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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 pearbudget.com/set_up_2013, 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! help@pearbudget.com is the best way to do that.

Have a great rest of 2012!

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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.

BUT!

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: http://whatbrowser.org. 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 charlie@pearbudget.com 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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Having Trouble Logging in On the iPhone?

We’ve had a lot of e-mails recently from users who’ve had trouble getting in to their PearBudget accounts on their iPhones.

“I entered my password,” they write, “and it wouldn’t let me in. What’s going on?”

Ack. That’s terrible! Nobody wants to be cut off from their account. Weirdly, though, this isn’t a bug with PearBudget, but, actually, a bug with the iPhone.

For some reason, when the iPhone has been updating its software recently, a “remember that I’m logged in” setting has been getting turned off.

Here’s how to fix it:

On your iPhone, go into the “Settings” app (it’s the one with the icon that looks like gears). Flick down until you get to the “Safari” menu item, and select it. Then, look for the “Privacy” section and find the “cookies” setting. It should read either “all” or “from visited” (I have mine set to “from visited”).

I’ll try to add some screenshots over the next few days, but I wanted to make sure that I had this posted, in case any of you are running into the issue and need to resolve it.

If that didn’t answer your question, get in touch with us by e-mail, at help@pearbudget.com.

2012 transition page is now available!

The 2012 transition page is now available at:

https://pearbudget.com/set_up_2012

This page will allow you to plan for the amounts you plan to spend in each of your irregular categories, and also to start over fresh in any or all of those categories if you’d like to do so.  We apologize for the delay in getting the page up. (There’s lots of exciting behind the scenes things going on that should provide some exciting new features in 2012!)

If you run into any problems with the page or setting up for 2012, please send us an e-mail at help@pearbudget.com, and we’ll get right back to you!

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Just A Quick Update on the 2012 Transition

Update to below post:

The 2012 page is now available:

https://pearbudget.com/set_up_2012

We apologize for the delay!

——————————————

We know 2012 is coming down the road pretty quickly. We just wanted to give a quick note that we’re working on the “transition to 2012″ page, and that we hope to have it up very soon. It’ll allow you to start 2012 from scratch, so that if your numbers have gotten a little off over the last few months, or if you’ve taken a break and want to get back into budgeting, or if you just want to start your budget over for some other reason, you’ll be able to do so easily.

In the meantime, if you have any questions, just send us an e-mail at help@pearbudget.com, and Ruth or I will get back to you ASAP. Thanks!

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Help Save Our Friend’s Life

This post isn’t really about budgeting, but we hope you understand.

We need your help.

Amit Gupta

A good friend of ours, Amit Gupta, has a very serious case of Leukemia. If he doesn’t find a bone marrow match and get a transplant soon, he will die. And “soon” isn’t, like, “some time in the next year.” We have three days from now to get entries into the system to save his life.

Now, if Amit were caucasian, his odds of finding a match would be pretty good. Four out of every five caucasians who get Leukemia can find a match. Amit’s family’s Indian, though. That means his odds are A LOT worse. As in, only ONE South Asian in every TWENTY THOUSAND who has Leukemia will have a match in the registry.

I really want Amit to be that one. Or, more honestly, I want to increase those odds, so a *lot* of South Asians can be “that one,” and I want Amit to be one of them.

Getting registered is really easy, and painless, and free. I got registered over a decade ago, back when you had to have blood drawn. Nowadays, getting into the registry is as simple as ordering a kit online (it’s free), swabbing your cheek with a Q-Tip thing, and then mailing it back in (again, totally free). To order a free swabbing kit, just go here: http://bethematch.org/. There’s also a list of bone marrow swab drives in different cities around the world, if that works better for you.

So here’s the deal. If you order a kit and send it back in (even if you never end up being a match for anybody), we’ll give you a month of free PearBudget coverage.

If you’re of South Asian descent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives, or Sri Lanka) and you submit a swab kit to the registry, we’ll give you a free year of PearBudget coverage. If you have a friend who’s South Asian and you get them to submit a kit, you get the same deal. In fact, we’ll give you a year for every South Asian friend you get into the Bone Marrow Registry.

Even if you just post the following to Twitter, we’ll give your subscription a free week’s credit: “PearBudget’s trying to save a life and is giving away free budgeting software: http://blog.pearbudget.com/help-save-our-friends-life”

Basically, our goal is to get a lot of folks with South Asian bone marrow into the registry, and we need your help to do it. Help us out, help save Amit’s life, and get free PearBudget credit in the process. Check out Amit Gupta Needs You or send an e-mail to me (charlie@pearbudget.com) if you have any questions.

Thanks, friends, for any help you can give us.

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