Posts filed under ‘technology’

Keep Your Finances On Track with the Help of Technology

I love technology. I also love organization. When you combine the advancements in technology with the ability to organize your finances I think you have a win-win scenario.

Let’s take banking for example. All of my bank transactions are handled online or automatically.  I used to hold checking and savings accounts at a brick and mortar bank but a few years ago I closed them and opened accounts at the same bank that holds my brokerage account.

There have been HUGE advancements in banking technology in the last few years. When I received checks in the past I had to take them to the bank or mail them in prepaid envelopes and wait a few days for them to show up in my accounts. These days I have an iPhone application that lets me snap a picture and see the funds immediately.

If I have a problem or question I can call the bank 24 hours a day and ask all sorts of questions and I can use bill pay to schedule and pay all of my bills. My online account now provides the ability to link my credit card accounts.  I am automatically notified when a new card is due and with a gentle email reminder I never miss a payment.

I almost never write checks by hand anymore. My bill pay list includes over 100 people that I’ve paid for various goods and services over the years. I simply enter an amount and a date and rest assured that the bill will be paid. When I receive similar services I don’t even need to look up addresses or phone numbers. All of the details are listed right in my bill pay address book.

Rather than receiving credit card bills or bank statements in the mail I now read them all online. It’s so easy to track spending when you can download a monthly credit card statement and review the transactions line by line.

My husband and I use Gnucash to categorize and track our expenses. Each month we copy and paste data directly from our credit card statements to our spreadsheets. We can generate charts that display all sorts of information from income and expenses to net worth bar charts. These provide us with snapshot views of our finances in mere seconds.

I also generate an expense pie chart to determine where all our money is going. As I mentioned in the early post it helps us visualize where we’re spending money and ultimately helps us figure out what to cut back on. The majority of our money is spent on mortgages, charitable contributions, utilities, food, utiliies, cars, insurance, medical expenses and our rental property.

Some people use Quicken or Mint to track their money. We’ve chosen Gnucash, but the capabilities are similar. My suggestion is to find a tool that you find easy to use. If you find it cumbersome you won’t track your money.

If you leave a job don’t forget to roll your 401(k) into an IRA. It’s a lot easier to move all of the money into one bucket then to try to maintain money in different accounts at different banks.

My dad is famous for opening up accounts at various banks to earn bonuses. You know the type open a savings account and earn $100, move your direct deposit to an account and earn an extra $300. Unfortunately, this leaves his finances in complete disarray. He has to manage a few hundred dollars at one bank and a few hundred at another. When you have ten or fifteen accounts this can get rather tricky.

My husband and I keep all of our money in the same place. When we log in we can view an instant snapshot of exactly how much money we have. My husband and I are very open with one another. If you and your spouse have a similar relationship, (I hope you do), I suggest setting up power of attorney rights on all of your accounts. With this paperwork in place I can view all of my husband’s accounts online including retirement accounts that I am not a joint member of. My husband can do the same.

If you aren’t comfortable with technology you should start small and try one thing at a time. Start with learning how to log in to your online accounts. Then move all your money to one bank so you can view all accounts at once. If that goes well link credit cards to your bank accounts so you receive email notifications when bills are due and start to pay bills online and on time.

Once that’s in place try your hand tracking software like Mint, Quicken or Gnucash. While it’s nice to see the numbers it’s even better to view them in pretty graph form.

July 16, 2012 at 12:18 PM Leave a comment

My Experience at the Apple Store

For some reason the wireless capabilities of my trusty computer stopped working. When I talked to the technician at the genius bar he said that almost never happens. Of course, my computer was one month out of warranty so I had a feeling I was in for a big bill.

The part was not in stock so I was told it would be ordered, my laptop would be stored until it arrived and they’d call me when the repair was complete. A few days later I got a call that the airport card, (the part they thought was broken), was not the problem after all. I was told I’d have to wait another few days while another part was ordered and shipped. I waited patiently and was told a two days later that my machine was still broken.

The Apple representative let me know that they could ship my computer out for repair and that it would cost less than trying more parts in store. I was originally quoted $108, but the cost of the motherboard would’ve jacked the price another $200 or so. Rather than paying over $350 to have it repaired in store I could pay $250 to have it shipped and repaired. I agreed to let them send it away for repairs.

Well the Apple folks shipped out my computer and called me a few days later to pick up my newly repaired machine. When I got to the genius bar I was told that I only owed $108. I was happy with the small charge, but confused as to why it cost so little. Well, it turns out that the airport card was the problem after all. Despite the cost of shipping parts back and forth, (including my own computer), Apple agreed to charge me the original price it quoted.

