10,000 Budgets

The Holiday are coming! A budget is a plan for your money. Spending typically increases during the holidays; yet, only 60% of people have a budget (plan). I usually save my “create a budget” marketing for the New Year but I’d rather people get the benefit now.

Thus, SpendCast is launching the 10,000 Budgets project. Our goal is to reduce prices on all of our budgeting apps during the holiday season until at least 10,000 budgets have been created. Tis’ the season to give! So–yes–there will be free downloads. Stay tuned! We will also have specials on Veteran’s Day and Black Friday. Yes, you just might spend a little more money for the holidays. SpendCast wants you to Know Before You Spend!

90% Off All SpendCast Apps in the Google Play Store

SALE-IG-10K

 

Advertisements

Ashe v. PNC Goes to SCOTUS

redditama8

Green Habits that Keep Green in Your Pocket

It’s hard to get motivated to be “Green” when you see the prices of Hybrid cars, and green cleaning products, and recycled, post-consumerism goods. But what if you were told that by being green, you can keep a lot of green in your pocket? No, this can’t be so, you say. This person must be one of those non-realistic hippies who expects us to wear hemp pants and drive cars made out of recycled soda cans. No, I have a love of designer labels like the next person. However, I have learned a few good tricks on how to keep your taste while not being a trash creator.

Speaking of taste, let’s talk about what you eat. The average human being throws away about 600 times their weight in their lifetime. A good majority of this waste is food packaging. Packaged food may seem like a deal, but on average, it comes with great costs. The packaging creates a great deal of waste, which requires multiple trash bags, and multiple trips out to the garbage can.
Also, take a look at prices on those packaged goods. It may seem like those microwave lunches, boxed pizzas, and soup cans have great prices, but they tend to have less food matter than a barrel of fruit at the same cost. Nature does a nice job in providing us food without packaging. Fruit and vegetables all come without packaging and can be easily recycled in a compost pile. Fresh meats can be packaged in a reusable container. You will actually have more food in your fridge, less weight around your waistline and less trash in your can if you stick to non-packaged or lightly packaged foods.

Next, take a look at your utilities. Energy efficiency can save you big bucks. You can make an immediate impact on your wallet by turning off lights, using cold water to wash your clothes, and taking shorter showers. Take it a step further by replacing all your bulbs with energy efficient LED bulbs or replacing your electric hot water heater with a solar one. Many electric companies offer energy audits, and for a very low cost will seal windows and door frames, and give you advice on better insulation tips to save money on heating or cooling costs.

Another large area that leaks money out of your pocket can be the outdoors. Lawns, plants, and bushes can require a large degree of chemicals that pollute the earth and water which can be precious and cost big bucks. Try to landscape with low maintenance plants, rocks, and fake grass. Build up low-maintenance stone or brick patios, walkways, and or gardening strips that do not require chemicals or water and can be enjoyed for years to come at no cost. Small investments in wood chippers, compost barrels, and rain barrels can have long-lasting effects in naturally caring for your outdoors at low cost and recycling lawn and food waste.

Clothes is another big area that gets neglected for recycling. There is no need to have massive amounts of clothes that eventually end up in the trash. Use old clothes, sheets and towels for rags around the house instead of sponges and paper towels. Take older clothes in good condition and trade them with friends or co-workers to own something new. This will keep you freshening up your wardrobe without spending the cash.

Living green is a way of life, and with some effort, it can be a way of life that saves you money. When you are creating less trash, you are not only saving your environment, you are also saving in the bank.

Dating on a Budget

Millennials often ask me how to be on the dating scene without going bankrupt. Figuring out how to date while on a restricted budget is certainly no joke.

The generation known as Millennials (ages 18-35) have a lot of things going for them: strong family ties, immense diversity, and a close relationship with technology. They also have the largest amount of school loan debt. This could attribute to the fact that they get married on average much later in life than their predecessors, and what you have is serious need for advice on budget dating.

Dating on a budget requires some skill and a set of standards. Don’t waste your time or money on people who won’t make it past one date. Set a budget that you can afford each month for dating, and realistically figure out how many dates that equates to each month. Make sure to add in gas money, babysitting costs, parking fees or other expenses. You never know what emergency expenses might come up.

