financial tools http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/11253/all en-US Evolve Your Money Management Beyond the Budget http://www.wisebread.com/evolve-your-money-management-beyond-the-budget <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/evolve-your-money-management-beyond-the-budget" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/finances-3267436-small.jpg" alt="calculator" title="calculator" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Budgets are a lot like diets &mdash; a lot of people know they should be on one, but the thought of it is met with a collective &quot;Ugh&quot; (cue heads hitting the table and exasperated sighs). All this budget angst has me wondering &mdash; does budgeting really even work? Just off the top of my head, I can think of a handful of ways traditional budgeting is a less-than-perfect system for managing our money and living within our means. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-tips-for-improving-or-starting-a-budget" target="_blank">8 Ways for Improving or Starting a Budget</a>)</p> <h2>How Budgets Let Us Down</h2> <p>Here are just a few of the ways.</p> <p><strong>Creating a Budget Requires Discipline and Time</strong></p> <p>Let&rsquo;s face it; most would-be budgeters never get past the header row of their spreadsheets. Confusion, intimidation, or boredom sets in and prevents people from estimating and tracking their expenses successfully. In this way, budgets are the financial equivalent of a treadmill &mdash; they represent the very best intentions, but seldom get used.</p> <p><strong>Budgets Are Difficult to Stick To</strong></p> <p>Even when budgeters create a viable, realistic system to keep their spending in check, they seldom stick to it. Budgets bend, expand, get tabled, and eventually abandoned.</p> <p><strong>Budgets Are Designed to be Inflexible</strong></p> <p>Budgets are usually stagnant, even when our incomes aren&rsquo;t. Successful budgeters train themselves to live and die by the parameters they&rsquo;ve established on paper and seldom retool, rework, or rethink their approach. As our incomes, expenses, and opportunities fluctuate, our budgets usually remain locked-in.</p> <p><strong>Budgets Don&rsquo;t Teach; They Only Modify Behavior</strong></p> <p>Budgets may be a great temporary tool for financial training (or retraining), but they don&rsquo;t work well for long-term strategic money management or for creating and seizing dynamic financial opportunities.</p> <p><strong>Budgets Don&rsquo;t Encourage Innovation</strong></p> <p>Most budgeters focus heavily on the expense side of their personal financial equations without giving the same level of attention to the income side. It&rsquo;s important to innovate &mdash; not only by cutting expenses, but by being challenged to increase income. If your income and expenses never vary and you stick to the plan, you&rsquo;re a gold-star budgeter. But that rote approach isn&rsquo;t necessarily the recipe for long-term financial success.</p> <h2>A Better&nbsp;Way</h2> <p>So, is there a better way to keep tabs on our spending and live within our means long-term without the constant number-crunching and sense of deprivation? I think so. Instead of siloing every last dollar, I think it makes much more sense to adopt a four step money management approach that saves first and rewards last (with more saving).</p> <p><strong>1. Artificially Reduce What&rsquo;s Available to Spend by Paying Yourself First</strong></p> <p>Skim off or divert 15-20% of your income before the money even hits your checking account. This would be the same as the &quot;savings&quot; column of a traditional budget. Direct the funds to whatever <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-make-the-most-of-your-401K" target="_blank">investment vehicles you&rsquo;ve chosen</a> based upon your level of risk, goals, savings horizon, etc.</p> <p><strong>2. Next, Pay All Fixed Expenses</strong></p> <p>A portion of the remaining funds is used to pay overhead like mortgage, cell phone, electricity, etc. (according to pay schedule and billing cycles).</p> <p><strong>3. Live on What&rsquo;s Left</strong></p> <p>No complex spreadsheets, no rigid guidelines, no robbing Peter to pay Paul. The <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/25-frugal-food-changes-you-can-make-today" target="_blank">remainder of your variable expenses</a> gets paid via the balance. Overspending in one area either depletes the rest, or becomes a call to boost income quickly. Make an unwavering promise to yourself that padding the process through the use of credit is not an option.</p> <p><strong>4. Save the Rest</strong></p> <p>Any money that&rsquo;s leftover gets cycled right back into savings, rather than accumulate for next month.</p> <p>Granted, this method isn&rsquo;t for newbies or the faint-of-heart. I think of it as Budgeting 301 after prerequisites like 101 and 201 have been mastered. It accomplishes the same thing as traditional budgeting, but leverages your hard-won discipline and knowledge and allows for more flexibility. Since every dollar isn&rsquo;t flagged for a purpose, spending can be more fluid.