Personal Finance 

PearBudget Review: Really Simple Budgeting

PearBudget LogoLast night, on the 25th episode of the Personal Finance Hour, we discussed mostly about budgeting and touched on some popular budgeting tools. PearBudget is an online budget management tool, mentioned by both JD and members of the chatroom, that I had never heard of.

PearBudget’s tagline is “really simple budgeting” and it delivers on that promise. Within ten minutes, I was able to setup a budget and begin tracking expenses without even entering an email address. You can play with the full tool right from the start, without even registering. That’s uncommon in any tool, let along a budgeting one.

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 Personal Finance 

YNAB Coupon Promotion Code

This morning I published a You Need A Budget (YNAB) review explaining the YNAB methodology as well as a look inside the tool. If you’re thinking about buying it, I recommend that you download it and do the 7-day trial first. Don’t buy it sight unseen when there’s a 7-day trial available giving you full access to the tool, so click here to download it before paying.

Then, when you’re ready to upgrade YNAB, we have a special 10% off coupon code:


Also, YNAB 3.0, which is slated for a November release, will cost $59.95. If you buy YNAB 2.0 for $49.95, actually $44.96 after the 10% off promotional coupon code, then you will be upgraded to YNAB 3.0 absolutely free. YNAB 3.0 not only looks more visually appealing but will sport additional features like expanded report functionality over 2.0.


You Need A Budget (YNAB) Pro Review

You Need A BudgetFor years, my budget consisted of an Excel spreadsheet that documented every purchase I made every single day of the year. As a numbers guy, this wealth of data was amazing and helped me tweak my spending, find my financial leaks, and reach financial goals much sooner than I would have without budgeting. Since then, I’ve been tentatively using online personal finance tools because of the security issue and instead I rely on Quicken’s desktop application, which is one of the most comprehensive tools available.

What if you just want to maintain a budget? Enter You Need A Budget. You Need A Budget, often called YNAB, is a desktop budgeting software package that will help you set, maintain, and stick to a budget. It’s a much better version of what I used to hack together in an Excel spreadsheet. 🙂

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 Personal Finance 

Money Tips I Learned from Poker

Fat Stack of Poker Chips
This was a guest post written by my friend John H. about the some money tips he took from the felt and put into his wallet.

When you think of your bankroll, you probably think about how much cash you have in your wallet or how much money you have access to via your debit card that’s not already spoken for by bills. It’s your extra money that you’ll use to put gas in your car this week, go out to eat one night, or for some random purchase like buying a box of Do-Si-Dos® from the Girl Scouts outside your local grocery store.

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 Frugal Living 

Your Take: Do You Budget?

Clever Way to BudgetToday’s Your Take will be simple… do you budget? If so, what tools do you use?

If you don’t, why not?

I no longer budget in the strict sense. When I first started working, I budgeted and tracked all my expenses down to the penny in an Excel spreadsheet. This was before the days of tools like Mint or Quicken Online where you could use a free tool and get instant data aggregation (that would’ve been nice!), so I just entered things into a simple Excel spreadsheet. Then, perhaps a year or so later, I abandoned it because the benefits had started to wane.

Once you get to a certain point, when your expenses are stable and you’ve “optimized” your budget as much as you can, the effort no longer justify the benefits. Today, I do “after-action” type budgeting where I look at my expenses to see if anything is extraordinary or if a certain category has been creeping up (usually it’s the dining out vs. grocery bill categories constantly battling one another). Other than that, I don’t.

How about you?

(Photo by kevincortopassi)

 Personal Finance 

Easy Budgeting for Non-Budgeters

Clever Way to BudgetBudgeting isn’t fun. Very few people look forward to tracking all of their purchases, cutting back when they’ve overspent, and adjusting their budget from month to month to meet changing conditions. However, it’s a necessary chore, like cleaning your house or apartment, that you should do because it’s good for your financial health. But so is exercising and according to the Department of Health & Human Services, we as a nation aren’t doing such a great job at that.

