Archive for July, 2008
I started using mint.com as soon as they went beta a few months ago. I saw it as a tool to see and manage all my various credit card activity in one place. Also I want access to my information at any time and from any location, so I'm not a big fan of desktop apps like Quicken.
At one point I was using almost 8 different credit cards for various benefits and perks and watching my spending in mint made me realize that the hassle of managing all of them was not worth it anymore. Simplicity was most important to me getting ahead, so after tracking everything in mint for a few months I decided to stick exclusively with my Chase Freedom card.
I loved all the categorization, budgeting and visual graph features of the site and wished I could manage my checking the same way. I was weary of adding my bank info on the site but recently I thoroughly read through their message boards and faqs and decided to bite the bullet yesterday.
The reasons that made me go ahead are:
--mint runs on yodlee, a site that has been around for a long time and is quite secure
---Deleting your accounts deletes all information from mint and yodlee
--You're only liable for $50 of unauthorized transfers from a bank account if it's reported within 2 days.
--they are Verisign certified and 128 encrypted
--I only keep 2 months worth of bills in my checking account, so my liability is low, although I don't ever foresee adding my investment accounts to it.
Now all my checking account activity, along with my credit card, is nicely categorized with notes and I have a good visual indication of my financial standing.
Not sure if this challenge is still going on but I'm going to start it for myself to keep track!
This month my fiance and I moved in together and we're selling a lot of duplicated stuff on craigslist and ebay.
The totals for this month so far:
Small writing desk (craigslist): $25
XBox Game (paypal): $8.40
Oh how the mighty dollar has fallen, and fallen, and fallen... It has been declining steadily for six years, when will it finally stop? While it's true that the cost of everything stateside has been climbing, imagine going overseas where the dollar now buys 30% less of what it used to just a few years ago.
The odd thing is that around two million Americans come to Europe every year no matter what's happening to the dollar. If they're rich, they don't worry about the exchange rate. If they're on a tight budget, they look harder for bargains.
All year long both my fiance and I funnel money into our travel fund, and about once a year we make a huge dent in it heading overseas. While most travelers change their vacations for somewhere closer and cheaper, I don't get the option because I go to see my family and birthplace.
Usually along with our yearly family trip we try to squeeze in a week or two in another country. This year is no exception. And even though we'll be visiting one of the less expensive E.U. countries, we're really feeling the financial pinch.
Here are a few things we are doing on this trip to try and make our dollar last longer:
-- Staying at small B&Bs which include breakfast. These are often just as cheap as hostels and much much better.
-- Hitting the local markets early in the morning for lunch fixings, snacks, water and alcohol.
-- Communicating by email and texts.
-- Taking public transit everywhere and using bikes to get around in some areas.
-- Keeping a log of our spending day by day so it doesn't get out of hand. We've done this on last trips to see where we could have cut back.
We will be thinking and spending like we did when we were students because in the end it's the experiences and the memories that matter, not the thread count of our hotel sheets.
Yesterday evening my fiance and I met up with some friends from work to watch the Colorado Rockies play the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The tickets which normally run $28 were free extras from my employer. We saved ourselves the cost ($10+) and headache of parking close to the stadium by parking further away at a UCD campus lot. Cost for the meter $1.00.
We jumped on the LightRail, which dropped us off right by the stadium. Cost $0 thanks to our student passes.
Since I'm on "Mission Clean Out Pantry" we had a warm meal in the crockpot after work, and were able to resist all the hotdog/nacho temptation at the stadium. I packed a few pantry snacks and drinks in the backpack instead.
Because it cooled off considerably after the game we decided to take a long, leisurly walk back to our car. I snapped some great night-time shots of downtown and the campus. Also free, and fun!
Total for the night: $1.00 parking + minimal gas for my fiance's uber efficient little commuter car.
Growing up we had a small European fridge and an even smaller pantry. Mom or sometimes dad would walk to the local market and pick up fresh produce every other day, if not every day, after work. Because we didn't have the space we didn't keep much and ate fresh and wholesome meals everyday.
Fast forward to today. I've got a fridge so big I forget, and sometimes am scared to see what's in the very back of it. My pantry is overflowing with canned and baking goods of all sorts. My freezer has some things in there from 2004. And here I was, last night, swinging open all the doors, exclaiming: "There is nothing to eat!!!".
I shouldn't complain really. Half the world is getting by with flour, rice and beans, and I have access to anything my little heart desires. But having so much choice is difficult and confusing. With 1, 3, 5, even 7 ingredients I can use my imagination and come up with a decent dinner for my fiance and I. But when I glance into my stuffed-to-the-rim pantry which is overflowing with everything under the sun, I don't get inspired, I want to slam closed the door and order out.
So here I am, deciding to really simplify my weekly menu plans, and it starts with slowly eating down that pantry until just a few useful staples remain. Simplicity will save me!
I'm not starting out on the best foot. Yesterday, since my fiance was out playing sports, I had a can of spanish rice and green peas for dinner. I figure there is nowhere to go but up from there, and my body agrees.
One site I found really useful in this process is www.allrecipes.com. They let me put in a list of random ingredients from my pantry and show me all the recipes that contain them. I'll leave off the 8 cans of sardines from my mom (why?), and the weird things that came with my fiance when he moved in last week (canned sausages, spam, hash). Those might have to wait out for the apocalypse.
I will not try and restock the pantry with any new ingredients until it's almost cleaned out. And when I do, it will be with a few things we actually eat, which I hope one day to be canned fruits and veggies from our own garden.
Well here I am starting a little page of my own. I hope can write blog posts as well and often as I can comment.
I'm a 27 year old girl living and working in Denver. I've worked in some capacity ever since I was 16. I held several restaurant and retail jobs while in highschool, worked part time and interned while in college, and had a full time job by the time I got my hands on my diploma.
Because of my school and work track, I've been able to really become a successful young woman in societal terms, with all the trappings that success brings. 4 years ago I bought a home of my own, in the crazy expensive Denver market. A year ago, after years and years of savings I bought a nice new car, and paid for it in cash. I have no debts outside of my mortgage, have an emergency fund, a decent 401K, ROTH and some taxable investments as well.
Even though it seems like I'm doing well on the outside, I still feel like I'm struggling to get ahead. There is so much pressure at every turn to get this, or buy that, trying to make us all feel inferior. I also feel somewhat trapped by the status symbols of "now you've made it" and I think a lot of people over-extend and bring themselves tons of grief trying to attain them.
I was raised by my parents with good common sense to be thrifty and economical, but everything in our culture is trying to push us the other way. I hope this blog will expose me to more like-minded people, who are trying and succeeding by doing more with less, gaining true financial freedom in return.