</p> <p>Over time, <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/37-savings-changes-you-can-make-today" target="_blank">even saving becomes easier</a>; the &quot;stealth&quot; goal of pocketing what&rsquo;s left over becomes a powerful motivator &mdash; traditional budget categories expand, contract, or don&rsquo;t get funded at all. As each spending cycle draws to a close, your motivation to cut back, get creative, or earn more is rewarded by an extra little lump sum that no traditional budget would have factored in.</p> <p>If you&rsquo;ve paid your budgeting dues and honed your money management skills, it&rsquo;s OK to waver a bit from a life ruled by rows and columns. If you know how to avoid temptation or compensate for a splurge without running to plastic, explore a more hands-free system that acknowledges your skill and might even help you save more in the long run.</p> <p><em>Do you follow a traditional budget or has your savings strategy evolved over time? What budget tricks or tips do you use that might be considered unconventional?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/kentin-waits">Kentin Waits</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/evolve-your-money-management-beyond-the-budget">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-tips-for-improving-or-starting-a-budget">8 Tips for Improving or Starting a Budget</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/beyond-budgeting-pocketsmith-helps-you-forecast">Beyond Budgeting: Pocketsmith Helps You Forecast</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/money-management-in-5-minutes-a-day">Money Management in 5 Minutes a Day</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/15-easy-ways-to-save-for-your-dream-vacation">15 Easy Ways to Save for Your Dream Vacation</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/25-ways-to-save-5-this-week">25 Ways to Save $5 This Week</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Budgeting family budget financial tools saving strategies Wed, 01 May 2013 10:24:34 +0000 Kentin Waits 973756 at http://www.wisebread.com Money Management in 5 Minutes a Day http://www.wisebread.com/money-management-in-5-minutes-a-day <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/money-management-in-5-minutes-a-day" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/7658165122_12d1f71e0b_z.jpg" alt="woman using laptop" title="woman using laptop" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Some aspects of managing money are a huge challenge. Just ask all the savers who married spenders (and vice versa)! But a lot of the day-to-day dealings with money don&rsquo;t have to be so complex, especially with the many websites and electronic tools specifically designed to make managing money easier. Here's how to take the task of managing money down to five minutes a day. (See also:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.wisebread.com/managing-your-short-term-money">Managing Your Short-Term Money</a>)</p> <h3>Maintain a Central Financial Operating System</h3> <p>A huge key to success with money is cash flow management. That means being proactive about how the money that flows into your life flows out. <em>Knowing </em>where it&rsquo;s going is essential if you&rsquo;re going to <em>choose </em>where it should go.</p> <p>Of course, I&rsquo;m talking about budgeting. If you don&rsquo;t use a budget, you may need to take this on faith, but a budget is the single most powerful tool anyone can use to manage money well.</p> <p>There are two major steps involved in using a budget: setting it up and managing it. The set up will take a little time; managing it takes just a couple of minutes each day.</p> <p>To get started, choose a tool. In our household, we use <a href="http://www.mint.com">Mint</a>. But there are other choices as well, such as <a href="https://www.adaptu.com/home/">Adaptu</a>, <a href="http://www.learnvest.com/">LearnVest</a>, and others. Ask friends who manage money well which tool they use, open an account, link it to your bank and credit cards, and then use these <a href="http://www.soundmindinvesting.com/visitors/res/resources.htm">Recommended Spending Guidelines</a> to set up a plan.</p> <p>I start most days by taking a quick look at our cash flow on Mint. Did the system categorize recent transactions correctly? And how does our actual spending so far this month compare with our plan?</p> <p>Head to the grocery store without a clue as to how much you can afford to spend and chances are approximately 100% that you will spend too much. Glance at your month-to-date spending on groceries vs. the targeted amount you set up, and you&rsquo;ll be much more intentional about how you shop.</p> <h3>Semi-Automate Monthly Bill Payments</h3> <p>Chances are good that your monthly utility bills will be accurate. That&rsquo;s why we have those fully automated. We look at the bills to see if anything seems wrong, but that has happened so infrequently that we&rsquo;re good with <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-set-up-automatic-payments">paying those bills automatically</a>.</p> <p>Others I like to review before paying, like our credit card bills. We still pay them online, but we review them first and then manually make the payment.</p> <h3>Batch the Manual Payments</h3> <p>Some people like to pay their manual bills as close to the due date as possible, so they can earn interest on their money as long as they can. However, in today&rsquo;s low-rate environment, checking account &ldquo;interest&rdquo; has become a theoretical concept. I prefer the very real time savings that comes from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-ways-to-save-time-with-batch-processing">paying most of our monthly manual bills in one sitting</a>.