Category: Articles

A Word About Browsers

By , March 30, 2011 2:48 pm

Recently I added support for Google Chrome Frame. It has brought up a few questions from some users. Why did I do this? Let me explain.

The most bug reports I get come from people using Internet Explorer (IE). IE is notorious for having problems. Not only is it more prone to allowing a virus on your computer, but it doesn’t support web standards properly, which is the real issue.

The one advantage of IE is the ability to support Active X controls. This allows you to use plugins that can extend the usefulness of your browser. I used used to work for a company where we made a web based document management solution where you could connect to your scanner, scan files and view the scanned tiff files all within IE. But the problem is, it is this support for Active X that opens the doors for malicious viruses.

A while back I was thinking about this and realized that if IE allows you to plug in Active X controls and essentially run other programs within the browser, why not try to run a better browser inside of IE.

Fortunately I wasn’t the first person to think of this. Someone at Google did, and that is where Google Chrome Frame comes in. If you install Google Chrome Frame, Inzolo will act as if you are using Google Chrome. You will have less issues, better rending, faster performance, and an overall better experience. If you don’t have Chrome Frame install, you will see Inzolo as you normally would in IE.

There is a JavaScript snippet included in Inzolo that will detect if you are using IE. If you are, it will prompt you to install Google Chrome Frame. You can choose to close the pop-up if you don’t want it, but I recommend either installing it, or using one of these more modern browsers:

I know that Microsoft is doing a lot of work on IE9 to improve things and address all the web developer’s complaints. But so far it is still lacking support from what I have tested.

And now, for a little fun.

Check Your Credit Report Free 3 Times Per Year

By , September 8, 2010 7:57 am

I got an email this morning from Zander Insurance – my identity theft plan where I pay $12.50 a month for my whole family.

They provided great information and a reminder on how to check my credit report for free 3 times per year. Here is a portion of that email:

As a member of the Zander Insurance ID Experts Identity Theft Plan, we want to remind you that you should check your credit report from one of the three major credit bureaus. Accessing your credit report throughout the year may help detect identity theft issues. Federal Law provides that each credit bureau must provide you a copy of your credit report once a year at no charge. Please order one report at a time so that you can access your free credit report three times annually. Your spouse is eligible for the same protective services and checking both of your reports, if applicable, is highly recommended.

You can place your request at To request a copy in writing, please complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail to:

Annual Credit Report Request Service
PO BOX 105281
Atlanta, GA 30348-5281

You may request a child’s report by completing this form as well; you cannot request a minor’s report online. Be aware that most minor children will not have a credit file on record with the credit bureaus. You may also complete your requests via phone by calling 877-322-8228.

Please remember that is the only authorized website to provide free annual credit reports and that none of the additional services offered at are necessary to retrieve your free report. When requesting your information online, you will need to identify your state and then click “request report”. Complete all required fields and select the credit bureau you would like to access and follow each step. We recommend declining the option to purchase your credit score. You will then have access to view and print your report.

I highly recommend everyone do this. Put it on your calendar to check your report every four months.

Today I checked Equifax. Everything looked accurate, but I found two old accounts that were still open, one from 2005 and one from 2000!

The one from 2005 was a local furniture store. It was easy to close. All it took was a 5 minute phone call. The phone number was listed on the credit report.

The one from 2000 is from when I used to bank at First Security Bank. I had a Credit Card with them. They were bought out by Wells Fargo and shortly after that I closed my account with them. Apparently they didn’t close the credit card account.

I tried calling the number listed on the credit report, but I just get some kind of busy signal as if the phone number no longer exists. I will try calling Wells Fargo and if I don’t get anywhere with them, there is a link on my credit report to submit an online dispute. I’ll go that route.

In any case, I would recommend checking your credit and cleaning it up. It’s likely not as much hassle as you would fear it to be.

The Credit Cards I Use

By , July 16, 2010 7:50 am

I began writing a comment on the GSR’s blog post: Ask the Readers: Which Credit Cards Do You Use — and Why?. After a few paragraphs I decided I might as well post my comments here.

I can’t say that I ever got burned with Credit Cards, but when I jumped on the Dave Ramsey wagon I did so with both feet. I drank the Kool-Aid. I got rid of all my credit cards… well, except one, but I never used it.

My main problem with debt could probably be more of an issue with cars. We made some dumb decisions in the earlier years of our marriage that really set us back. I have been married 10 years and if my count is correct we are on vehicles #11 & #12.

I have credit card that I’ve had for years with my local credit Union. It has been about 3-4 years since it has even been used or carried a balance. I suppose I keep it just because it has a lower rate than any other card I’ve seen. I don’t know if I’ll ever use it, but I just haven’t felt the need or desire to cancel it.

