Unallocating Income

By , February 18, 2011 4:17 pm

“Oops. I didn’t want to do that.”

It happens. Today I got the following questions:

I allocated $158 to an envelope.  I then changed my mind on the funds I wanted to allocated to the envelope.  How do I edit that envelope – say take the money back out of the envelope so it shows nothing was funded.

If you look in either your unallocated income box, or the envelope you allocated funds to, you should see a transaction record of your allocation. Simply click on the undo icon .

Here is short video showing you how.

Budgeting a Trip to Disneyland

By , February 7, 2011 10:50 am

I love Disneyland. My in-laws took our family 3 years ago and we had a blast. We went again just over a year ago and met my parents there. It wasn’t quite as fun the second time just because we all got very sick with fevers, body aches and the whole nine yards.

Plus, the last two times we went were during the holiday season. The first time was between Christmas & New Year’s. The second time was about a week & a half before Christmas. Both times the place was completely packed. There were signs up saying Disneyland/Calfornia Adventure were sold out! I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that Disneyland is much funner when it is not so packed.

I’m getting to the point where I want to go back. We had a baby last September so we are waiting until he is older. Our first time we went our youngest was 4 months old. He got very sick and when we returned home he developed RSV and had to spend a few nights at the children’s hospital. That was NOT a fun ordeal. I figure one year old would be a decent age. He won’t be nursing anymore and will be a little easier to manage. Plus, if you take a child before they turn 2, they get into Disneyland free.

We live in Utah. The past two times we have flown. It seems odd, but doing the math, it cost about the same to fly as it did to drive. But next time, I think we will drive anyway. Why? First of all, I hate what the TSA is doing with their groping security theater. This is my way of protesting. Other benefits of driving include:

  • Our kids can handle a long drive better than a plane flight. We put in a DVD in the car and they are entertained. Our last flight had TV’s in the back of the seat, but we had no control over what was available to watch.
  • We can stop and take breaks when we need to.
  • Less stress. It can be stressful going through all the airport security and make sure you get everything you need in place & on time.
  • Road trips can be fun & memorable.
  • Our luggage doesn’t leave our site & our control.
  • We are not limited as much to the amount or weight of luggage.
  • More freedom to travel. We don’t have to worry about catching a shuttle or taxi if we need to leave the Disneyland area.

All in all, with 4 small kids, driving just seems like the way to go this time around. Perhaps when they are older and the governement wises up and gets rid of the TSA it will make more sense to fly again.

I’ve determined from Google Maps that it will take about 10 1/2 hours to drive there.

When To Go

Like I touched on earlier, I really have no desire to go on a crowded day again. My friend send me this link that shows the best times to go to Disneyland if you want to avoid the crowds. I’m thinking sometime between September & October will be ideal. My youngest son turns 1 in September and my 3 year old turns four in September. So mid to late September ought to be ideal. Plus, it is not nearly as hot as the summer months.

I am not concerned about taking kids out of school or taking time off work. School work can be made up, and that’s what work vacation days are for. Memories made on vacation are more valuable in my mind than routine school or work days. So, also to avoid busy crowds I would leave on a Monday or Tuesday. Weekends are generally more crowded, plus, I may be a bit prudish, but I just don’t like vacationing on the Sabbath. It doesn’t feel right and therefore sort of spoils the vacation for me.

The first time we went we had a 3 day hopper. The second time we had a 4 day hopper. Honestly, the second time we were done and ready to go home after 3 days. Four was just a bit too much. I’m sure being sick with 3 small, sick children had a lot to do with that sentiment, but still, if the park is not crowded, 3 days should be plenty to do and see all you want.

So given the estimation of 10 1/2 driving hours (plus time for rest stops, lunch, etc) two whole days will be dedicated to traveling. So with 3 days in the park, that makes this a 5 day vacation. Knowing that I don’t want one of these days to be on Sunday, that gives us two options: Monday through Friday, or Tuesday through Saturday. I don’t have to make this decision yet, but I’m leaning towards Tuesday through Saturday mostly because I have heard that when it is not busy season, Fantasmic only shows on weekends. That would give us a chance to watch Fantasmic (which I haven’t seen yet) on Friday night.