Hooray! I went in thinking I owed $250 and walked out paying only $108!

While I was waiting in the store I planned on purchasing a new car charger for my iPhone. While I was waiting for my computer to be brought out I googled for prices online and found it $14.95 cheaper on Amazon. Hooray again! I went ahead and ordered the charger online.

I’m happy to have my laptop back in hand. It’s amazing how much I missed the little guy! I have an iPad and an iPhone, but I really need my laptop for anything that requires significant typing. I haven’t been able to leave comments or write blog posts that don’t have errors in what feels like a very long time.

April 6, 2012 at 3:22 PM Leave a comment

Best iPhone, iPad and Android Apps Selected for You

I am amazed by just how much the iPhone has revolutionized my life. I use it to read my email, follow directions, find the highest rated restaurants, keep up with my favorite blogs and play games while I’m waiting at the doctor’s office.

I’ve become hooked on iPhone apps the minute I found out that I was pregnant with Baby A. I installed the What to Expect app, which told me how the typical baby grows from week to week and what size it is along the way. I’d wake up every Friday to tell my husband, he’s the size of a blueberry, a raspberry, a pineapple or a melon.

The day Baby A made his way into this world I started using apps that helped me track his feeding and sleeping trends. To this day I still use the Total Baby app on a daily basis. It helps me see that he is sleeping for longer periods of time each night. It may only increase by ten or fifteen minutes a week, but it’s unbelievably important to feel reassured when you are in the midst of sleeplessness night after night.

I love my iPhone apps. In fact, I love them so much that I drafted a blog post a long time ago, (that is yet to be finished), listing all of the apps I use on a daily basis.

Friends are constantly telling me to download this app or that app, but I often forget or find that the apps they’ve selected aren’t quite right for me. Well today I came across the perfect solution for finding apps that will help organize and add value to my life. I found appSmitten.

According to the founders of appSmitten:

There are hundreds of apps released each day. Most of them aren’t worth your time. We sort through all of the clutter to find the iPhone, Android and iPad apps that add the most value to your life.

Editorially independent, we choose which apps to recommend because we like them — not because we are being paid to promote them. We keep you updated through our newsletter, which is delivered to your inbox daily…or weekly. If you’re not a subscriber already, you’ll want to sign up here.

I haven’t received any newsletters yet, but I did sign up today. If you own an iPhone, iPad or Android I highly suggest checking out the appSmitten website. The good news is that you can request weekly emails, which means you won’t be inundated with emails every day if you don’t want to be.

In full disclosure I will let you know that I receive compensation for each person that signs up through my affiliate link. (So please, please, please sign up :-)) If you’re even the slightest bit interested in this I encourage you to check it out. Sign ups are free!

February 23, 2012 at 5:49 PM 2 comments

I Want an iPad

No bones about it. I want an iPad.

I’ve been having a horrible time staying asleep at night. I keep waking up in the middle of the night and no amount of relaxation or meditation seems to help me fall back asleep. I’ve tried moving to different rooms, wearing an eye mask and forcing myself not to move, but sooner or later I give up all other attempts and find myself staring at the itty-bitty little screen on my iPhone. I’ll look at anything even remotely interesting before eventually falling asleep again.

I’m sick of staring at that little tiny screen and decided to buy an iPad so I can at least open a good book and read. I know the light of the screen probably isn’t helping my sleep situation, but I can’t exactly turn on the light to read a regular book with my husband laying right beside me.

I’d also like an iPad for other times of the day, like looking over recipes while making dinner or reading while I wait to be seen by doctors and massage therapists. I’m not sure if I can fully transition to online books, but the minimalist and environmentalist in me have decided to give that a try.

I spend a fair amount of time reading email and blogs and I really don’t need a full scale computer just to poke around the Internet. At least that’s how I’m justifying my purchase. I don’t typically splurge on technology, but in this case I decided to chuck my frugality out the window and placed the order online.

April 13, 2011 at 3:35 AM 6 comments

Tools to Track Our Income and Expenses

After writing about this week’s journaling error I received a few emails asking about the type of software my husband and I use to track our expenses. There are so many different financial software packages to choose from that I’m not sure ho we ended up with our solution: an old version of gnucash, which includes a checkbook-style register to enter all financial transactions.

I think my husband chose this software years ago because it was free and it would run on Linux. (Most of the computers in our house don’t run Windows.) Over the years we’ve considered upgrading to a simpler application, but we haven’t found an easy way to port all of our current data into a new system of record.

