New backpack - Synapse 25

Just this past week, my wife and I celebrated our 7th anniversary. It was full of remiscing and talking about the future.

Of course, gifts are always involved. This year, I took a different approach though. I took a risk and told Mrs. straight up what I wanted as a gift - the Synapse 25 from Tom Bihn. I wrestled with this because I didn't want to reduce the meaningfulness of her gift giving.

She was fully on board though. As soon as I mentioned that I really wanted it, she asked me "do you want it for our anniversary?". "Yes", I somewher sheepishly replied.

Her viewpoint was that I was probably going to buy it anyway, so why not let her buy it for the anniversary, and then think of her every time I use it.

Perfect! A win-win for sure.

She proceeded to order it a couple weeks ago, but unfortunately the laptop insert was on backorder until mid-August. Dang! To save on shipping, we decided to hold the order until everything was in stock. So I knew the bag was coming, just not sure when.

Little did I know, Mrs. included a little note with her order. Now, I don't know if it played a part in the outcome, but I sure love it regardless.

I'm giving this to my husband for our anniversary (7/14) but don't want to have to pay for shipping twice... If there's any chance to ship earlier than mid-August, that would be awesome!!! Otherwise I guess I'll give him a printed picture of it... whomp whomp.

To my surprise, the bag showed up yesterday! She told me that she had a surprise for me, but I never imagined that the backpack would be here already.

To the Tom Bihn crew:

Many thanks to you all, even if my wife's note had no bearing on receiving the order early. I am über excited about my new Synapse bag and having it join me on a daily basis.

The difference between YNAB and Mint

This tweet was posted by @YNAB today, which I easily replied to. I was driving to work this morning and thought it was a great question to expand on.

I could talk all day on why I think YNAB is better than Mint. All of my arguments though, could be boiled down to a couple of things.

  1. Awareness
  2. The 4 Rules

Now, awareness is something that I like to talk about here on the blog. But really, it plays into why I think YNAB is superior. When I used Mint back before YNAB (circa 2009 - 2011), I was always behind on what I had actually spent and still had to track my budget and spending in a spreadsheet separately. Mint essentially, was on autopilot. Some people thing that having your financial software import all your transactions automatically is the superior function. Sure, this is helpful. But there is a better way. YNAB forces you to be mindful of what you spend, thus inputting all your transactions (easily via the iPhone), or you can import your bank's transaction history if you happen to forget some purchases. Even if you do the import from the bank, you still have to categorize your purchases and make a concious decision of what category they will come from. When I used Mint, purchases would go into any which category and I felt like I was always playing catch up.

The other reason that YNAB is better than Mint is the 4 Rules. They are:

  1. Give every dollar a job
  2. Save for a rainy day
  3. Roll with the punches
  4. Live on last month's income

Without going into too much detail about the rules, these are the foundations of how YNAB operates. The program is built specically around these mottos and frankly - who wouldn't want to manage their money and live this way? Why would you not want to assign a job to every dollar? Don't you want to know what you spend your money on? If you're trying to get out of debt, it sure would be helpful to squeeze every last dollar you could, so that you can throw it on your debt.

If you haven't done the trial of YNAB yet, I would highly recommend it.

Our YNAB budget categories

I've wanted to post my YNAB budget categories for a while now. So finally, here they are. I cut down on a lot of them a few months ago after reading a post from Jesse. It was helpful for me to consolidate and simplify the categories, and it's always nice to give less thought to categorizing a purchase. It also makes it easier for S to use the iPhone app when on the go. Analysis paralysis is not fun! Without all of our savings goals, we only have 24 budget categories. I feel like that's pretty good, compared to where we were.

  • Bills:Mortgage
  • Bills:Fixed - this is for car insurance, jewelry insurance, life insurance, & internet because it's the same amount every month. This number also grows every month because I pay car insurance for a full year up front and get a nice discount.
  • Bills:Variable - cell phone, electricity, water, etc. I have to adjust this number monthly.
  • Bills:Tithe
  • House:Interior - self explanatory, but this would cover furniture, decor, supplies, etc
  • House:Exterior - yard equipment, tools, landscaping, repairs, etc
  • Food:Eating Out - date nights, lunches out, coffee, dessert, etc
  • Food:Groceries - anything that we buy to eat at home
  • Personal:Beautification - haircuts, make-up for S, massages
  • Personal:Clothes/Shoes
  • Personal:Running Shoes - these purchases are a bit more targeted, and it's nice to have the money separate from other clothes/shoe purchases
  • Personal:Gifts - birthdays, anniversary, etc
  • Personal:Norah - the poodle
  • Personal:Hers
  • Personal:His
  • Personal:Miscellaneous
  • Recreation:Ent/Books - Netflix, going to the movies, other fun stuff we want to do, and books
  • Recreation:Races
  • Recreation:Memberships - Crossfit, running group, yoga
  • Health:Doctor - not needed so much since we have an HSA and can pay for Doctor visits out of that
  • Health:Vitamins/Supplements
  • Car:Gas
  • Car:Repairs & Maintenance - tires, repairs, etc
  • Car:Registration & Inspection - I save monthly so the money is there when inspection and registration time roll around each year

