Wednesday, January 14, 2009 Great Free Tool For Budgeting

I've started using as a one stop shop for all things having to do with my finances. It is a really ingenious tool that I think Dave Ramsey himself would be envious of. If you have even thought about it at all, you're probably asking yourself the same questions I did when I first ran across this online program: "Why do I need another place to go to online to view my finances?" "And, what does it have to offer that my bank's online service doesn't?" Well, those are fair questions and I hope to explain below how it was answered for me. But, let me give a little more information on the online service before we delve into it.

When I first heard of this my initial response was that I wouldn't give a company access to my financial information- especially if it allows third parties to store the data (as duly noted on the sites TOC). However, after reading several reviews, carefully reviewing the terms and conditions, and checking out their security certificates I was curious enough and at ease enough to set up an account.

Setting up an account was about as easy as signing up for email- in fact, it couldn't have been easier. No issues there. Once complete I then was directed to a screen to set up accounts. You can see that screen below in the screen shot (click on it to enlarge).

So, once here, you click on the box that says "Click to add any of your accounts" and it will bring up a list of common big name accounts and a search box. You can search for yours- that is what I did for mine. I typed in my bank's name, it found it and I started typing in my user name and password for the online banking of my bank's website.

This is where I first ran into an issue (not the site's fault mind you). I couldn't remember my security questions for my banking site (personal, business and savings). They want the service to be secure, so they make sure you know your security questions. Not only do you need to remember the answers, but you need to remember which questions you chose to answer. I had to log in to my bank's site and review my questions and answers (for me, capitalization mattered). So, make sure you know your security questions! Once I got the bank set up, I added the one credit card we own via search and repeated the process. Then I added our ingdirect account without a hitch (well, the security questions was an issue again, but I knew how to solve that) and then I wanted to add my mutual funds but I don't think I ever checked them online. However, I wanted to make sure they were on the list, so I did a search for them and sure enough, they were there. So, I need to retrieve that information from my financial advisor so I can add those too.

Once you are done here, it syncs up to your accounts every evening to get the most current information automatically.

On the overview section of the site, it gives you, well, just that, an overview. Here you can see your net worth, cash assets, debt, budget, investments, etc. If you just want to see a summary of what you have, this is the page to be on.

This screen shot is just a continuation of the previous as there was some items left off on the bottom, namely cashflow and net income. I wanted you to be able to see everything that is on the page.

Almost everything is customizable on this site when you are logged in. While still on the overview page, you can click on the budget and set it up how you wish. I have yet to do this (but I am). The only drawback I can see here is that you can't import an existing budget. I currently use an excel spreadsheet that I made that allows my wife and I to see our money on paper (technically on screen) and it would be nice to be able to import that and dump in the information and make adjustments on the back end if necessary. So Mint, if you are listening, this would be a nice feature to add. Other than that, this will be a nifty little tool to use as it sends out alerts (if you tell it to) to tell you when you have gone over on your budget or any other alerts you may care to know. It can do this via email and/or phone text messaging.

Trends is a tab that shows you were your money is going. It gives you graphs and charts- just like Ross Perot! However, these graphs and charts pertain to just you and your finances and whatever you wish to compare it to. If you hover over a pie piece or a bar on a graph, it will give you a pop up with further information and options for you to change items. For instance, if you notice on ours, shopping takes up the biggest portion of the pie. Well, that is because we bought our groceries from Wal-Mart (we are using a meal plan called and that is the only option in our area- we would have preferred Kroger) and we have yet to go through and denote Wal-mart as groceries and not shopping- yes you can change the categories.

This is phenomenal. My wife was saying to me a while back, "I wish I could make a notation on a reimbursement on our account." Well, guess what? Now she can. But before I get a head of myself, take a look at the screen shot. It pulls all this information from our bank account and gives us a each charge, credit and reimbursement and also allocates it as best it can based on the vendor. I find this to be very helpful as it allows for us to go through the list of items and reconcile the bank statement with our receipts. If there is something we know will come up again (like for my business taxes), we can now add a note to it so we can review it with ease. That leads me to the next screen shot.

Here you will notice that I expanded the edit details bar. You can split the transaction, edit the name (on ours Deals was called some sort of jibberish, but we just simply renamed it and all was well with the world), edit the category and/or make the category and/or name permanent for this entry every time it comes in. So, If I went to deals today after making the change and setting it to always rename, then the transaction that took place today will show up as "deals" and not the jibberish it was before.

If you sign up, I recommend it, you will notice that there are two tabs I did not provide screen shots for or review. This is b/c I don't use them. One is investments and the other is way's to save. The first I will use if I ever remember to ask for my mutual fund information for online viewing. The second one I looked at and it looks as if it is a partner page type deal. It seeks to give you ideas of money you could save if you changed your current financial providers to other providers. For instance on ours it says our bank does not offer interest on our savings account. Well, in fact it does, but it does not register it (however it does show the interest in our transactions tab). With this they say we should move our savings to another bank that will offer x amount in interest and therefore after one year we would have made x. They do the same thing with our money market checking account. So basically, as good as I can tell, they compare your current financial institutions' offerings to their sponsors' offerings and let you see the difference (which in our case, was wrong).

However, I think this is a great tool and why it's free I haven't a clue. I can say this though, I recommend the service. I am leery of all things web- especially when it comes to accounts and the like, but after doing some research and trying it out myself, I really like it and benefit from it- hopefully you will as well.

If you do set up your account, comment below and let me know how it is working out for you.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Marriage & Family Student Auctioning Off Virginity

A student who is auctioning her virginity to pay for a masters degree in Family and Marriage therapy has seen bidding hit £2.5million ($3.7m).

The student who has a degree in Women's Studies insisted she was not demeaning herself.

Miss Dylan, from San Diego, California, USA, said she was persuaded to offer herself to the highest bidder after her sister Avia, 23, paid for her own degree after working as a prostitute for three weeks.

Then she goes on to say: "It's shocking that men will pay so much for someone's virginity, which isn't even prized so highly anymore."

You can read more here.

Some questions:
-Do you find any irony in the last comment she made above concerning virginity?
-Do you find any irony in the fact that she is auctioning off her virginity to pay for her Marriage & Family masters degree?
-Do you think her parents are proud of her and her sister?
-Would you go to her for marriage or family counseling?
-If she came to you for counsel on this proposition, what would you say to her?

Friday, January 9, 2009

Playing For Change

Playing For Change: Song Around the World | Stand By Me from Concord Music Group on Vimeo.

An award winning documentary "Playing for Change: Peace Through Music" is a documentary aimed at promoting peace through the medium of music. The above video was taken from the documentary and will be available for digital download in the near future along with other songs found in the documentary.

The video above displays a collective group of individuals, worlds apart, singing parts of the same song and playing instruments to build that very same song. What they get is an awe-inspiring original adaptation of song put together by common folk, just playing for change, all around the world. It is truly a neat thing to see and I am sure the film makers went away from this project with more than just a film.

Check it out above and you can check out their website here.

You can find more on the making of this here.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Bacon Of The Month Club? Really?

I don't know why these types of things have been the last several posts, but I just can't seem to pass them up :)

Bacon of the Month Club