How float can help you track your expenses more effectively

Floating ball

Let’s talk about float.

As I’ve defined it before, float is the money in your checking account that is above and beyond your paychecks. It is a cushion for your day-to-day balance changes.

Having adequate float in your account is an easy way to allow you to automate your bills and not have to worry about overage charges.

But float isn’t just for ensuring that you always have enough money to pay your bills. It’s also a vital tool in ensuring that your expense tracking is going according to plan.

Are you using it?

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Getting rid of PMI (part 2): The M stands for “misdirection”

Scribble Squiggle

Part of a series:

To recap: PMI is insurance that you pay when you have a high loan-to-value (LTV) ratio on your home, because you put down a small down payment (usually less than 20%). It protects the lender, not you.

But the idea that I’m paying to protect the lender of my own mortgage is odious to me. So I want to get rid of PMI as soon as possible.

But how to do this? The answer is turning out to be not as easy as advertised.

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Getting rid of PMI (part 1): The P stands for “parasite”

Exasperated face

Every month, I pay money to a group that’s actively betting I’m going to default on my mortgage.

I hate this.

I know you can say that’s “it’s just business”, and that the statistics don’t lie, but I still get infuriated with the idea that someone or someones think I will default, and are charging me money in preparation for (or defense of) it.

But I also know that there is a way to get rid of this monthly penalty/racket/protection fee, whatever you want to call it.

And I’m already started on this path.

I want to pay off my mortgage, of course. I want to become debt-free for real, and forever.

But I really really want to get rid of the mortgage parasite, otherwise known as “PMI”, or Private Mortgage Insurance.

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Why I charge for my services

Desk and contract

I am not good at asking for money.

If you want an example of my personal hell, it would be to be one those of people who stand on street corners and accost you as you pass. “Hey friend! You’re looking sharp today! I bet you like [whales/children/whatever they are fundraising for].

(Although, come to think of it, another example of my personal hell is being accosted by those folks. But I digress.)

Soliciting just isn’t my thing. It feels icky. It feels presumptuous. It feels like I’m wasting your energy and trying to take something you don’t want to give.

This makes it a challenge to go into any sort of business for myself.

I’ve been offering my services for a few years now, and have had quite a few satisfied clients (I have yet to have a complaint, in fact). I’m very confident of my work and the power of making small intentional behavioral alterations to create larger life changes.

That said, I wouldn’t say that I’ve really “sold” my services that much. It’s been more of a passive process.

As of this year, that’s changing. Here’s why.

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The two unsung horsemen of accomplishment


We all know what we need to do. But a lot of the time, we just don’t do it.

Some of the reasons are well-trodden and known. We’re all busy, we’re all stressed, we’re all tired. There’s not much that needs to be said about those.

But I find that there are two other, less well-known, but nevertheless vital pieces to being able to make things happen.

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I’m getting a new phone!

With the new year approaching, it’s time not only to reflect on the year that’s passed, but it’s also time to look at where you are today and see if it’s still working for you. What would you like to change? Are there aspects of your life that aren’t working for you anymore?

This can be big. Maybe you’ve realized that you don’t like where you are in your career. Maybe you’ve come to the idea that it’s time to start a new relationship, or move on in your current one.

But there can be small revelations too. For example, I’m looking at my phone, and thinking: What am I doing with this dumbphone that I purchased years ago? Isn’t it time I got more with the times?

My phone, a brief history

I bought my phone in the summer of 2010. That summer, I was visiting Portland, a city I would eventually move to the following year. I wanted something solid but inexpensive, performant but not showy (this sort of sums up my life).

I ended up with the Samsung t139, a phone that exceeded all of my expectations. How many times do we buy a piece of technology these days for $30 and still get daily use out of it six years later? Can we count up to never?

My phone, or one like it.

And this phone still works today. In fact, I’m using it to receive texts as I write this.

And yet, the call of the new and the updated is loud and all-pervasive. And the desire to not feel too out-of-date, too hampered by past decisions, is strong.

In with the new

Last week, I purchased a new phone. It came in a white box. Stark, the box contained on its sturdy frame a picture of the phone and not much else. It was striking.

And it was new. Unused. All mine.

Was it worth all the cost? It felt like it did, but I couldn’t be sure. This was, after all, the first new phone I had bought in six years.

But a phone, whether we like it or not, is a personal statement. And I wanted to make sure that this would shine on me in the most accurate light possible.

Frissons of excitement filled me as I opened the box. You know that moment well, I’m sure.

Are you ready for the big reveal? Are you ready to see what my new phone, one that I may have for years to come, is?

I’m so excited to show it to you. Here it is:

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The hesitation before putting extra money toward a big goal

Machu Picchu cliff

Recently, I found myself in the situation where I had a little extra money. Not a ton, you understand, but it felt significant to me.

Now, as I’ve argued before, the first thing you do when you receive an unexpected windfall is to do nothing at all. Sit. Wait. Give yourself time to think, to relax. Financial matters dealt with with urgency are almost always a less-than-optimal outcome.

So because of this, I don’t need to make any decisions now.

Nevertheless, I can’t sit and look at this tiny windfall and not think about my own debt boss character: my mortgage.

For my situation, I think it might make the most sense to throw extra money at my mortgage.

And yet I’m hesitating. That, to me, is interesting.

And I bet you’ve hesitated before making some financial decisions of your own.

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Year in review 2016: Your top 10 favorite posts

Vishu Kani

I wrote about my favorite posts for this year. But what about yours?

Just like I did in 2015, 2014, and 2013, I ran a report and came up with the ten most-read posts for this year.

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Year in review 2016: My top 10 favorite posts

What a year it’s been.

This site has now been humming along for over four years now. As I continue to post twice per week, that means that there are over a hundred posts on this site over the past year. Some of them, I’m quite pleased with.

For this reason, and to give me a little time off from writing in favor of planning some exciting new developments, below is a roundup of my 10 favorite posts for the year 2016. (I’ve done this for 2015, 2014, and 2013 as well.) Maybe you missed some of these, or maybe you’d like to revisit them. It’s certainly interesting for me to look back.

So here is some new old content, dating from last December to now. Enjoy!

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I’m going to FinCon 2017!

Conference badges

If there’s anything I know a lot about, it’s that there are so many ways that we are enticed to spend money.

I know how advertising works. You are shown something that makes you feel like you want/need some thing or experience, and it compels you to buy it, either now or in the future.

I feel like I have become good at recognizing these tactics, and can insulate myself from them enough to be able to make my own decisions. I mean, I’m not adverse to spending money, I just want to make sure that I’m spending money on what’s most important and what will yield the biggest benefit.

But sometimes, you need to, as it were, roll the dice. And to that end, I’ve decided that I’m going to FinCon 2017.

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