Each month we continue to append all of our transactions and data to the original gnucash file my husband started years ago. It’s a bit frustrating because we know other financial software options exist, but it’s just not easy to jump from one technology to another. We really don’t want to lose track of all of our current data and it would take forever for us to manually move the data over. In other words, it wouldn’t be worth moving the data if we had to do it manually.

While I’m not a huge fan of gnucash I do like all of the income and expense reports that it can generate. At the touch of a button it can provide a long list of charts and diagrams aimed at providing visual representation of assets, liabilities, net worth. I love to keep track of how much we’re earning and saving and run monthly reports to ensure our monthly expenses don’t exceed our income.

I also generate an expense pie chart to determine where all our money is going. As I mentioned in the early post it helps us visualize where we’re spending money and ultimately helps us figure out what to cut back on. I’m always surprised by how little we actually spend on discretionary items. The majority of our money is spent on mortgages, charitable contributions, utilities, food, utiliies, cars, insurance, medical expenses and our rental property.

June 18, 2010 at 2:55 AM 5 comments

Technology has not been Kind to Me

Maybe I’m failing to get the message. Maybe I’m just not listening closely enough. Maybe I’m just unlucky? Between hardware failures, Vonage problems and incompetency from Comcast tech support I’ve been booted from the tubes at least four times in the last thirty days. During my most recent Internet outage I wasted nearly $90 and over 7 hours working through the problem.

Perhaps the world is trying to tell me to put down the laptop in search of other hobbies?

July 15, 2009 at 3:15 AM 2 comments

Persistence Pays Off

My husband and I have been using Vonage since early 2005. I didn’t want to depend on a cell phone and my parents’ number was considered long distance so we decided to give Vonage a try. For the first few years everything worked really well and we didn’t experience any problems with sound or latency, but a few months ago we began to experience dropped sound.

I could hear my parents loud and clear, but they could only hear part of what I was saying. At first there was just a dropped word here and there, but as time went on it would take a full five to ten seconds for them to hear me again.

Fed up with poor service I called the technical support hot line and went through a bunch of Vonage agents who were unable to help me. Each time I called I explained that I’ve been a customer since 2005 and that I would like them to ship me out a new router. (I was pretty certain the device was failing after all these years.)

Each time the technicians put me through the same list of steps and procedures. Try this, recycle that, unplug this, unplug that. Sometimes things would work for a day or two, but inevitably the problem would recur.

Believe it or not I was so fed up with them that I went to Best Buy and purchased a new Vonage router outright. Despite buying a new one I called them one last time in the hopes that they would send me a new one for free. I told them that I was disgusted by the fact that I had to pay for new equipment, because they refused to help us, and that I considered cancelling service, which was absolutely true.

Sure enough my last stitch effort paid off and the fifth Vonage technician agreed to ship us a new device. My husband and I installed it that very same night and haven’t had a problem with the phone since. It’s unfortunate that companies make good customers jump through so many hoops, but it’s nice to know that I saved $79,99, (the price of the router), simply by being persistent.

July 9, 2009 at 2:20 AM 6 comments


The technology in our house has been restored. After two days without the Internet and one day without my laptop I was itching to get back to the tubes.

June 12, 2009 at 3:55 AM Leave a comment

Laptop Withdrawal

It’s been less than an hour since I dropped my Mac off at the Apple store and I can already feel myself encountering the early stage of withdrawal. It’s sad to say but much of my day job involves staring at a computer screen. You’d think I’d want to avoid the computer at all costs once I get home, but instead I find myself searching for recipes, trolling personal finance blogs, or catching up on email. When the Apple employee said, “It’ll take two days to fix your Mac.” I very loudly exclaimed, “How long?” My voice was so loud, in fact, that I think I surprised myself. Am I really that addicted to my computer?

Regardless I don’t think it’s a good sign. I plan to spend the next two days catching up on a book I’ve been meaning to read and actually heading outside, if it ever stops raining, to exercise.

June 9, 2009 at 10:30 PM 2 comments

Budgeting Software for Your Cell Phone

Does anyone use budgeting software to track spending from their iPhone or Blackberry? At the suggestion of a friend I’ve tried out a few iPhone applications, but none of them really seem to have everything I’m looking for. In the short term I downloaded Balance, which is the most basic of applications. I’m currently using it to key in purchases so I don’t have to carry around a bunch of receipts.

If any of you have used budgeting or tracking software that you like please let me know. In particular I’m looking for an application that will seamlessly allow me to transfer data from my iPhone to my home computer.

February 10, 2009 at 4:55 AM 7 comments

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