Avoid quick hit dating i.e. meeting someone and going on a date in the same day. Use your screening skills and get a feel for this person via a few emails, texts, and maybe even phone calls before making the commitment to meet. Remember, email and phone calls are much cheaper than a night out on the town.

Once you have found someone worthy of meeting in person, schedule an introductory encounter. Throw out the dinner and movie nonsense. Meeting for coffee, smoothie, frozen yogurt, or cocktail are not only wise, but quite the norm. Figure out if you really like this person over a $5 cup of joe, versus trudging through a painful $50 meal with someone you may quickly realize is a nightmare.

And who said food and drink had to be involved in a first date anyway? Establish yourself as unique and choose a different setting for your first engagement. Here are a list of ways to spend time with someone new while saving your wallet from the horror of excessive dating:

-Check out a local swap meet together and give each other a goal, like finding the worst possible hat, or the most hideous lamp. It’s a fun way to see your date’s playful and creative side for almost no money.

-Meet at a bookstore and share with each other your favorite books, or research your perfect vacation spot. Bookstores usually have good spots to sit, chat and relax.

-In the winter, pick your favorite hill and go sledding. Pack a thermos of hot cocoa and some oatmeal raisin cookies and tailgate after your sledding adventure.

-Many museums have free nights (or a voluntary admission fee), or open house nights. Check your local museums and meet your new date at the museum.

-Meet them at a well-populated park, playground, boardwalk, or beach for an hour of people watching. Challenge each other to find the strangest outfit, hairdo, or facial expression. Bring popsicles or cotton candy to snack on.

-Have dogs? Meet at a dog park and let the pups run while the two of you connect. Bring some dog bones or treats.

Another key element is honesty. You don’t want to appear stingy or cheap, but you cannot pretend to be a big spender when you cannot afford it. After your date has earned your trust and seems like a keeper, let them know you are carefully monitoring your finances. The fact is if the other person can’t be respectful of your financial goals, they probably aren’t going to work out anyway. Plus, you want to have good money management skills and honest conversations about this subject because if you two do make it in the long-haul, you will need to deal with finances honestly and jointly.

All of this advice is applicable to women, too. The millennial generation displays more equality among women and men than any other preceding generation, and the days of men paying for dates have been thrown aside. Women too are required to budget in some time for love.

When dating on a budget, a person should show major potential if you are going to spend money on them. Do some low-cost or free activities for the “getting to know you” phase while you determine if this person is worth a larger contribution from your pocket.

Op-Ed: David and Goliath Trademark Dispute

My company, Spendology LLC, started using the SPENDOLOGY trademark first and applied for federal trademark protection 7 months before PNC Bank. Nonetheless, the bailed-out bank hired one of the largest law firms in the US to persuade me to “abandon the trademark and adopt a new one”. The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. or PNC Bank has succeeded in its attempt to use legal action to prevent my company from registering its trademark and namesake. The story starts a few years ago when I decided to start a company that would use psychology and analytics to advance intelligence. I had an ambitious goal – I just need a name for it.

It was a bright summer morning in 2010 when I woke up and had an epiphany. It was on that sunny July morning that I finally put a name to it, SPENDOLOGY, the psychology behind why we spend and how we can spend more wisely. I searched to see if the name had previously been trademarked on the US Patent and Trademark website. I also conducted several Google and web domain searches to ensure the name was not being used by company. As it turns out, there were no registered trademarks, trademark applications, or search results showing companies using the SPENDOLOGY trademark in July 2010.

I had recently read Dan Ariely’s first book, Predictably Irrational, which looked at behavioral economics research showing that people don’t always make optimal decisions. I previously worked as a management consultant making decision support tools for senior executives. I thought it would be great to put these powerful tools in the hands of everyday people. I wanted to combine insights from behavioral economics with the power of smart algorithms to help people make better decisions. Next, I developed the Instant Budget Calculator, an online financial calculator that has enabled over 1500 Spendology customers to create a smart, local, and personal budget in less than 10 minutes. Creating a budget is difficult. The 2014 Consumer Financial Literacy Survey found that a whopping 61% of consumers do not have a budget.