Budgeting For the Trip

Now, the really important stuff – how much is this going to cost? I recommend getting out a spreadsheet and planning all our you expenses before any vacation, then saving up and paying with cash!

Let’s start with the Travel. Using a tool I wrote a few years ago. I can estimate the cost of fuel to make the trip. I enter the average cost of a gallon of gas, my average mile per gallon my vehicle gets, my starting location and my destination. Google’s map API will determine the distance and I get a one-way and round trip cost estimate. According to the fuel trip cost calculator, it will cost about $330 in fuel (we have a big SUV). I will round that up to $350 for a more even number. I always like to round up a bit.

Next is the hotel stay. The first time we stayed at the Disneyland Hotel. It was very nice, and it was fun walking through Downtown Disney, but the real excitement is the park, not the place you sleep. So a hotel is a hotel, or is it? The second time we booked a reservation at the Anaheim Plaza. The Anaheim Plaza is across the street from Disneyland and probably the cheapest place you will find so close to Disneyland. Unfortunately, we hated it. Our room was dirty, hot, muggy, & stinky. They had turned off the A/C for the winter season in our building. The tub was clogged so we took a shower standing in dirty water. We asked for a rollaway bed and they never brought it. It was just an all-around bad experience. But, my parents & younger sister stay there every time they go and they like it, so your mileage may very. It was so bad for us that I cancelled our remaining nights and walked down the street to find something better. We ended up re-packing and waking our luggage down the street to the Best Western Park Place Inn. It was so much nicer. It was cleaner. It was updated. It was closer to the main gate – just right across the street. We got a room with two qeen beds and a hide-away queen bed. So it can fit a family of six.

If we were to stay at the Anaheim Plaza we would need a family suite (basically two rooms connected with a door separating them. We can get that for $109 per night. For 4 nights that is a total of $436. If we were to stay at the Best Western Park Place Inn again, standard rate for the same room we had before would be $134 per night. I know that last time I got a discount using my Costco card. Plus, I noticed on the internet that if you book 21 days in advance, you can get the room for $107.20. That makes that decision way too easy. On top off that, it includes free WIFI (Anaheim Plaza is $10 per day) and free continental breakfast, which with a family of 5 eating would save us almost $50 per day if we chose to eat breakfast at the Anaheim Plaza. So, moral of the story, don’t take room prices at face value!

Now, for the important part – the Disneyland park hopper passes. They will cost $152 each for 3 of our children and $169 each for my wife and I. That’s a total of $794 – close to $800.

So, between travel, hotel, and passes we’re up to roughly $1600 (rounding up). Now we need to plan for food. Remember that we already have breakfast covered.

One of our neighbors told me that when they drive to Disneyland they pack a cooler full of sandwiches to eat on the way there and for lunches while there. We have done this before on trip to a Colorado Rockies game. It’s not a bad idea. If we plan on leaving Tuesday morning we can spend Monday night making sandwhiches for the upcoming week and packing them in our cooler. The hotel has a mini fridge and microwave so we can plan on using them as needed.

Still, eating out can be a fun part of the whole trip so I don’t want to eat sandwhiches for every meal. I figure we could spend $150 on grocery items for making sandwhiches and packing chips, crackers, & other goodies. Then I would plan $250 for eating out. That would give us $50 per day for eating out. That’s basically one meal at a restaraunt for a family of five. Then I would give us $150 for treats & refreshments inside the park. Again, that is $50 for each day we are in the park.

All of these we could definitely save money if we mostly eat from the groceries we buy before hand. But I’m guessing from past experiences we will want to eat out on occassion. I think this budget gives us quite a bit of wiggle room. So for food, I will plan for $550, which gives us a grand total of $2150.

