Students from Kenya

Like most people I don’t find myself constantly thinking about charitable giving. I love to help others and I honestly try to donate my time and or money as often as possible, but I’ll regularly find charity skipping my mind for months at a time. My wife on the other hand is constantly talking about how we should be doing more to help those in need. This I am grateful for. So when Kevin Yu, co-founder of SpringCoin, reached out to me about a new movement called #GivingTuesday I was all for it.

You may have seen the hashtag being used on Twitter or Facebook. You certainly have if you follow me on twitter. Kevin volunteers at a non-profit organization called Givology. They are a 100% volunteer-run organization that connects donors to students and grassroots projects in developing countries. Givology is taking the initiative to help raise awareness of #GivingTuesday and are matching donations (through the end of November) dollar-for-dollar!

What is #GivingTuesday?

You’re likely familiar with Black Friday and Cyber Monday. #GivingTuesday is meant to raise awareness for helping others that might be less fortunate than us. It could be anyone, anywhere. Hurricane Sandy victims, starving children around the world, homeless in  your town. It doesn’t matter. Doing something is better than doing nothing.

How we contributed to #GivingTuesday

On top of raising awareness through this blog post my wife and I donated money toward a grassroots project that will help rehabilitate former street-children in Kenya. The better half has a very soft spot in her heart for children in Africa so that’s what made us decide on donating to this particular project. You can check out the project here at Givology.

How you can help

The easiest thing you can do is help spread awareness. Tweet to your followers about #GivingTuesday and talk about it with your friends and family on Facebook. If you’d like to donate check out Givology or your favorite non-profit. Givology will be matching donations dollar for dollar until the end of November.  If you’d like to donate, follow this link. Finally, if you click through the Rafflecopter widget below you can enter to win a Givology gift card! Make it so and have a fantastic Thanksgiving!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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This guest post is brought to you by Michael Edmondstone.

The hot days and sultry nights of the summer are a great way to unwind and relax. You normally get a good bit of vacation time during this time of year too. However, the summer can be expensive, and there can be a lot pressure to take a vacation. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to save up and enjoy summer on a tight budget.

Prepare for the summer

When summertime comes around, it can seem like your budget doesn’t allow for much fun. However, you’ll be surprised how much money you waste over the year. Every week, if you put aside the money you’d normally spend on the odd candy bar, or an extra drink at the bar, you’ll be surprised at how much this adds up to, and how much it can add to your summer budget.

Have a green summer

If you’re living on a tight budget, then it’s the perfect time to go green; after all, it’s not just the environment you’ll be saving, it’s your money too. Try doing lots of simple things like cutting down the length of time you spend in the shower and turning your air conditioning or heating down.

Cheap summer fashion

Normally, fashions change pretty quickly, but yours don’t have to, especially if you’re working with a tight budget. Instead of splashing out every year on the new trends, try buying all your summer gear a year late. You’ll be able to get lots of stuff at knockdown, off peak prices, if you buy your things at the end of summer, rather than at the start when the prices are at their highest. Your clothes will be just as good quality, but without they won’t come with the same extortionate price tag.

Remortgage

This may seem a bit drastic, but actually, now’s a really good time to at least look around for a better rate. There have been a lot of fluctuations in the market over recent years and prices are becoming more competitive. Mortgage broker can help you to find a good deal on your mortgage. What’s more, if you live in Canada, mortgage brokers are paid by the lender and do not charge fees for good credit applications.

Staycation

Instead of taking an expensive holiday abroad why not try staying at home for a change. There are probably lots of local attractions that you haven’t visited. You can use your time off work to get more acquainted with them. Taking vacation at home is also a really good way to spend more time with your friends, if the weather’s good and you’re not busy working, then it’s a great time to prepare some cheap dips and get them over, make sure they bring their own drinks though!

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a screenshot of the cash vs debt sidebar element on budgetable.com

Raise your hand if you’ve ever used Quicken personal finance software or mint.com to assist you in keeping track of your finances. Chances are if you haven’t used them you’re at least familiar with them. Okay, feel free to put your hand down now. Budgetable.com is in the same realm of free online personal finance software as mint.com is and today I’m going to go over a few of the features that really help them stand out from the competition. I’m also going to be giving away ten invites to Budgetable (which isn’t yet open to the public and still requires an invite to use). More on that later.

I met the founder and CEO of Budgetable, Ryan Bales, at the 2011 Financial Blogger Conference in Chicago. He and his brother were showing off this new money tracking application and asking for feedback from all of the personal finance nerds (myself included). When Budgetable finally went into beta testing Ryan extended me an offer to join in on the beta. Happily I accepted and so here we are. During our email communication I had the chance to ask Ryan what inspired him to create Budgetable and here’s what he had to say:

“I came up with the idea of Budgetable after shopping online for a new TV. Usually when I buy something online and see a place for a promo code at checkout, I jump on Google and search for one, just to save a few bucks here and there. The problem is most of the time it takes forever to find a working promo code. I thought, it would be really cool if I could bring deals to online banking. By integrating the two, I’d always know when my favorite stores have great deals and I’d save a ton of money. I wanted to build this all around a really powerful money management tool so everything you need to manage your finances has been built right into Budgetable.”