</p> <h3>Automatically Prepare for Periodic Bills and Expenses</h3> <p>Some bills and expenses are due less frequently than monthly, like our semi-annual property tax bill and our annual life and homeowners insurance premiums. We take the total annual cost of all such bills, plus the total annual cost of all periodic big expenses like holiday gifts and vacations, divide that amount by 12, and automatically have that much transferred to savings each month. When the bill or expense comes due, we have the money on hand.</p> <h3>Investment Monitoring</h3> <p>I am not a believer in following the daily gyrations of the market. That&rsquo;s a recipe for worry. Our mutual fund-based investment strategy involves monthly reading of the investment newsletter we follow, occasional trades throughout the year, once-a-year rebalancing, and a once-a-year review of whether we&rsquo;re on track with our long-term goals. It&rsquo;s a very straightforward strategy that requires very little time on our part.</p> <p>We have accounts at more than one brokerage house, but Mint enables us to see all of our investments on one screen.</p> <h3>Credit Monitoring</h3> <p>We see <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-do-what-identity-theft-protection-companies-dofor-free">no need to pay for monthly credit monitoring</a>. Instead, I have recurring reminders in my electronic calendar to use <a href="http://www.annualcreditreport.com">AnnualCreditReport.com</a> to pull the free report from Equifax every January, TransUnion every May, and Experian every September. Reviewing those reports every four months doesn&rsquo;t take much time and serves as a free credit monitoring system.</p> <p>Through the use of a handful of financial web sites and an electronic calendar, our day-to-day money management takes less than five minutes a day.</p> <p><em>What about you? What other tools do you use to manage money efficiently?</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/matt-bell">Matt Bell</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/money-management-in-5-minutes-a-day">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-1"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/beyond-budgeting-pocketsmith-helps-you-forecast">Beyond Budgeting: Pocketsmith Helps You Forecast</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/tools-to-get-organized-family-style">Tools to Get Organized, Family Style</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-apps-that-make-budgeting-fun-no-really">7 Apps That Make Budgeting Fun — No Really!</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-5-best-apps-for-busy-working-parents">The 5 Best Apps for Busy Working Parents</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/flashback-friday-72-brilliant-ways-to-stretch-20">Flashback Friday: 72 Brilliant Ways to Stretch $20</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Budgeting Productivity financial tools mint money management saving time Wed, 21 Nov 2012 11:24:32 +0000 Matt Bell 955418 at http://www.wisebread.com Lower Interest Rates with Credit Sesame and Lending Club http://www.wisebread.com/lower-interest-rates-with-credit-sesame-and-lending-club <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/lower-interest-rates-with-credit-sesame-and-lending-club" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/iStock_000012800151Small.jpg" alt="Woman with extra cash" title="Woman with extra cash" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>It used to be that only savvy technophiles would extol the virtues of online financial tracking software, but nowadays, it's not uncommon to use websites to track banking, investment, and debt information. Consumers have even come to trust institutions other than banks with their financial data (or perhaps realized that banks don&rsquo;t care much about their financial security anyway), and there are many benefits to using financial tracking software, like payment and late fee alerts, as well as advanced features like budgeting help.</p> <p>I signed up for Mint.com ages ago and have used it for years to track my spending. It has been a fairly useful tool, but it definitely has its limitations. So I was excited when <a href="http://www.tkqlhce.com/click-2822544-12336153-1455123184000?sid=karim-489143">Credit Sesame</a> approached Wise Bread requesting a review of their online credit management website, which is still in the beta phase. Although I&nbsp;had the option to simply run through a test scenario with the site, I elected to actually use Credit Sesame as a customer. After all, I pay some pretty high interest rates &mdash; might as well see what kind of deals they had to offer a real consumer! (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/4-places-to-start-your-debt-management-crusade">4 Places to Start Your Debt Management Crusade</a>)</p> <h3>Signing Up and Ease of Use</h3> <p>Signing up for Credit Sesame is easy. Actually, it was much easier than signing up for Mint, because Mint requires you to enter in all of your banking information, whereas Credit Sesame can do all of its work based on your social security number. Credit Sesame performs a soft pull of your credit history, which provides them with the data they need (how much you owe, what your current interest rates are, what your credit score is) to offer you deals on potential loans, balance transfers, and home refinancing, as well as give you free monthly updates of your credit score. A soft pull of your credit history will not adversely affect your credit rate, <a href="http://www.thesunsfinancialdiary.com/credit-report/credit-inquiries-hard-pull-and-soft-pull/">unlike a hard pull</a>.