Mint: Personal Finances Mastered

Everyone has their own way of keeping track of their finances. Some keep it at arms-length and don’t worry about it until they are buried in a mountain of debt, while others create elaborate spreadsheets for detailed financial breakdowns. However, the best way to manage your personal finances is with Mint.

Mint is one of the most intuitive, powerful and visually appealing personal finance applications out there. Simply create an account with Mint, connect your bank accounts (don’t worry, it is all super secure) and Mint will automatically pull your transactions. What is more, it will automatically categorize your transactions based on keywords found within the description. You can, of course, override these categorizations and manually add your own.

Mint Personal Finances Tracking

What is most impressive about Mint is how dead simple it is. Those new to tracking their finances will have no trouble getting started. At first Mint will simply pull your mess of transactions together so that you can easily go through them and visually see your spending by category. From there you can set budgets to track your spending throughout the month and help nip some of your bad spending habits in the bud. Obvious colour codes show you at a glance how you are progressing through your budgets — yellow means slow down your spending and red means stop!

Mint doesn’t stop there, however, as you can add any of your outstanding loans and track your progress in paying them down as well. You can set goals that allow you to track your progress in paying off loans or saving for large purchases (down payments anyone?).Mint Financial Tracking Site

What I find most useful about Mint is giving me a single place to catch any problems. Almost every month I find a transaction that requires a closer look and action. For example, this month I was charged twice for the same thing — something that was very easy to pick up on since I set a defined budget and received a warning that I had gone over the budget for that category for the month.

Mint also has mobile apps for most major mobile platforms that allows you a quick glance at your finances where ever you are. The mobile apps have a good deal of the functionality that you can find on the site. Notifications that work on the mobile application as well as through email reminders, allow you to avoid forgetting to make a credit card payment or pay the rent. These reminders have saved my ass on several occasions. The best part is that you get all of this for FREE!

Another life-organization recommendation from yours truly. [ Mint ]

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Google Acquires Motorola!

Google Acquires Motorola for AndroidI previously posted about Why Google Should Acquire RIM but it seems Google had a different hardware manufacturer in mind: Motorola.

This morning Google announced that it will be acquiring Motorola for $12.5 Billion. This is an unprecedented move by Google but one that was likely to happen at some point. Interestingly, as I pointed out, Google CEO Larry Page said the acquisition was largely to equip themselves for the ongoing patent wars they have been fighting.

It was interesting that they decided to go after Motorola instead of RIM but it makes sense: Motorola devices already run their operating system. They’re just doing a little vertical integration and upping their patent protection in the process. It will be very interesting to see what happens now that Google is also a hardware manufacturer.

Hopefully they won’t make Android exclusive to Motorola hardware but at this point I cannot see that happening.

Mobile Wallet, Google Wallet. Finally!

mobile-wallet-google-wallet-logo_596x182Thank you Google! Many others like myself have been dreaming of a time when we need only carry one device to accomplish all that we wish to accomplish. It looks like that day has finally come – or rather, has begun to develop . . .

For a detailed description of Google Wallet, see this awesome blog post.

mobile-wallet-google-walletI have done away with the idea of a traditional wallet for quite some time already. My life was simplified when I discovered the ACM Wallet (see photo). You wouldn’t believe how often I get questions about my wallet because of how much more simple and cool it is than a traditional wallet. But for me, this wallet is a bump in the road, something to hold me over until something like the Google Wallet comes along.

Smartphones have already largely revolutionized the way we connect with others and interact with the world around us. They have taken everything from calculators, personal address books, calendars, games etc. and made it all accessible in one place – presumably always available, right in your pocket. However, you have probably still been carrying around an even larger object to take care of the rest of your needs – your wallet.

Google Wallet is the first attempt to bring everything together into your smartphone. Soon we will see the day when all we need is our phone to accomplish anything we want – perhaps even unlock our car doors! I personally cannot wait. The less I have to carry around the better (and the less that I am apt to forget). There are security concerns of course, but the wallet is password protected and encrypted and your physical wallet is not. ‘Nuff said.

Bring on Google Wallet!

There Is Too Much Division On The Internet

This has been bothering me for quite some time so I figured I would write about it.