That’s Budgetable in a nutshell. It’s a fantastic money management tool (along the same lines of Mint.com) but with built in deals and savings. Can’t get much better than that if you’re looking to save money.

Let’s dive right into the review and my favorite features on Budgetable.com, which are the Spending Heat Map, the Deals and the Cash vs. Debt indicator on the overview page.

The Overview

When you first login to Budgetable you’re greeted with the Overview page, which as you can see in the screenshot to the right has a few key areas. First is the cash indicator, near the top left of the screen. This tells you how much cash you have between all of your linked checking/saving accounts. Directly beneath that you’ll find your linked accounts and their balances followed by the Cash vs. Debt indicator.

Finally, to the right of the sidebar you’ll find your spending activity (including the spending heat map) and deal alerts. Another feature worth mentioning on the spending activity section is dubbed ‘Wasteful Spending.’ This shows a pie chart of wasteful vs non-wasteful spending (where wasteful spending is essentially non-essential spending such as entertainment).

The account linking works just as well as you’d expect it to (think Mint.com or another online money managing tool), but I should disclose that until Budgetable is fully open to the public it’s limiting the number of accounts you can link to two — one checking or saving and one credit account. I didn’t have any difficulties linking up my bank or credit card. Budgetable claims to link to over 10,000 banks and other financial institutions between the U.S. and Canada, so I don’t imagine you’d have much difficulty linking your accounts up unless maybe you bank with a very small institution.

The Deals

The last feature on the overview screen is the Deal Alerts section, which will pull in information from stores you shop at and allow you to select your favorites. Once you’ve selected them if there are any deals they’ll show up on the deals screen, which you can see a screenshot of to the right.This page is pretty simple. If you have selected any favorite stores on the overview page then if there are deals to be had with said merchant they will show up on this page. For example, you can see a promo code for 20% off all contact lens orders at Walgreens. This is easy to access, with a simple promo code you’d plug in at checkout. Not all of the deals are so easy to take advantage of. For example the 10% deal at Lowe’s requires you to fill out a web form to receive the coupon. Nonetheless it’s a nice little feature that has the potential to help you save money!

The deals screen also has local deals (think Groupon) which are definitely hit or miss, but again have the potential to help you save. For a free service that won’t email you spam every day (cough groupon cough) it’s definitely a nice little addition.

The Transactions

The transactions page is fairly standard if you’re used to other online money managers, but really does a great job of looking clean and being easy to use. All of the categories are color coded so it’s easy to pick out certain types of transactions and Budgetable also breaks out Essential and Nonessential transactions, which while not totally accurate at first will get better as you categorize your transactions. I find myself a bit lazy about categorizing transactions, so hopefully this technology will continue to improve but if you don’t mind spending 5 minutes a week to categorize all of the uncategorized transactions then it’ll certainly help make all of the fancy charts and graphs more accurate.

Get your own login

Overall I’m very impressed with Budgetable. It’s a fresh new take on world of online personal finance applications, and definitely deserves a look. The great news is that Ryan has been kind enough to provide me with ten accounts to hand out to all of you. Here’s how you can get one:

  1. Sign up for my free personal finance newsletter by putting your email address in the form just below (if you’ve already subscribed skip to step 2).
  2. Leave a comment below telling me what your favorite online personal finance app is.
  3. Sit back and wait. I’ll use a random number generator to help me decide who gets the access codes in about a week.

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Some People Do Terrible Things for Money

Miscellaneous

I was going through some of my old ‘saved’ articles on Instapaper when I ran across this one: $150 Million Trust Fund Stolen From Poor Children In Panama, Lawsuit Claims. It’s a bit of  a dull read at times because of all of the ‘legalese’ but the point is outlined in the title. Here’s a brief […]

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A Blatant Disregard for Debt

Debt
Thumbnail image for A Blatant Disregard for Debt

A former coworker would constantly get calls from collection agencies while at work. He’d answer sometimes and pretend he didn’t speak any English. Whether he answered or not he’d always complain about x bank or y company calling to try and collect money from him. At first I felt a little bad for him, after […]

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Streamline Your Cashflow with Online Money Tools

Miscellaneous
Thumbnail image for Streamline Your Cashflow with Online Money Tools

I can remember growing up how every few weeks my Mother would pull out the checkbook to take care of the growing pile of bills on the kitchen counter. She must have spent hours every single month organizing bills, making sure they’d been paid, and if they hadn’t writing checks to make sure they were […]

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Side Hustle, Meet Full-Time Hustle

Business

Last week I mentioned I would be using my skills in HTML/CSS/Wordpress to earn more money on the side. Turns out I’ll be hustling full-time from here on out. I am no longer a full-time employee (or any type of employee) so I find myself in a position of either looking for another job or […]

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