Newly Minted: Managing Married Money

Mint.com: A review

For most of the early money blogging years, right around the time I started using credit cards in earnest for the rewards, Yodlee was my account aggregator of choice.

It was unsophisticated but did the job: kept me apprised of all my banking and credit card transactions in addition to the manual tracking I’d do and keep me honest and firmly atop bill paying. When it started running into all kinds of updating problems because of added security at the banking end, I had to give it up.

There were a few attempts to get into other software since but they were halfhearted at best, and I retreated into the relatively safe haven of spreadsheets. It just doesn’t work for us together, though, we maintain our own legacy spreadsheets and they don’t merge well, they don’t let us do aggregated reporting well, and it’s hugely time consuming. We won’t have the luxury of spending three hours at a time recording transactions soon.. heck, we don’t really have that time now!

Once, long ago, I’d started working with Mint in its early days but since Yodlee was still working for me, I quit. Now it’s time to venture back and see how it might work for us.

Our requirements: It has to be both dead simple and require very little time or brain power to set up and maintain. As much as I love spending time with my money, this has to be the low-maintenance solution.
We both need easy access to it.
It should automatically pull transactions for us.
We should be able to add manual (cash) transactions.
We need to be able to reconcile and categorize spending.

Early observations: the interface

We get weekly updates that might tell us we’re overspending in a particular category, versus how much we normally spend, or that we have upcoming bills.

Good: This is a great way to keep us both on the same page.

Bad: I wish that they’d send up both all the notes. Because we don’t have joint everything accounts, I’d have to sign in to see what’s been charged on his card, whilst he would get the email notifications, and vice versa. We recently had an incident where a merchant charged a purchase as a cash advance and were dinged with a $10 fee. Only he got the notification for that.

We can access the interface as long as we have an internet connection; we don’t have to share files manually.

Good: Being in one system is great, and so is not having manually shift files and cells and whatever else about.
Bad: If you don’t have internet, you’re out of luck.

Early observations: hiccups

I’ve had the worst trouble signing in, sometimes, it wouldn’t even let me past the log on page for a few days, once and their Help folks took about seven emails to understand that. They still didn’t fix anything, it just actually started working again. I do NOT like that.

Accounts are constantly requiring my attention – there’s always one or more banks that require me to re-enter the password or what have you, even though nothing has changed in the last five days. Occasionally, it’s for a legitimate reason like it’d like to confirm that I want to close an account.

I know some of you are Mint.com users: any tips or suggestions for making the most of it?

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Just a little (link) love: piglets and pitbulls edition

LinkLive

CAREER + MONEY THINGS

I recently discovered No Nonsense Landlord, this was a great introduction into a near-fulltime Landlord’s life.

NY Times: Part Time Schedules, Full Time Headaches
This story was preposterous. I worked retail to put myself through school and before that, I helped my parents run their retail business. As an employee, I’m more grateful than ever that my employers, whatever their failings, didn’t make it a point to torment us like this. This makes no business sense! We had relatively low turnover when all other things were equal, and a big part of that was their willingness to accommodate school schedules with consistent shifts, not punitive scheduling. It made for a lot less time waste for the scheduler, too. From the employer POV I can’t begin to understand what benefit comes from jerking around your employees like this.

FUN THINGS

Maryam warned us but I haaaad to click through anyway. I’m an absolute sucker for organizational, stationery, and packing supplies and resisting this is basically going to end me.

INTERESTING THINGS

A mortician on death and handling bodies (Wired)

On making kids more resilient

It’s the 30th anniversary of The Cosby Show. I fondly remember it for the parenting lessons and particularly Clair Huxtable.

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Net Worth: September 2014

DollarSign

Change from August: 2% increase

Change from January: 272% increase

On Money

I’m working away at Swagbucks to earn Amazon money for household, Little Bean, and dog things we need. Feel free to join using my referral link if you like!

***

Bill creep:  Our cell phone discount was eliminated, so that went up $10/month. Our internet promotion (though I was lied to by the CSR who told me it was a bundle price, NOT a promotion) expired so that bill jumped 20%. The sewer/water bill went up another $8 bimonthly.

I’ve made calls to bring down the cost of what I could but in the end, the total is still up from three months ago which is frustrating.

***

Mortgage thoughts:  Congratulations to SP on the purchase of their new house!

This made me curious. We’ve been working away at the mortgage, which we couldn’t refinance for reasons that still irritate me, and putting a lump sum toward principal each year. It’s made a difference! In spite of the high interest rate, compared to what we could have gotten in a refi, we’re down to 80% of the original mortgage or 60% of the total cost left.

That’s not huge but it is a significant amount and gives me hope that if we batter away at this a bit more, we’ll free up cash flow sooner than I had hoped. The mortgage payoff calculator suggests that if we paid an additional $500/month, we’d pay this sucker off in 15 years from now, shaving off nearly a third of the full term. Since we do a lump sum towards principal once a year, I wonder how much of a difference that makes.

Anyway, this is mostly idle curiosity since my brain immediately demands to know what I want to do with this place: make it a rental? Stick it out? Sell it? And I don’t have those answers.

***

Mortgage, continued: We had a payment snafu where the mortgage payment didn’t process. PiC was positive he’d paid it and he’s never been late or missed one, but the bank’s immediate reaction was to ding us with a $100 fee and tell us about mortgage modification. He had to call and chat with them, and the fee was removed, but that was PITA.

I’ve since set up an automated payment for that to come out of our joint checking account which tells us when they’re going to send and when they have sent payments.

***

We are so close to getting 2013 taxes done I can nearly taste it!  Working with a new CPA, however, does require a bit more due diligence and legwork on my part. I’ve reviewed the draft filing and sent back a long list of corrections and questions. If this goes well, we’ll dive into 2014 preparations because our first quarter of 2015 is going to be pretty hectic between home and work life; I don’t have time for hand-holding.

On Life

Not a heck of a lot to say here: we had a lot of change and it’s been hard.

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A minute of gratitude

Taking a leaf from eemusings, I thought I’d try focusing on some things to be grateful for to break up the wallowing in this or the coping with all that comes with this.

1. PiC
It almost seems to go without saying but he’s just been unbelievably supportive without getting patronizing or grumpy. You’d be surprised how easy it is for someone in a caretaking role to fall into either of those modes. We’ve been grieving together but he’s picking up the pieces where I just can’t do what’s needed, leaving me to do the things I can handle (bills, work, finances, laundry). Also he brings home fresh fruit and delicious popcorn so I don’t have to leave the house if I don’t want to.

2. Modern medicine
There is a lot left to be desired but once in a while, there’s actually a medication that actually does the job that it’s meant to do. Blessed relief.

3. Friends who really know me 
A dear friend insisted on treating me to some nice things “because I wanted you to have them and I knew you wouldn’t buy them for yourself.” Another dear friend sent the loveliest frame for Doggle’s memory and thought of precisely the picture I had in mind for it.  This sounds a bit like “I like friends buying me things” but that’s really not what I mean.  It’s just that I didn’t have to explain to them how much this has affected us or why I’m being (even more) careful about money with a Little Bean on the way (so obviously I wouldn’t spend on myself).

4. Bonus: Seamus is by no means Doggle… But he’s good company and helpfully distracting. I don’t deal well without a four-legs around and he fits the description. And he’s actually pretty funny even if he’s totally not helpful at all in the opinions about tv shows department.

What are you most grateful for at the moment?

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