I wasn't going to post all the Savings categories, but I thought it might be helpful to show the variety of goals. The thing that makes YNAB so great for saving money is that I don't need a separate account for each goal. I just track it right here in the category balance, and then watch it grow

  • Savings:Retirement - budgeted monthly, but the money goes straight into the Roth
  • Savings:A/C
  • Savings:New iPhone
  • Savings:Girls Weekend
  • Savings:Trip - Las Vegas
  • Savings:Trip - CIM
  • Savings:Trip - Big Sur
  • Savings:Trip - Boston 2014
  • Savings:Christmas - Don't let it sneak up on you. It's always in December
  • Savings:Bonus Parking Lot - I received a bonus, and parked the money here so it doesn't get lost in the mix. I'm not sure how it will be spent yet.

Rescue yourself

Today, I will be my own rescuer. I will stop waiting for someone else to work through my issues and solve my problems for me.
— Melody Beattie

This quote comes from The Language of Letting Go, a book of daily readings about how to have healthy relationships with yourself and the people around you. Today’s reading is about rescuing ourselves, and not being a martyr by depriving ourselves of good things. Who likes to spend time with a martyr anyways?

Now, this realization is surely helpful for relationships. However, I believe it also applies to our professional lives. I have been listening to various podcasts[1] lately - from reading to leadership to generating a secondary income. The main takeaway that I’m learning from these people, is that it is up to ‘me’ to look in the mirror, make a decision about how “this” is going to proceed, and make a decision on whether to change it.

Yes, life can be difficult and sometimes there is not a lot of margin for learning new things. But when we do have margin, let’s take action. Do I want to learn that new skill? Yes. Then what do I need to do to get there, rather than making myself a victim of whatever the circumstance is?

Some action steps that come to mind are:
* Read a book
* Sign up for a course course online or at a local college[2]
* Listen to a podcast about a topic you want to grow in
* Watch a TED talk

One way that I took action is by signing up for a Dale Carnegie course. It is helping me work on my public speaking, leadership skills, and human relations skills. I believe it will be a game-changer for me. I’ll leave you with this quote I heard from Dave Ramsey the other day:

If you don’t like the cake that’s coming out of the oven, then change the recipe.

YNAB is on sale!

I received an email from YNAB that they are running s sale to celebrate their entrance to the Mac App Store. This is really great for them because it increases their exposure to Mac users.

Version 4 is currently on sale for $39.99 on the Mac App Store and on their website. If you'd rather buy from their website, I have a coupon for $6 off, so you can actually get the software for a once-in-a-blue-moon price of $33.99.

If you haven't heard, I swear by this software. It will completely change your budgeting landscape.

*Disclaimer: I receive a portion of sales purchased through the link above.

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How I use @draftsapp to be a better husband

I have been coming up with lots of great ways to utilize Drafts App (@draftsapp.) Drafts is really great, because it can almost become your starting point for any text that you need to type in your phone.

A lot of times, I would be running errands or shopping wth my wife, and she would point out that she liked a pair of earrings, or a shirt, or a pair of shoes, etc. I of course, (trying to be) a good husband, would fiddle with my iPhone, go into Notesy, search for my running list that had her wish list ... all the while, I would spend several minutes wasting time on my phone, or frustate my wife because I was (yet again) on my phone instead of spending time with her.

Here comes Drafts. I set up an action in Drafts that appends to an existing text file in Dropbox. This is a game changer. Now, I just need to open Drafts, type in whatever it is she saw or mentioned, and choose the action "Append to Sarah likes". Drafts will take my text entry and (in the background) add it to my running list. The key here is that it doesn't have to go open another app for you. It is all Disney Magic, as Merlin would say.

You can also configure the text that is added to the text file. So I added some tags that add the date after my entry in Drafts. Here's a screenshot of the configured action, below.

If you want to hear a great explanation of Drafts, check out Episode 113 of Back to Work.

A few caveats

  1. This works best if you use text-based notes with Notational Velocity or nvALT
  2. And it works best if you save those notes in Dropbox, allowing these Dropbox-based actions to access one main collection of notes.

Dropbox Action in Drafts to append text to a file

Drafts action - Open in 1Password

Dan and Merlin were talking about Drafts on a recent episode of Back to Work. I had already purchased the app on my iPhone and I've been digging in a little more lately. (I love text!)

They mentioned that you can open a url in 1Password (to take advantage or having easy access to the login credentials - perfect for Amazon purchases, or getting to any other website that will require a login.

I didn't find one in the Drafts Actions Directory so I created one myself. Basically, you can type a url into Drafts, and select the "Open in 1Password" action, which will then open that url in 1P. Brilliant.

∞ Click here to insall the action.

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