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The Toybox

people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation


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i'm all about the financial today
children of dune - leto 1
seperis
Quicken Online

I'm testing Quicken online, which is a great deal like Quicken except both easier and more frustrating. On one hand, if someone wants to use Quicken, this is a great way to learn the basics fast, since it kind of does everything for you and there's really not a lot of mistakes you can make (in case anyone remembers my adventures with Quicken 2008). On the other, if your bank/institution/card isn't listed, there aren't any manual options for adding in transactions from those, or anything from them. It's very, very frustrating. It also doesn't have the option of adding the entirety of every check including all its pretax deductions and so forth, which isn't precisely necessary, but I like having complete information.

The second is more tricky and more psychological.

On the front page is this huge Money In - Money Out = Saved boxes, which are just freaking *irritating* as hell. This has to do with categorization for the most part; using transfer-in or tranfer-out is surprisingly important, so I finally worked out the only way to work with it is treat anything transferred between my checking, my savings, and my line of credit with the credit union as a transfer in/transfer out or the amounts are off. Plus, for my credit cards, the payment recieved by them is set to transfer in. I'll check it again once all my bills are paid and see if its accurate now. It'll be easier to be sure by the eighth or ten, when pretty much all my monthly bills are paid and have been received and processed to give me an idea of how much I'm actually spending. Seeing October itemized taught me the valuable lesson of how many Egg McMuffins I eat a month. As in, a lot.

(Also, those boxes are depressing as hell. However, pie charts! Yay!)

I'm testing this for a week and getting comfy, then trying Quicken again, which I loved except for all the ways it was really weird to use sometimes. Then, then I shall have incredibly fun spending a weekend configuring it. It satisfies some part of me that needs to be really crazy and overly detailed oriented in a way that doesn't mean I'll find solace and meaning trying to track the ratio of short stories to novels posted in a fandom over the course of six months. Which there is every possibility I might do in a fit of weirdness.

Link: Quicken Online



Investing

After watching the horror of my 457 account dying a sad and painful death, it occurred to me that losing money should be more fun. After a few days of research and then closing my eyes and going that one, I started an account at Sharebuilders and have joined the wild, whacky world of losing money and enjoying it. This will also keep me from obsessively playing with my retirement account, which does not need me to be trying to fix it once a month (currently I rebalanced it, then changed my proportions, then tried to decide whether to change my contribution per month; this part later). I'm on the trial version right now, which is--there, but it's through the same people that handle our financial engines with my retirement, so at least I'm going to be screwed by people I know.

Anyway, I opened the account with fifty and added two hundred to deposit on Monday. I chose the trial month, which is six automatic investments a month, with one dollar per extra automatic investment a month. This means I set the account to buy certain stocks/etfs/mutual funds before monday at 5, and they buy them first thing on Tuesday, or any Tuesday in the month, but only Tuesdays. It also offers live trading (9.95 a trade, which I understand is a good deal, so I tried it once for the adrenaline rush; whoo boy, that was fun. So was watching the ticker. I made one dollar, sixteen cents!), and some other words like options and margin that I keep looking at and have no idea what they mean. The other pricing plans aren't bad, per se, but I'm not entirely sure what I'll end up going with. The money market account the money goes into waiting to be tossed upon the winds of Wall Street has a decent interest rate, or better than my savings anyway, so if all else fails, I'll probably keep that.

Still not sure on what I'll do if I keep this and choose a pricing scheme, though. I think it'll depend on how well it does. None of them are particularly bad when compared to the others I looked at, but calculating out how much I'd have to make per month to cover the fee is questionable.

So I spent a weekend reading every financial website I could find. I still have no idea what I'm doing, but I'm not convinced anyone who does this, even professionals, do either.

I have to admit; I've spent more on pure entertainment before, so if all I get out of this is the joys of watching prices go up and down and obsessive compulsive behavior around ticker symbols, I feel like I'm getting my money's worth.

Link: ShareBuilder

457, or The Reason I Will be Working Until I Die

I've been raising my pre-tax contribution to my retirement every month by a fixed amount, since I'm far less likely to notice a small and gradual change than a huge change in my paycheck, and frankly, it's easier when I forget I was supposed to have that money at all. In February, my contribution was 150 dollars a month; currently, its 325, and will go up next month to 385 and in January to 400. Interestingly, however, due to pretax, my check difference is less dramatic and only went down 104 between February and now. Yes, I know it's my money, but it feels like free money, really. I'm trying to come to a happy medium to balance the rate I'm taxed against with what I need to live on, at least for a while. It's also, frankly, a really good time to put money in there to invest; pretty much all my funds are running at half price right now and getting more while the getting is good is worth far more than shoes.

And I also bought two new pair last month. They are nice shoes. They had better be. They have to last.

In Closing

Now all that is left is to handle my current credit card debt and read more about the prospects of Ceragon Networks LTD (my first trade ever!) and stare at the profiles on cnn money and wish desperately for a legend to explain what the hell all of those numbers mean.

Note to morgandawn - I pretty much lived on your finance-related links this weekend. Thank you! Those were fantastically informative and deeply, deeply fun.
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Have you tried Mint? Personally have tried both it and Quicken online, I prefer mint.com.

Yodlee is also very good and does allow you to add cash transactions manually, which Quicken and Mint do not do. As i am trying to do certain things on a cash only basis to curb spending, this was an issue that Yodlee solved for me.

If you don't mid entering everything by hand, Clear Checkbook is very good as well.

I have been trying to find the perfect software for my needs, as it appears you are and I figured we could compare notes, as it were.

Microsoft Money was the only one I just hated so far, though part of it was it was so much less flexible than Quicken.

*marks down Yodlee* I like the manual transaction thing very much.

There's always the option that society collapses from some ecological catastrophe or the mutated bird flu or the like well before your retirment age, and then (provided you survive) you'd have been really sorry to have put money into a retirement plan rather than to have hedonistically gotten some electronic gadget to enjoy while we still had electricity...

This is true, but I think I have everything electronic I want but a blu-ray player and a good sound system. *thoughtful* I really want a good sound system.

Well in that case... FWIW, the most memorable advice my father passed on to me about crises was to hoard decent soap in advance. Personally I don't follow this advice, but his mother found soap to be good for trading during shortages and rationing during the World Wars and the Depression (apparently too few people remembered hoard it when it was still available), and to this day he still has a full shelf of soap bars in his closet. In any case at least soap doesn't go bad and you don't have to replace it periodically like tins with food and the like.

I have to admit I do have a lot of bath products. Bath and Body Works sales are really tempting. So I can trade for food with those? *hopeful*

So he told me. It apparently worked in Germany in the 1940s. Good soap was really rare. If at all only harsh soap was available on ration cards or something. I admittedly didn't follow all the stories about the Black Market workings in detail (maybe that was a mistake considering how things are going), but he stressed the usefulness of a soap stock to me, when I questioned the rationality of keeping a whole part of his closet stacked with soap bars. (He generally doesn't have odd quirks caused by past shortages and deprivations, unlike my grandparents had, so the soap really stood out to me as a kid.)

Related bits: I don't use Quicken but I do have a nifty spreadsheet in Excel that I use to keep track of my expenses by category, so I can totally relate to your Egg McMuffin epiphany. AND I have bar graphs for it! Pie charts would be fun too...

Other people look at me like I'm crazy when I tell them this stuff. Thanks for understanding!

It's fun! HUGE FUN! People do not understand the joy, really. I feel sorrow for them *sad* As it is epiphanifiying.

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