Cell Phone Madness

I just can’t seem to settle on what on earth to do about our cellphones.  My husband is an old soul, hating cell phones and many modern technologies.  He would rid us of that in a heartbeat and he certainly won’t pay a ton for it.  However, I feel they are an utter necessity and use mine like my right hand.  We still need to try and cut back where we can.

The biggest problem I have is we live in the mountains and we are on the line of most cell phone towers.  Smaller carriers have zero signal here.  Even the large carriers have spotty signals.  We currently have a microcell tower for our home with AT&T that they usually charge $200 for, but since we were already customers, they had to let us out of our contract or give it to us for free when we first moved here because they consider us out of the service area.  This gives us service at our home and then most of the area around here has fine service.

I haven’t found the perfect solution just yet but I have found some pretty cool options out there:

PURETALK

Here is what I put my son on since he rarely needs his but does use it from time to time, especially with the Sea Cadet program he does once a month (sleeping away from home).  I would go to this in a heartbeat if we could get some kind of wifi cell tower for it.  AT&T towers, really cost, lots of pricing options, no contract, great thus far.  His plan is $5 a month for 80 minutes of talk & text- each text is 1/3 of a minute so it’s 240 texts.  He uses his ipod for imessaging when he can find wifi too.  They have $24 for unlimited talk/text and 2GB of LTE data.  What?  Also, they have an awesome plan for seniors- I am going to get my mom on this plan asap.  Start up cost?  $7 for a sim card, we used an old AT&T phone.

REPUBLIC WIRELESS

This non-contractual low priced option utilizes wifi whenever it is available and you get money back for data not used.  It is very interesting and perhaps a great option for those living in the city.

T-Mobile walmart-only hidden plan

I didn’t know a plan like this existed for those who talk little and text/surf a lot.  100 minutes of talk, unlimited web and text…$30.  http://www.walmart.com/ip/Tmobile-30-Wireless-Airtime-Card/15443357

TOTAL WIRELESS

$60 for 2 phones- unlimited talk/text/data.  Only catch?  It is 3G only, 4G phones can’t be used so we would have to get different phones despite we own our iphones.  In addition, we still wouldn’t have a wifi cell service but I heard some have signal right around us which is rare.

This is just some of my research.

I am still working on this.  It helps that wifi calling now works on iphones.  At least mine.  We haven’t found it to work on my husband’s.  But texting?  I love texting.  Hmmm.  How do I get this to work on wifi?  Not everyone I know uses imessage or facebook messenger.

..……update.………….

We tried T-Mobile to switch because they had a great deal for multiple lines but it was a total fail.  We were told that not only did we have coverage, the guy selling the plan and devices had a mother who lived not far from us.  Well, if that were true then he knew our phones would not work.  And I mean terrible terrible coverage everywhere we drove. 

What we ended up doing was switching our cell phone plans back to AT&T but putting my husband on as primary and using a work related discount he got.  Pretty good savings there (18%). 

Our teen and my mother are both using puretalk.  Super cheap for low users, I am pretty impressed.  My son uses mostly wifi calling and iMessages so he only needed a little cell coverage when he was out and about.  It costs me $5 a month, seriously.  

 

 

Realizations

The closer we get to real changes in our income, the more  realizations we have about changes that need to occur.  Here are some of these:

  1. His motorcycle needs to go- he only rides this for fun and we have to cover payment, insurance, maintenance and all extras on this expensive unnecessary item.
  2. We have to get better about planning especially when it comes to food.  We already shop off lists but we still don’t fully plan.
    1. We need to look at the food we have and use that food up before it spoils, planning around that more and around convenience, cravings, etc less.
    2. We need to have meals ready to go in the freezer in a pinch rather than convenience food, fast food, etc.
    3. We need to plan to not eat out.  I have done this before.  I used to keep snacks in the car and tote peanut butter and bread when I thought we might get caught out past meal time.  I need to pack meals and plan better here.
    4. I need to plan what is on sale and use this more.
  3. We need to prioritize.  What is really needed?  What is most important?
  4. We need to get rid of debts.  It’s not credit cards but it is motocycle, 4 wheelers (those are a necessity around here- we haul stuff on our acreage, get only get around in some snowy weather with them while parking our cars closer to the road, etc), student loan, gym membership, vehicles, etc.  Luckily we were close to paying off the gym and we get a discount for paying it in full so, we finished it and canceled it.  The student loan I had been paying extra on for a while so luckily, while we were still reaping the better oil field pay, we were able to pay that off in full too.  We couldn’t get rid of a vehicle payment right now, but I had already traded mine in for something older and we dumped a big down payment on it too, lowering the payment we had.  Now, we traded in my husband’s truck for a smaller used Nissan truck that only has 7k miles on it (a great deal), lower that payment too.  Now, we need to keep paying until it’s all paid off.
  5. We need to keep thinking of what we can do to decrease the income we required for us to maintain.

