Personal Finance 

How to Save Time & Money at the Post Office (By Avoiding It!)

Post Office in Mooresville, ALYou don’t have to ask too many of my friends, or my wife, to learn that I am not a fan of waiting. I hate sitting in traffic, especially if it’s just “congestion,” and I really hate waiting at the post office, where it seems as if there are always twice as many counters as there are people staffing the counters.

So that’s why, over the years, I’ve developed a few simple strategies to help me avoid waiting at the post office. The overall strategy is to deconstruct the post office experience and try to avoid needing counter service whenever possible. Here are some tips to help you reduce the time it takes to get your packages on their way.

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Roth IRA Contribution Limit Phaseout Calculator

If you’re confused about how much you can contribute to your Roth IRA this year, this calculator can help!

As you probably know, you have until tax due day, April 16th, to make a contribution to your Roth IRA for 2012. What you might not know is how much you are able to contribute, if your income (modified adjusted gross income) happens to be within the phaseout range for your filing status. There are a lot of websites that will give you the ranges, the rules for calculating your personal limit, but I couldn’t find a simple calculator that did the math for me… so I built one.

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 Personal Finance 

Five Psychological Money Tricks That Work

Psychology TextbookFor being such a dollars and cents type of issue, personal finance sure has a lot of psychology involved, doesn’t it? If it weren’t for psychology, ideas like Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball method would be dead on arrival. The debt snowball works because it taps into human psychology, not mathematics. Paying off your smallest debt first isn’t mathematically optimal. It works because after you pay off the smallest debt, you get a sense of accomplishment, a boost of morale, and you are more likely to continue the project. You apply your smallest payment to the next smallest debt and continue until you’re debt free. You pay a little more in interest but you are rewarded with actually finishing because the snowball motivates you to keep at it.

That led me to wonder what other bits of personal finance advice tap into human psychology for success?

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 Your Take 

Your Take: What Do You Look For in a Bank or Credit Union?

Ceramic Piggy BankThis week Liz Weston wrote about how to shop for a new bank and it made me think about how we chose the banks we work with now. For us, the criteria for judging a checking account differed from the criteria for judging a savings account. We use the two different types of accounts for different purposes, so the criteria for picking the “best” for us will vary between the two.

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How to Check the Status of Your Tax Refund

1040 Tax FormsIt seems a little early but I’ve been getting a lot of “where is my refund?”-type of emails lately. While I won’t know the answer to that question (and I shouldn’t, the IRS should be that loose with your personal information!), the IRS will. While not usually known for tech savviness, the IRS does have an online tool that lets you check the status of your refund.

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 Personal Finance 

How to Measure and Track Your Net Worth

Net Worth Spreadsheet ExampleWhen you were in school, chances are you knew what you needed on each test to get an A, a B, or a C (or avoid an F!). At work, you have project deadlines to meet and performance criteria to fulfill. When it comes to your finances, there isn’t a convenient, single number you can use to track your progress. In school, there was your GPA. In personal finance, you can’t just look at your account balances because it doesn’t give you the whole picture. That’s where measuring and tracking your net worth can come in handy.

Every month I record a snapshot of our family’s net worth in a simple excel spreadsheet. By definition, net worth is your total assets minus your total liabilities. Examples of assets are cash, investments, and real estate. Examples of liabilities are debts like credit card, car loan, student loan, and mortgages. Nothing fancy there, just some simple math.

The value in doing this each month is that it gives us a “state of the family finances” you really can’t get in looking at any other number. You might have savings goals, like X dollars for a home downpayment, or budgeting goals, don’t spend more than $250 on restaurants this month, but nothing that gives you guidance across all of your goals quite like your net worth.

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Get Financially Naked by Manisha Thakor and Sharon Kedar

Get Financially Naked by Manisha Thakor and Sharon KedarGet Financially Naked by Manisha Thakor and Sharon Kedar is a book that helps couples discuss financial issues before they become Issues. The two collaborated on On My Own Two Feet: A Modern Girl’s Guide to Personal Finance and while they traveled the United States to promote it, they were frequently asked questions about how to discuss money with your significant other, a chapter absent from the book. So they worked together again to create Get Financially Naked: How to Talk Money with Your Honey.

The book was written for women, though it easily applies to either gender, because 80% of men die married while 80% of women die single (the statistic isn’t cited). They throw out some more statistics, which seem plausible but aren’t cited, but they all paint the same picture – women are more likely to be left financially vulnerable at the end of the relationship (divorce, death, etc.). Couple that with the idea that women are less likely to discuss finances or acquiesce responsibility (again, their arguments) and you have a recipe for disaster.

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Help Me Represent PF Blogging in the Shorty Awards!

Shorty AwardsThe Shorty Awards is an awards ceremony for the “best producers of short real-time content.” At the moment, in the Finance category, there are investing gurus, forex gurus, and stock trading gurus all over the top 20 list.

There isn’t a single regular personal finance blogger on the entire list… that just isn’t right!

If you have a few moments and would like to get a personal finance blogger (unless you consider Suze Orman, who leads the voting, a personal finance blogger… which I don’t) onto the list, please vote in the Shorty Awards!

How to vote (voting ends soon so every vote matters!):

  • First, you’ll need an account on Twitter because that’s how votes are registered.
  • Then, either visit this voting page or Tweet out “I nominate @bargainr for a Shorty Award in #finance because…” with a reason. Votes that end in “because…” won’t be counted.

That’s all you need to do, thank you!

As an added bribe incentive, if you do vote, send me a URL of your tweet along with your username and I’ll deposit 20BB in your account for you to spend in our lovely Bargaineering Bucks store. This applies even if you tweeted out a vote before you saw this post, it’s just a small token of my appreciation for supporting me!

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