Category Archives: Budget + Finance

The Cash Budgeting System

Image

We’re on a budget that we continually seem to blow – so drastic measures must be taken.

Use cash envelopes to control monthly spending:

Budget each paycheck – down to the last penny

Divide and conquer – create categories like food, gas, clothing, grooming, entertainment

Fill each envelope with cash according to the amount allocated in your budget.

When it’s gone, it’s gone – once you’ve used the cash in your envelope, you’re done in that category. No ATM visits!

Don’t be tempted – don’t touch your debit cards.

Give it time – this system takes a few months to perfect, don’t give up and you’ll see results.

If you don’t want to feel totally deadened by your new system, consider setting up a “splurge” envelope for your impulse buys.

For more info on cash budgeting/envelopes:

http://www.daveramsey.com/article/dave-ramseys-envelope-system/lifeandmoney_budgeting

“Per Diem” daily cash budgeting system:

http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2009/04/15/the-per-diem-system-an-easy-way-to-budget-your-spending-money/

“Splurge” budget and how to stop impulse buying:

http://www.wisebread.com/9-simple-ways-to-stop-impulse-buying

Tagged , ,

Tech Tuesdays: PageOnce Road Test

ImageI’ve been playing with Pageonce on and off for a couple of years, especially so this past month. I’m feeling the same way about Pageonce that I do about Mint…that I’m better off with my Excel budget/bill payment spreadsheet than dealing with any of these app solutions. My apathy is even more intense with Pageonce, which seems to be perpetually two days behind in updating my information. Case in point: paycheck deposited Saturday, so yesterday I get a notification from Pageonce that I had a large deposit into my primary checking account. Gee, thanks.

Pageonce claims that you can automatically track your money and pay your bills from one app. Unfortunately, again, it doesn’t appear to have the permissions to link to several of my accounts. I also don’t seem to have the ability to make payments directly from the app (not even sure I’d want to – since I’m concerned about security).  Originally, Pageonce was supposed to function as your iPersonal Assistant (note to tech types: please stop putting “i” in front of every f@cking thing, for the love of jeebus…) It was supposed to aggregate all of your online accounts like Netflix, Gmail, cell phone, banking, etc in one location for your easy reference. Not sure if that has gone by the wayside, but it seems to be primarily intended for personal finance management at this point.

As far as user ratings and popularity of personal finance apps go, Pageonce is a distant second to the giant Mint.com (see last week’s review…)

Another shortcoming of these personal finance apps is that not all banks will reimburse you for unauthorized charges to your account – check your Terms and Conditions carefully before proceeding. Some apps play better with some banks than others, unfortunately. Your mileage may vary….

Here’s Lifehacker’s ranking of personal finance apps:

http://lifehacker.com/5724757/best-mobile-personal-finance-tool-mint

Tagged , , ,

Tech Tuesdays (a day late): Mint.com Test Drive

In the never-ending quest to get all of our disparate financial information into one place, controlled from one dashboard, I’m revisiting Mint.com. I started entering information into Mint waaaay back in 2009 (life was so much less complicated then…) and then pretty much abandoned it because I never had the time or energy to sit down with all of my paperwork and enter everything in.

ImageNow I’m sitting here trying to get into Mint.com again, and the site seems to be having connectivity problems with every one of my accounts, which is nice and frustrating. I really want to like Mint.com…Even tabbing between the login name and passwords as I enter my accounts does not seem to work. This is why I can’t seem to get it together on this stuff: half of the store cards we have are not supported by Mint.com, and although I put in a service request, I don’t know how long it will take them to respond. Furthermore, two of my credit cards do not support Mint at all, so I can’t add those accounts. So, Mint’s major selling point is that I can see “all of my accounts,” but that’s not actually true.

The other major problem I’m having with Mint.com is that it’s counting our American Express and other credit card transactions right along our bank account transactions… they are totally integrated with each other in the “transactions” tab. So, it looks like our credit cards are income, which it’s clearly not, since we have to pay it back every month. It’s not a true picture of income/spending against budget categories, in other words.