I decided that I should protect the namesake of my company by seeking federal trademark protection. I submitted a trademark application October 25, 2011. The SPENDOLOGY trademark application was published in the US Patent and Trademark Office’s Official Gazette on June 12, 2012. The PNC Financial Services Group applied for the Spendology trademark on June 12, 2012 and sent me a cease and desist letter dated June 13, 2012. On October 10, 2012, PNC filed a Notice of Opposition with the USPTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeals Board with the goal of preventing my firm from registering its trademark. One of the largest banks and one of the largest law firms in the United States were successful in combining forces to cancel my firm’s trademark application.

I thought about quitting. I hired and fired several lawyers. Many lawyers I spoke with suggested that I give up. This was regulatory capture at its best. PNC Bank, a recipient of TARP bailout funds, was Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Jail and Too Big to Be Wrong. The Department of Justice and Federal Regulators refuse to take Wall Street to task for willfully crashing the economy. Main Street is still reeling from the financial crisis. PNC is continuing to wage War Against Main Street.

Big companies with deep pockets, like PNC, can use “legal force” to cancel the trademark applications and registrations of startups or small businesses – even if the startup used the mark first. The implications of this far-reaching. Moreover, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a landmark case (B&B Hardware, Inc. v. Hargis Industries, Inc.) on December 2, 2014. The Supreme Court’s decision will directly impact the matter between Spendology LLC and PNC Bank.

I founded Spendology so that I could empower people and organizations to make better financial decisions. Now, I am in a battle for my company’s namesake; albeit, the matter goes beyond my company’s property rights. I am fighting to prevent another entrepreneur or small business woman from being deprived of their property rights despite having done all the rights things. This is a struggle that can be likened to the battle between David and Goliath. Yet, we all remember that, in the end, David triumphed over Goliath.

How to Easily Split the Bill

Imagine an idyllic scene where you and a few good friends go out to dinner for fondue. There are laughs, good memories shared, the food is delicious, and the wine is flowing. Nothing could make this night any better. Then the bill arrives.

Suddenly, a scene of joy and friendship turns in to one of mathematical calculation. The check gets passed around and everyone carefully throws in their money. The leader of the pack discovers there isn’t enough money to cover the bill and tip. Suspicion arises, and every person is interrogated on how they assessed their portion of the bill. The generous one throws in an extra twenty, even though he probably overpaid already. The poor one nervously shifts in his chair, because he has nothing more in his pocket to give and his credit card is maxed out. The leader pulls out a calculator and begins meticulously dividing up the bill. A fight breaks out about how so and so drank too many vodka tonics, and the rest of the group shouldn’t have to make up for it. Another battle begins about how much tip the waitress really deserves. If splitting the bill drives you crazy, there are some good rules of thumb on how to avoid the above scene. There is no reason that it should be a tough procedure every single time.

First, be thoughtful of everyone going to eat. Pick a restaurant you think everyone can afford given their circumstances. Warn people that the bill is “dutch” tonight, and email them the menu in advance so they can plan what they can reasonably eat and drink. If someone complains that the price per plate is too high, be ready with a good backup. Remind people to bring small bills if possible. Before arriving at the restaurant, see if the restaurant is willing to cut separate checks for every person at the table. This can avoid a great a deal of confusion. If the restaurant can’t accommodate you, ask your table of friends how they want to handle the bill before the meal starts: are we splitting evenly or itemizing? This way, everyone is prepared for what will happen with the bill and it is less likely to ruin the night.

Alcoholic drinks are often the root of many disputes in regards to the bill. Try having everyone order and pay for their own drinks at the bar before sitting. Don’t have the bar check transferred over to the table or start a tab. Try to avoid ordering wine for the table, unless everyone at the table, whether they drank a glass or not, agrees to share the cost. Appetizers is another area for issue. Again, best to avoid unless everyone agrees to share the cost.

Prepare to be the bookkeeper and the bank for the meal. Two of the biggest problems with splitting the bill are when everyone gets a say, and nobody has change. Bring a wad of small bills. Ask the waitress to bring you the bill. Be the person to itemize the bill and let everyone know their total with tip. Make change where necessary right on the spot. Having centralized accounting can make the entire process much smoother.