Crunch Time

So I have been sort of dragging my feet on dealing with more of this- more of the blog and more of the budget cutting, etc.  However, it’s about to get real.

My husband has been able to maintain his employment in the oilfield to this point.  Being a very reliable, intelligent and good at his job as led him to be one of the most needed people on his rig.  Currently, instead of only being a rig electrician, they “got rid” of the electronic technician on his shift and he is expected to cover that man’s workload as well.  There are no plans in the future for hiring this missing person and the compensation for adding work to an already extremely full load?  Keeping your job.

His rig is about to go park somewhere and sit, awaiting a return to the richness the oilfield can and probably will one day again offer.  It was only about a year ago that they were screaming we were about to run out of oil, we were all doomed and oil prices were only going to get worse.  Now, we are in a gi-normous oil field glut?  Welcome to the politics behind the oil and gas industry.  He probably will be one of the last men standing on this rig when it goes to nothing but a skeleton crew to maintain the rig so it will be fully operational at a moment’s notice, but I see the wear on my husband and what it is doing to him.

Therefore, I asked him when he went out on the rig the last 3 week hitch if I could start just submitting resumes and all and see what I could drum up so that when he returned he might have some interviews going.  He hates sitting on the computer and doing research, submissions, and all that tedious work.  Thus, he usually just puts it off until he can’t do it any longer and it is “too late” for that hitch.  I have hit the world wide web “pavement” hard for him and luckily, things are starting to move after weeks of nothing.  I guess that is what happens when you try to hit it around Christmas time.  In addition, everyone is afraid his ridiculous oilfield salary because no one on LAND pays like that for what he does.  Yes, well we are scared too.

However, the biggest positive thus far, is that in looking for HIM, I found a job.  I was never unwilling to work as a stay at home mom but these are the reasons we never felt it was an option:

  1. I was the only parent available for 3 weeks out of the year.  Kid sick? Me.  Kid needs something? Me. (you get the idea)
  2. My salary wouldn’t even be a drop in the bucket compared to what he was making and it would just further push our tax bracket.
  3. I would likely spend as much as I would make on gas and other work related expenses as I could make, especially because my husband likes living in a really rural area.
  4. My husband could better enjoy his 3 weeks home if I didn’t work.  We were free to go do whatever he wanted because we had the time and money.  We had no vacation schedules to work around.
  5. Part way through we had decided to homeschool, especially because of one child who was really getting left behind in the public school system, and that was a full time job in itself.

So, especially living so far out of the city, there were not a lot of options even now that his schedule would put him at home much more and we would desperately need more income beyond what he can make.  There is all of ONE location that one could even possibly work at in our tiny “town”.  I realized that, although the chances that they would be hiring since they haven’t in 2 year would be slim, I should just see if there was a possibility.  I looked when the thought had occurred to me, but there was no openings in our town or any surrounding locations.  Two days later while looking at his job possibilities, there was a job opening for that exact location!  I jumped through all the hoops- tests, background checks, drug test, and interview.  I was offered the job.  It is right down the road, in the morning only, leaving me plenty of time to still teach the kids (they are old enough to leave at home now but they don’t really stay totally on track on their own), and actually a great salary for the hours worked.  It was nothing short of a miracle.  Now, we are just waiting for a miracle for my husband as well.

 

 

Dreams and Dancing

My little girl started dancing around the age of 5 and has loved it very much.  At first, it was just very sweet to see her don a tutu and twirl around.  Then, it was interesting to see her take something very serious, striving for the perfect moves and memorizing every step in tap, ballet, jazz, and lyrical tumbling.  She really shined on stage and had a very unusual confidence for a young girl.  Now, I can place her on stage and ask her to give a speech or any other situation, and she will readily and comfortably do so.  Dance has been a huge asset for her.

She suddenly went through a stage last year where she wanted to try gymnastics instead of dance.  She was frustrated because of all the girls that didn’t want to be in dance (yet parents made them) penalized the serious dancers by goofing off and having them repeat the practice extra.  She tried gymnastics and was doing well until an unusual winter hit and we were stuck in our mountain home under piles of snow.  She didn’t want to return after that and just wanted to stay more at home.