The assignments of each transaction to a budget category are frequentlt incorrect and require manual intervention. Also, the dates are a disaster – I have stuff from March 2011 showing up right next to my grocery bill from yesterday, etc. I’ll keep playing with it, but I’m not holding out much hope. Maybe it’s because I started this 3 years ago and then went back in to update? I dunno… I’m going back now and reading some online reviews of Mint.com to see if I’m just crazy,

I really don’t want to keep relying on our ancient Excel spreadsheet to do our budgeting and payments every month, but I feel like I have no choice. I have yet to come across a system/program/app that fulfills all of our family financial management needs.

In the coming month, I’ll also be trying Pageonce, Manilla and possibly Quicken. If you guys have any other suggestions, they’d be much appreciated.

For more info:

https://www.mint.com/

http://news.consumerreports.org/money/2010/05/mint-com-quicken-online-review-combined-improve-allow-input-checks-transactions-.html

OCD Book Review – Frugillionaire by Francine Jay

I’m no Ms. Moneybags…or Mitt Romney type, and between moving to a place where my pay rate is greatly reduced from NYC levels, paying for our own health insurance, and having a new mouth to feed, dinero is pretty tight around Casa Lopez. Not to mention, we’re notorious spenders – it’s sad. We get a peso and it’s gone in an instant.

Image

So, I spent about 45 minutes (really, that’s all it took, one bus ride…) and read another fluffy book – easily digestible in a one suggestion per page format.

99% of these ideas seem totally obvious to me – throw a dinner party instead of going out to eat, stop subscribing to newspapers and magazines, take the bus, blah blah.

My problem is, we spend a fortune on every dinner party we have. It’s crazy. Hundreds of dollars gone – because we like to drink great booze and cook amazing food. It’s really more like a supper club, the way we do it. Haven’t thrown a great dinner party since the holidays, sadly. I miss it. Sigh.

But really, suggestions such as: “stargazing” as an acceptable substitute for bar hopping? Sorry, but I just can’t adjust my attitude that much. I guess what I was looking for was concrete suggestions and hacks on how to cut our insane water bill or save at the store.

And, really, “don’t buy what you can’t afford?” Come on already, duh.

On the other hand, I do like the “keep a money diary” thought because I have no idea where our money goes – I just know it’s gone. Other suggestions are right out of the Suze Ormond playbook: pay yourself first, invest in a Roth IRA, automate your investments, evaluate your tax withholding, etc. This week’s to do list includes looking into credit unions and opening a Roth IRA, but that’s more thanks to reading the Suze book, so I guess have that going for me…just need to take action.

Overall – I guess I pretty much know this Frugillionaire stuff already – what I really need is someone to put a boot to my throat and literally force me to be disciplined and far-sighted in my spending habits. Boo.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Organizing for Tax Time

It’s that time of year again… F and I filed our taxes back on 2/7 (and still haven’t gotten our refund check in yet, but that’s a topic for the IRS…) Our 2011 return required a sh!t-ton of organizing and tight record keeping because of our relocation, business travel and related expenses.

Here is what I did this year. It’s admittedly analog, but considering the fact that we ended up with a 104-year old man doing our taxes at our HR Block, it was the best solution in retrospect. (I’m not joking…F and I were wondering if we could get a discount on the service if he dropped dead mid-meeting, it was a distinct possibility). I’m sure there that presenting all of this info to our ancient peepaw accountant in any other format would have made him crap his Depends.

Image

The three-folder income tax filing system

  1. Income – place all W2s, 1099s, and other income statements in this folder. Create a cover sheet that lives on top – or stapled inside front (either handwritten or your favorite spreadsheet app) that details all information contained inside and totals it out.
  2. expenses and deductions – clip together by category: business expenses, medical, childcare, relocation, etc. Place a cover sheet as the top sheet of each category with those details noted. There should also be a cover sheet stapled to inside front of folder with a line item overview and associated totals.
  3. Investments – this is the home all statements (monthly, quarterly, annual), receipts, sale confirmations, dividend notices, etc. Again, the cover sheet – organized by line item – should go into this folder for quick reference.

The spreadsheets listing the receipts are KEY!

Finally, It would be in your best interest to peruse the instructions for the 2011 tax forms, just so that all of your expenses are deductible and that you’re not missing anything. I know it’s not exactly light reading, but it may get you a few bucks back in the long run, and who doesn’t love getting the money back that they so generously gave the US government?

Tagged , ,