Tag Archives: finance

Save yourself a Mint: budgeting made easy

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For anyone interested in getting their financial $#!% together, I could not possibly recommend any higher my new discovery of Mint (www.mint.com) and the corresponding smartphone app (available free on the app store).

I make the goal every year of creating a budget, but to be completely honest, until now, I have never gotten around to even taking the FIRST STEP – opening up Excel and punching in expenses and incomes. Somehow, the image of sitting there in a haphazard pile of crumpled reciepts, struggling to fill in mystery blanks, cursing my computer monitor, and forgetting about it the next week anyways, was just too depressing to even attempt. Not now though! Oh no!

I stumbled upon Mint first on my iPhone. It was the top rated personal finance app, so I thought it was worth checking out. At first, it made me a bit sweaty since you literally give them all your banking information – but after doing my homework and feeling pretty comfortable with their security and everything, I went for it. Thank god I did! It is a masterpiece of web architecture. It brings together all your accounts, cards, loans, debts, and investments in one place. It automatically uploads and categorizes every expense, and gives you the ability to upload cash expenses in, oh, about two nanoseconds. You can create custom reports out of all this information, broken down by category, store, month, multiple months, trends, etc. You can get it in graphs, pie charts, or good old fashioned spreadsheets. It’s freaking awesome, and REALLY enlightening (“Did I seriously spend that much at the liquor store…. holy $#!%”).

It makes a default budget for you, based on your past few months of expenses, which you can then take and tweak any which way you want, and add or subtract categories. I rigged mine up so that, WHEN I follow it (notice, I did not say “if” there) I will end up putting a minimum of two G-Notes a month into savings or investments.

The best part is though, it prompts you to keep on track. This is really embarassing, because just yesterday, I wrote that rather self-congratulatory post about striving to get fit for free. But whatevs, sometimes you slip. Anyways, I discovered the ‘wagging finger feature’ after blowing a bundle at Lululemon’s clearance sale here in St. John’s. Almost immediately, my phone jingled and politely informed me that I had exceeded my clothing budget for January. Not to be defeated, I split the purchase into three categories (which is amazingly easy to do): a) Clothing, b) Health and Fitness, and c) Miscellaneous. Hey, that’s legit! Of course, there is only so much of the ole category shuffle you can do, before you literally just run out of TOTAL money in the budget. (I can see it now… self-justifications firing on all cylinders: ‘well, these spectacular shoes are made of leather. Leather is made of cows. We eat cows, ergo: these shoes could be Groceries, no?’)

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Ohhhhh…. $#!% !!

All silliness aside, it at least made me think about the purchase (although maybe not enough -!). And there is no way I am going to tolerate any more wagging fingers. Not happening! I feel like it is challenging me – something no run-of-the-mill Excel spreadsheet could ever accomplish.

Seriously worthwhile – check it out! Even better – it’s completely free.

 

Getting fit for free: the battle between fitness and finanaces

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I have a confession to make – I’m a gym slut!

And by that, I mean I will go to whatever gym is giving me free drop-in passes. There are sweet deals to be had out there, people!

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This time of year, everyone is forking out hundreds upon hundreds of dollars for exclusive memberships, signing their lives away on contracts, trundling off to Sport Chek to spend megabucks on the hottest new fitness duds…. NOT ME!!

Well, not this time anyways. I would be a huge hypocrite here if I did not ‘fess up that I indeed, in the past, have been on that very bandwagon. But this year, I am determined to have my fitness and financial goals in harmony with one another. And to that end, I am busy milking every gym in the city for free passes.

A quick Yellow Pages search of St. John’s came up with over thirty different fitness clubs and gyms. Almost every one has some kind of promo ‘freebie’ offer – ranging from a free daypass, to three days, or three classes, or a week, or a steal of a deal on the first week (Shakti Yoga – $20 unlimited drop-in trial for a week, etc). Right now, I am busy getting the most out of my Goodlife “Three for Free” pass. I’ve already been to two savage spin classes, and will hit up two more before it expires on the 12th. (Soooo….. really I will get Four For Free! And, if it was a drop in class, I would probably pay up to $10 for it, so that is like $40 I saved right there!).

I already got a sweet Groupon (I actually bought a secondhand Groupon — paid $30 for it, the girl I bought it from paid $50 for it, which was an epic deal to begin with, for two months of drop-in Muay Thai Kickboxing… two a week, eight a month, 16 in total, so if I go to every one, which I have so far, the cost to me is less than two bucks a class) So I have that to do this month as well. Once that is finished, I’m thinking – Hot Yoga! (Saw an ad for a free week there, too!).

