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A Sly Way to Enter Dates in PearBudget

Of course you know how to type in the month, date, and year of a receipt, or to choose the correct date by using the drop-down calendar. But did you know that PearBudget has a super-fast shortcut for entering a receipt from the current month?

It’s true! Say it happens to be Monday, January 14th, 2013, and I want to enter a receipt from grocery shopping that I did last Friday, the 11th. All I need to do is enter the number 11 into the date field, and PearBudget will know that I mean 01/11/13.

Did You Know Date Entry Blog Post
Hooray for saving time! Now go enter some receipts!

If that didn’t answer your question, get in touch with us by e-mail, at

Where Do I Enter Irregular Expenses?

Irregular expenses are entered in just like monthly expenses.

When you’re planning your budget, you’ll tell PearBudget how much you’d like to assign to that category on the Plan page. (Let’s say it’s $50 towards “new lawn mower”).

Over the months, as you set aside more, the amount available in “new lawn mower” will grow. Then, when you’re ready to buy your new lawn mower, you’ll enter it in on the Enter page, just like a regular receipt.

Once you’ve spent money from an irregular category, the Review page will show how much you have remaining in that category (or, if you’ve overspent, it’ll show you that, too).

If that didn’t answer your question, get in touch with us by e-mail, at

Backing Up … Your Gift Cards

A store gift card from The Gap

Photo by Neff Conner

Maybe you got a store gift card at Christmas, or you returned some merchandise to the store and got a card with store credit.

Cards with store credit are great in lots of ways, but one of their downsides is that — unless you have a good place in your house to store them (or you want to carry them in your wallet all the time) — you can lose them without too much trouble. Many stores let you use the card to shop online, though, so as long as you have the number, you can still use the card.

So if you got a store’s gift card for Christmas, take a digital photo of the back of it, so you have a backup record of the number. (If the card has one of those scratch-off areas to get the PIN / security number, go ahead and scratch that off before you take the photo!)

It’s also not a bad idea to read the fine print on the card and make sure that if it has an “expiration date” that you add a reminder on your calendar so you can use it in time.

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Help Us Make PearBudget Better

The short version: Help us out by filling out a super-short survey.

The slightly-longer version: Over the years, we’ve gotten some great input from users, about how we could make PearBudget better.

We’ve collected lots and lots of suggestions for features that we haven’t been able to develop yet, but that we’re thinking about for 2013. Grouping categories into buckets, setting any category (not just irregulars) to roll over from one month to another, and developing new ways to import your receipts (without you ever having to give us your bank passwords).

But since we’re such a small team, though, we can’t build everything at once. We need some help prioritizing features. Would you help us?

We have a super-short survey, and we’d really love to hear your answers on it. It’s just a few questions, and shouldn’t take you more than a minute or so to fill it out. (We’ve left most of the suggestions off the list. Some are already in the pipeline, others we’ll hopefully get to later on. This list is a very short “ideas we like, but want to gauge our users’ need for” list.)

2013’s going to be a pretty cool year, and we can’t wait to get started on making PearBudget better. Fill out our four-question survey and help us get going!

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Setting Up 2013 Numbers

With the new year coming, we know you’ll want to get your 2013 goals set up. These are the amounts you’d like to set aside (and spend) in your irregular categories.

If you want to set up your goals for 2013, just head to, and you should be all set.

If you want to start 2013 from scratch

A lot of people like to start the new year from scratch, to not have any balance (positive or negative) carried in to the new year. If you want to start with a balance of $0.00 for your irregular categories, just make sure the checkbox in the “Apply 2012 Balance to 2013 Goal?” column is unchecked. Of course, if you want to carry that balance over, make sure the box is checked.

If you have any questions or problems, don’t hesitate to reach out to us! is the best way to do that.

Have a great rest of 2012!


Save for the Future By Making A Deal With Future You

“Dad! Can we go downstairs?”

It was early. She wasn’t supposed to be up yet.

“Why are you awake, sweetie?”

“I had a bad dream and can’t sleep. Can you come downstairs with me?”

“What do you want to do down there?”

“Read a book.”

Hard to argue with that one. And it wasn’t too early. But I knew: if we went downstairs and she wasn’t dressed for the day, we’d have a battle in about an hour as we rushed about getting ready to go to school. So I made a deal with her:

“Okay. We can go downstairs and read, but you have to get all dressed for school before we go. I’ll meet you in the hallway in … two minutes. Go!”