Also, consider technology to help you split the bill. There are several apps out now that can help you do this. If you need help doing mathematics, Gratuity will assist you in calculating the tip plus total and dividing out by the number of people in the party. If you are forced to itemize, there are several apps such as Tab, Divvy and Billr that will let you either snap a photo of the bill or enter the items ordered and divide out the amounts everyone should pay. You can also agree to pay for everyone and have people pay you back on services such as Venmo or Paypal. Be careful with this option because not everyone is great at remembering to pay back. It’s acceptable to send a reminder email or text a few days after the meal. Know, however, that it is possible that someone might not pay you back.

So, go enjoy a meal with friends and family, but remember to keep these tips in mind.

Using Game Theory to Improve Your Finances

You are hanging out with two of your friends trying to decide where to spend the following weekend. Your options are a local spa or Las Vegas. While the more expensive option is a guaranteed good time, you are feeling tight on finances at the moment, and spending over $1,000 next weekend doesn’t feel very wise or comfortable. Then again, your friends seem really excited about the Vegas option and you don’t want to let anyone down.

In the above scenario, you are weighing out your options, trying to make the most favorable decision, not only to you but also in regards to your friends. This strategic thought process is studied by scientists from all different fields and is known as Game Theory. The name is rather appropriate, considering life is really like a game, everything we do is a calculated move, as we try to situate ourselves nicely on the board game of life.

Originally game theory looked at zero-sum games, which tried to prove people operate on a system of exact exchanges, equal parts lost to equal parts gained. For instance you buy your roommate dinner tonight, because she bought you dinner last night. Of course, humans are never that simple all of the time, and so since its origins, gaming theory has expanded into complicated scenarios. In simplicity, it aims to describe why we do what we do in social situations.

How Can You Use Game Theory To Improve Your Finances?

Understanding how people think and why they do what they do gives you a lot of power. You can better understand your loved ones and even yourself; in fact, you can actually use the ideology behind game theory to improve your own life. According to one NYU professor, you can score a better deal on a car using game theory. He says he’s successfully done it at over 11 car dealerships. Business Insider explains that this professor simply calls up a number of dealers, says he will buy a specific car at a specific time that day from the dealership that offers the best price. Since car dealerships work on ‘dominate strategy’ logic, this means they want to make a sale more than they want to make a large profit spread, the Professor gets a great deal from someone.

If you just walk into a dealership, the salesmen are going to be using game theory psychology on you, selling you a car at the price they want. Few businesses use ‘optimum outcome,’ which would be the opposite and mean that they only want to make a sale for full retail price. Always keep this in mind when negotiations are on the table.

Besides getting a better deal on your next car, you can use game theory to improve your finances in many other aspects of life, too. If you are going to buy a house, or anything that involves negotiations, you can get a better deal by thinking outside of the box, and applying game theory to understand the real thought process of the seller and anyone else involved. You can also take note of your own rationalizations to help you spend less and save more. The mind is a powerful thing, the better you understand how it operates, the more control you have over your own destiny and bank account!

Buying A Car: 4 Tips From a Car Dealer’s Daughter

At some point in your life, you have to buy a car, and it’s a big decision. My dad worked in the auto industry for many years, and you learn a lot growing up around car sales, dealerships, and auto auctions. There are many great, honest car dealers, but there are also scammers just looking to make a quick buck. You don’t want to find out down the road that you got a lousy deal on your car. There are so many financial factors to consider before buying a car. Shop smart for your next car with these 4 insider tips!

1. Practice Your Car Payments

Before you even start shopping for your new car, you need to figure out how much you can afford to pay each month. If you think you can handle $250 per month, start setting this money aside for a few months to see if it’s doable. If all goes well, when it comes time to buy your car, you’ll be more than ready to make your payments. Plus, you’ll have extra money saved up for your down payment.

2. Check Out Financing Options Elsewhere

If you head straight to the dealership without first securing a car loan, or at least doing some research, you might not get the best deal on your car. If you get financing through the dealership where you buy your car, this loan becomes a part of the deal, or another way the dealership can make money off of you. The same can be said about the bank, but banks are much more regulated when it comes to loans than car dealerships. At the very least, you should know your credit score and the current average loan rate for your credit score. A dealership can make your credit seem less valuable than it is, leaving you with an unfairly high interest rate that hikes up your monthly payments.

If you have a trade-in, try and sell it on your own before taking the rock-bottom price a dealer will offer you for it. With sites like Craigslist, it’s easier than ever to sell your vehicle, and you’re almost guaranteed to make more money selling it yourself than trading it in.