I guess when I started actually using credit cards again was after a recommendation from a friend. He was spending thousands of dollars each month on Google Adwords for his internet marketing campaigns. Obviously he was making more than he was spending. He told me that with his American Express Gold card he gets rewards and he can’t remember the last time he paid for an airline ticket.

I got an AMEX Gold to use for all my business expenses. I don’t spend nearly as much in Adwords, but I do have expenses that I have to pay each month. I pay for hosting, domain renewals, advertising, online services, etc. I’ve seen that unless you are really spending a lot, it is not going to make much of a difference. I haven’t gotten any airline tickets, but I have redeemed my points for a few Home Depot gift cards which has helped with some remodeling projects around the house.

With Inzolo I can easily keep track of my spending and make sure I only spend money that I have available. I pay off the balance of the card every month.

After doing this for a year in my business and enjoying the small benefit of the rewards, I finally decided to get an American Express card for personal use. We got the American Express card through Costco because we shop their regularly and my wife always fills up our SUV there. It makes it more convenient in that when you shop at Costco or get gas you only have to get out one card. Plus, we get a higher cash back bonus on our Executive membership and we get cash back on gasoline. You also get a higher cash back for travel and restaurants. So now I pretty much use my American express everywhere and pay off the balance each month. Because I pay off the balance and essentially use it like a debit card tracking every expenditure in Inzolo, I don’t think I overspend as Dave Ramsey often points to those type of studies.

Now I’m not really recommending this for everyone – or anyone really. I’ve become a total nerd when it comes to tracking the budget and I have goals I want to reach. Without such a plan I think credit cards can be a real problem.

About 8 or 9 years ago a couple of my friends got GM cards and told me of their great plan to use it for everything to get great deal on their next car. I did the same thing. Looking back, I know I overspent on that and it got to the point where I couldn’t pay the balance back on it. Once I actually read the terms of the deal and found that I could only use $2000 worth of earnings toward a new car, I could see what a stupid deal it was. $2000 wouldn’t make much of a dent in the purchase of a new car. On top of that I would likely never buy a new car – and if I did, I doubt I would want a GM car. On top of that I’m sure if I were to buy a new car from GM, I could negotiate $2000 off the top of the price anyway.

Live & learn.

Horror Movie Titles – Dave Ramsey Style!

By , October 23, 2009 8:41 am

I was listening to yesterday’s podcast of the Dave Ramsey show and Dave’s team asked on twitter for some Horror movies titles related to Dave Ramsey and the credit card industry. The responses he read were great. So here they are:

  • Ramsey Scissorhands
  • Tennessee Credit Card Massacre
  • Debt Man Walking
  • Fico The 13th
  • Evil Debt
  • Sixth Cents: I See Debt People
  • I Know What You Charged Last Summer
  • Bankruptcy The 13th
  • The Last Foreclosed House On The Left
  • Invasion Of The Money Snatchers
  • Children Of The Card
  • Debt Cemetery
  • The O Men
  • The Kids Think They’re Next
  • Foreclosure On Elm Street
  • Rosemary’s Baby Steps
  • The American Expressorist
  • The Night Of The Living Debt

Which one is your favorite?

5 Reasons I Pay For Identity Theft Insurance

By , October 22, 2009 10:34 pm

I pay $12.50 every month for identity theft insurance. Some may say it is crazy, but I have my reasons:

  1. It makes my wife relax. Sometimes my wife can be overly paranoid. This is one item she worries about. For this fact alone it is worth paying $12.50 per month just to help her relax!
  2. I hate talking on the phone. I know know that if my identity was stolen, by law I would not be liable for any of the financial charges. That is not why I have the insurance. In the case that it is stolen (heaven forbid), I don’t have to spend the time cleaning up the mess. Someone with experience in that area will do it for me.
  3. Time is my most valuable asset. I have heard that it could take hundreds of hours of work to clear things up after an incident of identity theft. Honestly, I don’t know how long it does take, but whatever time it takes, it is definitely not where I would want to spend my time. I would rather spend it with my family and working, and my normal daily routines. I don’t want a thief to take that away from me.
  4. I’m not overly cautious. I surf the net a lot. I use my real name on the internet. I don’t shred every credit card offer that comes in my mailbox. I don’t like being paranoid. Having this insurance allows me to relax a bit too.
  5. It fits in the budget. Really it is only $12.50 to cover my family of 5. That’s $2.50 per person per month. We budget for it each month and it’s not a problem.

That’s about it. I know identity theft insurance is not for everyone. You are certainly fine without it. You can be caution about what you do and monitor your credit to prevent identity theft. You can spend the time to clear up your good name in the event of an incident. I just chose to let someone else handle that stuff for my family.