</p> <p><a href="http://www.creditsesame.com/how-it-works/">Credit Sesame assess all of your debt</a>; including mortgages, loans, and credit card debt; and then goes out and look for better deals. Credit Sesame then summarizes all of your debt data for you on your account, along with suggestions for decreasing that debt. Savings may come in the form of low-interest loans, balance transfers, or refinancing options. Deals available to you are based on your credit history and current credit situation (such as how much of your total available credit is currently being used).</p> <p>Below is a screenshot from my Credit Sesame profile. You can see that the interface is pretty intuitive, with simple graphics and not too much clutter.<br /> &nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img width="605" height="407" alt="" src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/u14/credit%20sesame.png" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Screenshot from my Credit Sesame profile</strong></p> <h3>Refinancing My Home... Almost</h3> <p>Credit Sesame does a lot of work in&nbsp;<a href="http://www.creditsesame.com/blog/7-tips-for-improving-your-mortgage-or-loan-terms/">offering refinancing options for homeowners</a>.</p> <p>Some background on my property-investing prowess: I stupidly bought a home at the peak of the housing boom, which means that I am locked in to a 6.375% mortgage. I have never missed a mortgage payment, but it's hard to keep paying every month knowing that the value of my home keeps dropping. Refinancing would really help me with my finances and free up some money for other things.</p> <p>Now, don't think I haven't already tried to refinance my home. I have been to three mortgage brokers over the past couple of years. Not one of them has been able to refinance my mortgage; in addition, none of them was able to give me a reason why. All of them stated that it had to do with &quot;government regulations.&quot; One guy even blamed it on the Obama administration (this was two months into the Obama presidency).</p> <p>After my credit was soft-pulled, Credit Sesame notified me that I qualified for a couple of refinancing options through their preferred partners. Credit Sesame offered me three possible money-saving scenarios for refinancing, with details for each including total cost, monthly payments over time, initial savings and total overall savings, additional principal needed, etc. The image below shows a screenshot from the 7/1 ARM 40-year option, which would be a good choice if I planned to sell the house within six years or so.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img width="605" height="526" alt="" src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/u14/mortgage.png" /></p> <p>When Credit Sesame recommended a <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-great-reasons-for-paying-off-the-mortgage-on-your-home">mortgage</a> refi from <a href="http://www.capwestmortgage.com/">CapWest Mortgage</a> that would save me over $500 per month, I was skeptical. Apparently, President Obama was personally making sure that I&nbsp;couldn't refinance, so I had little hope that I would be eligible for this refi.</p> <p>It turns out that I was right, but Obama had nothing to do with it. As Kent Ewonus, VP of Mortgage Lending at CapWest explained to me, my mortgage is serviced by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/you-did-what-with-my-ssn">US Bank</a> but owned by Freddie Mac, and only banks that have a are qualified servicers for Freddie Mac are able to process such mortgages. CapWest Mortgage did have the ability to work with Fannie Mae-owned mortgages, but Freddie Mac would require a different broker. Credit Sesame does not currently have the ability to get data from Freddie Mac (I doubt many services do), and as a result, was unable to point me to a mortgage broker who had a program specific to my mortgage. However, Kent Ewonus was kind enough to point me to several institutions that do have the ability to work with Freddie Mac-owned mortgages, which is more information than any of my three previous brokers had felt the need to divulge. I appreciated that openness.</p> <p>I'm still looking into refinancing, but I will likely have to do so outside of my Credit Sesame account. The feature would be useful for anyone who is looking to refinance, and who doesn't have a stupid Freddie Mac-owned mortgage.</p> <h3>Loans Through the Lending Club Partnership</h3> <p>A few days after I began investigating my refinancing options, <a href="https://www.lendingclub.com/public/lending-club-press-2011-01-12.action">Credit Sesame announced a new partnership</a> with Lending Club. Although Credit Sesame had already offered advice for decreasing debt through balance transfers, <a href="http://track.flexlinks.com/a.ashx?foid=1029882.227345&amp;fot=1079&amp;foc=1">Lending Club</a> opened a new opportunity for Credit Sesame users who needed low-interest loans to pay off higher-interest debt.