Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Utilities Cost Savings

I. Comparison Shopping

When I was single, my roommate and I picked Comcast for our cable and internet service. Since Comcast has been the most widely known for the service at least in our area, we made the decision without comparing with other service providers.

We used to pay about $60 per month for our cable and high speed internet service provided by Comcast. However, when my roommate moved out three months before I got married, I started searching for something more affordable. And I found out a high speed internet service at $24 a month provided by AT & T! Since CJ and I decided to live without a TV, internet-only service was perfectly fine with us.

Before deciding your utility service providers, do your study and compare a few different providers.

II. Know What You Need and What Service You Are Paying For

C.J. and I don't own a TV. Therefore, we don't need cable service and were able to save a lot by having internet-only service. When I talk to people about this, many say that they didn't know they can buy internet service only without cable. As cellular phones are so widely used these days, a lot of families do not need landline phone services any more. Of course calling, waiting and talking on the phone with the customer service people can be pain on the butt, but the money you save by cutting that rarely-used landline serive is worth the pain.

III. Negotiate, Confront Overcharges and Mischarges

With AT & T , we were using their Express service which was supposed to be faster than their Basic service. However, due to some geographical reason, the speed for our internet was capped at 768kbps which was what Basic service gets. So, we went through the pain of getting on the phone, waiting forever to talk to someone, and reasoning with several customer service representatives in several different departments. They did lower our monthly charge by $10, which is saving us $120 a year!

About six month after we started using AT & T's internet service, we found out that for the same plan we have, AT & T lowered their monthly rate by $5. However, the change had not been reflected on our bills for two months. So we got on the phone again to confront and had the overcharges credited to our account and had them lower our monthly charge to the new rate.

IV. Paper Statement Vs. Online Statement

I always request paper statements for all my bills and think twice before I set up automatic payment. Yes, I'm not that green in that sense. However, with online statement and automatic payment options, people tend to be less careful about what they are paying for. By having a tangible bill in my hand, I find myself more alert since I get to go over line by line.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Family Car? American vs. Korean: Want vs. Need

This is a conversation that C.J. and I had right after when we got married:
(American = C.J., Korean = Hyuna)

American : Honey, why don't we use our savings to buy a used car? We can trade in my old Lexus.
Korean : Yeah, your car is too old - 140,000 mileages, broken sunroof, false check-engine light. Why not? We have the cash. Do you have any specific type of car in your mind?
American: I was thinking buying a family car.
Korean: A family car? What is that?
American: Oh, in AMERICA, we call a minivan a family car. You know, a car for a family with kids.
Korean: Hmm...

(At CarMax)

American: How about this? Ponda Udyssey?
Korean: Yeah, it looks like it's one of the most popular minivans.
American: How about that one? That's known to be very safe.
Korean: (thinking................) Honey?
American: Yes.
Korean: In Korea, most families live with a small or mid-size passenger car. When I was growing up in Korea, my family of five people lived with a small passenger car. It was only after I and my brother and sister left home that my parents bought a SUV so that they could travel more.
American: But it's not convenient...with kids, you need a family car, I mean, a minivan.
Korean: Is it a need or a want? It's not like we cannot raise kids without a minivan, is it? It might not be the most convenient or comfortable choice, but I'm sure we can live with a passenger car.
American: Honey, but this is AMERICA!
Korean: And? I don't want us to live to keep up with the Joneses. No! I don't care what people think of us. I would rather have a 6-month emergency savings and drive your old car than use that money to drive a fancy minivan.
American: You are right. Lexus is old but it's still running. And securing a 6-month emergency fund is the priority. Honey, thank you for keeping me real.

Our old junky Lexus is still alive - Thank God! It takes me to and from work, running only about 100 miles a week. With the current economic turmoil and job insecurity, we know we made the right choice.