Why The Cash Envelope System Didn’t Work for Us

By , October 20, 2009 10:59 pm

Now let me preface this by saying I am a huge fan of Dave Ramsey and I see the wisdom in all of his teachings. Now that said, I readily admit I don’t follow everything he says. One area in which I don’t follow along is with the cash envelope budget system.

I think the system is excellent. I do believe it “hurts” more to spend cash. It is hard for me to break a $20. I like that fact that when I spend cash I usually end up with change that becomes savings because I never spend change (I don’t know that Dave ever mentions that one, but it is a nice bonus).

My wife and I tried the cash envelope system. We gave up after only two months. Here are the reasons why:

  1. Inconvenience. Let’s face it, debit cards make life so much more convenient. It is not convenient to got to the bank or ATM once or twice a month to allocate cash in your envelopes. I hate waiting in line at the bank so I avoid it at all costs.
  2. Inconvenience. Yeah, same reason, but different. It is inconvenient to pay with cash. Grocery stores are not so bad really – unless you use the self-checkout, which I often do – again, because there is usually no lines there. Putting cash in those machines is downright painful. And really, who pays for gasoline with cash anymore?
  3. Location of the envelope. It’s happened on more than one occasion that my wife is making dinner and finds she is missing an ingredient. So what does she do? She calls me and asks that I pick it up on the way home from work. If I don’t have enough blow money in my wallet I reach for the debit card.
  4. Have you ever reached the checkout and when it is time to pay you realize you don’t have your wallet. That is really mortifying to me. I’m frantic in that case. I start looking through my car for a hidden $100 bill (it’s never there) or a blank check (never there either). Even if I only live 3 blocks away it is inconvenient and super embarrassing. If you forget your envelope and you don’t realize it before you get in line to checkout, are you really going to go home and get it? Not me, I’ll pull out the debit card again. Of course my intention is to go back to the bank and deposit the amount of cash I spent, but I don’t because that is so… inconvenient!
  5. While it “hurts” me to spend cash, it seems to have the opposite effect on my wife. If money talks, all it ever says to my wife is “goodbye”. I’m not being rude here. She readily admits this. It’s not more difficult for my dear wife to spend cash than it is to spend money in any other way. Basically, it is just more (there it is again) inconvenient.

Let’s face it. I love debit cards. What I like about them is that if you use your debit card as a debit card (as opposed to credit card) it withdraws the cash out of your account immediately. Your bank account balance is updated immediately (at least where I bank it is).

Here are some more things I love about my debit card:

  1. It is free to use. I have a free checking account. I don’t have to pay for new checks as long as I use my debit card.
  2. My bank let’s me customize it. I generally put pictures of my kids on it so people can tell me how cute they are. I sometimes wonder though if my bank would be opposed to me scanning in my drivers license so people don’t have to ask for it when I use my debit card in place of a credit card. 🙂
  3. It’s thin. With all that cash, your wallet can become a pain in the butt – literally.
  4. It doubles as a credit card. For those places that don’t accept debit cards but can take credit cards, my debit card works fine. I generally have to wait a day or two for the transaction to appear on my bank statement though.
  5. Did I mention it is convenient?

So, how do we make use of the timeless & effective envelope budget system with debit cards? We use Inzolo.

Whenever I get income, be it a paycheck or any other form of income, I decide where we are going to spend that money and allocate it to a virtual envelope.

Whenever we spend money using our debit card, the transaction imported lightning fast into Inzolo and I specify what envelope that money came out of. I can visually see all my envelope balances. If I go over in an envelope I can easily move the exact amount I need to cover the difference from another envelope.

It’s basically like haveing dozens of savings accounts set up in your bank and deciding where each transaction will come out of. I can even split transactions so that different portions come out of different envelopes.

So if you love the idea of the cash envelope system, but don’t feel you have the will power to stick to it, I urge you to give Inzolo a try.

10 Personal Finance Secrets I Learned Playing Monopoly

By , July 16, 2009 4:06 am

About 10 years ago I played Monopoly a lot with a group of friends. I learned a few things about personal finance that I have recently been pondering and thought I would share.