She ran off to her room and got dressed, looking forward to getting downstairs and reading by the fire.

We recently talked about how to avoid nickel-and-dime purchases, when we said to match your buying volume to your usage patterns. There’s another good way to balance your spending between “wants” and “needs” … make a compromise with your future self.

Let’s say I want to buy a waffle cone maker. (Maybe my old one broke from overuse? Stop judging.)

It’s $50. I don’t really have $50 to spend on it right now. And anyway, let’s say I know I need to save up money for something else — we’re behind on our retirement saving, and I really want to be better about that. “Retirement” is a big, far-off goal, but I can certainly break it down into smaller goals. I can make a compromise with myself: The waffle cone maker costs $50. So the agreement I make with myself: once I’ve saved $500 towards the need (retirement), I can buy the want (the waffle cone maker).

In this case, I set the goal for the need as 10x the cost of the want, but, obviously, that’s flexible.

What we’ve done here is just like what I did with Frances this morning: I set up a compromise, where I agreed to the “fun” thing, as long as the “not as fun, but really important” thing has been taken care of.

And, by the way, Frances loved her time reading by the fire.

Do you have any tips for ways to balance your needs with your wants? We’d love to hear them in the comments!

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An Easy Trick To Avoid Making Nickel and Dime Purchases

We recently asked on the PearBudget page at Facebook what topics you’d like us to write about, and one of the questions posed was “How do you resist nickel-and-dime purchases?” We thought that’d be a great one to tackle first.

Ultimately, avoiding nickel-and-dime purchases is about knowing what you need, knowing what you want and knowing what you have available to spend. It’s also about keeping all that in mind while you’re out shopping (or spending time “just looking” on Etsy).

I recently saw a quote I liked: “Don’t buy something unless you’ve wanted it three times.” The problem with that quote, though, is that there’s tons of stuff I want. Literally, tons. A Mini Cooper, for example. (Technically, that’s only one ton. But I’d sure love to have two Mini Coopers. So: tons.) And I’ve certainly “wanted” a Mini Cooper more than three times. So should I buy one? Of course not.

I’ll take two. Or, wait. Hold on. Maybe not.

photo by mroach

But that idea of waiting has a certain merit: How do we keep ourselves from buying things that don’t really matter? Or if we’re buying things that matter, how do we keep from buying more than we need (the “supersize me” problem)?

We can save money if we buy in bulk, right? So maybe the trick is to buy everything in large volumes, so we avoid little purchases? Well … buying in bulk brings its own problems.

One of the tips that I find most useful is to match your buying volume to your usage patterns.

In short: For things you use all the time, go ahead and buy bulk. For infrequent things, buy the smallest size possible.

We all have “the staples”: things we know that we use day-in and day-out. For us, peanut butter is one of those things. There’s other stuff that we buy less frequently — things like asprin, or lightbulbs, or wrapping paper.

That doesn’t mean you should buy the single-serving asprin packs. It also doesn’t mean you should buy the 200-count paper towel pallet. It means you should buy stuff in moderation, at a reasonable volume for the rate you’ll use it.

You don’t want to overbuy — if you buy too much perishable food it could go to waste, and if you buy too much other stuff, that money could be used for other things.

At the same time, you don’t want to underbuy — making “another run to the store” is inconvenient and opens you up to the possibility of buying more stuff just because you’re already out. So the trick is to buy just the right amount.

It sounds kind of dopey to say “buy more of the stuff you use the most,” but that’s exactly the formula. The idea: when you use stuff often, buy it in bulk, upsize it, and try to get a cheaper price-per-unit. When you’re buying something that you don’t use often, scale it back, go small.

When it comes to stuff that’s a treat (or that you know probably isn’t good for you), do your best to go with the smallest unit available. So if you’re getting lunch at a restaurant and you get a soda, get a small one. Resist the “appeal to value” that comes when you think “but I could get SO MUCH MORE and it’d only cost a little bit extra!”

And that quote from the beginning does have a certain usefulness — if you’re watching your money, commit to never buying things impulsively. If you need to make a list of things to buy when you go to the store, great. Do it. (I make a list just so I don’t forget stuff.)

Do you have any secrets for buying the right amount and resisting nickel-and-dime purchases? If so, we’d love to hear about them in the comments.