&nbsp;</p> <p>What is Lending Club, you might wonder? Well, you've probably heard all of your keffiyeh-wearing, chai-drinking friends talk about <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/share-the-love">Kiva</a>, a peer-to-peer lending organization. Kiva.org is a website that allows lenders to contribute to business loans in the developing world and elsewhere. While Kiva certainly wasn't the first peer-to-peer lending group, they were the most successful at harnessing the power of the internet to allow many people to contribute small amounts of money to larger loans, allowing for greater funding of entrepreneurs in countries all over the world. The loans are paid back over time. With Kiva loans, you will likely get your money back as the loan is paid off, but you'll never earn any money<strong> </strong>on your investments; you just feel good and worldly for having helped get a business in rural Mongolia up and running.*</p> <p>Lending Club is taking a similar <a href="http://blog.lendingclub.com/how-peer-to-peer-lending-works/">peer-to-peer lending model</a>. Lending Club allows people who need a loan to request one, and then the thousands of potential lenders can decide if the loan is worth the investment. The key difference between Lending Club and an organization like Kiva is that Kiva charges interest on the loans that they distribute and keeps the interest; Kiva lenders do not make money on the loans that they make. <em>People who lend money through Lending Club actually stand to earn money on their loans. </em>(See Xin Lu's article on Lending Club for <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/peer-to-peer-lending-prosper-marketplace-or-lending-club">an investor's perspective</a>.)</p> <p>Like Kiva, Lending Club investors will <a href="https://www.lendingclub.com/public/business-loans.action">finance business loans</a>, but they aren't limited to that alone. You can also take out a loan to <a href="https://www.lendingclub.com/public/credit-card-loans.action">consolidate debt</a>, <a href="https://www.lendingclub.com/public/credit-card-loans.action">pay off credit cards</a>, <a href="https://www.lendingclub.com/public/auto-loans.action">purchase a car or truck</a>, <a href="https://www.lendingclub.com/public/home-improvement-loans.action">perform home improvement</a>, <a href="https://www.lendingclub.com/public/green-loans.action">make green improvements</a> to your home or property, or even <a href="https://www.lendingclub.com/public/other-personal-loans.action">pay for your wedding</a> or elective surgery.</p> <p>Basically, Lending Club functions a bit like a bank, except that you can have more direct control over your investments as a lender and you might find yourself with a much lower interest rate as a borrower.</p> <p>If you sign up as an investor, you can choose to fund portions of loans yourself, or you can invest a certain amount of money and allow Lending Club's algorithm-driven servers to divide up your money and invest in a diversified portfolio of loans. Money Ning has a <a href="http://moneyning.com/review/lending-club-peer-to-peer-lending-review/">good analysis of Lending Club</a> as an investment opportunity.</p> <p>Of course, you can apply to be lender or a borrower through Lending Club directly, but taking advantage of the partnership between Credit Sesame and Lending Club is particularly useful and helpful, because Credit Sesame will only display Lending Club loans to you that you are qualified to receive. This doesn't guarantee that investors will fund you, but it greatly improves your chances.</p> <h4>Borrower Qualifications</h4> <p>Lending Club doesn't just hand money out willy-nilly. The lowest credit score accepted by Lending Club is 660. My credit score is 730, which is pretty good, so I was immediately qualified for a low-interest loan through Lending Club.</p> <p>I jumped on it. See, a couple of years ago my credit card interest rates jumped through the roof when I missed a single payment while traveling overseas. Despite utilizing credit consolidation services, which are supposed to help lower your interest rates to help with debt repayment acceleration, I still had a massively high APR (27%) on two Bank of America credit cards. At that rate, I was going to take a total of three years to pay down the debt.</p> <p>Lending Club allowed me to plead my case to potential investors, which meant explaining what the loan was for, and how quickly I expected to pay it back. Within eight days, my loan was completely funded by hundreds of small investors. The check was in my hands within two weeks of my initial application.</p> <p>It is always possible that an applicant's loan may not be funded. If you wish to apply for a loan through Lending Club, make sure to write a detailed description of what the loan is for, as well as your plan for paying it back. There are no early repayment penalties.