Mint.com Update – Super Simple Money Management

I wrote about Mint.com back in January and really liked what they had to offer. One of my biggest complaints was the lack of custom categories. Well they have fixed that now and you can easily add custom categories.

They have also added a very straightforward budgeting section that is so easy to use that you have no excuse for not having a budget! Enter in your budget numbers and then sit back and watch Mint allocate your spending over the month against your budget. This is a great option for people who don’t enjoy spending time in Excel.

In addition to the budgeting feature, they have added a very interesting trending tool.  Not only does it let you look at your spending over time but you can compare your spending to others in your city or state.  This is a really neat feature that can let you compare your spending habits to others and see where you stand.

Although these are both great features the real power of Mint still lies in its ability to categorize all your transactions.  As long as the majority of your spending is on a debit or credit card you can get a great view of your finances with almost no effort.  If you have not tried mint sign up at mint.com.

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Common Sense Tips to Save Money

Ramit at I Will Teach You To Be Rich has started a great series on how to save $1k in 30 days. So far the first two tips have been great!  I can’t wait to see what the other 28 will be. His tip on turning down the thermostat is spot on. Although I would say that 3 degrees is a little conservative!  Turn it down 6 and throw a freaking sweater on! :)

We talk about an energy crisis in this country and people still have the thermostat jacked up/down to 72 degrees in the winter/summer. People look at 72 degrees like it is some kind of law!  I need to do the math on what kind of energy savings we would see if everybody went to 66/78.

Tip #1 is another good one. For the past 6 months I have started bringing my lunch to work about 75% of the time. It just takes changing some habits and doing a little planning. Good stuff Ramit!

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Take Back Your Mailbox From Junk Mail!

After a particularly bad junk mail day last week I decided I had had enough.  It was time to take back my mailbox from the unscrupulous marketers. It would not be so bad if it were just a couple things a week but I estimate we get 50 pieces of junk mail a week! Here is what I am doing:

  1. Converted as many bills as possible to online payments.  Most companies will stop sending you a paper bill if you are on automatic withdrawals. The only bill I actually have to still open is the water bill. At least I can pay it with a credit card!  Everything else is on cruise control.
  2. Went “paperless” with all my account statements that offer it.  Last week I found a few more of my accounts that do!
  3. Opted out of all credit card offers for all family members:
    http://www.optoutprescreen.com
  4. Signed up for the Direct Marketing Association’s DMAChoice to opt out of all member marketing: http://www.dmachoice.org
  5. Signed up for an account at ProQuo and walked through all the steps to opt out.
    http://www.proquo.com/
  6. For companies not covered by the above, I started contacting them directly to be removed.
  7. If the junk mail has a postage paid business reply envelope I mail the offer back with “Remove From List” written in big black letters! If they are going to send me junk at least make them pay for it!
  8. I just found this tip which might eliminate the need for #7:From: http://www.obviously.com/junkmail/
    First class mail: Cross out the address and bar code, circle the first class postage and write “refused: return to sender”. Drop in any mail box, it will be returned to the sender.
    Bulk mail: The post office throws away bulk mail it can’t deliver, so returning it does no good. Bulk mail is the hardest to deal with because the USPS actively provides addresses, support and encouragement to mailers. However, if “address correction requested” is written on the label: circle “address correction requested” and treat like first class mail.

Hopefully these steps will have an impact.  In addition to the environmental benefits, doing this will also help your finances. If you don’t get the shiny new catalogs you won’t be tempted to buy anything!

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My love affair with WaMu has cooled!

Last year I wrote about how much I loved WaMu for all my banking needs.  During the financial meltown, JP Morgan acquired them and took over all deposits.  I was not worried about my money as I was within the FDIC limits.  What I was worried about is what would change from a service and account standpoint.  Well two weeks ago the changes started and not for the better. WaMu lowered the online savings rate from 4% to 3%! :(  If that was not enough they responded to the fed drop on Wednesday and lowered it again to 2.5%

I still think they are great bank for your basic checking needs but I am moving my money over to DollarSavingsDirect who is still paying 4%. They are a division of Emigrant Direct who I had my savings account with before WaMu upped the rates they were paying. It was annoying to have to open another account as I still have my emigrant account but it was worth it for an extra percentage point.

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Foundation #8: 80% of personal finance is behavior 20% is knowledge and the numbers

All the personal finace foundations build on each other – #8 continues with the concept that personal finance is much more about behavior than it is about the numbers. Figuring out the basic principles that put you on the right path to financial success is the easy part! It is following through with the behaviors and habits that is the hard part. Most people know that contributing to a 401k is a good idea but so many don’t follow through with the behavior to make it happen. How many people this year blew right past April 15th and did not fund their 2007 Roth IRA? How many people spend more than they make? If I had to pick who was to be better off financially: a CPA with bad financial habits and a recent college grad with good financial habits I am always going to pick the recent college grad! You can’t make up for bad habits with better financial knowledge.

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