Updated to WordPress 2.7 & The iNova Theme

I have freshened things up around here and switched over to the iNova theme for WordPress. My old K2 theme has not seen a lot of development lately and I like the clean layout of iNova.

I also upgraded to WordPress 2.7 and love it!  They have made some great improvements to the usability but the best feature by far is the auto-update functionality!  I was using TypePad for some corporate blogs because updating WordPress was always a pain. Now that updates can happen in the background I highly recommend WordPress for all your blogging needs!

Take Back Your Inbox From Spam!

I recently talked about how to take back your mailbox from junk mail. Today’s post is to talk about how to do the same for your email!

I registered andrewknight.com back in 1998.  Back then, SPAM was not the problem it is today. I had used my andrew at andrewknight address for years.  I had given it out to hundreds of people and organizations and quietly over time it had started collecting a lot of spam.

At the end of 2005 I tried using some spam filters but found that I was missing some legitimate emails and I was still getting spam in my inbox. The solution? Create an e-mail alias system for all my e-mail. Here is how it works:

1) Create a new email address that you only give to friends and family.  This is a painful step as you need to update your contacts but I found that people caught on quickly.

2) Keep your current e-mail on for about a month and then turn it off. This will force people to start using your new email.

3) Now to the alias part. For EVERY website or company that needs your email address create a unique email address to use.  Currently I have over 350 of these!

The beauty of this system is that if an address ever starts getting spam on it you can simply turn off that email. You will also know who the culprit is so you can “plug the hole”. I did this recently with 2 of my emails that started getting SPAM on them.  One was website at thisdomain.com and godaddy at thisdomain.com. Both were published on the web and the spammers picked up on them.

I have used this system for the past 3 years and I highly recommend it for taking back control of your inbox!

Lance Armstrong Makes His Return to Racing

Lance made his return to road racing this weekend at the Tour de Gruene. He looked fit and cranked out a 28.8 MPH opening TT.  Not bad for his first TT!

No question his return is great for the sport.  A lot of people think he represents the “old guard” of cycling but I don’t buy it.  He was the most tested cyclist on the planet and never tested positive. Until I see some hard proof I think he raced clean.

I still don’t think he can comptete with Contador in the high mountains of the Alps. I will be shocked if Lance is the team leader for Astana when the tour roles around in July.  Although I don’t exactly see him playing the domestique role either!

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.

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!

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:
  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.
  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!

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.