  1. Technology is your friend! We never played with Monopoly cash. We used the memory (M+/M-) feature on simple calculators. There are a number of benefits to using calculators to play Monopoly:
    1. We didn’t have a lot of time. Often we would play during a lunch break, so speed was the biggest factor. There was no messing around with cash and making change. You pass go, you hit 200 M+ on your calculator while the next person is already rolling the die.
    2. Quick start. Along the same lines as #1, there wasn’t an elaborate setup. We simply added 1500 to our calculators’ memory and we were good to start.
    3. Simplicity. There is no manually math, if someone owes you $18 for landing on your space, you add 18, they subtract 18. Don’t have to worry about mistakes or making change with the bank if you don’t have the correct bills.
    4. Overall picture: It is difficult to see just how much you have when you are working with cash and its tedious to count all your money before making a purchase. With a calculator you always know how much you have.
    5. Tough decisions made easier: Chances are when you get going, your not going to have the cash in hand to pay all your rent bills. After paying that bill and ending up with a negative number, you know exactly what you need to make up the difference and you can then determine whether to mortgage/sell properties or sell houses/hotels and not sell more than you absolutely need to.
  2. No Debt Allowed! The fact is, if you don’t have the money to pay for something, you have to be creative to come up with it. Can you image playing Monopoly in the negative? The game would never end. I think in life there is often more creative solutions to get and stay out of debt, but often we choose the easy route of credit, and therefore we never win.
  3. You win with assets. (And remember the point above, these assets are all paid in full). Sometimes buying a property will put you at the brink of bankruptcy, but I’ve learned don’t always be afraid to go out on a limb, because that is where the fruit is.
  4. It is best to be first. Money follows speed. He who accumulates properties and monopolies first has the greatest advantage.
  5. Honestly and integrity matter. Any victory obtained by questionable means is never as sweet. Stick to the rules and winning will be much more fun.
  6. Never underestimate the salesman! A good personality can go a long way. You don’t want to make enemies or others will gang up against you. Even with nothing to work with, a good negotiator and salesman can work things to his advantage and surprise everyone.
  7. Stick to your game plan. Don’t depend on luck. Yes, some games can be determined by the lucky (or unlucky) roll of the die, but I’ve found that following a winning strategy consistently is most beneficial.
  8. Keep moving forward. Things get better. Even when things get bad and you feel down and out, hang in there, keep passing go, you never know how things will turn out. If you lose today, there is always tomorrow.
  9. Cash is emotional. While I described the benefits of using calculators, I’ve found that handing over a yellowish-orange $500 bill "hurts" a bit more than subtracting 500 from your calculator.
  10. Observe winners. If there is one person that is consistently winning, observe them closely. Pick up on winning strategies and implement them yourself.

Comcast is My Friend Today

By , June 24, 2009 2:27 pm

So this is something I have known about and have done in the past, and I kept meaning to do it, but today I finally did it. I lowered my cable/internet bill.

Truthfully I was considering cancelling cable anyway. I’m paying about $117 per month for high speed internet and basic digital cable. I should note that I am paying $10 extra for higher speed internet and getting a $10 discount for bundling cable and internet so that is pretty much a wash.

Since I don’t watch a lot of TV I wasn’t too concerned with cancelling it altogether. I know my wife enjoys watching Fox News in the mornings and watching TLC and HGTV during the day as she is folding clothes and stuff. For the kids we have a few shows we DVR for them like Tom & Jerry and Martha Speaks. So when they want to watch TV we generally have something available.

Since I have built my own media center pc, we have the benefit of watching shows online. I recently discovered hulu desktop which makes it even easier. So that being said I was totally ready to just cancel cable altogether. I guess the biggest sacrifice would be from my wife who, like I said, enjoys Fox News and TLC. One other downside that I would miss is being able to see the 500 or so movies that will be playing soon on all our channels and recording the ones I want to see. I think this is one of the coolest features of Windows Media Center.

So I determined to call and cancel and figured that Comcast would offer me a deal to get me to stay. If the deal was good enough I would take it. Before calling I read some great tips from Matt Jabs that helped me stay upbeat and friendly with the customer support person.

I was connected with "April" and the conversation went something like this:

Me: Hi, I currently have cable and internet and I would like to cancel my cable TV service only.

April: [Gets my name and retrieves account] OK, do you mind if I ask why you want to cancel?

Me: I just want to lower my bill.

April: OK, well, how about I see if I can lower you bill. It appears you are currently paying $117… per month, is that right?

Me: Yeah, that sounds right.

April: It looks like you are paying $10 extra for an 8 megabit connection. I can remove that $10 charge for a year. For your cable service, I can reduce the price to $29 per month for a year. Would that work for you?

Me: So what would be my total bill?

April: It would be $71 per month, saving you $46 dollars per month.

Me: Wow, for a year huh? Yes, let’s do that.

April: OK, you’re all set.

Me: Really, that’s all I have to do?

April: Yep.

Me: Great! Thank you very much.

April: No problem. Thank you for being a Comcast customer.

So I spent a total of 3 minutes and 45 seconds on the phone and saved myself $552 over the course of the year. I would say that was worth my time and I don’t mind keeping cable TV around either. Especially now that I have a big screen to watch BYU & Utah football games this fall! Oh, did I forget to mention that?

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