I beat myself up. A lot. Sometimes, I need to stop and acknowledge that occasionally, I’m not a colossal mess. Read on if you wish to hear resounding pats on the back.
I made this list awhile ago. The list is dominated by financial decisions that have improved my life somehow (a sign of the times?). First, I’m tracking my finances better. I tried using Microsoft Money and hated it. I tried Quicken and will continue to use if for Starrynight. For our personal finances, I’m now using Mint. It’s pretty and fairly slick. It’s easy to set up (although a bit time intensive if your bank insists on forty layers of security when logging in– thank you, Sallie Mae!) and once you have everything set up, you can see all of your income and expenses.
What has made this tool useful for me is the ability to easily track expenses by category (and Mint supports splitting purchases into as many categories as you need). I can see that we ate out too much one month or that we were frugal on entertainment items (movies out, buying music, etc.) in another. Best of all, I can set up monthly budgets for each category or sub-category and be alerted if I go over a certain category limit. Mint recently updated the budgets to include semi-frequent budgeting (car registration, haircuts) or one time budgets (vacation). Mint also puts out a great little app for the iPhone/iPod Touch. The app is currently on its second big release, which added more functionality (being able to edit purchase categories) and better security. The latest update also introduced push notifications to alert you of low balances, balances due, etc., all of which configurable from mint.com. What the app is still missing: being able to split purchase categories. I hope that this will be included in a future app update.
Other ways I’ve saved this year include switching to mail pharmacy, which saved me almost a third of what I was paying before. It also saves me from having to visit the pharmacy every month. Who can argue with prescriptions being delivered to your mailbox? Sadly, I still haven’t mastered Anthem’s online members’ area1 (it’s clunky and obnoxious) but hopefully I will master it soon because the phone refill system is almost as annoying as having to mail in the form.
Utilities also got a close perusal. The land line was finally dropped and we reduced our AT&T mobile plan because we were rolling over tons of minutes and we both weren’t texting enough to warrant an unlimited plan. We switched to Uverse internet (and TV because AT&T won’t install the intarwebs for first time customers without installing the TV service as well) for the same price we were paying for DSL and our connection is a little bit zippier now. Unfortunately, I still haven’t canceled Uverse TV because I’m a push over (Russ to Jen: it’s Halloween and there tons of great movies on ::whinearmflail::). I make the call to cancel the TV on Nov 14th.
Something I was aware of and should have acted on ages ago: we were paying way too much to our domain registrar. We had 2 domains at register.com and we were getting raped. I switched over to DreamHost and, even after buying a THIRD domain, we were still paying something like 25% of what we were before– HUGE savings. For those who need hosting solutions, DreamHost has a great dashboard interface and a lot of one-click installs for your website, also very reasonably priced.
Then there are the everyday Life things that I’m glad that I’ve finally made part of my routine:
- Cleaning was done too infrequently and in huge blocks of time. Now cleaning happens in more manageable doses. I’m less inclined to put it off and the place has been a bit cleaner.
- I walk three times a week now in addition to the mile and a half average per day walking to and from work 6 days a week.
- I’ve been reading more regularly with DailyLit, which delivers (either via RSS or email) small chunks of a book (you can customize how much it sends you per day) to read on a schedule you specify. Right now I’m reading The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, which is delivered to me around noon Monday through Friday via RSS. The installment size I’ve selected is the perfect size to read on the bus ride home. If I fall behind, it turns into bedtime reading on the weekend (I can read the RSS on my iPod).
Actually, for all of this fuss about how the EVIL internets are ruining society, using web services has helped my find more time for being social– well, as social as I’m going to be anyway : )
1. Tim: I looked up drug prices yesterday and couldn’t get them to display– AGAIN. I’m really NOT a moron but Anthem’s site is really good about making me feel like one. Back to text.