</p> <h4>Privacy Concerns</h4> <p>There was an uncomfortable moment when I realized that my employment information was viewable by potential lenders in my borrower's profile &mdash; I had simply been filling out data as it was requested of me, and it didn't occur to me that anyone could find out where I worked. If I worked for a large company, it wouldn't bother me, but I work for a very small firm. I answered the question openly, for the sake of being as transparent a borrower as possible, although I was given the <a href="https://www.lendingclub.com/public/privacy-policy.action">option to ignore the question</a>. Since I am talking openly about this loan on a personal finance website, it's not like I value extreme privacy, but I can see where someone else might want to avoid giving away that kind of information.</p> <p>If you have privacy concerns, don't fill out any of the optional fields when filling in your borrower data.</p> <h4>Lending Club Fees</h4> <p>Another thing I didn't realize initially was how much money Lending Club was going to take off of the top of the loan; I would have asked for more money if I had realized how much of their fees were going to be taken out before the loan was distributed to me. Lending Club has a 1% service charge, which isn't terrible, but does take a significant chunk off of the top of larger loans. If you are applying for a loan through Lending Club, you may want to tack on an extra 1% in order to cover the costs of Lending Club fees.</p> <h3>Summary</h3> <p>I'm now going to be able to pay off my loans in approximately a year-and-a-half as opposed to the three years that it was originally going to take. I could choose to pay them off over three years with lower my monthly payments, but I want this debt monkey off my back.</p> <p>I did encounter a couple of bugs during the process of reviewing the offers of loans from Lending Club through Credit Sesame, but they all seem to have been resolved at this point. For instance, my application to the Lending Club crashed my browser right at the end. Fortunately, I still received an email telling me that my loan application was complete within a couple of minutes. Since the site is still in their beta phase, small glitches are to be expected.</p> <h4>Who Should Sign Up?</h4> <p>If you have terrible credit, Credit Sesame might not have many deals for you. I asked a friend with lousy finances to sign up, just to see what the difference would be in offerings, and the difference was that there weren't any deals available to someone with bad credit. Credit Sesame and Lending Club are conservative with their offerings, investing in people with good credit. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't try it out, even if you have lousy credit, but do recognize that better loans tend to be offered to people with positive payment history.</p> <p>All in all, I had a very good experience with <a href="http://www.tkqlhce.com/click-2822544-12336153-1455123184000?sid=karim-489143">Credit Sesame</a> and its partner, <a href="http://track.flexlinks.com/a.ashx?foid=1029882.227345&amp;fot=1079&amp;foc=1">Lending Club</a>. I'm certainly happy to be able to pay off those massively inflated credit cards and start paying a much more reasonable rate.</p> <p><em>This article is a review of Credit Sesame's services, as well as the loan application process through Lending Club. I did not receive any compensation for writing this article, although I did apply for, and receive, a loan with through Lending Club as a part of reviewing the Credit Sesame and Lending Club partnership. </em></p> <p><em>*I lend money to Kiva all the time, so please don't get your hemp panties in a bunch over the fact that I know you're a great big hippie.</em></p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/andrea-karim">Andrea Karim</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/lower-interest-rates-with-credit-sesame-and-lending-club">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-2"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-best-0-balance-transfer-credit-cards">The 5 Best 0% Balance Transfer Credit Cards</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-rebuild-your-credit-in-8-simple-steps">How to Rebuild Your Credit in 8 Simple Steps</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-surprising-ways-to-negatively-affect-your-credit-score">10 Surprising Ways to Negatively Affect Your Credit Score</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/dont-ignore-these-4-things-before-refinancing-your-student-loans">Don&#039;t Ignore These 4 Things Before Refinancing Your Student Loans</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/retire-your-credit-card-debt-with-citi-simplicity-card">Retire Your Credit Card Debt With Citi Simplicity® Card - No Late Fees Ever</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Credit Cards Debt Management Real Estate and Housing financial tools low interest loan refinancing Wed, 09 Feb 2011 10:36:27 +0000 Andrea Karim 489143 at http://www.wisebread.com 8 Tips for Improving or Starting a Budget http://www.wisebread.com/8-tips-for-improving-or-starting-a-budget <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/8-tips-for-improving-or-starting-a-budget" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/3707431457_f871cfca86_z.jpg" alt="monocle calculator" title="monocole calculator" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Budgeting is boring and takes precious time out of our busy schedules. But let me tell you something &mdash; having a solid budget works incredibly well for your finances. When done properly, budgeting can help you save, keep you motivated, and increase the chances that your finances are headed in the right direction so eventually, you have time to do what you want to do. And who wouldn't want that? If the whole budgeting process is just not cooperating, check out these eight pointers that will make your budget work for you. (See also: <a title="If Budgeting Isn't Fun, You're Doing It Wrong" href="http://www.wisebread.com/if-budgeting-isnt-fun-youre-doing-it-wrong">If Budgeting Isn't Fun, You're Doing It Wrong</a>)</p> <h3>1. Be Realistic with Your Budget</h3> <p>Some people like to setup their dream budget instead of one for their current situation. Remember that a budget needs to be tracking what you are actually spending so you can make changes.