If you are an avid internet user like me (many people these days are), you probably have many, MANY accounts online. Everything from online shopping, to social media accounts, to niche sites (www.bdsm.com anyone?). While it is currently necessary to have all of these separate accounts, it doesn’t have to be this way!too-much-division

In general, monopolies rarely work in favour of the average consumer but I believe that the internet could use some simplification by unifying some core components of a users web experience.

For example, I tend to disagree with Google’s new +1 button. Sure, many people have Google accounts and use a variety of their services but how many of them use Google accounts to primarily interact with their social media? My guess is not many. While it is clear that Google may be positioning itself to introduce a social media platform in the future, for now, it would benefit users for Google to integrate with an already widely used, popular social service – say, Facebook or Twitter. Instead, Google typically chooses to offer its own competing services which further divides up the internet.

Google wants to be the one-stop-shop of everything “internetz” but perhaps it should start pursuing strategic alliances with key sites instead. I personally think that this could produce more value for the consumer. Instead of launching its own “like button” why not just use the already popular Facebook like button? I, for one, have about 10 friends associated with my Google account. In contrast, I have 700+ on Facebook. So which platform makes more sense to link “likes” to search engine results between friends? ‘Nuff said.

Is anyone else getting sick of having 300+ accounts on the internet?

The value in any given network is the number of nodes present in that network. In Facebook’s case, those nodes are your friends. If a friend of yours drops off the network, you must now pursue other means of keeping in touch with them – complicating your life and reducing the overall value of the network. I know this very well. Despite being an active user of Facebook and Twitter, their value has always been limited to me because most of my life-long friends do not use them. So although I am still able to keep in touch with many of my friends, there are also many that I am not able to keep in touch with in this way.

These division of networks and services reduce the value to all users as a whole. What we need are some agreed upon standards, a couple well integrated and fully-utilized services for users to fully reap the rewards of a unified internet. Perhaps it is just a pipe dream . . .

We need to maintain a level of competition on the internet to allow for constant innovation, but sometimes, I wish there were a few less options and more integration across the net.

Overthrow Our Chinese Overlords?

We may not all have to learn to speak Chinese after all.

China

A recent article in Wired magazine speaks to an amazing possibility: the Western world may not have to bow down to their Chinese overlords just yet.

Made in America: Small Businesses Buck the Offshoring Trend

Many small businesses are now discovering that offshoring their manufacturing is becoming more costly than producing their products in North America. Businesses have, until recently, enjoyed the benefits of offshoring but a number of factors have now pushed the cost of manufacturing overseas to new levels:

  1. Large wage increases
  2. Increasing cost of shipping
  3. Increased lead times
  4. Poor, unreliable, quality
  5. Distance

In recent years the low cost of labour made up for the cost of shipping, increased lead times and unreliable quality to an extent. With wages on the rise, however, and these other negative factors not decreasing, it seems as if many companies are realizing that it just makes more sense to manufacture at home.

Many companies will continue to seek cheap labour and manufacturing in developing countries but even some big players like GE see the benefits of staying close to home. GE has recently decided to open new plants in the U.S. as opposed to China. GE understands the benefits of keeping the supply chain tight-knit and believes that innovation will win-out over cost in the long-run.

Although the article speaks to U.S. trends, I believe the same idea holds true for Canada in that can expect a turnaround in the popularity of offshoring. Perhaps the western economy will thrive once more, over time, and we can look forward to more stable economy.

Maybe I can still get a refund on those Mandarin lessons

What the article fails to touch upon, however, is the other overseas threat: India.

Manufacturing industries may slowly climb out of their grave and add to the economy but this is not likely the case for service industries in the short term. Dial a typical ‘1-800’ number and you’ll be immediately sent overseas. It is important that western firms focus on innovation that can reduce the cost of both service and manufacturing while also maintaining an acceptable level of support (replacing all tech support employees with machines would be a bad move indeed!)

Poor quality in these offshore service areas may already lead to a decrease in popularity for outsourcing services. Consumers are forever frustrated by speaking with those who seem incompetent (poor product knowledge) or cannot speak their language clearly. Perhaps western firms will realize the benefit of proper customer service much like the manufacturers have already begun to realize the importance of quality and reliability.

What the article does, more than anything else, is bring hope to Western and other developed countries around the world. Perhaps we can still hold onto our economies for a little while longer.

What are your predictions?

 

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