When I first started working, I was a very diligent budgeter. I recorded every single expense in a document called a Budget Bible, built from a template my friend Melinda sent me. I budgeted to the penny, the most labor intensive of the five budgeting systems I once wrote about. I kept it up for about six months but eventually I grew tired of it. It was important to budget to get a better handle on my finances, but once I had a handle the daily routine was unnecessary. I went from the most diligent of budgeters to a non-budgeter!

So how do I get back on the wagon? How does a personal finance blogger reform?

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Renting A Car With Debit Card

Jim Waiting At Dollar Car Rental on Kauai, HISome friends and I were recently discussing rental car strategies, one of them was planning a vacation to Hawaii, when the subject of debit cards came up. None of us had ever rented a car with a debit card before (we did begin our personal finance development in the era of free and cheap credit after all!) and that was the only card my friend had! To be honest, I didn’t think it mattered if the card was a credit card or a debit card (and I erroneously said so!), but I was wrong.

I usually advise against the use of debit cards because the card is linked directly to your bank account. One erroneous or fraudulent charge can have a cascading effect that generates an avalanche of fees and penalties. I’ve read and heard many a story of a dozen insufficient fund fees and low balance fees following some key-in error, it’s terrible.

Anyway, it turns out that renting a car with a debit card is a big pain in the ass. The reason is because your “credit limit” is really the funds within your account, unlike with a typical credit card. The end result is that many companies will tack on a “reasonable premium” to cover the rental period and potential overages such as fuel and damage to the vehicle.

For your convenience, here are the policies of major companies:

  • Hertz: You can reserve a car with a VISA/MC debit card and a hold will be placed for an “estimated amount of the rental charges plus a reasonable amount to cover any incidental charge.” No mention of what “reasonable amount” means though.
  • Enterprise: Policies appear to vary from location to location so you’ll have to call the rental site for actual requirements.
  • Budget: Again, like Enterprise, some locations accept them and some don’t. Under 25 can’t use a debit card though. The ones allow debit cards require a hold for the estimated charges plus the greater of 25% or $300 (or $500 in the Northeast and North Central regions).
  • National, Alamo: These companies are both owned by Vanguard Car Rental USA Inc. so they have the same policy of allowing debit cards.
  • Avis: They allow debit cards and they will put a hold for the estimated rental charges with a minimum of $500. If you don’t spend $500, the balance will be returned but may take up to two weeks!
  • Dollar: They allow debit cards and will put a hold for the estimated amount of the rental plus 15% or a “minimum amount,” which isn’t specified. In that General Policies page, it’s section F. Credit Qualifications/requirement.
  • Thrifty: Some locations will allow debit cards and may require a “debit card check and credit inquiry screening,” whatever that means. The debit card must also be a VISA/MC debit card, anything else isn’t accepted.

As you can see, using a debit card is a bit of a pain and sometimes the hold can last up to two weeks after the rental! That’s a very long time.

My advice? Get a credit card with auto rental liability insurance and use it to rent your car. The card provides some supplemental insurance, you don’t have to deal with debit card hassles, and maybe you earn a few points along the way.

 Personal Finance 

What Is Envelope Budgeting?

Envelopes for budgetingEnvelope budgeting is a very popular and very intuitive way to budget your spending.

I had heard the term used frequently but I never really understood what the whole envelope budgeting process was or why it was successful. In fact, I actually thought envelope budgeting meant that you were loosely tracking your spending on the back of envelopes or something like that (I was totally wrong!).

Envelope Budgeting

In envelope budgeting, you categorize your spending into broad categories and assign an envelope to each. You might have one for dining out, one for groceries, one for utilities, etc. You decide how much you will spend in each category for the month and put cash into that envelope. As you spend in the category, you take money out and return the change. If you run out, you must pull from other envelopes.

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