</p> <h3>2. There's No &quot;Fun&quot; Fund</h3> <p>This again goes back to being realistic. Can you actually live without having fun for years and years? Allocate a portion of your monthly budget so you can spend it however you want. After all, the whole point of saving money is to use it.</p> <h3>3. Adjust It Regularly</h3> <p>In order to grow, you need to continuously improve on your system. This includes changing limits on your budget and adding/subtracting categories of expenses as you see fit to make life easier for yourself. You don't have to start off with the perfect budget, but the goal should be to always try to make it a little better.</p> <h3>4. You Need to Allow for Budget Busters</h3> <p>How would you handle the months when you have no choice but to go over the allotted limits you set on your expenses? You have to plan for that so it doesn't throw your finances upside down. You need to have an <a title="Emergency Plan: Better Than an Emergency Fund" href="http://www.wisebread.com/emergency-plan-better-than-an-emergency-fund">emergency fund</a> set up, and another way is to actually have the exceeded amount &quot;spill over&quot;&nbsp;to future months, so you don't forget about it. For example, if you spent $500 over your budgeted amount on entertainment, the $500 would be added to the following month, which reminds you to spend less in the future to make up for it.</p> <h3>5. Focus on the Process Instead of the Tool</h3> <p>There is no perfect tool. There, I said it. The key is you &mdash; the data you put in, and your commitment to follow what you have set up. Some people use a plain spreadsheet while others buy software like Quicken. Do whatever works for you, but don't obsess over which way is best.</p> <h3>6. Keep It Simple</h3> <p>Unless you love tracking your budget and can spend hours every week on this task alone, please don't have too many categories, and try to simplify the process of logging your expenses. The simpler you can make your budget, the better! The key is to really think about your categories and whether separating them makes sense for you. Some people may consistently buy skin care products, so it makes sense for them to separate them into their own category so they can monitor how much they are spending on those products. Others may find that it makes little sense to have a category even for beauty products because they almost never spend anything in that area. Make it personal, but keep it simple!</p> <h3>7. Give the Budget a Chance and Some Time to Thrive</h3> <p>Very rarely do you see people executing their budgeting process to perfection right out of the gate, so those who expect everything to work out perfectly are setting themselves up for failure. As with anything, it takes constant monitoring to improve, and eventually, it will work well for you.</p> <h3>8. Make Progress</h3> <p>Whether it's lowering your spending or increasing your income, make progress! Having better finances will be the number one motivator to keep doing your budget. Always think how you can do things better, and you will be financially free in no time. Let me repeat &mdash; budgeting is boring, but it's an easy way to improve your finances. Here are seven more reasons why you need to start budget tracking.</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/david-ning">David Ning</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/8-tips-for-improving-or-starting-a-budget">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-2"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-money-moves-to-make-as-soon-as-you-conquer-debt">7 Money Moves to Make as Soon as You Conquer Debt</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-day-debt-reduction-plan-pay-it-off">5-Day Debt Reduction Plan: Pay It Off</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-day-debt-reduction-plan-dont-ever-stop">5-Day Debt Reduction Plan: Don&#039;t Ever Stop</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/should-you-use-peer-to-peer-lending-to-pay-down-credit-card-debt">Should You Use Peer-to-Peer Lending to Pay Down Credit Card Debt?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/12-reasons-your-debt-isnt-diminishing">12 Reasons Your Debt Isn&#039;t Diminishing</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Budgeting Debt Management emergency fund financial tools tracking spending Thu, 23 Dec 2010 14:00:11 +0000 David Ning 402437 at http://www.wisebread.com Beyond Budgeting: Pocketsmith Helps You Forecast http://www.wisebread.com/beyond-budgeting-pocketsmith-helps-you-forecast <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/beyond-budgeting-pocketsmith-helps-you-forecast" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/billboard_calendar_1.png" alt="pocketsmith calendar" title="pocketsmith calendar" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="135" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>note: PocketSmith is giving 5 Wise Bread readers a yearly Premium account. Read on for details.