At the beginning of this year, a friend and her were dancing in the basement in their full attire (her friend never having taken real dance classes), and they decided to join a dance class together.  They were signed up at a new place during the summer, but had to wait until August to start.  She said it was the best class she ever took and was really enjoying it.  She had all of a few weeks before the news of my husband’s job took place.

However, I am proactively looking for anything and everything that isn’t necessary at this time to cut out and cut back, so it was with great regret that I had to sit her down and explain to her that our circumstances were changing for what we hoped was a short stint.  My daughter, being a truly unique child, didn’t cry or whine or even grumble.  She completely understood and with with a sweet disposition said she would be happy to just finish the month we had already paid for, glad she could have a few more classes.  I know it broke my husband’s heart.  When I first put her in dance, he thought it was a waste of time and money (how about a sport or something?).  However, after seeing her perform and excel, he has come to adore his tiny dancer.  He promised that he would really try to get her back into dance as soon as he could.  My daughter said she will just keep practicing in the basement and have her friend over to practice with her.

It can be hard when these financial cutbacks affect your children, but it does teach them that there are circumstances where you just can’t have and do everything.  Taking the responsible route will help them be more mature and more responsible adults.

Breaking the Silence of the Impending Layoff

I had a friend at church approach me and say that she had been praying for me and had noticed I hadn’t quite been myself lately.  She had been told nothing and so I felt compelled to let her in on the oilfield shift which was about to cause my husband to either be layed off or have a significant reduction in the amount of hours and thus, pay.  It kept bothering me because I just didn’t know how to hide that I was carrying that weight but it is hard to talk about something that has so much uncertainty revolving around it.

What did I finally end up doing?  I posted in Facebook on my wall after I realized that maybe others who are oilfield wives and workers needed to hear something too.  This is what I said:

“While many are enjoying the low gas prices, those whose family depends on the income relating to the oilfield, are either being hit hard or holding our breath for a shoe to drop (likely close to Christmas). Out of the blue, people who did not know we are facing an uncertain future have come up or messaged me to say they felt they should be praying for me. It is absolutely encouraging that God has his hand on us and uses each of you special people to let us know that. To each of you: thank you so much, it means the world. To each of you affected by the oil field decline as well, know I am praying for you too.”

I received some encouraging words but what mattered most was some people said it was what they needed to hear.  It isn’t the easiest thing to talk about, but if my silence prevents someone else from hearing the words they need to hear, then by all means, I will speak up.  Here’s to opening our mouths for the good of others.

Fair Freebies

Free stuff is everywhere and I intend to keep on finding it.  We took a field trip to the fair during Farm Days.  I didn’t take the kids on the rides, which I know may sound mean, but they just went to Disney World for goodness sakes.  The parking was free (regularly $7- my word).  We got in for free, and we got to go to the exhibits for free.  In addition, when we walked in, they had a special scavenger hunt for the kids.  If they filled out all the answers, they got a free kids meal.  I already had brought a picnic lunch so that meant free meal on the way home (I am kind of bad about forgetting a coupon if I don’t use it quickly).  We worked together to figure it out and then I took them for a kids meal and frosty (they exchanged their regular drink for a teeny frosty and then just got water to drink).  In addition, we got some other freebies at the exhibits like free post it notes that I am always needing in homeschooling for marking what the kids need to do, pens and a free Shoney’s breakfast buffet.  Lesson of this day: keep your eye out for the free stuff!

FREE DONUTS – Arrrr!

I am always all about free stuff, but now with Oilfield Shutdown 2015 about to occur, I am hyper vigilant on finding the freebies. So, today is TALK LIKE A PIRATE DAY.  Yes, maties, if you weren’t aware, today you are free to say scallawag, swab the deck and arrrr as much as you like.  In addition, there are some freebies to take advantage of, namely FREE DONUTS from Krispy Kreme.

Here is our plan: My friend, J, and her teenage daughter; myself and my teenage son, B; and their other teenage friend (whom is special needs and we are trying to help him break out of his sheltered world), will all be dressing like a pirate.  You only need three things to count.  We will be using a bandana tied around our heads, either a gold (Mardi Gras cheap style) necklace or hoop earring), and an eye patch.  My back up idea is also a pirate hook that we can take a red solo cup and punch a hole in it, fashion an aluminum foil hook and poke it in the hole.  That’s right mateys, cheap is the plan and you can fashion about anything out of duct tape so if you dont have a hat, bandana, eye patch or whatnot, so feel free the improvise for the sake of saving money.  We will hit several Krispy Kreme Donut locations (FYI- you can drive thru it I was told) and all of us will show our pirate gear plus a little pirate lingo.  You get one freebie for the pirate speech and a dozen, yes dozen, for the garb.  We are hoping to collect enough to at least bring back donuts for all the kids at church to have Krispy Kreme donuts for a Sunday Morning snack.  Even when you are facing a layoff, you can find ways to give and be generous!

