece of notebook paper and a pen. Look in the fridge and see what you already have. Write down any meals that use those ingredients. Then write down a few more meals that your family likes. Now, get another scrap of paper, and write down all the ingredients for the other meals you just wrote down. And you're done. How hard was that? Why do we skip it and act like it has to be done some fancy way? (Granted, you can save even more money by taking a little more time, but you're not saving any money if you don't do it at all! If you want something a little more involved but still quick and easy to do, I highly recommend checking out Build a Menu.)
Now go get that list made! And while you're at it, save it. Do it again for the next 3 weeks, and you've got a month's worth of meal plans! Make one big menu, and one big shopping list, and you can re-use it month after month!
If you've been a long-time reader, or if you've done a bit of poking around on my site, you may know that I used to be quite the coupon clipper. When we cut out most processed foods (we thought we weren't eating processed foods, but we were wrong! If it's in a box, bag, or can on the grocery store shelf, it's processed food.) we found that real, whole foods were costing us much more than I had been paying for all the coupon deals. The thing is, healthy food costs more when you've been used to getting stuff for pennies or even free with coupons. But it's worth it! However, as a penny-pincher, I simply can't stand spending more on anything than is absolutely necessary, so I've spent much time trying to find the best prices on things. I was so excited when I saw Shannon's new eCourse, Grocery Savings Made Simple.
Shannon also feeds her family real, whole foods, so I knew this course was not going to be based on coupon-clipping and circular comparison. In fact the course description says the following:
In this 4-week eCourse, you’ll learn how to cut your grocery budget, yet…
- Never clip a coupon
- Never look at store circulars or pay attention to sales
- Save money by cooking-from-scratch with minimal extra kitchen time
- Pay less for the healthy foods your family enjoys (no unhealthy or beans-only diets)
In each lesson, you’ll learn how to get the maximum savings with minimum effort because you’re busy and you have other things you’d rather be doing than worrying about your grocery budget.
Maximum savings with minimum effort is exactly what every homemaker wants! The course is only $37, and when you consider the fact that Shannon saved over $2000 on her grocery bill last year with this system, your $37 will pay for itself very quickly!
If you're in need of some personalized help and hand-holding with navigating through the waters of this healthy eating stuff without going broke, I recommend you give her course a try. I think you will be pleased!
If you’re distressed about the rising costs of health insurance or confused by the complexities of the Affordable Care Act, you will be happy to know that there is an alternative form of health care.
Samaritan Ministries is a “Biblical, non-insurance approach to health care needs”.
Our family has been members of Samaritan Ministries for several years now, and we have been very happy with our experience.
First, let me say that one of the reasons Samaritan Ministries works well for us is that we try to keep doctor's visits to an absolute minimum. We use it for larger medical bills only. If you have ongoing medical needs which require frequent doctor's visits you may need to look for a different option.
How it works:
When you have a medical need, you state to your provider that you are “self-pay”. You negotiate with the provider for any discounts they can offer. If you need help doing this, members of Samaritan Ministries can request free help from the Karis Group.
You then submit your need to Samaritan Ministries and send them all of the bills that you received. After they review the bills and confirm that the need submitted is in accordance with their guidelines, they assign members to send their shares to you the next month. You will receive a checklist with the names of each family who will be sending a check and mark them off as each check comes in. At the end of the month you send the checklist back to Samaritan Ministries so they can confirm that the other members are paying their monthly share.
You pay the first $300 of each particular need that you share, and everything above that will be sent to you by the other members. If you have negotiated discounts with your providers, that will count toward the $300, lowering your personal out-of-pocket costs.
It’s affordable. Our share for the entire family is $405 per month. That number remains the same regardless of how many children we have. Singles, couples without children, and single-parent families pay even less. Before we became members of Samaritan Ministries, we paid a similar amount for insurance, but that policy did not cover our children, had a high deductible, and did not cover any maternity needs.
It’s personal. When I call to submit a need, I am met with an “I’m sorry. I hope you get well soon.” When other members send their checks to us, we also receive an encouraging note.
It works. Whenever I discuss Samaritan Ministries with others, I often hear concerns that it’s too scary to trust the other members to send their checks to you. We have shared multiple needs and have never been shorted. I mentioned the checklist earlier which Samaritan Ministries uses to make sure the other members are sending their shares. If for some reason someone on your list does not send their share, that amount will be reassigned in the following month to another member. Also, I like that when I send my monthly share, I am sending it directly to another member. I know that the full amount is going directly to that person’s need. If the shares were funneled through the Samaritan Ministries office, I would have to wonder if the money was really being used for needs or if they were using part of it for their own profits. Sending the money from member to member keeps the testimony of the ministry above board.
I have freedom to choose my providers. Rather than having to choose from approved health care providers as I would with an insurance company, I am free to choose my own providers. I love being able to go where I know I will receive the best care and not have to worry about being denied coverage by insurance.
As much as we appreciate Samaritan Ministries, there are some not-so-perfect things about it. I’ll share them here in hopes of helping you make the most informed decision about your health care coverage.
Prorating. This happens when the amount of needs submitted exceeds the amount of share money available. This has happened with one of the needs we have shared, and we received 80% of the amount of our bills rather than the full amount. 80% is still great, but when money is tight and your bill is large, it can be very disappointing to find out that the bills had to be prorated. However, if there is extra share money available the following month, the surplus will be used to help with the prorated needs. My husband just got a letter notifying him that there was some money in the pro rata fund which would be dispersed to those whose needs were prorated earlier this year.
Out of pocket costs. Since members pay the first $300 of each need they have, routine checkups and single doctor visits will be paid for out of your own pocket. That can be a drawback if you are used to frequent doctor visits that were paid for by insurance. Most optical, auditory, and dental needs are not shareable either.
Members of Samaritan Ministries are exempt from the individual mandate to buy health insurance. The new healthcare laws contain a provision that members of health care sharing ministries are not subject to the insurance requirement.
While most needs are shareable, there are some medical conditions that are not covered or have limited coverage. The member guidelines clearly explain which needs can and cannot be shared. Additionally, if Samaritan Ministries determines your medical need cannot be shared according to their guidelines, they may publish your medical need as a “Special Prayer Need,” where members can help you pray for God’s provision and where they are encouraged to give a small amount above their normal share to help with your need. Many times needs that cannot be shared are still met in full through the generosity of other members.
To be a member of Samaritan Ministries, you must be a professing Christian who attends church regularly. You must agree to abstain from sinful practices such as drug abuse and sexual immorality and you must be accountable to a pastor or other church leader for the needs you submit.
The maximum amount that will be shared among the members for each medical need is $250,000. Members are also eligible to participate the Save to Share ministry, where the rest of needs over $250,000 may be shared.
There are no lifetime or yearly maximum amounts eligible for sharing and there is no limit on the number of needs that an individual member or household may have.
If you want to know more, you can find FAQ’s, member testimonials, and application information on the Samaritan Ministries website. And if you decide that this is the right option for your family, I would love for you to mention our family as a referral (John and MaryEllen Bream).
If you have any additional questions you can leave them here and I'll do my best to answer them.
(Are you part of a health care sharing ministry other than Samaritan Ministries? Email me at email@example.com if you're willing to share about your experience in a short written interview. I would love to give the readers here a comparison of the different services available.)