 

I alloted $100 in my monthly budget for “Health and Fitness” but heck, I’d rather spend it on wine or clothes or shoes — and if I succeed in my Fit for Free mission, that is exactly what I’m going to do!

If anyone knows of any other great promo offers – let me know!

Just in case you want to be a gym slut, too, check out these deals:

  • Goodlife Fitness: (Canada-wide) Three-visit pass:

http://goodlifefitness.com/Memberships/FreeVisitPass.aspx

  • The Works (St. John’s only) Free 7-Day Prime Time Deluxe Membership:

http://www.theworksonline.ca/survey.php

  • Ches Penney YMCA (St. John’s) Free Day Pass:

http://www.ynortheastavalon.com/files/free_pass.pdf

 

Change your headlights, save some money, glue your dreams

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I can’t decide what to write about right now! I have three topics arguing inside my head about who is more relevant and interesting. Let me introduce you to them:

  • #1: The fact that I changed my own car headlight today, on my own
  • #2: My new financial forays into the incredibly exciting world of Mint.com
  • #3: The completion of my new vision board for 2012, what’s on it and why, and some tips for making your own

The conversation in my head is going something like this:

Headlight: “C’mon, I was easily the highlight of your day – no pun intended! I know you, and nothing makes you happier than conquering some new task. And, you saved $50 that it would have cost to get the mechanic to do it! That is goshdarned exciting.”

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Mint.com: “Fifty measly bucks! Hahahaha! [High roller chuckle] Think of all the money you’re going to save once you get dialed into my state-of-the art budgeting and finance world! Two words: …..Pie Charts!”

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Vision Board:Ahem, lets just be calm here, maybe a deep breath, no? I don’t mean to be arrogant here, but what is more exciting or interesting than a visual manifestation of your dreams for the upcoming year? And wouldn’t it be awesome, if you convinced even ONE other person to try it? Annnnnd…. just sayin’…. I’m alot prettier than a dirty ole headlight or some stupid pie charts!”

And the winnah is….

Vision Board

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This is a really, really, really fun thing to do. Especially if you’re a nerd like me, and love collages. It took me maybe a full hour altogether, so nothing too crazy, and now I have something that is really fun to look at, and will keep me on track to accomplish my goals for this year. If you’ve never tried it before, I highly recommend it! It requires zero artistic ability, and very little cashola. Basically, you grab a pile of old magazines. Flip through them and rip out everything that catches your eye, in any way — the key here is to not be too choosy, if it caught your eye, there’s something there that resonated with you, so rip it out. Pictures, sayings, drawings, words, maps, whatever! If it’s something you want – in the material sense or spiritual or travel or experience sense – put it in the pile. Take a large piece of poster board. Old science fair projects will do just fine. The bigger the better. Start gluing. Have fun with it, overlap it, mix up the words, it is YOUR creation to make in any way you want. When it’s all done, you can trim the edges to make it look pretty, and then step back and take a look, because this is what you are welcoming into your life in the coming year.

I was planning on elaborating a little bit on what is on mine, and why, but upon having another look at it, I think it is so straightforward it requires no explanation. The only thing I kinda feel like I need to elaborate on a bit is the kid — no, I do not want a kid this particular year; that is just to remind me that pretty soon I WILL want a kid, and there are things I should be doing, like saving money, getting my $#!% together, getting my Masters’, which will put me in a better position when that day DOES roll around. Eventually.

I really believe this kind of stuff has power. Is it as instant and simple as laid out in “The Secret” and other similar books? No, I don’t think it is. Just because I want someone to bring me a coffee right now, does not mean it is going to happen. However – in the action of choosing, the action of cutting, gluing, arranging – you are creating a physical manifestation of some desire that is inside of you. This physical manifestation might be a flimsy piece of paper – but even that is a big leap from being an intangible thought, no? Just the act of bringing it into your awareness, will make you more aware the next time it blips on your radar, which might make you stop and look at it in a store. Which might make you research it online. Which might make you think of ways you could save money or strive to get that thing/experience/achievement. Which, sooner or later, will end up with you having it.

For example, I had no idea I had such a strong desire for a nice kitchen, that this was, in fact, not only a peripheral desire but a central desire in my life. It came up in technicolour yesterday, in that ‘5-year visualization’ exercise, and then again today, I found myself, zombie-like, cutting out picture after picture after picture of gorgeous kitchens! I couldn’t fit them all on! Who knew?

Limits are learned behaviours. You can be and do absolutely whatever you want, so beware of that sneaky, sabotaging thought that pops in when you see a castle or a Ferrari, that thought that says, ‘oh yeah, that is nice, but that is NEVER going to happen…’ Because there is real power to your thoughts and words, folks!

Have fun!