This Means War

I guess the movie War Room came around at the right time.  While I have spent my whole life praying, my prayers are often more like a quick text to God than a down on my knees passionate cry for help.  However, the times that I have reached that point of humble pleading (like when my sister was days from death in full liver failure), are the times that I have seen God work the most in my life (she mysteriously recovered fully without transplant or other intervention).  I had already been wakened to the need to become a so called “prayer warrior” or as I like to think of it, a prayer ninja.  I have come to realize that it is essential for me to ramp up this part of my life.  The movie was a starting point for inspiration but for further inertia, I started reading Fervent by Priscilla Shirer, which was inspired by the movie, and a very cheap prayer journal.  I cannot tell you how cathartic it is to just write it all out.  I can work on reducing my bills, I can get creative, and I can cut corners, but if I don’t have peace of mind and God-given wisdom, it won’t matter.  In addition to prayers and scripture, I also wrote out the lyrics to Oceans by Hillsong.  This song suddenly keeps appearing.  They sang it for the first time at my church this Sunday and at the same time, half a country away, my niece was apparently leading the same song at her church.  I have heard the song before but suddenly the words pierce my heart.  I can focus on upcoming changes and impending doom, or I can focus on all things good and lovely that give me hope, faith and a future.  I chose the latter.

Strength in Numbers

My daughter, Kay, and a friend’s daughter, May, had just recently started dance together.  They were so excited.  My daughter had done dance before but her daughter had not.  I realized with the impending changes, I was going to have to take Kay out of dance since it was an unneccessary cost.  I was concerned May would be very upset.  However, when I let my friend know, she revealed that they too would have to severely cut back due to an upcoming job change.  We started discussing all the things we couldn’t do: eating out, movies, costly field trips, and more.  We found relief in the partnership to cut back.  It isn’t fun to have to say “no” all the time and be around someone who can throw caution to the wind when it comes to finances.  If you have to cut back, it is not only more comforting, but it enables you to pool your resources, creativity and strength during such times.  I told her if we can’t eat out, we will just exchanged dinner nights at each other’s house and it will feel like we are at least getting to go somewhere different and eat something we didn’t cook!  She reminded me that we had some kids that can pass down clothes to each other and that we both can sew.  I encourage you to not be so quiet when you are going through a financial struggle.  Others may be too and it will not serve you or them well to keep it from each other. Caution: Beware so that you don’t become a whining victim either.   If all you do is whine about the problem, you will find yourself stagnant, because you are so focused on the problem that you can’t even begin to see solution. You may also find yourself a lonely because, generally, no one can stand to be around someone who does nothing but whine about circumstances.

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Bill reduction #1 Dish Satellite Service

I am not a fan of commitments.  I mean more of a binding financial origin, not relational or responsibility oriented.  When we first moved to Tennessee a couple of years ago, I found out that we couldn’t have any TV service other than satellite (read: TV with a contract).  We tried antennas, but the signal doesn’t reach that far.  The cable stopped just short of us.  It was frustrating and I fought it for a while, getting TV series from the library and doing other things than TV.  We aren’t even that big of TV watchers (especially my husband who would be fine if we didn’t have it all together), but eventually, the kids wanting to watch something, my boredom when my husband was gone for weeks at a time, and the lack of local weather and news caused me to break down.  I signed the commitment about 1 year and 3 months ago.  So, now I have 9 months to go on a contract and an impending layoff or cutback in our financial situation.  I already have the lowest plan offered, or so I thought.  It turns out that it was the lowest plan offered online, but it wasn’t’ the lowest offered entirely.  I spoke with them and found out about the Welcome Pack which is a $20 plan (okay $19.99, I am a rounder) that includes the local channels, the weather channel, and some other actually great channels (History Channel, Discovery Family Channel, TLC, Hallmark Channel, Comedy Central, HGTV, and Food Network which happens to be one of my children’s favorite channels).  I also know that if we got really in a bind, we can pause the contract by paying $5 a month but that just extends the period as well, so for now, we will leave it where it is.  One bill reduced, awesome!  Lesson: it really does pay to ask.