</em></p> <p>There are many <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/resources">financial tools and services</a> that help you track your spending and stick to your budgets. But I'm one of those fortunate ones with very few expenses and have learned over the years how to curb my appetite for spending. So I never found use for tools like <a href="http://mint.com">Mint </a>and <a href="http://www.wesabe.com/">Wesabe</a>. I also never liked the idea of entering sensitive financial information for yet another company to keep safe.</p> <p>In comes <a href="http://www.pocketsmith.com">PocketSmith</a>, and I&nbsp;can honestly say that when I looked at this product, I thought to myself <em>This is exactly what I want</em>.</p> <p>While it does track your spending&nbsp;(and you can upload your exported financial accounts), it focuses on forecasting. That means it tells you how much money you should have in 6 months. It also tells you when you will reach your savings goals. For example, you want to know when you'll be able to afford that month-long trip to Europe? PocketSmith will tell you exactly when you'll have the money for it.</p> <p>The goals feature is a powerful motivator. If you can see how your spending affects your saving goals -- immediately -- you can weigh whether or not it's worth pushing your goals further for whatever it is you want to spend on now. And many times you'll find that your goals are closer than you thought. For example, you might find that if you stopped eating out, you'll have enough for that <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-buy-a-digital-camera">DSLR</a> after just 2 months. Whereas if you keep spending on eating out the way you currently do, you'd need to wait 4 months before being able to afford it.</p> <p>It also has easy integration with Google Calendar, iCal, CalDav, and Outlook.</p> <p>Having launched to the public just a few months ago, it's already getting noteworthy <a href="http://www.pocketsmith.com/reviews/">buzz</a>. It was also named one of the <a href="http://www.nzherald.co.nz/small-business/news/article.cfm?c_id=85&amp;objectid=10556006&amp;pnum=2">top ten startups of 2008</a> in New Zealand.</p> <p>I am looking forward to more features added to this service (and current financial tools will no doubt try to add some&nbsp;of their innovative features as well).</p> <p>They have 3 pricing plans (though the first two is sufficient for most). Additionally, <strong>they're giving five Wise&nbsp;Bread readers a yearly <a href="https://my.pocketsmith.com/plans">Premium PocketSmith account</a> worth USD $60 each</strong>.</p> <p>To enter, leave a comment on what your saving goals are. <strong>Drawing closes on 9/10.</strong></p> <p>And go ahead and sign up for the free account first. If you win, they can upgrade your account.</p> <p>&nbsp;<a href="https://my.pocketsmith.com/signup/Free"><img src="http://wisebread.killeracesmedia.netdna-cdn.com/files/fruganomics/free.png" alt="" /></a></p> <p><strong>This drawing has closed. The winners will be contacted shortly.</strong></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">This article is from <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/lynn-truong">Lynn Truong</a> of <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/beyond-budgeting-pocketsmith-helps-you-forecast">Wise Bread</a>, an award-winning personal finance and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/credit-cards">credit card comparison</a> website. Read more great articles from Wise Bread:</div><div class="view view-similarterms view-id-similarterms view-display-id-block_2 view-dom-id-2"> <div class="view-content"> <div class="item-list"> <ul> <li class="views-row views-row-1 views-row-odd views-row-first"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-free-wesabe-alternatives-goodbye-wesabe">5 Free Wesabe Alternatives | Goodbye Wesabe</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-2 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/money-management-in-5-minutes-a-day">Money Management in 5 Minutes a Day</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-3 views-row-odd"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-put-your-spouse-on-a-budget-without-ruining-your-marriage">How to Put Your Spouse on a Budget Without Ruining Your Marriage</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-4 views-row-even"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/will-a-dental-discount-plan-save-you-money">Will A Dental Discount Plan Save You Money?</a></span> </div> </li> <li class="views-row views-row-5 views-row-odd views-row-last"> <div class="views-field-title"> <span class="field-content"><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-often-do-you-get-your-paycheck">How often do you get your paycheck?</a></span> </div> </li> </ul> </div> </div> </div> </div><br/></br> Personal Finance Budgeting financial services financial tools mint product reviews wesabe Thu, 20 Aug 2009 20:01:49 +0000 Lynn Truong 3520 at http://www.wisebread.com