3. Beware of “Four Square”

Four Square is a fun game you play as a kid, but it’s also a trick employed by auto dealers. No two people ever pay the same amount for a car. A dealership can sell 3 of the same make and model vehicles, all for a different sales price. Negotiation is a powerful tool and car salesmen are some of the best negotiators. A trick called Four Square helps dealers secure the upper hand when negotiating your car payments and total vehicle costs. According to The Consumerist, if you even know about the Four Square trick you are “already ahead of 99.9% of the people walking in.”

Many dealerships use Four Square to come to a price agreement, although the tactic doesn’t typically benefit the consumer. The Four Square worksheet includes the purchase price, down payment, trade-in value, and monthly payment. Don’t let all of these numbers confuse you. For starters, you can help protect yourself by knowing your trade-in car’s Kelly Blue Book Value. Secondly, instead of allowing the dealer to ask you what you can afford to pay each month, stick to a certain final price point. If the dealer asks you if you can pay $375 a month and you simply say yes, you might be paying more than is necessary – meaning you’re paying over value for your new car. Make sure your monthly payments are fair by doing the math yourself before agreeing to anything.

4. Save Money, Buy Used

Buying a used car can save you a lot of money. The moment you drive a new car off of the lot, the car plunges thousands of dollars in value. Buying a car with 20,000 miles on it is going to be just as reliable, and will be more affordable. Used cars also retain better resale value.

Smaller, used car dealerships tend to be more honest than new dealerships because they have to better protect their reputation in order to stay in business. A new Hyundai dealership, for instance, can work off of its big box name. A smaller (non-franchise) dealership must build up a good reputation or risk going out of business. A small car lot that’s been in business a long time is likely doing something right.

Do your research and be prepared. You should end up with a great car at a price you can afford!

The Income Gap

There is an old saying when struggling with personal finances: “looks like we are going to have to rob Peter to pay Paul this month.” Robbing Peter to pay Paul is not a new concept. It is a saying that originates from the 16th century during the European Reformation, when citizens were required to pay taxes to both the church of St. Peter and St. Paul. Money being scarce, citizens were often forced to pay one tax over another. This concept is a dangerous one, usually followed by those individuals who haven’t properly analyzed their income gap.

The income gap, or the difference between income and expenses, has commonly been negative for many individuals, especially during depressions, recessions, and periods of great change. However, there is nothing worse than being ignorant of your own income gap. You may know anecdotally that you live from paycheck to paycheck, but until you understand what is coming in and out of your bank account, you will not have the capacity to improve your situation.

In simple terms, the income gap is calculated by totaling your income, and subtracting your total expenses. Income is defined by anything in your life that brings money into your bank account including child support, paychecks, gifts, bonuses, and dividend payments. Expenses are defined as anything that takes money out of your bank account, such as paying child support, bills, subscriptions, loan payments, or trips to Burger King.

The key to successful income gap analysis is to gather all sources of income and expenses.  In many cases, your income and expenses may not be consistent. For example, your electric bill may vary from season to season. You may pay town taxes once a year. You may get a bonus from work once a quarter. In cases like a monthly electric bill, best practice is to take the highest bill you have paid in the last twelve months, and use that as your keystone to calculate your monthly expenses. For inconsistent income like bonuses, choose the lowest amount you have ever received as your keystone. If there is a possibility you may not receive the income at all, its best not to include it as it is not dependable income.

Once you have gathered all income and expenses, start doing some analysis. An excel spreadsheet becomes extremely handy during this process, or even a series of index cards. Begin to lay out your anticipated finances for the following year by month. In months where you would be expected to pay car registration fees or town taxes, put them in that appropriate month. Subtract the total of your expenses from your income for each month, and then determine a grand total for the year. Determine which months you are in the red. This generally means you need to save throughout the year to accommodate these months, or you may need to make some expense cuts in these months to afford all of your bills.

Many individuals have a negative income gap, where they are in the red over 50% of the time up to a full year. This requires strategic planning such as large, life-altering changes. You may need to move to a more affordable home, look for a better job, buy less expensive meats, drop your gym membership, or lower your cell phone bill. You may need to temporarily increase your income by lowering contributions to your 401(k) or taking on a second job. If you can make some hard decisions, you can vastly turn around your income gap to the positive, and get to a point of saving.