Now, lastly, who can visit Disneyland without picking up some souvenirs? This is where we went way overboard last time. But, last time my mom gave each of the kids $50 to buy toys and souvenirs, so that really helped. I hope it didn’t set a precident. 🙂 In any case, I figure that we could limit ourselves to spending $50 per person for the whole trip. That gives us $300 for souvinirs. If we more stuff, we will need to sacrifice on the food & treats, which is certainly doable. That gives us a total of $2450. We’ll just round that up again and say this trip should comfortably cost us $2500.

Now, I can start planning for the trip. If I went accornding to plan, it is roughly 7 months away. I would need to make sure I’m saving $357.15 per month in order to have all the cash I need to make this trip happen.

Of course, before I started booking my hotel and paying for my Disneyland Tickets, I would likely call a travel agent or check out Costco for their Disneyland package deals. Sometimes they might just have some deals that can save you money. Plus, they get their paycheck from commission, so it doesn’t cost you anything to use their services. Last time I did this, I found that booking through a travel agent would have cost us about $200 more. So we did everything ourselves. The first time we went, my in-laws used a travel agent. I must say that the package that the travel agent put together was a less stressful experience. Plus, it probably would have been a wash since we ended moving hotels.

One way to help stick to the daily budget would be to withdraw cash before the trip. I would then separate each persons souvenir money into envelopes and our eating out & treats money into daily envelopes. Once the money is gone, we stop spending. If we don’t spend it all one day, we have more the next.

This has been a fun exercise for me to plan and I hope you have enjoyed it and maybe even benefitted from it.

Archiving Envelopes

By , January 24, 2011 12:38 pm

I’ve added a new feature today: the ability to archive envelopes. Deleting an envelope will remove all associated transaction data. It is something you may not want to do. On the other hand, you don’t want to see the envelope in you list. In comes the need for archives.

Archiving an envelope is easy.

  1. Select the envelope.
  2. Click the Edit button
  3. Click the Archive checkbox, then click OK.

That’s it.

Don’t worry, your envelope can be restored just as easily.

  1. Click the Show Archived Envelopes button
  2. Click the Restore link next to the envelope you wish to restore.

The Dashboard

By , December 17, 2010 10:56 am

Dashboard View

You may have noticed a new view added to Inzolo — the Dashboard view. It was actually originally included when I first released Inzolo, but I took it off because it wasn’t complete. I’ve turned it back on mainly to get feedback on its usefulness.

As it stands now, it is simple a view of the current month. When you create envelopes, you can specify whether they are “paced”, “fixed”, or “sinking funds” (previously named rollover).

Paced Envelopes: Where spending fluctuates from month to month Examples: groceries, gasoline, fast food.

Fixed Envelopes: Envelopes where you can reliably set a given amount each month because you payment is the same from month to month. Examples: House payment, television bill, insurance bill

Sinking Funds: Money you set aside for upcoming expenses – whether expected or not. Examples: emergency fund, car repairs, Christmas gifts.

Features

  • Notice in the paced envelopes section there is a vertical line with the date at the top. This shows where we are at in the given month to see how you spending lines up.
  • You can click on a Fund Plan amount to change your funding goal. After changing it, your graph will be updated accordingly.

I would be curious to hear your thoughts and what features you feel would make this dashboard view more useful.

New Icons Sets Available!

By , September 17, 2010 4:57 am

I’ve added nearly 400 new icons to choose from. You should now be able to find a unique icon for all your custom envelopes.

Budget and Envelope System – What’s the Difference?

By , September 13, 2010 2:29 pm

Heather writes:

I love the idea you’ve come up with on this product.

How do I create a budget for next month when I haven’t gotten paid yet? Everything seems to be based on having cash in the bank BEFORE you fund the envelopes. Am I talking two different things here? A budget and an envelop system?

Curious.

Thanks!

Hi Heather,

This is an interesting question. I guess I have been doing this for so long that I haven’t really thought about the difference between budget and envelope system. Thanks for the fresh eyes. I’ll try to explain it.