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A Safe Conversation Starter for the Thanksgiving Dinner Table

photo by Greg Carley

Thanksgiving is actually my favorite holiday, mainly because it’s a recognized day for family and friends to come together and spend time catching up and being with one another, but it hasn’t become commercialized the way that the others have. And since it’s so close to Christmas and Halloween, I’m hoping it’ll stay safe.

One thing that isn’t always safe when it comes to Thanksgiving, though, is peaceable conversation around the dinner table. Hot topics you can look forward to this year — Israel/Palestine, pot legalization, gay marriage, and global warming (and Hurricane Sandy). Yikes!

We wanted to give you something safe to talk about with your distant relatives, then, and it deals with saving money.

This is actually one of the simplest money-saving tricks you can do in your house, and I’ve wanted to write about it for a while. It takes 30 seconds, you only have to do it once, and it can save you lots of money every year. All you have to do is this: The next time you take a shower, notice whether you have the hot water turned on all the way, with no cold water.

If that describes your shower: congratulations! You don’t have to do anything.

But if you have cold water mixed in with your hot water when you shower, you’re probably overheating the water in your house’s water heater, and you should turn the water heater down a few degrees. Think about it: Your shower is probably the thing in your house that uses the hottest water. Heating the water heater beyond the temperature you need is just wasting electricity / propane / gas.

So, as you sit down for your meal and sense that a cousin on one side of the family and an uncle on the other are about to start an intense conversation about something you’d really rather not get into at the dinner table, bring this up and steer the conversation towards saving money.

And once they start talking about it, you can get seconds on the pie.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

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Making PearBudget better for you (and how upgrading your browser will help!)

I’ll get into the meat of the post in a second, but the important takeaway is this: we want you to have the best internet experience possible (not just at PearBudget, but everywhere!). If you haven’t upgraded your browser in a while, we want to help you do that! Visit What Browser for an easy way to do it!

Hey, everybody! We’ve been a little quiet here on the blog lately.

No, scratch that. We’ve been very quiet here on the blog lately.

A bunch of reasons for that, but the most exciting one is that we’ve been re-building PearBudget from the ground-up. We get requests every day for various new features — like being able to group categories into custom collections (so all utilities could be together, or all “food” spending, and so on), or like tag auto-completion, or … well … we get a lot of requests.

We built the original version of PearBudget way back in 2007, and over the last 5 years, a few things have happened. I’ve gotten better at programming. We’ve gotten a better sense of your needs for budgeting. Technology itself has improved, meaning we can make PearBudget faster, prettier, and even more easier to use. All exciting stuff. But to do that, we basically needed to rebuild PearBudget.

So for the last several months, I’ve been working on recreating PearBudget starting with a blank slate. My goal is that — at first — you won’t even notice. It should look and feel just like it does now (except maybe run a little faster). (If things don’t work the way you expect them to, that’s a problem!) Then, since the backend will be all-new, I’ll be able to roll out new features far more easily.


One of the important things to note about the new version of PearBudget is that you’ll need to have a relatively recent browser to use it. Google, for example, is phasing out support for old versions of Internet Explorer (version 8 and lower) starting tomorrow. We want you to be able to get online, though, and to use PearBudget! So we wanted to explain how to upgrade your browser.

First, though: what’s a browser? It’s the software you’re using to read this post! The most common ones are Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer.

Here’s a screenshot of a tool (What Browser) that’ll tell you what browser you’re using. Note! This is just a picture I took from my system! Yours will show something different. Click on the image, though, and you’ll see your results!

You can see what browser you’re using here: If you aren’t using the most recent version of your browser, either upgrade, or click on one of the alternative browsers (I recommend Chrome! It’s the one with the red, yellow, and green circle icon). All browsers are free.

We’re still running some tests on the rebuilt version of PearBudget (e-mail me at if you want to try out the faster-but-otherwise identical PearBudget!), but we’re hoping to have it released soon. In the meantime, check to make sure you’re on a recent version of your browser so you can have a faster, prettier, and more secure time on the Internet!

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How to Refinance Your Home (over at Simple Mom)

I wrote a post over at SimpleMom on how to refinance your home.

If you can answer “yes” to the following questions …

  • Have you had your mortgage for less than 10 years?
  • Are you currently paying more than around 5.5% in interest?
  • Are you going to be in your house for more than two years?

… you should probably go check it out! Here it is: Refinancing A Mortgage, Simply

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