Also, determine what you can pay when. If you receive two paychecks a month, take a look at when your bills are due and which ones you can pay per paycheck. This knowledge will help you keep the majority of your bills paid on time according to their due dates without negatively impacting your credit. If you must skip a bill, see if there are any that do not affect your credit where you can negotiate with the lender or institution for an extension, or partial payments.

Don’t be deceived. Many people with a negative income gap think they can prioritize the important bills to pay by robbing Peter to pay Paul. The fact of the matter is this may help you survive, but not thrive. This method often has extremely adverse effects on credit and credibility that can take years to repair. In order to truly reverse your negative income gap, tough decisions often need to be made to lower your expenses or increase your income. Both Peter and Paul need to get paid. Analyzing your income and expenses, and building a reasonable strategy for a positive income gap will keep both Peter and Paul your friends.

Want Less Stress and More Stability? All You Need Is A Savings Account

Happy National Financial Literacy Month! Allow the month of April to remind you that you can always take steps to improve your financial security and reduce your daily stress. If you don’t have enough money saved up for an emergency, you’re not alone-in fact, in a recent study, 76 percent of those surveyed claimed to be living paycheck to paycheck. More startling, 27 percent had no savings at all, while 50 percent had less than 3 months of livable income saved.

Perhaps that’s why the stress levels of Americans continues to rise. “Nothing helps you sleep better at night than knowing you have money tucked away for unplanned expenses, ” says Greg McBride of Bankrate.com, who released the study.

So if having an adequate savings account can help reduce stress and cushion the blow of unforeseeable disasters, why aren’t more people saving money? If you’re a part of the majority, the answer might seem simple: there is hardly enough money left to save after paying bills and other routine expenses. It’s time to start thinking of your savings as a mandatory bill, even if it’s only a $30 bill each month. Anything is better than nothing and over time you’ll be grateful you saved.

 

The Fundamental Reasons For Saving

There are truly unlimited reasons you need a savings account. No matter how passive, ordinary, or routine your life seems, the unexpected will happen. If you’re hesitant about transferring money into your savings account this month, realize that this money is only going to pay you back in the future.

Your savings account can help you:

-Have money for unexpected bills or incidents

-Protect you from steep overdraft charges

-Get a boost when you need a large down payment on items such as a house or car

-Reduce your overall stress

-Pay for college tuition

-Plan for a comfortable retirement

 

Change Your State of Mind

A savings account can actually change your state of mind. Once you start seeing your savings increase, you’re going to feel proud and accomplished. You might imagine yourself splurging on new golf clubs or a weekend getaway when you’ve reached your goal, but you will feel such a relief in having a fund for a rainy day. In fact, you will likely be motivated to save more. You will learn quickly that the good feelings derived from having savings can supersede the fun of splurging and the imminent guilt.

 

Debt Never Pays Off Alone

Are you skipping on saving because you are instead paying off debt? This is a legitimate concern, but it should not be enough to stop you from saving, even if it’s a tiny amount. Should something happen, you might re-load the same credit card you just paid off and incur the linked interest charges. This is part of the reason Forbes actually rates saving for an emergency cushionas more important than paying off debt. Try finding a balance between paying off debt in a timely manner and creating an emergency cushion. When an emergency arrives, you can use your savings instead of tackling on debt.

 

Reduce Your Risk, Increase Your Savings

Because of the low interest rates, you might be dissatisfied with the returns routine savings accounts are currently offering. On the other hand, the stock market is on a tear and placing your money in here might seem like the more lucrative option. But beware; the market could keep gaining, but there’s always sizable risk involved. Nellie Huang argues in this month’s addition of Kiplinger Magazine that bonds deserve a second look. He adds that while a safe and well-diversified stock portfolio takes around $100,000 of capital to maintain, “most bond funds, by contrast, let you through the door for $2,500 or less.”

It’s true that savings accounts, bonds, and low-risk retirement funds don’t provide the same yield as riskier investments, but it’s smart to have some money you can count on. And, you can always diversify later on, as your wealth increases. In fact, professional money advisers suggest having a variety of investments and always a reliable savings account.