With Inzolo, you can’t budget money you don’t have yet (well, technically you can, so it might be better to say you shouldn’t). So you are right, this system is based on having money in the bank BEFORE funding envelopes. Each envelope has a monthly goal amount that you can edit on the allocation view, or by clicking an envelope and the the edit envelop budget. There is a report that shows all your goal amounts. You could say this is your average monthly budget.

But, we all know there is no such thing as an average month. Every month is different. With Inzolo, as soon as you get paid, you move that payment into the unallocated income box, then allocate that money into your various virtual envelopes. The idea is is to allocate your money before you spend it. If you overspend in one category and go in the red (negative), you should then move money from another envelope into the one you spent in to bring that envelope category to zero or a positive number.

I hope this makes sense. Let me know if you have questions on how to do any of the things I explained above.

If you are just getting started it may take a while to get the hang of it. It can be a bit of a paradigm shift. But once you start telling your money where to go before you spend it, you find you’ll start to get a buffer and it will get easier. For example, when I first started I would get paid twice monthly. Depending on which paycheck it was, the way I funded my envelopes was very different from the first paycheck in the month to the second. I had two different allocation plans for each paycheck. Now I just have one allocation plan where I allocate 50% of each goal amount each paycheck, then make adjustments as needed. If I overspend I have an emergency fund to pick up the slack.

I hope this helps.

Thanks,
Dustin
http://inzolo.com

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 www.annualcreditreport.com. 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 www.annualcreditreport.com is the only authorized website to provide free annual credit reports and that none of the additional services offered at www.annualcreditreport.com. 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.

Transaction Import Options for Bank of America

By , August 9, 2010 9:30 am

Fred writes:

Hi,
I signed up for Inzolo after reading a facebook post you made talking about the benefits of inzolo over mvelopes. All the things you said you disliked about mvelopes are also things I dislike, so Inzolo sounds right up my alley. My problem so far is that I cannot auto get transactions from Bank of America ..the error says my account is not enabled for this. After researching, it seems that I would need to enable quicken direct connect access on my account for $9.99/mo with BoA. Is there any way to auto get transactions similar to the way Mvleopes works? Mvelopes didn’t require me to sign up for anything extra with BoA.
Or is manually adding my only way?
Thanks,
Fred

Hi Fred,

I believe Mvelopes uses a 3rd party account agregator provided by Yodlee. This is what my credit union told me anyway. I once met an Mvelopes employee (before I created Inzolo) and he denied it and said they built all their account aggregation services themselves. I don’t know if I believe him though. Several companies use Yodlee (such as Mint.com & Thrive.com). I have spoken with Yodlee about their services and they charge and arm and a leg – first just to get started, then per user. It just wasn’t feasible if I wanted to make a low cost service. Plus, I don’t have or want the big financial backing that Mint & Thrive have. (Note: Mint.com was purchased my Intuit for $170 million – I’m guessing Intuit will replace Yodlee with their own account aggregation if they have not already done so).

So that left me to figure out how to make use of the Open Financial Exchange (OFX) protocol to import transactions. It works great once you get it set up. Unfortunately, it is not supported very well from all banks. I’m fortunate to have an awesome credit union that implements it very well.

So, I guess the if you don’t want to pay for the direct connect access fee (which is ridiculous to charge for IMHO), then your best bet is to download transactions in OFX format (MS Money) and import them into Inzolo.

I hope this helps.

Dustin
http://inzolo.com

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.

What is an Envelope Budget?

By , June 17, 2010 4:58 am

Sometimes when friends ask me about Inzolo I will say it is a virtual envelope budget system. Often, the response is, what is and envelope budget?

This concept has been around for probably as long as cash and envelopes have been. Basically, with and envelope budget, when you get a paycheck, you cash it, and divide the money into different labeled envelopes representing spending categories. Then as a bill comes due, or you go to get groceries, you spend money from its assigned envelope. When the money runs out, you’re done spending, or you choose to sacrifice from another envelope. It’s really that simple.

Below is a video from the No Credit Needed blog showing the envelope budget using monopoly money.

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